Xander Inverse the Vampire Spooker

Author: AlanP <alan.p[at]orcon.net.nz>

Summary: Shock! Giles knows what videos are?

Crossover: Bastard!! and Slayers

Disclaimer: I don't own Bastard!!, Slayers or Buffy the Vampire Shagger. Although, if the respective owners want to swap for a couple of CDs that's fine.

Feedback: Yeah, baby!

Pre-fic Comments:

I *hate* plotbunnies.

Don't expect this one to live once I've gotten the original bunny nailed down as bits and bytes.

Chapter 1

Xander wandered into the Library, the home of the one man stand against 'American illiteracy.'

The only way he'd normally enter it was if another crisis had arisen, like when homicidal superpowered vampires had been sent by the local Master. Oh, and also when Buffy was practicing her Slayer moves.

The teenage boy grinned, remembering last time. Gyrating, sweaty teenage Slayerly Buffy...

Then he shook himself. Cold showers... cold showers... Mrs Kerbopple!

Okay, that was better than cold showers. A mental image of his crabby English teacher. He just hoped that Giles could help him.

"Hey, G-man!," Xander yelled once he got through the doors.

"Kindly remember, Xander, that this is a library and deserves a certain measure of respect. Also, do /not/ call me G-man," Giles sighed.

"I'm after a copy of the Cliff Notes for The Crucible? Mrs Kerbopple set an essay for it, eugh, and if I don't get a C at least..."

Giles sighed. "I suppose it was too much to hope you'd come to learn something."

Xander grinned. "All play and no work makes the Xanman Xander! So... Cliff Notes?"

Giles waved a hand towards the 'Fiction' shelves. "The Crucible is over there, under Arthur Miller. While I would rather you read the play, if you really must have the Cliff Notes they're in my office."


Xander made his way into the office. He found the Notes under a spellbook and... a video tape?

"Holy...! Giles, what are YOU doing with a videotape?"

The British watcher blushed slightly. "A colleague sent it to me, as it is a Japanese animation of events recorded in a very old history book."

Xander picked it up, reading the label. Bastard!!, eh?, he thought to himself. Cant be too bad, if someone called it that.

"Mind if I borrow it?," he yelled.

Another sigh. "If you must. I warn you, however, I don't know what is on it as I find myself lacking the drive to bother watching it."

If he knew the G-man... "You don't have a VCR?"

"Er... quite."

Now it was time for Xander to sigh. "We can watch it at Willow's house, if you want. We live in the twentieth century, you know?"

Jeez, didn't Giles realise it was time for him to join the eighteenth century, let alone the twentieth?

Giles pushed his glasses back up his nose, from where they had slipped down. "I suggest you leave to work on your essay, Xander. Before I find work for you."

Xander eeped, sliding the Cliff Notes and the videotape into his bag. The spellbook fell in unnoticed, sandwiched as it was between the Cliff Notes and the videotape.

"Now, if there is nothing else?," Giles asked slyly.

"Ah, no, gotta work on that essay," Xander joked. "Later!"


Xander sat down to the TV, bowl of popcorn on hand. His mum had finished watching Coronation Street, dear old dad had gone to bed (fallen onto the bed, if truth be told) and now the telly was all his. He'd done his essay -- it wasn't A+ material, but he was sure that he'd pass Mrs Kerbopple's standards.

Before he even pushed 'Play', his mum yelled out, "Alexander! Don't you have that up too loud and disturb your father!"

"Okay, Mum," Xander yelled back, placating her.

"And don't yell!"

He pushed 'play'.

"Several hundred years after the fall of human civilization," the narrator began, "it was a lawless period, a time without order. Only blood, flesh, bone and iron. It was also a time of sorcery. Having been terrorised by demonic beings their entire lives, human beings were miserably inadequate and forced to subsist in a foreign, bestial environment."

"This is great," Xander said, munching on the salty goodness. "Giles'd love this -- it's like his Slayer speech on the big, er, tiny screen. Those knights sure are useless, though."

He laughed as the mighty sorcerer, when implored to save the city, flipped the priests and rulers the bird. Hahaha... true, the man was an asshole, but he had style.

"Dammit!," Xander cursed, as a different show started playing once the first episode of Bastard!! finished. He was starting to enjoy it, even with all the heavy metal references.

He philosophically shrugged, and settled down to watch this... Slayers series. Cool. Named after Buffy.


The next morning found Xander at the school library, tape in hand, as soon as Giles arrived.

"Hey, G-man!," Xander greeted him. "Got any more of this 'Slayers' series?"

"I beg your pardon?," Giles asked, cleaning his glasses. "Ah, my colleague that lent me the tape is known as a bit of a hoarder when it comes to Japanese cartoons like the one you're holding."

"Hook me up, yo!"


Xander sighed. He was gonna have to take this slowly. "This stuff is even niftier than Transformers. Ask your friend if I can borrow the rest of this 'Slayers' thing!"

"Alright. While you're here, do you know what happened to the spellbook that was in the same pile as the Cliffs Notes and the video cassette you borrowed?"

"Spellbook?," Xander blinked. He fossicked through his bag, before finding something. "This it?"

The book in question was very old, and had a severe black leather cover, with a flat, misty white gem mounted in the center of the cover. Written in red letters was the title; 'A Primer To The Arts, by Lina Inverse and Naga the White Serpent'.

"Ah, yes," Giles said.

"Is this the same Lina Inverse as on that cartoon?"

"Yesss...," Giles said, trying to figure out where Xander was going with this.

"Cool! Can I borrow it? Thanks!"

Giles sighed, and cleaned his glasses again. "I should have expected that, with the way he got those other magic books out. Although why he'd want to know about pagan rites..."

Chapter 2

A few days later found Xander stomping through the Library doors.

"Hey, G-man! I think there's something wrong," Xander yelled as he wandered into the normally silent library.

"Again, I must ask you to keep your voice down," Giles sighed as he left his office, cleaning his glasses. "This is a library, after all."

Xander dug out the black leather bound spellbook, and brandished it in front of him with both hands. "Half the mojo in this is dead!"

"Er, what?," Giles asked. "Dead... mojo?"

"Kaput, fizzled," Xander expanded. "Doesna work."


"Want me to show you?," Xander offered.

"Er, please," Giles said. This was the first time he'd come across someone describing spells as dead.

Xander's face assumed a pose of concentration as he opened the spellbook. He raised one hand in mid-air, palm up.

"Star which passes through heaven's night skies, heed the ancient coven and the Earth, I pledge my life that he might be called forth! Ferrous Bleed!"

A brilliant arc of white light flashed in the library as Xander pulled his free hand upwards, cloaked in light. As the light faded, Giles waited.

"I-Is something supposed to..."

He went quiet as a flock of birds began tapping on the libraries window with their beaks. Distant doors rattled, as stray cats, dogs, and other animals tried to get to the Library.

"Oh. T-That seemed quite powerful, Xander, so I don't see what the problem is."

"That was to show you that yes, I can do magic," Xander said. "See, I learn stuff from science. This is one of those... you know... control experiments?"

"I see," Giles said, thinking. "That was black magic."

Xander nodded. "Want me to try something else, G-man?"

The British man nodded. Xander turned to another page, and raised his free hand again, palm upwards.

"Light, born from the flame; Gather to my hands and be my power. Lighting!"

A faint ball of light grew above his palm, barely noticeable above the Californian sun. After a minute, it went out.

Xander sighed. "That was with me putting everything into it."

"Oh, dear," Giles sighed. "And the previous one?"

"Hardly anything at all."

"Good Lord... any other spell types?"

"The only harmless Shamanistic spell I can think of offhand?"


Giles watched as Xander muttered something he couldn't make out. His free hand, this time, was outstretched as if holding something.

"Bamu Rod!," Xander shouted at the end of the incantation. A long whip of fire appeared in the teenager's hand. Giles quickly took the spellbook off Xander, before it came into contact with the whip.

"Thanks, G-man," Xander smiled, as he inspected the whip. "Nifty, just the thing for killin' vamps."

"Rather," Giles agreed. "How much power are you using for this?"

"Some," Xander replied. "More than with that first spell, for sure."

"Hmmmmmmm," Giles vocalised as he mentally chewed over the evidence.

"And for those of us who don't speak Librarian, that means....," Xander trailed off.

"I think I know what might be the case," Giles said slowly.

"Don't hold out on me, G-man."

"Most people grow up with equal potential for all types of magic, be it dark or light. They might have equally low or equally high potential, but always even. As they practice magic, their strength in that type of magic grows at the expense of the other types, which typically atrophy due to disuse."

Xander nodded blankly. Hopefully Giles would get to the explanation part soon.

"Now, the Earth's mystical field is not evenly distributed," Giles continued. Xander was kinda half understanding this from the book -- he'd needed a working understanding of magic to even attempt those spells. "Some parts have an abnormally high level of white magic, like cathedrals and so on. Some have abnormal levels of shamanistic magic, like volcanoes, glaciers and so on. The people who grow up surrounded by these energies have a matching set of magical capabilities."

"Uhhhh," Xander began intelligently, "so it's because I grew up on the Hellmouth?"

"Quite," Giles said. In his own case, he had no magic to speak of as his white magic had atrophied during Ripper's reign, and he had voluntarily disposed of his black magic. "I suspect that the only reason that you are capable of shamanistic magic is due to the fact that California exists on top of a fault line -- the power that builds up in faultlines is quite potent."

"Great," Xander slumped. "Just great."

He opened his hand, and the whip of fire burnt itself to nothing as it fell to the floor.

Chapter 3

Xander saw Buffy heading towards the Library, and Willow heading towards Chem. He paused to think upon which girl to follow.

On the one hand, Giles probably had another research session on. Hours of looking at pictures of gory demons and petite Slayer. And free donuts and pizza.

On the other hand, Chem. An hour of mindnumbing boredom, punctuated by Mr Bailey shrieking at him to write down the 'precise account of the reaction, you stupid boy!' True, Willow would be there, but she'd be on Mr Bailey's side, trying to get Xander to study.

What a decision.

"Buffy, I'm not gonna send you out there to die," he heard Giles say as he entered. "Now, you were right. I-I've waded around in these old books for so long, I've forgotten what the real world is like. I-it's time I found out."

"Gonna give them papercuts and staple them to death, G-man?," Xander joked. "Hey Buff, Miz Calendar."

"I'll have you know I was quite a hellraiser in my youth!," Giles protested.

"You're still not going up against the Master," Buffy said flatly.

"It's a good thing I know what's going on and can thus offer my expert opinion," Xander grinned. "Er, what's going on?"

"A prophecy Rupert just found says that Buffy will face the Master today and die in the process," the Computer Studies teacher explained. "Rupert wants to defy the prophecy and face the Master himself."

"Okay," Xander shrugged. "What's the plan?"

"The plan is," Buffy said forcefully, "I go, alone, and I slay."

"That's it?," Xander asked incredulously.

"That's it."

"Has the hair colour gotten to you, Buff?," Xander asked, still stinging from her rejection of him for the Spring Fling. "You don't face down an ancient supervillian with just guts, or he'll show you your guts!"

"I don't see you coming up with a better idea!," the Slayer retorted.

"Sure I do," Xander said. "I go down there, with you killing any incidental vampires we might happen across, and I fireball the Master while he's still trapped like a rat."

"That does seem like a workable plan," Giles said, while cleaning his glasses. He put them on and disappeared into his office.

"It's too dangerous for normal people!," Buffy protested.

Xander raised his right hand. A tongue of flame flickered into life, tinged in black. "Normal people can't do black magic like they can breathe, Buff."

"And you're not getting rid of us," Giles said, as he emerged with a rapier, stakes, and a nasty looking foot long knife.

The Slayer sighed deeply. "Okay."

Xander cheered, throwing his arms in the air. "Goooo Team Slayer!"

"However, there is a slight problem," Giles interrupted.


"Where, precisely, is the Master's lair?"



Angel blinked sleepily at the door, then got up to answer it.

"Oh, Buffy. Nice to see you. Giles." Long pause. "Xander."

Xander moved past Buffy and Angel into his apartment, looking around. "Nice place... not. Deadboy, this place looks like a museum. And do you even sweep the floor here?"

"Buffy, is there a reason that you brought... Xander, of all people to annoy me, here to my lair?," Angel asked, ignoring the teenager looking at his five hundred year old tapestry and mumbling. Probably ways to semi-kill him.

"Funny you should mention lairs," Buffy said conversationally, "because we kinda need to know where the Master's lair is."

"You're way out of your league, Buffy," Angel said, winding up for the refusal. "The Master'll kill you before you even breathe. If you're lucky."

"How can I say this clearly?," Giles asked, from behind Buffy. "You don't have a choice."

"Sure I do," Angel said grumpily. "I kick you all out and lock my door."

"I'm kinda taking that choice away from you, deadboy," Xander said from behind him.

Giles' eyes widened, so Angel decided to turn around to see what had alarmed the normally calm Watcher. What the hell?

"X-Xander?! When the hell did you learn magic, and where did that whip come from?!"

Xander pointed at the door with the handle of the long firey lash. "Move, doggy!"

"Ah... you need to think this through, Xander," Angel said carefully, trying not to set off the hostile teenager threatening the extremely flammable souled vampire.

Xander cracked the whip, intent clear. "Either Buffy goes on her own and dies, as per the prophecy, or we say screw that and all of us go and maybe actually win. Move, deadboy."

Chapter 4

"This way," Angel said quietly, guiding Giles, Xander and Buffy through the tunnels underpinning Sunnydale.

"You were looking at my neck," Xander said flatly. He had dispensed with the firey whip for the time being.

"What?," Buffy asked.

"Angel was checking out my neck! I saw that!"

"No, I wasn't!," the vampire protested.

"Yes, you were!"

"Children, children!," Giles frowned. "Angel, stop eyeing necks. You should have eaten before you left. Buffy, Xander, stop fighting."

"I've just thought of something," Xander said.

"What now?," Buffy asked, getting impatient.

"It'll take me half a minute to do the fireball spell. I need you to distract the Master long enough for me to get the spell off."

"Okay, fine. Angel, you're helping."

The Irish vampire looked back in surprise. "Why, might I ask?"

"The Master is quite old," Giles said, "and Buffy isn't quite capable of overcoming such an ancient fiend."

"Hey!," the Slayer protested.

"Truth hurts," Xander grinned, before getting punched on the arm. "Ow! Hey! Key guy, here!"

"How long until we get there?," Buffy said, changing the subject.

"Not long."

Finally, they reached the subterranean cave.

"Welcome," the Master said. His face was distorted, and ridged all over. Dried blood covered his chin, and was crusted under his fingernails.

"Thanks for having me," Buffy wisecracked.

"Angelus, my dear child, step forward. Thank you for bringing me this treat," the Master smiled.

The Irish vampire changed into game face as anger overcame him. He took a step forwards, before being shoved forwards by Xander.


"You heard the man, er, vamp. Go say hi to your ole grandpappy."

"Y'know, you really oughta talk to your contractor," Buffy joked, as she looked around the decaying cave. "Looks like you've got some serious water damage."

"Oh, good," the Master sneered. "The feeble banter portion of the fight. Why don't we just cut to--"

He stopped talking to catch a crossbow bolt from mid-air. He looked at Angel, deeply hurt. "Ah, you were to have stood on my right hand side, come the day."

"Origin of all power, glittering, burning red flame," Xander chanted, holding his hands as if to hold a basketball in front of himself, "Gather to my hands and be my power."

A red orb gathered between his palms, formed of an energy that was unnatural. The heat was palpable, and yet did not burn his hands.

"Get back, Buffy, Angel!," Giles shouted. The two obediently jumped backwards.

"FIREBALL!," Xander yelled. A beam of fire shot forth from the red orb, landing on a forcefield of some description before losing energy and dissipating.

"Buffy, Angel, get back here!," Giles shouted, pulling a weapon out of his tweed jacket.

Xander frowned deeply, recalling another spell.

The Master lunged for the Slayer, but was driven back as a spray of bullets ripped into his head, exposing bone and brain tissue. He snarled as the flesh regenerated, opponents clearly out of reach.

"Damn you, spellcaster! Damn you to the deepest pits of Hell itself!"

"Got any more bright ideas, Xander?," Angel asked meanly.

"Sure I do," Xander said. "We throw peanuts at him."

Everyone stopped.

"Peanuts?," the Master asked.

"Not really," Xander admitted. "You guys, run down there. This spell might get messy."

"What do you have planned?," Giles asked.

Xander grinned, waving a finger in front of the librarian. "Now that... is a secret."

Giles sighed. "I have faith. Come, Buffy, Angel."

Xander crouched, cupping his hands together. He raised them, then lowered them to his hips.

"Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows."

The Master paled, which is quite impressive on a vampire. "You're not..."

Wind began blowing upwards from below Xander, his hair and shirt beginning to flap wildly.

"Buried in the flow of time..."

The Master started pounding on the barrier trapping him inside the prison. "Stop, you fool!"

"In thy great name, I pledge myself to darkness. All the fools who stand in our way shall be destroyed, by the power you and I possess."

He raised his cupped hands to breast level, elbows out to the side, before moving the cupped hands back to waist level. A ball of red energy formed between them, crackling and throwing off long streamers of power.


He aimed the energy trapped between his palms at the ancient Master. The beam of red power that shot forth burnt through the barrier like a blowtorch through tissue paper, before filling the cavern with roiling fire and power that exploded through the roof of the cave. Rubble fell down where the Master was, and in a ten foot radius.

Xander would be a crispy critter, if the explosive force from the initial blast had not thrown him in a deep pool of water in the cave.

The rubble over the half of the cave away from Xander's pool fell into the cave. Light from above groundlevel shone into the rift, waking up Xander from unconsciousness and possible death by drowning.

"Owwwww...," he said, holding his head in both hands. If his parent's hangovers were evil dwarves with hammers in their skulls, then he had an entire clan or three of the things in his.

"I am not doing that again in a hurry," he whispered.

He heard footsteps as the three Scoobies that had fled returned.

"XANDER! XAAAANDEEEER!," Buffy screamed.

"OOOOOW! QUIET!," Xander shrieked, before flinching and continueing in a whisper. "I've got the mother of all headaches from that.

"Omigod, Xander, how'd your hair go all white?"

Chapter 5

Xander blinked, trying hard to stay awake.

"white hair?," he whispered.

"Uh, Buffy, I believe that Xander is in need of rest and recuperation, before explanations are given," Giles intervened.

The teenage mage grinned at the British watcher before promptly falling asleep.

"Mmmm... twinkies..."

Willow sighed as Buffy picked up Xander. "Yep, that's Xander."


Xander turned over, pulling the blanket with him. That was strange... normally it was his alarmclock waking him up, rather than sunlight. Either he'd pissed off the old lady, or he'd been really tired when he got home.

He rolled over the other way and fell onto hard linoleum. This woke him up the rest of the way quite well.

"What am I? Who am I? Where am I?," Xander asked, trying to extricate himself from the all encompassing blanket of doom.

"Easy there, Sauron," he heard Buffy say as she pulled the blanket off him. "You're human, Xander, and at the Library."


"Yeah, it's pretty 'Oh' worthy," Willow smiled. "I'm so glad you're okay, Xander! Your hair isn't quite so white any more, and Giles says that you should be okay--"

Xander got up, putting a finger to Willow's lips to silence her. "Easy there, Wills."

His stomach rumbled loudly. He blushed in embarassment.

"That's a new record, even for you Xander," Willow said.

Xander's eyebrows furrowed a moment. "What about when I was seven, at your birthday party at Burger King?"


"You sure?"



His stomach rumbled again. "I need foooood..."

He looked around. He was on a sofa in the Library, near the card catalogue. The door to Giles' office opened, showing the man himself.

"Ah, Xander," Giles greeted him. "I expected you'd wake rather hungry, so..."

The Watcher handed him a box of sandwiches. Xander grinned up at him thankfully. "Giles, you're a lifesaver!"

Not much was heard from him for awhile.

"Okay, that beats Mum's famous Takeout Recipe hands down," he grinned. "So... Master gone the way of the dodo?"

Giles nodded. "Quite. Avoid the Library floor, if you can, as it turned out that the Hellmouth and the Master was directly under it."


Memory came back to Xander, of a collapsed cave with sunlight coming from above the earth.


He smiled sheepishly. Man, he was gonna cop hell.

"Er, that's alright," Giles said. "For some insane reason, Principal Snyder accepted my somewhat flimsy excuse of a gas leak."

"You've gotta be kidding," Xander blinked. "No one's that gullible."

Giles raised an eyebrow wordlessly.

"Okay, Sunnydale Denial in action. Gotcha."

"My Mum wants to see you, Xander," Buffy said. "She heard that you got caught up in the gas explosion, and she's worried about you."

"Cool! Can I stop over for tea?"

"Sure," Buffy said. She looked over at Willow. "You could come, and we could make a sleepover of it. Ah.... Sorry, Giles, but you're like way too old for it."

Xander waved that away expansively. "He was in on saving the world. He can stay for the pre-sleep videos and munchies."

"How exceedingly generous of you," Giles said. "I believe that it's currently three in the afternoon, so you may wish to ring and inform your mother now."

"It's THREE IN THE AFTERNOON?!," Xander yelled. "How the heck did I sleep that long?!"

"Dragon Slaves are amongst, if not the most powerful black magic spell in existance," Giles said dryly. "Considering that you are still beginning, and that it was your first attempt, you're lucky that you have not remained comatose longer."

"When you put it that way..."

"Life doesn't get much better," Willow commented. "We've saved the world, and now we get summer vacay as pay."

"Ah... about that," Buffy said nervously, "I'm going to Los Angeles for a few months, to spend time with my dad."

"You can't!," Giles protested. "What about the Hellmouth?"

"It'll be fiiine," Buffy soothed. "You've got Black Magic Sauron here, Wicca Girl there, and they've got a Watcher. You'll be fine."

Xander frowned thoughtfully. "Buff, why're you calling me Sauron?!"

The Slayer shrugged. "Isn't he the bad guy in that Peter Jackson movie? You know, the black mojo dude?"

"If he got a clue and his underlings got a sense of style, I'd be all for it," Xander said. "But as it is, he's a necromancer and his servants look like they've been dead for centuries."

"He is?," Buffy asked.

"Sure is," Willow said. "Everyone's read the Silmarillion, everyone knows."

The Californian blonde shifted nervously, trying to think of a way to argue with Willow without insulting her.

"That's it, isn't it?," Xander realised, having a rare moment of epiphany. "You need a nickname for lil' ole me."

He smirked lecherously at Buffy.

Giles coughed, drawing attention to himself. "Er, given Xander's book and mentors contained therein, might I suggest taking a page from there?"

"Book vandalism? Way to go G-man! We've finally corrupted you!"

"Not that! I meant, given that one of the authors of Xander's manual is 'Lina Inverse the Dragon Spooker', I suggest that you nickname Xander as 'Xander Inverse the Vampire Spooker.'"

The teenagers paused to mull that over.

"I like it," Xander shrugged.

"Xander Inverse it is!," Buffy grinned.

Chapter 6

Xander yawned. He also stretched, then scratched his back lazily.

"Man, never a vamp around when you want 'em, eh Willow?"

"That's a good thing, isn't it? I mean, no bloodsucking fiends," the redhead pointed out.

"But on the other hand, they're always around when they're not wanted," Xander pointed out.

"Maybe they got a clue and stopped hanging around graveyards," Willow conjectured.

"Wanna walk around town, then?," the budding mage asked.

"Sure! I think we should check at the Bronze, because after all vampires like to lure people out to the back alley there and--"

"Gotcha, Wills."

"Say, that bar Giles mentioned?"

"What?," Xander asked, trying to remember what the Watcher had said. "Uh... Willy's Excuse?"

"Willy's Alibi," Willow sighed. "He serves vampires and demons. Maybe he knows where they've all gotten to."

The teenager got up off the tombstone, then shoved his stake in his back pocket.

"Sounds good to me!"


The short, rat-like bartender looked up as a shadow eclipsed the light just outside the door.

"Listen, Mr German Citizen Demon, I don't care who you are, you ain't allowed back..."

His voice trailed off as he recognised the two figures coming in. Normally, he'd warn them off with liquor laws, or leave them for his clientele, but the first one was more likely to trash the place.

"Hiya, Willy," Xander said, a grin sprouting on his face.

"What can I do fer ya, Mr Inverse?," Willy asked nervously.

"Wow, Wills, he remembers my name after only one visit," Xander joked. "You really do care."

Willy pulled his collar away from a neck that was suddenly way too hot, as he tried to think of a gracious way out that wouldn't involve great amounts of financial or reputational pain. He decided to try for humour -- the kid was known for his bad jokes.

"Hard to forget a fireball like yours," he said weakly.

"Thanks," Xander said, looking genuinely pleased. "Before we get down to business, I need to pick up a bottle of Smirnoff for the olds."

"One bottle of eighty proof, comin' up," Willy said. He decided to be extra nice to Xander, in the hope that he wouldn't cast any more fireballs. Fire and alcohol soaked wood don't really mix. "Ten per cent discount if you don't do no more fireballs?"

"Sure," Xander said easily, handing over the cash. He had plenty of other spells. "Hate the stuff, myself, after what it's done for my life."

"Can't say I blame ya, kid," Willy said, gaining confidence. All the town had heard of Tony Harris, the town drunk. He wasn't surprised that the kid had been scared straight, living with that guy.

"Now," Xander continued, putting away the clear glass bottle. "There isn't really many vampires around at all these days. None in the cemetaries, none at the Bronze. Any idea why?"

"Funny you should say that," Willy smiled nervously. "See, it's summertime, so they normally migrate to less sunny climes at this time of year."

Xander's eyes narrowed. Willy was way too nervous for that to be the only reason. "What's the other reason?"

"You sure you want to know?"

"I'm positive."

"Uh... a Ralb demon was lurking in the Master's lair when you blew him up."

"What's a Ralb demon?," Willow asked. She'd never heard of that species, and hadn't spotted them in Giles' bestiaries. Well, not that she could remember them that clearly.

"Tiny little things, kinda like rats. They're pathologically honest, which don't do them any real favours. Most of them hang around stronger demons, like Tommy was with the Master, doing spywork in exchange for protection."

Xander's mouth opened and closed a few times. "I'm freaking famous?"

This was so cool, kinda like the Shadow.

"Give it time kid, it'll get old soon," Willy said. "'Specially once all the hotshots wanta make their names famous killin' you."

Xander sighed deeply. "It'll save me the trouble of looking for them, I guess. Thanks for the info, Willy."

"No problems, kid," Willy said, picking up a dirty glass and tea towel nervously. "Any chances of renumeration?"

Xander smiled. "You're just a man trying to make a living, Willy, so here's that ten percent you left me. The moment I hear that you're encouraging them, or killing people for their blood..."

He trailed off, letting Willy come up with a worse punishment than he could.

"Bye," Willow waved.

As the two walked to the door, a tall, green haired vampire got in their way.

"I don't think I like two bloodbags coming in our bar. And you can't fight back -- you promised Willy."

Willow pulled out her cross, holding it in front of her.

"You're right," Xander shrugged. "Demona Crystal!"

A thick blizzard of fog shot from his hand to the vampire, winding itself around him before solidifying into diamond hard ice. Xander casually pushed the trapped vampire onto it's side, stepping over it.

"Unless you know a good mage, Willy, he's trapped," Xander said. "Look, Ma, no fire!"

Willy wiped the sweat from his neck and brow as he gestured for a bouncer demon to remove the crystal-trapped vampire.

Chapter 7

Xander licked his icecream as he and Willow walked to their respective homes. Mmmm... hokey pokey... They were playing a game of 'Name that movie!'

"I, alright, okay, uh...," Willow stalled, before thinking of a quote. "'In the few hours that we had together, we loved a lifetime's worth.'"

"Terminator!," Xander grinned.

"Good! Great," Willow smiled, thinking to herself that it wasn't so good if he guessed so darn quickly.

"Uh, oh, okay, I got one," Xander said, about to reciprocate. "I am invincible!"

"Goldeneye," said Willow. "Okay, good. Me. Uh..."


"I'm thinking. 'Use the Force, Luke.'"

Xander groaned audibly. "Do I even have to dignify that with a guess?"

"I couldn't think of anything!," Willow protested. "It's a dumb game anyway."

Sure it is, when you're losing, Xander thought to himself.

"Well, what else do you wanna do? We already played paper, rock, scissors. My hand cramped up."

"Well, yes, if you're always scissors of course your tendons are gonna strain," Willow pointed out.

"Y'know, I just gotta say that this has been the most boring summer ever," Xander complained. "I've even been learning on my own to fill in the boredom."

Willow gave him a knowing look. "Is this learning on the school syllabus?"

"Uh... which school are we talking about?"

"Busted, mister. You've been learning those spells again just to see the vampires run in terror, havencha?"

Xander scratched the back of his head nervously. "It's a good feeling! Like gangsters running from Superman."

"Uh huh. Say, could you teach me any of that stuff? Could come in handy, us living on a Hellmouth and all."

Xander grinned at Willow. "Sure thing, I'll loan you that book. Man, I can't wait until school starts up again."

"Yeah, and that wouldn't have anything to do with a certain girl we both know as the Vampire Slayer?," Willow teased.

"Please, I'm so over her," Xander Cordelia'd. He then reverted back to his normal self. "Did she, uh, mention when she might be getting back? About which I do not care."

"I haven't heard from her," Willow shrugged. The lack of communication had her worried, slightly. "I got a couple postcards from when she got to LA, but then, like, nothing."

"Well, she's probably off with her dad, having a good time," Xander said resentfully. He formed a ball of energy in his palm, playing catch with it while he resumed eating the neglected icecream.

"And you don't care?," Willow asked. She honestly wasn't sure which guy she preferred for Buffy -- Angel, with the whole gothic image, or Xander, good guy and mage extraordinaire.

"Well, okay, there might be a certain interest," allowed Xander. "I'm a man. I have certain desires, certain needs..."

"Uhhh! I don't wanna know!" Too much information!

"I got a movie for ya," Xander grinned. He dotted Willow's nose with his icecream. "Klaatu, baratu, *cough*-tu."

"Uhhh...Army of Darkness. Now my nose is cold."

Xander leant in and licked the cold, sugary confectionary off his friend. "Let me get that for ya."

"Xander!," Willow protested, pushing him away.

"I'm sorry, I can't help myself," Xander smiled.

He slowly wiped her nose clean with the paper napkin he'd gotten with the icecream, taking his time. Xander drew his hand along her cheek, before moving in for a kiss as Willow tilted her head up.

To heck with Buffy. She could have Angel.

Xander paused. A slight frown crossed his face as he looked to the side. A complaint grew in Willow's throat, only to be throttled back as she saw what had stopped him.

A vampire. Great.

"Willow, go!," Xander commanded, stepping between her and the undead. "Demona Crystal!"

As the blizzard of fog shot from his hands, encompassing the vampire in a snowy fog, a slim hand gripped the vampire by the shoulder. The solidifying Demona Crystal formed around the vampire, and also around the Slayer that had nabbed it.


"Xander Harris!," Willow scolded. "You just froze Buffy!"

"It was a mistake," Xander muttered. "Uh... get back while I dissolve this."

He stepped around the frozen Slayer and Vampire, putting his hands on Buffy's back. Closing his eyes and concentrating, a black aura flowed over the Slayer, melting the crystal trapping her.

"Yeesh, I gotta stop saving you guys if this is the thanks I get," Buffy half-smiled.

Xander hugged her. "Buff! Sorry about the spell, uh, just as well I didn't use a fireball then."

"Buffy!," Willow yelled, hugging the Slayer too. "Your timing so does not suck!"

Xander snapped a tree branch off, handing it to Buffy. "Here, I'll melt the crystal around this sucker's back then you stake it."

Buffy complied, leaving a strange sculpture standing in the middle of Sunnydale. "Wow, that was easy. I should take you on patrol with me."

"Nah," Xander said. "That spell is quick, but it takes a bit out of me. Shamanism, not the black stuff."

"Why do you think that vamp tried to jump you?," Willow asked Xander. "Don't they normally run?"

"Run?," Buffy asked, looking Xander up and down. "Did the collective undead catch a clue that I'll see them in sunlight before I let them hurt you?"

"Nah," Xander grinned. "They just learnt 'bout what I did to the Master. Apparently he had a supernatural spycam on legs in there. So now I'm infamous, kinda cool."

"If anyone asks, I'm still alpha," Buffy said, a note of uncertainty in her voice.

"Sure thing," Xander smiled, hugging her again. "I'm your handsome fellow fighter for love and peace."

Chapter 8

The next morning found Willow and Xander greeting the day with new enthusiasm. It was a new year! A year where they would blitz their classes, whoop ass, and have fun!

As they meandered into school, they spotted Giles and Miss Calendar, talking. Snyder was far away enough that they felt comfortable in greeting Giles as they always did.

"Giles!," Willow yelled. He'd be happy that Buffy was back.

"G-man! Whazzup?," Xander grinned irreverently, hoping to embarass the Brit in front of his girlfriend.

"Nice to see you," Giles reciprocated. He hoped that the three had had a good vacation. "And don't ever call me that."

Xander's grin widened -- now he had something that he knew Giles would respond to.

"Hi, kids," Miss Calendar greeted.

"Hi!," Willow said. Miss Calendar was one of her favourite teachers -- she taught computers, wasn't a hundred years old, and had a great 'tude.

Buffy came up behind them, and was greeted by Giles with "How are you?"

"Live and kicking," Buffy said, understating the matter.

"Buffy and Xander killed a vampire last night," Willow interjected.

The others winced at her volume, and looked around to see if any of the students or teachers had heard her.

"Uh, I think you can get a little more volume if you speak from the diaphragm," Buffy instructed Willow.


"We've got vampires?," the computer teacher asked. "I thought the Hellmouth was closed."

"Well, it's it's closed but not gone," Giles explained. "The mystical energy that emanates from it is still concentrated in this area."

"Which means we're still the undead's favourite party town," Xander observed. "More targets!"

Giles took off his glasses and started cleaning them. "Ah, Xander, please refrain from damaging the town any more than it has been already. I wonder if they're here for any purpose, specifically?"

"You're the Watcher," Buffy teased. "I just work here."

"But you work so well," Xander grinned.

"Y-Yes, I must consult my books," Giles decided, about to hurry off.

"Oh, eight minutes and thirty eight seconds! Pay up!," Xander smirked, as Willow handed him a dollar. He explained this to the others. "I called ten minutes before you'd consult your books about something. Thanks, Willow."

The bell rang, indicating that all good ickle students should scurry off to their classie-wassies.

"We better get to class," Willow commented, good student that she was.

"Oh, uh, Buffy!," Giles called out as the three started to move off. "I realise that you've only just returned, but when you're ready I think that we should resume your training."

"I'm ready," Buffy replied. "I'll see you after school."

"Well, I understand, i-if you want a few days to...," Giles trailed off.

"I'm ready," the Slayer said, annoyed. She wasn't weak, and she refused to appear weak. To anyone. She still felt she had to prove herself, that she was the top of the food chain in Sunnydale.

"Sweetage! Hot Slayer action after school!," Xander cheered, always ready to see girls bouncing around, whether they be cheerleaders or slayers.


The night after, Willow and Xander decided to go Bronzing. This lack of vampires was dead boring, and Xander had decided he needed a night of mindless self indulgence to make up for all the graveyard shifts he'd been pulling with Buffy over the last two nights. A live band was playing that night, a New Zealand band called 'The Feelers'. They were currently beginning a song called 'Friend'.

"I just think something's up, is all," Willow said to Xander, having to speak loudly to be heard over the music. She took another bite of her icecream, which was on special tonight.

"Willow, you're paranoid," Xander retorted. He found it hard to believe that Buffy was getting up to mischief.

"Buffy's never acted like this before!," Willow argued. "Ever since she got back she's been... different."

"Buffy's always been different," Xander pointed out.

Willow laid down an ace. "She's never been mean."

'Until now' hung in the air between them.

Xander exhaled noisily, accepting Willow's point. "Any sign of her? She said she was coming."

"No," Willow said. "The band's cool, though."

"Yeah, cool."

Willow deliberately dipped her face into her icecream, leaving a dot of it on her nose. She smiled, trying to get Xander's attention.

This flirting stuff sure was hard.

"You've got something on your nose," Xander pointed out, making no attempt to remove it.

Grrr... men!

Willow wiped the icecream and the smile off her face, as Buffy entered the Bronze, talking briefly to Angel. The band finished their song and started another one -- "Pull The Strings".

"Hey!," Buffy greeted her two friends as she came near them.

"Hi," Willow returned. Xander added a "Hey."

"What's wrong with Angel?," Willow asked. He looked kinda down and annoyed.

"Beats me," Buffy shrugged. Willow had thought Buffy would have a clue after /talking/ to the vampire.

"Lets dance," Buffy said to Xander, pulling him up from his seat by his shirt.

"Ooo-kay," Xander said, not daring to question his good fortune. He'd been having these feelings for Buffy for awhile, now...

The fast, fast music meant that Buffy was moving at a rate that Xander couldn't hope to match, so he danced as best he could. His eyebrows rose into his hairline as she practically made out with him on the dancefloor. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Deadboy developing a jealous look on his face.

"Xander?," Buffy asked. "Did I ever... thank you for saving our lives?"

The innuendo behind her statement was glaringly obvious.

"No...," Xander trailed off, waiting to see what had prompted her change of heart.

"Don't you wish I would?," she asked, as she continued to move quickly, in time with the music.

The short Slayer abruptly broke off, moving away from Xander and leaving him on the dancefloor.

Okay, Xander had no clue what prompted that, but he knew when he was being used. And Buffy was using him to make Deadboy jealous, that was obvious.

He wished that fireballs, demons, and shamanic magic could be used to fix problems like this, too. The budding mage slowly moved back to the table where Willow was staring in disbelief, a troubled expression on his face.

"What the hell was that all about?," Xander asked out loud, Willow listening in. "I think she just used me like an old rag, to make Captain Hairgel go for her."

Chapter 9

Xander and Willow, the next morning, were chillin' with the G-man in the student lounge. The two teenagers watched the aging Englishman try to coax a can of Pepsi from the can machine. Giles' distraction from the machine while he talked with the two probably explained some of his apparently difficulty.

"Possessed?," Giles asked.

"She practically made out with me in public after talking with Deadboy, then dumped my ass like a year old twinkie," Xander groused.

"That's not like Buffy," Willow added. In her experience, Buffy was normally more considerate.

"I'd like to think that she's attracted to me, but if so then she wouldn't run so quick," Xander explained, adding another point of view.

"Well, if she is possessed as you hypothesize, then what might she be possessed by?," Giles asked.

"Aaaa possessing thing!," Willow desperately said.

"Well, that narrows it down," Giles said, voice laced liberally with sarcasm.

"I know of some spells that can possess people, but they kinda have to be corpses first," Xander mused. "Not happening, in other words. Hey, maybe it's something about her Slayerlyness."

"It could be," Willow said doubtfully. "Where does the Slayer power come from, exactly?"

The two turned their heads to Giles, who concentrated on the can machine. He managed to extract a can of Mountain Dew from it, and opened it. Giles winced at the sweetness of the drink, but continued to drain it nonetheless.

"Well, Council records are rather ancient on that account," Giles said, deciding to go for obfuscation.

"Great, unreadable in other words," Willow frowned. "That has to be it, though. There has to be some reason for her acting like a B I T C H."

"Willow, I think we're a little old to be spelling things out," Giles said dryly.

"A bitca?," Xander asked, deliberately mispronouncing the word.

"Yes," Giles said, moving on. "I suggest that the explanation for her behaviour may be something more mundane."

Xander yawned as the bell rang. He foresaw a lecture on psychology, if he wasn't careful.

"She's convinced herself that--," Giles began.

Xander spotted the topic of discussion walking into the student lounge. "Sure, Willow, here's that book."

Giles stopped in confusion, until Xander gestured at Buffy with his eyes. The mage pulled out the Primer, pausing as he handed it to Willow.

"Hey, G-man, could you photocopy this? I mean, I'd like to keep a copy of this while Willow's borrowing it."

"Er, quite," Giles said. He doubted the copyright holders for it were going to come after him with lead pipes. "Good morning, Buffy. Sleep well?"

"Like a rock," Buffy said, dismissing his greeting. "Master's gone."

"Thank you, Miss Queen of Brevity," Xander said, still sore at Buffy.

"The Master," Buffy said, recognising a prompt when she heard one. "I went by his grave last night, and they have a vacancy."

"Good God!," Giles said. He looked quite shocked.

Heck, Xander was surprised he managed to leave so much as bones, after getting hit with a Dragon Slave. Nevermind that they were relatively intact.

"What would someone want with Master bones?," Willow asked.

"A trophy, a horrible conversation piece?," Xander ventured. "A really macabre coffee table?"

"I hope they're not gonna bring suck-face back," Buffy said. "Didn't you say he was history?"

"Buffy, I've never heard of a revivification ritual being successful," Giles said.

"They exist?," Buffy asked. "Gee, thanks for the warning."

"Well, Buffy, Giles did bury him and--," Willow started to explain before being rudely cut off.

"Look, this is Slayer stuff, okay?," Buffy snapped. "Could we just have a little less from the civilians?"

"Okay, I've had enough!," Xander shouted. "Who killed him? Who's been helping your blonde ass?"

They would have quite merrily continued their argument slash fight if Principal Snyder hadn't interrupted, sending the students to class and the librarian to the library.


After school, the three gathered in the library. Xander and Buffy hadn't gotten into a fight, but that was mainly due to Willow staying neutral.

"Alright, alright, I-I-I've got something," Giles said. "It's Latin, so bear with me. Uh, to revive the vampire they need his bones, uh... w-which they have, and, um, the blood... this is very unclear, of the closest person... uh, someone connected to the vampire."

"That would be... who?," Buffy asked. "His last childe, last meal, love of his life, what?"

"Nothing else?," Xander asked.

"Nothing is immediately obvious," Giles hedged.

"Well, is there anything on when the ceremony might take--," Xander began to ask. "Whoa!"

A rock crashing through a window kinda interrupted him, somewhat.

The Slayer caught it easily, unwrapping the note held in place by a bracelet. She read it out loud.

"'Come to the Bronze, or we make her a meal'," Buffy read. She held up the bracelet. "This is Cordelia's."

"What do we do?," Willow asked.

"I go to the Bronze and save the day," Buffy said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"I? What's this I business?," Xander asked. "I thought we covered this when we creamed the Master."

"I'm the Slayer," Buffy blew up. "You're just a two bit wannabe mage who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag!"

Xander was obviously hurt by this, before his face was shuttered. "Fine. Go, then, Lady High Empress Slayer."

"Er, it might be a good idea if someone went with you," Giles attempted to mediate.

"No!," Buffy said before running out the door.

Chapter 10

Willow looked at Giles and Xander in stunned disbelief. "Guys, that note is so a trap. I can't believe that you let her run off alone like that!"

"I did attempt, at least, to convince her to have someone accompany her," Giles defended himself.

"Queen Buffy made it very clear that she doesn't need my help," Xander shrugged. "What about when she told you to shut up, Willow? Who's been helping the G-man do research? You. We forgot that she was Queen C at her old school, I guess."

"Be that as it may," Giles interrupted, "I've found some more on this revivification business."

"But she's walking into a trap," Willow said plaintively. "We have to help her!"

"Like she said, she's the Slayer," Xander said.

"Er, er, the Latin for this passage is translated from Sumerian, and rather badly at that. Closest to the Master actually translates to 'nearest', meaning physically, uh, the person or persons who were with him when... he..."

Giles trailed off as the penny dropped. He, Angel, and Buffy had been running as quickly as possible from the blast radius. Xander had been in the same cavern as the Master when the ancient vampire had been dust-er, skeletonized.

"It is a trap," Giles realised.

Several vampires appeared in the bookcases, all armed with some sort of weapon.

"Just not for her," the librarian finished.

The vampires dogpiled them, hampering Xander who couldn't cast spells at them without harming Giles or Willow. If he cast Demona Crystal at this range, he'd probably get caught in it himself. Panic rose in him, causing him to forget several spells he could have used.

Stupid Slayer, running off like that! Who'd she think she was, Lady Muck or something...


Buffy rushed into the Library, finding it in a dismal state. Several books were lying around, the furniture was in varying states of disrepair, and the large table in the middle was tipped onto its side. She moved over to it as she heard a groan.

"Hey, Buff," Willow said muzzily, staring bleary eyed at the Slayer. "Told ya it was a trap. Vampires."

"Where are the others?," Buffy demanded desperately. She had to rescue them!

"I-I don't know," Willow said shakily. She got up, a hand on the table. "Look, I don't know what your problem is, or why you're playing with Xander's feelings like this, but, but stop it! Because he's my friend, and you shouldn't use people like that to make Angel jealous, and if you'd been nice like you were before that holiday in LA, you would have been here to help us all!"

"We, we just have to think," Buffy stalled, trying to downplay Willow's anger and grief. She needed to keep the redhead as a friend -- she had thought that Willow wouldn't mind what she had done. "Where would they have taken them?"

"If they do any vampirey things to Xander, I'll, I'll," Willow said, trying to think of a suitable punishment that wouldn't hurt Joyce. Joyce was nice, she'd never done anything to Willow and it wasn't her fault that Buffy had... gone astray.

The Slayer turned, looking at the hacker seriously. "Why did they take him and Giles, and not you?"

"Giles said the ritual was, um," Willow explained, trying to recall the Watcher's words. "Close. You know, to Fangface. Uh, when he died. Physically, and Xander was right in the cave and you guys were running through sewers and I, I was in class because duh, school! And--"

"The one who was with the Master when he died," Buffy interrupted, seizing on the pertinent information. "We need to find out where."


Things weren't quite as nice for Xander and Giles. The younger man had awoken with an abominable headache. He would have untied himself, but he was chained, hanging upside down, with his hands firmly tied together. He would have tried to cast a spell to free himself, but he was gagged.

"MFFF MFF MFFFFFFFFF," he attempted to yell.

Looking around desperately, he saw Giles tied up with rope at the side of what looked like a warehouse. The Master's bones were laid out on a bier directly below him, with a vampire who had been a black preacher in life standing at the head of the bier.

"Witness to our Master's wretched demise," the vampire said. He had great stage presence, as he drew a long, wicked looking knife from his robes. "He will breathe his last this night. The blood that pours from his throat will bring NEW LIFE to the old one. We gather for his resurrection. For the dawn of this new hell."

Xander gave a mental cheer as one of the congregation of vampires disappeared in a poof of dust, his colleagues joining him in his state of permanent death. He'd never thought that he'd be happy to see Buffy, after that Captain Hairgel jealousy dance.

The conveyor his feet were tied to started to move with a jerk. He twisted around, to see Deadboy pulling it along to a raised platform. Willow was standing next to the souled vampire. The first thing Willow did when the trussed up Xander reached them was untie the gag.

"Ahhh, it's good to be able to speak again!," Xander gasped. "Hands, Willow?"

"You stay here," Angel commanded. "I'll get Giles."

Willow untied his hands next, before pausing. "Uh, I can't untie your feet, because then you'll land on your head, and that probably wouldn't be too good for you."

"That's okay, Wills," Xander said with a vicious grin. He looked at the sharply delineated shadows thrown on the floor, and at the preacher vampire and Buffy who were currently evenly matched.

Xander gathered his power, which was quite an exercise with all his blood flowing through his head. "DISFANG!"

His shadow, cast on the floor, rippled as several silhouettes of dragons with sharp edges grew out of it. They flew across the floor to the shadows of the vampires, chewing, biting, and ripping at the vampires' shadows.

Buffy and Angel blinked as their opponents started developing missing chunks of flesh, taken by opponents they couldn't see. The victims also started to move more jerkily, making it extremely simple for the Slayer and the souled vampire to dust them.

Giles made his way over to Willow and Xander as the last of the vampires dusted, the shadow dragons vanishing. Xander looked mildly tired.

"Well, wasn't that fun?," the Englishman asked. "Angel, do come over here and untie Xander's feet."

The Irish vampire acceded, lowering the teenager to the ground as Buffy began to systematically bash the Master's bones to dust with a length of timber she'd ripped from the wall.

"I hate this hellhole," Buffy announced.

"With that, I'll agree," Xander said, rubbing circulation back into his feet. He'd just about screamed when they'd touched the ground.

Chapter 11

Xander, while he still wasn't prepared to throw himself at the Slayer and demand sex after what happened at the Bronze, was starting to mellow towards the short blonde after her, Willow, and Angel turned up at that warehouse to save him from being vamp fodder. So when she invited him, Willow, and Giles to the beach during the weekend as a peace offering, he accepted.

"Thanks, Mrs Summers," he grinned as he accepted a biscuit from Buffy's mum. "You make some of the best biscuits I've had for awhile."

"Xander, I'm hurt," Willow's mum said. "All those afternoons and now I learn that you didn't like them after all?"

"Some of the best, I said," Xander gestured expansively with his biscuit. "You and Mrs S are equally best."

"Why, thank you Xander," Joyce smiled. "Go out and help Buffy and Willow in the waterfight -- I think that Rupert and Peter are winning."

"Sure thing," Xander said, finishing his biscuit off.

"Be careful of those people out kayaking!," Joyce called out as Mrs Rosenberg laid down for some sunbathing.

Xander grabbed a bucket from the beach as he went, emptying it of sand. Running through the waves as best he could, he handed it to Buffy. Immediately, she started filling it from the ocean and throwing the salt water at the two older men.

"Traitor!," Giles sputtered.

"Beauty called," Xander smirked. "You're just jealous."

"Age before beauty," Mr Rosenberg called out, right before slipping under the surface and pulling Buffy's ankles so that she fell over, into the salty water.

"No fair!," Willow protested. "Water fight, not hand and fist fight!"

"All's fair in love and war!," Giles retorted. "Which side got themselves a bucket and an extra person?"

"So we conclusively win, then," Buffy smiled, having gotten back up. "Woo! Thanks, Xand!"

"Time for this tired old man to go back in, I think," Giles said, deciding to foot when he was ahead. Or as ahead as he was going to get.

"I'll join ya," Mr Rosenberg said.

"Okay!," Willow said. "I'll stay out here, Dad."

"Right," Mr Rosenberg said, ruffling Willow's hair which provoked a "Hey, dad!"

"I'm going to go swimming," Buffy said. "See how far out I can go."

"Bad idea, Buff," Xander said. "That way lies sharks, driftnets, and people in kayaks who don't really like us."

"I'll be fine," Buffy said, dismissing him. She started out in that direction.

Xander looked at Willow, a devious grin on his face. "Y'know, we haven't determined out of the winning team, which team member is the best."

"That's me, Mister!"

"Yeah? Prove it!"

"Bring it!"

Xander cuppped his hands together, building up his energy. "Aqua Breathe!"


And so another, smaller, waterfight started.


Further out, Buffy had managed to swim out to the people kayaking. Pretty soon, she was wishing she hadn't.

"Oh look, it's the queen of the nerds," Cordelia snapped. "Go back to the shallow end, little girl."

Buffy started to tread water, and flipped Queen C off. "It's a big ocean... guess it isn't big enough to hold your ego, though."

"You heard Cordelia, no hoper!," another Cordette said. "Shoo! Scram!"

A less innocent fight started. Buffy, however, was severely hampered by the fact that she needed to continue to tread water while Cordelia, the Cordettes, and their companions were in canoes.

"OH MY GOD! BUFFY!," Cordelia shrieked as Buffy went limp and slid below the surface of the ocean. "LARRY! OMIGOD, SAVE HER!"

She'd only meant to drive the social reject away, not drown her! Oh God, if she drowned...

The football team member jumped out of his kayak, finding Buffy within a few powerful strokes. It was to her advantage that she was so slim, short, and light, as the jock rapidly swam with her to shore.

"HELP! She drowned!," Larry yelled.

"You what?!," Giles looked horrified.


"Move!," a lifeguard commanded. He began giving CPR to Buffy.

Eventually, she coughed water and began breathing on her own.

"Well, that put a damper on the whole beach thing," Xander said. "I'm for going back to sixteen three oh and watching movies."

"Seconded," Willow said, raising a hand. Buffy smiled weakly.

"Thanks, guys," she said.


In another town, another girl put her fist through a punching bag by accident.

"Wicked cool," she breathed.

Half an hour later, she got a knock on the door.


"Must we watch this?," Giles asked.

"YES!," all the girls and women said firmly, ensconced on the sofa and the two La-Z-Boys.

"Titanic?," Xander asked plaintively. "Please say we can watch something else instead."


"I've got a copy of The Shadow, if you two want to come over to my house," Mr Rosenberg offered.

"Cool! The Shadow! Sure," Xander grinned.

"The what?," Giles asked.

"The Shadow. He's cool, you'll like him."

"Is he anything like those 'League' comics you lent me?"

"Er, kinda."

Chapter 12

Xander was having quite a good day, so far. He hadn't come across any demons, vampires, or irate parents. And he'd gotten back his book of the mojo from Giles last night, who had finished making a 'photostat' copy for Willow. (Xander assumed that Giles had meant to say 'photocopy', but his essential Englishness rendered him incapable of speaking American.)

A shapely hand waved between his eyes and the printed page. Hmm. Not Cordelia's hand.

"'Scuse me, you know where the Librarian dude is?," a female voice asked.

Xander looked up.

The girl looked vastly different to Cordelia -- where the cheerleader was carefully arranged, poised, almost artificially so, this new girl was far more free in appearance and organic. She was dressed in a dark denim pair of jeans, a denim jacket, and a black shirt. Her hair was shoulderlength, her facial features pronounced, as if her eyes gave away a state of perpetual insomnia.

"Giles, the G-man?," Xander asked casually. "And who might this vision be?"

The girl looked at the Primer for a moment. "Wicked weird. You into this shit? I'm Faith."

"I'm Xander. Well, my name's Alexander, but everyone calls me Xander."

"Cool," Faith said. "So. Giles? Librarian?"

"Oh, sure," Xander said. "He's cool, in his dorky British way. This way."

For some reason, Faith found the Primer interesting. "You can do that magic stuff?"

"Sure," Xander said. He easily summoned a small fireball with a quick incantation, long practice at the spell on patrol making it familiar and easy to control. "Look, Ma, no matches!"

Faith found herself laughing for some reason.



They found Giles argueing over pick up lines, of all things, in the Library. Xander gestured to Faith to be quiet while they listened in.

"W-w-w-what I'm proposing is, um... and I-I don't mean to appear indecorous, is, is, um, a, a-a-a social engagement, um, a, a, a, a-a date, if you're amenable," the man stuttered. After a moment, he added, "You idiot!"

"You'll have more luck if you don't call her an idiot," Buffy commented.


"Being called an idiot tends to take people out of the dating mood," Buffy added.

"'kin A," Faith called out as she sauntered into the Library. "You G-man?"

Giles groaned. Both Slayers laughed as he gave Xander an extremely dirty look.

"Don't call me that," he muttered, taking off his glasses and cleaning them.

"Anything you say, G-man," Faith smirked. "I'm Faith, the new Slayer-babe?"

"Hold on," Xander said, holding both hands in the recognised T shape requesting a 'time out'. "Time out. What happened to that 'One girl' stuff, Giles?"

"Er, I can only conjecture that Buffy's drowning had a greater effect on her than we had thought," Giles hedged.

"I died, and you call it a 'greater effect'?," Buffy demanded incredulously.

Xander's face creased slightly. "Why is it that all Slayers are drop-dead beautiful? Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

"Yes, well," Giles interrupted, taking back control of the situation. "How did patrol go last night, Buffy? Did Mr Korshak show up on schedule?"

"More or less," Buffy replied. "Angel and I took care of him."

"Who's Angel?," Faith asked. "Girlfriend of yours?"

"Really old guy vampire," Xander interrupted. "Scourge of Europe, major bad juju in his day."

Buffy gave Xander a dirty look. "He has a soul now!"

"You're going with a vampire?," Faith asked. "B, I thought that the job title was Vampire Slayer, not Layer."

"He's good!," Buffy protested. "A-Anyway, we also found this empty grave last night."

"Another vampire?," Giles asked.

"No. No, this one was dug up, and the body taken out," Buffy said.

"Grave robbing?," Giles asked. "That's new. Interesting."

"I know you meant to say gross and disturbing," Buffy observed.

"I dunno, I've never made it with a corpse," Faith joked.

"I'll introduce you to Deadboy sometime then," Xander said acidly.

"Yeah, right," Faith shuddered. "I have enough problems with the living of the male species, let alone the wicked dead."

"Mmm," Giles said. "Uh, terrible thing. Must put a stop to it."

"What, necrophilia?," Xander chirped. "So. Why does someone want to dig up some graves, beyond the 'sexual deviant' theory?"

"Er, how did we come up with that?," Giles asked.

Everyone looked at him.

"You're the only adult in a room of teenagers," Buffy observed.

"Not strictly speaking," Xander pointed out. "Two teenagers and an infant."

"Don't insult yourself like that, Xan," Buffy said in insincere tones.

"Oh, I meant you," Xander retorted. "Truth hurts, don't it?"

"Children!," Giles reproached them. "Uh, did this corpse have a name?"

"Meredith Todd," Buffy answered. "Ring a bell?"

"Nope," Xander said.

"She died recently. She was our age," Buffy continued.

"Drawin' a blank," Xander said.

"Why don't we ask Willow to, uh, fire this thing up," Giles suggested, gesturing at the computer Miss Calendar had installed, "and, uh, track Meredith down?"

Chapter 13

Buffy left the Library to go fetch the resident hacker, the only one who could work the 'infernal machine'.

"Oh!," Giles said. "Ah, Xander, my colleague has sent more video cassettes for you. Er, these seem to be movies, rather than the episodes that you're used to."

"Movies?," Faith asked. "You're a movie geek, X?"

"Not quite," Xander grinned. "These are good movies. Wanna watch 'em with me tonight?"

"I dunno," Faith said. "Places to go, people to see, autographs to sign... you know how it is."

"I, er, borrowed one of the school televisions and video cassette recorders to watch one of them," Giles said, as if making a grave admission, "and they were quite amusing."

Both teenagers turned around to look at the librarian in surprise.

"Giles, you know how to work a VCR?," Xander asked, stunned.

"Miss Calendar may have watched these tapes as well," Giles admitted. An admission that she'd set the equipment up, in other words.

"For a moment there I thought they were porn, but if Old Faithful likes 'em...," Faith trailed off. "Oh well, maybe they'll still be good."

"Er, has the Council arranged suitable lodgings for you?," Giles asked.

"Some flea pit hotel," the new Slayer shrugged. "No big."

"I would offer you a place to stay, but the proprietries involved..."

"'S cool."

Buffy and Willow returned about now. Willow was quite surprised to see a new face in the Library.

"Hi!," Willow said. "Are you Giles' niece or something? Because we don't really get many visitors here, not that I'm saying that's a bad thing at all, although people really should read more."

"Hah!," Faith snorted. "No way in hell. The name's Faith."

"Oh, okay. I'm Willow. Uh, does she know?"

Giles nodded. "Quite. She's the new Slayer -- it would appear that Buffy's brush with death at the beach was more than a brush."

Willow looked at the new girl. "Cool. Uh, this search shouldn't take long. I'm probably the only girl at school who has the coroner's office bookmarked as a favourite place."

Then Queen C decided to join them. "Hi. Hate to interrupt your little undead playgroup, but I need to ask Willow if she'll help me with my science fair project."

"It's a fruit," Willow said absently, fingers stroking the keyboard.

"What's a fruit?," Xander asked.

"She is," Faith smirked.

"Where did you crawl in from?," Cordelia asked, looking Faith up and down. "My God, could you get any more trailer trash? Girl, you need a new wardrobe, stat!"

"I found it!," Willow yelled to Giles. "Meredith Todd died in a car accident last week."

"I would have asked Chris to help me," Cordelia said, "but that would have brought back too many painful memories of Daryl."

"How was her neck?," Buffy asked. If it was broken, then Meredith probably hadn't been vamped.

"Of course, I have learned to deal with my pain," Cordelia continued.

"Fine, except for being broken."

"Hello!," Cordelia interrupted. "Can we deal with my pain?"

"Oh, did you chip a nail?," Faith asked, with sickly sweetness. "Go back to your fellow cheerleaders, little girl."

"Hey!," Cordelia interrupted. "Just because you have a crappy life doesn't give you the right to take it out on me! God, what did I ever to do you?"

Giles left his office, new cup of tea in hand. He absently patted Cordelia's shoulder in a vague attempt to make her go away. "There, there." He continued walking to the stacks.

"It says that Meredith and two other girls in the car were killed instantly," Willow noted out loud. "They were all on the Fondren High Pep Squad, on the way to a game."

"You know what this means," Buffy said.

"That Fondren might actually beat Sunnydale in the cross-town bodycount competition this year?," Xander joked.

"She wasn't killed by vampires," Buffy said. "Someone dug up her corpse."

"Eww! Why is it that every conversation you people have uses the word 'corpse' in it?," Cordelia complained, face showing distaste.

"Okay, so we got a body snatcher," Xander summarised. "What does that mean?"

"Someone's been reading way too much Lovecraft?," Faith asked. Everyone looked at her. "What, a girl can't read wicked scary books no more?"

"Uh, h-here's what I've come up with," Giles said as he returned from the stacks. "Demons who eat the flesh of the dead to absorb their souls. Or, i-i-it could obviously be a, a voodoo practitioner."

"You mean making a zombie?," Willow asked.

"This mean they're gonna do the doll with nails in it trick next?," Faith asked.

"Uh, multiple zombies most likely," Giles said. "For most traditional purposes a voodoo priest would require more than one."

"So we should see if the other girls from the accident are AWOL," Buffy said. "Maybe we can figure out what this creep has in mind if we know whether or not he's dealing in volume."

"So, we dig up some graves tonight?," Xander asked, voice hinting that he might not want to. His curiousity and sense of morbidity would ensure that he would show, however.

"Oh, boy! A field trip!," Willow joked. "Are you gonna call Angel?"

"I don't think so," Buffy said.

"I thought you were gonna play suckface with the nice ol' vamp," Xander commented.

"Angel and I have been, um," Buffy began, before giving up. "Never mind. As far as Angel's concerned, I'm taking the night off, okay?"

"Trouble in paradise, girlfriend?," Faith smirked.

"Shaddup, Faith, Xander," Buffy grumped.

"So we're set, then?," Xander asked. "Nine-ish? BYO shovel?"

"And I'll pack some food," Willow continued. "Who else likes those little powdered donuts?"

Faith gave the two of them a very strange look. "Uh, I like those creamfilled donuts."


Chapter 14

Faith knocked on the door. She was somewhat nervous -- although she'd never admit to being uneasy. Her disquiet was justified, as a man who could have passed as her dad -- beercan and all -- answered it.

"Whatcha want?," he demanded.

"Xander here?," Faith returned, equally brusque.

"Sure. BOY!"

"Coming, Dad!," Xander yelled from inside. "Mum, I got the TV! Faith, come on in!"

Faith elbowed her way past the dirty man, ambling down to the living room. It wasn't terribly clean, and a small pyramid of empty beer cans and whiskey bottles leant crazily against the far wall. Xander was lounging on the sofa, remote in hand, TV and VCR ready to go.

"Hey, X," Faith greeted him. "Ready to go?"

"Sure," Xander said. "Even got some popcorn -- want some? Grab a seat."

The ex-Bostonite sat on the floor, leaning back against the sofa. She grabbed a double handful worth of popcorn as Xander hit 'play' on the remote.

Faith watched as the movie started with two girls walking down a street. One of them looked to be about fourteen, and had no chest, but the other...

"Who's the purple haired chick?," Faith asked.

"Naga," Xander answered promptly. "Supremely confident in herself et cetera... scary laugh, though."

"Cool. She sure is stacked."

"Faith... you're a girl. Girls aren't supposed to notice the stackedness of other girls."

She rolled her eyes. "X, why restrict yourself to fifty percent?"

They continued to watch as Naga upstaged Lina, as they created golems that fought. Xander laughed out loud as Lina, who had just reached the end of her rather short temper, pulled out her Dragon Slave to win the final match.

"Man, is she grumpy!," Faith grinned. "She needs to get laid!"

"Make sure I show you 'Bastard!!' sometime," Xander said. "You'd get a kick out of that, I think."

"Yow, almost nine o clock!," Xander realised, looking at his watch. "We'd better scoot for the party."

"Party?," Faith wondered. "Kinky, X. Kinky."

"As long as you don't laugh like Naga the White Serpent, that's cool," Xander returned. "Dad! We're going out for a bit!"

"Don't you make no noise when you get back, or I'll tan yer backside!"

He gathered up the videotapes, leaving them in his room before joining Faith at the front door.

"I thought you'd like Lina Inverse, but it looks to me like you've found your Elvis in Naga," Xander observed.

"She's cool, but Naga.. she's like in charge of her destiny," Faith said, a slight tinge of sadness colouring her voice. Faith had had little opportunity to take charge of hers -- first she'd been unable to dig her way out of her societal hole, and then the Council had laid down one suckful, uncool fate of fighting and then dying on her.

"I guess," Xander said. He absently cast 'Balus Rod', forming a whip of light in his hand.

"Which cemetary did she say this shindig was at?," Faith asked.


Xander grunted as he moved another shovelful of dirt, throwing it to one side. This sucked. He couldn't even use any Earth shamanism spells -- if the earth displaced disappeared, they wouldn't be able to fill in the grave afterwards. Stupid graverobbers.

"I couldn't believe Angel," Buffy said to Willow, lounging around like the Queen of Sheba. "He was acting all jealous, and he wouldn't even admit it."

"Jealous of what?," Willow asked.

"Of Xander," Buffy answered, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Because you did that sexy dance with him?"

"Whoa whoa whoa," Faith interrupted, "B slowdanced X?"

"Am I ever gonna live that down?," Buffy said morosely.

"Not now that I've heard about it," Faith smirked. She took another doughnut from Willow's box. "X, you need a hand at all?"

"I'm fine for now," Xander said. He didn't mind doing this, as long as he wasn't taken for granted. "Thanks for asking, though."

"Anyway, he was being totally irrational," Buffy continued to complain.

"Love makes you do the wacky," Willow noted.

"That's the truth," Buffy agreed.

"I think he was being irrational because you were using me to tease him," Xander threw in.

"Oh, I have to hear about this," the new Slayer said.

"Long story short, she used me to make Deadboy jealous," Xander explained. "Danced with me at the Bronze, trying to make out on the dance floor, then publicly ditched me."

"Sounds like love," Faith said sarcastically. "B, you related to that Cordelia chick?"

"Funny story behind that, she was Queen Cordelia at her old school," Xander grunted, throwing another shovelful up.

"Xander!," Willow scolded.

"Sounds to me like you need a real girlfriend," Faith said. "Someone to defend you from all these mean, nasty little Californian girls."

"Wanting the job?," Xander asked, joking. He didn't know who he had feelings for at the moment.

"Could be," Faith said. "You're not too bad on the eyes, and you do that wicked cool black magic."

"Speaking of magic, how are you going with yours, Will?," Xander said, offering peace to Willow.

"Uh, just reading right now," Willow began, "since I don't want to screw up and do something bad or wrong like, uh, like setting our house on fire."

"A laudable goal," Giles said, finally entering the conversation. He looked down the hole. "I think we're there."

"By the way," Willow asked, "are we hoping for a body, or for no body?"

"Call me an optimist, but I'm hoping for a fortune in gold coins," Xander grinned.

"Um, body would mean flesh-eating demon, no body would point towards the, uh, army of zombies thing," Giles explained. "Take your pick, really. Right, then, uh... Go on."

"You're closer," Xander said from the hole that the coffin was in.

"Pathetic much?," Buffy said, exasperated. She climbed down into the hole. "Out."

Xander got out. Buffy opened the casket.

"Empty. Who's the local necrophile?"

Chapter 15

"So, both coffins are empty," Xander said the next morning, wandering to the Library before classes. "That makes three girls signed up for the army of zombies."

"Is it an army if you just have three?," Willow asked.

They entered the library, only to find Angel, with Cordelia clinging to him. Buffy wandered in at the same time as Xander, Willow, and Faith.

"You're back!," Angel greeted Buffy. He didn't look all that happy with her.

"Angel!," Buffy cried happily.

"Xander," Angel said emotionlessly.

"Angel," Xander said, with the same level of neutrality.

"I thought you were taking the night off," Angel said to Buffy.

"I-I was, um, but something came up," Buffy said, looking for an excuse.

"Cordelia told me the truth," Angel accused.

"That's gotta be a first," Xander laughed.

"Hey, could be worse," Faith interrupted. "Princess C could be turning into a necro, just like ol' Queen B."

It was a hard call whether Cordelia was pissed for being demoted to Princess, or whether Buffy was pissed for being called 'Queen'.

"Um, as long as you're here," Giles said, peacemaker, "perhaps you could be of some help. Hmm?"

"We were investigating," Buffy said to Angel. "Someone's been digging up the bodies of dead girls."

"I know," the Irish vampire said. "We found two of them."

"We? You and Princess were necking somewhere?," Faith asked, a smirk on her lips.

"You mean, like two of the three?," Buffy asked, doing her best to ignore the other Slayer.

"I mean like some of them," Angel expanded. "Some of their parts."

"It was horrible," Cordelia wept with crocodile tears. "Angel saved me from an arm. God, there were so many parts, they were everywhere. Why are these terrible things always happening to me?"

"Karma," Xander coughed not so subtly. Faith restrained a laugh to a brief snort.

"So much for our zombie theory," Willow mused. Zombies needed whole people, not bits of them.

"I don't get it," Buffy said. "Why go to all the trouble to dig up three girls only to chop them up and throw them away? It doesn't make any sense. Especially from a time management standpoint."

"Well, what I saw didn't add up to three whole girls," Angel said. "I think they kept some parts."

"And we so don't want to know whether you counted the parts to find that out," Xander shuddered.

"They probably kept the other parts to eat," Willow conjectured.

"Why not throw the parts in a freezer, then?," Faith asked. Everyone looked at her. "What? You never read Silence of the Lambs, or anything by Lovecraft?"

"Why dispose of the remains five miles from the cemetary at a school, of all places?," Giles asked logically.

"Maybe because whoever did it had some business in the neighbourhood. Say, like classes," Buffy said, always ready to believe the worst of her fellow man.

"Oh. Ah."

"This was no hatchet job," the vampire observed. "Whoever made those incisions really knew what they were doing."

"Yes, really," Giles said sarcastically. "What student here is gonna be that well versed in physiology?"

"Well, I can think of five or six guys in the science club. And me," Willow pointed out.

"So, Will, come clean," Xander joked. "Promise to never do it again, and we'll call it a night. He joked!"

"Nah," Faith said, hugging Willow's shoulder. "Red's cool."

"Faith, leave Willow alone," Buffy commanded. "Willow, why don't you get these guys' locker numbers so we can do some checking?"

"No," Cordelia decided peremptorily. "I have to go home now. I have to take a bath and burn my clothes."

"You have to go?," Xander asked, false disappointment dripping from his voice. "Aw, too bad. Keep in touch. Buh-bye."

"I don't wanna go alone. I'm still fragile. Angel, Can you take me?"

"You go, girl!," Faith crowed. "Asking him to take you after the first date!"

Her meaning was clear, and Cordelia would have attacked her if it were not for how it would appear to Angel. So the Queen of Sunnydale High settled for a glare.

"Great! I'll drive?," Cordelia asked, turning around and turning back on the charm.

"How about that? I always pegged him as a one woman vampire," Xander grinned.

"He ain't gettin' this woman, with her wicked sexy bod," Faith said out loud. "Red?"

Willow looked up from the computer, where she was hacking into the school computers to retrieve locker numbers. "Who, me? Uh uh, no Angel-loving here, nope."


A locker search revealed that Chris Epps, brother to the deceased Daryl Epps who had had Cordelia in 'grief', had stuffed his locker with books like 'Grey's Anatomy', 'Mortician's Desk Reference', and 'Robicheaux's Guide To Muscles And Tendons'. Along with the clincher -- a newspaper clipping about the deaths of the three girls.

Almost as unsettling was the new English teacher. He was tall, stick thin, had dry skin, and his long ponytailed hair was purple in colour. His three piece suit was brown silk. The creepiest part was his eyes -- they were gone. All that was there were blackened sockets. Xander would've thought that Snyder would have demanded that the new teacher -- a Mr Cash -- wear sunglasses. He'd stated no relation to the singer. The man had a memory to be respected -- he'd just taught a lesson about the themes in The Crucible, in detail -- from memory. Heck, he'd even quoted passages. Despite being very obviously blind, Mr Cash had no problems knowing what the students were up to, or which one had their hand up.

Somehow, Xander just knew that this guy would be involved in Hellmouthy stuff within a week.

Chapter 16

The next day at school, Xander staked out the balcony with Buffy and Willow. Faith was basking in the sun just below the balcony, listening while the other three talked.

"Any sign of our suspects?," Xander asked. "I'm getting an itchy... fireball hand?"

That was the problem with using magic, rather than good oldfashioned shootin' irons. You could try and use the same cliches, but they just didn't sound right.

"Not yet," the senior Slayer said. "I don't get it. Why would anybody wanna make a girl?"

"You mean when there's so many pre-made ones just laying around?," Xander asked, looking down at Faith. The look was not lost on any of the three girls. "The things we do for love."

"Love has nothing to do with this," Buffy acidly disagreed. "And stop staring at Faith."

"Who's having to resort to dead guys?," Faith asked lazily, drawing a brief snarl from Buffy.

Willow looked between them worriedly. "Uh, guys, and guyesses, whichever you may or may not be, uh, can't we just get on?"

"Maybe not, but I'll tell you this," Xander began, "people don't fall in love with what's right in front of them. People want the dream. What they can't have. The more unattainable, the more attractive."

"The whole Garden of Eden thing?," Faith asked.


"And for Eric the unattainable would include everyone," Willow commented meanly. Buried resentment from years of coming second place at the science fair bubbled to the surface. "That's alive."

The two girls on the balcony got up from the railing to leave for class.

"Uh, Eric's sick enough to do something like this, but what about Chris?," Buffy asked. While somewhat a pessimist, she wanted to believe that it wasn't all bad. "He seems like a human person."

Xander got up to follow them, as Faith jumped up a storey to the balcony to join them.

"I dunno," Willow thought out loud. "That thing with his brother was really hard on him. And he talked about death a lot. Maybe he just wanted to get one-up on it."

"Say hello to Doc Frankenstein and Igor," Faith joked. Willow smiled at her quip.

"But it's not doable," Buffy protested. "I mean, making someone from scraps, actually making them live."

"If it is, my science project's definitely coming in second this year," Willow said, trying another joke. Xander grinned at this.

"And speaking of love...," Xander trailed off as Giles approached their general direction, obviously distracted by the also approaching Miss Jenny Calendar.

"We were talking about the re-animation of dead tissue," Willow said, puzzled.

"Do I deconstruct your segues?," the mage grumbled.

"Hey," Buffy said to Giles.

"Oh! Yes. Hello," the not-entirely-with-it Watcher said.

"Still no sign of our mad doctors?," Buffy asked.

"What? Oh! Uh, corpses, yes. Evil. Huh. Very good," Giles mumbled as he watched the female teacher. Very, very good."

"Okay, Giles, just remember, 'I feel a thing, you feel a thing...' But personalize it," the Californian Slayer instructed.

"Personalize it?," Giles asked, puzzled.

"She's a technopagan, right? Ask her to bless your laptop. Have fun."

"What? Oh! Don't...," Giles began, slowing as the group left.

"Best of luck," Xander said, obediently following Willow.


"Later, loverboy," Faith smirked, sauntering off to the Library.

"Good morning, Rupert," Miss Calendar said in passing.

"Uh, Ms. Calendar?"


In the science classroom, the frantic hacker was paging hurriedly through an advanced biology textbook -- the thing was of postgrad level, at least.

"I still don't get how Chris could do it. I mean, arresting the cell deterioration is one thing, but," she began, before being interrupted.

"Hello!," Xander squeaked, holding up a head preserved in a large glass jar. "I wanna get ahead."

The hacker decided to manfully (womanfully?) ignore the joker. "Maybe an electrical current combined with an adrenaline boost."

"For the love of God, can somebody scratch my nose?"

"Well, it's official. Chris and Eric didn't come to school today," Buffy said as she entered the room to join the two.

"That's no coincidence," Xander pointed out.

"Maybe they finished their project," Willow theorised.

"God! What if it worked? What, what if that poor girl is walking around?," Buffy said. "Worse still, what if she looks like Faith?"

Faith might be a Slayer, but she was trying to take Xander from Buffy. And Buffy didn't let anyone take anything of hers before she was good and ready to throw it away.

"I can think of worse things than a girl looking like Faith," Xander grinned widely. "A lot of worse things. Like looking like Cordelia, or Harmony, or Amy."

"What could Living Dead Girl be thinking?," Buffy asked, continueing her morbid panic attack.

"And what are they gonna do with her?," Willow asked. A thousand perverted situations flitted through her mind.

"I don't think we need to worry about that just yet," Giles said, entering the classroom with Faith in tow. "I spoke to a press person this morning about the remains. The police have finished sorting through them, and apparently they found three heads in the dumpster."

"They only had three girls," Buffy said, thinking of the three that were killed in the car accident. In Sunnydale, they would probably be the only non-vampirised corpses.


"So, they don't have the whole, uh, package?," Willow asked, wanting confirmation.

"Heads must be no good. Huh. I found 'em attractive enough," Xander shrugged. "Well, obviously I'm not as sick as Chris and Eric."

"Based on what the police have put together, I would say they're one step short of completing their masterpiece," Giles mused.

"One step," Willow repeated.

"No, one head," Xander corrected, ducking as Willow threw the biology textbook at him.

Chapter 17

Later in the Library, the team assembled for a final discussion to decide exactly how to handle the situation.

"I checked the obits," Willow reported. "Nothing that would make for a likely candidate."

"They seem kinda picky for guys who had three heads to begin with," Xander observed.

"Formaldehyde," Willow said simply.

"Formaldehyde," Giles repeated, searching his memory. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, of course, it accelerates neural decay in the brain cells."

"After a couple days they're useless," Willow continued. "They're gonna need something really fresh."

"We're talking alive half a second ago fresh?," Faith asked.

"As fresh as possible," Willow confirmed. "You don't think that they would..."

"I think anybody who cuts dead girls into little pieces does not get the benefit of any doubt," Buffy said, making her position clear. "I wanna end this thing now."

"I second that," Giles spoke up.

"Okay, fine. You guys go to Eric's, we can go to Chris', and meet up," Buffy commanded.

"Oh!," Giles exclaimed. "I'm supposed to be at the big game, I-I believe it's called."

"Woo, work it G-man," Faith smirked. "How're you planning on getting into her pants tonight?"

"Faith!," Giles sputtered.

"Fine," Buffy frowned. "Go ahead. We'll take care of this."

"Well, yes, but shouldn't I, I-I, um...," Giles began.

"Okay, then why don't, uh, we all meet there?," the Californian Slayer tried.

"Fine. Yes," Giles said.

"Buffy? Don't be too hard on Chris. I mean, he's not a vampire," Willow asked.

"No. He's just a ghoul," Buffy said coldly.

"If you don't turn up, you'd better have a good excuse," Faith sang out as the teenagers left. "Like getting into Miz C's panties!"

The librarian actually blushed at this.

"Faith, you wanna come with me?," Xander asked the girl. "Willow..."

The redhead looked very worried. "Uh, Xander, what if they decide they do want a fresh head? What if they decide they want my head? What if--"

Xander silenced her with his index finger. "You'd better check that all the Cordettes are at the big game tonight."

"Why would anyone want one of their heads?," Faith asked.

"Simple," Xander said. "They're seen in school as desirable, beautiful."

"O-Okay," Willow said. "You don't think that Chris is after my head, though, do you?"

"Nope, you're too smart for him."



Xander knocked on the door to Chris's buddy Eric's house. A horse-faced woman answered the door.

"What can I do for you?," the woman asked.

"Hey," Xander said. "We're friends of Erics, we're just after him?"

"Sorry, he ain't here," the woman grunted.

"Bummer," Faith frowned. "Can we check his room? He borrowed a magazine from me, and I kinda need it back."

"Sure," the woman shrugged. "This way."

Faith's mouth dropped open when they got in his room. "My God... how many porno's does this--Eric have?"

"Impressive," Xander allowed. "As is his computer. Doesn't look like there's a copy of your Babylon 5 fan mag, though."

"Anything else," the woman laconically asked.

"Nah, we're good," Faith answered. "We'll try to catch him another time."

As the two began walking back to school, Faith smirked at Xander. "So, X, you get any... ideas... from those magazines?"

"I'm a teenage male," Xander groaned, "and I've got a totally hot Slayer talking to me about porno. What do you think?"

Faith's smirk grew at this. "Hey, you get that Evil Dead 2 tape?"

"Sure," Xander grinned. "I also got something called Neon Generic Evangeliser, or something, from Giles' buddy."


They found Giles sitting with Miss Calendar on the bleachers at the American football game. Willow arrived at the same time.

"No!," Giles laughed to Miss Calendar. "I just think it's rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby."

"Is this your normal strategy for a first date?," the computer teacher demanded. "Dissing my country's national pastime?"

"Did you just say 'date'?," Giles asked, confused.

"You noticed that, huh?," Miss C asked, her manner implying 'wow, nothing gets past you, eh?'

"Hi, Ms. Calendar! Hi, Giles," Willow said. "Hey Xan, Faith."

"Hi," Faith said, echoed a moment later by Xander.

"Hey, guys. What's up?," Jenny smiled.

"E-E-Eric was trying to abduct Cordelia!," Willow got out. "He had a bag over her head and everything!"

"Yeah?," Faith asked. "How'd you stop him?"

"Uh, Ikindahithimwithabaseballbat," Willow babbled.

"Coolness. Wicked bad moves, girl," Faith smiled.

"As for Eric's place, nothing but a bunch of computer equipment and a pornography collection so prodigious it even scared me," Xander reported.

"I still say we shoulda nicked some," Faith sulked.

"Did Buffy get back yet?," Willow asked.

"No, uh, no," Giles said, becoming distracted by Jenny. "Uh, perhaps you should, uh, circulate nearer the field, see what you can find."

The three slipped under the railing, joining the two teachers on the bleachers. Faith stole a double handful of Giles' popcorn, sharing it with Xander and Willow

"So, what's the score?," Xander asked.

They got in about half a minute of game, before Chris Epps ran panting, telling them that Buffy needed them real bad at his house.


Xander was panting, too, by the time they got to Chris's house. Willow was a few blocks behind, while Faith was still fresh as a daisy. Running to the basement, where all the noise was coming from, he blinked. The whole room seemed ablaze, with Buffy fighting with some zombie.

"Buffy!," Xander yelled. True, she wasn't his favourite flavour right now, but no one deserved to die!

"Get Cordelia!," Buffy snapped. Faith got.

Xander cupped his hands together as he approached the fighting pair, chanting an incantation that culminated in him clapping his hands on either side of the zombie Daryl. "NECRO VUUD!"

Daryl stopped moving, standing stock still, a corpse possessed by a ghost.

"Thanks Xander, but if you didn't notice, this place is on FIRE!," Buffy shouted.

"Get a fire extinguisher and put the fire out," Xander commanded the possessed zombie.

The zombie jerkily picked up a fire extinguisher lying around, systematically putting out the fire. Xander had to command it several times to put out fires on it's clothes. Faith and Buffy had to knock out Chris and Eric, as they tried to get Xander to stop the possession of the dead Daryl.

Finally, the fire was out. Xander put his hands on either side of the zombie's head, then paused.

"What's wrong, mojo boy?," Buffy demanded.

"There're two ghosts possessing this corpse," Xander said thoughtfully. "Daryl's ghost, and my ghost that I summoned."

"Can you stop with the Evil Dead bit?," Faith demanded with a shudder.

Xander recalled the black energy from the corpse, and it collapsed to the ground like a de-stringed puppet. He would have collapsed himself, were it not for Faith catching him.

"Did I miss anything?," Willow gasped as she staggered down the stairs, Angel right behind her. "We need a car."


"Why'd you collapse, X?," Faith asked. "From what you've told me, you're right into this stuff."

"It's new to me, this spell," Xander explained. One of his arms was around Faith's shoulders, and one of her arms was around him, holding him up. "Spells get easier as I repeat them. It's like drawing pictures."

"Oh, right," Faith said. "Hey, the Watcher's scoring!"

They didn't feel like interrupting Giles' romantic date with Jenny Calendar, so they quietly sat watching the rest of the game.

"Well, I guess that makes it official," Xander sighed. "Everybody's paired off. Vampires get dates. Hell, even the school librarian sees more action than me. You ever think that the world is a giant game of musical chairs, and the music's stopped and we're the only ones who don't have a chair?"

"All the time," Willow agreed.

"You've just gotten one," Faith said, kissing Xander. "Or rather, I've got me a chair."

And so she used him for the rest of the game. Xander just sat there, a faint blush tinging his cheeks as he sat quietly, not daring to question his luck.

Chapter 18

Xander yawned. True, Buffy was in the doghouse with Snyder and had to run the Parent-Teachers evening as spadework, but he had managed to dodge the bullet of having to actually help with anything. Buffy's fellow rebel, Sheila, hadn't turned up to help with anything yet.

"Sheila's a no-show?," Willow asked. "She goes to this really rank bar. The Fish Tank? Sometimes they have raids and other stuff that can make you tardy."

"Worth going to?," Faith asked.


"D'you think you can help me cram some French tonight?," Buffy asked, worried. "I don't want Mr. DeJean telling my mother I'm an imbecile."

"I thought we were going to the Bronze tonight," Willow reminded Buffy. "'Cause of how you thought Angel might show?"

"If he does he'll meet some other nice girl?," Xander interrupted. "Studying comes first."

This was a bit of a one-eighty for Xander Harris but yeesh, making time with a corpse?

"We're going to the Bronze," Buffy decided. "I can study and party and do Parent-Teacher night and make my mother proud as long as I don't have to..."

It was about then that Giles, harbinger of evil and minion of the Council, arrived with the computer teacher in hand. "Buffy!"

"...fight vampires," the Slayer finished, slumping.

"There is nothing in the chronicles about a-an extraneous lunar cycle," Giles said to Miss Calendar, continueing a previous arguement.

"The Order never accurately calculated the Mesopotamian Calendar," Jenny pointed out "Rupert, you have *got* to read something that was published after 1066."

"Very funny," Giles said dryly.

"What's the up, guys?," Xander asked.

"W-um, Ms. Calendar has been researching, well, uh, surfing on her computer, a-and she's... Well, according to her calculations, this Saturday is the night of St. Vigeous."

"Let me guess," Buffy said, "he didn't make balloon animals."

"No, he led a crusade, of, of, uh, vampires," Giles explained. "They swept through Edessa, Harran, and points east."

"That is so wicked screwed up," Faith drawled from where she was lying on the ground. No one had quite figured out where she went while the rest of the gang went to class. "You kinda have to have the Catholic church canonize you to be called Saint Joe. Bad guys just get called 'You Asshole'."

"How'd you know that?," Willow asked, genuinely interested.

Faith shrugged. "Buncha nuns, very traumatic, I don't wanna talk about it."

"Well, if I survive Parent-Teacher night tomorrow," Buffy said, "I'll see what I can do about Saturday."

"You're being a tad flip, don't you think? This is serious," Giles frowned.

"And getting kicked out of school is laughs aplenty?," Buffy asked, incredulous.

"You know what happens when you, you let your life interfere with your slaying," Giles said ominously.

"Okay, well, if my slaying doesn't get me expelled, then I promise my banner making won't get me killed, okay? Just please let me get through this week," Buffy whined.

"This Saturday's going to need a great deal of preparation," Giles said.

"Well, we'll help," Willow volunteered.

"Yeah, I'll whittle stakes," Xander added.

"A-and I can research stuff," Willow continued.

"And I can sit around and make fun of you guys," Faith smirked. "It's a date!"

"Yes, your... help... will be greatly appreciated, but when it comes to battle, Buffy and Faith must fight alone. You are, after all, the Slay...," Giles trailed off as the Principal arrived. "slay-ves. Slaves. You're, you're all slaves to the, uh, television."

"Yes," Miss Calendar said, not wanting Snyder to jump on her either.

"Young people nowadays," Gile said disapprovingly. Snyder beamed. "Shall we go?"

"Mm, let's," Jenny said, joining Giles as he left.

"You wouldn't be helping Buffy in Sheila's place, would you?," Snyder hissed, seeing Willow by Buffy's banner.

"No," Xander laughed nervously.

"We're hindering," Willow insisted.

"We're trying to set fire to her banner," Faith grinned. She held up a cheap, disposable Bic lighter. "See?"


Ah, the Bronze. Sunnydale's den of teenage iniquity, sweat and loud music. Kinda. Well, not at one table.

"La vache... doit me... touche... de la... jeudi," Buffy said unsteadily. She looked over at Willow. "Was it wrong? Should I use the plural?"

"What?," Willow said, looking up from the pile of photocopies of the Primer that Giles had run off.

"La vache doit me touche de... la jeudi," Buffy repeated. "Was that right?"

"No," Willow said encouragingly. Her inner honesty forced her to add, "But you said, 'The cow should touch me from Thursday.'"

"Maybe that's what I was feeling," Buffy said defensively.

"And you said it wrong," Willow said.

"Oh, je stink," Buffy groaned.

"You're just not focused. It's Angel missage," Willow smiled. This whole forbidden romance Buffy had going with Angel was so sweet!

"Well, he didn't say for sure," Buffy admitted. "It was a 'maybe see ya there' kinda deal."

"Hey, B," Faith yelled as she approached the table. "Ewww, studying. I hope it ain't contagious."

"Only if you take French," Willow said. "Hey, this spell summons sea cucumbers."

"Why would anyone want that?," Faith asked, puzzled.

"Apparently they taste good," Willow explained, reading the text.

"Guys, I'm all alone out there. Somebody has to dance with me," Xander pleaded.

"Sure thing, boytoy," Faith smirked, grabbing him. "Let's go. I hope you've got... endurance. Joining us, Red, B?"

"Well, we are studying," Willow equivocated, looking down at A Primer To The Arts.

"C'mon, one dance. You've been studying nearly twelve minutes," Xander pointed out.

The four moved out to the dance floor, and Faith began dancing with Xander, grinding herself against him. Their dancing was abruptly interrupted when a British voice said, loudly, "Where's the phone? I need to call the police. There's some big guy out there trying to bite somebody."

The four ran outside, to find a stereotypical Sunnydale vampire about to snack on one of the sheeple that formed Sunnydale's youth. Buffy pulled him away from the girl by his shoulder.

"Slayer!," the vampire snarled.

"Slayee!," Buffy retorted.

Buffy kicked the vampire in the face. It flinched. This was partly due to the kick, but mostly due to the fact that Xander, Willow and Faith caught up with Buffy about then.

"Shit! Xander I-Inverse the demon s-spooker!," the vampire stuttered, seeing Xander over Buffy's shoulder.

Buffy paused. "Who?"

Xander stepped forwards a pace. "I think he means me. And wasn't it vampire spooker?"

In a moment of surreality, the vampire shook his head. "I'm not spooked by anything! Spike! Help!"

"Spook this," Faith said, as she staked the vampire from behind. "God, B, don't you ever have a stake with you? Wicked bad way to get killed."

"Who's Spike?," Willow asked.

Chapter 19

"Spike," Giles repeated in the Library. "That's what the other vampire called him? That's a little unorthodox, isn't it?"

"Maybe he's the new big bad," Buffy theorised. "The bad vamp was calling out for help from this loser."

"Perhaps he went by another name in... times past," Giles continued.

"Well, whoever he is, we'll need all the help we can get come this Saturday," Miss Calendar pointed out.

The double doors opened, revealing the new teacher Mr Cash, with his eerily empty eye sockets. A dirty little smirk creased his lips, not extending to the scar tissue around his empty sockets.

"Has Principal Snyder informed you that I've been assigned to oversee the two problem students?," Cash asked.

"Nope," Buffy said cheerily. "And I don't like you, so make like a tree and leave."

Cash continued walking to the group. Despite his blindness, he didn't hit any of the furniture in the library and stopped inches in front of the large table. "I hold the keys to your future in my hand. I'd advise some intelligence and thought, a bit of Watching."

The capital letters were almost audible, and hung in the air.

"The sooner you leave, the sooner we can get back to the planning," Xander said from his chair, where he had his feet on the table.

"I'll be around on Saturday evening then," Mr Cash said, tipping a non-existant hat to them.

As soon as the teacher left through the double doors, Buffy moved the index card cabinet in front of them.

"So, this night of St. Vigeous deal," Xander said, dragging the train of conversation back on track. "If they're gonna attack in force, aren't we thinkin' perhaps--"

"No," Giles interrupted. "There will be no fireballs."

"I wasn't gonna say torch them," Xander said unconvincingly. "Honest. Man, Giles, considering how quick you jumped on me..."

"We can't run, that would be wrong," Willow frowned. "Giles, are you sure that we can't kill them?"

"Murder them to your heart's content," Giles said expansively, "as long as school property is not damaged. Well, he can't be any worse than any other creature you've faced."

Xander coughed a cough which sounded suspiciously like 'Master' and 'Dragon Slave'.

A familiar Irish tinged voice spoke up from the shadows. "He's worse. Once he starts something he doesn't stop until everything in his path is dead."

"Hmm. So, he's thorough, goal-oriented," Xander said, trying to put a positive spin on things.

"We were at the Bronze before," Buffy accused, immediately homing in on the potential love interest. "Thought you said you might show."

"You said you weren't sure if you were going," Angel defended himself.

"I was being cool," Buffy retorted. "C'mon, you've been dating for, what, like, two hundred years? You don't know what a girl means when she says maybe she'll show?"

"Forgive her, she's blonde," Faith said, attracting a glare of death from Buffy. Xander laughed quietly.

"Wow, two centuries of dating," Willow realised. Her inner mathematician began spinning numbers. "If you only had two a year, that's still, like, four hundred... dates with four hundred different..."

Faith looked at the old vampire. "So that's why B's going after you."

"Uh, we do have slightly more urgent matters to discuss," Giles said stuffily.

"Yeah, like keeping my mom away from Principal Snyder tomorrow night?," Buffy said, priorities set.

"And not dying Saturday," Miss Calendar pointed out.

"And saving the world," Xander added.

"Okay, okay, I got it," Buffy snapped. "Yeesh."

"Angel, do you know if this Spike fellow goes under any other name?," Giles asked, wanting research fodder.

There was a resounding lack of response, as the vampire had disappeared seconds ago.

"Okay, that's it. I'm puttin' a collar with a little bell on that guy," Xander complained.


The next day found Faith getting thoroughly disgusted with Xander and Cordelia.

"Wicked slow, guys," she taunted, watching the two whittle stakes.

"I don't see you doing any stake making, trailer trash," Cordelia accused.

"Work smart, not hard," Faith quoted. "And this chick is wicked smart. Boytoy, grab that pile of lumber and lets go to the wood shop."

"Wood shop?," Xander asked dumbly.

"I've got two words for you," Faith said. "Bench. Saw."

"Oh yeah," Cordelia blinked.

"Heck, here's another," Faith said, always magniminous. "Lathe."

Xander picked up the pile of unwhittled stakes and started to join Faith as she left the Library.

"Uh, where might you be going?," Giles asked imperiously.

"Woodshop, and the twenty first century," Xander said simply.


A quarter of an hour later, the two returned with a pile of stakes. They were all smoothed with sandpaper, and far more consistent in quality than the whittled stakes.

"Quite impressive," Giles said, cleaning his glasses. "I see we shall have to adjust our normal proceedures in future. Uh, Jenny and I have found some references to our friend."

"Who, B?," Faith asked.

"Our new friend Spike," Giles explained. "He's known as 'William the Bloody'. Earned his nickname by torturing his victims with railroad spikes. Very pleasant. Well, here's some good news: he's barely two hundred. He's not even as old as Angel is. I'm afraid I also have some bad news."

"That's 'Oh dear, he dies if someone sneezes on him' bad news, right?," Xander asked.

He could hope.

"I think Willow's suggestion of running away this Saturday might've been a good one," Giles equivocated, before capitulating. "Spike has fought two Slayers in the last century, and... he's killed them both."

Chapter 20

"He's bagged two chicks in a century?," Faith asked. "I've got a wicked huge vote for the fireball deal."

"No," Giles said firmly. "There will be NO torching of school property."

It was about then that a distant rumbling, yelling and screaming became slightly less distant. Giles, Jenny, Xander, and Faith went outside the library.

A teeming horde of vampires were rushing them.

"What the hell?," the normally composed Watcher gasped, as the teenagers and the teacher pulled him back into the Library. Faith barricaded the door with the card catalogue.

"Help," Giles said. "Angel. We have to call Angel."

"Hello?," Faith said. "Slayer? I making sense here?"

"Er, there's an old cellar behind the stacks," Giles continued. "Someone has to get Angel -- this has to be that Spike character. And Angel knows about Spike."

"I'll go," Faith volunteered. "Boytoy can go help the others. You old people can stay here."

"Old?," Giles coughed. He was slightly too late, though -- the Slayer was leaving out the back, and Xander was leaving through the double doors.


Buffy was SO not having a good night. If she ever got her hands on Angel, she'd make him sorry for not telling them more about Spike. She was running from about ten vampires, all armed with fire axes. The Slayer spotted a familiar face up ahead.

"Xander!," she yelled. "RUN!"

Xander turned around, frowning as he saw the vampires. Not bothering with an incantation, he pointed a palm at the lead vampire, yelling out "ASHER DIST!"

The effects were somewhat chaotic. The vampire simply crumpled into fine black dust, settling over the floor. The rest of the pack slowed to a halt, the de facto leader stepping forwards.

"You... you're Inverse, aren't you?"

Xander grinned evilly, casting 'Balus Rod' during the break, forming a whitehot whip of light in his right hand.

"The Vampire Spooker?," another one said weakly.

"NO, NOT HIM AGAIN! RUUUUN!," the two vampires at the back yelled.

And with that, the nine remaining vamps turned around and ran like undead rabbits.

Buffy turned to Xander, mouth open in shock and surprise. "Xander, why are those vampires so afraid of you?!"

Xander laughed nervously. "I might have fireballed their favourite bar. And... they kinda heard about the Master."

Buffy was Not Happy with this. "HEY! I'm the Slayer -- I'm the one they're supposed to be running from in terror!"

The mage waved his hands in panic. "Don't blame me! I'm not the one running!"

"Slaaayer!," a harsh British voice hissed. "Here, kitty, kittyyy. I find one of your friends first, I'm gonna suck 'em dry. And use their bones to bash your head in. "

The sound of a door being kicked in resonated through the hall, as well as footsteps. A barely audible conversation took place, followed by groans of pain.

"Are you getting a word picture here?," Spike continued. "And I want that bloody mage too. Heeere, kitties."

"Okay, Buff, you distract him while I nail him," Xander decided.

"HEY!," Buffy yelled. "I can take him! Who's the Slayer here?"

"Fine, fine," Xander shrugged. "Just don't get in the way of any waves of destruction."

The Slayer was about to continue her argument, when the bleached Brit appeared around the corner, axe in hand.

"Do we really need weapons for this," Buffy asked weakly, suddenly losing confidence in her stake.

"They make me feel manly," Spike smirked. "C'mere, poodle."

"POODLE?," Buffy asked, incensed. She immediately attacked the blonde vampire.

Xander continued his energy build up, chanting.

"Aw, sorry ducks," Spike continued to smirk. "No sex on the first date --you'll have to settle for necking when we snog."

"DUCK, BUFF!," Xander shouted. "Dolf Stlash!"

The Slayer dropped to the ground as a brilliant lance of blue energy shot forth from Xander's hands, through the space where Spike was -- or rather, the space where he *would* have been if he had been stupid enough to ignore Xander's shout to Buffy.

"Now that's just not cricket," Spike complained, "two on one like that. I'm not into threesomes."

"How about four?," a familiar voice asked, right before clocking him in the head with another emergency fire axe.

"MUM!," Buffy yelled.

"Nobody lays a hand on my little girl," Joyce smiled, as she dropped the axe and hugged Buffy. She looked over at Xander. "What was that thing you threw at that man?"

Xander grinned sheepishly. "It's kinda a long story, Mrs S."

"It's magic," Faith said, arriving with Angel.

"Maybe not that long," Xander admitted. "Hey, Faith."

The dark-haired Slayer put an arm around Xander, drawing a line down the center of his chest with the other one. "So, didya nail that Spike loser?"

"Nah," Xander admitted. "He ducked."

Chapter 21

Buffy leant in towards the TV. Her, Faith, Xander, and Willow were in her room watching videos. Currently, they were watching something called 'Berserk.' It was getting kinda of the depressed, though, as they learnt in an extended flashback about the main character's rape when young.

"Does this series lighten up at any point?," Buffy demanded. "I'm not getting the happy vibes, here."

"Nope," Faith said cheerily. "It's wicked dramatic all the way through, no room for the funnies."

"I-I don't wanna keep watching it," Willow said firmly, pressing stop. "I'll get nightmares."

"I can believe that one of Giles friends loaned you this," Buffy said. She had seen what the Watcher considered bedtime reading. "Don't you have anything funny?"

Xander dug through the bag he'd brought with him, the clattering of videotapes audible. "Uh... I've got something here called 'Flame of Recca', and something else called 'Ranma 1/2'. Never seen either. Man, this guy comes up with some weird stuff."

Faith laughed. "Hey, remember that series with the chick with the sword that didn't have any subtitles? That was wicked funny."

Xander grinned. "Which tape, you guys?"

"I dunno," Willow shrugged. "I've got a coin, we could toss for one."

"Okay," Buffy said, throwing the coin in the air, catching it, and holding her hand over the randomised face. "Call it."

"Ahh... heads, that Flame series," Xander said.

"Okay, heads it is," Buffy said, revealing the coin. "Did you really have to toast that mummy girl, Xander?"

"Hey," he protested. "She was coming onto Willow, and not in a good way!"

"Ssssh!," Faith hissed.

And so they settled down to watch a slim boy dressed in black make a fool of an immensely strong fellow student.


Xander yawned. He really should get more sleep -- he was starting to sleep through more classes than normal, and the teachers were Not Happy with him. Which was why he had come extra early to school today, in an attempt to wake himself up before anything happened. Faith, who had decided to ditch the learning thing, had decided to crash at the Library for the night.

"It's not a date, it's a caffeinated beverage," Willow said. "Okay, sure, it's hot and bitter like a relationship that way, but..."

"What's like a relationship?," Xander asked, coming up behind her and Buffy.

"Nothing I have," Buffy said morosely. "Coffee?"

"Huh?," Xander asked. Man, he learnt all this cool stuff and it was still of no use when trying to understand girls. How was coffee like relationships?

Buffy and Willow stopped for a drink. Unfortunately, Cordelia had stopped nearby too. Xander started glaring at one of his natural social enemies.

"There's really no comparison between college men and high school boys," Cordelia said to her 'friend'. She gestured at Xander. "I mean, look at that."

"So, Cor, you're datin' college guys now," Xander said neutrally.

"Well, not that it's any of your business, but I happen to be dating a Delta Zeta Kappa," Cordelia said primly.

"Oh! An extra-terrestrial," Xander said sarcastically. "So that's how you get a date after you've exhausted all the human guys."

"You'll go to college someday, Xander," Cordelia smiled insincerely. "I just know your pizza delivery career will take you so many exciting places."

"As opposed to being on my back like you?," Xander scowled. Faith had been spending a lot of time around him, and it was showing.

"If the sun died and I did have to resort to that, I'm sure that I would still be worth a thousand of you," Queen C snarled.

Xander had no real retort to that, so he gave up on her, going to class to get some sleep.


Today had royally sucked. He'd gotten chewed out by his English, Science, and Art teachers for sleeping in class, Buffy had decided to ditch them for Cordelia, and the only good thing about this was that it might convince her to leave Angel.

Okay, he knew his life was getting weird when one of his friend's lives would improve were she to start dating a frat guy, rather than her current significant other.

And he had patrol tonight. It was getting to the stage where all the vamps older than a month dead ran from him on sight, so he had to go on patrol with Faith or Buffy if he wanted to satisfy his inner pyro.

"Hey, Faith," he yelled out as he left the school grounds, Willow beside him. The dark-haired Slayer was sitting next to Buffy, idly trying to pick a fight. "Boy, what a long day."

Willow glared at him. "And you slept through three classes."

"Yeah, and of course they flew by," Xander grinned.

"You're spending way too much time around Faith," Willow reprimanded. "You are going to the Library right now to do your homework!"

"I'm totally a bad influence then, Red?," Faith asked as she jumped off the railing that the two Slayers had been sitting on.

"Buffy, you too," Willow said, Resolve Face on.

"I'm... loitering," Buffy improvised. "See? Loiter, dawdle..."

"Works for me," Xander shrugged, world class slacker.

Cordelia brushed past the small group, bumping into Willow as she passed without a word.

"You okay?," Buffy asked Willow.

In the next five minutes, Cordelia somehow managed to get Buffy to talk with her to the two frat guys in a black BMW, promising to go to some party with them. All the while the other three members of Team Slayer looking on in disbelief.

"I hate these guys," Xander scowled. "Whatever they want just falls into their laps. Don't you hate these guys?"

Faith nodded heavily. "Fuck yeah. Snobs."

"Uh, kinda, with their charmed lives and their movie star good looks and more money than you can count? I'm hating," Willow agreed, not wanting to be the odd one out.

"Who's for bugging the G-man?," Xander asked.

Chapter 22

The next day didn't get any better for them. They found out that not only was Buffy going to the fraternity party with Cordelia, she was also going on a date with Angel.

"He's going with you?," Willow asked Buffy. She turned to Xander and Faith. "She's got a date with Angel! Isn't that exciting?"

"I'm elated," Xander said flatly, getting up from the couch. Whoopee, she got a date with Deadboy. Considering he had already been hurt by her in her pursuit of the vampire, he didn't really care.

"I-I'm not going with Angel," Buffy confessed. "I'm going with -- ye gods -- Cordelia."

Xander didn't know whether to cheer or cry.

"Cordelia?!," Willow exclaimed, sounding faintly betrayed. "Did I sound a little jealous just then, 'cause I'm not really... Cordelia?!"

"Cordelia's much better for you than Angel," Xander said, hurrying after the two girls. "If not by much."

Faith smirked, effortlessly catching up with the three. "Hey, she can't get quality, she's gotta take what she can get."

"What happened with Angel?," Willow asked, breathlessly waiting for more news on the tragic romance.

"Nothing, as usual," Buffy admitted. "A whole lotta nothing with Angel."

"Bummer," Xander said, voice indicating quite otherwise. "Really."

"I don't understand. I mean, he likes you. More than likes," Willow said.

"He's a guy," Faith shrugged. "Most of 'em find it wicked hard to commit."

"Angel barely says two words to me," Buffy complained.

"Don't you hate that?," Xander said, trying to drive a wedge between the two.

"And when he does, he treats me like I'm a child," Buffy continued, completely ignoring Xander.

"Asshole corpse," the dark slayer smirked.

"You know, at least Tom can carry on a conversation," the light haired slayer mused.

"Yeah! Tom?," Xander asked. He had a baaaad feeling. "Tom and Jerry?"

"The frat guy," Willow said. "From yesterday, in the BMW."

"Oh, Buffy, I don't think so," Xander said in condemnation. "Frying pan, fire? You know what I'm sayin'."

His uncle Gerry was part of the cleaners for the uni frat houses, and Xander had heard all kindsa things about those guys. Rumours. Suspicions of dark things. And his family didn't have enough brain cells left to imagine things.

Faith looked at Buffy seriously as they approached the Library. "X, I don't think she gets it. Still, she will tomorrow."


Xander was starting to get seriously disillusioned with Buffy. She used people, she lied to good people like Giles, and she dated the enemy.

"Well, say it," Buffy snapped as they left the Library, where she had just convinced Giles that her mother was too sick to leave be. Faith had stayed there to discuss the night's patrol.

"I'm not gonna say it," Xander said, mentally counting down... 1... 2... 3...

"You lied to Giles," Willow said flatly.

Bingo! "'Cause she will."

"Look, I wasn't lying," Buffy protested. "I was just... protecting him from information that he wouldn't be able to... digest properly."

"Like a corn dog," Xander said sarcastically. He knew for a fact that Mrs S was perfectly fine -- he'd just visited yesterday.

"Like you don't have a sick mother, but you'd rather go to a frat party where there's gonna be drinking and older guys and probably an orgy," Willow accused.

"Whoa! Whoa-ho-ho, rewind," Xander said, making a 'time out' T with his hands. This was getting too heavy for him. "Since when do they have orgies, and why aren't I on the mailing list?"

"There's no orgies!," Buffy protested.

"I heard a lot of wild things go on at frat parties," Willow informed her.

"My uncle has to clean up after them. They does all kindsa mean, nasty, an' ugly things," Xander muttered.

"Okay, you know what? Look, seven days a week I am busy saving the world," Buffy lectured. "Once in a great while I wanna have some fun. And that's what I'm gonna have tonight. Fun!"

"Why can't it be good clean fun, like beating things up or setting them on fire?"


Faith ducked Giles' swinging fist easily. "Hey, old guy, gettin' slow!"

Giles wordlessly hit her in the midriff with his other fist which she hadn't noticed.

"ooof," Faith exhaled. "okay, maybe not so slow."

"You must observe everything," Giles said, giving her a moment to catch her breath. "If this were for real, you would be quite dead now."

"Speaking of for real," Faith said, "maybe you should ring Buffy's mum, ask her if she needs anything? That Calendar chick would think that's wicked sweet of you."

Giles took his glasses off and began cleaning them, a sure sign that Faith had struck a chord with him. "Er, I probably should ring her, but to make sure that the Slayer has a satisfactory home life."

"Call it what you want, G-man," Faith smirked as the Englishman entered his office to make a call.

"Hello?," he said into the receiver. "Mrs Summers? Yes, Rupert Giles, the librarian from school. Your daughter, Buffy, told me that you were quite terribly sick, and I was ringing to enquire if you needed anything -- if so, myself and Miss Calendar could perhaps visit?"

Pause. Reply that Faith couldn't hear.

"Really? She had told me that she was too sick to attend a study session with her friend Willow."

Smart, G-man. Willow would back him up -- either she gets to tutor Buffy (always a plus with the study conscious hacker), or they'd get to go to the Bronze together or something.

"I see. I'll be sure to have words with her later about this. No, that's quite alright. Oh? Well, if you must. Good day to you."

Faith smirked as the Watcher hung the phone up, frowning.

Chapter 23

Faith yawned as she caught up with Xander and Willow, grabbing Xander's coke.

"Hey!," Willow protested. "That was mine!"

Faith arched an eyebrow, as if saying 'So?'

"I was just saying to Wills that we should go and keep an eye on Buff at that frat party," Xander said, munching on a bar of some sort.

"What, Queen Necro?," Faith asked, incredulous.

"Hell yeah," Xander affirmed. "What if they have an orgy or something?"

"And if there is trouble, we can annoy her about it from here to eternity," Faith smirked. "Sounds good to me, X."

Willow grabbed the bar from Xander and finished it off.

"Hey!," Xander protested. "That was... yours."

The hacker smirked at her friend.


Later that night, Xander climbed through a window in the frat house, trusting to the general confusion of the party so he could hide in anonymity.

"Stupid levitation spell," he muttered. "Crap out on me like a cheap Mitsubishi, will it?"

Faith easily jumped over the windowsill, joining him. "You need to train some, X."

"I do magic so I don't have to," Xander explained.

"Oh yeah," Faith grinned. "'Cause you were so manly just before."

"Let's go find Buff," Xander misdirected, "so we can keep an eye on her for embarrassing behaviour."

Xander got distracted by some trays of munchies on the way through the house, but fortunately Faith was there to keep him on track. The dark haired Slayer was leaving a trail of frat guys groaning and clutching their privates after they had propositioned her, though.

"Hey, have you seen two girls?," Xander asked a short redhead.

"Incoming," Faith reported, seeing two jocks moving towards them.

"Who're you?," Jock 1 asked.

"Uh... nobody," Xander said edgily.

"So, Mr Nobody," Jock number 2 asked, "who invited you?"

"Wanna see a magic trick?," Xander asked casually. "Origin of all power, glittering, burning red flame, gather to my hands and be my power. Fireball!"

He flicked the red ball of fire out the window towards a deck chair on the stone balcony. The alcohol soaked wood readily caught fire, and Jock Number 2 ran outside to put it out. Xander blew across the tips of his fingers, much like a gunslinger blew smoke away from the barrel of his gun on an old western.

"I'm the magician."

"Cool," Jock Number 1 said. "Hey, can you pull a bird outta your jacket?"

Xander grinned. He saw much opportunity for fun. "Fearis Breed!"

A flock of sparrow, robins, and blackbirds flew inside the frat house, circling over the jock and crapping all over him. The two scoobies walked away. He was lucky that the jocks were already well on their way to being drunk.

"X, that was sooo cool," Faith smirked. "Now, where did B get to?"

"There!," Xander said, spotting an anonymous guy in a black dress pulling her through a door.

"What are you doing here?," a familiar Irish voice hissed.

"Keeping an eye on Buffy," Faith shot at Angel and Willow. "What are you guys doing here? 'Cause it's wicked boring."

"A bunch of girls are missing, and the Zeta Kappas may be involved, and Buffy," Willow said. She looked outside, where the deckchair on fire was still being put out. "Xander, did you do that?"

"Who, me?," Xander laughed nervously. "We're in a frat party, bunch of drunks, Willow."

"Oh," she said, caught between distrust of Xander's pyro tendencies and the drunken fratboys.

"What has happened?," Giles asked, pulling them all into a dark corner. Xander would give a lot to know how an old guy like Giles got into this place.

"They took Buffy down to the basement," Xander said. "They were wearing robes."

"They may be in some kind of ritual," Giles said, winning the Mr Obvious competition.

"With the missing girls," Willow continued.

"With Buffy!," Angel growled, face vamping out.


Tom held the sword to the blonde's neck. Really, she should know better. Someone knocked on the door at the top of the staircase.

"Tackle, get that!"


Tom had half a moment to reflect that it had all turned to custard, right before a whip of fire wound itself around Machida's throat and decapitated the powerful demon.

That took the fight out of the fraternity cultists.

"You did it! You saved us!," Cordelia wept, hugging Angel.. "I've never been so happy to see anyone in my whole..."

Queen C let go of Angel, beginning to cry. "You guys. I just... hate you guys! The weirdest things always happen when you're around!"

The Irish vampire picked up Tom the Cultist, and Cordelia grabbed the be-robed boy by his collar.

"AND YOU! You're going to jail for fifteen thousand years!"

The socialite threw the cultist back at Angel, storming up the stairs.

Buffy looked at Giles nervously. "I told one lie, I had one drink."

"Yes," Giles said dryly, "and you were very nearly eaten by a giant snake demon. The words 'I told you so' seem a tad redundant at this juncture."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said, blinking at Giles artfully.

The Watcher pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Faith suggested that I ring your mother this afternoon to see if she required any help."

Buffy paled. "Mum?," she squeaked.


Chapter 24

Buffy munched on another piece of popcorn on her armchair. "Y'know, I was starting to think that this anime stuff was trash, until you showed me this."

Xander shrugged from where he was sitting on the sofa with Faith. "It's practically the Slayer's Handbook on video, except for the non demonic vamps."

"And the vampires fighting for Hellsing," Willow added. She was sitting on the floor, in front of the TV.

"Integra was cool," Buffy said, as the episode finished. "Kinda like me -- she has her own vampire to order around, I've got Angel, she's got that British dude to do the bookwork, I've got Giles..."

They had camped out in the video room at school -- Giles had booked it for them, ostenably so that they could watch a video on bagpipes or something.

"She's nothing like you," Faith snorted. "She's wicked hard."

"Are you saying I'm soft?," Buffy challenged. "Come over here and say that!"

Xander pulled Faith down onto his lap as the dark haired Slayer started to get up. "Easy there, we don't wanna see if like repells."

"They aren't magnets, Xander," Willow pointed out.

He shrugged. "Anyone got any plans for Halloween?"

"I raise Hell," Faith immediately said.

"I'm staying home," the blonde Slayer shrugged. "My night off!"

"I thought that Halloween'd be a vamp scareapalooza," Xander observed.

"Nope, it's dead quiet on Halloween," Faith said as Willow changed the videotape. "They all stay home. So I'm gonna have fun egging Queen C's house."

"What about your costume?," Xander asked.

"Naga the White Serpent," Faith immediately said.

"The sorceress chick that wears a bikini with a cloak in Slayers?," Xander asked, wanting to be sure.


"I'll go as Dark Schneider then, so we'll match," Xander said. "I've got a spell somewhere to make my hair longer, and I can bleach it to silver."

"Wicked cool," Faith smirked. "Red? B?"

Willow looked up from her book, 'Readings in Chemistry'. "Costume? Uh, I didn't have anything planned. I'll go... as... a... ghost! Yeah, because it's Halloween, and ghosts are spooky!"

Faith handed Willow some popcorn, then ruffled her hair.


"Red, you're going to be dressed up and lovin' it, got me?"

Willow's cheeks tinged themselves red. She still saw herself as the class nerd, and Faith had that whole 'bad girl' thing going for her that Willow really admired.

"Okay," the hacker squeaked. Her voice gained power on the next sentence. "But I'm not going as a stripper!"

"That's fine," Faith shrugged. "Go as that Ranma guy -- in chick form. You've got the hair for it."

"Okay," Willow squeaked. They'd watched a few eps of 'Ranma 1/2' before watching the first few eps of 'Hellsing'. Willow could live with wearing a red silk shirt, black pants, and slippers.

"Buffster?," Xander asked.

"I'm staying home and veging out," Buffy said resolutely. "I've gotten Titanic, The Princess Bride, and The Italian Job out from Blockbuster, and I am going to watch them."

"What might you four be doing in the video room after school has finished?," a familiar, unwanted voice asked. Principal Snyder.

"Watching videos," Willow said brightly. None of the titles on the tapes were visible from Snyder's viewpoint, and she was one of his star students. "Mr Giles, the Librarian, booked it for us."

"Okay, then," Snyder said, disappointed. "Summers, you're on escort duty for Halloween. Your mother volunteered you when she heard that Principal Skinner at the primary school needed students from high school."

Buffy looked heartbroken. The other three made a note to NEVER cross Joyce Summers.

"As for the rest of you," Snyder said, surveying Faith, Xander, and Willow, "I'm sure that you had planned on egging houses, vandalism, one cry for help after another."

Faith paled. How did that troll find out?

"Not this year. This year, you too are fulfilling your social responsibilities."

Faith raised her hand tentatively. "Uh, I kinda already like had plans..."

Snyder shoved his clipboard at her. "Sign."

The dark haired Slayer signed reflexively before she realised what she was doing. Xander and Willow sighed and did likewise. Once the repulsive principal had left, all four groaned in mutual depression.

"This is gonna suck worse than Phys Ed!," Xander complained.


Buffy crouched in her green suit to talk to the children, before Snyder happened along.

"Aaaa! The last thing they need is your influence, Summers. Bring them back intact and I might not expel you."

He continued along to Faith and Xander. Snyder had taken one look at the almost exposed Faith and immediately taped her long black cloak shut. Xander had passed muster, with his cloak, jeans, and long shirt.

"Bring them back in one piece, Harris, or you'll be scrubbing floors until you're older than me."

Xander flipped a salute at Snyder as the short principal moved on to Willow, clad in her silk shirt, pants and slippers.

Chapter 25

Faith yelled out to Buffy once Snyder was out of earshot. "Hey, B! Like the suit!"

Buffy pulled a plastic handgun from her jacket. "You'll like this even better."

Faith grinned. "Yeah, we bad. Right, X?"

Xander flicked his head, long silver hair settling down his back. "That's Dark Schneider, or Bastard!, to you."

Buffy smirked. "You forgot to dye your eyebrows."

The mage returned the smirk. "No, I didn't. Blondie."

Snyder returned about then. "Why haven't you left? Report to Mr Cash once you've returned and he'll sign you off for the night. Take French leave, and you'll be scrubbing floors for the rest of your unnatural lives."

Xander rolled his eyes, but he and Faith began herding their flock of kids out the door.


Cash walked out the nearest set of doors, turning his head towards the night sky and taking a deep breath. Eventually, lazily, he turned his head towards town and started walking. The unnatural teacher continued, infatigueable, until he reached Ethan's Costume Shoppe and knocked on the door. Receiving no answer and finding it unlocked, he entered the small shop.

"We're closed," a British voice called out from the back room. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait until tomorrow."

Cash kept walking, through the curtains separating the shop floor from the back room with it's little altar and plaster bust. "You quite misunderstand me. I'm here to help."

Ethan slowly nodded. He didn't recognise this guy, but he obviously wasn't a neophyte.


Buffy fell to the street, clutching at her head which felt as if it were to break open. Eventually, the female's spasms, ceased, and Integral Wingates Hellsing rose to her feet, brushing her suit absently.

Not recognising the town (or even the street!), Integral pulled out her Walther PPK, checking that it was loaded with standard Hellsing rounds, cast from the melted down cross of Lancaster Cathedral. She loaded a round into the chamber, before replacing it in her jacket and looking up.


Demons, the Damned, and worse had all appeared while she had been checking her weapon. Blue chips of ice narrowing, she drew the handgun back out before a teenaged girl in a cat costume (of all things!) grabbed her arm, stopping her. She almost hit the girl before she recognised the lack of malice in the girl's eyes.

"Stop! They're all children! Something turned them into monsters!"

"They're not FREAK vampires," Integral observed. "Tell me, how did this happen?"


Ranma groaned, clutching his stomach. Man, he musta really pissed Akane off this time -- it looked like she'd kicked him all the way to America, rather than Juuban or Kyoto or something. He wished that that uncute tomboy would learn to cook and take lessons from her sister Kasumi, but he was sure that her other sister Nabiki'd join a convent and repent of her mercenary ways first.

"*Crap!,*" Ranma cursed. "*Why me?*"

He'd passed through a cloud or something on his attempt at a low earth orbit, and his curse had been activated. Ranma, normally a muscular black haired boy, had been cursed to turn into a short and stacked redhead when splashed with cold water. Only hot water could turn him back to his normal self.

"*Right, English...,*" the neo-girl muttered. "Uh... haatu waata pureesu. Kuraatu baraatu, iie, uh..."

It should be noted that Ranma sleeps through all his classes at school.


Dark Schneider stretched as he woke up. He had no idea where he had gotten to... the last he remember was being sealed away by that shitty priest. Man, he was gonna find that old man and turn him into little cubes of flesh, blood, and bone.

"What happened?," a female voice groaned. Darshe, always on the prowl, immediately turned to look.

Wow. He'd seen a lot of female flesh over the years (and touched a great deal of that), but the figure he saw in front of him was one of a kind. Hell of a figure, too -- about 44DD-22-29, if he didn't miss his guess. He immediately began rubbing her back -- it relieved pain, let him begin the preliminaries to groping, and got him into her good graces all at once.

Naga got up and stretched, ignoring the man for the moment. She then turned to him.

"Thanks," she said. "I am Naga the White Serpent, the most powerful sorceress in the world! Ohohohohohohohoho!"

Darshe winced. Okay, so her laughter couldn't be listened to for more than ten seconds before wanting to either run or kill her.

"Where are we?"

"I don't know," Naga shrugged, the movement doing extremely interesting things to her breasts.

"How much do you charge?," a drunken man asked as he approached Naga.

"How much do I...," Naga repeated, before she realised what he meant. "You disgusting piece of goldfish feces! MEGA BRANDO!"

The ground under the man exploded upwards, sending him flying and pummelling him with many pieces of rock painfully at the same time. One of Darshe's eyebrows rose in admiration.

"Nice," he said. "Very nice."

Naga looked him up and down. He looked as if he had money. "So, care to buy me a drink?"

Darshe grinned lecherously. "Care for more afterwards?"

Chapter 26

Willy polished a glass while his clientele sat despondently. Halloween sucked, for them -- it was harder to spot dinner. It was pretty good for him, though, as he pretty much sold as much beer as he could handle on nights like tonight.

He looked up as the door opened, then shut. What looked like a guy with long, silver hair and a chick with a helluva figure and the clothes (or semi-lack thereof) to show it off sat at the bar.

"What'll it be?," Willy asked civilly. No need to be rude, after all.

"White wine, dry," the woman laughed. "Give me your best, barkeep!"

Inwardly, Willy smiled and clicked his heels. His best wine was a few millenia old and from another dimension -- it had cost him a minor fortune, and he sold sips of it for major fortunes.

"Sake for me," the man said. "This is on the house, get me?"

"Er, no it ain't," Willy said boldly. "See, this is a business, not a charity."

The man wordlessly grinned like Satan himself, baring sharp teeth as he held up a palm, a lick of fire dancing above it.

"You bastard!," Willy cursed, reaching for the third best bottle of wine and the second best bottle of sake.


"No," Drusilla pouted. "It isn't safe for Spikey-poo to go out tonight... Miss Edith has been telling me things."

"What would that be, pet?," Spike asked. "Nothing happens on Halloween, safe as houses."

"She's gone," Drusilla whispered into his ear. "The nasty Slayer has gone, and the Ice Lady has come to Sunnydale."

"Sounds perfect to me," Spike smirked. "Time to go a-huntin'."

"No!," Drusilla implored, taking Spike's hands in hers. "It isn't safe."

"Dru, I'll take some of the minions if it's that bad," Spike frowned. "Luv, I have to go to check this out. If the Slayer has gone, then we still need to find something to put some colour in your cheeks. Figuratively speaking."


Integra frowned at the phone. She had only been able to afford a short transatlantic phone call, and the number to the Hellsing Estate had rendered a disconnected tone. She whirled, drawing the Walther as she heard a crunching of gravel and no sound of breathing.

"Easy there," the vampire said. "C'mon, Buffy, everything's gone crazy around here."

"I am Integra Hellsing, vampire, and I destroy your kind," Integra said, putting a bullet through each of his knees without blinking.

"AAAAARRRRGHH!," Angel screamed. The pain he felt from the two gunshots were unequalled in his two hundred and fifty years of unlife... far, far worse than anything he had ever experienced as part of the Scourge of Europe.

"Now," Integra said, putting an additional bullet through each of his elbows to disable the vampire, "tell me. Where am I, and what has happened?"

Angel was at her mercy, and was going to tell her anything she wanted anyway. It was clear that he'd get nothing but a swift ending if he held anything back, and that wouldn't help Buffy.


Ranma had a wide grin on his face. He'd managed to get some hot water from some really nervous looking America-jin woman, and all he had to do now was find a way back to Japan, and Nerima. He decided to try and hide away on one of those 'plane' thingies -- swimming over oceans was stuff he'd only do if his old man was really pushing him.

At the moment, though, he was disabling the monsters running around the city with some hits to the head. They didn't seem very strong, for monsters. Man, he sure hoped that he was gonna get some money or something for this, he was starving!

He stopped as he turned a corner. Some chick was torturing someone!


Integra looked to the side, then swiftly ducked as a foot almost kicked her in the head.

"*Stupid torturing sicko!,*" a male voice yelled in Japanese. She remembered it from lessons with Walter, her servant. "*Get away from him!*"

"*He is a monster,*" Integra said simply. "Kyuuketsuki."

Ranma slowed to a stop. "Honto?"

Integra drew a large silver cross from her jacket, pressing it against the suited vampire's neck. Smoke rose from it as it burnt the demon's flesh. The blonde, female knight then tossed it to Ranma, who frowned. The undead liked preying on the poor and homeless, and it had been amongst them that his father Genma had stayed with during their long training trip while he had been growing up.

"*What the hell is goin' on?*"

Angel panted, trying to stay conscious against the added brief pain of the holy cross. He couldn't understand a word that the two were saying, as his gang of merry torturers had never really gotten past England or Europe.

"You have to let me go," he said around the pain. "I need to help stop this!"

"It's a shame that that bloodsucker isn't here," Integra muttered. "I'll have him eating garlic for the rest of his unlife for deserting me like this!"

Chapter 27

Ethan leant against a wall hanging as he watched the stranger stand in front of the two-faced bust of Janus.

"Having fun, are we?," Ethan asked.

Cash smiled, sockets staring into the distance as his hands traced lines that only they could follow across the smooth surface.

"You're so small and petty minded, Rayne," the blind teacher said absently. "You could have been great, and sold a line of costumes all over America."

"Where's the fun in it if I can't stand back and watch the aftermath firsthand?," Ethan asked, as he went through to another back room and filled the electric jug with water.

"It's amazing, what you've created," Cash continued. "A thousand sources of power, all tied into their costumes and the bust. Enough energy to power the world for years, to send a Saturn V to the moon, to do so much... and you waste it on costumes and summoning, leaving the remainder to leak away into the atmosphere?"

"I've always been easy to keep happy," Ethan shrugged as he stirred a teaspoon of sugar into his bone china cup. "What would I do with it? Write my name in the sky?"

Cash smiled, the scarred flesh around his blackened sockets distorting in a disturbing way. "Perhaps it is as well, then, that you have me around to do the thinking for you."

And a column of light shot up from the bust, extending down to the center of the earth and up to the moon.


Integra wheeled sharply on her heel, seeing a flicker out of the corner of her eye.

"'Ello, luv," a British voice called out. "What's a cute bird like you doing out in a nasty place like this?"

"*Who the hell are you?,*" Ranma asked.

"What's he gibbering about?," Spike asked, coming into the light and flicking his cigarette butt at the Japanese boy.

"He asked who you are," Integra cooly translated.

Spike's gameface flashed, bumpy forehead, yellow eyes, and fangs blatant. "I'm dining out."

The Walther rose into the air, smoothly jerking off a bullet that burnt through the heart of the vampire.

"The order has not changed," Integra ground out, eyes closed. "Search and destroy! Search and DESTROY! Crush anything and everything that gets in our way! Don't run or hide, but leave from the front door! Destroy all obstacles and go straight through!"

Angel quietly began to make panicking noises, eyes wide open. Ranma, also stunned, poked through the ashes left by Spike, fishing out the silver bullet. He wordlessly handed it to Integra, who pocketed it.

"*What was that about?,*" Ranma asked. "*The speech thing?*"

"*Nothing,*" Integra said quietly. "*I will find and destroy all the vampires. This is my life's work.*"

Ranma scratched the back of his head. "*Er, you wanta hand?*"

Then the two collapsed, as a brilliant beacon of light shot up into the heavens from town.


Willy gave a thankful oath as the two freeloaders finally collapsed. Man, they drank like a school of fishes! He told the bouncer to throw them out, and the two magic users were stripped of anything of value and thrown out in short order.

If they complained, he'd tell them that the vampire Spike did that. He still owed Willy money.


All over Sunnydale, the two and three foot tall demons terrorising Sunnydale began to faint. Thankful citizens simply threw the monsters out of their houses onto the lawns and locked their doors, waiting for sunrise in an unconscious obedience to the Rules. (Those Rules being -lock your doors after sundown, never invite people in, and never go out after sundown.)

At Ethan's Costume Shoppe, Ethan collapsed as well since he was the spellcaster for the thing. A thousand white streaks of light flowed through him into the two-faced bust, and from there into Cash's hands. The Englishman's hair turned white from the immense amount of energy flowing through him.


Angel gasped as he managed to pry the last bullet out of his elbow with a pocket knife, then collapsed back against the wall of the alleyway as his vampiric healing kicked in once the holy and blessed silver had been removed.

Once he had recovered, he got to his feet. For some reason, while Buffy had seemed to have lost a few inches in height, reverting from Integra back to her normal form, the Japanese boy's body had not altered one iota. Angel strongly doubted that there were any American-Japanese boys in Sunnydale with a body that strong. He shrugged it off and picked up the two, deciding to go to the Sunnydale Library to hand the Slayer and the stranger to Giles.


Xander groaned as he shook his head... where was he? And what was with his hair? What was Faith and him doing in some alleyway?

Memory flooded in as he played with a long strand of silver hair. Halloween. Yeah. Snyder. Ugh.


Xander didn't like other people monkeying around with him.

He shook Faith's shoulder, then paused to watch her chest shake a bit in the barely-there bikini. Peeling his eyes away and firmly fixing them on her face, he shook her shoulder a bit.

"Wha...? X? Where the hell are we?," Faith asked. "And why am I running around in a barely-there bikini?"

"Halloween, remember?," Xander reminded her. "We... kinda got possessed."

"Cool," Faith said. She held up a hand. "Lighting!"

A ball of light floated above her palm. Xander felt jealous that she could make such a bright ball of light, before consoling himself with the fact that that meant that he was more powerful in other types of magic.


Angel managed to lay the two unconscious bodies on the large table in the Library before Giles noticed him.

"Oh! Angel!," Giles said, quite surprised. "Why is Buffy here, and unconscious? And who is that boy there?"

"That ain't important," a Brooklyn voice said, as a man dressed like a pimp strolled out from the shadows. "What is important is that Soulboy here ain't gonna be sniffing around this Slayer's door no more."

"But I've got to help her!," Angel protested. Giles pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose as he took a step back to watch the situation unfold.

"She ain't gonna want yer help, and ya weren't supposed to make with the smoochies with her, ya schmuck! Geddouta here and inta the car before I smack you one. Go on, get!," the pimp said. To Giles shock, the Irish vampire with a soul obeyed.

"Er, who are you, and what are you?," Giles asked, feeling quite lost. "And what on earth is going on?"

"Long story short, I'm in charge of El Soulboy there," the pimp said. "Balancing Demon, name's Whistler, I works for the Powers That Be. Look 'em up. Tonight? That was a mate of yours, opened a shop here in Sunny D. Your little friends decided to buy their costumes from him. Look, I've got to go keep an eye on Romeo before he starts chatting up another Slayer."

Chapter 28

Willow groaned as she slowly woke up.

"Owwww... my head--"

She abruptly stopped talking as she realised something. Her voice. It was way too masculine to be her voice.

"What the?," Willow said experimentally. The timbre and tone was, indeed, un-Willow-like.

She turned her body around, then opened her eyes and looked down.

After looking around to make sure that no one was around and conscious, she did an exploratory grope. Her hand confirmed that the wrong genitals were there. She felt dirty, somehow, after that. And she couldn't see the two bumps on her chest that she had been accustomed to.

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKK!!!!!," the body of Ranma Saotome screamed in a most unmanly fashion.


Buffy groaned as she woke up, a male shriek piercing her comforting cloud of mental oblivion.

"Shaddup, it's only... ten at night?," she said, peering at her wrist. "Where am I?"

The slayer jumped up from where she had been lying on the floor and had a look around. She was at the Sunnydale High School Library, and was next to some guy with black hair in a pigtail -- obviously the shrieker.

"BuffybuffybuffyyougottahelpmeI'mNOTinawillowlikebodyandsomethingisMAJORLYwr ongand--," the boy started babbling.

Buffy slapped him one.

"Again, from the top, slowly," Buffy said calmly. "You're as bad as Will."

"Buffy, you gotta help me I'm NOT in a Willow-like body and something is MAJORLY wrong," the boy said, a Japanese accent colouring his words.

"What?," Buffy asked, totally confused. "You're way wigging out and making no sense."

"I'm Willow," the boy said. He began to go into panic mode again. "SomethingwentWAYwrongandI'minthewrongbodyandtheIRDandthelocalgovernmentandt herestofthegovernmentandallthecorporationsareNOTgonnarecognisemeand--"

Buffy tuned the boy who claimed to be Willow out, and picked up a glass of water that was on the main table.

"Chill out," Buffy said, tipping the water onto the boy's head.

The Slayer's mouth dropped open in surprise when the blackhaired boy turned into a red-headed Willow. Luckily, the glass bounced off the carpet with little damage to it.

Feeling the cold water, Willow's hands immediately went south. A smile creased her face when the arms encountered two obstacles, and the smile widened to a grin when she felt a distinct lack of certain things.

"YAY! I'M A GIRL AGAIN! WOOOOOO!," Willow cheered.

Eventually, Buffy regained her communication link with the outside world. "Ah, does that meant that you're bisexual now?"


Xander was having a lot of fun on the way back to the High School, and the provider of answers.

The vampires of Sunnydale had caught wind of his slight enjoyment of anime, and where he had drawn his nickname of 'Xander Inverse' from. Anime series like Slayers, and Bastard!! were therefore quite well known amongst the undead Americans of California now, as a result.

"AAAAAHHHH!," a leech shrieked in a most ladylike fashion as it spotted him coming. "Inverse wasn't bad enough, now Dark Schneider has come to get us as well! RUN, THE BASTARD'S HERE!"

Xander would have hit the bloodsucker, except that he was laughing hard enough that his lance of flame missed by a foot, scorching the bricks next to the vamp. It fainted dead away, falling to the pavement.

Just as well that Faith was there as well. She staked it.

"Ohohohohoho! What a trip," the dark Slayer smirked. "You okay there, X?"

"Man, those things kill me!," Xander choked out. "Or rather, they dont, and that's what makes it so... pbfffft... funny!"

"Breathe," Faith advised. "Choking to death would be wicked uncool."

"I'm okay," Xander ruled, straightening up. "Have we gotten to our prison, yet?"

"Just about," Faith shrugged. "Hey, you remembering all kinds of groovy things from that bit of fun just now?"

"You mean spells like Venom, or Megadeth?," Xander asked. "Sure. You?"

"Ooooohoohohohohoho!," Faith laughed in answer. A window nearby shattered in response to Naga the White Serpent's (in)famous laugh.

Xander watched her chest bounce up and down in time to her laugh, hypnotised. Once she stopped, he shook her head. Man, he was torn between loving watching and loathing listening.

He shrugged mentally as he held the main door open for Faith. Some of Darshe's supreme confidence had leeched into him as well.

"You want to go on a date tomorrow night?," he asked. "Burgers at Mackers, dancing at the Bronze, then movies and episodes at Chateau De La Harris."