Disclaimer in part 1

Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.

High Noon
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part 8: Blood Spilled

Giles stopped his car and quickly looked around at his surroundings. They were in an abandoned factory, just feet from the Anointed's headquarters. The door was rotted away, so it had been easy enough to drive into the relative safety of the building. They had needed a place to hide the car; there was no use in announcing their uninvited presence. Willow had discovered that the Anointed's warehouse was virtually surrounded by abandoned buildings. The one Giles had chosen gave them a fairly good view of the warehouse, in addition to the much needed cover.

"We'll go in after Spike gets here," the Watcher declared. Xander nodded a little nervously, tightening his grip on the gym bag full of weapons that he carried. Willow opened the door and climbed out of the car. She pulled the cross she wore from underneath her shirt and grabbed another one from the bag. Xander grabbed a cross as well as a stake, slinging the bag's strap over his shoulder. Giles was the last to exit the car. He pulled out the crossbow and loaded it with three wooden arrows. He glanced over at Xander, and the boy tapped the bag with his hand.

"I've got a bunch of arrows in here," he said, answering Giles' unspoken question. Of course, Giles had packed the arrows himself; but his nervousness led him to double-check everything.

"Now what?" Willow asked, her eyes darting toward the setting sun. There were only a few minutes of daylight left. "What do we do until night fall?"

"We wait," Giles told her quietly. "And watch. When Spike arrives, so much will be going on inside that hopefully they won't notice us."

"We're just going to walk in?" Xander asked incredulously.

"But...the guards?" Willow protested. "I mean there are sure to be some by the door. And what if they lock the door? And what if..."

"Quite right," Giles agreed. "We're not required to enter through the front door, ringing the doorbell as we go you know." The three of them stared at the building.

"Maybe if I go around back," Xander began.

"Look, there's a ladder on the side," Willow pointed out. "Leading to a second floor or balcony window?"

"It is probable," Giles agreed.

"Yeah, we could go in that way like we did at the Bronze when Buffy was fighting Angel and Darla," Xander agreed. Giles silenced the boy by placing his hand on Xander's shoulder and gesturing with his head toward the street. The three of them watched silently as Buffy sprinted toward the warehouse. She ran as if she had a pack of demons on her tail, but there was nothing following her. The sound of her heels landing in quick succession again and again on the pavement assaulted her friends' ears. She burst though the door, and it slammed behind her, leaving the night to return to its silence.

"It's night," Willow observed. Xander realized it was true. The sun had finished setting. Their world was lit only by the artificial glow of the street lights that were placed erratically along the side of the road, and the silver glow of the moon above them. He felt fear clutch at him, and when he glanced at the others he could see it in their eyes as well. It was really going to happen. Whatever IT was.

Xander looked at Willow and saw her swallow nervously, her gaze drawn to the road as she searched for the first sign of Spike. Sunnydale wasn't a big place, wherever Spike was it wouldn't take him long to reach the warehouse. Impulsively, Xander grabbed Willow's hand, holding it tightly in his own. Willow turned her attention away from the road to give him a puzzled look.

"I know you're still mad," he said apologetically. "But we could die here, and I don't want to do that without holding your hand while we wait. I could never forgive myself if I lost you without making it clear that I do love you...that I always will." He searched her face for acceptance. She wasn't pulling away, so he took that as progress.

"I love you too," she told him honestly. "That doesn't mean that I'm ok with everything. I am still mad at you...but I do love you, Xander. And I'm glad you're holding my hand right now. I needed that." He smiled at her briefly, then glanced anxiously at the road again.

"So where's Spike?" he muttered. "It's bad manners to be late to the bloodbath."

"I think I hear a c-car," Giles answered, tightening his hold on the crossbow. He had been aware that something was going on with the teenagers, some conflict. He wasn't sure of the details, but he was glad that they had proved mature enough to work together in a crisis; that they weren't petty enough to hold on to their grievances at this juncture. Better to reconcile with each other than to die with harsh words between them. *Not that we're necessarily going to die,* he reassured himself.

The car engine roared, growing louder as it neared the warehouse. The Watcher turned his thoughts from Willow and Xander to the vehicle that was fast approaching.

"There's more than one car," Xander said, shaking his head. Giles realized the boy was right. The growling engines filled the air with audible power, but it was still a bit of a surprise to Giles when the cars came into view. There were at least six cars, not counting the black Cadillac that led them. The Caddy screeched to a halt; it's tires throwing up a cloud of dirt as it rolled off the road to the dusty yard that surrounded the warehouse. The other six cars came to a stop around the Cadillac, kicking more dust into the air until the small group of humans could barely see the cars.

The dust slowly began to settle, and they were able to see car doors open, disgorging their vampire passengers.

"Which one is Spike?" Xander asked.

"The one in the Caddy," Willow whispered. "That's the lead car."

"He hasn't gotten out yet," Giles explained.

Staring through the dust, the Watcher and his Slayerettes observed as the door of the Caddy slowly opened. The first to get out was the driver, a vampire in a long black trenchcoat. He ran his hand through his blond hair to get some of the dust out, then walked around the car to open the passenger's side door. A delicate hand emerged from the car, resting on his arm. Then a dark-haired woman rose from her seat in the car and stood next to him. His hand constantly encircled hers, holding her close. The other vampires formed ranks behind the two of them.

"Spike and Drusilla," Giles said, identifying them.

"I figured that out, thanks Giles," Xander answered sarcastically. Giles gave him a hard look, and he shrugged apologetically. "Sorry...I get sarcastic when I'm nervous."

"You must nearly always be nervous then," Giles observed dryly. He was started out of his contemplation of Xander by a gasp from Willow.

"Angel," she murmured, her eyes wide.

"What?" Giles asked her in surprise. He and Xander turned their attentions back to the vampires converging in the midst of the parked cars. Xander scowled, his free hand closing into a fist as he shook his head angrily. Giles' mouth tightened in distress when he saw the Slayer's lover move away from Spike's car and slip through the ranks of followers toward Spike.

"What's he doing here?" Xander asked belligerently. "He never got my calls about Buffy. Why the heck is he here, and why is he being all buddy-buddy with Spike?"

"Maybe he's got some plan?" Willow suggested.

"Or maybe he's gone back to his old evil ways," Xander countered. "Spike and Drusilla?"

"He's their sire," Giles reasoned.

"Yeah, but he hasn't seen them in what, eighty years?" Willow observed.

"Time doesn't mean as much to vampires as it does to us. If he has turned, he would be more likely to join Spike than Colin."

"Maybe he's tricking Spike so he can protect Buffy," Willow offered hopefully.

"You're stretching, Will," Xander told her with a shake of his head.

"Either way, he doesn't know about what's happened to Buffy," Willow said, her voice worried.

"They have allied on opposite sides of the struggle," Giles observed. *Two powers...Buffy and the Anointed against Spike, Dru and Angelus.*

"If she kills him...she'll never forgive herself," Willow said sadly.

"If they fight they may both end up dying," Giles corrected. "If any vampire can kill her, it's Angel."

"So what can we do?" Xander asked.

"We go in there and protect her," Giles answered. "If she's in danger we'll start shooting."

"Shooting, I like that," Xander said, with a tense grin. "They're going inside," he continued. "We should go too."

"Yeah, we should," Willow agreed. She tightened her grip on her cross and looked over at Giles. After hesitating a short moment, he nodded and led the way toward the Anointed One's lair.

* * * * * *
Spike kicked the door to the warehouse open, enjoying the crash it made as it slammed against the wall. He grinned, walking into the room as if he had already won. In his mind, he owned the place. Drusilla drifted along beside him, humming so softly to herself that he had to strain to hear her. He could hear her though, and her song drew them closer together like a shared secret. He knew what they looked like to the Anointed One's followers. His confidence and her odd disconnection from the world, backed by the brute strength of their followers, made them seem a formidable foe. They looked like something to fear.

They were something to fear.

He strode past the sentries that guarded the door, barely pausing to knock the one on his side down with a punch to his face. Dru giggled as her fingernails found the eyes of the other sentry. His scream of pain as she dug into the sensitive orbs was ignored as Spike and Drusilla continued their unhurried walk farther into the Anointed One's lair. Spike's followers spread out behind the pair into a fan shape, determined to protect their leaders' backs. Their duty was to fight, to protect, and if necessary, to die. The feral grins that stretched their faces into half-snarls spoke of their willingness to take up that responsibility.

A few more steps brought Spike to the raised platform which served as Colin's throne. The Anointed boy's followers surrounded him in almost a complete circle. There was only one space around him that wasn't guarded. Directly in front of him there was no one to block an attack. Spike stopped and the other vampires took their cue from him, forming a wall at his back.

"Welcome," Colin said with a little smile. Spike glared at the boy, feeling an unpleasant chill ride up his spine. Colin returned the glare unwaveringly, his face set smugly into lines that clearly said *I know something you don't know.* Spike dropped his eyes first. Colin's power lay in control of his fellow demons and the eyes were often the key to that control. *No point in risking something stupid now,* Spike thought, though his pride rankled at the submissiveness his lowered eyes conveyed.

"Nice of you to invite us," he said, inclining his head. "Wasn't it nice, princess?"

"We'll have a nice party," Drusilla agreed. Her large eyes caught the Anointed's glance and held him for a moment. This time he was the one to drop his gaze. She smiled at him. "A party to celebrate your death," she finished, her trilling laugh echoing against the bare walls and floors of the warehouse. The vampires around her shivered, as if her laugh had somehow worked its way inside them, turning their insides to ice.

Spike lifted her hand and placed a kiss on it. She smiled at him, then watched silently as he began to speak.

"Shall we?" he asked the Anointed calmly, dropping Drusilla's hand and stepping forward so quickly that his motion was a blur. His hands, outstretched to catch the Anointed's throat and tear it out, were stopped as a figure hurtled through the air. Two feet hit him square in the chest, tumbling him to the ground along with the blond girl who had attacked him. In a microsecond she was off him and on her feet, standing in the one open space in front of the Anointed. She assumed a fighting stance, watching guardedly as Spike pulled himself to his feet.

"The Slayer, I presume?" he said with a nod of his head, brushing dirt from his clothes. His eyes darted up to the catwalk above him where she had been positioned, waiting for him. "Nice trick."

"Spike," she answered grimly. "Soon to be a pile of dust, I presume?" Spike grinned at her barb, flashing his fangs.

"Just Spike," he answered. "No dust."

"Can we fight?" she suggested impatiently. His grin hadn't wavered. She felt a rush of worry, which she quickly buried. He had something up his sleeve, something she was sure she wasn't going to like. Her eyes darted behind her to the Anointed One, and she felt a rush of relief as she reassured herself that he was ok. When she turned her eyes back to Spike she realized that the crowd of vampires behind him was shifting. They were moving around to let someone through. *Some expert in martial arts or something. That I can handle.*

Buffy watched impatiently, waiting for the mystery fighter to make his appearance. She stared uncertainly as he stepped forward.

"Hello, lover," Angel said with a small smile. He took his place next to Spike, his eyes vicious and eager.

As her eyes met his, Buffy felt a strange sense of separation from herself, from reality. It was almost as if she were no longer in her body. She heard herself gasp, saw her chest heave with the intake of breath, her eyes widen. She saw, rather than felt, the shock that rocked her to her core. She heard herself think, *I can't fight him...I can't.* He was part of her, she knew that as deeply as she knew anything. And she could not raise a hand against him. At the same moment, she felt herself snap back into focus. He was her enemy; that was her reality. He wanted to kill her, wanted to kill the Anointed One. He had betrayed her; he had betrayed his people. She hated him, hated him so much that her fists clenched tight enough to hurt.

"Bastard," she spat.

"Whore," he returned, inclining his head politely.

"I'll tear your throat out," she hissed, her voice nearly shaking with rage.

"What, no kiss?" he asked, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I was expecting a warmer welcome."

"Shut up and fight," Buffy snapped. "The sooner we start, the sooner I finish you."

*Wait,* part of her tried to protest. *Why...* That part of her was swept away on a wave of pure emotion, leaving her mind empty of everything but her anger. It didn't matter why anymore, she was going to kill him. Her hatred of him was so deep it left no other option.

Scalding fury coursed through her veins. Rage and hate, intermixing, filling her with fire, with warmth. Her teeth ground together against the rage, and she heard herself scream, releasing some of her hate but unable to lessen it. Her tongue flicked out to wet her lips and met fangs. She realized absently that she was wearing the demonic face of a vampire, and she was glad. She stared into the handsome face of her lover and felt murder screaming through her. He grinned at her, cocky, insufferable. The burning wrath that filled her roared at the insolence of it.

Growling, she spun around, rocking his head to the side with the force of her kick. Dimly she was aware of the rest of the vampires backing up, getting out of the way. Then his deep snarl answered hers as his face transformed into its vampiric visage. Her head snapped up as his fist connected with her chin, and she staggered back a step. The vampire pushed his advantage, trying to land a kick to her chest; but she ducked the kick. Still squatting, Buffy kicked upwards, forcing him off balance. Before he could recover, she was on her feet. She punched him twice in the face, half enjoying, half sickened by the feeling of the heel of her hand making solid contact with his cheek and mouth. The smell of blood filled her nostrils, and she felt a wave of hunger join her rage. She swept his feet out from under him, and he crashed to the ground. She reached for the stake she had stored up her sleeve.

In the short moment it took her to pull it free, he was on his feet. He touched the blood on his lips, blood that she had drawn. A growl rumbled deep in his throat as he felt his own anger grow. She quickly slipped the stake back up her sleeve, and prepared to launch another attack. Instead she found herself on the defensive as he punched the side of her face. Her head rocked with the blow, but she quickly threw a punch at his stomach. He took the punch without even wincing and hit her face again. This time the force of the blow spun her to the ground, splitting open her eyebrow. She kicked upward with both legs, catching him under the chin.

Again he staggered back as she leapt to her feet, ignoring the blood that trickled into her eye. She could smell it, beating against her brain, driving her fury to even greater heights. They both began to circle each other slowly, warily, regaining their bearings and feeling out each other's weaknesses.

Willow watched anxiously from behind some boxes stacked on the second level of the warehouse. They had made it inside undetected. Well, one vampire had detected them; but Giles had been able to stake it before it could raise any alarm. *So, now we're inside; but what good are we doing?*

"Giles," she whispered. "Shouldn't we do something?" The Watcher glanced over at her, taking his attention off the crossbow in his hands and the fight below.

"They're moving too fast, if I shoot I could hit Buffy," he hissed back, quickly returning his attention to his Slayer. He had attempted to follow the fight with the crossbow, hoping he would be able to shoot if Buffy was in danger. But the fight was getting out of control, and there was nothing he could do. They never stopped moving, and their movements were too quick, too sudden. He couldn't keep up, and if he shot blindly he could easily hit the wrong target.

"I know....but they're going to kill each other," Willow argued worriedly, wincing as Buffy feinted with her fist, then sent a kick flying at the vampire's leg. He side-stepped the kick and drove his own foot into her side. Willow's fists clenched tightly as she saw Buffy double over in pain.

*Broken ribs,* she guessed, her fingernails digging into her palm. She had never seen a fight this vicious. Usually slaying vampires was business for Buffy. She fought to disable, then staked as quickly as possible. Here she was fighting to hurt, and being hurt. *Not good, not good at all,* Willow's mind whispered. She glanced anxiously at Xander, whose eyes never left the fight below. He followed the two people below intently, as if by watching he could keep something bad from happening. He swallowed nervously as Buffy smashed her elbow into her opponent's nose. Willow winced again, almost hearing the crack of bone.

Buffy grinned as she felt the vampire's nose break, blood flooding his face. It filled her head with buzzing desire, and her tongue ran hungrily over her fangs. Her body was protesting as the pain from her enemy's blows ached through her, but the pain seemed distant as if it wasn't completely part of her. Her anger was stronger than her pain, drowning her in a desire to kill. She turned her attention back to the fight as she realized that the vampire was attacking. She blocked a kick to her abdomen, but her opponent surprised her with a simultaneous punch to her chest. She felt the air rush out of her and gasped to catch her breath, backing away to gain time while she recovered. He didn't allow her that time. His fist smashed into her eye, and his foot crushed her knee. She slipped as a bolt of excruciating pain shot through both her head and her leg. With a grunt, she weakly tried to block his kick to her chest. Losing her balance, she tumbled to the floor. Immediately he was on top of her, his weight pinning her to the ground. He placed his hands on her head, grinning, preparing to snap her neck.

As he touched her, he shuddered, a tremor running through him. The smell of his own blood mixed with the smell of hers filled his mind, roaring in his ears. *I'm going to kill her,* he realized. *I really am.* He tightened his grip on her head, anticipating the joy of killing, the joy of killing her, a Slayer.

On the second floor, Giles' finger tightened, starting to squeeze the trigger of the crossbow. He hesitated when he saw Buffy's opponent draw back. *What's he doing?* he wondered. Giles watched as the vampire removed his hands from Buffy's head, the Watcher's finger loosened on the trigger as he realized that if he made a mistake Angel would be gone forever. Then all thoughts of shooting disappeared, leaving his mind empty while he watched mesmerized as the vampire battled himself.

*Buffy,* a part of Angel whispered. *Stop. Buffy. Let go. Buffy. Let her go. Buffy. Don't hurt her. Buffy. Oh God.* He stared down at her face, her beautiful face, with blood he had drawn trickling into her eyes. Bruised eyes, injuries he had caused. *Oh, Buffy I'm sorry.* Blood. Beautiful, crimson liquid. He was so hungry. His hand clenched, grabbing at Buffy's hair. *Buffy. Kill her. Oh God.* Whimpering he withdrew his hands, part of him trying to reach for her neck, trying to complete what he had started. *She left ME! She tried to kill ME! She deserves to die.* He growled deep in his throat, longing to taste her blood thrilling through him again. He leaned forward.

*NO! I don't care what she did to me. I can't kill her. I can't...I won't...I won't. I'm so sorry. I love you.* The demon in him screamed, struggling. Squirming in pain, Angel fell to the ground. A scream escaped his lips, then a whisper.

"Buffy." His hands clenched and unclenched helplessly, his body shaking.

Buffy rose to her feet, approaching the shaking vampire. She didn't know what was going on, why he had hesitated. It didn't matter why. This was her chance. She slipped the stake out of her sleeve and into her hand, feeling the smooth wood against her palm. He lay still, no longer shaking, unmoving.

*Is he ok?* she wondered, worry insinuating itself into her mind. *A trick,* she assured herself. She drew back her foot and kicked him in the ribs, feeling something crack. A self-satisfied, cruel smirk lifted her lips; but he did not move. *It'll be that much easier then,* she thought. *Just slip the stake in.* She crouched over him, lifting the stake, preparing to drive it into his chest. She hesitated. *Kill him!* she ordered herself. *I hate him. I'm going to kill him. He's a traitor.* She continued to hesitate, her gaze locked to his closed eyes, his face slack in unconsciousness. *He looks so peaceful. Like he's asleep.* Her mind darted back to waking up in his arms, watching him sleep. *Stop that! He's just a vampire. I kill vampires...I should have killed him long ago. Just do it!* She shuddered, tightening her grip on the stake. *He hurt me. He tried to kill me. I hate him. I hate him!* Anger and hatred coursed through her, but it seemed weaker this time. It seemed like a lie. *Why am I doing this? He's my enemy. He... Why do I keep thinking _he_? He's Angel. Angel. Not some random enemy. Angel.* Her breathing quickened as she struggled with herself. *KILL HIM!* It was an order, echoing her mind with irresistible pull. Angel stirred weakly beneath her, opening his eyes but not struggling as she plunged the stake downward toward his chest. *NO!* The stake splintered as it rammed into the ground next to him.

Sobbing she collapsed on top of him, her mind feeling like it was tearing in two. Pain, pulsing from her head to her toes wracked her body. She was splitting apart, breaking into tiny pieces. Fracturing, shattering, and she couldn't stop the pain. Something inside her was tearing out, a piece of her was ripped away. She screamed as the pain tore at her, then she fainted, lying still on top of Angel. Angel did not hear the Anointed One's high pitched wail. The boy shook with pain, clasping his head, but Angel saw only Buffy. His arms encircled her, holding her close, despite the pain of his broken ribs. He cradled her gently, murmuring to her softly. Slowly he pulled himself into a sitting position, holding her in his lap, her head against his chest.

"What the hell are you doing?" Spike demanded, breaking the utter silence that had fallen after the Anointed's scream dissipated. His words broke the thrall that held the other vampires captive, and they wrenched their eyes from the couple before them.

Slowly, the vampires on both sides of the struggle reacquainted themselves with their surroundings. Like people awakening, they shook their heads, looking around themselves, regaining their bearings. As they slowly remembered why they were there, the noise level in the room steadily began to rise. Growling, yelling, hitting, fighting, the harsh sounds of battle began to fill the room as the vampires attacked each other. The organized battle lines turned into a brawl as each vampire fought for himself. Spike grimaced as a pair of grappling vampires bumped into him. He drove his elbow backwards, eliciting a yelp and causing the pair to retreat into the masses. With raised eyebrow, Spike glanced at the throng. It was utter chaos, no battle lines, no plans. The vampires simply grabbed the nearest opponent and began to bash away. He drew in a breath, savoring the scent of the blood that had begun to flow. His ears pricked up at the crunch of bones breaking, the screams of pain.

Having observed the fight and assimilated what was happening, Spike ignored the battle raging behind him.

"Maybe I should clarify," he said snidely, his attention completely concentrated on Angel. "We kill Slayers. She's the Slayer, and you were supposed to kill her. It's fairly simple really." Frustrated, Spike strode toward Buffy and Angel. When he reached the couple, he stared at Angel expectantly. Angel simply returned the stare, his arms wrapped around the Slayer. "Do I have to do everything myself?" the blonde vampire asked, rolling his eyes.

With an exaggerated sigh, he brought his fist back and slammed it towards the side of the Slayer's head. Angel fell onto his back, pulling her out of the path of the blow. He quickly lay her on the ground, then crouched on his hands and knees over her, growling. When Spike stepped forward, trying to kick Angel out of the way, Angel weakly blocked the blow. Spike's anger and annoyance grew.

"I trusted you, man," he accused. "And you betray me now?"

"I couldn't..." Angel began.

"It doesn't matter why, you're dead to me. And I'm going to put an end to your pathetic existence." He landed a hard kick to Angel's already tender stomach. Angel gritted his teeth against the pain, still growling warningly. Spike stared at his bedraggled sire, spattered with his own blood, trying to hide the pain of broken bones. He shook his head in disgust, preparing to deliver a hard round house to Angel's head.

"Spike," a girlish voice called. Dru. He turned away from his sire and the Slayer, his eyes searching for his Drusilla.

"Dru," he answered. He felt himself sigh in relief when he saw she was unharmed. The fight boiled around her, but did not seem to touch her. She was not in immediate danger. "What is it?" he asked, glancing down at Angel.

"He's slipping out of the trap," she answered cryptically, twisting her hands together in a release of excess anxiety. Spike looked at Angel again. He didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Then it Spike's eyes widened as it hit him. *The Anointed.* His frantic gaze found the boy. He was surrounded by bodyguards, at least four of them, fighting their way to the door. *This ends tonight, dammit!* he thought angrily, as he raced toward the boy. *That little bastard thinks he can cop out on the big showdown, not in this bloody lifetime.*

Angel watched Spike as the vampire left them to chase the Anointed. Buffy stirred slightly, and Angel tried to lift her up into his arms. Thinking the better of that when he realized he wasn't sure of the extent of her injuries, he settled for cradling her head in his lap. He turned his attention to Spike, but was distracted when she stirred again. She whispered his name, and he forgot about everything but her. Softly he began to murmur, not sure of what he was saying but hoping that his voice would wake her.

The bodyguard closest to the rear glanced back and saw Spike coming. Immediately, he turned to face the blonde threat that charged forward undeterred. He braced himself, swinging at Spike with his fist. Spike ducked the punch and drove his own fist into the bodyguard's midsection. Before the vampire had time to recover, Spike swept his legs out from under him and stomped on his head, effectively putting him out for the count.

By the time he was done, the remaining three bodyguards had formed a protective half ring around their leader. The two of them on the edges stepped forward, the brunette trying to reach Spike with a broad roundhouse, the red-head attempting to slam his joined fists into the back of Spike's head. Spike whirled, catching the red-headed vampire's fists in his hands and forcing him back with a shove. Spike twisted his body to the side, avoiding most of the force of the brunette vampire's kick. Moving quickly, he kicked out to the side, slamming the large brown-haired vampire in the chest. As that vampire stumbled, Spike turned his attention to the second vampire, blocking a kick with his hands and landing a punch to the vampire's face.

Both of his opponents took a moment to re-group, then they attacked simultaneously. Spike rammed stiff fingers into the red-head's neck, forcing him to fall back, holding the deep bloody gouges as he screamed in pain. As he attacked the red-head, Spike was hit from behind. The force of the brunette bodyguard's kick forced him to stagger forward a step. The brunette pushed his advantage, attempting to grab Spike from behind. Spike grabbed his attacker's arm and flipped him neatly over his shoulder. The vampire landed with a thump, and Spike quickly knelt to snap his neck. He was distracted from finishing his opponent off by the last bodyguard.

The muscular, black vampire growled, baring his teeth. He dropped to a crouch, and Spike did the same. Cautiously they approached each other, then the bodyguard leapt forward, driving Spike to the ground under him. Before his opponent could finish his attack, Spike tucked his legs up under the other vampire and kicked up with all his strength. The dark-skinned vampire flew up into the air crashing into the wall of the
warehouse and sliding to the ground, stunned.

Spike rose to his feet, his yellow vampiric eyes narrowing as he turned his gaze on the Anointed. The boy stood, unprotected, alone. Beckoning, he motioned Spike closer. The older vampire stood watching the Anointed warily for a moment. He could not understand why the Anointed would face him now, if he had been so eager to escape before. There was no reason for him to be so confident. No reason that Spike knew of anyway.

Cautiously, he approached; the Anointed stood perfectly still. He drew himself to his full height, still having to tilt his head back to look Spike in the eye.

"This is it then," Spike observed, stopping his approach.

"Yes," Colin answered simply, staring intently at the vampire that hoped to kill him.

"Things seem to have gotten a bit out of control," Spike said with a shrug and a quick look at the carnage that surrounded them.

"They did not go as planned," the Anointed agreed.

"But it ends tonight," Spike added. The Anointed One nodded solemnly.

"It will," he said calmly. Spike studied the boy's face, trying to figure out why he was so calm. It had to be a trap of some kind, but Spike could see that he had no weapon; and there were no bodyguards left to protect the boy. The Anointed could not defeat him in a straight fight; he was sure of that. Colin was just a boy after all. *Do I really want to hurt him?* Spike wondered to himself. *Wouldn't it be better if I just joined with him, sharing the power? Wait. What am I thinking?* With a start he realized that the thoughts were not his own. *I would never...* With a gasp of pain and surprise, he fell to his knees, putting himself at Colin's eye level. The boy stared at him, capturing him with his dark eyes, dragging him under.

Spike clutched his head as he fought the Anointed's influence. What had started out as a subtle intrusion became a mental rape. Pain coursed through him, his own will being bound and subdued. He struggled, but his struggles slowly became weaker.

*No. No. No.* His jaw clenched tight as he repeated the word over and over, trying to deny the hold that was squeezing his brain, trying to ignore the pain. It hurt so much to fight, and if he would only submit, the pain would be gone. *It would be so much easier,* he told himself, collapsing onto all fours as a lance of pain speared him. *Yes, just give in.* He felt the pain lessen slightly, promising more. He fought, and the pain increased until he could no longer see anything but grey. He could hear nothing, feel nothing. The ground beneath him seemed to have disappeared. Nothing existed but the pain.

The pain, and a voice that penetrated the hurt.

Spike felt a touch, gentle, a hand on his head. Fingers played through his hair, trailed down his neck. The pain began to fade, the temptation to give in disappeared. As his vision cleared, Spike turned to gaze on the sight he had know his eyes would find. Drusilla. He stared into her dark blue eyes, feeling the last of the pain disappear. He could no longer feel more than a hint of pressure from the Anointed One's suggestion. Dimly he was aware of a whimper torn from Colin's throat, as the boy staggered; but Spike's attention was on Drusilla. Quietly she kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed them to his lips.

"Kill him for princess," she whispered, so softly he almost had to read her lips to hear her.

"Anything for you, pet," he answered with a smile, kissing her hand before she withdrew it.

He turned to the Anointed, no longer wary, no longer waiting. One kick caused Colin to stumble back and fall. He scrambled backwards on his hands, but wasn't fast enough to make it to the door. Spike caught up to him, pulling him up by the shirt. Holding the shirt with one hand, Spike punched the boy with the other. Another punch, then a blow with his elbow sent Colin's eyes rolling back into his head. He lolled in Spike's grip limply, offering no resistance. Dragging the Anointed along with him, Spike picked up a long sharp-edged metal beam from one of the piles of discarded junk that littered the warehouse. He dropped the boy to the floor, where he barely had time to scream before Spike attacked. With one quick downward slash, powered by brute supernatural strength, he separated the Anointed One's head from his body, sending it rolling across the floor. From the severed head on the floor, the Anointed's eyes stared dimly at his killer for a brief second before turning to dust.

Spike stood still a moment, watching the dust settle. He kicked at the pile near his feet which had once been the Anointed's body, sending the dust skittering across the floor. Slowly he turned around, facing into the warehouse and the heart of the brawl. He tightened his grip on the metal rod, then banged it against the floor with a dull thump. A few vampires turned to look at him, but the majority continued to fight. Over and over, he thumped the ground until his hands began to bleed from squeezing the sharp edges of the metal. Gradually, the sounds of fighting decreased.

The vampires, on both sides of the struggle, turned to face the source of the noise. The fight forgotten, they studied the blonde vampire before them. Spike rested his hands on top of the metal rod, then placed his chin on his hands casually. He returned the other vampires' gazes calmly in silence. Drusilla drifted closer to him, and he stood up, pulling himself to his full height. He grabbed her hand in his, squeezing it gently as he spoke.

"It's over," Spike informed them firmly.

The words seemed to echo in the silence of the warehouse. The vampires took a moment to process the information, then one of Spike's followers began to chant. "Spike. Spike. Spike." The name bounced off the bare walls of the building, as voice after voice joined the chorus. Spike's other followers joined in first, celebrating his triumph; and through him their triumph as well. The Anointed's followers hesitated, looking to each other. One of them joined the chant, giving up the notion of continuing the fight. Realizing that there was no successor among them that could rival Spike, one by one they raised their voices. "Spike. Spike. Spike." The air vibrated with the force of the name.

Drusilla smiled, throwing back her head, absorbing the sound that assaulted her ears. She brought Spike's cut hand to her mouth, licking at the blood there with her soft tongue. Ignoring the vampires that waited for him to rule them, Spike turned to her, pulling her closer to him. With a purr she snapped her teeth next to his ear. He laughed, lifting her up. She wrapped her arms around his neck, returning the urgent kiss he placed on her lips.

Placing her back on the ground, Spike turned to his minions. With a motion of his hand, he cut off the chant. Dead silence again filled the room.

"Let's have a little fun," the new leader said with a grin. Slowly he walked into the midst of the crowd, Drusilla at his side. Where he walked, a path appeared as vampires shrunk back out of his way. When he reached the center of the room he stopped, turning his eyes on his sire and the Slayer. She was conscious, barely. She lay on the ground in front of Angel. He cradled her head in his lap, turning a warning glare on Spike.

"Anyone up for killing the Slayer and the traitor?" Spike asked cheerfully. His question was answered by a cheer from the throats of all the vampires. Hearing it, Buffy shook her head, then winced as pain rewarded the movement. She blinked, regaining her bearings, but remaining where she was.

Spike approached the couple, determined to finish what he had started earlier. He stopped just a few feet from Angel, paused a moment, then kicked at Angel's head with his boot heel. Instead of pummeling Angel, Spike found himself being attacked. The Slayer blocked his attack with her own leg. Quickly, the two of them rose to their feet and stood back to back in the middle of the mob.

"Well," Spike began angrily. "What are you waiting for, people? Kill them." The vampires surged forward. Buffy and Angel assumed fighting stances, knowing that they couldn't fight their way out of this, but determined to die trying. As they began to fend off the first blows, they were showered with dust and heard a whimper from a woman's throat. The attack faltered as all eyes turned to the second floor and the catwalks above.

Giles stood at the railing, crossbow in hand.

"One crossbow won't kill us all," Spike shouted.

"I'm not aiming at all of you," Giles answered calmly. Spike followed the sight line from the weapon and discovered it was aimed directly at Drusilla.

He shuddered and turned his gaze back to Giles. "You touch the Slayer or Angel and Drusilla dies," Giles confirmed. "Now everybody bloody well better back off." The icy edge in the Watcher's voice convinced Spike that he was serious.

"Spike?" Drusilla whispered fearfully, her eyes wide.

"It'll be all right, love," he answered, tenderly reassuring her. "Spike will take care of you." He smiled at her, then began to shout. "Back up, people!" he ordered. "Back the fuck up!"

Slowly, the vampires began to move, inching away from the couple they surrounded. Unseen, several of the vampires slipped over to the stairs, climbing up to the second level.

"Now let them get to the door," Giles ordered. Spike nodded at his troops; and they backed up to form a path to the door. However, they stayed close enough together that the couple would have to brush against them on their way out, struggling through the closely packed demons. Angel started for the door, pushing past the vampires with Buffy right behind him. They remained back to back, Buffy walking backwards. Untrusting, their eyes continually searched for signs of sudden movement.

They were about half way to the door when there was a shout from above. The three vampires that had snuck up the stairs attacked. Willow and Xander attempted to protect Giles with their crosses, but the vampires easily tossed the teen-agers to the ground. One of the vampires jumped on Giles' back, and he dropped the crossbow. The second tried to punch the Watcher who was struggling wildly. Xander grabbed the third by the ankle, keeping him from ganging up on Giles.

As soon at the crossbow fell from Giles' hands, the vampires closed in on Buffy and Angel. Desperately, they began to run. They were only able to make it about half way to the door before there were so many hands grabbing at them, so many punches and kicks being thrown at them, that they could barely move. The vampires surrounded them completely. Taking a deep breath, Buffy glanced over at Angel. Immediately the two of them began to attack, trying to drive their way through the vampires with the strength of their fists and feet.

Xander struggled against the vampire he held, trying to keep it occupied. He dodged a punch, then kicked upwards attempting to throw the vampire off. His attention wandered as he saw Willow rise to her feet. She grabbed the stake he had dropped and ran over to Giles. The Watcher was moving wildly, trying to get the vampire off his back. He managed to block some of the blows from the other vampire, but the one on his back was hindering the movement of his arms. Willow advanced, and when Giles turned his back her way, she plunged the stake into the vampire that rode his back. Giles sneezed as he was showered by dust, then turned his attention to the vampire that was attempting to pummel him.

Willow tossed him the stake, then ran to pick up the crossbow from where it had fallen. Balancing the weapon on the railing, she attempted to aim. She squeezed the trigger, sending a wooden bolt into the crowd. By some fortunate coincidence she managed to hit the heart of a vampire several feet from the one she had been aiming at. She squeezed the trigger again, sending another arrow into the crowd. This one did not find a heart, but it did find a target, burying itself in one vampire's neck. Quickly she pulled several arrows out of the gym bag at her feet, and with fumbling fingers, reloaded the crossbow. Randomly she began to discharge the wooden bolts into the milling throng below, careful only to aim away from Buffy and Angel.

Below her, Buffy and Angel fought the oncoming vampires. With Willow's covering fire, the attack let up a little. The vampires were distracted by the threat of being shot by the crossbow. Seizing the opportunity, small as it was, Buffy and Angel fought harder, heading for the door.

Buffy grimaced as one of the vampires managed to kick her in the chest. Her body screamed in agony, but she ignored it. Her fists flashed out, forcing the vampires in front of her to stumble back. She ducked another kick, wincing again as her knee cried out at the movement. Rising to her feet again, she delivered a reverse roundhouse, driving another vampire back.

Angel growled as he smashed a vampire's chest with a powerful side-kick. He grabbed the fist of a vampire who attempted to punch him and pulled, sending his attacker crashing into another vampire who was moving forward to throw a punch. The two vampires staggered out of the way, and Angel advanced a few feet closer to the door. Buffy was right behind him. Back to back they continued toward the exit.

Two more vampires raced up the stairs to the second floor, and Giles frowned. Feinting with his left fist, he tricked the vampire he fought into exposing himself; then buried his stake in the vampire's chest. Quickly, he removed it before the vampire disintegrated. He threw the stake to Xander, who caught it neatly with his right hand. The distraction gained Xander a punch to the stomach, but he shook off the blow, trying to gain the upper hand.

Giles retrieved two more stakes from his bag and threw a bottle of holy water at the stairs. It shattered, spilling the liquid over the top of the stairs and the railing. *Hopefully that will discourage others from coming up here,* he thought as several more vampires ran for the stairs. The two who had already reached the top approached the three humans, one of them attacking Giles, the other trying to grab Willow.

"We're almost there," Angel screamed, driving the heel of his hand into a vampire's face while crushing another's head against his knee.

"Keep fighting," Buffy answered, panting as she dodged a punch and buried her fist in a vampire's mid-section. "You know. This would be a lot easier if I had a stake." A crossbow bolt penetrated the shoulder of one of the vampires she fought. Blood oozed out as the vampire screamed in pain, completely distracted from the fight. "Perfect," Buffy muttered, grabbing the part of the arrow that protruded from the vampire's shoulder. She pulled and the length of wood came free, causing the vampire to scream in pain again. "Thank you, Willow," the Slayer murmured, driving the arrow into the chest of a vampire that attempted to grab her.

"Willow!" Xander screamed, pushing the vampire he fought away from him. His ferocity surprised his opponent, and he gained the advantage he needed to bury the stake in the vampire's chest. He retrieved it from the vampire's heart and ran towards the red-head. She screamed, attempting to bite the vampire that held her. He had his arms wrapped around her, holding her arms against her sides. He lowered his teeth to her neck, and Willow closed her eyes, bracing for the pain. Instead she found herself covered in dust. She looked at herself, then at Xander.

"Thank you," she breathed, grabbing the crossbow off the floor where she had dropped it and beginning to reload it. Xander's eyes darted to the stairs, there were more vampires coming. The holy water wasn't going to stop them.

"We have to get out of here," he screamed loud enough for both Willow and Giles to hear.

"No," she answered. "Buffy and Angel aren't out yet, and I have to help them. The arrows are distracting the vampires."

"They can take care of themselves," Xander argued, hurrying over to help Giles dispatch the vampire he fought. "There are more vampires on the way, and if we don't leave now we'll be trapped here."

"I don't care," Willow yelled back. "I'm not leaving 'till Buffy gets out."

Giles plunged his stake into the vampire's chest and glanced at the vampires that were streaming up into the second level. He ran to pick up the gym bag.

"Xander's right," he said. "Buffy and Angel are almost at the door, and there's nothing more we can do here. We have to get down there and get the car."

"No," Willow answered stubbornly. "You go if you have to..." She shrieked as Xander grabbed her around the waist and carried her to the window. She kicked against him, but he refused to let her go. Giles slung the weapon bag's strap over his shoulder and climbed out the window. Xander climbed out as well after throwing Willow over his shoulder. She pounded on his back, then gave up and allowed him to carry her. As they climbed, Giles retrieved another bottle of holy water from the bag and poured it over the rungs of the ladder, dribbling it over half the ladder.

When they reached the ground, they ran as fast as they could toward the front of the building.

Buffy grunted, licking her lips as she sent another vampire staggering back. She plunged her crossbow bolt into another vampire's chest, and pummeled a third with the back of her fist. Angel grabbed a vampire by the throat, throwing him backwards. He kicked another vampire out of the way, and tripped up a third. He snarled as someone hit him from the side, then he stepped forward and broke the neck of the last vampire that stood between him and the door. He grabbed Buffy's arm and attempted to pull her forward. Someone grabbed her arm, keeping her from moving. Spike.

Buffy stared into the blonde vampire's yellow eyes. He grinned at her, flashing fang, and tightened his hold on her arm. Frustrated, she attempted to pull her arm from his grasp, using her free arm to discourage a vampire that attempted to attack her from the side.

"Buffy," Angel screamed over the commotion. "We have to go NOW!"

*We're at the door goddamit!* she thought. *We can't get killed now. Spike isn't going to win. It's not going to end that way!* She returned his grin, feeling her own fangs press against her lips. Putting all her strength into it, she kicked upwards, catching him under the chin. He staggered, loosening his hold on her arm. Immediately, she wrenched herself free. With a swift tug, Angel pulled the door open. Together they slipped through, then slammed the door shut.

The vampires inside jerked at the door, and it jumped with every pull.

"We can't hold it for long," Angel said seriously. They strained against the door, pulling at the handles with all their strength to keep it closed. "Both of us are hurt, and there are at least 40 or 50 vampires in there."

"I know," Buffy muttered. "Should we just make a run for it?"

An engine roared, and a car pulled up behind them. Buffy sighed with relief when she heard Giles shouting for them to get in the car. Willow held the back door open, and Buffy dove for the opening, pulling Angel after her. They scrambled in and shut the car door as the door to the warehouse swung open. Vampires began to pour out, but Giles floored it; and the car roared out of the dusty yard and onto the street, spewing dirt everywhere.

"This isn't your car, Giles," Buffy observed, watching through the back window as they left the vampires behind.

"I know," the Watcher answered.

"They could outrun us in Giles' car," Xander pointed out.

"True," Buffy agreed. "But whose car is this?"

"Spike's," Angel answered with a sudden laugh. "You stole Spike's car!"

"Yeah, and Giles hot-wired it too," Willow interjected.

"Naughty, naughty, Giles," Buffy answered. "Why didn't you ever teach me to steal cars?"

"Spike is not going to be happy about this," Angel observed.

"Good," Buffy answered, grinning at him. "He's the new master of the vamps in Sunnydale. He needs to know that killing the resident Slayer isn't going to be an easy thing."

"I wish I could see the look on his face," Xander said wistfully. Buffy giggled.

"Imagining it is enough for me." Xander joined in the laughter, then grew serious.

"It's good to have you back, Buff," Xander told her with a small smile.

"Thanks, Xander," Buffy responded quietly, suddenly reminded that she had a lot of things to fix. She glanced over at Angel. A lot of things.