Children Of The Beast


By Saber ShadowKitten



Part Seven



"Here we go, 'crystal methadone,'" Xander said, putting his finger on the page. "Maybe Alistair's a drug addict."

Buffy closed the book she was looking through and stood, as the others started joking about what Xander said. "I'm gonna take a break, guys," she told them, then left the library.

She carefully cracked the door to Spike's room open and peered inside. She saw him laying curled up sideways on the bed, asleep. Quietly, she entered the suite and shut the door behind her.

She took everything that was piled on the single chair in the room and put it on the floor. Then she moved the chair to the end of the bed and sat down, tucking her feet under her. She studied his sleeping face, a worried frown marring her brow at the blood-stained, butterfly bandages on his cheek. She could tell the wound was bad enough that it wouldn't fully heal for two to three days.

Buffy felt a tear run down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away. She hated seeing him hurt, even just a little bit. It reminded her that he wasn't invincible, despite his attitude to the contrary. No matter what happened, he kept going, fighting and planning and saving those that needed to be saved. He did nothing for himself. Even when he fucked her, it wasn't about him finding pleasure, it was about releasing the anger and the frustration that he couldn't do more to help others.

He had never made love to her. Not once in all the years the group had been together. She wondered if he would have when she was still human. She had felt his arousal when they had sparred and had seen the flame of desire in his blue eyes numerous times over the years he had been forced to help her. Yet, the first time they had kissed was the night the Hellmouth opened, the night she became a vampire.

She wondered if he ever regretted turning them. Turning her. When she had learned that the Hellmouth would possibly open, she and Spike had talked for hours about all conceivable outcomes. He had agreed when she brought up the idea of turning them and then cursing them if they failed to prevent the opening. He had taken the Orb of Thessulah and the diskette with the restoration spell on it from Willow without her knowledge.

However, he didn't have to use them. He could have left them to die, or turned them and let them stay soulless. Everyone would have loyalty to him because he was their sire. He could have gone back to killing and everything he did before he was forced to help.

But he didn't. He had gotten them out of Sunnydale, cursed them, then began putting together an offensive against Alistair. She'd only seen him show emotion at one time, way in the beginning, and that was when he told her that he wasn't able to save her mother. Other than that, his face had stayed a cool, stoical mask.

When she'd still been human, she'd had other boyfriends and loves that didn't last during her college years and afterwards. However, she hadn't wanted to settle for what she felt was second best. She needed someone who was her equal, who knew of her Chosen status and could take care of himself. Someone who could understand the pressure she was under and take it upon himself to help relive that pressure. Spike had fit that description perfectly, but she had been afraid to fall in love with another vampire.

Now, she would spend an eternity loving him, even if he never returned her love.

<

*****

"Giles, I need a woman," Xander said, slamming the book he was reading shut.

Giles didn't look up from his own tome. "You don't say."

"I mean, come on, look at me," he continued. "What woman wouldn't want some of this?"

"What woman, indeed," Giles said.

"That's right," Xander said. "I am Xander, Child of the Beast, vampire in leather. Women can't resist the leather."

"So I've been told."

"Then why don't I have one?" He stood and added the book he was reading to the discard pile. "Angel has Cordy, the Oz-meister has Willow, Spike has Buff and me? I have Rosy and her five friends."

"Six at once, how impressive," Giles murmured.

"Giles, you're not even listening to me here," Xander whined. "I'm having a serious case of womanitis."

Giles looked up from his book. "Xander, the mansion is filled with women. Pick one so that I may get back to work."

"Damn, old guy," Xander said, with a whistle. "It sounds like you can use some good lovin', too."

"Rupert, are you done yet?"

Xander turned to the doorway of the library and saw an exotic half-demon, with long black hair and Asian features. If it wasn't for her whip-cord tail that curved upwards above her head, no one would ever know she wasn't human.

"I think I can take a break, Illiana," Giles replied. He stood and gave Xander a Ripperish smile. "Some 'good loving,' eh, Xander? Perhaps I should try it."

Xander watched as Giles left the library, his arm around Illiana's shoulder. "Man, even the tweed-vampire has a woman!" He grabbed the next book off of the "to be read" pile and slumped down into a chair.

"Maybe I should go find that spell and see if Anya is still around," he grumbled, opening the book to a random page. "If she managed to get her necklace back she mi-yi-yi-yi-what is this?"

Xander set the book down on the table in front of him and began to read. "Oh man...oh man....oh man..."



Part Eight





"The Crystal of Rathra," Xander said, standing at the head of the table where Spike normally stood. "Also known as the Rainbow Sphere. I'm not going to pull a Giles and go into the long-winded details of its history, so I'll skip right to the point."

Giles glared at Xander, but kept quiet. The eight, old Sunnydalians were gathered in the library, having been summoned by Xander a few hours after he found the information. On his own, he had done the research and allowed everyone else to stay with their respective others. He knew that once the information was given, they would immediately act upon it and quiet time would vanish.

The time had also given him a chance to see each of his friends at their happiest when he'd retrieved them. Giles and the girlfriend Xander didn't know he had, Illiana, had been playing chess and telling stories. Willow had been snuggled against Oz's leg, as the vampire-cum-werewolf played his guitar. Angel and Cordelia had been up to their knees in clothing, laughing and playing dress-up like children.

Most special of all, he'd seen a moment of unguarded emotion from Spike. No one had answered the knock on his sire's door, so Xander had quietly cracked it open in case Spike was still asleep or he and Buffy were engaged in making whoopie. Instead, he'd found Spike crouched at a Buffy's side, the former Slayer curled up in a chair, asleep. He'd watched as Spike brought his hand up and brushed his fingers over Buffy's lips, a combination of love and sadness etched into his normally stoic features.

Xander had closed the door as silently as he could, then knocked loudly. When Spike had answered, it was as if what he had witnessed never existed.

"The Crystal of Rathra should send Alistair to a fiery demise. I say 'should' because we don't know exactly what type of demoness she is. To use the Crystal, all you need is sunlight to hit it. And vóila, like a prism, the light will be, um..." Xander glanced down at his notes. "Refracted and a rainbow will shoot out all the other facets. That rainbow just has to hit her and she should become flambé."

"This is great and all," Cordelia said. "But what good does it do us? Suntans are so passe."

"First, we get the crystal, then we'll worry about how to use it," Spike said. He crushed his cigarette stub in an ashtray and stood. "Listen up, children, because I'm only going to say this once. If Alistair was so hot to get her bloody little paws on it, we'll assume it works, which means this offensive is going to be a bitch and a lot of people are going to die. I do not want a single human to go."

Everyone nodded and Spike went on. "I'm going to need non-humans that are strong leaders and can hold the community together if we die. I want each of you to draw me a list of five names of who you think can do this." He paused and lit up another cigarette, then began giving out rapid-fire instructions that were to be carried out immediately.

"Willow, I want blueprints of where Alistair is holed up and the surrounding mile. Xander and Oz, make sure our weapons are ready. I want everything sharpened or filled or prepped for battle. Giles and Angel, I need you to pull out of your magickal arses any and all anti-protection spells to break through those she has set," Spike ordered, then turned to the last two.

"Cordelia, I want you to run down to the infirmary and make sure we're stocked up for heavy casualties, as well as warn the staff. While you're down there, double-check all entrances to the basement and make sure anyone can get in and out quickly if necessary. Slayer, once I get the lists, I'm going to need you to scramble everyone and meet in the common room in one hour."

Spike looked at each of them in turn, his blue eyes piercing theirs with deadly intent. "Alistair is going to die."

****

The old museum loomed in front of them, gray and black from the fire that had gutted it many, many years ago. Large, black doors spanned across the north end at the top of more than two dozen steps. Glass windows were set up high on the outer wall, almost to the roof, and they were blackened from the fire, as well.

The Rebels were going to attack from all directions. Team one, which included the Children of the Beast, were going through the front doors as soon as the signal was given. Teams two and three were to attack from the east and west, respectively. Team four, led by the Triumvirate, were coming from the south.

Within the larger teams themselves were small teams, each made of five non-humans. Those secondary teams were the reason for the attack and why so many were sure to die that night.

Willow crouched near the doors, hiding behind a pillar, Oz at her side. Her eyes were closed and she was quietly chanting, her left hand extended towards the doors. Everyone was waiting for the signal that would come when she felt the protective barrier vanish. Angel and Giles, on the opposite side of the museum, were the ones who were to break any magick, according to the formulated plan.

"Now."

Her voice was barely a whisper, but everyone heard.



A battle cry engulfed the building, as all teams simultaneously attacked. Battering rams made quick work of the doors and Rebels swarmed into the museum. They were met immediately by Alistair's own private army in the vast main hall.

The Children split off from their team, fighting their way to the stairs. The scent of blood was already overwhelming, pulling at the demons inside each of them. Screams of pain mingled with screams of victory, echoing off the walls in the large room.

When they reached the stairs, they quickly descended a level, the sounds of battle dissipating with every step. Another small team could be heard ascending up the stairwell above them, their boots heavy on the metal steps.

The hallway they ended up in was eerily quiet. Buffy was in the lead, her yellow eyes glowing slightly in the dimness. To her left and right, a few paces back, were Xander and Cordelia. Willow and Oz completed the open-ended triangle, knives held loosely in their hands.

"I don't like this," Cordelia whispered, her eyes searching for the enemy in the side rooms.

"Me neither," Xander agreed. "This has 'trap' written all over it."

"Then stop talking and keep alert," Buffy ordered.

"There it is," Willow said quietly a few moments later, moving to the doorway of what was once an exhibit.

Buffy motioned to Cordelia and Oz. They nodded and Oz continued up the hallway, while Cordelia returned the way they came, both on guard.

Xander stood beside Willow, looking into the room. The Crystal was sitting on a pillow on a pedestal in the center of the empty room. His eyes traveled over the walls and floor, as Willow chanted a detection spell quietly.

"Nothing," the redhead told Buffy. "The room is spell-free."

Xander pulled a knife from the sheath strapped to his arm and whipped it at the Crystal. The hilt hit it and the sphere was knocked from the pedestal to the floor.

"Xander," Buffy hissed.

"It's not booby-trapped," he said, giving her a small shrug.

"But it's probably broken now," she growled at him.

Willow took of her leather jacked and tied one sleeve around her wrist. She gave the other end to Buffy. "Make sure you pull fast," she said with a grin.

Buffy nodded and Willow stepped carefully into the room. When nothing happened, she crept forward as far as the jacket would allow, then looked back at Buffy. "Add another."

Buffy took off her leather jacket and tied it to the end of Willow's. The redhead continued forward, Xander's camouflage jacket being added to the chain. She reached the opposite side of the pedestal, bent and picked up the crystal, then quickly retreated from the room.

"Got it," Willow said, holding it up.

"This is too easy," Buffy commented warily, as the three of them put their jackets back on. "Way too easy."

"Look out!" Cordelia suddenly shouted.

The three looked back towards Cordelia and saw her go down, her hand clutched to her neck. A second later, they dove apart as a shotgun was fired in their direction. Alistair's guards used the shot as a signal to pour out of the other rooms on the level. The question as to where the thirty or more demons came from was pushed into the backs of their minds as they began to fight.

Buffy whipped a knife at the nearest attacker, as she rolled to her feet. A second knife was pulled and she drove it into a demon's gut. "Let's go!" she yelled.

Willow clutched the sphere to her as she bolted up the hall. Xander by-passed her and shoved the enemy out of the way like a linebacker, clearing a path. He turned around and saw Buffy hit the floor.

Willow saw Oz leaning against the wall, eyes closed and she faltered. Alistair's guards closed around her and she screamed, "Catch!"

Xander caught the sphere that had sailed through the air and sprinted for the south stairwell. He had one foot on the stairs when something stung him in the back of the neck, then all went black.

*****

Laughter echoed in the main hall, its evil sound causing the fighting to come to an instant stop. Spike pulled his knife out of the Gladiator's throat and rose, using the fallen creature as a step-stool. He looked over the heads of both the enemy and the other Rebels who were still alive. Hate flooded his system when he saw her.

Alistair stood in the center of the large room on a platform that had risen out of the floor, dressed in a black body-suit that looked painted on. Her eyes swept over the room and she laughed again, causing several demons on both sides to cower in fear. If Spike didn't know it was useless, his blade would have been already embedded in her skull.

"Foolish Rebels," Alistair said, her voice cool and calm. "Did you really think you could stop me?"

She walked forward on the platform, her stilettos clicking with each step. She paused at the end and an evil smile tugged at her lips. "I wonder -- is your leader here?"

Her eyes went from Rebel to Rebel, as if sizing up her prey. Spike didn't bother to dwell on the possibility that someone might reveal who he was, he kept his concentration focused on her, all his senses on alert. He could feel that something was about to happen and he knew he wasn't going to like it.

"What? No one wants to tell me?" Alistair sighed. "Oh well, I guess I'll have to do this the hard way."

She signaled and the floor behind her platform opened, revealing a second lift. His gut tightened when he saw what it carried. He felt Angel and Giles come up beside him, but his eyes didn't leave the sight before him. A murmur rose in the room, some excited voices, some scared, and Alistair laughed wickedly.

"Yes, dear friends," she said. "Look at what I found. The Children of the Beast."

She faced the five manacled to poles that were once part of an exhibit and bowed mockingly. However, the only one to see her do this was Buffy. Each of the others was slumped forward, unconscious.

"What, no applause?" Alistair asked. The room erupted into clapping as her forces did as she asked. Spike ground his teeth together and waited. He knew there was to be more.

Alistair raised her hands and the room fell silent once more. "Now, I have a proposition for your leader. If you step forward, I will let your Children go."

Spike stepped back off the Gladiator's body, causing Angel and Giles to look at him. "You're not thinking-" Angel began.

"Shut. Up." Spike's words were clipped as he spoke, his eyes icy as he met their stares. "You two free them, then get the fuck out of here, regroup and hit again as soon as possible. The bloody bitch is not going to win."

"Oh Beast?" Alistair sang. "Where are you?"

"And what are you going to do?" Angel asked.

"Distract her."

"You can't do this, Spike," Giles said. "None of them would want you to."

"Since when do I care about anyone else?" Spike said coldly. "I want that Crystal and they're the best, despite their obvious fuck up. Now, go."

"This is your last chance, Beast," Alistair said. "Show yourself or your Children will die."

Spike turned and walked along the outskirts of the museum until he was opposite the platform, with Alistair between him and the others. He hadn't waited to see if Angel and Giles had followed his orders. He knew that they would.

"Unless, of course, you're a coward," Alistair taunted.

The clink of a lighter, followed by a hiss of a flame brought her gaze around to where he stood. He touched the flame to the cigarette between his lips, the light emphasizing his strong features and the thin, white line that ran from his temple to his lip. He inhaled deeply, the lighter going back into his pocket, as he met her eyes.

"You?" Alistair laughed. "You're the Beast?"

Spike said nothing as those who stood between him and her separated. Beyond her, he could see Angel and Giles already at work. He walked towards her, stopping when he reached the edge of the crowd.

"I was expecting someone with more muscles or a scarier face," Alistair commented. She smirked. "I was definitely expecting someone taller."

He inhaled on the cigarette and raised his hand to take it out of his mouth. Without turning or moving his eyes from her, he jammed the burning end into the demon coming up along side of him. The demon screamed out in pain, his hands scrambling to get the cigarette out of his eye.

"How impressive," she said with an arch of one curved brow. She gestured and a Gladiator charged him.

The knife he grabbed was embedded in the Gladiator's throat before anyone could blink.

"Most impressive," Alistair said. "But what can you do against this?"

Spike darted forward into the open space to get more room, as five Gladiator's and two Vultures swooped down upon him. He lashed out immediately with his booted foot, slamming one of the Gladiator's away. He threw a second knife as he straightened and it embedded into a Vulture's head, right between its glowing violet eyes. The second Vulture pounced upon its brethren and began to devour the corpse.

He punched another Gladiator in the stomach, then grabbed one of its arm. Spinning, he launched the creature at another one, sending them both sprawling to the ground. He dropped to the ground as hands closed above his head and pulled a third knife from his boot. He turned as he stood, jabbing the knife upwards between the fourth Gladiator's legs. It howled in pain, the sound ringing throughout the room.

Spike wasted a costly moment trying to see if Angel and Giles were successful. He felt the double-sets of arms go around him and lift him off the ground in a bone-crushing embrace. Grabbing the Gladiator's wrists, he dug his nails into the soft skin, pinching the nerves. He bent forward over the second pair of arms when the first pair released him. He pulled his last knife from the sheath around his calf, straightened, twisted and drove the blade through the Gladiator's temple in one, smooth movement.

After he dropped to the floor, he rolled forward out of the way of the falling, dead Gladiator. He sprang to his feet in front of the one he'd first kicked, landing several hard blows to the creature's stomach. He could still feel Alistair's eyes on him, which was what he wanted. The second Vulture had moved on to the dead Gladiator.

Grabbing the lighter from his pocket, he ducked behind the creature and lit the back of its shirt on fire. He then dove forward between its legs, sliding along the ground and twisting his body until he was on his back. He kicked up with both feet, slamming them into the Gladiator's legs, breaking its knees. As the creature started to fall, he shot to his feet and faced the remaining two opponents besides the Vulture. His face was still a cold, unemotional mask and he hadn't yet made a single sound.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the knife that had been embedded in the first Vulture and he quickly scooped it up. He turned with the action, throwing it accurately at one of the last two foes. Not pausing, he sprinted forward and jumped, planting a double side-kick at the knife sticking out of the Gladiator's chest. The blade descended with the blow to the top of the hilt.

He saw that the crowd around the center of the museum was thinning and knew that the Rebels were using his distraction to make their own escape, as well. Alistair's followers were too engrossed in watching him to take notice of their departure.

Facing his last opponent, Spike ducked as the massive arms swung at him. He bent and charged forward, grabbing the creature's leg and tipping him off balance. The two went down in a tangle of limbs. Barely stopping, he smashed his fist to the Gladiator's groin and was sent flying off the creature as it bucked in pain.

Hitting the floor, he felt the bone snap in his arm and grimaced mentally. He rolled to his stomach and was about to stand when he felt a sharp bite on his ankle. He shook his leg violently, trying to dislodge the Vulture. The needle-like teeth of the creature pierced his skin through his fatigues.

Returning his weight to his broken arm, he reached down the same time he brought his legs up and grabbed the Vulture's head. With a quick twist, its neck snapped, its teeth ripping from his leg. Spike let go and it joined the other dead on the ground.

Those few seconds it took to kill the Vulture were his downfall. The last living Gladiator picked him up before he could move out of the way and slammed him over the its raised knee. He felt a vertebra in his back break, then he was unceremoniously dropped back to the floor when Alistair called, "Enough!"

Spike awkwardly pushed himself to his knees, using one hand to support himself. Pain jolted his system, radiating from the injury in his middle back. The single vertebra that had broken, however, was preventing him from climbing to his feet. He heard the staccato click of Alistair's heels on the floor and he raised his head, his face still a stoic mask. He looked beyond the demoness, he saw that Angel and Giles had succeeded.

Alistair stopped directly in front of him so he was forced to either raise his head higher or stare at her crotch. His icy blue eyes met her cold gaze and the two had a silent battle of wills. The demoness turned away first. "Pick him up and bring hi-"

She stopped suddenly and Spike knew she'd seen her missing prisoners. He could feel the gloating smile wanting to pull up the corners of his lips. But before it could, he felt her foot connect with his temple and he collapsed to the ground, unconscious.



Part Nine



"WILL YOU GUYS STOP!!" Buffy yelled, slamming her hands down on the library table. The others looked at her, startled. "We are not going to rescue him!"

Willow gasped. "But, Buffy-"

"No," Buffy growled, her eyes flashing yellow. "We are going to get that fucking Crystal and that's it."

"We can rescue him at the same-"

Buffy cut Xander off by punching him in the face. His head flung back and he returned his surprised gaze to her. "What was that for?"

"Because I felt like it," she said slowly. She gave the others a cold look. "Now, he gave himself to Alistair because of our fuck-up. For all we know, he could be dead already."

"Don't say tha-" Willow began.

"Shut. Up." Buffy glared at her. "The Crystal is what's important. Spike sure as hell didn't sacrifice himself to that bitch because of his fuzzy feelings for us. I know it and you know it. We are going in to get the Crystal, nothing else."

She turned and stormed out of the library, leaving the group in stunned silence. Angel was the first to speak. "Buffy's right."

"What?" Cordelia looked at him incredulously. "If that was you, I-"

"Cordy," Angel interrupted. "Spike wouldn't want us to attempt a rescue on him. How long has he worked to bring Alistair down?"

"Forever, " Willow answered with a sigh. "That's all he's ever wanted since we were turned."

"That doesn't explain why Buffy's acting like Bitch Queen of the Universe," Cordelia said.

"She's trying to do what Spike would want," Oz said.

"Even though her heart is undoubtably telling her to do otherwise," Giles added.

"That's why I don't get it," Xander said, rubbing his jaw.

"Sometimes there are things more important than love," Angel said quietly, bringing memories of events long past to everyone's mind. They were silent several moments, each of them looking at the door that Buffy had gone through.

"Maybe we should try a sneak-attack rather than the frontal assault," Willow suggested finally.

In another part of the mansion, curled up on his bed, the former Slayer cried.

*****

Spike surveyed the crowd that had gathered in the main hall of the museum under hooded lids. His arms were sore from holding them behind his back since the last time the guards checked him. He'd broken both of his pinkies and the sides of his hands in order to slip through the manacles on his wrists, which he now held in his hands. He'd been brought up several hours earlier to witness something, but he'd been unable to ascertain what. However, it didn't matter much, because he was going to use the opportunity of being on the main level to escape.

It had only been a few days since he'd provided the distraction for the others to get free. His back had healed quickly, due mostly to the fact that he drained the Gladiator who carried him from the main hall to the lower levels where Alistair had her lair. Other guards had died in the same manner until they got smart and kept out of his reach completely after chaining his legs to the wall, as well.

His body bore marks of torture under the fatigues he'd been re-dressed in. Cuts, burns and healing scars criss-crossed his skin, all made in an attempt to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the Rebels. They were unsuccessful.

He was near the wall on the east side of the main room, supposedly chained to the column behind him. He could see faint daylight behind the blackened windows set high on the north wall, which meant that he would have to move quickly to get from the museum to the closest building without burning to ashes. His eyes continued to travel around the room and they landed for an instant on one of his knives still sitting in the center of the room where he'd fought. As it had been on that day, the crowd of non-human followers had made a semi-circle around the room, leaving the center empty.

Alistair exited the room beside him and she smiled wickedly. He kept himself still as she walked up to him and ran her blood-red fingernail down his cheek. "I think you'll like this, my dear," she whispered. "Especially after all that trouble you went through."

She laughed and the hum of voices fell silent. She spun away from him, the long cape she was wearing over her shoulders flying out behind her and hitting him in the shins. She started forward, her heels clicking on the hard floor. When she reached the platform, two demons dropped to the ground, making their bodies into steps as a third held out his hand to assist her.

"My darling followers," Alistair said grandly. "A few days ago, the Rebels attacked in an attempt to eradicate me." She laughed. "That night, I captured their leader. However, due to some incompetent fools, I lost the Children. Well, tonight, I have them all!"

She gestured and Spike bit the inside of his cheek when he saw Buffy, Oz, Willow, Cordelia, Xander, Angel and Giles shoved forward to the edge of the crowd directly across the room from him. Each of them had chains wrapped around their arms, pinning them to their sides, their wrists tightly manacled together. Angel, Xander and Willow were barely staying on their feet, their injuries far more grievous than those of the others.

"Where is the Crystal?" Alistair asked, after the excitement died down.

"Here, my Lord," a scarlet-colored humanoid said, stepping forward from the north part of the crowd.

Time slowed down as the events that occurred next went into motion. Spike met Buffy's eyes across the room, as the humanoid started to walk toward Alistair, holding the Crystal of Rathra in his hand. I love you, he mouthed, then dropped his gaze the same instant he dropped the manacles he had been holding behind his back.

His bare feet made no sound as he sprinted across the open ground. The knife gleamed as he dove into a roll, scooping it up with the non-broken fingers in his left hand. He rose fluidly to his feet and threw it with all his might at the high windows on the north wall. Without stopping, he took another step forward and punched the scarlet humanoid across the jaw.

He stepped back, grabbed the Crystal with his left hand and his right foot flew up in a round-kick, hitting the humanoid in the nose. His opponent staggered backwards, blood spurting from his face, releasing the Crystal.

Spike raised his hand in the air the same time the knife went through the corner of the blackened window. The glass shattered and a single beam of sunlight streamed into the museum. It struck the Crystal of Rathra, as well as his hand, and rainbow of colors shot from the sphere. He did not move as flames ignited on his hand and began traveling down his arm.

Alistair let out a ear-shattering scream as the prism of light hit her body. Blue fire suddenly engulfed her. Her skin became liquified and began running off of her body. Muscles and tendons melted away, exposing her bones and the organs beneath. Her eyeballs shriveled as they burned, falling back into her skull.

Spike grasped the Crystal with his other hand, keeping it in the beam of sunlight, as the orange-yellow fire burning him caused his left arm to drop uselessly. His face still held its cold, stoic countenance as he stared at Alistair, despite the flames spreading quickly down his own body. Other screams joined in, as the demoness' followers decided to flee the museum, trampling each other to get to the doors.

A wail of indescribable agony rose from the disintegrating bones of Alistair. The jaw of her skull had dropped open and her head was thrown backwards as a black column of dark energy exploded out of her mouth. It smashed straight through the ceiling, sending mortar and structuring down into the room. The walls of the museum began to shake, cracking from the pressure and raining stone down upon those trying to make their escape.

A large wind whipped through the main hall, as the museum collapsed in on itself. It hit Alistair's bones, shattering them into a million dust particles. The Crystal of Rathra shone brightly in the sunlight for an instant more, painting a rainbow prism on the grey tumbling walls.

Then it fell unheeded to the floor, rolling forward a few feet before stopping, its clear planes reflecting nothing more than a collapsing museum.



Epilogue



Hundreds of candles flickered, lighting up the faces of those who held them. The back yard of the mansion was filled with both humans and non-humans alike, their expressions all similarly etched with grief. Quiet crying could be heard, the normal sounds of the darkness silent, as if the night was grieving, as well.

An old woman dressed in tattered rags stepped forward and placed handful of rose petals in front of a simple, white cross that sat on the lawn. She turned and faced those in the yard, her voice clear and strong.

"We are present tonight to pay homage to all those who gave their lives in the fight against Alistair," Minix said. "Each and every one fought not for recognition, or money, or power. They fought for freedom, for happiness, for life. And because of their sacrifice, we stand here today, free from Alistair's reign."

Minix gestured to the white cross. "Let this symbol be a reminder to all of the men and women, humans and non-humans, who have died in order for you to live. The road ahead will not be easy and many more will join their compatriots in the afterlife, as we work to rebuild what Alistair has destroyed. But no one will ever be forgotten.

"There is one man who I wish to single out this night," she continued. "One man who was there in the beginning, who built up the resistance from eight to eight million world-wide. A man who gave everything and took nothing in return. One who believed he was nothing special, who believed he was an ordinary soulless vampire who just didn't know when to quit.

"He was there at the end, holding up the Crystal of Rathra in the sunlight, despite being a vampire, to destroy Alistair once and for all. A true hero is not one who does something because he has to or because he's been asked to or because there is no one else in which to turn. No, a true hero is someone who goes against the very grain of his being because he knows it is the right thing to do.

"Many of you have known this man as 'Beast,' a few have known him by his name, and even fewer still have known him as a friend. He only allowed two people to become close to him, one he called sire, the other he called love. However, he touched all of us by his selflessness and devotion to creating a better world for us all."

A slight breeze kicked up and the rose petals lifted off the ground and danced in the air. The mourners watched in awe as they climbed higher and higher towards the night sky until they disappeared from sight. When they returned their eyes to Minix, they saw a man standing there instead, his arm over a petite woman's shoulders, a tall man at his other side, both of them supporting him. The moonlight played over his scarred features, glinting off his white-blond hair, as he looked out over the group with his bright blue eyes.

"I'm no hero," he said, his quiet, accented voice carrying through the yard. "You are, for going out day after day and risking your lives for what bloody well was a hopeless cause until recently, all because I instructed you to do so. You've seen your chums die, your loved ones, your children but you still kept fighting. And because of that, Alistair is rotting in hell where she belongs. You all are the heros, not me. I'm only a soddin' vampire who fell in love with a vampire Slayer many, many years ago."

The applause was quiet at first, but then it steadily grew, as the trio made their way back through the men and women towards the mansion. Candles were blown out, and the mourners followed inside to gather again and celebrate life and those lives who had been laid to rest.

A short while later, seven individuals gathered in a closed library and hugged each other tightly.

"We did it," Xander said.

"Barely," Buffy added.

"I seem to recall it was Spike who 'did it,'" Giles pointed out.

"We kinda got caught," Oz said.

"Technicalities," Xander said.

"Well, I for one am scarred for life," Cordelia complained. "Did you see how Alistair died? That whole skin-melting thing was worse than watching Xander dance."

"I don't know whether to say thank you or hit you," Xander said.

"Don't even think about hitting her," Angel growled, putting his arm around Cordelia's shoulder.

"Boy, someone needs to get laid," Willow whispered to Oz.

"Is that an offer?" Oz whispered back with a small grin.

"I'd hate to run already, but if I don't get back downstairs to the hospital before they change Spike's bandages, we'll be short several nurses," Buffy said.

"He can eat Helga," Xander suggested. "I don't think anyone would mind."

"Not I," Giles muttered quietly.

"Tell Spike we're thinking of him," Cordelia said. "And remembering all the times we were in the hospital because of the Beast."

"Good point, Cord," Xander said.

"I second that one," Willow said.

"Me, three," Oz added.

Buffy smiled. "I have to agree with you, too. Then again, if it wasn't for him...," she trailed off, as she left the library.

"So, do you think we'll see her again in the next millennia?" Xander asked.

"Doubt it," Angel replied. "I think Buffy and Spike are going to be spending a lot of time together."

"Speaking of spending time together," Cordelia said, looking up at him. "We have a room full of things to put away."



"That's right, we do, don't we," Angel replied, catching her wink. They headed out of the library.

"Don't we have some repairs to make on the cage?" Willow asked Oz innocently.

"Big time," Oz replied. They smiled at Xander and Giles, then left as well.

Xander and Giles exchanged glances, then Xander threw up his hands. "Go already. Find Illiana and do things that I want to be doing."

"Goodnight, Xander," Giles said, giving him a small bow before leaving.

Xander sighed, then shook his head and left the library, shutting off the lights behind him. "I really need to dig up those Anyanka books..."



In the beginning
Good always overpowers the evils
Of all man's sins...



End



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