A/N: Thank you for reading this story. I hope you enjoy it. It follows on from the end of season 5 and comprises two parts. Please review. Regards CC.

Preview of part one:

"Damn!" Spike cursed. "I've walked us into a trap like an unbitten virgin." He looked at his young charge, his eyes remorseful. "Dawn, I'm sorry...I can't take them all."

"I'm not scared," she reassured him, shocking herself with her own calm. "Really I'm not, but could you...I mean I'd rather not be taken by them." She tilted her head slightly and lowered the collar of her t-shirt to leave her neck clear.

Spike stood back in horror at what she was suggesting. The spell of resignation and horror was broken by the sound of fighting. They both turned to see three vampires dusted in quick succession. It took Spike several seconds before he joined the fight, such was the shock he felt. The battle was over in just a few minutes. Spike brushed dust from his coat and stood staring at their saviour.

"Hello, Spike miss me? And, is that Dawn there? What are you doing up so late? It's a school night. I hope you've done your homework."

"Buffy?" Spike managed to utter.

Preview of part two:

Amy sat at the back of the Magic Shop devouring a large pizza. The fact she had an audience did not bother her. In fact, the attention was just as welcome, having spent nearly two years as a rat and only a spinning wheel to amuse her. Tara had discovered her a few hours earlier and during that time everyone had brought her up to date on events that had occurred during the lost years.

"Wow, that was like watching all 21 episodes of your favourite show in one sitting," Amy eventually said when they had finished. "And, how many cliff-hangers was that?"

Chapter one

Buffy was dead.

Part of a Watcher's training was to expect the death of his or her slayer. The majority of Watchers assigned a slayer outlived their charges. Though some diaries catalogued the method of death, they never depicted the Watcher's feelings at the loss. Buffy had once refused to read the diaries, citing they deified slayers without revealing their personalities or those of their guides. Giles was thus unprepared for the feelings he was experiencing. He had spent his whole life dreading one moment of inevitability and suddenly it had arrived.

"So, you're really leaving us," Willow said, her tone part disbelief and part accusation. "And England. You couldn't have picked a farther place?"

Giles stopped cramming clothes into his suitcase and paused for thought before turning to the young woman standing behind him. He sensed her judging him, and when he turned to face her, felt his thoughts confirmed by her expression. "It's been a long time."

"You went there a few months ago to consult with the Council."

"I meant..."

"You meant that there's nothing to keep you here any more. What about the rest of us? Did you not think we would appreciate your knowledge? There are more things out there than trapped gods."

"If the Council still consider this a risk area they will send the next slayer here...with her Watcher." He faltered at the end.

Willow suddenly appreciated the fact that Giles' job was over. With Buffy dead he had no role. "What about staying for friendship's sake?" She offered.

"I've made my decision, Willow."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Angel walked in to the jail's compound, through the large imposing gates that were designed to create a sense of foreboding, of justice being severe and frightening. The sun was hidden behind clouds appropriate for his mood and fortunate for a being normally unable to visit so early. He approached the reception desk and announced his wish to visit Faith.

"Sorry, sir, not today," the guard instructed. "She's in solitary with no visitor rights." Angel asked him why Faith was being punished. "She flipped a couple of days ago. Pity really since she had been a model prisoner since her arrival. I wasn't on duty, but apparently she went berserk one night shouting out 'she's dead' and 'there can be only one' and such like."

Angel was shocked. Faith must have sensed Buffy's passing. What was she feeling at this moment? "When can I see her?" He asked.

"No idea. Apparently she's being moved soon to another jail. Don't ask me why or where as we're all being kept in the dark."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Xander stood by the window of his wonderful apartment. It was a status symbol he relished; a testament to his better half's negotiating skill. He still spent long moments in disbelief at the good fortune that blessed his adult life: a good job, a showcase apartment and a girl he loved. He hadn't been home for months and had no plans to do so. His old life and the Xander that had existed with it were gone, consigned to history; his parents with it. He couldn't quite draw a complete line under that former existence, however; the thought of a petite blonde he had once loved plagued his conscience still.

Anya wrapped her arms round his waist. He hadn't noticed her approach. They had spent the evening making love; lost in a desperate passion that wiped clear all thoughts except the person they held. Although he loved Anya with a strength that far outweighed what he had ever felt for Buffy, he still found it difficult to live a life without her in it. But, he relished his love for his ex-vengeance demon and rejoiced in his successes, damning his parents' claims that he would never make anything of his life.

"Come back to bed," Anya said simply. She knew how he felt; she was human enough to sense the loss her lover felt.

"I love you, you know that, don't you?" Xander said again, echoing the same question he had asked several times before.

Chapter two

...This is my quest, to follow that star,

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far...

...that a man, scorned and covered with scars,

Should fight, with his last ounce of courage,

To reach the unreachable star!

(Man of La Mancha)

Spike was drunk. He swayed about his tomb, a bottle of Jack Daniels precariously gripped in his right hand. He was a picture of demented self-pity that had morphed from his earlier anguish. "I am the sun...and the air," he sang out loud, his words slurred. "I am demon and I need to be loved, just like everyone else does." He flung his arms wide in a dramatic pose, but this only caused him to stagger backwards ungainly. He managed to remain standing, though. "I've already taken too long, and all my...fucking patience is gone," he shouted out in anger at the last line and threw the empty bottle against the far wall. He rejoiced at the shattering glass and turned from the show to see a figure standing in the doorway. He focused his eyes and realised it was Dawn. He immediately sobered up and was contrite and ashamed in equal measure. "Dawn, pet what are you doing here?" He asked affectionately.

"That was a good show," the entity known as Dawn stated. "If I knew you watched Charmed I'd have joined you each week. Buffy was never a fan."

It had been a week since Buffy's sacrificial leap into the void. Everyone had reacted in his or her own, quite different ways. For Spike it was immersing himself in the parallel world that only alcohol could transport a person; a demon confronting demons. Xander, of course had his very own ex-demon, and he chose passion to forget. No one knew what Willow was thinking. She seemed self occupied; lost in her own thoughts behind a wall not even Tara could breach. Giles immersed himself in the role of guide and mentor, but he had the tragic look of a teacher who had lost his favourite pupil. Dawn seemed calm, as though the innocence of a child extended to the acceptance of death.

"What're you doing here?" Spike repeated. "The others will be worried." The whole gang had taken it upon themselves to be guardians, with Giles as the front-person where school and other authorities were concerned. Dawn's father had not been traced so far.

"I sent them a text message," Dawn replied showing the vampire her cell phone.

"Then why..."

"I felt like coming. People I love have the habit of dying when I'm around, so I thought I'd come here seeing as you're already dead and all."

"Good sense. It's good to see that in someone so young."

Dawn entered Spike's home and stood in the centre as though lost for what to do next. "I haven't seen you since the funeral...I've missed you."

"You and no-one else, I'm sure. I'm not everyone's favourite crusader against the darkness, living the wrong side of sunset."

"That's not fair. You helped just as much last week as the others."

"I know that, but I think they see me as being too close to the dark they fear. Besides, I've a fair bit of bad history to live down."

"That's crap. You're more twilight than dark. Besides, Angelus was far worse than you..."

"Hey! You take that back...although, thank you for the sentiment."

Dawn laughed. Spike thought he caught a glimpse of her sister in her eyes. He turned away from the young girl.

"You really loved her, didn't you?" She pursued.

"For all my many sins yes...in the end I think I did. Pathetic, huh? And sick and disgusting..."

"Why...? Spike, it was sweet and...I think she understood at the end."

"So do I. Come on, I'll take you home."

They threaded their way through the scattered graves that surrounded Spike's address. Buffy's own grave was elsewhere as this was one of Sunnydale's older resting places.

"I dreamt of her last night," Dawn broke the silence of the journey. " She was fighting. It seemed so real. Why is it she has to always fight?" She looked up at her companion.

"I don't know, pet. Was she winning?"

"Yes, but more opponents kept coming and she...she was sad and angry and...it wasn't a nice dream."

Spike put his arm round her as they made their way to Giles'.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Giles was still in Sunnydale. His suitcase was still packed from the week before and when he had recourse to take things from it, he always replaced them when washed and ironed again. Willow had talked him into staying for a couple more days after she had found him packing. She said his presence was needed to ensure everyone bonded in mutual mourning, rather than knee-jerk react by leaving.

No slayer meant no superhero to defend the forces of light, and the forces of light were suffering an identity crisis. The presence of Buffy, the slayer, had always instilled confidence in the gang that couldn't throw straight, but Buffy the friend had also held them together emotionally. Tara and Anya were not looked upon as being integral - not being part of the original combo. Willow disliked Anya's attitude and no one had an opinion on Tara. If he stretched it further, Giles confessed to himself that Xander drove him crazy, and as for Spike...

The vampire attacks started after the first week.

Chapter three

In the spring

The full moon shines for the warrior

Who has lost his way.

Xander wished they wouldn't make such a big deal out of it. It only made him feel worse; that he couldn't conjure up any emotions beyond a faint sense of regret and a guilty feeling of relief. It wasn't as though he really loved his parents.

The first raid by the new vamps in town, made confident by the presence of a Hell mouth sans a slayer, had been on one of Sunnydale's more fashionable restaurants. In truth, it was the only fashionable one in town. Mr and Mrs Harris dined there regularly, to be seen. It was the only public place they never argued, saving that joy until they got home afterwards.

The attack had been vicious and brazen; such was the demons' confidence. Everyone was killed with no conversions. It was as though the gang regarded Sunnydale's high society with contempt. The rich and influential died as easily as anyone else, and would stay dead.

"Are you OK?" Tara asked, finding Xander leaning on his parents' veranda staring at the sunset. She felt uneasy, lonely even. Willow had been strangely remote that evening and she did not have the courage to strike up a conversation with any of the others.

"Yes, fine. I'm just having a Dawson Creek moment; staring at the sun in moody silence," he smiled for her benefit.

"Is it working?"

"Not really. It's not the same without a soundtrack. Sara McLachlan would be good."

"Or the Counting Crows."

"They would work, yea." He looked over Tara's shoulder to see Giles approaching. "I'm going hunting tonight, Giles. I need to kill something."

"Is that wise?" The Watcher asked, his voice neutral, careful not to sound disapproving or encouraging.

"Probably not," Xander smiled.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Later that night Willow emerged from a lock-up garage. She took great care in ensuring it was secured properly. Turning round to leave, she staggered slightly and used the garage door to hold herself steady. A spot of blood hit her jeans, its tendrils spread through the cotton fabric virus-like. She cursed the stain it would make and stemmed further drops by placing a finger under her nose. With her free hand she took out a tissue from a pocket and used it to soak up the thick red liquid, successfully halting the flow.

She felt weak at the knees and concerned she would not make it back to her and Tara's rooms. She conjured up energy from a whispered incantation. Her eyes went black and she stood bolt upright as a surge of energy coursed her veins. Reinvigorated, she shook her head to clear earlier cobwebs of fatigue. Her eyes returned to their natural colour and Willow set out on her journey, her resolve outweighing any fear she may have had at the need to resort to magic.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Xander saw Spike standing under a tree up ahead, along the route he was taking to the nearest of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. He still had mixed feelings about his former nemesis. Unlike the others, he was not so easily convinced of the vampire's good intentions. Like a rat in a laboratory, Spike was being conditioned to be good by the chip embedded in his skull: be bad and experience pain, be good and win the trust of the slayer and all her friends. He still enjoyed violence too much for Xander's liking. It was just inflicted on his own kind now. That last thought made Xander feel uneasy, since what else was he out this late for, if not to kill Spike's kind?

"Why, it's Xander, Xander, Xander of the jungle," Spike teased. "I thought I'd join you. Keep you company so to speak," the vampire stated when the human was within earshot. "It can be dangerous fighting alone without superpowers."

"Why? Why would you want to help me?" Xander asked almost belligerently. "Why would you even want to kill your own kind?" He echoed his earlier thoughts.

Spike shrugged. "Perhaps I'm looking for my own redemption of sorts. Why do you do it?"

"Nothing so noble, I can assure you. I just enjoy the kill."

"That and blowing stuff up."

"You mean I get to blow stuff up?" Xander perked up.

Spike revealed a sports bag, previously hidden in the tree's shadow. Xander saw it contained several sticks of dynamite. "I know a crypt with some new occupants...it has a very big, strong, bitch of a door."

"OK," Xander responded trying to keep a level head. "I guess you can come along then." Spike picked up his bag and fell into line with the Sunnydale's white knight. "Redemption?" Xander queried the vampire's earlier comment, his tone cynical.

"What can I say, I enjoy tilting at windmills."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Willow made her way home along a street lined with shops closed for the night. That part of town tended to be empty after closing time. An occasional car passed her, its headlights revealing shop doorways and adding form to trash cans and free magazine holders. To cure the boredom of the journey she counted her steps between each street light and watched as her shadow overtook her as she passed under the glare of each lamp. So lost was she in her game that she didn't hear the approach of the demon from behind.

It grabbed her arms and pulled them behind her back. Two more vampires appeared from the other side of the road and walked up to face the small redhead. One gripped her jaw with one hand and forced her head to one side. He sneered at their intended victim and released his grip. "Barely enough for one of us, let alone three."

"Let me go!" Willow shouted vainly as she struggled to break free from the arm hold of the monster behind her. The one who had spoken slapped her hard across the face, holding back nothing. Willow tasted blood from the corner of her mouth and her ear rang with force of the impact. Her head hung down.

The vampire grabbed her jaw again and forced her head back up. He stepped back suddenly when he saw the colour of her eyes; pitch black and staring straight at him. He knew what he was facing and his own eyes betrayed him. "Let her go!" He shouted to his colleague: terror by now taking hold.

The vampire behind released Willow's arms and stepped back. The fear on the other's face, an emotion he had never seen, filled his own lifeless body with dread. The former hostage flung her right arm out straight, her fingers apart and extended. The vampire that had struck her before went flying backwards and off the ground. It collided with a street sign and slid to the floor.

The other demon in front of her flew back in similar fashion as she pushed her left arm forward. The first recovered and pulled himself up to a standing position. Willow gestured to her right and he went flying into the plate glass window of the nearest shop. The second adversary bravely charged the witch but hit a wall of air, which held him on invisible strings.

Willow caused a fragment of glass from the broken window to rise and sent it at the trapped demon. It embedded in his neck. He pulled it out and flung it aside only to find another hit his leg. He took that shard out as well, but found another impale his side. More shards of glass pierced him and he stepped back screaming, his arms flailing desperately but unsuccessfully to avoid the onslaught.

The vampire behind Willow grabbed her again, this time wrapping his arms round her body thinking to squeeze the air from her lungs. Her arms still free, though, Willow was able to summon a six-inch strip of glass to her hand. She gripped it; ignoring the cuts it made to her palm, and backward stabbed it into the vampire's side. It released its grip. Willow pulled the glass out, twisted round and drove it into the demon's heart. She turned round again before the dust settled to confront the one who had hit her earlier. The shop front was empty; the vampire had fled.

Willow's eyes lost their dark hue and she collapsed in exhaustion. Seconds later a man knelt on the ground in front of her. "Are you OK, miss?" He asked concerned, resting a hand on her shoulder.

Willow came awake instantly and on impulse threw the Samaritan backwards. He hit the windscreen of an oncoming car and rolled on to the road. The car stopped in time and the driver emerged in shock to check on the victim. Willow stood up terrified at what she had done. Taking just enough time to see that man was still alive, she ran from the scene.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

After the explosion was just an echo and the ground stopped its shaking, Spike and Xander stood up from behind their protective gravestones. Stone and brick lay shattered and strewn across the cemetery floor. As the dust settled, very little of the crypt that had stood before them stood any longer.

"Oops," Xander contributed to the moment.

"Oops? You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" Spike mimicked.

"So I over compensated."

Several vampires started to emerge from the ruins, pale with dust and bloody from splinters of debris. Xander stood determined to face down the enemy. Spike had a demented grin that betrayed his lust for violence. One vampire charged the human. When it was barely inches from its target Xander bent down. The demon collided with him and found itself gripped by the waste and tossed over the boy. It landed hard on the ground behind. Xander charged the next one down. He landed on top of it and wasted no time in staking his victim. He stood up and confronted the first vampire who had recovered. It was taken from behind, however, by Spike, who broke its neck with one clinical twist. The blonde vampire then staked it for good measure.

Xander was grabbed from behind. He wanted to scream out loud at the pain inflicted on his ribs by the bear hug. Instead he leant his full weight backwards causing his attacker to stumble. It released its arms to break its fall. Xander spun round and stabbed the vampire's heart and dust was all that reached the ground.

The fight continued for several minutes. It was not all one sided, however as the element of surprise soon wore off and the forces for good found it increasingly hard to take down each demon. Just as it looked as though they were about to be overwhelmed a vampire appeared from the darkness of the surrounding trees. He shouted something to his colleagues that neither Xander nor Spike caught. It must have been important as they found themselves without a target to enact their justice upon.

Xander fell to his knees exhausted. Spike ran to the edge of the clearing and shouted colourful abuse at the fleeing enemy, concentrating on their dubious parentage and their poor choice of supporting something called Arsenal that was lost on Xander.

"How do you feel now?" Spike asked the still kneeling Xander.

The boy wiped tears from his eyes and sat down on the battlefield. "A little sick," he eventually managed to say. "I...I feel I have a calling now. Tonight was...OK, I confess that tonight was butchery for the sake of revenge, but there's something clean and pure in protecting what is worth protecting. The World is too precious to let it be sacrificed when it can so easily be saved."

"God help us, he's become a crusader," Spike commented bleakly. "I really thought there was hope for you, boy. If the World knew what you did, the best you'd get is a ten-minute slot on Jerry Springer. I'd prefer it if you just said you liked killing. You're becoming a zealot."

The vampire started to walk away from the scene of destruction around him.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Willow looked out of the window. The clouds parted and she was shocked to see that a full moon shone that night. She had long since stopped ticking her calendar for each month's appearance. The full shaped disc seemed pure; a perfectly formed beacon. She heard a noise in the room behind her. "Oz?" She whispered into the darkness. She made out Tara's form and her perfume. "Hello," she welcomed her lover simply.

Willow walked over to a low height cupboard and lit four candles that stood spaced out on the top. Tara's face appeared in the glow that they and the moon projected.

"How are you?" Willow asked.

"You said Oz," the other Wicca responded.

"I didn't."

"Excuse me, but you certainly did too."

"It must have been the Moon then, triggering memories. I apologise."

"Do you miss him?"

"I miss the times...simpler times. Don't look like that, Tara," Willow felt irritated by her partner's mood.

"Where were you tonight?"

"It's late, we best get some sleep," Willow stated, ignoring the question.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Xander lay in bed with his fiancé. His joints ached from the night's fighting. Part of him felt it was a clean fatigue brought on by honest labour, but he remembered Spike's admonishment. He put it to back of his mind. "Nothing is more comforting," he said to Anya, "than cuddling up to your sweetheart naked under the covers."

Anya stirred. "I guess this is not a good time to say my arm has gone dead, and I'm getting a stiff neck from you breathing on it," she said innocently.

Xander smiled.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

The following night, after spending the evening watching television together, Spike escorted Dawn back to Giles' apartment.

"So, it's like an extended family then?" Dawn added.

They had been going through the order of siring: Darla had turned Angel into a vampire, who then had turned Drucilla, who then sired Spike.

"Yea, if you don't mind a psychopath for a mother and a ponce for a father."

"But, there's always Darla for a grandmother." Dawn skipped ahead and slowly walked backwards facing Spike. "It must be tough wanting to shag your gran."

"Dawn!"

"Oh, ewww! I just remembered; you've all slept with each other. No wonder you're all damned."

"Hey! I only slept with Dru."

"Your mother," Dawn pointed out with a smile, warming to the game of baiting the indignant vampire.

"OK, can we stop playing analogies now."

"Hold on, I think I can hear something," Dawn struck a theatrical pose of listening out for a sound.

"What?"

"I think it's duelling banjos," she giggled.

"You're way too smart for a ball of light."

"Yea, but you love me just...Spike, what's up?" She asked noticing her companion's sudden look of fear. She turned round to see what had taken his concentration. The floor ahead was strewn with corpses, their throats concealed by blood. Around them stood a dozen vampires.

"Damn!" Spike cursed. "I've walked us into a trap like an unbitten virgin." He looked at his young charge, his eyes remorseful. "Dawn, I'm sorry...I can't take them all."

"I'm not scared," she reassured him, shocking herself with her own calm. "Really I'm not, but could you...I mean I'd rather not be taken by them." She tilted her head slightly and lowered the collar of her t-shirt to leave her neck clear.

Spike stood back in horror at what she was suggesting.

The spell of resignation and horror was broken by the sound of fighting. They both turned to see three vampires dusted in quick succession. It took Spike several seconds before he joined the fight, such was the shock he felt. The battle was over in just a few minutes. Spike brushed dust from his coat and stood staring at their saviour.

"Hello, Spike miss me? And, is that Dawn there? What are you doing up so late? It's a school night. I hope you've done your homework."

"Buffy?" Spike managed to utter.

To be continued. Please review.