Chapter 6: Staking Spike

A/N: There is a mention of options she tried, but I didn't write. Mostly because all of the Scoobies had been maimed already, so I didn't want to repeat that part 'onscreen'.

Warning: maybe some language; definitely some violence.

Challenge: Musie's twisted mind came up with this while I was trying to sleep.

Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

The final battle

As he promised, D'Hoffryn sent Buffy back to the night of her conversation with Holden Webster. When she confirmed that Spike was killing again – even though she already knew it from previous loops – Buffy immediately staked him, hoping that his soul would be at peace now.

With everything she learned from her other options, Buffy managed to keep most of the girls alive and get the Scythe before Caleb arrived in Sunnydale. Oddly enough, this option seemed to be working out the best – aside from Buffy's guilt at killing Spike. Something which both impressed and worried the Gang.

Strangely enough, they saw her willingness to kill Spike as a sign that she was becoming heartless, willing to sacrifice anyone to get the mission accomplished. When she overheard them talking about it, it was all Buffy could do to keep from screaming, 'What do you people want from me?'

The time came when Angel showed up with the ugly trinket he got from Wolfram & Hart. He told her it had to be worn by somebody more than human…somebody ensouled…a champion. When Buffy suggested that either she or Faith could wear it, Angel pointed out the 'ensouled' description implied somebody who lost their soul but got it back. There was too much at stake – no pun intended – to risk using anyone other than him.

Buffy briefly regretted killing Spike, since he could have done it, but realized that as long as it worked, that's all that mattered. Her ego could take the bruising of having to be rescued by Angel again. She had hoped that she had grown out of it. Then she remembered that it wasn't a damsel-in-distress thing like he joked about before; it was two equals helping each other out when one had a strength that the other one didn't.

Unfortunately, they didn't count on one teensy-tiny little thing: the amulet was a trap.

When worn by an ensouled champion, yes, it destroyed the enemies of the light. However, if it was worn by an ensouled champion who signed his soul away to the enemy, it did the opposite. And by accepting his position with Wolfram & Hart, Angel essentially signed his soul over to them…just like any other employee of theirs.

The Senior Partners figured it was a win/win situation for them. If somebody other than Angel wore it, they would stop the First Evil's apocalypse. If Angel wore it, their own apocalypse could happen – even if it was a bit ahead of what they had planned.

Angel watched in horror as Buffy and the others were disintegrated by the beams shooting out from the amulet, but before he could worry about it, several beings appeared before him.

"Thank you, Angelus," The first one – who had the head of a wolf – growled. "Your actions today have given us the opportunity to return to this dimension."

The one with a ram's head added, pointing to where Buffy and the others died, "Their blood sacrifice made it all possible."

D'Hoffryn's realm

Buffy witnessed what happened after she died from D'Hoffryn's home. He confirmed what they said, but said, "There is still time to change the outcome. What do you want to try next?"

Having gone through this more times than she could count – every variation she could think of, including calling in Riley's guys…which lead to a repeat of Faith leading the girls into the armory outcome because the Scoobies felt it was freshman year all over again – Buffy threw up her hands in frustration and yelled, "I don't know! Everything I've tried…all the combinations that I've attempted, somebody always dies and somebody always gets seriously hurt! I don't think there's a way to get around that," Buffy finally admitted.

That was the verbal realization D'Hoffryn had been waiting for. He actually thought she knew it within the first several loops, but the champion in her refused to accept defeat so easily and she kept trying. Hearing her say the words, he just shrugged and replied, "It's a war zone. What did you expect?"

"That they'd realize it and not blame me?" Buffy answered, getting to the real issue. She knew that since they didn't remember the dozens upon dozens of loops, the others would never understand what she did. "Just send me back to the original one; I'll deal with the fallout from that version of events."

After she left, one of his minions came up and asked, "Why did you help the Slayer?"

"Because I don't want the world to end, for one thing. For another, I got to torture her a little by making her suffer through their rejection over and over again. What's not to like about that?" D'Hoffryn asked rhetorically, a sinister grin appearing on his face.

End of flashback

Random hotel…

As she finished telling them about her loops, Buffy grabbed her bags and started to walk out. When she got to the door, she turned around and added, "No matter what happened, you always blamed me. Even if he messed with the loops a little to get the result he wanted, I know in my gut that the lesson behind it rang true. I get that you don't remember those loops, but I do. And I won't live like that…waiting for the next time that you want to make me your scapegoat. I know that if I stay, it will happen again. I will keep slaying, though."

Staring at them with a look normally reserved for vamps she was about to slay, she warned, "Don't try to find me; I won't come back. Watch your back with these guys, Faith; they'll turn on you eventually as well. It might be better to force them to be the leaders and just stick to slaying."

A/N: And now we come to the part where I offer membership into the 'Buffyphiles on TtH (or ff. net if you want)'. Why are we Buffyphiles? 'Cause we love the character and have a strong affinity for her strength and courage (the definition of the suffix -phile). If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email. It's not a real group or anything; we just post that we're members on our profile pages. My co-founder is AerynSpeedleCaine. You don't have to bash others to be members, it's just a fun perk.