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Empty Places and Touched – Revisited

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Summary: Another possible alternate path for how things might have developed in the back to back Season Seven episodes, 'Empty Places' and 'Touched.'

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Dark > Cast: Scooby GangGreywizardFR1813,957071,8292 Feb 132 Feb 13Yes
Disclaimer: They all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. Deal with it. I have.

Category: BtVS Non-crossover.

Time Frame: Begins at the end of episode nineteen of Season Sux Part Deux, 'Empty Places,' and goes AU right away.

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

Character Bashing: None, in my opinion. I will point out that in both episodes, Buffy wasn't exactly popular with a lot of the Potentials, so expecting them to behave as though everything's all 'hearts and flowers' with her is not being at all reasonable or accurate. Other people also interact as their established personalities dictate, so please don't say I'm bashing anyone, unless you can back your statements up with facts and point out specific points where (you think) I'm being biased.

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.

Author’s Note 2: As usual, “word” indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

Author's Note 3: Some dialogue is taken from transcripts of the episodes 'Empty Places' and 'Touched,' which were taken from Buffyworld.

Author's Note 4: I'll warn any Spike fans, right now, that in this story he doesn’t come across as anything like the vampiric savior of the world which Marti hallucinated him as being. You are warned.

~/~/~

Summers residence
Sunnydale, CA

May 23, 2003


Listening to everyone expressing their lack of confidence in her leadership ability, Buffy Anne Summers shook her head in disagreement and said, "I can't watch you just throw away everything that –"

She stopped, briefly at a loss for what to say, and glanced over at her maimed friend, Xander Harris – before then quickly turning her eyes and looking at Dawn, who couldn't – or wouldn't – meet her gaze.

Buffy lifted her head up high before continuing, "I know I'm right about this. I just need a little – I can't stay here and watch her lead you into some disaster."

After hearing Buffy's disparaging remarks about Faith, Dawn stood up from her seat and walked up to Buffy, saying softly, "Then you can't stay here. Buffy, I love you, but you were right. We have to be together on this. And I'm sorry, but it looks to me like you can't be a part of that, if you're gonna act like you're the boss and the rest of us have no say in what happens."

Buffy blinked her eyes in disbelief upon hearing her sister's words, and an expression of shock crossed her face as Dawn continued, "So you need to leave. I'm sorry, but this is my house, too."

Before Buffy could say anything in response to Dawn's statement, though, Giles spoke up and said, "No, Dawn, actually – you're completely wrong about that, I-I'm afraid.

"Joyce specifically left the house to Buffy in her will," the ex-Watcher informed the two sisters, "as well as a requirement that she provide you with shelter and sustenance until you're old enough to provide for yourself.

"It all had something to do with complying w-with California's inheritance tax legislation, I-I believe," Giles explained further, as Anya nodded firmly. "But regardless of the reasons why, this house belongs solely to Buffy. So, you, err, you don't have any say about who can or cannot stay here, despite whatever your feelings on the matter might be."

Blinking with surprise at this completely unexpected news, Dawn paused for a moment to reconsider the new circumstances – before her lips pursed with resolve and she nodded her head as she came to a new decision.

"Okay, Giles," she said, accepting his statement, "if that's the way it is, then I guess I have no other choice."

Seeing the satisfied smile on Buffy's face as she acknowledged the validity of his statement, Dawn then turned to stare at the wounded Founding Scooby.

"You've got some extra room in your apartment, right, Xander?" she said as she turned to look at the carpenter with the bandage covering most of the left side of his face. "Can I stay in your apartment for tonight?"

"WHAT?" Buffy demanded shrilly.

"Because I can't stay here and listen to Buffy say it's either her way or else, not after everything that's happened to us lately," Dawn declared with a shake of her head, even as Buffy's jaw dropped halfway to the floor after hearing that.

"So, do you mind if I sack out at your place tonight?" the younger Summers sister asked again.

"I've already got twelve Potentials living with me, Dawnie," Harris immediately shook his head. "Sorry, but there's no room for anyone else."

Dawn then turned to the ex-Watcher. "Giles?"

"There's no room in my flat either, I'm afraid," the British man shrugged. "Ten Potentials."

"All right, Dawn, that's enough. Okay? You're embarrassing both of us," Buffy said roughly, trying to ignore her sister's flinch at the sharp tone in her voice. "You're not going anywhere – and before you say anything, you're not gonna stay at some damn hotel, either!"

That gave Faith an idea. { Hotel. Angel's hotel. Angel...he used to live in this hell-hole town, back when I... }

"Hey," Faith spoke up, as everyone turned to look at her. "What's the what with Angel's mansion? I mean, is anyone living there now? 'Cause I was wondering if I could crash there, since it's plenty obvious B don't want me around," the currently escaped-convict and Slayer pointed out with her own frown, indicating her mystical sibling with a nod of her head.

"That, that place is...currently unoccupied, I believe...?" Giles glanced around at Willow uncertainly.

"Well, of course it is," Anya said vehemently. "Didn't you people know that the place where a defeated Master vampire once lived is considered off-limits to all other vampires, and most demons? It's considered, y'know, jinxed. Bad luck to anyone who moves in."

"Okay. Faith, you and me, we stay there tonight, yeah? What do you say?" Dawn asked, ignoring Buffy's facial expression.

"Okay, why not?" Faith agreed somewhat listlessly. "Place is big enough to house an army, after all…"

Immediately upon hearing Faith's description of the mansion, a somewhat frenzied babble broke out among all of the Potentials, with all of the younger teens clamoring for a chance to accompany Faith and Dawn and move out of 1630 Revello Drive.

Whether the girls' main concern was their personal safety after what had happened at the Shadow Valley Vineyard, or they were merely seeking an opportunity to escape the hellishly overcrowded conditions they'd all been enduring lately, was unclear to anyone except themselves.

But with Giles', Robin's and Willow's assistance, a semblance of order was soon restored, and the young female teens all began rushing around to gather up their things and move out to the mansion on Crawford Street. Even the Potentials living with Xander and Giles (and Robin Wood) decided to escape the crowded barracks, and head for somewhere they could at least have *some* semblance of privacy.

Curiously, no one paid any attention to Buffy's attempts to give orders and, after the third time her 'suggestions' had been completely ignored, the blonde Slayer finally gave up on any further efforts and turned away, heading up to her bedroom.

All things considered, Buffy was feeling quite tired, and a hot shower was looking very good to her at this particular point in time.

The resounding silence of an otherwise empty house, which greeted Buffy when she exited the bathroom from her shower a short time later, made her pause in the hallway for the briefest of moments; but then she recovered and headed back to her room.

"At least, I won't be kept up all night listening to over half a dozen whispered conversations," Buffy murmured to herself, as she slipped beneath her covers a few minutes later.

Despite the atypical lack of noise, though, it took the Chosen One quite a while before she finally managed to fall asleep.

~/~/~

Summers residence
Sunnydale, CA

The next evening


Buffy stared at the answering machine's light, which kept blinking on and off, in an oddly hypnotizing manner, while the display indicated that there were four messages waiting to be heard.

She didn't bother checking them, though, since she already knew what they said, having heard each of them as they were recorded.

Dawn, Giles, Xander and Willow had each called and, when she hadn't picked up the receiver to speak, they had left their requests asking her to call them back when she got their message.

Buffy had ignored each of the calls, in turn, as the combination of anger and hurt at everyone's rejection of her leadership – mixed with the sense of hopelessness and apathy that seemed to linger in the air – had formed a blend which left her feeling mostly empty and lacking in an inclination to do anything.

{ Why didn’t they just follow like they always had before? } she wondered.

A sudden voice calling in unexpectedly from outside startled her, so deep was Buffy in her – meditation. Yeah, that was it – meditation. She wasn't sulking or brooding or moping – no, not at all. She'd been meditating, that's all, she told herself.

Regardless of what she'd been doing, Buffy still had to respond to the aggravating voice calling in as an accompanying annoying fist pounded on the door.

"Hey, everybody," the familiar annoying male voice said on the opposite side of the front door. "We're back, and I missed you guys a lot. Sorry it took so long getting back from our mission-mission, but we had to wait out the sun and, well, I think it all went very well. We rode on Spike's hog, which was very cool, and played some amusing road games and, oh, we got some information which I truly believe could prove to be essential to the success of the upcoming battle," Buffy could hear Andrew announcing to the world. "Hey can someone please unlock the door? Please? 'Cause I really need to urinate!"

Trying not to smirk at the last almost-groaning plea, Buffy unlocked the front door and let it swing open as she stepped to the side. Even with that precaution, she was almost bowled over as a blond-haired streak rushed by her, Andrew heading directly towards the bathroom at break-neck speed.

"He’s a breath of fresh air, isn’t he?" Spike commented drily as he sauntered into the house. "Thank Lucifer I don’t hafta breathe."

Looking around the vampire seemed to finally notice the quiet encompassing the house. Both sight and smell quickly confirmed it; there was no one present here except for him, Buffy and that useless twerp pissing into the porcelain.

"What's goin' on? You send the kiddies out to the playground to ride the swings, luv?" Spike asked, faux-casually.

"No. Everyone left," Buffy replied, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "They moved out, the Potentials decided to go live in Angel's mansion. But even if they hadn't, it wouldn't have made much difference – evidently, no one thinks I'm a very good leader."

"Then they're all a bunch of idiots, luv," Spike declared scornfully, dismissing the absent members of the group with a wave of his hand. He easily repressed the bad memories associated with the mention of his former home (and that of Angelus and Drusilla), as he said, "You're a great leader!"

"No one else seems to think so," Buffy responded with a grimace.

"Then bugger them all," Spike told her, vehemently. "Ta hell with them!

"'Ere, maybe this’ll change your tune," he went on, giving Buffy a wide smile. "I came back ’cause I got something to tell ya.

"And that is, you were right," Spike announced. "Caleb bloody well is trying to protect something from you, and I think you were spot on about where it's at. I think it’s at the vineyard."

"Yes, it's all true," Buffy heard Andrew chime in from the hallway as he walked in, finishing pulling up his zipper as he did so.

"Spike and I, we found something at the mission Mr. Giles sent us to investigate, and it was an inscription written in Latin, but using Greek letters, hidden inside a secret chamber which we discovered," Wells declared somewhat pompously, straightening up and lifting his chin as though he was about to relate some long and overly–complicated tale.

"Bottom line, it said, 'It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield,'" Spike interrupted, ignoring the offended expression on Andrew's face at his doing so.

"It's obviously referring to whatever that wanker pokey priest has hidden inside that effin' vineyard. luv," he declared. "Reckon he's found something that belongs to you, and he's holding on to it, so that you can't use it against him."

"Spike, I don't know –" Buffy began as she shook her head.

"Well, I do! Don't you let those pathetic traitors running off and leaving you make you doubt yourself, luv," Spike interrupted her. "C'mon – let's go find whatever it is he's holding on to, and take it back from him!

"And if you ask me, we're better off going without all those gits, anyway," the bleached-hair vampire insisted. "Bunch of idiots who're barely fit to clean your shoes," he sneered contemptuously. "What exactly have they really accomplished, anyway? What have they EVER done? Seven years, it's all been you, luv. It's all about you, and what you can do that no one else can!"

"I think Spike's right," Andrew chimed in, his eyes wide with excitement. "And when the others come back and see you holding whatever it is that Caleb was hiding, they'll realize how wrong they were, a-and they'll apologize for running away and beg for your forgiveness. Kinda like I did. Right?"

"Oh, shut up, ya bloody imbecile," Spike grumbled, and gave Andrew a whack over the head before returning his attention to Buffy. "Well, luv?"

"Okay," Buffy nodded, tossing aside any doubts she might have had about the wisdom of facing off against Caleb and the First's minions with just the three of them.

"Let's go."

~/~/~

Shadow Valley Vineyard
Wine Cellar


"It shouldn’t be long now," Caleb stated as he walked down an aisle of barrels, accompanied by the First, who was wearing her Buffy suit. "Prophesies say one thing, brute strength says another. We’ll get it out."

The southern-fried serial killer was interrupted by the thump of a body rolling down the stairs, and he turned to see the bloody corpse of one of the Bringers at the base of the steps.

"Hey, padre. I heard you got something of mine," Buffy declared as she casually descended the stairs.

"Well, if it ain’t the prodigal Slayer…" Caleb smirked upon seeing her.

"Where’s it at? I’m going to find it sooner or later," Buffy declared as she scanned the room.

"No, you’re not. I lay one hand on you and you’re just a dead little girl," Caleb boasted.

"Lay a hand on me. If you can," Buffy challenged him with a confident smile.

"But that's just it. I don't need to, missy," Caleb shook his head, his refusal making Buffy frown at his deviation from how she's expected him to behave.

"Not when I can have my unwilling slave do it for me," Caleb gave her a truly satanic smile, before beginning to sing, " Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a young maid sing in the valley below. Oh, don't deceive me, Oh never leave me. How could you use a poor maiden so?"

The expression of shock on Buffy's face as she recognized the lyrics actually made Caleb laugh aloud. As she began to spin around, Buffy was knocked off her feet by the unexpected impact of *something* slamming into her back, and then she fell to the floor in front of the demented and degenerate former priest.

As the Slayer frantically tried to push herself back to her feet, Buffy only had the briefest moment to notice a blur of motion before Caleb's foot caught her in the jaw and blackness swallowed her whole.

***

"Ah, Slayer, I'm glad to see you're finally wakin' up," Buffy heard Caleb's mocking, derisive accented voice greeting her as she managed to lift her head up from her chest, where it had been hanging. She immediately realized that she was hanging against a stone wall, her feet not touching the floor, held in place by a pair of iron cuffs whose chains were deeply imbedded in the wall above her head.

Blinking away the black spots that still drifted across her vision, Buffy was shocked to see Andrew's body lying on the floor by her feet, the former demon summoner's head twisted around almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees from its proper position, so that the clearly dead youth was staring down along his spine.

"Hmm, looks like your little girly-boy there had himself an accident, don't it, Slayer?" Caleb said with a wide grin as Buffy glared at him.

"What did you do to Spike?" the Chosen One demanded angrily, trying to ignore the small frisson of fear that ran down her spine at the answer she anticipated receiving.

"Well, now, that's the thing. You might like a little monster in your man, but I like a complete monster in my monster," the First announced as it abruptly appeared before Buffy, wearing her face.

"Seriously, I don't do shoddy work. Not at all," the First shook its head. "When I mess with somebody's mind, it *stays* messed. What would be the point, otherwise?

"And if you want proof, take a gander at my boy Spike, here," the Original Evil said, turning and gesturing with its hands, a la Vanna White, as Spike walked in from the next room, a wide, cruel smile on his face.

"Spike, why don't you make yourself useful and –" the First began to say, before the far wall suddenly exploded inward, knocking down everyone else present, except Buffy, by the sheer force of the blast.

Her ears were ringing, and her head was whirling and throbbing with pain where it had been bounced off the wall by the concussive force of the explosion. Nonetheless Buffy watched, confused and bewildered as a myriad of mysterious figures dressed in military uniforms began materializing out of the smoke and dust clouds created by the explosion, an odd assortment of both modern rifles and ancient weapons in their arms.

"Found her! B's over here!"

Even through the dizziness, throbbing headache and vertigo, Buffy recognized Faith's familiar voice as one of soldier figures approached her, a longsword in their right hand and some sort of oversized pistol in their left.

"What the hell is going on here?" Buffy heard Caleb roaring with fury from off to her right, an instant before he staggered into view, blood smeared across his face.

A few steps behind Caleb, Buffy likewise saw Spike appear, his vampiric features snarling with rage and blood dripping down the right side of his face. Trapped in the grip of the First's spell, the British vampire represented a truly formidable undead foe as his gaze focused upon Buffy's neck.

As Spike lurched forward, a loud ripping sound was heard – and the vampire's body seemed to spasm uncontrollably before he collapsed back onto the floor, blood oozing from virtually every part of his body.

His face a mask of insane rage, the First-controlled vampire tried to roll over onto his side, in an effort to regain his feet. But a towering figure stepped forward into Buffy's view, a battleaxe in his hand, and even as Buffy's half-hearted scream of protest began to form in her throat, the axe quickly flashed down.

In less than an instant, the world's second souled vampire was erased from existence.

"Damn heathens, blasphemers, I'll kill you all!!" Caleb bellowed as he took a wobbling step forward, an instant before an earsplitting 'BOOM!' erupted from the smoky haze and the top of Caleb's head abruptly disappeared.

A moment later, a second, equally loud blast sounded again, and the rest of the one-time preacher's head vanished, while a bright crimson smear decorated the wall behind where the misogynistic serial killer had been standing. A moment later, a still-woozy Buffy saw Xander, a black leather eye patch replacing the bandages he'd previously been wearing and a large shotgun clutched in his hands, emerge from the swirling dust cloud which had been the winery's far wall.

"Somehow, I don't think you will," Buffy thought she heard Harris say, feeling her stomach heave uneasily for a moment as she realized that the new blemish decorating the wall was actually Caleb's brain tissue.

And then she was sliding down the wall and onto the vineyard's stone floor, as Faith and Dawn released her from the shackles holding her against the wall.

"Buffy, are you okay?" she could hear Dawn asking her, concern and apprehension filling her sister's voice, and even in her barely conscious state, Big Sis tried to ease Dawn's worry.

"I'm – fine – Dawnie," Buffy managed to mutter, before darkness again overtook her, and she slipped into unconsciousness.

~/~/~

Angel's mansion on Crawford Street
Sunnydale, CA


The next morning


"…and with him being former Special Forces, Robin knew exactly what we needed to get at the the abandoned National Guard base, see? So we were in and out, with enough weapons, ammunition, explosives and support equipment to outfit everyone, in less than an hour," Willow explained to Buffy as she lay on the couch rec room, recuperating and listening to the redhead recount everything which had led up to their Scoobies' assault on Caleb's stronghold the previous night.

"I mean, since you hadn't returned any of our calls, we were getting worried that maybe something had happened to you," Dawn seamlessly picked up the narrative, "so we swung by the house.

"And after we couldn’t find you, we got even more worried," the younger Summers sibling elaborated, "so Robin agreed to lead a small group of us over to the vineyard, so we could check and see if you were there, and if you were in trouble.

"And when Willow did her scrying spell, and we could see that you'd been captured and that Andrew was dead, and that the First was controlling Spike again, we realized we didn't have much time to figure out what would be the best way to attack. So Robin planted some C4 on the outside of the winery wall, and then he set it off, and you saw everything that happened after that," Dawn finished up her summary of the preceding night's events.

"So, did you guys ever figure out what Caleb was hiding in the winery?" Buffy asked, feeling uncomfortable with the apparent ease with which the group had dealt with both Caleb and the remaining Bringers who'd been staying at the winery.

She was also grieving for the loss of Spike, her one true supporter – but Buffy knew that she had to keep such feelings to herself, at least for now. The last thing she wanted was to start arguing with her sister and her best friend all over again, given that they'd rescued her from certain death yesterday.

And she especially didn't want to argue about Robin Wood finally 'dealing' with his mother's murderer.

"Yeah, we did," Willow nodded eagerly in response to Buffy's question. "And just wait 'til you see what we found!"

"Hey, Willow? Where's Xander?" Dawn asked, looking around before the witch could reveal details about the Slayer Scythe.

"Uh, he's talking with Faith. She was showing him what the Scythe can do, after she King Arthur'ed out of the rock," Willow explained, looking back at Buffy.

"What Scythe?" Buffy asked quizzically, not knowing that it was the most important question she could have ever asked.

***

Outside the mansion, watching the group through the atrium windows, the First – still wearing Buffy's face and form – glared at the blonde Chosen One with malicious hatred.

"Don't celebrate too soon, kids," it murmured in a low voice. "I may have lost my right arm – and you WILL pay for that, Cyclops Boy – but the game's still got a couple quarters to go.

"And now, I think it's time to bring the first team off the bench."


FIN (for now)

The End

You have reached the end of "Empty Places and Touched – Revisited". This story is complete.

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