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Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode; Spiral, which this does not differ from as much as other parts of my cannon. Warning, cliffhanger ending coming up. Enjoy.


Buffy clutched Elita's hand and ran away from the hell god, to the other side of the double height living room, in the direction of the dining room. She kicked open the door on the left wall and leapt into the walled night garden, heading for the gate.

Glory laughed as she started after them, confident of victory now she knew who the key was at last.

Then Willow held up her hand, rendering the hell god immobile with her wiccan enchantment.

As soon as this was done, Spike grabbed hers and Tara's hands before following the slayer through the rear of the mansion.

Willow uttered something under her breath which sent the god flying out of the house into the bushes on the garden driveway out front.

Buffy continued to run, racing through the streets, while Willow, Tara and Spike behind her headed in the opposite direction, trying to create a false trail.

Glory turned into a blur, running faster than the eye could see as she strove to catch up with the slayer and her key. She was so close to escaping this frail mortal body and this limiting world which she had been exiled to, she could not risk losing them now.

"Buffy!" Elita cried, breathing heavily, her energy levels failing her.

"We have to keep moving!" Buffy reminded the girl as they ran along the rich suburbs which surrounded Crawford street.

"I can't!" Elita crying, falling to the ground her strength snapping as the full danger which she was in dawned on her.

Buffy gathered the girl up into her arms and broke into another slayer enhanced run, heading for the busier roads inside the suburbs of the hellmouth.

Unfortunately it was all for naught as suddenly Glory appeared before them.

"I really hate it when people touch my things," the hell god declared.

The slayer froze before her, out of options for the moment.

"Last words, slay-runt?" Glory asked smugly, feeling her victory close at hand.

In the distance the gentle hum evolved into a pounding drumming, the sound of engines gunned, signalling the start of things to come.

The slayer smiled as she identified the source of the noise. "Just one. Truck."

Glory turned to her right, just in time to see the sight of her impending doom, as the heavy duty haulage vehicle smashed into her.

Elita and Buffy ran for the sanctuary of other Scooby hideouts which were more structurally sound than the mansion on Crawford Street right now.

The hell god, sent flying from her collision with the front of the truck landed on a nearby parked car, the depth of the impact causing the roof to collapse. She rose up, ready to resume the pursuit, then suddenly stilled and flinched, as another interfered.

"No! Not now, you idiot!" she cried. "Let go-"

"-of my body!" Ben finished as the transformation was complete.

He rolled off the car bonnet on to the ground.

"Oh, god," he murmured, surveying his public surroundings and dress, inwardly wondering how long it would be before his secret, and hers was out.

"And then whoosh!" Elita cried as she joyfully recapped the events to the rest of the Scoobies, now gathered at Xander's apartment, a temporary sanctuary to gather and prepare for when the god caught up with them. "All of a sudden Glory's standing right there in front of us, all skanky and blonde and thinking she's all that, just 'cause some bumpy heads kiss her stinky feet ...." the girl paused, reconsidering for a brief moment. "She does have nice feet. And she's coming right at us, and Buffy's just standing there not even blinking, like 'Bring it on,' and then, wham! Hell-bitch in orbit."

"Go, Buff!" Xander cheered.

"I knew you'd best Glory eventually," Giles uttered, sufficiently proud. "I mean in all our years of training-"

"A truck hit her," Buffy interrupted absently, her gaze fixed on the view from the window where the hell god had as yet refused to appear.

"Oh," Giles murmured, surprised, and a little disappointed.

"Buffy threw it at her?" Anya asked hopefully.

"Well, no," Elita replied. "She more kind of waited for it to hit Glory. Uh, but then Buffy ran really fast and we got away."

"I don't know how we got away," Buffy confessed, turning from the window. "That truck couldn't have slowed her down for more than a second."

"Well, how isn't important, all that matters is that the two of you are safe," Giles remarked.

"Safe?" Buffy scoffed bitterly. "We've barely been able to manage not getting ourselves seriously dead every time we've crossed paths with Glory. And now that she knows that Elita is the key," she let her sentence end, leaving everyone else present to imagine the consequences of that reality.

"There must be something in the Book of Tarnis that we've missed," Angel suggested carefully, while Giles and Elita flinched at the slayer's tone, the latter in terror of what the god might do to her, the former in concern at the level of negativity in his slayer's voice and words. "Something we can use against Glory."

"A piano!" Anya cried excitedly.

"Because that's what we used to kill that big demon that one time!" Xander remarked sarcastically. "No wait, that was a rocket launcher." He turned to his girlfriend. "Anya, what are you talking about?"

"We should drop a piano on her," Anya replied, causing everyone to look at her with a view to questioning her sanity. "Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment."

Giles rolled his eyes. "Yes, or perhaps we could paint a convincing tunnel on the side of a mountain," he mocked. "Let's just keep thinking, everyone. Perhaps we should reassemble at the magic shop, see if there's anything-"

"We can't fight her," Buffy interrupted.

Her watcher looked at her, shocked at her blunt prospect of defeat. "W-well not yet, no, but-"

Buffy shook her head. "No, not ever. She's too strong, Giles. We're not gonna win this with, with stakes, or swords, or spells, or pulling out some uranium power core," she added, recapping the last solutions for their previous trials. "She's a god and she's coming for us. So let's just not be here when she starts knocking."

"Run away?" Cordelia queried.

"Finally, a sensible plan," Anya decided.

"That's not what she meant," Xander said hurriedly, concerned now. "Is it?"

"Well, we can't stay here!" Buffy replied. "She'll just kill us off one by one until there's no one left standing between her and Elita."

"Buffy, we all understand the severity of the situation, but there must be another way," Wesley reasoned in a soothing tone, an attempt to calm the tempestuous situation.

"No," the slayer's tone was harsh and firm in her denials. "We stay, we die. Show of hands for that option."

None were raised, knowing that with her present state of mind it would be useless to try and persuade her otherwise just now.

"All right," Buffy remarked. "Nobody goes home, nobody tells anybody we're leaving. Just pack up whatever supplies we need and that's it, we're gone."

"How can all of us go?" Jenny asked.

"Glory knows about all of us," Buffy pointed. "I know it's gonna be difficult with Ellis and Tara, but we need to get out of here while we still can."

"And Joyce?" Angel asked quietly.

"I'll phone Mom," Buffy replied, "but there's no need for her to leave too, as it might give away that we're escaping sooner."

"What about wheels?" Xander asked. "I don't think everybody's gonna fit in the Xandermobile."

"Just get your stuff together," Buffy replied. "I'll handle the rest."


"This is terrible," a voice sighed in mild despair. I'll never be able to mend this."

Ben turned to the female demonic nun examining the remains of the dress he was now out of. "Not really my colour anyway," he remarked, sinking into a sofa.

"Oh, yes. Inappropriate humour." The lackey chuckled unconvincingly, less respectful to the inferior personality which her god was forced to coexist with. "Most amusing. I don't suppose you know what led to this sartorial tragedy."

"That's not how it works, you know that," Ben reminded her.

"Yes, of course," the minion nodded changing the tack of her quest for information, "I just thought maybe after her magnificent incandescence was returned to this ... manly and ... painfully handsome assemblage ... you might have noticed something interesting? A key in human form, perhaps? Lounging about unattended?"

"If I did, do you really think I would tell you?" Ben countered.

"Why do you insist on fighting the inevitable?" she asked. "No one can stand against her blindingly scrumptious luminescence."

"Glory," Ben corrected, tired of the sycophancy. "Her name is Glory, and she's your god, you little scab, not mine."

"With all due respect and fear of sharp objects, you exist, sir, only because of her divine greatness," the nun pointed out.

"You mean her divine failure, don't you?" Ben countered, rising from the sofa to pace the floor. "I didn't ask for any of this. I just want to be normal."

"We play the hand we're dealt," the minion mused.

"Nothing's mine, is it?" Ben remarked, despondent. "This life, this body, it's all infected. The only thing I ever cared about, she's taken away from me. You know why I wanted to be a doctor?"

"Flattering drawstring pants?" the minion tried.

"To be close to people," Ben replied. "To witness their lives and their deaths, to be there alongside them, a part of everyday humanity." He sighed. "Maybe it's the drugs."

"Drugs, sir?" the nun queried.

"Find the right combination, keep her buried where she belongs," Ben decided.

The lackey was sceptical and horrified at the idea. "Impossible! Her magnificence can never be fully contained! She is a perfect, all-encompassing light, one you should feel honoured to be bathed in."

"Oh, yeah, I'm thrilled," Ben remarked sarcastically. "Especially with the part where she gets her key back and I cease to exist."

The female demon nodded. "True, this oh-so-appealing form will of necessity be shrugged off."

"Not if I get the key first," Ben realised.

She stopped him from leaving, aware that if his idea came to fruition it could and would destroy hers. "And if you did ... what then? Could you do it? Take a human life with your own hands? Oblivion is such a small inconvenience in the service of a deity. Accept your fate. I mean, you said it yourself. This life was never really yours anyway, was it?"

"It doesn't matter how I came by it," Ben answered with conviction. "It's mine. And I plan on keeping it."

"Anybody else feel that?" Anya asked the slayerettes as they waited on the benches outside her and Xander's apartment, the warm rays of the Californian sunny weather a complete contrast to the stormy turmoil inside every one of them.

"What?" Oz asked.

"Cold draft of paralysing fear," Anya answered.

"We just need to stay calm," Giles advised.

"Calm, right," Willow mused sceptically.

"Hey, we gotta be like Sergeant Rock," Xander pointed out. "Cool and collected in the face of overwhelming odds."

"Overwhelming?" His girlfriend echoed. "How much more than whelming would that be exactly?"

"Look, everything will be all right, we just need to stay here calmly," Giles continued, trying to prevent the mutiny which was now steadily brewing within the rank and file of the slayerettes. "As soon as Buffy arrives-"

He broke off as a large, rather old, motor home braked hard in front of them.

"-we'll feel oddly worse," Giles finished.

"Just get in," Angel's voice could be heard from inside as the door swung open, his half vampire enhanced hearing missing nothing from the watcher's tones.

The slayerettes obeyed in an ominous silence, one by one picking up their stuff before entering the vehicle.

While one group of warrior were preparing to run for the hills, another were currently in the midst of an sophisticated undercover operation within the sanitised corridors of Sunnydale General Hospital.

"Sign here."

A guy in a baseball cap took the proffered pen and signed his name on the appropriate place in the discharge form.

The nurse studied the clipboard for barely a minute, accustomed to strange names like Dante and illegible scrawls, similar to the usual hieroglyphs belonging to the medical profession. "Okay, that should do it."

The guy nodded, and started to walk away, two others following him.

"See," He remarked to his companions proudly. "Did I not tell you how easy it would be for us to-"

"Hey!" The nurse cried, causing them to stop.

One of his companions began to slowly remove a dagger from his pocket, ready for the possible danger which might come.

"My pen," the nurse added.

Dante handed her the pen with a mild and he hoped disarming smile, watching her put it away and return to her station.

His companion hid his dagger inside his hooded jacket before they turned and left the hospital, rapidly.

"The trees are singing water," their rescued comrade declared as they reached their base in the forest.

His words made some sense, Dante mused silently, in metaphorical terms at least. A knight emerged from the foliage. "You have him?"

"Yes, General," Dante replied as they removed their caps in respect to his rank. "Our brother has returned to the fold."

"Welcome home, Orlando," The General remarked, placing his hands on the soldier's shoulders. "I swear by my sword your sacrifice will not go unavenged."

Orlando stared at the medal around his superior's neck, fascinated by the glint the metal gave off in the sunlight which fed through the trees of the forest. He reached out to touch it. "Shiny."

"Yes, I suppose it is," the General agreed, humouring his faithful knight.

"Pretty little girl, she's shiny too," Orlando added absently.

The General let go of his fallen soldier and turned to Dante. "Watch him, make sure he's comfortable."

"So shiny," Orlando murmured, his eyes still on the medal, but his mind far far away. "Pretty little shiny key."

"The key?" The General queried whilst he stilled in shock, his attention caught by the three seemingly innocuous words. "You've seen it?"

"Pretty ... little shiny girl," Orlando uttered.

The General and Dante stared at their comrade as they realised what his words meant. "The monks, they've made it human."

"We know the Slayer's protecting the key," Dante said slowly. "If what Orlando says is true..."

The General turned to his troops. "Prepare to advance!"

"Yes sir," his lieutenant replied.

"We end this now," the General decided.

And the knights of Byzantium marched out of the forest, in search of the key.

"Shouldn't somebody be asking, 'Are we there yet?'" Anya queried. "Isn't that what small entertaining children do?"

"It's rarely entertaining," Doyle remarked.

"That kinda only works if you know where you're going," Cordelia reminded her.

Anya turned to the driver. "Do we know where we're going yet?"

"We'd already be somewhere if Captain Slowpoke would give up the wheel," Spike growled from his place beside Tara. "Hey! Gramps! Bloody step on it!"

"Step on what?" Giles countered, having changed shifts at the wheel so Angel could check on Buffy. "I've driven tricycles with more power."

"Is anybody else queasy?" Xander asked.

His girlfriend rubbed his arm consolingly. "He doesn't travel well," she informed them. "He's like fine shrimp."

"I shoulda nicked that Porsche I had my eye on," Spike mused. "There's just enough room for me, Peaches, my girl, Elita and Buffy." He frowned as Xander attempted to glare at him. "What?"

The nightclub owner swallowed hard. "Would you give it a rest, or..."

"Or what," Spike countered mockingly. "You're gonna toss your cookies on my shoes?"

"Or you can be undead man walking," Xander replied, grabbing the chain to which his enchanted talisman was attached. "See how fast you can hitch a ride with a flaming thumb."

"Fine," Spike muttered, snatching the precious piece of jewelry away to recline in his seat. "Shrimp."

Xander gulped, then rose from his seat to join Giles in the front. "That guy is bloodsucking the last nerve right outta me."

"He's stressed about Tara," the watcher reminded him. "He's just venting his anger and worry and guilt."

"Did you ask Deadboy about Buffy?" Xander queried. "I don't know about you, but I think she's not too clear on anything else right now. I've never seen her so..." He broke off in search of the right words.

"Angel and I think that she just needs a chance to catch her breath, regroup," Giles replied. "She'll be all right."

"Yeah," Xander uttered, inwardly wondering if that were true.

The RV reached the provincial route for the neighbouring states, its withered state the only thing preventing the vehicle from resembling others out for a road trip.

"Any luck?" Jenny asked her red haired companion who was surrounding by a small collection of vital wiccan works.

"Uh, if you define luck as the absence of success, plenty," Willow replied, looking up from the spell book she was currently perusing. "There's a couple of barrier spells, but they only work on a fixed location. I haven't found anything that will work while we're still moving."

"So pretty, can I have one?" Tara asked, reaching out her hand for Elita, who shied away from the touch.

Spike reached out for the hand and gently took it in his own. "No, luv," he murmured softly, calming her.

"Anyone hungry?" Cordelia asked restlessly.

"Ooh! Snacks!" Anya cried in sudden eagerness. "The secret to any successful migration." She reached into her backpack and retrieved a frying pan and a tinned box of spam. "Who's up for some tasty fried meat products?"

Tara suddenly sobbed desperately. "All the light is gone."

Spike let go of her hands and tentatively took her into his arms. "No, shh, luv. The light's still outside, okay?"

"All dark. All dark," Tara uttered as she cried in his embrace.

At the hospital, in the mental ward, the words were echoed.

"All dark," the patients chanted again and again.

"Soon," one of them decreed.

The cry was taken up, just as before, echoing down through every patient and bed, the words and tone combining to serve as if the ward were a chantry and words prayers for souls, long since departed.

"Soon," they all chanted.

Unbeknownst to the physicians who tended over them, these were the first words of sense which these patients uttered. If they had taken care to notice, they would not be the last, only the beginning of darker acts to come.

"It's coming," a demonic nun proposed to her monastic counterpart, over a spread of Runic tablets in the main room of the sumptuous apartment occupied by their divine goddess. Her tone was almost blissful, as though the casting had foretold the certain prospect of paradise to come for her god, and by default her brother and sisters in devoted arms.

"The signs are in alignment," she continued, "and soon victory will be in our grasp. All we need do is seize the moment ... and squeeze until it bleeds."

The motor home reached the road which served for passage through one of the many large national parks which surrounded the state, a forest barrier before the deserts belonging to its neighbours beyond.

Elita summoned the nerve to disturb the slayer and her vampire. She opened the door of the small bedroom where they had been closeted all this while.

"Hey," she uttered attempting a tone of brightness. "I think Anya's gonna try to cook. Wanna come watch the tears and recriminations?"

"Maybe later," Buffy replied.

Elita nodded, made a move to leave, then came to a halt. "Thanks."

"For what?" Buffy asked.

"You know," Elita replied. "Pretty much everything."

The slayer's reply was pure sarcasm. "Yeah. I'm doing a great job."

"You are," Angel affirmed more seriously beside her.

"I'm the Slayer," Buffy replied. "The chosen one. All mythic and defender-y. Evil nasties are supposed to flee from me. Not the other way around."

"You're not fleeing," Elita remarked. "You're ... moving at a brisk pace."

"Quaintly referred to in some cultures as the big scaredy runaway," Buffy countered.

Elita closed the door and joined the couple on the bed. "It's the most amazing thing anyone's ever done for me."

"She just keeps coming," Buffy whispered. "I couldn't even tell Mom where we were going, in case....." she shuddered at the thought of what the god might do to her, as Angel wrapped an arm around her.

"I know," Elita replied. "But there's a bright side."

"There is?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"At least things can't get any crazier. Right?" Elita offered.

Whereupon arrows started flying through the window, one barely missing Buffy's head. She ducked, then glared at the key.

"You know this is your fault for saying that," she uttered before carefully turning to see who fired the weapon.

"Are those who I think they are?" Angel queried, staring at the pursuing army which he could see out of the window.

Buffy nodded. "Yep. I'll take Knights of Byzantium for five hundred." She rose from the bed and walked in the direction of the main room.

"Giles!" Angel cried as they entered the driver's area.

"I see them," Giles replied, increasing his speed.

"Bloody hell!" Spike swore as another bunch of arrows shot through the room barely missing his head.

"Elita, get down under the table," the slayer ordered.

"Horsies!" Tara cried excitedly, peering out the window.

Spike pulled her away from the window just before the riders fired more arrows, moving her head on to his lap.

"Weapons?" Wesley asked.

Angel left Buffy's side to deal out the military armament previously secured in the bags he and the slayer were carrying.

"Hello!" Spike cried. "You're driving one!"

"Don't hit the horsies!" Willow urged.

"Oh, we won't!" Buffy replied. She turned and uttered to her watcher in a voice which only he could hear. "Aim for the horsies."

Giles nodded and steered the RV in the direction of them, but the animals and their riders were well trained cavalry mounts, and deftly moved their steeds out of the way.

"Did we shake them?" Doyle asked as the pounding sound which emanated from their hooves touching the asphalt quietened a notch.

In reply the steel blade of a large sword suddenly shot through the ceiling, a hair's breath from his head.

Buffy moved from the station by her watcher to the rear of the vehicle while her mind contemplated available options.

Angel continued to look through the bag of weapons, carefully arming the slayerettes with only what they could handle.

"Stay low!" Buffy advised as the knight continued to aim his sword. "Watch out for the-" she broke off, as the weapon suddenly came at her head.

In the nick of time, Angel reached up and grabbed the blade with hands, shoving the trajectory away from his soulmate.

"Now might be a good time for something heroic," he advised her, as the swordsman above tried to wrest his weapon loose.

Buffy raised her gaze, turned round, and caught sight of a possible solution to gain some advantage. "Wes! Hatch!"

Wesley helped her climb on to the roof through the hatch in the ceiling.

Opposite her, the knight caught sight of his new foe and wrenched his weapon free, causing Buffy to flinch as she heard her boyfriend's howl of pain in response from below. She swerved her body aside then, as the knight thrust the weapon at her. She backed away from his second swing, then jumped up and kicked his legs out from under him.

The knight went down, falling backward on to the roof of the motor home, retaining hold of his weapon by sheer force of skill. Buffy mounted him, blocked another swing, then punched him until he dropped the sword.

Inside Cordelia tore a piece of cotton sheet in to sections and wrapped the ribbons over the deep sliced cuts in Angel's hands.

Above them Buffy continued to fight the knight, punching him until he blocked her fist and kicked her in the head. She fell to the side, grabbing the roof rail to prevent herself from falling. She kicked the knight with her leg, causing him to fall back, so she could rise to her feet again. She punched him again, then whirled round to deliver a kick, causing him to scream as he fell off the vehicle.

Another knight climbed up the side.

"Keep the pressure on," Cordelia advised as she tried the torn sections of sheet.

"I always do," Angel replied.

Suddenly a knight burst through the window, making a grab for Elita who frantically tried to scramble away from him.

Anya hit the crusader with the frying pan, the clash of metal upon metal emitting a violent vibrating chime.

The knight lost his grip on the ladder outside which led to the roof and fell to the hard compacted asphalt below.

"Not a piano, but hey," Anya mused in admiration of her handiwork.

On the roof, two more knights faced the slayer, one wielding an axe, the other a mace. She punched the first, kicked the second, then delivered a kick to the first. Ducking to take a blow from the second's weapon on her back, she punched him, before executing a back flip and then kicking both of them in the face.

Retrieving the sword left behind by her fight opponent, Buffy used it as a ploy to let the mace wielder wrap his chain around it then, whereupon she pulled him closer, while kicking the one with the axe away. She spun the second knight around, before kicking him in the stomach and throwing him off the side of the RV, letting the weapons go with him.

Buffy turned to her last opponent, ducking his axe swing, then kicking him in the chest, and grabbing his weapon. She hit him with her other hand, making him release the weapon. Swinging it at him to make him duck, she kicked him over the side.

Another knight was climbing the ladder to the roof, but the slayer threw her captured weapon, striking him in the chest, causing him to fall on to the ground.

Inside everyone glanced at each other as the noises from the roof quieted, inwardly wondering if it was all right to sigh in relief.

"Everyone all right?" Giles asked, taking his eyes briefly off the road.

The slayerettes nodded silently.

Giles turned back to the road, and suddenly swerved the RV, to avoid the mounted knight before him, carrying a javelin spear.

The knight threw the weapon. It shot through the window, hitting Giles in the side, impaling them. He fell forward on to the steering wheel.

"Rupert!" Jenny cried.

Buffy lost her balance on the roof as the vehicle lost its own, and jumped for the ground to prevent herself being injured. She came up from her roll in time to see the motor home fall on to its side, dust flying off the ground from the impact.

"We gotta find shelter," Xander proposed as they stumbled from the vehicle down the dirty byway.

"There's a gas station up ahead," Oz pointed out.

Two by two, couples and friends leaning on each other for support, everyone staggered up the road until they reached the building, and then walked inside.

"Careful," Buffy urged from her place by Angel.

Behind her Wesley and Doyle helped a wounded Giles inside, having freed him from the javelin spear before leaving the motor home. The others followed in twos, Anya closing the door behind them.

"Put him on the counter," the slayer ordered, before she turned to her wiccan friend. "Okay, Will?"

"I'm on it," her friend replied, setting to work on Giles' wound. Beside her, Jenny tried to calm herself and Ellis, who peeped fearfully out of his mother's arms, his dark blue eyes uncomprehending at the damage done to his father.

"Um, you have another plan, right?" Anya asked Buffy. "One that doesn't involve pointy knives and a Winnebago?"

"We'll rest here for a minute, but then we have to keep moving," Buffy replied.

"Where?" Xander asked her.

"I don't know!" Buffy shouted. "We just, can't stay here. It's too close to the wreck, we're too easy to find."

"Buffy!" Jenny cried, causing her to run over to her watcher.

"Will, how is he?" Buffy asked. "Will?"

"I think I slowed the bleeding, but..." She paused, as they took in Giles' shallow breathing, the indication of his chances for survival deadly clear.

"Okay. Okay, just-just give me a minute," Buffy murmured, trying to think.

But fate was not generous in her mercy and time allowance for the slayer today, as an arrow dipped in flames shot through a non boarded window, embedding itself in the wall behind her as she instinctively jumped aside.

"Everyone, get down!" Buffy cried.

More arrows followed the first, causing all of them run for what little cover the deserted petroleum outlet now offered.

Angel peered cautiously out of the window. "We've got company," he announced grimly as he took in the large and fiercely armed battalion of the Knights of Byzantium which had formed outside their temporary redoubt. "And they brought a crusade."

"Willow," Buffy cried. "A protection barrier would be nice."

"I'm working on it!" Her best friend replied.

The end of an axe blade suddenly broke through a wall next to Elita's head, missing the girl only just.

"Buffy!" She screamed in terror.

The slayer ran over to her, but a knight ran in through the front door, punching her aside. As she hit the floor, Angel lunged at the knight, punching him, causing the warrior to turn and raise his blade to strike.

Buffy recovered from her fall to kick the soldier who was the cause of it, then she punched him.

He kicked her back to the floor, intent on contenting her while his comrade went for the key.

Beside Elita, Wesley and Doyle punched the knight aiming to grab her, allowing for Angel to grab the girl and get her away to the centre of the room.

The slayer kicked her opponent, grabbing his weapon to twist round and flip him over her shoulder. He slipped into unconsciousness on the floor.

Buffy turned from him in time to welcome another soldier.

"The key," he commanded as if words could succeed where physical strikes had failed before.

Buffy threw the captured sword at him, making him drop his own. He lunged at her, but she hit him again, making him fall into a support pillar, unconscious as well.

"Enemies, fly and fall," Willow chanted. "Circling arms, raise a wall."

She raised her arms and a circle of light came forth from them, gradually expanding outward to encompass the whole building.

Outside, Dante hit the magical barrier with his sword in frustration as the redoubt was rendered impregnable. "They have the general. Clerics!"

Two magi came forward, raising their hands before barrier. One chanted aloud, while the other turned to his commander to relay their findings.

"Energy barrier," he reported. "A most powerful one."

"Can it be breached?" Dante asked.

"The witch's magic pales to the might of our god," the magus replied, his words almost a vow. "The infidels' wall shall tumble before us."

"Will? How long will it hold?" Buffy asked inside.

Her best friend frowned uncertainly. "Half a day maybe." She glanced at the window, seeing the priests chanting. "Or till Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it."

"So. What's the story with these role-playing rejects?" Spike asked from his place beside Tara.

"Let's find out," Buffy replied.

She tried the last solider to a pillar in the rear of the building, while Angel and Spike came to stand behind her in case the warrior thought to escape.

Spike frowned at the guy. "You sure Scarface here can habla the English?"

"He understands me." Buffy remarked sternly. "Don't you?"

"You were warned we would return, Slayer," the knight replied.

"Took you long enough," Buffy commented. "What are you supposed to be, some kind of chief?"

"General," he sneered.

"General," Buffy mused. "In charge of what, getting captured?"

"You do not frighten me, child," the knight replied. He turned, directing his stare at Elita who flinched under his penetrating gaze. "The instrument of chaos must be destroyed."

The slayer reached forward and slapped his face, bringing his gaze back on her. "Look at her that way again, and she will be the last thing you ever see." She warned him.

"As I've been told, you protect the key of the beast," the General remarked.

"It's not that simple," Buffy objected.

"Yes," the General countered. "The key has been transformed, given breath, given life. Yet, this makes no difference. The key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of god."

"She doesn't remember anything about being this key you're all looking for," Buffy remarked. "The only thing that she remembers is the brief life she has spent in this town as part of my family. What kind of god would demand her life for something that she has no control over? We are not your enemy. Tell your men to stand down."

"No," the General refused.

"It is not her fault! She's human now!" Buffy yelled.

"The key is too dangerous to be allowed to exist," the General informed her. "No matter what form it has been pressed into."

"I will not let anyone tell me-" Buffy broke off her threat as a sound drifted from the behind them. She turned and together with Spike and Angel, walked to where the rest of the slayerettes were quartered, to find Tara struggling in Willow's grasp.

"Shh, shh, shh," Willow urged the girl, trying to quiet her.

"What happened?" Spike asked crouching before them.

"I don't know, she just went nuts," Anya replied.

"Time! Time, time!" Tara whimpered, breaking free to run to the boarded windows, trying to claw the board away.

Spike ran after her, trying to pull her away, eventually taking hold of her waist, swinging her into his arms so he could return her to the others.

"We have to do something!" Willow cried. "She, she can't stay this way, Buffy!"

"Time... time... time..." Tara continued to chant.

At the hospital in the mental ward, others took up the chant, rendering their room to same status as it was before.

"Time. Time."

"No," the nurse protested as she entered the room to discover the source of the noise, misunderstanding their words. "It's not time for your meds, just lie back-"

One patient tore free of his restraints, freeing himself from his bed.

"Doctor! Doctor McCarthy!" the nurse called out for assistance.

"Time, time, time," the patients shouted as one by one they tore at their restraints, freeing themselves from the beds.

The nurse was struck down by one as they left her behind.

Slowly they wandered towards the door, still muttering the same word over and over again, the word which signalled the start of things to come.

"Time, time, time."

"It's time. It's time." Orlando cried, proving just as difficult as his fellow sufferers.

"No, no, shh," Dante turned to him. "There's nothing to fear, my brother. "The beast may have taken your mind, but I swear to you, she will never know the taste of your heart."

He took his comrade in arms towards him, held him close, until the dagger in his hand had finished taking his life. He looked to the priests as the body slid to the ground. They were still chanting from their place before the barrier, which looked no different as to when they had begun.

"Clerics!" He cried. "I want the witch's barrier down. NOW!"

"I'm sorry," Buffy uttered to her watcher inside.

"For what?" Giles asked her.

"We should have stayed," Buffy replied. "If we had, none of this would have happened."

"Don't," he brushed her apology away. "What you did was necessary. What I've always admired."

"Running away?" Buffy queried.

"Being able to place your heart above all else," Giles replied. "I'm so proud of you, Buffy. You've come so far. You're everything a Watcher, everything I could have hoped for."

Buffy clutched his hand, watching worried as the only father she had ever known closed his eyes. She did not want it to be for the last time.

"Willow," she cried, a plan forming in her mind. "Open a door."

Her best friend glanced from her to Angel, who nodded his head in consent, then chanted softly, opening a hole in the barrier.

The slayer and her angel walked outside, the latter carrying a hastily erected white flag consisting of a sheet wrapped round a sword.

"Parley!" He cried, invoking the ancient rules of sieges, his voice carrying ahead of his beloved, who came to a halt before the knights.

Dante held up a hand, bringing his comrades to a halt. "Speak."

"One of my friends was hurt when you attacked us," Buffy stated.

"And ten of my men are dead," Dante replied. "Honourable men." He drew his sword. "Shall we balance the scale?"

"Will you let someone come and help him or not?" Buffy asked.

"Give quarter to an agent of the beast?" Dante asked her. "What madness would move me to such action?"

"Because if you are servants of a holy war," Angel remarked, "you should understand something of the rules, if you're as honourable as you think you are. And as you seem to believe your cause is."

"We have your General," Buffy added. "He's alive....... for the moment." She let the pause sound ominous.

"One man," Dante conceded.

"You, uh, forgot to mention the costume party outside," Ben remarked as he entered the building, attired in scrubs.

"Sorry," Buffy replied. "I know you're fired and everything, and I could have called Dr Byrne, but I didn't want my Mom to worry. Or rouse questions I don't have time to answer right now."

"No, it's okay," Ben assured her. "I may be lax when it comes to times, but I still know how to save lives."

"You better do," Buffy replied, gesturing to the man before her. "Because if he dies, a lot of people are gonna be upset."

Ben surveyed the wound, before raising his eyes to study the rest of them. Then silently he got to work.

"All right, I think I got him stabilised, but there's a lot of damage," he reported some time later. "We need to get him out of here."

"Well, I think the guys with the pointy swords kinda have other ideas," Buffy replied.

"Don't they always," Ben mused.

"Look, I know this must seem extra 'Outer Limits' to you," Buffy began in an effort to explain her strange life, but he shook his head.

"This? Naah. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. You know, emergency room, full moon on a Saturday night."

"Look, if this gets too weird, just tell me," Buffy assured him. "I'll understand."

"Don't worry about me," Ben replied. "I won't leave until I've worn out my welcome."

Buffy walked away, almost falling into Angel's arms. Silently he gathered her close, kissing her hair as she clutched at his chest. There were no words needed between them, just a language of touch and smell which needed no translation. Their souls understood each other intimately, kindred spirits in every way. She breathed deeply, drinking him in, gathering strength his love always gave her.

She raised her head from his chest, and he bent his own, exchanging a solemn and devout kiss. Tenderly she took his hands from behind her back and kissed the healing wounds across his palms, her lips brushing the cold metal of his claddagh.

Angel clutched her chin with one of them, raising her face towards him. "Let's see what we can find out from the General," he uttered.

"Poor frightened girl," the General sneered as the couple stood before him; Buffy in front, Angel behind. "You've no idea what you've gotten yourself into."

Buffy folded her arms over her chest. "Why don't you tell me?"

"Would it make a difference?" He countered. "What do you know of the beast?"

"Strong. Fast. Hell god," Buffy replied.

"From a dimension of unspeakable torment," the General added.

"A demon dimension," Buffy said calmly. "I know. She ruled with two other hell gods, right?"

"Along with the beast they were a triumvirate of suffering and despair," the General continued. "Ruling with equal vengeance. But the beast's power grew beyond even what they could conceive. As did her lust for pain and misery. They looked upon her, what she had become, and trembled."

"A god afraid?" Buffy queried.

The General nodded. "Such was her power. They feared she would attempt to seize their dimension for herself, and decided to strike first. A great battle erupted. In the end, they stood victorious over the beast, barely. She was cast out. Banished to this lower plane of existence, forced to live and eventually die trapped within the body of a mortal, a newborn male, created as her prison. That is the beast's only weakness."

"Kill the man and the god dies," Buffy realised.

The General inclined his head in agreement. "Unfortunately, the identity of the human vessel has never been discovered."

"I don't understand," Buffy remarked. "Now, I've seen Glory. Not a whole lot going on in the hairy chest department."

"You have seen a glimpse of the true beast," the General replied. "Her power was too great to be completely contained. She's found a way to escape her mortal prison for brief periods, before her energies are exhausted and she's forced back into her living cell of meat and bone."

"What about me?" A voice asked, causing Buffy to turn, as Elita joined them. "What about the key?"

"Elita," Buffy warned.

But the young girl shook her head. "I want to know."

The General stared at her. "The key is almost as old as the beast itself. Where it came from, how it was created, the deepest of mysteries. All that is certain is that its power is absolute. Countless generations of my people have sacrificed their lives in search of it, to destroy it before its wrath could be unleashed."

"But the monks found it first," Elita gathered.

"Yes, and hid it with their magicks," the General replied.

"Why didn't they just destroy it?" Buffy asked. "If the key is as dangerous as-"

The General interrupted her. "Because they were fools. They thought they could harness its power for the forces of light. They failed, and paid with their blood."

"What do I do?" Elita asked. "What was I created for?"

"You were created to open the gates that separate dimensions," the General replied. "The beast will use your power to return home and seize control of the hell she was banished from."

Buffy laughed. "That's it? That's Glory's master plan; to go home?"

Her hostage frowned at her. "You misunderstand. Once the key is activated, it won't just open the gates to the beast's dimension. It's going to open all the gates. The walls separating realities will crumble. Dimensions will bleed into each other. Order will be overthrown and the universe will tumble into chaos, all dark, forever." His gaze fell on the key. "That is what you were created for."

Elita turned and walked out of the room.

"Go," Angel urged his beloved. "I'll watch him."

Buffy placed her hand on his chest in silent gratitude, then followed the girl into the centre of the room.

"You think it's true, what he said?" Elita asked her.

"I don't know," Buffy replied.

"Destroyer of the universe," Elita mused. "I should have killed myself when I slashed my wrists," she laughed harshly.

"No," Buffy grabbed her hands. "It's not you. You know that."

"But it's in me isn't it? It's inside me," Elita countered. "What are we gonna do?"

The slayer gathered her close. "I won't let anything happen to you. I promise."


"Wriggling!" Tara cried in the main room.

"Come on, Tara, luv, you have to eat something," Spike urged.

"Want me to try?" Anya asked him.

"I don't know," Spike mused. "I'm getting used to picking fruit out of my hair."

Across the room, Jenny looked up at Ben as he injected more fluids into Giles' arm. "How is he?"

"I'd feel better if he was in the hospital," Ben replied. "So would he," he added, before walking away.

Suddenly he froze, putting a hand to his forehead. "You have to let me out," he remarked suddenly, causing everyone to stare at him.

"Ben?" Elita queried.

"You don't understand, I gotta get out, open a door now!" He yelled.

Angel rushed from his station by the hostage. "What happened?"

"I-I don't know, he just freaked out." Elita replied.

"Let me out!" Ben cried.

"Okay, Will, open a door," Buffy ordered.

"No! Ha!" Ben screamed.

Then suddenly Glory was there.

"Well, what do you know," she mused, looking at her surroundings. "Little Ben finally did something right."

"The beast," the General cried.

"Hey, it's Gregor," Glory remarked. She grabbed a hubcap and threw it. The metallic disc flew across the room into the General's chest, killing him.

"Now it's not," Glory declared.

Angel and Spike rushed at Glory with a yell, Xander right behind them, aiming for a pre-emptive strike.

Glory hit the souled vampire in the chest, the force of the impact sending him backward into the other two, who crashed into the other members of the slayerettes, rendering them powerless to assist.

Willow began enchanting, hurriedly trying her teleport spell.

Buffy rushed at the hell god as the boys and the rest of the slayerettes began to rise from the floor.

Seconds later she flew back into her best friend, knocking the breath out of them both, ceasing the attempt at witch craft.

Her enemies incapacitated, Glory turned and grabbed Elita.

"Buffy!" girl cried as she was swept into the god's embrace.

The slayer struggled to rise from the floor as Glory dragged Elita out of the building.

Outside the magical barrier was no match for her free arm, as she punched a hole through it, pulling Elita through with her.

Behind them the barrier began to close as the slayer emerged from the building.

"Elita!!" Buffy cried as she hit the barrier too late to break through the temporary breach created by the god. She watched them go, then turned round and walked back inside. "Willow! Get it down, now!"

"Hear, hear my plea," Willow began. "Circling arm protecting me."

The barrier down now, Buffy turned round and ran back outside, until the sight before her caused her to come suddenly to a halt.

Angel and Spike who were the first of the slayerettes to catch up with her, came to a stop behind her, likewise froze, as they took in the horrific view.

Around them corpses lay upon the ground, every one a knight of the Byzantium order, fallen soldiers killed where they stood, as though a plague of poisonous gas had conquered them, rendering their besieging force null and void.

"We have to," Willow uttered as she ran outside, the rest of her sentence dying from her lips as she took in the scene.

"The beast," one still dying soldier declared with his final breath.

Angel pointed at the car parked nearby. "The car. Get the keys," he ordered one of the stunned slayerettes.

"Buffy!" Willow cried. "Buffy, we have to find Elita. We, we can't let Glory-" she broke off as her best friend sank to the ground.

"Buffy?" Angel queried as he turned his gaze upon her. "Buffy!" He cried as he took in the thousand yard stare.

"Buffy, you have to get up! We need you!" Willow cried as they rushed towards her.

"Buffy!" Angel cried, kneeling before her. "Please, Buffy......"

It was to no avail. The slayer was lost.

To Be Continued In