The Three Quarter Moon

by _-SuN-_


Genre: Darkfic
Pairing: Buffy/Dru/Spike
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Buffy wants heaven. Takes place before 'Dead Things'.


And I know life is getting shorter,
I can't bring myself to set the scene.
Even when in it's approaching torture,
I've got my routine.
—Magnolia

***

She awoke with a scream. Pale streaks of hair whipped against her face as her back shot off the bed. She sat rigid, eyes snapped to attention and peered blindly through the darkness as the winding pitch of her cry shook the walls with her agony. Her movements disturbed the stale air around her and caused it to circulate.

Her howl died abruptly as her lungs rebelled against the oxygen used to propel the force of her outrage. She began to cough, instinctively grasping at her chest, convulsing against the choking sensation and digging ditches into her breast.

Dazed, her eyes rolled wildly in the surrounding black, trying to focus on the mess of chaotic images flashing behind her eyes, stealing away from the dark storeroom of her nightmares and bombarding her with a thousand horrors. She shook her head, her fingers quivering on the linen as her limbs fought to free herself from the sheets, tangled around her legs like binding ropes.

From the skeleton of her room a door opened, allowing hard, sterile light to assault her senses. She bowed her head instantly away from the blinding rays of artificial sun. Slowly forcing her eyes to open to mere slants, pupils altering shape to a fraction of their natural size while adjusting to the electrical glare emitting from where she saw the sleek figure of a woman standing.

Her mind screamed at her, told her that she knew this woman and should attack, should genuflect, should acknowledge the new presence in some way. But she was having problems placing the face in her jumbled memory as the intruder stepped slowly closer.

On the bed, she trembled violently, the form blurring as it moved, and try as she might she couldn't focus on the woman's features. Her jaw dropped and face squinted up at the turmoil inside her mind, trying to sort it all out. Head tilting slightly as the woman stopped at the foot of the bed, placing her hands on the mattress and leaning in close. She stared at the barely recognizable woman in silence for a long moment, feeling the wheels physically churn inside her head, clicking to the ancient portrait of a small maiden assumed dead. Left bloodied and insane and exceedingly lethal, currently gazing down at her with those all seeing eyes.

"Dru—Drusilla?"

With a wide grin that lit up her eyes in the sparkling darkness, Drusilla placed her knee on the bed. Slow and cautious with an air of timeless grace, she moved towards the bewildered Slayer. "Shhh… Oh, lovely…" her voice patronized, soothing a child awoken from a nightmare, "You're trembling, my sweet. Shhh… Lie still."

Moving pictures like cinematography flashed behind her eyes, sepia-toned and distant. Portraits of a life she knew intimately and yet couldn't grasp the owner's name. Bombarded with confusion, one thing remained steadfast in her system and that was the unmistakable sensation of danger. Great danger. Her hazel eyes darted around the room, trying to focus on where she was, what weapons might be available but with every turn of her head the world spun as though drunk on foreboding. Her voice was foreign to her own ears as she hissed venomously, "What have you done?"

The brunette's hand came leisurely to rest on the Slayer's thigh. Buffy whimpered and flinched away at the sensation. Drusilla's fingers snapped away from the younger girl's skin immediately. "Your head's so… full of enchanting colors." She spoke instead, her voice softer than before. Remembering the last time she had a daughter that had awoken, frightened and violent. She tried her best for serene, but came up short.

When the Slayer didn't respond, Drusilla's smile lost its shine, but didn't falter on her face. "Like a kaleidoscope, very beautiful." She ran appreciative eyes over Buffy's small frame, "Very beautiful indeed."

The vampire was startled, letting out a strangled cry of indignation when Buffy's hand shot out, backhanding Dru hard enough to slam her toppling back to the floor and still have enough momentum to bounce on the hardwood.

Slayer instincts exploded inside the smaller blonde and immediately Buffy's legs jerked out from beneath the covers. Drusilla was already up again, moving to straddle the would-be defenseless body, but she merely found herself once more belted off the bed, landing with a hard thud. It took her mind precious seconds to regain clarity as she shook her head, stunned.

Buffy was untangled from the fabric that was twisted around her body and out the door before Drusilla was on her feet.

Worrying her bottom lip with blunt teeth, Dru pulled a long strand of chestnut hair out of her eyes and began twisting it around her fingers.

The Slayer stopped at the winding staircase, searching out the parameters for a sign of familiarity. It was eerily silent throughout the poorly decorated estate, and in the back of her mind was a nagging suspicion that she was here for a very specific reason.

She chanced a glance behind her before grasping the balustrade and launching herself over the second story, landing with well-learned refinement below.

The blonde looked back up to the stairs as Drusilla peered down at her. The brunette made no move or sign that she was building up momentum for a fight and though slightly perplexed, Buffy vaulted for the door. Her eyes were forced to adjust once more to the sparkling clarity of the night, stars shinning down painfully bright.

Drusilla leaned over the railing of the second floor and watched as the Slayer raced out the door into the world beyond the Crawford Street mansion. She frowned, wondering if she should follow or wait for the blonde's inevitable return.

She followed her instincts without a second thought as to where they were leading her. It took less than five minutes to find her way out of the dilapidating and abandoned neighborhood she'd awoken in, and running full speed she found herself surrounded by the nighttime life of Sunnydale.

Tension rapidly coiled in her body and tightened strange muscles she didn't know she had. A steady thrum of far-away drums swayed her to dance to a soft beat with every step. Confused, she turned her head, hair slapping against the side of her cheek from the force of her movement. Her stomach cramped and pressure was suddenly, relentlessly surrounding her, as though the very air had turned liquid and was drowning her in silver ink.

Desperately Buffy tried to push it away, with no more efficiency than if she had been pushing at water. The wind was picking up and she buried her face in her hands, trying to convince herself she couldn't hear the air whistling sharply through the city—calling her name.

Her head jerked up to see that it was calling her name. A near sob escaped her lips as she looked at the girl standing before her. Name on the tip of her tongue, // didn't we have class together? don't I know you from somewhere? // She took a small breath, and a bigger one and the girl was abruptly too close. Concern in her eyes and a comforting hand on Buffy's arm, asking if she should call someone, if she would be okay.

A fragile neck, exposed to destiny's noose.

That eccentric tang of cooper in blood, liquefying old taste-buds and making way for something entirely new.

Death for the little girl dressed up like a celestial mass of Arcadia and Elysium, looking for fun around the only club in town.

When she came back to herself, Buffy was doubled over on the gravel, water from the street soaking her torn skirt and her fingers were tightly tangled in the long black hair of the girl. Her knee was tucked, with surely painful pressure, between the girl's ribs and her eyes were staring slightly over Buffy's shoulder, blank and listless.

The Slayer blinked, licking her lips, having no memory of assuming that position, no idea even how long she'd been like that.

Water fell onto her chest and as she went to wipe it away she wasn't at all as shocked as she felt she should have been to find her fingers coated in red. Running the back of her hand over her chin smeared more crimson over her cheeks and she became aware of the silence around her.

She didn't have time to become terrified of the total loss of continuity, or memory of her actions before the world blurred and refocused. Like someone had tightened all the loose screws inside her since her re-birth to life and re-birth to death, she felt strong and capable and without apprehension. Fret, worry, the awful feeling of being misplaced all shed away from her skin like that many useless layers.

And fuck if it didn't feel like quitting time. The glorious Friday feel, when your boss hands over the paycheck and you know that all will be well for at least another week.

She'd spent her whole life busting her ass: helping Dawn study, fighting evil, comforting friends, pretending to be at peace in a world that had tried over and over to get rid of her.

And suddenly, out of nowhere, she'd gotten to the bottom of the job orders. Buffy rose from the street, leaving the body beneath her to stare blankly at the graffiti on the buildings and waved goodbye to Stress City.

No more migraines from standing over the grill and listening to customers bitch over the headphones. No more self-contempt for finding guilty pleasures in a vampire's arms. Her time was finally, finally her own.

She smiled, her eyes flashing like diamonds as she turned to see two, then four people create a small crowd around the lifeless body on the street. Buffy punched out her time clock and quit life without a backward's glance.

He was agitated, pacing circles around the cement and dirt floor. The mere fact that he was worried served only to frustrate him further. Worry? Inwardly, he scowled. She was twice his better when it came to taking care of herself, and she'd learned that in much less than half the time he'd had to sculpt the skill of self-preservation.

Spike turned on his heel, pacing the length of the crypt several times over. He killed another cigarette and scolded himself for thinking that she was his responsibility in the first place. She'd take his head with a butter knife if she knew that specific emotion he felt.

But that particular blame could be placed on Dru's shoulders. It was her fault he felt the need to overprotect his loved ones in the first place. Fuck Prague for that as well.

For the hell of it he added Angel and his unfavorable counterpart to the list before grabbing a container of blood, added psychological technology as number four to the mix, and headed downstairs.

Stripping off his black t-shirt he popped in some punk and kicked up his feet on the bed while lighting another cigarette in hopes of driving out all unpleasant thoughts.

He was halfway through when he felt the air begin to circulate. Spike noticed the sudden change in atmosphere immediately. It smelled funny… off. Oxygen mixed within the swell of blood, the musk of the Slayer he'd become accustomed too, but more so… Like heady magic and strange evil.

Buffy paused just above the portal to the bottom level of the crypt. Her hands rested behind her on a nearby tomb turned potential couch as she listened to his senses pick up on her arrival from below.

She thought of his eyes shinning in the flickering candlelight and remembered herself draped in white cotton innocence, caught in the haze of a vampire's distorted mind that was depraved and sinful and that had seduced her.

The Slayer ran her tongue along her teeth, grinning broadly with a mercenary cut in her eyes before pushing her arms against the tomb and using the momentum to vault into the chasm below.

Spike blinked several times as the Slayer approached him. The difference in her was obvious and appreciable immediately, but it took him slightly longer to grasp the source of this new energy within her.

She watched him strike a spark in the catacombs beneath his tomb-made-home. Smoke spiraled around him, billowing like a halo over his head before disintegrating to mingle with the odd perfume around them.

"You left without saying goodbye, Slayer." He smirked, hiding his confusion with a well-placed veil of venomous sarcasm.

"You pulled your punches," she replied coolly, placing her hands harmlessly behind her back, stepping forward.

"Where've you been?" he demanded with a harsh seriousness that coiled in her stomach. He twirled the cigarette between his fingers, drawing a plum of smoke before continuing, "You're lil' sis has been worried sick—" Spike exhaled the carcinogens just as Buffy plucked the smoldering stick from between his fingers, spinning in a half circle and falling on his bed.

Motioning towards the Camel polluting the air around them she gave it a twisted smile, "These things'll kill you."

Eyebrow arched, reply tip-toeing on the edge of his tongue, Spike's eyes narrowed.

The Slayer's head bent backwards on her slim shoulders, neck craned upwards and legs crooked to teeter on the brink of the bed. Body poised like an insect sacrificing its carapace. Spike's jaw dropped at the realization of what she was and what she was implying. Wide-eyed, he didn't know whether to laugh or cry while she drew deep on the stick between her fingers, grimacing at the taste.

His grief contorted to anger, but what could be done? Cherish the memory that this… god, this thing before him held? Well, he rolled his eyes towards the ceiling, hadn't he been doing that all along? Since she came back, dull and lifeless in the rays of the sun, in the heat of the scattered lights of the Bronze, hell even on the hunt. He'd been worshiping the memory of her for a very long time.

She threw the cigarette haphazardly on the ground, understanding his torment. "A shadow of a shadow resurrected from the woman you loved." She caught her bottom lip between her teeth, teasing the fleshy meat there and forcing back her own boiling mirth. "You could kill me," she said conversationally, starting a list by checking off her index finger, pulling it painfully backwards with a wry grin. "Well, you could try." She seemed to enjoy this theory, rolling the ideas around in her mind, hazel eyes reflecting the thoughts back to him. She uttered in a low pitch, "take care of Dawn 'till she goes off to college somewhere, gets married and no longer needs you." With a snaky grin she licked her lips, "Or until she dies. Life on the Hellmouth, she might not even make it to seventeen."

Spike wasn't sure if that was meant to be a threat or not, "You could hightail it to L.A. afterwards, off to Angel Investigations and hope someone there is still alive. Fight the Good Fight, in memory of your shadow of a shadow gal…"

The Slayer on his bed marked off number two on her list as she gasped with mock self-righteousness, "You could curse me!" Her eyes narrowed, worrisome. "Would I go running to L.A. though? Angel would best understand the pain and torment of living dead with a soul… Hmm… Maybe. Maybe not, though. I'd never find my moment of true happiness here, with you. I could stay, we could be together in the light of day, so to speak. Who would dare say we are wrong for each other then? Wouldn't be unnatural."

Spike held his tongue, her words were painful and sharp and he felt… somehow cornered by them.

And all he could think of was what it might have been like for her, mortal Buffy, when Angel had lost his soul. She didn't backpedal when things got too tough. She wouldn't have cowered if he had come into her house, unchipped and out for blood. She would do what had to be done.

He wondered if he could fall back on the simple fact that unlike Angel or Buffy, he didn't have a soul to lose, to tell him right from wrong. He just had an electrical jolt that said 'Bad Puppy. Down.' and the memory of a girl who was never his girl.

Arrogantly, Buffy pushed her elbows beneath her back and caught his eyes in the flickering gloom she had once thought of as romantic. He held his ground but she saw him stiffen, enraged and frustrated by her taunting. "Someone," she said vaguely, though the glimmer in her eyes suggested she left out names purely for his benefit, "told me once that there's no such thing as a perfect balance. The world has to dip one way or the other." She said, illustrating using her hands as scales, bending her knees further apart and laying her feet flat on the mattresses side. "She was right," the Slayer sing-songed. "The scales tipped. What I'm wondering," Buffy drawled, her eyes glaring at him as she spoke evenly and somewhat sternly, "is which one of us has had just too much of a good thing?"

Spike once again began to pace. Unconsciously at first, but soon gaining furious momentum around the lair, unable to look at the bored face of the Slayer laying provocatively on his bed. He stopped next to the tape player, smashing the box as opposed to hitting the stop button and asked while examining his injured hand, "Who did this to you?"

Buffy sighed, her body visibly slack and melting into the shape of the mattress beneath her. "I believe you call her Mother." Feminine laughter broke through the sudden frail silence of the Slayer's confession, "Or at least you would, were you not always so busy beneath her skirts."

Spike sighed, as though that one breath could release all the tension. It didn't and he blinked rapidly, trying to wrap his mind around the facts. "So…" he closed his eyes, turning to her, "Dru vamped yah? Why?" The answer seemed to come to him with great pain because he flinched, "Revenge? She really hates me that much?"

Buffy rolled her shoulders against the soft linen, her lips slightly parted. She waited, stalling and mulling over the question asked and all the others Spike thus far left unsaid. She could taste the delicacy of his sorrow in the air, but that wasn't the only thing she felt rushing from the pores of his dead body. "I could lie to you," she responded slowly, rising from the bed to stand directly in front of him. "Say yes."

Spike recoiled from her touch as though the Slayer was made of holy water, but she grasped the sides of his jaw with one strong petite hand and growled, "Look. At. Me when I am talking to you."

Reluctantly his water-drenched eyes focused on hers.

A rush of power overcame her to see the strong emotions she could invoke and she rode the relished wave that the sharp taste of anguish created in her until he knocked her hands away from his body, disgusted to have noticed her thrill.

For a long moment silence fell over them until she spoke again, "But I don't know. I haven't seen her, and with the sun rising in a few… figured I'd turn up here, laugh at your reaction before heading back…" The Slayer paused and Spike watched her bravado deflate under the weight of her thoughts. "Heh," her eyes rolled heavenwards at her wry laugh, "why lie?" For a moment, with her eyes downcast and Herculean shoulders slumped, he saw more than a shadow of the girl he'd originally fallen for.

And then she was gone, and everything that could have been was over.

He chuckled at the irony of it. Her head snapped up, and she stated bluntly, "I came here to kill you. This wanna-be family coven thing…" she snorted, "way lame."

Spike understood her thought process without hesitation. Dru was always big on group hugs. "But?"

"But…" She continued with a shrug, a wisp fanciful tang in her voice, "I don't know." She didn't pause long before growling, "I don't need you to watch my back." and he was sure of that. She never needed him to watch her back when she was mortal, add advanced senses and reflexes to her already preternatural birth-right… "I don't need Her any longer. Drusilla served her purpose and you never even had one." Her words stung, even if they weren't coming from the Buffy he'd known these past four years.

And suddenly her leg was wrapped about his waist and he felt how truly powerful she really was. Had a sneaking suspicion she was holding back. Her capable fingers clasped together around his neck and she fell back, body halfway onto the mattress. His full weight forced her into the soft bed, but she made no show of discomfort. She laughed at the bewildered anger in his eyes. "You were too evil for me when I was alive," she whispered, brushing her lips against his, "And now you just might be too good. But my mind has decided against my intelligence, my better judgment. It has its own thoughts where you are concerned."

She acted upon the impulse to tell him how she really felt, and acted upon the influence to kiss him with the sweltering heat she felt inside.

And God's Below he wanted to be seduced by her. He never pretended to not understand why she'd always claimed to be the good girl seduced by the snake charmer. But he'd never truly felt it until now. He liked the feel of her strange evil wrapping around him and surely he wouldn't miss that courageous fearless hero obsessed with saving humanity. He could live without that light in her eyes.

Spike rolled away from her and no sooner had his back touched the mattress than she was looming above him, her tongue snaking patterns on his chest as her hips gyrated lower. She mocked him, eyes rolling upwards without losing contact with his flesh to view his expression. She pinned his wrists down to his sides with her considerably stronger arms. "Stop wanting that fucking actress," she hissed, berating her former self and pushing up on his body to glare down into his eyes with brutal honesty. "She wasn't real, Spike. She was an imitation. An impersonation. You know that much, percepto-boy. I would never, never want you. Never!" Her fist slammed down on the small wooden table beside his bed. It crushed beneath her rage. "I had to die for you to even get a fucking chance. Played the world by day and played you by night, and I still never lived." His eyes grieved below her and she loosened her rough hold on the wrists, lowered her voice to speak to him as his eyes followed hers now, wherever she turned them, "You know it's true."

She got up and off him, coolly running a hand through her rumpled hair. She had a foot on the ladder to the upper ground before tossing a look back to him. For his part, Spike was standing rigid, barely concealed rage scorching his blood. "You know where to find me." He didn't look up and she continued, amused at his provoked ire, "You always know where to find me… I suggest you not come looking for a fight."

Drusilla had a nest of vampires awaiting the Slayer's return to the mansion. Not much of an army, Buffy mused, but her Sire was still new to town, give or take a few years absentee. She stretched her back at the feel of sunrise. Still safe by an hour, but the tiny hairs on the back of her neck were standing on edge, and a queasy feeling had worked its way into her stomach at the churning, instinctive knowledge that dawn was soon to come.

With a smug smirk on her lips, Buffy gripped the latticework on the building's side wall, reveling in the feline feel of her new abilities as she jumped onto one precarious edge after another until brushing inside the mansion with stealth she'd never seen her foes possess and never dreamed herself possible of.

Buffy didn't waste time taking in the room she'd entered. It was empty and that suited her just fine as she walked out, closed her eyes and simply listened to the sound of demons scrabbling around the large abode, a gothic beat hummed around the worker bees as they followed their queen's orders to the letter. She took in the sight of Drusilla swaying hypnotically to the music and with a running jump, grasped the balustrade railing and flipped herself over the landing, spinning midair to land gracefully below.

Drusilla gave a startled shriek, clenching her small hands to her chest in a gesture of fright. Wide eyed, she looked down at the Slayer who had landed on her haunches, one leg stretched out before her.

Buffy looked up, the glimmer of a smirk brushing against her lips as the older woman threw her hands high in the air, entertained. The blonde grinned, savagely amused at the power she held regardless of the fact that she was the youngest amongst the masses and the only one on her knees. She couldn't hide her smile at the sound of Drusilla's soft, inconsistent laughter. "Tricky, tricky."

The Slayer jerked to her feet and Dru noticed the difference in her immediately. Confident in a way no mortal girl could ever be, self-assured and downright poisonous. She licked her lips as Buffy jerked her head to the side, irritably swatting away the streaks of blond fallen over her eyes. "Never that," she replied with a snide smile curving her lips.

Her eyes flared with a malicious light that sent chills down the older vampiress' spine. Drusilla arched her back into the sensation, purring like a kitten. The Slayer stood toe to toe in front of the woman, coming up a several inches shorter than Dru notwithstanding the high heels she wore. And in spite of the drawn-out silence at the brunette's unanticipated movement Buffy didn't flinch, merely squinted curiously at the feel of long nails caressing the side of her face before stroking through her long hair. Her eyes wavered then, slightly away from the intensity of Drusilla's glaring brown hues, as though those eyes were looking through her and laughing, mocking the insecurities she still held from her mortal life. When the brunette spoke again, her voice was teetering on solemn, warring on whether she should celebrate or condemn. "The colors are pretty, aren't they?"

Buffy wasn't sure what to make of that statement, and felt chained and collared because of it.

Drusilla wasn't put out, however. Any scowl in her eyes was unintentional. She nodded, her palm resting full across the side of the former Slayer's head. "Everything here is yours, Buffy," she whispered, leaning in close and indicating the warrior's mind. "It's a horrifying shame you can't see your own brilliance. I once knew someone who didn't know what to do with her colors… She became transparent."

At that, the Slayer scowled, unable to translate and frustrated that it took such a lunatic to free her of the human race. "Get your head out of the fucking clouds, Dru."

There was a change of smell in the air around them and Drusilla's attention snapped towards Buffy, an angry undertone to her words, "I see not all your instincts died when you did, then?" The smaller woman stiffened, unsure where this was going and not knowing if she should feel defiant under the circumstances. "You were with him."

The brunette didn't see the blow coming, but her head rolled with the pain of the slap. Dru did see the upper kick forming seconds before she felt her ribs crush, laughing at the sharp pain of shattered bones. "Finding your death amusing, Drusilla?" Buffy spat out with venom, snapping her head back to toss away the hair obscuring her vision. She was unaccountably angry that she couldn't be with Spike as a mortal or immortal and more so that she didn't truly believe that she wanted to be with him at all.

A girl always wants what she can't have.

Vampires were gathering around the duo prepared for battle on the lower floor, but none dared disturb either of them. Their fear of displeasing Dru was palpable, and not one of them dared to go against the one strong enough to take her down.

Buffy pulled the still-giggling brunette to her feet, hanging on to the loose fabric of her would-be new age clothing and pulled back for another punch.

Dru turned her entire attention on the blonde, "I wouldn't do that, precious."

"Well, you're not me. Therein lies the pleasantries." Drusilla had Buffy's fist wrapped around her small hand before it came close to breaking her nose.

"You don't know the game you're playing. You can't win the game until you know the rules to break in order, Buffy. For now… in any case."

Dru released Buffy's fist when the former slayer pulled back. Shuddering, she felt the very blood in her veins vibrate. Her voice was cold, but hardly controlled, "Through my many lives, I've learned it never pays to plan too far ahead."

Drusilla smiled broadly, her teeth flashing in the ill-lit room. "Too true. Tell me Slayer mine, can you still feel the paradise you came from?" The older vampiress held up her hand when Buffy moved to respond. Thus silenced, the blonde slouched on one leg and tilted her head slightly, contemplating the insane words that came from a pointed direction. "I have this awful pressure in my head. It won't go away, everything is all shiny and glittery and glazed over. Makes me lose track of where or—or what's happening. Funny though, it only occurs when you're in the room. I wonder—"

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Dru. Head. Clouds. Stop floating around like a loon and focus."

With a slight frown that quickly melted into a suggestive grin, Drusilla did do her best to focus on the matter at hand. "You forgot what you knew, but you will remember soon. It's not Spike you want to hurt. It's them."

The blonde blinked, not understanding, "Them who?"

"They who put you in a room of colors and not a dark closet. Sometimes, when it's very dark out and I can't see my hand in front of my face, I make up my own colors. Such pretty, pretty colors."

Buffy let her breath out slowly and started counting backwards from 100 until a specific sentence from Dru's sight piqued her senses.

"Sometimes, events are so awful that you simply forget. Self-preservation. Then there are others… when circumstances are so beautiful and glorious that you cannot bear to remember. But not you, my lovely daughter. You hold your pain so close. Oh!" Drusilla bounced, gleeful, "Like a security blanket." She wrapped her arms around herself, hugging her waist, "You never have to pretend just to make it through another day. But that doesn't make it right, does it?"

Buffy noticed immediately she was being seduced, but Drusilla's words rang true to her. "It doesn't make it right what they did to you. They knew you'd be pulled back to us. To me. They know all," she whispered conspiratorially. "And yet, they chose to let you suffer your loss." Her voice was very quiet and matter-of-fact as Dru leaned in close, her lips brushing along the sensitive side of the Slayer's jaw. "Slumber deep. Six feet of sleep, my lovely. For tomorrow you just might die."

Buffy tilted her head backwards to look into Drusilla's eyes as their lips touched and she kept on her hypnotic reasoning. "But, oh! You just keep dying," she whispered, her eyelashes faltering and laying to rest over her pale cheeks. "Defying life. Denying death."

Dru looked upward slightly to take in the captivated, albeit perplexed, image of her daughter's hazel eyes. At the pause, Buffy said under her own non-existent breath, "I don't understand."

"Then stop trying," Drusilla said more sharply than she'd intended.

Buffy sighed softly at the lack of comprehension. Nothing to show from her first class in vamp. 101, teachings of The Sanity Impaired Seer. As originally suspected, Drusilla was all fog machines and carnival mirrors.

In a twisted sort of way however, her words had sounded like the Slayer's own private confession. Buffy Summers, spirit, secrets, ego and all living inside the tainted, rose-colored mind of Angelus' past obsession.

But where once this tall leggy brunette had dominated her, Buffy now held the power to become the Mistress of the House. In all honesty, looking at a slight angle to those brown almond eyes, she didn't think Drusilla would care in the least to have her reign of triumph cut short. Almost as if she could see the suggestion of perfection that Buffy's skin concealed.

Of course, the blonde mused, her hand flattening itself on the back of Drusilla's head, not even the worst clairvoyant psychotic would dare oppose a slayer turned. With casual slowness, Buffy's fingers spread and moved lower to push the taller woman's head down, moving forward until their soft lips were touching with more than spoken words too close for comfort but soothing all the same.

In Drusilla's kiss, Buffy found more than mere softness and something new waiting to be discovered. She felt delirious passion and unreasonable incentive and it provoked her, overpowered her with intoxicated enchantment that bordered rage and she bit down on the brunette's tongue.

Old blood fell from the corner of the Slayer's mouth as she sucked on the wound and breathed a heady moan, feeling the source of Drusilla's power falling down her chin, lacking current to flow down her neck.

The pain enticed Dru, her fingers trailed roughly up the sides of Buffy's skimpy club clothing and her nails raked small welts from the inside of the gossamer and silk package, feeling each rib press in with her touch.

The Slayer hardened the kiss, putting her body behind her mouth while her hands moved to hold the brunette's face closer, closer still to encourage her movements.

Cautious fingers moved to Dru's face, lower to the snow-white skin hiding deceptively frail bone to her neck, locking her fingers together behind the soft flesh as Dru's form of foreplay cut a little too deep. But Buffy didn't want to cry out. She didn't want to stop the delicious rotating play of cat and mouse but couldn't stop the tension that roused aching discomfort. Slowly, Buffy let out the breath she'd been holding and her hands moved to her Sire's shoulders down the gentle slopes that were her breasts to trace patterns around the sparsely clad flesh, swirling her fingers and noticing that her hips were dancing against Drusilla's as though they were two lovers at a nightclub.

Buffy found the similarities and the differences between them intriguing as Drusilla's nipples became rigid beneath her fondling actions. Not just age or ways of thinking any longer. Suddenly Drusilla was not just a creator of beings above age or death and neither was she an intimidating foe. Buffy found her able to exist as a beautiful creature without supporting branches to make her a fulfilling sheath of camouflage.

As a mortal girl, she wasn't known to find women attractive, save for on shallow levels. Mostly, jealousy. Even now, she found herself lightly comparing Drusilla's beauty to her own and felt, perhaps, self-conscious in places and righteous in others. She smiled around their kiss, quelling all thoughts because then… there would lack a sexuality to it.

Seemed as though it didn't matter how forcefully he pushed his hands into the sides of his head, the chaos there refused to be bullied out. Perhaps it was rooted there and Spike was trapped. Sure, just like a boxed up lab-rat, mulling over thoughts while scampering around the maze in his mind; all roads leading back to Buffy's transformation.

He brought the bottle of whiskey to his lips and dropped his head back, because it sure as hell was easier to be numb than to be forced to pick and choose emotions.

Mourn for her loss or celebrate her metamorphosis?

He couldn't stop himself from caring; it was too soon, too unexpected to not hold memories of loss and longing and cry out in want. Life on the Hellmouth was an experience that moved by quickly. Left too many people dazed and wondering what the hell just happened.

But, while weighing the pros and cons, he was coming up short.

Her body on top his, indifferent to the sensations she provoked in him. She'd been right, that demon wearing his lover's skin—what little emotion she had squeezed out was closer to dramatic acting than actual feeling. He couldn't hold her in his arms lest she become uneasy with her head laying so close to his un-beating heart. All he could really share with her were the times he focused all his attention upon, falling in a state of meditation that mimicked her callous apathy.

And he'd been so fucking glad, for so long, to simply have just that. Willing to pass off his love for her because he'd known it would never be returned.

Spike frowned, not knowing where his loyalties should lay. She was of course a piece of him, for good and bad, and in that sense he had lost yet another bit of matter that had made up the pieces of who he'd become. How much more of himself could The Powers peel off until he began to fade away and there was nothing left? What would they give him in return? Another shiny bit of metal? A heart aching with desire for another he couldn't obtain? Buffy, his Buffy, had reformed his life and if he didn't truly care for any of the Scoobies on a Buffy-less level, he had worked beside them. Trusted them and been trusted in return.

What part of loving her had altered his emotions where others were concerned?

If she knew what he was thinking, what he thought of her friends now that she was dead, she might just feel cheated. Maybe that bitch Walsh would as well. There was a voice in the back of his head, growing louder the more he drank, that these people, these humans had hoped to leave more of an impression.

It's hard for a vampire to think rationally and normally sometimes.

And the inevitable image he couldn't keep from his mind reemerged and made his knees weak. Tumbling backwards for his bed he dropped back and clutched the sheets between his fingers.

Drusilla and Buffy.

Buffy and Drusilla.

Knowing the last thing he should be doing was comparing the two very contrasting women he loved, he couldn't stop imagining their bodies twisted in romantic pose. Hard and soft, the Slayer no longer warm to touch, but her flesh was still real. Enhanced to the ceramic perfection of a renowned sculptor's knife. He knew Dru's touch like the back of his hand, remembered the way that when she touched him, he'd forget any other lover.

Couldn't quite capture Buffy's appeal any longer, not knowing what changes had been made, what was left of the stalwart warrior he'd known. Knows that in her arms any paramour she took would be seduced with lying lips and the Slayer's years of flexible, adaptable training.

And, god, how that sparked his interest.

Drusilla's back arched at the pain of Buffy's touch as the Slayer captured her emotions along the canvas of her Sire's bare flesh, painting out a mural of her transgression in screaming crimson and bleeding pain. The brunette lay tense, her fingers digging into the bedding beneath her as cold fingers slid slowly up her thigh, skimmed the curve of her hips to rest upon the swell of her stomach.

A wanting whisper escaped the older female and the Slayer smirked, grazing her dangerously sharp canines against the pale flesh of Dru's thighs, drawing a thick stream of liquid life as she pulled away to watch the colors of borrowed blood bleed into the navy blankets below.

And shifted her weight, the piercing gaze of her concentration and the heat in her stare coerced Drusilla to open her eyes with cloudy vision. She watched the blonde study the macabre form of art she was illustrating. Watched when her lips twitched faintly as she controlled the small smile caught behind her teeth. Released at the sound of Drusilla's whiskey laughter filling the room.

"Shut up," Buffy hissed, digging her fingers into the older woman's sides, blood flowing at a slow pace as the too-pale brunette arched her back off the bed and goaded the former warrior on further. Small crescent marks were left in her wake, as Dru flattened limp to the mattress, her voice was soft and wafting, lacking strength as she lay in a lake of her own blood.

Locks of pale hair teased the brunette's stomach as Buffy leaned over her. "What are you thinking of, Drusilla?"

As she shifted her weight, the body beneath her let out a gurgled kind of moan, crimson pouring like a river from the many layers of shaved off skin parchment. Her eyes beckoned the blonde nearer, sparkling despite her rapidly decreasing strength. Her small fingers fluttered over the Slayer's neck, the illusion of frailty causing them to appear weak as they touched the skin of her companion, flushed from hours of slowly devouring Drusilla's blood. "Snapping the noose, arrogant child. There is more to eternal life than no longer being bound by humanity's laws." She paused before tossing a wicked grin to the Slayer, "Mmm… And cotton candy clouds."

The Slayer let the ramble slide, angered by her Sire's previous words. Buffy was geared up and ready to argue when Dru shook her head slightly and a malicious grin spread on her lips. "You answer to no one, lovely girl. No high order dare stand in your way. Crisscross, crisscross, there are no lines left to stop us."

Buffy's eyes closed slowly, and reopened, vibrant. She said nothing for a long moment, letting the words seduce her senses. There need be no worthless standards of right and wrong to tread upon. Drusilla wouldn't, and most appealingly, couldn't prevent her from doing what she wanted. Buffy breathed out an airless sigh of enlightened pleasure. No moral codes, rules or regulations to adhere to. It was a heady sensation.

When she focused her attention once more on the girl laying upon the bed, Drusilla was looking at her with eager expectation in her eyes. "What do you most desire?"

Wrapped haphazardly, using his trenchcoat to cover his head and a long burned out rag to shield the rest of his body from the scorching rays of the sun, Spike stormed the Summers residence. Smoke curled from his body and a stream of colorful curses followed in his wake through the kitchen and up the stairs.

Close. So close to knowing and he pulled a William, crashing into Willow who went down under the weight of their collision.

The vampire clenched his fists to his head, hissing an unapologetic justification for his actions while Willow picked herself up from the floor, apologizing for not moving, having assumed he'd naturally seen her. She quickly retracted that apology with a sarcastic glare as pain shot through her wrist.

"Gee, Spike. Always nice to see you here."

He grabbed her arm, squeezing tightly when she moved to brush past him. "Where's Dawn?"

Soaking wet with a towel wrapped like a turban around her red hair and a matching cover for her waist, concern flooded her features. There was too much desperation in his voice, and she remembered the last time he was worried.

Slowly, she responded, "Asleep. I just checked on her. She has school in a few hours…" Sudden anxiety for her best friend's sister caused her voice to raise a pitch higher. "Should she not go to school? Is there danger? Big danger? Is that why Buffy didn't come home last—"

"You're positive Dawn's in that room?" Willow nodded affirmative but Spike's fingers still itched to open that door.

She was nothing if not sympathetic to his fearful, wounded expression. The girl always allowed her heart to go out to anyone playing up the kicked puppy routine. Her green eyes were wide and trustful and he knew he could tell her anything, that she'd keep his secret. "What's going on?"

But not Buffy's. And he didn't quite know what to do with that. This scenario hadn't been accounted for in the 'Dawn. Danger' panic mode conditioned into him. Unsure of what to say, what information to divulge and even what side he was on, Spike shook his head, fumbling down the stairs and for the couch. He dropped listless to the cushions, cradling his head in his hands.

At his prolonged silence, Willow ventured, "Spike…?"

"Wait!" he snapped. Willow stiffened, not enjoying the feeling of being left out of the Vampire/Slayer loop, especially if it involved danger to her or anyone she cared for.

Experimenting with several different scowling expressions, she settled on the one most likely to make her look fully in charge of any situation that might be presented before pointing at him angrily.

But Spike was already talking, mumbling really, and she leaned in closer to hear him out. "There's been a sort of mix-up. Hellmouthy kind of thing." Spike spoke, raising his head from his hands to look up at Willow's face, lying to her, eye to eye. "But between me and Buff, we're sure to get it all taken care of. She sent me here to, yah know… Check in on the brat."

And there it was, all said and done, and he can feel the relief embedded into the lie. It's too late to overlook the facts now. Nothing to do but wait and wonder when Buffy would come to show her friends her new style, or if she'll just drop off the face of the earth and leave them guessing. Hopes it'll be the latter because he's not so confident Willow would look as pretty drenched in her own blood as he was that many years ago.

He'd become too close to them now. Seen their fucking ups and downs and watched them grow. Older, wiser, move out of homes, change apartments. Die.

And unexpectedly, he reached out slowly and ran his fingers through her short red streaks of hair. Her brow furrowed, unsure of what to make of the motion and Spike frowned, shocked at the realization that this really might be the last time he'd look into her green eyes. All the times he'd worked beside her, watched her work hard to become a formidable and powerful witch only to give it all up for her friend's sake. He had watched her trust her life in his own hands and now he could barely muster the emotion of sorrow for leaving her in the dark.

So he jumped to his feet, no point in mourning before the grave was dug.

Grasping the edges of his coat he pulled the sides up to cover his face and walked towards the back entrance in the kitchen, Willow hot on his heels. "Well," she said, helping him to get the cloth over his head, "if you give me some more information maybe I can, you know… look it up online, or in books. Help you guys out."

Regretfully, he shook his head. "I've seen this particular demon before. No worries…" he gave a pause after opening the door. "But, come to think of it…" He perked up, "if anyone, or thing, including me or…" he was grasping straws to not say Her name first, "Xander, Tara… or, hell even Buffy, asks for an invite into the house… turn them away."

Willow's nose wrinkled at that, "I thought only vampires needed invites."

"Hey, I'm trying to help you live to graduate college, alright? Just… don't invite her in."

The redhead shut the door behind him as Spike cursed against the sun's scorching rays. Don't invite her in.

She shook her head. They'd work it out, whatever demon was messing with people in their town. It's what they did. And what were the chances of anything less-than-godly taking down Buffy a second time?… Willow frowned. Third time.

"I don't know about you, but my two favorite words are 'quitting' and 'time'." Xander proclaimed, walking with a slight swagger in his step towards his fiancée, content to find his own diversions in the off hours on the construction site.

After stealing several kisses in the customer-free Magic Box, Xander found an empty chair across Willow and sank into the incense-scented cushions. The redhead gave a small smile as way of acknowledgement and continued to shuffle through a few more pages in the newspaper she was reading.

"So Charlie," Xander began conversationally, turning to Anya. "You know, one of the regulars," She nodded, recalling Charlie as the underweight man who didn't appreciate the coasters she'd purposefully set out in their apartment. "turns to me after lunch and says 'Xander, me and some of the guys are gonna grab a couple of six-packs and make use of Roy's new cable hook-up. Wanna come?'"

Willow looked up from her papers, "So?"

"So?!" Xander sat a tad straighter, indignant, "So?, they just assumed that I had nothing better to do than chug a few cheap beers and watch shoot-'em-up movies? I mean… I work with these guys all day long, doesn't there come a time when enough is enough? I enjoy their company and everything but…" he trailed off, noticed that neither of the women were following his train of thought and deflated slightly. "I said 'Thanks, but no thanks. Catch you guys mon-yana' and headed here."

While lifting a box from beneath the counter and beginning to count the different-colored bottles inside, Anya chirped up, "Plus, being as you are in a managerial position, it isn't wise to get too amiable with the," she paused to put up air-quotes with her hands, "'hired help'. They'll try to take advantage of your mutual regard later." She tossed Willow a half-hearted glare. "Trust me."

Xander beamed, glad for the support and glanced around. "Where's the Buff?"

Anya shrugged and Willow sulked. "Haven't seen her in awhile. Spike stopped by, said they were taking care of some baddies."

Xander raised Willow's sulk to a scowl. "She hasn't been around all week. Should we worry?"

Willow raised and ruffled the paper she read pointedly. "Looking into it."

Spike caught the vibrations of their presence on the tip of his tongue, but couldn't force himself to enter the entirely too familiar mansion. He tasted their combined essence by closing his teeth down upon the flavor of the reverberating echo, and had his own theories on the Slayer's vicinity and why he would be justified if he chose to flee before anyone noticed him standing there.

He really didn't want to go through those doors, which only made him smirk.

But like an incurable disease, curiosity swept through him despite his objections. He suffered in his want and was corrupted by it until the cure became unimportant and all that existed was the ever-present need for release.

And the longer he stalled, the longer he felt every bit like a little boy fearful of being scolded.

The night slept but the mansion did not. Life sang from the pores of the dying building, lights low, music loud. Dancing and cleaning and laughter and arguments were heard until he was noticed as an intruder. Those younger or bigger than him poised for fight should he present himself as too inadequate to join the ranks or merely turn out to be a simple enemy.

It was beautiful really, but he had a sneaking suspicion that this safeguard defense system was Buffy's idea. Drusilla never had the knack for acquiring guards, Darla had proved quite convincingly that boorish work such as that should be left to the men, but more over, it would be her desire to flee to more fitting an environment than California. Leave the past to rot when it was too painful to reminisce upon.

He didn't know if one of the lower beings in the building had called their attention to him, or if perhaps they'd sensed him. Maybe they'd been there all along and he simply hadn't seen, but there they stood now, a floor above him looking down.

Drusilla looked every bit as perfect as he remembered her. And he could still feel the sting of envy at a creature with such striking beauty. As if a woman had no right to possess so much attraction in all things. Her fingers were laced within the former Slayer's, within his very reason to feel something.

Yes, dear. These certainly are new times.

Dru looked like every boy's wet dream, in a barely thigh-covering vinyl skirt and red halter top, silver chain hanging loosely from her waist. Rings on her toes, around her arms, her neck. Domestic exotica. Buffy's golden curls combed out straight, her eyes malicious with the newfound taste for death.

God, how he wanted…

He wanted… but…

He wanted to keep his past without the history. Wanted to change the awful things he'd lived through, she'd lived through, that they'd all been exposed to. But he couldn't do that, could he? How could they possibly change the things they'd had to survive through, how can such creatures apologize for horrors inflicted upon them, only to turn around and give it back to the community thrice over?

He wanted to apologize, because in the end, he disappointed Her.

In the worst way.

Buffy's fingers slipped from between Drusilla's and his brunette filtered into the background as the blonde approached, waving a commanding hand to signal the lesser evils aside. This, she could handle.

She walked with a new stride, a predator to all who defied her, until she stood before him, the glass neither half empty nor half full. Just another terror he'd bear scars from and live through for the next to arrive.

For a fleeting moment, there was silence. The entire mansion ceased to move for fear of breaking the calm. Spike walked up closer to the Slayer, bowing his head slightly to feel the warmth of her kill as the side of his face came near to her own, almost nuzzling, but not ever touching.

She could smell the scent which clung to his skin. Same Spike, same spice, different senses. Noticing the detailed fragrance in his barren pores. His hands hesitated to hold her, a small voice in the back of his head echoed that now should be the time for comfort. Console the Buffy he'd known, the one who was still the Slayer, crying to be such a cagey beast.

But he couldn't touch her.

The Slayer was rapidly finding life within the Order of Aurelius irritating and exasperating beyond the point of reason. Thank whoever that there was only one other that she knew of, or rather, that knew of her, that she may have to deal with. Buffy chose not to ponder the possibilities of introducing her new fad to Angelus just yet. All the time in the world meant just that. She could wait, for now she had plans.

Plans that didn't involved being uneasy around a vampire who'd willingly had sex with her invisible body. With one movement she came forward and pushed away the air filling the spaces between them and put touch to this new sensation.

Spike's arms wrapped around her instantly, but it was different than before. Another life to adjust to. His arms were loose around her waist, but she could feel the tension radiating off of him in palpable waves.

She buried her face in his neck, nipping at the sensitive skin and placing moist kisses along his jaw before whispering, "I want to help you."

Spike flinched in her embrace, could've sworn 'help' wasn't in her vocabulary. Not where he was concerned. He looked over Buffy's shoulder to Drusilla, who watched the duo with raised brows and an entirely too innocent smile. "That so?"

In response, her fingers ran from the nape of his neck, through his hair, mussing up the slicked back locks and tapped her nail against his head, "I do."

But Spike too was well aware of life within the Order of Aurelius and pulled back to look into her sparkling eyes, that caught the flickering candlelight in the room and illuminated the green and grey bits of false life radiating from within her. "And the price?"

She danced away from him a bit then, knowing all his weaknesses, intimately aware of her body's effect on him. Spike thought it entirely unfair then that the two loves of his life should be the ones to band together. She tossed a self-satisfied smirk over her shoulder, "Your soul?"

He scowled, Dru laughed and the rest of the audience looked for ways out should the tension between the vampires erupt into chaos. The Slayer smirked at her own joke, but chided herself all the same, "No… That'll never do." She paused to stare at him, long and hard and after several moments Spike thought that he just might not want to know. That if he did he might just be terrified.

With this realization within himself, she spoke softly, "Loyalty. I want your undying loyalty to me and mine."

Spike's mind circled around that and his blank eyes came back to stare at the Slayer turned, catching a glimpse of Drusilla, equally puzzled. He had to swallow before replying in a raspy tone, "You've always had that."

It had been the answer she was expecting. "In return, I give my loyalty."

Drusilla had taken notice to something or the other and edged curiously towards the garden, Spike's eyes narrowed, wondering if she truly saw something or was sneaking away purposefully.

Buffy's dander raised at the likelihood of play. As was his haphazard nature, it never occurred to Spike Buffy might want him to prove his ties with blood that wasn't his own. "Bring my sister to me."

Spike tensed, pulling nervously at his pockets for a cigarette as though it might protect him from the creature closing in. "Dawn?"

Like she was pressing her fingers against his spinal cord, plucking his nerves she hissed, "She is my only sister, Spike." A sharp bark of laughter escaped her, "Not even that." Her hips were swaying to a rhythm he'd seen many women dance to but never quite caught on and never looked as sensual as it did on this new version of his lover. "She will have to meet her maker again… Let the final blow come from a loving hand."

Watching her move, he wanted to say yes. He'd do anything she asked, no request was too simple, nothing was beyond him. Death brought pleasant thoughts to his lips and he became instantly drunk on the idea of drinking from a mortal wound.

Abstractly, he knew there'd be folly to caving in, but Drusilla was dancing in the garden and Buffy was seducing him and he was quite cozy in this little piece of heaven allotted to him for the moment. Agony was left to rot in the past and the promise of the future was vast with the satisfaction of perfection here and now.

But he was still hesitating, mouth dry and throat tight. The words were lost on him and he would later find gratitude in that.

At his hesitance, she persuaded further, so sure of her talents. "You've become comfortable in the steadiness of routine, and… I understand the tranquility of familiar surroundings. But you don't need to be the good pet vampire anymore. You always knew you'd have to leave, didn't you? Let's move on together then. To the next set of routines and familiar surroundings. I don't care about your fondness for this ugly fucking place…"

She shook her head as if to clear it, her judgment clouded by his reluctance. When she began again, her speech was soft, speaking in her natural voice once again. "I'm new to this way of thinking, so excuse any mistakes but are we or are we not creatures above mankind? I require access to the next world, and being impure as I am now… My blood will not suffice. And regardless, I don't plan on dying again anytime soon.

"I need Dawn. I need her blood, her essence. She may no longer be Glory's key, but her blood, nonetheless, will give me what I crave. No, don't look at me like that, I have no ambition of destroying Earth or the Universe or any of that Armageddon trash.

"After I have what I ache for, hunger for, I promise games of carnage and slaughter. Mass bloodshed to paint our lips. Our beds…"

A soft buzz came from the expensive computer terminal, revised to suit its owner's needs. There was an air of excited tightness around the man typing at the keyboard, extreme concentration painted upon his face. The sound of several quick hard knocks against the door made him yelp and jump from the desk. His chair toppled backwards at the sudden, unexpected movement and he ran shaky hands though his hair.

Thirty hours of wakefulness and only a dampening caffeine-high was keeping him going. That, and the progress made at finding the missing variable to a personal project he'd been playing with for days. Slowly things were beginning to come together once again.

Three hard raps this time against the door and he chanced a glance around the basement, craning his neck to check the makeshift bedrooms, wondering if perhaps Jonathan or Andrew had sneaked past him and needed help getting back inside.

Stretching slightly, he walked towards the door, practicing his scowl, already under the assumption that Jonathan had probably left to try and make amends for something no one knew he'd fucked up yet. With gusto Warren threw open the door, ready to give a speech about how very dangerous it was to be up and about at nighttime with not only the Slayer on the loose but numerable nasties along the way. The words were halfway ready to pour from his lips when his face paled.

Said Slayer, ladies and gents. No use paying monthly for a secret lair; maybe they should start thinking of renting rooms by the hour? Pay by the time it took for the sky to change from bleeding red to blue to black and back again. That should give them time to move before she found them once more.

"Hey-yah Warren," Buffy said, smile in place, a tad chipper than usual. "Glad to see you remember me."

She was flanked on either side by two others. He recognized Spike on sight, but the woman to her left was drawing a blank in his mind. She was swaying slightly, her fingers punching in the air as though there were a keypad before her and she was typing in her pin number. Right when he was about to ask if he knew her, he shook his head and focused on the danger the situation represented.

"I… uh…" he fought against the need to smack himself at the lack of credible threat in his stammering voice and the way he straightened his back when he finally thought of something. "I see you've fallen into our trap!" Warren raised his eyebrows as if to say 'oh yes. we've got you now' but only proved to make his statement turn into a question.

The Slayer's smile faded into a taunting smirk. On her left the brunette had her eyes wide open and was staring directly at him in an accusing way. Exasperated, he sighed, knowing well enough when a bad hand was dealt and when a charlatan had been appointed dealer. "What?"

"Well, aren't you gonna invite us in, Warren?" Buffy asked, shifting on her hip. "We're all good friends here, aren't we?"

He fidgeted to not look back for his comrades, knowing they wouldn't be there for backup. His eyes darted back and forth to all three of the do-gooders before him. "Why?"

The Slayer leaned in against the door frame, her fingers playing along the silver hinges. When she looked up at him, she was smiling just as if he were a member of her inner circle. Her face was pale in the darkness and it made her lips seem bright scarlet in contrast. He was compelled to ask her to blot off some of that damn lipstick.

But then again, when she spoke, he stared at the movements those lips made, liking the way her mouth moved. "Business, Warren. Why else would I be standing outside your hideout at this ungodly hour?"

A moment he stood there, doing his damnedest to look cool and in control. In charge. Feeling very much like a child in her presence even though he was taller and older. "I can't stop you…" he said by way of response and moved to the side, giving them room to enter. His fingers slid behind the door, gripping a signed hockey stick they'd placed in the still unpacked boxes from the last move. Still, the trio outside didn't move, and quite suddenly it was the brunettes face he was looking into.

He felt clunky, clumsy before her lithe body and flawless appearance. Like an inept blank-minded male, and when her head tilted dramatically and somewhat violently to the side, his followed.

The trio grinned at that, amused at Dru's form of play. Warren could only hope to smirk a little, confused but not irritated. Insulted on some base, lower level before his stare became completely blank and compliant. Familiar with this talent of hers, Drusilla took no precautions and found her way easily around his mind, finding the bits and pieces to be toyed with inside.

Warren's voice was a throaty whisper, "Come inside," the vampires snickered as he swayed, adding, "please."

Spike and Buffy walked in immediately whilst Dru continued to hold the Slayer's nemesis locked in her parlor trick games, staring into his unseeing eyes with her own amused almond hues.

"You are going to service me," Buffy began explaining, jumping on top of the computer desk and propping her feet on the fallen chair. "Well…" she corrected with a wry smile to Spike. "Us."

Silence was returned and Buffy frowned, both blondes turned their attention to see Drusilla teeter-totting Warren back and forth. The Slayer snapped, "Drusilla!"

With a pout the eldest vampire released Warren from her hypnotism, running her hand along the side of his jaw. Dru slid her way to stand between her companions, casting a meaningful glance towards the hallway Jonathan and Andrew slept peacefully in, a gesture that was not lost on Warren. Buffy snapped her fingers, indicating she wanted all attention on her.

Spike and Dru exchanged a glance, each remembering that to be one of Darla's more hideous habits that had taken months of glares and pouts to rid her of.

"We," Buffy began anew, holding out her arms like a big group hug between the vampires in the den, "have a slight problem and for as long as Spike continues to play 'uppity puppy', you're gonna be feeling the grunt of our predicament." She spoke, all glower and glares as though talking to an auditorium of people and not just three. "And while we will never be equals, I think I just might know a way to put us on level ground."

With butterflies in his stomach, Warren prayed to the Gods of Xanex. Fortunately, the problem proved much to his capabilities.

He listened quietly, but intently as the Slayer told the story.

He had the general gist of it down in under five minutes. He knew where they were coming from, remembered Spike's previous visits earlier that year.

But he made no move to say he understood; instead he watched the brunette make shadow puppets against the wall from the corner of his eyes. Smirked every now and again when it was all he could do to contain his laughter at her silly displays of boredom.

Wasn't so fearful of looking towards the bleached man leaning against the wall next to Drusilla's attacking rabbit as the conversation centered around him. Warren just narrowed his eyes a bit and took in Spike's appearance, at the sort of dazed, leftover effect there was about him. Like this vampire wasn't so much existing as sustaining. Continuing on.

He didn't say much, whereas in previous visits he'd been all talk and banter. It was almost as if he'd died, literally, and was unaware of it. Personality traits dulled, and all the same, his mind hadn't caught on yet.

Warren shivered and looked to Buffy with a nod of confirmation that he was following everything she described. Buffy the Slayer, the warrior, the undefeatable that he'd sworn to defeat, for some reason was standing in his hideout that they'd made to hide from her asking for help. Technological help at that. He tried not to think of slogans for 1-800 chipextomy hotlines.

She showed no signs of trepidation, and he wondered what strange deal the Slayer had made with the vampire and brunette to be standing before him. Wondered about her utter lack of caring for his previous deeds as well as aiding and abetting others. You could never see panic in her, but now there was something else, something more dangerous than her lack of fear.

"Well?" she asked, and he realized how very late it was and how tired he was and how there was no way he'd be of serviceable mode tonight if they really didn't get cracking now. Buffy teased, "Cat got your tongue?"

He drew up three different theories on paper first, scowling when the two blondes suggested just cutting the damn metal out. "I'm not a surgeon. I go to the doctors for a splinter!" He'd been sarcastic, but when they immediately dropped the point-in-fact he'd been seriously tempted to defend himself.

Cigarettes and mutual banter kept the blondes from boredom as he added up numbers, but he could have done without knowing the gorgeous brunette's name and race when she circled her fingers around his neck and played with his hair a quarter past their conversing. "I can see your insides, muscle over bone, like satin and silk," she whispered, spinning so she leaned against the edge of the table he worked on and pushed her hips against his side.

When he asked what she'd meant, it was only Slayer reflexes that kept his neck in one piece as a very hungry vampire teased him with odd mannerisms.

It was five in the morning when he'd worked out the equation as well as one can before trial and error takes place and five-thirty when his excitement was so great that he desperately wanted a button to push that would plant reality back into his life, because something about the situation in its entirety wasn't adding up.

The mechanics that were described to him were beyond his capabilities, but there always existed shortcuts to that. The chemicals in the air around them changed form seconds after he'd announced he believed himself to be finished. It was as if Warren himself had become a machine and was on sensory overload.

Reality finally hit Spike, the situation and complexities dwindled away and he licked his lips at those words. He almost felt that he could feel the last few years fall away instantaneously and everything could be as it once was before. Better than.

A family again, just what princess wanted. Rearranged to suit modern times, changed agendas. He turned his gaze to Warren, watching the delicate blue patterns of veins race across the pale flesh of the mortal's neck, listening to his breath, steady but increasing.

The Slayer was smiling a little superior smile like she knew what he was thinking and had known all along that this would happen but had denied them knowledge to her fountain of enlightenment.

The circuitry in Warren's mind was just about to start screaming out for self-preservation when Spike took a step towards him, but as always Buffy was there, casually stepping between them as if she were his guard against the supernatural.

Police in uniform sometimes intimidated him, but mostly, in Sunnydale, they were useless. However, there were always certain mannerisms about them that suggested their only concern was for the greater good.

The Slayer had always held that same persona. But now, with her breezy gaze of absolute calm and control, she seethed with malice.

Buffy slammed the boy against the brick wall of the alleyway, her knee uplifted and driving into his lower back while her fingers tangled in his hair. With a strong arm she pulled his head back, twisting his upper body away from the wall, forcing his neck to became acutely exposed.

Drusilla was draped around the Slayer as though the warrior were a dancing poll at a nightclub. Legs wrapped around her daughter's waist, she arched her upper body back in an artistic rendition of the sputtering college boy begging for his life. Dru came up halfway to place her hand at the back of Spike's neck when he drove for the mortal's jugular.

Egos restored, pride intact and the awful memories that had plagued them all not so long ago vanished with the spilled blood staining their clothing.

The moment's bliss passed with the copper scent in the seasonal breeze.

The little hairs on the back of their necks began to stand up like they were all formed of electricity and their bodies writhing together were sending sparks into the night. And perhaps they were. Voltage warning signals telling the citizens of Sunnydale to take heed and leave, lest they fall to the mercy of the unspeakable power the trio emitted.

Spike was breathing hard when he released the still breathing body of the boy, slamming the mortal's head into the brickwork and giving off yet another potent surge of blood to assault the threesome's senses. Buffy beamed and released the boy to fall to the wet pavement. Small, inarticulate whimpers were the only signal their fifth captive of the night was still alive.

Spike drew in a sharp intake of breath when he felt a hand slip below his waist, vision clouded over at the image of his two favorite women smirking mysteriously at him. Fingers tugged against the denim of his jeans, forcing the fabric apart while he ran his fingers through a silky mass of hair, unsure of whose curled locks he held, he parted his lips to capture the other in a kiss all the same.

And fell.

In the mansion they wasted no time with talk. The random inhabitants of the abode turned a blind eye, none wanting to get caught watching the trio stumbling in their stride as they groped one another and scratched their way to a bedroom.

Drusilla's fingers grazed the Slayer's stomach, her hands moving round her daughters hips until they're able to unhook the fabric there, pulling away the bruise-colored skirt. Buffy lunged forward in her haste to be rid of clothing, trusting Spike to catch her weight. His back slammed against the door and she caught his mouth in a brutal kiss, pulling back briefly to look in his eyes and shivering when he used that opportunity to dart forward, tearing at the meaty flesh of her own slightly parted lips to draw blood.

Her shirt dropped and Spike tilted his head slightly to see Drusilla standing just behind his line of sight, pulling the younger vampiress away. He sighed a little, relaxing against the door to watch his twilight girl seduce summer's. All streaks of sunlight hair and tan skin, molded to suit a new style, a new frame of mind.

Quietly, he took in the scene as though he were watching a play. Drusilla laid on the soft sheets while his unparalleled woman of light leaned over her, bereft of attire and shameless before them. Buffy knelt, pushing away the dark strands of hair fallen about Drusilla's face so she could look down at her sire, smiling softly. With nips and kisses the Slayer danced her way around undressing the lithe brunette. Smiling maliciously, she found herself getting off on the feel of preternatural skin slowly cooling as the blood from the evening hunt re-circulated and lost intensity.

Spike had a cigarette lit by the time they were both nude, looking almost incomparable to one another. He laughed, for not too long ago that might have been true, like two different species of woman were his loving pair. Buffy's skin hadn't yet lost the bronzed California color of tanning the daylight. Drusilla's darkly colored eyes, shaded hair in comparison to Buffy's almost frosted blue eyes and ivory hair that barely covered the skin of her sex.

Like the desert to the jungle. His makeshift family living in a house of cards that would surely topple. Doomed to collapse.

Drusilla's eyes opened wide and rapacious, her lips pealing back in a smile.

The Slayer's hands ran over her Sire's cream-colored neck to her chest, stopping to cup her breast and fondle them in her hold. Dru's skin beneath her fingers felt like soft cloth washed fresh and hung in the fragrant wind to dry, her small nipples pushing against her palms.

Buffy's attention was focused there, her lips moving to caress the other female's. Passionate and loving, consumed with the taste of the brunette, honey sweet and liquid warm with the taste of death and many lives long lived.

After a time, her hand drifted down over her flat stomach and Dru's hips moved a bit then, riding the air as Buffy moved slow.

Still kissing, the Slayer moved her hand to Drusilla's sex, sliding her fingers over her clitoris, down over the skin to where her supple body opened. Working her, manipulating it slowly until Dru's hips moved with her, wet and swollen and still so soft.

Then she turned, smiling to Spike who still leaned heavily against the door in a most amused way. Buffy tilted forward, speaking low to Drusilla, who managed a small smile when Buffy knelt up off her to cross the floor.

In the background, Dru spoke long sentences and though she was less than a yard away from him, he couldn't understand a word she said. Couldn't focus in the least as Buffy's foot touched the floor. The Slayer plucked the cigarette from his fingers and tossed it carelessly to smolder and die out. Her palms slammed against the walls, hands on either side of his face. She ran her tongue over his lips, first the upper and then the lower before opening her mouth. He tasted Drusilla in their kiss and his toes curled.

Buffy tore at the fastenings of his pants until they popped from their button holes, one after another. She pushed them away from his skin and pushed her face against his neck, soft purring sounds she'd never dreamed herself capable of emitting from deep within her chest. They slid down the wall.

Spike moved to capture her in his arms but his fingers merely caught wisps of hair as Buffy began crawling backwards. She pushed his shirt up, and ran her hand over his chest, nipples, and down his stomach over his pubic hair. The Slayer looked up only briefly to catch his gaze in an icy stare, each scrutinizing the other in their own preternatural way before Buffy wet her lips, closed her eyes and opened her mouth to him.

Unkempt and slightly blood-dried hair fell over his brow as Spike's back arched at the not unfamiliar sensation. He threw his head back, banging it into the wall behind them and caught Drusilla's almond gaze. On the bed, she danced on her knees as though the center piece for a bachelor party.

Devoid of the new age style of dramatic clothing her perspective and attitude dictated her to wear, she was once again his darling Dru and it made him smirk a little. Buffy might just as well have been another random girl they'd picked up off the street for a spot of fun as his Sire matched his smirk with a wide grin of her own, teeth glimmering in the near darkness.

An egotist in love with an elitist, or at least that once was true. For all of her prima ballerina movements and outward riddles she was, in fact, thoroughly thoughtful. Her mind was amazing, simply the way she looked at things. Live a year with Dru, and you'd catch on.

Eventually, they all caught on.

He saw it in her expression before he felt it in his own body. A look that was almost jealousy but not quite that caring which fell over her face like the first bleeding rays of dawn. A softly aggressive growl grew in his chest and his sharp canines extended.

Buffy just smiled and opened her mouth wider, sucking him into the cavern of her throat almost fiercely, his cock sliding easily into her mouth as far as she would allow.

Spike's eyes rolled away from Dru's, upwards, towards the ceiling before falling closed. A grin spread across his lips and his tongue darted out under prolonged fangs to lick his lower lip. There were times when it was so easy to give in to the simplicity of basic natures. The feel of her lips and tongue gloving him, his cock wet, and her lips even wetter still, like a wound around his paleness.

Drusilla watched the bronzed skin around the Slayer's eyes crease daintily as she squeezed her lids shut, but soon realized audience amusement didn't suit her and crawled off the bed, suppressing giggles with a mischievous grin as she listened to her blonde making small noises, soft grunts that came absently, unintended as though they couldn't stop them. Or perhaps weren't aware they even made them.

Drusilla stretched out her hand and wrapped her arms around the Slayer's waist to gently pull her away from Spike. He groaned his disapproval, hands already coming up to caress the vulnerable flesh Buffy abandoned as Dru put her mouth to her back, roughly nipping the flesh there.

The Slayer released her mask of humanity and allowed the thick demon ridges, distinguishing her as evil and treacherous, to distort her features. Craning her neck around, she caught Dru's lips once more in a very soft, very sensual kiss.

Buffy roused up on her haunches with some difficulty, barely finding room for her body to move between the two older vampires. Her eyes focused on Spike's nearly closed, brightly glistening golden eyes until she found enough leverage to shove Drusilla backwards.

Long strands of her own dark hair fell in front of the vampiress' face when her back hit the bed. Blinking through thick waves of chestnut brown she saw Buffy eyeing her with a predator's unwavering concentration and smiled, her lips spreading to reveal large, straight teeth. Her chest heaved heavily as the blonde invaded her space and came to kneel, almost hover, over her. Legs tangled, Buffy's hair fell down over the other woman's face, brushing against her stomach and neck.

The Slayer ran her nails from Drusilla's neck, over her flat stomach and rested briefly, before slipping into her Sire's intimate feminine core. She moved two fingers in and out and let her thumb agitate the older woman's clit. Dru's head fell back against the mattress to lay atop the slightly ruffled bed sheets above while the Slayer's legs parted even further until she was spread eagle on her knees, and could place her face in the crook of Dru's neck to lick her ear and whisper to her, naughty tidbits shamelessly uttered.

Then, with slight shakes that gave Buffy a ripple of warmth, Spike's hands came to rest on her hips. His mouth trailed over her back, scribbling winding lines on her spine with his tongue and peppering looping kisses around her shoulder-blades. Unceremoniously, he pushed himself into her, entering her with a groan of animal satisfaction.

It was quick, sharp, so sweet and the feeling of being sandwiched between the two sometimes enemies, sometimes allies struck Buffy in a most profound way.

Drusilla's hips began to move faster and she had to brace herself against the bed to keep from toppling over as Spike found his own rhythm completely different from their Sire's. Buffy herself did her best to find a medium, a tempo to suit all desires, while her mind worked over the sensation that was oddly foreign to her, though it ought not be. The harder Dru pushed, the harder the Slayer was driven to push back. She slipped a third finger in amongst the moisture moving over her skin while keeping her thumb pressed on her elder's clit

Drusilla's legs became tense and her head rolled softly back and forth on the mattress above. Her hands reached out blindly, roughly catching Buffy's flesh at an odd angle and driving bleeding crescent marks into her skin. Her shapely hips still continued to move in little swirling patterns, milking the sensation and trying to push another orgasm on top of the still fading last.

Spike thrust into her with a violence she knew from weeks past when she'd still had a heartbeat to mark her as undeniably alive and she pushed back to meet his movements. Her inner muscles trembled around his shaft and urged him on.

Oddly, this only fueled the irritation that was rising inside her stomach.

The almost feeling, gut sensation that not all was right in the world, but then… she'd always been aware of that, and what possibly could be right about a Slayer-turned-vampire wantonly having sex with her two worst foes?

Drusilla's hands cupped her face, forcefully demanding her attention. Her lips were pressed tightly together as though to form a half pout that accidentally came out much too fierce and Dru looked just about ready to shake the Slayer until her face turned blue.

But then Spike hit just the right spot and her body slid against him. Like a crashing wave rushing up to meet the sand only to drift away and burst through her nerves. The world shook and exploded with vibrations that demanded her attention be drawn elsewhere.

For one moment she felt that and he felt that and when she looked back, Drusilla's eyes were staring through her to Spike and Buffy wondered if both their expressions were nearly as thoughtful.

She caught the whisper of death and found that the sickening sensation in her gut had a name.

But to admit to family, to this kindred lineage that had tried more oft to destroy her than any army of evil…

Spike placed a kiss at the base of her neck and moved up and off of her to sit next to Drusilla. On the bed he softly stroked his Sire's hair that was a frenzied mess forming a crown of static around her and kept the fragile silence.

Buffy watched him strike a spark in the darkened bedroom. Smoke spiraled around him, billowing like a halo over his head before disintegrating to mingle with the odd perfume around them.

Throwing pride aside was never easy, and she couldn't confess to feeling the pressure of it, forged in her soft, warm places.

In Drusilla's eyes, it felt like that fragrant night air. A patchwork security blanket in a heady breeze that she could wrap herself in. That would keep her safe from her own dark thoughts.

But it was harsh sight of slow struggled suffering she saw in Spike's eyes. As if the truth were harder to bare, and it made him tougher while it made Drusilla's perpetually bemused mind recall only the gaiety of adventure.

She straightened her shoulders, and, when Spike offered his hand, took it to balance herself as she rose from the floor. Any experience can be taken at face value. Worth nothing more than what the moment dictates it to be. Any experience can be lived through, processed and over-examined until the validity of it dies away.

Sometimes a moment remembered is better than reality. Other times not.

Dru's body stretched ever so, straining the toned muscles of her body that were tired from drunken hours of play with her lovers and their bodies. With the high of innumerable masochistic sensations gone a not unpleasant numbness demanding within her slumber so she might heal. A throaty moan of satiation came from her parted lips and she lifted her arms and ran her nails lightly over Spike's fingers, tangled in her hair, before casting her expressive eyes to catch his own, imploringly.

With a raised brow, he rolled his shoulders back and put out his cigarette before rising to help his Sire into bed.

Buffy was already dressed and out the door when Dru grabbed the covers to cuddle tight beneath them and Spike began looking for his clothing.

Stretched out like a cat upon the downy sheets, Drusilla remained oblivious to the harsh details of the world. And why not? All felt right as Spike leaned over and gently put his lips to the soft skin covering her sleepy eyes and whispered sleep tight.

Outside of the room, Buffy's mere presence sent the lingering vampires straying in the foyer to find safety in another part of the mansion. She watched with amused eyes, not understanding they could sense the waves of barely restrained power radiating off of her. Much too wired to think of sleep, she looked towards the door but found the thought of leaving the mansion left her with a feeling of unease.

From Drusilla's claimed room, the door opened and she arched a brow along with a forced smile. Spike replied in kind, nodding briefly and flashing a hollow grin. Their reactions guarded, the uncomplicated truth that neither knew where they stood where the other was concerned weighing heavily on each.

There were things that still remained unsaid, that needed to be addressed before the three quarter moon. She wished to hurry, wanting the ceremony to take place as soon as the celestial bodies were in place. No lingering good-byes, no stalling of her plans.

Buffy jerked her head sharply, hair billowing away from her face to sway behind her as she began walking towards the furnished rooms, looking behind just enough to be sure Spike was following her lead. She jumped on the large dinning room table, abandoning the chairs, and eyed his form in the darkness of the room.

The soft glow of a street lamp caused light to eerily parade over his features, and illuminate them strangely. Shadows veiled his cheeks and jaw, and now and then a glint of teeth shined when he moved to speak. A trick of the light which could be fixed with candles, or lamps.

"My sister, Spike."

He bristled and her eyes narrowed dangerously at the mere thought that he would not cooperate. Senses enhanced, emotions abridged, she no longer remembered the true feel of love or faith. The emotions she knew were tribal and animalistic at best, but she knew, she knew! he was supposed to be for her. All for her. And in his eyes she saw him backing out.

"Care to elaborate?" Spike replied, coolly hiding his feelings for the littlest Summers behind a wall of indifference. But the Slayer wouldn't be fended off, nor swayed. She watched him, her new awareness pricking the hair on his arms, making his skin itch.

"You're not afraid, are you?" She questioned innocently and in a softer tone, genuine hope in her eyes that it was nerves on his part and not, "Or are you having problems getting over your William-the-Babysitter persona?"

Affection was always his weakness and it was a great misfortune to have, specifically now, among his own kind. For all his loathing of the situation, he found himself carrying a profound amount of affection for Dawn which couldn't be called love, but was imbedded deep enough into him that he believed himself still awaiting the signal to throw away his own life, if it would only save hers.

"Are you off your Trolley?" Spike tossed back, angered at her words despite, or perhaps because of, how close to the mark she'd hit. "Or can't you hear what you're saying? Toss the past two years, and then some, in the bloomin' bin? It's getting real old, this… 'turn the bloody tables on Spike' routine." He'd begun pacing furiously, and she scowled to find herself wanting to alleviate his distress. She stared impassively into his eyes whenever his gaze shifted to her as he shook his head. "I've got you pegged though. So, tell me, what pretty Armageddon package has Dru wrapped up for you? And why the hell enlist me?"

"You know why," she replied softly and so there was silence instead of answers, just the two of them staring at one another silently, willing the other to back down. Laugh and pronounce it all a joke. Watching each other there and wondering when the normal world had slipped into a nightmare.

Which was when Buffy spoke, annoyed at his doubt.

Her eyes locked on his and they beamed with seriousness and desperation. Her voice was breathy and peaceable. Willing him to comply. "I like this world, Spike," she said calmly, smiling lightly around her words. "You know that, I like this world just fine. But I can't stand the feeling inside that something is missing. That paradise is out there for everyone but me. Everyone and thing, but not for Buffy… All save poor Buffy… it's un-fucking-fair, and I think I've lived long enough in hell!… You think you're the only one sick of waking up and finding out that suddenly it's out with the old and in with the new?"

"So this is about your personal vendetta with the universe?" At his retort she straightened as if to speak, but instead chose simply to glare.

He looked away from Buffy's accusing gaze and made a gesture for her to ignore his outburst.

Anger was fast boiling in her blood, and she craved to beat him senseless until he realized that it would always be her way or no way at all. That it wasn't about his issues with the living but her own with death. She clenched her fingers tightly into fists, feeling that she was about to start shaking in her rage. "You told me you understood suffering and loss! And I made it better for you. I fixed you! I fixed everything for you, didn't I?"

Despite her furious tone of voice Spike appeared unmoved. If anything, he looked upset with her.

And then he remembered all too clearly those first few years. Young and feeling on top of the world, immortal and above those you never thought would have reason to think you'd be a force to be reckoned with. But for her, it must be different. She'd always been a force of nature and he felt something akin to pity for her and the chaotic passion surely waging war inside her lithe body. In truth, she probably didn't understand what she asked of him. Had no way to process it.

Buffy rose with an air of injustice, but kept her fists in check as she stalked closer and closer to him. She didn't want to come across as weak in that moment. She needed Spike to have faith in her, to see that she knew what she was doing. "I hate the heartache and confusion and misery that follows in my footsteps until it finds a way to cut me off at the pass.

"I want heaven," she said at last, but couldn't leave it at that. "So what? That's not such a big request is it? It's not like I'm asking for the moon or stars or the mouth of Hell to open and swallow us all up… If it's mine, there will be nothing left to remind me of my loss."

She fell to her knees before him and he flinched, shaking his head and grasping at her hands to pull her up. She shrugged him off and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, laying her head upon his stomach.

He looked down at her, at the beauty of her face and the sickening familiarity of her. Looked into her bright, pleading eyes, hungry to further advance her given position in life.

It was as if the world had fallen into his lap. Drusilla, Buffy and him. All on the same level, and only one thing to keep them together, to make them an all powerful, perfect band of three. Looking down at his immortal love he found her regarding him with patience, a look of tenderness.

Dawn would die. Dawn was going to die and he wondered bleakly when it got so bad, and worse yet, if there was room to go further downhill. With the Slayer on her knees, hanging her sisters delicate neck from an indifferent branch in her sick mind… he felt no shame in running from the thought.

His shame steamed from his fear to admit he wanted the situation to come to pass. Wanted to prove his love. Wanted it for her, so that there would be no barriers to keep them apart. Wanted it so intensely that his sole terror steamed from the fear that he might find no absolution afterwards.

In the end, he simply agreed with her and disappeared into the shadows of the mansion, unable to look at the creature before him wearing the Slayer's skin. It would take time to get used to her and the feeling her mere presence invoked that he was unable to push away, that made him feel… meek. Simply meek next to her seeming omnipotence.

So, once again, he was placed back into the mess that was his family. He might rejoice in the knowledge to spend eternity with her. He just might if he had any reassurance she was the same creature he once knew.

Drusilla's eyes snapped opened suddenly with a smile to prove her melodrama was simply that—drama. Spike stumbled back at her abrupt awakening, but then he too smiled. A mere handful of years away from her and already he'd forgotten her quirks.

He sat next to her on the bed, grasping her hand above the covers and intertwining their fingers. She purred her approval, her simplistic contentment and pushed herself up on the bed to a sitting position, "Like old times."

Spike shook his head, "Nothing like old times, Dru."

She frowned, troubled at his softly spoken distaste. "I thought you wanted her, love. I saw her shadow in the mirror. Pale though, and it lurked in the misty corners of my dreams like cockroaches scheming behind the oven. You know? … it told me the way to make it right," a pleasant smile of remembrance touched her lips, but a stern well-to-do expression soon took its place, and with the air of someone used to throwing away expensive toys she continued, "but you don't like her any longer?"

"I do," he admitted, his emotions close to the surface as they always were when Drusilla was involved. "It's a sweet deal we got going here…"

Dru squeezed his hand excitedly. "And?"

He nodded slightly, doing his best to not be patronizing. "But. But I'm not too keen on this bring down heaven thing."

"I think it's a fine idea. And I look forward to the merging of worlds. To the death of another dimension." She looked down, dark lashes obscuring her eyes. "My blood was all quiet, I missed the tremors. And Darla left, the way everyone does. She left and you never felt their absence, no wonder you don't care."

Spike rolled that statement over in his head. He'd never thought much of it. He'd never felt the others when they were near as Drusilla had, as Angelus and Darla could feel the presence of their own kin nearby. It'd never been an issue with him, one way or the other. All those he'd wish to feel within himself had never been far away.

Drusilla pulled on Spike's hand, forcing him to lay beside her. His head fell gently upon her stomach and his eyelashes fluttered close. "You worry so," she whispered, bending her back against the pillows and closing her own eyes. Her free hand came up to stroke through his hair. "My darling, my love, shh… shh… You must've forgotten Mommy always knows best."

Daylight left without warning and the stars stole the sky once more to brightly illuminate the night.

Spike hadn't bothered with sleeping, or rather, sleep hadn't bothered with him. His fingers curled around locks of Drusilla's hair, twisting the dark silk strands in his hand over and over again. Her feet were hooked around his legs, having shifted in the middle of the night without awakening to now lay face to face with him, curled in a small ball and pressed against him.

Just like old times…

Drusilla stirred, a dreamily contented purr parting her lips as she blinked repeatedly, raising her head to look into his eyes. She smiled, straightening out beneath the sheets but not yet willing to let go of the pleasant sensation of waking up with Spike by her side. It was a long time coming, she sighed.

Her smile slowly turned to a frown as he failed to recognize her. Lost in his own thoughts, she watched his expression of trepidation sift to one of daring as if ready to plunge into an equation that was beyond his capabilities, even on a good day.

"Spike?" she whispered softly, bringing up her hands, that were sandwiched between them, to run lightly over his face. His expression changed immediately, smiling down at her. Dru's fingers bit into his skin, lightly drawing blood. "It's a crime," she said while he blinked away the pain. "My poor Spike… so lost."

"I'm not lost," he snapped back, pushing away from her to lay on his back. She swung her leg over his waist, straddling his body. When he moved to sit up, annoyed, she shoved him violently backwards, angrily.

She fell on top of him and laid her hands on either side of his head, her nails digging into his flesh. With her lips pressed against his ear she spoke softly, "All those nasty thoughts like maggots infesting your brain, you think I didn't see them squirming there?" She licked at the sensitive flesh around his ear and growled. "I want to boil them out. Tell me, Spike, tell me how."

Spike flipped them, straddling her thighs and pinning them together. He looked down into her eyes and wished to god he could tell her. But he didn't believe he knew the words to string the sentence together to explain what he was thinking. He wasn't even sure himself what it was he felt.

Her features grew in compassion and she drew him closer to her with a hand at the nape of his neck. He kissed her defensively, afraid that if he let her speak she'd voice her insight into his fears, and he didn't want to hear them outside his head.

Drusilla closed her eyes as he kissed her, and had to consciously remind herself to return the sad passion he invested as his hands traveled up her sides. He was rigid and tense above her, like he was made of marble and not soft bending flesh. His lips were gentle against her though, as they moved away from her lips down her neck. His body began to relax against her as the familiarity of Drusilla's soft curves created within him a feeling of security.

His body was heavy as he rested his full weight on top of her. He heaved a bewildered and bothered sigh as he paused with his head resting in the crook of her neck. Drusilla opened her eyes, nuzzling the side of his face. Her skin buzzed as it traced the outline of his body through pressure points and sections of extra weight. His stomach and groin pressed heaviest against her, pushing her sex into the mattress and filling her with warmth.

She waited as he lay against her, unmoving, when a static noise began to hum around them. She tilted her head up until she could almost see the wall behind them, thinking the noise was emitting from behind her. It seemed the longer he failed to continue their play the louder the broken television signals ricocheted around the room. "Pet?" she asked, worrying the noise away, picturing herself fixing the antenna in her skull so the signal would pick up properly.

Spike blinked, tossing away unwanted thoughts and nipped at her neck, his nails digging lightly into her stomach. She purred against him as his movements graduated to urgent and rushed as though he was taking on a bit of Drusilla's own hunger. His chest pressed into her bare breasts and his thighs slid between her parted legs.

His sex was pressed against hers, just one movement away from completion as her fingers slipped over the dip in his lower back, putting force into her actions. Kissing him, she bit at his lower lip and pulled him closer. He pushed forward and came into her rather roughly.

Drusilla slid her hands over his face, holding his head to hers. His movements didn't soften the longer they thrust against one another, but became harder. His breathing was raspy as he made soft moaning noises interspersed with grunts. She offered up her distinctly feminine sounds, arching against him, trying to catch his line of sight when he pulled his head up away from her lips.

He closed his eyes when he realized her intent, hating the passion she had that he couldn't muster. Hating the compassion.

Drusilla brought her hands down to his shoulders, pressing hard to push him away. Instead, her force caused them to roll. She placed her hands on his chest and forced him back to sink into the soft mattress.

Straddling him she slipped his sex back into her own and lightly dug her nails into his shoulders. As her hips rolled swiftly, muscles clenching down onto him, her head fell back and mouth opened in a silent cry before falling forward. Drusilla's hair billowed around her face and fell into his eyes, covering his face. She giggled, shaking her head to remove the long tresses from his face, and Spike couldn't hold back a short bark of laughter as he watched the light shine playfully in her eyes. Still moving with him, long moments passed, minutes ticking away where they moved from one position to the next until she was once more laying on her back with Spike kneeling between her uplifted legs.

By the time they'd finished, the moon was well risen. The Slayer would be awakening soon but Spike didn't feel the pressing apprehension of seeing her once more. Both their chests heaved in the aftermath, spent and left wondering what the next move should be.

Dru sat up, causing Spike to lose his balance slightly and tumble forward. Her arms slipped around him, half expecting his body to harden back into that tense, untrusting statue of before. Instead, he returned the embrace, holding her close to him. She smiled as though the world was ending and they had nothing to fear as long as she remained in his arms. The static was beginning to resurface, invisible sound waves screeching as they refused to move.

Some bonds were too intense to ever, ever sever and that's what he had with Dru. It didn't matter that he didn't love her the way he used to any longer. That they were distanced by a chasm too wide, and he couldn't talk to her any longer about the finer points of life which haunted him. She had always accepted the subtle details of the title he had given himself, even before when he hadn't yet grown into them. It was beyond nice to have her well-known arms around him and her scent caught in his pores. It felt nice and familiar and above all, comforting—a sensation he couldn't claim to have felt in a good, long while.

"God, I love you," he whispered in her ear.

She smiled and placed a kissed at the base of his throat.

Hours later, Buffy was in full charge of the vampires around her and had commanded the estate into a condition of organized chaos. Everyone had a job to do, and there was no exception the Slayer was prepared to allow. Even her Sire, who had made it quite clear that she would rather be communing with the stars on this night that proved to be so special for them was forced into enchanting the granite bench, that had been created for the Crawford Street mansion, to make it a worthy alter for the proceedings.

The three quarter moon was risen and she had no wish to wait for her plans to unravel.

Looking down to her watch, Buffy figured Dawn would be home by now, or at least had better. It was well past her curfew. Tilting her head side to side she searched out Spike in the crowd of vampires racing past her in double speed as though their very lives depended on it.

Smirking, she rose to her tiptoes, jumping a little for leverage to look above their heads, searching out platinum locks. It took a few moments, but she eventually spotted him on the second story looking down at the lemmings with an impassive air of contempt on his face.

She gave a slight nod when his eyes locked on hers, her lips parted to mouth the words to him to come downstairs just in time to catch him spinning on his heels, coat billowing out behind him as he walked away from the railing into the bedroom he and Drusilla had taken over since his return.

With a scowl, she clenched her fists and pushed her way violently through the workers that got in her way to follow him into the room.

He was sitting on the bed, expecting her, when she threw open the door.

"What the hell was that about?" she asked in relation to his bolting the moment he was spotted.

He didn't respond to her question, instead greeting her as "Slayer".

She smirked a little and shut the door behind her, walking closer to tower over him. "You can't keep calling me that, you know. I'm not the Slayer anymore, one dies another is called, remember?"

He looked up at her, arching a brow as if to say, 'you've made the jibe way too easy and I'm not even going to pick it up'.

She rolled her eyes. "This isn't dead and being risen again. This is dead and no longer a tool for the Powers to use in their fight for good."

"Uh-huh."

Her hand cut the air in a sharp gesture. "Whatever," she hissed. "Point is, time for you to collect the goods."

Spike was certain that he didn't flinch, that he kept his expression painfully neutral and didn't show how very much her words bit. "What's the rush?"

Her teeth audibly snapped together; she grinded them as she fought to not loose her cool. "Just do it."

"You have three more days to prepare, before the moon is no longer in position."

"Everyone has worked very hard so that I could make tonight my special night. Join the party Spike, because I'm not going to disappoint them."

"Yeah, they might retaliate an' do something radical. Like make eye contact."

Buffy switched tactics. She couldn't kill Spike and chances were she wouldn't out argue him into doing it against his free will. Of course, she decided as she wrapped her arms around his neck and straddled his thighs, there were others ways to force him. Her lips hovered above his own when he tilted his head to look up at her. "You promised."

Spike placed his hands on her hips unconsciously and cursed himself for looking into her eyes. Same eyes. Same Buffy Summers eyes, same Buffy Summers nose. It was all too convincing and looking up at her he wanted to give it to her. To happily obey her every whim like a lovesick boy filled to the brim with wishful fantasies.

But it was Dawn.

She kissed him and he stared at her blankly for a moment, just looking at her. It would have been better if he could hide his affection, but he'd long forgotten how to do such a thing. Her small hands came up to cup his face, the nails on her thumbs pointing upwards under his jaw and forcing his neck at an even greater angle so she could kiss him again, forcing his mouth open to accept the invasion of her tongue. She was infuriated, beyond words, when he withdrew away from her, turning his head to the side.

His eyes were closed and his jaw set at an angle that reminded her of someone trying extremely hard to focus, when all odds were against them. To her, it appeared as if he were trying to decide if she was questioning his motivations or offering him an invite.

Roughly, while his eyes were still closed and she had the advantage of surprise, she pushed him backwards. He didn't yelp or cry out as she halfheartedly hoped he would, but opened his eyes wide in alarm. She pushed herself upwards slightly to sit on his stomach and dazzled him with an amorous, roguish grin. Spike was sure he paled, it'd been years since he'd last seen that expression and many decades since knowing first-hand, but he knew that look. He'd always thought of it as Angelus' patented look, with his warped vision of poetic torture, and harmonious anguish.

He failed to give Buffy her look of dismay she'd been hoping for when she withdrew a small, but decidedly gorgeous, knife, holding it less than a hairsbreadth from his neck. He'd been all but expecting it. His cool eyes hardened, but even so, soulless and branding a lethal weapon, she had a way of soothing the barely detectable ache in his spirit.

He arched his neck obediently, because it was her, when the flat of the blade pushed at the side of his chin. She made slight, barely perceptible jerking motions with her head, as though warring through thoughts. Or, perhaps, plotting out design schemes. Her eyes flashed with startling emotion.

The air hitched in Spike's throat as he realized she was confused. He opened his mouth to speak when her other hand snapped up, grasping a handful of his hair and wrenched his head violently to the side. The knife nicked his flesh, but he didn't speak against it. Lips parted and eyes arctic, he merely waited for her next move.

"You trust me?" she hissed through her teeth, jaw tightly locked. She herself suddenly forgetting about Dawn and the ritual, and the chaos below as the question seemed abruptly, absurdly important.

At that he wasn't sure how to reply, but she didn't seem ready to hear his answer, firmly drawing the blade from ear to ear, just high enough above his skin to leave a thin trail of blood in its wake with paper-cut thin wounds that were closed by the time she breathed out, "It would be stupid to trust me, you know, when I could kill you right here, right now. Chances are I want to kill you, Spike. Why would you trust me?"

He gasped at the minute pain, his vision of her slightly blurred from the odd angle his head was at, having to stretch his eyes to see. She was nowhere near as manipulative as Angelus, but then, she lacked his many years. She looked at him with scarcely more than a slender smile on her lips, like the Cheshire cat mocking Alice with his drug-like reasoning and mottled wit.

But she was not Angelus, and turned the knife on herself. Too quick for him to stop her, Buffy slammed the slender blade into her palm. He winced at the sound of her bones breaking beneath the impulsive move as the knife stuck out of either end of her hand. She struggled for breath, her eyes wide with slight tears forming in her eyes as the intense pain rocked her body. Spike looked on with worried eyes from the blade to the slayer. She stared down at the knife for several minutes in silence before pulling the blade out as quickly as she could, stopping halfway through to grit her teeth.

She grasped her wrist with her unharmed hand and glared at him. Spike's mouth opened, half worried and irritated by her actions. He didn't stew in his confusion for very long, gasping when the Slayer shoved her hand against his lips.

Eyes wide in shock and indignation, Spike's hands came up to push away her wrist. Stronger, she pushed back, keeping her wounded hand over his mouth until he twisted his neck, angrily rolling his head to the side.

She hissed, keeping her hand above his face to send blood dripping over his face. "Do it, damn you!" she screamed with an air of insanity. "This is what you want, my blood. It's what you've always wanted. Drink, Spike." He stared up at her, jerking his head to the side when blood splattered on his flesh. She was crying, openly. Shaking now and then as though she had something to be afraid of.

When she placed her hand over his lips a second time, she did it bodily. Kissing his neck, his jaw, his temple, and he swallowed.

Spike's body tensed, hands folded into hard fists and pulling the sheets up into them. Her blood gave him a chill. Concentrated malevolence, heady evil but… implacably misdirected emotions. She was still just as confused as she was a month ago.

Slowly, his arms came up from the bed sheets and curled around her body, fingers resting at the small of her back before snaking further upward, into her hair, up her arm to hold her wrist tightly in place.

The Slayer shivered as he growled around a mouthful of her blood. She cried, unable to quell the overwhelming need for emotional release as his fingers caressed her in comforting motions by way of his hand entwined in her hair.

With her mouth so near his ear, she asked him what he tasted as her head began to feel dizzy. She was unable to stop the catch in her voice as she spoke to him then. He didn't reply to her in words, nor did she expect him to, instead his fingernails clawed downwards, nipping at her shirt and snagging the fabric, leaving welts in their wake.

When at last he took in a gasping sob for breath around her open palm, she was draped over him, no longer in charge. His eyes were alight with the exhilarating, stimulating, revitalizing blood. He twisted them around, rolling so he was kneeling above her body.

She looked up at him, and rolled her eyes with a slight smile. She didn't ask for his blood, and he didn't give it to her. Bouncing backwards off of the bed without a word to her, he walked back out the door.

There were no words he could say to her. And in all honesty, he had no intention of making up pretty lies to make her feel better. There was no force in the planets or beyond to keep their little worlds intact. There was nothing to say or do to make it feel safe.

He didn't feel safe. He didn't feel anything except the buzz of her blood bouncing in his veins and a vague impression that what he was going to do next would haunt him for several years to come.

Spike paced the length of shadows outside the Summers' residence. He found himself feeling distinctly vulnerable in a way he'd never been before, trapped within his own moral compass as his world tipped, already determined to spin out of its natural orbit.

His fingers bit into the cigarette, breaking the fragile package of nicotine, and angrily flicked it away, sending sparks scattering across the lawn.

Taking a deep breath he took a brave step forward, curiously deflating at the sound of approaching footsteps. He rolled his eyes and cursed the universe, declaring that he too now had his own personal vendetta against the Powers. Pressing his back against the large tree in the Summers' lawn he listened as voices became clearer with each stride and he made out Xander and Anya's shape in the glow of the streetlamps.

Like a sixth sense, Xander stopped halfway up the lawn and turned to look directly at the vampire. "You'd better have information on Buffy if you're going to show up out of the blue to lurk outside her house," he asked, coming off hostile in his eagerness to have information on their missing friend.

Anya hit his shoulder, rephrasing his question, "Where have you been and have you seen Buffy?"

Spike nodded sharply, avoiding her question and cut to the chase, "Where's Dawn?"

"Where's Dawn?!" Xander asked, incredulously. "Where's Buffy? She's the one missing."

"She's inside…" Anya spoke at the same time, her voice distant as she assessed the vampire.

Xander's eyes darted back and forth, anxiously waiting word on the Slayer who had gone missing the same time Spike had. When he spoke, he talked with his hands, worriedly flaying his arms about. "C'mon peroxide wonder-boy. Talk! Where's the Buff? Is she okay?"

Spike ran his tongue along the backside of his teeth, scraping his original plan to get Dawn away from the others as quickly, and cleanly, as possible. In his planning, which had been done while riding from the mansion to the Summers' residence, he hadn't filtered in Xander or his girl. He'd prepared for only one obstacle, possibly two if Dawn was having a bad day.

Anya was already watching him with a knowing eye and he unconsciously counted the seconds for her eyes to alight with the knowledge that something was not-quite-right with the vampire standing in front of them. A thousand years, most of which she herself was the threat to humanity, she was bound to pick up on the altered evil before them.

Pushing off the tree with a childlike bounce, he whispered, "Sorry, love." before knocking Anya hard on the side of her head. She fell slightly forward, unconscious, into his arms and he eased her down as gently as he could with Xander rushing him immediately as reality hit.

Spike shook off the brunette's punch and landed one of his own that caused Xander to backpedal quickly or risk falling. He was caught stunned for a moment at the slight maniacal grin that scratched across the vampire's face. He'd known this day had been long coming, but was nevertheless taken aback at the sheer poison in Spike's eyes. "You killed her," he accused with great sorrow in his voice. "You killed my best friend." It wasn't a question and regardless the blond wasn't forthcoming with an answer.

To him, it rang true. He hadn't been there to save her, to save her from his lovely Drusilla. And her blood was singing in his veins, running like a fire in his body. He might as well have killed her. He took step closer and Xander put all his fury into landing several more blows before finding himself pinned against the tree Spike had been leaning against minutes before.

Spike's eyes flashed dangerously, cool blue that was hardened and without mercy. Xander found all he could do against the vampire was match that steely gaze with pure hatred. Doing his best not to gasped at the feel of hands on either side of his head, to beg.

His life didn't flash before his eyes, and he didn't feel any regret, save for having trusted a vampire and being betrayed (for the second time, no less) in turn. His last thought was for Anya before Spike snapped his neck.

The vampire stepped aside, kicking Xander's lifeless body out of the way when he threatened to fall on the ex-demon. He rolled his shoulders back, having missed the crunch, especially when that crunch came with breaking Alexander Harris' neck.

With a sigh, he pulled the duo into the shadows. In a rare act of consideration he moved Anya to the opposite side of the tree, making sure to keep her safely secured in darkness but far enough away so that her first sight would not be her dead fiancée's unblinking glare.

He was still reveling in the sensation of taking Xander's life when he walked into the house, the feeling subsiding only slightly to see Willow and Dawn sitting in the living room together, talking softly and looking earnestly to the opened door.

He had the grace to flinch when Dawn raced to his side. "God! Spike!" she cried out, exasperated and relieved. "We were so worried."

He smiled softly, lightly placing his hand uncomfortably on her shoulder. When he spoke, he talked to the Wiccan who had also risen to greet him. "Slayer asked me to pick up her Sis. Get her someplace safe."

"You were with Buffy?" Dawn asked before Willow got the chance.

"Yeah."

"Maybe she should come get Dawn herself," Willow said indignantly, unintentionally glaring at the vampire. "I mean, if it's that important. No offense Spike, but shouldn't she be here, where we can all help?"

Spike counted to ten, using that time to remind himself that recovering-addict or no, Willow was still a mightily powerful witch, one of whom he didn't wish to fight. He switched tactics. "Hey, I'm just following orders," he paused, before adding, "Tell you what, I saw Anya and Xander walking on their way here." Which was at least half true. "Tell them Buffy's fine, and once I get Dawn someplace safe, I'll find Buffy and tell her you're all worried. I'm sure she'll come running. Sound fair?"

The look on Willow's face told him it sounded anything but fair. Luckily, he didn't care. "Alright then, Nibblet?"

Dawn was torn, unsure which side she should take as she looked at Willow who had placed her hands on her hips and appeared petulant. She thought of the near week they'd spent together, worrying and comforting each other over the missing blonde, fearing the absolute worst. Only to hear from Spike that Buffy had been hiding out the whole time, fighting god knows what by herself without care for those she had left in a lurch. Dawn worried her lip as she edged closer towards Spike, desire to see her sister and to be part of the 'In The Know' group winning out.

She gave an apologetic smile and a little wave to Willow and followed Spike out the door.

The vampire kept himself on her right side, walking with his body between hers and Xander and Anya's. Not that it mattered, she never spared a glance in either direction, completely trusting Spike to keep her safe. It was when he moved to hand her the helmet he'd gotten especially for her that the first ache pierced his heart.

His hands were shaking, and she noticed, as he helped her into it. But he cut off any words she might have said by straddling the bike and turning the engine on, revving it loudly.

The ride back to the mansion shouldn't have taken longer than ten minutes at the speed they were going, but to Spike it was much longer. Much, much longer as he thought of Buffy to the small hands clasped on either side of his waist.

All she wanted was heaven… he could scream his frustration, would that not tip off the small brunette behind him. Two years ago, hell, even one and that wouldn't be such a big fucking deal.

Surely this had happened before, a Slayer being turned. Though, Drusilla aside, he couldn't imagine any vampire wanting to making a slayer, a vampire slayer, their immortal fucking enemy… immortal. Still, he could see why that would occurred to someone. No… surely Dru was not the first.

Spike stopped the motorcycle a block away from the mansion. For several minutes he did nothing but listen to the sounds of crickets chirping in the yard. Dawn, on the other hand, jumped off the bike, ditched the helmet and turned to look at him.

He wasn't even sure he could look her in the eye as he watched a slim fragment of light chase across her face and run across her brow just enough that if he looked, he knew he'd see her innocent, trusting gaze.

"Spike?" Her worried voice made him flinch and he sighed audibly.

Slowly he moved himself off from the bike and turned just slightly so he could easily look down at her. He held out his hand and she took it without reserve. When he spoke she smiled and nodded, thinking that's what was expected. "Here we go, then. Don't be frightened, I'm right by your side."

As soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to remove that offending hand from his own, or to do something more, something else, simply knock her out and carry her to her own death. He wasn't sure, but the sensation of true emotion that wasn't hatred, or loathing, or irritation was frustrating the hell out of him.

He walked her up to the mansion and when she caught sight of the several dozen vampires making the place look like a night crawler's party nest, she tensed and looked up to him as if he'd lost his mind.

Spike gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, and strengthened his grip to the point that she thought her bones would turn to talcum powder beneath his crushing hold when he caught site of Buffy.

The smaller girl holding his hand didn't see her until she heard her name called out. "Dawnie!"

Spike stopped her from running to her sister, whom she hadn't seen all week long and was beginning to assume dead. "Buffy! We were so worried! Willow and Xan-an… Buffy?"

Spike wished to god that he had something to say to her. Any words for her at all would have done, but as the Slayer came closer and her demonic ridges showed the truth of her nature, he didn't have anything to say.

Anything to tell himself to stop being ashamed.

Dawn looked at her sister in horror, tears in her eyes even before her brain had a chance to process the truth. And then she turned to Spike, who had led her here to see this… thing that was her sister. In the background of her tears she heard her sister talking, trying to be soothing. When Buffy knelt down and pushed away stray locks of her hair from her face Dawn began pulling frantically on Spike's hold, ready to chop of her own arm to get away.

And she screamed.

For Buffy, the happy reunion was broken and she no longer felt great relief in having the key to the ritual safe in her grasp. All she felt was annoyance and rising hunger. "Shut her up, Spike. And follow me, if you would," she said with a great flourishing sweep of her hands.

Spike pulled the screaming girl in close and used his free hand to clamp over her mouth. Silenced, she still kicked and wailed, forcing him to half carry, half drag her out as they followed the Slayer through the abode to the back-yard of the mansion.

Drusilla was waiting, dressed in her finest next to the make-shift altar. The two women were glowing in their excitement as Spike did his best to remain internally impassive to what was about to happen. He shoved Dawn away from himself as soon as the three vampires were all in a safe triangle, where she'd have no chance to escape.

She immediately backpedaled towards the man who had just betrayed her trust, stopping when her back hit his chest and she jumped holding her hands around her waist, "Buffy… What's going on?"

The Slayer patted the stone bed, motioning for Dawn to take a seat, but the teenager wasn't about to move and planted her feet down right where they were. Buffy rolled her eyes. "Remember when we talked about life being nothing more than a series of extremes? Well, those extremes have left me with wondering where my happy medium is… where my happy area of gray, that so many people talk about, walk through, live, is. Well, it's all left me wanting my perfect balance in life, and now that I've found it I'm not going to take it for granted." The Slayer jolted forward unexpectedly, grabbing her sister and shoving her onto the altar. "But first, I need a little help getting it. So if you would?"

Dawn screamed out for Spike as both Buffy and Drusilla made busy work of using the chains, especially welded into the stone for just this purpose, to restrain the terrified girl. Drusilla took time to simply stare at Dawn, which made the smaller brunette appear to visibly shrink, looking impossibly more vulnerable. Buffy tossed a snide smirk towards Spike who had to ball his fingers into fists to fight the urge to save the mortal girl. He rolled his eyes at the Slayer when he caught her sarcastic expression and took a step away from the altar towards Drusilla. He couldn't help wondering at Dru's insights, what she saw. Was it the same as Tara had seen the year before, when her mind had been tormented by the hell-bent goddess or was she much more powerful than that and saw something else entirely?

And then suddenly he found himself watching Buffy saying her short goodbye. Placing a kiss on her sister's forehead and backing away, ready to do business.

With Drusilla presiding over the ceremony, Buffy threw her offerings upon the altar and fell to her knees, humbling herself before the great powers she summoned upon with a rising voice. To the four corners of the Earth, the sleepers of the universe and the spectators beyond, she demanded an audience with genuine bravado as she called upon that who should not be named.

They rejoiced in coming, and why wouldn't they? After so many years in wait, finally, finally! someone impious enough to drain energy from a Key. Foolish enough to call upon them.

They gathered openly, harsh winds rising about the altar only to steeple back into an autumn breeze, keeping their distance with guarded apprehension when they saw the sight of The Powers Warrior.

Astonished to find it was, in fact, the Slayer calling them forth.

Drusilla shot Spike a scornful glare as he backed away from the altar, and Dawn cried out a muffled protest. Her small fingers reaching out for him, begging to see her Spike sparkle in his eyes. But everything inside him, every molecule, nerve ending, small bits of common sense he still possessed told him to flee. This was not some angry mob or legendary hero they were fucking with, instinctively he knew it to be something grander than the whole of humanity.

He didn't take flight however. Standing his ground, more or less enthralled as the air began breathing around them, speaking in hushed tones to announce their arrival.

Spike listened intently as the creatures spoke, but could not make out the words as they breezed around him in the unnatural stream of air. Looking to Drusilla for answers, he found her less interested in what they said so much as that they spoke at all.

Buffy's face took on a mixture of absolute horror and bliss. Her voice continued to rise above the conversing winds and she arched her neck as, with whispers, they cloaked her body and wrapped tight until able to push through her skin like a hundred needles and press deep, sinking in as if out to devour her whole.

Eventually, she closed her eyes and felt the nameless life-forms within her blood, a sharp bark of laughter broke her chanting as they tore inside. Taking her apart as though the organs she possessed were still able to kill her if hacked to pieces.

And it was when the pain became too intense, and she was forced to exertion with the effort of standing, that they jolted out of her with a strength that shoved her backwards.

Dawn breathed a sigh of relief, pulling on the restraints binding her to the altar as Buffy landed on the grass with a sharp crack of breaking bones. Dazed, she blinked repeatedly, trying to focus her wounded vision, scrambling to her knees and growling insanely when she felt hands on her arms, trying to help her rise.

Spike let go as though she were pure sunlight, out to burn, shocked by her ferocity. He watched her struggle on her hands and knees as she hunted down the dagger which had flown from her fist. His head turned and he looked past Drusilla to Dawn whose eyes were tightly closed, terrified to open them for fear of what might be looming above. He watched her struggle, laid out as the sacrifice she was and not the holy-fucking-grail that armies had died for, a Slayer had died for.

The winds had picked up once more and the uncomprehendable voices in the air were growing louder at a steady pace. Drusilla stopped swaying and began to worry as she stared directly at the stone bench, second sight giving her vision to the unmistakable death that awaited them if her daughter wasted much longer getting back to her feet.

Buffy kept her curses tightly reigned for words held power, potential to turn themselves into a physical substance and destroy all that she knew, believed, wished to possess. Her hands beat down upon the dew-ridden grass until, with a sharp cry of joy, her fingers twisted around something solid and wood.

Sweat soaked her brow when she rose, broken limbs making themselves known and causing her to fall back to her knees, forcing her to crawl the several yards she'd flown backwards to the altar.

She couldn't see the portal, the merging of worlds was not for her eyes but one look to Drusilla was enough to confirm all was going as well as could be expected. She didn't bother a glance to Spike, who watched her with more a look of predator-verses-prey than trusting lover.

On her knees she was barely a foot above the altar, staring eye-level with her sister's body and she found that the winds had parted down the center where she knelt, a celestial incision made by her, covering the altar. She noticed Dawn's face turning lavender as she suffocated in the dead place that now existed where the altar lay.

Before she caught herself, Buffy's free hand came to rest on Dawn's tightly clenched fists. Her sister's eyes opened with much work on her part. Red veins decorated the white around her brown hues, and the Slayer gave her a small, almost reassuring smile.

Drusilla wailed from behind them, frightened from what she saw that the others could not. With the whimpering vampiress behind her influencing her into urgency Buffy brought up the dagger and gripped it in both hands as hard as she could when the muscles in her right arm protested her overusing them. She quoted the last remaining sentences, memorized courtesy her Sire, and slammed the point into her sister's stomach.

Dawn's eyes snapped close and her mouth hung open in a silent scream that she couldn't project, having no air to make sound. She jerked and tried ever harder to pull her hands free, close over the wood protruding from her skin.

The once rushing voices around them came to an abrupt hush as the delicate balance between the many halves of dimensions tilted and the creatures beyond her understanding were instantly eager to please the Warrior of Humanity that had dared to give them name and give them breath with the first drop of blood that pooled around the Key's stinging wound.

Drusilla and Spike hesitated to move closer to the scene. Dru stared at the unmoving Slayer, fearing something had gone wrong, unable to see or sense anything beyond the norm. Spike watched Dawn inhale as air filled her lungs at a slow pace.

And Buffy remained statue-still as voices cluttered her mind and proclaimed Heaven, they could not give her. She didn't scream her rage, or try to fight these innumerable creatures however, as they gave her something else in return. Something far more powerful. Equations long forgotten, or perhaps never learned, configured inside her mind. The universe became crisp with its clarity and secrets to lives never lived became instinctive knowledge to her at once. Life pushed into her unbeating heart and fell away, leaving with it the secrets of existence, life, death, the beginning of every fragment that lives, and what haunted it inside.

Spike gasped as her hair turned white and brittle as if bleached to the point of crumbling at the slightest wind. Buffy either didn't notice or didn't care as she remained knelt in the same position.

The Slayer saw all truths, but with her knowledge, she felt already there would be one more sacrifice.

She felt before her a great thrust of pure energy. It burned her exposed skin, peeling away layers of her flesh that would take less than a week to heal but seared painfully all the same.

The energy pressed against her front until death was looking like a great plan, but she found, despite her most powerful efforts, herself unable to move.

Buffy cried out in pain just as the energy gave one last vicious hit to her body and exploded, propelling her backwards like a bullet being shot from a gun. The voices gave one last, uncomprehending, deafening roar, but this time it was only the Slayer who heard.

A deity, they proclaimed her. And laughed inside her head like little demons hosting themselves in her brain, because never before had it been written that a Slayer… a slayer, they smirked, of all things… would ever possess such knowledge.

Her eyes burned, and she frantically clawed at them, but Drusilla was there to wrestle her hands away. Even though the Slayer's power, by far, outweighed her own, the brunette was mostly able to save the Slayer's pealing skin from her tearing fingernails. As the pain subsided, Buffy opened her eyes and looked quizzed at the shocked vampire looming above her.

But even so, she knew already why Dru was staring at her with one hand covering her mouth. Knew it instinctively to be true, as her Sire stared into the Slayer's exceptionally colorless eyes, that no one would ever be able to see into her. Her psyche or soul to read from her body or mind the secrets given to her by creatures she had named with the first drop of her sister's blood.

She was marked across the top of her forehead as divine by three fine icons of words that were yet to be born and as Drusilla and Spike stared at her expectantly she screamed with laughter, thinking of the uprising she would pull the world into and of questionable seasons that she would quickly bring to reality.

- fin -


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