DISCLAIMER: These all belong to Buffy God Mr Joss Whedon, and whatever rights he has assigned, to his bosses and their companies. Legally I would be considered a 'man of straw' so please don't sue. Actually means I'm skint.
MY COPYRIGHT: The original characters and the story arcs involved are mine.
PAIRINGS: A/X, S/H and hints of W/T and B/R, plus orig. m/f and f/f.
SPOILERS: Alternative timeline, splitting off from Family, does make mention of other parts of S.5.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This makes some serious mention of the 2000/2001 English Football Season, if you take that as the start of the story. The first game mentioned is Liverpool v. Manchester United, who came third and first, respectively in the league, but Liverpool beat Man U twice in that year, and went on to win a cup treble (League Cup, F.A. Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup).
AUTHOR'S NOTES (2): The Redemption Series is five parts in length: Fallen; Reunion; Shadows; Covenant and Redemption. It also includes a short Prologue (" sweet sorrow ") and epilogue (" ever after "), and my own bad poetry.
AUTHOR'S NOTES (3): A big thank-you to my Beta Readers: Lea, Steen and Shane (now unfortunately an ex-Beta Reader), who make my words readable. And will be now getting large chunks of Reunion.
DEDICATION: To Mr. C. Jarvis, my old English Teacher (now resident in Spain), I hope finally I've come with a cake (sorry private joke).
BIG THANK YOU: To Darklight, for all your feedback and for allowing me to bounce my ideas around.
"What Lies beyond Perception?
For it stands between all, the mad and the genius,
Our Loves and Our Hates,
What Lies beyond Perception?
It is the thin line between Gods and Monsters,
That which we worship, and that which we fear in the night.
What Lies Beyond Perception?
For it tells us, he is a sinner and she is a saint,
For in my sin, another's salvation lies.
What Lies beyond Perception?
For in my Redemption not even,
Gods, Monsters or Mortals may touch."
The Great Hall, Rothwell Manor.
Part One: Fallen
By Crazed Attourney
Prologue: "...sweet sorrow..."
"No!" Tara called out as she watched her beloved red head fall, only she could see the invisible lei-ach demon as it approached Willow's prone form, while one of the other grim clown parodies wrestled with Buffy.
"Tara can you see it, what is it?" The slayer called, fear touching at her voice.
"N-N-N-No," she stuttered uncontrollably, her mind racing to find the words to end her spell, "B-b-blind C-C-Cadria, r-re-release y-our hold." Just barely the words stumbled from her lips.
Both of the demons suddenly appeared before the rest of their group, a flash of red lingered in their eyes.
Xander barrelled into the one hovering above Willow, he did it without thinking, like long dead Viking warriors the young man went berserk, physically driving the stronger demon back with the surprising brutality of his attack.
Buffy was having an easier time of it, now able to see her attacker, she spun with high kick, the demon flew back and into a surprised Giles, the elder man was knocked unconscious, the demon was not so lucky, it fell back it's head colliding through the glass of the shops counters, shards of glass drove themselves into it's head and neck, it too fell into blackness, as its life slipped away.
The remaining lei-ach, seeing its brethren die, and being unable to drive away the fury battering at it, decided to run, pushing Xander aside it gathered all its strength to flee. The arrival of the Maclay Clan halted its desperate run, as it frantically tried to grapple through the three bodies, a seething Buffy caught it, and with a horrifying crunch it died its head almost ripped from its body.
"What's going on here," Tara's father demanded, fear making his voice jump.
"That's what I'd like to know Tara?" The slayer turned calmly to the distraught Wicca, who was tearfully cradling her redheaded lover.
"Tara, did you do this?"
She shook her head.
"Don't lie to me." He growled menacingly, "Beth has told me...."
Buffy picked up Tara, her hands clasping tightly round the blond Wicca's throat. "Answer him."
"I cast a s-s-spell, t-t-to h-hide, I didn't k-know," she gagged pitifully.
"Magic." Michael Maclay snarled, "Demon Magic, we warned you, now look what you've done, god you become less...less human with each spell." He voice was preachy, as if delivering a sermon.
"You're a demon." Buffy wasn't even surprised, who else but a demon would put her and her friends into danger so selfishly, automatically Buffy found herself glancing fearfully at Dawn.
She tried to ignore the look of hatred that her sister threw back her.
Buffy raised her fist.
Her father stepped in the way, and for the first time Tara was grateful for his presence. "No, it's not her fault, it's a curse, her mother had it, all the women in her family do, we know how to care for her." His voice was soft, gentle, and almost sad.
Buffy nodded, and harshly thrust towards her father.
"B-B-Buffy, c-ould y-y-you g-g-give Willow this," she said once the she'd straightened herself out. She held out an ornate silver ring, small but beautifully crafted, a dragon resting on its tail, a single ruby eye peeking out. "T-Tell Willow, t-t-that I l-love her."
Buffy spat on the ring.
"Buffy!" Dawn cried in shock.
"Hey what's going on here?" Spike suddenly called, his unhappiness at being ignored, quickly became overcome by the scene in front of him, "get your hands off of her!" He called seeing the vice like grip, a man he didn't recognise had on Tara, and the antipathy of the Scoobies to her plight.
Xander stepped in front of him, "Spike Tara's going with her family." The young man's tone was menacing, the 'leave it or else' was clear.
"Like blo...................aaagh." He grabbed his head.
In the momentary confusion Spike's cry of pain caused, Dawn grabbed Tara.
"Don't go...please." The youngest Summers pleaded.
"S-S-Sorry." Tara couldn't meet the girl's pleading eyes.
"Dawn!" Buffy snapped, and dragged her sister back.
Dawn shook her off, "I'll tell her." She whispered and grabbed the ring.
"I think you'd better go. Now." Buffy warned.
Part One: Fallen.
Willow stood behind the counter at the Magic Box; her normally vibrant features were down cast. Her green eyes were distant and empty; the sparkle that made them bright and alive was gone, replaced by a clouded, vacant gaze.
She hardly looked out from her misery as a new customer entered the shop. Anya also barely paused in her aggressive attempts to sell useless items to bemused customers. With Giles visiting the Watchers Council in England, the shop, like Sunnydale had been relatively quiet.
The gentle thud of a heavy leather coat jarred her out of her dark reverie. The customer standing before her was an attractive, wealthy looking man, he looked to be in his mid thirties, but the subtle flecks of red and white in his blond hair, made it difficult to guess at his real age.
If Willow had been more aware, this man would have set off her warning bells. She would have noticed his fluid, cat-like movements across the shop floor, which had evaded the patches of sunlight that lighted the dusty shop. These movements were carried across into his current pose, he stood to benefit, but never cross into the light.
His expensive dark suit highlighted his skin, which while Mediterranean in colouring was unnaturally pale. He shadows of his face gave the impression that his face had subtle ridges, though they did not mar his seemingly warm features.
"Good evening," his voice carried a perfect, clipped English accent. "Would you be able to supply me with these items?"
As she took the list from his hands, she shuddered visibly at their coldness.
His raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Cold hands." She muttered.
He gave what appeared to be a warm smile, his tinted glasses hid whether it reached his eyes
"Warm heart," he replied warmly.
She found herself giving a little smile back, skimming the list she said, "I'm not sure about some of these, I'll just check."
Buffy hammered the punch bag, she pictured her ex-boyfriend, with every heavy punch, and she imagined pounding his farm boy looks in. He! Had! Dumped! Her! The bastard had been fooling around with vampires and she'd had been the one at fault!
She barely heard Anya's frantic attempt to gain her attention, so focused was she on beating the stuffing from the bag.
"Buffy!" Anya shouted anxiously, flapping her arms in a vain attempt to gain the slayer's attention.
"What?" Buffy snarled.
"Look." Anya thrust the list into Buffy's hands.
"Yeah and?" She said dismissively, the items on the piece of paper meant nothing to her.
Anya rolled her eyes, "There's a vampire "
The stranger was studying a statue of some mythical demon, examining it from different angles, as if trying to work out what it was, an amused from sat on his face.
He felt Willows return "Is everything okay?"
Willow was very nervous; her hands were clasped tightly behind her back, trying to keep the shakes in.
"I'm afraid "
Buffy approached as stealthily as she could, even with the vampire's back turned it was difficult. Her body was tense and her senses rang, they were humming with 'danger,' she thought if she closed her eyes she would see red flashing lights and klaxons screaming their warning. Not even the Master had made her senses ring this badly, she wanted to run and hide.
She shifted Mr. Pointy in her hand, as she prepared to strike.
" That some of the items you want .ummm are "
"Bad!" Anya snapped from behind the counter.
Willow threw the ex-demon an evil looking glare she turned back toward the vampire and
The vampire simply disappeared, Buffy was sure he'd been there when she'd struck, so she couldn't of missed.
Yet Mr. Pointy flailed through empty air, it's tip catching the front of Willows purple bunny top.
Willow almost fainted as she heard her top rip, as Mr. Pointy cut through it, the unexpected loss of her target caused Buffy to loose her balance falling into Willow.
The flashes of Willow's life were abruptly ended as a blond blur barrelled into her, forcing her to the floor."
A rich and very amused English chuckle, cut into them as a slightly embarrassed Willow and a hugely pissed off slayer tried to untangle themselves from each other.
He was sitting on top of the counter, his legs crossed, and he rocked back and forth as he chuckle became a full belly laugh, and with his mouth wide open with mirth small half extended fangs were revealed.
Angrily Buffy flew at him.
But again the vampire disappeared.
The display case shattered as the now enraged Slayer crashed into it.
He was calmly standing beside Willow, casually putting his heavy coat and wide brimmed hat back on.
"It is dreadfully bad form to attack a chap from behind." He admonished mockingly.
Tipping his hat towards her, he disappeared again.
"Slayer," he appeared at the door, "Valain is coming, and I will have my vengeance. You are not my concern, make sure it stays that way." His voice was now hard and menacing.
He disappeared again, leaving the three women stunned.
Riley sat in a dark corner of Willy's Bar, nursing yet another neat vodka. He downed it quickly, feeling the harsh burn of the liquor slip down his throat.
His world was collapsing around him; the love of his life was gone, in an instant his foolish words and deeds destroying what remained of their love and the tear-stained image of her rapidly retreating form forever burned into his memory.
Then he'd learned his friends were dead, lost in some godforsaken jungle pit, cut down by the clinical gunfire of well-armed vampires. If he closed his eyes he could see the burning camp they'd been sent to kill, and them charging to there deaths.
'So easy,' Graham had cooed before he left.
Fucking vamps!! He thought viciously.
After that news, he had done what so many men had done before him, when they'd hit bottom: he'd crawled into a bottle, hoping never to emerge.
A well, but flamboyantly dressed vampire slid into the booth as well. A dark velvet suit and white silk shirt glistened in the dull light of the bar his long blond hair was drawn into a neat ponytail. His features were equally as strange, it was as if they'd got stuck between him morphing into his demon visage, the half-formed teeth and ridges were clearly visible. Though it was his eyes that disturbed Riley the most, even in his state, while they had the pale and blood shot madness that all vampires had, they remained the soft blue of normal human eyes.
"I'm Valain." His voice was soft, almost without accent, though a Scottish drawl faintly underlined it.
"Fuck off." Riley's words were slurred.
Valain looked pained, "My dear boy, drink is not the answer."
"Fuck! Off! You! Fag!"
"I assure dear boy, I'm not a cigarette, but drink is not the answer to your pain."
"Really, seems to be working just fine."
"Ahh but in the morning, it'll still be there, but with a headache from hell. But I can."
"Make the pain go away."
Despite himself, Riley looked interested.
Buffy, Willow, Anya and now Xander sat round the conference table in the Magic Box. Buffy had an ice pack wrapped around her ankle, and a headache growing in her head, it was not helped by Willow and Anya's bickering over what the list meant, something about 'mucklewort.' She didn't really care, she was angry and in pain so much so that even Xander's lame attempts at humour weren't helping.
Giles choose that moment to walk back into his shop; he seemed to be in a good mood, meaning his trip to England had obviously gone well.
" you were at the Kop?"
What!! The Scooby Gang thought as one.
Spike followed Giles into the store, the two clearly having a friendly conversation.
"What can I say, me and thousands of Scousers singing: 'You'll Never Walk Alone', as we thrashed you."
"Yeah, but we still won the league." Spike countered petulantly.
"Yeah but, 2-nil, 2-nil, 2-nil," Giles sang making a pointing gesture at an annoyed Spike.
"Well," the bleached blond vampire sniffed.
"And we're gonna do the treble."
"Till you meet Barca, they're gonna give yer a damn good kicking."
Giles shrugged, then started whistling an off key version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'
Spike grumbled miserably, as he flopped into a nearby chair, but it was clear that both men were enjoying themselves.
The rest of the Scoobies believed they were having 'Twilight Zone' experience.
Spike looked momentarily sympathetic as he looked at Buffy's swollen ankle, but hid it behind his usual sarcasm. "Shouldn't were those heels love, bad for yer."
Buffy just glared.
"Tea?" Giles called from his office.
"Got any blood?"
A few seconds later a bag of blood flew across the shop Spike caught it easily.
"Safer than Seaman." He called.
The rest gagged, not wanting to get that reference.
"I can really see you in a ponytail."
"Better than a comedy show."
"You're a season late Spike, we've gone Dutch now." Giles corrected as he walked up to the table, sipping at his hot tea.
"Good trip?" Xander stammered out.
"Yes it was rather?"
"So the Council was helpful?"
"Then," Buffy joined in, slightly annoyed at her Watcher and his apparent good mood.
"Saw some old friends, caught the game, it was good to be home "
Buffy slammed her hand violently against the table, books jumped under the force of the blow. Giles sobered seeing that his slayer was unhappy, "Buffy?"
"What got your knickers in such a twist Blondie?" Spike leered.
Buffy glare would have burned him up quicker than any ray of sun.
"Buffy what's the matter?" Giles interjected calmly, hoping to break the tension before his store got wrecked.
"A vampire came into the store, he wanting ingredients for a soulstone spell," blood and tea spluttered over the table, "Buffy tried to stop him, but he got away."
Anya gave a sheepish little grin at her story; she gave Xander a look asking for acceptance and support he squeezed her hand slightly. Anya beamed.
"Pardon?" All levity had dropped from Giles' tone and a note of fear crept into it instead.
"Vampire big wiggins bad spell kicked my ass." Buffy put it succinctly.
"Well, what did he look like?"
Spike spoke instead, "Tall, blond, well dressed, tinted glasses, English accent?"
Everyone around the table stared at the English vampire.
"Spike?" Buffy growled.
"You know him?"
"Yeah, bet Giles does too." He threw the list at Giles, he looked at confused, there was something on it was oddly familiar about it.
"Mucklewort." Pressed Spike.
"Did he mention the name Valain?"
Giles frowned, "Oh oh," it came to him very quickly.
"Yeah, said not to get in his way, something about vengeance."
The two Englishmen looked at each other. "Matthias." They said together.
Ancient Rome, 700BC (Approximately).
Matthias was drunk. Mind numbing, vision impairing drunk. At 32, he was young, rich and talented, destined for political office and greatness. On the face of it, he seemed yet another Roman who'd over-indulged at some festivities. Yet on the inside Matthias was lost.
Flashes of the previous few days, passed like a blur across his eyes. Though one colour from it arose from the mass, Red. Blood Red. He'd returned early from a business meeting with the City's rulers, he was to be the main supplier of horses to the new Roman Army.
And he wanted celebrate.
His wife, though, had not been in the main villa.
As the late evening sky turned began to darken and redden, Matthias had grown worried, and began to search his large estate. He heard female giggling coming from the bathhouse, a wicked thought touched him, his wife alone and naked in the steamy air of their bathhouse.
He sneaked in, tugging at his clothes.
His wife frolicked in the clear bath waters, but she was not alone. She was pleasuring a slave, performing acts that were disgusting, worthy only of the street trash of Rome darker quarters.
He went berserk.
The rest was a blur, he only remembered the damp wet of their blood as he attacked them, the feel of it against his skin, the taste in his mouth, he destroyed the beauty of the man and women before him, turning the white bathhouse into a deep red.
When the bloodlust ended he'd just ran, and ran, collapsing in a heap in the dusty streets of Rome in summer, the beggars, the thieves, even the disease carrying mosquitoes that dwelled in the dark recess of the city ignored him.
The Guards had found him, they'd cleaned and dressed him. They'd be no charge, it would simply be forgotten, they'd placed him in the nearest tavern, no husband could blame him his actions, they'd threatened the tavern-keeper into giving him whatever he wanted.
So there he sat, mumbling incoherently on a beautiful Roman night.
"What troubles you dear boy?"
A man appeared in front of him, fully dressed in heavy black clothes, unusual in the stifling heat of the summer.
Matthias began to cry drunkenly, strong arms enveloped him, the hold was comforting fatherly.
"Shh, drinking'll not help, you'll just wake feeling even worse."
"I don't want to wake tomorrow, I don't deserve to see the sun again."
Haltingly, through his slurred words he told his story, trusting the strange man, despite the horror of his tale.
"I can help."
"I can make the guilt go, the pain just an amusing memory."
"Really?" Matthias wept.
"Yes I can give you peace, and a freedom and power you can only dream about."
Matthias' blurred vision focused for the first time on the strangers strangely distorted features.
The face shifted into a vision of madness and horror, his body weakened and his head spun, he was dying, a monster from the depths of Hades was punishing him, he relaxed into the approaching blackness, a strange metallic taste trickled into his mouth.
Hungrily he sucked at it.
Matthias awoke screaming.
He huddled in the corner of his room, the nightmare of his turning still lingering in his mind; it had been centuries since he'd dreamed of that night, not since
It was night in Sunnydale now. It brought with two things, the knowledge that Valain was here, this was met with a deep foreboding, and the other filled him with sadness:
He was hungry.
Riley awoke, he was confused and his head pounded, but not with expected hangover. It was his soul fighting a rising hunger, one that threatened to overwhelm him. A war raged in his body, as it changed. Sense heightened and muscles loosened, the nagging controls of his conscience dissolved, and as the Earth began to sing to him, he felt a new source of power envelope him.
It was exhilarating.
It was freedom.
It was terrifying.
"Feed." A voice encouraged.
Yellow eyes focused on a young girl, a struggling street hustler, her body tired through years of abuse, to weak to fight against the strong arms that held her.
And his soul screamed.
He grabbed the prostitute burying his face in her neck, his fangs tearing at her skin, her blood rushed into him, warming his body, as hers cooled.
She did not even have time to scream.
As her dead body slumped to the floor, his soul died and the demon howled in triumph.
They all said together.
"Matthias," he sighed. "Matthias is a vampire. He was turned about 3000 years ago, just as Rome was emerging ." He stopped.
"He's a master vampire, it is said that he made the Master that you fought Buffy. He is different from any vampire you've fought, he isn't just a normal ancient vampire, predominately he retains his human features despite his great age, he is stronger, faster than other vampires, faster than the human eye even. It is the legacy of his sire Valain."
Giles closed his eyes, not wanting to continue, not wanting Buffy to face either of the two ancient vampires, simply because she would die.
"You're right there, Rupert. He's killed at least 20 slayers in his time; made Angelus, that big poofter, the scourge of a bloody continent, look like a virginal choirboy. He can just blip around, it's bloody cool."
"Anything else?" Buffy exclaimed loudly.
"He's my friend." Giles whispered.
Everyone was stunned in silence.
"He's not that bad." Spike said into the silence. "Now his Sire, Valain, he's a bloody nutter, you know Kakistos, the one that psycho slut slayer killed, he made him. Dumped him though, too bloody weak." Spike licked the last drops of blood. "They bloody hate each other."
"Why?" Anya asked.
"Not sure, something 'bout a women, but 500 years ago, Matthias just stopped, took on Valain, it's a bloody war, they've razed cities with their fighting. Don't get between 'em, luv, you'll die." Spike finished, though with a touch of melancholy, rather than his usual glee.
"Spike is right." Giles said firmly. "Buffy I'll talk to him, perhaps if he gets what he wants he'll just go." His tone said he didn't quite believe that.
"Oh great, first you sell made woman stuff to make a giant snake," Anya ranted. "Now you want to give a master vampire soulstone magic. Xander, can we go to Hawaii and make love on the beach, Giles is mad and dangerous, I'm not sure if I should work here anymore, even if I get to fondle money."
Everything paused for a second; it was the normal response to Anya's rants.
Buffy stood up, ignoring the light pain in her ankle, and despite her small frame loomed over Giles, her face accusing.
"Don't Buffy, I'll sort this, I promise." He left abruptly.
Buffy followed quickly, muttering about patrolling.
The rest of the Scoobies turned to Spike, "Wot?"
Giles was lost in his own thoughts, and didn't notice his shadow.
Sometimes he hated his past, especially the Ripper part of it, it was a time in his life that however much he tried would never go away. Logically, he knew he was a better person because of it, but it didn't help him now.
He sighed, he would find Matthias, and sort it all out, he had one comforting thought though at least Arthur wasn't around.
The dreams came again; she was beginning to forget a time when they didn't haunt her.
Click! Click! Click! Click!
The rhythmic clicking, like high heels across a polished surface came first.
Then the shadows twitched, and her body began to twitch at an unseen danger.
The darkroom clouded, a thick mist ascended from bellow enveloping her, it was light by a yellow light, that appeared to come from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.
And the clicking continued.
"Hey Spencer," the gruff voice crashed into her nightmare.
She sat up, covered in sweet, her body twitching uncontrollably.
A piece of paper floated down on her pillow.
She knew what it said, it was always the same: "What Lies beyond Perception?
Redemption. For in my Redemption not even, Gods, Monsters or Mortals may touch. -AB" It had come with every nightmare.
Allan Finch's body slid down the alley wall, his blood flowed past her fingers, fear filled his eyes as the life slipped away
Faith began to cry, she huddled at the corner of her cell, afraid to return to the bed, and the nightmares that it brought.
His new childe stiffened beside him as the slayer walked past, he felt the desire to attack flow through the new vampire.
An assassin demon leapt out at the Slayer, it thin agile body attempting to end her life. The slayer barely paused in her movements, quickly but brutally snapping the demons neck.
Valain watched through lidded eyes, the slayer's grace and violence, sent a little shudder of pleasure through his body.
"He failed though." Riley commentated on the death of the demon, his new master had paid it a small fortune, and it had failed to raise even a sweat on the blonde's body.
"She's my prize, my dear boy, she will make an excellent addition to my family, and through her I shall bring the world to its knees, Matthias will die, and my ascension shall be glorious." The ancient vampire's tone had become dream-like.
"Don't worry, you'll share in my glory, just as you'll be the instrument that brings it about."
Riley grinned at his Sire's words, and the meaning, he licked his lips in anticipation as he watched the Slayer continue on her patrol.
Oh, shit! Giles thought, his senses picked up on his shadow, and he got a sinking feeling deep in his stomach.
Very stupid old boy! He spat at himself angrily. Storming out in Sunnydale, alone, at night, was on a scale of stupid ideas up there with smoking during a major gas leak, and as deadly.
His stalker did not.
Glory had told Mikhail to follow any of the slayers friends to discover the key, in truth the vampire did not care about her key, just easy food and staying alive, to get one he followed the mad hell god, the other meant he had to do it absolutely.
His current project was taking a short cut through a darkened alley, and he was desperately trying not to give into the temptation it presented.
The human stopped just in a darkened doorway.
Nope, Mikhail thought, too much.
Vampire dust suddenly covered Giles; he coughed as the dry remains that caught in his throat.
He wasn't sure what had happened, he'd stopped waiting for the vampire to attack, instead it had flown past him headless, its body imploding.
A bark of laughter answered him, male laughter.
"I'm afraid my dear Ripper, I just wouldn't fit in that dress." Matthias stepped into the alley proper, while a dull thud followed his sudden appearance. The body of a large man fell at his feet.
Matthias' features slipped back into their almost human appearance; carefully he wiped his mouth with a black silk handkerchief.
"You'd think muggers in this town would be at least vampiric would you?" He said sadly.
Giles shrugged, still unnerved by the pale body in front of him.
The tall vampire frowned at him, looking angry as he darted forward, then at the last moment he enveloped the startled man in huge hug.
"Its good to see you again Ripper, I've missed you since you came to this land. Arthur said you were the watcher now, I didn't believe, despite the slayer's presence. But here you are." The ancient vampire laughed and hugged him again.
"How is Arthur?" Giles squeaked
"As chaotic as ever, sends his regards, still searching for his daughter, and that ugly bauble of his." Matthias' tone turned stern, "And by the way, I'm fine, thank-you very much, nice of you to ask."
He grabbed Giles' shoulder, "Come lets go get a drink." They walked out of the alley, "You know Rips bloody silly to wait in alleys, especially in this town, good thing I was around."
Buffy limped towards the Magic Box.
In the last hour she'd killed another four of the strange demons, on top of an unusually high number of vamps. Her muscles throbbed in pain, and it hurt to breathe.
From a nearby alley, she felt yet another vampiric presence watching her, she was too tired too care anyway.
It was probably Spike, "fucking freak", she muttered under her breath.
From the alley Riley watched, seeing the Slayer wounded sent hunger and lust through his dead body.
'Soon,' his Sire's voice echoed in his head, as he disappeared into the night.
The fog was everywhere, closing in around her like a vice, her senses screamed again, and that horrid clicking sound began to assault her hearing again.
The fog began to clear.
Revealing a woman.
Faith screamed, fear and grief quickly turned her hoarse scream into heavy sobs.
The tears flowed freely.
Her screams awoke the other inmates, shouts and banging followed, and chaos began to erupt.
In the corridor, a shadow began to disappear, it lavender eyes sparkled in night; Soon, it thought.
"So Valain is here?"
Matthias stopped; his drink hovered just short of his lips.
"Yes." He whispered.
"An you're here to kill him?"
"Yes." He spoke louder, firmer this time.
"..And the spell?"
"It will stop him," Matthias answered the unasked question in Giles' voice. "It will harm no one else, it will not end the world, just Valain."
"On Mel's grave?" Giles pressed.
The Vampire's face tightened.
Salisbury Plain, England. 1401.
Matthias jogged into the grounds of Melandria's house, dawn was peeking over the horizon, and getting caught and burnt by its rays would earn him the type of tongue-lashing he did not enjoy.
He smelt if first.
A crazed hunger rose in him.
Fear turned his stomach into acidic fury.
"Mel!" He shouted over and over again as he approached the house, though with every shout, No! Echoed in his mind.
Logic disappeared then; he saw her white dress lying trampled in the mud.
He frowned, she'd hate that, he picked it up, trying to rub of the mud, and dull red liquid spilled on it off, he couldn't let her favourite dress be ruined.
And the house was such a mess, she hated mess, she'd be so angry.
So very angry.
He picked up fallen pans, and broken crockery.
His foot trod in a sticky puddle, disturbing flies that been hovering over it.
She'd be really really angry.
He looked around for a cloth anything to pick up the sticky black liquid.
He noticed her then, and she was so Red, so very angry.
He blinked back the tears that fought at the corners of his eyes.
She' was naked and pale, her body had been crucified, an evil parody of that holy symbol. Vampire bites covered her body, none had healed letting her life's blood slip away from her.
He collapsed to the floor, a white huddle in crying in another's blood, like so many centuries ago.
The glass shattered in his hand, sending the dark wine everywhere, tears welled in his eyes.
"Matthias." Giles called again, worried for his friend.
"I promise on Mel's grave that I am here for Valain alone." He choked the promise out.
"Thank-you, I'll get you what you asked for." Giles said sadly.
The vampire sighed, collapsing in on himself, looking lost and weak.
"I'm sorry." Giles breathed.
Matthias nodded, and a little of his normal stature returned.
"Giles," a nervous voice stuttered. Willow stood at their table, and she looked scared.
"Yes Willow, what is it?" Giles said warmly, trying to reassure the redhead.
"Where?" Giles felt as if he'd been punched, Oh God!
"The Magic Box, its not too bad but ."
Willow nodded, a look of relief in her eyes. Giles though noticed something else, the redhead looked as if she hadn't slept in weeks, not since Tara had left.
He made a snap decision. "I'll go now, here's some money for a cab, go home, get some sleep."
"No buts, I want you to go home and sleep, Buffy will be fine. Go." His English accent carried both his concern and his resolve.
"I'll see her home." Matthias blurted.
Giles looked momentarily torn, then nodded.
"I'll be fine." She grumbled, and sped off into the night.
Giles looked as if he would follow, "Go look after your charge, I'll keep her safe." Giles didn't even pause, merely mumbling his thanks before darting off.
As he jogged in the other direction, he knew Willow would be safe, but if Buffy found out, he might not be.
Matthias easily caught up with the young woman. "Wait," he called.
"Go away" she snapped, and sped up, all but running.
Again he caught up with her.
"I said: I'll see you safe?"
"Fuck off." She shouted, giving him a hard push. He tripped and fell flat on his face.
"Fuck." He spat, when he saw she'd gone. Ripper was not going to be happy.
She sat on the edge of one of the town's numerous cemeteries; tears fell freely down her pretty feature. Pain welled in her as she squeezed a metal necklace till her hand turned white.
"Who was he?" Matthias called, sitting next to her.
"What?" She snapped, annoyed that he'd found her.
"Who was he, the person you lost?"
She didn't answer.
"Its not worth it, the pain, I mean, its not worth sitting here waiting for something to end it all in the night."
How did he know!! Her mind screamed, stunned.
"What the fuck do you know, you're just a vamp?"
She didn't notice his face cloud with pain.
"Suit yourself," he snarled, "I hope you're happy in your grave."
"What do you know? I see her every day, I close my eyes and I can see her smile, I see her on the street, I can even feel her at night, laughing, stuttering, loving me. I miss her so much." She cried at his back, her pain making her unable even to stand.
He turned and gently he pulled her into his arms, his own tears brushing against his cheeks.
Salisbury Plain, England. 1400.
"I see you up," Matthias called from the horse pen.
Melandria slumped against the cottages doorway with a yawn. The steam from her warm drink gently bathed her face. A small smile crossed her pretty features as she watched her lover work, and despite the darkness he seemed so alive whilst he trained the horse.
"How she doing?" She called as she approached the pen.
Pride filled his face, "she'll be a good horse, she young, strong, a little stubborn and wild, but a good horse."
"So a bit like me." She grinned.
He removed the training rope, and jogged over to his lover.
"Yes." He kissed her deeply, marvelling in her warmth and strength; he nuzzled her long fine hair, hair so blond that it was almost white.
The healer grinned, and pulled away from him.
He laughed, leaping from the pen, he caught her easily.
"Just like you," He whispered, "I love you."
It was the first time he'd said it to her, and her reaction was instant, the smile that lit up her face danced in her eyes, her eyes watered as he repeated the words.
"I love you!" He shouted and spun her around.
She kissed him deeply, "I love you too," she whispered into his lips; she saw his face too light up, a perfect mirror to her own happiness.
"I know," he whispered. "I know." His own tears making his voice heavy
"I never got to say goodbye," she murmured into his chest again.
He winced in sympathy, he understood all to well what it was like to have love ripped from him, and as he rocked the young woman back and forth, other memories came back to him, that of holding a warm, living body close. Slowly his tears began to fall.
"What was her name?" He choked out.
"H-How did she die?"
"She left," Willow cried.
"I'm sorry. Why?"
"They made her go, they made her leave me."
"Why?" He asked again, his voice as soft as hers.
"They thought she was a demon, she cast a spell to hide, but it made all demons invisible, we-we were attacked, I was knocked out, w-w-when I came to, they'd made her leave, the last time I saw her she ran into the shop, she was so scared." She babbled her last memories of Tara.
Her tears made her stop momentarily, "Buffy made her go, forced her to go with her family, they made her leave. I love her so much." Matthias noticed the wording; it was an admission of present love, one that had not yet been lost.
"I hate them." She whispered, finally she looked up into the ancient vampire's face, and saw for the first time the pain that echoed in his eyes.
"Who was she?" Willow asked.
"Melandria, a healer, I loved her so very much."
"Were you "
"A vampire, yes, a great and terrible one, but she still healed me, and I fell in love, she made me feel human." His voice faded and broke during his own confession. "It was why she was killed," he spoke the truth that had haunted his nights.
Something bothered him about her story, his mind clearing from its grief, "the sp-." He never finished as his senses exploded.
"A new toy Matthias." His name was pronounced as 'matt-he-ass,' only one thing did that.
Valain. His sire.
Salisbury Plain, England. 1401.
He did not know how long he'd lain there, just a few minutes or an entire day, as the night clung to the land.
"Look at yourself Matthias, you cry like a mortal," a voice broke into his grief, he recognised the unusual pronunciation of his name, his human grief mixed with a demons rage, only one thing said his name like that: Valain, his sire. Clarity struck him, Valain who liked to bleed his victims to death, strung in a parody of a symbol that could harm him.
"Why?" He snarled through his tears.
"She made you weak, dear boy, I could not allow that."
Demon fuelled rage engulfed his grief completely.
His rage grew.
"Run!" he snapped at Willow.
She was rooted to the spot out of fear, as she watched Matthias' features contort in his vampiric visage, pain and madness lined his eyes as the glistened with pain, turning the warm blue into a malevolent purple. His face was so much more vampiric then any she'd seen before, more defined, more demonic, it was a true vision of fear and hate.
"Run now!" He snapped again, he gave her a heavy push and her survival instincts kicked in, and she ran.
Salisbury Plain, England. 1401.
With an animalistic savagery Matthias attacked his sire, screaming his rage and grief as he launched himself over the broken cottage. But in his anger Matthias had forgotten his Sire's power, and was far too slow, Valain simply 'blipped' out of the way.
Sadness touched the elder vampires face. "Look what you've become, my dear Matthias, weak and tainted by humanity," he spat scornfully. "She'd corrupted you, don't you see?" The sadness was deep within his at his protégé's plight.
"No," Matthias snarled as he lunged again, "you took what was good and pure, you're the corruption. I will see it cleansed." He caught a surprised Valain then, driving them both to the floor with a dull thump, straddling his sire, he brought the broken leg of a nearby chair down, a triumphant sneer on his twisted face.
Two of Valain tackled him, driving him from their master before he could strike the killing blow. Valain stood easily, his face relaxing back to his almost human features he backhanded his struggling childe, stunning him with its force.
"I'll forgive you that, this time. Next time either beg for my forgiveness or be prepared to die." He grabbed Matthias' face, and squeezed, the younger vampire, squirmed and screamed as his bones shattered under the powerful grip, "understand!"
"I'm going to kill you Valain." Matthias slurred, spitting his blood into the others face.
Valain's face darkened, and with a nod, he turned his back.
"I'm going to kill you." Matthias choked out between the blows that fell, those hate filled words echoed in Valain's ears long after the beating had ended.
Valain dragged the broken body up by its hair, "Remember what I said." The fire that he could still see burning in Matthias' eyes surprised Valain.
"I'm going ."
" to kill you Valain."
Valain was still surprised by the hate that burned within his former protégé, every time they'd met over the centuries had made it burn ever brighter.
"Still mad Matthias," Valain responded to the threat with bemused humour.
Matthias stepped further into the light, revealing his features to the other vampire for the first time.
Valain bit back surprise, Matthias had evolved again, in the last hundred years he'd become like Valain.
"I see you recognize my transformation," Matthias cooed, glad at the small flicker of fear that had crossed his sire's face. Until Valain ascended again, they were equals, despite their age. "Surprised?"
"Happy, my dear boy, very happy." Valain forced his unease down soon it would not matter.
Valain's face-hardened, "don't try my goodwill, boy, you're fast becoming a nuisance."
"I'm terrified," Matthias spat sarcastically. "You'll not ascend Valain, I will stop you."
Valain looked genuinely surprised for a second, then the anger returned. "Oh my dear boy, you've just run out of time."
With a tiny hand gesture Valain's minions attacked the solitary Matthias.
Willow collided with a heavy body, driving the wind from her tired body.
"Bloody Hell Red." The person growled.
Oh thank god, she thought.
"This is Sunnydale luv, what did ya expect, free candy." He snorted, rubbing his chest.
"No," she panted, "Matthias Valain chasing me?"
"Wot?!" Spike stepped in front of her, his eyes darting around the shadows. "Nah, Mattie'll be fine," he muttered.
"What about me?"
"Don't worry Red, you're not important enough for him." Though his senses enhanced by the chip, prickled something was definitely not right here. "But let's get ya back to Giles'."
He moved her along quickly.
Riley fumed in the shadows, he'd been so close, he pointed at the vampires accompanying them, this prey had eluded him, but not for long.
Tara was trying to shrink back into her hood. She stared at the floor, not looking up, hoping no one would notice the hooded demon carrying shopping.
Thud! Rip! Crash!
Oh shit, oh shit she thought. She watched as her groceries disappeared down the road. Looking up briefly, she saw that she'd bumped into a young couple, juice dripped down the man's clothes.
Oh god! Oh god! Oh God! Her mind races, "I'm sorry," she babbled and stuttered over and over again. She desperately tried to retreat back into her hood, hoping she could get away, it wasn't working.
Her hood was down.
Azelle watched her lover with obvious amusement, pink and orange juice dripped down his lightly coloured clothes. Matthew took up an indignant pose at her look, but there was an amused glint in his eyes, she rolled her eyes dramatically before going to help the girl.
Tara looked up as a cold hand brushed against her shoulder, and into the face of a very attractive women, long black hair framed her classical Celtic features, with deep green eyes as the centrepiece.
Tara's magical senses clicked as she studied the face, she desperately tried to back away from the familiar aura.
Her frantic attempts to get away revealed Tara's face in its full glory, Azelle stiffened, and Matthew let out a surprised 'bloody hell.'
Giles looked up at Buffy's sleeping form, she looked so peaceful in sleep, and he smiled, he truly loved the girl, despite her sometimes-trying personality and bad calls. He grinned louder as she mumbled gibberish in her sleep; it was at times like this he truly wished that Buffy had had a different destiny.
She was truly having a horrid time, one that he wished he could remove with a magic word, her mothers illness and Riley's infidelities, caused his beloved slayers so much pain, that he'd wanted the Ripper to emerge and beat the soldier into a bloody pulp.
He lost himself in that vision briefly, but he shook it off or however it would make him feel it wouldn't help. He knew she'd be okay she always bounced back. Willow was a different story; she'd become more distant in the past month, so mu .
His musing was interrupted as the girl in question and Spike burst into the magic shop, quickly followed by a small gang of vampires.
"What the bloody ." He exclaimed before a vampire collided with him.
Tara stumbled backward frantically, trying to get way from the two people who'd seen her true face.
She tried to cover her face with her arms.
Azelle frowned at Matthew, her eyes telling him to do something.
"Hey," he called softly, "don't be afraid, we're not going to hurt you, we want to help." His kindly English voice was filled with concern.
"Aye lass, tell us what happened," Azelle's thick Irish brogue backed her lover up.
A warm hand gently touched her shoulder.
"Are you okay?" Matthew pressed.
Couldn't they see? At least one of them should understand.
She had to run.
Had to get away.
Tara bolted startling them, but she didn't make it far, clumsy feet caught the shopping bag, wrapping it around her feet. She fell, her head collided with the floor, with a hollow thud.
Blackness closed around her, as she felt gentle hands stroking her hair.
"Willow," she murmured before the darkness took her.
Chaos descended amongst Valain's minions as Matthias simply disappeared, leaving the confused vampires to fight amongst themselves as they tried to escape from the confused melee.
"You'll have to try harder, old man." Matthias laughed, before disappearing.
Valain snapped and attacked his own men, tearing into them, none survived his wrath, and as their dust fell around him, his anger slowly ebbed away as Valain vowed that Matthias would not survive this time.
Buffy awoke with a jolt as a vampire bumped into her cot, lashing out on pure instinct, one her constantly present stakes was driven into its back, it dusted without realising what had happened.
Shaking of the dull ache she angrily joined the fray.
Spike rugby tackled one of the larger vampires; wrestling it to ground, before plunging a stake into its chest. Willow killed one with the 'floating pencil' trick, while Giles quickly decapitated another with the short sword he kept beneath the counter. Buffy calmly killed two others, letting some of her pain and frustration work itself out by pounding them into submission first.
"I hate having my sleep interrupted. Understand." She gripped between killing the last of the two.
She threw her stake into the final vamps back; it dusted as reached for the door.
It might be rude, she thought bitterly, but it's darn effective.
Spike stretched, "Just what the doctor ordered, spot of violence before bed." He looked at Buffy, "Remind me never to wake you up."
Buffy frowned, ignoring the leering vampire. "What's going on?"
Giles shrugged, he wanted to know too.
"Seems Red pissed off Valain."
"You saw him?" Giles stammered, it would explain the hunting party, few mortals ever saw that vampire and lived, and it was of the reasons as to how he had remained hidden.
"Kinda," Willow breathed heavily, "I heard someone say your friends name funny."
"How?" Giles interrupted.
"Matt, he, ass." Giles nodded, he knew of that ancient vampires peculiar way of saying his friend's name.
"Wait, Matt-he-ass, as in fuck-off great master vamp, matt-he-as." Buffy stormed.
Giles had the grace to look guilty, "Yes," he mumbled.
"And what was my best friend doing with him?" She said dangerously.
"He was walking me home." Willow offered meekly.
"Buffy, calm down, what was I meant to do, leave Willow alone at night. She was safe with Matthias."
"Oh real safe, now we got a master vampire war, and they're after my best friend. That's real safe Giles." She shouted at her watcher.
"Buffy," he said slowly. "Everything's fine, Willow is safe, and it can wait until morning, now Spike will see Willow home, and I'll take you home."
"Come on Red," Spike said casually.
Allan Finch's terror filled face suddenly filled Faith's mind. She could feel his blood on her hands, hear his last gasping breaths in her ears, and could see his eyes as they dimmed into death. Her hands hammered the punch-bag through that haze, trying to drive that moment away, banish it from her mind.
A rhythmic clicking began to force its way into her mind.
She wasn't asleep.
Tears appeared in her eyes.
Pain travelled up her arms, growing more intense with every instinctive punch against the heavy bag.
She stopped, looking at her hands.
Oh look, she thought, I can feel the blood now.
She started to giggle.
Her eyes registered a strangely dressed man staring at her intently, his half smirk, was the last thing she saw before blacking out.
Tara awoke with the sun warming her face. Her head throbbed, and her mouth was dry, he tried to sit up, but pain shot down her sides. She tried to take stock of her surroundings, the room was white and sterile, a disinfectant smell irritated her nostrils but it couldn't quite mask a strange odour that reminded her of disease. A large window let sunlight pour into the small room.
She knew exactly where she was, a private hospital room, it was a place she hated almost as much as her cramped home. Images of her mother's body, kept alive by the steady hum of machines, as the drugs she'd taken slowly killed her.
A small sob caught in her throat.
Why was she here?
Oh god, they'd see her, oh no, she started to panic.
"Calm down," a voice spoke to her, it was familiar, a well-dressed young man stood in the doorway, desperately she tried to rush past him, and escape.
He stood firm, but as knocked into him the drinks he was carrying spilt, he jumped in pain, he tried to shake off the hot liquid. She lunged again, this time he caught, careful though to not spill any of the tea on her.
"Calm down, I'm not going hurt you."
In her weakened state she couldn't get passed him, instead she huddled in a shaded corner, covering her head in her arms.
Placing the drinks down, Matthew shook his head sadly. "You know being around you is bad for my wardrobe." He joked weakly.
He stepped towards her, as he did so she tried to retreat further into the wall.
He crouched in front of her.
"Hello, I'm Matthew Davies," he slowly extended his hand, "I'm here to help."
She recognised him then, he was one of people she'd collided with last night, memories flooded back, she also knew what he was.
She huddled further into herself.
"Okay, would you like some tea? I've got sugar, but I didn't how many, or what type." He emptied his pockets, bringing out a large handful of various sugars and sweeteners. He grinned sheepishly.
She couldn't sense any danger from him.
"Two" she mumbled.
"Good," he quickly poured two sugars into a cup, before handing it too her, she grabbed it quickly, tightly grasping its comforting warmth. "Okay so you know my name, what's yours?"
"Hi, I'm Matthew, we met last night." He stuck out his hand again.
She took it quickly, before returning to her drink, his hand had been warm.
Frowning she looked at him properly. He was well dressed in a dark suit; it reminded Tara of the few lawyers she met. Though the dark maroon shirt and tie were not in keeping with the conservative style of his clothes. His mousy coloured hair was short but scruffy as if it couldn't be quite be tamed, his face was thin and a little too long, but it had warm, dark brown eyes, eyes that asked to be trusted.
She hid behind her hair remembering the previous night.
"There's no need to be afraid, I won't bite," he joked. "Now Azie might, but me no."
"Azie," he said calmly, "my girlfriend, the vampire."
Her eyes widened with shock.
The prison psychologist shifted uncomfortably, while it was no one thing, the short man standing beside made her very uneasy.
He was certainly attractive, his almost feline like features, framed by long and thick, blood red hair, would have earned him more than just a second glance. His lavender eyes were more compelling than spine chilling, and while his dress could only be described as gothic, but there was no ordinary Goth would have had the style, taste or the money to carry it off.
It wasn't then the way he looked that made her uncomfortable per se. The way that every time he clicked his cane made the patient in the soundproof room flinch, was a definite start, as did the way he hadn't wavered in watching her for twenty minutes. More than this though, was the air of raw almost magical, power that circled him, making the aura that he gave off seem almost supernatural.
Nah, she dismissed, she was being silly, it was just tiredness, next she would be believing in vampires.
"When may I see her?" It was the first time he'd spoken. He had a soft English accent, it had an almost hypnotic quality to it, and it had the same confidence that clung to his body.
"She's heavily sedated now, and will probably be unresponsive for the next day or so."
His cane tapped the glass, "are you sure, doctor?"
The patient was screaming.
"Oh dear god," she ran into another room.
He watched her disappear, and then with a small gesture of his cane, the supposedly locked door sprang open.
And with a smirk, Lord Arthur Belmertin entered.
Finally he'd gotten a reaction out of her that wasn't terror.
He took his time to examine the girl in front of him; apart from the bruises she was a very pretty young women. She had a lovely face, surrounded by long hair, which seemed to be in a state of flux, some parts of it were a deep blood red, but in other places it was a dirty blond. It was if her natural hair colour was coming out, but it had yet to decide what it was. Though, currently she was hiding behind those long locks, afraid to show her face, he could understand why, he though angrily.
"That's right, she's a vampire, she said you were a witch, so I'm guessing you knew that?"
She nodded, a little afraid.
"I'm not" he whispered conspiratorially, "I'm much worse " The fear grew, and he leaned back and laughed, " I'm a lawyer."
He could that she almost smiled, and then she quickly hid behind her hair again.
Willow was watching the morning grow old; it had been another night where exhaustion was better than the memories that accompanied her sleep.
The beauty of the now dying morn, were lost on the hacker, it was now a reminder of happier times. Tara had loved to watch the sun-rise, they would stay up just to watch it, often falling asleep by the window, leading on more than one occasion, to them only just make it too morning classes.
She gently caressed the 'dragon's heart' ring that Tara had given her. A gift that she'd almost never received, the rest of the Scooby Gang had tried to take it from her, not wanting to give Willow a reminder of a betrayal. But Dawn had hidden it, and given it to her. She wore it around her neck, so that it rested close to her heart.
That day was lived over and over again in her mind. The last image she had of her lover was her scared face desperately calling her name as she fell to the Lei-ach demon's blows. She'd awoke to find her gone, and Spike and Dawn ranting at Buffy. Later she'd found out why, Tara was a demon, but she didn't care. Oz, Angel even Anya had been demons and done worse than Tara, they were forgiven, why couldn't Tara have been.
In the vampire's arms last night she'd admitted the truth, she still loved Tara, and she did in some way hate her friends. She felt better though, but she would never forget.
"Why should I?" She snapped at herself.
"Why, Why, Why?" She shouted at herself.
She looked down at the elaborate ring, and her face steeled, she slid it down her ring finger.
As she grabbed her coat, she didn't notice the dragon's ruby eye blink.
Giles swooned, as blood and pain rushed from his head, his hand twitched uncontrollably causing the box he was carrying to fall, glass shattered as the boxed bounced on the shops hard floor.
He had to grab a nearby bookshelf to stop him from falling.
Pain shot from his left hand, as blood trickled down his fingers.
Pain flared in Spike's hand, causing him to wake with a yelp, he knocked Harmony from the bed. The pain was intense, so much so he wanted to shove it out into the sunlight just to make it stop.
As he lay gasping on the floor he didn't notice the blood forming in his palm.
Matthias in a blur of motion jerked upright, plates and glasses went flying startling the other diners in the restaurant, with a cry he fell forward, breaking the table, he cried as wave after wave of pain shot up from his hand and throughout the rest of his body.
He didn't notice the blood smearing the wooden floor of the restaurant.
The dark haired rogue slayer was as catatonic as the doctor said, that is apart from her slayer senses. A slayer's genes are quite remarkable, anything supernatural will spark a response, that highly tuned fight or flight response, would spring into step almost up to death. Arthur knew this, and it was what he was depending on.
With a banshee-like wail, Faith was tumbled from the safe place her mind rested, and into her nightmares.
At first she was sitting in the observation cell, her hands bound by handcuffs, sitting at the table in front of her was a strangely dressed man, his lavender eyes sparkled like a beacon in the fog. Like gas in an execution, the heavy fog began to rise, drifting slowly upwards, swirling thick and heavy, choking Faith. Yet those eyes still held her. For the first time the fog shifted, revealing the hidden ghosts that lurked within.
Cold, dead hands brushed passed her shoulder, the room disappeared, and she back in flat fog filled landscape of her dreams. Alan, Lester and the courier she'd never known, stood behind her, they slowly walked towards her, their white bodies stained brightly with the wounds she'd inflicted. Other hands clawed at her, the demons she'd killed crawled towards her, their bodies rotting, they lurched like zombies towards, they eyes flashing bright with anger.
Click! Click! Click.
The fog closed in again, hiding the horrors of her deeds and their revenge filled eyes.
It was louder now, louder than ever before.
She turned towards it.
She strangely dressed man was there, tapping his ornate cane against the floor, behind floating him, like an icon on show in a museum, was someone Faith never wished to see again.
"Hello Faith." She didn't know who'd spoken, the man or the woman, they voices twisting together.
"Redemption, for in my redemption," the two spoke together a soft, melodious whisper. Faith found herself joining in, " not even, gods, monsters or mortals may touch."
Another voice broke into the vision, shattering the soft mood. "What the fuck is going on here?" A loud male voice bellowed.
"Get him outta here, now." It stormed.
The smiling man's face contorted into rage, the dream shattered as his twisted face disappeared, Faith found the a wave of euphoria caress her, the troubling images faded into a bright relaxing light of a drug induced slumber.
Arthur was livid, driving the doctor who'd dared interrupt him into the wall, his arm pressed against his throat.
"What are you doing?" he screamed.
Two burly looking psyche nurses dragged the smaller man from the doctor, his body deceiving them as strength far greater than their own, tore him from their grasp.
"You idiot." He snarled, quieter, his rage under control, but still making his body tense.
"I may ask you the same thing?" The doctor choked, "no one may see a patient without my permission. Do you know what harm you could have done?" The Doctor's own anger rising in response to the arrogant Englishman.
"Only her redemption." Arthur spat sarcastically.
He turned, and walked to the gate.
His mind racing was though, who was the woman?
Giles was reading yet another ancient tome on magic, trying to discover what Matthias' items meant, it wasn't soulstone magic, he was sure of that, though it was very similar. There was something familiar about it, though he couldn't quite remember.
It had kept him up most of the night, and was now providing a welcome distraction to his hand, as he turned the page he tried to ignore his bound hand and the thin line of red on his palm. And despite their growing tedium, he kept at his research, wanting to discover the solution, like a man seeking the few half bars of a song, that would keep repeating itself until he'd played it, and to stop the awaiting chaos attached to his hand.
Throughout the morning Anya and Buffy had brought him the occasional cups of tea, again another one appeared he looked up to give a smile of thanks.
"Hi Giles," Willow mumbled nervously, he'd not remembered the redhead entering the shop, though he hadn't noticed that the sun was slowly retreating towards the horizon.
He looked at the cup Willow had given him, it had two chocolate biscuits on it, and they were the biscuits that the Scooby Gang clubbed together to buy him from England. It was their peace offering when they brought their personal lives to the reserved Englishman.
He closed the book and studied the young women, her eyes were red rimmed, both from a lack of sleep and crying, though the normal sadness that darkened their normally light green had been replaced with determination.
"Good afternoon Willow," the formal greeting was lined with warmth and concern.
Willow's resolve began to disappear, and she shifted uncomfortably.
Absently, Giles began to dunk his biscuit, waiting for the chocolate to lighten and the digestive underneath to swell to just before it would crumble into the tea (the perfect dunk). He motioned for her to sit, and gave her a kind, encouraging smile.
"I want Tara back," she mumbled quickly.
Giles jumped, dropping his biscuit into the tea. Bloody hell, he thought, the statement had taken him complete surprise. Startled he reached for his tea, and he winced as he saw the floating biscuit, causing a flicker of annoyance crossed his features.
While the actual statement had surprised him the sentiment behind it did not, as he had half expected Willow to eventually say something like this. He was glad that she'd had come to the decision and that she had come to him about it. For deep down Giles had genuinely liked the shy, blond witch. At first he'd found her shy but polite, but when she'd stayed with him over the summer, he had discovered that the young women had a dry sense of humour, and more surprisingly shared his love of football and they'd bonded watching it (despite supporting two rival teams), and that he had to include the King of annoyance that was Spike.
Willow read Giles' expression of annoyance and the silence that followed, believing that he too would dismiss the idea. In truth only Dawn and Spike seemed to miss her lover, the others seemed to either remove the girl from their memories, or suggest that Willow move on, and find someone new. Now she expected the same from Giles.
She jerked back, muttering sorry, not wanting to face a lecture, scorn or worse fake sympathy, but as she moved she bumped into the table sending books and tea flying.
"Bloody Hell!" Giles exclaimed as hot tea landed in his lap.
"What's wrong?" Buffy ran from the training room, already on guard, still not relaxed after the previous night's attack.
"Nothing, Willow just spilt some tea, go back to your exercises I'll be in later." Seemingly placated Buffy turned back, her stomach rolled though when she noticed the look of pain on Willow's face, and the bags forming heavily on it. Nothing she did seemed to help her best friend.
Turning back to the training room, she began to fantasize about catching a certain blond demon, right after she caught up with her no-good ex.
Walking round the table he carefully helped up his other surrogate daughter.
"Sorry Giles," she sniffed.
"Its okay, lets go into my office, I'll make us a nice cup of tea."
"B-but," she pointed at the mess, she knew what that meant and wanted to put off 'the talk.'
"Anya can do it." He called at his assistant, who was predictably counting money, "Anya could you tidy this up please."
"What you did it." She grumbled.
"I'm fondling the money," she whined.
Giles just glared.
"Okay, okay," she grumbled.
The gentle whistle of a kettle brewing was the only sound in the small office, neither of its occupants quite ready to broach the subject. So Giles busied himself with the tea, while Willow nervously looked around the room.
She took in the photographs that lined the notice board, perhaps the only hint about how much the Englishman cared for the group. Most of the pictures were of Buffy, there was the graduation picture he'd made her take, the slightly charred diploma in one hand, there was pictures of the Scooby Gang too, in all its various guises, she could see ones with Angel and Cordelia in, there was on with Oz in as well, but he was mostly hidden, by a picture of Anya at the Magic Box's till. Pictures of Giles life were also dotted around the board, there he was with what looked like a band, a graduation picture of a beaming, longhaired Giles from his University days, and even Olivia popped up. There was one strange one of a short red haired man, a blond woman (who reminded Willow of Tara) and a baby.
But one caught her more than the others, it was just below Buffy's graduation photo, Willow felt her heart catch in her throat, it was a picture of Spike, Giles and a blushing Tara, each wearing slightly different football tops. The two men were on there feet, obviously celebrating, Tara was in the middle blushing madly, though with a big grin on her face, as beer fell on her head, she looked so very happy.
She reached out, gently brushing her fingers around her lover's face.
"It was taken during the summer. We were watching a football game."
"Oh." She never took her eyes from the picture. It revealed another part of Tara that she'd yet too discover.
"You can have it if you wish."
She startled looked at the Englishman.
"You miss her don't you?" She nodded.
"So do I, are you sure you want her back?"
Willow felt dizzy and she could barely make herself nod.
"Even if she' a demon?"
"Yes, I d-don't care," she said through closed eyes, desperately trying to remain standing.
She opened her eyes, and locked them with Giles', "I love her." It was delivered with such passion and firmness that Giles couldn't do anything but believe her.
"Good." He smiled.
He handed her a file, "I'm afraid Spike and I haven't been able to find out much, perhaps you could use magic or those damn computers to find out more."
Willow lost the ability to speak, her mouth opened like a fish caught out of water.
"Its all there, a few rumours and sittings, Spike even called in a few favours, we tracked the family to Los Angeles, but without anything more, there were simply too many families called Maclay. I was thinking of asking Angel," he trailed off, Willow looked like she was going to faint.
"Here sit." He guided her into a chair.
"Y-Y-you and S-Spike?"
"Yes, I was surprised too, but " he just shrugged; he didn't quite understand the vampire's reasoning either.
"W-W-when can we start?"
Giles beamed. "Almost straight away, I'll get Spike, can you do something for me?"
He handed her two small brown packages, "Can you take these items to Matthias? Tell him its $75, and the knife and gem will follow over the next two days. Okay?"
She nodded, "W-where?"
"Erm " He looked at the clock. "He'll probably be at the Pantheon now, it's an Italian restaurant just off the High Street." The sun was about to set, and Matthias would go to the most expensive Italian Restaurant in the small town, it's where they'd been last night. "Where you found us yesterday."
"Okay," feeling an excitement she hadn't felt since Tara had left, Willow stood.
He squeezed her hand, "Hurry."
She nodded and darted out.
His cut hand twitched slightly, he rubbed it, trying to work the kinks out. He looked up, and a fond smile transformed his worried expression as he watched the redhead dart out the shop.
He shook his head, and winced for a different reason, now he'd have to contact with Spike.
The prison psyche ward was a deathly quiet place, it was not a place for hope or rehabilitation though, just a place filled with a drug induced silence.
Faith's slayer healing slowly brought her round, the drugs burnt from her system by her superhuman metabolism, though it still left her weak, she struggled against the leather straps, glancing around in a panic.
Something powerful shifted her senses.
Click! Click! Click!
She was standing on an endless dark plane.
The fog rose and she could here the accusing moans of the people she'd killed. She crouched on the floor covering her ears against their whispers, each time she entered this hell it got worse, she could feel her being driven mad.
A pillar of light appeared in the fog, driving it and the monsters away.
The women appeared again, she was in her late 20s to early 30s, dressed in very formal and upper-class clothes. She was strikingly handsome, rather than beautiful. A small smile graced her crafted features it radiated joy and warmth.
"Who am I Faith?" She asked in her rich voice, another echoed it, "Who is she Faith?"
The man from her earlier nightmare appeared behind her.
"Who is she Faith?" He repeated softly.
"No-No-No." Faith screamed, she struck out at the woman, she disappeared, and the fog began to close in again.
The man banged his cane loudly against the floor, she reappeared, and fog retreated once again.
"Who is she Faith?" His voice was harder this time.
She moved to strike again, but the women floated backwards.
"Why?" She was crying as she collapsed to her knees.
"Tell me Faith, who is she?" His voice was soft again.
"Who am I Faith?" The woman asked this time.
Faith began to sob loudly, the woman reacted, breaking through the light, and enveloping her in a comforting hug. She rocked the crying slayer, who looked so small in her arms, so much like a child.
The clearing shifted, a small homely looking apartment appeared in its place, heavy books on the occult cluttered it's floor, the to women sat on a worn old settee.
Arthur recognised the books.
"A watcher." He whispered.
Faith reacted, "Oh Brigit. Why?" She moaned through her tears.
The fog vanished, but the apartment remained, Faith still in the older woman's arms, the man began to fade.
"Who are you?" She pleaded.
He whispered as he went, "For in my Redemption not even, Gods, Monsters or Mortals may touch." Then the woman's voice overlapped his, "sleep Faith." They said together.
The dark landscape disappeared into a dreamless sleep.
Arthur walked from the hospital, silently passed the guards, unseen by the busy inmates, just an uncomfortable breeze on the back of their necks.
Once beyond its gates, he let a smile of triumph touch his face, at last, a beginning he thought.
Still in that happy daze he climbed into his plush limousine.
Her watcher, and he knew just who to ask. Leaning back his eyes closed, his feline features relaxing as began to hum an old, jaunty tune.
Neither he nor his driver noticed the black Plymouth following them towards the city.
The Pantheon was Sunnydale's newest and rapidly becoming its trendiest restaurant. In truth it was nothing more than a closed off street with a small kitchen and impressive wine cellar attached. Its slightly cheesy appearance, from the red and white yawning (and matching tablecloths) to its cobbled dance floor, belied the quality that made the towns people flock to its tables.
Just an hour before Willows arrival, the restaurant had been nothing more than a roadway, a popular short cut of Sunnydale's stressed rush hour motorists. Now though it was teaming with life, the wonderful smell of Italian cooking, garlic and fresh bread wafted down the High Street, making passerbyers stomachs rumble with anticipation, envious of the queuing people patiently awaiting their meals.
Waiters bustled passed Willow, spinning at the last moment to avoid a collision in their rush to serve the hot food.
"Mr. Matthias, this lady says she is hear to see you?" The snooty Maitre'd drawled, not believing the redheads story.
The wine drinking (she hoped) vampire looked up, his sad looking eyes recognising the woman.
"Yes she is, please bring another glass." He replied just as snootily.
"Sir." The headwaiter disappeared.
"I have what you wanted." She said after a few minutes, since sitting down, the vampire had simply stared into his dark drink.
"Excellent." He mumbled.
"Giles said its $75, and the knife and gem will be here soon." She rushed out the message.
The vampire reacted for the first time, a small flicker of anger crossing his face, though he shrugged it off.
"Can't be helped," he forced out. He reached into his blazer pocket, and began counting out the price.
"Thank-you." She stammered.
He frowned as he examined the brown bag, ignoring the red head, a faint smile touched his lips as a fragrant smell drifted up, as he opened the bag.
Salisbury Plain, England. 1401.
Mel was bent over work top, working intently over a small bubbling pot, carefully adding a green powder to it, her tongue caught in the corner of her mouth as she tapped the powder in, careful not add to much.
He loved to watch her work, she would lose her self to the world, lost in the world of healing spells and potions, candles laced with mucklewort adding a gentle aroma to the cottage, relaxing its occupants with its peaceful smell.
"I'm going out," he called gently.
"Be careful," she mumbled, "back by dawn."
"Yes your highness," He teased, though she completely ignored, the interruption forgotten as her work beckoned.
As he left he turned back still amazed at the woman that loved him, he inhaled the scent deeply, before disappearing into the night, hoping it would linger till dawn,.
Willow watched with amazement as she watched the master vampire's face soften as he drifted off into a happy memory.
He jerked back to the present.
Stuttering he caught her hand, "T-t-thank Giles for me."
He frowned at the ring on her hand, and the little spasm that shook his hand made his grip tighten.
His eyes widened.
He pinned it to the table, causing Willow to gasp with pain.
"Where did you get the ring?" He whispered, shock running through his voice.
"W-what?" She winced.
"Rhiannon?" He looked up into her face, confusion and happiness battled on his face. No surely not? He thought. "Rhiannon?"
He moved quickly, picking up a startled "I've found you." He yelled, he spun her round, the restaurants other diners looked on in a stunned silence.
"Rhiannon," he repeated for a third time. Sitting down again, his a circus of joy.
"My n-name's Willow." She frowned, still dazed at the vampires display of emotion.
"No, Rhiannon Belmertin-Maclay, you don't know how long we've been looking for you." He spoke as if he'd found the Holy Grail.
"Yes." He frowned.
Willow's face paled in shock.
"I-it's Tara's," she stammered.
"Eh?" He asked in confusion.
"S-she gave I-it t-to me."
"Yes," his excitement wavered slightly.
"W-when she left." his face fell, realising what she meant.
"Detective Roberts," An English accented voice called to him.
The lost detective looked gratefully at the owner of the voice, "Mr. Davies, I presume?"
The well-dressed Englishman nodded, and held out his hand.
"Yes, pleased to meet you."
Immediately the detective turned to business, "How's the girl?"
A look of pain crossed the younger man face. "Very withdrawn, I can barely get to look up."
The cop shook his head, "did you manage to get a name?"
"Just a first Tara."
"Nothing else?" By his tone the detective knew the answer, 20 years on the LAPD had hardened him to the truth.
"No, I'm afraid perhaps the doctors could tell you more." Roberts could hear the frustration in the young mans voice, and the anger that laced through it.
The detective knew all the doctors did, they'd contacted him about ten minutes before the Englishman. After all his experience he could have repeated verbatim the doctors diagnosis, that detachment did not help his anger.
"I've already spoken to them, they called just before you," he repeated his thought out loud, "they informed they had a patient who had signs of heavy and repeated abuse, some new some old."
Matthew visibly paled, "Bastards." He whispered.
The detective silently nodded.
"Can I talk to her?"
"I don't know, she's terrified, she can just about say her name, I don't know if it'll help." Matthew replied.
"I have to do it."
"I know," Matthew gave a weak smile, "perhaps in the morning, the doctors said we could take her, give her food, some where safe and time." Succinctly putting what the hospital psychologist had told him, "we've arranged to have her see a counsellor in the morning, then perhaps?"
The detective smiled at the man, hi soft ramblings revealing his very real distress, "I think that would be okay, if you have a contact number," Matthew handed him a small business card.
"Its all there," He mumbled.
"Great, but I would like to meet her."
Matthew nodded, "This way."
" 'Course I'm gonna bloody help, Rupert, but it's a fuck off big city mate."
"I know that, I may have a solution."
"Good but I'm gonna need a few things."
"Spike," Giles warned.
Spike's retort never left his mouth, as Matthias charged into the shop, dragging a stumbling Willow behind him.
"Matthias?" Giles said, his voice dripping surprise and warning.
"Look?" He banged Willows hand on the table.
" Shit." Spike finished for him. Spike leaned forward, ignoring Willow's pain he examined her closely. "Can't be, it can't be that easy?"
He looked expectantly at Giles.
The watchers face was a picture of confusion, "Wouldn't we have "
"Tell them where you got the ring." Matthias snapped.
"It w-was Tara's, s-she n-never w-ore it." She stuttered frightened at the cold anger in the vampire.
"Fucking Marvellous, he's just gonna love this." Spike raised his hands up to the heavens, sarcasm dripping through his rant. "Fan-bloody-tastic."
"Go on," the vampire let go of her hand.
"S-she g-gave it t-to me w-when she left."
"So that was it!" Spike had seen Tara give something to Dawn, but he'd never managed to see what it was.
Giles nervously cleaned his glasses, "and until today you wore it round your neck."
Giles copied Spike's earlier gesture.
It took a moment for Joyce to realise that the knocking came from the door and not her head.
"Bu " she winced, neither of her girls were at home, Dawn was with Xander and Buffy was out getting her medicine.
Ignoring the pain, she shuffled to the door, her face-hardened when she saw who it was. "Hello Riley."
"Hello Mrs Summers," he mumbled from behind a massive bouquet of flowers, "Is Buffy in?"
He saw her rock slightly and concern entered his voice. "Oh, but how are you?"
"Fine, nothing like have a hole in your head to make you feel on top of the world," she griped weakly.
"Can I come in and wait for her, please?"
"I'm not ."
"Please, Mrs Summers, I made a mistake, I love Buffy so much, I just want to explain, then then I'll go, I promise."
She heard the sincerity in his tone, maybe.
Her eyes fluttered and her body fell a little.
"Wow, here let me help you," Riley moved forward to catch her.
"T-thank-you." She groaned as his hand steadied her, "perhaps you'd better come in," she moaned weakly.
"Thank-you, Mrs Summers," she didn't see his face twist as he stepped into the home.
"I need a drink," Giles mumbled against the cool surface of the worktop.
"'Hold on I thought Tara's last was Mac-Oh. I'm an idiot."
"Willow was Tara's mother called Elizabeth?" Giles mumbled again.
"Yes, h-how did you know?"
Spike started to bang his head against the wall, "I'm a fucking idiot, Elizabeth McClay "
" Who became Elizabeth Belmertin-McClay " Matthias continued.
" who gave birth to, Rhiannon Tara Belmertin." Giles finished.
Giles grabbed the bottle of single malt whiskey he kept beneath the counter, and slumping in a nearby chair he took a heavy drink.
"We are all so bloody stupid." He summed up the three men's current thinking.
Spike grabbed the outstretched bottle.
"Remember the night she was born." Matthias mused, taking his own drink.
"Remember 'is stage night more." Spike mused.
"Yeah you an that fountain." The younger vampire laughed mirthlessly.
"That was you?" Giles spluttered, suddenly realising why the bleached blond vampire was so familiar. "But that w "
"Oh now you rem "
Willow coughed, while the men had been ignoring her she'd come to her senses, and was suddenly annoyed, "what's going on here?"
Three sets of eyes turned to her, and suddenly burst out laughing.
Tara looked around the luxurious house, it was a contrast of styles, one half was immaculate, not a speck of dust in sight. The other half was, well a mess, every conceivable item, from books, to CDs, to clothes and files, was strewn haphazardly around, a mockery of the neatness in the rest of the home.
"Honey I'm home," he called as he stepped into the main bedroom/study.
The female vampire from their first meeting stepped from another room, her body wrapped in a large gown, towelling her long wet hair. He embraced her lovingly, and Tara was surprised by the loving look she gave back.
"Tidy up." She snapped teasingly as they broke apart.
He looked wounded. "Yes, sir," he gave a parade ground salute.
Ignoring him completely she turned to Tara. "Would you like to freshen up dear, I've got something nice that'll fit you."
Tara blushed, wondering why they were helping a demon such as her self.
"Bugger," Matthew muttered in the background, as he knocked over a stack of files.
"Men," Azelle rolled her eyes, gently leading Tara towards the bathroom.
Slowly the three men brought their hysteria-touched laughter back under control. Under Willow's resolve face any semblance of courage they had disappeared. All suddenly finding random sections of wall highly interesting.
"I'm waiting," she stormed angrily, if they knew anything about Tara.
"You see," Giles fumbled.
"Yeah Red its like," Spike faded too.
"Well perhaps, you see Tara is " Matthias shook his head; he couldn't quite put it into words.
Giles let out a deep sigh, "Tara is not exactly who we thought she was."
"You're not going to help her?" Willow panicking blurted out.
"No, No," Giles reassured, "you see Tara is the daughter of oh I really am rather stupid." He exclaimed.
"Dear Lord, stupid bloody Giles, all those bloody bumps on the head, finally getting to you old man," he rambled to himself, but faltered under the stares of the other three, "Willow, Tara she's "
Tara stood with her eyes closed, the warm steam of the shower surrounding her, she dared not open them, not wanting to see the reflection that made her family hate her so.
Steeling herself she opened them.
She couldn't see herself clearly in the steamy mirror; nervously she dragged her hand through the heavy condensation.
"No it goes there."
"No, No, look its page 286, so it goes here."
"But, it doesn't make sense." Azelle and Matthew bickered happily with each other
"Sure it "
A horrid scream echoed from the bathroom, both of them moved quickly, almost struggling against each other to get there first.
Matthew's shoulder crashed against the door, pooping the lock.
Tara stood at the mirror, her fingers tracing her own reflection, blank eyes looked at the intruders, and in a wonder filled voice, "I'm not a "
Demon." Giles finished quickly.
Every drop of strength in Willow body left in a rush, and she crumpled to an unconscious heap on the floor.
"Oh," Matthias remarked helpfully.
Giles rolled his eyes. "Spike would you take her into the office, Buffy's bed-thingy is in there, and see that she's alright." He took command. "Matthias would you mind getting Buffy for me."
"Why?" Surprised at the Watcher's request.
"I think I'll need help keeping Willow here when she awakes." Matthias smiled.
"Thank-you, I'll get her address it's not far."
"What are you going to do Ripper?" He asked.
"I'm going to have to call Arthur."
Matthias flinched, "ouch, good luck."
"Oh by the way," he called before the vampire left. "You other items will be here tomorrow."
"What are they for?"
Matthias frowned, he thought Giles would have recognised it, "The Angels Tears Spell." He called before leaving.
" Demon." Tara finished; both Matthew and Azelle frowned, not understanding.
"I'm not a demon." Tara called again, hugging herself with joy.
She laughed, a happy and light sound.
"I'm not a demon." She whispered it, her voice cracking with tears, they began to fall freely, and her body shook.
Matthew and Azelle gently hugged the young women, "why?" she began to mutter as they gently rocked her.
Arthur rocked with dizziness; it was if he'd been on every thrill ride at the same time, all in the space of a few seconds, his stomach launched.
Tears of pure joy slid down his cheeks.
" a-a-and E-Elizabeth?"
He nodded, smiling slightly at his reserved friends attempt to be comforting. "T-t-thank-you." Tears of grief overwhelmed tears of joy.
"I-I-I g-gotta g-go." He stuttered uncontrollably as the past crashed back in his present.
New York City, 1983.
Arthur and Elizabeth walked hand in hand, Spike hung back slightly, a toddler squirming in his arms as he growled and tickled her.
"William, don't over excite her, she'll never get to sleep." Elizabeth admonished over her shoulder.
"'ike." The little girl corrected.
Spike grinned, "that's right, little 'un, Spike the big bad." He drew her up o his face, and growled into her stomach.
"Leave them dear. We're almost there."
"You know Art, love the invite, but why the bl..penguin suit. I hate it." He grumbled, as free hand scratching at his bow tie, shifting beneath the expensive dinner jacket.
Arthur laughed, "I'm bringing class back into your life William."
"And I think you look very handsome." Elizabeth said.
Spike stuck his tongue out.
Rhiannon giggled, "'ike, 'illy."
"See even a two year old agrees with me." He grinned.
"It's my birthday, you'll wear what your told." Arthur said snootily.
Spike did an imitation of Arthur, Rhiannon giggled again.
Elizabeth turned to her husband "Don't "
A cold stab of fear formed itself in Elizabeth stomach.
"M-Michael." She stammered, her voice small.
"Your Family's missed you." Michael drawled as he stepped from the shadows.
Three other men also appeared surrounding the small group. One of them grabbed Rhiannon, Spike reacted trying to grab the small child back, and he could feel his face twitch. A shotgun collided with his head, he fell to the floor heavily, a dull thud echoed in the night.
"IKE." Rhiannon screamed, beginning to cry.
Arthur tore forward, a feral growl escaped from his lips as he lunged towards Michael.
The loud crack of a shotgun met him.
His small body was forced backwards by the point blank blast.
"Arthur!" Elizabeth sobbed.
"Fuck! Hurry up!" People from a nearby club started to investigate the gunfire; each dressed in expensive dinner jackets.
"Hey!" One of the revellers called.
"Fuck, just grab her and go!" One of the men called.
Michael shoved his shotgun in Elizabeth's face. "Your coming home so shut up." Mutely she nodded, her eyes lingering on the fallen body of her husband.
Angel watched as the small man collapsed, he turned away as the man curled up into a ball, as soul-tearing sobs began to echo into the night. Arthur couldn't support himself against the car side, and he slid to the ground, disappearing from Angel's view behind the dark limo. The bulky looking driver stepped around, he grunted as he picked up the crumpled man, carrying him towards the large front door.
The camera disappeared beneath the folds of his coat as Angel slipped back into the night, and away from the guarded estate.
Willow slowly climbed back into the waking world.
"Here ya go Red, drink this."
A warm cup was thrust into her hands. The hot tea splashed onto her hands, she gasped in pain as it drove the last vestiges of unconsciousness driven from her body.
"Drink," he ordered again.
"Glaak," the tea was very strong and very sweet. "Its horrible."
Bloody Yanks! Spike thought as he rolled his eyes, they just didn't get it.
"Just drink it."
Closing her eyes she gulped at the warm drink.
"Never underestimate the healing powers of tea, luv."
"You sound like Giles."
Spike growled at her, "no need to be nasty Red."
She smiled weakly.
"What do you remember ducks?"
"Oh god," she muttered trying to stand, she remembered the conversation, tears appeared at her eyes, "oh Spike, she wasn't a demon, and and they made her go." She sobbed.
"Its okay Red." Spike said, in an uncomfortable attempt at comfort.
"Tell me about Tara."
"Let see," he lit a cigarette, and leant back, as if the question had been 'what was the meaning of life?' "She's like her mum, Elizabeth, you know she reminded of her, but a never put it together." He snorted shaking his head.
"Well she was born, Rhiannon Tara Belmertin, Rhie for short. She was a real daddy's girl, even at two, she had had us all wrapped round 'er little finger, right bundle of chaos.
"But then they were gone, we were going to his birthday party, and they just." Spike halted abruptly, the pain of the memory clear on his pale feature.
"He we were never the same after that night," he looked up at Willow, trying to make her understand. "We ain't spoken in nearly 18 years."
He stopped, trying to force the tears down.
"What's he like?"
"Art?" Spike sniffed. "He's a short arse, dresses like he was a Victorian, you know. Gothic. He's like a tornado of chaos, shakes up ya life. Lord Arthur Belmertin once met never forgotten."
He stopped at the foot of the path he could smell it. The sweet smell of blood and death, the demon inside of him awoke, and with the accompanying hunger and madness began to overwhelm him.
With every step he took towards the house, he could feel his will slip, for almost 600 years he had tried to control it, but again like every time he failed, and his face shifted, and the demon was free.
The vampire exiting the house backwards collided with him, still focused on the scene he left in the house. Matthias growled, he recognised the sent on the younger vampire.
A child of Valain.
He knew what waited inside the house; he could see Giles' broken face as the watcher found his slayer, just as he had found Melandria.
With a snarl he struck the other vampire with a savage kick.
Riley staggered forwards, his senses driven haywire by the sheer force of the blow. Weakly he attempted to retaliate, striking out at the blur that circled him.
The bones in his arm shattered as Matthias caught feeble blow, twisting the arm around to an unnatural angle, he pinned the still stunned vampire in place, breathing against his neck.
Matthias frowned at the younger vampire, he was crying and his face was back to his mortal guise.
"I'm sorry," it wept. "I couldn't stop him, I' so sorry."
"Wh " he felt a new presence, a unique presence.
"Buffy I'm so sorry." The diminutive slayer stood before them, her gaze focused on the horror behind them, Matthias closed his eyes, his mind forming the horror that waited in the house.
The younger vampire slipped from his grasp.
"I didn't do this," he stepped forward, arms outstretched in a calming gesture, his features de-morphing.
The slayer stood, her glazed eyes never wavering from the macabre crucifixion.
He tried to move passed her. His well-evolved instincts calling at him to run, this was not going to end well.
He used his amazing speed to 'blip' round her, an arm as unmovable as a mountain, stopped him short.
He landed heavily on the floor.
Above him an enraged slayer stood, her eyes flashing with a murderous rage that surpassed any vampires, even ones driven into a blood frenzy.
He felt a twinge of fear.
The stake descended in a blur, and he just barely caught it. He brought his knee up, using her own momentum to flip her, and bringing himself up on to his feet.
Buffy reacted quickly, twisting free, landing on her feet as well. Her roundhouse kick rocked the master vampire, dropping quickly to sweep his legs away.
Matthias flipped away from the move.
"Bitch!" He snarled as his face shifted, and as he felt his own blood trickle down his face, the desire to escape fled as he gave into his madness, now he wished only to destroy.
He flicked the blood away, "I didn't kill your whore of a mother, but I think I'll have you." He sneered, as the old Matthias appeared, the one that had terrified a world.
He beckoned, "Come met your death." His old taunt feeling new on his lips again.
Buffy attacked. She was a blur of motion, driven by anger and adrenaline, she was a flurry of skill, but every punch, kick and combination was blocked.
"Is that all Slayer," Matthias laughed, "a drunken fool could best you."
She attacked again, but the adrenaline was fading giving in to fear, the anger began to ebb as the grief welled. And her assault on the master vampire faltered.
But still she drove onwards, Matthias over extended himself and she moved under his guard, landing a series of hard blows to his body that drove him back, allowing her to drive her knee deep drove into his groin causing pain to seize his lower body.
She drew the stake up high.
Matthias lunged upwards, using his head as battering ram against her chin, blood flowed as the force of the blow drove her teeth through her tongue, and her jaw popped.
Her head rang, as he followed with a savage uppercut that drove her to the edge of unconsciousness.
Tears fell as whatever reserves were left in the broken slayer vanished.
He caught the feeble strike of her stake as he stepped into her; the stake fell as he pulled her head to one side.
He could smell her fear.
Pain erupted throughout his back and chest, black blood bubbled from his own mouth, surprise and confusion on his face as he slunk to the floor.
A fence post protruded from the left side of his chest.
He began to laugh.
Somerset, England. 1399.
He caught the backhand the stocky slayer unleashed at him, twisting her wrist he brought it down onto the furnace.
She screamed; the stake caught fire as it dropped onto the hot coals.
She backed away from him fear covered her face.
His backhand drove her into the hovels walls.
Elation rose in his soulless body as he watched defeat form in her teary eyes. She didn't even struggle as he dragged her to her feet. Blood trickled through his fingers as his vice like grip tore into hair and scalp.
He could smell her fear, he could smell the blood becoming sweeter, and he savoured it, like a connoisseur over a fine wine. He prolonged the final blow, tormenting the girl further, making her fear grow, and making her taste even sweeter.
His mind registered the smell of searing flesh first, he tried to move to take his victim, but his right side wasn't working properly. The bland taste of his own dead blood filled his mouth, his eyes widened as wave after wave of pain engulfed him, it seemed to come from every where at once.
The slayer dropped to the floor, a figure moved to her, a pretty feminine looking woman. The person he'd forgotten: The Lover.
Once again Matthias had made a simple mistake, he'd focused on one enemy while another still lived. It was a mistake, which once again had almost killed him.
The younger vampire stood over him, his twisted face filled with a gloating triumph, another piece of wooden fencing in his hand, ignoring the jar of pain, Matthias forced himself to roll away, he felt his heart stutter as the wooden stake ground against it.
He stumbled away his now sluggish speed was still enough to carry him from the other vampire.
Riley watched the ancient vampire stumble away, anger twisting his already deformed face even further.
He ignored the stake stuck in the soft ground when he heard Buffy' whimper.
"Buffy." He cooed softly.
Her blank eyes flickered with a touch of recognition, "Riley?" She slurred meekly.
"Shh," he said as he leaned forward picking her up in strong arms.
She hardly flinched when he licked at the blood trailing down her chin.
"And I thought your mother tasted good," he chuckled in her ear.
He heard her whimper briefly before her body relaxed, pain and grief forcing the Slayer to retreat in encircling blackness.
Giles was frustrated, he hated just doing nothing, and so he did what came naturally to the watcher; research. The spell Matthias had mentioned was oddly familiar, something to do with souls; it was why both he and Anya had at first thought it was a soulstone spell.
The tangy, acrid scent of the powerful finding spell they'd just finished twitched uncomfortably against his senses, bringing up dormant memories of a past he'd rather have forgotten.
"Anything?" Willow called as she finished cleaning up the gooey mess of the spell.
Giles shook his head. "Can you get er Dieters Guide to Vampires?" That supposedly classical text might help, he thought.
He flicked through the dusty book, scanning its index, not really expecting to find anything then a simple phrase caught his attention, a small sub heading within many: 'Angels and Vampires'
A shaken Tara entered the bar, her fear temporarily forgotten as she openly starred at the Karaoke Bar's customers, demons of every description sat at its table, small ones, large ones, fat ones, thin ones, gunky ones even multi-coloured ones watched the stage. They sat drinking, talking even softly singing along to the bulky thing murdering Madonna's 'Papa Don't Preach,' and the humans in the bar hardly seemed to notice their strange fellow patrons.
Matthew smirked at her reaction, glad that something had affected her; his smirk grew into a wide grin as he saw Azelle equally staring.
Well, he thought, Caritas was unique!
"Don't worry ladies, your perfectly safe, Caritas is a sanctuary."
"Sure?" Azelle asked in surprise, recognising some of the more deadly demons in the bar, Matthew had mentioned the place, but even being a vampire and a demon's lawyer could not have prepared for this.
"Uh-huh." Matthew said absently, his eyes darting round for a specific person.
"Well if it isn't my favourite lawyer," a loud, effeminate voice boomed from behind them.
A horned, green skinned demon stood behind.
The flamboyant red suit, with a lurid orange shirt, and yellow cravat made the demon look more like the MC at a drag show than anything else. Azelle immediately knew who this was, though Matthew's descriptions had not done justice to the demon in front of her.
"Lorne, my man, how's it hanging?" Matthew boomed back, surprising the two women by relaxing his clipped tones back into his natural London accent.
"As always, up, down and ready for action." The two friends embraced.
"So Mattie, introduce me to this fine piece of vampiric loveliness," he sidled up to her, offering his hand.
"Lorne, Azie, Azie, Lorne."
"Ah his Celtic Queen." He kissed her hand gallantly. "Well, she's just scrummy." He leered back at Matthew.
Matthew grinned back at him.
"Ramon," Lorne gestured to a handsome blond waiter darting between the tables, "Sea Breeze " He nodded at the other three.
"Coke, Bloody Mary special, and er " Matthew faltered when his eyes settled on Tara, " white wine."
The waiter moved off. Lorne whispered conspiratorially to Matthew, "dim as a post, but with those buns, and Sea Breezes, who cares." His eyes were drawn to the young blond girl, with her contorted and distressed emotions, "Hello sweet pea, and who are you?"
Matthew shook his head he moved Lorne and himself off to one side as the two women moved to a nearby table. "Her name's Tara, she's kinda why we're here." He called to the women, "I'm just gonna chat with Lorne, order something to eat, 'kay?"
Azelle waved him off.
"What's'up?" Lorne felt the anxiety in his friend.
"The girl." Lorne rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, got that one, AND? Not a mind reader."
Matthew cocked his eyebrow at that.
"Okay, okay, I'm a mind reader, but spill with the beans."
Matthew glanced over at the blond girl, "we bumped into her, and she was real beaten up, hardly talks, just a first name. Could hardly get her to talk, then, boom, this after has a shower ends up crying 'bout not being a demon."
"So you brought her here to me to help?" Matthew nodded. "Well you know the rules Lancelot, she sings, I sing."
"Its' Galahad, look at her." He gestured to Tara, who was once again hiding behind her own hair.
Lorne got it: She wasn't going to sing. "I know, I can feel her pain from here, but kinda stuck, she's gotta sing."
Matthew winced, "what if I did it for her?"
"What?" Lorne's eyes glittered, hoping Matthew meant what he was implying.
Lorne grinned wickedly, "bud, I think we've gotta deal, walk this way." Matthew shuddered at the mischievous grin plastered over his friend's face.
Giles rapidly flicked to the correct page, the small headline grabbed him:
FALLEN ANGELS: The legend of the Vampire.
Giles frowned at the small, wordy text, his eyes straining as he read the tiny words. The shrill ringing of the shop's phone prevented any further progression.
"Bugger." He muttered to himself, tripping over discarded books to reach the phone.
Willow came up behind him, worry touching her face about what it could be.
"Hello, Magic Box, yo Hello Arthur," relief in his voice. "Yes I own a shop no its not funny F-Faith?" He stumbled over the name of the rogue slayer.
Willow's head came up sharply, her feelings for the rogue slayer, were mixed and highly volatile, her green eyes darkened.
"Brigit? Her first watcher." His eyes widening at what the other man was saying. "Are you sure? She's I know, you helped me Its not the same." He paused for a very long time, his pale eyes clouded. "It wasn't my fault," he croaked, he nodded, whatever the other man was saying Willow could see that he grudgingly agreed with it. "Yes I understand, she was killed by Kakistos. I'm sorry. No, Spike's gone after her, I gave him your phone number Bye." Giles' eyes were closed and he leant heavily against the counter.
Willow moved to support the older man, hocked at the emotions bubbling over his face. "Giles?" She asked softly.
The watcher stood up, the mask sliding back into place, "I'm fine."
"W-who was that?" Willow was equally as stunned at how quickly the older man slipped back into the appearance of control.
"Arthur, Tara's father."
"What does he want with Faith?" Her voice frosted slightly, no good ever came from the rogue slayer.
Giles smiled weakly, his eyes distant, remembering his past, "Redemption," he answered quietly before returning to his books.
It had been about 2 months since he and the others had released the demon Eyghon, and had murdered Randall. That moment, when he'd swung the sword and removed Randall's head was forever planted on his memory, repeating itself over and over again like a scratched record.
In that time he'd sunk lower and lower into London's underground, until he was sitting in a vampire's brothel, high on a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and a lack of blood. He was nothing more than a petty and violent thug, dirty and homeless, stealing to get at the money he needed to feed his growing addictions.
He wasn't even sure of his own name, he vaguely remembered someone called Rupert or was it Randall; his clouded mind only registered the Ripper, a street name for a street punk.
He was floating now, no pain fell in his numbed limbs even the memories of another man seemed distant, and the room seemed small, like a pinprick of light on a black screen
Light flared in the hovel.
The vampires fled into the shadows, pulling away from the light and the powerful aura that followed it in.
Strong arms picked him up, "oh I'm flying," he giggled; his mind was lost in its own delusions.
A large warm bed, soft white sheets enveloped his now clean body, "Am I in heaven?" He murmured into the bright light.
A voice chuckled, "No, but very shortly your going to wish you were in hell."
His worn and bloodshot eyes searched for the voice, their thin slits picked up the short strangely dressed man.
"Who the fuck are you? Where am I?" His body could feel the edges of hunger and craving gnawing at his body, he'd need more drugs and soon, he could feel the sweat beading on his skin despite the cool room.
"My name is Lord Arthur Belmertin, and you are in my home Rothwell Manor, the rest can wait 'till your better. Good day."
He turned and left, the heavily oak door locking with an ominous click.
"The young man's not too leave this room until I say so, make sure he stays, whatever he says or sounds like he's doing, only I'm allowed in the room clear."
The two burly looking servants nodded.
"Excellent, I shall be back shortly."
"Redemption," he whispered again. He shook away the memories of that awful summer when his body had been wracked with pain and craving, putting the mask back on again. "Willow why don't you get us a pot of tea."
She nodded mutely, still surprised at the emotions she'd just been shown, and they were more than she'd ever seen cross the reserved man face.
The door tinkled as someone entered the shop, he turned to the new comer, "I'm sorr " Any further comment died on his lips.
The lights of the club dimmed, and a man began to sing. It remained dark as the man's voice carried the first chorus.1
"Tonight I'm gonna have myself for a good time,
I feel alive and the world turning inside out Yeah!
And floating around in ecstasy"
Another voice joined in, as the music grew.
"So don't stop me now don't stop me now
'Cause I'm having a good time, having a good time."
The lights flared brightly as the song took off revealing the green skinned host and Matthew.
Matthew! Azelle's mouth dropped, even Tara was affected as the song continued.
"I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky.
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity,
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva."
Lorne joined in again, picking up the beat as if the two had been a duet or years.
"I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me now."
The two of them tried to out do each other on stage, each doing more and more exaggerated dance steps, forcing the other to copy before taking their own revenge with something more flamboyant.
The club lights dimmed as the song wound down the two men rocking sideways arms around each other as they finished the song, to the once again single piano.
"La la la la la."
The club went dark again.
A stunned silence took the club, not sure how to tackle the performance.
And like a rockslide it began with a single, almost embarrassed clap, then it grew and grew into a tumultuous roar of approval, cat whistles, feet stamping accompanied the frenzied elation.
It followed them as the house lights rose and the two performers moved to their table.
"Whew, man we're hot." Lorne exclaimed, "someone get me a bucket a water, I'm a fire hazard."
"Close your mouth hon." Matthew whispered in Azelle's ear.
"B B B But "
Panic crossed his face, "wasn't I good."
"Bud," Lorne began, his praise cut short as Matthew was engulfed in a blur, as he was engulfed in a passionate embrace. "We were dynamite." He finished sheepishly.
"Sheesh, get a room." He rolled his eyes, patiently waiting for the two lovers to break apart, if anything though they only seemed to get more involved.
He felt his people version of a blush touch his cheeks.
He coughed, "Er, Hello," they ignored. "Hello psychic waiting here!"
Matthew waved for him to continue, not breaking away from Azelle. Lorne muttered something unflattering under his breath.
He turned to Tara. "Okay Sweet Pea, I'm a psychic okay, I'm gonna try and take a reading, see if I can find out more about you, it won't hurt I promise and it might not work. Is that okay?"
From beneath her hair, Tara merely shrugged.
He finished his drink, it would do. He gently took her hand, his brow creasing in concentration.
Like an ice cold shower, Tara's screaming shattered the amorous couple embrace, Matthew watched with horror as seizures wracked the his friend's falling body.
Giles' sentence died on his lips. What he believed to be a late night shopper was in fact a nightmarish vision. Matthias was hunched over, his suit marked with blood its original light colouring peaked out behind dark red stains, and they were similar to a coastline painted by a macabre and twisted mind. His body shuddered with pain, each of the little spasms caused another, and his face was contorted with pain. A long fencing stake protruded from his back and chest, dangerously close to his undead heart.
"Help me," he gasped wetly as dead blood bubbled thickly in his mouth.
"Willow," Giles called as he moved towards the vampire. He saw as the master vampires face relaxed with relief as his arms and warm body supported him.
Though it quickly descended into panic as Matthias eyes looked into his. They were blank, nothing more than an outline against the milky white of a unfilled canvas.
The vampire was dying.
He heard Willow gasp. "Quickly." He snapped, not having time for questions, lets get him out back."
Dawn, Xander and Anya walked down Rovello Drive, towards the Summers' Household, chatting happily about the film they'd just scene. Apart from Xander who trailed behind them whilst having that gooseberry feeling, as the two women discussed the attractiveness of the leading man.
"He was sooo dreamy," Dawn cooed.
"Yes I thought he was attractive, well muscled and not unpleasant to look at." Anya added in her own unique fashion.
Xander tried to join in, "that actress was cute too, and I re ow!" Anya slapped him.
She glared at him. "Don't talk about other women like that. Only me!"
Xander grinned charmingly at his suddenly annoyed girlfriend.
He shook his head in wonder as the two women walked up the Summers' pathway. His mind trying to comprehend, the mystery that had dogged men since the dawn of time: Women.
Dawn's scream slashed its way into his musing, he started to move forward, his movements sluggish as he watched Dawn slowly slide to the ground sobbing loudly. Anya stood statue like, frozen in place, by a horror that her now human mind couldn't take.
Xander pushed his way through them.
A little bit of Xander died as his eyes took in the sight, his mind retreating from the bloody parody that hung before him, but he couldn't tear his eyes from it, the numbness that was engulfing him kept his head locked in place.
His eyes meeting glassy dead ones.
The muffled sound of sirens echoed in the distance.
Shadows danced around Buffy, like ghosts in a thick fog. Her mind hardly aware of the chains that bound her, or the drugs slowly spreading through her system, or the strange chanting that seemed to electrify the air around her naked body.
Valain gently caressed the slayer's cheek, a wicked smile twisted at his mouth as he took in her beauty, now covered with arcane symbols scratched into her skin.
"Good, Good," a perverse pleasure dripped at his words. "Prepare her, my Ascension approaches."
Every time Giles touched the stake, Matthias would twist in pain, screaming uncontrollably with pain.
"Damn, Damn, Damn," Giles muttered to himself. It had to come out though.
"What's wrong?" Willow asked softly, as she dribbled blood into the vampire's mouth, hoping to give him back some strength.
"Mel, Mel," the vampire muttered in response to her voice, pale eyes searched for the voice only his mind could hear. "Mel, where are you?"
Giles nodded at Willow 'play along,' he mouthed.
The vampire was dying, the wooden stake was pressing against his heart, one wrong move would send it crashing into it into his heart killing him instantly, but as it ground against Matthias' dead heart and as the blood seeped from him, he was dying just the same, but in great waves of agonising pain.
"I'm here," Willow whispered, gently tipping the blood into his mouth.
"Your alive." He whispered with wonder. "No You died he killed you, no." He twisted trying to shatter the illusion, pain crashed through him again.
Giles encouraged her again, as he traced the angle of the stake.
"No, No he didn't I'm here, I'm not going anywhere."
"I'd thought I'd lost you," blind eyes cried.
"No it as just a dream." She stroked his face, trying not to wince at the cool, but sticky blood covered skin.
He panicked, "you've got to go he's going to ascend angels ascend," he giggled. Then his body began shrink, his mind wondering again, and his words softly whispered in a rhythmic panting, disappeared back into antiquity, a form of Latin not spoken in millennia.
"Willow hold him." Matthias had stopped speaking, his mouth moving without sound, tears of pain streaking through puddles of blood.
1 2 3, he counted mentally, and then with a violent jerk he pulled the stake free. It did not come easily, blood and muscle held it tight, holding tight within the dying body. He pulled again, and he could feel his own muscle jerk with the effort.
"Sorry." He whispered as the vampire jerked, his mouth wide as he screamed but so great was the pain that it had stolen his ability to express it.
The stake came free, the horrid slurping sound as it came turned even Giles' strong stomach, Willow slid from her post, her face pale as she felt her stomach go.
Matthias arched once, before collapsing into unconsciousness.
They waited quietly, anxiously waiting to see if he would live or die.
The phone made them jump.
"Willow?" Giles asked his mind still in a daze, not quite recognising the sound.
She nodded mutely.
As she moved off, he willed himself up, moving to his deathly still friend, his hand shaking as he tried to clean and bandage the wound.
"Giles!" A strangled, grief filled sob, interrupted him.
A vicious and powerful migraine was forming behind Lorne's eyes; he could feel the tendrils of pain slowly spread out from them. He held them loosely closed, not tight enough to hurt, but enough to stop any light seeping in and putting him back on the floor in a pain induced huddle.
He felt someone approach.
"Take another step and I'll I'll "
"Stutter at me till I surrender," Matthew quipped weakly.
Lorne really wanted to glare instead he tried to conjure images him throttling the lawyer. Though even that seemed to make the pain grow tenfold.
"You owe me," he whispered instead.
"Hey what's mine, is yours," someone coughed pointedly behind him, "'cept Azie, but other than that, name your price."
"Scotch, expensive, and not from my stock."
A soft glugging sound reached Lorne's ears.
"Already there." The glass was planted firmly in his green hands.
The harsh liquid, slipped smoothly down his throat, he revelled in the burning sensation growing in his stomach. The pain seemed to slip away a little.
"Keep going." He gasped.
Matthew snuggled his lover, "How's the girl?" He whispered against her neck.
"Asleep." She smiled, "gotta love the interior design."
The bright splashes of colour, and walls covered in musical memorabilia seemed oddly appropriate for the green skinned demon.
Lorne glared from behind his eyelids, and shook his glass again.
"So," Matthew began guiltily. "The girl."
Lorne knocked back his drink, Matthew quickly poured yet another.
"Well there's some stuff I'm not allowed to tell you, pain of death, brutal punishments from the Powers sort of thing, you've got to work it out yourself. However the girl's name is Tara Maclay, and its her family that's been hitting her, well not her real family, she's the scapegoat for some real evil hombres. Be real careful with them, serious screwed up, as in shoot first, laugh later kinda nutters." Matthew nodded.
"And hey, you and the vampire, nice future, want an invite."
"Glamour spell." He responded cryptically.
"Can't find her sire." Matthew shrugged.
Lorne grinned, sometimes knowing the future gave some perverse pleasure, shame he could never find out the lottery results though.
" And by the way, is that even possible?" Lorne asked absently.
Matthew frowned, then it dawned.
Lorne raised his hand, "I didn't say a thing, and nope I didn't really."
Spike's borrowed sports car carried him into the fringes of L.A, and he felt his good mood begin to evaporate, despite the little finder spell pulsing energetically, revealing his quarry was close.
Spike hated L.A, hated with all his undead passion, something that it could not have contemplated in its worse nightmares. It was a city in love with the sun and itself, and worse it had the big poofter of a grandsire, looking through his darkened windows, he grumbled they bloody deserved each other.
He downed some beer, and he grimaced. It was warm and flat.
The day kept getting worse; the radio just wouldn't find a punk rock station.
And as he sped towards the heart of the city, he mumbled once again.
"I hate L.A."
Willow backed away from the phone the news it had carried made it an evil and hateful thing. Her mind rebelled not believing the horrendous thing she'd heard, she was begging herself to not believe, that it was one of Xander's practical jokes.
Her legs seemed to liquefy, giving away underneath her, she could hear her own tears echo in her ears, as began to slide to the floor.
"Willow, willow, what is it?" Giles' voice was filled with concern, a touch of panic underlying it.
She shrank further back as he approached, his blood stained shirt, making images dance in her mind.
"Hello?" Giles picked up the hanging phone, "Xander, what's wrong " The Englishmen rocked as if struck by a titanic blow; he gripped the counter hoping it would provide the support his weakening body could not.
" oh dear god."
He put the phone down and at that precise moment he just wanted to crawl up somewhere dark and quiet, hoping not to wake until the nightmare stopped.
Dawn in Sunnydale was a beautiful sight, to the inhabitants of the town it was a joyous occasion, it heralded life and safety, that which the night took so completely. Yet to some, the few, the dawn was an evil thing, its warm light forcing them to confront the after effects of the night.
Today Giles did not notice it, he moved on auto pilot, he'd carefully put Willow on Buffy's bed, tucking her in like a parent would a small child, almost happy to see the quiet peace crossing the red-head's features.
Buffy still had to check in, and with each passing moment he grew more and more concerned. However his mind refused to follow the logic that the clues presented, the way Joyce had been found, the way Matthias was injured and that no one had seen Buffy since she'd left for patrol and home.
There was an answer, and it carried the name Valain.
He tried to ignore that name, and the truth it whispered at the corners of his consciousness.
And so he fell back on a watchers ritual: research, tea, formality and order. Hoping those simple things would keep the red filled images that hovered in his mind at bay, and keep his mind alert and not let the terrors of sleep take him.
The treatise was providing an almost perfect remedy, mind numbingly dull and difficult to read making his mind work to decipher the meaning of the small text. This supposedly knowledgeable book, the great work on vampires, was providing no answers to his dilemma.
The words burned in Giles memory, dragging up a conversation all but forgotten.
Rothwell Manor, Oxfordshire, England. 1976.
It had been a month since Giles had emerged from his enforced captivity. The addiction that had ravaged his body had been forced horribly from him, days and nights filled with sweat soaked pain and tears, hazy memories clouded by craving and hurt were all that remained, and it had left his body shattered and his soul exposed.
Into those breaches Arthur had stepped, making him face the ghosts that had tormented him and allowed the Ripper to emerge, he was the priest to Giles' repentant sinner.
He was an enthusiastic disciple, throwing himself into training and study with a passion, anything to atone for his pain. With each passing day the Black Arts began to loose their thrall, arising a cool indifference rather than the all-embracing passion that had lead to his downfall.
He slid a heavy text away from him, his face contorted into a bored and frustrated yawn.
"Yes it has that effect on me," Arthur chuckled as he entered the library. He gathered up the book, flicking through its old pages, occasionally letting a bemused chuckle escape from his lips.
" And the dark ones shall ascend, and the souls of the righteous shall burn, and the meek shall tremble in servitude. Only the tainted shall escape their wrath, for they have become as angels, fallen from grace " Arthur read, his tone a mixture of import and humour.
"Yes, Father always thought that prophecy was nothing more than a mindless ramble."
"My dear Rupert, its not prophecy, its lore, it very true. You should prey you never meet the tainted who have arisen."
"Pardon." Giles was shocked by the dark, worried tone that touched the normally jovial aristocrat.
"It is the lore of the ascended vampire. Vampires evolve as they age, some become animalistic, and some become something worse. They become the vampire not the animal; they are faster, stronger, more powerful. And if they survive for 10,000 years they ascend, the demon inside them dies and they become a soul wraith, a fallen angel, immune to all but an angel's tears." Arthur's voice drifted as if contemplating a great and saddening question, leaving the two men sitting in silence.
"Of course." Giles muttered to himself. Parts of the puzzle began to fall in to place, Valain was going to ascend into a very powerful demon, it must be soon, and Matthias was going to cast a spell, if it came down to it, to kill the ascended Valain. Though it was still, in truth, not the whole picture, nor the solution, merely the start, similar to building a jigsaw without a guide, you started with the edge and worked inwards.
Giles had his empty square, and a large pile of pieces still to go.
The door chime sounded.
His heart worked before his mind, the only person who could come at this hour was "Buffy?" His voice filled with hope and the faintest touch of anger.
His mind caught up quickly as Xander entered the shop, flanked by two men, whose clothes screamed policemen.
"Xander." He greeted the young man with a faint smile; it disappeared as he addressed the other two men, "officers."
"Mr Rupert Giles?" The younger one questioned, holding his hand out.
"That's correct, how may I help you?" Both men noticed the detachment in the Englishman's voice.
"My name is Detective Jackson, and this is my partner Detective Truman." Giles nodded to the older detective. "We're investigating the murder of Mrs Joyce Summers and the disappearance of her daughter Elizabeth."
"Buffy." Giles corrected automatically, he moved stiffly. "W-would you take a s-seat?"
Giles began to clean his glasses. "W-what about Dawn?"
"She's staying with us Giles, she was she was there when we discovered the body." Xander answered his voice cracking slightly.
The older man sighed, and relief briefly touched his worried features.
"I take it you know them well?" Giles rocked slightly, blinking rapidly trying to force the watcher's mask back into place, attempting of regain any sense of control.
"Are you okay?" Giles waved off his help, "Xander would you get Willow."
"She's here?" Xander brightened slightly; he needed his old friend's support.
"Out back." He didn't look as to where Xander disappeared. "W-What happened?"
"We're not entirely sure, there seems to have been an altercation between two men, Ms Summers, Buffy, interrupted, and left with one of the men."
The elder detective continued. "Do you recognise either of these two men?" He produced to rough photo-fits, Giles barely even flinched as he recognised both men.
"These are the two men that were seen fighting, this man was seen entering the Summers' household (he pointed at the younger of the two) and appears to be the last person to see her alive, so we'd like to talk to him concerning the death of Joyce Summers, the whereabouts of Buffy Summers and a serious assault on the other man, which maybe more serious." The younger detective finished.
"I do not know the second man, but the first is Riley Finn, Buffy's ex boyfriend."
"I take it they didn't break up under the happiest of circumstances?"
Giles shook his head.
"Did it have anything to do with drugs, both men are reported as looking as if they were high on some form of drug?"
Giles nodded; glad to be using Sunnydale's blind reasoning to explain away vampires. "Yes, after Riley left the army, the man took a downward turn, Buffy caught him using drugs, and it was not, as I understand it, an isolated incident."
"And this caused the break up?"
"And she wouldn't have gone with him voluntarily?"
"No " A groggy looking Willow walked in from behind them, coming from Giles' office.
"Morning Giles," she yawned. "Any hello."
"Good morning Willow, this is Detectives Jackson and Truman, they're investigating Joyce's death and Buffy disappearance."
"Are you Willow Rosenberg?"
The red head nodded, "Do you recognise either of the two men?"
Her eyes darted to the training room, then to Giles. Years of practice went into their silent conversation; it was almost artistic in its subtlety. Both detectives picked up on it instantly, though both had to admire them, many people even police officers, would not have noticed it.
"Yes, that's Riley Finn, Buffy's ex-boyfriend." That was the third confirmation of the man, both detectives accepted that that was the truth, but what could they be hiding? "I don't know the other man."
The younger of the two smiled, "thank-you Ms Rosenberg. Both Mr Giles and Mr Harris have "
"Xander, is Xander here?" She interrupted.
"Didn't he wake you?" Giles asked, confusing knotting his brow.
"No." Both gave their clearest reaction, their eyes flashed to the training room, paling slightly.
"He must be in the back then, why don't you fetch him?" Giles said pleasantly, though the hidden meaning behind his words clear, get him quick.
"Don't worry, John, why don't you tell Mr Harris to join us, I still have a few questions for these two."
"No please, can you tell me about the break up between Buffy and Mr. Finn. Was he ever violent?"
"Y-y-yes, especially a-at the end."
Giles' eyes kept flicking to the entrance to the back/training room, and the grey haired detective approaching them.
"Giles!" Xander called as he stepped back onto the shop floor, surprise and anger lining the name.
"Everything okay Mr Harris?"
Willow sent warning glares to her old friend, not now, they cried.
"Um yeah I was er just startled spider yes I saw a spider, they scare me." He smiled warmly at the detective, his face open, pleading for hi statement to be accepted.
All four winced; the young man was a terrible liar.
"That's okay John, I think we've got everything don't you? Thank you Mr Giles, Mr Harris, Ms Rosenberg you've been most helpful."
"Hello Faith." She span as the greeting echoed huskily in the dark. She felt as though she was in a bizarre film noir. Wherever she was it was dark, only illuminated by two shafts of light, though neither cast their shadow beyond their own, she was held in one, the other caused a small sob of grief to escape from her lips.
Another spotlight flicked on, moving towards her, a stage light following the tracking the lead actors solo performance, within it was the strangely dressed goth that had haunted her recent nightmares.
"I hope you'll forgive the dramatics," he called waving to indicate the endless black.
"Who are you?" She snarled angrily.
"Sorry, where are my manners," he bowed formally, "I am Arthur Belmertin, the Lord Rothwell, and before you ask I want you Faith."
"Oh not in that way," a dark roll of thunder clapped through the darkness, and white lightening slithered above like thin cracks in fine china. "I don't think I meet your physical requirements. No I want to help you Faith, you see you and I are very similar, we have both to atone for past deeds, my penance is to help others achieve their redemption."
"Faith, Faith, Faith," he shook his head sadly. "Learn."
The darkness shifted, they were in a warehouse, set up like a gym come dojo, with two figures were coming to the end of a frantic sparring session. One a younger Faith, still eager and filled with energy, eager to please, her eyes filled with admiration and love, the other a taller, older women.
"You did well tonight Faith." The watcher Brigit spoke warmly to her charge, bemusement at the girl's boundless energy.
"Yeah well, its no problem," the other Faith swaggered cockily.
Brigit laughed softly, a warm infectious sound, "what am I going to do with you."
Faiths eyes flickered, for a moment a different Faith showed through, softer, weaker her emotions shining through wet eyes. Then the swagger returned, "bye me dinner."
"You loved her, didn't you?" Arthur's words were not a question, "don't be ashamed of that Faith." He continued when he saw her flinch at his words.
"But why her Faith and not the others?" She could see in his eyes that he knew as he turned to face her, the darkness shifted again.
The warehouse was wrecked, and the Faith in front of him slide to the floor silent tears began to fall. A terrible and primal anger had been unleashed upon it; everything was shredded and covered by a thin layer of red spray.
What remained of body lay crumpled amongst the rubble.
Another Faith emerged shuffling forward on her knees, an exact replica of her future self, emerging from the shadows, their posture the same as they collapsed by the brutalised body.
They let out an animalistic roar, twisted by grief and pain, broken by breath exhausted by tears.
Arthur knelt beside her, "tell me Faith, tell me why Faith. Why here? You've killed, you've murdered but why does your redemption start here? You have to tell me. You have to do what needs to done." He gently pressed her, not with aggression only concern.
The scene shattered.
"I can't." She sobbed.
"Why?" Emotion seethed across his face.
"I can't." She turned away from his pleading eyes.
"This is your burden Faith, it all starts here, fight it, overcome it, you're the slayer you fight demons, fight your own."
She shook her head.
"It hurts," she bellowed.
Arthur's face became warped with scorn, he laughed it was a short and bitter, an unhappy sound. "Do you want to see pain Faith, a pain you can never begin to atone for?" He waved his hands around the darkness it was a bitter gesture. The darkness shifted again, and it filled with an endless mass of people: men, women and children. Their bodies showing the horror of the deaths, hollow, pain filled eyes burned accusingly into Arthur, the air hung heavy with hatred. "This is my pain Faith, the price of my sins."
His face softened, as his eyes returned to hers.
"Face It Faith, destroy the demons, begin anew, no-one can touch you then, not monsters, not man, not even the gods themselves."
The warehouse reappeared; Faith's demons lurked behind her, invisible wraiths calling her back. She was crying now, each sob tearing her souls to shreds, each tear shed with the intensity to destroy stars.
"Show me Faith, you've nothing to fear, I'm here and I'll catch you, I'll always catch you," but his voice faded into the background, leaving her alone in the warehouse.
Suddenly she was there again, it was a hot Southern Summer's night, where sweat held clothes tight to her skin and the air was heavy with destiny
New Orleans, August 1998.
Faith stood in the corner of the warehouse, hiding in the shadows, fear has rooted her to the spot, her legs are statutes merged into the ground, every nerve ending was screaming at her to move, her mind berates her: coward, failure, worthless, useless, murderer, it is in her foster father's gravelling snarling tones, that the words circle in her minds, as her tears fall unnoticed down her cheeks.
But she could not move, a reluctant spectator to a movie she cannot stop, cursed to watch as Kakistos continues to butcher her watcher before her eyes, and she couldn't even call out.
He drags the knife through her flesh, a manic grin fixed on his ugly, twisted face. Yet Brigit didn't scream, she hardly flinches as the ancient vampire tortures her. Though each blow is magnified a hundred-fold on Faith, her body twitching with sympathy, as her own silent screams echo loudly in her head.
"Where is she?" A defiant, blood filled grin meets his rage.
"Where is she?" He screams at her, bringing a cloven fist across her face, bones break under the force of the blow.
Brigit uses the last vestiges of her strength to spit into his face the bubbly red liquid slides down his broken face. "Are. You. Desperate. To. Loose. Your. Other. Eye." She stammers out her response, it saps at the last reserves of her strength.
Kakistos loses all pretence of control, he throws her to the ground, he unleashes his temper on her, fists and feet fall over and over again, they still fall long after the body ceased resembling anything human, long after the slick red mist that coats him has stopped rising.
It was long after the sun rose that Faith ventures out from her corner, the dirt covered windows turn it to a murky orange illumination.
She crawls towards what remains of her beloved Brigit.
Then she was back, surrounded by the endless darkness of her new prison, Brigit hovering in a pillar of light, pale arms held her as she wept. A soft, caring voice whispered in her ears. "You blame yourself don't you, you believed you failed, the moment where you no longer cared what you did, or what happened next " He trailed off, needing Faith to understand what he saw so clearly.
"Say it Faith, finish this."
"I'msorry." She muttered quietly, it was barely above a breath.
The ghosts of her victims pressed forward, trying to hold her back.
Faith began to shrink back as they grew bolder around her, surrounding her.
"You can make it all go away Faith. Say it, say it all, walk forward, let go, just let go. Forgive yourself."
"I'm sorry." She mumbled through her tears.
"More." Arthur pressed, as the ghosts moved back.
"I'm sorry I failed, that I couldn't protect you, I'm sorry that I was a bad slayer, I'm sorry that I let you down. I'm sorry that I didn't care. I'm sorry that I let myself fall. You must hate me so much, I loved you, and I let you down. I'm sorry." It poured out, with the torrent of a dam breaking, only her own emotions stopped the torrent of words, as her tears overcame her.
"It was never your fault faith, I never hated you." Brigit broke through the boundaries of her light prison, and the darkness began brightened to a slight grey.
She gathered the broken slayer into her arms.
"You were so full of life Faith, you tried so hard to be what you should never have been, you failed Faith only in your own eyes, never mine. I love you Faith, you were my daughter, I could never hate you, and I still don't. I died knowing that you would live, how could I hate you for that."
Both women were crying.
"I was the slayer."
"You were only human Faith."
"B..But what about them?"
The ghosts were gone, "the people I killed?"
"You made a mistake Faith, you were young, lost and alone. They'll always walk with you Faith, but they no longer matter. Their just dust in the wind, dust in the wind. You've taken the first step Faith, nothing can stop it, and nothing can take it away." Arthur joined in the conversation, walking towards the two huddled women, the darkness disappearing as if the dawn was rising.
He held out his hand. "Take my hand Faith, lets end this."
Faith hesitated, not wanting to leave the warm, comforting embrace.
"Your not alone anymore Faith, go, be happy, my little slayer." Brigit nuzzled Faith's nose, gently pushing her towards the outstretched hand.
He pulled Faith into a tight embrace.
"You're free, go, rest." He smiled at the crying ghost.
"Thank you." The world imploded around them.
Arthur and Faith inhaled sharply, drawing air into their straining lungs as they awoke.
Arthur still held her.
She began to cry.
"Shh," he whispered as he rocked the tears away.
"I'm sorry," she muttered over and over again.
In apart of L.A. another young women cried out at her past.
Tara sat without the breath of movement as she told her story, the tale burst from her lips, in a rapid, emotionless fashion, despite the tears that formed rivers upon her cheeks, the strange contradiction left the listeners stunned, unable to comprehend the story of abuse, her mothers suicide, and how others in her family had been taught to bully her, to hate her as a demon. The ray of happiness was her short time in Sunnydale, and the frightened betrayal that left her once again in the hands of her family.
As her story went on, she seemed to collapse into herself it was very subtle as though someone was just dimming the lights, slowly curling up into a ball, like the field mouse hibernating against the winter's chill.
The words drifting into a soft snore, as she huddled in Matthew's arms, absently he rubbed her back, trying to ease her into a deep sleep.
"Well," Detective Roberts voice broke.
"Is there anything else?"
"No, not today, I've enough to get the paper trail moving, and I can bring Mr Maclay, I'll need to see Tara again though, later this evening or tomorrow will be fine, its just to make it official."
"Good, anything else?"
"Just continue what your doing Mr. Davies, Tara has been very brave, but the justice process is not pleasant, but necessary, she needs a lot of support and love, she'll also need professional help and time."
Matthew nodded, "That's what the counsellor said."
"Well he was right."
"Thank you and good luck."
"What the fuck is going on?" Xander fumed.
"Xander," Giles started calmly, trying to break through the young's man seething anger, "it's not "
"What, not what it looks like? You've just got a fucking monster in the backroom, and your helping him, so tell me its not what it looks like." He stood nose to nose with the watcher, his body was tense, and it hovered on the edge of violence.
"Xander," Willow tried to get through to her oldest friend.
"How could you Willow, you didn't see what that fucking monster did to her." Tears welled in his eyes.
"Xander its alright." She said softly, moving close.
"It's not fucking alright!" He bellowed. "They hung her like a piece of meat, and they had fun, they took Buffy, and you say it's alright, you bitch!" He pushed the redhead away she stumbled and landed heavily.
"Xander, this is " Giles understood what the young man was going through, his own heart was breaking, the Ripper bubbled beneath the surface.
"And I thought you cared. Was it all an act, what do you do at watcher's school, learn betra "
Giles hit him.
He dragged the gasping boy to his feet, and the Ripper snarled into his ear. "Listen you fuck, I love Buffy, she's the daughter I'm never going to have. I want to tear every vampire apart, and I'd do it with a grin. I'll get her back, I will stop Valain, and then I'll feed Riley into a bonfire bit by bloody bit. I need that vampire's help." He pushed him away. "I. Don't. Need. Yours. Understand?"
Xander nodded meekly, terrified of the man hovering above him.
"Good, now you can either fuck off or help, I don't care which." He turned towards the backroom, not looking at what Xander did.
Matthias stirred, it felt like a thousand tonne weight was pushing hundreds of sharp pins into his chest and he could feel the tendrils of death gnawing at him.
He opened his eyes, the world was a little paler than normal, and the colours were dead, as if given a wash of grey.
"Giles." He whispered hoarsely.
Giles pressed down on the vampire's chest, at the edges of the jagged wounds torn into his torso.
"I need to ask you a few questions, old friend." Matthias nodded, feeling the cold steel of anger in his friend's voice.
"What happened to Buffy." Giles whispered.
"I-I don't know." Pain exploded in his chest, Giles pulled away, his own eyes glistening with a dull pain.
"Please what happened to Buffy?" He begged. Matthias heard the conflict between anger and grief in his friend's voice.
"Truly I don't know. We fought I lost my temper. I would I would have killed her, but a childe of Valain stopped me, he knew her, he told her that I'd killed her mother. I don't remember anything else." The story came out in laboured and difficult breathes.
"Anything else?" Matthias heard the accusation underlying it.
"No, I couldn't do that."
"I sorry, but I had to know." Giles' head sagged down, what little adrenaline was left disappeared in that sigh.
"I never meant for this to happen."
"Tell me about Valain's ascension." Giles pinched his eyes, trying to keep himself alert.
"Matthias let me help you. Tell me?" Giles pleaded.
"Valain will ascend, tonight. Just before sunset. I'll need to cast the Angel's Tears spell."
"It will stop him?"
"And you?" Matthias nodded.
"What does he want with Buffy?" Giles voice was barely a whisper.
"I don't know."
"And if you fail?"
"Valain will be very powerful, he will be able to steal souls with a touch. It's said that those that ascend will sit at the left side of the Devil."
"Why, Matthias. Why?" It was more to himself than the vampire.
"I'm tired Giles, I hate the night now, I want to rest."
"I'm sorry Willow," Xander mumbled.
"Don't you even dare Xander." The red-haired hacker's own anger simmered under her skin.
"You didn't see it Willow, it was it was horrible, Dawn and Anya, they're both I just couldn't take it." He broke, crying hard.
Willow's temper evaporated, and the two friends cradled each other, tears falling equally from their eyes. "Its alright, Xander, Its gonna be alright."
"I wish Buffy was here, she'd know what to do." He whispered.
"I wish Tara was," Willow mumbled without thought.
"No." She said firmly, they had to know. "I'm getting her back, I don't care what you think, and I'll leave if I have to." He could see she meant it; behind the murkiness that her tears caused he could a determined fire.
He closed his eyes, scarred that if he opened them, another part of his world would disappear.
"How are you feeling mate?"
Lorne was glad he could now glare. "Just peachy, next time you want a favour, I want credit card details and a full rendition of ABBA's greatest hits." The demon grumbled menacingly.
"Bloody Hell." Matthew gave an involuntary shudder, ABBA!
"I think I'd enjoy that." Azelle drawled in his ear, wrapping her arms around his waste.
A pained look crossed his face.
"Its what you get for keeping secrets." She teased.
"A-a-are y-you g-going t-to s-s-sing again." Tara stammered, blushing when they looked at her, "I-I-I-I l-l-liked I-I-it." She mumbled through her hair.
"Bloody Hell!" He exclaimed, he made an exaggerated 'why me' gesture at the ceiling. "Do I look like a rock star? No I'm a LAWYER, would I ask you to build a rocket ship? No. Why? Because you're a Landlord, a lawyer and er er what are you?" His rant paused when he wagged his finger at a startled Tara, "never mind, you're not a rocket scientist. Why should I be any different, why " His rant was abruptly stopped by a passionate kiss from his vampire lover, his outstretched arms closed holding her tight.
"Jeez, don't'cha wish they'd get a room?" Lorne asked a blushing Tara.
She nodded quickly before looking back to the floor.
"Its okay sweat pea I'm sorry we're closed." He picked up someone entering his bar.
"Bugger off, you bleeding poof." A coarse English accent replied viciously.
Tara stumbled backwards, recognising the voice.
Spike felt the sanctuary spell protecting the bar, quietly thankful that whatever happened that a violent confrontation was unlikely. Four people were in the bar, a kissing couple, a green skinned demon, and a young women, she was looking down at the ground, her face covered in fine blood red hair, streaked with blond.
" pea I'm sorry we're closed," the demon shouted out him.
"Bugger off, you bleeding poof." Spike snapped back at him.
The girl looked up, her eyes widening with fear and recognition, he recognised her immediately. She stumbled back into the amorous couple.
Matthew picked himself up first, he noticed Tara's panic stricken face as she backed away from the new arrival.
"Hey what do you want mate?" He snarled, his own anger rising.
Spike noticed that hostility that radiated from the man squaring up to him, and that he was human.
"Calm down mate, no trouble here, just trying to find bl girlie over there." Matthew frowned at the English accent, but it did not fully break into the red haze of his temper.
"Why? So you can have your punch bag back?"
Matthew's fists clenched and unclenched, Spike had a sinking feeling that this was not going to end happily, and he was grateful for the sanctuary spell.
Lorne grip on consciousness slipped away as the negative emotions battered away at his overtaxed system.
Azelle groaned as she got to her feet.
"Hello Tara," Spike talked. "I've come to take you home, we kinda miss ya."
He stepped forwards, ignoring the other man.
Matthew stepped into him, blocking his path. "Pick on someone else, you piece of shit, she ain't no demon. And she ain't leaving with you. I'm gonna see you rot."
Tara hide behind Azelle, not wanting to see anyone who reminded her of Sunnydale and Willow.
Azelle turned towards the blond man, taking her first real good look.
"Billy?" She stammered, recognising the other vampire.
"Azie?" Spike grinned, recognising one of his children.
Matthew's mind cleared as his lover spoke, however it caused a different anger to grow in him.
"You're Spike?" He nodded. Spike saw the other man's body tense, his eyes flicker and he braced himself.
Spike slumped to the ground as the well timed punch rammed into his jaw.
The sanctuary spell kicked in, Matthew slumped down beside him.
The three, very sheepish looking men sat at the bar, large ice packs were nestled against their heads, two were nursing large and stiff drinks, and the third looking as if he should be.
"Why'd you bloody hit me?" Spike moaned, as he massaged his sore jaw.
"I thought you were part of Tara's family." Spike cocked his eyebrow, not believing him. "I did." Matthew stammered indignantly, then winced. He mumbled, "your Azie's sire."
"And? It was a hundred bloody years ago."
Matthew shrugged; it didn't really matter.
Spike tipped his drink at him; he got it.
"Are you okay?" The woman in question asked.
"Yeah, love." Spike grinned at the evil grin she gave him.
"Good. Don't. Ever. Do. It. Again." She growled at him, then suddenly she grinned and kissed the top of his nose, "but thank you, it was cute."
Spike and Lorne tried very hard not to laugh.
"So what do you want with Tara?" Matthew asked after he'd stopped blushing.
"She's my friend. Her real dad's a friend too, so I'm gonna take 'er back to Sunnydale, and wait till he gets in touch. Her missus is there to. God, bloody chip, its turning me into Sir-bloody-Lancelot." He grumbled.
"Galahad." Lorne and Matthew muttered together.
"So who's her father then?" Matthew asked when the bleached vampire began to brood.
"Oh, Arthur Belmertin."
Matthew burst out with laughter. "As in Lord Rothwell?" Spike nodded. "That's Rhiannon?"
Spike spluttered his drink, "yeah." His eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Unbelievable." Matthew hiccupped through his laughter.
The heavy emotion had passed, leaving Giles and the ancient vampire exhausted.
"The other items arrived this morning." Giles mumbled as he stretched.
"I will need to feed."
Giles nodded. "Human?"
"Yes, I'll need the strength."
"Spike left a few bags, will that do?"
"It will have to."
"Just the items and privacy."
"Is everything ready?" Valain asked breathlessly, his body had begun to ache; he could feel the demon inside of him dying.
It was almost euphoric, despite the 10,000 years of death catching up with him. His body was deteriorating, but something else was touching the boundaries of his awareness, it was filled with power, he was beginning to feel the fabric of life spreading out before him, connecting him to the world.
Riley flinched as he saw his master's body darken and begin to rot. The stench grew with every passing second.
Valain gagged, vomiting black pus.
Matthew rooted around the boot of his sleek sports car, a baffled Tara stood beside him, holding a number of slim files in her arms.
" aha " He stood up, a pink file in his hand, but his face fell quickly. "Nope not that one bloody thing there one minute, next gone the black-bloody-hole of missing files follows me around." He mumbled to himself.
"Oh doh I know one sec." He darted around to another, bulkier car, its windows tinted black.
"Gotcha." He cried happily.
He began to repack hi own car, resting the thick folder on the closed boot. "Now do you recognise this man." He pointed at the photograph resting at it's front.
Tara nodded, "m-mommy h-had a p-p-picture o-of h-him, s-s-she h-hid it f-from d-d-daddy."
Matthew nodded. Anything further was cut off as his mobile vibrated in his pocket, his lips curled with distaste.
He stepped away from Tara. "Hello, D.A.C.E, Matthew Davies speaking, how Hello Detective. Is it done?" His eyes widened, darting up to look at Tara. "My God! Shit, that about ten minutes away No we should be safe Okay, in about an hour or so yeah after dark Headquarters, okay. 'Bye. Fuck!"
He moved quickly towards Tara, "I think we'd better go inside."
Tara had always had an insight into people auras; her mother had called it a gift, that she had the eyes of an angel. Matthew's aura was suddenly very bright, something had made him afraid and very nervous.
Automatically she took a step back, and began to shrink into herself.
"Look lets go back inside, the others are probably " He tried to prod the girl forwards they weren't far from the club's entrance. A squeal of breaks interrupted him.
He turned back, relaxing slightly, the Maclay clan had not escaped in that cumbersome vehicle. Detective Roberts had informed him that the attempt to arrest Michael Maclay had gone horribly wrong, leaving one officer dead, another seriously injured. It meant though that they would be unlikely to bother Tara again, but their home was not very far from Caritas, and he didn't want to take any chances.
He tried to urge Tara forward again, but the girl had gone completely rigid, the blood had drained completely from her face, her were eyes wide with absolute terror, and they were locked on the awkward vehicle behind them.
Matthew heard the crunch of heavy feet hitting the pavement, Tara whimpered, and her body began to tremble as her breath coming in short frightened pants.
He didn't turn around, knowing anything sudden would probably result in his death. He fumbled wit his phone, praying that his partner had hers.
"Whatcha all doing?" A young voice called.
Matthew turned giving what he hoped was his most charming of smiles. "Going for some lunch, I can recommend the food, it's excellent." He gestured towards the entrance of Caritas.
He ignored the hostile stance in the three men.
"Can I help at all?" He smiled again.
The eldest of the three ignored him completely, staring at a shivering Tara. "We were just talking about you Tara, and like the devil you are, you appeared." The man's voice was deceptively calm, though his face was hooded and dark with a barely controlled anger.
"We've missed you Tara." The voice hardened, "your coming home." One of the three quickly grabbed the sobbing girl.
"Now Mr Maclay, there's no need for violence." Matthew tried to reason through his rapidly drying mouth. "Why don't ooph."
The air exploded from his lungs, he slumped to the ground gasping for breath.
Azelle and Spike appeared under the club's awning. Its' shade protected them from the deadly sunlight. She winced as another blow knocked Matthew to the floor and as he attempted to curl into a ball two of the men rained kicks against his body.
"Mattie!" Azie shrieked, Spike had to hold her back as she cried, useless as her lover was beaten.
The cry made Michael look up, a wicked looking smirk covering his face at the distress of the woman. A spark of recognition at the sight of the bleached blond man turned into a gloating leer.
"Lets go," he growled. They dragged the non-protesting Tara with them.
Her mind numbed by grief, drugs and torture, her grip on sanity maintained only by her slayer senses, but it was tentative at best.
Two figure, blurry blobs of differing colours drifted into her vision.
One was her ex-boyfriend, standing tall and powerful in all his vampiric glory. The other a wilting, rotting figure, one eye gone, the other a blind, milky white, holes in his putrefying body dribbled with pus, though his insides were all but gone. Dry skin and muscles hung from blackened bones, some cracking as the bone crumbled.
"Soon." Valain rasped, his mad, blind eye searching for the tortured presence of the slayer.
Guided by Riley, gently he stroked her face, running fingers through her now black hair they left greasy smudges of rotting flesh in their wake.
"Soon my bride." He cackled wetly. "Is everything " His voice ended as his jaw fell away.
"Yes master, it is ready." As Riley picked up the dying vampire, Buffy began to giggle.
Valain's priests bowed as Riley brought him to the centre of the warehouse. They began to light candles, chanting melodiously as they did so the candles formed a star. It was in that warm soft glow that the horrors of the ceremony were revealed, at the stars centre was a pentagram, each of its five points, people were hung on meat hooks, barely alive as they were slowly bleed to death.
Riley backed away as he laid his master in the pool of blood at its centre. He was nothing more than a skeleton now, he made popping and gurgling sounds instead of words, though they would have been nothing more than the ramblings of the mad, even if he could have spoken.
"The time approaches." The priests called together.
"The time approaches," Matthias prayed bowed before a small cauldron.
He sprinkled multi-coloured powder into the boiling pot, the air fill with pungent incense.
"Lord I beg you
" grant your servant his freedom, let him take what is his."
" grant me my wish, let their tears fall from my eyes."
Light surrounded the pentagram, growing brighter and brighter, until the burned, the flames fuelled by a sudden wind.
"Grant us the power." They called together.
The priests plunged their long wooden staffs into the skeleton, the wind howled and the air hummed with power, whipping at their robes.
An invisible force gripped them and they screamed.
Matthias screamed as he plunged his hand into the boiling cauldron, piercing his hand on a dull crystal, his hand glowed.
Valain looked up into the darkness, dust still swirling, neither the crosses nor the priests remained.
Colours swam in his golden eyes.
"Master." Riley fell to his knees, his voice awestruck.
"Matthias." Giles called into the darkened storeroom.
The lights in the store had exploded as he friend had screamed in pain.
Matthias looked up from his reddened hand, the dull crystal had disappeared.
Golden eyes looked up at his mortal friend.
Spike hung nervously outside of the club, the sun disappearing behind the cityscape, the tall skyscrapers twinkled as the dying light caressed their reflective shells. The coming of the night should have been a comfort to the vampire, heralding the arrival of the kingdom it ruled.
Not tonight though, Spike had growing sense of unease, touched by a lining of fear, it grew worse as a dark limousine slide gracefully up to him.
The back door popped.
"William." A voice hissed.
Valain stretched, revelling in his new body. Its strength, its power, he could see the world as it truly was, the shifting patterns of life and death swirled around him, and the aura of the living, and their multi-coloured souls sang out to him.
The slayers aura was twisted and blurred; growing dark streaks stained that which should have been the purest white.
He stroked her dark hair, pushing the strands away from her face; it was almost a gentle, loving gesture. As he reached further into it, he grasped tightly. His black talon-like nails bit down into her skin drawing blood.
He kissed her hard, sharp teeth pricked her tongue and lips, more blood trickled.
He broke the kiss; she moaned half pain, half disapproval.
A strange shift caused him to frown.
The streets of L.A. were still, no human graced its pavements, and nothing seemed to move, not even the dust, even the streetlamps remained dark despite the deepening night. The air crackled though, static energy hummed through the campervan, heightening the tense unease that permeated it.
Something fluttered across the window screen; the driver jumped slamming his foot on the breaks.
"Wh " and the bats descended.
He winced from the chaotic, high-pitched mass, as they tried to tear away into the vehicle. As suddenly as they had come, they went and power in the campervan vanished.
A nearby streetlight glowed brightly, forming a ball of throbbing white light.
It shattered into fizzing white embers.
The next one, and the next one all followed it into glowing sparks, rolling unhurriedly towards them.
Lights flickered on around them, and a dark hooded figure waited in the light, his head down.
"Come on move." Michael hissed.
Michael's eyes narrowed at the stranger, there was something oddly familiar about him. "Donny bring your sister."
"Hello dear boy," Valain drawled as he stepped into the light, "and you brought me a gift."
Xander and Giles gasped at Valain's new form.
He radiated a magnificent malevolence. His skin was so white that it seemed to lack any colour at all, it was in stark contrast to the rest of his form. His hair was long and dark, pulled back from his face to reveal two wicked looking horns, his teeth were a series of needle sharp points, a long snake like tongue flicked out. His eyes were completely gold, gleaming with an expressionless wickedness. Completing his form were two massive black wings, outstretched in their full splendour.
He was an example of evil at its most glorious.
With a deep laugh, rich and utterly menacing, he launched himself at the group.
The stranger did not move as Michael's son and brother moved to outflank him, a cane hung loosely in his hands.
Michael tightened his grip on Tara.
The stranger began to chuckle, he spoke, though it appeared to be more than one voice speaking at the same time.
"Hello Michael." The man pulled back his hood.
He took an involuntary step backwards, his shotgun wavered as he fired it at the man, and two more blasts quickly followed.
Valain stopped mere inches away from Matthias; Matthias reached up and removed the dark, mirrored sunglasses.
Golden eyes met golden eyes.
"Giles, get the slayer."
Valain wanted to respond, wanted to move, but those eyes held him fast. As did the aura that he could see spreading out from his child, it was a shifting whirlwind, hiding something from him, but he could see the tendrils drifting out from the maw. It gave him the appearance of some twisted, modern art representation of an eastern deity.
Valain felt fear.
The shot stopped, hanging in the air like breath frozen on a winter's morn.
The cane shifted, slithering up the man's arm, twisting around his body like a snake, like a cobra it raised on his shoulder. Its glowing white eyes examined the three men, hissing venom at them, before diving beneath the man's coat.
The bullets spun outwards, forming a deadly cloud that stung angrily at the two other Maclays, they screamed as the bullets tore into their skin, they continued to scream as they struck, until they just made wet gurgling sounds as a red mist surrounded them.
Arthur lifted his arms, the clouds moved upwards, still jerking as the spinning shot struck disintegrating flesh.
There was soft pinging sound as the hot steaming bullets fell to earth.
Arthur lowered his arms, the cane reforming in his hands.
"D-d-d-don't m-m-m-move." Michael stammered, digging the rough barrel of his gun into Tara soft chin. "O-o-or I-I-I K-k-kill h-her."
"No you won't." Arthur hissed as he backed off slightly.
"I don't know how you survived, but I'll kill her just like I did her whore of a mother, she never forgot you, even when I pumped her full of drugs." He snarled, suddenly feeling the situation fall into his hand.
"Say goodbye to your real daddy honey." Michael's finger tightened on the trigger.
With a feral growl Valain struck out at Matthias, he staggered back and his aura shifted with pain. His fear banished as his struck out again and again.
"Your beaten Matthias." Valain taunted gloatingly.
He picked up his child by the neck his face showing the triumph his eyes could not.
Confusion twisted it.
He staggered back, dropping Matthias.
Tara's eyes filled with tears, waiting for explosion that would end her life.
"Don't you need these?" A shell casing crumbled from Arthur's hand.
"I'll take her." Spike appeared, catching Tara as he spun past, cradling the collapsing women in his arms.
Michael's gun clattered to the floor as he ran.
Arthur did not move though, but his black eyes seethed with anger.
A dull thump made Valain stumble back wards, he jerked it was though his unbeating heart had stopped suddenly.
A small jewel encrusted dagger protruded from his chest.
He laughed throatily; he pulled it from him, the thin wound healed quickly.
He looked up at Matthias, and then his face shook with fear.
Matthias glowed; a blue shimmering ball surrounded him, as he floated off the ground, as it crackled with a supernatural energy. His body mirroring that of Christ's death, his face though was serenity itself, completely at peace.
The warehouse hummed around them, as the creatures of the night began to run, streaming past the two men carrying the broken slayer.
Michael's heart hammered in his ears, the rapid hum jerked as it slowed suddenly, the beat becoming loud and steady. The beats continued to slow, growing wider apart, he grasped at a nearby wall, desperate to draw cool air into his hot, desperate lungs.
His breathing grew wet, forming a bubbling wheezing sound, like the sound of trying to breath through water.
His chin grew wet as something warm and metallic dribbled down it.
He could no longer hear his heart beat he could barely feel it. His body began to numb and his vision contracted, as it began to stop.
He slumped to the ground his eyes empty with death.
Valain stepped away from the glowing vampire.
Something gripped at his ankle, and it caused him to stumble.
Grey forms began to form in the warehouse, the formless shapes shifted into human bodies. Valain recognised them, he could feel them tear at his very existence, the souls of his victims.
They moved forward as one giant angry mob, engulfing him by the sheer weight of numbers, he struck out trying to fight his way through the clawing mass.
Yet his hands passed harmlessly through their bodies, as if they were merely illusions. They began to pull him into the ground, his feet disappearing first as they pulled him into the earth.
He tried to flee, to fly.
The sheer numbers held him fast, pulling him closer to the ground, the angry souls ripped at his powerful wings as they too began to disappear.
He screamed in pain and terror.
His fight grew weak as his torso began to slide into the earth. He stretched outwards as the grey mass formed a pulsating sea around him, the drowning man trying to hold onto the sky, as if it were a piece of flotsam.
Tears streaked down his face.
The sea covered him, his silent screams turning into faint bubbles as he disappeared forever.
Matthias' skin blackened and smouldered, the pure, holy power of the spell ravaging his body. His fading eyes caught a figure standing over the grey sea, a golden ball floating in outstretched hands.
She passed through the spell.
"Mel?" He croaked reverently, his tears steamed as they touched his burning skin.
The smile of his lover, one that he had worshipped, touched at her mouth.
"Matthias." A tear fell from her cheek, it was slowly drawn into golden ball, it grew outwards, soon replacing the purifying blue.
They stood together, Matthias in his true human form, Melandria her body warm with colour.
They kissed as the ball exploded, leaving the warehouse silent and dark.
Arthur's fist closed completely snuffing out the remaining life from Michael's distant body. He slumped to the ground, unable to stand as the equal parts grief and joy stripped away his strength.
Weakly he gathered the sobbing Tara from Spike's arms, holding her as if she was a precious and fragile work of art. Though his grip was firm, unwilling to let go, as if he were a fleeting thought that would disappear in the wind.
"I have you at last," his voice soft and breaking, murmured against her soft hair.
End of Part One: Fallen
Continued in Part Two: Reunion
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Note 1: The Pantheon is based on a restaurant that I ate in Rome, where they would open up into the pavement in the evening.
Note 2: Vampires in this story go through four different stages. Ordinary, such as Spike, Master Vampires, such as The Master at this stage there bodies begin to change, some become more animalistic (Like Kakistos) becoming something resembling what Angel turned into (but driven by a human mind, not a instinct driven demon). Some however go beyond this and to another level, faster, stronger more vampiric (such as Valain and Matthias), and then they become something else completely different (as you just saw). The changes are dependant on the Vampire and how they develop during the second phase, if they are more animalistic/demonic they'll go down the Kakistos route, others like Matthias, Valain become more vampiric. In this arc, the Master would've been at the crossover point between the two strains, though leaning towards the first. The second strain (Matthias) is far more powerful and deadly. The ages at which they change is NOT set in stone (bar the last), and the next stage is NOT automatic, hence the reason Matthias goes from being just at the Master Vampire stage by the 15th Century, to full on 'super' vamp 600 years later, but the Master (his child) evolved quicker, it all depends on the vampire. I hope this makes a little more sense it may have come across as a little confusing.