"Speak English!" Cordelia demanded, but Willow's chanting only grew faster, louder, denser, as some unseen force pressed the girl forward. Cordy glanced at Oz's face for something, some affirmation that this was not right, but the werewolf's eyes were locked on his girlfriend. The chanting was almost convulsing her now, her lips moving faster than Cordy had thought possible. The Orb began to glow. Cordy was holding her breath when it exploded, crystal shards flying out to cut her face and hands and Willow screamed, fell back and lay still.

Miles away, a blonde vampire cried out and collapsed to his knees, slumping over his the precious burden he'd carried in his arms. Buffy was too busy fighting for her life to notice. Angel was the center of her world, again, only this time it was because Angelus had just set in motion the very thing that would end it. Parry thrust block thrust hack and block again. Kick him in the stomach. Duck the punch, up and thrust again with the sword. Then her sword was caught on something and he was stomping it out of her hand. The moment stretched out interminably as she saw what had happened, what it meant, that she had lost herself and the world and him—then Angelus elbowed her hard, in the face, and she flew backward into a stone table that collapsed around her.

"Now that's everything, huh?" he said, toying with the sword, looking…bored. "No weapons, no friends, no hope."

Buffy closed her eyes. She knew what would come next, and she would be ready. She had lost her sword. That didn't mean she had lost.

"Take all that away…and what's left?"


It was Spike, all the way across the room, staring up at them with tears shining on his face. "Angelus, what have we done?" He let out a particularly loud sob before clutching Drusilla's unconscious body to him and burying his face in her hair.

Buffy and Angelus shared a moment of surprise, both distracted for that second, then a grin cracked Angelus' face and he kicked Buffy in the head hard so that the back of her skull smashed against the stone behind her and she slumped, dizzy and disoriented. She could feel the blood start trickling down her neck and she braced herself Angelus' final attack.

Only the killing blow never came. She watched through bleary eyes as Angelus practically danced away from her instead, looking as happy as a kid finding an extra present under the tree. It had to be because the world was ending, she thought desperately, because there was Acathla beginning to open its maw, and because nothing Spike was doing made any sense at all. Buffy tried feebly to push herself up. She had to stop him.

Except that Angelus wasn't headed toward the gargoyle.

"William?" he said instead, excited and incredulous. He knelt beside Spike, and cupped the younger vampire's tear-stained cheek. "Dear William, after all this time?"

Spike closed his eyes and let his face rest against his sire's hand. "They've done something to me," he said. "Oh, God, I didn't think it could hurt this much!"

Angelus pulled his hand away from Spike's cheek, and glanced at the wetness in disgust before curling his fingers into a fist and smashing them into the younger vampire's face. "Oh I know exactly what they did to you, William old boy," Angelus said. "But I never thought this particular spell could turn out to be so much fun, for me!"

The portal was open, swirling mere feet away from them. Buffy made it to her knees. She could still stop him. It wasn't too late.

Angelus' laughter rang out from across the room and it was enough to lurch Buffy to her feet. The world spun and she wasn't sure if it was her brain or the portal that was doing the most of it. Didn't matter. She needed to get Angelus, Angelus' blood on the sword before it was too late.

"Where are you going, lover?" Angelus was in her face, suddenly, and she couldn't fathom how she hadn't seen him come toward her. Unless she had? She blinked, trying to clear her head of the pulsating dizziness.

"Going…to stop…you," she gritted. It wasn't exactly her best comeback, but given that she seemed to have cracked her skull she couldn't quite bring herself to care. Angelus still held the sword in one hand, and Buffy kicked at it, but he dodged the blow and stepped back with a smile.

"Now, now, Buff," the vampire said, shaking his head. "I won't let you ruin my fun either, now that William's come to play—and right after Spike tried to betray me, too! I mean, this is just too rich, isn't it? With both of you here and all. It'd be such a waste if you stuck me with one of these nice swords."

Buffy shook her head. She didn't understand what was going on with Spike. She didn't care. The world was ending and there was something wrong with her head and she was never going to stop it in time.

"In fact," Angelus went on, considering. "I'm going to save you the trouble."

Buffy punched at his chest but she was woozy and her limbs were sluggish and he danced back again. "You're going to…what?"

"What's another week?" Angelus said with a shrug. "I've got the sword, the blood. I can bring hell to earth anytime I want. But what I can't do in Hell-on-Earth is play games with my dearest grandchilde William." At Buffy's look of confusion, he drew sword blade across his palm so that the blade glistened red with his blood, stepped toward the gargoyle, and thrust it into the swirling portal. He drew his arm back quickly as the swirling light disappeared into Acathla's mouth. For the moment, the statue was a statue again, immobile and harmless as any other.

"That's it?" Buffy couldn't help herself. "You just postponed the end of the world to stick around and hang out with Spike?"

"Not Spike," Angelus said mildly, like a parent correcting a child, and then a fist collided with her already-spinning head and everything went black.

"Need a pay phone," Xander muttered, as they stumbled away from the mansion. Giles was leaning heavily on him, and giving up more of his weight to Xander with each passing second. "Pay phone, pay phone…" Then he remembered he didn't have any change in his pockets, and changed his mantra. "House with a phone. Need a house with a phone…"

It was enough to get them to the edge of the nearest neighborhood, and then a nice old couple let them in and even called 911 themselves when Giles collapsed on their living room floor. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Something and they wanted to know if Giles was his father and Xander nodded his way through the questions until they let him call Willow and Cordy at the hospital.

Cordy picked up, and he could tell she was crying even before she gasped out his name.

"What happened?" he asked, closing his eyes as he tried not to imagine the worst, because there were way too many worsts to consider.

"The spell," Cordy said in between sniffles. "Willow tried it and got all Romanian and then the Orb exploded and…and Willow's back in a coma and they don't know if she'll ever wake up, and we thought something was going wrong but we couldn't tell, God, the last thing I did was yell at her, what if it's my fault?"

Xander swallowed back his own tears, which had made a sudden appearance at the word coma. "It's not," he said thickly. "That was…what she was trying to do…"

"Did you get Giles out?" Cordy asked. "Is he…?"

"Alive but in bad shape. They're taking him to the hospital soon," he said.

"Good. I mean, not good, but…"

Xander took a deep breath. "Any word from Buffy?"

"No," Cordy said. "No, and I have to go because Willow's parents just got here and they don't know Oz yet and I have to…have to…" He could hear her clamp down on another sob, and sniff loudly. "I have to go," she said.

"I'm going after Buffy," Xander decided.

"You're what?" Cordy snapped, as if he'd just announced he was going to the moon.

"I never saw Spike and Drusilla leave," he said. "If they turned on her…Buffy might need help, and right now I think I'm all we've got."

"Be careful," Cordy said.

"You too," he said, and it wasn't until he hung up the phone that he realized a you too probably wasn't appropriate for the situation.

He left Giles in the care of the nice old people, and headed back to the mansion the way he'd came. He wasn't sure what his plan was, and his broken wrist hadn't stopped screaming since he'd punched that vamp with his cast. A frightened guy with a rock, he thought, and then nearly burst into hysterical laughter over the thought that now he didn't even have a rock.

He still had a stake stuffed in his belt, though, and that would just have to do. Because there was no way, no way in hell, he was going to lose any more friends tonight.

From the outside, the mansion looked as empty as ever, but he didn't drop his guard as he crept in the side door he'd supported Giles out of no more than an hour before.

At least the world is still here, he thought, holding the stake at the ready as his heart made its best attempt to climb into his throat.

One of the doors to the main room was cracked open, slightly, and Xander positioned himself outside it to peer in. He could hear groaning, and voices and laughter—Angelus and Drusilla—and the occasional meaty impact of fist on skin.


He realized what must have happened. Spike had left without his girlfriend and now Angelus and Drusilla were taking turns beating up on Buffy.

Then he spied movement along the far wall and tensed, ready to run or fight or scream, but it was only a small body starting to twitch and pull herself up, pressing a palm to the goose egg on her temple. Buffy.

Xander froze. He knew he had to do something, but going in and trying to help might call attention to the fact that Buffy was awake and that seemed like the worst kind of something he might do. On the other hand, he couldn't just leave her, since she was clearly not at one hundred percent and what if leaving her to find her own exit just made things worse?

On the other side of the room, something heavy crashed into something that shattered. There was laughter and he could hear Drusilla's voice cry, "Do it again! Do it again!"

It was now or never. Xander pushed himself through the door, and flattened himself against the wall. The vampires were still preoccupied, now hunched over a smaller form that lay crumpled against a cracked stone ledge. Xander reached Buffy in record time, and she blinked up at him a few times before she let him heave her up and take her weight. She was bleeding from the back of her head as well.

Xander took one last glance at the vampires once he and Buffy were at the door. Angelus was standing on the ledge, holding Spike by the throat high above the floor. "Our little William needs his Granddaddy," Drusilla cackled, rubbing her hands together. "Oh, do it again!" Angelus grinned and threw the smaller vampire against the wall.

Xander let the door close behind them.

I wrote this about a year ago, found it recently on my computer, and thought I might as well put it out in the world. I'm not sure whether or not I'll continue it, though a decent response will go a long way toward motivating me to add more. What do you think?