A/N: Here it is, everyone. Last chapter! Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it! :)
Buffy took in her surroundings, realizing she was back at the club. Her crossbow was fortunately back too. "Wow, that actually worked."
"Yeah, a little too well," Angel said from behind the bars, giving his chains a shake. "A little help?"
Buffy kicked the cell door open just as she had before and went to work at releasing Angel, being mindful of her cross necklace this time.
"So why did you want to return earlier?"
"Because, it's the Master. I realized we can't just go in there with guns blazing. We need to have a plan."
The chains fell to Angel's side, and he stood up, thankful to have more energy this time around. Amazing what a little blood in his system could do. "Okay, so what's your plan?"
"We need some supplies."
"You mean weapons?"
"No, chains. Know where I can find some?"
Angel did, showing Buffy where there was a stash of them. Mostly since he had been prisoner for so long, he knew where they were kept.
He watched with curiosity as she gathered the chains.
"I don't understand. What are you going to do?"
"Kill the Master and his minions, that's what. Come on, we've got to hurry."
As they passed a pool table on their way out, Buffy grabbed a discarded book of matches. "Perfect. I knew I'd find one of these around here."
The realization dawned on him. "You're going to set the factory on fire."
Buffy gave him a smile. "How'd you guess? Now, help me get some gasoline?"
A little while later, they left the gas station across the street, armed with several red containers of gasoline.
"Don't you think this is a little dangerous?" Angel warned.
"For the vampires? Hell yeah. That's the point."
"I meant for the humans inside."
"Don't worry, we'll make sure they get out first." She glanced sideways at Angel, who still wore a worried expression on his face. "Hey, don't look at me like that. I know what I'm doing. This isn't exactly my first rodeo. Besides, compared to the gym at Hemery High? This is going to be a breeze."
Once they reached the factory, Buffy headed for the back entrance. But instead of going inside, she began to padlock the door handles with the chains.
"That's not going to hold a vampire back, you know."
Buffy gave Angel an annoyed look. "I know that. But it'll slow them down. Look, let me handle the doors. You take those containers of gasoline. Spread it around the perimeter of the building."
As Angel poured the gasoline around the factory, Buffy moved on to the side door and padlocked it the same as the other. As she wrapped the chain around the handle one more time for good measure, Angel appeared at her side.
"It's done," he said, indicating the empty containers of gasoline which he threw on the ground.
Buffy stood up, adjusting the crossbow on her shoulder. "Good. Ready to go kill some vamps now?"
Angel nodded, then silently followed Buffy to the front of the factory.
"Listen," she said, looking back at him, "When we get in there, focus on getting the humans out. If someone gets in your way, kill them of course, but we need to get them out before I can do any real damage."
"And what about the Master?"
Buffy took in a deep breath. "Leave the Master to me."
Inside the factory, the room was thick with fear.
As Buffy and Angel silently made their way inside, the sound of a young girl screaming echoed throughout the room. Buffy nodded at Angel, and he nodded back, silently making his way over to the cages where the humans were trapped, his hand poised over the handle.
Buffy quietly moved through the crowd, the vampires not noticing the slayer among them as their attention was focused on the contraption the girl was trapped in.
Too late for the girl. Unfortunate. But not too late for the rest of them.
Buffy observed the Master and waited for the moment when he would be distracted. She had miscalculated before, firing her weapon a second too late. This time around, she wasn't going to waste any time on making the kill. Buffy aimed her crossbow at the Master.
What did Wesley say?
Keep your eye on the target…
She wasn't going to miss this time.
The Master smiled at his followers, holding up his glass of blood for a toast. "Welcome to the fut—"
Buffy fired her weapon, interrupting his toast and hitting the Master square in the heart. His face contorted in agony as his wine glass crashed to the floor, blood spilling all over. Finally, the Master collapsed, his body turning to skeleton before all their eyes.
A hush fell over the crowd as the vampires all eyed the newest arrival, and Buffy barely had time to wonder why the Master turned into a skeleton instead of dust before all hell broke loose.
Several vampires rushed her, causing her to lose grip of her crossbow. She wasn't completely helpless though, and she fought back, kicking one, kicking another. Her stake found its way into the chest of one vampire charging toward her, and her fist found its way into another's jaw, knocking him back.
With the vampires distracted, Angel had released the prisoners, instructing them to get out through the front door. They had no problems following directions, with several of them already making a beeline to the door.
"Uh-oh," Vamp Willow said. "Puppy got out."
A vampire turned his attention to Angel, but Angel fought him off, grabbing hold of the smaller vampire and pummeling the vampire's face with his fist.
Meanwhile, Buffy had her hands full with a group of vampires. She was surprised to see one of the prisoners, a red-haired boy, attack one of them with a broken rail from the wooden cage.
"You need to get out of here!" Buffy yelled to him.
But he and another teenaged boy ignored her, throwing themselves into the fight. The dark-haired one grabbed Vamp Willow, and with the help of his friend, they shoved her against a sharp piece of wood on the cage, turning her to dust.
Buffy shrugged, decided she had other pressing issues to worry about than a couple of teenagers that wanted to help, and grabbed Xander, plunging her stake into his chest. He may have been Buffy's friend in the other reality, but here, he was dead.
"Buffy, look out!" Angel called, but too late as a vampire grabbed her from behind.
Angel charged toward them, pulling the vampire away from her and staking him before he did any harm.
"We need to get them out of here!" Buffy said, pointing to the two humans that remained here. Live ones, anyway. Not all of the teenagers made it, but there was nothing they could do about it now.
"Come on!" Angel urged, pushing them toward the door. "Time to get out of here!"
They'd seem reluctant to stop the fight, but quickly complied and made their way out of the factory.
Angel glanced behind him, seeing Buffy hadn't followed them. He had just been about to go back inside when Buffy came rushing out, three vampires on her heels. She slammed the door behind her and held it closed, holding the vampires back as best she could.
"Angel, help me!"
Angel was already at her side, throwing his weight against the door to keep it closed as the vampires within struggled to get out.
To Buffy's surprise, the teenagers rushed to her aid as well, and together, with Angel's help, they kept the door closed while Buffy looped a chain around the handles. Working quickly, she padlocked the door, then reached into her pocket for the book of matches.
"Everyone get back!" she ordered as she lit the match and tossed it next to the building. The flame ignited the gasoline, causing the small flame to grow into a raging fire.
The fire spread quickly, and soon enough, it reached the inside. Inside the factory, the vampires within screamed in agony as the flames eventually engulfed them.
Buffy kept her distance, her eyes glued to the scene.
She couldn't believe she'd done it.
She killed the Master. She destroyed the factory.
She changed the future.
Most of the teenagers were halfway home now, but Oz and Larry stayed behind, watching as the flames engulfed what was once the factory. The screams couldn't be heard anymore. If there was any life whatsoever inside, there wouldn't be for much longer.
Oz sidled up next to Buffy, mesmerized by the flames as well. "That's pretty impressive," Oz said with a nod of his head.
Buffy shrugged. "I burned a high school gym once. This was nothing."
"So you're that slayer girl, right? Buffy?" Oz asked. "Giles mentioned you."
"Yeah, that's right."
"Thanks for the help," Larry said.
"Thanks for yours as well. Why did you help? That was pretty bold of you guys, not to mention dangerous."
Oz smiled. "We're the White Hats. It's what we do. Oz by the way."
"And I'm Larry," the other one said.
"Nice to meet you Oz and Larry."
Oz looked over Buffy's shoulder, seeing a dark-haired man standing behind her. "Who's your friend?"
Buffy glanced at Angel before turning back to Oz. "That's Angel. He's one of the good guys."
Oz studied the man for a moment, feeling there was something important he should know about him, but couldn't put his finger on it. "You look…familiar."
Angel recognized the young man too. He had been one of several teenagers he had rescued one night a few months ago. It had also been the night he was captured, a night he undoubtedly would never forget. "I saved you and your friends once. You probably don't remember me."
"So that was you. I always wondered who that'd been." Oz nodded appreciatively. "Thanks, man."
"You guys should go home now," Buffy said. "Just because we killed a lot vampires tonight doesn't mean there aren't still anymore out there."
"True, but I have a feeling things are going to be a lot calmer here from now on," Oz said. "Thanks to you."
"Don't speak too soon," she warned. "You do live on a hellmouth. Go on home. I'll tell Giles the good news."
The teenagers said their goodbyes, and Buffy watched their retreating forms in the dark. They were probably around the same age as her, but she felt much older.
"You alright?" Angel asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Buffy looked at Angel and smiled. "I'm fine. Come on, let's go see Giles."
When they reached the apartment, Angel took a seat on the bench, saying he'd wait for her outside.
"You're not coming inside?"
"He doesn't know me in this reality," Angel said. "I'll wait."
Inside the apartment, Giles seemed eager to hear what had happened at the factory.
"I wasn't sure if you were coming back," he said, a hint of relief in his tone.
"Thanks for your confidence in me."
"I just meant, Miss Summers, that the Master is a formidable opponent. No one who has gone after him has come back alive. Did you find him?"
"Yeah, I found him. And your master problem is taken care of."
"The Master is dead?" Giles eyes were wide.
"Funny thing…he didn't turn to dust like a normal vampire. Have you ever heard of a vampire turning into a skeleton?"
"Very ancient ones, yes. So you really killed him? How on earth did you manage to accomplish that feat?"
"Element of surprise," she replied. "Works every time. I had some help too. That Oz and Larry are pretty brave." And Angel too, she added mentally.
Giles smiled. "Yes, well, we don't have a slayer here. Someone has to help keep things safe."
"Well things should be a lot safer, for now anyway. The Master's factory has been destroyed too. I burned the place down. Took out a good number of vamps. Oh, and by the way, I think your demon problem is over too, but maybe you already knew that."
Giles frowned. "Well, yes, Anyanka appears to be gone now. Although it doesn't appear that the world has actually changed for the better."
"It has, trust me. I doubt she'll bother you anymore. Besides, your real problem was the Master and I already took care of that."
"I can't thank you enough for all you've done, Miss Summers."
A low, buzzing noise sounded, and Buffy checked the pager on her belt. "It's my watcher," she told Giles. "You got a phone?"
Giles pointed to the counter. "Right over there."
When she finished with the call, Buffy made her way back into the living room. Giles sat in the chair and placed a mug of steaming tea on the coffee table.
"Wow. You British people really love your tea, don't you?"
"Would you like some?"
Buffy shook her head. "No thanks."
"So is everything all right in Cleveland?"
Buffy sat down on the couch. "Well…I wouldn't exactly say that everything's peachy. A cab should be on the way to pick me up in a little while."
"You're leaving? Tonight? But you just got here. Surely your watcher is not that demanding."
"He says I need to get back," she replied. "He's right. There's a lot of demonic activity in Cleveland."
While she waited for her ride, Giles was eager to hear more about the night's events, and Buffy filled him in, leaving out her field trip to an alternate reality. She'd been sad to learn of a Sunnydale better than this one was. No need to make anyone else upset about it.
Or maybe it didn't matter much anyway. With the Master gone, surely things would return to how they had been before. Maybe this Sunnydale wouldn't be so bad after all.
After a while, Buffy checked her watch, then rose from her seat. She put on her jacket and nodded toward the door. "Well, I should get going. My work here is done, and my ride should be here soon."
"Thank you again for all your help, Miss Summers. Are you sure you can't stay?"
"Can't. Cleveland needs me. There's a hellmouth there too, you know."
"Yes, of course."
"But if you need my help again, you know where to find me."
Giles nodded. "I might just take you up on that offer."
Buffy smiled at him. "I wish my watcher was more like you. Take care, Giles."
Giles nodded, walking Buffy to the door. "You as well, Miss Summers."
Buffy paused at the door and gave him another smile. "Please, call me Buffy."
Outside in the small courtyard, Angel rose from the bench as Buffy left Giles' apartment.
"So…now what?" he asked her.
"Now I need to get to the airport."
"Airport? You're leaving?"
Buffy shrugged. "Was thinking I could catch the red-eye back to Cleveland."
"I had thought you would stay here. Why go back to Cleveland?"
"Well, it may be the mistake by the lake, but it's still home, you know?"
Angel looked away, hoping to hide the disappointment in his eyes. He had hoped she'd at least stay in Sunnydale a little while longer. There was so much more he wanted to know about her.
"Well, I guess this is goodbye, Angel."
Angel turned his head, making eye contact with her. "Yeah, I guess so. I hope everything goes well for you in Cleveland."
She smiled. "I'm really glad I met you. Thanks for your help back there."
"Thanks for saving me, and for trusting me."
"I'm sorry if I didn't trust you earlier. You just have to be careful, you know?"
Angel nodded. "I understand."
A yellow cab pulled up to the curb, and Buffy nodded toward it. "That's my ride. I should probably get going."
Angel was surprised to see a cab already. He hadn't been planning on saying goodbye to her this soon.
Take care of her. She's strong, and she's tough, and she'll kick your ass in a heartbeat. But she needs someone to watch her back every now and then, even if she won't admit it.
She paused, then slowly turned around. "Yeah?"
"I think you should stay. Stay here in Sunnydale. Don't go back to Cleveland."
Buffy turned to the cab driver and leaned toward the open window. "Can you wait just a moment?"
The driver nodded, and Buffy turned back to Angel. "I can't stay, Angel. My life isn't here. Maybe it is for the other Buffy, but not me."
"I think you're wrong. I think you were meant to be here."
"Was meant to be here, and now I have been. Sunnydale doesn't need me anymore."
"Are you sure about that?"
"I can't stay, Angel. I have to go back to Cleveland. That's where I'm needed. You understand, right?"
Angel didn't understand, but nodded anyway. "I guess I can't change your mind then, can I?"
Buffy shook her head. "No, I'm sorry."
"Alright, then good luck in Cleveland I guess."
"Take care, Angel."
He nodded again, then watched as Buffy opened the back door. He had just started to walk away when her heard her speak again.
"Okay, I might be crazy."
Angel turned around, seeing Buffy standing there with the door still wide open. The corner of Angel's mouth turned upward into a smile. "Reconsidered?"
Buffy shook her head. "No, but I have another idea. Why don't you come with me?"
"Come with you? To Cleveland?"
Buffy turned to the cab driver once more. "I'm sorry, can you wait just one more moment?"
The cab driver shrugged. "I can wait all night, but it's gonna cost ya."
"That's fine, you can keep the meter running." Buffy walked back over to Angel. "Come with me to Cleveland," she asked him again.
Angel hadn't considered the option. He had always thought that Sunnydale was where he was supposed to be. But then of course, he had thought Buffy was supposed to be here as well, and she didn't want to stay here apparently. Maybe it wasn't where they were that mattered. Maybe what mattered was that they were together, no matter where they were. And besides, he had promised he'd take care of her. It was what he had wanted to do from the very beginning: keep her safe.
"Why?" Angel asked out of curiosity. "Why would you want me to come with you?"
"Why not? You have no ties here, right? And besides, aren't you like my destiny or whatever?"
Angel smiled again.
"Come with me to Cleveland. You're a good fighter, and I could use you. Plus, it'd be nice to have someone in my corner for a change. So, what do you say?"
"We don't know each other that well," Angel pointed out.
Buffy shrugged. "So we'll get to know each other."
"You really want me to go to Cleveland with you?"
"You wanted to help me, right?"
"I could help you. Do you know any martial arts?"
"I could spar with you. I bet you could use a good sparring partner. Wesley doesn't spar with you, does he?"
Buffy laughed. "No."
A moment passed, and Buffy smiled, waiting for his answer. "So? What do you say?"
"Okay, I'll go with you," he said with a smile.
"Good," Buffy said, taking his arm as she led him to the cab. "Cleveland just got a whole lot better."
A/N: Okay, so maybe, theoretically, you could argue that Wishverse doesn't exist since Giles destroyed Anya's necklace, but the way I figure it is this: When Cordelia made the wish, it moved the "Wishverse" reality into the "true" reality. By destroying the necklace, things were returned to how they were supposed to be.
And if you're still thinking Wishverse can't exist, well then just suspend your disbelief for a while because the fact that it's still around could make for a really awesome story, maybe even a sequel. Hmm…
Thanks again for reading! :)
SEQUEL UPDATE: The Sequel to this story, "Stepping On Butterflies", is NOW POSTED! :) Check out my profile for the link!