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I Am The Walrus

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Summary: Written in 2004 for a challenge on 'Vampire Kisses'. Season 5: the Order of Dagon decide not to use a human form as camouflage for The Key and they send it to Buffy in a completely different guise. There is no Dawn.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Comedy > Cast: Scooby Gang(Current Donor)SpeakertocustomersFR15116,6746263,2401 Jul 091 Jul 09Yes
This was written in 2004 as a response to a challenge on ‘Vampire Kisses’ that was so outrageous that I’m the only person who has ever attempted it. The challenge conditions can be seen at the end of the story. Sorry if the standard of the writing isn’t up to my current level.

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. Lyrics from various songs by The Beatles are quoted without permission. The illustration was created for me by Sandra Strait.

Picture by Sandra Strait

I am the Walrus

“Mom!” Buffy exclaimed. “Why is there a mechanical digger tearing up the back garden?”

Joyce was talking with two men; a balding man in an expensive suit, and a hard hat construction worker with a clipboard and a fluorescent vest. She broke off and turned to her daughter. “They’re installing the pool, honey,” she informed her.

A beaming smile spread across Buffy’s face. “We’re getting a swimming pool? Cool!”

“Not exactly,” her mother said. “Do you remember your Great-Aunt Leonora?”

“Not really,” the Slayer replied, her brow furrowing. “Didn’t she move to, like, Alaska?”

“Yes, a long time ago. I hardly remember her myself. She became an extremely wealthy woman, but rather eccentric. Well, she’s died, and left us something. An exotic pet. There’s a bequest, a large income as long as we look after the pet, but when the pet dies the income stops and the capital goes to Greenpeace.”

Buffy looked at the excavations. “Don’t tell me, Mom, the pet’s a polar bear.”

“Close,” Joyce admitted. “We’ve inherited a walrus.”

- - - - -

The walrus was called Paul. This came as no surprise to Joyce, or to Giles, both of whom simultaneously exclaimed “Now here’s another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul” and burst into laughter. Buffy rolled her eyes. They never did explain it to her, although Spike did weeks later.

Some of the neighbors complained at first but they soon discovered that Paul was harmless, quiet, and not even particularly smelly, and the complaints stopped. The pool did have to be fenced off to stop the local children joining Paul for swims. Although he was completely non-aggressive he weighed a ton and a half and it just wasn’t safe; he could easily have injured a child without meaning to. Buffy swam with him on occasion, feeling confident that her Slayer strength would get her out of any difficulties, and one night she returned from patrol to find that Spike had climbed the fence and was splashing around in the pool beside the huge beast.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” Buffy demanded.

“Swimming, Slayer, what’s it bleeding look like?” the vampire answered. He gave her a surprisingly friendly smile.

“Swims With Walruses. The new name for Spike,” she teased, and then an ugly thought struck her. “Don’t you dare bite Paul!” she warned. “Otherwise, hey, pile of dust time.”

“Come off it, Slayer. He weighs a sodding ton and his fangs are twenty times the size of mine. If I want to bite something non-human but mammalian it’d be a damn sight easier for me to start off on bunny rabbits and work up.” Spike smiled at her again. “Thing is, I like the big hulk. Friendly, non-judging, and he has got bloody brilliant fangs.”

“Anyone ever tell you you’re weird?” Buffy shook her head. “Okay, it doesn’t look like you’re doing much harm, and I can’t be bothered to kick you out. Don’t you make too much noise and wake Mom, okay?”

“No problem, Slayer. Don’t want to disturb Joyce. She’s a real lady, y’know. See you around. G’night.”

- - - - -

Harmony had come up with several stupid plans during her career as Sunnydale’s ditziest vampire but her kidnap of Paul, with the aid of a stolen flatbed truck and a mobile crane, was undoubtedly her stupidest.

Although it worked out well for her in the end. When her gang of moronic henchmen abandoned the ransom plan in favor of sampling the massive amounts of highly oxygenated blood contained in the huge diving mammal, and Harmony tried to stand up to them to protect the walrus, it gained her enough Brownie points from the Slayer to outweigh the original kidnap. Buffy allowed her undead former classmate to escape unstaked.

Paul was thankful to return home and plunged into his pool with great enthusiasm. The plume of spray drenched Riley and left him cursing and soaked to the skin. His hatred of the walrus was born at that moment.

- - - - -

Xander adored the walrus. He fell into the habit of sitting by the pool and telling Paul about his thoughts. His attempts to find a decent job, such as his brief stint as a cobbler; his desire to travel on a cruise liner; his argument with Anya over the proper uses of hot wax in the bedroom; the nutritional value of vegetables of the Brassica family, with particular reference to coleslaw and sauerkraut; his thoughts on the validity of monarchy as a political system; his opinions on whether or not global warming had really raised the temperature of the world’s oceans; and the feasibility or otherwise of porcine farm animals of the genus Suidae ever following in the footsteps, or rather wing flaps, of certain small insectivores and evolving the power of flight.

His association with the walrus inspired him, much to Anya’s satisfaction, to acquire a taste for oysters.

- - - - -

“I oughta stake you,” Buffy told Spike. His attempt to have his chip removed while the Initiative doctor was in town had failed and Riley had been shot in the leg in the process.

“So why don’t you?” he asked her. “Just bloody do it. End this pain.”

“No real harm done. You’re pretty useful a lot of the time. Mom likes you. It would be a shame to kill you,” Buffy told him. ‘And I like watching your body in the moonlight when you swim with Paul,’ remained unsaid. “Plus, I had a word with Harmony, and she says you told her that she wasn’t to really hurt anybody and if it came down to a real fight she was to run rather than kill. So, yeah, I’ll let you off this time. Both of you.”

“Big of you, Slayer,” Spike grumbled resentfully.

Buffy felt a sudden pang of compassion for him. Here was one of the greatest warriors that the world had ever known reduced to scavenging from the dump and doing odd jobs for cigarette money. “Look, Spike,” she proposed, “why not become a proper part of the team? I can pay you a real wage now we have the money for Paul. You could, like, split patrols with me. Back us up against Big Bads. Other Big Bads,” she corrected herself hastily as she saw Spike’s insulted look.

“So I’d be a sodding mercenary?” Spike frowned, and she thought he was offended by the offer, but then he grinned. “Dogs of War. The Wild Geese. Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacré mercenaire. I’ll do it. Five hundred dollars a week for me, three hundred and fifty for Harm.” He stood up straight and expanded his chest. “Was feeling pretty low, y’know, betraying my own kind for scraps from the Slayer’s table. Wanted to be able to be my own person, which is why I had a bash at getting the chip out. But being a professional demon fighter is a whole different vibe.”

- - - - -

When Joyce fell ill Buffy was unable to believe that it was just a random event and she became convinced that the cause lay in some sort of curse or magical attack. Armed with a spell to see spells she scanned the house but found nothing unusual until she looked at the back garden. The walrus and its pool faded into and out of view. Its reality was uncertain.

Buffy was bewildered, and she was still contemplating the mystery when she went out on patrol. At an abandoned factory she encountered the mad goddess Glory, who kicked her ass, but the Slayer still managed to rescue a captive Czech monk from the deadly blonde. Once free the critically injured monk revealed the story of the Key, and how Buffy must protect it. “Walrus. Now walrus,” the monk told her. “And helpless. Please. He is an innocent in this. He needs you.”

Buffy’s forehead wrinkled and she stuck out her lower lip. “You mean he’s not my late Great-Aunt’s walrus?”

“If walrus dies, money stops,” the monk went on. “A lever to make sure you protect him. It…” The monk’s voice cut off. He exhaled one final time and died without saying more.

Buffy walked home in a daze. She went to the pool and sat on the edge staring at Paul. “So,” she said. “You’re not really a walrus. You’re this super mystical key thing and I have to protect you to save the world. Well, at least I’m getting paid for it this time. Wonder what you’re the key for? A hole in an ice floe? An igloo?”

Paul surfaced, raised his head out of the water, looked Buffy straight in the eyes, and said “ublarpaluk.”*

Buffy threw him a clam.

- - - - -

It was Tara’s birthday, and her ghastly family turned up to drag her off home. They told her that it was so that her demon side didn’t spread chaos and destruction among innocent people who did not know of the family secret; actually it was just because her father had become fed up of eating his own cooking and of contributing towards her College expenditure.

Tara cast a spell to hide her demonic nature from her friends at exactly the same time as Glory sent a group of Lei’Ach demons to attack the Slayer.

Harmony was tipped off about the affair by a vampire girlfriend, who didn’t know that she was in the Slayer’s pay, and she and Spike set off to the rescue. Harmony was doing it to protect her source of income; Spike was out to protect the girl who had once been his arch-enemy but who now, he had to admit to himself, he’d much rather be shagging than Harm.

They arrived at the Magic Box seconds after the Lei’Ach demons. To his astonishment Spike found that the demons were invisible to him, Harmony vanished from his sight, and he flailed wildly at the air alongside Buffy who couldn’t see him either. Harmony saved the day, killing one of the demons herself and directing Buffy and Spike towards the others, until Tara arrived and cancelled the spell.

Tara’s family turned up to claim her but were soon sent away with fleas in their ears. Spike hit Tara to prove she was human, willingly suffering the pain from the chip. Harmony asked if she could eat Donny; they told her ‘no’, but they had to think hard about it first.

Once the Maclays had departed Spike started to ask questions. He wanted to know how come he hadn’t been able to see the demons. Tara explained that the spell had been to prevent any member of the Scooby Gang from seeing her demon side and she thought of Spike as one of the gang these days. Spike made a sarcastic comment to hide how proud and touched he was, but they saw straight through him.

Harmony stuck her lips out in a sulky pout, hurt not to have been included, and Tara had to soothe her by promising to include her in any disastrous backfiring spells in the future. This was partly because making Harmony feel like one of the gang would make her much less likely to betray them, but mainly it was because Tara just plain hated to hurt anyone’s feelings; even those of an evil soulless vampire who was working for the side of good more out of plain incompetence at being evil than out of any actual convictions or desire for redemption.

Tara even invited the two vampires along to her birthday party. Spike spent most of the night wanting to throttle Harmony, who chattered incessantly, but the humans had a good time. Except perhaps for Buffy. Riley didn’t turn up until very late. Buffy talked with her friends, and did a little dancing, but she spent a lot of the evening resentfully wishing Harmony hadn’t been invited so that she could have danced with Spike. When eventually Riley did turn up he was too tired to finish the evening with a boink.

Buffy snuck out of bed later and went to watch Spike swimming in the pool with the walrus. She was very tempted to slip out of her clothes and join him in the water, but she was a good girl, and she resisted the temptation. But it wasn’t Riley who filled her thoughts, when finally she went to sleep, and it wasn’t Riley of whom she dreamed. And in the dream there was nakedness.

- - - - -

Buffy messed up in a fight with a normal run-of-the-mill vampire and was stabbed with her own stake. The wound wasn’t serious but it started her off thinking about deep topics like mortality and the meaning of the eternal conflict between Slayer and Vampire. She pressed Spike to tell her the tales of his previous two victories over Slayers, hoping to learn something that would enable her to postpone suffering their fate for a very long time.

Spike was only too willing to oblige but he insisted on making a social occasion of it. Spending some of his wages on taking the Slayer out for a meal. Wearing a smart suit. Picking her up in a DeSoto that was spotless and gleaming; the gunk smeared on the windows was gone, replaced by translucent plastic film. Buffy had left the house wearing jeans and a sweatshirt but on seeing Spike’s appearance she raced back into the house and hastily changed into a dress.

She spent a large part of the evening wishing that she’d spent hours choosing the dress and doing her makeup rather than just grabbing the first dress that came to hand. Spike was hot. Charming and wickedly funny when they were just chatting; perceptive, sympathetic, and sensitive when they were discussing the deaths of Slayers. Dinner was followed by dancing. Dancing was followed by driving home, driving home followed by a chaste kiss goodnight; which turned into a not-so-chaste thirty-minute make-out session in the front of the car.

Buffy tried to remind herself that she had a boyfriend. A human, not-evil boyfriend. What was his name, Morris or Austin or something? Oh, yes, Riley. Riley Dorsal or Flipper or whatever. He had a pulse. Certified normal. Safe and reliable. She shouldn’t be doing this. Shouldn’t be lying on the bench seat of the DeSoto with a vampire on top of her, his teeth gently nibbling her earlobe, and his hands inside her bra. “I’m beneath you,” she giggled as her hand fumbled at his zipper. Then he moved slightly and there was pressure on her stake wound, she flinched, and his chip triggered. That killed the mood quite effectively. Buffy pulled herself together and left the car, said a rather stiff goodbye to Spike, and went into her house.

Only to find her mother packing for an overnight stay in hospital. She’d been called in for observation and to undergo a CAT scan. Buffy was supportive and encouraging, but once her mother had gone she went out to the back porch, sat down on the step, and began to cry.

Spike materialized out of the shadows from the direction of Paul’s pool. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Is there something I can do?” He sat down beside her and patted her awkwardly on the back. Buffy turned towards him, buried her face in his shoulder, and began to cry.

Later, when Buffy was feeling better, she asked Spike how come he was being so nice.

“You’ve given me back my self-respect, pet,” he told her. “Anything I can do in return, just ask. Also, I’ve always liked your mum, you know that. Hope she’s gonna be all right.” He put his arm round her shoulder and held her in silent comfort.

Buffy was filled with a sudden conviction that she could trust Spike absolutely. The Spike she saw now was very different from the Spike who had nearly sold them out to Adam. She told him about Paul the walrus being the Key, and about the immensely powerful blonde woman who sought the Key, and Spike vowed to help protect the walrus on whose existence the Summers’ financial security rested. If Joyce’s illness was indeed serious the extra money could be crucial. Of course, from a purely selfish point of view, Spike’s wages also depended on the walrus; but to his credit that consideration hardly registered.

- - - - -

Buffy spent a lot of time at the hospital the next day and it was Spike who went with her to occupy her, keep her from becoming too depressed, and to be there when Joyce was released. It turned out that the hospital wanted to do a biopsy and so Joyce would be in for longer than just the one night.

Riley wasn’t there. He hadn’t approved of Buffy’s method of interrogating Spike. Going out for a meal smacked far too much of a date for his liking, even though he hadn’t found out about the dancing part, and he had gone out on his own. He’d drank a few beers, and done some mild flirting with an attractive female vampire, but mainly he had brooded. He hadn’t seen Buffy since then and he knew nothing about her mother’s hospital stay. He called at the house during the day, found it empty, and went out on his own again.

Glory called in at the Magic Box and bought the necessary components for a Sobekian transmogrification spell so that she could use a magically transformed snake creature to track down the Key. Buffy and Spike found out about it that evening when they dropped into the shop briefly on the way back to Revello Drive to feed the walrus. Buffy headed out to the Zoo to stop Glory from doing the spell, which would also require a live cobra, while Spike went to feed Paul and guard him in case Glory’s snake monster turned up.

Glory defeated Buffy with ease, sent out the creature on its mission, and then went back to her apartment to await its arrival. Buffy pulled herself together, raced home, and arrived to find Spike battling the cobra demon. Together they pursued it as it sped to take the news to its mistress and eventually they slew the monster not far from its destination.

Riley went out drinking, was approached again by the beautiful vampire, and allowed her to drink from him briefly before staking her.

“Hey, why’d you stake Sandy?” Harmony asked, materializing from the shadows. “She was no big threat. You were letting her bite you.”

“None of your business,” Riley snapped.

“I know, you’re all pissed at the Slayer going out to a fancy restaurant with my Blondie Bear,” Harmony deduced. “You want to take a walk on that side of the street yourself, see what the attraction is with vampires, right? Why didn’t you come to me? I’m just as pissed at Spikey. We should get together. Plus, card carrying good guy here, you can be guaranteed that I wouldn’t take too much.”

“Good guy?” Riley asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

“Well, working for the good guys, getting paid for it,” Harmony amended her claim. “Okay, evil here, but the money means a lot more to me than the whole carnage thing. ‘Cause, hey, they don’t accept human sacrifice at The Gap. Although, it is just way unfair that Spikey gets five hundred bucks a week and I just get three-fifty. What happened to gender equality?”

- - - - -

Joyce stayed in the hospital, waiting for the results of the biopsy and CAT scan, for another whole day. Buffy was there with her most of the time, as was Spike, but Riley didn’t visit even though he knew about Mrs. Summers’ condition by now.

He was too busy exploring the erotic potential of vampire bites with Harmony. It didn’t take them long to discover that, although having his blood drained might be very pleasurable for both of them, there was a drawback. The drop in blood pressure caused him to be unable to maintain an erection. Still, Harmony had an idea about how they could get round that little detail.

As soon as the results came back the hospital scheduled Joyce for an urgent operation. There was ample money available for the best surgeons and medical care, and it would have been preferable for Joyce to stay in the hospital until the operation, but she insisted on returning home despite now suffering from occasional bouts of dementia. Buffy went along with her mother’s request, and she and Spike took Joyce home in Spike’s car.

Unknown to either of them the Queller demon, summoned by Glory’s human host to eliminate the crazy victims of Glory’s brain-sucking, was hitching a ride under the DeSoto. The demon had already suffocated the inhabitants of the hospital’s mental ward, and was searching for more prey.

The other Scoobies had spotted the fall of the ‘meteorite’ that brought the Queller to Earth and they investigated the crash site. Once they found the ‘spacecraft’ they decided to track and destroy the alien demon. They called in Riley to assist them rather than disturb Buffy at this difficult time. He joined them in company with Harmony but none of the Scoobies thought that this was in any way odd.

Even when Harmony asked Anya for advice about cock rings to prevent erection loss Anya simply assumed that the floppy member in question must belong to Spike. Anya had her own suspicions about Spike and Buffy, and she took the impotence as a sign that Spike was either already boinking Buffy or else was obsessed enough with her to not be able to get it up for Harmony any more, but she kept the suspicions to herself. She answered Harmony’s questions without comment, at least for the moment, and made a mental note to ask more probing questions later.

Riley called in the successors to the old Initiative to help with the demon hunt. They tracked the Queller to the hospital, found its victims, and then they continued to track it to Revello Drive. By the time that Riley and the military arrived Spike and Buffy had already fought and slain the creature. There was nothing left to do other than to dispose of the demon body.

Buffy and Spike took turns sitting with Joyce through the night. Both also separately took time out for some night-time swimming with the walrus.

- - - - -

Joyce’s operation went well. While she was in recovery Buffy remembered that she had an actual human boyfriend, and made a desultory attempt to contact Riley, but she gave up when he wasn’t at the first place she tried and then invited Spike around to keep her company. They watched movies on TV, shared a meal, and then Spike went out to play with Paul so that he could get out of doing the washing up. Buffy followed him a few minutes later and found him swimming with the walrus. His clothes lay beside the pool. All of them.

Spike looked at her in silent challenge. She stripped down to bra and pants, poised at the edge of the pool, and then reached behind her back and unclipped the bra. She tossed it aside and climbed down into the water.

Before long they were in each other’s arms. “You know, a walrus has, like, a bone in its penis to help it get really hard for mating,” Buffy commented, reaching down.

“Yeah, well, have you seen a female walrus?” Spike replied, working her panties down her hips. “Don’t need a bone with you around.”

“No,” Buffy agreed. “You – ohhhhh – definitely don’t.”

Meanwhile Riley and Harmony were putting the cock ring to the test and were eminently satisfied with the results.

- - - - -

Buffy woke alone the next morning. Disappointment filled her. ‘Huh, what did I expect?’ she thought. ‘Evil vampire, just wanted to get into my pants. Like he could have really cared. No soul. So, just another one of Buffy’s crappy mornings after.’

Then the bedroom door opened and Spike entered with a tray of pancakes and coffee.

- - - - -

“He says he loves me,” Buffy told her mother, “but, hey, he’s a vampire. Vampires can’t love, right?”

Joyce was completely lucid now. Still feeling weak, but otherwise fully in control of herself. She smiled softly. “You’re asking the wrong person for information about vampires in general, but I know Spike. He can love. I sat with him while he cried over his break-up with Drusilla, remember? And if there’s one person I know to be lovable it’s you.”

“Yeah, well, you’re my mom. So, not exactly an unbiased opinion there,” Buffy reminded her, but she flushed with pleasure.

“But you must come clean to Riley,” Joyce told her firmly.

“Who? Oh, yeah. Him. Right. We’ve grown so apart recently. He didn’t seem to understand that I had to put you first. And he hates Paul, which is weird. Cute walrus – what’s not to love?”

- - - - -

Buffy sought Riley out and eventually she found him. He was half naked, with a Harmony clad only in her panties sitting on his lap, and he was sucking one of her nipples into his mouth.

“Ooops!” Harmony yelped, leaping off Riley and backing away. “It’s not what it looks like. I was just giving him some pointers on vampire recognition.” Buffy just looked at her. “Okay, it is what it looks like,” Harmony admitted, “but, hey, we were just getting our own back. You’ve been spending way too much time with my Blondie Bear.”

“Harmony,” Buffy said in a cold voice. “Get dressed and go away.”

“Okay,” the blonde vampire said meekly, relieved not to be staked. She slipped on her bra and began hastily gathering up her other clothes. “Guess this means I can say goodbye to the pay rise?”

“She’s right. We were just getting our own back,” Riley explained. “You’ve hardly spent any time with me at all lately. It’s all Spike. Hell, you even seem to care more for the big ugly hunk of blubber than you do for me.”

Buffy frowned. “I thought you liked Xander?”

- - - - -

Riley was invited to rejoin the army and to become a member of the elite demon-fighting unit that had taken the place of the Initiative. He gave Buffy an ultimatum. The military helicopter was leaving at midnight. Unless she came to him and agreed to commit herself to the relationship he would be on it and wouldn’t be coming back.

Xander gave Buffy a serious talk, telling her that Riley was the once-in-a-lifetime guy that she needed, and urging her to go to him.

Riley stood by the helicopter at one minute to midnight. A blonde figure ran desperately towards him. “Riley!” she called. “Riley! Wait up!”

He turned, boarded the helicopter, and it took off, carrying him away to Guatemala. Not Belize. That was a cover story. The SAS are quite capable of handling any hostile activity in Belize, demonic or not, thank you.

The blonde figure stood on the ground below, shaking her fist. “Bastard!” she shouted. “I thought we had a thing going. Why do men always leave?” Harmony threw the cock ring to the ground and stormed off.

- - - - -

Joyce was discharged from hospital. There was ample money available from the walrus fund to employ a live-in attendant to look after her full time, and so the Summers women availed themselves of that option, thus freeing Buffy to continue Slaying.

Giles went away on a trip to Europe. He wanted to search for information on Glory in the Watchers’ Council records and also to see if they could shed some light on any particular mystical properties of the walrus.

While he was away Willow and Anya got into a row which resulted in them accidentally summoning a troll.

An exceptionally mighty troll, Olaf, once a Viking warrior, who had been Anya’s boyfriend until he cheated on her and she had retaliated by transforming him. As a troll Olaf had risen to chieftainship, had been proclaimed as a minor god, and he had been awarded a mighty hammer which amplified his already formidable powers. Then, however, witches had imprisoned him in a crystal for several terminally boring centuries. He emerged to find himself confronted by his ex and a witch and that didn’t put him in a good mood at all. Olaf stormed out onto the streets of Sunnydale ready for some major pillage and destruction. Some ravishing wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

Alas for Olaf he was quickly defeated by Buffy, Spike, Xander and Willow. Olaf was sent back to the Land of Trolls. That turned out to be Bergen, Norway, where these days he runs a gift shop selling troll memorabilia and he is a leading light in the local chapter of the Scandinavian Hells Angels.

- - - - -

The Watchers’ Council sent a delegation to Sunnydale to assess Buffy’s worthiness before they would give her their information on Glory. They questioned Xander, Willow, Tara, Anya, Spike, and Harmony. Buffy was particularly worried about what they’d make of Harmony but, as it happened, they thought that the Slayer’s use of paid informants and hired muscle in the demon community was eminently sensible.

They would probably have deemed her worthy anyway but Buffy didn’t wait for their decision. Glory called in at Revello Drive to threaten Buffy in person. Buffy was scared that her mother might get caught up in the battle, and so she called Spike over to guard Joyce, and then Buffy set off to hear the result of the assessment by the Council. On the way she was attacked by a group of knights in armor who told her that they intended to destroy the Key.

Buffy wasn’t in the best of moods when she arrived at the meeting, and took control. She pointed out the uselessness of Watchers without a Slayer and demanded that they give her the information and reinstate Giles. Rather to her surprise Quentin Travers, the Council head, agreed to her terms.

He told her that Glory was a God. One of a triumvirate who had ruled a Hell dimension, until the other two had conspired to exile her to Earth. She was immortal, invulnerable, insane, and sustained her existence by sucking out the energies from human brains.

So, probably not someone who would be a welcome guest at Buffy’s forthcoming 20th birthday party, then.

- - - - -

The poolside was a natural venue for the party. All of the gang were invited, including Spike and Harmony, who were now obviously no longer a couple. Harmony gave Buffy a Beanie Baby Unicorn as her present. Buffy pretended to be delighted, said that it would make an ideal accompaniment for her pig Mr. Gordo, and she confirmed Harmony’s pay rise to 500 dollars per week. Not that Harmony was really worth that amount; Spike was a Master Vampire, with a hundred and twenty years of combat experience, who had killed two Slayers and at least one other Master Vampire, whereas Harmony had less than two years experience, had killed only one demon and a couple of fledgling vampires, and was barely more combat-capable than was Xander. However she did come up with occasional useful pieces of information, even vital on one occasion, and Buffy had decided that overpaying her was less hassle than either staking her or listening to her complaints. Now that the relationship with Spike was over money was the only lever keeping the Ditziest Vampire on side. Might as well use it. There were limits to how much trust could be placed in the vampire, of course, and so Buffy waited until after Harmony had departed before telling the gang about Paul’s identity as the Key.

Buffy was not yet willing to be completely open about her relationship with Spike, which made for some awkwardness at the party. However she couldn’t fool Willow, who recognized the signs and resolved to pump Buffy later. Willow giggled to herself as it occurred to her that Spike probably had exactly the same intentions only in a more physical sense.

The revelation about the walrus had an unfortunate side-effect. Xander dropped a glass at the edge of the pool. It shattered and a shard sliced into the huge pinniped. Paul bled profusely, although no serious harm was done, and Xander was more upset than was the walrus. However Spike noticed something peculiar. Paul’s blood smelled exactly the same as Buffy’s.

- - - - -

Giles’ research into the myths and legends surrounding walruses produced nothing useful. Inuit tales about walruses being produced from the knuckle joints of the goddess Sedna’s severed fingers were of no help. In desperation he followed the clue in the walrus’ name, from the line ‘now here’s another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul’ in the Beatles’ song ‘Glass Onion’, and he searched for inspiration in the lyrics of ‘I am the walrus’.

Nothing there seemed to be of any help. Pure nonsense. And then Glory turned up and attacked, Willow and Tara temporarily defeated her by teleporting her a mile away horizontally and half a mile vertically, and Giles thought again of the line ‘see how they fly like Lucy in the sky’. Was there some meaning there after all?

He studied the song again, saw references to Spike in a couple of the other lines, and thought about ‘Boy, you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down.’ He decided to test his theory. “Buffy,” he asked, “are you – ah – in a sexual relationship with Spike?”

Buffy did an impression of a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching truck. “Eww!” she replied unconvincingly. “What makes you think that?”

“A prophecy,” Giles told her.

Buffy relaxed a little. “Oh, well, I might have allowed a little contact. ‘Cause, well, evil soulless vampire, but he has that hot body, well, ‘cept for being room temperature, and killer cheekbones, and – is it really a prophecy or has Willow been talking?”

Giles didn’t approve of a relationship between the Slayer and an evil, soulless, vampire but at least Spike was a known quantity. Unlike Angel he couldn’t lose his soul and turn evil because, as the Californians would say, ‘hey, already there’. If the chip malfunctioned and enabled Spike to be a killer again his sleeping with Buffy would not make matters any worse. His liking for Joyce appeared to be absolutely genuine, and dated back to before the days of the chip, and Giles decided that the relationship between Buffy and Spike was fairly irrelevant to the current situation. He restricted himself to urging her to come clean about the relationship to the rest of the group.

Buffy revealed that she had confided in her mother right from the start, Willow had already guessed, Harmony knew too, and Buffy was fairly sure that Anya had strong suspicions. Only Giles and Xander had been in the dark and so now it only remained to confirm Anya’s suspicions and to tell Xander.

Giles dreaded the revelation, expecting Xander to explode in fury. To his surprise nothing of the sort occurred. Xander and Spike had bonded over their mutual liking of the walrus, and some admiring comments Spike had made to Xander about his heroism when facing the mighty troll Olaf, and the fireworks turned out to be a damp squib.

- - - - -

The real bombshell went off without any of the gang noticing. Ben, the hospital intern who was the human host for the goddess Glorificus, was assigned to a home visit to Joyce. While he was there he took the opportunity to take a look at the household’s exotic pet. By ill chance one of Glory’s brain-suck victims was in the area at the same time. The Key’s true form was, of course, visible to the insane. The lunatic’s babbling revealed the walrus’ secret to the goddess’ human incarnation. Although Ben was adamantly opposed to Glory’s plans, and there was no immediate danger from Ben’s discovery, it was the first crack in the veil of secrecy.

- - - - -

Now that Buffy and Spike’s relationship was out in the open the only members of the group not getting any boinking action were Giles, Joyce, and Harmony. Giles was accustomed to going without, Joyce was still recovering from her illness and was not thinking along those lines, but Harmony wasn’t happy. She made a pass at Giles, rather to his horror, and although he tried to let her down lightly she still ended up getting embarrassed and upset. She couldn’t find a vampire boyfriend, as her position on the Slayer’s payroll was becoming known throughout Sunnydale, and there was a price on her head. She had no luck in finding a suitable human either. She began to think about leaving Sunnydale and trying her luck in pastures new. So it was that Harmony, lonely and miserable, was alone in the crypt when Drusilla returned.

The crazy vampire girl was seeking Spike in the hope of bringing him back into the fold for a renewed career of carnage and destruction. In his absence she latched onto Harmony, seeing her as a useful minion. She dragged Harmony around Sunnydale with her, killing and feeding, while a terrified Harmony smiled and pretended to be enthusiastic. Until Harmony seized a moment when Drusilla was fully occupied with a kill and shot Drusilla in the back with her crossbow.

Drusilla exploded into dust. Her victim turned thankful eyes upon his savior. Harmony debated with herself for a moment. Should she eat him? If Buffy found out then she was toast. Better not. Instead she boinked the guy. Alas, her hopes for a relationship ended when she slipped into game face at the moment of orgasm. No amount of assurances that she was a good vampire could calm him down enough for him to regain his erection, and so Harmony was alone again.

Her next dilemma was over what to tell Buffy and Spike. Drusilla had totally been major league, right? Killing her was definitely justification for the five hundred dollars a week. Maybe even grounds for a rise above that. On the other hand Drusilla had been Spike’s sire, his Dark Princess, and he probably wouldn’t be thrilled to hear that Harmony had terminated her with extreme prejudice. She decided to downplay her report, simply telling them that she had killed a vampire from out of town and had saved a local, and then to leave Sunnydale before the full facts emerged.

She asked Buffy for a reference and set off for Los Angeles to seek employment with Angel Investigations. There she had a successful career, happily reunited with her friend Cordelia, until she moved on to become the stunt double for Jennifer Garner on ‘Alias’ and ‘Daredevil’. At least in nighttime and interior shots.

- - - - -

The gang encountered a robot girlfriend, manufactured by a genius student with seriously deficient social skills, who had abandoned the mechanical masterpiece when he found himself a Real Girl. The robot was searching for her boyfriend, and spreading chaos in her wake as she followed the inexorable logic of her programming.

Tracking down the robot, rescuing the Real Girl from its jealous fury, and defeating the love machine in battle was almost light relief for Buffy after her experiences with Glory.

Gloom descended again shortly afterwards. Joyce had been feeling well enough to go out on a date, and had had a wonderful time, but while Buffy was out battling the robot Joyce experienced some impairment of her vision. She would have dismissed it as unimportant but the care attendant suspected that it might be a sign of possible cerebral aneurysm, and insisted on Joyce’s immediate admission to hospital. The attendant was right. The aneurysm ruptured even as Joyce was being examined.

Had Joyce not already been in the hospital she would almost certainly have died. As it was they saved her life, but she was hospitalized for eight days and came out with some impairment to her speech and loss of function in her left leg and arm. The care attendant was now obviously an essential part of the household and the walrus, source of the funds which made the permanent care possible, was Joyce’s lifeline. Protecting Paul from Glory was now more important than ever.

- - - - -

Extract from Giles’ Journal:

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together
Perhaps a reference to the spell with which we defeated Adam? Should we employ it once more against Glory?

See how they fly like Lucy in the sky
Might this refer to Glory under the influence of the teleportation spell?

Yellow matter custard
The slime of the Queller demon?

Crabalocker fishwife
Anya? She seems to be obsessed with crustaceans and she was rabbiting on about a world without shrimp last year.

pornographic priestess
Glory herself? April the sex-bot?

Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down
Buffy’s liaison with Spike, apparently.

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain

Myself and Spike? On the night that Sineya visited us in our dreams Xander dreamed that he met Spike and I, in a garden, and I was teaching Spike to be a Watcher. Should I work more closely with Spike? He rebuffed my approaches last year, insisting that only financial necessity was driving him to give us even the slightest assistance, but since Buffy has been paying him a regular salary his cooperation has been totally unstinting.

Expert textpert
Willow?

choking smokers
Spike?

Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?
Xander?

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe


Still a complete mystery, I fear. Yet the feeling grows that the solution lies somewhere in these apparently nonsensical phrases. Spike’s discovery that the walrus’ blood is identical to Slayer blood could be of deep significance. ‘I am the walrus.’ I wonder…

- - - - -

Ben might have been qualified as a doctor but he wasn’t the sharpest scalpel in the operating theatre. His method of coping with time-sharing his body with a psychotic hell-goddess was to ignore the problem and hope that it would go away. Occasionally this led to him doing ruthless things, such as summoning the Queller demon to get rid of Glory’s trail of insane victims so that he wouldn’t keep being confronted with them at work, and occasionally it led to him doing downright stupid things, like continuing to keep in touch with the attractive Miss Summers even after he’d accidentally discovered that her exotic pet was The Key.

One of Glory’s minions, Jinx, noticed Ben in the vicinity of the Slayer’s house more often than his medical duties made strictly necessary, and approached him to ask if he had picked up any clues to the identity of the Key.

There was a sense in which Ben was in a win-win situation with regards to the Key. If Glory failed to obtain the Key in time to catch the window of opportunity for its use she would begin to weaken and lose her ability to take over Ben’s body. Within a couple of years she’d have faded to the point where his life could be his own. On the other hand if she obtained, and used, the Key he’d get sole occupancy of his body back immediately. The snag was that Glory’s escape from Earth would be much more like ejecting from an airplane than like abandoning a ship, and it wouldn’t leave the planet in a very habitable condition behind her. The minions had attempted, not entirely successfully, to keep that little detail from Ben. He had picked up enough to be aware that handing the Key to Glory was not necessarily in his own best interests.

Ben knew that Joyce Summers’ financial security, and thus her ability to afford the bills for full-time medical care, depended on the continuing existence of the walrus and so Ben refused to help Jinx. Unfortunately he let slip that he would be jeopardizing an innocent if he revealed anything, and so the demon jumped to the conclusion that the Key was in human form.

As soon as he’d reported that back to his mistress Glory sent her minions out, to observe the Slayer, and to see if she was treating any of her companions differently to the others. Logically one of them must be the Key and that one would be getting the most care and protection. Joyce Summers could be ruled out, as the Slayer must have already had a mother, but one of the others had to be the object of Glory’s search.

Meanwhile Spike had gotten into trouble with a human. A disagreement over a pool game had escalated to the point where the man had punched the vampire. Spike couldn’t retaliate, because of the chip, and the human hit him again. Xander broke up the one-sided fight and rescued Spike, who was grateful, but also humiliated and resentful. However the man had jumped Spike again later, taking advantage of the vampire’s inability to hit back, and had beaten him up. Buffy decided she should find the man and forcibly discourage him, perhaps breaking one or two non-vital bones in the process, but she was unable to do so immediately as Giles wanted her to go on a vision quest. It was to help her to gain focus and hopefully to acquire some extra abilities that would make her less outclassed by Glory.

She set off with Giles for a sojourn in the desert. Her goodbyes to the Scoobies included entreaties to Xander, Willow and Tara to look after Spike and protect him while she was away. Glory’s spying minions overheard these farewells and completely misinterpreted the situation.

Xander paid a visit to Spike’s crypt. He brought a couple of videos, and a six-pack of beer, intending to keep the vampire occupied so that he didn’t go out to the Bronze and get jumped by that jerk again. Spike recognized the intent and again he felt humiliated. Some Big Bad he was these days. Helpless against a run-of-the-mill human. Being protected by a carpenter. He felt like snapping at Xander, pushing him away. ‘Cept, Xander was a pretty decent bloke, really. Brave, yeah, fighting all these years at Buffy’s side when he had no super-powers whatsoever. And the videos were a good idea; giving him an excuse, a way to take advantage of the protection without having to admit to it.

“You brought monster movies?” Spike grinned. “Coals to bloody Newcastle, mate.”

“Hey, I watch human movies,” Xander pointed out. “Anyway, ‘Innocent Blood’. Ann Parillaud, nakedness, with handcuffs.”

“Point,” Spike conceded. “But ‘Godzilla’? What Puff Daddy does to ‘Kashmir’ is bloody shameful.”

“Okay, but this is the movie, not the soundtrack album. And it has Jean Reno,” Xander riposted.

“How come all the pluses you come up with are sodding French?” Spike grumbled, but grinned again. “Okay, mate, can’t really argue. Open a can, I’ll get out the Cheetos.”

Their viewing was interrupted before Anne Parillaud’s character had killed the first mobster.

The crypt door was flung open and a horde of Glory’s minions entered. “Gentlemen,” Jinx began, “I’m so sorry to intrude, but I wonder if I might beg a moment of your time?”

“Run for it, mate,” Spike urged Xander, reaching for a weapon.

One of the demons punched Xander before he could move and another leaped for Spike. A melee began; Spike crushed a beer can on a minion’s head, kicked another, and was just in the process of breaking Jinx’s arm when another demon hit him behind the ear with a cudgel. He sagged, his strength draining away, and his arms were seized. Xander tried to free him but was knocked unconscious, before he could achieve anything, and Spike was dragged away.

- - - - -

Buffy met the First Slayer in the desert and was cryptically informed that death was her gift, and that love would lead her to her gift. She should love, give, and forgive.

“Color me perplexed here,” she told Giles on her return. “Not really getting the picture.” She frowned. “Love, give, forgive. Death is my gift. She can’t mean Spike, surely? I mean, dead guy. Done lots of bad things. But he loves me, is being pretty good these days. Am I supposed to forgive him? Love him back?”

“You know that I don’t really approve of your relationship with him, Buffy,” Giles told her, “but I have to admit he has been of great help to us recently. I believe that, despite his soulless status, he really does love you. The First Slayer may indeed mean something of the sort. Together you are stronger than the sum of your parts. I’ll probably get dismissed from the Watchers’ Council again for saying it, but, perhaps the First Slayer is indeed urging you to commit yourself to Spike.”

Buffy frowned and pursed her lips. “It’s a big thing. Swimming, and watching movies, going dancing, and, yeah, kissage, that’s one thing, but love? When he doesn’t have a soul?” She shook her head briefly, and then a thought crossed her mind and her frown disappeared. “Hey, maybe the First Slayer means Angel. Maybe I should call him.”

Giles groaned inwardly. Spike was evil, irritating, addicted to bad TV, smoked too much, and was tenuously held on the side of good by a microchip, five hundred dollars a week, and shagging the Slayer, but at least he wasn’t Angel. “You must do as you think best, Buffy,” he said as neutrally as he could manage. “For now, I think that we should return to Sunnydale.” ‘I’ll have a little talk with Spike once we’re there,’ he thought. ‘Suggest that he give her a red rose or two, perhaps, or some earrings. Two Englishmen abroad have to stand together against the Irish.’

- - - - -

Xander stumbled into his apartment clutching his head. Anya was lying dozing on the couch. “You’re very late,” she grumbled, raising herself on one elbow. “I stayed up as long as I could, but it’s almost morning now, and I’m not sure I have the energy for any orgasms by this – Xander! You’re hurt!”

“Yeah, I had sorta noticed,” he replied, as Anya rushed to fuss over him. “Ahn – Glory’s minions grabbed Spike. Knocked me out and I think they dragged him off. Glory has him.”

“Oh crap. Bye bye walrus,” Anya said. “I’m sure she’ll offer Spike much more than five hundred dollars.”

“Or just rip the secret out of him,” Xander suggested. “Either way, he’s going to tell Glory where she can find her Key. No more walrus, no more care attendant for Mrs. Summers, and we’re going to find out what the Key opens. The word ‘Hellmouth’ tends to come to mind.”

“Yeah,” Anya agreed. “Unless we can shut his mouth before he talks.”

“Without Buffy?” Xander shook his head. “Not much of a chance. Still, if we get Willow and Tara, and are ready to move the second the Buffster gets back, we might just do it. I suppose we have to try.”

- - - - -

There wasn’t anything in Spike’s world that wasn’t agony.

“You’re a very annoying vampire,” Glory told him angrily. “All I want is my Key. Is that so much to ask? Just tell me which one of Slutty the Vampire Slayer’s irritating little friends is the Key and I’ll stop hurting you. If you hurry up you might even have some bones left unbroken by then.”

Spike considered his options. Tell the truth? Give her the walrus, and take away the income that provided the medical care for Joyce Summers? Not a chance. Drop one of the Scoobies in the shit? Sweet, gentle, yet spirited Tara? Willow, who he’d admired for years? Xander, who had been pretty damn decent lately? Anya, honest and funny? Giles, a fellow Englishman? No way. Some outsider? Spike wouldn’t give a toss about a random Happy Meal, yeah, but how could he make it convincing? About the only logical prospect would be Joyce’s live-in carer, and throwing her to Glory would be putting Mrs. Summers at risk. Stuff that for a game of soldiers.

It looked as if he had only two options. Keep his mouth shut until Glory’s relentless beating and slicing did so much damage that it reduced him to dust, or escape.

Allowing himself to be beaten to death was the easy option. Escape would be hard. He was held in chains that he might just be able to break if he had room to move, and something to brace himself against, but as it was, hanging from them, he didn’t have a hope. Only someone much stronger than him, stronger even than the Slayer, could break them at this angle.

Someone as strong as Glory.

- - - - -

Buffy and Giles walked into 1630 Revello in the early morning, entering quietly to avoid disturbing Joyce, and found the gang there waiting for them.

Buffy took one look at their faces and wigged. “What’s wrong? Is it Mom? Is Mom all right?”

“Yeah, your mom’s fine,” Xander assured her. “It’s Spike. Glory’s hobbits with leprosy grabbed him and dragged him off. Glory has Spike.”

Buffy’s stomach twisted. “Oh,” she said, trying to conceal the panic that rushed through her. ‘So not going to let them see how much it matters to me,’ she thought, and aloud she continued “Is that all?”

To her surprise she was met by disapproving frowns from Tara, from Willow, from Giles, from Anya, and even from Xander.

“Buffy!” Willow said in a shocked voice. “She’ll hurt him.”

Giles took off his glasses and began to clean the lenses. “Your casual attitude to this development disturbs me, Buffy,” he said. “I hardly think that the First Slayer would approve.”

“He can’t give you orgasms when he’s being held captive or tortured,” Anya pointed out.

“What happened to the ‘take care of Spike while I’m gone’, Buff?” Xander asked. “This vision quest thing turned you gay or something? Thought you’d be all upset.”

Tara put it most bluntly. “What did you say? ‘Is that all?’ Are you nuts?”

“Jeez, guys, can’t you tell when I’m just trying to stay calm? Of course I’m worried sick,” Buffy admitted. She headed for her weapons chest and pulled out an axe. “I’m going to get him back. Coming with?”

- - - - -

“This is where me and Spike killed that cobra demon thing,” Buffy told the gang. “It was heading for those apartment blocks. They’re pretty up-market, it seems the right kind of place for a hell-goddess who wears Jimmy Choos. Let’s check them out, starting with the priciest-looking.”

“Buff,” Xander said hesitantly, “suppose he’s sold you out? I mean, if she offered him a million dollars or whatever? Should we be making back-up plans to take the walrus and run?”

“It so won’t be easy running with a walrus,” Buffy pointed out. “Anyway, no way would he sell me out. The money only matters to him because it makes him a professional. He said I’d given him his self-respect back. Selling out and self-respect don’t seem to go together. Come on, let’s do this.”

- - - - -

“And what kind of goddess is too dumb to make sure that her silicone implants match?” Spike asked rhetorically through swollen lips. “You’re off by a whole cup size, moron.”

“They’re natural, dumbass!” Glory protested. She was growing angrier and angrier. “Shut up! I command you. I am a god.”

“The god of what, bad home perms?”

Glory turned away from him and clutched at her hair. “Aargh!” she growled. “Shut up!”

‘She’s bound to snap before long,’ Spike thought. He glanced up and checked that he’d worked the chains into a suitable position against the hook from which he hung, and went back to taunting the hell-goddess. “Sorry, but I just had no idea that gods were such prancing lightweights. Mark my words, the Slayer is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish, fashion victim ex-god like you.”

Glory lost it. She whirled around and kicked Spike in the chest, breaking two of his ribs, but also snapping the chains and sending the vampire flying through the air to burst through the apartment door and out into the hallway.

“Good plan, Spike,” he muttered, blood trickling from his mouth, as he picked himself up and scrambled away. Glory’s minions followed in hot pursuit.

Spike made it to the elevator shaft, pried open the doors, dropped down on top of the passenger car, and then forced open the emergency hatch. He staggered out at the ground floor only to see Glory’s demons charging down the stairs. Spike stood at bay. He couldn’t outrun them in his present state, nor could he defeat them; all he could do would be to sell his unlife as dearly as possible.

And then Buffy entered the lobby, a battleaxe in her hands, followed by Xander with a crossbow.

Spike grinned, sighed with relief, and passed out.

- - - - -

“Man, you are so trashed,” Xander remarked, as he held a mug of blood for the vampire to drink.

“Thanks for pointing it out, wouldn’t have bloody noticed,” Spike muttered. “Where am I?”

“My place,” Giles informed him. “You’re in no shape to stay in your crypt. Buffy would have liked to have you, and Joyce would have been only too happy to go along, but you’d be something of a shock to the carer, so we brought you here.”

“No chaining me up in the bath this time?”

“This time you’re an honored guest,” Giles assured him. “I’m proud of you.”

“Ta, mate,” Spike replied, managing to look as if he was blushing despite vampire physiology. “Means a lot.”

“That was one whole lot to go through for the sake of a walrus,” Xander observed, shaking his head. “I mean, I like Paul too, but, oh man.”

“Not just for the walrus, mate.” Spike took a long drink of blood and swallowed with some difficulty. “Joyce needs the money. Wasn’t going to let her down. She’s a real lady. Worth a bit of pain. And if anything happened to her it’d destroy Buffy. Rather let Glory kill me than have that happen.”

“I’m just saying, man, you took a hell of a beating.”

“Yeah. Wonder if that Glory bint’s Norwegian?”

Giles pushed his glasses further up his nose and came to attention. “Why do you say that? You have some clue as to her origin? There is the walrus connection.”

“Nah. Just me being English.” Spike grinned. He adopted a lilting Scandinavian accent, and quoted, “You know. ‘Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Atlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana. Maggie Thatcher. Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher? Your boys took one hell of a beating. Your boys took one hell of a beating’.”

Giles burst into laughter. Xander stared blankly until Giles took pity on him and explained. “It’s a famous speech by a Norwegian football commentator, after a match in which Norway beat England at Wembley. Real football, that is, not the slow-motion Rugby in armor you Colonials play.” He turned back to Spike. “You did indeed take a hell of a beating, and you took it like a man. A hero.”

“Not any kind of sodding hero,” Spike muttered, trying to hide his pleasure. “Evil vampire here.”

“Have it your way, Spike. When you’re feeling a bit better, I’d value your opinion on some analysis of Beatles’ lyrics I’ve been doing. I think Lennon and McCartney were manipulated into writing a prophecy concerning the Key when they thought they were simply writing nonsense, and you’re the only one around other than me who can remember the times in which they wrote.”

“What, ‘I am the walrus’ and all that? ‘Hello Goodbye’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, and so on?”

“Good Lord! Could it be that simple? ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Of course.”

Spike and Xander both looked at Giles as if he’d gone mad.

- - - - -

Giles now knew what to do but putting his plan into practice was not going to be easy. “Why couldn’t those monks have sent the Key to Buffy in the form of a Chinchilla?” he muttered, as he searched Sunnydale for a vehicle capable of transporting the entire Scooby gang plus a one and a half ton walrus.

Meanwhile, Ben was fired from his hospital job because of excessive absences and bringing his cross-dressing habits into the workplace at times and places embarrassing for patients and staff. A mixture of interest in Buffy, and abject stupidity, caused him to keep dropping in on Joyce Summers to help out. Giles noticed his willingness to help and, unaware of Ben’s other identity, he incorporated Ben into his getaway plan.

Glory, when not being Ben, was working from the premise that the Key was indeed one of the Scooby gang and Jinx had simply picked the wrong one. She deduced that Tara, the newest member, must be the Key and decided to seek her out personally rather than leaving the job to the minions.

Tara and Willow had a lovers’ tiff which resulted in Tara going to the fair alone. Glory caught her there but discovered that the witch wasn’t the Key after all. The hell goddess lacked the patience for a proper torture session and simply crushed Tara’s hand in a hasty attempt to get her to talk. Tara withstood the pain, and remained silent, and so Glory sucked out her sanity. No information on the Key, worse luck, but at least she was up by a good meal.

Willow arrived moments too late to intervene and found Tara bleeding and babbling incoherently. She took her lover to hospital and then set off for revenge. Buffy urged her not to do anything rash, and Willow seemed to have taken note of the advice, but as soon as the Slayer was out of the way Willow raided the Magic Box for dark magic and then set off on a one-woman assault on Glory’s apartment.

Spike guessed what Willow would do, tipped Buffy off, and the Slayer arrived at the apartment in time to save Willow from Glory’s berserk fury. Willow had actually managed to hurt Glory briefly, a major achievement, but it hadn’t lasted. If Buffy hadn’t rescued her Willow would have been killed.

When Tara was released from hospital Willow took her to Revello Drive. They sat by the walrus pool, Tara babbling incoherently while Willow fed her yoghurt with crunchy cereal topping, and Buffy glumly contemplated the prospect of Glory ripping her way through the Scooby gang in a misguided search for the Key. Xander arrived and joined them.

Glory followed him. Tiptoeing, hands raised like claws, grinning all over her face. She planned to pounce and snatch him in full sight of the others, reveling in them being helpless to stop her. She peered round the corner of the house and heard Tara.

“Pretty green light,” Tara giggled, pointing at the walrus, and then she relapsed into gloom again. “Sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come,” she wailed. “Naughty girl I let my face grow long.”

‘The walrus is the Key!’ Glory realized. ‘I thought it was an unusual pet, but hey, this is California.’ She stepped back behind the house and debated her next move. Snatching and carrying off a ton and a half of marine mammal wouldn’t be easy even for her. Certainly she could take the weight but the stiletto heels of her shoes would be driven deep into the ground. It would be laborious, awkward, and undignified. She turned and headed back to her apartment to change into sneakers and clothes suitable for abducting a walrus. Jeans and a sweatshirt, perhaps.

On arrival at the apartment she felt her control slipping. Ben was taking possession of their shared body. “Not now!” she wailed, and then was gone. Ben was relieved to find himself in a place where he had easy access to his own clothes, for once, and he dressed and set off for the Summers’ house.

- - - - -

The throb of a mighty engine filled the air as a huge vehicle pulled up outside 1630 Revello Drive. The group by the pool went round to see what was going on, and stared in awe as Giles stepped down and came to join them.

“So, when Tara said we were waiting for the van to come, this is what she meant,” Buffy observed. “That is quite some van.”

“It’s an MCI E4500 fitted out as a luxury rock band tour bus,” Giles informed them. “There is ample room to sleep all of us, and it even has a swimming pool in the rear. We can accommodate Paul with ease.” He led them aboard and showed them round. “The windows are all tinted and we’ve found that they protect Spike adequately.” The vampire waved at them from his place behind the wheel. “We can set off on a magical mystery tour, and avoid Glory until the time for her ritual has passed, and none of us need be left behind to face her wrath.”

“Totally awesome,” Xander breathed, staring at the internal swimming pool.

“It was converted for use by Kid Rock on his most recent US tour,” Giles explained.

Wanna be a vampire baby,” Spike sang. “Drivin’ all night ‘cause I sleep all day, vampire baby, I can smell a Slayer a mile away…

Buffy ignored his Kid Rock impression. “Can we afford this?” she asked her Watcher.

“Just barely,” he told her. “It will take all of the walrus income to pay the rental. However, Spike has agreed to waive his salary for the time being, and I can pay for food and petrol, that is, gasoline, during our trip. Spike most generously left his DeSoto with the hire firm in lieu of a deposit.”

Buffy shot her vampire lover a grateful glance, and tried to silently signal him that she would make it up to him later, and then turned back to Giles. “Will we be able to get a supply of fresh clams for Paul while we’re traveling?” she asked. “He’s a fussy eater.”

“Ah, I’ve discovered that he likes canned pilchards if they are coated in semolina,” Giles assured her. “The answer to everything is contained within the Beatles’ song.”

“And the ‘Eiffel Tower’ bit?” Buffy asked.

“I’m afraid the significance of that still eludes me.” Giles shook off a sudden cold shiver that ran down his spine. “Perhaps it is something that we shall come upon during our travels.”

- - - - -

The tour bus trundled along desert roads. Paul splashed happily in the swimming pool. The manual warned against driving with the pool filled, of course, but the Scooby road trip was not according to the manual in any respect.

Joyce spent most of her time lying down. She still didn’t have full use of her leg and arm and was most comfortable that way. Ben had been recruited to act as her carer and to watch for any symptoms of another aneurysm. He had accepted the offer with alacrity, hoping to make headway with Buffy, but was at last coming to the conclusion that he had no chance with her whatsoever. She only had eyes for Spike.

Willow devoted herself to caring for Tara. Xander and Anya kept disappearing to do what they thought Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson had done on the bus, although in fact the two celebrities had not been dating at the time the singer had last used the vehicle. Still, the role-play kept them out of the way and occupied.

Giles and Spike took turns driving and they rapidly put a considerable distance between themselves and Sunnydale.

When not driving Spike was shagging Buffy, who was no longer bothering to deny that what was going on between her and the vampire was more than just kissing. He’d proven his loyalty, and his worth, and was entitled to reap the rewards.

- - - - -

A police car came into sight ahead, parked across the road, and several officers stood by it raising their hands in a signal to the tour bus to stop. “What now?” Giles muttered, beginning to slow down, and then he remembered a phrase in the song. ‘Mister city policeman sitting pretty little policemen in a row.’ Was this a foretold event, and so of more significance than it might appear on the surface? “Buffy,” he called. “Come here, and tell me if you can see anything unusual about those policemen up ahead.”

The Slayer joined him in the cab and peered ahead. “I’ve never seen cops with tattooed foreheads before,” she said.

“The Knights of Byzantium!” Giles exclaimed, alarmed, and stepped hard on the gas pedal. “Wake everyone. Prepare for battle.”

He spun the wheel, maneuvering around the car, and the bus lurched causing water to slosh over the edge of Paul’s pool. Scoobies came out of the compartments, grabbing for weapons, as a squadron of galloping cavalry emerged from some trees and charged towards the vehicle. An arrow bounced from a window and another penetrated the side of the bus.

See how they run, like pigs from a gun,” Tara babbled, clapping her hands. “Horsies.”

“Pigs from a gun, eh?” Spike echoed, slipping a shell into the breech of his shotgun. He opened a window a crack, poked out the barrel, and fired.

“Don’t hit the horsies!” Willow protested.

“Don’t have a bleeding choice, Red,” Spike pointed out. “If I aim at the knights my sodding chip’ll go off.”

“Pass the gun here, Spike,” Xander offered. “I don’t have a problem with shooting at guys who are firing arrows at us.” He took over the gun and fired, knocking a knight from his horse, and then broke the gun open to reload.

“Can’t you go any faster?” Spike moaned to Giles.

“We are carrying rather a lot of weight, you know,” the Watcher pointed out. “Feel free to jump out and lighten the load.”

“If it was dark that’d be an okay idea,” the vampire replied, “but I don’t feel like becoming Mr. Big Pile of Dust just to get you an extra half mile an hour. Hang on, I’ve got an idea.” He rushed off to the rear of the vehicle and pulled out the swimming pool’s plug. Water gushed from the vehicle and turned the dirt road into an instant quagmire in which the horses slipped and fell. The knights’ charge broke up, they reined in their horses, and soon they were left behind.

“That was a masterstroke, Spike,” Giles called, feeling guilty about his earlier comment.

“Like James Bond,” Xander agreed.

“Very cool,” Anya praised.

“So, pet, do I get a vodka martini? Shaken, not stirred?” Spike asked, raising one eyebrow at Buffy.

Buffy smiled at him. “You get the girl.”

- - - - -

They stopped at a gas station at nightfall to refill the swimming pool. They found the place deserted. The shop shelves were almost bare.

“Bankruptcy sale,” Anya read from a notice on the door. “I’m not surprised. This is a little used road, and it’s not at all an ideal place for a retail establishment.”

“Is the water supply still on?” Buffy asked anxiously. The walrus was protesting loudly at the empty state of his pool, and the noise was disturbing Joyce.

“Yeah, we have water,” Xander announced. “I’ll get a hose rigged up.”

The gang occupied themselves with refilling the pool and stretching their legs. They were suddenly interrupted by a flaming arrow hurtling through the air and piercing the gas station wall. The arrow was followed by a wave of charging knights.

A few minutes of confused melee followed. Eventually the knights fell back, leaving their general a prisoner in the Scoobies’ hands, and Willow put up a magical barrier to keep them away.

“What on Earth was all that about?” Ben asked.

Giles began to give him a summary of recent events while Buffy interrogated the general.

Gregor, the general, related the history of the Key and of the Beast, Glory, who sought to use it to return to her home dimension.

“She just wants to go home?” Buffy asked. “So what’s so bad about that?”

“She is locked out of her hell. The path is blocked by the power of two gods. To overcome that power she must unleash a force that will open all doors. This Earth will open to all dimensions, all worlds. Chaos will reign. Millions will die. It cannot be allowed. The Key must be severed. Such is the will of God.”

“You want to kill the walrus. Fine. Except, when the walrus dies, my mom’s income dies with it. She needs constant medical care. Insurance won’t cover it. So, you kill the walrus and you kill my mom. I’m not gonna let that happen.”

“It is the only way,” the general protested. “Perhaps we might come to some financial arrangement. I have no wish to bring harm to your mother.”

Buffy screwed up her forehead. “Maybe,” she replied. “I mean, I like Paul, but not millions of people worth. If you could cover Mom’s bills I might be willing to make a deal.”

“Sorry, no deal,” Glory’s voice interrupted them. Buffy turned and saw the goddess standing in the room, wearing a man’s shirt and jeans, the clothes much too big for her and slipping off her hips. Glory strode towards Gregor, tripped over the jeans, and fell flat on her face. Buffy kicked her twice in the head before the goddess could pull off the encumbering garments, but once she was free Glory simply tossed Buffy into the wall, picked up an old hub cap and threw it like a Frisbee to decapitate Gregor, and headed out of the gas station. Spike tried to stop her and was casually backhanded into Xander by the goddess. They didn’t even manage to slow her down.

The Scoobies attempted to pursue but they found that Willow’s barrier kept them in the gas station as well as keeping the knights out. By the time Willow had cancelled her spell and they could emerge all the knights were dead and the tour bus, containing the precious walrus, was a hundred yards away and accelerating.

Pretty little policemen in a row,” Giles muttered, looking at the dead bodies of those knights who had been impersonating police officers. They lay in a neat line among the corpses.

“They had a lot of options covered,” Spike observed, pointing to where an Inuit lay among the bodies, impaled by his own harpoon. “Ready for if we let Paul loose in the Pacific, I guess. Wonder if his name was Quinn?”

“If so, he proved insufficiently mighty,” Giles said grimly. “Glory has the Key. She will open the gates of Hell. We’re all doomed.”

“Least she doesn’t have Mom,” Buffy remarked. “Although, she seems to have taken Ben. Poor guy.”

“What are you talking about? Ben is Glory,” Spike told her.

“I wonder how Glory got in?” Buffy mused, ignoring Spike.

“Ben bloody turned into Glory!” Spike yelled. “We invited her along with us on this sodding road trip!”

“Perhaps she came in through the bathroom window,” Giles suggested, thinking of another Beatles’ song. “Are you implying that there is some sort of a connection between Ben and Glory, Spike? You think he tipped her off?”

“He didn’t sodding need to tip her off, they’re the same bloody person,” Spike howled in frustration. “Ben is Glory, Glory is Ben.”

“Hey, where’s Ben?” Xander asked. “Did Glory take him as well?”

Spike began to bang his head against the wall.

- - - - -

Halfway back to Sunnydale Glory turned back into Ben. He reversed the bus and headed back towards the gas station. The transformation lasted only moments and then Glory took over again. The barriers between the two personalities were beginning to break down, as the time for the ritual drew close, and they became able to communicate with each other.

Glory eventually persuaded Ben to cooperate. She reminded him that he would gain sole use of the body once she had departed, pointed out that killing the walrus as soon as she had stepped into the portal would close the dimensional doors once more, and Ben eventually agreed to stop fighting and go along with her plan. They set off for Sunnydale once more, now keeping to that direction regardless of which personality was in control.

Glory kept one little detail to herself. When she stepped through the portal and returned to her home dimension, thus handing sole control of the body over to Ben, the intern would find himself in mid air a hundred and eighty feet above the ground. Killing the walrus at that point wouldn’t really be a viable option.

- - - - -

The Scooby gang set off for the place at which they had first been ambushed by the knights. Xander drove the police car, Tara and Joyce in the back with Willow looking after them both, and Spike rode in the front passenger seat. The others rode on horseback.

They found the real policemen there, tied up in a ditch, and released them. They weren’t Sunnydale police; in fact the road trip had taken the gang over the State line into Nevada. These police took things seriously, and the gang were kept occupied in answering questions for so long that they began to fear that Spike would be caught by the sunlight. It worked out all right in the end and they were given transport home. A stolen vehicle report was put out on the tour bus. Officers were also asked to keep their eyes open for a walrus.

When they arrived back in Sunnydale they were informed that the bus had been recovered. There had been no sign of any walrus; merely empty cans of pilchards and packets of semolina. Oh well, at least they could stop making the massive rental payments.

Not that this would be any consolation if the insane goddess ripped open the barriers between dimensions, obliterated California, and possibly destroyed the world. They had to find her, and retrieve or kill the walrus, before the deadline arrived for the ritual. Tara was becoming increasingly agitated, babbling about ‘time, the time’, and it seemed a good bet that the moment was very near. Probably on the following day, ‘Stupid bloody Tuesday’.

Spike went off on a reconnaissance mission to Glory’s apartment. It was deserted. He found a room fitted out as a bachelor pad, with male clothes and medical gowns on hangers in the closet, and this confirmed the link between Ben and Glory. The others refused to listen to this when he reported back and Spike realized that Glory’s secret identity was protected by a spell. There was little he could do with the information at this time and so he just had to swallow his frustration.

Giles felt they needed to know more in order to successfully attack Glory. He had pondered over ‘I am the walrus’ over and over again and he could find no more clues within the lyrics. He decided to concentrate on more traditional Scooby research. Spike revealed that he knew of a sage who was said to have a wide store of information on major league demons, although his particular specialty was resurrection spells, and Spike thought the sage might have some information on Glory. Giles sent Spike off to seek aid from the sage, whose name was Doc, and sent Xander along too in case Doc was human and had an aversion to vampires.

The elderly man who greeted the two seekers after information seemed harmless enough. Small, hunched, wearing a dark suit and white shirt, he reminded Spike somehow of a penguin.

“What can I do for you boys?” Doc greeted them in friendly fashion. “I know you, don’t I? You’re that guy, hangs around at the corner mart. Big into dominoes.”

“No, you got the wrong bloke,” Spike told him. “We’re just after a bit of information.”

“Ben is Glory!” Xander suddenly blurted out. “He just suddenly changed.”

“Ah, spell’s wearing off,” Spike grinned. “You remember.”

“Yeah. Ben’s Glory and Glory’s Ben. It’s like this fog suddenly lifting.”

Doc gazed at them with a puzzled air. “So, how can I help you?”

“This hell god. Glory,” Spike began.

“Also known as Ben,” Xander interrupted.

“Or Ben. Anyway, Glory has stolen our walrus and wants to destroy the world. Was wondering if you’ve got any info on her. Any special way we can kill her, y’know, that sort of thing.”

“Glory,” Doc mused. “You don’t mean – Glorificus?”

“Probably,” Spike confirmed. Something was nagging at the edge of his mind. ‘Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.’ Doc reminded him of a penguin. Singing Hare Krishna? That implied a devotee of a cult. A worshipper. Could Doc be a worshipper of Glory? “What do you know about her?”

“Oh, she’s big city, you don’t want to get involved with her,” the sage told him. Spike detected a trace of nervousness. “I don’t know much.”

“You’re lying,” Spike accused flatly.

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” Doc said in mild tones. He leaped suddenly aside, snatched up a sword that was leaning against the wall, and aimed a slash at Spike. The vampire dodged. Xander punched the little man, knocking him into Spike, who knocked the sword from Doc’s hand.

Spike’s disarming move contacted Doc’s flesh but didn’t cause the vampire’s chip to fire. “Demon!” Spike said gleefully.

Xander stepped forward to punch again but Doc extended an enormously long tongue and lashed out at the young man.

“Yeah, demon,” Xander agreed. “Or half man, half frog.” He punched again at the demon sage.

Spike kicked Doc in the knee and sent him stumbling off balance. Xander landed a punch, Doc went to the floor, and Spike kicked him again. “Man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe,” Spike quoted. “Kick the bastard, Xander.” The carpenter complied enthusiastically.

Doc snarled, and lashed out with his tongue again. Xander snatched up the fallen sword and drove it through Doc’s torso. The tongue retracted and the demon sage went limp.

“Right,” Spike said. “Let’s see what he’s got that’s useful. Edgar Allan Poe. The Purloined Letter. That was hidden in plain sight.” He looked at a big wooden box that stood conspicuously on Doc’s table. “I wonder.” He wrenched open the box, pulled out a parchment, and scrutinized it hastily. “The Chronicles of Glorificus.” He looked at another one. “The Key; operational theory and practice.” Another. “Dud Czechs; why the monks of Prague should be hunted down and brutally killed.” He looked at Xander. “I think we hit paydirt.”

The two picked up the box, and a couple of books that lay on the table and looked interesting, and left. As soon as they were out of the room Doc opened his eyes, pulled the sword out of his chest, and stood up.

- - - - -

“It corresponds with what we learnt from the general of the Knights of Byzantium,” Giles informed the gang after reading the scrolls. “Glory will use the Key by means of a ritual bloodletting. The Key is a great force, linked to the power which lies behind Slayers. The blood will open the doors, knock down the barriers between dimensions, and reality as we know it will be destroyed. Chaos will reign. ‘Stupid bloody Tuesday’ indeed.”

It’s the end of the world as we know it,” Xander sang.

“Exactly,” Giles agreed soberly. “And I, for one, do not feel fine.”

“So how do we stop it?” Buffy asked.

“Once the ritual has started, it will continue until the blood has ceased to flow,” Giles replied.

“So, we slap a band-aid on Paul and that’s it?”

“Alas, no. There is a distinction in the verb which is not there in English. Active cessation of the flow, rather than the flow being stopped. In other words the heart must stop. There must be a death. The walrus must die.”

“And bang goes the inheritance. Greenpeace gets rich and Mom gets poor.” Buffy’s mouth set in a tight line. “Okay, better than California becoming a suburb of Hell, but not optimal. What other options do we have, Giles?”

“Stop Glory from starting the ritual. There is a fairly tight time frame in which she must operate. If we can keep her occupied long enough then the bloodletting would have no effect.”

“So, we don’t have to kill her. Good, ‘cause hey, not sure that’s possible. Just keep hitting her until the time’s up. If she does die, hey, bonus, but not the big thing. Try to keep her from killing us in the process.” Buffy looked around the Magic Box. “We should hit her with everything we have. Every weapon in our armory. Ideas?”

“The Dagon Sphere!” Anya remembered. “That glow-y thing you found near where you met the monk. It’s meant to repel Glory and we haven’t used it. It’s in the basement.”

“Yeah, nice one, Ahn,” Xander applauded.

“That’s a start. Anyone else got any ideas?” Buffy urged.

Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head,” Spike sang. “That big troll bugger had a hammer.”

“Olaf the Troll God,” Anya agreed. “You got to fight a god, use the weapon of a god. We’re cooking with gas now.”

Have you seen Polythene Pam?” Giles sang. Everyone looked at him blankly, even Spike. Giles grinned evilly. “I haven’t gone mad. I have a cunning plan.”

- - - - -

All of Glory’s brain-suck victims were feeling a pull towards the site of the ritual, growing stronger and stronger as the moment for the sacrifice approached. Those first to arrive had been pressed into the goddess’ service. The later ones merely milled around aimlessly in Glory’s vicinity.

The Scooby Gang had released Tara, once they realized that she was being summoned, and followed her to the location of the portal. They saw it and stopped, mouths gaping open in surprise. Spike spoke for all of them.

“Sodding buggering hell!”

The portal would open high above the ground. Glory’s minions had built a huge tower of scaffolding and scrap metal. The walrus had been winched up by the minions, and the brain-suck victims, and was now chained securely to a platform two hundred feet above their heads. Paul wasn’t happy and he was being very vocal about making his displeasure known.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower,” Giles muttered. “I think everything is more or less revealed now. Places, everybody. Ready, Spike? You are the eggman.”

“Yeah, I am the eggman,” Spike agreed. He looked round the group. “If I don’t make it, and I always knew I’d go down fighting, just want you lot to know, I might be a monster, but you’ve treated me like a man, and that’s…” his voice trailed off.

“You’ll make it, Spike,” Buffy assured him. “If I don’t make it, look after Mom.”

“Till the end of the world,” Spike promised. He looked up at the tower. “Even if that happens to be tonight.”

“We’re all going to make it,” Xander said confidently. “Look over there. I can work with that.”

- - - - -

Tara joined the mob of crazy victims near the base of the tower and picked up a brick, muttering to herself. Glory spotted her and moved to investigate. “You!” she snapped, seizing Tara by the shoulder and turning her around. “What are you doing here?”

“She’s with me,” Willow announced, popping up from behind a pile of rubble and grabbing Glory. She put one hand on Glory’s head, the other on Tara’s, and uttered a phrase. Energy streamed from the hell goddess to the witch. Glory screamed, and a blast of power blew the three of them apart. Willow was knocked back over the pile of rubble and disappeared. Glory fell to the ground.

“What the frigging hell did that bitch do to me?” Glory moaned, picking herself up as her minions ran to her aid and fawned over her. “She made a hole. I need a brain to eat.”

“Take mine, oh astounding one,” a minion offered.

“I said a brain,” Glory snarled. She saw a blond figure nearby. “Yours will do.” She stepped forward, saw who it was, and stopped in confusion.

“Sorry, can’t brain-suck a vampire,” Spike smiled. “Already tried that, remember?” He stepped aside, revealing a dark-haired woman with a fixed smile. “Try hers.”

“I’ll do that,” Glory told him, and advanced slowly. “Hey, what’s wrong with me?”

“Maybe this,” Spike suggested, raising a hand to reveal the Dagon Sphere, and then slipping it back into the pocket of his leather coat. “I am the eggman, goo goo g’joob.”

“Frigging vampire,” Glory growled, staggering towards the girl.

“Hello,” the girl greeted her brightly. “You took Warren from me. Combat mode engaged.”

“What the f –” Glory began, but she was cut off short as April’s fist hit her face with tremendous force.

Glory’s minions swarmed to attack. Spike hit one of them with an axe; April kicked another in the ribs and sent the demon flying.

“Back, you leprous morons,” Glory ordered. “This is a diversionary tactic. Guard the walrus. I’ll deal with these two.” She charged forward again. Spike kicked her in the face.

Eventually Glory managed to tear the Dagon Sphere from Spike’s pocket and hurl it to the ground to shatter. April stamped on her foot as she did so, and then caught her arm, pinning Glory long enough for Spike to deliver another couple of good kicks and an axe blow. Glory lashed out furiously again and again, hurting Spike but not putting him down, and taking damage herself in the process. The hell goddess was almost sobbing with frustration, and showing visible signs of tiring, when she finally connected with April’s head and knocked it from her shoulders.

“Hey, this girl’s a robot!” Glory exclaimed. “What the hell? Where’d they get a robot? What’s next?”

“This,” Buffy said triumphantly, running up behind her and swinging the troll hammer. Glory turned just in time to take the blow full in the face and was knocked flying.

“You’ve taken enough punishment, Spike,” Buffy told the vampire, who was looking rather battered. “Leave Glory to me. Go and help Giles.”

“Sure thing, pet,” Spike acknowledged. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Buffy called as he ran off to obey her.

“She loves me!” Spike yelled. He seized hold of Jinx. “You hear that? She says she loves me.”

“I know you should be glad,” the demon cringed, “but would you mind terribly letting me go?”

“Sorry, mate, you’re on the wrong side,” Spike told him. “Nothing personal.” He tore out Jinx’s throat and hurried off to assist the Watcher.

Giles and Anya were trying to force a way through the defensive line of crazies and minions but without success. Spike tried to help them, but too many of the opposition were human, and he was unable to make enough of a difference. However they kept the minions occupied and none were able to leave the defensive perimeter to climb the tower. There was no immediate prospect of the ritual being performed.

The battle between Glory and Buffy raged all around the base of the tower. Glory tried to make a break for the top but Buffy followed her and stopped her getting away. Both of them fell to the ground. Buffy dropped the hammer and lay temporarily stunned.

Glory picked herself up and stood panting. “You lost your hammer. What are you gonna hit me with now?” she said mockingly.

A wrecking ball, controlled by Xander, swung through the air and smashed into Glory, knocking her into a ruined building.

“Whatever’s handy,” Buffy grinned, picking herself up and retrieving the hammer. She gave Xander a thumbs-up and resumed her attack on Glory. Xander went to reinforce Giles, Anya, and Spike.

It seemed all was going to plan. Willow was back on her feet, cuddling a restored Tara, and scanning the area for magical threats. The stalemate at the base of the tower was all in favor of the Scoobies. Glory was now definitely getting the worst of her fight against the Slayer. And then there was a shimmering on the platform high above the ground. A shape appeared, solidified, and moved towards the walrus.

“Bugger!” Spike exclaimed. “Someone’s up there.”

“We gotta charge or something,” Xander said.

“Already tried that,” Anya pointed out.

“Spike, can you hear me?” Willow asked telepathically.

“Yeah, loud and clear,” the vampire confirmed.

“Is there someone up there with Paul?” Willow asked.

“Yeah, can’t tell who,” Spike replied.

“Are you talking to us?” Xander asked, looking at Spike as if he thought the vampire had gone mad.

“Get up there!” Willow ordered. “Go now.”

“Yeah, but –” Spike began.

“Now!” Willow commanded.

Spike obeyed. He leaped up and charged towards the minions. Willow let loose a blast of force, and cleared a path for him, and the vampire hurtled at top speed through the gap and up the tower.

When he emerged onto the top platform he saw Doc bent over the walrus. “Doesn’t a fellow stay dead when you kill him?” he asked rhetorically, advancing with axe raised.

“Look who’s talking,” Doc replied.

“Step away from the walrus,” Spike ordered.

“No, I don’t think I will.” Doc shook his head and raised a butcher knife.

Spike leaped forward and swung the axe. Doc ducked and plunged the knife into Spike’s stomach. Spike dropped the axe, which bounced on the platform and went over the edge. He pushed Doc away and took up a position between the demon and the walrus.

“You don’t come near Paul,” the vampire snarled.

“Why do you even care?” the dapper demon wondered, shaking his head. “I don’t smell a soul anywhere on you. Or a sole, for that matter. There’s something fishy going on in this plaice.”

Spike groaned. “I made a promise to a lady, mate,” he growled.

“I’ll send her your regrets,” Doc smiled, and advanced again. His tongue lashed out. Spike dodged and closed for a punch. Doc seized Spike, and pushed him towards the edge of the platform. As Spike’s foot skidded on the edge he pulled out the knife from his stomach and thrust it into Doc. The demon cried out in pain, thrust hard at Spike, and sent the vampire off the edge, only to be dragged after the vampire by the knife that was wedged in his chest. Both of them plummeted to the ground far below.

By now Glory, weakened by Willow’s reverse brain-suck spell and by a constant succession of blows, could no longer stand. Buffy hit her repeatedly with the troll hammer until the goddess suddenly morphed into a bloody and battered Ben.

Buffy threw the hammer to the ground. “Tell her it’s over,” she ordered. “She ever comes near me and mine again…”

“We won’t. I swear,” Ben croaked.

Buffy turned and raced for the tower.

Giles walked over to where the intern lay on the ground. He spoke briefly and then clamped his hand over Ben’s face and cut off the air supply until Ben was dead. There would be no return match.

Buffy reached the top of the tower and found Paul chained to the platform. She examined the chains and found that they were so thick that even Slayer strength would have no chance of breaking them. This wasn’t surprising, as anything intended to hold a ton and a half of angry sea mammal would have to be extremely strong, but it was frustrating. Still, there was no hurry.

Or was there? Doc had already made a long, shallow, slice in the walrus’ blubber before Spike arrived. A trickle of blood dripped onto the platform, ran along a sacrificial groove, and poured out into space. Where it hit the site of the portal a spark of blue light appeared. It grew into a circle, and then a hole. Buffy clawed at the chains, searching for the padlocks. She found one. The hasp was solid steel and half an inch thick.

The rent in space grew. A bolt of energy shot through it, struck a street light far below, and transformed it into a sinister obelisk carved with the face of a jaguar-headed Aztec deity. Another bolt turned a car into a giant blue beetle.

“Sorry, Paul,” Buffy muttered, tears beginning to run down her cheeks. “I’m going to have to kill you. Maybe Spike can rob a bank to pay for Mom’s medical bills.” She reached for a weapon and came up empty. No knives, no stakes, no troll hammer. She’d used up everything she had on Glory.

The portal grew wider. A dragon flew out through it and circled above the town, searching for prey. Lighting spat from the rift again, this time turning an apartment block into a Pueblo cliff dwelling inhabited by sentient marmots.

Buffy hit Paul across the neck with a karate blow that would have killed any human and probably decapitated any vampire. It had no effect whatsoever on the massive hulk of muscle and blubber, save to cause Paul to burble in confusion because his human seemed to be angry with him. The Slayer tried a kick with no greater success. “Once the blood starts to flow there has to be a death,” Buffy panted, trying to strangle Paul, but making no impression on the immense neck. “The hardest thing in this world is to kill a walrus with your bare hands.”

She looked at her arm, bleeding slightly from a graze suffered during the fight with Glory, and remembered what Spike had said about her blood and the walrus’ smelling identical, and Giles’ remark about the Key being linked to the force which created Slayers. “Death is my gift. Love will lead me to my gift,” she said slowly, looking over the edge to where Spike was dismembering Doc despite multiple broken bones. “I am the walrus.” Buffy stepped away from the walrus, looked at the portal, and began to run towards it. “See how I fly like Lucy in the sky see how I run, I’m crying.”

With one last cry of “I am the walrus” she launched herself into space and dived towards the portal. As she entered it the blue light was extinguished and the portal closed with a soft ‘pop’. Buffy emerged on the other side limp and motionless, fell the remaining one hundred and eighty feet to the ground, and hit with a wet ‘smack’.

The Scoobies gathered around her body. All were crying. Spike crawled over the rubble, leaving a trail of blood behind him, and cradled the Slayer in his arms.

“They are the eggmen,” Giles said sadly. “Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, won’t put Buffy together again.” He lifted his eyes to where a glow was appearing in the eastern sky. “Here comes the sun.”

THE END

The conditions of the Challenge were:

Vampire Kisses Challenge #3 – ‘Till the End of the World’
Make the Key into something other than human. Buffy and Spike still have to defend it with their lives and keep Glory from getting it. Must be a Spuffy story. The ending of The Gift must be intact.

* ‘ublarpaluk’ is Inuktitut for ‘Dawn’.

The End

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