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Author's Note: This is a rewrite of Tough Love, with the necessary changes to fit with my canon. Dialogue was taken from the original episode, along with some of my own creation. Enjoy.

 

The Veil Descends.

"Today, we turn to the myths surrounding gods," Giles began, unable to avoid directing a glance at Buffy, who was seated with Anya, Cordelia, Willow and Oz in fourth row from the dais. "Their origins and the sources which tells us of their powers." He paused to write the key words on his whiteboard behind him. "Often the nature of the society who revered these gods reveal as much about themselves though their tales of the glory of their deities, as they intended to reveal about the gods. They give them skills which they consider the height of achievement; something usually which they lack. Gods are supposed to be all powerful, invulnerable, omnipotent, beyond a simple mortal's knowledge and understanding."

Giles paused again, to stop writing and turn to face his class. "Yet, paradoxically, their society strove to give them weaknesses; Jesus his mortality, Achilles his heel, Superman his Kryptonite," he added, drawing laughter from some of his students. "Just because our definitions of gods have changed, doesn't mean we stop regarding them as heroes, whether they come from ancient civilisations, or the nearest comic book. Today's super hero is yesterday's god; a being who ancient civilisations would revere, whose knowledge is beyond their understanding, whose morals they would strive to possess, in order to make themselves better human beings.

"Equally, there were gods who served to spread evil, cause chaos, who had the ability to defeat those who embodied good. Like the latter they were inflicted with frailties; often the desire for a key to cause new chaos upon the world. Today we often treat our gods with contempt, or with the quest to render them just like us. We forget that their creators gave them the same quest as ourselves were granted. A quest for enlightenment; for the understanding of ourselves. For knowledge on why we are here, where we came from, and the nature of our home world."


In Sunnydale General Hospital, Ben skidded to a controlled halt on the tiles of the corridor, before the mentor of his internship.

"Benjamin," the physician remarked in greeting. "This is a pleasant surprise."

"I'm sorry I'm late," Ben apologised, recognising the sarcasm underlying doctor Byrne's words.

"You're not late," Alex Byrne now informed him.

Confused, Ben checked his watch. "But sir,"

The doctor interrupted him. "You can't be late to a job that you don't have," he added, signing the clipboard before him then hiding it to another colleague, who walked away to attend to his patient. "Interestingly enough, I've decided to give your job to someone who'll actually do it." He sighed as Ben exhaled in evident frustration.

"Honest to God, Ben! I've been calling you for two weeks. Where the hell have you been?" Alex asked. "I didn't want to," he paused, rephrasing his sentence, "I'm sorry to fire you, but I need somebody I can count on."

"I haven't been here..." Ben let the end of his reply fade away as he realised the result would require answers to something he could not explain himself.

"I haven't been here in two weeks," he uttered resigned. "There's an explanation for this. Which ... I ... can't exactly give you. I - can I just tell you it's not my fault?"

Alex inclined his head. "Sure. You can also tell me that the dog ate your homework, or maybe eating Twinkies made you do it, or ... maybe yeah, that there's really a wicked demonic creature living inside you that takes control of your body and forces you to do it's bidding. Take responsibility for your actions, Ben!!"

"I ... this ..." Ben groaned, more angry with himself than the man before him. "You know, forget it. Just forget it."

He turned and walked away, heading for the locker room, where he vented his emotions into cleaning out his effects.

"This is so unfair," he muttered. "You're taking everything away from me. Everything I worked for, I earned, I care about. These are my choices, this is my life, and you're ruining it!" Abruptly he paused a something came over him. When he realised the nature of it, his anger increased.

"No. No. Not here. Not now, please," he groaned, putting his hands to his face. "I'm Ben. I'm Ben. I'm Ben."

Futilely, he continued his chant, banging his head against the open locker door, as if the pain inflicted could prevent the transformation which was taking hold of him. But all to no avail, as another god possessed his body.

"I'm hungry," Glory finished.

 


"Great lecture today, Giles," Buffy uttered as she and the contingent of the slayerettes studying Mythology walked down to the teaching dais at the end of class. "Were you channelling our hell god's desires?"

"Maybe a little," the watcher and professor confessed. "I hoped that by doing a class about them would perhaps help us gain some further insight, but the weapons the ancients used to defeat gods wouldn't work on Glory."

"How do you know?" Cordelia asked.

"We've already tried them," Giles replied. He filled away the notes from his latest class. "I'll see you all at lunch?"

"Magic Box, one o'clock," Buffy uttered in agreement.

"Oh, how is Spike?" Her watcher asked.

"His usual self," Buffy answered. "Tara says his bruises are still visible, but they should fade away soon."

"He's managing the shop," Anya added. "No more overtime for me, which sucks."

"On the bright side," Buffy remarked, "at least we know whose gonna cause the annual Sunnydale apocalypse this year."

"How is that a bright side?" Anya asked. "I don't want to face another one of those."

"We usually survive them," Oz informed her. "Or at least manage to avert them."

"I wish we could find Glory's Achilles' heel," Willow murmured as they headed out of the lecture hall into the corridor.

"You never know, it could be a weakness we all have," Buffy suggested as they wandered the halls. "Like Giles said, all gods are susceptible to human temptations."


If the slayer had been able to see Glory's present surroundings, she would have marvelled at the astuteness of her opinions. The god was taking a bath, her body residing under hot water and bubbles. Beside her marble bed, three of her dwarflike monastic robed lackeys kneeled, robbed of their visions by black blindfolds. Despite this temporary incapacity, they each held an object of their god's wants; a wine glass upon on a tray, another a large box of chocolates.

"We got this part right, that's for sure," Glory mused as she revelled in her paradise. "Lot of sucky things in this dimension -- bubble baths? Not one of them. Know what I mean?"

"I am in thunderous agreement, oh glittering, glistening Glorificus," Jinx, one of the kneeling demons, uttered.

"I wasn't talking to you," Glory informed him.

"Uh, begging your pardon, and begging in general," Murk, the second kneeling demon cautiously uttered, "but ... were you talking to me?"

"Eww." The god shuddered in revulsion. "Yeah, right. Like any of you have ever bathed, anyway."

"Oh, but we do, your scrumptiousness," Murk replied. "We bathe in your splendiforous radiance, your aromatic-"

Glory cut him of mid compliment. "How about you shut up and listen to me, you disgusting little fools? Okay. Now, I asked for the key, and you brought me a vampire. A pulseless, impure, follicly-fried vampire. Loofah!"

Murk retrieved the required device and bestowed it upon his deity.

"So, what I think we have here is a failure for you to do your fricking jobs," Glory continued as she scrubbed her leg. "Pardon my French." She forcefully put the loofah back into lackey's hands. "Mimosa."

The third lackey held out the glass.

"Mmm ..." Glory sipped appreciatively. "Vitamins. So I think you better rack your little minion brains, and tell me everything that you saw when you were spying on Buffy and her wacky pals. Everything. Mm. Then I'll figure out who the key is."


"Honey," Xander remarked to his girlfriend, making her jump as she whirled round to face him, taking her eyes off the customers. "Old saying. 'A watched customer never buys.'"

"They would if they were patriotic," Anya replied.

Willow looked up from the leather bound volume before her, meeting her best friend's gaze of equal puzzlement.

"Okay, I'm going in," Xander decided. "Patriotic?" He queried to his girlfriend.

"Yes," Anya replied. "I've recently come to realise there's more to me than just being human. I'm also an American."

"Yes, I suppose you are, in a manner of speaking," Giles agreed from his place by the magic books bookshelves. "You were born here, your mortal self."

"Well, that's right, foreigner," Anya agreed, causing the watcher and her boss to glare at her. She turned back to her boyfriend. "So I've been reading a lot about the good ol' us of A embracing the extraordinarily precious ideology that's helped to shape and define it."

"Democracy?" Willow guessed.

"Capitalism," Anya replied. "The free market depends on the profitable exchange of goods for currency. It's a system of symbiotic beauty apparently lost on these old people." She paused, gesturing at the customers. "Look at them. Perusing the shelves. Undressing the merchandise with their eyeballs," she turned to her friends, "all ogle, no cash. It's not just annoying, it's un-American."

"Appalling," Giles commented wryly. "Almost as if they no longer think money can buy happiness."

The irony of the comment sailed past Anya's head. "Totally un-American. Oh, and you know what else is un-American? French people."

"You don't say," Willow uttered.

"From what I hear, they don't tip. Now, French old people? That's really the bottom of the barrel, you know?"

"Anya, how's about we try being a bit less prejudiced, and a bit more inclusive?" Xander advised. "Not us, just you."

His girlfriend sighed. "Fine. I'm gonna make those fogies buy things."

"Thanks, mate," Spike remarked when the former vengeance demon wandered off to try and achieve her aims.

"No problem," Xander returned as the shop bell rang, signalling the arrival of more members of the slayerettes. "Hey guys, how was class?"

"Philosophical," Buffy replied as she and Tara entered the Magic Box, Angel and Elita following behind them.

"We had to define what the poets were thinking," Tara added in explanation, as she walked to where Spike was.

Her boyfriend kissed her before speaking. "Usually how to make their efforts appeal to a lady," he remarked. "That was my motivation anyway, luv."

"Probably was theirs' too," Buffy agreed, finding a seat at the table. "But the professors like to pretend every line holds some deeper meaning. Interesting, but exhausting." She laid her head against her boyfriend's chest, the action causing Angel to put his arm around her. "Wake me up when the apocalypse is over."

"So is that a no on the World's Culture fair this afternoon?" Willow asked.

"Oh, I completely forgot," Buffy replied. "Sorry, Will. I've just had a lot mind lately."

"I know," her best friend replied. "Glory, Elita, the possible end of the world."

"Plus college, slaying," Buffy broke off with a sigh. "Going cultural is the last thing on my mind lately."

"But it could do you good," Willow argued. "Give you a distraction, a break. A chance to do something normal for a change."

"What counts as normal these days?" Buffy countered, meeting her friend's pleading gaze. "Alright, maybe I'll come."

"Yeah," Willow cheered. "Who else?" She asked the rest of them.

"I will," Angel replied. "You're right, its been too long since we've done something normal together in the day."

"That's four," Willow counted, as Oz nodded, "anyone else?"

"I could be persuaded to shut up shop early," Spike volunteered.

"Are you sure you're up to it?" Tara asked, turning to face him.

"Just a few fading bruises, luv," Spike replied gently. "Nothing to write home about."

"That's six," Willow.

"Make that eight," Xander proposed as Anya nodded.

"And ten," Cordelia added as Doyle silently accepted.

"Eleven," Elita decided, causing Giles to frown.

"Are your sure that's safe?" He asked.

"There will be loads of people about," Elita pointed. "Glory's been discreet so far, she won't attack me in public."

"We'll see you there. Come on, honey," Angel uttered, urging his beloved out of her chair. "I'll get you home, and you can sleep until then."

"For once, I won't argue," Buffy replied. "We just need to stop by my Mom's first. I promised I check in with her today for lunch, remember?"

"Okay, your mother's then home," Angel corrected himself. "See you all this afternoon, guys," he added in farewell before the couple exited the shop.

"Giles, is Buffy alright?" Tara asked him softly when the couple's car was out of sight.

"I think so," the watcher replied. "She just needs this to be over."

Don't we all, Elita murmured inwardly as she returned to the book before her.


"So it's her," Glory concluded after the morning's debriefing. "Under our noses all this time," she added, a small smile gracing her face. "I like the detail work those monks did. Quirks, foibles, passions ... it's all so cute, so ... human." She look to the audience before her, seeking confirmation. "You know?"

The three monastic lackeys standing before her nodded.

"Pretty convincing really," Glory added. "But not convincing enough."

Like a general before a battle, inspecting her troops, she rose to her feet to pace the floor before her lieutenants, who stood at attention, ready and willing to follow her orders.

"You all know your assignments," Glory remarked, evaluating them one by one. "I think it's time to collect the key."

She exited the apartment, the demon minions following.


"Poor Ben," her mother's voice was heard to say as Buffy and Angel entered 1630 Revello Drive a little time later. "He seemed like such a good student."

"Hey, Mom," Buffy greeted as she walked into the living room. "Hey, Dr Byrne," she added, as she recognised her mother's guest. "Did I interrupt something?"

"No," Joyce replied, staring at her daughter with brief confusion. "Oh, we were meant to have lunch today. God, I'm sorry, honey."

"It's no bother," Buffy assured her. "I just came round to cancel actually. I didn't sleep well last night, I was gonna catch a nap at home before the Cultural fair this afternoon."

She paused, turning her mother's companion. "What's wrong with Ben?" She asked.

"I had to let him go," Alex replied. "He's been late, which I was willing to let slide, but he was also absent for two weeks, and his patient care has been slacking of late."

"That's a shame," Buffy remarked. "He's been so helpful, so caring when I've seen him. Between the two of you, I've almost stopped fearing hospitals."

"If he comes back, I'm willing to give him a good referral," Alex replied. "Let him try again. But something seems to bothering him, something more important than his career."

Buffy inclined her head in sympathy. "Well, I ought to leave you to it," she decided. "Enjoy your lunch, Mom," she added with a smile, before walking out of the house.

Outside, the minions watched her, waiting for her boyfriend to reverse the car out of the driveway and on to the street before they followed them.


There were a lot of things which occurred this day that later, the slayerettes wished they could go back and change. Reliving days was not a power any of them possessed, and one which they wished could trade a gift for to receive. For although they never admitted it to anyone but to themselves, in silence and solitary, they were sure that if the Powers That Be had given them this day to relive over, everything would have been different.

For it all came down to a matter of timing. A moment in this day where every second had countered. For good and for evil.

If this day had been reset, they were all sure, evil would never have won.

That dark power was far from Tara's mind at this present moment. Unbeknownst to her, she was the girl, the one girl in the world, on whom this day hung. Every outcome depended on her, and she was never aware of it.

Until it was all too late.

For the slayerettes, it was the darkest chapter of their lives. A moment none of them wished to relive or repeat, without the ability to change what was to come.

Like all significant events, it began with a simple action; the clasping of two hands.

"Is this seat taken?" Glory asked Tara, causing her to gasp in fear.


"I hope this isn't a return," Anya remarked as she deposited the package she had picked up before the shop was shut for the afternoon. "Everyone wants petrified hamsters and they're never happy with them."

"Well, there's just this to deal with, then we can go to fair," Spike mused as he locked the front door after changing the open sign to closed.

"You seem awfully anxious to be out in the sun," Giles commented from his place by the research bookshelves.

"Just don't want to be late for Tara," Spike confessed as he returned to the counter.

"Things are going really well for the two of you, aren't they?" Willow uttered.

"Yeah," Spike replied. "It's strange," he added with a small grin. "When I first came here, the last thing I wanted to be doing was fighting the good fight. But since the chip, since Tara, everything's different. I see what Angel sees in his redemption. There's hope for all of us, if we could feel the same way." He paused, straightening up suddenly.

Giles caught his gaze before he could speak, and held up a hand to prevent him, before he crossed the shop floor to reach the door to the alleyway. Then he opened the door, banging it violently into the monastic lackey who fell into the room. Grabbing the demon by the ear, Giles dragged him across the floor before throwing him into a chair.

"Now, what do we have here?" He asked, in Ripper dulcet tones.

"Oh, he's one of those things that work for Glory!" Anya cried.

"Yes," Giles remarked in the same deadly tone. "How helpful."

"I do indeed work for the god," the demonic monk replied. "Let me go if you do not wish to incur her anger," he threatened.

"Well, she's not here," Giles pointed out. "What a marvellous opportunity for you and me to talk," he added darkly.

"I will not betray Glorificus," the lackey vowed. "I will never talk, no matter what heinous torture-"

"Actually," Giles interrupted, "you're talking quite a lot, just not about the right things. Tell us why you're here."

"No words shall pass my lips that will bring peril to Glorificus," the minion avowed.

Maintaining eye contract, Giles raised his hand in the direction of Willow and Anya. "Girls, get the twine that's on the counter, let's tie him up."

As the girls turned round to fetch the rope, Spike joined the watcher by their hostage, his face letting lose the full power of his ridged forehead and fangs, while Giles applied additional pressure of his own making, causing the demon to sob.

"No, no!" he cried. "I'll tell you! Anything! Please! Whatever you want! Just, I'll, anything!"

"What happened?" Anya asked as she and Willow turned back.

"He changed his mind," Giles replied darkly, as Spike face reverted to human form once more.

"I'm ... I'm supposed to watch," the monk confessed. "We're watching the Slayer's people ... while Glory fetches the key."

"Glory knows who the key is?" Willow queried.

"Oh god," Giles murmured as he removed his glasses.

"We've got to call Buffy," Anya decided, turning to fetch the phone.

"Too late. Too late," the demon added. "Glorificus will find the witch, and there's nothing you can do to stop her."

"Witch?" Anya echoed. "What do you mean?"

Spike and Willow reached the horrifying conclusion at the same time. "Tara!"

"She's the new one among you," the monk continued. "It wasn't hard to figure out. The glorious one will have found her by now."

Giles turned to the departing two. "Willow, Spike, wait! I'll go with-"

"No!" Willow returned hurriedly. "Call Buffy a-and go look in Tara's room, we're gonna check the fair."


"Oh, this is nice," Glory remarked, her hand still clasping Tara's. "Just hanging out, just us girls. You like that sort of thing, don't you?"

Her hand gripped Tara's tightly, until the latter cried in pain.

"Don't ... make a sound," Glory cautioned. She raised her eyes from her companion to the tourists, students, children and adults at the fair. "Nah," she decided. "They won't help you. I'd kill them. You know that."

The bones in her hand cracking under the pressure, Tara looked around desperately for someone that might be able to help.

"There's no one here that can stop me," Glory reminded her. She pointed to a few innocent bystanders. "I'll kill her and ... and them I'll kill him, and her and her, and it'll all be your fault."

Where were they, Tara wondered silently, pleading that suddenly, out of nowhere, Spike, Buffy or Angel would come running.

"Kinda funny, isn't it?" Glory laughed. "All these people here and ... no one who can do a thing. Not a person who can help you. But that's people for ya. They're pretty worthless. But keys, on the other hand ... keys are worth a very lot."

The god smiled, raising their clenched hands to her lips, cleaning the blood from the injury. A moment later, she frowned and spat.

"You lying little tramp!" She cried in disgust. "You're not the key, you're nothing! Just another worthless human being!"

"I didn't-" Tara protested, but the god was in full flow.

"I hate being lied to," Glory continued. "It makes me feel so betrayed." She brightened suddenly. "Hey! You wanna make it all better?"

Tara could only stare back at her in fear of what was to come.

"If you tell me who the key really is ... I'll let you go," Glory remarked, giving her hand another squeeze.

Tara whimpered in with pain, but resisted still.

"Think about it." Glory added. "You think your hand hurts? Imagine what you'd feel with my fingers wiggling in your brain. It doesn't kill you. What it does ... is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room ... naked and ashamed ... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad ... little pinching things that go in your ears ... and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know ... that if the noise and the crawling would stop ... that you could remember how to get out. But you never, ever will."

Tara gasped, unable to do anything but sit and listen, as Glory squeezed her hand a third time.

"Who ... is ... the key?" Glory asked.

Tara forced her tears away, determined to be strong. She looked the hell god in the eye, her refusal silent, but crystal clear.

"Fine," Glory remarked. "Let's get crazy."

The hell god raised her other hand to caress her companions face. Tara tried to pull away, but to no avail.


"Where the hell is she?" Spike cried as he and Willow raced through the crowds. They had been running full stop from the Magic Box.

"By force of heart and mindful power, by waning time and waxing hour ..." Willow began enchanting. "I echo Diana, um, when I decree ..." she broke off suddenly, her memory failing her. "uh, what is it, what is it?"

Before them the crowds parted, revealing the source of their frantic search on one of the park benches, Glory's hands upon her temples.

"No! No!" Spike yelled.

"That she must now be free!" Willow finished the spell.

Another group of people obscured their view of the bench. By the time they had passed, Tara was alone.

"Tara!" Spike cried as he rushed to her side.

Willow watched helplessly as the chipped vampire grabbed his girlfriend by the shoulders, trying vainly to capture her attention. "No!!"

"Tara, Tara, are you okay?" Spike asked her.

"It's dirty. It's all dirty. And all over me!" Tara cried, her fingers brushing her clothes. "Dirty. Dirty. I'm bad. Bad."

"Tara," Spike uttered softly, pulling her into his arms. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Willow joined him on the bench, her hand going to her cell phone.

Around them people passed by, unnoticed and unaware of the tragedy which had passed.

 



Hours later, it was a sombre group gathering at the hospital, clustered around Tara's room in the waiting area outside, in silent, collective grief and shock.

"Can she go home now?" Spike asked.

The doctor shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Hospital policy dictates we keep her for the night."

"But does she have to?" Spike pleaded. "I-I can take care of her at home."

Clothed in as hospital gown, Tara spoke vacantly her judgement on the matter. "It's poisoned. Why don't I tell you that? It, it has to be checked, though."

"She your sister?" the doctor asked him.

"I-i-it has to be verified, of course," Tara continued. "Anyone can tell you that. Of course. Of course, of course."

Spike stared at his girl desolately. "She's my everything."

"Well, you can get her released first thing in the morning," the doctor revealed. "But she's gotta spend one night in the psych ward. Just for observation. We'll keep an eye on her, do a couple basic tests, then you can take her home. Does that sound fair?"

Spike nodded reluctantly.

"Well, sit tight then, and I'll send a nurse by in a few minutes to pick up Tara," the doctor replied before exiting the room.

"Man, words cannot express how much I hate this place," Xander remarked as they watched the physician walk past them.

"It's dreadful," Giles agreed.

"It's like communism," Anya added.

The doors flew open, causing the trio to look up as Buffy rushed in.

"Hey," she remarked, coming to a halt at the threshold of the room. "Spike, I'm so sorry," she added, pulling him into her arms.

"Why didn't I tell her to come to me?" Spike asked hollowly, gazing at his girl over the slayer's shoulder. "Then she would have been in the Magic Box, safe."

"I'm so sorry," Buffy repeated, drawing back from him.

"They kill mice," Tara remarked.

"Tara," Buffy uttered, moving to hug her. "I'm sorry it took me so long, but Elita's safe with Angel, so I-I can stay as long as you need."

Spike clutched her hand. "I'm so scared, Buffy," he confessed. "I've never felt so powerless in my whole bloody life."


"Nothing to be worried about," Angel assured his companion at the mansion on Crawford street. "No one's gonna hurt you."

"Oh yeah?" Elita countered. "Same no one who did that to Spike and Tara?"

"It was just a few bruises," Angel replied. "And vampires heal."

"But Tara won't," Elita replied. "She's stay that way forever. And it's all my fault."

Angel frowned. "How do you figure that?"

"If Buffy hadn't freed me from Harmony, none of this would have happened," Elita replied tearfully.

"You don't know that," Angel remarked, sinking into the sofa beside her.

Elita sniffed. "You wanna know what I'm scared of, Angel? ... Me. Right now, Glory thinks Tara's the key. But I'm the key. I am. And anything that happens to Tara ... is 'cause of me. Spike's bruises, his limp ... that's all me too. I'm like a lightning rod for pain and hurt. And everyone around me suffers and dies. I ... must be something so horrible ... to cause so much pain ... and evil."

"That's ridiculous," Angel objected.

"What do you know?" Elita countered.

"I'm a vampire," Elita," Angel pointed out. "Despite my half humanity, despite my soul, I know something about evil. And you're not evil."

"Maybe ... I'm not evil," Elita allowed. "But I don't think I can be good."

Angel gently pulled her against him. "Elita, whether you're good or evil is for you to decide. It can't be determined by Glory's actions. It can only by determined by yours."


In the hospital, Tara pushed at the nurse whom came to take her away. "Don't! Please don't with that treachery!"

Spike watched helplessly, trying to keep his grief and worry hidden as the nurse clasped the wheelchair to walk his girl out.

"I told the cat," Tara added. "And now I beg my mother sitting all alone."

"Bye, luv," Spike uttered softly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

He watched her travel down the corridor. After a moment, she turned, her hand stretched out. Before he knew it, he was starting to run after her.

Doyle stepped in front of him. "Spike. No. It's just for one night."

"Yeah, I-I know," Spike took a deep unnecessary breath, "but ... it's a whole night. I don't think I can sleep without her."

"You can sleep with me," Anya volunteered, causing everyone to stare at her. "Well, now that came out a lot more adulterous than it sounded in my head."

Buffy stepped forward. "Spike, you just have to rest. Okay? Right now there's nothing you can do."

Spike's face froze in mid agreement. "Yes there is," he replied, walking to the door.

"No. No way," Buffy began, chasing after him. "You cannot even think about taking on Glory."

"You saw what she did to Tara," Spike remarked. "I can't let the evil bitch get away with it."

"No," Buffy objected. "You have to let her get away with it. Even I'm no match for her, you know that."

"But maybe I am," Spike remarked.

The slayer grabbed his arm. "Spike, you're still recovering from what she did to you. "You're not. And I won't let you go."

"This is not your choice," Spike pointed out. "It's mine."

"This is not the time," Buffy continued.

Angrily, Spike wrenched his arm free, flinching slightly from the pain. "When, Buffy? When is? When you feel like it? When it's someone you love as much as I love Tara? When it's Angel, is that it?"

"When we have a chance," Buffy replied. "We'll fight her, when we have a chance. You wouldn't last another five minutes with her, Spike. She's a god."

"Fine. I'll wait," Spike conceded.

"It's the only way," Buffy finished, relieved.

"Yeah," Spike murmured, before turning to walk away.

"Can I do anything?" Buffy asked him.

"Just let me be alone," Spike replied, heading down the corridor.

Buffy watched him go, turning slightly as her best friend placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I'll keep an eye on him," Willow volunteered.

"Thanks, Will," Buffy replied. "I better get back to Angel and Elita," she added softly, concerned that the demons might still be watching them.

"No problem," Willow, replied.

She waited for Buffy to return to the others, then took off at a run after Spike.

 



The Magic Box front door banged open, the bell almost flying off its hinges as Spike sprinted inside. He ran for the stairs leading to the upper mezzanine, turning only when the door crashed against the wall again.

"Oh, its you," Spike bit out as he caught sight of his tail. "Blondie sent you, did she?" He added, his old words for the slayer let loose in his avenging anger.

"Buffy thinks I'm keep an eye on you," Willow replied. "But I'm actually here to help. If you're taking her on you're gonna need some spells."

Spike stepped aside. "Lead the way," he said.

Willow rushed past him to the bookshelves, clearing from some of them the equipment which they would need; a jewelled dagger, vials.

Finally she retrieved a very old leather bound volume, placing it on the floor before them.

"Sit back," Spike urged as he swung the axe he had grabbed at the lock which clasped the leaves together.

The metallic device broke, and the book flew open, its' pages drifting by as if disturbed by a breeze.


"You know, I think I'm a little buzzed from eating that witch!" Glory remarked as she walked down the stairs in her apartment, her feet a little unsteady. "What a mind she has. Mmm, nummy treat."

"Is your grace not the slightest bit concerned about-" Jinx began, but he was cut off.

"What, about the Slayer?" Glory scoffed. "Don't be stupid. I know I'm closing in. The key's as good as mine. Girl like Buffy's got just so many friends. All I gotta do it rip through them one by one until I finally..."

Her voice abruptly stopped as the walls of the apartment began to shudder. Confused the hell god and the demons watched as ornaments fell to the floor and shattered, while the lights suddenly darkened.

"Did anybody order an apocalypse?" Glory asked.

The door flew open, revealing Willow, floating above the floor from the force of her enchantments.

"Kali, Hera, Kronos, Tonic..." she chanted, travelling into the room. "Air like nectar, thick as onyx...Cassiel by your second star..."

"Uhh. It's the other witch," Glory remarked, unaffected. "That's so cute."

"Hold mine victim as in tar," Willow finished.

Air around the hell god shimmered, freezing her in place.

Behind her the minions screamed in horror as someone emerged before them, carrying an axe.

"We ... owe ... you ... pain!" Spike growled out before swinging the weapon.

Blue lightning stretched out from the witch's hands towards the god.

Glory screamed in agony.


"It's all my fault," Elita remarked to Buffy when the slayer had returned home.

"No," Buffy objected. "Sweetheart, it is not your fault."

"How's Spike?" Angel asked.

"He was looking to go all payback-y on Glory for a minute," Buffy revealed. "But I cooled him down a little. Actually a lot."

"So he's not gonna do anything rash then," Angel added.

"No. I explained that there was no point," Buffy replied. "Willow offered to keep an eye on him for me."

"Mm-hmm," Angel mused sceptically.

Buffy knew that tone. "What?"

"You're saying that a powerful and mightily pissed-off vampire was planning on going and spilling himself a few pints of god blood until you, what, explained?" Angel said.

The slayer froze as she considered. "You think he'd ... no. I told him it would be like suicide."

"I'd do it," Angel reminded her.

Buffy rushed up from the sofa and ran out of the mansion.


"Shatter," Willow commanded.

Around her and Spike the mirrors broke, their glass flying towards the hell god, tearing her dress, but unable to harm her.

"Is that it?" Glory scoffed. "Is that the best you can do? You think I care about all this, the apartment, the clothes?"

She pulled her dress away and backhanded Spike, sending him into the sofa. He hit the piece of furniture and landed on the floor.

"Now, sucking on your girlfriend's mind?" Glory remarked. "That was something to treasure."

"Red hasn't finished yet," Spike bit out, causing the god to turn, in time to see a black bag arrive at the witch's feet.

"What's this? Bag of tricks?" Glory mused.

A bundle of daggers flew up out of the bag.

"Bag of knives," Willow enchanted as the blades flew towards the god. Glory used her hands to send them away. "Spirit of serpents now appear."

The god took hold of a table and threw the piece of furniture at the witch, knocking her down.

"Hissing, writhing, striking near," Spike finished the spell.

The requested creature materialised out of the carpeted floor, wrapping itself around the hell god's led.

Glory shook her foot, causing the snake to disappear. She walked towards the witch. "Now this is getting weak."

Willow gasped as the god grabbed her by the neck.

"And so are you, honey," Glory remarked. "Aren't ya?"

The witch spat in her face.

Glory took her arm and dragged her across the floor, retrieving a dagger on her way.

"No!" Willow cried.

The hell god pushed her against the wall, pining her in place. "Know what they used to do to witches, Red? Crucify them."

"Actually, they burned them at the stake, bitch," Spike countered, thrusting a long blade at the hell god's back.

Glory raised her leg and kicked him away. She raised the dagger above Willow.

Suddenly a hand grabbed her wrist.

"They used to bow down to gods," Buffy remarked, before kicking her foe in the abdomen, causing Willow to be freed.

Buffy twisted Glory's hand aside, punching her. "Things change."

Using her grip, she threw the god aside, then executed a cartwheel to kick her in the face. She punched her again and again, but this time the god was ready for her, and blocked the fist before it could reach.

Buffy flipped to kick her again, then threw another punch and then another.

Glory grabbed her arm, wrenched it behind her back, and threw her over a sofa.

"That witch barely slowed me down," she revealed, glaring at the slayer.

Buffy kicked the piece of furniture into the god, pinning her against the wall. Then she reached a hand to Spike and Willow.

Glory pushed the sofa away, ready to renew the duel.

"Thicken," Willow enchanted, and the air held the god once more.

She watched her prey go with annoyance. "This isn't over, you hear me?" she cried, It isn't over!"


The next day, as the sun reached its zenith, the slayer and four of her friends consumed sustenance in the Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Chicken salad?" Buffy asked, holding out the first of the lunch orders.

"Right here," Willow replied.

"Eggplant, that's me," Buffy continued as she took out her own, "Pigs blood to go," she added, handing a Styrofoam cup to Spike, "And ... salami with ...ew, peanut butter?" She turned to her companion in disgust. "Elita."

"Yeah, and pigs blood is completely natural," Elita countered.

"What's Tara got?" Spike asked.

"oh, I ... got her tuna," Elita replied. "Does she like...?" She unwrapped the sandwich, revealing to their companion. "Tara?"

"Plastic and their six sisters," Tara remarked. "Six sick sisters." She turned, suddenly anxious. "Spike?"

"It's okay," Spike assured her softly. "Let's just start slow today. Buffy, could I have that sauce?"

"Sure," Buffy replied, handing him the cup.

Spike opened the sauce and gently spooned into his girlfriend's mouth. "Here you go."

Tara ate it tentatively.

"That's my girl," Spike praised.

"Can I help?" Elita asked.

Spike glanced briefly at the slayer, who nodded, then handed the pot and spoon over to Elita, who carefully copied his actions.

"What are you gonna need?" Buffy asked.

Spike watched Tara eat. "I don't know," he replied. "They gave me a lot of stuff to ... keep her calm." He dropped his tone to lower decibel level. "They said I might have to restrain her at night. But ... sometimes she's fine. She looks at me, and ... she's fine."

"I'm sorry I couldn't-" Buffy began, but Spike shook his head.

"It's okay," he replied. "I can do this. I'm gonna take care of her. Even if she never..." he trailed off, unable to voice the thought. "She's my girl."

"I understand," Buffy replied.

"I know you do," Spike remarked. He turned to Tara. "Hear that, luv? You're my always," he kissed her forehead tenderly, causing her to smile.

Abruptly the wall before them smashed, stone bricks collapsing inward, causing the slayer and Elita to jump from their seats in horror.

"I told you this wasn't over," Glory said darkly.

"No," Tara cried. "The place is cracking! It's cracking! Cracking, no, no, no!"

Elita turned to her. "No, Tara, it's okay."

Tara turned to her, suddenly struck. "Oh, look at that, look at that. The light!"

Buffy froze, helpless, fearing to believe what was happening.

"Oh, it's so pure! Such pure green energy!" Tara cried.

The object of her joy turned to face the god in terror.

"Oh, it's so beautiful," Tara uttered.

Glory smiled.

Buffy glared at her, as the veil of truth descended upon the god.

To Be Continued In
Besieged.