Spike in the City Of Angels, Episode 3:


In Hope Of A New Beginning


by John Cope



Part Twenty

Xander crawled to the end of the tree and peered round it. None of the vamps were paying much attention to his end of the position as they were to busy firing into the general area from which Buffy, Browne and Angel had engaged them.

*Ok Xander take this nice and slowly.* Cautiously he aimed his crossbow at the undefended back of a vamp who was reloading his kalashnikov, and with a smooth unhurried action, pulled the trigger. The bolt slammed home and struck its target, going straight through the vampire's heart. The creature blew apart, the rifle spinning from its disintegrating hands. Nobody saw where the shot had come from and Xander rolled back with a grin.

"Anya, gimme your crossbow." He held out his hand to his girl. "Swap with me and reload mine please."

"Sure." Anya got the plan and smiled at her boyfriend's courage and smarts as he crawled back round to draw a bead on his next vamp.

Angel, Giles and Karen hugged the ground as bullets whistled over them. They were dug in behind some undergrowth and it was fairly obvious that the vamps didn't know where they were but that didn't stop rounds coming down all around them. Firing on automatic though, the vamps were burning their ammo at a rate of knots and every now and then the pauses whilst they reloaded let the three get off fairly wild shots in return. None had hit a vampire fatally yet but there were several with crossbow bolt hits added to the injuries the mines had inflicted.

Oz and Willow were so far unobserved, both held their fire, ready to take on any vamps who might still be mobile enough to close in on their friends. Both however were tempted by target after target that opened up for them. *Come on, Buffy,* Willow though frantic at the delay. *Give us the word!*

Buffy put a bolt through the heart of a vamp who was shooting towards Giles's foxhole. Then ducked swiftly as a line of bullets threw up dirt on the slope leading up to her own entrenchment. Browne fired back and white smoke rose as his garlic filled bullets struck amongst the scattered vampires.

"This is getting a little noisy." Gunfire was echoing from around the surrounding hills Buffy expected sirens in the distance any second. "And kinda noticeable wouldn't you say?"

"I've heard louder." Browne replied recalling the Afghan artillery all those years before. "But this is Sunnydale luv, I don't think you'll catch the cozzers out 'ere till morning, law enforcement wise we're it."

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

Since none of the qualified Watchers wanted the job, Jason lead the cautious advance up the slope towards the trail. It was a rough route and involved scrambling from one tree and rock to another whilst hoping not to be seen or heard by either of the two forces fighting it out above them.

The slope was steep and small stones and earth shifted under his feet as he made the ascent the debris sliding down behind him and rattling round the feet of those who followed, he paused for breath every now and then as he waited for the others to close up.

The vampire was lying next to the tree that had broke both his legs as the plunged down from the trail. His body had taken the full force of a blast and his right side was like chopped meat but for all that having heard the Watchers coming he was attempting to crawl back to the AK-47 that was hung up on a rock a few meters above him. As Jason's head and shoulders appeared behind him he turned and tried to growl a warning with his ruined tongue.

With a smile the Quasi-Watcher took in the pathetic gesture of resistance and shouldered his dart gun.

PHUT!

The tranquilizer dart slammed into the maimed vamp's neck. Jason waited a few seconds to allow the drug to work and then went on again ignoring the vamp as he stepped over it. One of the Watchers paused to stake it as the column passed.

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Treat heard the firing dying away as his homies took hits or exhausted their ammunition. He had managed to open the M-79 one handed and reload the weapon at last. Of course that still didn't give him the position of the Slayer but still there was more than one way to break an egg.

Sighting up the slope above the area where he believed the Slayer to be hiding Treat picked out a tree. "A splinter, a branch, it don't matter I just gotta get me some luck!"

Teeth gritted against the pain Treat took careful aim and pulled the trigger of the shot barreled weapon once more.

BLOOP!

"He's even bloody further over than..." Browne managed to say before the slowly traveling grenade struck the trunk of a tree behind them. "Oh fuck."

"What?" Buffy looked round and her eyes widened at the sight of the wounded tree, its branches swaying back and to as the mortally damaged trunk began to fall. "Let's get...." She began to shout preparing to dive clear of the trench and the path of the falling tree.

Browne grabbed the girl and pulled her underneath him shouting into her ear. "We stays 'ere, go out there and they'll shoot you, we stays 'ere an 'ope's the sides of the trench 'olds, understand."

Buffy opened her mouth to shout a protest but a long drawn out rending of roots and timber drowned her out as the tree fell the air rushing through it's branches as they plummeted towards the earth.

The Slayer shut her eyes and waited. *Oh god Marty I'm never gonna see you again.*

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"Oh my god." Giles watched the tree plummet. "BUFFY!"

*****

The ground shook as the tree landed, its smaller branches shattering with the force of the impact and fragments of wood flew through the air. Dust flew from the walls of the foxhole, making Buffy cough as it covered her face, but the trench held. The breath was knocked from her as Browne collapsed down on top of her.

"Hey breathing!" She forced out through crushed lungs. "Not an issue for you but please if you wouldn't mind I'd kinda like to be able to....."

Browne gasped and twisted above her blinking Buffy looked into his twisted face. "What's wrong Browne? Are you ok?"

"I fink...." He gasped out pain obvious in his voice. "That one of the fuckin' branches is in me back."

"Oh," Buffy raised herself up a little and tried to look over Browne's shoulder. "Is it near your heart?"

"Couple of inches from it....ow." Buffy stopped her efforts to lift the vampire a little so she could see. "Sorry, ok lets think, piece of wood and vampire...this is not good."

"Thanks for tidyin' that point up for me luv." Browne felt the branch grate against his ribs and smelled his own blood in the night air. "Would you mind awfully doin' somethin' about it? I'd suddenly rather not die, it gets tedious after the first time."

"Errrr let me think.....what to do?" Buffy had the handle of a Khyber knife sticking into her gut she wriggled to try to get out from underneath and let the vampire drop down off the end of the branch but she was effectively as jammed in as the vampire. "Can't get out so I'm gonna have to....." The fingers of her right hand closed around the knife hilt and she began to slowly ease it from its sheath. "I wish I'd played Doctor when I was a kid......or surgeon in this case."

Looking at the worrying look of worry on Buffy's face, Browne gulped hard and whispered, "You're not gonna do what I fink your gonna do are you?" The knife brushed past his throat as Buffy carefully maneuvered the blade out from between their two bodies and up over his shoulder. "But you can't even see it."

"Which is why you need to shut up, hold still and let me concentrate." The knife blade moved forward. "Just scream when it hurts."

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"Oh god Buffy no!" Angel started to get up only to be pulled back by Giles, the bullets that whistled over their heads didn't deter him in the least as, morphing, he tried again to pull clear to charge over to Buffy's aid. "Let me go to her, Giles!"

"You're going to get us all killed." Giles shouted in his ear as he somehow held the vamp down. "Marking our position for that bloody grenade launcher."

"Guys." Karen fired her crossbow and ducked back not seeing the vampire she'd targeted explode. "Could you fight now and argue later please?!"

"Sorry Karen of course we'll join in." Nervously Giles let the vampire go. "After all if any of these holes will stand up to a tree landing on them it's the one Browne dug. Buffy's sure to be alright......our own as well as the alternate world's."

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"OW!!"

"Sorry."

"That was me not the bloody tree!"

"Yeah......I guess it did feel kinda soft. You want me to try again?"

"I s'pose but for pity's sake could you be a bit more bleedin' careful."

"Ok."

"OW!!!!"

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Oz looked at Willow and back at the trail. "It's enough."

"What's enough?" Willow was nervously waiting for someone to tell them to get in on the fight but no signal came from Giles or Buffy. "Oh you mean the waiting? Shall we help out now?"

"I think we should." Oz smiled as he gently put his hand on Willows shoulder. "The time's right."

"Darn tootin," Willow brought her bow to her shoulder. "We need to save the day, think you can get the guy crawling past Treat if I shoot the one behind him."

"Yeah!" Oz fleetingly wished he had his longbow, but sited the crossbow anyway. Lying down was better for this kind of war.

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"Ow!"

"The knife never touched you, you big baby, god your makin' a mountain out of one tiny little mole hill."

"The effin' branch is rippin' a fuckin' gi-bloody-normous 'hole in me back luv. And at the rate your twistin' it about it's goin' to be big enough to stick yer bloody fist in by the time you're through."

"Euuuugh as if I'd want to stick any part of my anatomy in a damn vampire, who do ya think I am....your boss?"

"That's not a very nice tone to take about Buffy...Buffy."

"Look can we just get this fucking branch out of you and go do some killing, I got tension to ease from being pinned under a tree and an overweight vampire."

"Overweight!?!"

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Bullets sending splinters of wood flying past him Xander threw himself behind the tree trunk. "Ooops."

"They saw you?" Anya paused in her loading and burrowed in behind the reassuringly solid mass of wood. "Well, you got four of them, I figure they're down to their last few vamps."

"Yeah they are." Xander answered grimly. "With assault rifles, so isn't this still fun. Buffy's under a tree we're all sitting here while she could be hurt real bad up there....and she isn't even the Buffy I'm friends with."

"She's still the same girl, Xander." Anya felt a pang of something....jealousy? But dismissed it Xander loved her of that she was sure. "And we'll save her.....assuming we can save ourselves first that is."

"Great, just what I needed to hear......"

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Treat loaded another 40 millimeter shell into the launcher, his blood loss was beginning to make his hands shake but he began to turn slowly.

"Bitch your boy gets the next one, hope you like chopped liver cause that's all he and your friends is gonna be after this hits em."

Shakily he started to aim trying to stop the barrel of the weapon from weaving from side to side.

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

There was a loud snap as the branch broke off Buffy hastily flicked it free with the knife blade and Browne wriggled clear.

"Allah the all merciful blessings be upon your name." He gasped out thankful to still be undead and loving it.

"Excuse me." Buffy gave the vampire the look and Browne had to admit the scar made her even more intimidating than the Buffy he was used to. "How about blessing's on my name you ingrate."

"Thanks." He held out his hand. "Now give us the knife 'ere and cover yer eyes."

"What?" Buffy brought the point of the blade up menacingly. "Care to repeat that, don't think your replenishing your bloodloss here you old......."

"I'm gonna cut Treat to pieces very slowly and dearie your far to young to watch it." Browne flinched a little as he felt the blood running down his back. "That is if I doesn't bleed to death first."

Part Twenty-One

Checking the chambers of their dart guns to make sure they were loaded and that the gas pressure was correct, the Watchers crouched a few meters down the slope, waiting to go on.

"Don't kill any of them." Jason had been surprised to hear that order issued. Normally the Watcher's Council didn't have that much concern for human life, especially other peoples. Buffy's friends, however, seemingly counted as good guys, and so their lives were, if possible, not to be taken. Even Angel was deemed unworthy of destruction, though the unsouled Spike and Browne were another matter. *So at least we get to kill someone.*

Eyes were darting nervously about under the balaclavas, dry lips were being licked and Jason rapidly got the message his comrades were obviously shit scared. *Just what I needed, a gang of toffee nosed ponces and mysterious teens. The Initiative, what the fuck is that?*

Now, however, they had come to the interesting point, the point at which somebody was going to have to stand up and lead the buggers forward over the rise that lead onto the track and its various armed potential assailants.

Jason contemplated the Watchers, wondering if any of them might take the lead and knowing full well that they would leave it up to him. He was expendable just like the Slayers, after all the Watchers couldn't go risking their lives now could they?

*Rupert Giles is the best of the bloody lot of them and that's why they hate 'im.* Jason smiled ruefully. *Pity they'll probably break the poor bloke slowly for it.*

"Well," Albany whispered. "What are we waiting for?"

*You to find your bollocks.* Jason thought giving the Watcher a long hard stare. Albany broke eye contact first but all the same the enforcer rose and said quite simply, "Follow me!"

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Buffy wriggled up a little to a position from which she could see through the tree branches. The vamps were thinned out a lot from what they had been but Treat was still there, the M-79 still in his hands, as he tried to find the strength to aim it.

"That is one used-up vamp." Buffy raised her own crossbow. "Hey asshole!"

"You still with us bitch?" Treat got a steady hand fast as with a grin he started to bring the grenade launcher back round to aim at her. "You all soon won't be, you ain't gonna hurt me with that thing."

"Kevlar, neat trick Treat." Buffy took a very deliberate aim and loosed her shaft just as the barrel of the grenade launcher swung into view. "Pity that..." The bolt sped through the air and lanced into Treat's right forearm just behind the wrist the metallic tip drove through flesh and blood vessels to shatter bone as it pierced its way to lodge in the vampires elbow. "You were too cheap to buy the arm guards, too."

Blood ran from Treat's face as he bit his lip to stop from screaming, his eyes clouded as he came close to fainting but somehow he stayed conscious and staring at the Slayer. Suddenly a fact struck him like a hammer, her heart was beating he could hear it even through eardrums that were still ringing from the exploded bombs.

"Hell girl you're alive." Treat let the M-79 slip from his crippled fingers and drop to the ground beside him. Then reached over with his left hand. "Lets see what we can do bout that."

"Shit." Buffy looked down at her empty crossbow then back up at two more vamps who struggled to their knees, rifles coming up with them. "Bolts."

Buffy cursed the tree branches around her as she tried to squeeze back down to reach the crossbow bolt quivers that lay amid the debris at the bottom of the trench. Browne was furiously hacking at the branches that had pinned his weapons to the ground. "Oh!"

Buffy looked back at three smiling vampires and was about to make one last pun when a lot of stuff happened at once.

The two vamps either side of Treat disappeared, the crossbow bolts that had killed them hitting the ground alongside their guns. Treat lost the broad grin he was sporting but the M-79 held steady as the Vampire began to squeeze the trigger left handed.

Black clad figures suddenly poured up the slope in a rush leaping in amongst the vampires still remaining undead on the trail. Buffy's eyes widened at the sight of these intruders on her battle and the affect their dart guns had on her adversaries. "Wow, I gotta say loving this alternate dimension. Just when you think you're gonna die along come the good guys to save you...always assuming these are good guys?"

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"The Cavalry!" Xander exclaimed standing up with a grin as he surveyed the sleeping vamps. "The Cavalry, who called for the Cavalry? I'm supposed to be the Cavalry round here, not mysterious guys in black!"

"Maybe it's the FBI?" Anya stood up beside him. "In which case I'd have to add finally."

"True as a tax payer I'm thinkin' it's about time someone else saved the world, and maybe started paying me a salary." Xander vaulted over the tree trunk and walked forward hand outstretched. "Hi guys, damn good save there."

Two of the strangers turned and faced him dart guns firmly held out before them aiming at both Xander and Anya.

"Hey!" Xander stepped back the hand dropping to his side. "Mortal! No need to point that thing at me."

"Actually there is." An English accented voice replied Xander's eyes widened with shock at the implication of the man's nationality.

"Oh shi......"

Phut!

"Damn!"

Xander stared at the red feathered flights of the dart that was sticking out from his chest before his head went back and he toppled over to land at Anya's feet, she looked down at him, too stunned to even think of running.

"What the hell?"

Suddenly remembering the loaded crossbow she still carried Anya tried to bring it up to fire only to feel a stabbing pain lance through her right shoulder as the second dartgunner fired. Her senses reeled under the assault of the drug it carried and she silently slumped to the ground beside Xander.

"Americans, so ready to take things on face value." The Watcher gave the two bodies a gentle prod with his toe before turning to his companion and flashing him a cold smile. "No offence old chap."

"None taken." Riley replied even as his mind raced with the memory of the pain he'd felt for weeks after Xander broke his jaw. A look of the most savage hatred crossed his face as he slammed his boot into the teen's ribs. "None taken at all."

"Yes, you know we're not actually supposed to be doing that." The Englishman stepped in to prevent a second kick. "On our side, remember, even if misguided by a turncoat."

"Personal matter." Riley stepped back all the same because he was under strict orders from Professor Walsh to follow the Watchers' orders to the letter. An instruction he intended firmly to disobey. "He's gonna suffer enough when he wakes up to find Buffy's gone, and as for what she's gonna be told when she comes to, well that will be something else again."

Turned away from the puzzled Watcher, Riley walked on up the trail looking for someone.

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Giles, Karen and Angel stood up slowly and stepped out of their fox hole. Giles deliberately stepped in front of the High School Principal and whispered, "Let's find out who these chaps are first, eh?"

"Extra good guys I'm thinking." Karen had hopes that finally the government was taking action about the Hellmouth but there was an edge in her voice all the same. Good things seldom happened in Sunnydale. "Do you think it's a SWAT team?"

"Why am I thinking that's not very likely." Angel had a bad feeling about these guys though one thing was obvious. "They're all human Giles, CIA, FBI, Delta Force or maybe..."

"Watchers." Giles finished the sentence for him. "One way to find out." The ex Watcher raised his voice and in his best Oxford English went on. "Good evening gentlemen, I must say your timing is impeccable and your assistance most welcome."

"No problem dude," An American voice replied, to Giles relief. "Glad we could help."

Giles looked around at his masked allies, the voice sounded to young for any of the organizations Angel had listed, he turned towards a figure who was lifting his balaklava. "Who are you lads with then?"

Albany dropped the balaklava to the ground and watched Giles's smile die. "Old friends Rupert, old friends."

"What no smile for an old chum?" The dart gun was aimed one handed but the range was point blank, Giles knew the Watcher wasn't going to miss.

"What are you doing here Marcus?" Giles eased back pressing against Karen to shield her further from harm. "Intent on murder again?"

"No old chap." He fired as he spoke. "Just kidnap."

The dart missed Giles windpipe by a centimeter the drug immediately overwhelming him his body crumpled back onto Karen taking her down with him her head slamming onto the stones on the slope as they landed with a thud.

Angel morphed and sprang at Marcus an angry growl tearing from his throat.

He didn't get two yards

PHUT!

PHUT!

PHUT!

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Oz watched the battle turn dramatically in his sides favour with a calm expression despite the initial elation the event might have inspired in his friends. "Not something you see everyday."

"Not in Sunnydale," Willow couldn't believe her eyes and wanted to jump up and down and holler some too. "Good for us huh! We can take the festive season off......even though I'm Jewish I like that idea. Santa suddenly seems quite cuddly."

"Yeah, it's the red suit." Oz sat up but put a hand on Willows shoulder. "Willow stay down till we know who these guys are."

"Ok Oz......" Willow wondered what was going through Oz's mind, if it was a wolf thing it was probably right but the new arrivals looked like they were on the good guys team. "......I guess."

Alone Oz got up to go and greet their rescuers. Alone he took a dart to the chest before dropping soundlessly to the ground in front of Willow's horrified face.

"Bad guys!" Willow whispered and started to frantically reload her bow.

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Buffy was stuck in the tree as she watched her Doppelganger's friends get cut down one by one. She couldn't go back down and she couldn't get back out. "Shit."

Three guys with dart guns were looking at her. Browne was busy burrowing into deeper cover there being no point his trying anything in his current defenseless state. Buffy was on her own.

"Miss Summers I believe." A voice with almost the same accent as Browne emerged from the mouth of the center balaclava. "I gotta say luv you fight a bloody good battle, no wonder these tossers don't want you running round loose and unsupervised."

*Shit!* Buffy tried to wriggle but found she couldn't. *Here's where I get hurt, probably badly, for what my doppelganger's done. Life sucks!*

Composing herself she answered calmly for all that. "Hey, I'm stuck here and you've no chance of getting me out of this easy enough to get me far, so why not just walk away huh and we'll say no more about it, I won't come after you and break your arms and legs, you don't spend the rest of your life in a desperate state of fear."

She gave the half smile she'd been unaware that the boys loved. "Waddya say?"

"You're too tense Slayer." Jason raised the barrel of his weapon till it was leveled on Buffy. "Nice little relaxing snooze and you'll pop out of there no worries."

"You're not getting the big picture here, when I come round that's when I get free and hurt you real bad."

"You've got the sweetest smile." Jason grinned himself, the scar on his chin twisting beneath the cloth that covered it. "I really am gonna luv workin' with you, the sight of the two of us would empty any Pub in the East End."

The fury in Buffy's eyes didn't do anything to stop Jason's steady pull on the trigger.

Phut!

*****

Willow lay as still as she could, taking in the scene around her, praying that her friends were okay.

She knew that tranquilizers were non-fatal in normal doses. She had, after all, used them often enough on Oz and Buffy had accidentally shot Giles that time with no noticeable ill effect. *Oh Goddess please let it just be tranquilizers, not poison."

Her hands slick with a nervous sweat Willow clutched the crossbow and prayed that she wouldn't have to use it. Prayed that they wouldn't try to really hurt her friends.

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With four guys pulling at them the branches eased apart and Jason leaned in to lift the unconscious body out into the open. The Slayer lolled forward against him and felt soft and warm and good.

*Felt warm?* Jason set the girl down and putting one arm under her legs and the other around her shoulders easily lifted her up to his chest and started off towards where Albany was stood talking to a group of teens from the Initiative. "Boss we may need to 'ave another chat with Wesley."

"About what?" Marcus smiled at the sight of the girl in Jason's arm's. "It's all gone to plan hasn't it?"

"Like clockwork." Jason knew who would get the credit to, certainly not him. "Touch her 'and."

"I beg your pardon."

"Touch her 'and." Loving the worried frown that crossed Albany's face, Jason moved a little closer. "Go on indulge me, I promise she won't bite."

Albany bit back an angry retort and, reaching out, took Buffy's dangling right hand in his, then dropped it like it was red hot. A confused look combining horror and disbelief crossed his face as he exclaimed. "Good God!"

"'Houston we have a problem,'" Jason quipped, smug in the knowledge that he wouldn't take the blame for foul ups either. "She's slightly not undead, wouldn't you say?"

"How the...?"

"Wesley, that little toe rags either lied to us or bein' lied to." Jason looked down at Buffy's face as it rested against his chest. "She's definitely the right girl but she's not a vampire, and she seems to have gained a scar that's not on the photos we've had over the years."

"Travers isn't going to be happy." Albany saw his promising career beginning to nose dive quite dramatically. "Not happy at all. I think I'm going to start feeling very cross with Windy over this. In fact, quite violently so."

"Of course it's possible someone local might know more about what the fuck's goin' on." Jason hoisted his burden a little higher up his chest, the Slayer slept soundly, her breathing steady to his relief. "What are we doin' with Mr Giles?"

"Well the broad consensus was one kidnaps easier than two, but since you mention him..." Albany turned to the American members of his team."Go pick up the fellow with the glasses, if you wouldn't mind, lads."

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"Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger..."

Browne wasn't happy.

Firstly, he was having to hide in a really uncomfortable tree-covered trench. Hiding wasn't something he considered very Browne-like, he was a soldier and a ruthless killing machine. People were supposed to hide from him.

Secondly, there was the bloody big hole in his back and it's associated awful pain. It hurt, pain had its place in the world, but it wasn't something he believed should be in any way associated with James Cahill Browne unless it was him inflicting it on other people.

Thirdly, there was the defenseless aspect. His borrowed Heckler and Koch was pinned to the soil by a soddin' branch and his crossbows were Allah knew were. All he had were a couple of stakes and an overlarge and, in this instance bloody, useless knife.

No pistol. His Walther was back at the mansion, even without the vampiric Buffy actually here to boss him he had left that at home with the Uzis, cause carrying guns was wrong. *Last time I listen to that girl, 'ere we are in it up to our necks and there's not the slightest thing I can do about it. Slayer, what the fuck 'ave you turned me into? This never used to 'appen before I started workin' with you an that other blond idiot.*

Broken twigs snapped as some of the kidnappers, (Browne had rapidly realized the score), walked past. Browne squeezed a little lower praying they'd chose to go where ever they were going before daybreak.

*Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger....*

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

Riley slowly pulled the stake from his belt as he walked past four of his fellow Initiates who were half dragging half carrying their unconscious burden down the track.

"Where you goin' man?" One of the youths managed to gasp out, hoping that they might get an extra set of hands to help with their carrying.

"Kill a vampire." Riley answered simply and walked on.

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"Oh no!" Willow was watching not able to do much else, watching them carry Buffy and Giles away to who knew where. Watching her friends get kidnaped before her eyes.

But those of her friends who weren't deemed essential to whatever plans hadn't been harmed other than the darting and the English voices and the none biting people suggested humans of the Watcher-type and that didn't help Willow at all.

*Ok good Watchers and bad Watchers,* Willow's mind raced. *Giles being at the top of that equation and that guy Travers being at the bottom with Wesley in the middle cause he wasn't a bad person just a total scardie cat. Now think about this...* Her finger eased of the crossbow trigger. *Some of these guys may be nasty uncaring Travers types and some might be potential Gileses if they'd get their head out of their asses and get a chance to stop being so pompous and if it comes to shooting at them how do I know who I'll hit?*

*Also that isn't Slayage, if they have permission to be here and to do this it's maybe murder one.*

She frowned as she watched a group of four of her maybe Gileses carried the real already confirmed to be Giles past. *Oh god, do I shoot, ok they drop Giles, but is that a major help, cause then they come after me and probably kill me and nobody's left to get help.*

Then she saw the lone figure walking back and even though it was night recognized the long pointy wooden thing he was carrying in his right hand and her crossbow tracked round as if of its own volition. "Oh no, not Angel."

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"I loved her you bastard, she looked so alive, so confident, so perfect." Riley was stood over his enemy, the vampire lay face up, his human features peaceful in his drug -induced sleep. Riley wanted to kick that face into a bloody pulp but didn't have the time, instead he railed on. "But you'd destroyed her, corrupted her, made her into an evil little slut who couldn't love a normal guy anymore, she could only love you."

Riley wished with all his heart that Angel could hear him, could see his death coming but all in all that didn't really matter. He'd see Buffy's face before the limeys flew her away. Her tears would be enough.

"That was the only way you could keep her man, by twisting her into a perverted version of you....." He brought the stake up high to plunge it into the vampire's heart. "Well hey, Angel, here's where you get made to pay."

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"No I can't," Willow had her bow centered on this unknown person who was about to stake her friend, the vampire. *I can't kill a guy to save Angel...and I don't actually think he'd want me to.*

*But Angel!* Her subconscious screamed at her. *Buffy will be heartbroken when you get her back and you have to tell her he died. It'll kill her she'll blame herself for not being here for him.*

The stake rose and a set look of determination crossed Willow's face. *No way am I going to have to tell Buffy that, now lets see if my,* she pulled the trigger, *Archery skills........"

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

The pain was blinding.

A bullet traveling at high velocity numbs the flesh it impacts with and deadens the nerves. It's only as those reawaken later that the pain tears at the victim's body.

An arrow travels at a lesser speed and the affects of its impact are instant. The crossbow bolt slammed into the top of Riley's right arm, cutting through skin and muscle to lodge against the bone.

He screamed as the pain raced through him and dropped the stake which bounced on the ground beside Angel's body. Clutching at the bolt with his rapidly reddening left hand he turned and staggered away.

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

*....Match my knowledge of anatomy." Willow felt a seconds blinding euphoria at the visual evidence of the hit. Then heard the cries of pain.

*Oh goddess I'm sorry, please don't let him be hurt too bad, I didn't do that for myself I did it cause I had no choice.* Glad it was dark and she couldn't see the blood, Willow watched the man stagger away from his intended victim into the arms of two of his friends who came running to help. "Thank you Goddess, thank you for keeping him alive."

All the same though Willow quietly reloaded her bow.

*****

Jason had deposited the sleeping Slayer in the van that contained the chained figure of Wesley Wyndham-Price. Wesley had been gagged just in case, but the unspoken questions in his eyes as he looked in concern at the Slayer elicited a response. "She's just sleepin' and you, my lad, are in trouble. Notice something 'bout her do you?"

*She's breathing!* The rise and fall of the Slayer's chest was just perceptible. It was probably fortunate for Wesley's nerves at that point that he couldn't see Buffy's face. All the same questions revolved round his mind. *How the hell? Did Giles find the cure and not tell me? Are they about to kidnap the wrong girl?*

His stomach turned over at the thought of what might happen if the mission failed. He still wasn't sure if Travers had meant his instructions to his captors to kill him if he let the mission down. *But I'm beginning to get the distinct impression they think that he did and that may well be all that matters to them. And with Buffy like this who is going to save me?*

The scream that suddenly rent the night air did nothing to ease Wesley's fears.

"Oh fuck now what?" Jason left the van in a hurry leaving Wesley gasping for breath through the gag as he tried to stop himself from hyperventilating as his situation sank in. *Someone even fiercer than Buffy knowing my bloody luck. Screams not a good thing, I wonder if they've actually told Spike and Browne about me?*

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*Oh Goddess make it stop.* Willow had to listen and she had to watch so that she could be ready to defend herself if necessary from attack, but she wanted to stick her figures in her ears shut her eyes and make it all go away. *Oh why did this all have to happen?*

She wished desperately that she wasn't alone, that Oz was beside her to tell her that she had done right. To help her with the burden of guilt that she had thrust upon herself.

*But it was you put an arrow into that guys arm and of course he's in agony.* The groans and cries of pain were heart rending to her. *Important point though this guys not British, nor are the guys around him meaning that the Watchers have some local help, but no pain relief.*

No one had come crashing up the hill after her but there were a lot of people looking pretty pissed off at whoever had fired that shot. *Ok Buffy and Giles are leaving but I don't want to have to shoot anybody else. I just wish they'd go, then I can get the others awake and get after them.*

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Jason ran up to the group that was speeding up rapidly as it fled down the hill. Giles was being dragged in the middle of the huddle of nervous sniper fearing retreatee's. One of the Yanks had been hit, the arrow jutting from one of them was the first thing he noticed, a scowl crossing his face that things had gone so wrong in his absence.

"Carry that bloke properly, can't you?" one of the Watcher's grabbed hold of Giles's feet and lifted them clear of the trail, letting the pace quicken.

Watching the kid he though was called Finn stagger past propped up on his uninjured side by a friend Jason shook his head and fell in beside Albany. "What the bloody hell went on?"

"Search me." Albany was walking backward his dart gun poised to snap a shot off at any target. "The lad goes wandering off a little way from us and somebody puts an arrow in him. No gun shot or flash of course and nobody saw where the bloody thing came from."

"Great so we missed somebody, and I ain't seen 'ide or 'air of the two most dangerous vamps neither." He looked back into the darkness. "If it had been Browne they there would 'ave been some shootin' by now. I wonder if he copped it in the fire fight?"

"Possibly." They reached the flat and Giles was hastily dragged into the van beside Buffy whilst the rest of the group dispersed among the other vehicles. "Well that's that anyway. Off to the LAX we go with a chat to dear Wesley on the way, won't that be fun."

The enforcer spat eloquently. "Well as long as 'e doesn't snivel on me again, I 'ate to see a grown man cry."

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Willow got out of her foxhole and was by Oz's body the second the last door slammed. Her fingers closed on his throat searching for and finding a pulse. "Thank you goddess..." And with that Willow ran to check on her other friends hoping to find the same result.


Continued

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