disclaimer in part 1

Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.

High Noon
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part 2: Bloodlust

Buffy sat in the passenger's seat of her mother's car, staring out the window through the sunglasses that covered her eyes. She swallowed a yawn. She had actually had quite a bit of sleep because of her long nap at Angel's, but try telling that to her body. As far as it was concerned, she had only given it three hours of rest. Her hands rested idly in her lap, playing a little with the fabric of her short black skirt.

"Buffy?!" her mother said again, trying to get her daughter's attention.

"Huh?" Buffy answered, pulling herself into the conversation with a physical jerk.

"You were out pretty late last night," her mother said blandly.

"Yeah, I was at Willow's," Buffy answered, mentally chalking up another lie to her mother. *If I had a dollar for every time I lied to her...* she thought.

"Did you really need to stay over so late if you were just studying?" Joyce Summers asked her daughter a little suspiciously.

"Well, finals are coming up in about a week and a half," Buffy said. She realized with an internal groan that she hadn't even begun to think about finals. Her mother seemed to accept the excuse though, which was good. *What am I going to do if my mom ever gets a clue?* Buffy wondered briefly. She dismissed the thought. *We'll just have to drive off that bridge when we come to it.*

"Well, don't study too hard," her mother told her. "I mean...do study. You need to do well. But don't kill yourself with staying up late every night. Oh, you know what I mean." Buffy smiled wryly at her mother's struggle to express herself.

"I know," she said simply. "Bye." The Slayer climbed out of the car, throwing a wave back at her mother as she headed for the school. Time to go talk to Giles about this Spike guy. Time to go find out what threat she was going to be facing next. Time to go be the Chosen One. Buffy Summers shook her hair out of her eyes and marched toward her destiny.

* * * * * * *
"Giles?" she called, as she pushed the library doors open. She noticed Willow and Xander were already in attendance, sitting next to each other at the table in the center of the room. "Hey, guys," she greeted them.

"Hey, Buff," Xander said with a grin. "What's the up?"

"Well, if Giles would get his lazy butt out here," she called loudly, "I could tell you about the latest weird occurrence in the freaky world of Sunnydale." Giles emerged from his office, looking rather rumpled...even for Giles.

"It seems fairly obvious that I warrant no respect whatsoever," he grumbled.

"Aww...come on, G-man," Xander began. He noticed the look in the Watcher's eye and turned to Willow for support. She glared at him, obviously thinking he should give the librarian a break. Xander looked into those green eyes and decided to change his tactic. "Me shutting up now." The Watcher turned to his Slayer, who was not as easily subdued.

"Did you sleep in the library again?" she asked. "How many times do we have to explain the purpose of your house, and your bed, and going there at night?" Giles raked his fingers through his hair with a sigh.

"I do this for your benefit," he reminded Buffy. "Perhaps you should try to remember that."

"All right..." she said, relenting. "No more jokes. What were you researching that required you to stay up all night?"

"I was attempting to...to find something on this ra-rather rare condition of yours," Giles explained.

"You mean the fact that she sometimes doesn't have a reflection now?" Willow asked.

"Precisely," Giles agreed with a nod. "I've come up with a theory. It is just a-a theory mind you, because there really is no precedent for this particular condition." As he spoke, Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them. The teenagers exchanged a glance; they knew the librarian was now entering full lecture mode. "The exchange of blood is the method by which the demon enters a person...making them a vampire. The fact that you never participated in a full transfer is what makes your condition temporary, Buffy." Buffy battled the urge to roll her eyes.

"I know this part, Giles," she said impatiently. "You have a tendency to state the obvious. Skip to the important parts."

"Right," Giles answered. "The vampire characteristics you've been exhibiting will, in fact, fade. But they will get stronger before they depart."

"Well that's new," Xander interjected. "You'd think they would get weaker and then lose their tenuous grasp and fall into the abyss of nothingness..." he trailed off. "Hey...points for the imagery?"

"As you so...colorfully put it, something like a virus would normally fade until it disappeared." Giles turned to Buffy, attempting to stress the importance of his words. "This is different. It involves a demon with some consciousness. As it feels itself being forced out...it will fight. Be prepared, Buffy. You must not let these things distract you."

"Yeah, yeah," Buffy replied. "Ever confident in my abilities."

"That has nothing to do with..." Giles began.

"Moving on," Buffy interrupted. "Some of us have class in a few seconds. There's a new vamp in town. Spike. There seems to be some sort of struggle between him and the Annoying One." The bell rang shrilly, interrupting her. "I'll explain more later. Look up this Spike guy, Giles."

In a few seconds the Slayer and Slayerettes were gone, leaving Giles alone in the library. He sighed as he trudged towards the stacks. *It would be nice to get a little recognition for the long hours of research I put in once in a while.* he thought. *Instead I get 'skip to the important parts, Giles.' Ahhh well, perhaps I do have a tendency to overstate,* he conceded. *Now, to discover the truth about...Spike? Rather a strange name.*

* * * * * * *
Buffy walked beside Willow on her way to class. Xander had darted off, attempting to be on time to his Geometry class for once.

"So, your date with Xander?" Buffy asked.

"Wonderful," Willow sighed. "Well, except for the part where we almost got run-over."

"What?!" Buffy questioned worriedly.

"No it's okay, I'm fine. I'll tell you during our free period," Willow promised. "And what about you? Did everything with you and Angel go ahh...according to plan?"

"Oh, Will," Buffy breathed happily. "Have I ever mentioned how amazing Angel is?"

"At least three times a day, everyday" said Willow with a grin. "I want details," she called as she headed towards her computer class.

"We'll talk," Buffy called back, entering her math classroom. She wondered briefly what it would be like if she didn't have Willow to confide in or Xander to make her laugh. She felt a quick rush of gratitude for her friends. They made her feel almost like she was a normal girl. She decided she didn't even want to imagine research sessions without Xander's constant jokes...or dating without Willow's ever present support.

Realizing that her teacher was starting a review for the final, Buffy focused her attention on the blackboard as equations and formulas began to cover it like a fungus. The hour crawled by, and by the time the bell released them, Buffy thought she was going to gouge her own eyes out just to alleviate the boredom. *Not a good plan,* she admitted to herself as she headed towards science class. Willow was already there, practically bouncing in her seat.

Buffy grinned at her on her way over to drop her books by her lab stool.

"I could barely sit through computer," Willow confided, when her friend came over to visit her at her lab table.

"Math was a total drag," Buffy told her with a sigh.

"So tell me what happened," Willow demanded, grabbing the blonde girl's hand excitedly.

"In math?" Buffy joked with a grin. "There were equations...and that about sums up the entire hour."

"Not in math," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "Yesterday...with Angel...and the..."

"The picnic," Buffy interrupted. Willow shook her head no and was given a warning look by the Slayer. "It was nice. I make a good sandwich."

"How come you never make sandwiches for me?" Xander pouted. "I like sandwiches. Almost as much as I like ho hos...mmm...what about both sandwiches and ho hos..." Willow looked over her shoulder to see that her lab partner, Xander, had arrived. Understanding replaced confusion as she finally grasped the motive behind Buffy's bland talk of sandwiches.

Buffy didn't want Xander knowing she had slept with Angel, and Willow couldn't help but agree with her friend. Even though she was now dating Xander, Willow knew he had had a crush on the Slayer since the moment she had arrived at Sunnydale High. Add that to his tendency to get jealous, and they had a potentially explosive situation.

Willow winced, remembering the fight between Buffy and Xander in the library a few days ago. It had blown over quickly, neither of them meaning the harsh things they had screamed. Xander had been acting like a jerk, totally upset at the thought of Buffy and Angel together; and that had been BEFORE Buffy and Angel had actually had sex. Willow tuned Xander back in, breaking herself out of her reverie.

"So how long is it until lunch?" he was asking, as he finished up a quality ramble on sandwiches and ho hos.

"We still have a couple hours," Willow told him. He clutched his stomach dramatically with one hand and placed his other hand over his eyes.

"I don't know if I can make it," he gasped out, collapsing onto the table. Buffy looked at Willow, and the two of them broke into giggles. Still laughing, Buffy returned to her own lab table. Behind her laughter, she hid a little bit of worry. She knew she wouldn't be able to keep Xander in the dark for long. She already felt guilty about hiding things from him, but he tended to freak out when it came to Angel; and she didn't think she could deal with a wiggy Xander on top of everything else that was going on.

An hour later, the threesome left the classroom.

"Have I ever mentioned how boring that class is?" Xander asked.

"Boring?" Willow said in overdone shock. "You mean the ins and outs of cell structure don't intrigue and amaze you?!"

"You're right," Xander agreed. "Something must be wrong with me. I would say it's genetic, but I wasn't paying attention when we learned about that stuff."

"As far as I know...genes are all about choosing whether to wear Levi's or Lee," Buffy quipped with a grin.

"Ahh...but what about Gap genes?" Xander asked philosophically. "Throw that into the mix and it's a mass of confusion." Willow just grinned, shaking her head at her science impaired friends.

They had almost reached the library when Principal Snyder's nasal voice reached their ears.

"Summers," he barked. Buffy rolled her eyes at her friends before turning to face the oncoming principal.

"Yes, sir?" she asked in her best *I'm a good little soldier* voice.

"Have you seen the signs up all over school advertising the blood drive?" Buffy had a feeling the seemingly innocent question would end up having a twist she wouldn't like.

"Yes?" she answered, unsure if she had picked the right answer.

"Then why aren't you over in the auditorium giving blood?" he asked.

"Um...because I have a rare condition that makes my blood unusable for other people," Buffy answered quickly, hoping Snyder would accept her excuse. No such luck.

"Right," Snyder sneered. "And I'm a Ferengi. You have a free period. You're going to the auditorium, and you're giving blood." His voice was commanding, leaving no room for argument. Buffy opened her mouth to protest, and he quickly continued, effectively cutting her off. "Otherwise I have a feeling there will be one less student going to this school." He turned his gaze on her companions, seeming to notice Xander and Willow for the first time. "You two go as well," he ordered.

Willow's look of sympathy for Buffy quickly became a look of horror as the thought of needles turned her face pale. Xander grabbed her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. He tried to come up with an excuse that would get her out of it, but Snyder wasn't accepting excuses. He left them standing in the hall without another word.

"He won't know if we actually do it will he?" Xander asked doubtfully.

"He'll look over the sign-up sheets," Buffy said glumly. "He'd use any excuse to bust me. I'm sorry guys; he only picks on you because you're with me. And what the heck is a Ferengi?"

"It's a Star Trek thing, Buff," Xander explained. "Big ears and all that...hmmm." He broke off that line of thought, amusing as it was, and got to the point. "And you're wrong about why he picks on us," the Trekkie protested. "I think he genuinely dislikes us on our own." He frowned thoughtfully. "Anywhere but Sunnydale we under seventeen year olds wouldn't have to worry about this."

"Anywhere but Sunnydale the hospitals wouldn't be having a critical blood shortage due to vampires stealing blood bags and draining people all over town," Buffy countered.

"Life on the Hellmouth," Xander sighed. "Gotta loathe it."

"Let's get this over with," Willow said through clenched teeth.

"Yeah," Xander agreed firmly. 'It should only take a couple of minutes."

"Right," Buffy consented, trying to silence the alarm bells going off in her head. That close to that much blood. After last night she had a feeling she should avoid blood as much as possible. With a silent curse at the sadistic little troll, she followed her two best friends toward the auditorium.

When they reached the auditorium, Willow surveyed the line of students that stretched down from the stairs of the stage where the Red Cross had set up its equipment.

"Snyder must be doing his usual forced volunteers shtick," Xander commented. "Anyone want to explain the concept of volunteering to him?" He looked at the two girls, his eyes settling on Buffy. "He already hates you the most Buffy, so I think you should do it."

"Oh gee thanks, Xander," Buffy said sarcastically.

"What can I say...you are the Chosen One," Xander said with a grin. Buffy groaned, and the three of them went to join the line. Despite its length the line moved quickly, and soon the trio stood at the foot of the stairs, just minutes away from taking their turn at blood donation.

Willow stared in near panic at the rows of cots, and their trays of needles, tubes and bloodbags. *Deep breaths,* she told herself, sucking in a lungful of air. *It's just a needle. It'll be over in a few minutes. It's just a needle. Oh God!* Xander looked at his girlfriend worriedly. She was even paler than usual, and her eyes were wide with fear.

"It'll be okay," he whispered into her ear, before turning her to face him. She stared up into his eyes as if they could keep the fear away. He held her hands tightly, massaging them with his thumbs. She felt a measure of calm enter her, and let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding with an audible hiss.

Buffy stood to the side, unaware of her two best friends, unaware of everything but the pounding of her own pulse against her brain. She could smell the blood, feel it. She stared out into the seats of the auditorium, then to the windows, then to the hard wood floor of the stage, anywhere but the blood that was flowing into little plastic bags. Despite her best efforts, her eyes were inexorably drawn to the crimson liquid as it coursed through the tubes. She licked her lips nervously as the desire to taste it pervaded her entire being. The room felt smaller suddenly, the heat of the warm bodies around her radiating through her like a shock. She let out a shaky breath, feeling her consciousness be consumed by the heartbeats of the students clustered around her. The beating of their hearts, the flow of the blood through their veins, it was all that filled her world.

Her sight swam before her, the room spinning crazily. She closed her eyes tightly against the motion as nausea filled her. She knew she was shaking, trembling with the need she felt. A need to taste the blood in her mouth, to feel the liquid rush into her mouth and down her throat. When she opened her eyes she realized that she was kneeling on her hands and knees. She could hear voices, calling her, screaming her name, asking her if she was okay; but it was all so distant. The shouts were drowned out by the dull roaring in her ears, the pounding of the blood against her own veins, the pounding of the hearts of the people that surrounded her.

One rational thought entered her mind, and she clung to it with all her strength. *Get out of here!* She rose to her feet, staggering down the stairs and leaving the auditorium at a run. *My face!* her mind screamed. *If it changes and someone sees me...Get out!* She ran faster, tearing through the hallway until she reached a bathroom. She staggered into one of the stalls and entered it, locking the door behind her. In the relative privacy of the bathroom she huddled against herself, fighting the desire that wracked her body.

Tears leaked out of her eyes as the physical ache, the need for blood, pulled at her. It tore at her, slashing and burning through her. She held herself tighter, trying to stop the tremors that still shook through her. Slowly, maddeningly slowly, the pain faded. Buffy wiped at her face, attempting to regain some of her composure. As she gained control of herself, she realized that there was a voice outside the stall calling her name...Willow's voice.

Brushing her hand through her hair and wiping the last of her tears away, Buffy opened the door. Willow looked at the disheveled Slayer and quickly moved to enfold her friend in a hug. The act of tenderness caused fresh tears to fall from Buffy's eyes as she clung desperately to her friend. Willow made calming sounds, muttering that everything would be all right and eventually Buffy quieted.

"I'm okay," she said, disengaging herself from the hug. Willow looked at her doubtfully, and Buffy hurried to reassure her. "Really."

"What happened?" Willow asked. "You fell to the floor, and then you ran out of there. We were so worried." Buffy sighed, not wanting to explain and not really sure how to.

"I don't really understand it, Will," she said softly. "It's this bloodlust...like a vamp's bloodlust." She turned her reddened eyes to her friend. "It's so strong. I...I don't know how to fight it." Willow's face twisted sympathetically, and she grabbed Buffy's hand, pulling her to her feet.

"You'll get through this," she assured the Slayer. "We'll get through it together." She led Buffy over to the sink and had her splash some cool water on her face, then the red-headed hacker dragged her to the library. *Hopefully, Giles will have some answers,* she thought.

* * * * * *
Willow looked at Buffy through the window of Giles' office. She seemed to be doing better. Xander was making jokes, as always, and Buffy was smiling at them. Willow even saw her laugh a few times. Despite the occasional laugh, she could tell that Buffy was still shaken by the incident. She looked fragile, as if the wrong word would cause her to shatter. *I hope Xander doesn't say the wrong word,* Willow thought suddenly, fearing where the boy's sometimes altogether too big mouth would lead him. *It's strange to think of Buffy as being fragile,* she realized. *Buffy's the strong one who leads the way, and fights the demons, and keeps everybody safe. She takes so much of the impact protecting us...sometimes it's too much even for her.*

"So she said it was some kind of bloodlust?" Giles asked again, bringing Willow back into the real world.

"Right," Willow said with a nod. "She said that when she saw the blood she was overcome with bloodlust...like a vampire's bloodlust."

"Quite so," Giles said thoughtfully. "It seems that this is part of the manifestation of Buffy's ah...condition." He took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose distractedly. "The unfortunate thing is that there may be no way to combat this. She'll just have to ride it out...and that may be rather difficult given the intensity of this episode." He sighed, heading for the door. "Still. She's only experienced this one incident...so perhaps this problem will not recur," he continued hopefully, as he opened the door to his office. Willow quickly followed him over to the table where Buffy and Xander sat.

"So tell the truth," Xander was saying. "It was all an act wasn't it. You just didn't want them to stick a needle in your arm."

"Curses, foiled again," Buffy played along with a smile. "And I thought it was such a good plan this time."

"You would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids," Xander agreed, shaking his head sadly. "So, Giles, you have anything helpful to report?" Giles looked at his frazzled Slayer and wished he had something to give her, some magical spell, some cure that would make everything better.

"I'm afraid there isn't much we can do," he said regretfully. "It's clear that this is related to the blood you shared with Angel, and the good news is that you won't have to deal with it forever. The bad news is there's nothing I can think of to lessen the urges."

"Why am I not surprised?" Buffy replied with a sigh.

"You may want to talk to Angel about this," Giles continued. "He may have some advice on methods for controlling your bloodlust. Until you gain some measure of control I'd advise you to avoid contact with blood as much as possible."

"Great," Buffy said, sarcasm slipping into her voice. "Because I'm the Slayer, and my boyfriend's a vampire; so neither of us ever have to deal with blood." Giles seated himself on the stairs with a sigh.

"I'm sorry, Buffy," he said sincerely. "I am still looking for some hint in the books, but this is one case where research doesn't seem to be doing too much good."

"Well, what about our other problem?" Willow interjected, effectively changing the subject. "Spike."

"Ahh yes," Giles said, rising to his feet to gather a short stack of books from his office. "I was able to find a little information on our friend Spike." His face fell as he continued. "Unfortunately, the news here is also not very good." He handed an open book to Buffy, who looked at the picture curiously.

"This is a girl, Giles," she said doubtfully. "Are you saying that _Spike_ is a girl?"

"No, no," Giles corrected. "That's Drusilla, his paramour."

"Always with the big words, Giles," Xander chided. "Why not just say she's his sex kitten?" Giles winced, refusing to answer as Willow hit the back of Xander's head lightly.

"So if Spike's here, she'll be here too," Willow assumed.

"Exactly." Giles agreed. "They are a team. He's very strong, Buffy," Giles said warningly. "Just a little under two hundred and he's killed two slayers."

"Gulp," Willow said softly.

"Drusilla is, according to the references, quite mad." Buffy looked at the black and white picture of the long dark-haired girl, who stared big-eyed at the camera, once more before closing the book with a thump.

"Oh yay," she said dryly. "We've got Super Fighter Guy, and Crazy As a Loon Girl. Why don't I ever get to fight any weak evil villains...with average skills and...and toupees?" Giles looked at her with eyebrows raised.

"Toupees?" he asked mildly.

"I couldn't think of anything better," she admitted. "Cut me some slack here. I'm not having a very good month."

"No one ever cuts me any slack when my jokes go sour," Xander pouted. "I just get the evil eye, or the groan. Or..." He noticed that he was getting the evil eye times three and shut his mouth with a snap. "Oh go on...talk about saving the world or whatever...no one ever has any time for Xander." Buffy grinned before turning back to her Watcher.

"You need to talk to Angel about Spike," he ordered. "The records show that they spent a great many years in Europe together." Buffy nodded reluctantly. She didn't like bringing up Angel's past. It was filled with nothing but death and pain. She realized that the others were waiting politely for her to break the silence, eying her warily to see her reaction to the reminder that her boyfriend had at one time been a very evil vampire.

"So..." she began, breaking the silence. "Why's Spike here?"

"As I mentioned, he's very powerful. I can't imagine him being a submissive lackey for the Anointed One. There's really only one possibility..." Giles paused dramatically. Buffy rolled her eyes at his theatrics, and Giles hurried to finish his thought. "He's here to take over."

"Well that works out great doesn't it?" Buffy said, feeling better. "They'll fight each other...and at least one of them will be killed. Maybe even two for the price of one. I like this deal," she caught the solemn look on Giles' face. "You don't like this deal?"

"Neither of them will give in," Giles explained. "Once they've chosen sides, Sunnydale will be emersed in a state of war."

"Isn't that even better?" Xander asked. "The vampires kill each other off and that equals less work for Buffy. More time to party. Whoo hoo!"

"Not quite," Giles disagreed. "Disregard for human life is one characteristic every vampire involved will share. The casualties could be enormous. And if they decide they need reinforcements..."

Willow nodded in understanding as she recognized the danger. Xander looked from the Watcher to Willow in confusion. He was about to ask them to spell it out for those in the group without genius level IQs, when it clicked.

"Oooh, I get it!" he said, slightly amazed at the fact that he had knowledge. "They'll play a little vampy version of Vietnam. Only the draft cards will be more along the lines of two holes in your neck, and a complete blood transfusion"

"Um...well. That's one way to put it," Giles concurred. "Swelling their ranks with the newly, ahh, converted would be not only a way to gain followers; but also a show of power. By the time they're done, there may not be a live human left in Sunnydale." The three teenagers exchanged a look. This was definitely not a good thing.

"So how do we stop it?" Buffy asked, getting right to the point.

"I'm not sure," Giles admitted. "But we should have a little time left before it begins." The bell rang, and all the occupants of the library jumped in surprise. The three students quickly gathered up their books. "Talk to Angel about Spike," Giles reminded Buffy.

"Okay," she agreed. "I'm going to see him tonight on patrol."

"I'll meet you in the cemetery then," Giles said. Buffy nodded.

"Me too," Xander added. Buffy looked at him doubtfully.

"I don't think that's a good idea. We don't know how soon this is going to go down. I don't want either of you two caught in the middle." She turned to include Willow in her gaze.

"I can take care of myself," Xander argued.

"We'll bring crosses," Willow agreed. Buffy looked at her two best friends and relented.

"Okay...but if there's any trouble, you run. Got it?"

"Yes ma'am," Xander said, giving her a snappy salute. "I like this army...no medals for bravery...just an order to run at the first sign of trouble." Buffy and Willow laughed, leading the way out of the library, with Private Harris right behind them.

Giles hid his smile until the teenagers were gone, then allowed himself an indulgent chortle at the joke.

* * * * * * * *
Spike paced impatiently back and forth over the stone floor of the abandoned sewer tunnel. He kicked a rock angrily, sending it spinning through the air. It narrowly missed one of the vampires in the group that stood or slouched against the walls uneasily, at the other end of the short tunnel. They watched their new leader warily for a sign that he would turn his temper from the rocks to them.

Spike looked at the wary vampires, clustered nervously together, and snorted in disgust. There couldn't be a single one over fifty years old in that bunch. He doubted they could find their way from one end of a straight line to the other, much less conquer a hostile force.

"I'm surrounded by bloody children," he muttered to himself, lighting a cigarette. "I'm stuck in a sewer tunnel with a bunch of idiots." *At least this part of the sewer is dry,* he thought optimistically. *Although apparently that special sewer smell never disappears.* One of the idiots approached him challengingly.

"Why do we cower in the sewers," the vampire began belligerently, "while the Anointed sits cozy above ground?" He looked at the other vampires to back him up, and got a few nods of consent.

"You want to march into the Annoying One's lair, and take over just like that?" Spike asked with a snap of his fingers.

"I do not see why we wait," the vampire agreed. "We should take what is ours."

"I see your point, mate," Spike replied, putting his arm around the other vampire, and taking a long drag off his cigarette. "Why wait?" he asked rhetorically. His arm tightened across the other vampire's shoulders. "Here's an idea! Maybe because if we go in there right now, we get slaughtered. I don't fancy the idea of getting slaughtered because you thought you would attempt to grow a brain." The other vampire felt Spike's arm draw even tighter, and he struggled weakly to free himself from his leader's grasp.

Casually, Spike flicked open his lighter and pressed the flame to the vampire's exposed chest. The skin began to smolder, filling the tunnels with the smell of burning flesh; and the other vampire's struggles increased. But Spike's hold did not falter. Suddenly he pushed the other vampire away from him, just as the vampire's chest caught fire. In a few seconds, flames had consumed the vampire's body, leaving behind only a scattering of dust.

"Don't attempt to grow a brain, people," Spike said, turning his baleful gaze on his followers as he stubbed his cigarette out against the cold rocks. They cowered beneath his gaze, refusing to meet his eyes. *Dammit,* Spike thought, *I really couldn't spare him. I need as many bodies as I can get. But an example had to be made.*

"You lot, listen up," he ordered, walking towards the cluster of vampires. "I know you don't want to be here underground. We won't be for long. But I have this desire not to get killed, understand? So we're gonna to do this the right way, my way." His eyes swept over his followers. "Any of you boys feeling the need to complain....step on up. We'll settle it quick." Unsurprisingly, no one took him up on his challenge.

Turning on his heel, Spike entered an alcove along the side of the tunnel. Part of the rock wall had crumbled, leaving a room within the wall. Compared with the sparseness of the tunnels, the little room was a palace. Three mattresses lay piled on the floor, covered with sheets and pillows. The walls were hung with bolts of cloth; blacks, reds, and whites dominated the color scheme. At a small table, Drusilla sat pouring tea for one of her dolls.

"Are they playing nicely?" she asked, not looking up as Spike entered her domain. He crossed to her and knelt behind her, resting his hands over her shoulders

"It's just frustrating, pet," he said, his voice filled with resignation. Drusilla looked up from her tea party, turning to face her lover. She ran her hand from his forehead to his mouth. "All I've got is that bunch out there. I need someone on my side who can help more than they hinder. I need an edge...any kind of edge."

"An edge," she echoed, her eyes turning up towards the ceiling. "An edge to cut, and make them bleed."

"That's right, love," Spike agreed. "We'll make them bleed."

"I can't see it," she whispered, shivering. "It's all dark." Spike, pulled her closer to him, his arms cradling her body next to his. "It's there...there's something. You'll find a way, Spike." She smiled up at him through heavy-lidded eyes. "Someone's coming."

"Who?" Spike asked, running his hands down the length of her arms. "Who do you see, Dru?"

Drusilla's eyes closed as she brought her lips to his. Her tongue flicked over his lips and into his mouth. Then she breathed one word into his mouth.


* * * * * * * *

The Anointed One sat alone, his eyes staring into the empty blackness that surrounded him.

His thoughts were resting on the upstart, the challenger, his rival. Spike. A shudder of hatred ran though him, tinged slightly with fear. Although he knew he still had the majority of Sunnydale's vampires on his side, more of his followers had defected than he had expected.

He crossed his arms angrily against his chest, his mind going over the faces of the vampires in his ranks. He needed to do the bonding ritual with someone tonight. If he waited any longer everything could be lost. He ran through the candidates in his mind again, snorting with disgust. Although he had the power to at least marginally control most vampires, his real power lay in the ritual. When he bonded with another vampire, he became their master. His own power grew according to theirs, and he was able to rule through his puppet as he had through the Master. They could fight for him, feed for him, and he controlled them utterly.

*I need someone powerful,* he thought. *Now more than ever. To beat Spike, I need someone with real power.* There was no one powerful enough in the ranks. He knew that, but he ran through the list again. *Angelus would have been perfect. But he was obstinate. Perhaps too stong. He was able to break my hold on him. Spike. To bond with the enemy would neutralize the threat, while forming a bond with a powerful vampire.* The thought was tempting, but the Anointed dismissed it. To bond with someone of Spike or Angelus' power he would need consent. He couldn't force complete control on anyone with that level of power. Spike would never consent.

So that left him with a bunch of vampires he knew could probably never rival the power of Spike or Angelus. *The only other person in Sunnydale who could challenge them is...* His eyes flew open in surprise as the thought hit him. It was perfect. She had just recently become a vampire. She couldn't fully control her power yet.

He wouldn't be able to do the ritual in person...she would never consent. And that would mean his control would be less than perfect. But considering the fact that she was so new, doing the ritual without her present and gaining an imperfect control would most likely be enough.

*The Slayer,* he thought, laughing. He still couldn't understand how Angelus has done it. How had he made the Slayer a vampire without losing her soul, without making her another Lily? It didn't matter. They had made her a vampire, and as the Anointed One that gave him power over her. They had used her vampire side against him, but now he would gain control of her through the demon. She would be his puppet. Satisfied with himself, the Anointed giggled, his voice echoing off the walls of the warehouse.