* * * *

* * * *
Chapter Eleven

* * * *

“Wait, Buffy,” said Willow, galloping over towards her friend as she stalked down the street, scythe in hand. “We don’t exactly know where we’re going. I mean, an old church south of town? That could be any church. How are we going to know where they’re at?”

“Easy, Will. It’s gonna be the one with all the Slayers in it,” she replied sharply, staring straight ahead of her. Willow couldn’t help but notice the tear streaks on Buffy’s face. She didn’t remember seeing those after she’d left the room where she and Spike had their big – well, implosion – and she also couldn’t help but notice that Buffy wasn’t bothering to wipe them away.

“Ease up, Red,” said Faith quietly, still walking on eggshells around Buffy despite the fact that Spike got shouted at and not her. “There’s only one old church south of town they’d be staying at. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, totally condemned. Wouldn’t be my first choice for a place to crash, but if you’re crazy…”

“So, we’re walking? All the way?” asked Connor.

“Of course not,” Faith scoffed, stopping at the edge of the street. “We’re taking the bus.”


* * * *

“I can’t believe we let them go out by themselves!” Dawn exclaimed, pacing the length of the room. “Giles, are you gonna let them just walk into a trap? They could die!”

“Dawn, calm down,” said Angel.

“Calm down? Can you even hear yourself?” she asked, turning on him. “Conner’s with them! He almost died already. Are you just gonna let that happen again?”

“Well it’s not like I can go after him,” Angel muttered in response. He glared at Dawn before turning away.

“Hey,” said Andrew. “Dawn’s right. We can’t just let them get killed. I mean, they do have,” his eyes drifted upward as he counted mentally in his head. “Four Slayers, a lesbian Wicca and a former god lady, but that’s not really going to be enough against a dozen evil Slayers, is it?”

“You forgot Connor,” Dawn pointed out.

“Oh. So they’ve got one… shaggy-haired… guy-thing?” Andrew turned to Angel in frustration, hoping he would clarify just exactly what it was his son was supposed to be. He didn’t.

“Giles!” Dawn turned to him. “You’re not just gonna let Buffy do this? You know she only marched out there because she’s upset.”

“I’m not her teacher, Dawn. I don’t even know what to do in this situation.”

Dawn frowned. Giles was talking like he did the last time he came back to Sunnydale – like he didn’t matter. “We go after them.”

“OK, let’s just think rationally here…” Andrew began in a calming voice.


Giles looked to Dawn, who in turn looked to Xander and Angel, who both turned their eyes to the kitchen. Pola stared at them with wide eyes.

“Did you say four Slayers?”

Her accent was heavy, but she was definitely speaking English. “You speak English?” Angel asked.

“How many Slayers? Did one not go?”

After the initial shock of her bilingual nature wore off, the real confusion set in. Why did she feel the need to hide the fact that she spoke English if she were speaking it to them now? And why exactly was she talking to them?

“Well, Buffy and Faith and Kennedy went,” Dawn replied uneasily. She didn’t really know how to react to this situation. “And those girls, Amy and… what’s her name? Patrice? That should be five.”

Andrew shook his head. “No… I only saw four leave.” His usually carefree expression melted. “Wait… does that mean that the other’s still here?”

Giles turned to Angel. “Can you sense another Slayer’s presence?”

The vampire frowned. “Well, yeah. Her.” He inclined his head towards Pola.

Her eyes widened. “Oh god…”

“What is it?” Dawn asked with concern.

“I am not a Slayer. I am witch.”


* * * *

They had walked about half a mile from the bus stop when Buffy saw it. Nestled almost completely out of view between large, overgrown trees was an old, condemned church. It was obviously painted white at one time, but now the paint had chipped away leaving nothing but broken, warped pieces of wood that barely held themselves together. Buffy frowned. These were powerful girls who weren’t afraid of killing people to get whatever they wanted. You think they’d stay somewhere nicer than this.

“What’s the plan?” Kennedy asked, gripping her crossbow in anticipation.

Now that Buffy’s head was more clear she could see that running out half-cocked – well, no cocked, really – wasn’t the best course of action. But something had to be done, and after her confrontation with Spike? She was ready to kill something. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that, though.


* * * *

Spike slammed his back against the brick wall, panting heavily as his body attempted to pull much needed oxygen into his lungs. He’d ducked into the nearest alley once he’d reached a part of town where businesses outnumbered homes and started beating the shit out of the dumpster he found there. Spike had satisfied himself for nearly five minutes by pounding on the metal trash bin, growling momentarily when a man came out from the back door of a restaurant to see what was causing all the noise before continuing to punch and kick the thing as hard as he could. As a vampire he would’ve destroyed it, but as a human being, strong as he still may be, the dumpster caused more damage to him than he did it.

Spike slid to the ground, examining his bleeding knuckles and frowning at the bruises he already saw forming there. He didn’t mind the pain – in fact he welcomed it – he was just surprised by how much there was. Stupid knuckles. Stupid toes. Stupid bitch, stupid humanity!

Another door opened into the alley and a man stumbled through it, clutching his stomach and doubling over as he retched onto the pavement. Spike looked up at the door as it closed. Heflin’s Tavern.

Just what he needed. A spot of violence against a giant can of rubbish and the perfect opportunity to get pissed.


* * * *

“What do you mean you’re not a Slayer?”

“I already said, I’m a witch,” she replied. She looked behind her at the ropes that bound her hands behind the chair. She muttered something in Russian and the ropes fell loosely from her wrists.

Angel moved forward as she stood and rubbed her wrists.

“I will not hurt you,” she assured him. “We need to find Patrice. If they got her…”

“Whoa, who?” asked Xander. “How could they have gotten to her? We’ve been here all night.”

“I saw her go into bedroom, but she never came out. I was worried when the others went away, not sure if she went too, but now I think they got her.”

She brushed past Angel and the others as she walked towards the guest bedroom. Before entering she pulled the axe out of the wall that Spike had thrown and kicked the door down.

“Uh, P-Pola?” said Andrew. “Buffy and Spike were just in here. I don’t think…”

“Shh!” she hissed, moving stealthily towards the closet door. “They could still be here. Can you sense her, vampire?”

Angel frowned at this girl who minutes earlier had been their very hostile hostage. Now she appeared to be on their side, and she was ordering them around. He calmed himself and focused on the closet, his eyes narrowing. “Someone’s in there.”

Pola handed him the axe. “I’m no good with this.” She returned her attention to the closet door. “Aperio.”

The door flew open and they watched in horror as Patrice’s body fell to the floor in front of them with a sickening thud. Dawn clasped a hand to her mouth.


* * * *

They entered the church, the floorboards creaking beneath their feet as they cautiously walked in the aisle between the pews. Buffy looked up towards the rafters and up into the small choir loft. Nothing. Illyria stopped suddenly behind her, and the absence of her feet moving on the creaky floor was enough to cause Buffy to turn around.

“What is it?” she whispered, not looking at the woman for long. Her eyes continued to dart around her, prepared for some unseen attack.

“There is an energy. It prevents me from moving further.”

Faith looked to where Illyria was standing, and in front of the Old One’s feet there was a trapdoor. It was only visible due to the fact that the thick layer of dust that covered the floor was thin around its edges. Someone has been here. Maybe more than one someone.

Willow and Kennedy moved forward, Amy and Connor behind them. As soon as Connor reached the door he found himself unable to move as well.

“What’s happening?” he asked quietly as he pressed against the invisible barrier.

Buffy hoisted her axe into her left hand and bent down, sliding her fingers into the crack in the floor. “Whatever it is, it’s not stopping the rest of us. Let’s find out what’s down there.”

“Are we sure we want to?” Willow asked nervously. “The whole trap theory is coming to mind right now. Especially with the trapdoor and everything.”

“Then start thinking of something magical to get us out of it.”

Buffy yanked on the door and pulled it open.

“B!” Faith hissed. Buffy was being reckless, and she didn’t like where this was going. If the Slayers were down there, then she wasn’t too sure about how safe they would be.

They’d killed others like them.

Everyone looked through the opening to find a steep, wooden staircase leading downward. Buffy sighed. “Those who can? Follow. Illyria and Connor, sit tight and make sure no one else comes in.”

Illyria nodded, looking almost bored and Connor frowned in frustration. Buffy glanced in his direction before leaning towards Illyria. “Make sure nothing happens to him.”

With that, she took the first step and led the others through the trapdoor.


* * * *

“How did this happen?” asked Giles gravely.

Pola ignored him as she leaned over Patrice’s body to feel for a pulse. “She’s still alive, but only barely.” She carefully rolled the girl onto her back. There was a large red stain on her yellow shirt. “She’s been stabbed.”

“Pola? We’re glad you know these things,” Xander began impatiently, “but we’d really like to know what’s going on.”

“The creatures attacked her. We haven’t much time before they find the others. They must know Buffy’s plan.”

“To go to the church? Right,” Angel said with a frown. “You told her the Slayers were hiding there. Why?”

“Because I wanted her to find them.”

“Wait a minute,” Andrew interrupted. “Creatures? What creatures?”

A low growl emanated from beneath the bed against the wall as a claw with a large skewer protruding from one of its knuckles edged out from beneath it.


* * * *

Spike leaned the back of his chair against the wall and delighted in the emptiness of the bar. Save its earlier customer who’d obviously had his fill for the day, which was surprising since it wasn’t yet noon, he seemed to be the only person in the place. Spike chuckled madly, already feeling the effects of the partially consumed bottled of whiskey. He was a person now.

The bartender stared at him as he mechanically wiped the counter with a dirty rag. Top notch place, this was. Spike could stay there all night. “Couldn’t I?” he asked the bottle of whiskey he held in hands aloud. “Think you can help me find myself?”

He took a large swig.


* * * *

Buffy motioned for the others to slow down behind her. Someone was down there, alright. She could hear her muttering under her breath. As she neared the end of the unusually long staircase Buffy realized that the speaker was chanting.

“Kali-Ma, Dark Mother, Great Goddess, Slayer of Demons and most compassionate Mother. Come join us, your children, tonight. Kali-Ma, Dark Mother, Great Goddess…”

Buffy stared at the girl once she reached the bottom of the stairs. She was sitting on an upturned bucket, cradling a well worn book in her arms and rocking back and forth as she chanted in a low, rapid tone. That must be why Connor and Illyria couldn’t move past the trapdoor – she’d set up a barrier. The girl continued chanting and didn’t acknowledge their entrance.

But the knife thrown at Buffy’s head did.

“Wait!” a voice cried out.


* * * *

Dawn screamed as a green demon emerged from under the bed, although it could barely be heard from under Andrew’s squeals of terror. Angel, the only one holding a weapon, turned around in time to see the demon lunge towards him. He reared the axe back before swinging it towards the unexpected attacker, narrowly missing as the creature jumped off of the ground and flew to the ceiling.

Even in his fear Andrew noticed that the creature moved like Spiderman.

Dawn yelped as the demon ran across the nearby wall and pounced off the corner, landing right in front of her. It opened the gaping maw that served as its mouth and growled before stabbing her in the middle with its skewer. Her eyes widened in shock as the skewer slid out of her belly. Dawn fell limply to the floor.

“Dawn!” Xander cried out in alarm. He grabbed the lamp that sat on the nightstand and lunged towards the demon, even though he knew the cheap light fixture wouldn’t be enough to cause the creature much harm. It did distract it, however, and before it could make Xander its next victim, Angel made a clean swing towards the demon’s head and soon it was rolling on the floor.

After reassuring themselves that the creature was dead and their lives were no longer in danger, everyone moved towards Dawn.

“Dawnie! Can you hear me?” Xander asked as he cradled her head in his lap. Her eyes were closed, but her lips moved. No sound came out. “Oh, god.”


* * * *

Buffy raised her hand just in time to knock the knife away.

“Wait!” a voice cried out. There was a large group of women hidden in the shadows. One of them emerged from behind a wooden beam. If she was a Slayer, she was an old one. “They’re not here to harm us.”

“We’re not?” Buffy asked, eyebrows raised.

“No, we’re not,” Willow said with a smile, moving forward. “Althanea!”

She rushed forward to embrace the witch but stopped short. With a relieved smile she grasped the woman’s hands in hers.

“What are you doing here?”

“You do not know?” the woman asked, her brow furrowed. Willow shook her head. Althanea frowned. “The Coven tried to contact you before I left. These girls are in grave danger.”

She looked over her shoulder and the girls behind her.

Buffy’s eyes widened as they began to adjust to the darkness. Several girls, dozens, huddled in the corners. Some were standing, others lie on the floor with their knees curled to their chests while others sat nearby, watching them with concern.

Buffy raised her eyes to Althanea. Willow mentioned that she was a member of the Coven in Westbury, and now she was sure that everything they’d believed was a lie. “What is this?”

“…Great Goddess, Slayer of Demons and most compassionate Mother…” the young girl continued chanting in the background.

Althanea looked her in the eyes. “This is their sanctuary.”


* * * *

“Dawnie?” Angel asked with concern, kneeling beside the girl and touching her face. “You guys have to get her out of here. She needs a doctor – so does the other girl.”

“The hospital is not safe for her,” Pola informed them. Their eyes widened. “For Dawn, maybe, but Patrice – she is a Slayer. They will be looking for her.”

“Who?” Giles asked.

Pola was growing impatient. “The creatures! They do not all look like this.” She pointed to the decapitated demon oozing black blood onto the floor. “They have many forms. You must hurry and take Dawn to the hospital. She should be safe.”

Xander didn’t think twice before instructing Andrew to help him lift Dawn off of the ground. His hands were covered in her blood.

“I will take care of Patrice. I can bind her energy so that the wound will not become worse. The rest of you must go.”

“I can’t,” Angel informed her, pointing to the window that thankfully had blinds blocking the sun’s rays from entering the room.

“Then you can help me, but we must move fast. They’ve found us.”

“Who has found us?”

“The great evil who is trying to revive the First.”

Angel stared at her, his voice low and serious when he spoke. “What?”


* * * *

“Althanea, what…”

Willow was interrupted by loud yell as Faith charged at one of the girls. Buffy’s eyes widened in shock as she saw Faith raise her sword, preparing to strike a startlingly pale girl who was lying on the floor, but before the sword neared the girl’s head it was on the floor, and so was Faith.

“Faith!” Kennedy shrieked in surprise, moving towards her fellow Slayer. “What did you do to her?” she asked Althanea, who still had her hand raised in front of her.

“Stopped her from causing harm to one of her own,” Althanea replied.

“That’s not one of our own,” Faith muttered, glaring at the girl who was still lying on the floor. “That’s the bitch who murdered Terri.”

The girl raised her blue eyes and looked at Faith with an expression akin to shame, but it disappeared quickly as her blond head ducked towards her chest. Something was seriously wrong with her.

“Why are you protecting her?” Faith shouted as she rose to her feet. “Are they here, too?” she asked before Althanea could answer. “The ones who killed Robin. Are they here too?!”

“Faith, calm down,” said Buffy, raising a hand. “I want to know what’s going on,” she asked Althanea.

“Then you may want to sit down,” she replied, taking her seat on an old wooden chair, one of the few chairs in the dark basement room. “This may take awhile.”


* * * *

Spike watched a man come through the door, his windbreaker over his head to shield himself from the rain that had started pouring down. It was now half past noon and the world outside was shrouded in darkness by the stormy clouds overhead. Spike grinned as he clutched his long empty whiskey bottle to his chest.

Shrouded in darkness, just like everything else in my god-forsaken life. Another chuckle. Calling it life, now. Ain’t that rich?


* * * *

Several girls in the room jumped as thunder clapped over their heads. Buffy didn’t move. She was too shocked to move.

“The First is back,” she said slowly. She could feel tears burning in the corners of her eyes. They were angry tears – frustrated tears. They were a sign that things were about to become too much for her. “A-and some other, powerful evil is rounding up all the Slayers in the world so that it can use our energy to revive it? How can that be done?”

“You crippled the First last year by destroying its largest power source – the California Hellmouth. Its remaining followers sought the help of a powerful evil from another dimension, an evil almost as powerful as the First Evil itself. From this evil they learned that the power that nearly destroyed it is the power they can use to revive it. To make it corporeal.”

“By using all of us as some kind of battery?” Kennedy replied. “How is that even possible? There are too many Slayers…”

“No, dear,” Althanea interrupted. “There are but hundreds of Slayers across the globe. Several of them have been relocated here. Once they are all brought to the Hellmouth they will be taken to its center. A ritual will be performed and the First will be unleashed into its primal form. It will be made flesh.”

“But not if we stop it,” Buffy replied shakily. “You have a plan, right? That’s why you’re here?”

Althanea’s eyes fell. “We are doing the best we can. All the girls you see here are the ones we managed to save from the great evil that is hunting them. There are more out there. We’re healing the ones we’ve recovered from their recent experiment, and hopefully it shall not be performed again. What they did to these girls…” Her eyes fell on Angela’s shaking form. “It’s safe to say they did not expect such a result.”

“They attacked us,” Faith pointed out, realizing now that the girls had not acted on their free will. “What did they do to them?”

“They drugged them. Whatever it was has worn off, but the effect it’s having on their bodies has weakened them. Some of the girls have gone mad.”

“Spike was right,” Willow muttered. “Crazy Slayers…”

“How are we supposed to stop this from happening?” Buffy looked around the room. She recognized some of the girls – she’d met a few during her search in Europe. She recognized more from Sunnydale. Rona was cradling Vi in her arms. She was rocking back and forth, her eyes glassy and unfocused and another girl – a witch, Buffy guessed – stood beside her with her hand on Vi’s head. Her eyes were closed and she was whispering something in Latin.

“We can’t do anything, dear. It’s up to you.”

Buffy stared at her, hoping for more of an explanation.


Angela looked up at Buffy. She was almost white all over – pale skin, light blue eyes, bright blond hair. She wore a gold cross around her neck, and she was still wearing her Catholic school uniform.

“They made me kill. I-I didn’t want to. She said…” Angela swallowed hard and stood as she pointed in Faith’s direction. “She said I was born to kill demons, but I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Then why did you?” Kennedy asked curiously.

Angela bowed her head. “There was something inside of me. The drug, it made me confused… it made me think that I was something else, but it wasn’t that. There was something inside of me, and it was screaming,” she said the last word through gritted teeth. “Kill,” she muttered. Her eyes rose to the others. “Kill. Kill, kill, kill! Kill! KILL!”

Three of the girls in a more stable condition tried to calm her. She continued shrieking at Buffy and the tears that had been threatening to do so fell.

“S-So,” Willow began weakly, her eyes on Althanea. “You’re saying…?”

The wise witch nodded. “You have to reverse the magic. Without the power unleashed on every Potential in the world, the First has no chance of returning fully to this plane of existence.”

Buffy closed her eyes and turned away from them. “No,” she whimpered.


* * * *

Weakness is apart of humanity. It defines it, really. Men are weak. They’re controlled by their emotions, their physical strength is below average considering all the creatures that walk (or crawl) on this earth, and they’re mortal.

Spike was apart of humanity. He was defined by it, now. He was weak. He was controlled by his emotions, he was physically incapable compared to what he used to be… and he was mortal.

“I can see what ails you, my poor Spike. It’s back to the bottle and yet your thirst isn’t quenched.”

Spike’s eyes widened as he looked into the eyes of his former Sire.

Drusilla grinned wickedly at him. “But I can fix you.”

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