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Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode; The Weight of the World, and I have altered the plot to make Angel take on Willow's role, as I felt he was more suited, because he is Buffy's soulmate. I have also changed aspects of Buffy's dreams during her catatonic state, because I made the point of replacing Dawn with Elita. Plus, I assume because Spike remembers about Ben, that Angel and Doyle do too, because of their demonic halves. Enjoy.

 

Humanity.

While in the world of the slayer everything was steadily travelling towards hell, in the world of the god, she who is all divine, the deity called Glorificus, the apartment her mortal body once owned, was hurriedly being emptied of her contents in preparation for her return to her home world.

"Quickly, quickly!" Murk commanded to fellow minions. "Already we're behind schedule! Someone's bound for a beheading." He walked into one of the many walk in closets belonging to their most sacred mistress, adding to himself in a lower tone, "let's make sure it's not me."

"Why do we remain when our moment of triumph lies so close at hand?" Gronx asked him, while she packed the clothes away.

Murk continued in his lowered tones. "The glorious one, having acquired much in this world, doesn't exactly travel light."

Together the monastic demons espied around a corner in to the living area of their deity's apartment, staring at the sight of their holy entity as she awaited for her tailors to finish their latest masterpiece.

"Hey! Minions, I can hear you," Glory remarked. "Godlike ears don't miss much, you know what I'm saying," she glared daggers at them. "Come here."

"'twas he who blasphemed, your magnificence," Gronx protested.

"Spurred on by treacherous urging!" Murk added, only to be hit by his companion.

To their surprise, Glory was all that is merciful. "Guys! I'm not gonna kill you." She frowned at the novelty of such a phrase being uttered by her mouth. "Not in the mood. What do you think that's about?"

"In mercy does your power lie?" Gronx suggested.

"No, brainless, in torture, death and chaos does my power lie," Glory corrected the lackey, still frowning of her sudden lack of enthusiasm for all of the above. "So tell me, why am I not popping your head like a zit right now?"

Murk and Gronx glanced at each other, received no answer, then returned their humble eyes to their superior queen, presenting their incompetence before her magnificence.

Glory brushed the qualm aside. "Maybe I'm just hungry."

Murk leapt on the proposal. "Yes, we shall fetch a, a lovely-"

His benevolent deity forestalled him. "No, I'm not hungry." She let go of the garment her tailors were still hard at work on perfecting, revealing a typical little black dress beneath. "Uhh!" She exhaled, stepping down from the dais. "Just a little tight in the skin is all. I've been waiting an eternity - well, 25 human years - and it all comes down to tonight."

"The portal shall open," Gronx uttered as if the words were a prayer.

"And the great Glorificus shall return," Murk added, as if the words were a certainty.

"To the hell I came from," Glory finished. "Where I'm gonna rain down more super-sized portions of slaughter, mayhem and bloodshed than any of you scabs can even dream about." She halted her restless pacing, sinking on to a sofa. "So how come I ain't happy? Got everything I ever wanted ... still, something's off." She exercised her wrist a few times, testing the joint. "I don't know. What do you think?"

Her question was not directed to the lackeys, who stood before her, equally confused at this puzzlement of their omniscient god. It was directed to the other woman in the room, the one who did not belong in this world just as much as the god who had asked the question.

The one sitting bound and gagged across from her.

Elita.


At the abandoned gas station, occupied by the slayerettes, a chipped and charmed vampire entered the once shop floor, wiping his hands clean with a dish cloth.

"Better part of a century spent in delinquency just paid off," he remarked to everyone in the room. "Hot wired Ben's auto," he added in explanation. "Who's for getting the hell out of here?"

Angel did not need to glance around the room to gain consensus. "All in favour, let's do it," he replied. He did turn to Giles, surveying his bandaged injuries. "You good to go?"

The Watcher was putting up his stiff upper lip. "Oh, don't worry about me. How's Buffy?"

"The same," Angel replied, his eyes falling on his beloved, who was under the constant gaze of her two best friends. "Still."

"Too still," Xander remarked.

"It's been almost a half an hour," Willow added.

Spike's gaze moved from his love to his sire's love. "The Slayer's gonna be all right, won't she?" He asked.

"You should try it again, Will," Angel advised.

"All right," the witch replied, "but ... I'm not even sure she's, you know ... really in there."

"Try," Xander urged.

Willow stepped forward towards the slayer, her figure slightly bent in order to meet her best friend's sightless gaze. "Can you hear me? Buffy!"

The blond haired girl that was the slayer, sat upon the floor of the abandoned gas station, her legs and arms folded, lotus style.

"Buffy!" Willow tried again, raising her voice a further decibel.

Her eyes were glassy, dazed, the mind behind them locked in a world of her own traumatised nightmares.

"Buffy?" Willow uttered softly, hope dying that her friend would respond.

Silence.

"Buffy!" Spike tried.

Still no response.

"She can't just be brain-dead," Spike remarked, earning a glare from his sire. "I mean ... she's still Buffy, somewhere in there, right?"

"She has to be," Angel uttered, his tone not just a prayer, but a certainty that if the unthinkable became reality, someone was for a beheading; Angelus style.

"Come on," Xander said, attempting to establish some control of the situation, "we're not gonna get Elita back by sitting around here."

"You're not gonna get Elita back any way you slice it, Harris," Spike replied. "It's for Buffy to decide."

The boy scoffed at him. "Good, panic. That oughta help."

"We should move her," Willow proposed. "Unless we shouldn't. Should we?"

"Couldn't that make it worse?" Anya queried. "I think I read that somewhere."

"Only if she has broken bones," Cordelia informed the former vengeance demon. "But she did fall to the ground pretty hard," she murmured doubtfully.

"I am so large with not knowing," Xander added.

"It's impossible to know for sure," Giles judged. "Loosing Elita, after all that Buffy's been through ... I think it's pushed her too far into some sort of catatonia."

"You don't need a diploma to see that," Spike replied. "Snap her out of it," he proposed, walking towards the slayer. He clasped her shoulders and shook her. "Buffy!" He cried. "Oi, rise and shine, love!"

"Spike..." Anya began as everyone watched him with a mixture of anxiety concerning his actions, and hope that they might succeed where all others had failed.

"Come on, people," Spike replied. "Girl's endowed with Slayer strength. It's hardly the time to get dainty. Buffy!" He shook her harder.

Xander ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "We tried that!"

Spike slapped the slayer's face. Hard.

Barely a second later he recoiled from the pain his chip sent to his nerves. "Ow!" He growled, his hands going to his temple.

"We didn't try that," Anya reminded them.

Angel pulled his grandchilde away. "Are you insane?" he asked him. "We could be dealing with neurological damage here. You want to kill her?"

"We have to do something," Spike replied. "I can't just sit here watching. You waste time with kid gloves. I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough."

His sire saw red at that, punching him in the face. Spike returned the favour, while Xander leapt forward to defend his best friend too, only for Willow to forestall him.

"Separate," she uttered, and an invisible barrier magically appeared between the two vampires, forcing them apart.

Everyone turned to the red head in surprise, both at the order and the strength of the magic behind it. Giles and Jenny in particular carried concerned expressions in their faces, as if neither had realised the consequences behind Willow's recent magical torture of Glory until this moment.

"Buffy's out," Willow said, directing her comments at Angel, Spike and Xander. "Glory has Elita. Sometime real soon, she's gonna use Elita to tear down the barrier between every dimension there is. So if you two wanna fight, do it after the world ends, okay?"

Angel nodded, while Xander stared at Spike. The vampire met his glare with one of his own, before going over sit by his girlfriend, who had retreated into herself for a while too.

Willow spoke again, this time more quietly and with authority. "All right. First we head back to Sunnydale. Xander will take Giles, Jenny and Ellis to a hospital. Cordelia and Doyle will be looking after Tara. Wesley and Spike, you find Glory. Check her apartment, see if she's still there." She paused to direct the full force of her intent to the chipped vampire. "Try anything stupid, like payback, and I will get Very Cranky." She turned to survey the gang. "Everyone clear?"

Cautiously, Anya raised her hand.

"Anya," Willow uttered, inviting her to speak.

"Um ... w-what will you, Oz and Angel do?" she asked.

"We'll help Buffy," Oz replied.

"Okay then," Anya agreed.

"The world is spinning," Tara cried joyfully, causing Spike to glance at her in concern, along with everyone else.

Angel and Willow walked over to the couple as she continued to speak, while Xander and Anya began helping Giles down from the table he was resting on.

"Straight to a new day!" Tara cried. "Big day. Big, big day."

Spike gently wrapped his arms around her. "Shh, shh," he hushed, making sure she was okay before turning to Willow and Angel.

"Uh ... Will?" He queried. "Now, uh, don't turn me into a horned toad for asking, but ... what if we come across Ben?"

The redhead frowned. "I-I don't think a doctor's what Buffy needs right now."

"Well, yeah, especially not one who also happens to be Glory," Spike added in agreement, his grandsire nodding.

Giles frowned. "What do you mean?"

Angel turned to him. "You know. Ben is Glory."

Now it was Willow's turn to become confused. "You mean ... Ben's with Glory?"

"'With' in what sense?" Xander asked.

"They're working together?" Anya queried.

Spike shook his head. "No. No. Ben is Glory. Glory's Ben. They're one and the same."

Confused, the slayerettes glanced at each other.

"When did all this happen?" Cordelia asked.

"Not one hour ago, Delia!" Doyle replied. "Right here, before your very eyes! Ben came, he turned into Glory, snatched the kid, and pfft! Vanished, remember?"

Spike was frowning too, but at their confusion. "You do remember...?" He paused, wondering. "Is everyone here very stoned?"

The slayerettes continued to remain befuddled.

"Ben! Glory!" Spike cried. "He's a doctor, she's the beast. Two entirely separate entities sharing one body. Like a bloody sitcom. Surely you remember."

Enlightenment began to dawn on Xander. "So you're saying ... Ben and Glory..."

"Have a connection," Anya finished.

"Yes, obviously, but what kind?" Giles queried.

Spike laughed, causing Doyle and Angel to glance at him. "Oh, I get it," he said. "That's very crafty. Glory's worked the kind of mojo where anyone who sees her little presto-change-o instantly forgets. And us, including yours truly, being somewhat other than human ... stands immune."

Willow frowned as she came to the realisation. "So ... Ben and Glory ... are-are the same person?"

Xander followed her, his words slowly arriving at a conclusion. "Glory can turn into Ben, and Ben turns back into Glory."

"And anyone who sees it instantly forgets," Anya added.

Spike sighed in relief. "Kewpie doll for the lady."

"Excellent," Giles uttered, calling their attention back to him. "Now. Do we suspect there may be some kind of connection between Ben and Glory?"

Everyone turned to Angel, Doyle and Spike, eager for illumination.

Chipped vampire, half vampire and half Bracken groaned in frustration.


In the world of Glorificus, scenes had altered, moving subjects, servants and pilgrims to a large warehouse, where the latter were hard at work, building the machine required for the hell god's return to her home world.

The doors opened, causing the workers, once ordinary citizens of Sunnydale, previously patients of the mental ward at Sunnydale General, to look up, and come to a halt, as their god entered the facility. She was followed by her minions and, miracle of miracles, the key!

"The key. The key," a welder cried.

Elita, dragged by Glory, turned to the man, catching sight of his face below the raised protective mask. She recognised him as being the first of those who identified her as something not belonging to this world.

"The key. The key. The key," more workers cried.

Glory and her retinue headed to the office at the back of the warehouse. The god deposited the key to her world in the hands of the monastic lackeys, her temper perilously short.

"Unbelievable how annoying those groupies can be," she sighed.

Murk endeavoured to rescue them from their deity's most holy wrath. "Uh, they merely sense that tonight at last, the dimensional portal shall open."

Elita flinched, shying away from the priest who started to adorn her with ceremonial paint, but the bonds securing her hands and feet could not be resisted, forcing an unnatural surrender.

"Ushering in the long and bloody reign of the great..." Gronx trailed off her words of praise failed to keep the god's attention.

Glory stared at the now chanting priest. "What's he doing?"

The priest ceased his chanting to explain. "I must anoint the key."

"Really don't," Glory objected. Go."

Her bishop faltered in confusion. "But-"

Glory yelled at all him. "Out! Get out, get out!"

Murk rushed forward, ushering the holy man out of the office. He turned in time to see his god, she who is divine, retrieve a rag from the desk, and proceed to wipe the key clean.

"You know, you recapture your godhood and unleash Armageddon, all of a sudden everybody wants to be a part of the inner circle," Glory mused. She licked the cloth with her tongue and pressed it upon the key's forehead once more.

Elita shied away in disgust.

"You okay?" Glory asked her softly.

"I wanna go home," Elita pleaded.

"Sweetie ... ohh..." Glory exhaled almost blissfully, before taking a chair before the young girl. "You're about to."

Elita looked up at the hell god hopefully.

"Not that fake strange suburban nightmare the monks cooked up for you," Glory continued, destroying that hope. "Why did a life with a slayer and two vampires scream normal to them!" she shook her head. "I mean your real home. As the key! You fit the lock. Well, it's like a lock. Hey!" she patted the girl's knee. "You want a pizza?"

Elita sniffed, trying to stop her tears. "No."

"Pillow?" Glory asked. Receiving no reply, she glanced around the room, fixing on the television set. "I don't know if this thing gets cable. Doubtful."

Sobbing was the first reply, followed by two simple words which carried so much power and meaning. "Please. Stop."

"You nervous?" Glory asked her gently.

Elita could not contain her grief. "Yes."

The hell god smiled at her. "I know how you feel. It is your last night."

Elita's eyes widened in horror.

Glory ignored the emotion behind the gaze. "As, you know a human." She picked up the girl's wrist and shook it. "This body ... it's just a rental, Elita. Being human? It's like a costume for girls like you and me. Being something else, that's what we are."

"Don't," Elita uttered, abruptly calm and stern.

Glory continued to smile. "What?"

"Don't call me Elita," she ordered.

The hell god laughed, letting go of her hand. "Huh. Wow. You know, that actually hurt my feelings."

Suddenly afraid of what she might do, Elita apologised. "I'm sorry."

Glory raised her hand, forestalling her. "Not the point." She rose from her seat and began to pace, worrying her prisoner further.

"I'm just thinking, here I am trying to make you feel better, when comforting others ... not part of my life." Glory frowned. "And I'm doing it, so I can stop ... feeling so ...um ..." she paused, snapping her fingers, at a loss. "Help me out."

Elita stilled, a candle of hope beginning to flicker into life deep within her. "Guilty?"

"Guilty," Glory echoed. Suddenly she laughed. "That's it!" she laughed again, relieved at the revelation. Then abruptly another perspective was realised. "But I'm not supposed to feel guilty. I'm not supposed to feel anything. I'm, I'm ... I'm a god. I'm above it. I'm," she paused, glancing at her prisoner. "You."

The candle within Elita blew out again as the god strode over to her.

"You did this to me, didn't you?" Glory accused her. "Some sort of spell, you've been hanging with the wicca, you could have-," she paused, enlightened. "But no. It's not magic. It's something else. Still, it is you doing this."

Elita shook her head. "I ... I'm not doing anything. I swear."

"We'll see," Glory remarked. She walked to the door, opening it.

Monastic lackeys awaited eagerly outside, ready to do her bidding.

Glory's eyes glared at her key. "Anoint this thing now!"

The priest returned to his previous task of painting and chanting, Murk and Gronx following him inside, waiting for their deity's instructions.

"Know what they're all chanting for out there, Elita?" Glory asked her. "Blood. 'Cause we found out your blood is the key to the key! All I gotta do is bleed you dry, the portal opens up, and I can go home! So knock yourself out, girlfriend. Make me feel bad as you can." She bent her mortal body, meeting the frightened girl's eyes. "'Cause tomorrow ... you bleed, little girl."

Her words were soft, but they carried all the deadly intent of a benevolent dictator. Elita flinched from them, inwardly wondering what was going to happen to her. She feared being killed, she feared being rescued, having witnessed what the god did to the knights of the Byzantium. She would hate being the cause of any deaths, especially those who had housed her, cared for her, welcomed her into their family. Just as much as she hated being the indirect cause of the insanity being visited on Sunnydale's citizens like a plague. She wondered what would have happened if the slayer had never rescued her from Harmony, or if she had not sought her help that night when she slashed her wrists. Would the blood have drained out of her, opening a portal to Glory's home world in the second floor of the Crawford Mansion? Or would she have simply died, putting an end to all of the god's hopes, and the slayer's troubles at the same time? Elita doubted that it would have stopped Glory. Judging from what she knew of her, the god would probably razed the town to the ground anyway. Still, death was something she contemplated now, wondering if her suicide would prevent the hell god from unleashing Armageddon. She was going to die anyway, that much was certain.

The question was, could she save the world by doing so?


"You sure you know what you're doing?" Anya asked Willow.

Inside her and Xander's apartment, the former vengeance demon now reformed devoutly American woman watched the wiccan taking candles out of a small leather bag, putting them on a table.

Willow answered her a little uncertain. "I think so. I don't know. It's ... not exactly well-explored territory, but ... I gotta try."

"A spell like this could be really dangerous for Buffy," Anya pointed out. "And you," she added in warning.

"Time ... oh, time is coming," Tara murmured dreamily, causing them to glance at her.

Cordelia returned from making a drink for their friend to sit beside her and Doyle, her hand going out to the former, comforting her.

"Shh. It's okay," she uttered, "Spike will be back soon.."

"How long do you think this will take?" Doyle asked.

Willow shrugged. "I'm not sure. Spike gave me her medication before he when to find Glory's whereabouts. Half a pill every two hours keeps her mellow, he said."

"You think you'll be gone more than two hours?" Anya asked.

The wiccan refused to answer that directly. "Wish me luck."

"Okay," Anya replied. She punched the redhead on her arm. "Good luck!"

"Thanks," Willow uttered, accepting the words if not the forced enthusiasm behind them. She gathered up the stuff from the table and walked towards the bedroom.

"Good luck," Anya, Cordelia and Doyle uttered softly.

Willow opened the door and entered the room, closing it behind her. She spared a glance for the souled half human vampire who rose from the bed the minute the door moved, offering a reassuring smile but failing in the attempt.

Angel watched her as she placed a candle either side of the bed, lighting the wicks. She put a further two candles on another small table in the room, lightning them as well. Finally he spoke. "You're not doing this, Willow."

"I have to, Angel," she replied, gazing at him. "Elita needs Buffy. And Buffy would hate herself if she was unable to save her."

"I know," Angel replied. "But you're still not doing it," he added.

"Then what do we do?" Willow asked him.

"I'm doing it," Angel answered.

 




Angel turned slowly, careful to take in every facet of his surroundings, knowing that even the smallest detail would have some bearing on his beloved's safe return to the world. He found himself surprised by the moment in her life which she had chosen to recall and remain in, for it was a time he knew almost as well her, though from another perspective.

It felt surreal, seeing his younger self parked outside in a battered Chevy Impala, hiding from the deadly glare of the sun, his tortured gaze fixed on the young girl who was to become his saviour. Angel could remember that day just as vividly as his love did, for it marked the moment when their lives changed forever.

He turned from staring at his past self, to the vision he was gazing upon; the small blond slip of a girl sitting on the steps in front of her school, sucking a lollipop. Six months younger than when he met her, dressed to the nines of fashion which every member of the popular set aspired to, yet infinitely beautiful in his eyes.

The blond girl removed her lollipop, and greeted him. "Hello, Angel."

"Hello, Buffy," he answered back.


Spike vented his anger on the front door to Glory's apartment, kicking the barrier off it's hinges and against the wall with a vengeance which made Wesley flinch, inwardly wondering if he had managed to retrieve a stake from the weapons chest at 1902 Crawford Street. The mansion was still surrounded by scaffolds, hurried employed by his firm before he joined the fleeing slayerettes, thinking at the time that one day they would be able to return.

He just had not imagined it would be like this.

Spike put a cigarette in his mouth, cupping his hands around the nicotine stick and his lighter for a moment, before raising his head to examine the room.

"Runes," Wesley remarked, pointing at the circle of twigs and tablets which lay upon the floor. "A casting for foreseeing the future," he added knowingly as he studied the layout.

His smoking companion ignored him for the moment, heading for an arched doorway beneath the stairs. When he failed to return, Wesley followed him.
Spike turned on the bulb which lit the room from darkness. He stilled as he caught sight of the simple, Spartan design, a complete contrast to the luxury which attired the rest of the building. A unmade bed, a small lamp upon a bedside table, some books. A set of blue scrubs hanging against the wall, identity badge attached.

Wesley frowned. "So is Ben connected to Glory in some way?"

 


"What are you doing here?" Buffy asked her soulmate.

Angel smiled at her kindly. "Actually, I'm, looking for you," he replied.

"You've found me," she pointed out, her logic unassailable.

"Buffy ... what are you doing here?" Angel asked her.

"I like it here," she replied, sounding very young.

And very lost. His heart ached to see her looking so beautiful, yet so lost. He knelt on the steps before her. "You know we need you. You have to come out."

"Why?" She asked him.

"To be with your friends," Angel replied. "The people who loved you."

"It's a big day for me," Buffy remarked.

Angel nodded. "I know."

"Buffy Summers?" A voice asked, causing Angel to turn round.

A man was standing before his love, middle-aged, English, attired in a tweed suit which covered his portly figure.

Angel rose from the steps as Buffy transformed into the fifteen year old girl ignorant of what was about to come.

"Yeah?" she replied. "Hi! What?"

"I need to speak with you," the man remarked.

Angel watched as Buffy's faced acquired a worried frown. "You're not from Bullock's, are you?" She asked. "'Cause I-I meant to pay for that lipstick."

"There isn't much time," the man continued. "You must come with me. Your destiny awaits."

Buffy shook her head. "I don't have a destiny. I'm destiny-free, really."

The man remained unmoved. "Yes, you have. You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them."

"Who?" Buffy asked.

"The vampires," the man answered.

Angel watched his beloved, watched the Chevy Impala his younger self watched the scene from, as Buffy exhaled in confusion. Her whole life, no their whole lives, were about to change, and neither of them had any idea what was to come. He wondered why she wanted to stay in this moment forever, and feared the reason why.

A sound caused him to turn round. Abruptly, he found himself somewhere else, and another time.

They were in the Magic Box; seemingly alone. Angel watched his beloved, her long blond hair free from adornment, her top sleeveless and her skirt mid length, as she carried a book to the shelves, put the leather bound volume back in its place, paused for a moment, then walked away.

He turned to ask her younger shelf why, only to find his surroundings altered again. This time he was standing before a open fire at night.

What was significant about these two moments?


Giles struggled up from his bed at Sunnydale General, one hand on his bandaged wound, the other in his jacket. "Uh, can you, uh..."

Before he could finish, Xander stepped forward and helped him put the jacket on. He assisted him up from the bed, then, together with Jenny and Ellis, they exited the room.

"How you doing?" Xander asked him.

"It only hurts while I answer pointless questions," Giles replied. "Where's Buffy?"

"Willow's on it. Or Angel's in it. They're working some spell, trying to reach Buffy psychically."

"He' gone into Buffy's mind?" Jenny sought to confirm.

Xander nodded. "Pretty tricky stuff."

Giles was concerned. "It's extraordinarily advanced. Um, I was thinking we should check on Glory's victims while ... we're here."

"Oh, the mental ward?" Xander queried. "I've already been. The vegetable section's closed. Nobody there. It's like they all just got up and walked away."

They turned the corner, to find Wesley and Spike waiting for them.

"Checked out Glory's flat," the latter remarked. "Looks like the great one has scampered."

"We found the remains of a runic casting on the floor, but that was about it," Wesley added.

"Gone to, perform her ritual with Elita and leaving us entirely clueless," Giles mused.

"Not entirely," Spike replied, causing them to look at him. "I know this bloke. Well, not so much a bloke so much as a demon. But still, bookish. All tuned in to the nastier corners of this our magic world." He took out another cigarette. "It's a bit of a last resort really, but still, we might persuade him to suss out Glory's game plan." He cupped his hands around the nicotine stick and his lighter before continuing. "Sound worthy?"

Giles sighed, shrugging in desperation, at a loss for what else to try.

Spike nodded. "Off we go then. Meet back at the shop."

Xander carefully patted the watcher on his arm, then fell into step with Spike, while Wesley remained with his former colleague to take him and his wife and child to the Magic Box after they sorted the discharge papers.

"Found Ben's room at Glory's," Spike added. "Didn't learn much."

Xander froze mid stride in shock. "Wait, wait, wait. Ben? At Glory's? You're saying all this time he's been subletting from her?"

Spike rolled his eyes in exasperation. "This ... is gonna be worth it," he decided, before slapping his hand full force into Xander's head.

Both of them clutched their skulls from the pain.

"Last time," Spike growled as they resumed walking. "From the top."

 


Glory leaned against the wall of the warehouse and sighed. "I'm hating this, Murk."

"And this would be what exactly, your holiness?" Murk asked.

"Memories," Glory replied. "I'm starting to remember the things Ben did. People he spoke with, stuff he wore... Hmm!" She raised her voice. "Kid!"

The monastic lackeys parted to reveal the key to Glory, the priest beside her ready and waiting to do the god's commands.

"I came ... he came to see you, didn't he?" Glory asked her.

Elita frowned. "Ben?"

"Yeah, Ben," Glory replied. "You called him to the desert when you were hiding from me. And he came. And then he was me, you remember?"

Nervously Elita nodded. "Yes."

Glory whirled round to face her minions. "See? She's not supposed to remember that! Nobody should! The cloak between Ben and me is fading! I almost helped her! He ..." she paused turning to her sacrifice. "I wanted to. I can't do this!"

She grabbed the priest by the front of his robe. "Get him out of me."

"What?" The priest asked.

Glory burst into tears. "Ben! The human meat-sack who's infecting me. Do your mojo, make an incision, or removal, or whatever you've gotta do. Help me! I'm ... I'm thinking Ben's thoughts, and ... and I'm feeling his feelings! And ... uh! I..."

She paused as her body transformed into the source of her annoyance.

"Can't kill the girl," Ben finished.

He reverted to Glory, who swore. "Damn it." She collapsed to the floor. Summoning what strength she could find, she raised herself up by her hands and looked at the holy man.

"Help me!" She cried.

The priest was understandably nervous. "Th-this I cannot do. You risk terrible magic's in opening the portal. Nothing comes without a price. This ... is yours."

Glory scowled, rising from the floor. "Gods don't pay."

She walked to the sacrifice, and grabbed the young girl by the throat, pulling her to her feet.

"We do this now!" She decided.



Angel looked from the open fire, to the girl sitting on a rock before it, then to the primitive lurking in the shadows opposite.

"The first slayer," he murmured.

As with the moment in Los Angeles, the people in this scene ignored him, staring at his beloved.

"Death is your gift," the primitive revealed.

"Death is my gift?" Buffy echoed, seeking to confirm.

"Death is your gift," the first slayer repeated.

Angel frowned. He remembered Buffy telling him what happened the night she went to seek enlightenment in the desert, and he recalled his response to her, assuring her that the first slayer's words could mean anything. At the time, Buffy had accepted his reply. Now he realised, she never had.

The scene changed once more, reverting to the moment in the Magic Box. Angel watched her walk past him, returning the book in her hands to the bookshelf, then pausing. That moment seemed longer this time, as though it was more than just a simple course of actions, one which could have occurred at any time during their lives.

His surroundings altered again. He turned in time catch sight of his love, attired in jeans and a black tank top, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, ascending the stairs to the second floor of their Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Where are you going?" He wondered.

 


Elita struggled for breath as Glory continued to tighten her hold on her neck.

"Glorificus, wait!" Murk cried. "Kill the key now and all will be lost!"

"We'll be stuck on this mortal plane forever!" Added Gronx.

"All right, you're right," Glory accepted, releasing Elita. "It's cool. I'm just a little emotional right now... which, if you're into irony, funny."

Elita fell against a pillar, her hand tentatively clutching her throat as she gasped for breath.

"Leave," the god ordered. "We need a little girl time."

The monastic lackeys bowed, causing their deity to urge them further.

"Goodbye!"

They hurried out, leaving Glory to stare at her key.

"How do they do it?" the god asked her.

"Do what?" Elita asked hoarsely.

"People!" Glory replied. "How do they function here like this in the world with all this bile running through them? Every day it's whoo-oo. You have no control. They're not even animals, they're just these meatbaggy slaves to, to hormones and pheromones and their, and their feelings. Hate them!"

Elita stopped rubbing her neck to stare at the god, the candle of hope inside her flickering once again.

"I mean really," Glory continued. "Is this what the poets go on about, this? Call me crazy, but as hard-core drugs go, human emotion is just useless! People are puppets! Everyone getting jerked around by what they're feeling. Am I wrong? Really, I want to know."

Elita hesitated, unsure what to say for fear of angering her.

"Gonna bleed you either way," Glory remarked.

"Depends on the person," Elita answered.

"So you're saying some people like this," Glory sought to confirm.

"Some," Elita replied.

"Funny," the god mused. "'Cause I look around at this world you're so eager to be a part of ... and all I see is six billion lunatics looking for the fastest ride out. Who's not crazy? Look around. Everyone's drinking, smoking, shooting up ... shooting each other, or just plain screwing their brains out 'cause they don't want them anymore. I'm crazy? Honey, I'm the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind. 'Cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts." She walked towards her again. "Name one person who can take it here. That's all I'm asking. Name one."

"Buffy." Elita replied.


If Elita had been able to witness the scene taking place in the bedroom of Xander and Anya's apartment just then, her answer might not have been so decided. For Willow still leaned against the wall at the foot of the bed, watching Angel sitting on the chair opposite her best friend. Watching as he remained in the latter's mind, and she remained lost there too.

"I can't keep following you around like this, honey," Angel said to the black tank top and jeans attired figure of his beloved. "We have to go. You have to talk to..." He paused as he walked into the room, catching sight on what lay on the ground.

A small memorial with the following words engraved.

To all those lives lost in the flames.
Hemery High 1996.

"...me," Angel finished softly. He joined her at the monument. "I thought you said that no one died in the fire."

"No one did," Buffy replied. "Death is my gift."

Angel frowned. "Yeah, I keep hearing that, but, like I said to you when you came home, the first slayer could have meant anything when she said those words."

"It's really not that complicated," Buffy replied, walking away from him.

He followed her through into the hallway, then into the other bedroom on the second floor. "Not for you maybe."

Elita was lying on her bed as Buffy sat down beside her. "It's what I do," she explained to Angel. "I mean, come on, you've known me for how long? It's what I'm here for. It's all I am."

Angel watched her as she turned to Elita. Then, horrified, he saw her pick up a pillow and place it over the girl's mouth.

"Buffy, stop!" He cried. "No! God, no!"

Still holding the pillow in place, his love turned to face him. "What? I keep telling you, Angel. I figured it out. Death is my gift."

Elita's form stilled beneath the pillow.

 


"Oh, Ben. This is really not a good time," Glory murmured as she paced the floor of the warehouse.

But the boy refused to remain veiled. He turned to his companion. "Elita. Has Glory hurt you?"

"Uh ... no. Not yet," Elita replied,, watching as he sank into the empty chair. "But I have to get out of here. Ben? You okay?"

Seizing her courage, she walked towards him.

"Where is it?" Ben asked.

"W-where's what?" Elita queried.

Ben stared at his shaking hands. "All the blood. I can feel it ... still warm and ... wet. Glory. Oh, god. She slaughtered hundreds of men. But I can feel them ... breaking."

"Ben," Elita began, "something is happening to both you and Glory."

"I'm remembering her, aren't I?" he added. "The things she's done ... things she's going to do."

Elita nodded. "I know. She told me. I think ... whatever the magic is that keeps you guys apart, it's starting to break down. Ben, Glory could come back any minute."

"How could she do this?" Ben asked aloud.

"I don't know," Elita replied. "But we have to get out of here and find Buffy-"

Ben cut her off. "No! I mean, I have a job. I have a life! And Glory? She never once thinks about me in all this!"

Someone knocked on the door, causing both of them to stare at it.

"Help me," Elita pleaded.

"How?" Ben asked her.

"Highness!" The priest called out from behind the door.

"Please," Elita begged.

"Is everything all right?" the priest asked.

Ben rose and strode over to the door, opening it.

The priest froze in shock. "You're not-"

He had no more time for words. Ben struck him with his head, causing him to fall back against the wall, sinking down to the floor. A second punch rendered him unconscious.

Ben turned to Elita. "I'll take you as far as I can, ditch you before she comes back."

Elita nodded, and together they ran.


"Okay," Angel murmured, watching the scenes before revert suddenly once more to the one he had witnessed the first time he entered his beloved's mind, "... now this is weird."

Buffy removed the lollipop from her mouth. "Hi, Angel. What are you doing here?"

"Actually, I'm looking for you," Angel replied. "Here. Again."

"You've found me," Buffy pointed out.

Angel kneeled before her. "No ... and I think we already deja'd this vu. Beloved, what are we doing here?"

"Don't you like it here?" Buffy asked him.

Angel shook his head. "We don't have time."

Merrick stood before them. "Buffy Summers?"

"Yeah? Hi! What?" Buffy replied.

"I need to speak with you," the watcher continued.

"You're not from Bullock's, are you?" she asked him. "'Cause I-I meant to pay for that lipstick."

"There isn't much time," the watcher added. "You must come with me. Your destiny awaits."

Buffy shook her head. "I don't have a destiny. I'm destiny-free, really."

"Yes, you have," Merrick corrected. "You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them."

"Who?" Buffy asked.

"The vampires," Merrick replied.

"Huh?" Buffy countered.

Angel turned away, and the time changed again, transforming into the moment when he watched her putting a book away on the shelf in the Magic Box.


Across town, a guy did not look up from his work as he uttered a response to the knocking on his door. "It's always open!"

Spike and Xander entered the building.

"What can I do for you boys?" the guy inquired. "Want some cocoa?"

"No," Spike replied. "We need information. We need-"

"Ben's Glory!" Xander cried, enlightened.

The guy looked up. "Who's what?"

Spike turned his companion with bored surprise. "Look at this. Special Ed remembers."

Xander nodded, too amazed to rebuke the insult. "Yeah. I do. Ben's Glory and Glory's Ben. It's like this fog's lifting."

Spike nodded. "Wonderful. But not why we're here." He turned back to the guy. "Doc, Hell-god type. Name of Glory-"

"A.K.A. Ben," Xander added.

"-has gone missing," Spike continued. "She's brewing up some major-league bad, and she's nicked one of the slayer's friends in the bargain. You got any idea where Glory would take her?"

Doc closed his book thoughtfully. "Glory ... Glory. Oh! You don't mean Glorificus. Gosh. What do you wanna get mixed up with her for? That's a sure way to get yourselves killed. I hear she's awfully unpleasant. When it comes to hell gods, my best advice ... is get out of the way ... and stay there."

"Love to," Spike replied. "Can't."

"Well, uh, other than that ..." he opened a drawer before him, "I'd like to help ... but I-I'm a small-town guy. This Glorificus, if it is her ... whoo, she's big city."

"She's got Elita," Spike added.

"Right. Well, I may know a fella ... you know, who knows a fella in... in China. He might-"

"How the hell are we supposed to get to China?" Spike asked incredulously. "Teleport?"

"I guess," Doc replied.

Spike felt the first inkling of suspicion forming within his mind.

"You know, if you're in that much of a hurry," Doc added. "Wish you luck."

"You're lying," Spike remarked. "And what's more ... I believe you're standing right in front of the very thing we need."

The demon smiled and suddenly leapt to his left. To Spike's surprise he landed behind him, and put a sword to his throat.

"Idiot," he whispered, lunging forward.

Spike deflected the blade with his hand, the movement causing him to lose his balance. He fell to the floor, a knocking a nearby pile of books on to himself.

Doc opened his mouth and unleashed his tongue upon Xander, sending him into the wall, causing the boy to slid down to the floor.

"You think only underworld bottom-feeders worship the beast?" Doc asked Spike. He kicked him in the face, then retrieved the box which he had been hiding, throwing it into the blazing hearth. "Her day is coming, boys!" He cried, grabbing the vampire by his shirt. "And when she returns, then you're gonna see something."

Xander jumped up and put his knees into the Doc's chest, sending him away from Spike. While he wrestled with the demon, Spike retrieved the box.

"Ow!" He growled, turning from the flames in time to see Xander reach out and take the sword, plunging the blade into the demon's chest.

He looked up at Spike. "What do we got?"

Spike looked at the dead demon. "Something worth dying for," he replied.

They left the building, closing the door behind them.

Doc opened his eyes.


"Buffy, will you just stop a second and listen to me?" Angel asked.

His beloved was walking down the hallway of the Mansion's second floor again.

"Buffy!" Angel uttered forcefully. He increased his pace to step before her, preventing her from going any further. "You have to stop doing this."

"Doing what?" Buffy asked him.

"Killing Elita," he answered.

"Why?" She queried.

"Because this never happened," Angel replied.

"I did," his girl countered.

"In your imagination!" He pointed out. "None of this is real! You're stuck in some kind of loop!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Buffy replied. "'Scuse me." She continued to walk down the hall.

Angel followed her. "Buffy, why are you doing this?"


Elita glanced nervously over her shoulder. "I think they see us."

"Just stay close to me," Ben advised. "Don't look back." Suddenly he pulled her into an alley, pressing them against the wall. "Shh! Stay very still."

She watched him peer round the corner. When he turned back, she hit him with one of the chains attached to her wrists.

"I'm sorry," she apologised, before preparing to run.

"Sorry?!" the god echoed.

Elita did the one thing Ben urged her not to.

She turned back.

Glory stood before her, holding the chain. "That actually hurt, you prepubescent puke. Okay, first thought, just totally spontaneous, unfiltered, off the top of my head ... ow! You hit Ben in his soft human head, and I remember the pain."

She grabbed one of Elita's arms, forcing her further into the alley.

"You probably think I won't waste any precious blood of yours till tonight," Glory continued. "You're right. But I know a thousand ways to hurt you that won't spill a drop." She shoved the girl against the wall. "You know all those pesky feelings Ben's been having like guilt, empathy? I'm gonna take them and mash them back down where they belong, okay? Now, let's have big-girl fun. Just you and..."

Elita looked fearfully into the god's face as she transformed into her male counterpart once more.

"Leave her alone," Ben remarked. "I said, leave her alone."

"No, no," Glory replied. "Little late in the game to start growing a backbone, Benjamin. Now be good and stay quiet. No you don't! Get over yourself, Ben! This is the way things are! I'm strong, you're weak. This is reality. Stop trying to infect me with your..."

She whirled into him. "Do you ever stop talking? I don't know which is worse, waking up in a dress not knowing where I've been, or having to hear all your self-involved ranting!" He cried.

"Animal," Glory returned.

"Wrong, Glory," Ben corrected. "I'm no animal. This is humanity you're feeling. Welcome to the world."

Elita realised this her moment. She slowly rose from her refuge and edge away.

"No, no, no!" Glory cried, grabbing her arm and throwing her across the alley into a dumpster. "Stick around, chica."

"I won't let you hurt her, Glory," Ben added.

"Ooh, shut your hole, you sanctimonious little meatworm," Glory returned. "I'm going home no matter what you do."

The god bent down to retrieve a beer bottle from the floor. Morphing into Ben, he smashed it against the wall, and held the broken glass in his hand to Elita's throat.

"You really think I'll just let that happen?" He threatened.

"Benjamin, what are you doing?" Glory asked him.

"You need her blood?" he replied. "When I'm through there won't be enough left to fill a bottle cap. Then you, hell bitch, have nowhere left-"

"-to go. Huh!" Glory finished, pulling Elita away from the dumpster, tossing her to the other side of the alley, then throwing the bottle against the wall. "You can't hurt her and you know it, Ben. I know it 'cause I feel what you're feeling. Scared. Shh! Shh! It's okay! You don't wanna die. Who would? I don't."

"You can't," Ben pointed out, "you're immortal."

"Nobody has to die here, Ben," Glory remarked. "Just let me bleed the girl and go home. Everything will work out fine."

"Do you really believe with all I know that you can trick me?" Ben asked her.

"Stop ... and think, baby," Glory replied. "We bleed the kid, return me to my seat of power, I become a god again..."

"And I disappear," Ben finished.

"Ooh, unless somebody up there likes you," Glory countered. "Give up the girl ... I could like you a lot."

Ben shook his head. "I won't make a deal with you, Glory."

"When exactly did you get stupid?" Glory asked him. "I'm offering immortality here."

"I believe you," Ben replied. "That's not the problem. You make me immortal, then what?" He asked, walking over to Elita and pulling her to her feet. "I'd have to kill her to do it and I won't be able to live with that, not even for a day, forget about eternity!"

"Baby, baby, baby Ben," Glory admonished, letting go of Elita. "Why do you worry so much? When you're immortal, all this crap you've been carrying around inside, the guilt, the anger, the crazy-making pain...." she smiled. "Ooh, it all just melts away like ice cream. Trust me. When all this is over I can set you up real nice. I'm making it easy. It's you ... or the girl."

Again Ben shook his head. "I can't accept that."

Glory was firm. "Accept it. I'm a god, stupid."

Ben appeared once more. He stared at Elita, who returned the gaze with terror, no longer sure what would happen. Slowly he rose up and walked over to her.

He held out his hand. "I'm sorry."

Elita, misunderstanding the meaning behind the words, offered her hand to his. Then horror blew the candle out inside her as he grabbed her wrist. "No!"

Ben pulled her to her feet. "Don't make this harder than it already is," he said, leading her out of the alley. "I'm sorry, I got no choice. It's you or me."

Three monastic lackeys walked up to them.


In his soulmate's mind, Angel watched Buffy as she stared at the memorial, then turned to go into the other bedroom.

"No. Buffy!" He cried. "Leave Elita alone, what is this?"

"My gift," she replied. "This is what I do."

Angel shook his head. "I'm not talking about this, I'm talking about..." And the words died on his lips as they entered the Magic Box.

Buffy watched herself carry the book to the shelf and put it away.

Angel watched both of her. "Right here, it happened," he murmured. "I know it's something small, but... it's something. What?"

Buffy turned to him. "Don't go there, Angel."

"I'm not!" He countered. "You're the one who keeps dragging me back here! And you wouldn't be doing that if you weren't trying to show me something."

She frowned at him. "Do I?"

Angel returned the look. "Buffy, come on. It's your brain. Just tell me, love. What happened here?"

The girl standing before the bookshelf answered him. "This was when I quit, Angel."

He stilled, the first inklings of a conclusion forming inside his mind. "You did?"

"Just for a second," Buffy replied.

For a brief moment they were in the bedroom again.

"I remember," she said.

The scene reverted back to the Magic Box.

"I was in the magic shop," his love, standing before the bookshelf said.

"I put a book back for Giles," his love, the one standing beside him continued.

"Nothing special about it," Buffy said by the bookshelf. "And then it hit me."

"What hit you?" Angel asked softly.

"I can't beat Glory," the Buffy standing beside him replied.

His love nodded before the bookshelf. "Glory's going to win."

Angel turned to the form of his girl standing beside him. "You can't know that," he uttered gently.

Buffy turned to face him. "I didn't just know it."

Her other self before the book added, "I felt it. Glory will beat me."

"And in that second of knowing it, Angel," the girl beside him continued.

"I wanted it to happen," finished the woman before the stacks.

"Why?" Angel asked.

"I wanted it over," she continued. "This is ... all of this ... it's too much for me."

The slayer standing before him added sadly, "I just wanted it over."

"If Glory wins ... then Elita dies," the Buffy before the shelves stated.

"And I would grieve," the Buffy standing before him continued. "People would feel sorry for me. But it would be over. And I imagined what a relief it would be. I killed Elita."

Angel looked at her, concerned. "Is that what you think?"

"My thinking it made it happen," the Buffy before the book replied. Some part of me wanted it. And in the moment Glory took Elita..."

The woman standing beside him picked up the sentence. "I know I could have done something better. But I didn't. I was off by some fraction of a second."

Buffy before the shelves continued. "And this is why..."

"I killed my friend," she finished from beside him.

Angel watched as one form of his love returned to putting the book away on the shelf, his mind almost angry at the brief thought of surrender which led her here. "I think Spike was right back at the gas station," he remarked before raising his voice. "Snap out of it!"

"What?" The Buffy's answered.

"All this ... it has a name," Angel answered. "It's called guilt. It's a feeling, and it's important. But it's not more than that, Buffy. You've carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school. And I, know you didn't ask for this, but ... you do it every day. And so, you wanted out for one second. So what?"

"I got Elita killed," Buffy replied before him.

"Hello!" Angel cried. "She's not dead yet! But she will be if you stay locked inside here and never come back to us."

The slayer stared at herself before the shelves. "But what if I can't?"

Angel sighed. "Then I guess you're right. You did kill your friend."

He turned and walked towards the shop door.

The Buffy standing before him turned towards his departing form in alarm. "Wait! Where are you going?"

Angel turned at the threshold of the door. "Where you're needed. Are you coming?"



Willow straightened as she saw Buffy blink, coming to with a start. Her best friend sat up, correcting her posture, before taking in her surroundings.

Angel barely moved, his dark eyes still fixed on his beloved, waiting for her hazel gaze to return to him.

When she did, he took her into his arms as she finally let loose her grief.



Giles looked up from his tea making as the bell attached to the door of the Magic Box rang. "Buffy? She's back."

Xander and Spike watched from their seats at the table, Jenny from her place beside Ellis, as the slayer, Angel, Anya, Cordelia, Willow, Doyle and Oz entered the room, the latter helping Tara inside.

"You're okay?" Xander asked her anxiously.

"Yeah. I'm okay," Buffy replied. "Hear you found the ritual text."

"Uh, something like that, yes," Giles replied.

"Did you know that ... Ben is Glory?" Xander asked her.

Buffy nodded. "So I'm told. What do we know?"

Giles struggled to begin. "Um, well... according to these scrolls, uh, it's possible for Glory to be stopped."

"Go on," Angel urged.

"I-I'm afraid it's, um ...," Giles paused again, hating to say the words, "well, Buffy, I've read these things very carefully and there's not much ... margin for error. You understand what I'm saying?"

Buffy nodded. "Might help if you actually said it."

Giles removed his glasses and gently sank into a chair. "Um ... Glory ... plans to open a ... dimensional portal ... by way of a ritual bloodletting."

"Elita's blood," Buffy astutely determined.

"Yes," Giles replied. "Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place ... the fabric which separates all realities will ... be ripped apart. Dimensions will ... pour into one another, uh, with no barriers to stop them. Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and ... chaos will reign on earth."

"So how do we stop it?" Buffy asked.

"The portal will only close once the blood is stopped," Giles paused, uncertainly, "... and the only way for that to happen is, um ... He glanced up in to her eyes. "Buffy, the only way is to kill Elita."

Buffy gasped in dismay.

The End
To Be Continued In
The Gift.