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Author's note: Considering how long I have been building up to this, the episode was something I struggled with, probably due to my muse being in hyperspace, and RL stresses. Due to my decision to begin Spike's redemption earlier than canon, I could hardly give him the same role he played in The Yoko Factor, without it seeming out of character. So I added another motive to his decision, which I think was further improved when I decided to give Buffy something to make her ill. Which is why half this episode has dialogue from the original episode, while the other half has an original idea which I have had put the additional references/scenes to in previous posts. I should also mention that my knowledge of medicine extends only as to the English History of it, and watching of ER. So I have tried to be vague rather than detailed. I hope it lives up to expectations. Enjoy.


Giles braked his car violently as he forced the ancient and battered classic vehicle to a halt outside 1902 Crawford Street. Despite the daylight of early morning, the mansion appeared as foreboding as the first time had ever laid eyes on it, when Angelus captured him to torture him into revealing how to unlock Acathla. It still amazed him at how far his relationship with Angel had changed since then. But now was no time to dwell on nostalgia. He turned the engine off and climbed out of his car, slamming the door shut in his haste to enter the house.

He could hear voices emanating from upstairs as he walked inside to the double height living room. Mounting the stairs at a sprint, he reached the hall which lay to the master suite quickly, coming to a halt outside the open door to that chamber, where he could see his slayer, whom he loved like a daughter, lying in the massive bed. Her figure, so normally slight but strong, seemed awfully fragile and swamped by the sheets and soft furnishings. With difficulty he tore his eyes from her to see Joyce by her beside, and ahead of them, immediately in front of him, Angel and the physician, deep in conversation.

"What is the diagnosis?" Angel asked.

"Uncertain," the doctor replied. "She has all the symptoms of consumption, or TB as it's more commonly known nowadays. But the results were negative, along with every other known disease. We did find something disturbing in her blood stream however. A collection of molecules the lab could not even begin to identify."

"Molecules?" Giles echoed.

The doctor nodded. "And there's something else. She has been suffering the affects of this infection for quite some time. Has no one noticed?"

Angel shook his head. "Buffy's usually so healthy, sickness rarely troubles her. But I've never known her to hide something like this before."

"What is clear, that she has lost a lot of blood," the doctor added. "The indications from her mouth suggest that it has passed through there. It is a symptom which she should have been unable to ignore."

"Should she be in hospital?" Giles asked.

The physician shook his head in a decided negative. "There is little we can do with her there, and given her last reaction to staying over night when she was suffering from the flu, I think it advisable that she remain where she is for now."

"Thank you, doctor," Angel uttered. "I'll show you out. Let us know when you have more information or any thoughts of treatment."

"Of course," the physician replied, and Giles let them pass by him to go downstairs. He turned his head back to where his 'daughter' was resting, her skin for the first time looking unusually pale. He recalled the last few days, trying to search for any occasion when he might have noticed her struggling or concealing this illness. But he could find none.

Angel returned to his side, his solemn, worried, guilty, brooding and conflicted expression somehow serving to trouble the watcher even more.

"I noticed her early morning visits to the bathroom," he confessed, "But I thought it was something else. A much happier event, although I didn't think it possible yet."

Giles understood the condition which he alluded to but did not say. "No, it's not possible yet." his shaking hand went to his glasses, taking them off his face, a gesture meant to calm his nerves. It had no effect whatsoever, other than to blur the image of the bedroom before them. "Have you called anyone else?"

"No one except the campus," Angel replied. "I suppose the rest of them should be informed, although I don't see what they can do except offer moral support."

"Maybe," Giles murmured, causing his companion to turn and observe him.

"You suspect something?" Angel asked.

Giles replaced his glasses. "Something the doctor said troubles me. Unidentifiable molecules in the blood stream. It indicates that this disease was implanted, genetically designed for rendering the slayer into this state."

Angel stilled. "And who do we know capable of such a scientific travesty?"

"Exactly," Giles replied grimly. "I'll go and round up everyone, get them working on this straight away. If it does turn out to be the Initiative, there has to be something in their files relating to an antidote, just in case they committed an error in transmitting to her. We'll also rule out anything in the slayer lore, though I'm sure there's nothing relating to mysterious illnesses there to begin with."

"But how did the Initiative give this to her?" Angel asked. "Assuming we can trace the source to them. We caught Xander's steroid supplements before he even took a dose of them, how could we miss this?"

"If it was designed just for the slayer, then it could have been injected by simple touch," Giles remarked. "From Professor Walsh, or indeed any of the Initiative staff, lab personnel, soldiers. Or a piece of equipment, like that video headset device she used during Walsh's other attempt to kill her."

The souled half vampire nodded thoughtfully, his eyes moving from the watcher to his beloved, who now moved restlessly in the bed, indicating that the sedative which the doctor had given her was wearing off. "I've seen what Consumption can do to a person, Giles, and whatever Buffy has, it isn't that. In my time, the disease was fatal. I will do anything to make sure that is not the outcome today."

"And so will I," Giles vowed, laying a hand on his shoulder, before summoning the strength to turn away and inform the rest of the slayerettes.

She dreamed of many things; events from her past, visions of the future. The images flowed like a river through her mind, changing from one to the next, never allowing her fevered mind more than a brief glimpse as to their events or their meanings. She saw herself in a different reality, one where her return from Los Angeles treated with distrust and suspicion, increasing upon the return her beloved, whom she never discovered to be bound to his soul. She saw Angel leave her side after graduation, at her mother's instigation. She saw herself dating Riley of all people, shutting out her friends, watcher and family, isolating herself as she had hidden the illness raging through her body. She saw Jenny never being brought back from the dead, never even mentioned as existing. She saw Doyle and Wesley never arriving, the two joining Angel in Los Angeles, one dying a heroes death. She saw Oz leaving, Tara and Willow forming a relationship, Faith waking from her coma and after causing chaos on the hellmouth, running to Los Angeles to Angel, who fought with her to protect the brunette slayer from her vengeance. Then all the altered events of the past faded away, merging into a future with all her friends as she saw herself and them leading a band of young slayers against an army of demons, fighting Armageddon.

She tried to cry out, as if her voice could change these visions, free herself from them, but it was as if the Gentlemen had stolen her voice once more, for no words emerged from her mouth. She reached out with her hands, not sensing the real owner whose grip anxiously clasped them, not hearing the gentle comfort his hushed voice attempted to deliver, only the despair of nothingness, helplessness which was threatening to close in on her. Unable to do anything but stare into the abyss, letting the abyss stare back, calling her with eloquent, deadly silence, a mortal siren more powerful than the call of the slayer.

Angel sat before her on the bed, clasping her hands, his voice soft and soothing, all to no avail. Buffy was beyond his reach, trapped in her fever, waiting for a cure that, he prayed to all he still held faith in, they would find.

Shocked outrage were the first emotions which possessed the rest of the slayerettes when Giles informed them of the news, after summoning them from their various locations to his and Jenny's apartment. Once they had expressed how angry they felt concerning who ever was responsible for giving Buffy this disease, their concern for their best friend and leader committed them into an intensive research session. The watcher had never seen them so hard at work before, not when Buffy had been infected with an aspect of the demon, and was lying on her death bed a year ago, while a potential killer was loose abroad the High school campus. Even Spike, who had moved from the vigil at the mansion to give the slayer some peace, was unusually thoughtful and bookish at the news, volunteering his services as quickly as the rest of them.

It did not take long to rule out slayer lore being the source of the illness. Even the most thorough in depth study of Giles' vast collections of volumes rendered that theory impossible. Mixed emotions met such a result, as a part of each of them had wondered that if slayer lore did indeed contain her illness, it might also contain a key to a cure, which would be far easier to gain possession of than raiding the headquarters of the Initiative, or Adam's lair, wherever that was. There was too much uncertainty in this latter and now only possible theory, along with the worrying possibility that Walsh never had time or the inclination to give thought to a cure for the illness they probably implanted.

Willow and Oz turned on their laptops and began working on a way to hack into the secret government's group database, in the hope that like most scientists they had kept meticulous records, which contained some reference to the disease. A few moments later however, and their efforts were thwarted, by the discovery that although the records existed, they were backed up by encrypted disks, and wiped from the online database the minute Professor Walsh was found murdered. A previous search the week before, conducted by Wesley and Spike as they attempted to gain access to the underground complex of Lowell House from the outside, the interior entrances having been boarded up some time ago, had turned up no findings of backup files, by floppy or c.d., leaving the group only one available avenue which could give them some information.

"We'll just have to raid Adam's lair then," Giles remarked when the two announced their discoveries.

Spike chuckled at the Watcher's matter of fact tone about what was, with or without the slayer, a suicide mission. "Is this thing Blondie has catching, because you must be ill too to think we can manage that."

Giles turned a dark Ripper glare on the bleached blond vampire, who did not even seem in the least perturbed. "What do you suggest then?"

"Something a bit more subtle, mate," Spike replied.

"I didn't know you were capable of such flair," Giles murmured sarcastically.

"Been known to have the talent," Spike remarked with a shrug. "Now and again."

"So what did you have in mind?" Giles asked, curious despite himself.

"I walk into his lair, pretend that I've finally had enough with you lot, and ask him if he'd fancy having a vampire whose killed two slayers on his team," Spike replied. "Then wait to see what he's says."

A moment of silence surrounded the living room of Giles and Jenny's apartment as everyone inside contemplated the surprising intelligence which existed within the chipped vampire's plan.

"It may be the only avenue we have open to us," Giles decided. "Go ahead."

"I'm so sorry I didn't tell you earlier," Buffy uttered during one of her more lucid moments in the master suite at the Mansion on Crawford Street.

Angel sank on to the bed before her. "Don't worry. I'm not angry, I just want to know why you hid this from me, from Giles, from everyone."

"I didn't want to worry you," Buffy replied. "It wasn't something I couldn't cope with. And I thought at first it was something else."

"Something you were unsure about?" He guessed, causing her to nod. "Beloved, you know I would have been overjoyed if such an event had occurred. Even though Giles told me that it's impossible in my current state."

"I know, but I wasn't sure for myself," Buffy replied. "A slayer, a college girl and a mother? I didn't think I could handle all three. And then when I realised I wasn't, not only was I disappointed, I was puzzled. I know when you cough up blood, its internal bleeding, but I thought my slayer powers would eventually heal it."

"They can't heal everything," Angel remarked gently. "I wish they could."

"So, what do I have?" Buffy asked, voicing the question which Angel had dreaded hearing from her before he had an answer.

"I wish I knew," he whispered, unable to lie to her. "The doctor said you have all the symptoms of Consumption, but that's there also a bunch of molecules in your system which he could not identify."

"Consumption," Buffy echoed. "Costume drama death. And hear I thought I was a twenty-first century girl." she tried to smile, but a cough broke the attempt. Angel wiped the blood which seeped from her mouth with the back of his hand. "Have the gang found anything out?" she asked when she had recovered.

Angel shook his head. "Yes and no. They've managed to rule out slayer lore as a cause. But we think the Initiative might have had something to do with it."

"I thought so too," Buffy revealed. "I've been like this since we had that Candy which turned Giles and everyone into kids."

Angel withheld himself from directing a glare at her over how long she had kept this hidden from him, suffering in silence. "We never did find out who hired Ethan to make them. It would make sense if it was the Initiative. But it doesn't explain why Walsh was infected."

Buffy shrugged. "She probably did it to rule them out to anyone who might be suspicious. And none of us actually saw her revert to her childhood. Not even Xander. She just didn't turn up to class."

Her soulmate nodded as he realised this truth. "And what we did hear was from Riley," he murmured, the events concerning that candy suddenly clear.

"I dreamt of him," his beloved uttered now, causing Angel to look up in surprise. "Before I woke to find you near. I dreamt of many things. Events I knew never happened, yet, frighteningly, could. And then they all merged into my real past, and I saw us leading an army of slayers against an army of demons."

"Do you think it was a vision?" Angel asked her.

"I don't know," Buffy replied. "And I'm not sure if I want it to be."

She rolled over on to her side then and closed her eyes, an abrupt ending to an unusual conversation. Angel reached out and gently touched her cheek, a careful caress designed not to disturb her. His hand moved to her forehead, relieved to feel cool skin instead of the fever which had raged inside her earlier.

Reluctantly he moved his hand and grabbed the phone handset from the upstairs port. Moving into the balcony hallway which over hung the double height living room, he dialled the number for Giles and Jenny.

"Giles, it's me. Any developments?"

The answer concerning Spike would surprise him.

"That's it, I've had it!" A voice cried as he entered the now not so secret hideout of Adam's headquarters, the door slamming behind him.

Riley looked up at the unexpected entrance. "It's customary to knock, Hostile 17," he remarked.

"That's Spike to you, mate, although I'm feeling bloody hostile at the moment. I've had it, I tell ya, I've had it."

Riley ignored him, turning back to the view screen of the computer he was currently working on.

"That bloody girl," Spike cried, grabbing one of the chairs littered about the room, and using it a venting instrument. "Just because she's the slayer, she thinks herself holier than thou!" He smashed the chair against the concrete floor, breaking it into bits.

"Careful," Riley warned him, with not so much as a glance from the screen. "Those bits of wood could hurt someone."

"Do you think I'm an idiot!?!" Spike growled at him, before kicking the remains of the chair away. "What kind of leader with vampires in his gang keeps wooden chairs anyway?"

"You were saying?" Riley prompted him. "About the slayer?"

"Slayer!" Spike growled. "I've had it with her! All I get is fetch this, fetch that! She thinks that just because I've got your bloody chip in my head that I'm harmless! That I'll just sit idly by while she shags Angel and plays college girl. Well I'm not fangless! I've killed two slayers in my time, and blondie's got nothing on either of them!"

"You've killed two slayers?" A voice questioned, prompting Spike to turn and face the one part of the room which the light did not reach.

"Yeah, what's it to you?" Spike asked the dark.

Adam emerged out of the shadows. "A useful piece of information." He regarded Spike carefully. "How old are you?"

"You know in some circles, it's not polite to ask for age," Spike shot back.

"He's one hundred and nineteen," Riley answered.

"How the hell do you know that?" Spike asked him.

"We did our research on you when we captured you," Riley replied.

"How did you kill two slayers?" Adam asked.

"How do you think?" Spike grinned and licked his lips, allowing a hint of white, gleaming fangs to show, rendering the inference eloquently and immediately understandable. "The blood of the slayer. There's nothing like it." He jumped into the nearest chair and sat down. "Anyway, that's not why I'm here."

"Why are you here?" Adam asked.

"Two things. I'm sick of how I'm being treated by the slayer and her gang. Pitied, that's what I am. All because of your dump chip. And I figured you knew how to get this chip out of m'head."

"Yes." Adam reached out and touched his scalp, making Spike flinch. "Your behaviour modification circuitry. I know what you feel."

"Not likely," Spike scoffed.

"You feel smothered. Trapped like an animal. Pure in its ferocity, unable to actualise the urges within. Clinging to one truth. Like a flame struggling to burn within an enclosed glass. That a beast this powerful cannot be contained. Inevitably it will break free and savage the land again. I will make you whole again. Make you savage."

"Wow," Spike uttered, all anger gone, moved by what he had just heard. "Yeah. I get why the demons all fall in line with you. You're like Tony Robbins. If he was a big scary . . Frankenstein looking. . . . You're exactly like Tony Robbins."

"I will restore you to what you once were," Adam vowed. "When I have the Slayer . . . how and where I want her."

Spike grimaced. "Easier said. She's crafty. Her and her little friends."

"Friends?" Adam echoed.

"There's your- what do you call it -variable. The Slayer's got pals. You want her evening the odds in a fight you don't want the Slayerettes mucking about."

"Three witches, two watchers, a vampire with a soul, a werewolf, a half-Bracken, two powerless girls and a mere boy?" Adam sneered. "They are nothing."

"You wanna try hearing them speak sometime, mate," Spike remarked. "Their bloody idealism alone could kill you."

"Words have no power over me," Adam informed him.

"Is there any weakness we can exploit?" Riley asked.

"Blondie is sick," Spike revealed. "Dying, so I heard."

"Mother's plan succeeded," Adam murmured, causing Riley and Spike to glance towards the demon in surprise.

"What plan?" Riley queried.

"Mother put a chemical into the candy bars," Adam explained. "One designed to infect the slayer with a debilitating disease. Harmless to ordinary mortals."

"I'll say one thing for Walsh, she was an ingenious mad professor," Spike said appreciatively. "Did she think to create a cure as well?"

"Yes, the ingredients were in one of her files," Adam replied, his glance directed towards the large pile of floppy disks which stood next to the CPU of his computer.

Spike paid them no more than a cursory glance. "Don't suppose I could take some of the useless ones to con the Scoobies, could I?" He asked.

"Help yourself," Adam replied. "Mother encrypted all."

"Even better," Spike remarked, as he searched through them, secretly pocketing the vital one. "Gives me longer to fool them. I'll take this, and use it to split them up, making sure they're too busy fighting each other to bother about us."

"We can't trust him," Riley remarked to Adam as soon as the vampire was gone. "I hope whatever you gave him wasn't useful to them."

"What would the point of that be?" Adam queried. "And as for Hostile 17, we have something he needs. To have a power over someone, is to control them utterly."

"Got it," Spike announced as he walked back inside the living room of the Watcher's apartment, causing everyone to look up from their research.

"That didn't take too long," Giles murmured.

"Like taking candy from a monster," Spike remarked, brandishing the disk before presenting it with a flourish to Willow. "Here you go, Red. He said it's encrypted, but that shouldn't be a problem for a hacker of your talent."

Willow blushed but then her resolved face appeared and she took the disk, inserting it into her laptop. She waited for the device to recognise what was in it's drive, then scanned the window for the correct file, before double clicking with her cursor to open it. Anxious seconds passed, feeling to take much longer than they should, before the screen was filled with incomprehensible script. Willow minimised the document and opened up her numerous hacking programs, some given to her from Oz, others of her own creation. One by one she tried them on the file, waiting for the type to be legible. As the first ones failed, so dimmed her hope that they would find a cure for her best friend.

Finally, the last program revealed unexpected results. She gasped as the type in the document slowly transformed into legible text. She leaned forward to read the words, forcing the part of her brain which understood science to interpret the meaning of the formula and what it meant for her friend.

"How did you con this out of Adam?" She asked Spike.

The bleached white blond vampire shrugged. "Got him to believe I'd split the lot of you from her. The Yoko Factor."

Except for Giles, Wesley, Doyle, Oz, Jenny and Joyce, the members of the Scooby gang raised puzzled faces towards the unusually modest vampire, causing him to frown.

"You guys have heard of the Beatles, right?" He asked. At their nods, some slowly approaching understanding, he continued. "What a surprise. The point is, they were once a real powerful group. It's not a stretch to say they ruled the world. And when they broke up everyone blamed Yoko, but the fact is the group split itself apart, she just happened to be there. And you know how it is with kids. They go off to college, they grow apart. Way of the world. At least, that's what I was pretending I would do to Adam. Then it was just a question of asking and palming the disk when he wasn't looking."

"Do you think the other disks have any information worth decrypting?" Oz asked, as he lifted one from the pile to put in his laptop, while Willow turned back to studying the document once more.

"I'm sure he didn't expect me to treat them as such," Spike replied. "Or if he did, he's not as smart as Walsh made him to be. Did you find a cure though?"

"You're unusually anxious, Spike," Xander commented. "I thought you found Buffy and Angel annoying."

"I do, but life is full of little irritations," Spike replied. "They let me live at the Mansion rent free, and I don't want to move. Property prices in this town are a bugger."

"They are generous souls," Giles remarked, impatience displaying in his tone. "But you didn't answer Spike's question, Willow. Have you found the cure?"

Willow stopped reading the file on her screen long enough to turn and face the rest of them with a hopeful smile. "I think we have."

Their hopes had been satisfied, there was indeed a cure to the disease which racked the slayer's body. The Initiative had not been so cruel as to create the parasite in the first place without creating an antibody to destroy it as well. The list of ingredients and instructions to make the latter was long, detailed and complicated, but Willow was confident she was up to the task. She had to be, for there was nothing but despair if they failed. Buffy would only become weaker and die, extinguishing the one light left in this dark world.

She plugged her laptop into Jenny's inkjet and printed off the list of ingredients and instructions. Giles sent the slayerettes off into town to find the supplies, while he and Willow returned to the campus to give her the plausible authority to borrow the lab she needed in order to brew up the antidote.
The slayerettes joined her as fast as they could with the supplies, while Joyce returned to the Mansion to inform her daughter and Angel of the news. In the lab Willow worked long and hard at creating the cure, double checking her methods, following the instructions to the letter. By dusk she had the antidote ready, travelling with Giles to the Mansion on Crawford street in order to give it to her friend.

Buffy took the cure, and her friends and family settled into an anxious waiting period, watching her every move and checking over her constantly. As morning began to settle over the hellmouth, they finally noticed a change in her breath, as her exhausted body slept. Hopeful, they called the doctor, who came round as soon as his appointments allowed him.

"I am astonished," he informed them after he had check the patient over. "Once again, you have made a remarkable recovery, Miss Summers."

"The disease is cured?" Angel asked.

"More than that, I can find little evidence of it in her system," the doctor replied. "The unidentifiable molecules have gone, and Miss Summers seems to be in excellent health. I only wish all my patients made so smooth a recovery."

Buffy sent a glance to her beloved, who received the unspoken motion to politely see the doctor out before his pleasure at learning of her cure gave way to curiosity as to how she had achieved such a state. He obliged, leaving her with Joyce and Giles.

"I'm so relieved you're well," Joyce uttered as she leaned over the bed to hug her daughter. "When Angel called me to say you were unconscious I was so frightened."

"You won't get rid of me so easily," Buffy replied. She turned to her watcher, who eyes looked suspiciously moist under his prescription lenses. "So did you find out who and what gave it to me?"

"We did," Giles replied. "It was the Initiative as you thought. Walsh put the virus into the candy bars, figuring that you would at least try one. She created the disease in such as a way as to make only your immune system vulnerable to it. From the files Spike stole for us and Willow decrypted, I gather she took a sample of your blood during our meeting with her to study and obtain the vulnerabilities in your body. Then she contacted Ethan Rayne to procure the candy."

"Spike stole the files for me?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"According to him it was so he would still have a rent free home," Giles answered. "But I think to save your life was his real motive. He still has a long way to go, but it's a start."

"It is," Angel agreed from his return, causing them to direct their gaze to the threshold of the doorway upon which he stood.

Giles caught the look the half vampire sent towards the slayer and with a discreet nudge to Joyce, the two of them made their farewells, declaring their intention to go and inform the rest of the gang that Buffy was alive and well.

When they had gone, Angel took her mother's place on the bed before his beloved, and cradled her hand in his own. "What do you want to do now?"

Buffy leaned forward and kissed him softly. "Hunt," she replied with a smile, making him return the gesture, along with a husky laugh. Her gaze hinted however that after her return from patrol, she would be ready to resume the more erotic parts of their relationship.

Night fell, and the full moon rose high over the town of Sunnydale, bathing the countless graveyards with its ghostly pale light. Shadows stalked the memorial places, their long lines of darkness drifting out from each monument over the grass which grew upon the recovered earth once dug out then in order to put a body into the ground.

From one of those grass patches, a hand rose, crawling its way through the coffin and the soil to reach the cool night air above. Their movement was deadly graceful, quiet and controlled, performed with all the caution of a hunter who had been waiting for this moment, this time in which to act.

Slowly the hand was joined by another, whom together with its partner placed themselves upon the grass, flattening the green blades in order to use the surface as a purchase to aid the rest of his body in the journey from their resting place below. Though the body was in essence not theirs to possess, the soul having long since departed for another plane of existence, the mind was under the control of a new being, who saw fit to use the corpse for its own nefarious purposes.

Once they were completely free from the grave to which their new body had been condemned, the hands brushed the soil off the clothes and skin, while the eyes surveyed their new surroundings, adjusting to the light of the moon.

They were surprised to encounter another form within the graveyard, standing opposite them. A part of their mind silently thanked the powers that be for providing them with their much needed first substance so soon, until the eyes noticed the piece of wood which the form was carrying in one hand, the end slimming down to a point.

"I thought you were dead," they growled out to her.

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," Buffy remarked with a grin. She raised the weapon, rushed forward, and the hunt was on.

The End.
To Be Continued In