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Ascendent Sun, Burning Moon

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Summary: A lost soul, striving to redeem himself, and the world with him. A long foregotten teacher, fufilling his purpose. And the one girl in all the world who can save us all.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Fantasy > ExaltedInDrkFR1818106,27643911,05712 Sep 1227 Feb 13No

Tragic Love Amusement

A/N: Much thanks to Kylar on SpaceBattles, who continues to help TONS with this chapter and the story as a whole. It wouldn't be nearly as good without him.

And now, without further ado:

Chapter 17: Tragic Love Amusement



–Spike–

It was with an irritated scowl that Spike exited the burnt-out building that Victor had teleported him into. Barely-contained anger simmered in his gut at the sheer gall Victor had. Spike had spent his entire life taking orders and doing what he was told. Now, he was a Celestial Exalted. The ultimate 'Get out of everything free' card. And still he was being ordered around!

“Bugger that!” Spike muttered to himself, spitting on the sidewalk. He took a good look at his surroundings as he considered the orders Victor had given. Sit quiet, don't piss off the mayor, don't let anyone know about the Jade Prison. Spike grinned. If Victor thought he was that easily manipulated, he had another thing coming. It took more than some coercion and cheap bribes to get him to behave. So, what to do first? Wanton destruction was always fun, especially now that he could tear down buildings. Then again, he probably should find out who to tell about the Jade Prison. Victor moved fast, and Spike really didn't want there to be another Slayer competing with him, especially if that one took orders.

Restlessness started to build up in his legs and he suddenly felt the urge to run. In an instant he changed from a steady walking pace to a blur of speed normally reserved for cheetahs and automobiles. He tore through the factory district, heading deeper into the city as he contemplated his options. He knew that that the new Dawn was somewhere in town, but he wasn't sure he wanted to go there just yet. Spike wasn't the most self-aware person in the world, but he knew his flaws. It was why he had such a high opinion of himself, after all. And he also knew that he had a very hard time controlling himself around the Solar Exalted. Perhaps he should seek out the Sidereal involved. Where there were Solars, the Gold Faction was never far behind. Besides, Spike's informants had told him that dear old Wes was behind sending him to Montreal, and Spike never missed an opportunity to taunt the little bastard.

Spike's train of thought was abruptly interrupted by a sudden flare of golden light. The shadows of the night were chased away by the sudden flare of yellow essence, and Spike felt a grin breaking out across his face. He knew a Solar Anima Banner when he saw one. It looked like his choice was made. His legs blurred once more as he rushed towards the source of the Anima flare.

It took less than a minute for him to reach the street the Anima was flaring on. His leather-clad feet barely touched the asphalt as he eagerly ran towards the sounds of fighting. A mad cackle bubbled up in his lungs as he heard the deafening, shattering sound of a body being thrown through a brick wall, and he turned into the alley the anima was flaring from mere seconds after the crash and slowed to a halt.

The alley was a mess of rubble and debris, and he could hear someone speaking inside the neighboring building through the massive hole in the wall. Rather than enter through the existing hole, Spike grinned as an idea struck him. Green fire enveloped his fist as he punched the wall beside him. A ripple of hellish energy ran through the bricks like a pebble disrupting a still pond, and a Spike-sized chunk of the wall crumbled into dust and molten brick. He stepped through the new hole and allowed his Anima to flare as he summoned his Essence to aid him as he took in the scene before him, twin brass blades appearing crossed on his forehead. Three vampires standing in a small triangle, six feet, six feet, three feet at the small end, one vampire holding the glowing Solar, taunting her. Annoyance flared in Spike's chest as he stepped forward and grabbed the two vampires closest to him and crushed their heads together with all his considerable might, shattering their skulls and pulping their brains with a sickening squelch, reducing them to dust.

The lead vampire dropped the young Solar, who's Anima vanished as she fell, and her attacker bared his fangs and summoned his claws as he prepared to fight, only for Spike's summoned lance of unholy fire to pierce his heart. The vampire's eyes widened in surprise for a brief moment as the green fires burnt its heart to nothing and destroyed it, reducing it to a pile of burning dust. Spike stepped over the dust pile and knelt down next to the girl, putting an expression of concern on his face. The Solar was clearly injured, and this was a perfect chance to pull a 'Big Damn Hero' shag.

Stepping forward, he knelt down beside the young Solar, inspecting the damage that the vampire had managed to do. The girl's face resembled a poorly-treated raw hamburger patty than any part of a person, and he could see that her skull had been badly damaged. Her forehead was partially caved in, and her nose was flattened. Blood ran down her face from innumerable cuts, and both her jaw and collarbone were broken in multiple places. He moved his gaze down to check her torso injuries when, suddenly, the darkness of the store was dispersed by a brilliant golden glow.

He reflexively shielded his gaze as the girl's right ring finger lit up with a brilliance normally reserved for Solar Essence discharge. Squinting in the light, he slowly reached out to the girl's hand, a sudden desire to feel the warm glow overcoming his common sense, which was telling him to back away, now. As his finger touched the light, he felt surprisingly cool metal, following by the sensation of impossibly hot flame shooting up his arm. He cursed loudly and fell back on his rear. He looked at his hand and grimaced at the line of blackened skin running up from his pointer finger to his elbow. The pain was intense, but he focused on it, welcoming it, embracing it as he poured his Essence into the wound, and watched as scar tissue covered the injury before his eyes. A groan from the floor caught his attention, and his eyes widened his surprise as the girl pushed herself into a sitting position. She leaned forward, holding her head in her hands as she blinked blood from her eyes.

“Ow,” she said dully, squeezing her eyes shut, “This...this really, really hurts.”

“I can see that,” Spike said with a raised eyebrow, eying the glowing ring as he realized that it was a far more powerful artifact than he'd realized. The girl's injuries were healing before his eyes. The dent in her skull was evening out not unlike a water bottle being blown full of air in order to fix the dents in the plastic. The numerous bloody wounds on her face were scabbing over and her broken nose was straightening and pushing outward as it set itself. A slight cracking sound echoed as her jaw snapped itself forward and set itself perfectly while her neck stretched and deformed as splinters of bone and damaged muscle knitted and rewove themselves. It took mere moments for her to be entirely healed. Buffy shook her head and tried to stand, and Spike jumped to his feet just in time to catch her as she fell. He helped to steady her, and as she looked up at him, beautiful, innocent green eyes meeting jaded blue, he cast his Charm, focusing on his lust for this perfect example of radiant glory and good, on his desire to those lovely eyes staring lovingly up as him as she wrapped her lips around his dick on his desire for her to bow, to submit and he unleashed his Essence, and both Solar and Infernal blinked.

“Thanks,” the young Solar smiled weakly, then grimaced in pain, “That was a close one.”

Spike was silent for a moment as his mind blanked, and then caught up with itself. He grinned with casual, friendly ease as the distraction melted away, running from his conscious mind-, and let go as the girl stepped out of his grasp, steadying herself.

“Not a problem,” he replied modestly, “I'm always happy to help.”

The young Solar smiled, showing off her perfect white teeth, and Spike was taken aback by her beauty. Solars tended to be lookers, he knew that, but even by the standards of a jaded Celestial like him, she was something special. Spike felt a thrill of anticipation, and gathered his Essence. He didn't want to screw this seduction up.

“I'm Buffy. Buffy Summers,” the girl introduced, extending a small, deceptively delicate-looking hand, and Spike felt a surge of affection and an intense desire to be liked by this girl well up in his gut as he took her hand and shook it. This one was formidable, he could tell. Even with his intentions, even despite everything he'd seen in his life, despite the horrors he'd both perpetrated and endured, he felt his desire to dominate this girl crumbling. She wasn't even using Essence; her Anima was dormant. She was just this likable. It was impressive, really.

“William,” Spike responded with his most charming smile, and gently kissed her hand, inwardly cheering at the blush the crossed the girl's face, “It's a pleasure to meet you, Buffy, Buffy Summers.”

“You too, especially since you saved my life,” Buffy smiled, with just a hint of shyness. It was impossibly adorable, and Spike marveled at the natural talents of the young Solar. Spike was renowned for his skill in battle, but this girl, despite her youth, was every bit his social equivalent.

“Like I said,” Spike repeated with a shrug, “I was happy to help.”

The girl smiled back, and there was a brief moment of silence.

“So,” the Solar spoke suddenly, clearly trying to evade awkwardness, “Are you an Exalt, too?”

For any non-Exalt, Spike's hesitation wouldn't have been noticable, being less than a half-second in duration. To both himself and the girl before him, however, it was all too obvious. Inwardly, Spike debated whether or not to tell the truth. Then, he remembered that the last Dawn Caste had been able to detect lies.

“Yes,” he said, smiling to hide his nervousness at his near slip, as well as his annoyance as he noticed the confusion on the girl's face. She'd clearly picked up on his hesitance, “one much like yourself, in fact.”

Spike watched the girl's face carefully. He knew that Solars were capable of detecting outright lies, but if she could detect half-truths, he needed to know, now. Buffy frowned slightly at that, and Spike cursed inwardly. She'd seen through it. Before she could ask, though, he clarified, as though just noticing her confusion and correcting a mistake, rather than covering his lie. He just hoped that she couldn't detect that as well.

“Not a Solar, of course,” he clarified with a smile, “I'm an Infernal,” Spike saw the girl's eyes widen in fear as she tensed, preparing to flee, and Spike mentally cursed and tried to calm her.

“Don't worry,” he said, moving back as though trying to prove himself non-threatening, even as he moved ever so slightly to the side in order to block the exit just enough to disincline her to simply flee, “I'm a renegade.”

Buffy's eyes narrowed as she stepped back, eying him warily.

“Renegade?” she asked, and Spike nearly sighed in relief.

“Yes,” he nodded, “I don't work for the Yozis. Hell, I hate the bastards!”

The girl clearly sensed the truth in his words, because she relaxed ever so slightly.

“So,” she said slowly, “You aren't a corrupted Solar trying to bring hell to Earth?

“No,” Spike said firmly, “Well, not the hell on Earth part, anyways. I'm still an Infernal, but mostly I just go around playing the hero.”

Completely true, Spike thought with a smile. After all, playing hero was the single most efficient way to get into a girl's pants that he'd yet found. Well, apart from the badass demon-leather long coat he'd stolen from the Slayer. He was fairly certain that that played a good part in it.

Buffy nodded slowly and then released a breath Spike hadn't seen her holding.

“Okay, I believe you,” she said, and Spike had to refrain from punching the air in triumph, “and sorry for being so suspicious, I didn't mean to be all ungrateful over here, it's just-”

“Don't worry about it,” Spike waved off her apology, “I'm just glad we cleared that up. Say, wanna go get a drink? You look like you could use one.”

Spike held his breath as he watched the girl bite her lip as she considered his proposal. Ultimately, though, his Essence-fueled words won out over whatever factor she was arguing with, and she smiled a smile that seemed to fill the entire store with its brilliance.

“Sure, what the heck?” she shrugged, smiling, and with those words, Solar and Infernal left the store.

–Xander–

Xander walked slowly through the ruins of Sunnydale, disturbed by what he was seeing. Or, rather, what he wasn't seeing. The town had no color. Literally, zero color. Xander had read enough books in English class to know how often the phrases 'lifeless', or 'the color had gone out of the world' were used to describe despair or hopelessness, but this...this was beyond description. The buildings were not merely gray, or white, but...something in between. When Xander looked at them, he felt tired, drained, and his brain felt almost...itchy. Like a pulse behind his eyes as he tried to perceive something that should be there, but wasn't. Xander was fairly certain that the only reason everything looked whitish-gray was because what was there wasn't something his mind could understand.

He closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to clear the irritation from his mind. Graham had told him, once, that certain beings from beyond the Hellmouths could create such effects, could make the impossible become real. But in those cases, it was always with strange colors and twisted monsters, like life gone horribly awry. This...this was the opposite. This was bland, static nothing. No wind blew through the city, no noises disturbed the silence, no dust gathered, just...nothingness. The air around him pressed down, like a physical weight attempting to drive him into the ground, to bury him in the cold emptiness of this shadow world and have done with him-

Xander spun around, casting off the miasma of the city as footsteps sounded behind him, and two figures stepped out of the alley behind him. Two men, pale as the city itself, stepped out, grinning coldly as they approached him. Their faces seemed unnaturally perfect, as though carved from marble, cold and inhuman in their perfection. Long canines glinted, even without light to glint by, and Xander's lips curved into a snarl.

“Vampires,” he spat, and charged. One of the things that had been drilled into his head during combat training was to never waste time exchanging taunts with vampires. Nine in ten times, the vampire is stalling so that its friends can circle around from behind. Vampires were dangerous enough on their own, in groups, they could overwhelm and pick off even experienced Dragon-Blooded. For an Enlightened mortal like Xander, the only way to win is to force the fight on his terms. Of course, Xander thought with a smile as he drove the spear tip into the chest of the vampire, the thin lengths of ironwood fixed into grooves on either flat side of the blade piercing its heart alongside Jade-forged steel, reducing the creature to dust.

It's fellow snarled and shifted. The thing's eyes turned perfectly black as its fangs extended and its nails grew into inch-long hooked claws and its forehead grew ridges, and it slashed out, nearly blurring with speed as it ducked beneath Xander's next strike and moved around to his back, slashing out twice with its claws, shredding the fabric of Xander's shirt but failing to do anymore than scratch the Jade armor underneath. Rather than attempt to turn around, Xander stepped forward and jabbed his spear back. The pointed wooden end stabbed through the vampire's ribcage and into its left lung. The creature screamed, and Xander grinned as he turned around, pulling the spear towards him and bringing the vampire's face into his Essence-fueled punch. The dead thing screamed as Xander's blow shattered its jaw and seared its face with Holy Essence, melting skin and flesh from bone. It grabbed his spear and shoved back, tearing itself free with an unearthly screech and pushing Xander back. Xander didn't bother stepping forward this time. He thrust out with the spear once more, this time piercing the heart of the fell creature. With one last scream and a burst of dust, the vampire was dead.

Xander stood still, breathing heavily, but feeling better than before, as well as very proud of himself. With a slight smile, he turned around, and nearly screamed. A bird-headed thing was less than ten yards down the road, and floating towards him. Xander nearly attacked, but stopped himself as the creature drew closer. It was a woman, he realized. She was tall, with a headdress that looked like the head of a giant raven that extended into a long, beautiful cloak of black feathers. Beneath the cloak she wore a robe of green silk that left little to the imagination, barely covering her breasts and leaving her midriff bare. The fabric covered her legs down to her ankles, and Xander noticed that her feet were bare. Her skin was flawlessly beautiful in its darkness, like black porcelain, and her eyes were a deep, haunting green. That they were slightly too large for her head didn't harm her beauty in the slightest. Indeed, the small imperfection only enhanced the rest of her. Then, Xander's eyes fell on the closed umbrella she carried, and he shuddered. The umbrella was taller than Xander himself, and was clearly forged of human skin and bone. He could see the ribs which were forged into the cover of the thing, which for some reason all had bells on their ends. A large, hateful looking black metal spike made up the tip of the umbrella, and Xander got chills merely looking at it.

“Well done, little mortal,” the woman said, and Xander felt his heart skip as she smiled, a beautiful expression, filled with a light and hope that he hadn't known he'd been craving ever since he arrived in this place, “I must admit, I had thought you'd be food, once they noticed you. Tell me, child, what is your name?

Xander's brain took a moment to process the words, distracted as he was with the impossible beauty of the woman before him.

“I-I'm Xander,” he managed, “Xander Harris.”

The woman smiled.

“Xander,” she murmured, as though testing the sound, “A lovely name. You may call me the Princess Magnificent, or milady, if you wish. What brings you here, Xander, Xander Harris?”




A desire to explain everything about his journey to this woman, this Princess, overwhelmed his mind and cast out the James Bond joke that was even then on the tip of his tongue.

“I...I don't actually know how I got here. I went through a teleporter gate, and-”

“I suppose I might have guessed,” the woman smiled, and Xander felt his heart break at the look, “You are not the first that that wretched thing has mistakenly sent to the Underworld, though you are the first mortal. I'm far more used to Dragon-Blooded popping up on my doorstep.”

“Oh,” Xander said, unable to think of anything else. He was distracted by her eyes, which seemed to draw him in, like a mother calling to their long-lost child. He felt warm, and happy, like he could sit and stare into those beautiful green eyes for an eternity, and be content. The woman slowly floated towards him, and he shuddered as she lightly ran her fingernails down his face and neck.

“You are a Janissary,” she said with mild surprise, “Fascinating. I suppose you could not have found a better hostile environment to be stranded in, I suppose...”

“Well, I'm not actually a Janissary,” Xander found himself saying, not knowing why, only that he could not stand to let this beautiful being be sullied by misinformation “I know a bit of the style, but really, I just learned enough to be able to help my friend, Buffy-”

“Buffy?” the woman cut him off, suddenly eager, a light flashing in her eyes, “Buffy Summers, the Dawn Caste Solar?”

“Yes, she's a good friend of mine, and I-” Xander found himself further explaining as a haze began to fall over his mind, and fatigue began to seep into his bones, but the woman cut him off again.

“Listen carefully, Xander,” the Princess said, suddenly serious, and Xander, even through the fog that was rolling in, dimming his vision and dulling his hearing, found himself latching onto the Princess' words, like a drowning man grasping at a lifeline, “For I have an urgent task for you to undertake, but only when the time is right...”

A whisper, cold and slimy like a rotting corpse, squirmed its way through his ear canal, deep into his brain-

“Yes, milady,” Xander murmured, swaying as his energy seemed to fade away, leaving him nearly unable to stand.

“When you return, you will remember only the story you tell the others until you are required. When you do remember, tell no one of it. Believe what you say, hide the truth from yourself, let no one sense the lies until I give you leave. Do you understand?”

-burrowing like a maggot in decaying flesh within his mind, hiding its decay from seeking minds, concealing falsehood beneath honest ignorance-

“Yes, Princess,” Xander whispered, and fell to his knees as shadows surrounded him, and the last thing he heard as the darkness consumed him was-

“Good.”

–Giles' Living Room–

Willow fidgeted nervously as she sat in the large recliner in Giles' living room, her left foot tapping against the soft, luxurious tan carpeting on the floor as she waited for Giles to return from thr kitchen. She wasn't sure what all this was about. She'd just been cleared to leave the hospital, and when her parents were getting ready to drive her home, Giles appeared from nowhere and said that he was her teacher and was taking her to a private tutoring session. Her parents hadn't even questioned him, they'd just...gone with it. Giles had they grabbed her hand, and everything had gone...weird. It felt like they were walking, but they were across town in mere moments. He'd told her to sit down and wait while he prepared some tea. She wished he'd come back, the waiting was getting on her nerves-

“Here you are, Willow,” Giles said, appearing in front of her and placing a tray on the coffee table in front of her and making her jump about a foot in the air in shock.

“How-how did you-” she began, but suddenly he was gone. She turned around, and a large thud on the mahogany coffee table made her yelp. She turned back, and Giles was placing several large books on the table.

“I suppose you're wondering why you're here?” he asked, and Willow nodded, confused and now truly weirded out, but resigning herself to just listening and hoping that Giles could explain everything better than she could guess it.

“I trust you read the books Buffy pilfered for you?” he asked seriously, and Willow blushed and lowered her gaze.

“You...know about that?” she asked in a small voice. Giles sipped the teacup that was suddenly in his hand, and looked at her.

“Of course. Had she not taken the initiative, I'd have had her take the books to you myself. It's imperative that you learn more about the world, the real world, and frankly, I'm delighted that Buffy has been showing more responsibility lately.”

“Wait,” Willow frowned, “you...were gonna give them to me, even if she hadn't taken them?”

Giles looked at her seriously.

“Willow, are you familiar with the concept of Enlightenment?” he asked, and Willow nodded hesitantly.

“Somewhat,” she said slowly, “I know usually you need to use a ritual of Thaumaturgy and years of time and effort-”

“Describe the concept to me, if your own words, if you would,” Giles cut her off, and Willow closed her eyes as she considered how to put it.

“It's...an awareness,” she finally said, “A new way of seeing, or thinking. It's a way to see beyond the mundane, and perceive the world as it is. An Enlightened mortal can perceive and understand the supernatural for what it is, rather than being forced to rationalize it. They also gain an 'Essence pool', or a reserve of power that they can use to cast certain Charms or spells.”

“But what is Essence?” Giles pressed, and Willow frowned as she thought about it.

“I...don't know,” she admitted after a moment's thought. Giles nodded, as though she'd confirmed something for him.

“Few people do,” he told her firmly, “But you must understand what it is. For reasons unknown, you have been given power. Normally, in order to be Enlightened, you must know what you are doing and what you seek to know. That you do not know what Essence is, that you do not understand what you are, not really...this is not acceptable. I will begin teaching you, and I will see to it that you know how best to use your powers.”

“You're going to teach me magic?” Willow asked, her eyes wide with excitement. Whatever she had been expecting, this wasn't it.

“Perhaps,” Giles responded after a moment, “I'm not sure. Magic, true magic, is...complex, to say the least, and very difficult to learn. We'll be starting with the basics, and perhaps, if you study hard and listen to what I have to say, you might prove yourself capable of learning true Sorcery.”

Willow frowned in confusion.

“So, if you aren't teaching me magic,” Willow asked slowly, “what are you going to teach me?”

Giles smiled, and tapped the large book on the table in front of her. Willow looked at the title.

“Oadenol's Codex,” Willow read out loud, “I haven't seen this book before...”

“You wouldn't have,” Giles smiled thinly, “I deliberately hid it from Buffy. You will begin reading this book as soon as you get home, and when I see you here next Saturday, I expect you to have familiarized yourself completely with Chapter Three, and there will be a quiz.”

“What's chapter three about?” Willow asked curiously, lifting the massive book with surprisingly little effort.

“Thaumaturgy,” Giles said, the stern demeanor falling away to be replaced by a scholarly enthusiasm, and Willow leaned forward automatically, easily seeing the signs of a passionate expert about to deliver a lecture, “Perhaps the most ancient art of Essence manipulation there is. It involves the use of Essence and your own understanding of the world around you as a means to impose your will on reality. It isn't as powerful or swift as Exalted Charms or Sorcery, but it is something mortals can learn, and it has power.”

Giles was pacing now as he spoke, his voice rising in volume as he fell into the role of teacher.

“Thaumaturgy requires focus, power, discipline, and, above all else, patience. Rituals of Thaumaturgy can take hours, days, even years, on rare occasions. With it, you can imbue objects with power, allowing the creation of potent artifacts. Alchemy will allow you to make potions of incalculable use, and knowledge of the Occult will let you summon and bind the denizens of Malfeas to your will. Geomancy will allow you to manipulate Demesnes or raise Manses unaided. Astrology will show you vital information about friends and foes, and Husbandry will allow you to bend wild creatures to your will. It is not an art of direct combat, but the powers of Thaumaturgy will be invaluable to us in the battles to come.”

“So,” Willow said, considering, “I won't be taking part in the actual fighting stuff, I'll just be here, or somewhere else far away?”

“I will be training you in some basic combat techniques,” Giles said, “but not in anything requiring Essence. Some basic pressure point knowledge can be helpful, as well as some training to keep you fit and able to fight, but it will be a grave failing on my part if you end up in a combat zone, and an even graver one if you aren't guarded while there. I trust this isn't going to be an issue?” Giles asked with a raised eyebrow.

Willow shook her head.

“No, I'm actually kind of relieved,” Willow admitted, “I don't wanna be in the middle of the fighting, but I do wanna help, like, really help. I don't wanna be cheergirl over here, you know? But this seems to be important-”

“It is important, Willow,” Giles assured her firmly, “Thaumaturges are rare, rarer than Enlightened Martial Artists, and potentially more useful. Believe me, you'll be playing an important part in our battles.”

Willow nodded, and set her face into a mask of resolve.

“I'll do my best, I promise,” she swore, and Giles smiled slightly.

“I'd expect nothing less.”

–Willy's Bar–

Buffy walked down the street alongside her rescuer. They'd taken several shortcuts through dark alleys and killed several more vampires; well, he'd killed them, Buffy was still almost burned out, and was reluctant to use any of her Charms, and her natural skills were yet developed enough to fight vampires without Essence. Besides, she had to admit, William was...well, hot. Like, really, really hot. She wasn't sure what it was about him, but everything he did was insanely attractive. The way he walked, with his black leather coat swishing behind him, that cocky grin on his face, the thin white scar running down his forehead and to his nose, and the power he exuded. There was a palpable aura of danger about him, and Buffy liked it...

“Here we are, luv,” he said, and Buffy smiled slightly at his accent, and realized that it was defnitely a part of it, “The Alibi Room.”

Buffy looked at the small, brownish bar with the neon sign proclaiming its name, and frowned.

“It looks...interesting,” she said, hesitantly, and William grinned at her, baring his slightly pointed, perfectly white teeth.

“Oh, it is,” he assured her as he opened the door, gesturing her inside, letting it swing shut with a bang as he followed her inside, “This is the only all-Supernatural Bar for hundreds of miles.”

Buffy wasn't listening. She was too busy freezing in place as over forty different demons and vampires turned to stare at her and William. Her eyes narrowed as she gathered the last bits of her Essence, but William was stepping past her, apparently unconcerned, so she let her Charm go before her Anima could flare, and decided to just follow William's lead as he walked to the middle of the bar. One large, apelike thing stood up, baring its fangs.

“Sp-” it began, but before it could finish its sentence William drove his right hand into its chest and tore out its heart in a spray of blood, then clenched his fist, crushing the organ to pulp as the creature died.

“Well,” William said, baring his teeth in a faux-smile, “That wasn't nice at all.”

The entire bar stared at William in ill-concealed fear, as he stepped back to stand beside her.

“It seems that you've all forgotten who I am,” he continued, and Buffy suppressed a shiver of excitement at the terror of the demons and vampires, “So I guess I need to remind you. I'm William Pratt, Celestial Exalted, and I will be addressed as such. Am I understood?”

“Sure thing, William,” the rat-faced bartender was the first to speak up, a forced smile on his face “No problem. And, uh, who's your friend, there?”

“This,” William, stepped to the side and gestured to Buffy, “is Buffy Summers, our resident Dawn Caste Solar.”

The fear turned to barely-controlled panic, and she was sure that the only thing stopping a run for the exit was that William and Buffy were blocking it.

“Willy,” William said he and Buffy sat down at the bar, “Your strongest and finest for both of us.”

“No problem,” Willy, the rat-faced barkeep, said, smiling warily, and walked back to begin pouring their drinks. Moments later, the bartender slip their glasses full of bubbling amber liquid in front of them.

“Bottoms up,” William grinned at her roguishly, and Buffy blushed despite herself as she took a drink from her mug. The bubbling liquid burned as it went down her throat, and she shuddered as she drank.

“Ugh, what is this stuff?!” she exclaimed, frowning.

“Whiskey,” William replied, an eyebrow raised, “Don't tell me you've never had it before?”

“I'm fifteen,” she replied defensively, “I'm not old enough to drink!”

William snorted.

“Listen, love,” he said bluntly, “You're an Exalt. Drinking laws don't apply. Hell, the only laws you need to obey are the ones you want to.”

“That seems...irresponsible,” Buffy said, frowning as she was struck with deja-vu. She could have sworn that someone else had told her that before, but for the life of her she couldn't remember.

William started laughing, only to stop and look at her, an odd expression on his face.

“You're serious, aren't you?” he asked, incredulously, “Buffy, you're a Dawn Caste Solar. You're not supposed to be responsible. That crap is for the Zeniths',” he snorted derisively, “Me and you, we're warriors. Responsibility can bugger off, for all it matters to us.”

As William spoke, green light seemed to gather around him, and crossed blades appeared on his head, glowing with power as his words resonated with her. She couldn't deny the fervor he spoke with, the conviction in his words, but something wasn't right. Buffy narrowed her eyes at him as her Caste Mark flared once more. He was lying, or at least not telling her the whole truth...well, she'd soon solve that little problem.

–Spike–

As Buffy's Caste mark flared, Spike's mind began to race. He met her gaze without hesitation, even as he ran through his mental list of Solar charms he thought she might have. He knew she focused on talking rather than fighting, and the way she was glaring made him think he'd slipped up. So, either she was reading his intentions or trying to figure out if he was lying. If she was reading his plans, he was buggered. He couldn't block that, not from someone like her. If the other...well, she'd find out just how truthful he could be.

“So, you really believe all that?” Buffy said, softly, “You believe that we can just...do whatever we want? No consequences? Because I'm a Dawn Caste, and you're, what?”

Spike grinned.

“Might makes right, love. Social boundaries, customs? That's beneath you. You're a general. A weapon of mass destruction, aimed at the enemies of Creation. All that's expected of you is that you kill anything that threatens the world. As long as you do that, you're fulfilling your purpose.”

“And what about you?” she pressed, clearly catching the evasion of the other part of her question, “What gives you that right? You're an Infernal. I mean, as far as bad guys go, aren't you pretty much the baddest?

Spike grinned.

“Flattery will get you nowhere, love, but nice try,” he chuckled, then shrugged, “I might not be a Solar, but I'm close enough. My Exaltation was made from a Dawn Shard. I fight the enemies of Creation, play the hero and all that jazz. But at the end of the day? I'm my own man. I'm free, and I do whatever I damn well please. No school, no authorities, no boundaries. Just...freedom.”

“So, what,” Buffy frowned, “You're a good guy because it's fun?”

Spike smiled in response.

“Pretty much, yeah,” he shrugged, “But good and evil? They're subjective, love. The good man who frees the slaves is the rebellious thief to the slave-master. The leader of the revolution is the anarchic terrorist of the sitting government. Morality doesn't exist outside of our thoughts and desires. No, there's only one true arbiter of what is right and what is wrong,” here Spike's fierce blue eyes met Buffy's own green, “The Solar Exalted.”

Buffy's eyes widened in surprise, and for a moment, Spike was wondering why, until she answered his question for him.

“Aren't most Solars evil, though?” came her confused question, and Spike's jaw dropped as he stared in complete surprise.

What?” he exclaimed, “No, Solars aren't bloody evil!” he looked at her in confusion, “Who the hell told you that?!”

“Giles said...” Buffy trailed off, before comprehension dawned on her face.

“He lied,” she said flatly, all emotion fading, an utterly blank expression falling across her face.

“Giles...” Spike murmured, frowning. The name was familiar...then he remembered.

“Giles, Rupert Giles?” Spike asked, a grin breaking out across his face. He'd thought it was dear old Wes in charge of this operation, this just kept getting better and better, “The Sidereal?”

Buffy's head snapped back to him from where she'd been staring off at the door.

“You know him?!” she demanded fiercely.

“Know him?” Spike laughed, “Bastard nearly killed me once, back in the twenties!”

“What for?” Buffy asked sharply, and the smile fell from Spike's face. He...hadn't thought this one through.

“Um...well, how do I put this delicately” Spike paused, making a show of considering his words, even as he desperately sought some way to fool the girl's Charm, “the Sidereals don't like other Celestial Exalted.”

Buffy glared at him.

“You aren't telling me everything,” she accused, and Spike cursed mentally.

“Okay, well, you know how the Sidereals are organized?” he queried, stalling for time, and mentally exulted when she shook her head.

“They're split into two separate groups, Bronze and Gold,” Spike explained, actions mapping themselves out across his mind's eye, “Bronze hates the Solars for something that happened ten thousand years ago, Gold thinks the Solars have returned to save everyone. The Bronze Faction sends out their assassins to hunt down and kill the Celestial Exalted, the Gold Faction tries to save them. They succeed, sometimes. I...ran across the Bronze Faction, and didn't make a good impression, so a man named Rupert Giles took a bunch of hitmen and tried to off me. He failed, of course, but...” Spike trailed off as it became apparent that the girl was no longer listening.

“That makes no sense,” Buffy shook her head, his face scrunched up in confusion, “You're not lying about this, but Angel would have-”

“Angel?!” Spike erupted, rage blossoming in his chest, “That bloody ponce is here? I thought he was in L.A.!”

“You know Angel, too?” Buffy looked at him with suspicion as he nodded, but by the increasingly worried look on her face, he could tell she knew that he was being truthful.

“Yeah, I know him,” Spike spat venomously, “Let me guess,” he sneered, “Mr. Save the Day came into Sunnydale, all fancy and mysterious, doing his little 'save-the-damsel' routine and in general being a self-righteous prick, that about right?”

Buffy nodded, slowly.

Spike nodded as well, but angrily.

“So, he tried to get into your pants yet, then?” Spike asked, knowing in the back of his head that he was being rash, but was far past giving a damn.

“No...he said we should wait...” Buffy stopped as Spike snorted in disbelief.

“Bloody ponce,” he snarled, “he probably just knew how hard it is to seduce a Solar!”

“No,” she whispered, clutching her head, “NO! He's not like that! You're lying!” she screamed, glowing brightly as she tore a fistful of hair from her head, and was oblivious towards the sudden rush to the exit as the local demons sought to escape the angry Solar.

“Let me tell you something about Angel,” Spike spat, “That golden-eyed bastard isn't the hero he likes to play. He's a cruel, manipulative arse who fucks you till he's bored, then moves on to the next one! He sleeps with everyone who'll have him, and plenty who won't, and just loves to let you know that you belong to him, and nothing belongs to you!”

Spike was breathing heavily as his rant came to a close, a century of pain and abuse rising to the surface and subsiding just as quickly. Buffy's Anima was glowing even brighter, and she was clutching her head in her hands.

“You aren't lying,” she whispered, “you aren't lying...”

“Damn right I'm not,” Spike growled, and as he looked at the girl, a new thought entered his mind. A wicked one, worse by far than anything he'd done since his Exaltation. One of the things he'd found alongside infinite cosmic power had been the return of his soul. Twisted and warped as it was, some part of him cried out against what he was about to do. Another, larger, and far more entertaining part egged him on, urging him to act. Spike smiled slowly, and gathered his Essence. Gently, he reached down and touched Buffy's shoulder.

“He lied to you,” Spike said with utter conviction. It was unimaginable to him that Angel hadn't.

“I-I thought we were...” the sobbing girl trailed off, and Spike had to suppress a shudder of delight. This was too perfect.

“What was he doing the last time you spoke?” Spike asked gently, and the girl frowned.

“We-we were sparring,” she said, “and he freaked out, but I don't-”

Spike's Caste Mark flared brilliantly, and the girl shuddered.

“It was horrible,” she whispered, “He...he looked like a monster. There were...things...shifting beneath his skin, and he looked like he wanted to kill me...”

“That sounds like him, alright,” Spike confirmed, nodding sagely and trying not to giggle, “You know what you should do?”

Buffy shook her head.

“You should get him back,” Spike encouraged gently, “Show him that he can't just go around treating you like that...”

“But...” Buffy started, then blinked, and again, and shook her head violently, her golden hair flipping around.

“Wait, this doesn't...” she murmured, suddenly looking confused, “He wouldn't do that. He couldn't. I'm his Solar Mate.”

'Bugger,' Spike thought to himself. That...couldn't be good.

Her eyes narrowed, and she stood to her feet.

“You're using charms on me,” she said softly, baring her teeth in anger, “What the hell are you doing, why are you-” bright golden wings burst once more from her back as the young Solar cast another charm, and her brilliant green eyes widened in sheer horror.

–Buffy–

Destroy Angel by stealing Buffy, shatter and kill them both.

She didn't know who this man was. She didn't know what had brought him to Sunnydale, other than the single sentence superimposed over her mind. He hated Angel, and was using her to get to him. Her mouth dropped and she threw her most powerful punch at her foe. In a blur of speed the Infernal caught the blow in his hand and grabbed her by the elbow and threw her bodily over his shoulder and threw the wall behind them. She smashed through the cheap plaster and into the stone wall of the neighboring building hard enough to leave a Buffy-sized impression. She fell flat on her face with a thud, and groaned in pain. She picked herself up uneasily, swaying as William-or whoever he was-walked out of the bar, grinning maliciously as he strode up to her. Rage seized her as she saw the grin on the glowing Infernal's face, and she lashed out with all her might. Angelic wings burst from her back, ethereal golden feathers falling and fading to the ground. The light from her Anima flare bleached the dirty alley white as her blow caught the Infernal in the jaw.

The punch knocked the Infernal to the ground, and she was upon him, lashing out over and over, punches strong enough to shatter stone slamming into face and torso. For a moment, she was lost in the violence, until, with a roar, her opponent twisted out from beneath her and kicked her hard in her chest using both his legs. Buffy was sent flying once more, this time over the edge of the building behind her and onto its roof. She landed with a thud on cold stone, her head cracking hard against the concrete. With a growl, she leapt up, sliding instinctively into her fighting form, and felt her Essence surround and armor her. The world seemed to slow down around her, she was aware of everything. She turned her gaze to the edge of the roof just in time to see her foe leap up into the night sky, the darkness pale and petty compared to the warring light of the Exalted, and land on the roof with force enough to crack the concrete. The Infernal was a blazing pyre of green flame, shining with unholy veridian light, casting wicked shadows across the city. Great, bony wings of green fire extended from his back, and twisted fiery horns rose from his skull, even as green fire burned in his previously blue eyes. An onlooker would instantly see the similarities between the two. The Infernal was Buffy's opposite number, with all the hellish appearance of a Fallen Angel, the perfect counterpart to the winged holiness of Buffy's own totem.

Buffy remained unaware of the symbolism of their Anima banners. She was standing in awe of the unholy power her enemy radiated. Deep burn scars covered his face where she had punched him with her ring hand, black gashes marring his perfect face, lending him an even greater touch of danger. His grin, no longer mocking, held a predatory feeling to it, and the Infernal reeked of anticipation. Buffy took in her opponents demonic visage, and shivered. The flame, the leather, and the wings and horns only served to enhance the appeal. Warmth swelled in her groin, and she shuddered. She wanted nothing more than to lash out, to conquer, to fuck and to kill. Silently, they observed each other, until, at last, her enemy spoke.

“That was a hell of a punch,” he grinned, “I actually felt it. Not often someone can hit me that hard. And that ring! That bloody hurt! I was gonna go easy on you before, but now...” the Infernal grinned, “Well, now the kid gloves come off!”

Her foe threw out his hands and they burst into a far more tangible green flame.

“My name's Spike, by the way,” he added, and Buffy's eyes widened as she recalled the name “William was my birth name, but I was worried my reputation would proceed me, and by the look on your face, it did-”

She didn't let him finish. Her foe had killed two Slayers and three Solars, and she wasn't going to give him any more advantages. She slammed into him shoulder-first with all her might and sent the both of them flying into the street below. Their impact tore up the asphalt on the road, creating a deep furrow going one side to the other, and then the fight began in earnest. Buffy slammed her forehead into Spike's nose and was rewarded with a satisfying crunch of splintered cartilage. Burning hands grabbed her by the waist and lifted her into the air. She howled in agony as the fabric of her shirt burned away under unholy flame and her skin began to redden under the flame. Her glowing fist, lit up by Anima and blazing ring caught Spike along the forehead, opening deep, burning gash which ran to the bone of her foe's skull. With a cry of rage he threw her bodily down the street, and she flew for nearly eight seconds before slamming threw the wall of an office building a quarter mile down the road, through the main office, through one wall, then two, and finally out the other side of the building and into the next street. She rolled to a stop nearly a hundred feet away from the exit hole in the building and leapt to her feet, only to catch a brutal punch to the jaw that smashed her to the ground and sent her head spinning. A burning hand grabbed her hair and slammed her bodily into the street, only to for Buffy to grab the blazing arm holding her and pull herself towards her foe, delivering a punch which sent Spike flying back into the damaged office building and Buffy somersaulting to a stop as he let go as he started his flight into the ruined structure.

She was on her feet in moments, a blazing, burning bonfire of holy Essence. Tangled blond hair just managed to cover her chest, which she might have been thankful for had she been aware of the loss. Torn jeans were alight with green fire that sought and failed to sear her Essence-armored skin. Deep cuts convered her face and back, but none bled. Some were visibly healing already, and only the burnt-in handprints on either side of her midriff seemed in any way immediately threatening, but if she noticed the pain, she gave no outward sign.

It was mere moments before Spike tore out of the building, passing through the wall as though it weren't there and headbutting Buffy with all his might, driving the air from her lungs and throwing her flat on her back several yards away. Before she could rise to her feet, her foe was upon her, delivering blow after blow to her chest, face and stomach. Flames seared at her skin, reddening and burning, and with a roar of rage she grabbed Spike's left wrist and right fist and used her legs as leverage to flip him over. In a flash she had him in a constricting grip, her face level with his knees as her arms pinned his legs together with enough force to crush granite, while her own legs wrapped around his blazing torso, pinning his arms to his side while cracking and popping sounds accompanied the slow crushing of his arms and ribs. Pain blazed on Buffy's legs as the last of her clothing burnt away, Spike's Essence lashing out against her uselessly. He howled in helpless rage, thrashing and twisting until, finally, he freed one arm. With all his strength and Essence blazing, he slammed his fist into Buffy's thigh, shattering her thigh bone and pulping the muscle tissue. She screamed as her grip loosened and Spike tore himself free. In moments, he was atop her, blazing hands pinning her arms to the ground and his own, armored legs wrapped securely around hers. He tightened his grip and exulted in her scream of agony as he crushed the bones of her forearms.

“Yeah, that's what I'm bloody talking about!” Spike growled. After a few moments of thrashing, his captive subsided, apparently exhausted. For the first time, Spike realized that she was naked, and he grinned leeringly at her.

“So, I'm guessing those clothes were rein-” he began to taunt, but stopped in sudden shock as he saw tears running down Buffy's bruised, battered face.

“Are you-,” he began incredulously, “are you crying?”

“Please, please don't kill me,” the girl begged in a small, pathetic voice, a voice completely at odds with the shining Anima banner surrounding her, “Please, I'll do...I'll do whatever you want, just please don't kill me!”

Spike felt an alien sensation rising up in his gut, and after a moment realized that it was pity. He loosened his grip in shock, and suddenly Buffy's arms were free and he was flying through the air. As he slammed into the building behind him, a golden figure of angelic fury approached him and drove a fist into his gut. He gasped in agony as the air was forced from his lungs and his stomach ruptured from the blow. Another headbutt slammed into his nose, sending the older injury into a burst of agony. A brutal kick to his knee echoed in the night with a resounding snap as his leg broke, and suddenly all sounds were silenced when the young Solar slammed her cupped palms against his ears, rupturing the eardrums in a burst of pain. She finished with a devastating punch directly to his groin, fueled by Essence, and he dissolved into pain. As he fell to the ground in a heap, his foe said something her couldn't make out, and then took his bloody coat!

With that, she ran off. He tried to stand, tried to rush after her, only for his leg to collapse beneath him. He glared after the golden light, teeth bared in rage.

Nobody took his coat.

Nobody.

End Chapter–

...So, whaddaya think? Especially with the Buffy/Spike interaction. This is my first time writing them in extended scenes, so I know I made some errors.
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