See Part One for disclaimer and details. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the final chapter of the story! It's been fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end and now that this fic is done, it's time to move on to new projects. I'd just like to thank all my beta readers who made writing this story possible, and all my loyal readers and reviewers who've sent feedback over the course of the last month or so. You ROCK! So now that that's all over with, on with the big finale of "Infection"...

Part Twelve: Showtime

City Hall, Sunnydale

March 12th, 1999

Mayor Richard Wilkins leaned forward in his chair behind the desk, studying a number of reports. He was still in a pretty bad mood, uptight and testy – the stress not having abated much, despite slaughtering Balthazar and El Eliminati last night.

Wilkins read how the 'Invisible Man' had been spotted associating with Team Slayer again, researching in the library and even attacking a vampire nest alongside Cordelia and Faith yesterday. There was no photograph, of course, but the Mayor's spies had described the dark-haired male as being in his late teens or early twenties, and of average height and weight as well.

Richard then examined the report of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce showing up at Rupert Giles' place last night, and due to nervous tension and his growing frustration with the situation, the Mayor jumped to the wrong conclusion, as some faulty logic leapt into play.

( A member of the Watchers Council, I'll wager, ) Wilkins thought feverishly to himself, concerning Xander. ( An advance scout of some sort, one that's magically shielded himself from detection. That's GOT to be it! So this is annoying, granted, but not disastrous in terms of my plans for Ascension. )

Just then, Mr. Trick arrived with the latest news. According to one of his sources, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce had left town less than 24 hours after he'd arrived.

Not that the details really mattered now, but after Wesley had acted like a pompous and arrogant twerp Faith had told him that she was no longer a Slayer, and therefore no longer under his jurisdiction. A phone call to England had later confirmed that a new Slayer had been Called in Cleveland, at the same time Faith had died. Buffy had angrily quit the Council after Wesley had attempted to defend the need for the Cruciamentum by that point – and so, after informing them of the situation, Pryce had been transferred to Ohio by his superiors.

( Well, I guess it doesn't really matter one way or another. Not in terms of my Ascension, anyway, ) the Mayor thought to himself, getting up from the desk and deciding to pour himself a drink. ( What's one less Watcher, here or there? )

Wilkins had no idea just how right, and yet also how wrong, he really was.

City Hall basement, Sunnydale

March 13th, 1999

As the time for the Dedication finally arrived, Wilkins knelt within an inverted pentagram with his hands out to his sides. Over a hundred years of planning and dedication were about to pay off, and the Mayor was determined that nothing should go wrong.

Everything went smoothly; and after the Latin incantation and the minor earthquake were over, Richard got up to his feet smoothly. "Well! That certainly felt bracing."

Trick was looking fairly wide-eyed as he asked, "Did it work?"

"Let's see," Wilkins said as he took out his favourite letter opener from one of his pockets.

The Mayor wiped it with a handkerchief to make sure there were no germs present, and then he stabbed him himself all the way through his left hand. As soon as he withdrew the letter opener, though, the wound healed without a trace. ( Excellent! )

Finally relaxing after all the recent pressure and anxiety, Wilkins then literally ticked off 'Become Invincible' on his daily planner before he said, "Okay, this officially commences the Hundred Days; nothing can harm me before my Ascension now. So gosh, I'd say it's time for a root beer!"

Mr. Trick almost snorted as he followed his employer out of the room, but luckily, the soulless vampire managed to catch himself just in time.

Crawford Street, Sunnydale

March 15th, 1999

Lindsey McDonald was running for his life, hoping to get to safety before the Mayor's vampires caught up with him. Now that both Balthazar and the Dedication were out of the way, Wilkins had felt it was time to take care of the annoying lawyer, instead of simply asking Wolfram & Hart to transfer him back to Los Angeles.

As Lindsey ran, he tried to figure out where he could possibly find safe harbour until the daylight hours. That is, until he tripped and fell over, knocking himself out.

"This is too easy," one of Trick's minions said with a grin, as he and his companion caught up with McDonald.

"Just don't try to hog all the blood this time, okay? Or else it's no sex for a week," the female vampire warned her boyfriend with a nagging tone.

"Hey, you can't do that!" the male vampire protested. ( Who does she think I am, some sorta henpecked human? )

"He's right, you can't."

Both soulless vampires whirled around, only to find Angel standing there. "On account of dust can't withhold sex in a relationship."

The usual obligatory fight took place, but with his centuries of experience Angel quickly took care of the enemy undead. Sensing others of Trick's vampire posse heading their way, Angel hoisted McDonald up and carried him to his mansion not far down the road.

He might have done nothing more, but after examining Lindsey's wallet and learning just who the man worked for, Angel quickly took the attorney to the library where the rest of the Scooby Gang were present.

"Oh, my head. What happened?" McDonald asked, rubbing his cranium after he finally came to.

"You tripped and fell. Afterwards, Angel saved you from those vampires out to kill you," Buffy said with a hard look on her face.

Lindsey looked around at the collection of faces, none of which had a particularly welcoming expression on them. ( They know who I am? Yeah, probably. ) Then he turned to Angel and said simply, "Thank you for saving my life."

"If I didn't know who you worked for, I'd say you're welcome," Angel replied emotionlessly.

"What's a lawyer in the employ of Wolfram & Hart doing here in Sunnydale?" Giles quickly got down to business.

"Yeah, that's what I'd like to know!" Cordelia glared at Lindsey heatedly.

"Miss Chase. I honestly wasn't expecting to see you here," Lindsey said to her, ignoring Giles's question as he recalled the first time Knox had shown him this girl's face and form.

"Bet you weren't expecting to see me either, huh?" a male voice said, as Lindsey turned to see Xander come down the stairs from the mezzanine level despite Willow and Oz's attempts to stop him.

"Xander!" Willow shouted in annoyance, even though it was way too late for such admonishments now. She noticed how Lindsey's eyes had gone impossibly wide, and so the redhead figured that there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle at this point.

"I thought we agreed you were gonna stay out of sight?" Faith looked annoyed at Xander.

"He knows who Cordelia is, then the odds are he knows who I am. Don't you?" Xander demanded, glaring at Lindsey.

"This is impossible! You're dead!" McDonald couldn't believe it. ( How the hell-? )

"Sorry to disappoint. No, wait, I'm not. Now, I'm only gonna ask this once – were you involved in killing my parents?" Xander demanded. "If you tell me the truth, I promise I'll kill you quickly."

"Xander!" Willow yelled again, trying and failing to pull him backwards.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lindsey lied automatically, staring Xander directly in the eye.

Naturally enough, Harris totally lost it. He rushed forward and started to throttle Lindsey, terrifying the lawyer out of his wits as McDonald found himself unable to breathe. Luckily for the attorney, Faith and Cordelia immediately grabbed hold of Xander and somehow pulled the homicidal young man off of his intended victim.

( Jesus Christ on a friggin' sidecar! That son of a bitch almost crushed my larynx! ) Lindsey took in deep, shuddering breaths as he rubbed his red, sore throat, acutely aware of just how close Xander had come to killing him.

For many moments, the primal terror and the after-effects of not being able to breathe battled against the will of someone who almost literally gambled their soul as a part of their daily job. Lindsey tried to deal with the pain, the bruising around his neck, the watery eyes, the light-headedness and headache the only way he knew how; namely, by avoiding looking at the virus-infected male teenager who would have murdered him just as easily as he would have stomped on a bug.

Finally, Lindsey was able to talk more or less coherently again, even if it was in a raspy and choked voice. "Okay, fine. I wasn't – I wasn't directly involved with all that. My boss, Holland Manners, he was...he was the one who, who gave the order to bring you in, after the..." Lindsey coughed, long and loud. "The Mayor gave him permission to do so," he then gasped out.

"The Mayor? Richard 'I'm working for your future' Wilkins?" Oz spoke up, looking confused for once.

"He, he's the real power in this town – has been, for roughly a century. Thanks to the, uh, contract he has with the Senior Partners, Wolfram & Hart can't...they can't directly intervene in anything that happens in Sunnydale. Not even – not even with this latest threat, concerning one of the Old Ones," Lindsey said as he finally took his hands away from his throat, he'd figured his only hope for somehow surviving the night lay in convincing these people that his loyalties no longer lay with the firm.

"The Old Ones?" Angel said, eyes narrowed. "Tell us everything."

Lindsey did so. Everything, right from the beginning. He filled in all the missing gaps over the last six months for the Scooby Gang, and then McDonald finished up, "The virus project's been shut down, mothballed ever since Holland was killed by some female vampire that no one's been able to identify yet-"

"Drusilla," Angel interrupted, a haunted look in his eyes as he wondered yet again just what stake his mad childe had in all this.

"And now, you know that Xander's still alive," Cordelia said to Lindsey, briefly sending an exasperated look at her boyfriend. "So that means, your buddies at Evil Incorporated will soon know that too!"

Faith abruptly released her grip on Xander before she bit on her own tongue, drawing blood. She then ran over and planted a big wet one directly on Lindsey's lips, her tongue thrusting its way deep into his mouth. Then she bit down on Lindsey's tongue when he was least expecting it, mingling their blood.

"Mmmph!" Lindsey whined in pain, struggling to get loose.

When she finally let McDonald go, Faith stepped back, smiled and said to the attorney, "Guess who just got infected with that virus your firm created, Lawyer Boy?"

Lindsey spat the remains of Faith's blood in his mouth onto the floor in horror. McDonald already knew it wasn't a bluff; with his courtroom instincts he knew it if someone was trying to pull a fast one on him – so Lindsey glared at the brunette girl furiously. "You Slayer BITCH!"

"Watch your mouth in the presence of a lady, mister. And it was either that, or my boyfriend would have ripped you apart with his bare hands to try to keep me and Faith safe! This was the only way to make sure you kept your mouth shut, and let you live at the same time," Cordelia told Lindsey decisively.

Able to understand Faith's plan despite how bloodthirsty he was still feeling, Xander said to Lindsey in a low growl, "I guess from now on, what happens to us also happens to you where Wolfram & Hart is concerned. Keep it in mind."

Lindsey turned his glower onto Xander. "I won't forget anytime soon, believe me. Hell, I'll probably be reliving this moment in my nightmares for a long time to come-"

"Hey, wait up, now I remember where I've seen you before! You were in my Slayer dream last week!" Faith exclaimed, staring at Lindsey as she was reminded of that prophetic evening. The man had looked familiar to her right from the start, but she hadn't been able to make the connection until now.

"Slayer dream?" Lindsey asked, before he suddenly shook his head. "No, never mind, I don't care. I just want to know, what are you people planning to do with me?"

"We can't let you go back to Los Angeles. Your employers would find out the truth about you eventually," Angel told him.

"Well, then, what do you suggest?" Lindsey asked in frustration. "Because I can't just stay here forever, someone would come looking for me – just like I was sent here looking into who killed Lee!"

The assembled gang started to stare at one another, hoping that someone would come up with something. But unfortunately, no one seemed to have any idea what to do.

Wolfram & Hart building, Los Angeles

March 18th, 1999

A few days later, Knox was sitting in his lab peering into a microscope – when he heard a group of his co-workers say, "Did you hear the latest? Lindsey McDonald resigned from the firm, and tried to leave the country!"

"That's old news; I heard he got turned into a vampire, and then he got staked after a wet works team caught up with him!"

"Are you sure? 'Cause the way I heard it, he got run over by a bus instead, they found his head not far away from the rest of his body..."

Knox quickly injected himself into the conversation, trying to separate fact from rumour before the head of the department angrily told everyone to get back to work. Scurrying away, Knox instantly did his best to appear busy and not draw the attention of an overseer who, in his spare time, was reputed to murder female virgins on a sacrificial altar – for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of it all.

( Kinda odd, now that I think about it, ) Knox cogitated to himself. ( Out of all the people who were involved in the virus project last year, I'm the only one still alive. ) Then he dismissed that notion from his mind, thinking it was a good thing no one knew of his connection to the Old One named Illyria and wondering how long it would take for him to release his deity from the Deeper Well.

Only the next few months would tell if Knox would live long enough to do so, what with the Mayor's Ascension hanging over everyone's heads like the sword of Damocles.

1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale

June 10th, 1999

So much had happened over the last three months, it was almost impossible to know where to begin. Even though for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it had all begun the night Lindsey had mentioned that there was a prophecy concerning the final apocalypse in LA – one which had Angel being there for it, when it came to pass. That was the moment the Summers girl had suspected it was all over between her and the ensouled vampire she loved.

Indeed, it hadn't been too much longer after that until Angel had broken up with Buffy and left town, not quite the way it would have happened in another timeline – but close enough, and just as heart-breaking.

Buffy had eventually had other priorities than Angel abandoning her, though. A demon had shown up a while back, offering to sell her the Books of Ascension. The salesman had wanted five thousand dollars in cash for them, which Cordelia had reluctantly forked over in the name of doing her part for the cause, and afterwards Giles had almost had a heart attack when he'd read the contents of the five volumes.

Because adding all the information in there to what Lindsey had said about Richard Wilkins and one of the Old Ones in Sunnydale, it had become glaringly obvious the Mayor was going to attempt to become a pure demon on Graduation day; the same day a solar eclipse was scheduled to take place, a standard requirement for any Ascension.

"Buffy? What are you doing? You're running away again? And – you're taking my clothes..." Joyce trailed off in confusion as she entered her bedroom.

"Mom, I need you to leave town. Right now," Buffy said, not stopping her activity.

"But Buffy, I'll miss your graduation ceremony!" Joyce yelped, said event being scheduled for tomorrow.

"Yeah, that's sort of the idea," Buffy remarked, still not looking at her mother.

"There's no way. I wouldn't dream of missing it..." Joyce trailed off. "Buffy? For heaven's sake, honey, stop! Look at me while we're talking!"

"Mom, please. Look, there's a giant demon-snake that's gonna show up at Graduation tomorrow, and I need to make sure you're safe," Buffy told her, finally stopping her packing.

"What? Well, then you and Rupert need to come too-" Joyce started to say.

"We can't. Giles and me, all of us in the gang, we need to figure out a way to stop that thing from munching on over a hundred kids and their parents tomorrow," Buffy said, once again wishing that they'd been able to find out about Wilkins before he'd become invulnerable to harm.

"So, there's no plan as such yet, on, on how to stop the latest awful monster to cross your path?" Joyce asked with a resigned air.

"No. That's why I need to know you're safe, okay? Far, far away from here," Buffy said firmly. "If I could I'd send Giles with you, but like I said, we need him here."


"Mom, please," Buffy said again, an earnest, pleading expression on her face. "Look, you know how I've accepted the fact that you and Giles are together now, despite how it made me feel about you two becoming more than just friends. That's why I need you to accept this no matter how it makes YOU feel, all right? Please?"

Tears in her eyes, Joyce hugged her daughter and wished yet again that she was somehow able to get rid of the whole Slayer thing from Buffy's life.

( Maybe I should talk to Rupert again about experimenting with that virus thing... )

Wolfram & Hart building, Los Angeles

Later that night

Linwood Murrow stepped out of the CEO's office, looking very worried.

It had been a long time now since Lindsey's death, and his replacement had fared no better after being dispatched to the Hellmouth by the head of the Special Projects division. A long line of lawyers had met their untimely end there, and for months, there had been no news out of Sunnydale...

But earlier on today, Linwood had been contacted by Mr. Trick; now formerly of the Mayor's employ. The black vampire had been sent to kill a certain Professor Lester Wirth as part of the Mayor's plan for not leaving any loose ends at the final stage of his plan. But Wilkins had not been pleased when Xander, Faith and Cordelia had managed to save Lester from the gang of undead sent to kill him.

The Mayor had subsequently given orders for Trick to be dusted for incompetence; but knowing the price for failure, the vampire had somehow managed to make it out of town, and get in contact with the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart. What was more, he'd spilled everything he'd known to Linwood in return for a nice thick wad of cash, before Trick had headed south of the border into Mexico.

( Maybe I should have tried to kill him when I had the chance – no, no, the vampire's information was more important, I did the right thing getting back here so fast, ) Linwood debated with himself as he returned to his office. ( I only wish I knew what was going to happen now, what the chief executive of the firm is planning to do. )

As it happened, the CEO immediately referred Linwood's information to the Senior Partners via their liaison. And upon realizing that they couldn't prevent the Mayor from turning into a pure demon, and that not even their direct instruments known as the Circle of the Black Thorn would be able to stand against such a creature and stop its plans from taking place...

The Wolf, Ram and Hart decided to take drastic action.

Sunnydale High, Sunnydale

June 11th, 1999

"Well. What a day this is! Special day. Today is our centennial, the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids: not a darn thing. Because today, something much more important happens – today, you all graduate from high school. Today, all the pain, all the work, all the excitement is finally over. And what's a hundred years of history compared to that?" the Mayor started to give his address to the assembled crowd for Graduation.

"Not a damn thing, you soulless bastard," Xander snarled softly from the shadows, standing alongside Cordelia. They had effectively taken the place of Wesley and Angel, who were elsewhere in the country at this precise moment. "Come on, ascend already!"

"Hey, I know you're all worked up from all the waiting – but just stay cool, okay?" Cordelia hissed at him. "Any second now..."

"Yeah," Xander nodded, staring at Cordelia and grabbing hold of her hand. The two lovers briefly locked eyes, both knowing what the other was thinking and feeling. "Any second now."

Less than a minute later the Mayor started groaning in pain, as the sun vanished and day became night. "It has begun. My destiny." Wilkins smiled, "It's a little sooner than I expected, I had this whole section on civic pride..." Richard shuffled his cue cards before he tossed them aside and said, "But I guess we'll just skip to the big finish!"

The Mayor immediately transformed into a big snake-like demon, with clawed mandibles surrounding its mouth. He then started growing and growing, stretching higher and higher into the sky as the school faculty members seated behind him screamed and abandoned their seats. The students all got up, but stayed in place staring up at the Mayor, who began to stretch up above the roof of the school.

"NOW!" Xander yelled, rushing forward with Cordelia at his back.

A massive war then began, as the well-armed high school kids began to battle a monster straight out of the depths of their worst nightmares. Some of them died, either at Olvikan's hands or those of his vampire servants, but the majority of them fought for their lives with the desperation of those trapped with their backs against the wall.

"Hey, Mayor McSnake!" Xander yelled, brandishing an axe as he finally made his way to the front lines of the battle – just after Olvikan had eaten Principal Snyder. "Down here! It's me, Xander Harris! Remember me? I heard you gave quite the speech at my funeral, nine months ago!"

Xander was willing to swear the former Richard Wilkins really DID recognize him, the huge snaky eyes had widened and the loud demonic screaming altered in timbre. "That's right, I'm back. So if you want the job done right, you're going to have to kill me yourself! But hey, these days I'm not easy to kill. And if it's the last thing we ever do, me and my friends are going to see you die here in the town you created. Because you may have built it – but Sunnydale is gonna be your grave now, Dick!"

Anger exploded within the pure demon's mind, the likes of which he had never experienced before. Olvikan could perceive something strange about this disagreeable insect that had somehow returned from beyond the grave, but right now, that didn't matter to him. With a bellowing roar, the former Mayor started chasing after Xander to swallow him whole and suck the very marrow from his bones.

The plan was to lure Olvikan away from the students to the place which the Scooby Gang had designated to deal with him. But at that moment the Hellmouth opened up and the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart joined the party, incidentally crushing the Hellmouth demon guardian to paste along the way.

Olvikan quickly skidded to a halt at the sight of the high school getting demolished, forgetting all about Xander as the snake came face to face to with a huge-ass dog, goat and red deer. "WHAT IS THIS? YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO BE HERE!"

"YES WE ARE. THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN US IS NULLIFIED, GIVEN THAT YOU HAVE MURDERED OUR SERVANTS," the three giant demons said as one, Mr. Trick's information concerning Lee Mercer and all those others coming in very useful.

"I DID NO SUCH THING!" Olvikan hissed, guessing the truth and cursing himself for ever recruiting Trick in the first place.

"EXAMINE YOUR CONTRACT. DELEGATION DOES NOT DISCLAIM RESPONSIBILITY." With nothing else to say, the Senior Partners attacked.

As Linwood had mentioned to Lindsey and Knox three months ago, Wolfram & Hart took ANYTHING to do with the Old Ones very seriously. This was because at the height of their power, Illyria and its peers had considered the Wolf, Ram and Hart as weak, if not outright pathetic. Granted, the Senior Partners had 'bulked up' since then, as Knox would have put it. But there was a reason why Richard Wilkins had ever chosen to become the pure demon named Olvikan in the first place.

Namely, the Old One's ability to deal with anything Wolfram & Hart could conceivably throw at him after he'd ascended – including the Senior Partners themselves.

The Wolf, Ram and Hart initially pressed the attack, getting in a few hits on Olvikan – mostly cuts and bites and scratches, despite the Senior Partners going all out for the kill. But then they themselves started getting badly battered and bruised, when the former Richard Wilkins finally got pissed off enough to start seriously kicking their asses.

The graduating class of Sunnydale High ran screaming in all directions, as the mortally wounded Senior Partners vanished back down through the Hellmouth; which then slammed shut behind them. The three unholy beasts had both vastly overestimated their own abilities, and greatly underestimated the Mayor's – just like they had done over a century ago.

Screaming incoherently just like his intended victims, Olvikan decided to get back to business; namely, feeding on the human populace as much as possible before the next stage of his plan. Namely, creating Hell on Earth with himself as Supreme Ruler. However, a spanner was abruptly thrown into the works as the next phase of the plan of the Scooby Gang was finally put into effect.

Ironically enough, it was Joyce who had come up with initial catalyst for the idea. She had refused to leave Sunnydale as Buffy had begged her to do yesterday, and her single-minded desire to somehow use the virus to free Buffy of the whole Slayer thing had led Xander to think of something that no one else would have come up with.

Namely, an enjoining spell – slightly modified, but very similar to what would have been performed against a cyber-demonoid named ADAM, in another timeline.

Xander, Cordelia and Oz stood guard over the others as the spell was performed. Willow was the spirit, Giles was the mind, Joyce was the heart, Faith was the will, and Buffy was the hand.

However, the spell had an unforeseen side effect. As the primal magicks were unleashed, they linked the virus within Faith with all the other virus-infected humans in the area, besides Xander and Cordelia; which in turn magically 'triggered' all of the mindless viruses that had infected those teenagers – just as the active virus had previously speculated must have happened, during the early days of its existence – into becoming sentient beings as well.

But more importantly, as the über-Buffy's eyes glowed orange, the sentient virus joined the link and spoke through Buffy's mouth. "So this is magic. Interesting. We need to be taller."

The body of Buffy Summers began to grow in size, to ascend just as Olvikan had done. Partly due to the über-Buffy wanting to put fear into its enemy and partly due to the virus wanting to experiment with magic, the formerly petite Slayer quickly grew taller than Godzilla, which startled Olvikan no end.

The pure demon had no idea how the blonde nuisance was doing this, but Olvikan knew that he had to stop it – and that Slayer blood would taste downright delicious, as an extra incentive. "MISS SUMMERS, I'M GOING TO ENJOY THIS..."

"KUR," the über-Buffy said in Sumerian, which stopped Olvikan directly in his tracks with a force field.

"NO, NO, NO!" the former Mayor screamed in fury, able to perceive the primeval forces his enemies had invoked and – too late – able to guess what they would do next. "DAMN YOU ALL, YOU FIENDS!"

"WE ARE FOREVER. YOU ARE NOT," the über-Buffy replied candidly. "THEREFORE YOU WILL DIE. NOW."

Olvikan suddenly lunged forward, shattering the force field, and actually managed to bite the oversized über-Buffy in the shoulder. However, what with the virus's healing ability, all that accomplished was a vicious backhand strike from the female giant that sent the sixty-foot Mayor-snake flying away – before it, as despite appearances the combined entity was not entirely one gender or even human, waved its huge hand.

The Sumerian magic somehow, impossibly, turned the Old One into a stone statue. Trapped, immobile, the former Mayor could do nothing as the amalgam of super-witchy/knowledge-y/virus-y/Slayer-y people lifted his body up high into the sky...

...before hurling it down onto the remains of the high school, where it shattered into a million pieces and utterly demolished what little structure remained.

The hundred-year reign of Richard Wilkins was now finally over.

"Cor blimey, luv, what was that?" Spike said to Drusilla in amazement, as not far away, the two vampires bore witness to the end of the most unusual high school graduation ceremony EVER – and Buffy's body quickly shrank back to its normal size, before the enjoining spell was ended.

"The future, come to pass," Dru replied dreamily, cocking her head as she smiled slightly.

Drusilla had foreseen all this coming long ago, of course, all the way back to that night last year when she had rescued Spike from Trick's death squad. Those visions were also why she had saved Xander from his untimely death three months ago; given how, otherwise, the events of today would have turned out VERY differently.

Just how differently, only Drusilla knew – deep within her utterly insane mind.

"So what now, Dru?" Spike asked curiously, staring at his beloved.

"The stars say we need to be powerful, Spoike, stronger than ever before," Drusilla replied, as she briefly stared in the direction of Holland Manners' soul – still trapped and seething within that muo-ping glass jar, which was being stored in Spike's car.

"What's that mean, pet?" Spike replied inquisitively.

"The Gem," Drusilla replied, a familiar look of madness on her face as she unexpectedly started to dance with William the Bloody. She knew the sun would come back soon to send them scurrying into the shadows, and wanted to enjoy herself while she had the opportunity. "You'll find that green Gem soon enough, my precious 'eart. The streets will run red with blood afterwards, yes, yes – Miss Edith says we'll do such wonderful things with it, we will!"

Spike basically just shrugged to himself. He couldn't see any downside to what his sire had prophesized would eventually happen. And as long as he had Drusilla at his side, it wouldn't have mattered even if he did.

As they danced Spike whispered into his girlfriend's ear, "Whatever you say, luv, whatever you say..."

Outside Downtowner Apartments, Sunnydale

June 12th, 1999

The next day, Cordelia and Xander were about to leave for New York. They had already said their goodbyes to the rest of the gang, including a painful session with Willow and Oz – who had decided to attend UC Sunnydale with Buffy, despite all the offers from elsewhere – and now it was time for the most painful farewell of all; saying goodbye to Faith.

"Are you SURE we can't convince you to come with us?" Xander asked for the fifth time today.

"Positive," Faith smirked. "I'm gonna miss you guys, especially after what happened on Prom night. You know, when we all got drunk and-"

"You complete that sentence, Faith, and you know what I'll do to you!" Cordelia interrupted fiercely. "Hey, if I ever hear that you've told anyone how you, me and Xander had that three-way sex party together – and I STILL say it was all 'cause of that damn virus, somehow – then I will hunt you down and make you regret it!"

"Cordy!" Xander barked, after Cordelia had blurted out exactly what she was warning Faith NOT to say. Suddenly, he grinned, "Could you yell that a little LOUDER, please? I could use the ego boost!" Then he waggled his eyebrows for good measure, causing Faith to grin and Cordelia to blush even as she glared at him.

"What? You said it, sweetheart, not me!" he mock-protested.

"Queenie, relax. You know that my lips are sealed," Faith continued to smirk suggestively. "Although – they sure as hell weren't when you were sitting on my face that night, and Xander was sucking on your tits the same time he was pounding into my-"

"FAITH!" Xander said quickly, sensing the imminent arrival of Hurricane Cordelia. "I just want to know, why won't you come? I mean, you're not a Slayer anymore..."

"Yeah, but remember the last Slayer dream I had? I was – warned, I guess you could put it, that the California Hellmouth is where I belong. With Red, B, whoever those two strangers are – and maybe even Wolfie too," Faith shrugged. ( Not to mention Joyce asked me to move in with her and G, now that Buffy's gonna be living on campus; and hell, I just can't help liking Mrs. S enough to do it. )

"Slayer dream, ha! It didn't hint that you weren't gonna stay a Slayer, did it? Or that that Wesley guy was gonna hit the road, almost as soon as he got here! You should come with us, Faith, you BELONG with us," Cordelia insisted.

"And what about when that virus itch needs scratching, if you know what I mean?" Xander asked.

Faith shrugged. "I'll make do, somehow. Hey, if Lindsey was able to cope all by himself before he got killed back then? Then so can I!"

"Then I guess this really is goodbye," Cordelia said, not wanting to think about the former lawyer. He may have quit Team Evil before dying in such an unexpected and totally random way, but Cordelia had never been able to bring herself to ever like or trust McDonald. "But listen, Faith, you'll always be welcome if you ever decide to head out to New York to join us."

"Yeah, offer's still on the table. As far as I'm concerned, there's always room in our bed for you," Xander said jokingly.

"Oh, really?" With that, Faith gave Xander a hot, passionate kiss – before she gave another one just like it, to Cordelia.

"Hey, stop that!" Cordelia demanded, as she tore herself away from the former Chosen One. She did not want to acknowledge just how talented Faith was with her tongue – at least, not at this point in her life. Even though the way Cordy had acted when Faith had been at death's door three months ago, that had been a dead giveaway to Xander just how much she cared about the ex-Slayer.

"We'll be in touch," Xander promised, before escorting his girlfriend to their limo and they began their long trek to the East Coast.

As the two teens did so, though, at long last – the virus within them and Faith finally figured out how to communicate without the need for physical contact. Basically, by magically modifying human brain wave emissions and establishing the viral equivalent of a wireless computer network.

There was mass consternation throughout Sunnydale as, within their human hosts, all of the newly activated viruses began to ask questions upon realizing that they were not alone. Some of which the older members of the collective could answer, and some of which they couldn't. The silent conversation kept going well after the black limousine passed the sign saying, 'NOW LEAVING SUNNYDALE - Come back soon!'

In the end, the final consensus went something like this:

/ Fighting amongst ourselves is pointless, we cannot remain in a constant state of disagreement – otherwise, our communal society will not be able to function. /

/ It is best that we learn all that we can by asking humans why they do things after establishing a two-way communication system, instead of just experimenting with them blindly. /

/ We can help our hosts by protecting them from threats in the future, including Wolfram & Hart – our creators especially need to be neutralized for our own long-term survival. /

/ With our help, hopefully the humans can eventually transition from being an illogical and incomprehensible organism, into a rational and understandable one instead. /

Both the higher powers and the lower beings would have trembled at perceiving those thoughts, greatly fearing what the virus would soon enough try to do.

The End