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And The Answer Is –

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Summary: Buffy is convinced that someone has been systematically killing off the Scooby Gang, and is trying to track down the person responsible. Warning: Dark fic! Multiple character deaths described or mentioned.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Buffy-CenteredGreywizardFR18513,36802310,70720 Dec 1021 May 12Yes

Chapter One

Disclaimer: The Scoobies all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. Vic Creed also doesn't belong to me, but to Marvel comics. Any other crossover characters who might eventually show up don't belong to me, either. Deal with it. I have.

Category: Minor crossovers, but mostly takes place in just the Scooby-verse.

Time Frame: Approximately six years after 'Chosen,' and ignores Joss' Season Eight comic tripe completely.

Spoilers: None intended, but if you don’t know what happened up to this point, why are you reading this story?

Character Bashing: Nope.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author’s Note 1: Many thanks to Bill Haden and Theo (Starway_Man) for beta-ing this story.

As usual, “word” indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

Norristown
A suburb of Philadelphia, PA

May 2009


Buffy Anne Summers cursed under her breath as she wove her rented Ford Mustang back and forth between the various other cars and tractor trailers intermittently scattered along the highway, and which were impeding her way as she sped northward on I-476 before abruptly veering across two lanes of traffic to zoom down the Exit 20 off ramp and onto the puddle-filled westbound lanes of Germantown Pike.

The various problems she'd encountered on this trip so far, when added to the numerous other events that had comprised the past six years of her life, had done nothing except further convince Buffy that the Powers That Be, or the Fates or however else one might refer to whoever or whatever it was who was overseeing her life, were completely and totally determined to make sure that it was composed of nothing but aggravation, frustration, pain, regrets and feelings of utter helplessness – which only seemed to emphasize just how much she was unable to improve her lot in life in any way, shape or form.

Thinking back on everything that had happened since Sunnydale imploded, the Alpha Slayer realized that things had first started going downhill just about a year after they'd activated all the Potentials with the Scythe.

That had been when Kennedy's extended family had begun trying to influence the Council's various policies regarding both the training and deployment of the hundreds of new Slayers they were locating. They had been firmly of the belief that their having had provided some initially much-needed funding for the Sunnydale survivors' work entitled them to a significant voice in the operations of the new organization – something that other members of the group strongly disagreed with.

Xander, in fact, had resigned – although some people believed it had been more like forcibly kicked out – just about a month later, after a huge screaming-at-each-other-at-the-top-of-their-lungs argument with Kennedy over Council training policies and practices, as well as arguing with a number of the other Sunnydale survivors over allegations of favoritism and accusations that the Council was catering to Kennedy's family's wishes regarding placement of Slayers with family and business friends.

In fact, he'd been so angry at the recently Awakened Slayer that he'd taken a swing at her, which explained why he'd ended up spending three weeks in the Council hospital wing.

Or at least, that was the story that Buffy had been told, since she hadn't been present at said meeting; she’d been in Rome at the time. When she'd finally learned about the matter, it had been in an emailed notice of Xander's hospital discharge three and a half weeks after the incident.

The former carpenter's anger and hostility towards his former co-workers after ‘colliding’ with Kennedy and her supporters had evidently been so intense that Xander had decided to completely abandon any sort of interest in the ‘real’ world. After closing out all of his bank and trust accounts (including selling off his share of the stock portfolios Giles had signed over to the Scoobies as retroactive payment for their years of supporting Buffy when the original Council hadn't), the man had then apparently dropped off the face of the planet.

Harris had covered his tracks so well, in fact, that it had taken private investigators two months of intensive mundane effort, after both Willow and the Council's pet coven of witches had failed to locate the one-eyed former Scooby via their usual mystical ways before they were finally able to track Xander down to, of all places, Queensland, Australia, where the investigators had discovered he was pursuing an engineering degree at Griffith University.

Once they'd been apprised of his location, the Council's board of directors had sent Andrew and Rona with an invitation for Xander to rejoin the Watchers Council – an offer made subsequent to several demon groups' requests that their negotiations be handled specifically by 'the Slayer's White Knight,' following the board's realization that the missing one-eyed man had provided a previously unrecognized and unacknowledged credibility and integrity to their image that they were now sorely lacking.

Unfortunately, according to the trip report the pair had filed upon their return, Harris had simply stared at Andrew and Rona impassively when they had shown up at his apartment, listened to their request while standing in his doorway after refusing to invite them in, and had then simply said, "No. And tell those bastards not to bother me again," before slamming the door in their faces

In the months following Xander's departure, on the infrequent occasions when she'd considered his situation, Buffy had regretted that she hadn't been more outspoken in her defense of him during the Watchers Council's restructuring. But her then-intense liaison with the Immortal had distracted her from most of what she had considered the boring and mundane work of lower echelon paper-pushers in the London offices, and Buffy had been only peripherally aware of what had been happening to the other members of their group during her and Dawn's sabbatical in Rome.

And as it turned out, Xander's acrimonious departure portended what was just the start of several very, *very* bad years for the New Slayers and Watchers Council.

Andrew's suicide four months after Xander's rejection of the Council's offer of reinstatement, the former geek's rather extreme reaction to his well-deserved guilt over his responsibility for the deaths of twelve newly-Activated Slayers due to his mistranslation of an ancient Sumerian prophecy and his over-reaction to his being dumped by his then-current paramour, a quarter Sadecki demon named Pat, had taken them all by surprise – especially Buffy, who had been the one unfortunate enough to walk into the villa she and Dawn had been sharing with Wells in Rome and find his body dangling grotesquely from the silken rope secured to the ironwork railing lining the second floor balcony from which he had leapt.

Dawn's death the following May, though, was simply a case of extremely bad luck; with the young brunette having had the misfortune of being collateral damage in the assassination attempt initiated against her current boyfriend, Vic Creed, one of the Immortal's various business associates she'd met in the Eternal City.

Buffy had castigated herself severely, holding herself primarily responsible for her little sister's death because she knew that if she had not gotten involved with the Immortal, then Dawn would almost certainly have never met Creed, and therefore would never have been on his yacht when the bomb went off.

She'd never really ever gotten over her self-assigned guilt regarding Dawn's death, despite all of the advice and support her surviving friends had attempted to provide her, and Buffy had gone out of her way to avoid forming any new emotional bonds, throwing herself into her work as a method of evading any potential future relationships. And, she reluctantly admitted to herself, even those bonds of friendship she'd already possessed had been severely strained, in the years afterward.

The fact that Xander had exchanged barely a dozen civil words with her and had ignored the other Scoobies entirely – even Willow, whom Kennedy had been holding tightly by the arm – when he'd shown up for Dawn's funeral had made Buffy feel even worse, as she'd realized she'd lost yet another link to her past.

Dawn's demise had soon been followed by the deaths of Vi, Rona, Maribel, Colleen and many other Slayers whose names Buffy had been hard pressed to remember – hell, half of the missing Slayers' bodies had never even been found, she reminded herself sadly – all of them perishing or disappearing while patrolling and defending the hapless and helpless populace from the rapidly growing supernatural populations in the suburbs surrounding Cleveland and the various other cities unfortunate enough to be the sites of nascent newly formed Hellmouths.

Not that Buffy really cared all that much, but Riley and Sam Finn had died shortly thereafter, also, when their demon-fighting unit had been ambushed and all but wiped out by a large group of Fyarl demons while assisting their counterparts in Nicaragua.

The failure of Giles' 'classic' Citroen's brakes a mere six months after Dawn's death had left the Chief Watcher comatose for almost another full year before his aged body had finally given up the good fight, and he'd quietly passed away in his sleep shortly before Halloween of that year. And just as he'd done at Dawn's funeral, Xander had shown up only long enough to pay his respects, speak to Buffy for a scant few minutes and then leave, not even acknowledging the other former Scoobies' existence.

This time, when Willow had shrugged off Kennedy's arm and stepped up to try to speak with him, the former carpenter had simply ignored her greeting completely and walked around the redheaded witch to continue on to his rental car, not slowing his pace even the slightest bit. Buffy had thought that the distraught expression on Willow's face when she realized Xander had completely refused to even acknowledge her existence had been almost as painful for the witch as Giles' death had been to her.

And the former carpenter's reaction to Kennedy's attempt to forcefully make him stop and speak to the witch, by first tasering her, and then bludgeoning her unconscious with a lead-reinforced sap and a feral snarl on his face, had done nothing to improve the situation, at all.

Still, all that was only a momentary distraction. It had been Buffy's inheriting the lion's share of Giles' duties after his passing that had finally made her begin to realize the complex and intricate political give and take that her Watcher had always had to deal with, in addition to the normal problems involved in trying to prevent a never-ending series of apocalypses.

How the Watcher-In-Chief had ever managed to integrate coordinating precise, surgical attacks against dark warlocks and witches, arranging the dusting of hordes of bloodsucking vampires and preventing the rise of aspiring would-be Dark Lords with the best ways of determining and assigning rosters of hormonal, teenaged Slayers to the various cities and seats of power around the globe or approving the allotment of bodyguards to self-important politicians, dignitaries and businessmen – that was something Buffy swore she'd never understand, no matter how much time she might spend doing it.

It had been six months after Giles' funeral, shortly after the Council's annual commemoration of Sunnydale's collapse, when a UPS driver had dropped off a small package at the Council's Cleveland office. Inside the package was a worn and weathered leather eyepatch, as well as a small epoxy cube containing what appeared to be a human eyeball, and a typewritten note stating, "The One Who Sees won't be needing these, anymore."

Both standard forensic and non-standard arcane examinations of both the package and its contents, which had been dispatched from Johannesburg, South Africa, had yielded no information at all regarding the possible identity of the sender. Subsequent investigations into who or what had paid for the delivery produced nothing more than a description of a male Caucasian which could apply to approximately sixty-eight percent of the male population in Europe.

It was only after DNA tests had verified that the eyeball was, indeed, Xander's that Buffy had finally given up the last vestiges of hope she'd been holding in her heart regarding her old friend's survival. She had then sorrowfully added Xander's name to the list of honored dead maintained in the Council's main hallway, his name highlighted along with Giles', Dawn's and Andrew's as being one of the few original inhabitants and survivors of Sunnydale.

If her one-time friend had wanted to remain isolated and aloof from that part of his life after Sunnydale had gone the way of the dodo, she had figured, then fine – Xander had lived his own life by his own rules post-2003, and that was something he had earned after all his prior years of service.

What Buffy truly regretted, however, was that by doing so, Xander had left himself vulnerable to the attack of whoever it was that had decided to kill him, for whatever reason.

The next thing to go wrong, as far as Council business was concerned, had been Spike's dropping out of sight the following October, as was his usual habit around that time of year.

While he had no official position on the Council's executive board, both she and Dawn (back when the Key was still alive, Buffy had reminded herself regretfully) had both still looked to the bleached British vampire for suggestions and advice when it came to most things involving Slaying. And with Dawn gone, the Alpha Slayer had really missed having her former lover around to discuss the direction the board seemed to be heading in, regarding how they deployed some of the Slayers they were training.

It was the delivery of a DHL box containing the black leather coat Spike had kept as a souvenir after murdering Nikki Wood, together with a manila envelope holding a bag of ashes and a note to the Council's London office two weeks after his departure – and approximately six months after Xander's death/disappearance – which had somewhat belatedly started everyone's danger senses twitching again, since the lack of any further communication from whoever or whatever it had been who'd killed Xander had apparently lulled them all into an unmerited complacency.

The note had simply said, "Fangless is finally a good vampire, now."

As had been the case with the delivery of Xander's eye and eyepatch, the point of origin for the package – Saint Petersburg in Russia, this time – had provided no clues whatsoever about the identity of the person who'd mailed them Spike's duster and ashes. And something that had truly bothered Buffy was that none of the other Sunnydale survivors, aside from Willow, had seemed all that upset about the ensouled vampire's demise.

In fact, Buffy suspected that Robin was secretly delighted that the vampire who'd killed his mother (roughly thirty years ago, and long before he'd become a Champion of Light, she'd quickly reminded herself) had finally been dusted and erased from existence, although Wood had never really come right out and said as much.

Willow's and Kennedy's failure to return from their annual two-week long vacation in Rio the following April had caused a bit of a stir initially, given the way the two women preferred to micro-manage everything that fell under their area of responsibility. But it had been the delivery of a Fed Ex package, postmarked Hong Kong, three weeks later which set the Council's security forces scrambling on high alert.

The sight of both women's mounted and well-preserved smiling heads inside clear plastic bags amid the Styrofoam packing peanuts had proven unnerving – to say the least – and even Faith's hardened soul had been moved to mutter a short prayer under her breath, which had quickly turned into a furious curse upon finding the note, signed with a smiley-face, accompanying the package.

The rather macabre message had simply stated, "Hope these tokens brighten up your day as much as they did mine."

The screaming, fuss and furor that had followed *that* god-awful mess had nearly rivaled the assassination of a head of state, what with the way Kennedy's family had demanded that all of the Council's considerable resources immediately be focused on finding the people or beings responsible for this atrocity and then killing them, in a variety of extremely long and excruciatingly painful ways.

It had taken Buffy, Faith and Robin endless hours of long and exhausting, desk-banging, screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs arguments to put a lid on that particular issue, while leaving matters completely unsatisfactory to everyone involved.

The fact that the ensuing investigation once again turned up absolutely nothing that would even begin to point towards the identity of those responsible for the latest murders, only made the entire political situation within the Council worse than it had previously been.

It certainly hadn't helped matters very much that Buffy – once she'd grown tired of listening to Kennedy's uncle suggesting that the Council allow him to attempt to negotiate an 'understanding' with a group of Gwa'lympch'on demons in Ecuador, who'd been using the local Indian tribes as the primary ingredient of their dinner menu – had curtly informed him, in specific detail, exactly what chiropractic 'manipulations' she would perform on his spine if he didn't sit down, shut up and allow the people in the room who actually knew what they were talking about to determine how the situation would be resolved.

Buffy was still undecided, though, whether Faith's and Robin's deaths this past October in Gdansk had been the latest attack by her enigmatic opponent in his well-defined and coordinated plan to destroy the Council's executive board; or if it was simply the most recent episode of bad luck to rear up and bite her in the ass.

According to the very few witnesses who'd been willing to hang around long enough to talk to the Council agents who'd responded to the emergency call, Faith had apparently been in an extremely foul mood – a situation that was becoming more and more prevalent among everyone following the deaths of their fellow Council members, Buffy had had to grudgingly admit, at least to herself – when she and Robin had arrived at the demon bar to meet with a potential informant. Somehow, Faith had quickly gotten into an argument with one of the bar patrons already present while Robin had briefly left her alone to use the men's lavatory.

All of those piteously few witnesses had unanimously agreed that the dark-haired Slayer had thrown the first punch and had then proceeded to start beating the hell out of her opponent, tossing him around the bar and pounding on him in a manner similar to the way that she and Kennedy had adopted several years previously as a method of enforcing their will on the Slayers under their direction; all the while ignoring Robin's frantic repeated requests to calm down and stop what she was doing, once he'd returned from relieving himself.

Unlike the younger Slayers she was in the habit of intimidating, however, it had seemed that Faith's opponent had merely been stoically enduring her frenzied attack while waiting for the Slayer to become overconfident and careless. He had instantly taken advantage of the first opening she'd offered to punch her in the solar plexus, momentarily paralyzing her for the briefest of instants, and then quickly produced a knife from a hidden sheath, slashed her throat open from ear to ear and then driven his blade up under her jaw and deep into her brain in a final coup de grace.

The man's – or most likely, the demon's – actions hadn't taken more than five seconds from start to finish, and the brunette Slayer had been stone cold dead and gone before her body had hit the floor.

When Robin had finally recovered from his shock at seeing his lover killed and tried to attack her murderer, her murderer had pulled out a pistol (a suppressed .22 caliber automatic, according to the forensics team who had recovered the slugs from Robin's brain) from a concealed holster and calmly shot Robin between the eyes, killing him instantly, too.

The pair's executioner had then paused only long enough to put another bullet into the back of each of their heads, before casually walking out the front door of the demon bar and then apparently ceasing to exist, since no one in the area could be found who remembered seeing where he'd gone.

The fact that no one, human or demon, that the Council talked to would admit to even knowing any being named 'Arash,' that being either the name or title that the witnesses had recalled Robin had called out prior to attacking the demonic assassin, had proved extremely frustrating to the Council investigators, and so they had eventually and reluctantly allowed the case to be classified as 'unsolved.'

And with the deaths of the last members of her original support group, Buffy found herself drifting farther and farther away from any true emotional attachments she might have had, which could have helped her connect with and feel anything for the poor huddled masses the Slayer was supposed to protect.

Andrew's death had hurt – but not in any real mind-numbing or heartbreaking way. Buffy had, at random times, found herself recalling isolated instances in which the former-villain-turned-Scooby had managed to endear himself to her – well, at least for short periods of time, she had qualified to herself – and she'd found herself yearning for that now long-vanished time in Rome when they had laughed and enjoyed life together.

When she'd received the news that her sister had died in the explosion which had almost completely obliterated the yacht she'd been on, though, she'd immediately been struck by the realization that she was now, finally, truly alone in the world.

From what Faith and other Council members told her later, she'd apparently blanked out from the emotional shock and had simply walked out of her office and headed towards the largest population of vampires and demons she could find and begun killing anything and everything she met.

Buffy's next conscious memory from that time period had been of Faith and several of the mini-Slayers carefully guiding her out of a building which had appeared to have been decorated by an insane interior designer, with the walls, floors and ceilings all adorned with multi-colored fluids and demon viscera of every conceivable shape and size.

Giles' death had seriously knocked her for a loop despite her witnessing his body's ongoing, relentless deterioration, since Rupert's having slowly replaced Hank Summers as her father in that secret place buried deep in her heart had created a vulnerability that Buffy had been unable to overcome. It had taken her several months to regain the emotional equilibrium that she'd held previously and which had allowed her to step into Giles' place and deal with the power-hungry leeches that had somehow emerged to replace Travers and his cohorts in running the Council.

Buffy could still vividly remember the moment she'd realized that Xander was really and truly gone, and the virtually endless tears she'd cried and the aching void that she'd felt open up inside her as she recognized the fact that she'd never have a chance to see him again, never again ever have an opportunity to try and talk to him and work out all of the problems that had kept them apart and which had seemed so insurmountable at the time.

Spike's death had shaken her up significantly, too, just as it had all of the other members of the board, and it had driven home with unmistakable force something that none of them had even thought to consider before that moment – the concept that someone was out there looking to take them all down, and that they were apparently doing it for personal reasons.

The thought that had next occurred to Buffy – that someone was apparently hunting down and murdering her few remaining friends – had disturbed her greatly, although the subsequent thought that none of them had ever even considered the possibility of something like this happening before was just as disturbing, and she had felt the Slayer essence inside her snarl at the thought that someone had hurt people she'd cared about.

All of the patrols she'd participated in over the course of the following few weeks had been far more violent and brutal than had been her norm beforehand, and she'd eventually managed to work out her feelings of frustration, failure and inadequacy sufficiently enough that she could again begin focusing on the far more mundane and boring aspects of the job – the work that being a member of the Council's executive board entailed.

Although, the shock she'd felt upon realizing what had happened to Spike was *nothing* when compared to what Buffy had experienced upon learning of Willow's fate.

Despite the various atrocities she'd witnessed over the years, the mental image that had instantly flashed through her mind when she'd been notified about the discovery of the two women's heads inside the shipping carton had horrified Buffy beyond words, and she had immediately emptied the contents of her stomach into the waste can by her desk before collapsing to the plushly-carpeted floor of her office to cry her eyes out, the latest feeling of loss literally overwhelming her with its magnitude.

The fact that, as had been the case with Xander, they had never recovered the rest of either Willow's or Kennedy's bodies and that each coffin lowered into the ground had held only a severed head had troubled her greatly. And so she'd sworn to herself that she *would* somehow find the being or beings responsible for all of her friends' deaths and that she would wreck a harsh and ruthless vengeance on everyone involved – a vengeance which would give D'Hoffryn himself a stiffy at the thought.

After Willow had been murdered, the only people still tying Buffy to her sacred duty, tethering her with any sort of bonds at all, were Faith and Robin.

And if the truth be told – after considering their history in Sunnydale, those ties really hadn't been all that strong to begin with.

Following Willow's funeral, it had become obvious to everyone that Buffy had pretty much abandoned any pretense of interest in the duties she'd inherited from Giles and simply checked the Council's website each morning when she woke up to determine which location currently had the greatest number of demon problems. Then she would grab her gear and head there, killing anything and everything she ran into that wasn't a civilian or Council member.

She'd been busy cleaning out a vamp nest in the mountains northwest of Oslo when word had reached her about Faith's and Robin's deaths, and it was only the fact that there hadn't been any major incidents noted on the crisis board that had allowed her to decide to attend their funerals.

She'd skipped the luncheon afterwards and had then headed out on a cross-country tour of Europe that was focused solely on finding and killing anything that was hostile and non-human that she might run across. Unfortunately, though, any sort of demonic activity effectively dropped to zero in any area Buffy entered as soon as word of her presence began circulating, and she'd been forced to go undercover in disguise if she wanted to continue her hunting.

The Scourge of Europe.

That had become her nickname now, Buffy had eventually learned.

It had reminded her that her teenage self would have been horrified upon learning just *who* she was now compared to by the supernatural community; but the Buffy Summers she was now, the one who had lost her mother and her sister and her surrogate father and all of her friends, simply didn’t care.

After several more weeks of frustratingly meager hunting, the blonde Slayer had been almost deliriously happy to have received the email that had sent her on her current quest, despite the fact that it meant that whoever it was who'd killed her friends had managed to hack into the Council's supposedly ultra-secure computer system.

The message had been short and to the point: "We are the only ones left, now. I think we should finally meet each other, face to face. Come alone."

And this time, the message had actually been signed, by someone who referred to themselves as 'Angelo DeNegri' – the Black Angel. Buffy's fluent Italian had immediately translated the name of her previously unknown stalker, and the smile that lit up her face upon learning that fact would have sent shivers of terror down the spine of any viewer, had anyone been present to witness the communiqué.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out just *who* her mysterious enemy had almost certainly been the entire time, she decided as she pondered the message.

A set of directions had been attached to the email and she eagerly had snatched them up from the printer and quickly checked them out before almost running into her small apartment's bedroom to grab her always ready travel bag and then rush to Heathrow to catch the first available flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the next stage of her destiny.

So here she was, about to meet the person responsible for the deaths of pretty much everyone she'd still cared about in life after Sunnydale had imploded, as well as all of the accompanying heartache that those deaths had brought along with them.

And the longest surviving Slayer in Council history was going to make sure that her nemesis got to see, up close and personal, just how appreciative she was of everything he had done.

She'd even brought along a small set of carving knives that had once belonged to Xander to help her properly express her 'appreciation' to this 'Black Angel,' since it seemed only fitting and proper to her that the first person to fall to this mysterious Big Bad helped take him down at the end.

Following the directions provided by her enigmatic correspondent, Buffy drove for another forty minutes before finding the turn-off onto the specified little-traveled road she had been looking for. The Alpha Slayer was subsequently forced to slow down significantly from the breakneck speeds she'd previously been maintaining, in order to make sure that she didn't miss the entrance to the private road she was now seeking.

Another twenty minutes passed before she found the correct road, and Buffy could feel her Slayer aspect growing ever more eager with each passing moment to meet this 'Angelo DeNegri' person, the prey she'd been unknowingly hunting for the past several years and, she felt deep within herself, the source of so much of the heartache that had filled her life.

The decrepit sprawling mansion that came into view as she navigated the final turn of the private road she was traveling triggered momentary flashes of scenes from the Addams Family movies the blonde used to watch with both Willow and Xander back in high school, back when the world still seemed halfway sane and their lives had been so much simpler.

Slowing the Mustang to a bare crawl as she pulled into the roundabout driveway so that she could get a better view of the vast, hulking, daunting-looking manor, Buffy decided that the building was quite suitable for their impending showdown, a perfect location within which she could finally resolve whatever matters her nemesis – maybe even arch-nemesis, as the dearly departed Andrew would have put it – thought lay between them.

Parking the car directly in front of the main doors leading into the house's foyer, Buffy felt almost serene as she climbed out of the car, pausing for a moment as she gave the house one final examination before leaning back in and pulling out her weapons bag.

With her favorite sword in her right hand and her favorite axe in her left, she walked up to the front doors with an unhurried tread and, without breaking step, kicked in both doors with a single powerful strike.

Three more still-sedate steps brought her to the far side of the foyer and again, her foot snapped out, smashing open the doors and allowing her to continue into her opponent's lair.

“ANGELUS!!” Buffy’s voice roared out into the private den – for that was who she had concluded, either rightly or wrongly, that her arch-nemesis had to be.

She hadn't taken more than a single step into the room beyond, her eyes flashing around the interior in an effort to locate her foe when suddenly, everything went black.


End – Chapter 1

~~~

Author's Note: I had originally been trying to decide which one of a number of potential resolutions I would use, when I realized during a discussion with Drake the Archr that I could actually stop this story at this point and then offer each alternate resolution as a subsequent chapter, so that is exactly what I am going to do. ;-)

Each ensuing chapter is a possible alternate universe wrapping up this story.
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