Spike in the City Of Angels, Episode 4:


Choices


by John Cope





Part Twenty-four


The door to what had been the boarding houses lobby crashed inwards from just one blow, splinters of wood flying inwards from where the lock slammed through the old wood of the door frame under the heavy blow from Browne's ram.

There were a dozen startled looking individuals sat in the decaying remnants of the lounge when the Slayer stormed in with her followers behind her. Other doors slammed open and feet thundered on the stairs as Watchers and commando's came running to see what had caused the violent crash .

There startled eyes beheld a half circle of figures formed in the lobby. All ten of them armed with dart guns and uniformed in black and dark blue with heavy helmets covering their heads. The visible human faces contrasting sharply with the vampire ones twisted though they all were by adrenaline as the situation hit home.

Forrest crashed out of the kitchen rifle in hand and stood jaw dropped in shock at the sight that met his eyes. Here was the Slayer but dressed in a manner that he had never expected to see.

Her feet were protected by thick boot's, she wore a baggy looking pair of dark blue overalls, distortions in the material showing that it covered body armor. Her torso was covered by a heavy flak jacket her upper and lower arms protected by more armor made of what looked like kevlar. A thick collar carefully sealed at the front protected the gap between her jacket and the visored 'Fritz' helmet that the vampiress was wearing.

*It's a vampire SWAT team.* Forrest's hands were suddenly sweating on a dart gun which he knew was in the face of the Slayerette's body armour was virtually useless. His own bulletproof armour on the other hand only protected his chest and back. Clearing his throat he tried to put on a bold face as he asked "You got a problem girl."

"Nope." Buffy knew the voice of a man who was trying to brazen it out. "But you know you have Forrest."

"Recognize me huh Buffy, well thats ok." The Slayer was outnumbered but didn't seem phazed. *Guess the stun weapons might work but if those suits have been proofed.....*

"What do you want here," Forrest felt the Watchers self appointed leader brush past him. "Not like I really need to ask but humour me."

"My friends released now." Buffy aimed at Forrest unprotected legs and winked. "Or you and your friends spent the next few hours unconscious in an abandoned building in Sunnydale helpless in the face of any passing demon or vampire."

"No that's a nasty threat I gotta agree." Forrest worked the numbers in his head and still came up with do able. Clearly either by volume of fire or by the hand to hand weight of numbers he could win. "But then there's the fact you can't get all of us in time, that the guards on your friends may overreact if they hear you comin' and then there's the fact little girl that now I know your a vampire. And pretty soon everyone at College is going too to."

"Good threat, actually mildly scary since I'm obviously not going to cut your throat to silence you. But this just in I'm still not leaving without my friends." Her rifle stayed steadily pointed at Forrest. "You've got a choice here between being conscious when they leave or being unconscious, make it now!"

"Letting them go's not gonna happen." Forrest was aiming his own rifle right back at the Slayer all the time looking for an opening but even Buffy's hands were protected by gauntlets. "How fast do you think you can load in those girl, fast enough to take us all?"

Jason taser charged to the max was moving nearer to his potential targets, other stun weapon armed men were doing the same. Forrest knew that a close range battle was imminent if the Slayer didn't retreat soon.

But she wasn't going to do that and he saw the challenge in her face before she even spoke it.

"I'm giving you till a count of....."

The two darts wires trailing behind them shot across the room to hit Buffy in the chest. The electric sparks shot out only to hit the carefully arranged wiring that took the charge away down Buffy's legs to the ground. She felt a mild jolt but nothing else.

Browne primed for violence though he was felt a surge of pride at the success of his stun weapon counter measure. *Groundin' works!*

"Now that really wasn't very nice." Buffy swung her rifle muzzle to point at the scared looking commando who had pulled the trigger. "You want to see how mine works?"

PHUT.

The dart struck him in the biceps, he stood looking at it stupidly till his knees sagged from under him and he slumped to the ground. His friends backed away just a little but their knuckles whitened as they gripped their weapons tighter.

Forrest however removed his left hand from his weapons foregrip holding it in the air he shouted. "Cool it you guys, don't fire unless I say so."

"Smart move soldier, your weapons don't work ours do." Her patience slipping Buffy worked the bolt on her rifle finding that it went ok. *Point blank in here so ones gonna miss, guess we might as well just do it.*

Willow looked round the room seeing familiar face after familiar face from the party she and Oz had gone to at Lowell house. Realizing that she couldn't just let things slid into a fight she raised her voice to break into the debate. "Forrest please I don't know what these people have told you but you should be working with us not them."

Radical interpretation of what was going on here she knew but she'd seen these guys round campus and they seemed like good people. "You know your in the wrong you don't have any right to hold either Giles or Buffy."

One of his men was unconscious on the ground, his weapons were useless leaving him stuck with the option of hand to hand or a strategic rethink. *Look like we're giving reasoned argument a chance, consult with the high ups, and hit em later if we get told too..* Forrest was opening his mouth to say."Ok," when things took on a whole new turn.

Spike felt pissed that he was being left out of things. After all wasn't he the brains behind the LA outfit and Browne just the brawn and the blowing things up guy. Yet here he was low vamp on the totem with Browne getting all the praise. At the same time he could see the gears shifting in this guy Buffy and Willow were referring to as Forrest.

Sharply he made his contribution. "Course lads we'll 'ave to take your weapons with us too, after all we can't be leaving temptation in front of weak minds now can we?"

The enforcer had been staring intently at the two Englishvamps ever since they had stepped into the room and now his patience at their presence snapped. "No way vampire, the only way your gettin' our guns is if you knock us all out first."

"Ullo ullo." The vampire heard the venom in his fellow countryman's voice loud and clear. "You don't look familiar boy, but then you mortals are so changing, tell me should I know you?"

"No, but I know you for a murderin' bastard."

"I'm really wounded by that." Spike made it sound like a light rejoinder but his jaw tightened all the same. "Come on tough guy if your that hard make your play."

"Spike!" Buffy hissed. "We we're talking here ok."

"Man don't you be provoking something here." Forrest snapped at the Watcher in charge. He looked round at his men they were edging forward again. "Guys don't you be....."

PHUT, PHUT, PHUT, PHUT......

Darts ricocheted off Buffy's visor or stuck in the material that covered her kevlar armor, taser wires tangled as too many people fired them at once their transmitting darts hitting the carpet in showers of blue sparks.

"They have better weapons that you Browne." Xander couldn't help but point out. "Bet your really not liking that huh?"

"They 'ave em now son." The vetala replied unoffended and eyeing the semi automatic and automatic dart rifles averishishly. "But by the end of the day my boy I'm gonna be the proud owner of a lot of new kit."

"Buffy excuse me." Angel was gaining a multi coloured plumage as the tail feathers of darts sprouted in his clothing. "But is it ok if we fight now."

"Hate to second Dead Boy," Xander added. "But shall we?"

"Ok." A volley of darts flew out in answer to Buffy's consent and the fight was on.

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

"Well that was almost like fun." Willow looked around the room at her felled opponents. "Does that make me a bad person?"

"No Will just human." Hugging Anya to comfort her Xander turned back to his girl and asked her. "You ok?"

"Yes." Her ego and butt were slightly bruised a commando had rushed them and slammed into her of all people, she'd hit the ground hard with the guy on top trying desperately to tear her visor up to use the stun weapon he was carrying. She'd managed some how to pull the hand held dart gun that Brown had supplied from her overalls utility pocket and dart the guy but it had still been close. "This kevlar stuffs hard when you land on it."

"I'll help you put some ice on it later." Xander promised then looked down at the sleeping commando who had hurt her. "Is kicking a guy when he's down always wrong."

"Not in my book." Browne answered, he was standing nearby trying to decide which of the mag fed dart guns to requisition.

"We've no time for that." Barely seconds had passed since the last of their adversary had broken and run through the various exits from the room. "Time for the rat hunt. Angel and Doyle with me. Spike you take Willow Oz and Karen, Browne your with Xander and Anya."

No one objected to the personnel split to her amazement. "We're looking for Giles and me, I'm gonna hit the basement, you guys take upstairs, you find them you use your throat mikes to tell the other teams and we all head for the doors. Do not tangle unnecessarily with these guys we're not invincible there's no need to take risks."

She looked round at the resolute faces. "Leaders only use the radio's unless it's an emergency, any questions."

"No not one," Xander was away from Spike and Angel and thus happy. Angel was actually smiling at having avoided Spike's company and that Buffy had chosen to be with him so readily.

Spike on the other hand could only think to himself darkly. *Well at least I know where I stand.* He had however become resigned to it and at least could count his blessings at not being stuck with the whelp and his weird girl. The werewolf and the witch and the Principle at least tried to be nice to him.

He beckoned to them now to follow him at the same time telling Browne that. "We'll go through the kitchen and up the back stairs." In passing he snatched up one of the high tech dart weapons. "And don't you kids be shy about new weapons."

Willow and Oz followed suit whilst Karen picked up an unfired taser and moving silently the four set off on their search.

"Right you young lovers." Browne addressed his team with a wink at Xander and the suggestion of a leer at Anya. "Shall we dance?"

Confused glances were exchanged but sighing at their bad look in getting the crude vampire the couple followed him toward the main staircase.

"So you've decided to have the Irish with yerself then?" Doyle nodded to Angel as he spoke. If Whistler and the Powers That Be's plans hadn't gone astray he'd have been working with the tall dark haired vampire and probably be a lot happier than he was. "How are you keepin' big fella?"

"Well enough Doyle, well enough." Angel was about to commiserate with the half demon on his unfortunate new colleagues when he got distracted by his girlfriend ripping something from around the neck of one of the guys they'd knocked out. "Buffy?"

"Dog tags." She held up a now broken length of chain on which hung two rectangles of black metal. "They look like the real deal, maybe we can use them as a clue to who these guys are."

Putting the tags in a utility pouch in the right leg of her overalls she shouldered a weapon she'd selected and smiled across at them. "You notice how I saved the two best looking guys for myself?"

"No we hadn't, but your good taste is obvious." Doyle joked in reply, he didn't see Angel as a sharer and suddenly felt that to be a great pity. Sighing he went on. "We hittin' the basement then."

"Yeah." Turning she advanced towards the stairs she'd walked up after taking the laundry chute down into the basement last time. "Let's go get this done."

The door wasn't locked she opened it gently expecting an ominous creak like in the horror movies but getting nothing. She stepped down onto the semi darkened stairwell gingerly but her foot still evoked a squeak from the top step that more than made up for any disappointment she might have felt over the doors lack of noise.

"Jesus Christ girl are you trying to wake the dead?" Her sanative hearing picked up a low whisper from Doyle.

*No I wasn't.* She angrily though looking at the next step in trepidation. *But hey I'm in all over body armor that if Browne's right even bullets can't penetrate unless their armor piercing so why am I creeping.*

She got ready to run down making as much racket as she could when a greying middle aged guy suddenly appeared at the bottom of the stairs carrying a crossbow. "Whose up there, what on earths going on?"

*Watcher.* The crossbow made her pause for a second, she realized however that the man could only see her silhouette against the light coming down the stairs and had no idea who she was. Effortlessly she morphed back to her human features as she shouted. "Sunnydale PD throw the weapon down and put your hands on your head."

"What!" The Englishman paled the crossbow waving back and too as three figures pointing what looked very much like rifles closed on him. "But I thought......"

"That you could get away with kidnapping in our town?" She stopped eight steps up hoping she was still sufficiently obscured for him not to recognize her face. "Officer Doyle if he doesn't drop that bow....."

The overalls and armor looked like police issue, discretion took the better part of valour as carefully removing his finger from the trigger the Englishman dropped the weapon with a clatter to the floor. Then raised his hands. "There's no need for shooting let me assure you, I'm here with Federal government sanction my actions are all perfectly above....."

"Is that right Mr." Angel answered hoping to work the situation. "We'd be fascinated to hear which part of our government authorized you to break the law like this?"

"Yeah." Another voice added making Buffy cringe at Doyle's brogue. "Cause you'd be amazed how many kidnappers a claimin' that this winter."

"I don't know, the American you probably just arrested covered that side of things." Aware that Colonials can be trigger happy he kept his hands up and smiled to show he was trying to be helpful. "But we have authorization from your State Department to detain the girl we're holding and remove her from the country, and as far as I'm aware the American lads are all members of your armed forces or Federal law enforcement agents. Just ask them to show you their documents."

"Thank you so very much for your cooperation." Guessing that that was indeed all the man knew Buffy stepped down and let him see her face. "You have been so helpful that you win a prize."

"Oh my god...." He realized who he was speaking to and what he'd given away in the two seconds it took Buffy to slam her rifle butt into his jaw. He went down with a look rather more of puzzlement than of pain on his face.

"Didn't you say that we....." Angel started to argue before seeing the blond chained to the wall opposite and forgetting all about no hand to hand he walked over to her quietly the rifle loose at his side. "Buffy we found you."

"And I gotta say it's about damned time." The scar faced girl was smiling belying the harshness of her words. "A big strapping vamp like you I would have thought would have rescued a damsel faster than this."

"Well it's the cutbacks me darlin'." Doyle hastily stepped in to save a confused Angel from having to think of a comeback. "But we always come through in the end."

"Well we heroes do that don't we." She might have been speaking to Doyle but her eyes were firmly on the shorter of the three rescuers. Her vampire double was speaking into her radio then nodding to herself she turned and the mortal Slayer simple said. "Hi Buffy."

"This is so weird." Buffy unbuckled the chin strap of the heavy helmet she was wearing and drew in off coming over as she did so to kneel on the floor beside her doppelganger. "Hearing my voice, seeing myself......Hi Buffy, welcome to my world."

"Weird's one way to put it, and thanks." Looking into her doppelganger's eyes, the mortal noticed differences, paler a hint of blue vein showing here and there, unscarred, her pinned up hair probably longer and her eyes a lighter greener shade due probably due to her unlife different circulation. "So your my vampire double. I hope you had a good time in my world, and that you didn't break it up too much?"

"Oh I think I left it pretty much as I found it. Cept that is for the marked downturn in vamp numbers." She was looking into her mortal sisters eyes avoiding looking at her mouth. "But it's not like your gonna miss them is it?"

"No it's cool, I don't know about your Jeeves...." She saw a hint of raised eyebrow. "Sorry Giles, but mine has a serious down on the use of explosives and hey I got to blow shit up here so I'm happy. So just get me out of these chains, send me back and promise never to meddle with magic again and I'll be five by five about the whole thing."

"Five by...." Buffy somehow kept her face straight over the choice of words but it was an effort. "Ok, chains."

The mortal Slayer gave them a slight tug as a demonstration. "Double breaking strain for a turned Slayer apparently, heavyset English guy with a scared chin has the key."

"Guy who seemed to know Spike," Angel answered to his lovers enquiring glance. "And he was one of the ones who got out of the room."

"Damn I really wanted to hit him till he bled," The alternate Buffy shrugged as best she was able and added. "He was offering me a deal, stop you from kicking his ass and he'd let me go. I didn't believe a word."

"We catch him he's yours but for now what say we see how the chains stand up to the pulling power of two vamps and a Slayer." Buffy glanced at Doyle. "And maybe a..?"

"Have I absolutely got too?"

"You know how much stronger you are like that...." Angel's voice tailed off then as he reflected on how he was a vampire who didn't even like morphing. "But if you'd rather not it's ok."

"Ah what the hell," He gave the Buffys a wink. "I hope this doesn't ruin my image in you girls eyes."

"Whoa!" The mortal Slayers widened in shock at the sight before her as Doyle's face turned from not exactly undollsome human to being that of a red eyed spine covered demon. "Jeeze arn't any of you guys normal?"

"He's normal enough despite how he dresses." Buffy replied for the half Bracken demon with a hint of affection in her voice. Then she morphed to enhance her own strength. "Ever seen a rescue party like us before?"

"Hell no, if I didn't know you guys were good I'd be worried." A moments doubt crossed her face. "You are good right?"

"Sure we are." Angel's clawed hands closed round the chain above Buffy's right wrist. "Shall we?"

"Pull on three." Buffy grabbed the right chain Doyle's hands closed just above hers. "One, two, three....."

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

Spike had found a couple of guys trying to break their way through a walled up door in the kitchen. They'd offered no resistance as the Slayerettes darted them. Sighing he headed up the stairs. *This is so boring.*

*This is like a battle in a war.* Oz thought to himself. *But it isn't cause nobodies actually dying here. Now if everyone could be persuaded to fight like this then think how much better the world would be.*

*Of course it would be even better if no-one wanted to fight at all, but.....*

*I wonder what Oz is thinking.* Willow thought, her boyfriend looked deep in some world of his own. *Soon as we get this done and we're back at his place I'll ask him, I hope that's soon cause I want to be with him but we still have so much to do here......*

*Oh I hope Giles is alright......* Karen missed him so desperately

"Alright people listen up." Spike didn't whisper if any of the opposition heard him they'd probably run rather than stay to fight which bearing in mind the ban on violence was no bad thing. "We go out as a group, Willow you cover the front with me Oz and Karen the rear. Every door we come to I kick in we search it and move on. Any questions?"

Nobody had any so the vampires hand went to the doorhandle. He stopped though and listened to a voice in his radio receiver. "They got Buffy," he saw the alarm in his friends faces and hurriedly rephrased. "By which I mean Buffy has Buffy."

"Oh that's good then." The Wiccan replied for all of them. "Now lets go get Giles!"

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

"I'm just saying I should be in charge here." Xander had been carrying on a whispering campaign ever since they had reached the landing and it was really starting to grate on his audiences nerves. "I mean I'm T-Guy......"

"The Slayer put me in command!" Browne was seething, they'd done four rooms but instead of carrying on he was stuck here arguing with the Whelp. (He'd figured out why Spike called the boy that early on.) Now he was really starting to fume. "And that means you'll do as your soddin well told!"

"Hey we live in a democracy here guy..." Xander felt someone tug on his arm and looked down into Anya's disturbed looking eyes. "Excuse me but I'm trying to argue here!"

"I know." Anya drew him a little further away from the visibly fuming vetala. "With a big angry homicidal vampire."

"You point being?"

"When he hits you it's gonna hurt." Anya watched her words sink in. "I'm not saying you wouldn't last at least a few seconds before he has you on the ground and starts jumping on your head. And technically he's right when he said Buffy put him in charge."

"Well thanks for your support on that." Xander said unthinking before the hurt expression on Anya's face tore through his anger. "Ok I was just being me, I'll do what the vampire says alright?"

"Fine," Anya wasn't forgiving the support comment but at least now Xander wasn't going to get beaten.

"Right." Still testy the vampire moved down the hall to the next room door ready to kick it in. "Can we get on please."

"Feel free." Xander prepped his weapon ready to charge in one Browne had opened the way. "But don't think I won't be bringing this pro vamp bias in our command structure up again at a later date Mr."

"You know something mate you really are an irritating sod." The vetala pictured Xander's face post a good kicking and found he liked the plan, but no Buffy wouldn't like it one bit and might take his knife away. "Do as your bloody told for now and we'll argue later......alright."

"Fine." Xander shrugged. "Can we get on now."

Shaking his head in disbelief Browne slammed his boot into the door and the search went on.

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

The creak of metal was followed by a crack as the ring in the wall first parted at a welded joint and then suddenly broke sending all four of the people tugging at it back in a heap on the basement floor.

"Ok." Extracting Doyle's elbow from her eye Buffy reflected on the hardness of kevlar, even with a vampires healing that was going to bruise. "Note to self keep your helmet on."

"Sorry," Doyle was blushing as he turned back to his human face. "That snapped a little bit sudden like."

Struggling out of the pile the mortal Buffy stood and looked down at the length of chain still fastening her wrists together. "Well I guess that'll do. Giles can pick the locks later...." She looked down at the Slayer vampire. "Your Giles can do that can't he?"

"Yep." Brushing herself off and delicately prodding her left cheek bone the Slayer vamp joined her doppelganger in looking at the chains. "And if not since cage in the library got destroyed Oz has become a dab hand with a blowtorch so he should be able to get them off you quick enough."

"Hope so."

"I think we should be leaving." The dark haired vampire had his own and Buffy's dart weapons to hand. "We can put Buffy in the van with a gun and Doyle to guard her and cover the building till the others find Giles."

"Good call I'm so ready to get out of here, I mean there was this seriously insane person running those Watchers."

"The guy who talked to Spike?" Buffy had been puzzling over that accent. "Didn't sound like your average Watcher."

"Guy they keep around for when they need to have someone hit." The alternate explained. "But I don't mean him, he was kinda ok for an asshole, I mean this uppercrust kinda guy who was walking round with a syringe full of vampire blood talking about turning a Slayer."

"What!" Buffy exclaimed. "Who the....."

"Hell would be that fuckin' stupid..." Doyle realized he was standing next to Angel and shut up.

"Were they seriously going to....?" The ensouled vampire looked at Buffy and awareness hit home. "No not you, someone else."

"Faith!" Suddenly the full horror of it hit home for Buffy. "She's helpless in that hospital and they were going to break in there and do that to her, I mean would it even work?"

"It's possible." Angel's face was grim at the thoughts that were spinning through his head, this was not a subject that he really liked to discuss. "They'd have to bleed her almost to death before they injected the blood to get it to take and even then it's not certain she might just die."

"I thought you just had to mix it to make a vampire?" The Irishman really hated having to ask. "You know bite drip drip, whump, vampire."

Angel looked at Doyle and in response to the question shook his head. "When a vampire feeds the blood passes straight into his body, so effectively when he mixes his blood with his victims the victim is getting some of his own blood back with the vampires. Nobody knows for certain how it works but I don't think just injecting it in is gonna do the trick."

"So Faith just dies then!" Buffy started for the stairs. "We're going to the hospital, the others can....."

"Hey it's okay." Buffy caught hold of Buffy by the arm. "The other Watchers really didn't like the idea and they put this guy Albany or whatever under arrest. He's chained up upstairs somewhere."

"Fine." The Slayer Vampire relaxed at that piece of good news. "Ok so we'll get you and Giles out of here and then we find this guy and tell him what we think of humans who try to make vampires.....You with me on that one Angel?"

"Hell yes." The anger in the dark haired vampires voice was plain. "Whatever Willow might think on the matter this time we make an example, this time I'm really going to be using that chainsaw."

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

There was quite a wind blowing from the perspective of someone on the roof of the Sunnydale Arms.

Jason was spread out on the top of the roof, a flat section of it actually. The Sunnydale Arms being quite an amalgamation of different building sections the roof was an interesting variety of slope and flat. All the same his space was narrow and he was clinging on to the edges with the fingers of both hands.

*Sod this for a lark.* He thought to himself darkly. *I'm buggered if I'm not going to tell Travers were he can shove his job when I get home.*

But secretly he knew that was along way past the truth of his situation. He had mutinied and overturned the chain of command. When he got back if he went near Watcher headquarters he would very swiftly find himself in the cells below the building.

*You underestimated her mate, who would 'ave thought she could be that well prepared. Well so what eh, got me passport, got me ticket. Get on the bloody plane and be at Heathrow a day before these bastards then I'll just disappear into a city of millions where they'll never find me.*

He managed with some effort to shrug, he had a lot of friends in the illicit car and bank robbery businesses a man with his talents wouldn't starve.

*I think I better bury that git Albany somewhere out back thought just in case." He grimaced as a gust of wind nearly pried him off the roof. *That's of course assuming my little blond friend doesn't tell 'er double all about his 'orrid plans leading 'er to do the world a favour....*

With that happy thought spinning round his head he relaxed and concentrated on not falling off.

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

"This really is getting to be beyond a bloody joke." Spike extracted his leg from the door of room 26 as he swore. The frames tended to be rotten and if you kicked too hard in Doc Martins you could easily wind up with a leg full of splinters. "Where the dickens is 'e?"

"Somewhere close." Oz had a strange look on his face. "You know I got this sense."

*Like that time you were looking for me?* Willow almost asked but remembered what had happened that time and stopped herself at the last second. *No not a happy thought.*

"I mean it's not as strong a feeling as I might have if it was my Willow we were looking for but..." Oz went on ahead skipping three doors. "Try that one."

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

Finally the nail caught in the mechanism and despite bloodied finger tips Albany managed to force it round opening the right cuff with a click.

He was sweating freely and not just from the strain of his efforts to open the cuffs. Being locked in a darkened room had enhanced his hearing and the bangs and crashes from downstairs had told him plainly that something serious was going on.

Now things were even worse. Someone was searching the hotel, the sounds of doors being broken down was obvious and drawing nearer and nearer. The most recent had sounded from right next door Albany was scared.

He barely paused to rub at chafed wrists before he scrambled in the darkness for his luggage. The fools hadn't searched it secure in the knowledge that he was a prisoner and assuming that he'd stay that way they'd taken no precautions to make sure he couldn't resume his plans if he got free.

It took him only seconds to find the briefcase he was looking for, then he crawled towards the door making the least noise possible as he sat beside it. Even so the contents of the case rattled faintly as syringes rolled into vials of blood.

*It's not over yet.....I can still do it.* He knew that the Slayer was lost to him but that didn't matter. *Get to the hospital, do what has to be done then use the orb.....*

*But what if it doesn't work?* His conscience suddenly nagged at him. *What if you can't restore Faith's soul.*

He pictured Travers face if another favourite failed to deliver. *No that really isn't going to matter is it, if I don't pull this off I might as well be dead, I can't go back to be treated like Windy was, death or glory it's the only way now."

And so he sat and waited for the searchers to find him or pass him by.

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

Spike paused before the door. His vampiric senses were getting confused signals from the surrounding area due to the number of unconscious people downstairs and the fugitives lurking here and there up above. Still this room did feel like it might be occupied.

"Cover me." He raised his boot sharply the steel toe cap of his doc martin connecting with the wood of the door just below the lock. "He tensed as he looked inside the two Slayerettes looking at him nervously as he stood there and the both felt their hearts lift as his face assumed a broad beaming smile. Karen heart pounded she was holding back afraid to look after so many disappointments.

"Well hullo old mate you wouldn't believe how pleased I am to see you."

The voice that answered raised a squeal of delight from Willow and a broad smile from Oz. Karen slumped back against a corridor wall faint for a second before tears of relief began to run from her eyes.

"The feelings mutual let me assure you, I think I can honestly say it's the first time I've ever been glad to see an unsouled vampire......" Then Giles was cut off as Willow forgetting herself for a moment jumped on him in bed or not. "I say couldn't you at least wait till I'm unchained......"

"Spike to Buffy." The vampire keyed his radio. "We have him luv, repeat we have him...over."


Part Twenty-five





Buffy ran for the door even as her Watcher was virtually borne in triumph down the front steps, Karen unnecessarily propping him up under one arm whilst Willow supported him under the other. They guys were drifting through behind a grinning Xander leading them.

"Giles." She put her hand on his, beaming up at him. "I go away for a couple of days and look what happens to you."

"Yes quite." He rested his hands on her shoulders, smiling himself. "Are you alright Buffy, was your trip successful?"

"Majorly." She felt a contentment wash over her at his touch, she really had missed him. "Master dusted, good works done, I introduced your alternate to....." she paused as she realized what she was about to say, "...some very nice people."

He drew her to him and leaning close whispered into her ear. "That's alright, Buffy, I understand. I hope it works out for him."

"So do I." Buffy broke the tentative embrace and looked round her ex watcher to see.....her ex Watcher.

"Hey!" Her smile turned to a frown. "What's the wiener doing here?"

"Hullo Buffy." Wesley was limping along beside a disguste- looking Browne. "My don't you look well.....for a dead person."

*Oh look the wounded soldier routine.* She looked from Wesley back to Giles. "Is it down to him that the Watchers found out about me?"

"Technically Buffy yes it is," Wesley answered before Giles had a chance to, honesty seemed like the best policy. "I'm sorry but under torture even the bravest...."

"Torture?" She looked at the almost vanished bruises on his face."Oh wow Wesley they really whaled on you.....not."

Wesley looked away, shame-faced, but his unhappiness eased at an unexpected defense from the man he'd tried to replace. "Buffy we can't all be heroes," Giles said softly.

"Maybe," she conceded. "But that doesn't mean we need him around."

As Buffy turned her back on him, Wesley's chin sank. He hadn't exactly expected the Slayer Vampire to welcome him back with open arms but he had thought that she might be at least a little bit grateful. *I don't know what I'm going to do if I can't stay here. What, am I to become a wanted fugitive, hunted from country to country, never knowing from one day to the next where I'll be resting my head or from around what corner peril will come upon me.....*

"Gee Wesley she doesn't really mean it," Willow whispered to him, her Giles supporting duties having been assumed by Buffy. "We can always use another pair of hands." Wesley opened his mouth to say thank you only to hear, "Long as you're fully aware how low on the totem you feature!"

"Errrr yes," he nodded his acquiescence as the nickel dropped. "And err....Quite."

"Did you free your alternate?" Giles asked as he was led towards the van, really he could walk perfectly adequately on his own, but being fussed over by the two women was not exactly unpleasant.

"Yep, she's in the van, which is where you're going, mister."

"I've no objection." He smiled, thinking, *Perhaps I should get kidnapped more often, though most kidnappers aiming at people in my line of work do tend to want to torture a fellow which, on the whole, is never fun.*

The van doors opened and the manacled Buffy jumped out, a smile of relief on her face. "Hey Rupe it's good to see you."

*Rupe.* Buffy wrinkled her nose at the greeting. *Now I met her Giles and there is no way......* Then the thought died as the mortal Slayer did something even more startling.

Giles already had a hint of Willow's lipstick on his left cheek and a lot of Karen's all over his face. In Buffy's opinion he didn't need any off her Doppelganger's on his right cheek. *Oooooh I've rescued a Faith!*

"Hullo Buffy," Giles smiled down benignly. "Obviously your experiences haven't made you loose your sense of fun."

"Hey fun is my middle name Rupe you know that...." Both Karen and Buffy were giving her the look. "But I guess we better get you back to that big old house and if you wouldn't mind..." She held up her manacled hands.

"Actually, you know, I'm not that uncapable on the lock-picking front myself." Doyle produced a small toolkit from his leather jacket. "Got the tools to prove it too."

"Oh, hey boy you do the chivalry well." Buffy looked the Irishman up and down, before turning back to the waiting transport. "Ok my spinefaced friend let's go get me emancipated."

"Strange girl," Giles said to himself after the alternate Buffy had disappeared. He heard an ahem from beside him. "You of course are the soul of normality."

"Why thank you."

"In comparison."

"Huh!"

"So tell me what's you plan." Giles changed the mood a little becoming more serious. "Do I take it you're finished here?"

"You guys are." Buffy let his arm go, he seemed able to support himself now. "But I still have some work to do. Karen will take you back to the mansion, there are some documents you need to look at there."

"Documents?" His interest increased dramatically as she knew it would. "What documents?"

"The pages from the missing chapter of the Don's journal that we're so interested in." She allowed herself a smug smile at his stunned look of disbelief. "Willow will tell you all about how I got them as she's going back with you."

"I am?" Willow looked concerned for a second then a smile crossed her face. "Oh are you planning some dark mojo."

"Yeah." Buffy led her a little to one side. "First, whilst Giles checks over the documents, you need to give alternate Buffy a copy of the new spell of restoration."

"Ohhh do you think she'd want to....." Willow raised her eyebrows. "Do that thing with Angel?"

"No." Her reply was deadpan. "But Cordelia might."

"Cordelia?" Willows eyebrows raised higher. "And Angel?"

"A certain vampiress." Buffy could have an evil grin sometimes, Willow suddenly realized. "Red hair, black leather outfit, was keeping Cordelia and Angel locked up in adjoining cells, Angel for torture and Cordelia as a sex-sla....."

"I don't need to know anymore...." Willow broke in, the mental imagery was already bad she didn't need it worsening. "Now cause of me they're in love and if Angel loses his soul, becomes Angelus and destroys the alternate world it's all going to be my fault isn't it?"

"Only in the manner of yes."

"Ok." Willow was having mental imagines, disturbing ones. *Oh I hope Angel did really mean it when he said vampires aren't a reflection of people's true personalities.....I mean leather can chafe!*

"Earth to Will." Buffy knew exactly where her friend was and what she was probably doing, the Wiccan blushed as her attention spun back to Buffy. "First mojo, soon as you've finished cluing Buffy in on the resoul and given her a list of bad that she might meet, you send her back. Very carefully!"

Willow nodded to show she understood the emphasis. "Cause you sure don't want another trip off plane?"

"Not this year, no."

"Ok, that's the fist mojo, what's the second?" The red heads face lost the colour that her embarrassment had provided. "Oh boy! Tonight! But Buffy we don't know how sick it might make you. You know you can't miss anymore college, you're going to get demerits if......"

"You heard what Forrest said, I can't afford to be accused of vampirism Will." Willow took on an even more alarmed look as Buffy went on. "If Giles ok's the spell you work it tonight, leave getting into college to me.....Well okay I may need you and Oz to carry me in on a stretcher but...."

"You think it'll come to that?" Willow thought about it and nodded. "Don't worry, we'll do it if we have to."

"Actually I'm kinda hoping to be well enough to fit in a couple of hours of sunlight for a slight can't be a vamp tan, and make my way in with a stick." She shrugged. "No way am I letting Forrest get back at me that easy, and since I can't rip his throat out......"

"But if you were to ask someone nicely pet." An Eastend-accented voice emerged from the darkness. "They might do it for you."

"An if fang marks might trouble your conscience," steel rasped on steel. "There's always that other option."

"Vampires." Buffy had known they were within earshot, her supercharged honing sense making it easy to keep track of her friends. "You know what happens to eavesdroppers?"

"They become really well informed?" Spike's teeth gleamed in the darkness. "You sure about it luv?"

"Yes." The reply was softly spoken. "I don't have a choice anymore if I'm going to go on living here."

*Well hasn't that git made it easy for her.* The sudden urge to go stomp on Forrest's head was overwhelming, but somehow Spike held it back.

"Bahadur." Browne emerged from the darkness to face her. "I swore an oath on haft and hilt to be your man and soldier, I swore it to a vampire Queen yet I tell you now my oath stays true, mortal or vampire."

"Thank you." She took his hands in hers. "I never doubted for a second that you'd stay on my team."

"Can't he talk all ladie dar when 'e wants to, bearing in mind 'e's such a common soundin' git....." Spike became aware of three hard glares. "Not that I ever thought he'd turn 'is coat either mind."

"So we all stay working together and now we all go back to the mansion?" Willow had developed a liking for Browne, she actually like him a little more than Spike. *Probably because he's never held a bottle to my face, or threatened to rape me.*

"You guys all go back with James here as an escort." She raised a hand to still his objections. "You obey me on this as in all things."

The vetala nodded, his oath bound him too.

"Spike, Angel and I will be out till an hour or so before dawn. We still have work to do here."

"But I thought we were all finished." The Wiccan knew the look that her friend threw at the building. "Buffy....?"

"Will, what do we think of people who try to turn other people into vampires?"

"We think they're bad so we dust them." This was an easy test, but then maybe it was too easy, Willow made her grrrhhh face then added, "We are talking about a vamp here.....aren't we?"

"No we're talking about a so-called warm blooded human being who plans to break into a hospital to turn a defenseless fellow human." Buffy looked at the Boarding house as if she wanted to set it alight with her gaze. "You know who their intended target was, don't you?"

"Faith?"

"Yes, this guy want's to turn a Slayer." The current one and only shrugged. "Not like it isn't maybe something we could fix, but I don't want to have to catch her first. So Will what do we do with this person?"

"You do what you have to do," the Wiccan replied in a small voice. "Just don't kill him, unless, that is, you want three Mojos tonight, cause all of a sudden I'm thinking about another rat run...."

"No, he doesn't deserve that kind of mercy." She turned to Spike. "Between the three of us we vampires will give him what he needs."

"Ok I'll go get the others." Willow looked away from the smug grin on Spike's face. *Oh yes that's the reason why I'm never going to one hundred percent trust that guy.* She walked away however sure in the knowledge that she trusted him ninety nine percent which was maybe good enough.

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

Giles very gently kissed Karen's forehead just below the bruise her accident on the ridge had caused. "I'm most terribly sorry."

"Why Rupert it wasn't your fault." Her arms where around his waist and his were around her shoulders, they held each other tightly as if the separation had been for a year, not a week. "All I know is that love you and I don't even want to be apart from you again."

"Really?" The question was soft spoken and hastily added to. "Not the love because you know I love you too, but the never wanting to be apart from me again?"

"Never." She pulled his tired worn face nearer to hers and kissed him on the mouth her tongue flicking across his lips but breaking away before he could reciprocate. "Ever ever ever."

"I say," Giles's smile broadened as he replied. "You do know I almost qualify as a crusty old bachelor?"

"Yes."

"I might take a good deal of house training."

"I'll go buy a riding crop." Her eyes sparkled with amusement. "See how much discipline that instills."

"Ouch." He bent and kissed her longer and deeper than before. "Do you really like that hideous new development you live in?"

"No." Though their lips had separated their faces stayed just an inch apart, Karen was speaking an a breathless whisper, her heart beating rapidly at the thought of what Giles was about to ask.

"Well," he drew a deep breath. "How would you like to move into a nice old fashioned condominium?"

"Oh you know one that's on the market?" She laughed joyfully at the confused look that crossed his face for a second before it was replaced by a boyish grin. "Say do you mean your very own old fashioned condo?"

"Karen will you please do me the honour of moving into my apartment and living with me." Giles saw the smile on his girlfriend's face grow broader still and as her lips again rose slightly to meet his. The tongues caressed each with another this time as they gave whole heartedly to the intimacy.

"Yes my love," she answered when the long kiss was finally broken. "But can I just ask one teensie little thing?"

"It's going to be your home Karen so you can ask as many things as you like."

"Can we throw out your tv and use mine?" He looked so happy this man who was holding her, his cares and troubles gone for this moment. And now fully what she had almost lost sank in for a moment, the pain that she might have suffered flared brightly but then snuffed out and was gone. "You know how good that wide screen is."

"True the Ealing comedies do look so much clearer." He gently ran his fingers through her short dark hair. "And I suppose I can find room for your dread machine, too."

"Wow I thought I'd have to fight you on that one...." She blushed and added, "Or work on you real hard in some other way."

"Oh well in that case....." Her lips stilled his words and their kiss became heated, their tongues entwining violently as they forgot the world around them.

A loud coughing from behind dragged them back to reality however, they turned to see a Wiccan standing there, blushing at having caught grownups doing kids stuff. "Ohhhh...hi."

"Ah Willow." Giles had a very ungrown up boyish grin on his face. "Are we leaving now?"

"Yes," she squeaked.

"Jolly good." He and Karen set off hand in hand for the van. "I can't wait to get you back to your new home."

*New home?* Willow followed puzzled at Giles' comment. *I didn't know Karen was moving house. Say?......No, but wait up....At their age!.....No but, ohhh that is so sweet!*

Anya and Xander were arguing by the van to Willow's not surprise. She didn't know what about but as usual it sounded embarrassing.

"Tail bone!" Anya nearly shouted. "I never had a tail, I wasn't that kind of demon......"

"Look I just said that when we get back to the mansion I'd check out the bruises on your tail....."

"Bone!" She snapped in reply. "Which I don't....."

Seeing the way that this was going to go on Willow intervened. "Anya it's just a politer way of saying butt, though actually at the base of the spine there are traces of where....."

"Oh Xander you were just being nice." Anya ignored Willow's help in resolving the matter as she took her still confused boyfriends arm. "Do you have any idea how much I wanna have....."

She stopped as she saw the look of horror. "Sorry nearly did it again."

Xander sent Willow a weak smile of gratitude as he was pulled towards the van, she sighed and shook her head at what had happened to her best friend then started after them.

A gentle hand on her arm and a brush of lips on her cheek stopped her though, she turned and hugged her boyfriend to her. "Oz we did it."

"Knew we would," his answer was as brief as she'd expected. "We going home now?"

"No," she answered regretfully knowing that he meant back to his and the Dog's house. She ached pleasantly from their earlier lovemaking and wanted more. "I've got a night and a morning's work ahead of me yet Oz, I don't know what time I'll be finished with it all."

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

"So it's just the three of us eh?" Spike looked directly at his Sire as he spoke. "Well isn't this nice."

"Why does it have to be him?" Angel ignored Spike to talk to Buffy. "Why couldn't he have gone back with the others and just the two of us dealt with this. Or Browne, Browne would be...."

"Hey!" Spike began only to be silenced by a look from Buffy.

"Spike is good at violence, we need three of us for safety." She looked at the blond and raised an eyebrow quizzically. "And lets face it Browne's a lot more likely to follow orders than Spike ever was."

"What?!"

"Now I understand." Angel actually smiled. "You know, I always noticed that about him...."

"Oiiii I am standing 'ere you know!"

"And he's kinda loud too." Buffy and Angel turned and started to walk back towards the Arms. "Did you ever notice that?"

"I'm not playing with you two if you keep this up." Spike twirled around his duster flying as he kicked at the ground. "And don't walk off and leave me...."

Buffy turned and winked at him. Then crooked her finger and whistled. "Here boy, mind you don't get left behind."

*Behind, which is what of yours is going to get spanked so hard for this if I ever get you alone again Missie.* With dark thoughts of Buffy collared and chained roaming round his mind Spike set off after them. *Oh look it's tag team time and they sent my team mate back to the mansion so they could pound me.*

He flicked a cigarette in the air and caught it in his lips. Then stopped, took it out and stared at it. *Now that was something, I'd like to see either of them do that.*

With a smirk all over his face he followed his probably ex-lover and his Sire as they set off on their new mission in the Sunnydale Arms.

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

Jason's arms ached as he opened the skylight, he'd been gripping the roof tiles for what seemed like hours. "Thought that van was never going to bloody go."

He stretched his arms and rolled his shoulders. "Still time for a sharp exit."

Grabbing his bag from where he'd dropped it he moved to a pile of sheets he'd grabbed. Swiftly he began to knot the ends together. "Homemade rope down the back wall and away."

He didn't hear his attacker till it was too late. The man came out of the shadows in the attic swinging a length of beam. The rusting nails in the end of the plank hit Jason's head with lethal force.

Marcus picked up the blood spattered sheets from Jason's open, lifeless hands and began to tie them together.

"You know old man that really sounds like a really good plan, maybe you weren't quite the ignorant lower class moron I thought after all."

Jason's eyes didn't flicker, he just lay there still as Albany worked on.

Continued







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