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Author's Note: A lot of dialogue was taken from the actual episode, with modifications to make sense for my version of season four. I have mostly just extended this from the original and improved the descriptive sentences and various dialogue. I have also taken some lines out of the shooting scripts as I rewrote these episodes, which helped a great deal when it came to adding additional scenes. Enjoy.

Doomed.

They had rehearsed for this. From the very beginning. Seconds after their first encounter with the Initiative, a strategy had been devised for this inevitable moment. Its premise was simple; learn all they could, while giving nothing in return, yet at the same time seeming to be just as communicative as them.

If things went well, they could maintain a cooperative front with the Initiative, while they continued through Xander and the hacking program created by Willow and Oz to investigate them on the side. Above all, the Initiative was not to learn too much about them, particularly Xander's deception, and the 'special talents' of Angel, Doyle and Oz. At the most, all they would come to know were the roles of slayers and watchers, information which could be confirmed by the vampires they caught.

If things went badly, well, they would survive. After all, the Initiative had to be dealt with at some point, their methods, from what they had seen of them so far, were nothing short of lab rat experiments which could involve the creation of something sinister in room 314, a theory that had evolved from their current thinking on that as yet undiscovered part of the underground complex otherwise known as the Initiative HQ.

All this ran through Buffy's mind as she faced Riley Finn in the lecture hall for Art History. So far the meeting had gone like clockwork. Surprise encounter during the fight against the Gentlemen, followed by the choice of meeting place in the neutral territory of the university. Angel on perimeter, ready to intercede if too many of the wrong questions were asked.

Silence had gone on for long enough. She spoke. "Somebody should speak before one of us graduates."

Riley looked at her and began. "What are you?"

The question was blunt and Buffy responded to it as such. "Capricorn on the cusp of Aquarius. You?"

"Sorry. That came out a little blunter than I intended. It's just... you are amazing! Your speed, your strength."

"Also passionate, artistic and inquisitive. Who are you?"

"You know who I am. The rest... what I do..." he shook his head. "I can't tell you."

"Well, then let me. You're part of some military monster squad that captures - demons, vampires, probably have some official sounding euphemisms for them, - like unfriendlies or – Non Sapiens."

"Hostile Sub Terrestrials," Riley volunteered, already revealing information.

"So you deliver these," Buffy paused to pretend that she had to think about the shorthand, "HST's to a bunch of lab coats, who perform experiments on them, which among other things turn some into harmless little bunnies. How am I doing so far?"

"A little too well."

"Meanwhile by day you pretend to be Riley Finn, corn-fed Iowa boy. Ever been to Iowa, Riley? God, if that's even your name."

"It is, born and raised. And hey! Bulletin: I'm not the only one who's been a little less than honest here."

Buffy folded her arms. Now it time to release her only information which they had planned to let them know. "I thought a professional demon chaser like yourself would have figured it out by now. - I'm the Slayer."

Riley looked at her, confused. "Slay-er? - Chosen One. She who hangs out a lot in cemeteries?" Faced with his continued incomprehension, she added, "you're kidding. You've never asked one vampire if anything else chases them? Ask around. Look it up: Slayer, comma, the."

"And you fight demons," Riley guessed. "I mean, you whaled on those guys."

"You did pretty well yourself." The compliment was grudging.

But he did not see it in that way. "But I'm a walking bruise today. I don't see a scratch on you."

Her face went hard. "You're not looking deep enough."

"I'm looking pretty deep."

With that comment Buffy looked away from him, back to Angel.

Riley caught the look. "And who's he?"

That was exactly one of the questions they had not wanted asked. Fortunately for them, there was never time to give the answer, even if they had planned on doing so. For the ground suddenly shook beneath them.

It took until the second shock for Riley to guess. Meanwhile Buffy already knew the moment the first began. Rapidly she sought the comfort of the door-frame of the lecture hall, and Angel's arms, where Riley joined them to stand alone a moment later.

How long the quake lasted, no one knew. For the slayer it seemed like an timeless nightmare, as she remembered the last time she had felt Sunnydale shake.

For Riley it was a different matter. When it ended, he walked back into the lecture hall, an amazed expression upon his face. "Wow. That was some ride. Sorry I'm so excited. This is my first earthquake."

"It's not mine," the slayer quietly replied. The tone of her voice barely concealed her fear. Angel picked up on it instantly, and tightened the embrace of his arms around her, making her look from Riley up into his dark eyes.

"I'm sure its nothing," he said to her softly.

"Are you?" She asked in return, knowing neither of them were.

Another shake sounded around them then. Not the ground, but the vibration of their pagers going off. Separating, they reached into their pockets and consulted them.

'523 B,' read the message. Buffy and Angel exchanged a glance, then she turned to Riley. "I'm sorry, we'll have to continue this discussion later."

They walked off before he could reply.


Willow was the last of the Scoobies to arrive. "Hey! Sorry I'm late, I was in the library, almost got buried under some 19th century literature. And I don't have to tell you how hard it is to dig through some of that stuff." She sat down on the sofa. "Any damage around here?"

Giles shook his head. "Nothing major, I believe."

"Well, Porter dorm is completely blacked out," Willow added. "So naturally they are dealing with the crisis the only way they know how: 'Aftershock Party'."

"Ah," Oz remarked, "this from the dorm that brought us the 'Somebody Sneezed' party and the 'Day That Ends in Y' party."

"They do seem to be pretty generous with the milestones," Willow agreed. "So, what's the Sit?"

The slayer turned to Giles from her place in the armchair, which she and Angel shared. "Something horrible is going to happen, Giles."

"It was an earthquake, Buffy. A not uncommon occurrence in southern California," Giles reminded her. "All the same, I agree there is reason to be concerned. Which is why I assembled all of you here."

"Oh, good," the slayer commented sarcastically, "'cause I'd hate for my little untimely horrible death concern to be ambiguous."

Giles nodded. "Buffy, I understand your anxiety, believe me. Its why I called all of you over. Now, I'm afraid I have no knowledge of anything which could be related to this; there's nothing in the Codex. So I suggest that we research, and attend that Aftershock party, because, chances are, if this quake does mean anything, it will show itself then." He paused and sat back in his desk chair. "Now, what did you learn from the meeting with Riley?"

"Nothing much beyond what we already know," Buffy replied. "He hasn't heard of the slayer though, which is odd considering how many vamps they've captured."

"Makes kind of sense considering their experiments," Tara pointed out. "The vamps are just test subjects, they're not too interested in what they talk about."

Giles nodded in agreement. "Well, I suggest you keep a level of curiosity before him, and see what happens next."

The slayer nodded.


Meanwhile, back at the underground complex beneath Lowell House, Riley was doing a little bit of information gathering.

"What's a Slayer?"

"Slayer?" Forrest queried. "Thrash Band. Anvil handed guitar band with delusions of Black Sabbath."

"No. A girl, with powers," Riley clarified.

"Oh. The Slayer. Oh, yeah, I've heard of the Slayer."

"Fill me in."

"Well, the way I got it figured the Slayer is like some kind of boogey man for the Sub-terrestrials, something they tell their little spawn to make them eat their vegetables and clean up their slime pits."

"You're telling me she doesn't exist?" Riley asked, incredulous.

"Oh, wait a sec. Am I bursting somebody's bubble here? Maybe this is a bad time to tell you about the Easter-bunny? Sorry, sorry, it's a myth, Rye. All part of that medieval folklore garbage kooks dream up to explain things we deal with every day."

"How do you explain the things we deal with, Forrest?"

"They're just animals, man, plain and simple. Granted they're a little rarer than the one's you grew up with on that little farm in Smallville..."

He trailed off as a demon behind them broke loose from the lab technicians who had been escorting it.

Forrest grabbed the demon by its neck. "Where is that hypo?"

The terrified lab tech was struggling with the syringe, eventually dropping it. Riley grabbed a night-stick off one of the security men who had come to help and knocked it out. "Never mind."

"Like I said. Animals." Forrest paused at the sound of noise. "What's that racket?"

"Animals rattling their cages. Doing it all day. Wonder what's got them all worked up?"

"Earthquakes man. They make everybody crazy."


Due to the research session, none of the Scooby gang reached the Porter dorms until the party was well into motion. Over in fact, as they could tell by the flashing lights of the ambulance and cries of civilians.

Glancing at one another, they silently slipped through the crowd, until they could go under the yellow ribbons to the scene of the crime.

It did not take long to reach the bedroom where the boy still lay. Paramedics had returned to the ambulance to fetch a death kit, giving the Scoobies a chance to take a look at the symbol craved on his chest.

Knowing they had little time, Angel grabbed a napkin and biro and drew a rough sketch of the symbol, while the rest kept a lookout.

When they were done, they returned to Oakpark Street.

"It's kind of like the CBS logo," Xander commented as they gazed at it on the table. "Hey, could this be the handiwork of one Mr. Morley Safer?"

"I'm telling you I've seen this somewhere before," Buffy remarked. "I just can't remember where! I mean, it's like..."

Giles interrupted their flow. "It's the end of the world."

In unison, the rest of the Scoobies turned to him with one word. "Again?"

"It's ah, the earthquake, - that symbol, -yes."

"I told you," Buffy pointed out. "I-I said end of the world and you're like 'poo-poo southern California, poo-poo!"

"I'm so very sorry. My contrition completely dwarfs the impending apocalypse."

"So what do we do?" Joyce asked.

"We stop it," her daughter replied, her eyes still on the drawing. "I think I know where I've seen this. I'm going on patrol."

She grabbed her crossbolt and walked to the door, Angel following, making her stop at the frame. "Angel, no. I have to go alone."

He shook his head. "No."

"We discussed this," Buffy reminded him. "After meeting a member of the Initiative I would patrol alone in order for no suspicion to fall on you or anyone else."

"I know," Angel replied. "But this is different, Buffy. I watched your face after that quake. You were terrified. You still are. And when you're terrified, you're distracted. You need my help."

Buffy sighed, looking up into his eyes, seeing there was no room for argument. She nodded.


"I wonder where I've seen this before?" Buffy remarked as she and Angel came to a stop a few minutes later. "Where else? The place I spend most of my waking hours memorising stuff off the sides of mausoleums, big freaky cereal boxes of death."

Angel put a hand to her wrist, making her turn. "Hear that?" He asked her.

There was the distinct sound of stone scraping against stone. The warriors headed inside the crypt, to find a demon putting some bones into a sack.

"Door was open," Buffy announced by way of greeting.

Demon turned and roared at them. Immediately Buffy raised her crossbolt and fired one off, hitting his shoulder. To no effect. She threw the crossbolt at him, then she and Angel readied themselves into fighting stances as it came at them.

The fight naturally continued on to more open ground outside. The demon was strong, more than a match for either of them, as it proved by throwing Angel to the floor, then picking up the slayer and slamming her back hard down on a gravestone.

Buffy lay stunned for a moment, but then she saw a shadow move over her, whereupon she executed a back-flip to land upright, followed by a swift punch. Something which Riley was just able to stop.

"Wow, that flippy-thing you did..." he commented, as she regained her stance and Angel came to them.

"Where did it go?" Buffy asked.

"I saw it take off towards the woods," Riley replied.

"And you didn't follow it?" Angel asked.

"No weapons, no backup, you don't go after a demon that size by yourself."

"I do," Buffy muttered.

"Yeah, well, I'm no Slayer," Riley remarked, pulling out a radio. "Base One, this is Lilac One."

Angel smirked. "Lilac?"

Riley ignored him. "Confirmed sighting of an unidentified Sub-T. Mobilise patrol team for debriefing at 0800 hours."

Buffy folded her arms. "Very commandery. Lilac not withstanding. What are you doing here?"

Riley put his radio away to look at her. "Looking for you. 'She who hangs out in cemeteries.'"

Buffy frowned. "I have to get the demon."

"Don't sweat it. We'll bag it."

"It's not that simple," Angel remarked, causing Riley to look at him. "Seriously, what's your deal?"

"Its gone," Buffy remarked, before turning to Angel. "And we don't have time for this right now. Bigger things are at stake. Let's go."

Angel nodded and they walked off, once more leaving Riley alone and confused.


"A Vahrall demon," Giles announced, causing the group to put down their books and gather around his.

"Eew!" Tara remarked, looking at the illustration provided.

"I second that revulsion," Oz added.

"Yes," Giles agreed before reading aloud. "'Slick like gold and gird in moonlight, father of portents and brother to blight'."

"'Limbs with talons, eyes like knives, bane to the blameless, thief of lives.'" Buffy continued.


"Three meters tall, approximately 100 –120 kilograms, based on my visual analysis," Riley added to the description, though unknown and unheard to the slayerettes, as he briefed the Initiative team.

"Special hazards?" Xander asked while he discreetly wrote down the information Buffy and Giles were feeding him, via the mirco-headset in his ear.

"Unknown," Riley answered. "Probably nothing we haven't handled before. There is no pattern we can discern yet, so we got to assume that it is on a basic kill-crush-destroy."


"This thing isn't digging up the bones of a child for fun," Buffy added into Xander's ear.

"Well, a demon's got some pretty hilarious ideas about fun," Doyle remarked.

"Bones of a child though," Jenny repeated, wondering, before picking up the book she had been studying and flicking through the pages. "Here it is: an ancient ritual – uses the blood of a man, the bones of a child and – something called the word of Valios? I-It's all part of the sacrifice – the sacrifice of three."

"Let me guess – ends the world," Buffy said.

"Well, yeah. It's not big with the details, though. It doesn't say how the world ends or what the ritual entails exactly."

"The sacrifice of three..." murmured Willow. "Three people are going to die?"

"No, they won't," Buffy answered. "Because claw boy is not getting all of his ingredients. We have to find that third one, the Word of Valios, keep him from getting it."

"If he doesn't already have it. I mean, who knows where he's been?" Anya pointed out.


"Here is one for the good guys," Riley continued. "This thing has a pheromone signature a mile wide. Agent Gates has been working with the detection system the lab's developing."

Forrest Gates rose up from the table to stand before the map. "Can't tell where it's going, but I've got a beat on where it's been. Residual traces showing up in populated areas. The thing's not shy."

"We're going out in civvies, day clothes only guys. Weapons stowed in packs, keep 'em out of sight till nightfall. Remember this isn't a capture, it's a kill."

"Get your quadrant assignment from me," Forrest added as the meeting broke up. "We'll blanket the town."


"I'll check the magic shop," Buffy remarked. "See if they've heard of a book called the word of Valios. Willow, Tara, Oz, how about the book archives at the museum?"

"Stop at the mansion on the way," Angel added, "check on Spike and fetch some weapons." He turned to Buffy. "We ought to give him a pager you know."

"Later. After we've stopped the apocalypse." She looked at her friends. "You guys, this thing, takes wicked very seriously. Be careful. I couldn't stand anybody getting hurt."


"Good bye, Dru. See you in hell."

Spike let himself fall from a chair, aiming his heart for a stake clamped on the edge of the dining table of the Mansion on Crawford Street. The front door opened as he did so, causing him to look up and miss completely, landing on the floor.

"What are you doing?" Willow asked him.

"Bloody rot," Spike answered as he stood up. "Can't a person knock?"

"What were you doing?" Tara asked.

"You were trying to stake yourself!" Willow guessed, seeing said weapon.

"Fag off! - It's no concern of yours."

"Is too," Willow protested. "We know you, we can't just let you dust yourself!"

"Oh, but you can. You know I'd drain you drier than the Sahara if I had half a chance. And besides, I'm beyond pathetic. I'm living on a diet of pigs blood with Wheetabix, in a house where I have to put in ear plugs to escape the sound of my sire and the slayer enjoying the permanence of his bloody curse every night! I mean, am I even remotely scary anymore? Tell me the truth."

The three looked at him, making Spike jump and put on as scary face as he possibly could without activating the chip inside his head. "Well, not right now, but that could be because we know you can't bite, which I guess isn't really what you need to hear, is it?"

"Stop, please, just clear out."

"We can't leave you here like this!" Tara argued.

"Oh, you go on. I won't do anything. I feel better now. Promise."

"Think of the happy," Oz said. "If we don't find what we're looking for, we face an apocalypse."

Spike looked at him surprised. "Really? You're not just saying that?"


"Buffy."

The slayer looked up and came to a halt as Riley came up towards her, a small device in his hands. "Is this really the time for Donkey Kong?" She asked him.

"What? Oh. It, ah, takes trace readings of creatures pheromones."

"And?"

"And it's either mating season for this thing or it's moving all over town. - You know, Buffy..."

She knew he wanted to talk. And she had a feeling that she knew what about. The boy never seemed to get a clue. She was not available. She never had been. "Actually I need to go. Big bad, needs to be squished."

"Right. I'm on it, too," Riley falling into step beside her.

Buffy stopped. "Listen. As much as I appreciate the backup you Initiative guys have given ever since I started SUC, this is big league here. End of the world. Literally. You don't have a clue what you're dealing with."

She walked away, leaving him to watch her go.


"Great. No word of Valios." Willow remarked as they exited the History Museum.

"Not even a syllable of Valios," Oz added.

"Which means I'm one step closer to melting in a sea of molten hellfire, yeah?" Spike asked.

"You shouldn't talk like that," Tara said to him. "Yeah, okay, so you can't kill anymore, but there are other fun things you can do. You'll adjust."

"Adjust? And what? End up like the three of you? No thank you. I should think you would be glad to greet the end of days. You guys are way worse off than me."

"I see what you're doing. You're trying to get us to dust you," Willow said.

"Am not! I just don't want pity from geeks more useless than I am."

"We're not useless! We – we help people. We fight the forces of evil!" Willow argued.

"Buffy fights the forces of evil," Spike emphasised. "You're her groupies. She'd do just as well without you – better I'd wager, since she wouldn't have to go about saving your hides all the time."

"That is no not true! We're part of the team. She needs us."

"Or you're just the same tenth grade losers you've always been, and she's too much of a softy to cut you lose."

The three came to a stop, speechless. Then their pagers began beeping.


"Oh," Wesley remarked, causing his fellow ex-patriot to come over.

Giles glanced at the illustration in the book, underneath which were the words 'Word of Valios' and echoed Wesley's sentiment. "Oh. And, as usual, dear."

He walked over to a chest which was resting by the wall, opened it, and after rummaging around for a while, held up the article in question.

Which was when the Vahrall demons decided to attack.

 




"What happened?" Buffy asked as she entered the chaos that once was the living room of Giles and Jenny's apartment.

Her watcher was on the sofa next to his wife, who was holding an tea towel full of ice cubes to his head. "It's my fault. I should have known."

"The Word of Valios – is the name of a talisman – not a book," Wesley informed. He also had a self-made ice pack to his head.

"I blame myself entirely," Giles added. "I had it here."

"You had it here?" Doyle queried.

"I bought it at a sorcerer's estate sale. I really only glanced at it once. I thought it was a knock off."

"Well, now they have it," Buffy commented. "And they probably have their sacrifices by now, too."

"They're on their way to perform the sacrifice now," Wes added.

"On their way where?" Angel asked. "You found out what the ritual is for?"

"The Hellmouth. They are going to open the Hellmouth," Wes answered.

Buffy rose up and began handing out weapons. "Looks like we're going back to high school."


"Be careful you guys," the slayer warned as they entered the remains of Sunnydale High. "The place doesn't look too stable."

"Fine by me," Spike commented. "Hope we all go under."

"Why is he even here?" The slayer asked. "It's not like he can fight!"

"If we leave him alone, he'll stake himself," Tara answered.

"And that's bad because...? - Fine. Whatever. Just keep him out of the way. Okay, when we get to the library keep a look out for victims they're keeping alive for the sacrifice. You guys ready?"

"Lets rock and roll," Xander remarked.

"Lets rock and roll," Spike added in a deliberate mock.

They walked down the corridors.

"Sunnydale High," Xander remarked. "These walls – if they were still walls, what stories they could tell. Eew! Mayor meat. Extra crispy."

"I think we're near the library," Willow said "Whoa. Check out the new floor plan."

The slayerettes and slayer came to a halt as they saw the giant whole in the middle of what used to be the floor of the library. Around which stood the Vahrall demons.

"Three of them." Buffy observed.

"I don't see any sacrifice people," Angel added.

"They must be around here somewhere," Buffy remarked. "The ritual is not finished. And it's not gonna be."

She jumped down and began to attack them, followed by Angel. "Start collecting the blood and the bones. And the talisman."

Xander went for the blood and instantly one of the demons broke off from attacking the chosen warriors to attack him.

Willow fetched the bones and tossed them to Spike. "Catch!"

Spike caught, then saw a demon leave Angel and come for him. "Right, perfect."

The one fighting Xander managed to grab the blood. Breaking away, he jumped down the hole to the Hellmouth.

"Okay, I guess I won," Xander commented, just as the ground began to shake. "The demons! They are the sacrifice!"

Spike was also in the middle of a revelation. Sick of taking the punches he threw one himself, only to feel nothing. "No pain! I can hurt a demon! That's right. I'm back. And I'm a BLOODY ANIMAL! Yeah!"

He lifted the demon up and prepared to chuck it into the hole.

"Spike, No!" Angel called out just as he started to let go. "Kill it!"

For once, Spike obeyed his sire, and broke its neck.

The third, seeing his other comrade dead, began to run away. He was stopped by Buffy and Angel, who calmly dealt to him the same blow as Spike had to the second.

They stood collecting their breath for a moment. Then Buffy got her cellphone out of her pocket and called Giles. "Hey, its me. Do we need to fish a demon out of the hellmouth if his other friends are dead and he only has one talisman? No. Good. Mission accomplished. We're on our way home."

She paused to put the phone away, then put it back to her ear. "Oh and BTW; Spike can kill demons."

"What's this? Standing around while there's evil still a foot. That's not very industrious of you. I say we go out there and kick a little demon ass! Come on! Vampires! Grrr! Nasty! Let's annihilate them. For justice - and for - the safety of puppies – and Christmas, right? Let's fight that evil! - Let's kill something! Oh, come on!"

Buffy could hear Giles chuckling at hearing Spike's speech as she added, "I think we have a new member to Operation 314."

The End.
To Be Continued In

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