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The Good, the Bad, and Cordelia

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Cordelia's Wishverse". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: An adventure in the 'Wishverse'. Cordelia's wish that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale plunges her into a nightmare world ruled by The Master. Until a familiar blond vampire turns up with a proposition...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Romance > Cordelia/Spike(Current Donor)SpeakertocustomersFR1519,6325181,70330 Jun 0930 Jun 09Yes
Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. The first few lines of dialogue are taken directly from the BtVS episode ‘The Wish’ and were written by Marti Noxon.


The Good, the Bad, and Cordelia

“I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale!”

“Done.”

And everything changed…

- - - - -

Cordelia groaned and stirred. She opened her eyes. The High School library. Definitely of the good; she’d been out in the street when Vampire Xander had grabbed her and slammed her face first to the ground, so she must have been rescued. She was lying on a table, and she scrambled up.

Giles emerged from the stacks and rushed over to her. “Hey! Hey!” he exclaimed, trying to restrain her from rising too fast and causing herself to pass out again.

“Giles!” Cordelia gasped out. “It’s all my fault! I wasn’t – I made this stupid wish.”

“Come on,” Giles urged, “please lie–”

“No!” Cordelia interrupted. “You have to get Buffy. Buffy changes it. It wasn’t like this. It was better. I mean, the clothes alone… but people were happy. Mostly. And… wait!” Cordelia slid from the table and stood up. “Why are you here and she’s not? I mean, you were her Watcher.”

“How do you know I was a Watcher?” Giles asked. “I’ve never…”

There was a sound outside as if something had fallen. Giles pushed his glasses into place and looked around.

“What?” Cordelia said.

“I thought I heard something,” Giles replied. He moved away from Cordelia, entered the book cage, and pulled a cross and a stake from the weapons cabinet. “Now, I want you to start again and explain everything very carefully.”

The cage door was suddenly slammed shut. Willow turned the key in the lock, withdrew it, and held it up teasingly. “You’re in a big cage,” she said.

Behind her Giles saw Xander holding Cordelia pinned tightly, his hand over her mouth. “Not too bright, book guy,” Xander said.

Giles slammed the cross against the wire of the cage and Willow recoiled. She growled angrily.

“So, you’re a Watcher, huh?” Xander grinned. “Watch this.” He released Cordelia’s mouth, opened his jaws, and lowered his fangs towards the slender neck. Suddenly he jerked back and released her. His hands went to his chest and his eyes opened very wide. “What the–” he began, and then exploded into dust.

Cordelia turned to see her rescuer. A familiar figure stood on the far side of the library, crossbow raised. A man of medium height, slim and wiry, hair dyed platinum blond, in a knee length leather coat. “Spike!” she exclaimed.

Willow wailed in anguish. Her game face came forth by reflex and she sprang to the attack. Spike met her rush with a butt stroke from the crossbow that smashed Willow to the ground. She dropped the key and it skittered across the floor towards the cage. Spike followed up by kicking her in the ribs and then in the face. Willow gave way under the impacts, rolled, and brought her arm across hard to sweep Spike’s legs out from under him. Even as he was falling he pulled a stake from inside his coat and landed atop Willow stake first. Her fleeting expression of triumph vanished as she disintegrated.

Spike leapt lightly to his feet. Cordelia was picking the key up from the floor; she froze as she met Spike’s gaze.

“Go on, love, let the librarian bloke out,” Spike urged. He slung the crossbow over his shoulder, sat down on the table, took out a packet of cigarettes and lit one.

Cordelia unlocked the door and Giles stepped out. “There’s no smoking in here, actually,” he reproached Cordelia’s rescuer.

“That right?” Spike responded. “Think you can stretch a point seeing as how I’ve just saved this lovely lady’s life, mate. Maybe yours too. Dunno what that psycho bitch would have done afterwards. Wouldn’t have put it past her to set this place on fire with you locked in there.”

“I certainly owe you a great debt,” Giles acknowledged. “Very well. But do please be careful with the ash.” Spike nodded. Giles held out his hand. “Rupert Giles,” he introduced himself. “And you are?”

Cordelia stared in stunned amazement as Spike shook the proffered hand. “Bizarro world,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“Name’s Spike,” the blond man said. “Also known as William the Bloody.”

“Ah, that name seems somehow familiar,” Giles said hesitantly. The grip had seemed to lack a certain warmth during the handshake.

“Well, duh!” Cordelia exclaimed. “What happened to Super Knowledge Guy in this world? William the Bloody not ringing a bell? The Slayer of Slayers.”

“Heard of me, then, love?” Spike said, raising an eyebrow. He blew out a long stream of smoke. “Yeah, that’s me. Done two of them, I have. Not that I like to brag – oh, who am I kidding? I love to brag.”

“You – you’re a vampire,” Giles stammered, backing away.

“Give the bloke a cigar,” Spike grinned.

Cordelia smacked her forehead. “Now he catches on. But Spike obviously doesn’t want us dead or we’d be having big problems in the breathing and heart-beating departments by now, so, no need to panic. Thanks for saving my life, Spike.”

“It’s a pleasure.” Spike smiled at her briefly, but then frowned. “How come you seem to know me? Think I might have seen you around a time or two but we’ve never spoken.”

“You do seem to be acting rather oddly, Miss Chase,” Giles added, eyeing Spike nervously and sidling gradually towards the weapons chest.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Hello, Earth to Giles. We have more important things to worry about than my behavior, okay? There’s something very wrong with this world and we have to fix it. For that we need Buffy Summers.”

“That’s the Slayer, right?” asked Spike.

“Umm, how do you know about Buffy Summers?” Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Okay, okay.” Cordelia spread her hands. “I guess we need to have a big explanation session before you’ll listen to me, and I have to say I’d like to know why Spike saved my life. Suppose we all sit down?”

“Umm, should I make tea?” Giles suggested.

“Wouldn’t mind a cuppa, got to admit.” Spike looked around for somewhere to extinguish his cigarette. “Brew up, mate, and then we’ll talk.”

- - - - -

Once they were settled at the table, with cups of tea to hand, Cordelia took a deep breath.

“Okay,” she began. “Long story, so I’ll just do the Cliff Notes version. Buffy Summers, Slayer, Chosen One, moved to Sunnydale, killed the Master, saved Willow and Xander. Spike here blew into town, came up with a plan to kill the Slayer, which totally didn’t work, but somehow it got me together with Xander, even though he was a total loser. Then Spike kidnapped Willow and Xander and locked them in the factory. Me and Oz found them, and went to rescue them, only we walked in on them kissing. I got upset, ran up this flight of rickety stairs, fell through them and got impaled on a rebar. I dumped Xander. Only, by going with him I’d lost all my cool points. I was totally humiliated in front of everybody who mattered. Harmony had taken my place as queen of the class.”

Cordelia scowled and shook her head, fuming at the memory of the betrayal, and only stopped herself from veering off into a diatribe about Harmony and the Cordettes by pausing for a moment and taking a sip of tea.

“And?” Giles prompted.

“Well,” Cordelia resumed, “I worked out that if it wasn’t for Buffy I’d never have gotten involved with Xander. This new girl in class got me talking and I said that I wished that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. Suddenly she was all scary, and vein-y, and she said ‘Done!’ and everything was different. No cars for students, everybody in totally boring clothes, the shops close at sunset, and Xander and Willow are – were – vampires. And that’s where you came in.”

“Fascinating. Astounding.” Giles put a finger to his glasses and adjusted their position on his nose. “The presence of the Slayer made a big difference in your world, then?”

“Yeah, it did. Without her? Your world sucks,” Cordelia replied, shaking her head. “We need to get her here to fix things.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Giles assured her. He turned to Spike. “Now, your turn. What was the motive behind your rescuing of Miss Chase? I’m afraid I refuse to believe that it was a purely unselfish act.”

“I’m after your help,” Spike admitted. “Killing those two was a bonus; I’d been after the chance to do it for a while. Mainly I want an alliance. Got someone to rescue, and I want some vengeance. Can’t do it on my own.”

“Someone to rescue? Drusilla?” Cordelia asked.

Spike shook his head slowly. His air of cool amusement evaporated and was replaced by an expression of deep sadness. “Drusilla’s dead,” he told her. “The Master had her executed. Swore I’d see the old bastard in Hell for that. Maybe with help from the White Hats I can manage it. No, the one I want to rescue is Angelus; or Angel, as he calls himself these days.”

“Angel needs rescuing?” Cordelia asked. At that point there was an interruption as Larry and Oz entered the library, weapons at the ready. They lowered them as they saw the group sitting peacefully having tea.

“They hit us right outside,” Larry told Giles, looking suspiciously at Spike. “Nancy’s dead.”

“Oh. Oh dear.” Giles sighed deeply. “They’re dead too, now, which I suppose is some consolation.”

“They’re dead? Xander and Willow?” Oz sought clarification.

“Yes, the Master’s most feared enforcers have themselves now been slain,” Giles elaborated. “This is Spike. He killed them and saved Cordelia.”

“Excellent!” Larry said approvingly. Oz gave Spike a brief smile.

“Ah, Spike is actually a vampire,” Giles went on. “He is offering an alliance,” he added hastily, as Larry and Oz raised their weapons again, “and I am inclined to accept his offer. He was just about to give us some further details. It appears he seeks vengeance against the Master.”

“Yeah. Old prune-face had my girl put to death.” Spike’s word choice was flippant, but his tone was deadly serious. He lit up another cigarette and ignored Giles’ pained expression. “See, when we came here last year Dru wasn’t well and we were looking for a cure…”

He went on to relate his experiences in Sunnydale. They had hung about on the fringes of the Master’s court while they searched for the cure for Drusilla’s weakness. Eventually they had discovered that it needed a ritual and the blood of Drusilla’s sire; Angel. He was being held captive by the Master, and Spike and Drusilla had been granted access. Completing the cure had been fairly simple. Afterwards, however, Drusilla had wanted Angel released. Spike had been revolted by the treatment his old mentor was receiving at the hands of the Master’s new favorites and had been happy to back up his Dark Princess. When requests and entreaties had been refused Drusilla had turned to direct action, and had attempted to spring Angel while Spike caused a diversion with a bar-room brawl. It hadn’t worked. Drusilla had been caught in the act by Willow, Xander, Jesse, and the Master’s lieutenant Luke. She’d managed to kill Luke before being brought down, and a death sentence was imposed and quickly carried out.

“I made out I hadn’t known about it,” Spike concluded. “Wasn’t anything I could do. I just had to watch as they cut off her head, force myself to do nothing, and then wait my chance. Caught Jesse alone a couple of months later, killed the bastard, and now I’ve done Xander and Willow. But there’s still the Master to see to. And Angel to get out of that cage.”

“Angel,” Giles said thoughtfully. “I think I remember him. Fairly tall, dark hair? Very strong and fast but, alas, not quite strong and fast enough?”

“That’s right,” Cordelia and Spike confirmed simultaneously.

“He helped us when we tried to stop the Master rising. I hadn’t realized that he was a vampire. Why did he help us?”

“He has a soul,” Cordelia informed him.

Spike stared at her. “Sodding hell, you certainly know a lot,” he remarked. “Yeah, old Angelus ate the wrong gypsy girl back in 1898 and her clan got their own back by cursing him with a soul. Feels all full of guilt, whatever that is, broods, mopes, fights the good fight. But he’s still family. Last time I bumped into him he saved me from being stuck in a submarine at the bottom of the Atlantic. Okay, he kicked me out ten miles from shore, bugger of a swim that was, but the ritual that cured Dru wasn’t any picnic for him so I’ve paid him back for that. Not gonna leave him to the Master any longer than I can help.”

Giles removed his glasses and sucked at the end of one of the arms. “This goes against all my training and instincts, but I am willing to accept an alliance of expedience. Unfortunately even allied we don’t make up a very formidable force to go up against the Master.”

“That’s why we need Buffy,” Cordelia reminded him. “Get her.” She looked sternly at Spike. “And no trying to kill her, okay?”

“Long as she doesn’t try to kill me, I’ll keep my end of the bargain,” Spike assured her.

“Very well,” Giles said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

- - - - -

Cordelia hesitated with her hand on the car door. ‘Don’t accept rides from strange men’, and they didn’t come much stranger or more dangerous than Spike. Then again, the thought of walking home through the lethal streets of this version of Sunnydale filled her with dread. She came to the conclusion that Spike was probably the safer option – and how weird was that? – and climbed into the DeSoto.

“So, love, how well do I know you in that other Sunnydale?” Spike asked. He tilted his head to the side and looked at her admiringly.

“Definitely not like that, so stop with the leering,” Cordelia admonished him. “Mostly you kept getting me trapped in closets with the wrong people. Not a whole lot of fun.”

“Oh, I dunno, I can think of about forty thousand things worse than being trapped in a closet with you,” Spike said, and started the engine. “Like, for instance, being given the keys for a Ferrari Testarossa. Or–”

“What it was like for the other person in the closet wasn’t exactly the point I was making,” Cordelia interrupted him. She couldn’t help smiling at the flattery, however, and looked him over appraisingly. Their meetings in the other Sunnydale had usually involved screaming and running, and frantic grabbing for crosses and stakes, and it hadn’t previously occurred to her that Spike was pretty damn hot. Those blue eyes, those razor cheekbones, that accent, that attitude; he had a lot going for him. Although, lack of body temperature was a big downer, and there was that whole blood-drinking killer thing to bear in mind. If they did get trapped in a closet together he’d probably eat her. He’d be eating her now rather than giving her a ride home, she reminded herself, if it wasn’t for the alliance between Spike and the White Hats.

The flirting, however, couldn’t just be attributed to the desire for an alliance. And yeah, there was definite flirting. All the way back to her house. If he hadn’t been a vampire, she admitted to herself, there would have been making out in the car. She’d been pleased back at school when John Lee had asked her to the Winter Brunch, but that had just been because he had status; something she’d been missing out on while she’d been with Xander. Spike was in an entirely different league. Only, hello, vampire.

Still, Cordelia reached home uneaten. She let her parents’ admonitions about being out alone after dark roll over her unheeded. Alone in her bedroom, however, she allowed the Queen C armor to slip and suddenly she was crying. Crying for Xander, for Willow, and for the people who should have been occupying all the empty desks in the classroom. And, being Cordy, she cried because in this reality she wasn’t allowed a car.

- - - - -

“Cordelia. Thank you for coming,” Giles greeted her as she walked into the library. Larry and Oz were already there, busily carving stakes.

“Well of course I came.” Cordelia tossed her head. “You really don’t know me at all in this reality, do you?”

“Gotta say, you coming into school on a free day is something I never thought I’d see,” Oz said.

“Get used to it. Where I come from I’ve fought at your side for more than a year. It’s Larry who’s the odd one out as far as I’m concerned,” Cordelia replied.

“I’ve been a White Hat nearly from the start,” Larry said in an aggrieved tone. “How come I wasn’t one in your world?”

“Hey, don’t blame me,” Cordelia said. “Maybe because you didn’t get along with Xander, and our group formed around Buffy and Willow.” A thought struck her. “Oz, are you a werewolf?”

“Werewolf?” Oz echoed, eyes wide. “Why would I be a werewolf?”

“Little hint. Don’t let your cousin Jordy bite you, okay?”

“Ah.” Oz nodded his head slowly. “That would explain a lot.”

“So, anyway,” Cordelia said, turning to Giles. “Did you get hold of Buffy?”

“I left a message with her Watcher,” he told her. “He didn’t know where she was, actually, but he will tell her when she next checks in. Unfortunately he doesn’t know when that’s going to be.”

Cordelia’s forehead creased. “He doesn’t know where she is? What kind of Watcher is he? You always knew where she was. Well, except for that time when she ran off to Los Angeles to work as a waitress after she sent her boyfriend to Hell.”

“Uh, are we quite sure we want this chick to come here?” Larry wondered.

“Trust me on this. We want her. Things will totally be better with Buffy here,” Cordelia assured him.

“I’m not sure if we can wait, unfortunately,” Giles said. “The Master has something big happening tonight. I believe it will draw his forces away from the Bronze, and may give us a chance to rescue this Angel that we should not pass up.”

Cordelia nodded. “That will bring us up to two vampires, one Watcher, and three Scoobies. Yeah, I agree, we should totally go for it.”

Giles frowned. “Scoobies?”

“It’s what we called ourselves. From Scooby-Doo, you know?” Cordelia smiled. “White Hats sounds better. Classier. But then, Xander Harris was never classy.” Her smile faltered briefly and she sought to change the subject. “Wonder why the Master hasn’t opened the Hellmouth? We were sure he’d do it as soon as he got free.”

“I must confess I have no explanation,” Giles said. “He appears to be waiting for something.”

“It’s probably something to do with the Mayor,” Cordelia suggested. She saw blank looks on the others’ faces. “What, you don’t know that the Mayor is evil? Complete with his own big evil plans?”

Giles took off his glasses and began to polish the lenses. “Ah. That must be why attempts to summon aid from outside the town have failed so dismally. The local authorities must be in league with the vampires.”

“So we get rid of the Master and then we have to fight the Mayor?” Larry put down the stake he’d been whittling. “You can’t fight City Hall.”

“Of course we can,” Cordelia said confidently. “If we get Buffy, that is.”

“Hmm.” Giles replaced his glasses. “I wonder just how far we can trust Spike?”

“Well, in my reality he did team up with Buffy to save the world that one time,” Cordelia informed him.

“That is a promising sign,” Giles smiled. “From the Master?”

Cordelia grimaced. “Uh, no. Actually, it was from Angel.”

- - - - -

Spike, Giles, and Cordelia entered the Bronze cautiously. Larry and Oz waited outside, protecting the rear, crossbows held out of sight but ready to bring up and fire at a second’s notice.

The club was deserted apart from one vampire bartender who was emptying the cash registers and putting rubber bands around bundles of bills. “Hey, Spike, waddya doin’ here?” he asked. “Everybody’s supposed to be at the factory. And who’re your friends?”

“Just wanted a quick drink before the shindig,” Spike replied, walking up to the bartender.

“Can’t oblige, Spike, we’re closed,” the vampire told him. “Master’s orders.” He looked at Giles and stiffened. “Hey, isn’t that–?”

Spike interrupted him by thrusting a stake into his heart. “Yeah, it is,” he said. “Full marks for identification, but you failed on the reaction speed test.” He started to move off but then hesitated and turned back to the money. “S’ppose this might come in useful,” he remarked, and began to stuff wads of cash into his pockets.

“You can’t take that!” Giles protested.

Spike raised his eyebrows. “Why the hell not?” he asked. “Belongs to the Master, right? What’s it to you if I nick it?”

“I suppose that you have a point,” Giles conceded. “Very well, go ahead, but hurry.”

Spike continued to stuff cash into his pockets. He caught Cordelia’s eye and tossed one of the bundles over to her. “Buy yourself something pretty, love,” he told her, flashing a smile.

“Thanks!” Cordelia beamed.

Giles stared at her disapprovingly. Spike tossed another bundle to him. “Use it for some good cause, mate,” he suggested. “Lighten up.” He pushed the last bundle into his pockets and scanned the display of drinks. “Angelus used to like the Irish stuff,” he mused, and grabbed a bottle of Bushmills. “Okay, let’s go.”

They moved on through the club. Cordelia winced as she saw a dead body lying in a metal cage suspended from the ceiling. Giles hesitated for a moment, but then realized that there was nothing he could do, and they pressed on. They descended the stairs into the basement. There they found a cell in which a man was chained to the wall.

“Angel?” Spike called softly.

Angel raised his head. “Spike. Get out of here. If you’re caught…”

“They told you about Dru, then?” Spike tugged at the bars of the cell door to test their strength, nodded, and brought up his foot in an explosively powerful kick. The door burst open.

“They did. I’m sorry, Spike.” Angel came to his feet.

“Not your fault.” Spike examined the shackles. “You in good enough shape to fight?”

“I could do with some blood,” Angel told him. “The Master’s pets play with me most days.” He pulled open his shirt, revealing a chest pockmarked with healing wounds. “They didn’t come today, luckily, but I didn’t get fed either.”

“They’re dead,” Spike informed his grandsire. “Don’t think I can break these chains without tools.”

Giles found a sinister-looking metal spike on a bench at the side of the cell and passed it to the blond vampire. “Try this.”

“Ta, Watcher.” Spike set about the shackles with the metal implement and soon cracked them open. He held up the spike. “Ah, great days,” he reminisced, and tossed it into a corner. “No use against vampires.”

“Angel!” Cordelia called. “Are you all right?”

Angel looked at her without recognition. “I’ve seen better days,” he replied, “but I’m not too bad. Who are you?”

“Oh, yeah, you don’t know me,” Cordelia muttered. “My name’s Cordelia Chase. I’m a White Hat. Okay, let’s get you out of here.”

- - - - -

They drove from the Bronze towards Giles’ apartment. Giles led the way in his ancient Citroen, with Larry and Oz, and Cordelia and Angel traveled with Spike.

Angel sat in the rear seat and drank thirstily from a flask of blood scavenged from the Bronze. “I can’t believe you’re working with humans,” he said to Spike.

“Can’t take the Master on myself, can I?” Spike admitted. “He did for Dru, so he’s going down. If that means I’ve got to work with humans, well, fine, I will. Anyway, humans ain’t that bad. Some of them are right good company.” He looked meaningfully at Cordelia.

“And I suppose some vampires are tolerable,” she replied. “Good ones.” She looked over her shoulder at Angel.

Spike glared at her. “Who was it saved your life anyway?”

“You did, yeah,” Cordelia agreed, unruffled, “but you’d eat me in a heartbeat next week, wouldn’t you?”

Spike slammed on the brakes. “No. You don’t get eaten. Not now I know you.” He reached out and took hold of her, pulled her to him, and kissed her fiercely. Cordelia uttered a muffled protest, pushed at his chest briefly, and then gave in and returned the kiss. Her arms went around his neck. Eventually Spike released her. “Who’s your favorite vampire?” he asked.

“You are,” Cordelia admitted, panting.

“Guys!” Angel called from the back seat. “Can you leave this until later? The other car’s out of sight.”

“That’s okay, I know the way,” Cordelia assured him. She raised a hand to stop Spike as he lowered his head towards her again. “He has a point. Later, okay, with more space and no audience?”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed. “Later.”

- - - - -

“What’s going on over there?” Larry called. He pointed out of the Citroen’s window towards an open space where a van was parked. A group of people were being herded towards the van by a couple of vampires.

“Dear Lord,” Giles exclaimed, and pulled the car over. He snatched up a cross and threw open the door. “Oz, guard the car. Larry, with me.” Giles rushed towards the van and brandished the cross to drive back the vampires.

Larry followed close behind. He aimed his crossbow, but didn’t fire; his experiences as a White Hat had taught him that if he dusted one of a pair of vampires the survivor would immediately charge, to catch him before he could reload, and it was better to keep the shot as a deterrent if the immediate objective was to drive the vampires away.

“Run!” Giles shouted, brandishing the cross to force the vampires to back off. The captive humans scattered and fled. Once they were clear Giles and Larry began to back away to return to the car.

A third vampire came round the side of the van and came up behind them; Oz shouted a warning, but the vampire was upon them even as they turned. It grabbed them and knocked their heads together. The cross and the crossbow fell to the ground. The vampire pushed the two White Hats hard and sent them sprawling. The first two vampires advanced immediately and seized Giles and Larry. Instead of plunging home their fangs they dragged their fallen foes towards the van. It seemed that abduction was their aim rather than killing.

Giles struggled against his captor’s superior strength, but to no avail. He could only hope that Oz would manage to use his crossbow successfully from a safe distance, or that the other car with Spike and Angel would turn up before it was too late. Suddenly the third vampire flew through Giles’ field of vision and crashed to the ground on its back. The one holding Giles released him, causing the Watcher to fall back to the ground, and turned to defend itself. Something hit it very hard and knocked it bodily through the air.

“Spike!” Giles guessed, and then he saw the leg that had delivered the kick that had hit the vampire. Too small to be Spike’s, and clad in baggy khaki cargo pants rather than Spike’s black Levis. Not Spike, not Angel. The newcomer spun at lightning speed, bringing up a foot in a spin kick to the jaw of the remaining vampire. Now Giles could see a small figure, slim and feminine, with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. The power evident in the kick meant that this girl could only be either a Slayer or another vampire.

One of the vampires charged the girl, growling ferociously, and ran straight into a thrust with a stake. Another suffered the same fate seconds later. The sole survivor turned to flee but by that time Larry had retrieved his crossbow and he shot the running vampire in the back. The vampire turned to dust. Giles and Larry turned to face their rescuer. There was a cross hanging at her neck and so she was definitely human. A Slayer, then.

“Buffy Summers?” Giles addressed her.

“That’s right,” Buffy replied. “Wanna tell me what I’m doing here?”

- - - - -

Spike’s car had caught up to Giles’ just too late for the vampires to be able to assist in the fight. The DeSoto followed the Citroen the rest of the way back to Giles’ apartment and pulled up behind it. Giles ushered Oz, Larry, and Buffy Summers into the apartment and then hesitated, unsure about inviting the vampires inside.

“There’s a ‘disinvite’ spell, you know,” Cordelia told him, correctly guessing the reason for his hesitation. “It’s in one of your books. Willow cast it in my world, not an option here, but I guess you could get Amy Madison to do it.”

“She’s dead,” Giles replied, his voice somber.

“Uh, yeah, I can see how that would be a problem,” Cordelia conceded. “What about that Goth guy, wears eyeliner, Michael somebody? Is he still alive here?”

“Yes, he is. Does he practice magic?”

“He was into it in my world. I don’t see why he wouldn’t be here.”

“Very well. Come in, then, Angel, Spike.”

They trooped inside. Spike took a moment to speak to Giles. “Thanks, mate. I won’t take advantage. That’s a promise.”

Despite his training, and his natural distrust of vampires, Giles found himself believing that this vampire was sincere but he couldn’t bring himself to say so. He restricted himself to saying “Ah, would you like to take a seat?”

Cordelia stared at Buffy. She seemed colder than the girl from Cordelia’s reality. Her eyes held no friendliness, no warmth, only suspicion. Her make-up was cursory, the bare minimum, and her clothes obviously were chosen purely on the basis of practicality. A ridge of scar tissue crossed her lip and marred her beauty. “Buffy,” Cordelia began. “You’re here.”

The answering eye-roll was familiar but the tone of the reply was not. “Yeah, I’m Buffy. Who the hell are you?” Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “Vampires,” she hissed, and slipped a stake from her pocket.

“Not gonna fight you, Slayer,” Spike said, splaying out his hands palm down. “I’ll defend myself if I have to, but I’m on your side. And Angel here has a soul. He’s one of the good guys.”

“Buffy,” Angel breathed. “Buffy Summers. I waited, but you didn’t come. I was supposed to help you.”

“You were going to help me?” Buffy sniffed scornfully.

“He tried to help us stop the Master. He was captured and tortured.” Giles frowned at the Slayer. “Spike saved Cordelia’s life and slew two of the Master’s most deadly henchmen. They are valuable allies. Please refrain from antagonizing them.”

“Look, I got word you needed me badly. I came. Fill me in on the situation, and then I’ll dust the vamps and go back to Cleveland. And I won’t dust your pet vampires.”

Spike bridled. “I’m nobody’s pet, you cocky bint. Not a tame vampire.”

Cordelia put her hand on his arm. “Let it go, Spike, okay? We have to work together. We all want to get rid of the Master.”

Spike relaxed slightly. “Okay, love, I’ll play nice. Sorry, Slayer.”

Cordelia stared hard at Buffy, who lowered her stake. “Okay,” the Slayer said reluctantly. “Sorry I called you pets.” She turned to Giles. “Look, I don’t really have time for stories and pissing contests. Give me the lowdown so that I can go do my thing.”

Giles began to brief her on the situation in Sunnydale. Spike prowled around the apartment, flipped through Giles’ record collection with a couple of low whistles of appreciation, and ignored the Watcher’s disapproving scowls until Giles called upon him for information about the Master’s gathering that had drawn all the vampires away from the Bronze.

“Don’t know a lot,” Spike said. “Just that the word is that everybody’s got to be there. If he’s got his blokes out catching humans it might be some big banquet.”

“Have you anything to add, Angel?” Giles asked.

“I know tonight is important to him, but I don’t know why,” Angel replied.

“We must stop it, of course,” Giles declared. “It might be foolish to take on the enemy’s forces en masse, but I feel we have little choice. We are at our strongest, and I think we should act immediately.”

“Damn right,” Buffy agreed.

Angel was gazing at Buffy adoringly. Cordelia kicked his ankle. “Hey, broody guy,” she addressed him. “Very important piece of advice. Don’t boink Buffy. That way lies badness and dead people and trips to Hell dimensions.”

Angel frowned at her uncomprehendingly. Buffy rolled her eyes. “Can I say ‘ewww’?” she remarked, suddenly sounding very like the Buffy that Cordelia knew. “What kind of total ho would even think about boinking a vampire?”

Cordelia glanced across at Spike, met the gaze of his twinkling blue eyes, and saw him tilt his head and look at her whilst running his tongue across the edge of his teeth. Suddenly she blushed a deep crimson. The corners of Spike’s mouth raised in an amused half smile.

Buffy’s scarred lip curled in a sneer. “Oh, that kind of ho,” she said scornfully.

“Hey!” Cordelia protested. “What’s your problem?”

Spike’s gaze turned icy. “You take that back,” he warned Buffy in a tone filled with deadly menace. “You don’t talk about Cordelia that way.”

Buffy tensed and her hand crept back towards her stake pocket. Giles moved to intervene but Larry spoke up first. “That was uncalled for,” he said to Buffy, rather to Cordelia’s surprise. “Don’t criticize her for her lifestyle choices when you don’t know the full story, okay? We all have to stick together or we’re going to get killed. Spike is good looking, you can’t deny it, so leave Cordelia alone.”

“Or we could just fight among ourselves and save the Master the trouble of killing us,” Oz suggested.

Buffy tossed her head. “What’s the big deal about this Master? I’ll just stake him. The end.”

“It’s not that simple,” Cordelia warned her. “In my world he killed you.”

“What?” Giles exclaimed, his eyebrows shooting up.

“Oh, it didn’t stick,” Cordelia explained. “He drowned Buffy in a pool, but Xander gave her CPR, she came back to life and killed the Master. Only, Xander isn’t exactly available to do that this time round, so this Buffy had better get it right first time. And there’s this thing with the Master’s bones. They have to be smashed to powder or he can be brought back.”

“What do you mean, he killed me?” Buffy frowned.

Giles took off his glasses and gave her a quick précis of the alternate reality from which Cordelia had come. Angel listened attentively; this was new to him as well. Spike went back to prowling Giles’ apartment. A poncho hanging from a coat hook caught his eye, and he went to examine it.

“We really must work as a team,” Giles went on after completing his briefing. “We have saved each others’ lives several times now. I, together with Larry and Oz, rescued Cordelia. Spike saved Cordelia, and perhaps saved me too. Cordelia has provided much useful information and went with me and Spike to free Angel. You, Buffy, saved me and Larry. Cordelia’s warning may save you. Angel has, I gather, saved Spike in the past; two years ago he fought with us against the Master and has suffered greatly because of his so doing. We owe much to each other, and I suggest that we act that way.”

“Okay,” Buffy said. “Look, I’m sorry I said that. I’ll work with the vampires. At least until after we’ve killed this Master guy, and I’ll leave them alone afterwards unless they start something.”

“I won’t start anything,” Angel said in an aggrieved tone. “I have a soul. It is my destiny to help you.”

Spike sniffed. “I won’t start anything either. Won’t turn on you lot. I’ll leave the other Happy Meals alone, too. Know that Angel wouldn’t stand for me doing anything evil, and it’d be a bit bloody pointless me rescuing him and then having to fight against him. Doubt if the lovely lady would stand for it, either. I’ll put on a poncy White Hat full time, if Cordelia makes it worth my while.” He smirked at her and waggled his eyebrows.

“You wish,” Cordelia said, tossing her head. “But, just maybe, a date might not be out of the question as long as I could be sure there would be zero biting.”

“Please, ladies and gentlemen, can we get back to the matter in hand?” Giles said. “I think we should set off for the Master’s factory straight away. Would everyone please equip themselves with weaponry?”

“Half a mo’, Watcher,” Spike said. “This poncho. Can I borrow it?”

Giles pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I don’t see why not. I only wear it at Halloween. Can we make a start, please?”

Spike took off his coat, unhooked the poncho, and slipped it over his head. “Got a Stetson, by any chance, mate?”

“I have a sombrero. Rather stylish, actually, with a decorative fringe.”

Spike winced. “Not the same at all. I’ll make do with just the poncho. See, Watcher, I have a cunning plan.”

- - - - -

Spike was just about managing to restrain himself from bursting into laughter as he entered the factory. He and Angel both now wore Stetsons; courtesy of Lyle and Tector Gorch, who were now dust blowing across the waste ground outside the building. Spike consciously narrowed his eyes as he drew on his cigarette, wishing that it was a cigarillo, and muttered “You see my mule don't like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you're laughing at him.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “He’s crazy!” she hissed to Angel.

“I won’t argue with you over that,” the souled vampire replied. He followed behind Spike, with his own Stetson tilted down to obscure his face, and mingled with the throng of vampires gathered within the factory.

Buffy kept close to Angel. She half expected to be sniffed out, and recognized as a human, but no-one reacted to her at all. She saw that one side of the factory floor had been turned into a temporary cage area with a wooden fence. Behind the fence were a score of human prisoners; their scent was presumably screening her from vampire senses. A large machine, incorporated a section of conveyor belt and a lot of pumps and piping, stood in front of both the cage and the vampire crowd. Beyond the machinery was a raised platform that was serving as a stage. The Master stood there, flanked by a bald African-American vampire and a tall vampire with a beard that was barely more than stubble, and he was delivering a speech.

“Well, I don't say anything to them because I kill them,” the Master said. “Undeniably we are the world's superior race. Yet we have always been too parochial, too bound by the mindless routine of the predator. Hunt and kill, hunt and kill. Titillating? Yes. Practical? Hardly. Meanwhile, the humans, with their plebeian minds, have brought us a truly demonic concept; mass production!” He spread his arms and smiled as the crowd applauded.

“Pretentious wanker,” Spike muttered. “Too much sodding ritual and not enough fun when he’s around.”

“Bring out the first!” the Master ordered. Several vampires rushed to the cage, pushed back the captive humans, lifted the crossbar that secured the door and opened it. Two of them went into the cage and seized an attractive girl with Oriental features, one of Cordelia’s classmates. They ignored her screams and struggles and dragged her out. One of them shocked her with a cattle prod and she jerked convulsively. Her struggles stopped and she slumped limp and twitching in their grasp.

Angel and Buffy had their eyes fixed on the Master. Spike realized that the open cage door could be useful and acted without consulting the others. He pulled out his crossbow from beneath the poncho and fired. A vampire who was about to slam the door shut disintegrated in a cloud of dust as the bolt struck him. “Now!” Spike yelled.

Giles, Cordelia, Larry, and Oz rushed into the room. They all had crossbows loaded and cocked and they fired a volley at the vampires between the door and the cage. The human captives found their way clear and began to spill out into the main room.

Buffy whipped up her pistol crossbow and fired at the Master. The ancient vampire reacted with lightning speed. He pulled his stubble-faced henchman into the path of the bolt. “My apologies, Frank,” the Master said, as his henchman cried out and clutched his shoulder. “Follow me, Absalom, we have work to do.” He leaped down from the stage. The ebony-skinned vampire picked up a massive sledgehammer and followed him.

Buffy raised her crossbow for another shot but it was knocked from her hand. She lashed out at the vampire responsible and sent him flying across the room. Angel punched one vampire and kneed another in the groin. Spike swung his crossbow like a club and struck a vampire across the face. Cordelia and Oz threw handfuls of stakes towards the escaping humans. Giles managed to reload his crossbow and fired once more. Larry staked a bewildered vampire through the heart.

Chaos reigned. Some vampires tried to recapture the humans. Some charged at Spike, Angel, and Buffy. Others ran towards the White Hats. A few fled. One small vampire in an old-fashioned suit and half-moon spectacles scuttled into a corner and hunched down, trying to stay out of the way of the conflict. Some of the humans picked up stakes from the floor and the fight turned into a general brawl.

Frank pulled out the crossbow bolt from his shoulder and surveyed the battle. He saw that he had a clear line of sight to Spike and threw the bolt like a dart directly at the traitor. It struck the middle of Spike’s chest.

And bounced off. There was a metallic ‘clank’ and it dropped harmlessly to the ground.

Frank stared open-mouthed. He was still staring in disbelief when Giles fired his crossbow for a third time and hit him right in the heart.

The Master closed with Buffy. Their first exchange of blows was inconclusive but then the Master landed a solid backhand to Buffy’s jaw and stunned her. He seized her by the shoulders and pulled her to him. His hands moved to her head but before he could break her neck Angel kicked him solidly behind the knee and sent him staggering sideways. Buffy fell to her hands and knees. A vampire pounced on her; Angel rabbit-punched her assailant and then drove home a stake. He helped Buffy to her feet. “Thanks,” she muttered grudgingly, and pulled a fresh stake from her pocket. She was about to follow the Master when Absalom arrived, swinging his hammer, and forced her to retreat.

The Master found himself facing Spike, who had just driven the butt of his crossbow deep into the chest of a hapless fledgling vampire. “Foolish child,” the Master snarled. “Seeking revenge for the death of your paramour? All you will achieve is to join her in the dust.” He snatched up a loose stake from the ground and struck out. Spike’s attempt to block failed and the stake hit him in the middle of the chest.

The impact jarred the stake from the Master’s hand. Spike winced but remained obstinately undusted. He took the cigarette from his mouth, grinned, and plunged it into the Master’s eye.

The Master howled. He lashed out a backhand blow, like the one that had felled Buffy, but his aim was off and Spike slipped under the blow with ease. He snatched up the Master’s fallen stake and drove it home.

“You – you…” the Master croaked, groping ineffectually at the stub of wood that protruded from his ribcage. Spike’s teeth flashed in a triumphant grin. He flipped the poncho aside to reveal an ornate and rather ugly Victorian brass tray, its surface marred by a couple of recent dents, hanging from thongs around his neck. The Master gave one last feeble snarl and burst into dust. A misshapen skeleton toppled to the ground.

Absalom wailed in fury and despair. He swung his hammer with berserk fury. Buffy was knocked aside and crashed into the wooden cage. Angel lashed out a high kick but ran straight into the swinging hammer and collapsed clutching his leg. The raging vampire charged towards Spike and struck again and again. Spike dodged the first blow but a second strike sent him sprawling on his back, temporarily helpless, and Absalom raised the hammer high.

“Traitor! Abomination!” he cried, spittle flying from his mouth. He took aim at Spike’s head. Suddenly the little vampire who had been hiding in a corner leaped on his back and seized the hammer. Absalom roared, flailed wildly, and managed to shake off the other vampire. He raised the hammer again but by that time Buffy had recovered. She stabbed him in the back with a section of wood from the cage. She drove the plank all the way through until the jagged end burst out of his chest. Another explosion of dust followed and the sledgehammer dropped harmlessly to the floor.

The morale of the remaining vampires was completely shattered. Those with a clear route to the doors fled in blind panic. The humans slew most of them before they could get out. A few were trapped, and fought like cornered rats, but all were slain within a couple of minutes. Before long the only vampires remaining in the factory were Spike, Angel, and the vampire who had intervened to protect Spike from Absalom. Giles pointed his crossbow at the vampire but refrained from pulling the trigger.

“Wait up, Watcher,” Spike called. “He’s one of mine. I’d appreciate it if you’d let him go. Saved me, didn’t he? Ta, Dalton, mate.”

“You know I’m your man, Spike,” the vampire said. “I’ve hated them since they killed the Princess. I’m not a fighter, you know that, but I had to help you.”

“Bloody grateful, pal,” Spike said. “Look, Watcher, Dalton here is only interested in books and languages. Not much of a hunter. Let him go. Please.”

“Very well, Spike, I suppose we owe him that much. You may go.”

Dalton made no move to leave. “I can’t survive on my own. Master Spike is right, I’m not much of a hunter, and anybody who got away will be out to kill me after what I did. You might as well just stake me now.”

Giles lowered his crossbow. Killing this vampire in cold blood didn’t seem right. “We’ll discuss this later,” he said. “Stay there and don’t move. Is everybody all right? Anybody hurt?”

Spike rushed to Cordelia. “You okay, love?”

“They didn’t lay a glove on me,” she said triumphantly. “I got two of them. Go me!”

“I think my arm is broken,” Larry informed them. He was supporting his left arm with his right, his face grey with pain. Three of the human captives had died in the fight, and two more were injured.

“Angel’s lame,” Buffy announced.

“I know,” Spike replied. “His hair goes straight up, and he’s bloody stupid. Total pillock sometimes. But he’s family.”

“No, he’s lame,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes. “The crazy black vampire hit him on the leg with that hammer. It’s broken.”

- - - - -

“I gotta admit that was a tough one,” Buffy conceded. She sipped cautiously at the glass of Bushmills. “I couldn’t have handled it on my own.”

“Me neither,” Spike agreed. “Course, I knew that all along, and that’s why I came looking for allies.” He grinned. “We made a bloody brilliant team, didn’t we?”

There was a general chorus of agreement from the assembled White Hats.

“What now, Spike?” Giles asked. “The Master is dust, and his bones are smashed to powder. Your revenge is complete. Will you go back to drinking the blood of the innocent?”

Spike chewed on his lower lip for a moment and then shook his head slowly. “Nah. All the fun’s gone out of it now. Not the same without Dru. It’d be all flat and dull. Rather stick around with you lot, if you’ll have me. Bloody brilliant fight, that was. We made a sodding great team. Wouldn’t seem right, fighting against you.”

“You’re willing to join the side of Good?” Giles said, slightly skeptically.

“Good, evil, who gives a toss?” Spike knocked back the rest of his glass of Irish whiskey. “I’m willing to join your side. You, and Angel, and Little and Large there, and the Slayer, and of course the lovely Cordelia.” Cordelia tipped her head to acknowledge the compliment.

“Don’t include me in this long term,” Buffy said. “I’ll be heading back to Cleveland tomorrow. We have a Hellmouth there.”

“We’ve got one here too,” Giles protested.

“Whatever. I think you can manage fine without me.” She looked at the vampires and smiled. It seemed forced and false at first, but gradually became a genuine beaming smile that lit up her face. “We were a real good team, yeah.”

Angel shifted position to ease his injured leg. “I suppose I’ll be going to Cleveland as well,” he said.

“No way!” Cordelia exclaimed. “You have to stay away from Buffy, for the good of your soul.” Everyone stared at her. She gulped down her drink, to give herself some Dutch courage, and continued. “I think I’d better explain about the curse.”

- - - - -

“What about your minion Dalton?” Giles asked.

“Oh, he’ll do what I tell him,” Spike assured him. “Not much of a one for the carnage, Dalton. As long as he gets plenty of books to read he’ll be happy.”

“I think that’s something I’m more than capable of providing,” Giles said. “I could certainly use an assistant to help me with research. This past year has been far too hectic, and I’m sure I have neglected a number of matters of occult significance.”

“Hey!” Cordelia put in. “We have three vampires now. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” She giggled, and swayed slightly. The whiskey was beginning to go to her head. “Only, Spike’s in the Clint Eastwood costume, so he’s the Good.”

“Nah, Angel’s the Good. I’m the Big Bad, baby, and don’t you forget it.” Spike put his arm around her and drew her close. “Gonna be good to you, though, love.”

“Are you going to, you know, boink me now?” Cordelia asked. She giggled again. Her eyes were slightly glazed.

“Tempting, love, but not tonight,” Spike told her. “You’re sloshed as a newt, pet. Want it to be a night to remember. Best get to bed and sleep it off. Wait until Saturday.”

“What happens Saturday?”

“I shag the arse off you.”

- - - - -

Cordelia went into school on Monday morning limping slightly, her eyes heavy and her hair not as immaculately coiffed as usual, and with an air of blissful contentment that was unmistakable to the Cordettes. They gathered around her eagerly at break time.

“Did you do, you know, it?” Harmony asked.

“Lots of times,” Cordelia replied smugly. “In lots of different positions.”

“Was it good?” asked Nicolette, who had been scheduled to be the first victim of the Master’s automated blood extraction machine.

“Wonderful!” Cordelia sighed. “I’m going to have to work harder in math class. I came more times than I could count.”

“Wow!” Amber said enviously. “That good?”

“Yeah. We did things I can’t even spell!”

“Like?” Nicolette prompted.

Cordelia gathered them close and whispered.

Harmony frowned, puzzled. “But isn’t that, like, the national airline of Ireland?”

Cordelia whispered again.

“Oh,” said Harmony. “I knew that. I knew that.” She blushed, turned away, and then gathered her courage and turned back to Cordelia. “Does he have a friend?”

Cordelia opened her mouth to say ‘no’ and then rethought. It was important that Angel never achieve perfect happiness, of course, but it seemed a bit harsh expecting him never to have sex at all, and no-one could be perfectly happy with Harmony, could they? “He might have. Want an introduction?”

- - - - -

Some weeks later…

The door of Mayor Wilkins’ office shattered under a forceful impact and Mr. Trick burst through it and crashed into the Mayor’s desk. Angel strode in, seized the dazed vampire, and plunged a stake into his heart. Spike and Giles followed close behind. Dalton scuttled in their wake.

“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” Wilkins demanded. “Bursting in here without an appointment is unmannerly and strikes at the very root of our great American system of local government.”

Giles adjusted his glasses. “I rather think that doing a series of deals with demons to enable you to remain Mayor for a century is rather against the spirit of anything the Founding Fathers had in mind,” he said sternly. “On top of that, what I and my colleague Dalton have discovered about your future intentions places you into the category of a clear and present danger.”

Wilkins stood up. “I know what you are, librarian. A Watcher. You won’t kill a human, it’s against your code, and neither will the renowned Souled Vampire.”

“Correct,” Giles admitted. “I won’t. Spike, it is rather a long time since you had the draught stuff, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Spike said, eyes gleaming. “Come on, Dalton, the drinks are on the Mayor. Or rather in the Mayor.”

- - - - -

“Months behind schedule. A forty per cent casualty rate among the construction crews. Way over budget. And now I hear that demonic activity in Sunnydale has almost completely ceased.” The administrator in charge of the Demon Research Initiative steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair. “I’ve been forced into a complete rethink. Professor Walsh, you’re not going to be assigned to California after all. The Initiative facility will be located in Cleveland.”

- - - - -

“This place is sewn up pretty tight now, Spike,” Angel said over a drink. “I’m thinking of leaving it to you and Giles and the White Hats. I have this idea for a detective agency in Los Angeles.”

“What, ‘down these mean streets a vampire must go’, sort of thing? Sounds like fun.” Spike raised his glass and then lowered it again without drinking. “Darla’s there, you know.”

“It’s a big city, maybe our paths won’t cross. If they do – well, I’ll do what I have to do.”

“Yeah. You taking Harm?”

“For my sins, yes. Still, at least she’s a pretty good typist.” Angel looked over his shoulder, caught the eye of his pretty blonde girlfriend, and smiled at her. He turned back to Spike. “She’s actually had a good idea about the agency. She pointed out that we should make sure we come first in the private detectives section of the phone book, and we should choose our name accordingly.”

“So you’ll be, what, Angel Investigations?” Spike raised his beer glass to his lips.

“No, somebody might beat that. Aardvark Investigations.”

Spike choked on his beer.

- - - - -

Some months later…

“The Gem of Amara,” Spike grinned, holding up his hand to display the ring to Cordelia. “Official sponsor of me taking you out for a picnic lunch.”

- - - - -

Some months later still…

The monastery in Prague was peaceful, at least for the moment, but the monks knew that it would be only a matter of time before the Beast discovered their location. “We must send the Key to the Slayer,” the Abbot decreed, “in the form of something that she will love and protect.”

The monks’ brows furrowed as they visualized the Slayer and tried to think of something suitable. “A crossbow?” one suggested hesitantly. “A set of Kevlar fatigues?”

The Abbot shook his head. “It must be something alive. Something with blood that will contain the Key’s living energy.”

“I know!” one piped up. “A walrus.”

The Abbot raised his eyes to the heavens. “Sometimes I despair of you, Brother Jaroslav,” he said, shaking his head. “Can I have some serious suggestions? Anyone?”

“Perhaps,” Brother Miroslav said slowly, “we should think outside the box. If the Slayer is unsuitable we should seek out some other hero.”

- - - - -

Cordelia walked into her bedroom and stopped short in surprise. “What are you doing?” she snapped.

The tall brown-haired girl pushed the drawer shut hastily. “Nothing,” she said.

“Don’t you lie to me, Dawn Chase! You were stealing my make-up.”

“As if I’d wear that skanky stuff,” Dawn sniffed. “You going out with Spike tonight, I guess? Lots of icky kissing and stuff?”

“Stuff which I am never ever going to discuss with you, young lady,” Cordelia said firmly.

“As if I’d want to know anyway. It’s all yucky. How anyone could get a hickey there I don’t understand.”

Cordelia blushed. She opened her mouth to deliver a suitable riposte but was interrupted.

“Oh, Cordelia,” Mrs. Chase called from the hallway. “I have some people coming over and I’d appreciate some space. If you’re going out would you take your sister with you?”

The two girls turned in unison and called out in mutual protest. “Mom!”

The End

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