Spike in the City Of Angels, Episode 3:


In Hope Of A New Beginning


by John Cope



Part Fourteen



All in all Wesley was having a bad week.

Going back to England hadn't actually been as traumatic as he had expected. He had been tendered every consideration for his injuries and been given a nice comfortable office next to the reference library. "Hard luck old chap," everyone had said sympathetically. "Hope you have better luck next time."

Of course being English Wesley had understood what it all meant, he had failed therefore he would sit in his nice safe office job until he died or hell froze over. With that in mind the true translation of his colleagues' words was easy. "Poor old Wyndham-Pryce, he'll never get another Slayer for as long as he lives, one gone evil, one mutinied....terrible poor show."

Even more significant was the reaction of Quentin Travers every time that he saw Wesley. Quentin had sacked Giles despite the view of some of the younger Council members that he was doing a good job and replaced him with his favourite and the whole thing had gone to hell costing Travers a great deal of his influence. He was not at all pleased

Now when they passed around the building all they would exchange would be a grunted "Good morning," or "Good afternoon." Gone were the days of being asked it to discuss points of strategy of being groomed for command.

But Wesley didn't care.

He had at first considered forgetting his promise to Giles to look for clues and settling down to enjoy being paid to do nothing, it wasn't as if the chap would actually blackmail him after all. If the Watcher's Council found out that Buffy had been turned they would undoubtedly use all the power at their disposal to ensure her destruction. Giles would keep the matter quiet of that he was sure.

Laughing conversations that cut off as soon as he entered the room, grins and whispering in the canteen as the Watchers who he had studied with watched him eat his meals alone, the hard stares of the Council members every time they saw him got the message home quite clearly. "Couldn't you have had the good grace to die?" They all spurred him to hit back as best he could.

So he had taken to studying the works that were so readily available to him from the huge complex of shelving that began just outside his door.

The fate of Slayers. Killed and eaten by a variety of hideous monsters, slain by vampires, murdered by human prowlers as they walked city streets alone at night. Disappeared entirely without trace the list was endless, the careers mostly heartbreakingly brief.

It was not particulary pleasant reading.

Turned Slayers were rare though. Totally unheard of in modern times with the power of them so entrenched in vampire myth that no one dared to risk the wrath of their brethren and turn a Slayer no matter how desirable she might be. Some vampiric legends even had it that the blood of a Slayer was unlucky no matter what its potency. Hence broken necks for the lucky and anything from branding irons to railroad spikes to those who met a less sudden crueller fate.

But he had found his first Vampire Queen in the Watchers Library.

After Jaqueline it had been easier, a cross reference had led him to the Don. He had avidly read the reprinted works in the library but unfortunately it contained only selected works, the schism that had torn the watchers organization apart in the Sixteenth Century ran deep, and Don Diego was not highly regarded in either shelf space or repute in London even though his Slayer had been one of the finest Slayers among the English girls who had been Chosen .

Her portrait hung on the library wall, a very beautiful girl indeed, and virtually the only Slayer who's image was displayed anywhere within the building. After all they were just the foot soldiers, it was the Watchers who made all the difficult decisions.

There were a hell of a lot of depressing looking portraits in these unhallowed halls.

Madrid therefore beckoned. Wesley wrote out and sent up a request for study leave he did not expect for a second that it would be rejected.

Chaps will do as they're told to an extent but there were a number of Watchers in the building who had gone to the same school and university as him and couldn't cut him off completely from their society.

"Honestly Wynder's old chap to say that there are rumblings about you upstairs is an understatement, Travers positively loathes you." Wesley sat in one of the comfortable leather armchairs in the gentleman's club four doors down from Watchers headquarters across from Phillip Farrar-Hockley or Hocker's to his chums, they had been in the same dorm at Prep School. "The sooner we get the little sod...err sorry old man...out of here the better."

"Is that so?" Wesley gave his best Brosnan smile as he absorbed that information and then added nonchalantly. "Any further developments over Faith?"

And Hocker's had told him because after all there was no way Windy Wyndham-Price would ever dream of risking betraying his master's confidences.

Travers had signed the leave docket with a smile. "A years leave, do you think you could persuade the useless idiot to take two?"

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Madrid had been interesting, so had Rome.

All Watchers by nature were stuffy but the British were the worst. Therefore the recently enlightened by California, Wesley felt a certain degree of liberation to be amongst his European colleagues. Their outlook on life was different and so very refreshing, and though rumours of his failure did circulate he was treated with a good deal of respect all the same Watchers who had actually worked with a Slayer being so much rarer out of the United Kingdom.

His searches bore fruit and soon he had acquired all the information he needed to cure Buffy except the actual cure. All that knowledge that the Don had recorded and wouldn't it just be the case that the one volume that held the necessary information was the one he couldn't find.

It was all in all rather depressing.

Still he didn't give up, there was bound to be a copy of the missing volume somewhere and all he had to do was find it.

Vienna, Oslo, Copenhagen, St Petersburg he visited the Council's offices in all of them and wandered through their archives. He began to become astounded at the sheer volume of paperwork the organization had accumulated. "No wonder it's so bloody difficult to find anything, haven't they ever heard of scanners or for that matter microfilm?"

Paris however was a different story.

Chiefly for it's librarian.

Nicole was twentyish with long black hair and brown eyes. Add to that intelligence, wit, pale unblemished skin and a fine athletic figure and he was interested to say the least . But not half as much as she seemed to be in him.

She had him in her bed within four days of their acquaintance beginning. He hadn't even realized she was making the first move until she came back out of her flat's kitchen in a see-through teddy and stockings, bearing a bottle of chilled champagne and two glasses in her hands and proceeded to make herself comfortable on his quaking knees.

Wesley had known exactly where to look.

So a couple of weeks had passed without any work being done. Sometimes during sex she shouted out "Oh Pierce." But he didn't hold that against her she was undoubtedly the most interesting person he'd met in along time and that was probably why his concentration lapsed and he did he did a very stupid thing.

With Nicole's help he had been working his way through documents stolen by the French from Madrid during their occupation under Napoleon. He found a list of destinations to which copies of the first print run of the Don's collected works had been sent by the Inquisition.

One Father Vasquez De Faletori had been the furthest flung recipient. His location -- the mission station at El Boca Del Inferno. Just established and already a breeding ground for tales of horror as the early settlers faced not just the native populations anger but also creatures of the night thought to be virtually unknown in the Americas. Vampyr.

Normally he would have photocopied the evidence and taken it to a library with fax facilities and there sent it to Giles but he had a dinner date with Nicole so he'd scanned the document instead and e-mailed it from her desk. "Go and look in the Mission or in the City archives old man," had been the simple instructions he'd attached.

Corporations tend to take a dim view of the Internet and check into its users within their organization.

Sometimes e-mails don't go straight out of the office but are checked in an IT department first to make sure their content is business connected.

But Wesley's e-mail was sent, though not to it's intended destination.

Quentin Travers had a very interesting read indeed.

The next day when Wesley arrived in the library he found Nicole's desk empty and three men standing beside it.

Three large men in suits.

Three men from a far lower strata of British society than Wesley, for like any organization of it's type the council needs a few rough working class types to serve as enforcement and these gents were it.

Taking in broad necks and shoulders and the scar, the leader had running from his mouth down to his chin Wesley turned to run. But then an old acquaintance another former fellow student Marcus Albany suddenly popped out of an aisle between him and the door. "Windy old chap what a delight to see you."

"Errrr ah Marcus how nice...." Wesley took in the superior grin on his fellow Watcher's face and realized that somehow he'd been rumbled. "Anything I can do for you fellows?"

"You'll be amazed to here that dear old Mr Travers misses you." Marcus saw the fear in Wesley's eye's and reveled in it. "Yes old boy he wants you back in the fold...right now."

As the muscle moved in menacingly, Wesley tried to buy himself some time. There was no way out of here but if he could get out onto the street. "Certainly old man, happy to oblige what say we wander back to my hotel for my passport right now?"

"No need for that Windy, some of our chaps are ransacking said room..." He looked at his watch. "Right this minute by the time we get you to the airport and our private jet they'll be there to meet us."

Hard hands closed on Wesley's shoulders and the will to resist drained away.

Marcus led the way not bothering to look back as he went on. "Best get along then hadn't we, after all it don't do to keep the old boy waiting."

*****

"Well, well." Travers put down the report and, taking off his reading glasses, stared across his desk at the terrified looking Watcher handcuffed to the chair in front of him. "We have been busy haven't we?"

"What with the pitiful amount of work you passed me I had to do something to pass the time." Wesley knew he was in a world of trouble but since the time hadn't yet come for begging thought that a bold front was the best idea. "It's just a research project."

"With Rupert Giles?" Travers arched a brow. "A man who despite my express orders to the contrary you allowed to effectively continue as a Watcher, a man who I have no doubt was responsible for Ms Summers decision to turn her back on centuries of tradition and stop working for us. What pray tell would you possibly have to discuss with him?"

"An academic matter." Wesley replied the excuses coming easily enough. "We are simply attempting to find the lost volume of Don Diego Luis de Argotta's Sixteenth century work on vampires. I think it will be to the mutual benefit of both our operations and his."

Travers smiled and looked over towards the scar-faced man who was standing by the window. "Hit him, Jason."

"Certainly, sir." Jason was six feet tall, his hair close cropped on his head and to say he looked menacing was an understatement. His suit might be from the cheap end of Saville Row but the scars on his knuckles spoke of back alley fights and the scar below his mouth of a bottle.

There were any number of ways out of the East End for a boy without academic qualifications -- the army, armed robbery, boxing, acting lessons and a job as a TV hardman, gangsterism, soccer or working for the toffs on the Watchers council. The last paid well, the Council got its expense priorities right, no money for new weapons but plenty for the men who had to go out after the vampires, there weren't Slayers to chase and who were to dangerous for the upper classes to face.

Jason was different though. He also handled problems relevant to indiscipline within the Watchers own ranks.

"Now hold on there's no need..." Seized by his tie, Wesley was pulled viciously up from his chair, the handcuffs dug into his wrists even as a cold calculated jab slammed a fist into his right cheek. Pain lanced through him and he slumped back fighting desperately again the urge to scream.

"There is every need." Travers was surprised that Wesley wasn't already confessing, indeed the young man almost seemed to look up at his words with defiance on his face. "There are some curious rumours circulating Wesley, reports of a turned Slayer, reports of powerful vampires and demons dying bloody deaths at the hands of a Vampire Queen and her undead servants, and you and our dear friend Rupert are searching for the only known recording of a cure for a such a vampiress." Travers spread his hands out expansively. "You must be able to understand my interest."

"Oh I say is that what's in it?" Wesley wasn't a very good actor and knew it he was going to be broken but couldn't help trying to get one barb home first. "Important piece of information that. It was a bloody silly thing to lose wasn't..." Jason's fist cut off the "It."

"I see you intend to be stubborn." Travers had a look of undisguised contempt for his former favourite on his face. "I'm surprised, you have a reputation for cowardice throughout your whole life, but now in this unworthy cause suddenly you intend to try to play the hero! Why is that?"

"You can only let your friends down so often and still have the will to live." Wesley saw the smile that crossed Jason's face and knew he would break sometime in the next two minutes. Better make the most of it then. "And let's face facts, who but an utter moron who couldn't be left to run a piss up in a brewery would have sent me out to the Hellmouth in the first place?"

"Mixing with our Colonial cousins made a man of you?" Travers took the insult with a smile, he had the measure of his man now even if originally he had misjudged him so badly. "You might still achieve a position of some responsibility in this organization if you co-operate, if you don't..." The shrug was dismissive. "Jason show our young friend the alternative."

"Steel." Jason held out a hand to a rat faced individual standing at the back of the office. Five foot six with scraggly hair and a goatee he looked almost more afraid of Jason that Wesley was. "Now cloth ears!"

"Sure fing Jase...." The sidekick flinched as if from a blow. "I mean boss."

The knife in his hand Jason held the blade up in front of Wesley's face. "Switch blade, nice and clean so you don't need to worry about infection, and it'll leave nice neat scars, not like mine at all."

The words "Please make him stop" began to form in Wesley's mind but he held them back, looking all the same at the ragged scar on Jason's face.

"Of course there's a lot of girls who go for a boat like this in my neck of the woods, but I don't reckon the La-did-dah sorts you go with will think much of the way your gonna look once I'm finished with ya."

Jason took of his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. "And as for that French bird, forget it son, she might do it with every bloke in a tux who can say the line but I doubt she'll want scar tissue rubbin' against 'er inner thighs."

An uncharacteristic snort of laughter from Travers drew Wesley's eyes away from Jason's face for a second before a searing pain from his cheek drew him straight back. "Oooooow."

"Shavin' cut, just to get your attention pretty boy." Jason's fingers dug like iron into the back of Wesley's neck. Then the tip of the knife blade was pressing into the fleshy interior of Wesley's right nostril. "You don't want some very expensive plastic surgery bills son now would be a good time to talk."

*Pain, this is going to really hurt.* Wesley took a deep breath. "Buffy was turned by accident, she has her soul which is why she hasn't come over here and torn your liver out for what you put her through during Tento di Cruciamentum. I don't see why it should make any difference to you sir, why not let her just be cured?"

"And miss out on the opportunity of a millennium?" Travers stood and walked around his desk with the handcuffs key. "I'm quite prepared to forgive and forget young man if you help us get Ms Summers back in our employ."

"You mean you don't want to destroy her?" Wesley rubbed his wrists as the cuffs came off and took the handkerchief his smug torturer handed over. "But I thought..."

"An immortal Slayer, think of the time and money we'd save." Travers clicked on the intercom. "Sarah send Mr Albany in would you?" He released the button. "Do you have any idea how difficult finding the Chosen one can be? Sometimes it takes months of leg work."

"But she's a vampire. And she'll never work for you."

"Oh but she will, she has friends and family don't forget, and you'd be amazed at the means both chemical and physical we have at our disposal to change that young lady's mind. There will be some interesting questions for her too on the subject of who killed Carmichael, the answers may be very illuminating indeed." Travers turned as Albany entered the room. "Take Mr Wyndham-Price with you Marcus, if he proves unhelpful bury him somewhere. He won't be missed."

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A detailed list of questions later Wesley found himself and his baggage on the way to Heathrow. From there it was one plane after another with close companionship all the way.

He considered a screaming run for help every time they passed a public gathering but knew it wouldn't do any good. Governments could look the other way over the nightly deaths of scores of their citizens, they weren't going to lose any sleep over a dead failed Watcher.

At the LAX they were met by half a dozen earnest looking young men in black. The Initiative whatever that was and now he was sat in the back of a van in Sunnydale, Jason opposite him and two Watchers stood asking damn fool questions.

"No there's not, I would imagine she's planning to kill some vampires. If you're that desperate to know go ask her."

"Alright old chap." Marcus had begun top wonder if he knew Wesley anymore. "No need to get all aireated."

"I don't know why you can't leave Buffy alone." Wesley took in the warning growl from Jason but still continued. "It's not like she turned to evil, Faith is more of a villain than she ever could be but you've left her...you have left her alone haven't you?"

"Of course we have." The smiles the three men wore were identical. "After all once we've finished her....re-education Buffy is going to have to have someway of proving her loyalty. And can you think of a more fitting way than to finish what she started."

Before Wesley even had the chance to moan. "Oh god." They were interrupted by one of the earnest young Americans.

"Headlights coming this way sirs." He pointed in the direction which Wesley had been told the Slayer was situated. "It looks like a bus."

Part Fifteen

"Hold on a second, Angel, we'll soon have you out of there," Buffy whispered to the shocked, naked, still good-looking-despite-the-torture vampire. "Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back."

"Bloody hell!" A certain someone exclaimed from just behind her. "It really is the wanker, large as death and twice as ugly."

"Spike, get him out of there while I recon." Buffy heard a gasp of fear from Angel as Spike produced a set of bolt cutters from his back pack. "It's okay, he won't hurt you." But then the Slayer took a hard look at a smiling vampire. "Spike don't you dare hurt him."

"Who me?" Spike casually cut the padlock off the cell door and walked in. "Evenin' mate, let's have those chains then and we'll get you dressed before her Ladyship starts gettin' ideas."

"What the hell is going on, Spike?" A stunned befuddled Sire asked his Childe. "What the fuck are you doing with the Slayer, who's a vampire!"

"Well it's like this..."

Buffy faded the rest of the conversation and the clattering arrival of Dave Eddings out as she headed forward towards the cell where the livestock on the Master's little farm was kept. Still no trace of any guards and none of humans either, except one corpse lying in the rotten straw just through the wide open cage door.

"Bite me!"

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"Er.....hullo, Cordelia." Spike was very glad that Cordie was facing the wall and had all her bits covered by hair or arms. He'd hate to see anything that might make being in the same office with the girl embarrassing. "I'll just get you out of this, eh' luv?"

"Please." Cordelia didn't know what the hell to think, these were vampires weren't they? But then the chain was cut and a hand was gently stroking her hair. She looked up into a smiling pair of brown eyes and a vaguely familiar voice said.

"Cordie, do you remember me, Ms Calendar? I started at the School just before you....you disappeared." Codelia sank back a little and the woman was kneeling beside her hands holding her tight as they pressed her face into a warm unvampiric shoulder. "We're here to take you home."

"Home.....?" Cordelia was to stunned to think, to understand what the word meant almost. Suddenly another familiar voice broke in.

"Here ya go." Larry was standing in the doorway holding out a set of sweat pants and a tee-shirt plus trainers. "Bet she complains about the color."

"Larry!" Jenny glared at him. "Cordelia's a little naked unless you've not noticed."

"What?" Larry put the clothes on top of the shoes and then on the ground. "You'd rather I was in the cell with the nude guy?"

"Go help Buffy." Jenny picked up the pants and held them out to Cordelia. "Come on, Cordelia, put these on."

"What are they?"

"They're clothes Cordelia." Jenny saw the confusion in the girls eyes and thought her heart would break. "Oh god you poor thing what have they done to you?"

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"Come on damn it, we don't have all fucking night!" Buffy had morphed again, and her demoness was in full voice, impatient for the slaughter to begin. "Spikes please go see what's keeping them."

"Ok." Two vampires exchanged glances as they spoke in stereo again, then turned to head back, nearly bumping into Giles on the way.

"Sorry Buffy we're having a bit of trouble getting Cordelia dressed but we're almost ready now."

"Waddya mean we?" Buffy looked at Giles in a way he'd never before experienced. "I hope you guys arn't letching on that poor girl."

"What the....?" Giles could only manage to say as Buffy stormed past him so instead he had to talk to the two identical vamps and they were loving his expression he could tell. "Is she always so forthright?"

"It's her demoness," Tweedle Dee explained.

"Leaves her a bit foul-minded sometimes," continued Tweedle Dum. "But we like her, though."

"This really has been a funny old week."

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"Angel you ok?" She saw the fear in his eyes as she faced him and remembered once again to adopt her human face. "Sorry, you feeling strong enough to get Cordelia out of here?"

"I'm fit enough to fight with you." Angel had a look of pleading in his eyes. "I have so much to pay those bastards back for."

"You're not strong enough." Buffy saw the hurt in his eyes as the truth sank in, he had no reason to live except maybe one. "Can you really ask me to leave Cordelia here alone? Take a stake each and a cross and get her out to safety. And be careful where you stand in your new shoes."

"I noticed that." Angel bowed his head defeated. "I'll make sure she gets out ok then I'm coming back."

A group of smelly guys were all standing with their backs turned to Cordelia whilst Jenny, Amber and Lysette dressed the girl. "You bout ready?" Buffy asked looking in through the cell doors.

"Yes." Jenny stood up from tying Cordie's shoelaces. "Ok dear the numbers on your hand, when you get out ring it from the nearest payphone and Mr Fitch will send a van for you."

"Ok, will you promise me they'll be nice people?" Cordie was almost shaking. She hadn't been let out of the building in all the time of her captivity. "I don't know if I like strangers."

"They'll be nice, off you go with Angel now there's a good girl." Buffy suppressed her tears, she was getting good at that in this world. "We'll kill all those other vamps for you, we promise."

Not looking back Buffy started getting her troops moving. "Come on people let's get going before they realize we're down here."

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"The audacity of that girl." The Master had been wondering about the source of the powerful aura he could feel and now he knew where it was coming from. "And the stupidity to come at us from our own realm!"

His laughter filled the Bronze and the prisoners chained to its walls shook just a little harder with fear.

*****

The iron gate at the end of the corridor that lead through the cellars was unlocked.

*Disturbing fact number one,* Buffy thought as she pushed the gate back. Then her first force behind her she started to climb the stairs. *But it's too late now.*

She went out onto the former dance floor first with the Spikes and the two cops behind her. The others lined the stairwell ready to come on. The entrance being so narrow there was no point trying to all come out at once. Better to lead a small group up first to open a way for the others to come through, the three vampires were the strongest in the party and the two cops the best armed.

All the same it was the part of the plan that worried Buffy most.

But the room was empty of vampires, there were a lot of chained up crying humans but not a creature of the night to be killed.

"Oh shit!" Buffy whispered, dropping her left hand to her side. She held it palm outwards to her friends telling them to stay back out of the obvious trap. She however stepped out, crossbow held firmly out in front of her in her right hand.

"Where are you?" She shouted. "Here Master, don't be shy, we only wanna kill ya!"

"I don't like the look of this mate," Altie whispered to Spike. "They're in here somewhere."

"If they're not down they must be..." Spike wheeled and aimed his crossbow at the balcony even as Buffy did the same but the score of vampires about to throw themselves off the structure weren't about to stop for the loss of just two of their number. Screaming they slammed down onto the party below.

A vampire landed heavily on Dave's shoulders smashing the cop into the ground. Rolling clear, the vampire locked his clawed hands around the mans head and using his full demonic strength twisted forcefully and snapped his neck.

Seymour just managed to sidestep the vamp that went for him but still got knocked onto his back. The vampire jumped back upright and raised a booted foot to crush the cops skull with a footstamp. It never landed as Gerry's shotgun roared sending its solid round straight into the vampire's groin to tear up through the creatures torso and out with a gout of blood and flesh from its neck. Thrown back, the vampire slammed crippled into the wall. Before Gerry could get up however another vampire dove on him driving him back onto the floor.

Spike managed to bring his arms up and deflect the vampiress that was jumping on him but he was driven to his knees. He heard a satisfying crack, however, as the vamp who landed badly broke her leg. He threw his crossbow at her and grabbed for a stake.

Then disaster struck as another vampire came down behind him and clawed fingers closed round his neck. Spike felt the vertebra in his neck grate as the vampire tried to twist his head clean off his shoulders.

Altie was further in and by jumping back succeeded in avoiding the dropping vampires, indeed the one that landed directly in front of him died a second after its boots slammed into the dance floor with a crossbow bolt through its chest. Altie pulled stakes from his belt and whirled to face two more vamps who headed straight for him, stakes of their own in hand, circling to strike.

Buffy's katana whirled through the air keeping three vampires at bay she held the blade one handed whilst drawing a stake with the other. The length of wood sailed through the air and took the vamp trying to break Spike's neck out of the fight even as one of the three vamps came in at her with a pool cue.

"Five! Just five." the Master's nostrils flared with rage. "Is this all I'm worth to these wretched mortals? JUST FIVE!"

"Go my children, kill them all." Signaling to left and right, the Master sent his minions running for the stairs. Chuckling he turned back to the battle. "Now let's see what this Slayer can do."

Buffy's sword blade slid down the length of the cue slicing through flesh and bone so that the cue dropped with the fingers holding it just a centimeter before it could drive into her chest.

A flash of iron made her duck to avoid a swung crow bar. Though she moved like lightening the blunt instrument still caught her shoulder a glancing blow. "Ow! Who said...." Her sword blade flashed and was parried. "Metal can't....." She dropped below a wild swing that just missed her head and thrust her sword forward. "Hurt vampires!" The sword blade twisted through the vampires heart destroying it and reducing the vamp to a pile of dust.

Altie blocked a stake driven hard for his chest with his left forearm, the leather of his duster protecting his flesh. He feinted with the stake in his right hand, drawing the vampires guard up, and was about to slam his boot up into the creatures unprotected groin when a shoulder slammed into his as another vampire charged into him sending him sprawling with the vamp on top.

Officer Seymour was on the ground wrestling with the vampire above him for possession of the shotgun. He was losing

Spike saw a kick coming straight for his face, moving a lot faster than his attacker, anticipated he caught the foot in two clawed hands and twisted hard. Off balance from the kick the screaming attacker was thrown off balance and hit the deck hard. Spike rose above her, stake poised to strike only to have his wrist grabbed from behind, looking back into a set of yellow eyes and at a poised stake.

Then the tableau froze.

The Master felt the power emerge from the girl and his jaw dropped. "No, it cannot be!"

"What's happened to them all?" Darla whispered as she stared at the vampires frozen on the stairs and on the dance floor below. "Has she the...?"

The Master did not answer he just drew in his will and sent it forward like a fist straight at his opponent. "Power...no!"

Flung back, Buffy lost her grip on the vampires and almost landed on her ass, but somehow she stayed upright. "Not bad old man, wanna come down here and try that?"

"Yes, I do believe child that you are a worthy adversary. I am impressed...who would have thought it." Then the Master signaled to the vampires frozen now with fear on the stairs. "Kill her all the same."

"Why get my hands dirty when they can do it for me?"

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In the stairwell, Giles took off his glasses and put them in his jacket pocket. "You know I really think she's forgotten all about us."

Steel rasped on steel as the Watcher drew his sabre. "Come on, we can't stop here all night."

"Damn right!" Jenny readied her crossbow. "Let's go!"

And with that the vampire hunters charged up behind their leaders, weapons gleaming in their hands.

*****

The vampire above Spike turned his terrified gaze away from the Slayer. "Where was I? Ah yes killing you." The stake came back again but then stopped once more.

"Look bloody kill me if..." Spike noticed the tip of a crossbow bolt protruding from the vampire's chest just before it exploded all over him. "Thanks who ever did that, dust in me eyes just what I bloody need."

"Don't mention it." Jenny stood beside him as he brushed the vampire remnants from his face. "Would you mind fighting now please?"

"Larry, the stairs." Buffy pointed with her sword towards the right hand staircase whirling a slip second later to take down a vampire who was aiming to chase after the youth. The vamp exploded and the group about to come after him beat a hasty retreat before the Slayer's yellow eyes.

The right hand stairs had been added on since the vampires takeover of the Bronze. It ran down the wall from the balcony but there were no prisoners tied beneath or on it, just a flood of vampires coming down.

Larry pulled a molotov cocktail from his shoulder bag as he ran. It was a weapon constructed for him by the armourers of the 33rd using an old WWII text book on improvised anti-tank weapons. The bomb was fused with a grenade detonator and its contents simply petroleum jelly. Yanking the pin, Larry hurled it overarm straight into the vampires midst.

The napalm fireball swept up the stairway, the paint peeling off the metal work even as vamps dusted to left and right the second the substance touched them. Then, its source of fuel gone, the fire burned out in an instant.

"NO!" The Master screamed in rage at the sight of half his force dying, and with one mighty leap jumped over the balcony rail. *Enough of leaving it to others, if you want a job done do it yourself.*

The battle below had changed, the vampires who had come down before standing no chance against a surprise attack from behind, and falling to sword and crossbow bolt but this new threat was different.

Buffy tried to summon in her will to stop the Master in his tracks, but a trio of vampires chose that moment to summon up the courage to charge her from the left hand staircase. Their screaming attack snapped her attention back to them back to them for the vital seconds it took for their despatch.

Spike lunged for the Master as soon as he landed but his punch was blocked by the Master's left arm as if had run into a brick wall. Snarling the Master counter-punched, his right fist slamming hard into Spike's jaw. Reeling, the vampire staggered back and falling back over Eddings' body, hitting the deck hard.

Instincts on full alert and moving with surprising speed, the Master dodged a sword thrust aimed at him by Jonathan. Catching his wrist with his left hand, the Master slammed his right elbow into the teen's face, breaking his nose, then locking his sword arm ridged with both his hands snapped the boy's wrist like a twig.

"I'll take that." The sword was caught in mid-air by Hogan who slashed with his full strength at where the Master's head should have been.

Jonathan was dropped like a discarded toy as the Master dodged lightly, sending the blade whistling through empty air. His clawed hand counter thrust Hogan wild cut whistled past his claws tore across the hunter's throat and he fell back, blood pumping freely from his wounds.

The sword was caught again this time but by the Master Vampire himself. Looking round at the remaining vampire hunters he snarled low and clear. "Whose next?"

Giles was about to run forward sabre at the en garde when the vampires hanging back, unnerved by the Slayer's power and their brethrens' fiery deaths, came forward once again, three of them slamming Lysette to the ground. Whirling, Giles had at them his sword expertly plied sending dust flying as the vampires were sliced apart. Buffy was driving the vampires before her but all the time desperate to destroy her main foe.

So Oz and Devon faced the Master whilst Jenny circled for an opening to use her stake. Red eyes looked round at them. "Three against one, hardly fair." The three humans froze. "Which is why I am going to cheat?"

Struggling fiercely Jenny tried to lift her stake, to move any muscle but couldn't. The others were locked in combat with the vamps trying to get onto the dance floor. She saw Kyle kill Rhonda and thus complete his vendetta with the demons who had occupied his friends. His shout of triumph was cut short however by a table thrown from the balcony above that knocked him unconscious to the floor.

Then the Master turned his blood red eyes upon her and leaned in, fangs gleaming towards her throat. "You have defied me, you have led these meddling humans long enough, mortal, now you die."

*****

The Master felt the intrusion in his brain, another's will, another creature daring to try to interfere with his actions. Jenny was forgotten as the vampires red eyes swept across the room to settle on the Slayer. She smiled and mock curtsied, yellow eyes mocking him with their lack of fear.

"Your arrogance astounds me child, do you think you are so powerful?" The Master rested the sword blade on his shoulder and stretched out a clawed hand to her. "Submit to me now and I will still let you live, you have shown yourself worth to be so much more to me than I had planned, and as for these humans...did your mother never teach you not to be so sentimental about your food, what are they to you compared to your own kind?"

"Oh let me think about that kind offer for a second." Buffy placed the tip of her sword blade on the ground between her feet her stance relaxed even though she could almost feel her still heart beat with the heat of the tension that ran through her. "No, I think I'd rather die horribly than help you. What about it, you ugly old bastard, you and me right here and now, the winner takes all?"

"Why not?" The Master whirled the sword he held in the air, it was a little light for him but had a good balance. In life he had carried a richer weapon by far but it would do. "It is fitting that my dominion over this world should be finally established over the ashes of a Slayer such as you."

"Works for me, I wanna spit on your ashes and the sooner your dust the better I'll like it." She brought the sword up to the en garde. "Come on big boy show me what ya got!"

"I'll remember those words when your begging for your life." The Master came on sword held two handed before him.

Groggy Spike rolled to one of the abandoned crossbows, the room had gone quiet both sides watching enthralled as their leaders prepared for single combat. Spike loaded the crossbow quickly and propping himself against the wall waited, waited to see if his lover would live or die. *Kill her, you bastard, and you get this in the back, grandsire or not I'll take you down.*

The Master aimed a vicious cut at Buffy's head, her sword came up and blocked the blow with a shoulder high parry. Sparks flew as the two blades rasped along each other till the guards met. Yellow eyes locked with red. "Ever consider menthol?"

"The advantage of dominance my dear." The Master twisted his blade up and over sending his lighter opponent off balance and to his left. The sword slashed again and it was only with a grunt of effort that Buffy turned the blade. "Nobody complains how your breath smells."

"Well..." Buffy launched a counter attack her blade thrusting for the Master's groin. "If you were..." The Master leapt back parrying hard. "Any kind of gentleman..." His counter thrust nearly got through her guard, the blade brushed past her side. "You'd care about breathing..." Her boot slammed hard into the vampire's thrust out right knee. "That crap all over a lady."

"Ha, if there was one here..." Hobbling just a little, his face surfaced with fury at the low blow, he parried a cut aimed at his neck with ease, the ripost was fierce and had it landed Buffy's face would have been laid open. "I'd take the trouble..." A flurry of attacks sent Buffy retreating back toward the coffee bar. "But you're nothing but a mongrel half-humanized bitch!"

"Oh I'm hurt." Buffy side-stepped just as she was about to be rammed back against the bar. The Master launched a savage cut at her head but she ducked beneath it her own blade whistling round to slice open the vampires right thigh. "But then so are you."

"Bravo," Master managed through gripped fangs, his sword moved like lightening, Buffy frantically deflected the lunging blade from her heart and though she side stepped felt it tear the cloth of her tee and scrap like white lightening across her ribs. "You're quite the swordswoman, I think I'll kill you now."

"I try." Buffy leapt for a nearby sofa taking the Master unawares before he could spin round to attack her again she was around him and back on the dance floor. Grimly the vampire limped after her feeling the blood running down his leg and squishing in his boot. "And I got other plans than dying here."

"Oh god this is so intense." Jenny was standing beside Giles both of them willing Buffy on. "He nearly had her there."

"I know," Giles whispered reassuringly. "But he's bleeding badly, he'll weaken before she does."

All the same when Jenny's free hand drifted out toward him he took it without hesitation.

"Your poor little leg hurt?" Buffy relaxed into a fighting stance sword held to handed blade pointed rigidly towards her enemy. "You wanna give? I'll make it easy on you, you won't die screaming like the last one did."

Then she felt the Master's will close around her as he tried to slow her movements as cover while he launched a fierce attack. The Slayer grinned savagely and exerted her own powers, and the weakened vampire's hold on her disappeared.

The wild slash was aimed at her neck, Buffy parried it high her strength matched the Masters and then surpassed it as she forced his blade down and up through three hundred degrees. His guard opened before her as beads of sweat broke out on both their foreheads.

Then suddenly the Slayer's blade was striking upwards slashing viciously up the vampire's body to run its razor sharp edge into his right arm pit. The blade cut through leather and grated against the socket of his arm, suddenly nerveless fingers opened and with a harsh clatter his sword hit the ground.

"Oh look you dropped it." Buffy danced away from a vain attempt by the Master to claw her left handed. "Old guy like you must have so much trouble bending..." The sword darted out and cut into the back of the Master's already wounded leg. "Let me help you with that."

He collapsed as his leg gave way beneath him. The Master knelt there even as his minions began to slowly drift towards the club's doors. "Go on then Slayer strike your blow, get it over with."

"What your not gonna beg?" Buffy was disappointed, she morphed back to her human features the better to pout. "Not even just a little for me?"

"Childe how many more worlds do you think there are? We'll meet again." The Master watched the sword raise. "And always remember what they say, third time lucky."

"Maybe..." Buffy struck and the room filled with noise as the vampire's head flew clear and his body began to form the same vortex of ash she had seen in the library all that time ago. "Or maybe you're just a big loser everywhere. I kinda like to think so."

Turning she gave the now terrified vampires the look. "Something in particular you're waiting for?"

The doors thudded open, and as if with one mind the surviving vampires ran.

**********************************************************************************************************************

"What's the matter Angel?" Cordelia turned to the ensouled vamp who was helping her along the sewer tunnels. "Why are you smiling?"

"The Master's gone, I can't feel him anymore." Gently he hugged the fragile girl to him. "Sunnydale's saved. Buffy did it."

"So we can all be happy again." Resting her face against Angel's chest Cordelia tried hard not to start crying. "Or at least not be so sad."

"I'm gonna be here for you, Cordie." Angel remembered all those times she had tried to comfort him after torture. "Till you're well again I promise."

"Thanks, I'm gonna try to make you happy, too...somehow."

Then they turned and walked on heading for fresh air Angel swore he could smell.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Willow stopped in her tracks to the extreme relief of the tortured, unsated highly pissed off vampire hobbling behind her. He shook his head in wonder as he watched her sniff the fetid air. "How the fuck can you do that, it reeks in here?"

"They must have missed me and come looking." Willow smiled delightedly and hugged a startled Xander. "Isn't that sweet?"

"What?" Xander tentatively tried to grind his pelvis into Willows stomach hoping to get off. "Who?"

"Stop that." Willow stepped back but made no move to discipline him. "Puppy and Cordelia of course, this is gonna be such fun."


Continued

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