A Little Uncalculated Weirdness

An exciting Lost Boys/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover. A portal opens in a graveyard, linking Sunnydale 1998 with Santa Carla 1987, and Buffy and Giles wind up helping a certain gang of teenage vampire slayers fight the undead.

Genre: Action/Adventure

Characters: Alan Frog, Edgar Frog, Michael Emerson, Sam Emerson, Buffy Summers

Rating: PG

Crossover: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys

Disclaimer: I don’t own Buffy, nor Giles, nor any of the Lost Boys (although I do own a copy of ‘Peter Pan’). Neither do I own any vampires. I also don’t know the first thing about writing proper disclaimers.

Author’s Notes: This is old, so please forgive any split infinitives, bad punctuation, or other grammatical failings. I like to pretend that I write much better now.

Stats: Posted: 26 Nov 2005 | Chapters: 8 | Status: Complete | Word Count: 36,685 | Status: Complete | Length: 30-40k

A Little Uncalculated Weirdness by Xenon

[nextpage title=”Chapter 1″]

Chapter 1

Tests. Surely a Slayer was above Math tests? What exactly was the point of being humanity’s last line of defence against bloodsucking undead creatures of the night if you still had to take Math tests? Buffy had already argued the whole thing out with Giles, but he had simply handed her a book on advanced mathematical principles, and then looked as though he expected her to understand every word. She scowled at the book now, pondering over the intricacies of the quadratic equation at the start of chapter two. According to Willow, this was all supposed to make perfect sense to her. Yeah, right.

“Okay… Take the first digit and… No, that isn’t right. Multiply the second…. No, that doesn’t work either.” Frowning hard, she flicked through the book to the end, and then scowled. Great. How typical of Giles to give her the one Math book in the entire library that didn’t have the answers printed in the back.

The phone rang with a sudden shrill clarity that startled her, and she made a wild grab for it. This had better be Giles. Please let him have uncovered news of a huge brigade of vampires nesting somewhere gloriously inconvenient.

She lifted the receiver. “Hello?”

“Buffy?” There was a questioning tone to the voice, which made her smile. Who else would be answering?

“Hello Giles. Is there something I can do for you?”

“If you, you wouldn’t mind, yes. Shall we say fifteen minutes?”

“You’re on.” Dropping the receiver back into its cradle with a broad grin, she threw the Math book across the room, smirking in triumph when it landed heavily in the waste paper bin.

“Buffy?” Almost at the door, the Slayer groaned as her mother’s voice floated towards her from the living room.

“Yes?” She asked, her voice full of innocence.

“Are you going out somewhere?”

“Er… yes.”

“It’s awfully late, Buffy.”

“Yeah, I know.” Vampires aren’t known for keeping sociable hours. “I shouldn’t be long.”

“Don’t you have some kind of test coming up?”

“Yeah, but I’ve got that covered. It’ll be a piece of cake. See you.” Wincing at the scale of that last lie, Buffy slipped out of the door, and hurried down the garden path. The darkness settled around her, and she found herself looking nervously about for any sign of pursuit. Not for the first time, she thought about the extent of the changes that had come about in her life over the last couple of years. At one time she wouldn’t have flinched at the notion of walking through the streets—probably even through a graveyard—at night. Now she couldn’t even think of such a thing without knowing that there was a comfortably sharp wooden stake somewhere close by.

The dark streets were not entirely deserted, even at this late hour, and the Slayer took some solace in the presence of other human beings. Even with that slight comfort she was glad when the school’s familiar shape swelled up in front of her, and the abandoned silence of the empty halls had given way to the dusty camaraderie of the library’s overflowing book shelves.

“Buffy!” Striding out of some hidden niche amongst the books, Giles threw his pupil a typically awkward grin. Whilst she was still technically an apprentice Slayer, the fate of the world rested to a large extent on the shoulders of the rumpled, bespectacled librarian, and it was a thought which still did not inspire confidence in Buffy. Even now, after so long in his company, she found it hard to accept that the terminally shy Englishman was a leading light in the battle of good against evil. He looked like somebody’s absent minded uncle.

“What’s up, Giles?” Sitting down on the edge of her Watcher’s desk, Buffy glanced down at the disordered collection of notes, trying to read them upside down. He hesitated before answering, which was nothing new, but always made her uneasy nonetheless. “Trouble?”

“Buffy, we, we live in the Hellmouth. Of, of course it’s trouble.” He smiled, and sat down. “I’ve been checking through the books.”

“So what is it this time? Prophecies of supreme gruesomeness? Dreadful tales of darkest depravity?”

“Something like that.” He frowned, scanning the piles of notes as though unsure which piece of scrumpled paper was the right one. “I-I-I’m not sure that I understand it….”

“That’s something new.” Buffy grinned in the face of his withering glare. “What’s the gist of it?”

“Something weird.” He gazed at a sheet of paper as if almost forgetting that she was present, then glanced up suddenly, apparently surprised to see her sitting there. “Oh. H-here it is. The narrative was a little cryptic, but as near as I can make out, there’s going to be a full moon….” His voice trailed off, leading Buffy to wonder if he had dragged her out in the middle of the night in order to make some mundane comment on the workings of the solar system.

“Yes…?” she prompted. He shrugged, looking characteristically vague.

“There’s something about a gate. Some kind of a, a combination of p-planetary interferences… I’m not altogether sure what it means. Midnight is quite important, from what I can gather.”

“How does the prophecy word it?”

“I beg your pardon? Oh, yes….” His voice trailed off again, as he searched for something on his desk. “Here it is. Er… ‘The gate shall open wide… ’ blah, blah… Oh yes. ‘And out of the past shall come answers to questions unasked. What has not been forgotten shall be discovered anew. Youth is the key to old age in the place where innocence dies at the birth of death.’ Not exactly Shakespeare, is it.”

Buffy frowned. It was all gibberish to her, but then so many of the prophecies were. Giles usually came up with the answers in the end.

“No ideas at all?” she asked him. He gazed down at the piece of paper.

“Gates aren’t usually a particularly welcome prospect in this town,” he said thoughtfully. “I’m inclined to think that this one won’t be very different.”

“You think it might be some way of allowing vampires to pass through into our world? From… wherever?”

“Precisely.” He frowned, eyes unreadable behind the glasses that completed his image of endearing eccentricity. “I’d say that a little trip around town is called for, wouldn’t you?”

“Certainly.” Jumping to her feet in readiness, Buffy thought about her Math revision, and shrugged mentally. It wasn’t as if she could really give her teachers a decent excuse, but that was just hard luck.

“I can test you on your Math revision on the way.” Giles was already heading for the door, and missed the sight of the young Slayer’s shoulders drooping suddenly.

“Gee, thanks Giles.”

“No problem, Buffy. Glad to help.” He vanished out into the corridor, and Buffy glared at the rapidly closing door, imagining all of the things that her training would allow her to do to Giles. It wasn’t the first time that she had considered the possibility; and right now it seemed more attractive than ever. She caught him up and they left the building together, both glancing automatically up at the sky. There were too many clouds to make seeing the moon a possibility, and Buffy caught herself shivering slightly. Great. How am I supposed to see whether it’s full or not? She followed the Watcher to his car and slid into the passenger seat, wondering at the image it presented to a casual observer. She had already caused a few eyebrows to lift amongst the people at school, due to the amount of time she spent with Giles. How might it look if she were to be seen with him at this time of night, in his car? The thought almost made her giggle.

“Where to?” Giles asked, his tone oddly cheerful.

Buffy shrugged. “Graveyard?”

“Okay.” He started the engine, trying to ignore the odd noises which emanated from under the bonnet. Buffy winced. Giles smiled apologetically, and slid the car out into the sparse traffic. It was perfectly possible to walk to the graveyard, but they had learnt the hard way that it was often best to have a quick means of escape. One never knew when it would come in handy, especially when there were likely to be one or two slightly irate vampires nearby.

“You want me to wait in the car?” As they drew up to the cemetery, Giles halted the car, and leaned forwards to see out of the windscreen into the impenetrable blackness. Buffy got out.

“That’s up to you.” She raised a stake, her smile both gleeful and oddly childish. “The stakes are on me.”

The response was a wry smile.

“I think I’ll come.” Giles glanced about. “What do your senses tell you?”

“That I don’t like graveyards, especially at night.” She turned in a circle. “This way. Feels spooky.”

“That’s good enough for me.” Fingering the cross around his neck with his usual apparent nervousness, Giles let his companion lead the way. They were soon in the centre of the yard, encircled by the ageing stones with their worn inscriptions and musty silence. Buffy stopped by one stone, reading the words on it with an odd attentiveness.

“Jason Reid,” she said slowly. “Born 1981, died 1998. Beloved son of… can’t read the rest.”

“Why not?” Giles leaned closer, and saw the scratch marks on the stone. “Oh. You think he’s still down there?”

“For the time being.” She backed away slightly, indicating that he should do the same. “Want a game of I-spy while we wait?”

“So long as you weren’t planning on spying anything that begins with G.”

“Oh. Maybe not then.” They both grinned. The wait was never terribly long, but it was a trying one nonetheless. Standing around in dark and mysterious places, waiting for some hideous creature to appear, was not the best way to spend an evening, but they were both becoming used to it. The only drawback was that the creatures they waited for rarely arrived alone, and were usually somewhat less than welcoming.

“What’s that?” They had been waiting less than five minutes, but already Buffy’s genetic sensory equipment was screaming at her. She frowned, staring at Reid’s gravestone with more than a slight feeling of apprehension.

“Do you feel something?” Giles tried to see any sign of change around the grave, but it was too dark.

“I’m not sure.” Cautiously, Buffy slipped out of hiding, and approached the grave. It seemed quiet and still. There was no reason to suspect that something was about to happen, and yet… It was hard to describe.

“Buffy.” There was a trace of irritation in Giles’ tone. “We’re supposed to be hiding.”

“I know.” Buffy circled the stone, studying it carefully. “Can you hear something?”

“Like what exactly?” The librarian wandered over, frowning slightly. “I think I can hear knocking.”

“Exactly!” Buffy sounded rather as a scientist might, when shouting Eureka! “That’s him.” She crouched down beside the stone, stake in hand. “Er, Giles? Wouldn’t you be happier out of the way?”

“What? Oh, yes. Yes of course.” He back-pedalled to their original hiding place, watching carefully. He had perfect faith in Buffy’s instincts, but as long as he lived, he did not think he would get entirely used to the idea that it was she, and not him, who had to face the vampires. It didn’t seem right.

Scratch, scratch, scratch. The noise inside the grave grew louder. Buffy clenched her fingers tightly around the stake in her hand. Was today the day? Was this the night when she would be beaten? She scowled into the darkness. Not likely. Jason Reid had only been dead for a short time, and had only been seventeen anyway. Losing to him would be rather like losing to Xander. An entirely unpleasant prospect. She felt the gravestone begin to vibrate, and tensed her muscles in readiness. Any second now….

With a noise like thunder, the turf on top of the grave flew aside, hurtling across the graveyard like some absurd green bat. The earth erupted, flying into the air and spraying in a wild fountain which showered everything. Buffy spat a few small stones out of her mouth. Charming. Absolutely charming. What did this guy do for an encore? She heard the vile creak of the coffin opening, the damp wood protesting at the movement. A dank, miserable smell floated out of the grave, and the Slayer wrinkled up her nose in disgust. Time to send this creep back where she felt certain he belonged.

“Hey, Reid!” Standing up, Buffy held the stake out. “I’ve got something for you.” The figure in the grave looked up at her, his eyes filled with malevolence. There was nothing left in his face to indicate what Jason Reid might once have looked like; only the demon within him was visible now. He smiled, and with an almighty leap, lifted himself up from his resting place and landed beside Buffy.

“Sweet, warm blood.” He laughed. “How very thoughtful.”

“Guess again.” Buffy raised the stake, but Reid side-stepped with an unpleasant laugh, and stiff-armed Buffy before she could dodge away. She rolled with the blow, slipping away from the steep sides of the grave, and into more open territory. Reid came after her, and Buffy waited for him. His broad, demonic face split into a wide grin, showing his long teeth in all of their cruel glory.

“Come on, little girl. Don’t fight me. I need to drink.” His eyes were teasing, unbelieving that this small teenager could possibly be challenging him.

“Little girl?” Outraged, Buffy drew herself up as much as she could. “Take that back!”

“Make me.” Reid moved closer, his hands held out. “Come here.”

“You asked for it.” Ducking low, Buffy threw herself forwards, colliding with the vampire’s legs. They went down together, and the Slayer somersaulted over, on her feet again in the blink of an eye. Reid growled, unable to stand up anything like as fast as his young assailant. She was on him in an instant, stake poised above his heart.

“What do you know about a gate?” She heard herself saying the words, but could not quite believe that it was her voice asking them. There was no time to interrogate a vampire before killing it.

“A gate?” Reid sounded just as unbelieving. “What do you know of the gate?”

“What is it? Where is it?” She pressed the stake hard against his chest. “Tell me.”

“You’re a fool.” With a hard blow, Reid knocked the Slayer aside, and stood up. “You should have killed me when you had the chance.” He towered above her, teeth bared, and Buffy flinched. How could she have been so stupid?

“Prepare to die, schoolgirl.” Reid bent towards her, and then stiffened, his body jerking upright. “No….” The word barely managed to escape from his lips before his body crashed to the floor, disintegrating immediately. Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, and grinned up at Giles.


“Don’t mention it.” He pulled her to her feet. “Now w-w-would you mind telling me just w-what the hell that was all about? You’re supposed to kill them, not ask them out.”

“I wasn’t–” Buffy scowled. “I thought it might be an idea to ask about the gate. Who’s most likely to know about it; them or us?”

“So what did he say?”

“Not a lot.” She shrugged. “But he’d heard of it. He was surprised that I had.”

“That, that’s a start, I-I suppose.”

“What now?” Yawning, Buffy sat down on the grass. “We have to find out about this gate. Can’t we capture one of them?”

“A vampire?!” Giles shook his head. “Absolutely not. No.” He paced up and down, looking restless. “We’ve got nowhere to keep one, and I’m out of solid silver chains. Sorry.”

“Never mind.” She stood up. “Perhaps we can hang around here a while longer anyway. We were supposed to be trying to find out about the gate.”

“I don’t know, Buffy. It, it’s late, and it’s a, a school day tomorrow.”

“Leave it Giles. You’re a librarian, not a teacher.” Buffy gazed around at the other stones, but could feel no further indication of imminent resurrections. “What do you suppose the gate looks like?”

“No idea.” He shrugged rather vaguely. “A gate is a gate.”

“True.” She sighed, suddenly tired. “Are you sure that you got the wording of the prophecy right?”

“Of course.” He looked a little insulted. “It was in Latin, Buffy. My second language. It quite clearly said that the gate would open when the full moon is out. According to the calendar that’s tomorrow night.”

“But there’s a full moon about once a month. What’s so special about this one?” She yawned again.

“It’s something to do with the, the positioning of the p-planets. You, er, you know as well as I do that we-we’re particularly sensitive to astrological events in this town. The m-movements of the planets can be extremely important. It may well be that tomorrow night, the forces will be… will… well whatever it is they do. That could be what will trigger the gate.”

“But where the gate will be, and where it leads to, and who uses it and all the useful bits of information like that are still beyond us.” She sighed, and stood up, stretching hard in an attempt to stop another yawn. “That’s, like, so completely not helpful.”

“Yes, I know.” He offered her another of his awkward smiles; the kind which was usually accompanied by a burst of increased stammering. “We er, we p-probably sh-should, er, get back. You know. G-go home. You’re looking sort of sleepy.”

“Alright.” She sighed heavily. “It seemed like such a good idea, coming here.”

“Maybe it was. At, at least we know that the vampires are, are aware of the gate’s existence.” Giles led the way back to the car. “There’s still all of tomorrow, Buffy. The gate doesn’t open until midnight tomorrow.”

“I suppose….” She followed him slowly, glancing about at the gravestones as they passed. One of them caught her eye; a brand new stone close to the cemetery gate. The inscription was simple:

Mark Hutten
Born 1971

Died 1987

In Innocence Shall He Sleep

“Come on, Buffy.” Giles was waiting by the car, and Buffy tore her eyes away from the gravestone, hurrying to catch the Watcher up. It was only as she settled herself into the car that she wondered why there should be so new a stone above the grave of someone who had been dead for eleven years. She allowed her mind to ponder over this oddity, but sleep swam into her thoughts, and she found that she could not concentrate. Mark Hutten drifted from her mind, and she faded away into oblivion.

“Buffy! Buffy dear, you’ll be late for school!” Buffy groaned, struggling to find her bearings beneath the bedclothes. Her mother’s voice came again, loud and insistent.

“Buffy, hurry up. You don’t want to be late again. You stay up far too late, young lady.”

“I’m coming.” She got up and dressed quickly, anxious to get to school with enough time to talk to Giles before lessons began. She might even be able to persuade him into helping her cut school for the day, so that they could work on the problem of the gate together. Okay, so that was a little unlikely; but not unthinkable.

The school was a bustle of activity, quite unlike the previous night when Buffy had last been there. She went straight to the library, and found Giles looking, as ever, as if he had never left.


“Hmm? What? I—Oh, Buffy, it’s you.” He blinked at her uncertainly, then took off his glasses to clean them. “Hello. Did you sleep well?”

“Fine thank you. And you?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes, thank you. Yes, I slept… well didn’t actually. Stayed the night here. Studying, you know.” He put the glasses back on again, and frowned. “Can I do something for you?”

“Yes. I want to help.” She sat on the corner of the desk, and leaned over to read his notes. The spidery handwriting quite defied her attempts to decode it, and she smiled.

“Got a little carried away, didn’t you.”

“Er… Well, needs must and all that. Working hard, losing concentration maybe once or twice….” He sounded even more confused than normal, as if the long night’s studying had been hard work.

“So did you find anything?”

“Nothing conclusive.” He stifled a yawn. “Shouldn’t you be in class?”

“I’m helping you today. Slayer’s privilege.” She grinned winningly, and pulled up a chair. “What have we got?”

“Here.” He handed her a heavy, dust-laden book. “Look at page… er… fifty-six. Bottom paragraph.”

“Okay….” She turned the pages, then raised her eyebrows at Giles. He had already turned back to his work. “Er…. What language is this exactly?”

“What? Oh, that. Don’t know quite. Fascinating, though, isn’t it? The translation is around here somewhere. One of my predecessors….” His voice trailed off as he went in search of some errant slip of paper. “Ah. Here you are.”

“Thanks.” Trying to keep her doubts about Giles’ state of mind from showing in her voice, Buffy took the paper and scanned through it. “What have we here… ‘The gate opens wide, one world to the next, the streets shall scream and blackness will flood the minds of the afflicted.’ Real fluffy bunny stuff, huh. ‘The lost ones will spread their word, all innocence shall be destroyed. One hell leads to another, and they shall be joined by their suffering.’ That isn’t very helpful.”

“Isn’t it? Think about that last bit. ‘One hell leads to another.’ Now what is it that we like to call Sunnydale?”

“Hellmouth….” Buffy was catching on. “You think there could be another place like this? Somewhere else where the… lay lines or whatever are particularly strong?”

“It’s very likely.” Giles leaned back in his chair until he looked to be in imminent danger of falling over backwards. “I haven’t found anything in the records, but Slayers aren’t, er, exactly known for, for being a p-particularly common breed, and Watchers likewise. We, we cover as much ground as we can, but….” he shook his head. “There could be any number of places—right across the world—who experience the, the, the same sorts of levels of, of unpleasant events a-as we do.”

“And this gate is going to link us to another of those places.” Buffy winced. “I don’t think I really like the idea of that.”

“No, precisely. It would be decidedly bothersome.” Giles tapped on the desk with his pen. “According to the records, there, there haven’t been any other incidents when the gate has opened. This full moon that, that begins tonight is the only time when the p-planets are all in just the right position. The last time they even came close was more than a thousand years ago, and the records from that period are a, a little sketchy.”

“Lucky us.” Buffy sighed heavily, and slumped back in her chair. “So where is the gate? Is there anything that can tell us?”

“Not here, no.” He stifled another yawn, and then stood up to stretch. “I’ve been searching all night, and I only found this little lot by accident. There’s no telling how long it would take to find anything else. I only found the original prophecy when I was looking for something else.”

“You have to find it, Giles.” Buffy stood up. “I’ll go and check some of the other books. Something on local history, perhaps.”

“Local history? And how exactly is that relevant to Geography, which is what you should be learning about right now, young lady?” Buffy froze. She hadn’t even heard the door open, let alone heard Snyder’s footsteps; but it was his voice that rang so unmistakably through the deserted library. She turned round.

“Hi, Principal Snyder. Is it that time already? I was working on a project, but I guess I’d better go.” She made a move for the door, but Snyder’s cutting voice stopped her dead in her tracks.

“No you don’t.” His bright eyes turned to stare at Giles. “What are you up to here, Giles? This is hardly the first time that Miss Summers has been seen in here with you when she should be in her lessons. You have a responsibility as a member of staff at this school. Don’t forget that.”

“We, er—um—lost t-track of the time,” Giles offered feebly. He was never entirely sure of what to say to the principal. Demons and vampires he could handle, but impatient and unforgiving principals were in a completely different league.

“In your case that doesn’t surprise me.” Snyder glared at Buffy. “But you, young lady. Don’t tell me that you’re not well aware of the time. What is the attraction of this place, exactly? It’s not as if you go out of your way to look at books the rest of the time.”

“I’m sorry.” Buffy lowered her eyes, and tried to look contrite. It wasn’t exactly difficult whilst suffering under the full force of one of Snyder’s famous glares.

“Then go to your lesson right this minute, and we’ll say no more about it. Until the next time.” Snyder stood aside to let her past, and then glowered at Giles. “And as for you, Mister Giles… I’m watching you.” He stalked out of the room.

“And good day to you too, Mister Snyder.” Giles sighed, and then shrugged. Irate school teachers were not his responsibility; Buffy was. He headed for the bookshelves, and set his mind to other tasks. Somewhere there was a gate to be found, before it could unleash who knew what evil onto the streets of Sunnydale. Just another day in the Hellmouth… he thought wryly. Maybe it was time he thought about moving.

[nextpage title=”Chapter 2″]

Chapter 2

The moon rose slowly, and in the musty silence of Sunnydale’s High School Library, four figures worked hard, reading long forgotten books that sent clouds of dust up into the air. The silence was broken by an almighty sneeze that made everybody jump.

“Oops. Sorry everyone.” Xander grinned sheepishly.

Willow smiled. “Gesundheit,” she offered helpfully, and then raised the book she was reading into the air. “Finished. Not a mention of any gates, portals, wormholes, black holes, or anything even remotely connected to doorways. There’s not so much as a vortex mentioned anywhere in these pages.”

“We get the message, Willow.” Giles closed his own book, sending another cloud of dust ceilingward. “There’s s-still another two hundred and sixty possibly relevant titles to consider though.”

“Oh great.” Willow stood up, and wandered over to the towering piles of books that they had erected beside Giles’ desk. “Oh which one shall I choose? They’re all so exciting.”

“This is ridiculous.” Buffy shut her book with a loud snap. “There’s nothing here. We could spend ages looking through this lot, and the moon is already on it’s way up. We’ve only got a few hours before the gate opens. I’m going to the graveyard. It’s, like, hot violence time.”

“Alright.” Giles rose to his feet automatically. “I’ll go and fetch the car.”

“You’d better stay here, Giles. Someone has to keep doing the book stuff, just in case. We need to know what’s going on.” Buffy slipped into her coat and made for the door.

“Wait a minute.” There was a note of authority in Giles’ voice. “I’m sorry Buffy, but there is no way I’m going to let you go to that graveyard alone on a night like this. I’m coming with you.”

“Giles…” She smiled. “I need you here, you know that. And anyway, I’m the Slayer. Me. You’re the Watcher. That means you work for me.”

Their eyes met, and Giles saw a flash of maturity in her eyes that he had not noticed before. It disturbed him, even though he knew that he was largely responsible for putting it there. Just because he had never got much of a chance to have his own childhood, was there really any reason to rob Buffy of hers? If only it were all that simple. Slowly he nodded, and sat down.

“Okay Buffy. Take care.”

“Sure.” Grinning brightly, and once more so much a child, Buffy left the library. Willow stared after her, and then turned to Giles in disbelief.

“You’re not going to let her just walk out of here?” she asked, her voice filled with outrage.

“What, what else can I do? She is the Slayer.” He looked down at the piles of notes and texts on his desk. “And she’s right, anyway; I-I have to keep going through all this. The answer has to be here somewhere.”

“Well I’m going with her.” Willow stood up sharply. “I’ll see you later.”

“Mmm.” Giles already sounded distant, his attention lost to the centuries old book he was studying. Xander looked up at Willow and grinned.

“Take care.”

“Sure.” She glanced back at Giles. “You will stay here, won’t you Xander. He’s right, even if he is infuriating. It’s important to keep looking through all these books.”

“Don’t worry.” He leaned back in his chair and held up a book entitled Memories And Records Of Sunnydale—1780-1980. “This is deeply entertaining stuff.”

They both laughed, then Willow turned her back on her two friends, and hurried to the door. She had to find Buffy, and keep her company tonight. There was no way of knowing what would happen when that gate opened. She only hoped that they could find out what to do before it was too late.

The graveyard was as dark and empty as always. Buffy lost track of how many times she came here, alone or with friends, in order to spend a merry night Slaying. She clenched her fingers around the stake in her hand, and glanced about. What was she looking for exactly? Why come here? There was no real reason to suspect that the gate was in the graveyard, but her senses had led her here all the same.

“What are we looking for, Buffy?” Willow looked about, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. “Do you really think that the gate is here?”

“I don’t know.” As before, Buffy was drawn to the grave of Mark Hutten. “Willow, have you ever noticed this grave before?”

Her friend frowned. “I don’t think so; but I don’t look at these things very much. I’ve usually got other things on my mind, you know?”

“I guess…” Buffy gazed at the stone. “Why would a new grave appear, dated 1987?”

“Maybe the old stone fell down, or got damaged somehow. It does happen.”

“Yeah. I suppose.” She shrugged. Something else was bothering her too. Perhaps it was the young age at which Hutten had died. Young deaths had become anything but a rarity in Sunnydale recently, but they were generally the work of vampires. It was hard to imagine some unfortunate teenager meeting his end by any other means. Maybe it was because 1987 was such a long time ago. She’d have been six. Innocent, happy, unaware of her peculiar destiny. She re-read the inscription on the stone, conscious that Willow was becoming restless. In Innocence Shall He Sleep. What could that mean? She remembered the reference to innocence in the prophecy Giles had read to her the previous day. What had it said? Something about innocence dying at the birth of death. What was the birth of death, exactly?

“Buffy? Are you coming? We can’t stand here all night, we’re getting nowhere. It’s nearly midnight.”

“Okay.” Buffy stepped back from the gravestone, her eyes still fixed on the words engraved into it. She glanced down at the flowers on the grave, frowning slightly. They were fresh, and there was a card attached. Fired by insatiable curiosity, Buffy leaned closer. She had to read the card.

“That’s it. It’s midnight.” Willow sighed. “Well I don’t feel any different. Do you, Buffy?”

“No…” Buffy reached out for the card. She could just about read the message, although the handwriting was far from clear.

“Mark. Lost souls never sleep. I hope you are at peace now. Love… I can’t read the name.”

“Does it matter? Buffy have you been listening to me? We have to go.”

“Just a second.” She knelt down beside the grave, leaning on the stone as she did so. Her hands tingled, almost as if the stone were vibrating with some odd power. She thought she heard voices, and something else… a merry-go-round?

“Buffy…” Willow’s voice, impatient and tired, sounded far away. Buffy didn’t bother answering. She bent further over the grave, and her vision blurred. Stars and comets seemed to be dancing before her eyes, and the whole world was in turmoil. Blackness approached. Suddenly afraid, she tried to back away, but the darkness reached out for her, and suddenly the graveyard was gone. Everything was empty and she knew no more.

“Bingo!” Giles sat upright, the book raised aloft like some kind of flag. “Look at this! I think this might be it!”

“It mentions the gate?” Xander was immediately interested, if only because his own book was so boring that he was in serious danger of reaching a comatose state.

“Well, not exactly. Not, not our gate anyway; but it’s all very similar.” The librarian stood up and began to pace, the excitement showing in his voice. “This book is a, a history of a Southern Californian town named Santa Carla. It seems that they have a higher than average instance of vampires and such like.”

“Sounds familiar,” Xander commented. Giles nodded.

“Exactly. You see, Santa Carla is an, an odd sort of town. Secluded. Cut off. There was a, a Slayer sent there once, but that was a long time ago. The book is all very cryptic. Anyway, this gate in Santa Carla is very like ours. It relies on planetary motions in order to bring it in-into existence; rare planetary positions, j-just like our gate. The interesting thing is, though, that their gate is apparently open for three days. The first night of the full moon is when it opens, but only people who are still in possession of their souls can pass through it. On the third and final night of the gate’s existence, those who have lost their souls can make use of it; travel through it to wherever it is that it leads to; but only in one direction. They can pass out of Santa Carla, but not into it.”

“And where do they go exactly?”

“No idea.” He shrugged. “We can’t expect the books to have all the answers.”

“So when is the gate in Santa Carla due to open?”

Giles began to look a little more subdued. “Yes. Well, er… that’s the problem, you see. The book was published in 1977, and it says that the planets would move into the necessary positions in October, 1987. It’s already opened.”

“And closed again.” Xander sighed, and leaned back in his chair. “Okay. So where does that leave us? Is there anybody in Santa Carla that we can call?”

“I don’t think so. Anyway, it’s a little late now, don’t you think? The gate has been closed for eleven years.”

“I wonder where the vampires went?”

“I shudder to think. According to this book, Santa Carla breeds a particularly powerful type of vampire. Whole families of them live there. They feed on outsiders. The author suggests a possible ratio of one vampire to every three humans.”

“Remind me not to go there for a vacation.” Xander looked pale. “Speaking of vacations, maybe now’s the time for one, huh Giles? How’s Britain this time of year?”

Giles smiled. “Probably cold and wet. Vampires prefer heat, you know. That’s why they’ve taken to the States so readily.” There was a teasing glint in his eyes. “Antarctica should be pretty safe.”

“Gee, thanks.” Xander looked as though he were going to speak further, but the opening of the library door silenced them both. They glanced towards the sound. Willow stood in the doorway, her eyes wide and frightened.

“Buffy…” Giles breathed the word at a barely audible volume. He took a step towards Willow, then stopped, as if unwilling to go forward and hear what the girl had to say.

“She… she disappeared.” Willow’s voice sounded small and uncertain. “We were in the graveyard, and she stopped to look at the grave, and she was reading the card, and then she just wasn’t there anymore.”

“What?” Giles ran towards her, catching her by the arms. “W-w-what g-grave? What card?”

“You’re hurting me Giles…” Willow pulled free, looking pale. “I don’t know what happened. The grave was—was the one from 1987. The one with the new stone.”

There was a second’s silence. Giles stared from one to the other of his companions, then made for the doorway at a run. “Stay here!” he ordered as he raced from the room; straight into a uniformed policeman.

“What the-?” The policeman, taken by surprise, grabbed hold of Giles automatically, and the librarian, both startled and frustrated at this unnecessary obstacle, pushed him aside and tried to run past. Immediately he felt the grip on his arm tighten, and he was spun around to face the wall.

“In a hurry?” The policeman turned to somebody standing next to him. “Do you know this man?”

“Yes.” It was Principal Snyder’s voice. “He’s Rupert Giles, our librarian. When you rang me to say that an intruder had been seen, I never expected…” He gestured towards the library door. “You’ll probably find a group of pupils in there too. He’s always with them. The man is a bad influence. Children miss their lessons to meet him here.”

“I see.” The policeman was already reaching for his handcuffs. “Well we can soon take care of him, Mr Snyder. Do you want to press charges?”

“I don’t know…” Snyder smiled. “I don’t suppose you’d like to keep him in for the weekend?”

“I can’t do that, sir. But I can keep him in for the night if you’d like. It’s the best I can do without anything definite to charge him with. I don’t suppose you’d know if there’s anything missing from the library?”

“Only Giles could tell you that.” Snyder looked up as the doors opened, and Willow and Xander wandered out. “Would you like to take them along too?”

“I don’t think that would be necessary, sir.” The policeman gave the two a cursory glance. “I’ll run them home, though. Make sure that they’re parents know they’ve been hanging around on school property in the middle of the night.”

“Y-y-y-you’re making a b-b-big mistake, officer.” Giles felt the metal bracelets click around his wrists, and tried to stem the rising anger. “I have to go somewhere.”

“Plenty of time for that tomorrow.” The policeman nodded at Willow and Xander. “You two come along as well, please.”

“Giles?” Willow glanced towards the librarian. There were times when he seemed like anything but a responsible adult, but at other times she was more than glad that he was there, to defer to. “What should we do?”

“D-d-do what he s-says, Willow. I won’t have you two trying to handle this on your own.” There was a hardness to the Watcher’s tone; a strong note of authority. The teenagers nodded.

“What about Buffy?” Xander managed to whisper, as they began to walk down the dimly lit corridor.

“I don’t know.” Giles sounded almost despairing, the worry painfully clear in his voice. “I just hope that she’s going to be okay.”

Buffy groaned, and rubbed her head, feeling rather as she had done after getting drunk for the first time. She stretched unwillingly, not wanting to move for fear that it was a hangover which had laid her low. Images of a gravestone wobbled into her mind, and she frowned and began to sit up.

“Hey, take it easy.” The voice was gentle, and sounded pleasant. The frown passed across her face again. Male, young, but definitely not Xander. She pushed herself into a sitting position, confused at the distinct feel of sand beneath her fingers, and then, finally, managed to con her eyes into opening.

It was daylight. Hot sunlight lit up a half empty beach, highlighting the crests of distant waves. Handfuls of people walked dogs across the sand, and in the distance she could see a pier, bedecked with shops and a spattering of tourist attractions. The merry-go-round caught her eye most readily; so she hadn’t been imagining it. She really had heard one. But that had been when she had been in the graveyard, with Willow… Panic gripped her, and she tried to get to her feet.

“Hey, hey. I said take it easy. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” She turned her head slightly, and looked into the blue eyes of a boy about her own age. He had black, curly hair cut in a style that seemed somewhat dated, and his shirt, although new, also gave the impression of being a little retro.

“Who are you?” Standing up, Buffy found that she felt perfectly alright; although her sixth sense was screaming for her attention.

“My name’s Michael. I live near here; found you when I was out walking.” He grinned. “I would have called an ambulance, but you seemed to be okay.”

“I am okay. I’m just a bit confused…” She pulled away from him. “Er… Where is this place?”

“Where?” The boy looked concerned. “Are you really sure that-?”

“I’m fine,” she interrupted firmly. “I just don’t remember what this place is called, that’s all.”

“You’re in Santa Carla.” He grinned again, a charming smile that made Buffy think that she could actually come to like this place. “Southern California, murder capital of the world.”

“Do you work for the tourist office?” She began to brush the sand from her clothes. “Did you ever hear of a place called Sunnydale?”

“Don’t think so. Is it near here?”

“I hope so.” Buffy sighed. It was painfully clear to her what must have happened, but it was not something that she liked admitting to. She had found the gate, alright, that much was certain. She wondered what Willow had done; whether she had gone back to Giles or had tried to follow her friend through the portal.

“Did you ever hear of someone called Mark Hutten?” Buffy asked, before her mind had a chance to tell her tongue to stand still.

“Mark Hutten? Are you a friend of his?” There was a trace of suspicion in Michael’s eyes. It was as if he were not willing to speak of the other boy, as though a veil had come down over his face.

“No… I just heard the name.” She wondered at such defensiveness. What was this guy hiding? She thought about what Giles had said, about one hell leading to another, and a shiver ran down her spine. If her Watcher was right, Santa Carla was another Sunnydale; filled to the brim with suspicious occurrences, mysterious deaths and unpleasant demons. Just great.

“You got anywhere to stay?” Michael was speaking to her, but it took a few seconds for that to sink in.

“What? Oh, sorry. I wasn’t actually planning to stay, but if you know somewhere?”

“Sure. My mother is away, and my grandfather is never home. My place isn’t too far from here. There’s just me and my kid brother most of the time.” He flashed her a winning, and quite irresistible smile.

Buffy frowned, suspicious. Michael was open and friendly, with the kind of face that one took to immediately, but she had seen too much over the last few years to be fooled easily. She remembered Angel. This wouldn’t be the first time that a handsome young man with a nice smile had turned out to be something other than she could have hoped.

“It’s okay, I’m not trying to pick you up.” He grinned. “Well, maybe.”

“I’ll think about it, okay?” She took a step forward, and wobbled suddenly. “Ugh.”

“Whoa!” Michael jumped forwards, and caught her. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh no…” Buffy rubbed her head. She had never got such a powerful jolt before. Usually, in Sunnydale, the local vampires gave off strong vibes, which sometimes gave her a headache. This was something different altogether. It was as if she had somehow been picked up and dropped into Vampire HQ.

“What do you mean, ‘Oh no’?”

“Nothing.” She pulled away from him, suddenly scared, and in the process her eyes locked with his. She jumped as if hit. Michael was giving off vibes as well. Unfamiliar ones, but vibes nonetheless. Great. What was it with her that she was able to choose so badly? Or was it some power that she had within her, that changed normal, healthy young men into soulless demons with a passion for human blood? “Get away from me.”

“But…” He frowned. “Hey, look, I didn’t mean to be playing it fresh when I asked you about staying at my place. Honest. If you don’t want to come, that’s cool. Really.”

Buffy took another step back. He had such gentle eyes, such a genuine expression of concern, and that bothered her even more than her suspicion of what he was. Fumbling, she reached for the cross around her neck, and held it out towards him.

“Go away,” she told him, her voice firm. At the same time she glanced around on the sand. She had been holding a stake in the graveyard. It should be here somewhere. She saw it, and made a grab for it, her movement so fast and sudden that Michael did nothing but stare. She grinned at him.

“Going to try and make a move for me now?” she asked, stepping towards him. He stared at the stake, his eyes widening.

“Hey. Hey! Get that thing away from me! I’m not a vampire anymore. Listen, I don’t know where you come from, or what it is that you’re into, but I’ve had it with vampire hunters wanting to douse me in Holy water, or stake me through the heart. Did the Frogs put you up to this?”

“Huh? Frogs?” What was this guy? Some kind of drug addict experiencing psychotic illusions?

“The Frogs! The Frog Brothers! Listen, I’m telling the truth. I am not a vampire anymore! And I never sucked any blood anyway, so get that damn stake away from me. I won’t come near you, I promise!”

Buffy frowned. She did not lower the stake, but her posture relaxed a little as she regarded the boy in obvious interest.

“You’re not a vampire anymore?” she asked cautiously. “What happened? Did somebody invent a cure?”

“Not exactly.” He was obviously extremely uncomfortable. “Could you please put that stake down? I’ve had a thing about them ever since the summer. Believe me, it is not pleasant when your own brother and his two best friends are trying to decide whether or not they should kill you.”

“I… guess not.” Buffy hesitated, then lowered her arm a little. “I guess it is daylight. You wouldn’t be out if you really were a vampire. It’s just that you felt kinda like one. Sort of… totally unpleasant. You know?”

“Gee, thanks.” He frowned. “What do you mean, I felt like a vampire. How’d you know that?”

She regarded him thoughtfully, then stuck the stake into her belt and held out a hand. “Hi. Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer. This is going to seem like, really weird, but I’m from a town called Sunnydale, which is, like, totally full of vampires and demons and all kinds of seriously unfriendly headcases, and I seem to have fallen through some kind of portal into your town. I don’t really understand the physics and all that, although I’m sure Willow would, but my Watcher says it’s all something to do with ancient prophesies and planetary whatsits, and, well—I am pretty tired.”

“Huh?” Michael looked completely stoned. “A… portal?”

“Yeah. See, Giles—he’s my Watcher—he says that there’s this gate that leads between Sunnydale and this other town with lots of vampires in it, so I’m out looking for it in the graveyard, and all of a sudden I’m falling through this mist and darkness, and everything is, like, really bizarre, and then the next thing I remember is waking up here. Santa Carla, right?”

“Right…” He frowned. “You were in a graveyard in the middle of the night?”

“Sort of like my favourite place to hang out. Me, my friends, a stake, maybe a vampire or two.” She flashed him a cheerfully casual grin. “You know the sort of thing.”

“Yeah, sure. They get really unfriendly, and start flying about and throwing things at you. Next thing you know there’s vampires everywhere and they’re all trying to suck your blood.” He made a face.

“Flying? Your vampires fly?” Buffy looked intrigued. “They don’t tend to do that in Sunnydale. Just as well really.”

“Yeah, it’s a real pain in the neck. Round here, they leap about all over the place.” He shuddered visibly. “They leap off big bridges in the middle of the night, and swoop out of the sky to attack tourists. Totally uncool in a very big way.”

Buffy nodded understandingly. This guy seemed alright, even if he did give off seriously weird vibes. She was almost prepared to ignore the outdated clothes and haircut.

“About Mark Hutten…” she said, suddenly remembering. “Did the vampires kill him?”

“Mark? Not exactly.” Michael smiled a small, irresistible smile, and pointed towards the pier. “Come on. Let’s go somewhere where we can talk a little easier, okay? There’s too many people down here. I don’t know who we can trust.”

“Okay by me.” She followed him across the sand, heading for the big pier, where the shops and the tourist attractions mingled in a garishly old fashioned sort of way. “I don’t want to go too far though. I have a hopeful sort of feeling somebody is going to be coming through that gate after me before much longer.”

[nextpage title=”Chapter 3″]

Chapter 3

They found a largely abandoned coffee shop on the pier, and sat down together at a table by the door. It was still too early in the morning for there to be many people around, and Buffy relaxed happily, content to drink a surprisingly cheap cup of coffee, and not have to think about Math tests. Even vampires had to be better than quadratic equations. They were certainly far less trouble. It was nice, to relax here and listen to Michael talk. She had only known him a few minutes, and already she was feeling more than comfortable in his presence. He had nice eyes, bright and deep; and she found herself gazing at his hair, and the way the tight black curls wobbled about when he moved his head. Whoa girl, she thought to herself. Entering major crush zone. The trouble was, he seemed to be looking at her in the much the same way. When a feeling was mutual, it was a shame not to act on it.

“Mark Hutten was a local kid. He was sixteen.” Michael leaned back in his chair, gazing at the plumes of steam unfolding from out of his cup. “He was taken over by one of the local vampire gangs, and he couldn’t fight the craving for blood. He was lost for good.”

“Did you kill him?” Buffy asked, studying his face for a long second. He looked troubled, haunted even.

“No, I didn’t. How could I? That was me once.” He sighed. “Edgar Frog did it. He and his brother Alan are our local vampire fighters. They were real big horror comic fans, and then when they saw that the stories were all happening for real right here, they went into business. Course, nobody really pays them any attention, but they’re kind of useful to have around, if you believe all this stuff.”

“They staked him?”

“Yeah. About a month ago. We were down on the beach one night, trying to have a barbecue, and the vamps were really out. Serious blood sucking nightmare. Mark tried to go for my little brother, and Edgar iced him. Not pretty. Slime all over the beef burgers. Man, those creatures really are gross when they get wiped.”

“Really?” This was interesting. “Mine usually just sorta… go flop, and combust. Sort of ashy, rather than gloopy.”

“Yeah? Must be something in the air locally. Round here they explode green goo and blood all over the place.”

“Wow.” Buffy took another sip of coffee. “I’d actually quite like to see that.” She frowned slightly. “But you said Mark Hutten was a local kid. So how come he’s buried in Sunnydale?”

“Sunnydale? That place you come from? He’s not, he’s in the local graveyard. How could he be buried in some town nobody’s ever heard of?”

“Weird…” Buffy nodded slowly. “Makes sense though. I guess his grave must be right on the site of the gate. That doesn’t explain why I wound up on the beach though…”

“I shouldn’t worry about it. Nothing round here makes a whole lot of sense. Kids growing long pointed teeth, adults not noticing. The whole place is crazy.”

“Sounds very familiar. In Sunnydale the vampires can massacre a whole room full of people and it’s like nobody else notices.” She shivered slightly, despite the heat. “Hey, did you say that Mark Hutten died about a month ago?”

“Yep. September 12th, it was. I’m not going to forget that in a hurry.”

“But his gravestone says that he died in 1987.”

“Er… yeah. What else would it say?”

“You mean…” Buffy’s eyebrows shot upward towards her blonde, slightly straggly fringe. “Wow.”

“Wow what?”

“Oh, nothing.” She grinned. “This is, like, totally cool.”

“It is? I’m glad you think so.” Michael drunk his coffee slowly. “I have to say that I find it a little weird, even if you don’t. A grave from my town appears in your town, you fall through it and land on the beach… Does this sort of thing happen often in Sunnyvale?”

“Sunnydale.” She grinned. “All kinds of weird things happen there. We call it the Hellmouth. There’s this dead guy called the Master, and he’s been trying to break out from under the town for ages, and I killed him, but he tried to come back. Of course, he’s dead anyway, technically, so killing him isn’t too easy, but Giles understands it. At least, he says he does, but I’m not too sure. Then there are all the other weird things. Never trust a substitute teacher. Most of them seem to be bloodsucking psychos. And then there are the creatures. The Master sent this totally huge snaky thing with tentacles to break into the library once. That was a little kooky.”

Michael laughed. “We only have vampires,” he told her. “But believe me, they’re enough to be going on with. They’re always on the look out for other people to convert.” He smiled his small, sad smile again. “More and more of them are appearing all the time. Kids mostly. They feed off tourists, and off the adults. Seems like every Friday or Saturday night there’s another new vampire on the town. The Frogs try to keep the numbers down, but it’s a losing battle. There’s just too many of them.”

“Ugh. Who’d want to be a vampire? Cold, slimy, not to mention having bad breath.” Buffy made a face. “Not my idea of a great destiny. And imagine not being able to see yourself in the mirror. How would you know if you were looking okay?”

“Pretty rough, huh?” He grinned. “It’s not that hard to understand, though, really. What’s your greatest fear? Except being caught by a vampire of course.”

“I don’t know. Getting old, maybe. Not being young anymore. Slowing down and stuff.” She shrugged. “Usual stuff, I don’t know.”

“Exactly. Picture it. You’re a normal kid. You think vampires are storybook stuff. Suddenly some kid you’ve made friends with gives you a shot at eternal youth. Immortality. The only drawback is that you have to suck blood to stay young. Question is, do you do it, or do you fight the craving?” He sighed. “I was there, Buffy. They showed me such things… Always being young, being able to do whatever I wanted, never having to think about getting old, or anything like that. Nobody to tell me what to do… Plus the other things of course.”

“Such as?”

“Flight, super-strength, indestructibility; well, nearly. Great night vision.” He grinned. “It was pretty cool, for a while. But I never really liked the sight of blood all that much. Couldn’t have drunk it. Once I caught myself looking at my kid brother like he was a mobile snack store, I figured I had to do something.”

“So what’d you do?”

“Simple.” He grinned again. “Well, okay, not quite. See, if you’ve been turned into a vampire, but you haven’t sucked blood yet, you’re still only a half-vampire, so if somebody kills the head of your vampire gang, or clan, you get your soul back.”

“Oh right. Cool.” Buffy nodded her understanding. “So how many half-vampires do you have round here?”

“I don’t know. No way of telling unless you can speak to them. Half-vampires are usually able to go out at daytime, but they don’t ‘cause it drains them. The Frogs just kill ‘em all. Nothing else to do, really. I don’t like it, though.”

“Yeah. It was pretty rough for me too, at first.” Buffy remembered how odd it had felt to be entrusted with the responsibility of actually going out intending to kill something. Once she had been just an ordinary school kid, if extraordinarily cool and exceptionally attractive. Then overnight, thanks to some bizarre man who had appeared out of nowhere with news of a somewhat inconvenient destiny thing, she had become a vampire-staking, high-kicking, mean-punching school kid with attitude. She could well appreciate another’s squeamishness when it came to being required to kill possible acquaintances in such a gruesome manner. “You know, it’s really odd, meeting somebody else who understands it all. Back home, I can only really talk to Giles about it. And my two friends, Willow and Xander, but even that’s not the same.”

“Yeah. I get kind of used to having to avoid the issue.” He grinned. “You should have heard some of the excuses we used to have to come up with for my mother. She found out about it all one day though, when she came home from a date and found the house full of dead teenagers, and blood and gooey stuff all over the place. There was blood coming out of all the pipes, and out of the bath, and the basins and everywhere. Totally awesome. Then her date turned out to be the head vampire, so that pretty much ruined her evening.”

“Bad luck.” Buffy sighed. “My date turned out to be a vampire too, so I know how that feels. I thought he was just an ordinary guy; twenty, maybe twenty-one… Seemed a bit of a night animal, but that was okay. Then it turned out he was a couple of centuries older than me, which was a bit more of an age gap than I was bargaining for. I mean, I wanted to listen to Nirvana, and he was wanting to listen to Beethoven. Not good.”

“Nirvana?” There was a questioning look on Michael’s face. “That some local band?”

“Not exactly.” She smiled. “Look, er… I’m not sure I should be telling you this, but this isn’t quite the way it looks.”

“You’re going to tell me that being zapped through an inter-dimensional gate that was hiding in a graveyard isn’t weird enough, aren’t you. That there’s something else as well.”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “You catch on fast, Mike. Ever considered becoming a demon hunter?”

“Thanks, but just trying to stay alive is tough enough. So what is it?”

“Well… See…” She sighed. “I was born in 1981.”

“1981? Yeah, right.” He laughed, draining his coffee and beckoning to the woman behind the counter that she should bring another couple of cups over. “That makes you one almightily mature six year old.”

“Well, not exactly. When I left Sunnydale, it wasn’t 1987. It was 1998.”

“19… 98?” He blinked uncertainly at her, then shook his head. “No way. That’s time travel. That doesn’t happen.”

“Explain the logic in believing in inter-dimensional travel and not believing in time travel.” She smiled at him, her eyes teasing. “You believe in vampires. Why is this any different?”

“You came from 1998?” He sighed, sounding tired and resigned. “I knew I should have stayed in bed.” He allowed himself a small, faintly dazed smile. So, er… am I supposed to keep an ear open for this Nirvana, in a year or two?”

“You could do.” She shrugged. “Depends. What do you listen to round here?”

“Whatever. INXS, Echo And The Bunnymen. Some of their recent stuff… you could believe it had been written specially for this place. It’s uncanny.”

“Yeah?” She leaned back in her chair and took the fresh cup of coffee enthusiastically. “We’ve got to talk, Michael.”

“Isn’t that what we are doing?”

“Well not really. I don’t see how comparing music is going to get us to beat this thing.”

“What thing?” He looked confused. “You mean about how we’re going to get you back to your town?”

“That and other things. See, this gate is here for a reason. Giles figured that it set itself up between Sunnydale and Santa Carla because of the high instances of nasty goings-on in both towns. What if your vampires come into my town, or my vampires come here? The prophecies that Giles found said that the streets would scream, and that it would be seriously unpleasant. We have to try and find out what’s going down.”

“Sure. I’m right with you.” He drained the cup of coffee and stood up, reaching for his leather jacket. Not exactly this year’s design, Buffy thought with a smile, but on reflection that was hardly his fault. She drank down the rest of her coffee.

“Where are we going?” she asked, as they left the shop.

“To see the Frogs. They’re the experts around here. They’re much better at all of this than I am.” He glanced about nervously, as if he suspected that they were being watched. “Sorry, I get a little jumpy in public. Some of the stronger vampires are okay with daylight. You have to have eyes in the back of your head, you know?”

“Okay with daylight?” Buffy felt a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. No wonder her sixth sense had been so disturbed by her arrival here. If Santa Carlan vampires were able to resist sunlight, they were a serious breed indeed. Not the sort of creature that she wanted roaming around in Sunnydale. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this, Michael. I really hope your friends can help out.”

“So do I.” He quickened his pace, as if afraid that the early morning Sun was about to vanish, and bring night time to the pier. “I do not want to be around if the streets are going to start screaming; and I have no intention of becoming a vampire again.” They both smiled at each other, but there was little humour visible on either of their faces. Worry quickened their step, and they hurried on across the pier.

“You okay, Giles?” Standing up suddenly at the appearance of the librarian, Willow felt a sudden burst of irrational fear as his cold eyes swung around to stare at her. “Prison alright?”

“Hardly.” He pushed past her, hurrying on down the road. “Did you go back to the graveyard last night?”

“No. My parents wouldn’t let me out of my room after that cop took me home.” She smiled. “It took everything I had to sneak out of the house this morning without anybody seeing me. Xander couldn’t make it. He’s been grounded for the next six months. His mother will let him off though; she always does.”

“Fine. Then go home now.”

“Huh?” Willow had to quicken her step to catch up with Giles, who was walking faster than seemed humanly possible. He didn’t look like Giles anymore, she thought with some concern. He looked… different somehow. His eyes were brighter, filled with something very like rage, and his face was cold. There was none of his usual comfortable eccentricity. After a night in prison he appeared to have taken on a whole new personality, and she was reminded briefly of Ethan Rayne. The thought made her shiver.

“Giles, wait!” She caught up with him finally and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop. “What is wrong with you?”

“Go home, Willow. I have to get to the graveyard. Didn’t Xander tell you anything?”

“He didn’t have a chance, Giles! You know what happened; we were grabbed by the police just after I got back to the library to tell you what had happened to Buffy. I haven’t spoken to anybody except my parents since then.”

The librarian’s shoulders sagged slightly, and for a second she thought she saw something of the old Giles beneath his sudden, hard veneer.

“Okay.” He glanced about to check that nobody could hear. “The, the gate. I f-found something about one in the books last night. There was a similar gate that opened in a place c-c-called Santa Carla, eleven years ago. Santa Carla has more vampires in it than ten Sunnydales could hope for, and they’re a good d-deal stronger than anything we’ve ever faced. Now our gate is set to link us up with some other town that’s just like Sunnydale.” He sighed. “I’m not sure, Willow, not totally; b-b-but I think that Buffy found the gate last night. I th-think it was that grave she was so drawn to. Now Santa Carla’s gate opened in 1987—the, the date on the grave, remember? So, w-what’s the betting that it opened right into 1998, and right into our local graveyard. ‘One hell shall lead to another.’ That’s what the prophecy said.” He turned away again, once more walking at an almost impossible speed. “I’m going to the graveyard, and I’m going to see if I can follow her through the portal. I have to try and help her.”

“Then so do I. She’s my best friend.” There was an edge of resolve in Willow’s voice again. Giles stopped, and swung round.

“That so? Well then how about it if we take Xander along too, because he’s in love with Buffy, or Angel because he used to go out with her? Or Buffy’s mother? I’m sorry, Willow, but you just don’t qualify for this mission.”

“Oh, right. So it’s another one of those Watcher-Slayer things?” Willow sounded bitter. “She’s my friend too, Giles. You can’t be responsible for her every time something bad happens.”

“Yes I can. D-d-don’t you see, Willow? This, this is why I was born. This is the whole reason why I am here on this Earth. I-I-I was born to help my Slayer. I could have a slogan like the police force; ‘To, To Serve And P-protect’. Buffy’s destiny means that she has, has to put her life at risk to help fight vampires, and my, my destiny d-demands that I do what I have to do to help her. There is, is n-no necessity for you to risk yourself as well. I won’t let you. Go home, Willow.” He turned again, once more heading for the graveyard.

“Giles!” She shouted at him, and he spun on his heel, eyes burning into hers with ice cold fury at her continued disobedience.

“Go home, Willow.” His voice was harsh and unfamiliar. She felt her resolve falter. How could Giles be so different now to how she knew him? She felt an irrational fear grow within her. How capable was the quiet librarian of being so completely different to the image he liked to project? Somehow, she did not feel able to summon up the nerve to pursue him. She stayed where she was, frozen almost, as the Watcher’s tall, determined figure vanished into the distance. She wanted to help Buffy, but right now what she really wanted was to go home.

Giles reached the graveyard just before the rising Sun reached its highest point. It had already been so long since Buffy had disappeared; twelve long, angst-ridden hours. He cursed whoever it was that had seen an intruder at the school, and he cursed Snyder for being so damned enthusiastic about investigating it all. How many nights had Giles and Buffy met in the library? How many long hours had they spent there after everybody else had gone home? And on the one night when somebody chose to report it, Buffy went missing. The Watcher hurried to the gravestone by the gate. He remembered it so well from the other day, when Buffy had been drawn to it. He should have guessed then. The Slayer had instincts that were supposed to be acted on. He could see her so clearly in his troubled mind; leaning over the stone, trying to read the bright, new inscription. In Innocence Shall He Sleep. He read it now, staring at the words, trying to make sense of it all. Where could she be? Was his half-baked theory really the right one? Was she in Santa Carla, eleven years ago, at the other end of the gate? There was only one way to find out, but it was not easy just to throw oneself into oblivion in the vain hope that a vague idea might be the truth. He thought about Buffy, about the images that had leaped in and out of his mind all night long. Alone, lost in Santa Carla, where vampires roamed the streets in organised gangs; alone in the town where one native vampire was stronger than ten of the usual breed that wandered about in Sunnydale. Alone against the massed forces of who knew what, with nobody to protect her. He shivered, despite the growing heat, and ran his hand through his rumpled dark hair.

“No choice…” he mumbled softly to himself. “No choice. Couldn’t, couldn’t turn away. S-sorry Buffy. Should, should have been there. B-b-blasted books. B-blasted library.” He shook his head, painfully conscious of the stammer that confused his words every so often. “Dammit. No, no other way, I suppose.” He straightened his back, and gazed down at the inscription on the stone one last time. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Giles.”

Haven’t a clue… his subconscious answered, and with a wry, half grin, he stepped forward, and felt the fusion of light and darkness overwhelm him. Somewhere out there was the small girl who had become the other half of his destiny. He struggled to reach her, but all that he found was confusion.

“Oh dear…” Rubbing his head with a feeling of growing trepidation, Giles experimentally opened one eye. What the hell had happened? He felt like he had been out partying with friends, but that hadn’t happened in a long time, had it? Was it all just a dream? Maybe he was still lying on the floor of that little bedsit in… Soho, wasn’t it? Where Ethan had taken him one night and got him completely out of his mind. A vision of clouds of marijuana smoke and… peacock feathers? flitted tantalisingly through his mind, and then he became aware of sand beneath him, and the sound of waves in the distance. There certainly weren’t any of them in Soho. Well, not usually.

“Hey, mister. You okay?” Giles allowed the other eye to open in response to the voice, and found himself blinking up at a boy of about fourteen. Maybe older, maybe younger. He was dressed in blue chinos and a knee length, blue and yellow checked jacket. A yellow tie hung loosely knotted about his throat, and something else was just about visible, inside the jacket. A wooden stake. Relief flooded through the Watcher’s mind. At least he seemed to have landed amongst friends.

“Buffy…” he muttered questioningly, and the boy frowned.

“What did you say?”

“Pardon?” His mind suddenly clear, Giles stood up. “This, this is Santa Carla?”

“Hey, you’re British. Neat.” The boy nodded. “Er, yeah. This is Santa Carla. You’re in the murder capital of the whole damn United States. I’m Sam.”

“Hello Sam, I’m Giles. Er, look, I er…”

“Hey, spit it out, man.” The voice was more forceful than Sam’s, and Giles spun about to face it. Another kid, this one about sixteen, stood looking at him. He was dressed in jeans and a battered denim jacket, and his whole demeanour suggested a challenge. An unlit cigarette dangled from his lips, and Giles saw an impressive array of stakes arranged in the boy’s belt. A cross hung around his neck, and there was an unmistakable smell of garlic. Not exactly Slayer material, but these kids obviously knew what they were doing.

“Sorry. You are?” Giles blinked at this new figure in interest. “My name is, is Giles. I have to find Buffy. She c-came through the gate too, some time last night.” He blinked up at the sky. “Wait a minute. It’s nearly dusk.”

“Exactly, wise guy. That’s why we’re here. To get to you before the crawlers do.” The older boy waved a stake in the air. “It’s nearly the witching hour, man. Magic time. You have got to get inside before the bad guys start to fly.”

“Fly? They fly here?” The excitement was clear in the Watcher’s voice, and the boy rolled his eyes.

“Another one. Yeah, they fly. So come on, before they fly on down here and try to rip our heads off. See, they do that as well.”

“Fascinating.” Giles did not object as the two boys grabbed an arm each, and began to lead him off the beach. “How did I c-come to be on the beach?”

“Is everybody from Sunnydale a complete nut?” The taller of the two boys shot his companion a disbelieving look. “I told you your brother was trouble, Sam. You shoulda staked him in the summer. When he’s not turning into a vampire he’s finding weirdoes on the beach.”

“Buffy is not a weirdo.” There was a note of defence in Sam’s voice. “She’s cool. You’re just jealous ‘cause she’s a professional vampire killer, and you’re just a part timer.”

“Oh yeah?” There was belligerence in the other’s tone, but Giles ignored it.

“Buffy?” he questioned hopefully. “Do you know where she is?”

“Sure. We’re taking you right to her.” Sam smiled reassuringly. “My brother Michael found her on the beach this morning, and she told him all about the gate, and Sunnydale, and about you. We’ve been waiting out there all day for you to show up.”

“Sorry. There was a delay.” Giles glanced about as they reached an amusement pier. There was a decidedly unfriendly feel to the place. Wild young eyes seemed to stare out at him from every window, every shop, and the merry-go-round spinning nearby was crowded with hostile figures, youthful and strange. “This place is most peculiar.” “Tell me about it.” The taller boy strode ahead, an air of authority taking him over. Giles saw the large wooden cross in his hand, and saw the others on the pier back away from it in rage.

“Edgar Frog, coming through. Come near me and I’ll stake you good, you bloodsucking creeps. Get back.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about them. They won’t try anything with Edgar here.” Sam smiled up at Giles, but his young face did not carry much confidence. He quickened his pace, and relaxed only as they reached the end of the pier. “We’ll be okay for a while now. They won’t leave the pier until it gets properly dark.”

“Those were the Santa Carlan vampires?” Giles glanced back, marvelling at the sheer number of baleful pairs of eyes fixed on the three fugitives.

“Some of them. They’re one gang anyway.” Sam gestured to a car. “Here, we’ll be home in no time.” He slid behind the wheel, barely waiting for his two companions to climb in before he started the engine, and headed the vehicle out of town. “Buffy and Michael are waiting at our house. We’re going to have a council of war.”

“I say bomb the gate.” Edgar giggled happily, an odd, humourless laugh that rested somewhere between extreme adult cynicism and youthful glee. “Nuke the sucker. Then the bloodsuckers’ll never make it through.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Giles tried not to wince too noticeably as his young chauffeur took a rather unpleasant corner much too fast. “Is Buffy alright?”

“Sure seemed to be.” Edgar stretched luxuriously, smirking at the older man’s reactions to the hair-raising ride. “Not a bad looker, if I may say so. Nice legs.”

“Don’t tell her that.” Giles imagined the scene that would likely result from such a comment, and got no small amount of pleasure from the thought.

“Whatever.” The sudden jolt of the brakes slamming on did not seem to disturb Edgar at all, and he sprang from out of the car. “Come on, people, it’s nearly dark. I don’t want to have to scrape what’s left of your mangled brains off of the driveway once the bad guys have had their fill.”

“Leave it out, Edgar.” Sam led the way up a path towards a patched and unsteady looking wooden house. Stuffed animals lined up along the windowsills, grinning manically out at the world. “This way, Giles.”

“Thankyou.” The tall Briton almost ran through the door, looking about for his young charge. “Buffy?”

“That Giles?” The voice was another young one, and a second later a tall boy of about Buffy’s age appeared in an inner doorway. “Hi. Name’s Michael. You’re Buffy’s Watcher, right?”

“Right. Where is she?” Giles shook the proffered hand mechanically, glancing around in the hope of spotting his friend. “They said she w-was here.”

“Yeah, she was.” Michael looked slightly troubled. “Don’t worry, though. She’ll be fine. She went out for a wander round. Wanted to try out her skills against a vampire or two. She’s pretty tough.”

“Maybe n-n-not tough enough.” Giles spun around and headed once more for the door, but Edgar Frog materialised in front of him, posture designed to intimidate. Unimpressed, Giles tried to push past him.

“Hey, hey hold on, Giles. You can’t go out there.” Hurrying forward, Michael pulled the Watcher away from the door. “This isn’t Sunnydale, man. This is Santa Carla. Our vampires would have you torn to pieces before you make it past the gate. It’s only ‘cause they’re scared of us that they leave the house alone. Otherwise we’d have been vampire snacks a couple of months ago.” He gestured to a chair. “Look, I know you’re worried about Buffy, but there’s no sense in going out there. You don’t know these local gangs like we do. They go for outsiders in a big way. Especially adults.”

“What makes you think Buffy will be safe if I won’t?” Giles sat down in the indicated chair, but the concern in his face was still obvious. Michael flashed him a rueful grin, and rubbed the back of his head.

“She, er… showed me a few moves. Pretty hot stuff. Don’t worry about her, man. Sit back, relax. She’ll be back soon. Then we can talk about what we’re going to do.” He gestured to a boy standing nearby, looking like a smaller version of Edgar. “Alan, get the man a drink.”

“Sure.” The boy turned to walk away, then glanced back at Giles. “And don’t forget, Giles. You weren’t invited in. We never invite anybody in. So first you gotta drink the Holy water, to prove you are who you say you are.”

“Holy water?” Giles smiled faintly. It felt as though he had landed in the middle of an episode of some crazy kids TV show. Mad children running around town, setting up secret societies to fight vampires, all of whom looked like children themselves. “L-l-look, don’t g-get me wrong, but where are all your parents?”

There was a silence. Michael answered in the end, his voice subdued. “Sam and me live here with our mother and our grandfather. Our mother is out of town at the moment, trying to find a job some place else so we can move. Our grandfather is off someplace. The vampires never bother him. Most of the other adults in town are either dead or have pointy teeth.” He tried on a crooked grin, which failed. “The whole town’s vampired out. They keep enough things going to get the tourists to come in, and that’s about all.”

“And you stay here?” Giles was incredulous.

“Sure we stay here.” Edgar sounded angry. “I was born here, man. I’m not going to run away and hand my town over to a bunch of bloodsucking nuts. They killed my parents. I’m supposed to turn my back? Why? Because I’m a kid? Those vampires out there are kids too, man. I was at school with most of ‘em.”

“I’m sorry.” Giles was beginning to understand all of those cryptic references to innocence that had been in the prophecies. This was certainly a place where innocence had died, in more ways than one. “Look, er… did Buffy say when she’d be back?”

“Soon, man.” Sam sat down in the chair next to Giles. “It’s okay. Just wait here, and she’ll be along in no time.”

“If you say so.” Giles turned his head, trying to see out of the window to catch a glimpse of his Slayer. He missed her. Odd, how quickly she had taken over his life. He wondered where she was, and whether or not he would ever see her safely home, to take up her stake once more against the vampires of Sunnydale. Worry was second nature to him now, but that did not make it any easier. He glanced up at the clock, watching the second hand spin slowly round. Somewhere out there she was on her own, doing what he had trained her to do. He wished that he was with her, but all that he could do was to sit here and wait, and try not to imagine. That was rather like trying not to breathe. He fingered the cross around his neck with a cold hand, and settled himself to wait for the morning.

[nextpage title=”Chapter 4″]

Chapter 4

Buffy was in her element. She had made very short work of the first two vampires she came across. The first had fallen victim to a high kick, landing, with remarkable lack of foresight, on top of a fence of long wooden stakes. His companion had put up no more impressive a fight, and had collapsed in the face of a wicked combination of punches which had floored Giles more than once during practice sessions. Buffy staked him, a cheerful grin on her face. This was really quite exhilarating. These vampires moved faster than the ones in Sunnydale, that was for sure, but she had so far seen no evidence of their supposed ability to fly.

“Come on out, vampires!” Stepping gingerly around the huge patches of green gunky stuff which had, as promised, burst forth from the bodies of the vampires as she killed them, Buffy scanned the skies, fully expecting to see a flock of the creatures descend from somewhere above her. Flock—was that the right word? What did one call a large group of vampires, anyway? Maybe she should ask Giles.

“Hey, how are you?” Buffy swung round, startled, and saw three figures moving towards her. They were all about her age, dressed in what she had come to recognise as pretty fashionable 1987 era gear. Two were boys, and the third was a girl. All looked normal. Buffy felt her sixth sense warn her of something, but it had been complaining ever since her arrival in Santa Carla, and she was beginning to ignore it.

“Who are you?” she asked, cautious and alert.

“My name’s Eric.” The lead figure stepped forwards, revealing himself to be a pleasant faced kid with curly brown hair. There was no evidence of demonic tendencies or lack of soul, and the warm, friendly grin was vaguely reminiscent of Michael. “These two are Rob and Carrie. Michael sent us to watch out for you.”

“I don’t need watching out for.” Vaguely insulted, Buffy wondered why her head was tingling. It was a peculiar sensation, rather as if her instincts were warning her to beware. If she spent much longer in this town she was going to start suspecting everybody of being a vampire.

“You don’t know Santa Carla.” Eric grinned again, looking utterly charming and completely trustworthy. “Things are pretty wild around here.” He held up a bottle of some red liquid. “Have a drink. It’ll help you keep your strength up.”

“My strength is fine.” She remembered some instruction of Giles’, about not drinking whilst on duty, or preferably at any other time either. “What is it?”

“Local brew.” Rob was grinning as well. “Here, look.” He took the bottle, and threw back a shot of whatever was inside. “Tastes real good. Keeps you warm, plus it’s got garlic in it. Helps to fight off the vampires.”

“Really?” Buffy took the bottle, vague suspicions still haunting her mind. She thought about the two vampires she had just killed. With their insanely bright eyes, and long white teeth, they had had the appearance of wild animals. These three, in contrast, had friendly faces and gentle eyes. “Do you make it?”

“Not exactly.” Carrie smiled at her. “Drink it. It tastes good. It’ll make you feel so much better.”

Buffy raised the bottle to her lips. The liquid certainly did smell good, and not at all alcoholic. She paused.

“What do you call it?” she asked. Eric laughed.

“We call it blood,” he told her, his voice tinged with amusement. His two companions laughed, and Buffy smiled too, beginning to relax a little. She rather liked these three, with their happy eyes and their jokes. Michael and his friends were so uptight; so unable to laugh at the situation they had found themselves in. She tipped back the bottle, and took a mouthful.

The liquid tasted nice. It was refreshing and warm. Her instincts were immediately dulled, and she found that a blessed relief. How was she expected to work when her mind was telling her that there were vampires behind every tree? Her head felt light, and she wobbled slightly, then felt the drink begin to warm her up from the inside. It was a wonderful feeling, and she took another mouthful, delighting in the flavour, and the buzz that the liquid gave her.

“Cool.” She handed the bottle back to Eric, who took a drink himself.

“Feels good, right?” he asked, and she nodded.

“Yeah. Feels really good.” She felt her legs wobble slightly. “I must be tired. I think I’d better be getting back to the others.”

“Sure.” Eric grinned. “You know the way back, right?”

“Right. Will I see you around?” She did not seem able to focus on him properly, but she still thought that she could see him smile.

“Sure you will. You’ll be seeing a lot of me.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “Have a good trip, Buffy.”

“Bye.” She stumbled on past the three, losing sight of them almost immediately. The world stretched out around her, and she was almost certain that she was walking down Sunnydale’s main street. The ground felt odd beneath her feet, and she glanced down, only to discover that the ground was far below her, and she seemed to be walking on thin air.

“Hey!” Suddenly afraid, Buffy reached out for what she thought was a passing aeroplane, but turned out to be a tree branch. She was on the road, heading for Michael’s place. Her confused mind caught hold of the most acceptable reality and held onto it, as she struggled to walk onwards. How had she come to be so tired? The grass and the trees around her seemed to have become a lurid shade of orange, and the road was decorated in shades of purple. Her mind rebelled against the colour scheme, but she didn’t seem able to claw her way back to a more sensible world.

“Oh boy.” Staggering gamely on, Buffy thought she saw a flock of bats circling about above her. She put up her hands to try and fend them off, but all at once they were eagles, their talons clawing at her hands as she tried to fight her way through them. She gasped, seeing the eagles explode into drops of blood which rained down on her. She began to run. She had to find Michael. The world would begin to make sense again, once she was amongst friends. It had to. She ran faster and faster, sometimes along the road, and sometimes apparently through the air, her heart beating faster than it had ever done before. It was all so weird, so confusing. In all of her life she didn’t think she had ever felt so lost.

“Buffy!” Michael, standing by the window, saw the Slayer before any of his companions. Even so, he was unable to reach the door before Giles, who moved as though in training for the one hundred metres sprint. He threw his arms around the girl, then pulled back as if embarrassed.

“Are you okay?” he asked her. She blinked up at him, and frowned.


“Who else?” He grinned. “Did you think I’d leave you to have all the fun? I found some writings which suggested that this might be where you’d gone.”

“Always the Watcher…” Buffy sounded confused. “Giles… I think something’s wrong.”

“In what way?” Instantly alert, the Englishman held her at arms length, studying her eyes. “You look a little out of focus. Tired?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She frowned, the lines on her forehead cutting deep grooves in the skin. “You… look weird. Sort of… green.”

“Green?” His expressive eyebrows raised. “A pleasant shade, I hope.”

“Don’t joke, Giles… I have a really bad feeling of… nastiness.”

“Your Slayer instincts? That’s only to be expected in a place like Santa Carla.” He put his arm around her shoulders and began to lead her towards the house. “Take it easy, and everything will be fine.”

“No it won’t!” She pulled away from him, using rather more of her strength than was entirely necessary. Her legs were starting to give way, and it was a most unpleasant sensation. “Don’t you understand, Giles! I’m not talking about my Slayer instincts, I’m talking about… about something else. My eyes… everything looks different. I feel different.” She glanced about. “They’re out there, aren’t they. Laughing at us.”

“Yes, perhaps we had better get inside.” Giles headed for the house once again. Michael and the others were standing by the door, watching the exchange with interest. “Come on, Buffy. Your new friends are looking worried.”

“New friends?” She glanced up, and her eyes flashed in sudden, surprising hatred. “They’re not my friends. Eric is my friend. Eric and Carrie, and…” She frowned. “Who are Eric and Carrie?”

“I don’t know.” He caught her by the hand. “C-c-come on inside, Buffy, please. I’ll, I’ll take a l-look at you in there, where there’s more light. You might have been hurt b-by something.”

“Might have been.” She grinned. “I got two of them Giles. You should have seen it. They sprayed green gunk everywhere, just like Michael said they would. Green gunk and blood.”

“Delightful, I’m sure.” They reached the veranda surrounding the dilapidated little house, and the Watcher led Buffy in through the door. “Okay, how about going into the sitting room and relaxing for a bit. Somebody will get you a drink.”

“Holy water,” Edgar muttered under his breath. Giles scowled at him, but the boy did not flinch. “Hey, it’s the rules. Every newbie has to take a shot.”

“She had some earlier, Edgar.” Michael pushed past the others, and put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Hey, are you okay? You look a little flushed.”

“I’m fine…” She pulled away suddenly. “Get off me!”

“Hey, okay!” He backed off, then frowned at her, his face showing sudden concern. “What happened to you, Buffy? Did one of them hurt you?”

“I handled them.” She sounded wary and defensive, voice thick. “I can handle all of you, too. Keep away from me.”

“Buffy…” Giles stepped towards her, but she whirled around, going immediately into an attack posture. He moved aside, recognising the position only too well. She had used it on him more than once during practice, and here he had no mats to land on. “What’s got into you!”

“Enlightenment!” Her voice was suddenly low and venomous, her eyes sparking wildly. “Come a little closer, Watcher… Just a little closer, and we’ll see what your blood tastes like!”

“Look!” Sam, standing a short distance away from the others, shouted out in sudden amazement. “Her reflection—in the hall mirror!” The others, including Buffy, spun to look at the glass. Alan Frog, standing behind the Slayer, was clearly visible through her almost entirely translucent image.

“Oh no…” The Slayer took a step back, her hand flying to her face as she stared at her reflection. “Help me, Giles…”

“Buffy…” His voice no more than a whisper, Giles took a horrified step forward, only to be brought up short by Edgar’s determined intervention. The belligerent youth caught the Watcher’s arm, pulling him back with a sharp, violent motion.

“Keep away from her, man! She’s one of them!”

“Take your hand off me.” Giles’ voice was so cold that Edgar released him through pure shock alone. He took a step back, watching as the tall Englishman went straight to his Slayer’s side. She was still gazing at her insubstantial image in the mirror, mouthing silent words to herself.

“Buffy? Can you remember anything? Can you tell me what happened?” His voice gentle, Giles tried to step between the girl and the mirror, trying to prevent her from becoming even more upset than she already was. “Can you hear me, Buffy?”

“I can hear you.” She sounded as though she were speaking from far away. “They gave me a drink. They were so nice…”

“A drink. What drink?” The gentility in the Watcher’s voice had become urgency, and she glanced towards him.

“I don’t know. It was red… Tasted good.”

“Blood.” Michael spoke from a few feet away, where he stood leaning against the door frame. “They always seem nice. Nice or exciting. They have powers like you wouldn’t believe, Giles. I mean, I’ve read about vampires, and the ones round here are nothing like in the books. They can suggest things, put things into your mind, so that you trust them. I remember it.”

“Blood? She drank blood without realising it?” Giles was confused, his concern clouding his mind. “That, that’s not possible. The, the taste…”

“Believe me, it’s possible. It happened to me. You drink the stuff, you get a real buzz from it and it tastes real good. Then the madness hits you. Hallucinations, totally weird stuff. Some of it is real, but you can’t tell how much. Then the cravings start…” His voice had become a loud whisper, and Giles saw the wild gleam in the boy’s eyes, which so closely mirrored the look on Buffy’s face. “We have to help her, before it’s too late.”

“Help her? Are you nuts? We stake her, and that’s all there is to it. She’s one of them now, Michael.” Edgar drew a stake from his belt, stepping purposefully towards Buffy. She did not try to move away.

“Leave her alone!” Giles reacted more with outrage than with anger, motivated by sheer disbelief. Edgar glanced towards him, scornful of the other’s opinions.

“She’s a vampire. A bloodsucking creep, just like all those other creeps out there. We’re not safe with her here. Any minute now she could decide to take a bite, and then where’d we be? We have got to get rid of her.”

“No!” Michael sounded pained. “Edgar, you gave me a chance. Please… She hasn’t taken a drink yet. We can still save her.”

“We don’t know what she was doing out there. She might have bitten any number of people.” The tall boy raised his stake again, this time finding Giles firmly planted in his way. “Move it, Giles man. I don’t wanna stake you too. You could be useful.”

“Leave her alone.” Giles grabbed the boy’s wrist, turning it sharply so that Edgar yelped in pain, and dropped the stake onto the floor. “Now go and do your homework or something. Got it?”

“He’s one of them too.” Eyes bright with suspicion, Edgar grabbed another stake from his belt. “Look at the way he’s protecting her. He’s probably the head vampire!”

“Giles!” Buffy pushed forward, speaking clearly again. She looked up at the Watcher, her face showing a full range of emotions. “Please. Don’t stop him. He’s right.”

“Right?! He wants to kill you!” Giles tried to push her back behind him, but she resisted.

“No, Giles. I don’t have a reflection. You know what that means. I won’t be a vampire, Giles. I won’t turn into what I’m supposed to fight. What if I hurt you? What if I couldn’t control myself? Remember Angel…” She shuddered. “Please, let him do it. It’s better this way.”

“No.” There was cold vehemence in the Watcher’s voice. “It, it’s m-my job to protect you, Buffy, and that doesn’t mean st-standing aside and watching you die.” He turned on Edgar. “You, you make one m-move towards her, and you’ll have, have me to deal with, understand? And believe me, I’m a lot more capable of the rough stuff than people might be inclined to believe. Do you understand?”

“Y-yeah.” Edgar blinked. The transformation that he had just witnessed was off-putting to say the least. He had assumed that Giles was the intellectual type, absent-minded and slow, but it appeared that there was a lot more to the man than was immediately evident.

“Good.” Giles turned to Michael. “Now what were you saying? About something that happened to you?”

“Yeah…” Michael was still staring at Buffy, his face showing confusion. “I met this gang of bikers on the beach, when Sam and me first moved here a few months back. They gave me something to drink, and it turned out it was blood. I started seeing things that weren’t there, imagining all kinds of things. I started… craving. Wanting blood. I don’t know for sure how long it lasted. Several days. Maybe weeks. Some nights I grew fangs, and I wasn’t sure if I could resist… Sam pulled me through.”

“Sure.” Sam looked oddly cheerful amongst the group of more serious minded people. “See, if they try to convert you, you’re just a half-vampire until you take your first victim, and if you can kill the head vampire, you go back to normal. All we had to do to fix Mikey was to kill the head of the vampire clan he’d been inducted into.”

“That’s all?” Giles sounded doubtful, but his spirits were rising. “Well then, we have to kill the head vampire. Buffy will go back to normal, and we can get back to sorting this gate out.”

“Gate first.” Buffy sounded as though she were having to fight to get the words out. Giles swung round.

“Buffy, we have to-”

“Gate first.” She frowned up at him. “Giles, you’ve heard how powerful these vampires are. What would happen if they got into Sunnydale? Think of it… I can wait. I’ll be okay…”

“But…” His voice trailed off as he looked down into her face. “Alright Buffy. You’re the Slayer.” He looked up at Michael. “Will, will there be any long, long-term effects, if we don’t help her immediately?”

“I don’t know.” The young man shrugged. “I… I get a little weird sometimes. I go out at night, and I can’t sleep. The daylight hurts my eyes more than it used to.” He smiled slightly. “Some nights I wake up floating on the ceiling. I guess you could call them after effects, yeah. But I was a vampire for some time. That probably makes a difference.” He frowned. “Look, I want to help Buffy as well, Giles, but there’s something you’ve got to understand. The vampires here are super-powerful, sure, but they have limitations. They can’t leave Santa Carla. There’s like some sort of spell on this town, and the vampires can’t get out. If they make use of the gate, they’ll be free of that, and they’ll be able to go wherever they want. It won’t just be Sunnydale you have to care about, it’ll be the whole damn world. They could take over. No-one would be safe.” He stared at Buffy for a short, painful moment. “We have to fix the gate first.”

“Yes. Of course.” Giles tried to set his thought into order. He knew only too well how dangerous it was not to try to help Buffy immediately. He had seen how hard it had been for Angel to fight the need to feed, and for Buffy, who was inexperienced in such things, it would be even harder. They could lose her, and worse; she could hurt one of them. Even so, there were other things that might have to be more important.

“How do we deal with the gate?” Alan Frog, stake in one hand, cross in the other, was still staring uncertainly at Buffy. “I mean… It’s like, some kind of cosmic thing, right? How do we deal with that?” Everybody turned to look at Giles.

“I don’t know.” He sounded defensive. “All I know is that tomorrow night is the last night it’s open, and that’s when the vampires can travel through it. Perhaps we could stand guard on the beach, and stop them going through?”

“No chance.” Edgar shook his head. “There’s too many of them. They’d all want to go through, and you’re talking maybe two, three thousand. We’d be dog food.”

“Sure, and we don’t even know if the beach is the right place to go. Buffy said that she went through Mark Hutten’s gravestone. Just ‘cause you guys landed on the beach might not mean that’s where the gate is.” Michael shook his head. “We’ve got to come up with something better than that.”

“We could kill them all.” Giles glanced at the stake in Edgar’s hand. “You must know where they sleep during the day.”

“Nope. We’ve killed all the ones we could find.” Alan looked glum. “Anyway, not all of them do sleep during the day. Some of them are okay with daylight. These are not your ordinary vamps here, Giles. We are not dealing with Count Dracula.”

“Fine.” Giles turned away, beginning to pace restlessly. He felt trapped, stuck in this house with a town full of vampires outside, apparently unstoppable. If there was one thing that Giles hated most of all, it was the sensation of being hemmed in, caught like a rat in a trap. “There’s got to be something.”

“There’s nothing you can do.” Buffy laughed, the sudden sound making them all turn towards her. “Nothing at all. Except die.” She grinned, the long, shiny points of her teeth gleaming as they caught the light. “Which of you will be first?”

“Buffy!” Shocked beyond rational thought, Giles stepped towards her, and she swung around to face him, eyes bright with insane light.

“Ah yes. The Watcher.” Her grin grew bigger, the fangs seeming to grow with her amusement. “Who could be a better first victim?”

“Get back, Giles!” Edgar leapt forward, stake raised, and Giles, horrified, knocked him aside. His movements took him within Buffy’s reach and she grabbed his shoulder, spinning her about to face him, her mouth opening wide. He blanched, unable to properly comprehend his danger as his concern overrode all other thoughts, and she laughed, pulling him closer. Her grip tightened, and as he finally realised the danger that he was in, he pulled back slightly. His collar began to tear, and in a sudden ripping of cloth, the cross around his neck swung loose. With a strangled scream, Buffy pushed him away, and he stumbled back. The girl, her hands flung up in front of her eyes, staggered against the wall, gasping for breath.

“Get it away! Get it away!” Her voice became less angry, more like the sobs of a frightened high school girl. The image of madness was gone, and in its place was Buffy, afraid and upset.

“Giles…?” She glanced up, surprised to see him lying sprawled on his back on the floor. “What happened?” Her voice was so small, so desperate, that his heart went out to her immediately, and heedless of the possible danger he went instantly to her side.

“It’s okay, Buffy,” he whispered to her, putting his arms around her small shoulders. “It’s okay.”

“No it isn’t!” Outraged, and beginning to get extremely annoyed about the way that this newcomer kept pushing him about, Edgar stepped forwards again. “She’s a vampire! She just tried to suck your blood, man! We have got to kill her.”

“He’s right, Giles.” Buffy sounded so scared, that Giles instinctively tightened his grip on her.

“No he’s not.” His voice was low, dangerous even. “I-I-I-I’m sorry Buffy, and, and I understand your concerns, but I have to protect you. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, I’m still your Watcher.”

“I’ll release you.” She tried to pull out of his grip. “You can go back to being normal. Just let them kill me, Giles. Please. I can’t be a vampire.”

“Then fight it. Letting them kill you is like suicide, and that, that’s the cowards way out. I d-didn’t teach you to be a coward.”

“It’s not that simple, Giles!” Her face was pleading. “Listen to me… When I was little, I used to lie in bed at night, terrified. I was scared that one day I would die, and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was terrified about how, no matter what I did, one day I would get old, and then I would die. I’ve been scared of that all my life, and now I’ve just been given the chance of immortality. I don’t need to get old, Giles. I don’t need to be scared anymore. I’m not sure I can throw all that away. I’m not sure I can resist it. I understand… why all the people in Santa Carla have given in to the vampires. Eternal life… eternal youth… You have to let them kill me, Giles.”

The dark head bent over her for a second, and the Watcher felt his emotions whirl about, becoming hopelessly entangled. He understood what she was saying. He understood it perfectly. He thought about Ethan, and about Randall… Eyghon. That had all been about fear. Some crazy plan to try and achieve immortality, by whatever means. The mark of the demon suddenly seemed to burn on his skin, and he shivered. He understood alright, but that didn’t mean that he agreed.

“I’m sorry.” He stood up. “Nobody is going to kill Buffy. It’s nearly dawn, and there’s nothing she can do during the day. Right?” This last question was to Michael, who nodded.

“Yeah, right. Half-vampires aren’t very strong at all. They can’t do anything much during the day except sleep.”

“Good. Then you can put your stakes away and listen to me.” Giles swung around, staring at the little group. They were all so young, but he was getting very used to the idea of using children in the battle against the dark forces. Innocence meant nothing anymore. He doubted whether anybody in Santa Carla even had any. “You all know w-what we’re up against. A gate has opened up somewhere in this town which is going to allow your vampires to escape, and wreak all kinds of havoc all over the world.”

“The streets will scream…” Michael whispered softly, and Giles nodded grimly.

“We have to work together if we’re going to beat this. You need me, and you need Buffy, so, so you’re just going to have to live with her. Kill her, and you’re going to have to kill me too.”

“That can be arranged.” Edgar still looked belligerent, but there was a half-hearted element to his stance now.

“I don’t doubt it.” Giles sighed. “Look, we’ve wasted enough time. The Sun is starting to come up, and we have a lot of work to do today. We only have a few hours left.”

“He’s right.” Michael stepped forwards, and his brother followed suit.

“I’m with Michael.”

“Surprise, surprise.” Edgar sounded cynical, but showed no displeasure when Alan moved to stand alongside the others. “Okay, so we’re all agreed, but where does that get us?”

“Nowhere.” Giles smiled, feeling in control again. That was a start at least. “Somebody make some coffee, okay? Then we can sit down and try and come up with a few ideas.” He rubbed his chin, suddenly painfully aware, now that the immediate danger was over, that it was several days since he had last had a change of clothing or a shave. He had hardly slept, either, in three nights. No time to worry about that now. He tried not to yawn. “Oh, and by the way… I know you people aren’t terribly old, but does anybody have a razor?”

“A razor?” Although she sounded tired, there was humour in Buffy’s voice. “Somebody get him a razor. His mind stops working if he goes more than a day or two without a shave.” She smirked. “We need books, too. If he doesn’t get a fix at least once a day, he’ll go into withdrawal.”

“Very funny.” Giles allowed himself a brief smile. The sensation of being trapped had still not left him, but at least Buffy was starting to act more naturally. So long as she was going to be okay… There was still no certainty of that, of course, and the knowledge that he could still lose her preyed on his mind. To hell with the gate. To hell with Sunnydale, and its myriad of unsuspecting inhabitants. To hell with the rest of the world. It was Buffy that he was supposed to watch over. It was Buffy that he had to protect. He followed the others into the sitting room, the sound of their conversation only distantly reaching his ears. How could all those millions of anonymous strangers, none of whom had ever meant anything to him, possibly rate higher than the girl that his whole destiny was tied to? He was prepared to do what was necessary, and if these kids tried to get between him and his Slayer, he would do whatever he had to to stop them. He had killed before, and if Buffy’s life was at stake, he would kill again.

[nextpage title=”Chapter 5″]

Chapter 5

“So is this, like, a Council Of War?” Sitting on a battered looking chair, and feeling unusually tired, Buffy stretched her legs out and accepted a cup of coffee. “Thanks.”

“I s-suppose you c-could call it that, yes.” Giles smiled. “Does anybody have anything to offer?”

“In the way of suggestions, no. In the way of deep concerns, worry and abject terror, yes.” Buffy smiled at him. “We don’t seem to have many of the useful sort of things, really, do we.”

“We so rarely do.” The librarian leaned back in his chair, frowning. “Okay, so does anybody have an accurate figure on vampire numbers around here?”

“It’s kind of difficult to count,” Edgar told him, a sharp edge of sarcasm to his voice. “I mean, taking a roll call every night at dusk really doesn’t work.”

“Any estimates?” Giles looked hopefully around at the little group. “What’s the population of Santa Carla?”

“It’s rather subject to sudden change.” Michael smiled. “I’d guess about twenty thousand. We’re probably looking at about five thousand vampires in total. The vast majority of them are teenagers.”

“How many of the, like, totally powerful and more unpleasant than usual kind?” piped up Buffy from her chair.

Michael shrugged. “I reckon there’s about ten clans in total. Each one has branches though, sort of like fraternity things. The heads of the clans are the really uncool, okay-with-daylight sort of vampires, and then there’s the deputies. They’re the ones who are into power of suggestion tricks, and mind-bending and stuff.”

“Then they’re the ones we want. The leaders.” Giles nodded to himself. “When we k-killed the Master, b-back in Sunnydale, it, it confused the local vampires somewhat. Th-they were un-un-f-focused for some time. That could give us the, the time we need, so that the, the gate will close, and they’ll be stuck here.”

“And what about you? How will you get back to your time?” Michael had successfully put voice to an issue that Giles had been avoiding thus far, and the Watcher smiled nervously.

“Y-yes, well, well obviously th-that’s an issue that, that we’ll er… er… have to, to consider eventually…” He caught Buffy’s eye. “Well, I-I mean, Sunnydale isn’t p-paradise exactly. We w-wouldn’t b-be missing anything much.”

“Speak for yourself, Giles. I have friends in Sunnydale. And a mother, remember? That’s sort of important to me.” Buffy frowned. “Of course, me being a vampire might confuse things back there a little. Sort of likely to gross everybody out just a bit, wouldn’t you say?”

“Possibly, yes.” The Watcher sighed. “Okay, so, so ideally we would have enough time to get through the gate ourselves before, before it closes, because it-it’s likely to b-be a th-thousand years before it, er, o-opens again, and, er, that’s, er-”

“Sort of awkward in a, like, totally major way,” Buffy interjected. Giles nodded.


“Fine. This isn’t complicating the matter at all.” Sam sat down on the arm of Michael’s chair. “Stop me if I miss anything out here, but we have to a) kill the vampire leaders, b) stop the other vampires jumping ship, c) get Buffy and Giles home, and d) make sure that Buffy gets to be human again. All in, what, eighteen hours?”

“About that.” Buffy stood up, wobbling slightly, and made her way to the window. “Ouch. Somebody tell me that the Sun is totally, totally way brighter than usual.”

“I-I think it’s your vampire half reacting against the light.” Giles joined her at the window, and glanced out at the dim glow of the early Sun. Buffy gave him a sidelong glance.

“Thanks Giles. That is so totally not what I wanted to hear.”

“Sorry.” He gave her an apologetic smile, and turned back to the others. “We’re going to need stakes, and crosses and stuff. W-w-were you s-serious about h-having a supply of Holy water?”

“Completely.” Michael stood up, looking purposeful. “We grabbed an industrial tanker and got a priest from out of town to bless it. Kinda unconventional, but it worked.”

“Fine. And garlic?”

“As much as you want. We eat it with everything.” Sam grinned. “We figure, vampires have bad breath, right? So it can’t hurt if we do too. And it’s helpful.”

“Good.” The Watcher frowned. “Okay, I-I think what we have to do is thin the numbers out a little. We, we can’t handle all th-those, thousands of, of vampires at once. If we can k-k-kill as many as, as possible before tonight, we may have a chance to s-st-stop them when they try to make use of the gate. We need to share the weapons out, and then split into teams. Shall we say, three t-teams of two, or, or, two t-teams of three?”

“Sure. I vote me, you and Vampire Girl make up one team.” Edgar drew a stake from his belt, toying with it idly. Giles smiled.

“Pity. I, er, was th-thinking more along the lines of Michael, Buffy and me in one team, and you others together. I-I’m touched that, that you want to spend time with us, though.” Giles put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Will you be okay?”

“Yes, fine. I’ve never felt better.” Buffy grinned. “Well, that’s obviously a complete lie, but I felt the situation warranted an abandonment-of-truth moment. Was I right?”

“Yes.” He glanced round at the others. “Shall we say, meet back here at noon?”

“If we’re still here at noon.” Michael smiled. “Here, Buffy, I’ve got some spare shades you can use. They’re kind of like, necessary half-vampire fashion accessories. Ex-half-vampire fashion accessories too.”

“Thanks, Michael. The reminder that I might never totally recover was completely reassuring.” She took the proffered sunglasses. “Okay, Giles. How do I look?”

“Like you have a hangover.” He smiled. “Are you going to be okay, d-doing the, the staking thing?”

“Staking thing, yes. Holy water, crosses and garlic are out in a big way.” She smiled. “Reminding me majorly that I would really like you to take the cross off from round my neck before it touches my skin, and starts up the whole burning pain thing.”

“Of course.” He removed the cross and put into his pocket. “W-well, I’m as ready as, as I’ll ever be. I would suggest that we get moving. Do, do you have any way of, of delivering the Holy water?”

“Water guns.” Sam flashed him a childish grin, revealing the face of the fourteen year old which dwelt within the prematurely old vampire killer. “We squirt ‘em, they burn. It’s kinda cool, in a gruesome sort of way.”

“Sounds it.” Giles wondered for approximately the three thousand and eighty-first time what it was about teenagers that they enjoyed killing vampires so much. Additives in food, probably. “So, er, where do these vampires go, er, in the day?”

“The pier.” Edgar went to a chest in the corner of the room and began to unload water pistols and stakes. “That’s, like, some kind of focal point for the whole blood thing. They go there to talk shop, you know? Time was, a guy could hang out there with a fairly good chance of surviving the night. These days it’s all pretty touch and go.”

“Fine, then we-we’ll take the pier.” Giles took a water pistol, examining it as though he had never held one before. “You, er, you others go around the town. See what you can find. Remember we want the head vampires first.”

“Yeah, right. To confuse the others.” Edgar smirked, and began to hand the stakes around. “It’s got nothing to with maybe fixing Buffy.”

“Of course not.” The librarian watched as the others began to fill their guns from a tank in the corner, and did likewise. “Ready Buffy?”

“Not even slightly.” She smiled, following him to the door. “Do we get to take the car? ‘Cause I really don’t think I can do any serious walking.”

“Sure, no problem.” Michael joined them. Edgar watched them go, his expression showing his unease.

“Keep a watch on ‘em, Mike,” he called out as the threesome left. “I don’t trust ‘em.” Michael glanced back.

“Just go and kill some vampires, Edgar,” he told his colleague. “We should have done this a month back, when they started to get out of control.”

“Hey, can you blame us for being, like, a little unwilling to die in a horrible way?” Edgar checked the level in his pistol. “They are not going to give in quietly. Remember last time?”

“Yeah, like I’m going to forget.” Michael glanced down at the stake in his hands. “Try not to kill anybody else, okay? We might be able to save some of them, if we get the leaders.”

“Oh yeah, I completely believe that. I have such total faith in our chances of success. Just don’t rely too much on the stuttering geek and his pointy toothed friend.”

“Goodbye, Edgar.” Michael hurried out, climbing behind the wheel of the car. “You okay, Buffy?”

“Totally.” She smiled at him. “Drained, weak, tired and beginning to hallucinate again, but I think I can handle that. Actually I kind of hope that they are hallucinations. Otherwise the monkeys wearing trousers could become a little more disturbing. At least there’s no hippos.”

“She’s sounding confused.” Giles smiled. “She must be feeling better.”

“Very funny Giles.” Buffy leaned back, closing her eyes against the glare of the Sun, which was disturbing even through the dark lenses of the glasses. “I have reached the conclusion that I am not a day person right now.”

“Look on the bright side. You might get to do some flying tonight.” Michael flashed her a grin as he started the engine up and began to drive away. “It’s kind of cool, so long as you’re expecting it. Otherwise it’s a little freaky. When I was going through the whole vampire transformation thing, I floated out of my bedroom window and wound up hanging on to the telephone cable outside my brother’s window, scaring the hell out of him.” He shook his head. “That was one weird summer.”

“This is one weird town.” Buffy fingered one of the stakes, thinking oddly pleasant thoughts about Sunnydale. “I never thought I’d find a town that was more screwy than it is back home.”

“Get used to it here, Buffy.” Giles, his face displaying none of the concern that he was feeling, gave her a small smile. “We, we might just have t-t-to stay here, if it’s what it takes to stop the vampires u-using the gate.”

“Oh good…” She sighed. “But won’t that confuse things a little? I mean, surely there’s already a Slayer in 1987?”

“You’re not exactly in full form at the moment, Buffy. I don’t think you’re disturbing any sort of delicate Slayer balance right now.” He turned his head to watch the scenery go by. “Maybe we should stay here anyway.”

“Huh?” She turned to look at him, face showing confusion. “Just how is it a good idea to stay in Seriously Gory Town?”

“I-I w-was just thinking about, about what sort of, of explanation we can give your mother. And Snyder. About missing d-days off school.”

“And vanishing totally and completely for several days. Good point.” Buffy made a face. “That’s your problem, Giles. You’re the brains around here.”

“Thankyou.” He turned to watch the Sun as it lifted itself higher into the sky. “Th-there’s this minor issue with the police, a-and with, er, with Willow and Xander’s parents. You might want to, er, to sort of h-help us out there.”

“I don’t think I want to ask.” She followed his gaze towards the Sun, and tried to ignore the pain it caused in her eyes. This was all so very weird, so completely lacking in all the basic, enjoyable things of life, that she could almost hear the Master laughing, echoing through the dimensions. Damn vampires.

The streets were surprisingly less than empty. People walked about the pier, disappearing into shops and walking arm in arm along the sea-front. Children chased each other about on the beach, and dogs barked at each other. There was a distinct air of normality, which was strikingly odd. Buffy walked through it all, leaning on Giles for support, scanning the faces of the people around her in a vain attempt to see if her senses still worked. Everything in her head was in turmoil. Somehow, her entire consciousness seemed to be filled with images of dancing bears and vampires with clown faces, all laughing at each other. Not helpful.

“Anything?” She shook her head in answer to Giles’ question, as they walked down the pier yet again. They had been at this for what seemed like hours, and she tried desperately to pull things into focus. There was something, scratching away in the back of her mind. An image, of, of… treacle. Well that was perfectly clear and totally useful.

“Concentrate Buffy.” Giles glanced about as well, as if he could somehow use the power of his own mind to assist her. She frowned.

“I am concentrating. There’s something… Is there a bakery on the pier, Michael?”

“A bakery? No, but there’s the coffee shop I took you to.” He pointed towards it. “Are you getting something?”

“I think I might be.” She frowned. “Er… Something about doughnuts and pancakes with treacle. That is so very un-vampire.”

“Maybe they don’t always drink blood.” Michael shrugged. “Do we go straight in the front and start blasting, or what?”

“I tend to like the forward approach.” Buffy tried to stand unsupported, and groaned. “Ugh. Maybe now would be a good time to start trying to reason with them. Appeal to the good side of the demon.”

“Maybe you’d better wait in the car.” Concerned, Giles looked her up and down. “You’re looking somewhat pale.”

“Giles, I’ve just been turned into an undead creature of the night. Pale is not a concern.” She reached for his water pistol. “You do the staking, and all that energetic stuff, and I’ll shoot them with this.”

“Be careful not to spill any on yourself.” He glanced at Michael. “Are you ready?”

“Do I have to answer that?” He walked to the door, and pushed it open. “I can’t see anyone.”

“Good start.” Giles followed his associate into the room, and deposited Buffy into a chair. “Where’s the kitchen?”

“At the back.” Michael pointed. “You want to check that out, and I’ll look upstairs.”

“I’ll, er, sit here and look ill.” Buffy tried to straighten her back. “Don’t try anything too heroic, Giles. You’re the Watcher.”

“Today I think I’m the Slayer by default.” He grinned at her and vanished, wandering through the door behind the counter. Michael smiled at Buffy as well.

“Are you going to tell me to be careful too?” he asked. She shrugged.

“Sure. Don’t get killed, and don’t get turned into a vampire again. I can see very little to recommend either.”

“Thanks.” He headed off after Giles, catching a glimpse of the older man as he went towards the kitchen. Michael climbed the stairs, feeling distinctly unsure whether splitting up had been a very good idea. The steps creaked alarmingly beneath his feet, and he willed them to be quiet, certain that some angry creature of the night was about to leap out at him and demand a free meal. He glanced about at the top of the stairs. There were three doors. One led to a room full of flour sacks and large tins of coffee powder. The other two led to empty rooms thick with dust, and covered in cobwebs. Odd. Why abandon the upstairs of the house except as a storage place, when there was a perfectly good cellar downstairs? A thought struck him, and he gulped. Giles. He had to warn Giles. He swung about, and headed down the stairs at a run.

Giles wandered into the kitchen and glanced around. It was empty, with no sign that anybody had been in it recently. A door stood in the wall opposite him, and he headed towards it. It looked as though it might lead to a cellar, and that was as good a place as any to begin a search for vampires. The door opened easily, and he glanced down at the long, dark flight of stairs which led down into goodness knew what. Surely cellars weren’t usually that far beneath the ground?

He began to walk down the stairs, looking about nervously. There was something about dark, deep places that was particularly unattractive, especially when thoughts of vampires were uppermost in your mind. He tried not to think about how dank and cold the place was, but somehow that didn’t seem to work. There really were days when being a Watcher was not much fun.

The bottom of the flight of stairs came eventually, and he wandered into the large, silent room. The walls were rocky and uneven, as though fashioned by inexperienced hands, and they stretched way, way up above him. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he looked up, knowing what he would see. Forty of them at least, hanging upside down from the ceiling, their hands crossed on their chests in sleep. He gulped, running through a mental check of his weaponry. Two crosses, six stakes and a penknife. There was certainly some glory to be found in retreat. He took a step back towards the stairs, and heard a noise behind him which made him whirl about in shock. A man stood by a table, hidden previously by the staircase. He was about sixty at a guess, with white hair and old fashioned clothing. Giles tried not to notice the unnaturally bright eyes, and the pointed teeth which glinted at him when the man smiled.

“Hello.” Stepping forwards, the man held out a bottle. “Fancy a drink?”

“Not really, no.” Giles closed his fingers tightly about the stake in his hand. “I, er, don’t really like blood very much.”

“Really? Shame. All that iron is good for you.” The man shrugged. “Still, some people aren’t interested in their health, I suppose.”

“I s-suppose not.” Giles squared his shoulders, taking a few steps forward. “You’re the lead vampire, aren’t you.”

“The direct approach, I like that. Yes sir, I am the lead vampire. Of this clan anyway.” He grinned. “I hear you’re looking for one particular lead vampire though. Got your Slayer, didn’t they. Now that was a good move.”

“You, you know about us?” Giles was confused. “How?”

“We rule this town. We know everything that goes on in it. We waited for the gate to open, and through it came two people. Who could they have been but the Slayer and her Watcher? Except for someone extremely unfortunate and unsuspecting, but they wouldn’t be likely to start running around town with crosses and stakes, now, would they? Most impolite, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“Sorry.” Giles frowned. “So, er, you’re not the leader of the clan that changed Buffy?”

“Nope. Sad to say that I am not.” The vampire grinned again. “I fed on a Watcher once, if you don’t mind me changing the subject just a little. A woman, about… a hundred and fifty years ago. Really tasty. She screamed a lot though. You’re not given to screaming, are you?”

“Er, no, no. Not usually.” Giles glanced about, considering what his chances were on making a quick dash up the stairs.

“Don’t try it my boy. I’m so very much faster than you are.” The vampire smiled, and extended his hand. “The name is Walter, by the way. Walter The Black Hearted, they used to call me. We went in for those showy names in the old days.”

“Giles. Er, Ru-Rupert Giles.” He wondered if he was honestly expected to shake hands, then stepped forward. What the hell. Just because a man was a demon was no reason to be impolite. A plan came to him, and he smiled and reached out, gripping the other man firmly by the hand.

With a yell that shook the room, the vampire sunk to his knees, eyes bulging out. Giles squeezed his hand tighter, Buffy’s cross pressed hard into his palm. He smiled grimly, staring down at the agonised vampire.

“You’re making a big mistake.” Spitting the words out, the vampire tore free with a sudden and surprising burst of strength. “You’re a dead man.”

Giles heard a fluttering noise, and turned slightly. The sleeping vampires had awoken, and he smiled nervously around at them.

“Er, I-I suppose that forgiveness and understanding are out of the question then?” he asked. Walter laughed.

“How right you are. We’re a territorial bunch here, Giles. We don’t like outsiders coming into our town. We like to… convince them to leave. For other, less lively parts… if you get my drift.”

“I-I see. Yes.” Giles nodded, and backed away, only half conscious of the fact that backing away from some of the vampires took him closer to the others. “So, er, what h-happens now?”

“Well revenge and general dislike aside, we are prepared to give you two choices.” Walter flashed him a pleasant smile, only slightly marred by the fangs. “We tear you apart in true Santa Carlan style, or you drink something from out of this bottle, and join us. Eternal youth, Giles. Eternal life.”

“Thanks, but I-I said goodbye to, to my youth a long time ago. I think I was about ten at the time. I’m not interested.”

“You’re not scared of dying, Giles? Then you’re the first I’ve met who isn’t.” Walter picked up the bottle from the table and held it out. “Just a quick drink. Tastes good. Dispenses with all that mutual sucking vampires have to do in other places. I think you’d look quite sweet with fangs.”

“Thanks.” Giles eyed the bottle, wondering how much it hurt to be ripped apart by hungry vampires. On a scale of one to ten, where one was small pain, and ten was extreme agony, it probably rated somewhere about a twelve. One of the things that he felt needed listing in the Watcher’s Guide To Things Never To Try. “Er, I, er, don’t suppose you’d include a third option?”

“Such as?”

“Such as you agreeing to stand still while I stake you? Or I could always go and get my friends to help.”

Walter nodded. “It’s certainly an interesting proposal. Not one I can really see myself agreeing to, though. I mean, what’s in it for me?”

“Death. Er, well that’s about it.”

“Mmm. Not terribly inviting.” Walter raised the bottle. “I like you, Giles. Now ordinarily, a Watcher is not a vampire’s favourite person, but in your case I’m prepared to give you another chance to think it over. What’ll it be; agonising death or eternal life?”

Giles took a step towards him, his eyes fixed on the bottle. “Er, well, um, since you p-put it that way, I am a tad thirsty.”

“Glad to hear it.” Walter held out the bottle. “Just knock it back. Pretend it’s lemonade.”

“Right, er, okay.” He reached out for the bottle, and with a sudden sideways sweep knocked it aside, jerking Walter off balance. He raised his stake into the air, and in the same instant felt himself being lifted off his feet from behind. He glanced back. Two vampires were holding his arms, their toothy mouths curled into evil sneers. It was interesting, actually, now that he came to think about it, how the vampires in Santa Carla appeared as basically ordinary people, except for the teeth thing. Not like in Sunnydale, where the demon in them was so visible. He looked back at Walter, and realised with an unpleasant lurching sensation that the ground, to say nothing of Walter, was far beneath him. He was floating a good fifteen feet above the floor.

“Bad move, Giles.” Walter was shouting at him from what seemed like far below. “Now I really don’t like you anymore. You know what that means?”

“Feeding time.” The voice was gruff, and came from directly behind Giles. He glanced back at the vampire which had spoken, and smiled uncertainly at it.

“Wouldn’t happen to be a vegetarian, I suppose?” He felt the grip on his arms loosen, and shrugged mentally. Oh well…

“It’s shootin’ time!” With a wild whoop the door at the top of the stairs burst open, and Michael, his water gun held tightly in one hand, leapt into view, shooting madly in all directions. As he hit the ground with a painful jolt, Giles felt a spray of water touch his face, and heard Walter scream in pain and rage. He smiled a little breathlessly, and dashed for cover, away from the crowd of screeching vampires. There was a distinct air of hostility about the place.

“Run for it Giles!” Reaching inside his shirt, Michael pulled loose a few handfuls of something, and hurled them down the stairs. “Come on, man!” Whatever he had thrown tinkled softly as they hit the floor, and Giles instinctively caught one. It was a tiny silver cross. Pure genius, really. The vampires lurched about, trying to avoid the tiny symbols which were causing them so much pain.

Dodging the snatching hands, Giles ran for the stairs, running up them backwards with Buffy’s cross held in his hand. He thrust it out at the vampires who tried to attack him, watching them fall back, shouting as the jet of water from the powerful toy gun soaked them. They tugged at their clothing, desperate to get away from the burning liquid, enraged at the assault.

“Behind you, Giles!” Giles swung round, and saw a row of vampires flying above him, beginning to swoop for an attack. He put on an extra burst of speed, and reached the top of the stairs just as one of the vampires made a grab for him. He heard his jacket rip, and then saw Michael point his gun at the airborne foursome, sending a stream of Holy water towards them. The leader of the four let out an ear-piercing yell and dropped to the floor, crashing into a heap of fountaining green slime. Blood bubbled out of the ground from around his body, and Giles stared at the scene in amazement. So that was how they died around here. Messy.

“Come on!” Michael grabbed the older man by the collar, pulling him through the door. They slammed it shut, leaning on it with all their weight. It bucked and rattled behind them as the vampires fought to get loose.

“N-now what?” Breathless, Giles shot a glance at Michael, who shrugged.

“Run very fast?” he suggested. “If we make it to the front of the shop before they reach us, we’ll be safe in the daylight. Except from the lead guy of course. He can probably withstand daylight.”

“Jolly good.” Giles sucked in a deep breath. “Ready when you are.”

“Now!” Michael took off for the kitchen door, and Giles followed him. They heard the door slam open, and all but threw themselves into the coffee shop. Buffy sat slumped at her table, fast asleep. She glanced up as they came in, and frowned. Giles looked distinctly ruffled, and Michael seemed even more wild than usual.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“A retreat.” Giles grabbed her hand, and pulled her towards the door. “Come on!”

[nextpage title=”Chapter 6″]

Chapter 6

They dashed for the entrance way, only to glance back as the back door burst open. A group of vampires hurtled out into the daylight, and stopped abruptly as they felt the Sun on their skin. They swung around, desperate to reach the safety of the sunless corridor, but it was too late. In a gasping, whining huddle, they sunk to the floor, their skin beginning to bubble and split. There was a cracking sound, and without warning blood began to fountain out of the kettles on the counter. It streamed out of the ground, and the windows cracked and smashed, hurling broken glass into the midst of the confusion. The dying vampires thrashed around in the mess, and then died, their bodies going into instant and messy decomposition. Buffy whistled. “Cool!”

“You’ll pay for this.” Stepping over the bodies, Walter surveyed the damage. “You’ll all pay. I’m going through that gate tonight, and when I’m finished, your world will be a memory.”

“Er, Giles.” Buffy pointed at the vampire. “He’s, er, he’s not dying.”

“No. Awkward, isn’t it.” Giles pushed the weakened Slayer behind him, in a vague attempt to protect her. She smiled at the gesture and stepped out of hiding.

“Giles… I am the Slayer.” She shook her head. “You can’t get used to that, can you.”

“Yes.” He sounded defensive. “Buffy, this one isn’t like the others, and you’re not yourself.”

“I have felt better.” She lifted her water pistol. “But I’m ready.” She fired. With an enraged scream, Walter tried to dodge the jet of water, and Buffy grinned triumphantly at him. She was beginning to feel a little better. She threw the pistol aside, and raised a stake into the air.

“Come and get it, uncool dead guy.” He snarled at her, and took a step forward himself.

“You haven’t got a chance. I’m nearly five hundred years old. I was sucking blood when your ancestors were still thinking about emigrating to the New World.”

“Like, that’s something to be proud of?” She tried to ignore the feeling of light-headedness. “Come on, creepy guy. How about doing me a favour and running onto this stake?”

“How about dying?” Walter took to the air with a sudden leap, and swooped down towards the Slayer. She jumped aside, rolling out of his reach, and leaping to her feet again. Jumping onto a table, she leapt lightly onto the vampire’s back, pulling him down towards the ground. He threw her off, but she vaulted upright without hesitation, and cartwheeled to one side, swinging around and grabbing Walter around the neck before he could move away. He tried to take off again, but Buffy kneed him in the back, forcing him down onto the ground. He snarled up at her, fighting against her superior strength. Even in her weakened condition she still felt capable of holding him down.

“Bad vampire.” She smiled down at him. “You have not been a good bunny. Now I hate to stake and run, but you know how it is.” She slammed the wooden spike home, and stumbled back out of the way as blood began to fountain out of the dying man’s body. The floorboards lifted up beneath her, and with a sudden rendering of wood, more and more blood began to gush out of the shop floor.

“Time to leave.” Buffy pulled the stake out of the dead chest and ran for the door, pushing Michael and Giles out onto the pier. “I am so glad they don’t do that back home. Blood stains.”

“Nice work, Buffy!” Impulsively Giles hugged her, then stepped back. “Are you alright?”

“Not really no. I feel terrible. Still a match for dead people though.” She glanced down at her clothing, which was covered in red marks. “I liked this shirt.”

“I liked this suit.” Giles was also covered in blood. “We’re going to stand out, now, I feel.”

“Kind of, yeah.” Michael nodded around at the passers-by. “You don’t have to worry about this lot, though. Selective blindness. They’ve been suffering from it as long as I’ve been here. Which granted is only a few months, but you get the drift.”

“Where now?” Glancing about, Giles tried to straighten what was left of his jacket, and adjusted his tie. “Buffy?”

“Er… I’m seeing a TV store.” She shrugged. “That mean anything, Mike?”

“Sure, follow me. I thought the TV store vampires were dead, but I guess another group could have taken it over.” He stood aside to let her pass, and then fell into step behind her.

“Michael?” Giles, following on behind, looked questioningly at the younger man, and Michael glanced back at him.


“Do you know an Eric? Or a Carrie?”

“Yeah, sure. They’re kids from nearby. Sam used to have a crush on Carrie. Why’d you ask?”

“Buffy mentioned them. I think it must have been them that changed her.”

“They’re vampires now?” He whistled. “Wow. Carrie isn’t sixteen yet. I hate it when that happens. Killing the young ones is never easy. It’s not so bad when they’re trying to suck your blood, but later, when the slime chucking has finished, you get left with the kid’s body, and that’s really rough. They look so… so…”

“Innocent.” Giles smiled sadly. “That’s the one thing they’re not.” He glanced at Buffy, walking ahead. She was trying to keep up the speed, but was obviously tired. “You do understand that, no matter what she does, I’ll kill anybody who tries to kill Buffy?”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Good.” He quickened his pace and caught the Slayer up, taking her arm to help her walk.

“Do you want a rest before the next battle?”

“Not really. I’d rather just try to get this over with.” She looked up at him, her face painfully young. “Giles, are we going to get home?”

“Of course.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

“Sorry.” He glanced up at a sign on the wall beside them. “I guess this must be the place.”

“Very likely.” She looked through the window. “Cool. Thundercats. That is so eighties.”

“I beg your pardon?” He followed the direction of her gaze, and saw the cartoon playing on one of the display TVs. “Oh, yes. Th-Thundercats. I see.”

“I used to love that show. Don’t exactly get much time to watch TV these days. Something to do with late night jaunts in the graveyard.”


“S’okay.” She stepped aside, and indicated the door. “After you.”

“If you’re sure you don’t mind.”

They walked into the darkened store. Just like the coffee shop, it was deserted, the TVs playing to themselves. Michael walked around, glancing behind hi-fis and display desks.

“Nobody here.”

“That’s what we thought about the coffee shop.” Buffy walked further into the room. “Is there a downstairs?”

“There’s an upstairs, you can tell that from the street outside.” Giles wandered over to a door at the back of the room. “Do I really want to open this?”

“I doubt it.” Buffy joined him, water pistol clasped firmly in her hand. “Did you ever watch NYPD Blue?”

“I used to watch Starsky and Hutch.” He had clearly got the message. “Ready?”

“Why do people keep asking that? Of course I’m not ready.” She tensed her muscles, flattening herself against the wall beside the door. Giles did the same on the other side.

“On three?” he asked. She nodded.

“One, two, three!”

With a violent blow, Giles sent the door flying open, knocking it clear from its hinges. Buffy swung around into the doorway, water gun levelled at the room beyond. A sea of young faces stared at her, their wild, bright eyes gazing steadily out of the gloom beyond the door.


“Oops?” Giles frowned, and turned to see. “Ah, yes. Quite. Oops would about cover it.”

“Welcome, Slayer.” One of the vampires stepped forwards, his teeth bared in a snarl. “Welcome to our little home.”

“Thanks. Where’s the tea and biscuits?” Buffy glanced up at Giles, the panic in her eyes visible even through the dark lenses. He shrugged, hopefully raising a stake. They couldn’t all be resistant to sunlight, so if he and his friends stayed where they were, they should be alright. In theory.

“Which of you is going to come and fight me?” Buffy stuck her water pistol into her belt, and tossed a stake into the air, rather like some psychotic majorette. “Come on, creeps, I have a gate to catch sometime today…”

“Ah yes, the gate. Doorway to the places beyond.” The vampire smirked. “We can’t let you interfere with that. Sorry.”

“That’s okay. I’ll just have to kill you.” Buffy took another step forwards. “Come to Buffy.”

With an ear splitting screech, the vampire took to the air, followed closely by several of its companions. They soared towards the door, and landed behind the Slayer and her friends.

“Guess again, Slayer.” The first vampire laughed harshly, beginning to close in on its intended victims. Buffy whirled around, letting off a powerful jet of water from her pistol. One of the vampires screamed, and crashed to the ground gripping its shoulder. In the same instant, Buffy felt herself grabbed from behind. She flipped the vampire over her head, watching in some satisfaction as it shrieked and died in the sunlight. Before she had time to think, she was grabbed again, this time by several of the creatures. She struggled, but it was no use.

“Giles!” The librarian swung around, going instantly to his Slayer’s aid. He grabbed hold of one of the vampires, ramming a stake into its arm. It snarled, spinning around and catching him with a powerful blow that sent him flying. He stumbled to his feet and went back into the fray, aware that Michael was also in trouble, his back to the wall as he tried to fight off several of the daylight-resistant vampires with his failing water gun. Giles ignored him; Buffy had to come first.

“Let her go!” Launching himself at the nearest of the vampires, Giles paid no heed to the imminent danger of being pulled into the darkness beyond the door. He struggled with one for the creatures, marvelling at its strength. Now was probably not the time to wonder how they came to be so powerful here in Santa Carla, but the thought came to him nonetheless. He heard Buffy shout some warning, then felt himself gripped by several hands. He struggled wildly, but to no avail. With a final, desperate last effort to break free, they were all dragged beyond the door.

Stairs awaited them, leading far, far down into the earth. The three would-be vampire killers were pushed down the steps, their eyes adjusting slowly to the dark. Beneath them they could see a huge throng of vampires. What seemed like thousands of the creatures awaited them in the darkness, their teeth bared, and their eyes flashing. Giles felt cold. They had no chance against so many, even if they weren’t being held. He tried not to think about what was coming.

“Giles…” Buffy was calling to him, but as he turned his head to try and see her, he was dragged further away, down to the centre of the room, where several pillars helped to support the roof. He was thrown against one, the rough, hard surface biting into his back. Before he had time to think, he was being bound to the pillar. Strong rope encircled his chest, and he felt his hands being pulled behind him. What a wonderful conclusion to a charming little adventure. He could see Michael out of the corner of his eye, being held by several of the vampires, but of Buffy there was no sign. He tried to ignore his concern, and stared out at the sea of creatures with what he hoped looked like defiance. They were all so young. No matter how hard he looked, he could not see one of the vampires who could have been more than twenty. They were all teenagers. He felt sick. Dead children, their souls lost. He wondered if any of them were just half-vampires, like Buffy, or if the whole lot of them were gone beyond all help. It probably didn’t matter now.

“Greetings, Watcher.” One of the vampires, a kid who didn’t look more than fourteen years old, stepped up to confront Giles. His teeth glowed in the soft light from the faint hint of phosphorescence on the walls. He laughed. “Outsiders. We like outsiders. They can leave the town, and we can’t, so we kill them. Have you ever been bitten by a vampire, Watcher?”

“Er, some-somehow I seem to have, er, missed that experience so far.” Giles looked about. “What have you done to Buffy?

“She’s the last thing you should be worried about right now.” The boy stepped back. “We don’t bite our victims here, Watcher. We tear them apart, limb from limb. It’s so much easier to get at the blood that way. It’s a little wasteful, while you’re still learning, but you soon catch on.” He grinned. “We’re all pretty experienced at it now, you’ll be glad to know.”

“Oh, er, good.”

“I knew you’d be pleased.” The boy stepped back. “Where are the inductees?”

A group of vampires stepped forwards, Buffy and Michael held tightly between them. Michael was struggling wildly, but with no success. He was forced to his knees.

“No…” Giles heard him mutter, his voice strained through fear. “Not again.”

“Hold him still.” The young boy who had been speaking to Giles stepped forwards, a bottle in his hand. He forced Michael’s head up, pushing the neck of the bottle between the prisoner’s lips.

“No!” Michael struggled, choking on the sudden flow of liquid, but unable to prevent it from running down his throat. He tried to spit it out, but more came, filling his mouth until it ran down his chin. He coughed, then finally his captors released him and he fell to the floor.

“I can’t… Not again…” Lying in a heap, Michael rolled onto his side, curling up and moaning softly. “I can’t do it again.”

“Hold on Michael.” Buffy was willing him to fight the liquid’s power, but he turned onto his back to stare up at her, and she saw that his eyes were not his own. Long, sharp teeth flashed.

“I can’t fight it, Buffy.” A faint growl came from his throat. “I’m not strong enough. Not this time.” He stared up at Giles. “He’s supposed to be our first.”

“Giles?!” Buffy couldn’t quite imagine sucking Giles’ blood. That was too weird to contemplate. All that tea, and the tweed, to say nothing of the dusty books he practically lived with just had to affect the taste.

“Kill the outsider.” The young boy, who obviously had some considerable authority amongst the vampires, pointed at the hapless Watcher, who glowered, using one of the glares that he reserved for unruly high school students who were insulting his library. The boy did not seem to notice.

“Kill the man. He’s not one of us. He can’t be one of us.” The boy raised the bottle into the air. “This is the elixir of youth. We are eternally young, eternally free. We have to destroy those who want to take it away!” With a roar of approval, the vampires surged forwards, but the boy held up his hands again. “No. This one must be for our new friends.” He turned to Buffy and Michael. “Kill him,” he ordered. “Drink his blood. Become one of us. You’ll never grow old, you’ll never die. All you have to do is drink his blood.”

“No…” Michael curled up again, his wild eyes showing his pain. Buffy felt for him. She remembered, vaguely, the craving she had felt earlier, back in the house. She had tried to drink from Giles then, too, come to think of it. Much more of this and he was going to start avoiding her.

“I’ll soon change your minds.” The boy pulled a knife from the lining of his jacket, and stalked up to Giles, the blade held high. “Take a look at this.” He slashed sideways with the knife, the sharp point cutting deeply into the Watcher’s shoulder. Blood poured forth, glinting red in the light from the candles held by the attendant vampires. Giles could see their faces above the dancing flames; mocking teenage bullies perverted by the demons who now owned them.

Buffy gazed at the blood, watching it roll down the Watcher’s arm; watched it dribble onto the floor. She had never really noticed how red blood was, how bright and smooth and wet. She was thirsty, so thirsty, and the blood seemed so mouth-watering, so irresistible. She gulped. She could feel something within her, something that was trying to get out. Something that was trying to rise up and take control of her. She tried to back away, tried not to look at Giles and his damned inviting blood, dribbling so… seductively. A laugh bubbled up from inside her, and she felt a fire ignite within. Suddenly it was as if she were looking at the world through somebody else’s eyes. She could hear a voice inside her, telling her to drink. It was telling her about youth, and immortality. Just one drink… Just one drink and then never grow old. Never get weak. Never fade away. Never die… Just one drink… It couldn’t hurt Giles to just take one drink. It couldn’t hurt anybody. Anyway, it was his fault for bleeding all over the place. Surely that was something that Watchers learnt from birth; never bleed in the company of vampires.

Michael rose to his feet, his bright, inhuman eyes blazing. “Got to fight it,” he was muttering, but his tongue licked his lips, and his own desires were far too strong to fight. He took another step forward. Giles looked from one to the other of the apprentice vampires. Oddly enough, he did not feel too afraid. He thought about Buffy, and how her life was gone now, or would be as soon as she drank some of his blood. All because he hadn’t been able to find out about the gate soon enough.

“Giles…” For a second he thought he saw something of his Slayer in the eyes of the creature now facing him, then it was gone again in the blink of an eye. She smiled at him, and he saw her tongue moving across her lips, saw the bloodlust in those unnatural eyes. She moved in closer, Michael beside her, and he instinctively tried to back away. He could hear the other vampires laughing.

“Buffy, listen to me. Think about Sunnydale. Willow, Xander. Think about your mother. Think about Angel!” He searched her eyes for some reaction, but there was none. “Buffy? Think about Mark Hutten. The grave…”

“Mark Hutten…” She frowned, and he saw something register, then suddenly she seemed to grow before his eyes. “Try again, Watcher. It’s feeding time.”

“Fire!” With a gleeful howl that seemed entirely out of place in the dark and dingy cellar, the door at the top of the stairs flew open, and a torrent of water poured down the steps. Giles heard a scream, and saw several vampires knocked off their feet by the sudden burst of water. They seemed to explode on impact, hurling blood fountains ceiling high as they died. The Watcher blinked in amazement, seeing the water rushing around his feet. Where the hell was it coming from? All around him, vampires were taking to the air to avoid it, and he saw Michael do likewise. Even in the air there was no escape. Almost as if it had a life of its own, the stream of water was flying about, leaping into the air and knocking vampires in all directions.

“Run, Buffy!” Filled with fear for her as the screaming continued around them, Giles struggled against the ropes binding him. “Get away from it! It’s Holy water.”

“I know what it is, Watcher.” The voice was still hers, so painfully close to what he knew, that it hurt to hear it.

“Th-then hurry.”

She walked towards him, the water swirling about her boots, lapping dangerously close to her unprotected legs.

“Maybe I don’t want to get out of the way. Maybe I want to end it.”

“Buffy!” He tried to speak further, but in the air above them the vampires were dying in quick succession, and blood was raining down on the pair on the ground, making it hard to speak. The screams grew louder, echoing about them, cutting into Giles’ mind like an orchestra of grating metal and fingernails on blackboards.

“Giles?” Blinking suddenly, Buffy shook her head to clear it. “Whoa! Holy water. You could have warned me.” She jumped up onto a nearby table, and then frowned. “Where’s Michael?”

“Up there somewhere.” Giles looked up, only to see the young man fall from the air, his arms waving helplessly. He splashed into the swirling water, now a tasteful shade of pink from the geysers of blood. “Er, there.”

“Michael!” Forgetting the dangers of the Holy water, Buffy leaped into the torrent, then frowned. “Say, Giles. It doesn’t hurt.”

“Buffy!” Michael, spluttering and coughing, emerged from out of the water as though from a baptism. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.” She hugged him as yet another vampire exploded in a ball of slime above them. “This outfit will never be the same again, though.”

“But you’re okay? I mean, how do you feel about Giles?”

“Giles? He’s my Watcher, how am I supposed to feel about him?” She glanced back at the librarian in question. There was still blood on his arm, although admittedly it was now indistinguishable from all the other blood exploding from the dying vampires. “Hey, I don’t even nearly want to take a bite! Which is, like, good, because I think that tweed is tooth proof.”

“Er, Buffy? H-hello?” Giles, feeling forgotten, was watching the rising water level, now nearly to his waist. “Do you think, er, possibly you could, er…”

“Relax, Giles.” She waded over to him, and pulled the ropes apart. “Look at this Gilesy! I’m up to my chest in Holy water, and it doesn’t hurt a bit! I think I’m cured.”

“Not a moment too soon. I was beginning to compose my own epitaph.” Giles ritually straightened his tie, then glanced down at her. “Gilesy?”

“Sorry. Youthful exuberance moment. Won’t happen again.”

“I should think not.” For a second he smiled fondly at her, then began to wade towards the stairs. “Come on, we have to get out of here. I don’t plan on staying around to, to see if a-any of them are going to survive this.”

“Right with you.” Michael hurried after him, leaving Buffy to bring up the rear. She snatched up a stake as it floated past, and slammed it home into the chest of a vampire who had mistakenly chosen to swoop half-heartedly down at her.

“Gotcha. Rest in pieces you creep.” They hurried across the floor, fighting against the rising water, and stumbling as the floor began to vibrate. With a noise like thunder, the floorboards burst apart, and geysers of blood erupted out of the ground, sending bright red plumes far up into the air. The determined trio fought on up the staircase, struggling against the flow of water pouring down towards them. Everywhere was awash, either with water or with blood, and the cellar looked as though a bomb had landed. Giles tried to ignore the bodies floating past. He saw the boy who had seemed to be in charge earlier. Down in the cellar, with that knife in his hand, he had seemed the very image of insane demonic fury, but now he was just a dead child, his smooth face peaceful and young. Giles wondered who he was. It didn’t much matter now.

As the threesome reached the top of the stairs they were helped up by Edgar Frog, standing on the top step with a look of cheerful delight on his face. He grinned at Michael.

“Enjoying yourself, Mikey?”

“Couldn’t you have arrived a little earlier?” Michael, stumbling out into the store, appeared exhausted, and there was a haunted look in his eyes. “Another five minutes and I’ve had been lost for good. Buffy too.”

“Nah…” Edgar was still grinning. “We were watching. Couldn’t find any vamps at the usual hangouts, so we came down here. Are we cool or what?”

“You-your timing is certainly t-to be applauded.” Giles offered them a weak grin, almost falling out of the cellar. He looked at Sam and Alan, who were holding a giant fire hose between them. “I think you can turn that off now. They would all appear to be dead.”

“Totally and completely dead.” Buffy whistled down at the scene of utter devastation below them. “That was just so cool. Why don’t I get to have a super charged Holy water cannon, Giles?”

“I’m not sure. I suppose because we don’t have a g-gr-great deal of Holy water.” He followed the hose with his eyes, wondering where it was plugged in. “How exactly did you, er, um… o-or do I not want to ask?”

“Well…” Edgar threw an arm around the Watcher’s shoulders. “It involved driving our stolen tanker full of water at full speed through the town; so on reflection, you probably don’t want to know.” He helped his two companions to turn off the hose. “So what’s next?”

“Next?!” Michael sank down onto a nearby display table. Just like Giles and Buffy, he was soaked to the skin and covered in blood, which was still fountaining out of the cellar door. Edgar was covered from head to toe in its redness, although he clearly did not mind. “Next I want to sleep for a very, very long time.”

“Not that long I hope. It’s gone noon.” Buffy wandered over to the windows and looked out onto the pier. “Everybody is walking around out there like nothing’s happening.”

“Told you. Selective blindness. The tourists and the newcomers notice, but hardly anybody else does, and what they do see they seem to forget about. It’s crazy.” Michael stood up and joined her. “Now tell me we can have a rest, Buffy. I’m whacked.”

“I’m not sure.” The Slayer glanced back at her Watcher, who was looking as exhausted as the others, and was trying not to show it. “How many of them do you think we got?”

“At least two thousand.” Giles shrugged. “Michael said to estimate about five thousand of them in, in total. In the whole town.”

“We got most of the leaders. I recognised a few.” Michael grinned. “You people are useful to have around. We try and hunt down those creatures for ages, and then you turn up and they all congregate in one place, waiting to be killed. That’s cool.”

“They’re dead. You can’t expect them to be clever.” Buffy wandered out onto the pier, with the others close behind. “We have to find out where the gate is, then we can get some rest. They can’t use it until midnight tonight.”

“Good point. Any suggestions?” Michael smiled suddenly, and answered himself. “The graveyard, right? Mark Hutten.”

“Give the man a Kewpie doll.” Buffy nodded vigorously. “Now that I’ve got my Slayer senses back on line, they’re telling me that’s the place. I don’t know why, but his grave was the centre of things in Sunnydale, and it is here too.”

“L-luck of the draw. On, er, on his part. Probably buried on a con-convergence of lay lines. A focal point of power which…” Giles caught the looks that the others were giving him. “What?”

“Don’t mind him. He’s missing his text books.” Buffy smirked at the glare she received from the librarian. “Come on peoples. We don’t have time to stand around pretending we’ve had a hard day.” She ushered them all along the street, then glanced up at Giles. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”

“Hmm? Oh, er, no… No I’m fine, thankyou Buffy. Quite fine.”

“It’s your arm isn’t it. Where that little munchkin vampire stabbed you?”

“My arm? My arm is fine.” He waved it about to illustrate his point. “Come along, there’s Slaying to be done.” He indicated that she should go first, and she shrugged, hurrying off to catch up with the others. Only when she was some way ahead did Giles clench his teeth, and grip his shoulder momentarily in a bid to ease the pain. When he took his hand away a moment later it was covered in a fresh coating of blood.

[nextpage title=”Chapter 7″]

Chapter 7

The graveyard was just a short distance from the sea, and after finding the place deserted, the six companions wandered down to the water’s edge in a vain attempt to clean up. The blood and slime washed off their skin fairly easily, but Buffy tugged at her shirt in dismay. It had been one of the newest items in her wardrobe, and now it was bloodstained and torn. Stupid, really, to have worn it to go Slaying in the first place, but she could hardly be expected to do her historic duty whilst wearing just anything. She took her cross back from Giles, glad to have it once more around her neck. It was small defence against a marauding vampire, but it had saved her life before, and she had no doubt that it would again. As the others lay down to sleep, she watched Giles wander back up to the graveyard on his own. His step seemed slower, and there was no doubt that he was looking paler than usual. Granted the guy was no sun worshipper at the best of times, but he was usually a darker shade of white than his shirt.

Taking advantage of the peace of the moment, Buffy followed her Watcher up to the cemetery, and was unsurprised to find him beside the grave of Mark Hutten. The familiar inscription on the stone meant so much more to her now. After all that he had gone through, and all that he had become, in death at least he had a chance to regain some of the innocence stolen from him in life. For a moment she thought of all the dead children down in that cellar, then forced herself to think of something else. Those children had been dead for a long time; ever since they had lost their souls to the demons.

“You think this is the gate?” she asked. Giles started at the sound of her voice, then smiled up at her.

“It’s the gate.” He extended his hand towards the stone, and they watched it disappear up to the elbow. “See?”

“Cool. You could make a fortune as a magician with a trick like that.” She saw how sad his eyes had become. “You want to go on through? I can handle things here on my own.”

“Buffy, even if I did believe that, there is no way I would go through on my own.” He forced a smile. “Actually I was rather hoping that you would…” He sighed. “B-but you won’t, will you. You-you’ll stay here.”

“It’s my destiny, Giles, as you never tire of telling me. How can I go home now? You want me to leave Michael and the others to deal with this?” She shook her head. “If we went back through there, we’d still have to deal with the vampires, except some of them would be sure to get away. Think what could happen if they escaped from Santa Carla. They could do anything…”

“Yes, I know.” He shrugged. “It was worth suggesting it though.” He glanced back to the stone. “Think about it. Willow and Xander are on the other side of that. 1998 is just a stone’s throw away.”

“Yeah, and so is school, homework, Principal Snyder and my Math test. There’s a lot to be said for Santa Carla.”

“If you’re worried about the test, I could ask you some questions while we wait. Let’s see, how do you work out-”

“Giles, please.” She lay back in the grass, gazing up at the sky. “When my children ask me what I did in the tension filled moments leading up to the Apocalypse, I so do not want to be saying ‘I added up some fractions.’ Besides, it’s boring.”

“I wasn’t g-going to ask you fractions. I was going to ask you about logarithms.”

“Logger who?” She grinned at his expression. “Joke… Call me old fashioned, or just call me extremely lazy, but I am not going to do Math revision right now. I was planning on going to sleep.”

“Want me to keep watch?”

“Giles, you’re a Watcher three hundred and sixty five days of the year. Take a break. My supersonic Scooby senses will tell me if there’s a bad guy coming.”

“Okay.” He leaned back against another gravestone. “Might as well relax for a while then.”

“You can remember how to do that can you?”

“Just about.”

“Good.” Buffy smiled as the Watcher closed his eyes. Minutes later she could tell that he was asleep, although doubtless he would have denied it. She watched him for a few moments, then began to fade away as well. Let the world take care of itself for a while. It really couldn’t hurt.

It was dark. A cool breeze blew through the graveyard, and Buffy jerked awake, staring up at the gloomy sky with panic-stricken eyes.

“Night time…” She sat up, shaking her head in a wild attempt to clear it. “Giles! Wake up!”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, yes of course…” His voice sounded distant, and she shook him roughly.


“Buffy?” His eyes opened, gazing up at her momentarily. There was a worringly unfocused look to his face, and Buffy, frustrated, grabbed his arm. He winced, and she saw the blood on his shoulder.

“Giles, you are the most infuriating person I have ever met. Why didn’t you tell me you were losing that much blood?” She stood up to look around at the graveyard. It was deserted, but her senses told her that this was a very temporary condition. “Come on, Giles!”

“C-coming.” Using a nearby gravestone to drag himself to his feet, Giles gazed around. “I-it’s dark.”

“You’re catching on.” She looked him up and down. “Think you can make it down to the beach to warn the others?”

“Hmm? Oh yes, y-yes, absolutely.” He took a step forwards, and wobbled dangerously. “Er, B-Buffy?”

“Never mind, I’ll do it.” She turned away. “For Heaven’s sake, keep your eyes open. And don’t try anything. If you see a creepy, toothy guy, hide.”

“Ab-absolutely.” He nodded hard, and the Slayer sighed, and hurried away. She could feel the creatures approaching, and the sensation was deeply disturbing. All that power, all that demonic strength and fury. How could the six of them win this time? She reached the beach at last, and saw the others huddled together just above the high-tide mark. They were all still asleep. After the trials of the day so far, she could hardly blame them, but to have gone to sleep at all was unforgivable. How could she have been so stupid?

“Michael, Michael wake up?” He blinked up at her, then saw the dark sky above him and jerked upright.

“Bloody hell. It’s night!”

“Anybody ever tell you you’re dead observant?” Their voices were rousing the others, and soon they were all awake.

“What time is it?” Alan asked sleepily.

“Half eight.” Sam whistled. “We slept through half of the day. Crazy.”

“We have to get back to the graveyard. The vampires are coming.” Buffy began to lead the way back up towards the cemetery. “We don’t have much longer.”

“How can you tell?” Sam, falling into step beside her, looked ridiculously excited by the whole affair, and she smiled involuntarily.

“Cool, isn’t it. It’s a Slayer-genetic-psycho-power thing. Giles is the one to ask. He reads all the books.”

“Wow.” The boy whistled. “I wish I was a Slayer. Except for the, you know, being a girl part.”

“Plays havoc with your social life.” She smiled at his childish enthusiasm and quickened her pace to a near run, concerned about Giles as much as about the approaching vampires. Odd to think, really, that with all his childishness and immaturity, Sam was seven years older than her. The thought made her smile. Time travel was a weird thing.

“Buffy?” Michael, slightly in the lead by virtue of his longer legs, slowed to a halt as they reached the wall surrounding the graveyard. “What’s that noise?”

“Noise?” She frowned, and listened intently. “Sounds like scratching. Uh oh.”

“Uh oh? Uh oh what? What does uh oh mean?” Sounding anxious, Edgar pulled a large cross from out of his belt, gazing around in every direction if expecting an imminent attack.

“It means vampires.” She scowled. “I should have expected this. They’ll be making their approach through some sort of underground tunnel, betcha. There’s probably a network of them beneath the town. Do you know of an underground crypt? Anything in that sort of nature? Vampires go for these totally unpleasant dark places, with no interior decoration and very bad bathroom facilities. I think it’s a sort of undead macho thing.”

“No crypts that I know of.” Michael shrugged. “But we’re not exactly experts. I mean, we see ‘em, we kill ‘em, but we don’t plan and patrol.”

“Yeah, we have, like, lives to live, you know?” Edgar shot her a look which suggested that she was in serious danger of showing herself up as a vampire geek.

“A life. I remember when I used to have one of those.” She sighed. “Giles is allergic to fun, unless it involves dead people.”

“Er, Buffy? I don’t want to interrupt, exactly.” Sam was pointing to a large stone monument. “Take a look over there.”

“Where?” She glanced over the wall. Three vampires were emerging from the square base of the monument, and she caught sight of their eyes glowing a fierce, hot white in the darkness. “Ah ha. Okay, at this point I would be more than happy to take suggestions from anybody. Any plans, theories or ideas of any sort…”

“We should have brought the tanker with us,” Alan muttered.

“Yeah, er, next time tell us that before we abandon it a mile away?” Buffy shook her head. “Anyway, it wouldn’t work here. They’d see us coming, and we’d be dead before you could say ‘Unpleasant flying dead thing.’ And I plan to stay not dead for a while. Not dead has a big plus side.”

“Can’t we just stand in front of the gate and fight them off?” Alan held up a water pistol and a stake in an image of true optimism.

“No. Anything we do has to be finished by midnight. That’s when the gate is most likely due to close, and Giles and I have to get home sometime.”

“So why don’t you go through now, and kill the vamps who get past us?” Edgar grinned. “There won’t be many.”

“No deal. You’d be dead before we’d got through the portal.” Buffy scowled. “We’ve got to come up with something… Something snappy, something hot.”

“Very hot? Like, say, fire?” Sam suddenly seemed to come alive, and his eyes shone. “Fire kills ‘em, right?”

“Yes.” Buffy nodded slowly. “Fire would be good.”

“We can’t set fire to the graveyard!” Michael sounded incensed, but Edgar gave him a disparaging look.

“Yeah, like the dead people are going to worry. And nobody will know we did it, anyway.”

“I guess…” Michael still sounded doubtful. “Well how are we going to make it work? If we start a fire, they’ll just fly up and avoid it.”

“True.” Buffy sat down on the ground and leant back against the wall. “Starting the fires would be simple. We could box them in easy. Is there something we can do to stop them taking off?”

“A mega-giant bird catching net?” Edgar piped up, rather less than helpfully.

“Oh right, sure. I’ll just pull one out of my special issue Slayer bag, hidden inside my boot.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “There must be something we can use that would drain their strength.”

“You’re the expert,” Alan told her. She nodded.

“Sort of. Actually I kind of like to skip the boring bits. I Slay, Giles is the anorak.”

“You must be able to think of something.” Eager that his idea should not prove to be unworkable, Sam counted off on his fingers. “There’s garlic, right? And Holy water, and crosses…”

“Sunlight, consecrated earth, certain scriptures, passages from sacred texts—any religion’ll do—various Latin chants…” Buffy shrugged. “Sunlight is kind of unobtainable now, though, so we can rule that one out. Anybody speak Latin?” There was a long silence. “That many of you, huh? You make me feel so much better about being completely unLatiny myself.”

“Doesn’t Giles speak it?” Michael asked. “I mean, not wanting to jump to any conclusions or anything, but he strikes me as the kind of guy who would.”

“Giles? Giles and Latin are like… like Giles and creepy stuff. He can’t get enough.” Buffy smirked, thinking of Willow and Xander and the way that they liked to tease the Watcher. “At school, when his class had to translate passages, he used to translate whole books, just to help pass the time. Unfortunately, just in case you hadn’t noticed, Giles is kind of not here at the moment. In that he’s somewhere else. Like in the graveyard, on the other side of a growing flock of vampires.”

“Good point.” Michael peered over the wall, being careful to keep low and out of sight. “Are you sure he’ll be alright?”

“Giles?” Buffy nodded. “He’ll be fine. He understands the limits of his skills. He’s the Watcher, I’m the Slayer.” She scowled. “Now I’m starting to sound like him.”

“We’ve got some Holy water.” Alan held up his water pistol.

“We need more than that, moron.” Edgar shrugged. “I say we build some flame throwers, and go in there like we mean business.”

“And get torn into little, itty-bitty pieces by very angry vampires who don’t like getting their eyebrows singed?” Michael shook his head. “No thanks.”

“I think I can see something.” Gazing over the wall, Sam was frowning in concentration, trying to make out the shapes that he could just see in the distance. “Looks like a group of vamps and… Giles.”

“Giles!” Keeping her anguished yelp to a whisper, Buffy tried to see what Sam was pointing at. “One word. Hide. I thought it was simple enough to understand. Perhaps I should have told him to c-c-conceal him-himself somewhere f-f-f-f-fiendishly clever.” She sighed. “Wait here, I’ll go and see if I can help him.” She began to climb over the wall. “No, hang on. You spread out, and start lighting fires. I’ll get Giles to try some chanting, see if we can keep our friends on the ground.”

“Sure.” Edgar pulled a handful of cigarette lighters from one his numerous pockets, and began to hand them around. “Smoking may be bad for your health, but there are times when it comes in handy.”

Giles leant against the nearest gravestone. He had been sitting on the ground here for what seemed like hours. This was one of those times when he felt that his title should be changed to Waiter, rather than Watcher. He always seemed to be waiting around in dark graveyards for Buffy to finish doing her thing. It was cold now, and for some reason he was terribly tired. He couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong, but the whole world seemed peculiar tonight. Eerily quiet, and filled with dark shadows that he couldn’t place. He was so cold, which didn’t seem at all right. He wasn’t usually this cold, was he? Not since moving to America, where air-conditioning had become a necessary facet of life. Maybe he was getting ill? He should do something, really, to keep warm. No sense in catching hypothermia. He would be no good to Buffy then. He scrabbled around in his pockets, and came up with a box of matches. Necessary candle lighting equipment, just in case the odd ritual was called for. He tried to strike a match, but his hands were shaking, and he seemed to have very little strength left.

From somewhere to his left, a scuffling sound attracted his attention, and he turned towards it. Was that Buffy, finished at last, and come to tell him that it was time to go home? A monument caught his eye, and he squinted towards it. That was where the noises were coming from, but he was confused by it all. He didn’t recognise that monument. How could a giant stone creation like that one appear in Sunnydale cemetery without him noticing it? He would have to ask Buffy about it. Shapes were beginning to emerge from the monument now, and they strode around, wandering about as if looking for something, every so often appearing to sniff the air. Two of them in particular seemed to be heading in his direction. One of them paused, looking directly at the stone beside which Giles was sitting, and spoke to his companion in an unfamiliar voice.

“Fresh blood.”

“Xander, is that you?” Confused, and growing more so by the minute, Giles stood up, frowning through the gloom towards the two figures. “Willow? Have you seen Buffy?”

A throaty laugh answered him, and for a second he thought it was Jenny again, as she had been when she had been possessed by Eyghon. Something is wrong, his senses screamed at him, but he was too confused to pay them any attention. He took another step forward, finally succeeding in lighting the rebellious match, and held the tiny light up to try and get a look at his companions. Wild eyes looked back at him, and the soft glow picked out the long, pointed teeth that he did so not want to see.

“Er… um…” Backing away slightly, Giles transferred the match to his other hand, trying to reach for his cross. He was unaware that he had just put the match into the same hand as the match box. He pulled the cross off from around his neck, and in the same instant let out a startled yelp as the match burnt his fingers. He dropped it, watching in curious detachment as the flame ignited the box, setting off the other matches in a sudden, oddly spectacular flash. The dry grass caught instantly. “Blast. Er…” He backed further away from the vampires, at the same time trying to stamp out the fire. “Damn…”

“Giles!” He heard Buffy, but he could not see her. The sound of her voice seemed to immediately cut through the cobwebs in his mind. “Giles, stop them taking off! Chant something! Quickly!”

“Huh? I er… Oh. Ah, yes.” He turned to the vampires, suddenly aware that there were rather more than two of them after all, and that they all seemed to be heading in his direction. Floods of them, all emerging from that odd monument. One of them, the one he had mistaken for Xander earlier, was rising into the air. Giles stared up at him, his fuzzy brain suddenly kicking into gear. “Er, er, I… Ah! Isaiah, er, Isaiah 66!” He straightened up. “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire…” He was aware, distantly, that the wind was getting up, beginning to fuel the flames before him so that they leapt up higher. The vampires were grabbing their ears, and the one in the air was hovering uncertainly, unable to rise any higher, snarling angrily down at the man on the ground. Giles grinned. He could hear nothing but the growls of the vampires, and the crackling of the flames, but he knew that Buffy was out there somewhere, and he knew that she had a plan of some kind.

“For by the fire and by the sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many…” He heard a scream, and saw the air-bound vampire explode in a ball of flame as the fire reached him, igniting his clothes and his hair.

“Er, er,” he thought hard, desperately trawling through the darkest recesses of his remarkable memory. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord…” Another scream echoed across the graveyard. Giles felt the wind around him grow stronger and more violent as another fire leapt up nearby. He was distantly aware of many fires, bursting up all round, encircling the vampires, and he knew that he had to keep them on the ground, stop them from flying above the flames, to safety elsewhere. He had weakened them, but he wasn’t sure that it was enough.

“Uh…” A thought came to him, and he squared his shoulders, ignoring the howling wind which threatened to lift him off his feet, ignoring the flames which were beginning to come dangerously close, ignoring the pain in his shoulder, and the light-headedness which was still threatening his grip on consciousness.

“In the name of the Lord God our Father…” he heard an anguished howl. “And, er, Jesus Christ…” Another howl. “In the name of Vishnu and the Eight Immortals of the sacred Tao… In all the Holy names of Allah, etcetera, etcetera, I command that you shall not fly!”

There was an almighty scream, as if all the vampires together were unleashing their anguish and their rage. Giles stumbled back, the sheer volume of the cry hitting him like a physical blow. He felt a hand on his arm and whirled around, only to see Buffy standing next to him.

“Come on Giles, we have to move. The whole graveyard is on fire.”

“Yes, yes of course.” He resisted her pull for a second, to stare once more into the flames. The vampires were beginning to catch fire, unable to escape the leaping, dancing flames. He could see them clearly, in the fiery red glow; could see their helpless young faces. He shivered, despite the raging heat.

“Come on, Giles.”

“I-I’m coming.” He took another look back at the dying vampires, and saw a boy and a girl of no more than thirteen, holding hands in the midst of the flames. Their pointed teeth had gone, and they looked human again. For a painful, terrible second, he wanted to go to them, and try to help them to find their way out of the flames, but he knew that he couldn’t. He would be throwing his life away to rescue those who were already lost.

“Giles…” This time he allowed Buffy to lead him away, and they went together down to the beach. Michael and the others were already there, the smoky patches on their clothing showing that they had been responsible for most of the fires.

“Are we all okay?” he asked, his voice breathless, his throat dry from the intense heat back in the graveyard.

“We’re all fine.” Sam’s eyes were shining. “Are they all dead?”

“They soon will be.” Buffy threw herself down on the sand. “Alright, Giles! That was just so totally, totally cool! You’re a genius for starting that fire when you did.”

“Oh, er… yes. The fire.” He smiled. “Well, I, er… I… thought… Well, you know how it is. I-I-I-I… I’m not convincing anybody am I.”

“You dropped a match, huh?” Edgar flashed him a battle-weary grin. “Cool scriptures, though. You’re a pretty handy guy to have around, Giles old man.”

“Er, th-thankyou.” The Watcher glanced down at his watch, and smiled. “It’s only half past ten. We have time to spare, Buffy.”

“Oh no. That doesn’t mean we’ve only beaten the first wave, does it?” Throwing herself down onto the sand, Buffy lay still, as though she never wanted to stand up again. “We’ve killed several thousand vampires in the space of twelve hours. Doesn’t that entitle us to a free set of wine glasses at least?”

“The others won’t come.” Michael sat down beside her, looking oddly sad. “We’ve got the ones that matter, the others will stay here now. They can’t risk the whole colony being destroyed.” He smiled. “That means you can go home.”

“Yeah… Home.” Buffy sat up, leaning against her new friend. “School… Irate parent…” She smiled. “Are you sure the others won’t come?”

“Positive. We’ve got all the kids, and they’re the ones that matter here. Santa Carla is a town where the young rule the old. The older ones are nothing. They’ll regroup, wait for more unsuspecting outsiders to come along, and then start recruiting again. That’s the way it works here.”

“Then we really can go home.” She stood up, coming to a sudden decision. “Come on. Back to the graveyard. We’d better make sure that we haven’t managed to incinerate the gate.”

“I kind of hope you have.” Michael whispered the words, so that only Buffy could hear them, and she smiled up at him. Some luck she had with guys. If they weren’t turning into ancient and long-feared demons, they were unobtainable shadows from the past; inhabitants of some other time zone. Typical.

They reached the graveyard. A huge, black circle marked the centre, the bodies of the vampires gone. All was silent.

“I don’t think anybody in town even noticed.” Sam glanced back towards the pier, where the lights of the merry-go-round were clearly visible.

“Are you surprised?” His brother looked about for Mark Hutten’s grave, finding it unharmed by the smoke.

“Who was he?” Buffy asked, touched by the strange influence this dead teenager had had on her life, even though she had never met him.

“He was a kid I used to know.” Edgar shrugged, as though everybody had a school friend who became a vampire. “When we were little we did everything together. His parents died in a car crash when he was really small, and he was brought up by his grandparents. They were really old. He watched them get ill, and start to fall apart. Strokes, all that sort of thing. Getting weaker and weaker. He was always terrified that it might happen to him one day. He didn’t have a bad bone in him. All he wanted was to be young forever, and not have to get old. He came to us one night, and lost it bad. Couldn’t fight the craving for blood. He tried to kill us, so I killed him.” He scowled, angry with himself for seeming to be soft. “I staked him, right through the heart. We buried him here ourselves. Mike’s grandfather made the stone.”

Buffy nodded. On a sudden impulse, she pulled some blooms from a nearby flower bed, and dropped them onto the grave. “That was so nearly me,” she said with feeling.

“There but for the grace of God.” Giles smiled, and put a hand on her shoulder. “Come on, Buffy, it’s time to go.”

“Already?” She sighed. “Okay, Giles, I’m coming.” She turned to her friends. “Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Buffy.” Sam smiled awkwardly, and Edgar and Alan waved, then left, the pair of them moving as one. She smiled after them, understanding their attitude, and their hostility that they felt towards the world.

“Goodbye Buffy.” Michael hugged her briefly, then stepped back. She could see that he wanted to kiss her, and she felt the same, but didn’t trust herself. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.” For a second she felt a burst of almost unbearable pain, and wanted to run to him, to stay with him until the gate was gone, and this world became hers as well. The she turned away and stepped towards the gravestone. “Ready, Giles?”

“I s-suppose.” He smiled. “I hope your mother is very understanding.”

“Not very, no.” Buffy grinned up at him. “Still want to go back?”

“When did want ever have anything to do with either of our lives, Buffy?” He took her hand. “Come on.” They stepped forwards, and the swirling mists raced out of the future to consume them.

[nextpage title=”Chapter 8″]

Chapter 8

“Ow…” Buffy rolled over, rubbing her head. Why was her bed so hard this morning? She sat up, and looked around. Okay… What was her bedroom doing in the school car park? Or perhaps she should be wondering what the car park was doing in her bedroom.

“Buffy?” It was Giles’ voice, which brought up a whole load of other questions she had no wish to answer.


“Is this my nightmare or yours?”

“Any monkeys wearing trousers?”


“Then it’s yours.” She breathed out. “That’s a relief.” She stood up, her mind clearing as she breathed in the cool, fresh air of the early morning. “Was all that real?”

“You mean Santa Carla?” Giles also stood up. “W-well, I really can’t, er…” He smiled. “Look.” Buffy turned, and saw Willow and Xander hurrying towards them.

“Buffy!” Willow hugged her happily. “You’re alright! We didn’t know what else to do, so we thought we’d wait in the library, and—boy Giles, you look dreadful.”

“Th-thankyou.” He favoured her with a typically vague smile. Buffy smirked.

“Oh he’s fine, except for the extreme-and-bordering-on-fatal blood loss. Hospital, anyone?”

“No. Oh no.” Giles shook his head. “D-don’t you think it might be, be just a little d-d-difficult to explain? And, er, anyway, we have to try, try to explain things to your m-mother.”

“Oh yeah.” Buffy sighed. “That is not going to be easy.”

“Yes it will.” Willow grinned. “We came up with a great story.”

“Yeah. Pulitzer Prize winning stuff.” Xander was grinning as well, which was cause for concern in itself as far as Giles was concerned. Even in his current weakened state he was conscious enough to be wary of one of Xander’s plans.

“We told Buffy’s mother that you’d got a really valuable book just delivered to the library,” Willow said merrily, “and that a gang of thieves kidnapped Buffy to make you hand it over. That’s why we were all in the library the other night. See?”

“Oh no.” Giles sounded anything but happy. Xander, blissfully oblivious to this, carried on with the tale.

“Then we said that you’d gone to find the kidnappers, because they were going to kill Buffy if you told the police anything.” He grinned broadly. “When they see that Buffy is back safe and sound, everyone will think you’re a totally major hero, Giles.”

“Oh no.” Giles sounded even more depressed.

“Er, Giles? I think you’re supposed to sound pleased. Heroes, remember? Big, strong people, looked up to by everyone? Revered, honoured, respected?” Buffy saw the look on the librarian’s face and couldn’t stop a smile. “You’ll love it.”

“I’m going home.” He took an unsteady step forward, and Buffy caught his arm.

“Oh no you’re not. Hospital for you, young man, or there’ll be no supper.”

“Okay…” He took another step forward. “Er, B-Buffy? I, er, I think I’ll just stay here in-instead.” He wobbled dangerously, and collapsed onto the ground.

“Giles?” Xander crouched beside him. “Boy, out like a light. What did you do to him?”

“Except for nearly drinking his blood?” Buffy smiled. “Nothing much.” She checked her Watcher’s pulse, and then smiled fondly down at him. “He’ll be okay, in a day or two.”

“So was it fun?” As they wandered over to the nearest phone box to call for an ambulance, Willow glanced across at Buffy in interest.

“Yeah, kinda. Creepy, bloody… very bloody actually. I’m just sorry that I never got a chance to fly…” She smiled at her friend. “I’ll tell you all about it later. Now let’s get an ambulance before this place is full of kids. I’d hate to have to explain to Cordelia why I’m dressed like a refugee from a war zone. I did think I couldn’t sink any further in her opinion, but…”

“I’m right with you.” Willow grinned. “Reputation first.”

“Have to get my priorities right.”

“Absolutely.” They grinned at each other, linked arms, and hurried on across the car park.

Giles climbed out of the stacks feeling tired. He had a headache. He had read somewhere once that a break from work was supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation, but obviously that only applied to ordinary, sane individuals, living lives that he could only imagine at. He had spent two exhausting days in hospital, worrying about Buffy every minute of the night, and had then returned to work to find that nearly every book seemed to have been put in the wrong place. It was nice to know that he was needed here, but all the same… After numerous hours of hard work, he was getting on top of the situation again. Nearly.


“Mmm?” Giles did not look up. He recognised the voice, sort of, but he could not immediately place it. Too old to be a student, and he was a bit vague about most of the teachers. They came to the library even more rarely than the pupils did.

“Hello?” The voice was more persistent this time, and he glanced towards it. A young man, black hair cut short, and with bright eyes. His battered leather jacket was gone, replaced by a stylish sports shirt. “Hi.”

“Er… h-hello.” Giles stepped forward, smiling broadly. “I, er… should you be here?”

“Probably not. I’d, um, kind of like to avoid seeing Buffy. I just had to make sure that you got home okay. That she’s alright?”

“Buffy is fine. And you?”

“Me?” Michael laughed. “Dead things with big teeth aside, I’m fine.”

“Then you still live in Santa Carla?”

“No. In the next town. The four of us still go there at nights though. We set up a patrol. The vampires didn’t take long to get back up to their old tricks.” He smiled. “I’m afraid we’re not as good at it as you and Buffy are. That whole scriptures thing was always a bit beyond me.”

“Yes. When, when facing vampires, one al-always wishes one had spent more time at Sunday School.” Giles nodded understandingly. “Would, er, would you like some coffee?”

“No thanks. I, er, really should be going.” Michael gestured around at the library. “Nice place you have here.”

“Thankyou.” Giles glanced up at the sound of children’s voices. “Er, better… um…”

“Yes, of course.” Michael strode quickly towards the door. It opened as he reached it, and he stood aside to allow a handful of pupils to enter. He saw Buffy amongst them. He had been waiting for eleven years to get a chance to see if she was alright, and yet here she was not changed at all. He smiled. She was so beautiful. So… seventeen. He glanced back at Giles and waved briefly, but the librarian was already lost in conversation with his friends. Michael left the room. Out there, back in Santa Carla, his own battles were waiting for him. Buffy had other concerns keeping her here.

“Someone you know?” Willow caught sight of Buffy looking at the door.

“Huh? Oh, er, yeah. Someone I knew once.” Buffy caught Giles’ eye, and wondered if there was some law of Time which prohibited her telling her friend the truth.

“Oh, right. Wonder what he was doing here.” Willow grinned. “He’s cute though. Shame he’s not, say… ten years younger.”

“Or that I’m not eleven years older…” Buffy caught Giles’ eye and smiled. “But I’m not, and he’s not, and there’s no issue here at all.”

“Glad to hear it.” Giles smiled. “Got anything planned for tonight, Buffy?”

“Me?” She laughed. “Yeah, sure. I thought I’d go hang out at the graveyard, see if I can kill any perverted creatures of the night. You know the score.”

“Why not take a night off?”

“I beg your pardon? I thought the term ‘night off’ wasn’t in your vocab list.”

“I’ve got some stuff I thought you might like to check out in-instead.”

“Oh right. Background work. Research.” She rolled her eyes. “I think I prefer risking life and limb fighting the undead, actually.”

“I didn’t mean research.” He nodded at a pile on his desk. “You’re welcome to take them away with you, keep them as long as you like.”

Intrigued, Buffy wandered over to the desk. There were half a dozen videos, numerous CDs and a handful of books. She glanced through the titles. 1987; Teenage Culture In The Eighties; America In The Nineteen Eighties. The CDs and videos were along much the same lines. She picked one of the videos up; Thundercats—The Movie. She grinned.

“Thanks Giles.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“Thundercats…? Am I missing something here?” Xander glanced through the pile of CDs. “Am I being, like, totally slow and stupid, or is there some secret Watcher-Slayer subtext thing in play?”

“It’s nothing.” Buffy dumped the pile of books into his arms. “Come on. You can help me carry these home; and if you’re very good, I’ll let you watch Thundercats. Coming Willow?”

“Yes, of course.” Willow picked up the videos and followed Xander from the room. Buffy lingered for a moment, flicking through the CDs. All the classic eighties titles were there.

“Thanks Giles, really. This means a lot.”

“No problem. If it’s any consolation, you would have made a lovely couple.”

“Yeah…” She turned away. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that we’re both too caught up with killing vampires to have any time to spend with each other. And the slight handicap of coming from different time zones.”

“Nobody ever said facing your destiny was going to be easy.”

“Nobody ever said it was gonna be next to impossible, either.” She grinned. “See you tomorrow, Giles.”

“Yes.” He watched her as she left, and wandered to the window to see her walk away with her friends. He knew that Michael was down there somewhere, and that he was watching too; one last look before he went back home to Santa Carla. He had been waiting a long time for that one last look. It all seemed so unfair. Giles smiled to himself. Buffy would be alright. She would get used to all these losses and sacrifices in her life, just as he had had to. Maybe it would take her some time to get over this latest encounter, but she would be okay; because although it might be a hard task master at times, destiny knew what it was doing. It had, at least, given her one person that she could never lose. No matter what happened, Giles would always be there, watching out for her; and, in the end, that would have to be enough.