In A Maudlin Sort of Way

Part Seven- "Pre-Party"

hungry, hungry again. hungry, hungry again. when will it start to sway?

Angelus was in a whirlwind, finally seeing how the new vampiric traits would have on his mate. She was starving, as all fledglings were, and she lacked the artistic flair Angelus had always been prone to. He liked to tease, feel their fear forming before he took their lives. Buffy was not interested in the details. She enjoyed the element of surprise and as the shock was still making its way to their brain, she drank it down. She was finding the whole experience exhilarating and Angelus thought watching it wasn't so bad either. She was beautiful with deadly fangs appearing under her red lips and that cold hunger that crossed her face made her all the more desirable in his eyes. Her new demonic countenance with the hard ridges on her brow did not take from her beauty but added to it. She was a cruel delight and Angelus was dying to take a sip of it.

He had seen many vampires have a bit of difficulty handling the new senses and new strength that came in the package, but his mate had no problem adjusting. Being a Slayer to begin with, she was used to power and strength. Adding to that power did nothing to hinder the former Slayer. He leaned back against a brick wall in a side alley where she took her third victim for the evening. It didn't seem like her hunger was dwindling. The woman who used every bit of energy to save the world, now was a vampiress who was using the same inexhaustible drive to destroy it. She wanted to taste them all and commented to her lover on the differences in them with amusement, as if she had expected them all to taste the same.

"How was that one?" Angelus asked. His patience for her exploration had been phenomenal up until now, but it was quickly waning. He wanted to taste her new blood and more than anything, he wanted to try out the new cold body she was moving around in. With her human heat gone, the sensation would be similar to his experiences with other female vampires, but he knew that it would be more pleasurable with Buffy, as was everything else.

"Third in three," she muttered, "He tasted like shit. I need something more...innocent."

"Yes," Angelus said, smiling broadly. She had quickly understood the concept of purity and he was proud of the mind blowing speed of her acclimation, "They're always delicious, but unfortunately, we have a date."

"What?" Buffy asked, turning to him.

"Remember the Annual Meeting?"

"Oh yeah," Buffy sighed in disappointment, "What's the big deal? I know you're not interested in whatever the hell those fools are going to be talking about, so I say we skip it. Especially if you are just planning on going so you can show me off. I want to feed, Angel, not be a party favor."

"As party favors go," Angelus growled, "You'll be the best, but I think you'll enjoy the party. And of course, I'm not going to participate in their plans."

"Then why go?" she demanded, putting her hands on her hips.

"If a master vampire is not present to get things in order," Angelus said darkly, "The children get confused on who's in charge. We've been gone too long to miss this one. They need to know that we're back."

"Oh," Buffy replied, nodding her blonde head, "Power trip, huh?"

"You'll love it," Angelus said confidently, "Trust me. There's nothing better than fear, unless that fear is from a vampire. Then it's delicious."


what a waste what it is, it never was. i don't care or give a fuck

"Whistler?" Giles echoed, looking over the short and confounding intruder, "Is there a reason you are in my home?"

"I've been here before," Whistler said, strolling inside and plopping down in an overstuffed chair, "Course you weren't here..."

"Who the hell are you?" Xander asked rudely as he walked in. It was almost as if having Cordelia on his arm gave him licence to be abrupt. Whistler, however, ignored him and continued speaking, "...I think you were being tortured at the time...Wait, that was in another dimension. And another house. Forget I said that part. Sorry folks, it gets confusing sometimes. Anyway, I already told you. I'm here to help you clear up the fuck up."

Giles was trapped inside the emotions inside him. He wanted to scream, he wanted to cry, he wanted to drop to his knees and beg any higher power to turn back time. He wanted a choice. His mind screamed for a chance to rectify what had happened. The odd looking man who had walked through his door and immediately started speaking in strange riddles was a source of light. A dim light, but a light nonetheless. The Watcher wanted to believe him.

"Are you going to make sense anytime soon?" Cordelia asked, wrinkling her nose at his choice of wardrobe. Someone had seriously misinformed him on what was cool.

"I'm a demon," Whistler said, "But a good one. Not all demons are bad, you know. I've been sent by The Powers That Be."

"The Powers That Be what?" Xander demanded. It had been over a week since they had seen Buffy or Angel or any of his crew. The days that passed had been painfully silent and he knew, as did the rest of the group, that silence was never good. It was bad. Very, very bad. When the strongest Slayer turned into a vampire and then seemed to drop off the face of the earth, the people waiting for the other shoe to drop began to tremble in fear. Xander had begun trembling a long time before and how was in a full blown shudder. His friend was dead and if he was right, soon everyone else would be too.

"The Powers That Be," Whistler repeated, waving his hand in the air dramatically, "You know, the big cheeses who try to control things from time to time."

"Did they control this?" Giles shouted, holding The Codex up, "Did they want this to happen?"

"Actually no," Whistler answered, inspecting his fingernails as he spoke, "The book's altered. None of this shit was supposed to happen. Angelus wasn't supposed to reemerge and The Slayer was never supposed to be a vamp. She's one evil bitch, by the way, take my word for it."

"How is the book altered?" Giles demanded, "I've had it in my possession for years."

"Magick, Rupert," Whistler said, frowning in disappointment at him, "Ya know, for a Watcher you can be pretty thick sometimes. It was altered by magick. What? Did you think someone came in with some white out and typewriter? Geez."

"Get to the point!" Cordelia shouted.

"Amen! Get on with it already," Xander added angrily, glancing over at Willow and Oz to check their responses. Oz had his customary non-reaction but Willow was boiling. Magick was flowing unevenly through her body, forcing the normal range of her thoughts to travel outside the boundaries of her. Willow Rosenberg was not an angry person. She was kind and good. Tonight, she was as close to rage as she had ever been. She wanted answers and wanted them before the forces in her body reconvened in her brain. A tidal wave of goose bumps broke over her skin as she listened to the banter in the room.

"Calm down, people!" Willow shouted, turning to the demon, and focusing cold green eyes on him, "Spill it."

"Right, no need get upset," he said, feeling slightly intimidated by the witch. Any demon, or other creature for that matter, who had been involved with the Powers, knew what magick *felt* like in it's most raw, base form. It was detrimental to ones health to ignore the invisible essence of those around them. Whistler saw the power in the witch and what's more, her anger and frustration at the loss of her friend was just a speck short of poking holes into the aether. The slight girl was powerful and frightening. He took a deep breath and looked around the room, "We need to act fast before the results on The Slayer are irreversible."

"Are you saying that being a vampire is something that can be reversed?" Giles demanded.

"Not if you're going to think in human terms," Whistler said.

"Do you get anymore confusing?" Xander asked, crossing his arms.

"Yeah, actually," the demon answered with a smirk.


i chased the charmed but i don't want them anymore. and in their eyes i was alive, a fool's disguise

As they walked together down the streets of Sunnydale, Angelus couldn't stop looking at his creation. Her skin, previously golden and glowing, was now only slightly paler, smoothing over her body like liquid satin. Her hair had retained its brilliance as well, bouncing over her shoulders and down her back as she walked along beside him. She was perfect - his mate, consort, eternal companion - except that he couldn't believe she was taking him shopping.

She tugged him along as she hurried up the street to a shop that was flipping off the neon sign above the door. Buffy made it to the shop just as the dark haired girl was flipping the "Closed" sign. The girl smiled at her and unlocked the door again, sticking her head out, "Buffy! You're back in town? I thought you moved to LA."

"I did," Buffy answered, smiling kindly at the girl. She now recognized her as Teresa, the girl she had gym class with years ago, "But I'm visiting."

"I'm sorry, the store is closed," Teresa said regretfully, "I'd let you in but I've already closed the register and my boss would kill me if he found out I let a friend in after close."

"I understand," Buffy said, looking over her shoulder and nodding at Angleus who was sitting patiently on a bench, "but I have a problem. See my boyfriend over there?"

"Yes," Teresa said, inspecting the handsome vampire a little too closely for Buffy's taste. She realized that she could just break through the door and dig into the girl's throat but she wanted to savor this kill. The others had not been a sweet and pure as this one would be. She wanted to play a little first.

"He's taking me to a party but I didn't know that when we came here. I don't have anything to wear and I can't not go, can I? Can't I just take a quick peek?"


"Please Teresa," Buffy pleaded, pretending to be her old sweet self, "With a honey like that I can't look bad. Please."

"Okay," she said, reluctantly opening the door. Buffy walked in and looked at the rows of hanging clothes, eyeing them from just inside the entrance.

"I was wondering," Buffy said, turning back to Teresa, "Which face to do you think I should wear?"

"Face?" Teresa echoed with confusion.

"Yes," Buffy said, reverting to her demon form. The scream that issued from the young girl was enough to make the vampiric Slayer give up the game. She bit in and swallowed, drinking her first taste of the innocent sort of blood she had been craving. And it was divine.


i go along to be with you and those moonsongs that you sing

Drusilla woke up first. She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, wondering if she would be able to feel her legs soon. Since she had been turned, Angelus had fed off of her many times and had tortured her to the point of delirium, but he had never gone this far. Her thoughts floated in the memories of the pain he used to gift her and the pleasure that always came eventually. She was still waiting for that pleasure and the maddest part of her brain could not understand why it had not yet come.

"Spike," Drusilla said, tracing a design on the floor with the blood that had leaked out of their bodies. She wasn't at all concerned whose blood it was. There really was no way to tell. She limply laid there, moving her fingers in the blood while she waited for her lover to answer her.

"Yes, pet," he answered, sitting up slowly with a loud groan of aggravation and pain. His Sire had long been an object of hate, worship, lust and fear, but tonight he had treated them with a sort of disdain that he never had before. Now that his mate was at his side, Spike had no doubt that he would be a thousand times more ruthless than he had been before. After a hundred years of being plagued with a soul, after killing his Sire and previous mate and after falling in love with The Slayer, he was transformed into something more primed for evil than before. He needed the kill to make amends for the goodness that had tainted him for so long. Spike understood this because he felt the same way. He needed more than anything to wash the goodness, guilt and remorse from his system with violence and blood. He wanted to wash the streets in human parts, wanted to show the world that the Big Bad was back.

If he could move, that is. After long moments passed, he stood slowly and looked down on the bloody mess that slightly resembled his mate. He had put up with Drusilla's torture for decades before their souls were returned. He would follow his Sire to the ends of the earth, but not at the cost of her.

"Daddy and The Slayer left us," she said as he pulled her into his arms, "They're going to the party without us."

"No, ducks," he answered, rising to his feet with her in his arms. He stumbled across the room and out the door with her, wondering how far he would actually get when he was this weak, "We're going too. First we need to feed."

"Yes," she said, lolling her head on his shoulder, "I'm empty inside. Even the stars aren't speaking to me."

"They will soon," Spike answered, moving toward the more populated part of town, "They will soon."

"Promise, Spike?"


in a dream we are connected siamese twins at the wrist

Buffy walked back out of the shop doors, having changed into new clothes, which she thought would be perfect for the Annual Meeting. She paused just outside the door and spun around slowly, showing off her new clothing.

"I think we'll skip the Meeting," Angelus growled as he moved toward her. She was wearing a form fitting dress that hugged her slim body and left large places of perfect skin bare. He reached out to touch her and she slapped his hands away.

"You have to wait," she said, "I have plans for later but only if you're patient."

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," he growled, moving closer. Angelus was anything but patient now. He had long ago exhausted his meager supply. Trapped inside that soulful freak for over a hundred years, forced to love and give and help people and she expected him to be wait! It was one thing to watch her revel in her first kills and to watch her hunt in a new way, but being refused by her now? It was far beyond Angelus' threshold of tolerance. He knew as he looked into her cold eyes that he had made a mate in every sense, or perhaps the better word was "match."

"Do I look like I'm kidding?" she said, slicing him with her glare. He glared back, facing off with his mate, waiting for her to give in and let him have even the tiniest taste of her, but she still denied him. Being forbidden by his consort was doing nothing for his mood and it was exactly what Buffy wanted. She wanted him to wonder what she felt like now that the heat was gone. She wanted him to have mouth-watering anticipation for what she was going to do to him later. Much, much later.

She finally ended the staring contest and pressed her body against his, giving him a kiss, which he accepted, took advantage of and abused. She pulled away and gave him a warning look before leaning in again and whispering in his ear, "Trust me, lover. It will be worth the wait."

He smiled as the understanding hit him. Being a master of torture for all those decades, it should have sunk in more quickly. There was nothing like building up the excitement and prolonging the pain. It made the final act so much more enjoyable. He offered his arm, accepting her terms with reluctance and they moved toward their next destination.


we could all learn something from your mind

"Alright," Giles said, sinking back into his chair and eyeing the demon suspiciously, "If the book was altered, who altered it?"

"Wolfram & Hart," he answered. Giles wanted to shout for semi-joy that he had gotten a straight answered and then sighed as Whistler continued, "Well actually, not Wolfram & Hart. They hired a slew of mojo makers to change all the prophecies on the Slayer and the vampires with souls. They've abused the realms of magic and twisted the course of history. Not an easy task but hey, they're evil, so kudos with that success."

"Our friend is dead," Xander snapped, "And killing lots more people, I'm sure, and you're giving them kudos?"

"Just for a job well done," Whistler answered, shrugging, "Anyway, with these new developments, it changes everything."

"Well, duh," Cordelia added.

"Could we get to the part where we save Buffy?" Willow asked, feeling her calm return. Oz gripped her hand and was already forming the conversation in his mind where he asked her when and how she had developed so much power. The werewolf was extremely worried about his girlfriend. When the wolf took over, he completely lost control of his body and mind. He was certain that a long road of magic would have much the same effect on his sweet Willow.

"Yes," Giles added, "You said that there was a chance to...what did you say, exactly? Is it possible for her to be returned to her human form?"

"That depends," Whistler answered, cryptically as usual.

"On what?"

"On how fast we act."

"God!" Cordelia shouted, "Just tell us!"

"Okay, honey, no need to get upset. No one ever understands me. It's my curse," Whistler complained and under the weight of the glares in the room, he continued, "It's like levels, see? If certain steps are taken in a certain amount of time then she can be reverted to human again. If not, there's still a chance to restore her soul, along with her other toothy friends. It's a delicate process."

"What needs to be done?" Giles said, standing up.

"We need to go to the Hellmouth," the demon answered, standing up as well, "And now would be good."

"Why am I *not* surprised?" Xander snorted, as he stood as well.


Part Eight "The Linking"

FEEDBACK: THANK YOU to everyone who has remembered this fic and asked me about it in the last month or so! I really appreciate your interest and support. I kept a list of the people who asked me about this one and "Slayers and Witches and Vampires, Oh My!" but I'm delighted to say that there were too many requests to list them here. For everyone who has waited so patiently, this one's for you. I'll be working on finishing these two fics before I start anything new. (Or at least I'm really, really going to *try* to keep myself from starting anything new. *G*)

Hope you all enjoyed Tango's little bout of AU fluffyness cause the bitch is back. *G* Prepare for a little darkness...

LYRICS: All lyrics are from the Smashing Pumpkins.



sprinkle all my kisses on your head
stars fill of wishes fill our beds

In the alley behind The Bronze, two bloodied vampires, weakened by being drained and abused by their Sire, were picking off young partiers as they left the club. Spike was certain that Angelus had taken more blood from Drusilla because she was so weak she could barely stand. He caught them one by one, reaching out as they passed by and pulling them into the dark corner the two were hidden in. He alternated feeding himself off one and guiding the next bare throat to his mate's exposed fangs.

"Picking flowers," Drusilla mused, lying back against The Bronze's outer wall, lolling her head back and forth, "So pretty."

"They are that, pet," he said, crouching as he waited for another unsuspecting snack to wander past him. Dru was right. It was just like picking flowers and he plucked them indiscriminately. Their blood was needed to gather strength enough to even show their faces at the Annual Meeting. Spike began to wander, as he tore into his third innocent throat, if Angelus had planned this whole thing. Sure, he had lost half a sack before The Slayer rose, but perhaps he wanted to make sure that everyone knew who the true leader was. With Darla and the Master gone, Angelus was the highest bloody Poof on the totem pole and now that he had Slayer's blood running rampant in his veins, he could overpower anyone or anything.

Spike shuddered when he thought of the domination and strength gushing off those two. They were provocative darkness, envy in a glance and as mates their power melted into one another, vanishing and becoming a new force. The Slayer's presence, even though she had been turned, still burned inside him when she was near. Her aura was a surprising caress turned into a brutal shove. Driven by the fear of what his Sire and mate were capable of doing, he grabbed a lush young couple pausing to kiss outside the club and handed the young man over to his mate.


i've been sleeping helpless
couldn't tell a soul, be ashamed
of the mess you've made

Whistler didn't explain anything. Instead he had them all pile in Oz's van and head to the Hellmouth. The entire ride was a succession of outbursts from everyone but Oz, who simply drove and listened. Occasionally, he looked over at Willow and took her trembling hand. Squeezing her palm against his, he gave her a silent reminder that he was there, that he loved her and that there was always a way out of this. Hadn't there always been before?

But no one was really sure, except for Whistler who kept that half smirk on his face, musing over the humans and their inability to understand him. He was used to that kind of treatment, which is why he usually avoided them. He had met so many people in different dimensions, reintroducing himself to ones who didn't know they'd met him before. He was often not surprised even when shocking things came from their mouths. Usually, they had already said it in a different space and time.

Giles was the furthest from calm even though he looked the most serene. He sat in the back of the van flipping patiently through the texts he brought along, pretending to find an answer to their recent crisis. The truth was that he couldn't even read the words that were blurring before his eyes. He had no idea what to look for or how to keep up his charade of positivity. For the first time in a very long time, he had no idea how to proceed. His Slayer was lost, turned of her own free will. His breath caught in his throat every time he thought of his vibrant young charge succumbing to darkness.

He felt like someone was cutting him open from the inside. A disease was forming inside his normally even keeled nature. Ripper was struggling to the surface, demanding vengeance for his loss. His lips curled into a scowl as he thought about that bloodsucking piece of shit taking the only piece of goodness and light to enter his dusty, dreary adult existence. Strange, the affinity he had with the vampire he now hated. They both spent years trying to atone for their sins, trying to bury their murky pasts as they strove for goodness. They both had a force inside them that craved violence and carnage. And they both loved Buffy Summers.

Giles reached in his pocket, curling his fingers around Mr. Pointy, which he had retrieved from Buffy's weapons trunk in her dorm room. He said a silent prayer, asking for the strength to make this right. He didn't want to take Buffy's life - or unlife - didn't want to stake her, but his greatest fear was that he would have to...or that he would die trying.

"Please explain again," Giles said, looking over the goofy little demon, "how we can stop Buffy from reaching a point to where there is no reversal? Do try to make sense."

"No kidding," Xander chimed in, glancing out the rear window to see that Gunn's truck was still keeping up with the van, trailing closely.

"Xander," Giles warned, before turning back to the demon, "Whistler?"

"There's a series of rituals," Whistler began, struggling to make sense to the frightened humans, "The first will restore the four souls lost to the aether. If performed correctly, all four souls will return simultaneously."

"Good," Giles nodded, following so far.

"The second ritual is more tricky," Whistler said, quirking his mouth sadly with his words, "In order to ensure that this does not happen again, the Powers have devised a sort of linking. Basically, we turn Buffy back to her human form. If she has not taken too many lives, if we get there soon enough, the process can be reversed...we think."

"You think?" Cordy gasped, "Do the Powers actually have any power?"

"There's a natural order of things, Cordelia, that cannot be overcome despite our wishes," Giles explained curtly, much to the surprise of Whistler, "The Powers That Be can only control so much. This dimension's creatures, just as most of the others, are given free will and the greatest power cannot take it fully from them. Because of that there are events that cannot be overturned and people who cannot be saved."

Giles ended his sentence quickly, choking on the last word. The children looked over him sadly. He was losing hope and fast.

"We'll save her, Giles," Willow said softly from the front of the van, "There's still a chance."

"Course," Giles said, clearing his throat, and then turned back to Whistler, "What happens if we are unable to reverse these events?"

"Well," Whistler said, removing his hat and fingering the brim, while he easily avoided actually answering the question, "Our success really depends on how much of her humanity we can restore."

"Huh?" Xander grunted.

"For every life she takes and every drop of blood she consumes, she moves further into her vampiric state. We may be able to bring her back, but we're not sure if she will ever be completely human again. We need a certain amount of humanity to remain to proceed with the linking."

"Linking?" Willow asked.

"Yeah," Whistler answered, "This is part I think you're gonna hate. We haveta make sure this never happens again. Too much is at stake if these particular vamps are allowed to remain souless and evil. If they aren't stopped, Buffy and Angelus will bring about the end of the world."

"And the linking?" Giles said, steering him back to safer waters.

"The linking is essentially a binding of souls," he said, "Spike and Drusilla are already bound to Angel with the original curse. The linking will connect Buffy to Angel, binding them to this plane. Their souls will never escape their bodies or this plane until they die."

"What if one of them dies?" Giles asked, shifting uneasily.

"They both die."


all of your struggles beneath your disguise
drink from the reasons that hold you alive
‘til we're safe from the wounds of desire and pain

Angelus felt the power that only came from large groups of vampires convening in one place. He craved it, the way it radiated from the masses and the knowledge that he would rule them all. As they strolled through the dark streets, he could smell their fear, anticipation, sex and blood. The fragrance of mates, covered in each other's scents, rolled over him. It rushed him from all sides as they move toward the Annual Meeting.

Buffy walked next to him, smelling of residual humanity, of her intricate Slayerness. He shook his head in disbelief because she smelled like fucking sunshine. He didn't understand how even a new creature of the night could smell of goodness and light, but she did and it butted its head against her new darkness. He could smell himself on her as well, his seed inside her, his blood in her veins. As they neared their destination, a realization hit him so hard, he stopped suddenly and flung her down into the grass of the cemetery beside them.

"You're so fucking smart," he growled, pressing her against the ground, keeping her pinned with his weight. He knew, however, that her superior strength as a Slayer had only increased with her turning. She could easily toss him away but she just laughed, her body heaving beneath his with her laughter.

"Just figuring that out, Angel?" she said, still laughing.

"You were going to let me walk in there without marking you as my mate," he roared, "I can't believe I almost fell for that! Do you realize what being my consort means?"

"Sure," she said, nodding while keeping her smile.

"You are already my mate," he snarled, "Marked or not, you are mine."

"I just wanted to see you squirm, lover," she purred, pressing against his arousal, "You're so sexy when you get all possessive. I just love it when you think you're in control. Too bad you figured it out. I would have loved to see you inside there strutting all superior only to realize that we hadn't been mated yet."

Keeping his angry growl, he bit into her throat where her mark had been before she was turned. Drinking her new vampire blood, he felt the power of his mate's essence exploding inside him. He stopped drinking and gasped, staring at her golden eyes with his.

"Good stuff, huh?" she whispered, licking her blood off of his lips.

"You're so much stronger," he gasped, wondering if his heart was going to start to beat from energy in her, "Not like other vampires, more potent."

She sank her fangs into his throat, tasting him and marking him as her mate just as he just had. She tasted her own blood in his and the excitement he was feeling. He fell back into the grass, rolling her on top of him as she suckled his neck. He stared up at the stars, watching them blur above him. He felt charged, pulsing with life and it didn't make sense. Her body was almost warm as she suckled at his neck, straddling him. He didn't even notice her unzipping his leather pants until he felt her strong little hand grip his erect cock. She guided him inside her, easing down on him. Perched there, she cocked her head to the side, looking down at him.

"Miss the heat, lover?" she asked, clenching her inner muscles around him so tightly he actually groaned in pleasure and pain. He bucked up into her, grinning at her gasp of pleasure as he flipped them. He settled his weight on top of her and glided deeper inside her. Cold skin meshing with cold skin, their nearly fully clothed bodies joined for the first time as vampiric mates.

"No. Small price to pay," he groaned in a long awaited answer. Lost in the feel of him, she had all but forgotten the question by the time he answered it. The mating was an entrance into a yet undiscovered euphoric magnitude. Lust rivaled lust, power grinding against power. They rolled with their lovemaking, shifting positions as they went, desire misplaced inside rasping laments that wandered off alone somewhere in the night.

"You belong to me," he moaned into her neck as he licked her now closed wound, tempted to take another sip. He still felt drugged from his previous taste.

"And you belong to me," she moaned back, "Only me."

Moving in one fluid motion, they both bared their fangs. They lunged for each other's throats at the same time, hips slamming against each other. Rolling in the grass, battling for dominance, they came together.


Part Nine "Linking Mates"



freak out and give in
doesn't matter what you believe in
stay cool

"I hate this place," Xander said as he climbed out of Oz' van and took his first breath of Sunnydale air that wasn't shared with his friends, wedged next to an amplifier. He looked up at the night sky and sighed, "Glad I love you so much, Buff. My parents live here."

"You won't have to see ‘em," Oz said, sliding out from behind the drivers seat and landing firmly on two black booted feet.

"So this is the Hellmouth?" Gunn said, stretching calmly and looking around, "Doesn't look like much."

"Yeah, well when you're dead, we'll remember you said that," Cordy snapped, shivering slightly in the warm night. She hated coming home almost as much as Xander did. She leaned into him as he slid his arm around her waist and they silently shared that eery feeling that came with the town.

"Cordelia," Giles grumbled, "please try to be civil. You could have opted to stay at home, you know."

"And miss all the fun and the suck fest? Never," she grumbled back.

"Willow," Giles said, turning around to look for the little witch. He turned a full circle and made it back to his original position without finding her, "Where is Willow?"

"Well," Whistler said, straightening his hat, "She had an errand to run."

"What sort of errand?" Giles said, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at the demon, "And why didn't she mention it to me?"

"We wouldn't have let her go," Oz said, stepping in next to Giles, alining himself on the side of the Watcher, "Right?"

"Yeah," the demon replied, "Pretty much. Come on, we gotta jam."

"No one is going anywhere until you explain where Willow has gone!" Giles demanded.

"She went to the Annual Meeting."

"WHAT?" Giles shouted, nearly hysterically, "That is what Buffy and Angelus are doing in Sunnydale?"

"Annual Meeting?" Xander quirked, "Sounds deadly."

"Great," Cordelia snorted, "Vampires embracing corporate structure. Wouldn't Daddy be proud?"

"Not really all that corporate sounding, Cordy," Gunn added grimly.

"Not really all that meeting like either," Giles explained, running a hand through his graying hair nervously, "It's a yearly gathering of the strongest vampires vying for leadership. Willow will die before she makes it into the building."

"Nah," Whistler said smiling, "Don't underestimate your little witch."

A loud growl came from beside Giles and he froze before slowly turning his head to see Oz snarling in anger, half way into his metamorphosis.

"Don't underestimate the wolf," Xander said, trying to joke, but backing away slowly. They all watched silently as Oz gathered his senses and began reverting back to his human form. He focused on Whistler, still seething in anger, eyes still blazing from the wild.

"Where's the meeting?" he asked calmly with no trace of a growl.

"You kids are crazy," Whistler said with loud belly laugh, "It's cool. Really. Come on."


i will wait for you
what you believe you'll wish to receive
i won't believe in you
hang on to your life

"You'd think they've never seen a Slayer before," Buffy said with a mirthful laugh as they waltzed into the Annual Meeting.

"Not a turned Slayer," Angelus said laughing along, "See? I knew you'd enjoy this."

"You were right," she said, squeezing his arm as they headed for the empty throne at the head of the room, sitting above the rest of the room, majestic and macabre. It was ancient, pieced together from more than a dozen types of wood. The room stopped as Angelus sat in the chair, resting against carved writhing bodies, depictions of death and destruction. Buffy sat on his lap, crossing her legs as she settled on his thigh.

A charming assortment of fear, anger and uproar flew at them from hundreds of golden eyes. Angelus waited calmly to be challenged, his hand moving slowly up and down the spine of his dark queen. Five minutes passed when a brave soul called out, "A Slayer with the Master?"

"A fledgling on the throne?" Another screamed in protest.

"Who will challenge her rightful place?" Angelus asked, speaking in a low, feral voice, "Who challenges my right to claim my consort?"

The mumbles of voiced conversations rose in the room, rising slowly and peaking until the room brimmed with growls and barely held roars. Buffy had not lost her smile as she looked over the weaker masses. No one could defeat them and she was certain no one would try. She turned and glanced at her mate, seeing a twinkle of amusement and confidence in his eyes.

"Stupid bloody wankers," Spike stated clearly, not in a yell but loud enough to hush the room at his grand entrance with his mate. The vampires waited for Spike and Drusilla to weave around them and make their way to the throne. He nodded curtly, making eye contact with his Grande Sire and began his pledge, "Angelus, leader of the Order of Aurelius, direct bloodline of the Master, Sire of Drusilla, Grande Sire of William the Bloody, I accept your ascent to the throne."

Turning, he faced the crowd, feeling the mad silent laughter of his mate next to him. She clapped her hands, breaking her silence, already feeling the evil plan coming from her mate. Daddy was going to fall, but not here. Not in this room.

"Who challenges? Who fucking challenges?" Spike demanded of the room.

"Not me. That's for sure," A bold voice said from the back. Heads turned towards the door to focus on a striking, leather clad redhead, yawning her way through the crowd. Her porcelain skin gleamed with power and prowess as she stepped through them and they moved away, awed by the power held in a fledge just as they had when Buffy strolled in. This girl swung a different sort of bitter light on the group, one that made them tremble even more.

A hand reached out to caress her skin, drawn to her and unable to control the impulse. She grabbed the hand without bothering to notice the body it was connected to and snapped the vampire's wrist. His scream of pain echoed behind her as she moved on.

"These your friends, Buff?" She asked, "They're so dull."

"When did you join the land of the undead, Will?" Buffy said, settling back against Angelus, "Get jealous of my freedom?"

"You know," she answered, flashing golden eyes for a brief second, "I miss ya. What's the point in trying to fight the good fight when the Slayer's a vampire? You shouldn't get all the fun."

"Are all the Scoobies joining up?" Spike asked with a grin, "Or did you save one or two for us?"

"There's plenty to go around," Willow answered, brushing her hand over his chest and ignoring Drusilla's growl of warning. She stepped up near the stage and leaned over, kissing her friend lightly on the lips. She ran her tongue over Buffy's lips, tasting her smile. Slipping her hand over Buffy's shoulder, she lightly scratched the Slayer's delicate skin. Buffy shivered and was not surprised when Angelus caught Willow's wrist, pushing her away from his mate.

"Wanna be bad?" Willow asked coyly, "Cause this place reeks of weakness and I can lead you straight to the white hat party."


wind blow shame around my heart
shadows scream around my heart

Angelus, Buffy, Spike and Drusilla followed Willow through the streets, stopping to feed once along the way and laughing about the minions they destroyed on the way out of the room. Each had taken a life as a sign of their power.

"So we can just leave and they'll do what we told them to do?" Buffy asked, nearly skipping along after her friend. She had planned to kill Willow eventually, but she was more pleased with how this had turned out. Now she had a friend to play with and the ex-human witch sent waves of evil all around her, screaming a like siren and reaching further than the sound could travel.

"Fear is an interesting thing," Angelus answered, "Did you feel it, baby?"

"The minute we walked in," Buffy answered, "I was lapping it up. It was never that good when I was human."

"Nothing is," he answered, "They'll do as they're told. They're too afraid not to."

"We're going to High School?" Spike joked as they mounted the crumbling stairs in front of Sunnydale High, "Doesn't look like much learning goes on here."

"The Hellmouth," Drusilla moaned, "And something more..."

"Yeah," Willow said, leading them through the burnt out hallways. They heard the chanting and felt the power before they even reached the room that had once been the library, "So much more."

"Trap," Angelus growled as he stepped across the magickal threshold. All four vampires were planted to the floor as leafy vines emerged through the cracks in the broken ground and whipped around their arms and legs, holding them still. Willow raised her arms and closed her eyes, flinging her head back as she shouted a garbled incantation over the angry growls of the vampires. They watched as her body shifted, softening. Her blood temperature rose as her life resumed its travel through her, forcing her heart to pump once more. As the last word made it from her mouth, she fell to her knees, gasping for breath as if she were trying to make up for the gulps of air she had missed.

She heard Oz shout her name and the sound of his boots hitting the floor as he ran to her. She turned and raised her hand, asking him silently to stop. Unsteadily, she rose to her feet and nodded at Whistler who cued the group to begin the next incantation.

"No!" Angelus screamed as he saw the Orb of Thesala nestled in the circle that Giles sat in, chanting the familiar Latin of his curse. The orb began to glow, slowly at first until it brightened to a nearly blinding orange light. Angelus' eyes matched the color seconds later, gasping in pain. Soul intact, the vines released him and he fell to his knees. He was quickly followed by Spike and Drusilla, who were likewise released of their vines. Buffy remained standing and her soul, confused by the change in her body, took the longest to return to its shell. The room breathed a collective gasp of relief as she too was released and forced to her knees.

"Quickly," Willow breathed, stepping forward, "Almost dawn."

Whistler stepped forward and clasped hands with the witch as the group looked on in slight confusion. Which part was this? Oz followed and claimed her other hand, meeting her eyes briefly before the three most powerful beings of the team focused on Buffy. Whistler and Oz swayed, struggling to remain standing next to the powerful witch as she intoned the chant inside their minds and Buffy's. Her voice was next to a scream and her power forced the two men to lurch forward, groaning in pain. They held onto her hands and nearly breaking the fragile bones there as she channeled their strength in the spell.

"Buffy," Angel whispered as she was dragged from the circle, reeled in by an invisible force to her friend's feet. She glowed a white hot blue for a moment and as her heart began to beat she thrashed on the ground. Willow dropped Oz's hand and Whistler's and lowered to one knee. Holding her breath, she felt her friend's warm face. She sobbed openly as she felt a pulse.


stripped down to the bone
laughing, living on your own
all alone

Three days later, Buffy woke up in Giles' little house in Los Angeles. Her Watcher had kept a silent vigil over her, not daring to take her to the hospital. When she finally stirred, he crossed the room and looked down at her, waiting.

"Giles?" Buffy whispered through the tears that were already streaming down her face, "Am I...what am I?"

"Oh Buffy. I'm so sorry," Giles said, pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly. She sobbed on his shoulder, releasing all the pain she had been building in her unsettling three days of sleep.

"I'm not human, am I?" Buffy asked, pulling away and looking into his eyes, "I'm n-not the same."

"No," he answered sadly, shaking his head, "You'll never be the same. You are human, Buffy. Just not completely. It was too...late for that."

"Then what?" Buffy asked in a rasping voice, "What have I become?"

"A hybrid," he said, settling back on the couch, "You're a partial vampire."

"What does that mean?"

"We're not entirely sure," he said, honestly, tugging off his glasses. Speaking softly and occupying his eyes in any other direction than his Slayer, he revealed the events since she had lost her soul. He tried to look at her, even as he heard her weeping beside him and felt the shudder of the couch next to him, but he couldn't. He closed his eyes, feeling them brimming with tears as he choked out the whole story.

"So now Angel and I are linked," she said, "That's the part I don't really get. To correct the curse, our souls are connected?"

"More like intertwined," he answered, finally turning to look at his charge, "This has never been done before, but the way that I understand it is that you have more than a mated bond. If he feels pain you will and vice versa. You may be able to feel each other's direct emotions if in close proximity."

"Will I still crave..."

"Blood? Perhaps, but your body will not need that sort of sustenance. You will need food, just as any other human."

"Sunlight? Holy Water? Crosses?"

"I'm not sure, Buffy," Giles answered, "I'm not sure about anything."

"Is everyone okay?" Buffy asked after a long pause.

"Yes," he said, "Everyone made it through relatively unscathed. Willow is still a bit drained from the spells, but seems to be faring nicely."

"And Angel?" Buffy asked, almost afraid to say his name. Giles stiffened and took a deep breath, "You'll need to see for yourself."

"Why?" Buffy asked, scooting to the edge of the couch and digging her alarmed eyes into Giles'.

"He isn't accepting the linking well, Buffy."

"Not well? Like how?"

"He's kinda insane," Xander said, strolling into the house.

"Kinda? Pfft. He's loco, cracked out and nutty as a fruitcake," Cordelia said, following closely behind her boyfriend.

"Tact, children," Giles muttered.

"Where is he?" Buffy said, standing up a bit too quickly and swaying on her feet for a second. Giles reached out to steady her and she looked back gratefully at him before turning back to Xander and Cordelia.

"He's chained up at the hotel," Xander said, "Spike and Drusilla are taking care of him."

"Chained up?" Buffy asked, moving toward the door.

"Buffy," Xander said, touching her arm gently, "I don't think you wanna go see him right now."


"He's...he's not really Angel right now," he said, "You should wait a day or two until you feel better."

"Oh my God," Buffy said, running through the door. If Xander's last minute kindness toward Angel was any indication of his condition, it was so much worse than they were letting on.