Buffy thought waking up in a coffin had been bizarre and disorientating however, this had the potential to be almost as peculiar.
She knew for a fact that she was not in Sunnydale. The last thing she had remembered before appearing in these unfamiliar woods was facing the demon Chronozon with Spike. She had been standing in the middle of the cemetery with the vampire when suddenly; she materialized into a strange place with no memory of having been whisked away. Her first thought upon arriving was to investigate and in the course of all that, she had come across a group of men fighting for their lives against a cadre of vampires. Naturally, whenever anything pesky or tedious was going astray with her existence, Spike was almost always in the thick of it. If things were not complicated enough, it appeared that somehow in this mess that she had yet to unravel, was Angelus, the vampire her former lover Angel had been prior to the curse that had seen his soul returned to him.
"Stop hitting me!" Spike barked at her.
"Stop being a pain in the ass!" She returned sharply. When she was confused, she was particularly temperamental. "Tell me whats happening?"
"If you bloody calmed down, I would Slayer!" He snapped.
"Jesus Christ," Buck Wilmington groaned in exasperation at the display by too seemingly adults. "You two sound like youre married!"
That silenced both of them immediately.
"Chris you want to handle this?" Buck stared at the gunslinger that appeared in the midst of trying to sneak away without being discovered.
"Not really," Chris sighed, suddenly having this massive headache coming over him. "I was kind of hoping to ride to Purgatory and go on a drinking binge for a couple of days to forget any of this is happening."
"Oh great, so were getting the lush to explain things to me?" Buffy stared at the men impatiently.
"Let me get this straight," Chris glared at her and offered Spike a wholly sympathetically look. "This is the girl youre in love with?"
"What are you the town crier? Do you have to tell everybody?" Buffy threw her hands up in frustration. "Whats next, a full page ad?"
Spike started to swear a litany of curses under his breath and walked away before he said any of them aloud since it would probably get him punched again for it. As he drifted away, Buffy was certain she heard him curse bloody women!
"This is the Slayer?" Ezra said not at all impressed because the girl for all her physical abilities was rather shrewish, although he had to confess that she did sort of remind him of Maude. That alone was enough to make him want to accompany Chris to Purgatory for that drinking binge. "This is my descendant?"
"What are you talking about?" Buffy groaned. "Are you telling me that this is for real? that Im in the past?"
"Yes Buffy," Giles stepped out of the darkness, having come to discover the welfare of the others once Vin had taken Tara to safety and stumbled upon the rapidly deteriorating discussion the slayer was having with the seven men. "Thats exactly whats happened."
An amazing thing happened when the slayer saw the Englishman. Her discontented expression evaporated and her face exploded into a radiant smile that reflected the beauty and the heart that the vampire Spike so obviously loved. Her eyes sparkled as she looked at Giles with nothing less than sheer delight. "Giles? Is that really you?"
"Yes," Giles returned her ecstatic expression with one of gentle caution.
"Oh Giles!" Buffy did not hesitate to run to him, wrapping her around the Watcher in a warm embrace that reeked of joy and gratitude. She hugged him hard, never thinking it could be so good to see her old friend again and in some respects the man who was more her father to her than her real one every tried to be. "I knew youd come back! I knew youd come if I was in trouble! Im so glad to see you!!"
"Buffy," Giles was rather taken back by her display. By definition, Watchers and Slayers were meant to be close but not so close that the girl should be this happy to see him. However, Giles did recall what Spike had told him about his counterparts relationship with his slayer, that there was almost paternal affection in how he regarded the Slayer. It was evident in her reaction to his being here that the vampire had not lied about that and their feelings for one another ran very deep.
"Buffy," he pushed her gently away, "Im not your Giles."
"What?" She stared at him in bewilderment, unable to process it at first. "What do you mean?"
"Perhaps we ought to discuss this in the house," Giles cast his gaze at the other men present. "We certainly dont want Angelus and his minions to return and catch us unawares."
"Fine by me," Chris replied, "I could use that bottle Ive got hiding away about now."
+ + + + + + +
Spike wondered if he was better off in that world where Master was alive and he was the Big Bad once again. Certainly, it would be more dignified then remaining by the Slayers side, accepting the crumbs she threw at him occasionally and breaking his heart every time he gave her the chance. He had been so happy to see her again that he had forgotten how it was with them. That to her, he was merely a convenience, not someone that could ever care about him the way he did her. When she was gone, all he could think about was getting her back and now that she was returned to him, he realized that she was never his to get back in the first place and it hurt remembering that.
"You okay?" Chris asked quietly as Giles explained things to Buffy much to her astonishment.
Spike met the gunslingers gaze, somewhat surprised by the inquiry. "Yeah, Im bloody charming."
"Shes quite something," Chris remarked, glancing at the spirited young woman briefly before turning back to Spike. "I guess things between you arent mutual."
"Only when she feels like it," he said bitterly but was not about to elaborate any further. He could have easily told Larabee that he and Buffy had made love, that they had shared a night of searing passion only to have her discard it and him the morning after. She had vowed to kill him if he told anyone, never thinking that the mere suggestion had hurt him as much as the rest of the things she had said to him. "Im a moron for wanting her, a bloody, lovesick moron."
Chris took a swig out of the bottle he was holding and handed it to the vampire. "I think you could use some of this."
A little smile crossed Spikes lips at the gesture and he accepted the bottle and took a deep gulp and handed it back to the gunslinger. "Sooner we get back to our time the better. At least things make some crazy sense there. In this time, were displaced. I cant help looking at who I used to be and not feel a little sad that its all gone. I envy William a little I guess, hes got it all too look forward to and I," he paused a moment to collect his thoughts, "I dont."
There was real pain in his eyes and Chris wished he knew the words that might make it all better but in truth, this vampire had lived a life longer than his ever could and he doubted that there was very much that Spike could not handle, even this. However, there were times when what one needed most above all else including advice or sympathy, was just one person who was willing to listen and understand. When Sarah and Adam had died, Buck had been that person for him. Unfortunately, it would take more than listening for Spike to feel better, it would require the young slayer admitting something she found utterly unimaginable at this time, if she even felt it at all and that she might care for Spike.
"So youre telling me that Chronozons revenge on Spike is erasing me from existence?" Buffy exclaimed with no small measure of dismay.
"If what Spike tells me about him is true, yes." Giles nodded. "In the world Im from, you were never the Slayer or born for that matter. The slayer that came to Sunnydale was Kendra and Spike killed her. At least the Spike from our world."
Despite how unbelievable it sounded, Buffy believed Giles when he explained the reality of her situation. Had it been anyone else, she would not have accepted it but something inside of her was incapable of distrusting Giles. Even though he was not from the world she knew and had never laid eyes upon her before this night, Buffy still thought of him as her Giles and she could not believe that he would ever lie to her. However, if this was real, if she was indeed in the past, then Buffy was facing an entirely new threat and she was uncertain how to handle it.
"Spike didnt kill her," Buffy countered once her thoughts returned her to the present conversation. "Drusilla killed her when Angelus tried to awaken Acathala."
"Thats not how we remember it," Giles explained, aware that in her mind many things would be different. A part of Giles had difficulty believing that Angelus would become his trusted friend and protege but apparently, Buffys memories of Angels time in Sunnydale were very different indeed.. "A great deal differs from your reckoning and ours. However, we do know that it all stems from Mr. Standish not being killed approximately two nights ago."
"My grandfathers name was Ezra," Buffy muttered, staring Ezra in the face for the first time since Giles had told her the truth about whom the gambler was. A part of her wanted to rebel at the thought that she was related to this man who sounded like something out of a Gone with the Wind movie but she knew it was the truth. She looked into his eyes and she saw Joyce. It was almost painful to do so because it reminded her that Joyce was gone and she could never look into her eyes again. "He died when I was about ten but its supposed to be a family name I think." She offered after a moment, her head spinning a little.
"Well Im grateful some members of my future progeny had sense in naming their children," Ezra retorted feeling just as uncomfortable by the way she was staring at him and could only express himself with a glib remark.. "Might I ask what sort of a name is Buffy?"
Buffy shot him a venomous look through narrow eyes, "you know I can still break your bones, I dont have to kill you for that."
"Mind your elders luv," Spike who was still seated next to Chris remarked sarcastically.
Buffy turned on him remembering that he was the cause of all this and was the appropriate person upon whom to vent her anger. "This is entirely your fault! If you didnt help me, none of this would have happened!"
"Oh bloody hell, not this again," Spike groaned in exasperation and rolled his eyes, wondering what he had been thinking when he had embarked upon this insane quest to save her. It was not as if she would be grateful, just her usual antagonistic self.. "If I hadnt help you kill him youd still be wondering whether or not it was right to kill a human and Chronozon would have caused hell on Earth! Did it occur to you that my being able to kill him means he wasnt bloody human any more! He was a bloody demon! Once again, I show myself to be the biggest traitor in the demon world by killing him and all you can do is bitch about it. Who knew that bastard was going to take it so personally? I thought if he was going to take revenge on me hed do something less extreme, like killing me! Although biting the big one would sure as hell be better then listening to you bitch like some stupid cow!"
"Ill have you know that cows do not bitch and youre not the only one who was wishing he didnt kill you either!" She shouted back angrily. However, Buffy was unable to deny that perhaps she was feeling a little guilty about taking out her anger on him.
"ALRIGHT KNOCK IT OFF THE BOTH OF YOU!!" Chris Larabee roared in a voice that demanded silence and obedience in immediate proportions because he had just about as much of this bickering as he could take. He had shot people for less in the past.
"That took a lot longer than I thought," Buck remarked with a big grin as he stared at his old friend.
"At least a minute longer than I thought it was," Nathan added with the same flippancy as Chris smoldered.
"I was actually giving him another two minutes," Vin added.
"Boys," Josiah, ever the voice of reason chose to advise. "This might not be the best time for this."
Being on the receiving end of the infamous Larabee glare seemed to indicate that the former preacher might be right and the three men immediately fell silent and allowed their leader to continue his tirade.
Once Chris had ensured no more flippant remarks from his comrades in arms, he turned to the visitors from Sunnydale with an expression that could only be called stormy. Leanign forward, he fixed his steely gaze on both Buffy and Spike. "You, Slayer, calm the hell down and Spike, get back in your corner and stop snaking her."
"Thank you," Giles said gratefully and thinking to himself that Chris could teach Angel a thing or two about presence, "couldnt have said it better myself."
"Giles!" Buffy pouted feeling a little betrayed by that crack. "Youre supposed to be my Watcher!"
"And Im being a responsible one by reminding you that at this time, we have bigger problems then whose fault this is. Right now, we have Angelus, Darla, Drusilla and this time periods version of Spike in Four Corners desiring to get their hands on Mr. Standish because of our determination to keep him alive."
"Got ya," Buffy sighed and had to concede that Giles and the hottie were right. Even Spike seemed to agree and had returned to his corner so to speak, bringing the room to some semblance of order once again. "So we got four of the Big Bads in town?"
"As bad as they can get," JD replied passionately. "The crazy lady one almost took my head off."
"Youre lucky she didnt take more then that off," Spike added. "Dru can hold her own in a fight."
"And Angelus is leading them I suppose," Buffy mused, venturing a guess. It was hard to equate Angel with the ruthless creature that was now seeking to end her existence without even knowing it. She wondered what would he think if he knew the real importance of Ezra Standish. Would it alter his decision? After all, there were occasions when Buffy had saved his life not to mention given Angelus to emerge when his evil was submerged by the curse and the return of Angels soul. Probably not, Buffy decided after awhile. If anything, Angelus would find it highly amusing even if it cost him his existence.
"Yep," Spike nodded watching her closely for her reaction, more than aware of their past history. He told himself to take it easy on her because there was a connection between Buffy and Angel that he could never break, no matter how much he might hate it. It had to hurt her seeing Angelus. "This is his show all the way."
"But he doesnt know why my great, great grandpa is so important?" She looked at Ezra and still found it difficult to imagine they shared the same genes. The mention of the word grandpa in association to him made the gambler wince with distaste. It was a reaction that made Buffy feel better though because it was nice to know that he was just as freaked out by this as she.
"Not at this time. He only knows that were protecting him." Chris answered the girl now that she was asking sensible questions. When she was not being a typically headstrong, pain in the ass woman that is.
"So weve got to get them to leave, without killing any of them." Buffy stated again, her skepticism showing in her face.
"Yes," Giles nodded the affirmative. "The timeline must be maintained."
"Thats easier say then done," Spike voiced what everyone was thinking. "Hes gonna be especially interested now that he knows that theres a slayer here."
"Weve got to find them first," Buffy announced firmly seeing no other way to proceed but was open to a different plan if either Giles or the handsome man in black had one. "Sure as hell theyll be making more vamps and coming after him once Angel, I mean Angelus regroups."
"What if I were to leave?" Ezra inquired. He did not much like the idea of leaving his friends but to spare them from the onslaught of more vampires, he was willing to make the sacrifice. "He cannot find me if I choose to disappear. I do know how to make myself scarce."
"No way Ezra," Vin Tanner declared from his corner of the room. "You aint facing this thing on your own. Together, we might be able to fight them off. Alone and youre easy pickings."
"Nicely put Mr. Tanner," Ezra frowned at the tracker for putting it quite so bluntly.
"And hes right," Buffy agreed. "If Angelus is interested, hell track you down. Believe I know. Best thing we can do is stay put and fight."
"I...I...dont think that running would work anyway," Tara declared. Since regaining consciousness, she had been listening quietly to the conversations being carried out by the others. It was her habit in Sunnydale to fade into the background. Those who knew her were aware she would speak when she had something to say. It was nice to know the seven felt the same way about her but then Tara noticed they were an eclectic bunch who were forced to become accustomed to each others way in order for their friendship to endure.
"What if you have to meet your wife here?" Tara offered further. "If you leave, you might not meet her and maybe youll never have a family."
"Shes right Ezra," Buck agreed with that assessment. He did not know anything about timelines or alternate realities but he did know something about fate and life had taught him that the more you tried to go around it, the more you ended up in the same place anyway. Fate would not be denied. However, it was never wise to flaunt it either. "You need to be here as planned for things to go as they should."
"So were back to square one," Buffy responded a little less encouraged. "We have to make them leave without killing them."
"Something like that," Giles frowned, feeling the impasse as much as she.
"In that case Id suggest that we move my great great grandpa somewhere else," Buffy suggested grinning at Ezra, being able to tell by the scowl on the gamblers face that he truly hated being called that. Hey who said she couldnt have a little fun with this?
"Please dont do that," Ezra grumbled giving her a dark look. "Its hard imagining that Ill be siring a gaggle of children, let alone a vampire slayer. Im not even married!"
"Oh come on," Buffy teased. "I havent even told you all the great family stories yet! If we were at home, Id show you me and Dawns baby pictures!"
"Dawn?" Ezra raised a brow because that was a name he had not heard.
"Your other, great, great grand daughter." Buffy took great relish in the groan that escaped the gambler at the mention of her little sister. However, she was suddenly struck by the realization that if she did not exist then the monks protecting the key would not have thought to use her to give it human form. Dawn would not exist either. It took whatever amusement she had derived from the moment.
Fortunately, Ezra was spared having to respond to that statement when they heard pounding at the front door of the shack. Their initial reaction was that the vampires had come back but then realized that the creatures were not in the habit of knocking. All eyes turned to Chris since it was his home and the gunslinger whose gun came unsheathed in his hand, walked cautiously to the door to open it. The knocking had a ring of desperation to it and Chris wondered if a more conventional form of trouble had come to Four Corners in the sevens absence. The rest of the seven were similarly alerted with weapons drawn while Spike wondered what the concern was all about when his heightened senses detected nothing that could be danger on the other side of the door.
When Chris opened the door, he found that it was not a vampire or any denizen from the underworld but rather Mary Travis, who looked rather disheveled and clearly frightened.
"Oh Chris!" She cried out unbelievably grateful to see that he was alive and well. Without thinking about the propriety of it, the newspaperwoman wrapped her arms around Chris and embraced him hard. "Thank God youre safe. Im so sorry, Chris, I had no choice! He was going to kill her! I had to tell him where you were!"
"Mary calm down," Chris felt slightly warm at the feel of her body against his but did not think it was appropriate for in front of so many people, no matter how thrilled she was to see him or how much he enjoyed the sensation.
"What are you talking about?" He asked when he gently parted from her .and looked her in the eye once more.
"One of those visitors we had to town!" Mary stammered. "I dont know what his name was but you know who I mean. The ones we thought were European aristocrats! He was a vampire! I know it sounds crazy but its true! He was going to tear this poor girls throat out in front of me. I had to tell him where you were!"
"Wow, shes loud," Buffy quipped, stating the obvious.
Chris shot her a scalding glare before turning back to Mary again, realizing what had caused her terrible panic. Chris was horrified by the notion that Angelus has come after Mary. It had never occurred to the gunslinger that she might be in danger but then he supposed he should have known. Mary was a part of their tight knit group, even if she was not apart of the seven. "He came after you? Did he hurt you? Are you okay? What were you thinking coming here at night? He could have still been out there!"
"Now, hes doing it." Buffy added.
"Will you cut that out!" Chris fairly roared and it was some feat considering he was not a vampire. "Im sorry Mary," Chris said turning back to Mary, "it never occurred to me that hed go after you."
"Chris he knew my name and it felt like he knew me personally but Ive never even spoken to him. He knew me well enough to know that I would not allow him to kill that girl and hes a vampire Chris, did I mention that? I know it sound insane!" Mary continued to rave, showing no signs of stopping.
"Excuse me," Spike found the need to interrupt irresistible. The womans prattling was getting on his nerves and they were getting nowhere with their discussion about how to deal with Angelus. "Did he looked something like this?" Without giving Mary any warning, he morphed into his vampires visage.
Marys eyes widened at the sight of him before she let out an ear splitting scream of fright.
Then she fainted.
"Mary!" Chris caught her in his arms before she could land on the floor and then glared at the vampire that was chuckling to himself with a devilish smirk even though the rest of the room was enveloped in muted silence.
"Well that was productive," Giles broke the silence by staring reproachfully at the vampire.
"It got her to shut up didnt it?" Spike reasoned innocently.
+ + + + + + +
Angelus was even more confused then ever when he returned to the Landers farm in order to rejoin the rest of his family. He would collect his minions tomorrow night and then decide what he wanted to do. At the moment, however, he was trying to wrap his mind around what had taken place tonight. How on earth had they managed to bring a slayer here? Angelus was aware like most vampires that the slayer was presently residing in Rhodesia. It was one of the reasons the family had opted to stay away from Africa despite Williams insistence to face her. Both Angelus and Darla knew that as exceptional as his potential might be, William was simply not experienced or seasoned enough to face a slayer and the one that Angelus had seen tonight was certainly that and more. The power he sensed emanating from her was proof of that.
For the second time in as many days, he was forced to run and it was not a situation that he was found at all acceptable. He was Angelus. He ran from nothing, not humans or traitorous vampires and certainly not from slayers. However, he had to recognize the danger the slayer presented and this needed discussion with Darla. His mate had been on this earth far longer than he and while she allowed him to be master of their family, there were times when he needed her counsel. Besides, after the failure tonight, he needed badly to be with her. He had told the family to stay put but conceded that even Darla was not required to obey him unconditionally. She needed to feed just like he did.
When he entered the home they had claimed for themselves only two nights ago, he saw Darla coming out of one of the adjoining rooms to greet him.
"Where have you been?" She demanded, her lovely features etched in worry.
"Ive been dealing with the humans my love," Angelus responded and saw genuine anxiety on her face and knew something was worrying her beyond the fact that he had been gone for a length of time. They were both creatures of the night and while they hunted together on most occasions, it was not unusual for them to be apart. "Whats happened here?" He asked, his hand cupped her cheek and he began to caress her pale skin gently with a finger.
"Its Drusilla," Darla explained as she broke away from his touch and led him towards one of the rooms. "Shes had one of her turns. A pretty violent one in comparison to the usual."
"Is she alright?" Angelus asked, both concerned about his minion as well as curious regarding the vision that would have precipitated such a dramatic seeing. After the way this night has transpired, he was in need of some good news.
"Shes better now but she was in a terrible state a short time ago," Darla responded as they both entered the room being occupied by Drusilla and William. Naturally, Drusillas predilection for dolls and little girls toys had made her inclined to claim the room that had belonged to the Landers youngest child, a golden haired cherub who had not lasted long in Drusillas company. "William is with her now."
"How long ago?" Angelus asked because the timing of it seemed extremely coincidental with what he and his minions experienced prior to reaching humans at Larabees shack. They had approached on horseback but Angelus has sworn that as they were nearing the parcel of land, the sky was charged with what felt like a thunderstorm. However, upon reaching their destination, all evidence of it had disappeared, not to mention the lack of one drop of rain anywhere. His senses had told him that there was something strange about the phenomenon and considering that his main opponent was another version of one of his minions, Angelus wondered if Drusillas episode was not somehow connected with the bizarre things that were taking place right now.
"Not very long. No more than two hours. Why?" She looked at him suspiciously, realizing that it was not merely an idle inquiry but a question with purpose. "What happened with the humans?"
Angelus did not answer her as they entered Drusillas room. William looked over his shoulder and immediately rose to his feet. "Where the hell have you been?"
"I dont recall having to explain myself to you William," Angelus met his blue eyes with sharp points of warning.
As usual, William showed very little effect of being effected by his threat and retreated only because the young vampire did not wish to distress his black princess. Instead, he ran his fingers over Drusillas brow, whispering gently into her ear. "There now pet, look whose back." He cast a brief glimpse at Angelus before returning his attention to Drusilla.
"Hello darling," Angelus moved into Drusillas view and the young female raised her unearthly eyes to his face, breathing life into her listless expression.
"Daddys home," she smiled sweetly, the traces of holy water that had scarred her the night before was gone. "Something tore a hole daddy, a big hole. The noise hurt my head."
"What was it my precious girl?" Angelus smiled at her, drinking in her delight at seeing him. Drusilla had been his masterpiece and he treated her that way. She had been the culmination of his obsession, a piece of art that he had painstakingly cultivated until all that was pure in what she had once been was stripped down to its bare bones and encased in darkness. He liked to think that she was the caterpillar that had been turned into the butterfly thanks to his hand in her metamorphosis. "Tell daddy what made your head hurt."
Drusilla blinked, taking on that expression she sometimes did when she saw things that were more than just the reality before her. Her eyes could pierce through the seemingly impregnable walls, to catch a glimpse of shadowy reflections of an entirely different order. "Shes here daddy, the one of power, the ones that comes to destroy us all. Shell tear the family apart."
"Who is she talking about?" Darla demanded, anxious of anything that might ruin what the four of them had. As vampire clans go, there were strong and they were all direct sires of the Master himself, the clan of Aurelius. Darla had been the Masters sire and in turn she had helped in the creation of the most brutal trio of vampires that had ever walked across the earth.
"The slayer," Drusilla whispered, not really listening.
"The slayer is here." Williams eyes widened with excitement. "Are you sure pet?"
William had been wanting to meet a slayer since Angelus had told the young vampire about the chosen ones, the line of females that were capable of defeating them, who was the only creature alive that could hunt a vampire. The prospect of one being here sent shivers of anticipation through him. Suddenly, the entire situation in Four Corners seemed unimportant next to the possibility that he could face a slayer at long last. Angelus had denied him the chance by avoiding Africa where the slayer was supposed to have been. William did not wish to question what forces had brought her here, not when it would allow him to have his first kill of a slayer.
"Yes," she looked at him strangely and for a moment William saw what appeared to be tears in her eyes as she reached for his cheek. "Oh Spike, shes going to take you and daddy away. Shes going to leave me all alone."
"That will never happen," Angelus smiled reassuringly at her.
However, Drusilla would not be consoled and she turned away, tears running down her face. "I see it all coming apart daddy, like cobwebs in my head. Shes a spider and shes eating us all. Shell take you first daddy and then mummy and when shes had her fill shell take you too my darling Spike, shell leave me alone."
"Ive never seen her like this," William stared at Angelus, sensing the fear from his lover even if he did not understand it. She was terrified. He could feel it oozing out of her like blood. "Shes bloody terrified." William stared at Angelus, hoping he had an answer because he had known Drusilla longer. It was the one time when William wanted Angelus to do something because he could not bear seeing his lover in such a state.
"Dru," Angelus said soothingly. "No ones leaving you. Were all here and were sure as hell though enough to face anything that might come after us. Youll never be alone, youll always have us. Were family arent we?"
Drusilla did not seem any more at ease because she looked him dead in the eyes and answered. "No you wont. You wont be daddy anymore, youll be Angel."
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