Rating: R (for slashy thoughts)

Pairing: Spike/Xander

Feedback: Yes please, its like chocolate for the soul.

Archive: If you want, but please let me know where.

Disclaimer: None of them are mine. If they were, things wouldnít be this way. Joss, UPN etc. etc. own them all, and they need to start looking after them properly!

Spoilers: Up to end of Season 5

Summary: Xander Ďmind bubbleí (Thank you, Meleesa) during the episodes Intervention to The Gift. As the Scoobies try to deal with Glory, Xander is struggling to escape from denial and deal with new and slashy thoughts about Spike.

Notes: Xander POV. Set during the events of Season 5 (Intervention onwards) Probably helps if youíve seen these eps recently.

Dedication: Everyone whoís said they liked it, especially Veronica. If you keep sending me such distracting ideas, (chocolate-covered Xander, ruffled-hair Spike, licking) Iíll never finish, and, just like Joss, IĎll never get Xander out of denial. That canít possibly be a good thing!

Denial Land is a Nice Place to Be

Goddess Arundhathi

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Part One

"Iím not having sex with Spike. But Iím starting to think you might be."

Eeew. How gross is that. Or maybe not so gross. He is pretty hot. Oh God, no. Donít think that. Gee, thanks Buffy. Give me icky sex thoughts about the evil undead, why donít ya. Okay. I guess itís not really Buffyís fault. I was the one that said he was, what was it? Strong and mysterious and compact but well muscled. Whoa, down boy. Weíre in public.

I have to get a grip. Seriously. This is ridiculous. I canít possibly be having lusty bad thoughts about the undead English patient. Heís evil. And male. AndÖoh. Everyoneís waiting for me to speak. Letís leave these thoughts until later. In bed. No. No Spike related bed thoughts. Thatís just wrong. But tempting. Oh God, stop it. Open mouth. Make noise. Speech. Speech that doesnít sound like I want to get intimate with the bleached one.

"Buffy, I saw you. Anya too" Anya nods in support of my statements "We saw you and SpikeÖÖwith the straddling" And boy was itÖinteresting.

Someone else enters the room. Someone who looks a whole lot like Buffy. Wow. Two Buffies. Hey, two Spikes would be fun. Please brain, switch off now. Iím clearly delirious. Oh maybe not. Buffy sees two Buffies too. Well I suppose she only sees one, Ďcos no mirrors about, but when you are Buffy, seeing even one must be pretty strange. Okay brain, focus on the room. Buffy (one of them) is speaking.

"Spike's mine. Who's straddling Spike?" Me. Please God, let me. Oh boy. This is getting stupid. I have to stop lusting after Spike.

"Oh my God" When Buffy (number one) speaks, for a moment, I think I said all that out loud, but then I realise she is looking at Buffy. Other Buffy. Okay. That sounded weird even to me. Sheís staring at Buffy Two like sheís some sort of freaky thing. Which, this being SunnydaleÖ.

I should probably be all jokey Xander right about now, or everyone will get suspicious. Iíve been pretty non-quippy about the whole ĎSpike doing Buffyí thing.

"And so say all of us" Okay, so that was lame, even by my standards. I should just shut up. Less chance of people staring at me like Iím the sort of freak that wants to have sex with vampires. On that subject, the Spike-loving Buffy is speaking

"Say, look at you. You look just like me! We're very pretty." Canít argue with that. More Buffy equals more pretty. Even if she is a freaky Hellmouth spawned thing. Or maybe itís Buffy One thatís a freak. Or...OhÖthought coming. I remember when there were two of me.

"Two of them!" Thatís my Willow, making sure weíre all on the same page. Even if only she understands it. But this time maybe Iím the one that gets it. Time to butt in.

"Hey, I know this! They're both Buffy!" Oops. Guess Buffy didnít like that idea. Sheís glaring. And speaking.

"No, she's a robot. She acts just like that girlfriend-bot that Warren guy made. You guys couldn't tell me apart from a robot?"

"Oh, I don't think I'm a robot" Buffy Two is veryÖwell, Buffy-like. But in a boinking Spike sort of way. Lucky thing. Wish I had my very own Spike toÖOh my God. Of course. Thatís it. Spike is the big bad behind all this. I should enlighten the group. Wait. Let Anya speak first.

"She's very well done." Okay so, not remotely the point here honey, and not really worth waiting for. Now to show my insight and understanding and all that (but not mention how I came upon it. Naked Spike thoughts not winning many points with the Scoobies (except maybe Buffy Two))

"Spike must have had her built so he could program her t-"

Buffy gets it straight away, and doesnít want me to complete that thought. "Oh god."

Willow looks just as repulsed " Yikes. Imagine the things-"

"No! No, no imagining. Any of you." Guess Buffy doesnít want to share naked Spike images. Big selfish slayer that she is. Oh well. Itís too late anyway.

"Already got the visual." And Iím loving it. Shut up brain. That is it. No more thinking. Ever. Suddenly, thoughts of Spike change track slightly. Iím sure we were doing something blond vampire connected before the whole two Buffy fiasco got started.

Strangely enough, itís Buffy Two (robot Buffy) that gets us back on track. "People. Friends of mine. You're forgetting the most important thing. Glory has Spike and she's going to harm him."

"Glory has Spike?" Oh yeah. Buffy - Real Buffy - wasnít around for that bit. Oh dear.

"We were gonna bring that up." As soon as we figured out a way to tell you without Dawn related freakage.

"We were getting weapons." Anya has her helpful face on. Always a sign that sheís lost her ability to understand the whole human thing. Although she seems less freaked about the robot thing than the rest of us. Why donĎt I have a normal girlfriend? My love life is seriously messed up. And the naughty Spike images in my head at the moment donít seem likely to make it any less so.

"Grab 'em. We're going now. I have to kill him." Buffy is back on top, talking about weapons. Hey. She canít kill Spike. Heís mine. Shut up brain. I said no more thinking. Great. Now Iím having arguments with my own icky subconscious. Focus. Glory has Spike.

"We don't even know where to look." Willow looks worried. I donít know why. Buffy has that look that means she knows exactly what to do. Or sheís gonna pretend she does.

"I know where to start." And sheís off.

~Later that day~

Well that was fun. In a painful, getting beaten up by ugly hobbit like demons and hell gods kind of way. We left Spike back at his crypt. He looked really bad. Maybe I should head back and see if heís okay.

Alright. Thatís it. Lusting after evil guys is one thing. Iím a highly sexed young man. Worrying about their well-being is another thing completely. That would mean I cared. Itís bad enough that Buffy nearly realised I was serious when I said I felt bad about taking the Buffy-bot away from him. Itís just, he was so thrashed. Iíve never seen him look that rough before.

Oh no. I care. About an evil vampire who probably just sold us out to Glory the Hell god to save his own ass. The Hellmouth has finally got me.

What am I talking about? I donít care. Itís Spike. Heís male. Iím just gonna go home, to Anya, and have nice heterosexual sex. With my GIRLfriend.

Hey. Would you look at that? Iím in a cemetery. Spikeís cemetery. Where we left him at deathís door three hours ago. Since Iím here, I should probably check heís okay.

Oh. Itís the Buffy-bot. Maybe I wonít bother. Theyíre probably gonna get all groiny in there. Wouldnít wanna see that. Who am I kidding? Iíd love to see that. Just one little peek. Wonder how she managed to escape from the Magic box anyway.

Oh. Theyíre not getting up close anyway. Just talking. Suppose Spike is a bit beaten up for any energetic sex games. Wait a minute. I want to listen. Great. Talking to my own mind again. What did Spike just say?

Wow. My world is all cock-eyed. Spike didnít tell Glory anything. Spike just totally came through for Dawn. He let Glory beat him all up. Normally Bleach Boy would sell us out in a minute. Guess he really does care about Buffy. Lucky her. Oh my God. Thatís non-robotic, real Buffy. Our Buffy. Kissing Spike. My Spike and sheís got her lips all over him.

No. Not my Spike. I donít even want a Spike. Heís all evil and male. Hello. Totally not gay. Honestly. Aargh. Going home now. To Anya.

Part Two

Okay, so weĎre running away from the Hell God. ThatĎs wise. But probably quite difficult. "What about wheels? I donít think everybodyís gonna fit in the Xandermobile?"

And of course, if weíve got a tatty old Winnebago, they wonít have to. I thought my brain had hit bottom last week when I was thinking X-rated thoughts about Spike, but now Buffy wants to run away, and thatís new. And scary. Buffyís wigging. Totally. Not sure how to handle that one. Not really sure I want to try. Usually I want to run away, and she wants to fight. Thatís things as normal. Now, Buffyís freaked, Taraís brain has been mushed by a hell beast and weíre going on a road trip in something that looks like a rusty tin can. Things canít get any worse. Right?

Hey, hang on. Tin can is one thing, but why all the tin foil? Whatís that for? Ok, weíre getting on the bus now. Oh good, itís Spike. Yummy Spike. No. Bad. Evil Spike. Not one of our friends, which begs the questionÖ

"Whatís he doing here?" Hey. I was gonna say that. Now I donít get to be rude and everyoneís gonna know Iím lusting. Not lusting. I thought we dealt with that already. Spike is male and evil. I am male, straight and sane (except for the whole talking to my own brain thing). I cannot possibly have kinky sex thoughts about Spike. He needs to leave. Now.

"Heís here because we need him." Yeah sure, Buffy. You need to kiss him again. I saw you, when I was spying on him in his crypt. No Xander. Donít say that. Theyíre gonna know. Not that there is anything to know.

"Like hell we do." Ok that was good. Sounded genuine. Spike is bad. We donít need Spike. What can he do that we canít, apart from embarrass me by looking so hot that I wanna push him down on that table andÖno. And nothing. Heís useless. Really.

"If Glory finds us, he's the only one besides me that has any chance of protecting Dawn." Oh right. Heís not just gorgeous. He has the whole supernatural strength thing too. Sexy. Not sexy. He has that cos heís a bloodsucking fiend. Even more evil than Angel, and I hated him too. Although thinking about it, he was quite buff andÖoh that is it. Lusty Spike thoughts are one thing, but Deadboy? Please! This has to stop. Spike has to go. Iíll tell Buffy.

"Buffy, come on..."

"Look this isnít a discussion. He stays. Get over it." Iíd rather get over him. Right now. Okay, that is it. No more thinking. Iíll just sit here andÖ

Or I could just fall over like a big fool. He may be hot, but heís a terrible driver. Switching off now. No more thinking about Spike and his gorgeous abs, pouty lips and tight trousers. Mmm, nice.

Bleurgh. Not so nice. Oh God, my stomach. Clearly terrible is not a strong enough word to describe SpikeĎs driving. At least Iíve stopped fantasising about the bleached freak now. I think Iím gonna hurl instead.

Guess it wasnít Spike after all. Even with Giles driving, this is not the most fun Iíve ever had. Oh no. Anya, please donít talk about shrimp. My stomach canít take this. I wish theyíd all shut up. Goddamn that sexy vampire. Heís loving this. Seeing me suffer, and look like an idiot who gets carsick. Oh, heís looking at me. Scowl, Xander. You hate him, remember.

"What?" Like he doesnít know whatís upset me. What should I say? Well, Spike, I was just wondering, will you have mad monkey sex with me. No. Thatís not a good comeback

"Would you give it a rest orÖ" Or what, what can I threaten him with. If he doesnít shut up, Iíll go over there and jump his bones? No. Oh, heís gonna speak again. I love that accent.

"Or what, you're gonna toss your cookies on my shoes?" Okay, so now itís not quite so sexy. With the mentioning of sick and all.

"Or you can be undead man walking. See how fast you can hitch a ride with a flamingÖ" I really am gonna hurl now "Öthumb" But hey, I finished a sentence. Yay me.

"Shrimp" Oh god. Shut up Spike. If I kissed him, he might be quiet. But then everyone else would start talking, or possibly trying to kill me, if theyíre Buffy. And also I might throw up in his mouth. Not exactly leading to romance. Not that I want anything Spike related to lead to romance.

Leave. Now. Get away from the vampire. Oh, seat. Iíll sit here. Giles wonít talk about shrimp. I hope. Maybe he can get rid of Spike without me having to totally embarrass myself by saying something about how sexy he is. Which would probably be closely followed by getting killed by Buffy or something. Sheíd think I was a vampire. Or possessed. Again.

"That guy is bloodsuckin' the last nerve right outta me." Mmm, sucking. Spike sucking. Eeww. I did not just think that. Alright, I thought it, but Iím under a lot of stress here. New and interesting experiences and thoughts arriving. Okay, okay, not that new. Ever since the whole Buffy-bot thing, sex with Anya hasnít been quite the same. And Iím not sure she believed me when I said Iíd yelled out ĎItís you I likeí when I came. I know thatís pretty lame, but I panicked. She used to be a vengeance demon. I donít want her knowing Iím fantasising about other people, okay, vampires, (well Ďvampireí singular) when weíre together.

Oops, Giles is talking. Brain; please stop thinking about Spike in front of people.

"ÖSpike may prove useful." Oh, yeah. I could use him. I could use him for all sorts of fun games. Oh, right, Giles means in a fighty sort of way. To help Buffy.

"I don't know if Buffy's thinkin' too clear on that one, or anything else right now." I still feel really sick. Thinking about Spike doesnĎt help either, Ďcos of the combined lust and revulsion and the fear of mocking. From everyone Iíve ever met. And probably lots of people I havenít. Focus. No one knows. Thereís nothing to know. Weíre not thinking about Spike, weĎre talking about Buffy. "I've never seen her soÖ"

"She's ... been through more than her fair share of late. She just needs a chance to catch her breath, regroup. She'll be all right." Why doesnít anyone let me finish a sentence? Ok it might be cos theyíre worried Iíll barf on them, but still. Itís rude. But Giles is right. This is Buffy. Sheíll deal

"Yeah. She'll Ö" Donít vomit. Do not be sick. Not in front of Spike. How embarrassing. Cause of the jokes he could make. Not because I want him to like me. No, really. "Yeah." Good. One word sentences. Thatís about all I can manage. Maybe Iíll just sit here and not speak for a whileÖ

Nearly managed to fall asleep there for a minute. Now Anyaís talking. Sometimes I wish sheíd just learn when to be quiet. Like normal people. I was quite happy there, dreaming about Spike suckingÖOh god no. Bad brain. You love Anya. She is quirky and ex-demonish. Not annoying or abnormal. Except when she tries to feed people Spam. You do not want Spike. You want a normal life with your slightly strange, but now totally human, girlfriend. Who is a girl.

Normal. Huh. Who am I kidding? Iím the most normal person here and Iím having fantasies about a member of the undead who thinks heís Billy Idol. I guess normal is not really on the menu for somebody whose friends are a slayer, two witches, a watcher, a big ball of energy and an incredibly sexyÖI mean stupidÖchipped vampire. Not that Spike is my friend. Heís evil. I hate him.

Hey. Tara just nearly incinerated my vampire. Not my vampire. The vampire. The evil one whoís tried to kill me and all my friends before now. My friends. Poor Willow. Sheís really worried about Tara. Not that thatís exactly shocking news. If some blonde hell bitch sucked out SpikesÖAnyaís, I mean Anyaís, brain, Iíd be pretty wigged.

Sexy vampire speaking. Focus. "No biggie. Look, the skin's already stopped smoking. You go ahead and play ... peek-a-boo with Mister Sunshine all you like. It keeps the ride from getting boring." Oh, thatís sweet. Heís being really cute and understanding.

Aaargh. I did not just think Spike was sweet. That is it. Iím getting out. Or not. We are going pretty fast.

And there are people outside. With arrows.

"Arrows!" Yeah, well done Mr States-the-Obvious. Make them all look at you like youíre a moron. Or maybe theyíll be distracted by the arrows. Oh God. Weíre under attack. How much fun can one man stand?

"Bloody Hell." Got to say Iím with Spike on this one. Iíd be with Spike on anything. Anywhere. Shut up brain. Robin Hood and his not so Merry Men are out there trying to kill us.

"They're throwing arrows!" Way to go Xan-man. Iím sure no one worked that out for themselves. Besides, the word is firing, or shooting, not throwing, and I bet they all needed you to tell them a second time. Itís a good job Iím not even remotely interested in boinking the undead, as the Dawnster would say, cos Iím acting like even more of a moron than usual. And yes I realise thatís really saying something. Thank you brain for reminding me.

Not to worry. Looks like weíre fighting now. That should keep my inner psyche from thinking about Spike in those tight trousers for a while. Hey. Trying to stay alive here, not lust after the crazy demon guy whoís thinks heís in love with one of my female best friends. He is not gay, and thatís okay, cos neither am I.

Oh. Itís all gone quiet. Did we kill all King Arthurís knights?

"Did we shake Ďem?" Gaah. Sword. Near my head. Guess we didnít. And Iím panicking again. This time itĎs not Spike related. Progress. Or possibly just near death experience. Good either way. What am I saying? Near death is not good. I donít want to die without shagging Spike. And now my subconscious sounds like him. Great. Thatís just great.

"Now might be a good time for something heroic." Sure thing brain. What should I do? Oh, right. That was real Spike speaking, not my inner demon. Nice pun there, even if I do say so myself. To myself.

Oops, Buffyís talking. "Xander! Hatch!" Right. I was going to help. Do something heroic and impress Spike. Not that I feel the need to impress him. Just want to show I can hold my own. By giving a very petite and not at all heavy slayer a foot up. Okay so not that impressive, I guess. Oh well. Buffyís up there. She can handle the actual heroics.

Lookís like sheís not the only one. Anyaís beating them off with her frying pan, so we should be okay. Even though itís not quite a piano. Oh God. Did Anya just say that? Iíve spent too much time corrupting that girl. Time I could be spending thinking about Spike. Being corrupted by Spike would be fun too. Is he okay? He nearly got incinerated again. Which would be bad. Because we need him to help protect Dawn. And because thereís not a lot of naked fun to be had with a pile of ashes. As far as I know. Not that I would. Do naked things with Spike. Ever. At all.

He seems alright though. Dawnie is taking good care of him. Seems quiet outside as well, so hopefully weíre all alright now.

"Is everyone all right?" That was gonna be my question. Weíre all alive though, so thatís okay. Maybe Spike will need me to tend his wounds later. Oh gross. Now I feel sick again. And Giles is swerving the bus again. G-Man, thatís really not helping. Oh weíre tipping over. Still tipping. And falling now. As is the huge Winnebago, with us inside. Iím gonna die without ever kissing Spike. Which is fine. I wouldnít want to do that anyway. Ouch. My head. No more thinking.

Part Three

Ow. That hurt. Just so you know, being in a Winnebago when a knight with a lance attacks the driver. Not a good plan. Not that Iím surprised by that fact, but still. Ouch. Still, at least the nausea is gone. I was worried that I was gonna take Spike up on his suggestion, and Ďtoss my cookiesí all over him. That would have been humiliating.

We really need to get out of here. Those Knights are probably still after us. Oh shit, look at Giles. Better help him out. Thatís a lot of blood. Heís pretty heavy too, even with slayer strength supporting half of him.

Right, lets get out of here. Oh sure, and go where? Weíre in the middle of the desert. We go out there and Spikeís gonna burn up, which would be bad. Because we need him to help protect. Not because I care. At all. But in a fight he could be pretty handy to have. So, shelter.

"We gotta find shelter." Great. Xand-man states the obvious, yet again. I say such stupid things sometimes. Like, most of time. But I guess we have bigger things to worry about at the moment, like a roof over the vampireís head.

"Yeah, right bloody quick. Iím burning up out here." And that blanket isnít doing much good. As usual. For a vamp Spike really does spend a lot of time taking walks in the sunshine. He should stop that or he might end up dead. Which would be bad. For Dawn, I mean. It wouldnít matter to me at all. I really donít like him. We do need to get him out of the sun though. Like, now, before Mr ĎIím the Big Badí ends up blowing in the wind as part of a big old sandstorm.

Hey, a building. Okay, it looks more like half a building, but beggars canít be choosers and all that. We really need to get help for Giles. He looks rough. Heís probably getting a bit old for all this Last Action Hero stuff. Not as old as Spike though, and Iíd definitely let himÖdo nothing. I would never let Spike do anything to me like that. That would be wrong. And gross. Stop thinking that. Now is not the time to think about Spikeís cool lips all over me. Yaargh. Stop that. Focus on the big drama, not the compact, well-muscled vampire.

Címon G-Man, lets get you in here, before I drop you. Heís really heavy. I wish I had some super-strength. Those Slay-gal powers really come in handy sometimes. Hell, is it any wonder I have lusty thoughts about men when my two best friends are not only ten times as tough and powerful as me, but also women. Emasculating is not the word. Well, maybe it is. Iím not a hundred percent sure on the meaning, so I could actually be right. Stranger things have happened. What I mean is sometimes itís hard to remember Iím the *guy* in this trio, so the lusting after men, well, vampires, is just a by-product of spending so much time with girls. Sort of like itís catching, you know?

Way to go on the rationalisation, Xander. You donít lust after Spike; you just think youíre a girl. Cos that makes you, I mean me, so much more sane. And now Iím talking to myself again. Brilliant. No more thinking until weíve dealt with the bleeding watcher and the rampaging crusaders on our trail. Not to mention the God that wants to use the Dawnster to open something. This being the wacky world of Xander and friends, Iím guessing sheís not trying to get into her jewellery box or anything. More likely to be a big hell-like playroom full of giant snake demons and other nasty toys. Did I mention how much I love my life?

"Careful. Up." Okay, Giles is probably slightly more comfortable now he can bleed out lying on a gas station counter, instead of being propped up against me and Spike. I wouldnít mind being propped up against Spike though. Hey. Stop that brain. This is serious. Giles is really hurt. I hope Will can do the healy bits. First aid is not my thing. Giles usually does the bandaging around here. Iím mostly just fetch-and-carry-guy.

"Okay, Will." Buffy still looks like sheís about to freak out. Hardly surprising, given the way her life is recently. I donít know how sheís coped. Riley leaving, Joyce dying, the whole Dawn and Glory shebang. Itís like things have just spiralled out of her control. And she likes the control. I suppose you get used to being the one with the power when you could kill a person with one well-placed kick. Not that she would, of course. Iím just saying. She could. If she wanted to.

"Iím on it." Willís not in much better shape. Her and Tara really have the big love. Thatís nice for her, after Oz and all that wolfy stuff. I was pretty shocked about the gay thing at first, but she really seems happy. It does mean sheíd probably be support-o-gal if I told her I was having lusty bad thoughts about a guy. Well, until I told her about the guy in question, when sheíd probably test out the book of spells on me, get Buffy to stake Spike, and start asking about possession. Not that Iím gonna tell her, cause thereís nothing to tell. Its just stress, giving me crazy thoughts about the vampire.

Talking (well, ok, thinking, seeing as how IĎm not having these conversations with myself out loud yet) of the vampire, how is he? His hands were pretty badly cut up. Not that he could die from it, but still, someone should kiss it better. I did not mean that. I just meant someone should take care of his injuries. Oh, check out Nurse Buffy. Real sweet bedside manner.

"Ow. Easy with the delicates." Spike must really be in pain. I donít think Iíve ever heard him admit to that before, except in a raging at the Initiative for causing it kind of way. I guess thatís what you get for trying to be all heroic and grabbing hold of the big sharp sword with both hands. Still, if he hadnít, it would have been impaled in Buffyís head, so you have to give him points for effort.

"Theyíll heal." Well, you do unless youíre Buffy at her sympathetic best. Dawn looked pretty worried there. I guess sheís the only one of us that treats Spike like he matters. Probably because sheís the only one that even thinks he does. Except maybe Anya, she looks pretty disgusted by Buffyís attitude. Ex-demon empathy I suppose. Not that Iím not sympathetic. This time. He is helping. She could try to be a little more grateful, seeing as sheís the one that brought him along. Still, if she asked, heíd probably stake Dru for her, and not expect any appreciation. Oh yeah, I remember, he already offered. Poor guy is totally slayer-whipped. Oh no. No sympathy with the vampire. Heís evil, and in love with the slayer. I mean lust, not love, heís a vampire, he canít love Buffy. Or me, so I should stop thinking about him. Okay. Like, now. Please.

"Florence bloody Nightingale to the rescue." Guess Spikeís about as impressed with Buffyís nurturing as us. At least that means heís not fawning over her. That would be horrible to watch. Almost as scary as seeing him and the Buffy-botÖDonít think about that. If you fade out and start having kinky thoughts about Spike now, thereíll be drool, and embarrassment, and possibly pain, when you try and explain it to your girlfriend, who, in case weíve all forgotten, used to be a vengeance demon. Besides, there are slightly more important things to worry about, like what the hell do we do now.

"Um, you have another plan, right?" Anya looks pretty stressed too. Generally speaking, when the 1000-year-old ex-demon looks worried, panic. "One that doesn't involve pointy knives and a Winnebago?" She obviously loved that plan as much as I did.

"We-we-we'll rest here for a minute, but then we have to keep moving." Again with the Buffy being flaky thing. Iím not sure how long my brain can keep processing this. Iím the one thatís allowed to freak. Cause of the whole I donít have any superpowers to protect me thing. Besides, what good is moving going to do?

"Where?" Please tell me Buff. How can we find somewhere thatís safe, and Giles can get fixed up, and the demon you brought along as your sidekick wonít spontaneously combust on the way.

"I don't know! We just, we, we, we can't, can't stay here. I-it's too close to the wreck, we're too easy to find." And once more with the panic.

"Buffy." Oh god. Willow. Whatís wrong now? Giles, I guess. He looks really thrashed, and grey. Almost like heís already dead. Now Iím thinking like heís definitely gonna die. Thatís stupid. Willíll fix him. Thatís what sheís good at. Sheís always been able to make me feel better. Although admittedly, Iíve never been impaled on a huge lance. Oh, and didnít that choice of phrase bring up some interesting mental pictures.

Alright, brain. That is it. No more gross and disturbing Spike images. No more assuming Giles is gonna die. Weíll fix this. Thatís what we do. And at least thereís no sign of the non-caped crusadersÖ.

Gaah. Arrow. Again. Burning. Put it out quick. OK. Thereís no way that was my fault. Thinking things does not jinx you. Itís only when you speak that that happens. Right? All the same, maybe I wonít tell Buffy and Willow what I was thinking. Especially not the Spike part. Something tells me theyíd be madder about that than the jinxing thing. And I know Anya would, cos she doesnít really get the whole concept of jinx. She says its nonsense, and everyone knows you canít make something happen by saying it. I tried to point out that she did that for 1100 years with the whole power of the wish thing. She got all upset when I brought that up though because she thinks I hate the fact that she used to be a demon, and bring it up to hurt her, so then we had to have make-up sex.

Maybe I should have told her that actually I quite like it, the whole demon thing really turns me on. Thinking about it, maybe not. That was the night I yelled out Spikeís name. I was imagining Spike and me trapped in his crypt with nothing to do but each other. Mmm!

Oh. Shit! Arrows. Not time for imagining me and Spike doing *anything*. Wonder how many of those knights are out there. Quite a few, then. Better let everyone know.

"We got company." Better bring out the best china. Then they can break *it* instead of us. Hey. More arrows. "And they brought a crusade." Cute, Xander. But now is not the time for stupid comments. Learn that there are times when a smart remark is not the smartest approach. And learn to stop talking to yourself. One of these days youíll do it out loud. Of course, this being the comedy that is your life, itíll be at one of those totally inappropriate times when the world is about to end and youíre thinking about all the ways Spike could turn you on. And there we go again. Focus on not dying, not on getting horizontal with Spike. Or even vertical. Any way is good. Up against that wall over there maybe.

No, no sex with Spike. Iím hiding. With Anya. Thatís a sensible way to not die. And, if I am gonna die, maybe thereíll be time for one last orgasm. Again with the inappropriate sex thoughts. Although, this time thereís a bright side. Thoughts about sex with Anya, so slightly less inappropriate than lusting after the Big-not-so-Bad, who is currently trying to destroy his brain by trying to beat up on these Knights. Damn. Theyíre human? He should be okay though. Buffyís got his back. Lucky her. Aaargh. Stop thinking. I was doing so well there. Thinking about Anya. My girlfriend. Who Iím want to marry. I mean, Iíve bought a ring and everything. I love her. I do not like Spike. Okay. Understand?

Great. Internal arguments. Iím hiding and having internal squabbles while Buffy battles the Knights of the Last Crusade or whatever. Sheís doing pretty well too. Looks less wigged now sheís got something to beat up on. Thatís my Buffy. Well not mine in that way. Which is ok, because I donít want her like that anymore. I want Spike. No. I mean Anya. I want Anya.

Okay. Less thought, more action. Lets move the not so conscious Knight of the Round Table so Buffy can kick a little more medieval ass. Geez. Donít these guys ever give up? This building would probably fall down in a strong win and the way theyíre attacking itíll last about another five minutes.

I guess that guy with the flashy red cloak must be the big boss-man. Maybe he wants to negotiate. Wow. Maybe Buffyís not gonna let him. That was quite a throw. And quite a punch too. Heís out cold. His men will probably be on their way in here to get him back though.

"Enemies, fly and fall." But not if Will has anything to do with it. Sheís really working that mojo. She really has some kind of scary power now. Her eyes get all black and everything. Wonder how sheís gonna keep these guys out.

"Circling arms raise a wall." Now that was cool. Some sort of Sci-fi style force field. I just hope she can keep those marauding crusaders out of here for a while.

"Will? How long will it hold?" Thatís the million-dollar question, I guess. Doesnít look like weíre going anywhere, so hopefully we can keep them out for long enough to figure out what to do next. Well, for Buffy to figure it out. Cause thatís what she does. She figures it out, and then we help her.

"Half a day maybe." Okay that should do it. "Or till Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it." Huh? Oh, right. They have mojo guys too. Figures. Everyoneís in on the magic stuff except me. I donít think Spike likes it much either. What do you know! Common ground. Oh yeah, thatís great. I have something in common with the impossibly sexy, I mean pesky, soulless demon. I always knew I was screwed up.

"So. What's the story with these role-playing rejects?" Another good question. This time from the bleached blond demon of my dreams. Nightmares. I mean nightmares.

"Lets find out." Okay, so weíre doing interrogate the bad guy. That should be fun to watch. And if not, I can always watch Spike watch Buffy. Great. Not only am I lusting after the evil vampire, Iím now jealous because he likes one of my best friends better. I need a life in the worst kind of way. A sane one, where I donít think about boinking the undead. Especially not undead men. Cause of, you know, not being gay and all.

Part Four

"You sure Scarface here can habla the English?" Much as I hate to admit it, even to myself, Spike has a point. These guys may be human, but they are pretty funny looking. Iím not sure where they came from. Look kind of historic. Maybe theyíre time travellers. Yeah sure, Xander, and this is Star Trek.

"He understands me. Don't you?" Whoa. Scary-Buffy time. Times like this Iím so glad Iím on her side. Wouldnít want to get in the way of that slayer strength. Looks like sheís right though. He gets it. And he looks a lot less scared than I would if I was him. Every time he looks at Dawn, Buffy gets a little more pissed

"Look at her that way again, and she will be the last thing you ever see." Thatís my girl. Iím so glad sheís my friend. Iím pretty scared, and itís not directed at me. Maybe Iím fated to be attracted to people who scare me. Cordy was pretty scary. Anya has the whole demon thing. Faith tried to kill me. And Spike, well, Spikeís a vampire. Iím sure heíll figure out a way to get that chip out one day, and then itís ĎSayonara Slayerettes, See You Later Scoobies.í Iím not stupid. I know that, for all he helps, if he could kill us, he would. Of course, if heís still on with the ĎI love Buffyí riff, he might just turn her, so bright side. Or maybe not. The thought of a vamp with slayer powers doesnít exactly fill me with the joys of spring. And I just realised I included Spike in my list of people Iím attracted to. I have to stop doing that. Itís crazy. Iím crazy.

Of course, thatís it. Iím not gay. Just insane. Iíve got to admit, it makes sense. Pretty much the first time this whole Spike thing has made anything other than the kind of sense thatís not. So, progress? Just lock me up, and throw away the key. Preferably after you let Spike into the padded cell. No hard walls or sharp corners. Think of the fun we could have. No, donít think of it, not now. General Custer is mouthing off about Dawn.

"As I've been told, you protect the key of the beast." God, the way he talks about her. If I had any sort of hope of beating him, Iíd take him on now. But I donít, and never will, so lets leave that up to Buffy. Sheís slay girl.

"It's not that simple." No, sheís not just a key. Sheís Dawnie. We have to protect her. No matter what this guy might think.

"Yes. The key has been transformed, given ... breath, life. Yet, this makes no difference. The key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of god." Poor Dawnie. She looks so scared. It must be pretty freaky to just find out one day that your whole life is a lie. Itís so weird. On one level, I know itís true. She didnít used to be here. But I have all these memories. Meeting her for the first time. Realising I was her older guy crush. Little old me, someoneís crush. How cool! Then finding out itís not real. Sheís not real. Except she is, because I have those memories. Theyíre part of my life. Sheís part of my life. If I feel like that, it must so much worse for her and Buffy. I mean, I only have four years worth of brain scrambling. They have their whole lives.

"She doesn't remember anything about being this key you're all looking for. The only thing that she remembers is growing up with a mother, and a sister that love her. What kind of god would demand her life for something that she has no control over?" God, that guy just does not seem to care. Buffyís starting to get that frightened bunny look again. Iíve never seen her so freaked. Not even when the Acathla thing was going down. Wonder what sheís planning on doing. Or if she even has a plan. Man, I really hope so.

"We are not your enemy. Tell your men to stand down." Well, I guess thatís worth a try. The Ďleave us alone, we donít want to fightí approach to negotiation.

"No." Or maybe not.

"It is not her fault! She's human now!" And Iím still having trouble getting my head around the idea that she ever wasnít.

"The key is too dangerous ... to be allowed to exist. No matter what form it has been pressed into." See, thatís what I donít understand. How can Dawn be dangerous. Sheís just a girl. Not a slayer, a demon or a vampire. Even chipped, Spike is more dangerous than Dawnie

"I will not let anyone tell me-" Buffy is really pissed now. Hang on a minute. What was that? Willowís having problems next door. Better make sure theyĎre okay in there.

"Shh, shh, shh." Taraís freaking again.

"What happened?" Buffy looks like she really doesnít have time for this. I think anything thatís not Dawn is pretty low on her list of priorities right now.

"I-I don't know, she just went nuts." Way to go on the tact front, An. My girlfriend still struggles with the whole sensitivity thing. Nuts is not the kindest word to describe someone with a tenuous (hey, big word) hold on reality. Even I know that. Guess Iím fated to hook up with people who are incapable of the whole tact thing. Anya, Cordy, Spike.

Not that Iíve ever hooked up with Spike. Or ever will. Even if I wanted to, he sure as hell wouldnít. Which is good, because heís a vampire. I can just see Buffy being okay with that, especially after the way I was about Deadboy. ĎSure Xander, you can make out with Spike. After I stake him. Iím sure you and the contents of the ashtray will be real happy together.í Also, heís a guy, which is really not my cup of tea. I like girls, with breasts, and girl parts. Not men like Spike, all muscled, and handsome and hard...and isnít this internal conversation fun, and not at all disturbing. Iím gonna stop now.

"Time! Time, time!" Time for what, Tara. Ok, obviously time to rip down the walls and get out that way, instead of through the door like any normal brain-sucked person. Oh right, not so much happening on the normal front there, I guess. I wish there was something we could do to help.

"Tara! We have to do something! She, she can't stay this way. Buffy!" I know Willowís right. She always is. But what can we do? Not exactly a whole lot of experience on the mental health front here. Itís a shame we donít know anyone who could help.

"Time... time...timeÖ" And again, I ask, time for what? Or maybe we donít want to know. If thereís one thing living on the Hellmouth has taught me, itís to not ask questions if you donít want to hear the answers. Given that Tara got her brain sucked by a power crazed Hell God, Iím guessing itís not time for tea or anything nice like that.

Well, Willow seems to have calmed Tara down now. Sheís not trying to do a break out with her one good hand anymore, so thatís a start. Giles still looks bad though. What are we going to do with him. We really need a doctor.

"Willow." Wow. Buffyís face at the moment looks an awful lot like Willowís resolve face. Maybe itís time for action. Or more hiding.

"Open a door." Or possibly just letting the bad guys in to attack us with their huge swords. No, brain, Iím not going to let you turn that into a Spike related innuendo. Thereís no time for that sort of thinking at the minute. Too much is going on. God I hope Buffy has a plan. Other than being afraid and dying.

Alright, weíre opening a door. Lets go out and have a chat with the rampaging crusaders.

"One of my friends was hurt when you attacked us."

"And ten of my men are dead. Honourable men. Shall we balance the scale?" Okay, so that wasnít the plan. We just want a doctor, not a fight to the death.

"Will you let someone come and help him or not?" Please. Pretty please with cherries on top and all that.

"Give quarter to an agent of the beast? What madness would move me to such action?" I guess it was too much to ask.

"I'm done asking." Oh, no. Buffy, now is really not the time for violence. Iím going in.

"Whoa, whoa, hey! Uh ... this is war, isn't it? And if there's one thing I've learned from Sergeant Rock, it is, in war ... there are rules." Yeah sure, wow them with your knowledge of trash TV shows that theyíve probably never heard of. Big second in command guyís not looking too impressed. Letís keep trying.

"Or at least there should be, if you're as honourable as you think you are. Plus, we do have your general forehead guy." Yeah, because Iím sure thatís what they call him. Still, heís thinking about it. Sometimes I have my uses. Usually I get used as a throwing implement by big bad demons, but just occasionally I come through in a more impressive way.

It worked. I appealed to the soldier in these guys and they agreed. Buffyís making the call. That Ben guy from the hospital appears to be our only hope. Still, I think he likes Buffy, so Iím sure heíll be willing to drive out here in the middle of the night and risk his life to help a middle-aged ex librarian heís never met. Okay, and looking at it that way Iím suddenly panicking again.

"Hey, uh, i-it's Buffy. I need to ask you a really big favour." Iím not sure that Ďfavourí really covers the whole driving into the desert and making your way through a thoroughly pissed and very persistent army of Knights with swords, lances and funny pictures on their heads. Oh well, he might just be crazy enough to agree. Weíre all here after all.

What was I worrying about? The guyís got a crush on Buffy. That inspires you to acts of great courage and stupidity. I should know, I attempted most of them! Heís not freaking out as much as I would have thought either. Spike really doesnít like him though. He does not look happy.

"All right, I think I got him stabilized, but there's a lot of damage. We need to get him out of here." Oh sure, Doctor Wonder Boy. How are we gonna do that.

"Well, I think the guys with the pointy swords kinda have other ideas." At least Buffyís realised that much.

"Don't they always." Wow, this guyís got it bad for our heroine. Bad jokes and everything. Whoops. Just nearly laughed at him. That would not have been appropriate, what with him risking his life to help us and all. But the look on Spikeís face. Heís even less impressed with this guy that I am. Of course, that might be down to the whole jealousy thing. Him liking Buffy, I mean. Not me being jealous. In any way, shape or form. Iím not interested in Buffy any more. Or Spike. Not that I ever was in Spike. I mean *interested* in Spike. Okay. Great. Internal babble again. Even when Iím outwardly quiet, I canít shut myself up.

"Look, I know this must seem extra "Outer Limits" to you." Címon Buff. The guy lives in Sunnydale. He probably managed to ignore the Crusade outside, or do that selective memory thing Sunnydale residents are so good at.

"This? Naah. I've seen things you wouldn't believe." Somehow I doubt that, Mister.

"You know, emergency room, full moon on a Saturday night." Oh, please. I canít listen to this guy any longer. Iíd rather talk to General Custer through there. Iím out of here.

Oh. Forgot Spike was in here. Not to worry. I can deal. Iíll just stand here and glare. Then heíll know I donít like him.

Shit. I guess he really is hurt. Canít even light his cigarette. His hands are a mess. Not that I care. Not really.

"Ow." Dammit. Iím gonna have to help. I canít just stand here and watch him struggle. Even though I probably should. I go and help him, Iím just leaving myself open to him. In a bad way, not a good, take me now sort of way. Not that that would be good either. Okay, moving, not thinking.

"Thanks" Oh, my God. He thanked me. Now my world is out of orbit. The big bad remembering his manners. I canít cope. I want reality back. The world where Buffy fixes things, all demons are evil, and I donít have dreams where the vampire next to me covers me in chocolate and licks it off. Donít think about that now. That way leads to sweaty palms and embarrassing urges. Just light the cigarette and move away slowly. Without panic or unnecessary touching.

Okay. See. That was fine. I lit his cigarette. Without humiliating myself by licking his face or anything. Even though I really wanted to. No. I didnít. That would be gross and disgusting. I hate him. And the way he looked at me. Like he thought I was going to set him on fire or something. Am I really that awful to him. Guess so. Great. Now I have guilt. About being mean to the soulless demon. Maybe I should make a little effort though.

"You know, those things'll kill you." Oh, that was great. Scintillating conversation. Why is he looking at me like that. Oh yeah. Already dead.

"Oh. Right." Smooth talker Xander. Now you look like an idiot. Maybe I should remind him that I donít care what he thinks. At all. Or maybe I should push him up against this wall and show him how I feel. Those lips look so soft and kissable. Aargh. No. No kissing Spike lips. I donít want to do that. Really. Okay. Deep breaths. I can handle being in the same room as him.

I just had a really scary thought. G-Man once told me that vampires have enhanced senses, so they can smell fear and all that. Does that mean they can smell arousal. Oh God, please donít let that be possible. The only thing worse than lusting after Spike would be if he knew.

"I mention today how much I don't like you?" That ought to do it. Remind him that I hate him. Hopefully Iíll be able to persuade myself at the same time.

"You mighta let it slip in Ö" Or maybe not. Donít think about slipping anything in. Anywhere. Not now. That would just be wrong. God, those eyes. Itís almost like he can read my mind.

"Once or twice." And that smile. Like we have some secret that no one else knows. Not that there is anything to know.

"How're your feelers?" Great. Act like you care. That ought to persuade the big bad vampire that you really hate him. In an world where people say the opposite of what they mean.

"Nothing compared to the little bits we're gonna get chopped into when the Renaissance Faire kicks the door in." Right. That door. Not too strong. Spike could probably break it down with his bleeding bandaged hands. This is good. Conversation. Non-innuendo related. I might get out of this with my dignity intact. Yeah right. Like I have any in the first place. Iím lusting after the evil undead. No hope for dignity here. "And here we bloody sit."

"It's not like we got much of a choice." What else are we gonna do. Thereís only you and Buffy that are strong enough to fight them.. and where do we go, anyway?

"Could make a break for it! Use General Armor-All as a shield,." I forgot about him. Good job I didnít lick Spikeís face. I never did perform well with an audience. Oh, Spikeís still talking. Listen. And donít drool. Please

"Öget to the doc's car, and-" And what. You get killed because you canít fight back. I have to admit I donít want that. But only to myself. No power on this earth will ever get me to admit it to anyone else. Especially with the ex-demon girlfriend and the slayer and witch as best friends. You wouldnít need to get killed by Sir Lancelot and the rest. My friends would do it before they had chance.

"Great plan. And while all the hacking and slashing's going on, what are you gonna be doing, huh? Throwing migraines at 'em?" Yeah, great Xan. Remind him about his chip. Way to piss off the object of your fantasies. Not that he is, usually. Its just the fear and everything, playing with my head, making me think I want the soulless, male vampire with the piercing blue eyes and not at all kissable lips. Aargh. And again I say please brain, stop working.

"Look, we stay here, we all die! At least this way, some of us might get-"

"No." Buffy. Hey. Gotta say I agree with you on that one.

"We're all gonna make it. I'm not losing anyone." That works for me. If only I knew how you were going to manage it.

"Check the supplies. See if anyone's hungry." Food. Thatís always good. But Iím worried about Buffy. By the look on Spikeís face, I guess he feels the same. Of course he does. He loves her. Or what passes in his depraved mind for love, anyway. But her, not me. Never me. Even if I was interested, heíd just use it against me, and I have quite enough mocking in my life already. Oh, and thatís rich. Iím calling him depraved. Iím the thoroughly straight guy having the totally x-rated dreams about the evil soulless Master Vampire, and Iím suggesting heís depraved because heís got the hots for Buffy, whoís female, and not evil. My mind is finally totally warped. No surprises there though. I should have seen it coming from the minute Buffy suggested I might be having sex with Spike, and it didnít sound like a totally bad thing.

Wonder how Giles is doing now. Hopefully Ben was good for something, even if his yen for Buffy rivals mine four years ago. Talking of Ben, whatĎs with him now?.

"You have to let me out." I guess heís decided the freakiness of our lives is too much, and he wants out. Maybe not even the attraction of Buffy can compete with the cold sweat of fear sometimes.

"Ben?" Dawnís as thrown as I am. Iím not sure why he all of a sudden decided he has to leave.

"You don't understand, I gotta get out, open a door now!" Wow, heís really freaking. Wonder what set that off. Itís not like the renaissance fair outside have started a new offensive. Great. Now Iím stealing Spikeís analogies. I thought lusting after him was rock bottom, but hereís a lower place.

"What happened?" Iíll tell you what happened, Buff. He realised he wanted out of the freak show that is our lives. And who can blame him. This is all totally fucked up. Just for a change. At least Iíve stopped thinking about, or like, Spike, though.

"I-I don't know, he just freaked out." Which has got to be a pretty normal reaction to whateverís going on here. Itís not exactly life as usual. Unless of course youíre us.

"Let me out!" Heís really wigged. Maybe we should just let him go. Giles looks a bit better, and thereís no sense in dragging people off the street into our latest end of the world drama.

"Okay, W-Will, open a door."

"No! Ha!" That guy is starting to bother me now. What got him all wigged all of a sudden? He was fine two minutes ago.

Gaah. What the hell. Oh my god. Gloryís here. Where did she come from? Now Iím confused. That should probably be my motto, you know. I donít really understand how she got in here though. Maybe force fields donít work against Gods or something.

"Well, what do you know. Little Ben finally did something right." Glory knows Ben? Maybe he wasnít lying when he said heíd seen stranger things. But how does nice doctor guy know the hell god?

"The beast." The General guy really doesnít like her. I know sheís evil and all, but sheís not that ugly. And that is really not the point right now. The *point* is probably panic.

"Hey, it's Gregor." Wow. Panic is particularly apt if sheís gonna do things like that. Killing people with hubcaps. That was vicious. "Now it's not." And that was a really lame quip. I hate this woman. Serious violence and not even a good pun to finish off with. Okay, weíre fighting.

Ouch. Attacking the hell god with your bare hands. Not a good idea. What do I expect if I follow Spikeís lead. Hey, itís Spike. On me. I could get used to this. Eeew. No. Now is not the time to get inappropriately aroused. Although, I guess it is a pretty inappropriate time, which is probably the appropriate time in a screwed up, back-to-front kind of way. Okay, so that didnít make sense even to me. Which is probably a good thing. I donít think I want anything about Spike and me to make sense. Ever. Not that thereís ever going to be a ĎSpike and meí. Even if I was about to make a move, heís got the whole Buffy-chasing thing going on. All those years of not getting Buffy cos she was totally into a vampire, and now I have no chance with a vampire because heís got the hots for her. Check out the irony.

On second thoughts, perhaps I should think about the irony later, and concentrate on not letting the vampire thatís still in my lap notice how much heís getting to me. Down boy! There are more important things to worry about, like the fact that Buffyís on the floor and Glory is still here.

"Buffy" Oh god, sheís got Dawn. Címon body. Get up. Maybe those knights will slow down enough to let Buffy catch up.

Or maybe Glory will bash her way through the force field while Buffy is still picking herself up off the floor. Okay, sheís outta here. Thatís a start. And sheís back in. Not such a good sign.

"Willow!" Huh? Oh right, the force field thingy. Willís eyes have that scary thing going on. And Spike is still on top of me. Which Iím enjoying a little bit too much. Weíre both as bad as each other. Jumping into a fight we canít win for the sake of the unattainable. Him to show Buffy how much he wants to help. Me trying to prove Iím not just the Zeppo, or the tenth grade loser, as Spike would have it. I feel so stupid for letting that bother me. Iím not sure whoís crazier. Him for wanting her, or me for wanting him.

I have to stop thinking that. I love Anya. That is not in question. Itís just, Spike is so, well, Spike, and at the moment that seems like a good thing. Especially when heís this close to me, and I can feel that body touching mine. I just start to imagine what it would be like if we were naked together. Okay. Getting up now. Gods to fight. Keys to rescue. Time enough later to think about Spike. Or not. Iím sure Iíve done enough Spike related thinking to last a lifetime. Time to get back to reality.

"Get it down, now!" Oh God, do it quickly. Glory has Dawn, and sheís getting away. Címon Will, hurry.

"Hear, hear my plea. Circling arm protecting me" I think Willow managed to get rid of the force field again. Her eyes did that black glowy thing. Buffyís off again. Better get outside and see if she needs any help with the Knights ofÖ.Holy mother of God. Glory did this? Okay, shock. Now fear. And now blind panic. How are we gonna stop her if she can take out hordes of armed soldiers in the time it took us to get outside.

What the hell do we do now. Buffy has just totally spaced out. We need to do something. Someone has to figure out how to get Dawn back.

"The car. Get the keys." Okay, a plan. Not much of one, and it came from Spike, but itís a start. Iíll follow the blond demon. Anywhere. Alright, now is really not the time for that sort of thought. Weíll get the car, and Willow can get Buffy. We just have to get Dawn back. Buffyíll know what to do next. Right?

Part Five

Oh well, this is just fantastic. Dawnís been abducted by Glory the Fashion Victim Hell God, and big sis, slayer of all disasters, doesnĎt seem to be functioning on all cylinders. Or in fact any cylinders at all. The world is going to end. Again!

"Better part of a century spent in delinquency just paid off. Hotwired Ben's auto. Who's for gettin' the hell out of here?" Looks like Spike has his uses after all. In a non-icky sex fantasy sense. Not that I have fantasies where Spike is used. Ever. Okay then, lets leave.

"All in favour, let's do it. You good to go?" Giles is still looking, well, like someone stabbed him with a very long, sharp implement. Granted, thatís not really surprising, given that he got gored with a long, sharp lance. Hopefully we can get him to a hospital now. Or at least as soon as Buffyís back with us.

"Oh, don't worry about me. How's Buffy?" Catatonic. What else is there to say? Iíve never seen anything like this before. Especially not from Buffy. Sheís usually the together one, the one that sorts things out.

"The same. Still." That doesnĎt get any less strange the more I look at her. Sheís just staring. Not at anything. Just staring

"It's been almost a half an hour." Thanks for reminding us, Will. Buffy has been non-function girl for a whole thirty minutes, and is showing no signs of doing, well, anything, to change that situation in the near future.

"The Slayer's gonna be all right, won't she?" Sure, Spike, sheíll be fine. This is normal pre-battle preparation. Except that itís not.

"You should try it again, Will." You know, because it worked so well the first fifty times.

"All right, but ... I'm not even sure she's, you know ... really in there." Oh, and thereís a happy thought. We have an end of the world scenario and the slayer has left not just the building, but also her own body.

"Try." Do something, anything. Just get her back.

"Can you hear me? Buffy!ÖBuffy!ÖBuffy?" Guess not.

"Buffy!" Yeah. Sheís so much more likely to respond to the undead stalker type guy than her best friend for the last five years. Nice effort Spike. Oh, Hallelujah, Iím pissed off at Spike. Thatís definitely a good thing. Well, I mean itís not. But then, it is really, cause it means Iím not all fluffy bunny feelings about him. Right?

"She can't just be brain-dead. I mean ... she's still Buffy, somewhere in there, right?" No, sheís turned into Glory. Cause she could do that. Stop asking stupid questions and fretting about the slayer. Youíre not her friend, Spike. You have no right to worry about anybody but me. I mean you, noÖHell, what do I mean? Oh. Now Iím bothered that heís so worried about Buffy? Guess those fuzzy feelings are still around here somewhere, playing with my head.

"Spike, come on, we're not gonna get Dawn back by sittin' around here." Please donít freak out on us. The only thing worse than the slayer losing it would be the big bad demon deciding he canít handle things either.

"You're not gonna get Dawn back any way you slice it, Harris, it's for Buffy to decide."

"Good, panic. That oughta help." I can tell you something, Spike, itís really not helping my state of mind. Please stop. Now.

"We should move her. U-unless we shouldn't. Should we?" Willow-babble. At least that shows that sheís still acting like herself. Everyone else is all strange andÖwell, strange pretty much covers all of it. Especially me.

"Couldn't that make it worse? I think I read that somewhere." But at least Anya is no stranger than usual. And yet still so much odder than anyone else. What does that say about me, that my girlfriend is stranger than the slayer, the vampire, or the brain-mushed witch? Nothing good, Iím sure. Maybe Spike would be an improvement. If he wasnít a guy. And a vampireÖokay, so obviously not an improvement at all. I know that.

"I am so large with not knowing." What the hell did that mean. If I donít understand my comments, everyone else must be totally lost. Why canít I just say ĎI donít knowí? That would be the sensible option. Which I guess is why I donít.

"It's impossible to know for sure. Losing Dawn, after all that Buffy's been through ... I think it's pushed her too far into some sort of catatonia." Well, duh Giles.

"You don't need a diploma to see that." Thatís what I was thinking. Only with more syllables, and an actual sentence. "Snap her out of it." Sure thing, Spike, and we havenít been trying to do that for the last half an hour. God, that vampire irritates the hell out of me with his useless suggestions andÖand stupid hair. Actually, I kinda like Spikeís hair. I can just imagine running my fingers through it, while kissing himÖEeew. No, I really wouldnít want to do that. Itís all excessively gelled and quite possibly crispy. Iíd probably get my hand stuck, and in terms of seduction, not a good move. And now Iím contemplating seduction of the evil undead fiend who has a crush on one of my best friends. Thatís just great. I finally lost it.

"Buffy!" Shake her out of it, why donít you, Blondie. Iím sure thatíll make so much difference. Maybe he should try it on me too. See if he can knock some sense into me. "Oi, rise and shine, love!"

"SpikeÖ" Anya obviously thinks heís being a bit rough.

"Come on, people. Girl's endowed with Slayer strength. It's hardly the time to get dainty. Buffy!"

"We tried that!" Yes, we did the shaking thing already. Didnít work.

"Ow!" Way to go Spike. Hit the slayer. Damage her brain. Fry your own, or what little there is. Just what we need.

"We didn't try that." No Anya, we really didnít. And we didnít even have to worry about our own brains. Just Buffyís.

"Are you insane? We could be dealing with neurological damage here. You want to kill her?" I know he doesnít, but I canít stand here and watch while he frets over Buffy and fries whatever remaining brain cells are in that pretty blond head of his. And I meant that in a nasty, sarcastic way. The pretty bit, I mean. And once again with the internal conversations. Iím totally sane, really, I am.

"We have to do something. I can't just sit here watching. You waste time with kid gloves. I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough." Oh that is it. Iíve had it.

Oh shit. I hit Spike. The evil vampire. I donít even really know why. ItĎs not like he hasnít said far worse before, and Iíve never been crazy enough to attack him for it. If Iím honest, only to myself, of course, itís probably a combination of the screaming heebie-jeebies about Buffy, my own spiralling insanity, and the teensiest amount of the green-eyed monster. If heís feeling that way about anyone, I want it to be me. I want those hands to be touching me only. And I canít believe I admitted that. Even to myself.

Great, Xander. Buffyís catatonic and youíre beating up the vampire because heís worried about her and youíre jealous. Itís not all jealousy though. Buffy is my friend, and the slayer, and Iím not gonna stand here and listen to this undead idiot mouth off about her because he thinks he's in love with her, and knows her so well. Heís a vampire. He canít possibly have a thing for the slayer.

Sure, cause thatís never happened before. Can you say Angel? We all want things that arenít good for us and we shouldnít even contemplate wanting. I think Iím pretty much a case in point. But, he really shouldnít want her. He should want me. I didnít mean that. Well, not much, anyway.

Ouch. At least he canít really fight back. Iíd be dead by now.

"Separate." Ow. Willow can though. How the hell did she do that?

"Buffy's out. Glory has Dawn. Sometime real soon, she's gonna use Dawn to tear down the barrier between every dimension there is. So if you two wanna fight, do it after the world ends, okay?" Iím sorry Will. Weíll be good. Maybe Iíll stay away from Spike. That way I wonít be tempted to either hit him or jump his bones. Yeuch. Nasty thought. Honestly, really nasty. Thatís the only way to describe it. Or at least the only way Iím prepared to admit to thinking of it.

"All right. First we head back to Sunnydale. Xander'll take Giles to a hospital. Anya's looking after Tara. And Spike, you find Glory. Check her apartment, see if she's still there. Try anything stupid, like payback, and I will get Very Cranky. Everyone clear?" Crystal. If thereís one thing Iíve learnt, itís not to piss Willow off when she has her resolve face on.

"Anya." Clearly, Anya, in her two years as human, hasnĎt learnt that, and is going to ask a pointless question instead of just shutting up. Why canĎt she just be quiet like any saneÖI really answered my own question there, didnít I?

"Um ... w-what will you do?" To be fair, itís actually a reasonable question, but my girlfriend is a braver woman than I am. Person, I mean, because Iím perfectly aware that Iím not a woman. My insanity has not yet reached such a low point as gender confusion. At the moment weíre more stuck on gender orientation as an issue. Although not so much, because Iím perfectly clear in my own mind. I am not gay, or even bi. Most of the time. Aargh. Stop thinking.

"I'll help Buffy." At least Willow sounds like sheís a girl with a plan. Gotta love that. Especially when the rest of us are either injured, dead or insane. Primarily the latter. Buffyís catatonic, Anyaís asking the powerful witch pointless questions, and I canít decide whether I want to sleep with the evil male vampire who hates me, or ask my beautiful, quirky, devoted girlfriend to marry me. Issues much? Iím definitely carrying a banner in the mental breakdown section of the Slayerette March.

"Okay then." Second that total agreement with whatever Willow says. Anyaís obviously got the right idea.

"The world is spinning." And there I thought it was just my head. Tara may be crazy at the moment, but I kinda agree with that sentiment.

"Straight to a new day! Big day. Big, big day." Sure thing Tara, the biggest day ever. Slayers vacating their bodies, abductions by hell gods, the whole shebang. Not to mention the internal battle Iím having with my own well-established sense of heterosexuality. And I will win that one. I do not, on any level that is my normal, relatively sane self, want the evil undead man in my bed. Really, truly and honestly I donít. Besides, there are far bigger things to worry about right now. Dawn, Buffy, Giles. None of them would be too impressed to learn that while their lives and loved ones are in danger Iím contemplating boinking the undead. Not that he would, even if I wanted to. Iím totally aware of that little obstacle. And glad of its existence. Mostly.

"Uh ... Will?" And thinking of Spike, thereĎs yet another person, or vamp, whoĎs braver than me on the pissing off the witch front. Iíd be worried about getting thrown across the room again. Hell, I *am* worried about it.

"Now, uh, don't turn me into a horned toad for asking, but ... what if we come across Ben?" Horny. Did he say horny? Oh, right, horned. That makes more sense. Although it might be less fun. And once more with the inappropriate humour. I have to stop that. Focus on the world outside my screwed up little head. Huh? What the hellís Ben got to do with this anyway?

"I-I don't think a doctor's what Buffy needs right now."

"Well, yeah, especially not one who also happens to be Glory." And again, I say huh?

"What do you mean?" Oh my God, something non pop-culture-y that Giles doesnít understand. There must be something far worse than an apocalypse going on, because I never saw anything like that, and Iíve seen my share of apocalypses. Or I would have done, if Buffy hadnít prevented them all.

"You know. Ben is Glory." What did he say? Something about Ben and Glory? Doctor Ben? And Glory the Hell God?

"You mean ... Ben's with Glory?" I donít understand. How can they possibly have anything to do with each other?

""With" in what sense?" Does he mean theyíre a couple? No, that wouldnít make sense. Why would the god be dating an almost doctor?

"They're working together?" Way to go, Ahn. That probably makes slightly more sense.

"No. No. Ben is Glory. Glory's Ben. They're one and the same." And once more, a hearty huh? Iím still not getting it. Ben and Glory are together?

"When did all this happen?" Was I having totally inappropriate fantasies about Spike and missed it. Hey, I may be insane, but at least Iím man enough to acknowledge it, and admit that I might have been distracted. It is only fantasies though. Not something Iíd ever want to act on. Truly itís not.

"Not one hour ago! Right here, before your very eyes! Ben came, he turned into Glory, snatched the kid, and pfft! Vanished, remember?" Every time Spike speaks, I have real problems understanding what heís talking about. Much as it worries me to admit it, thatís a new development. Generally, I understand the I mean, sure, sometimes I stop listening so I can just watch his mouth, and those amazing lips, while he talks, and forget to pay attention, but this is different. Itís like I donít understand the words heís saying

"You do remember...? Is everyone here very stoned?" Nope, but Iím starting to think Spike is. Heís pretty cute when he frowns like that too. No Xander, focus. Spike is definitely not cute. Heís a killer. Although currently heís on our side. Also, heís trying to tell us something, and I think it might be important.

"Ben! Glory! He's a doctor, she's the beast. Two entirely separate entities sharing one body. Like a bloody sitcom. Surely you remember." Ben and Glory, right. I remember. Something. I remember something about them, together.

"So you're saying ... Ben and GloryÖ" Dammit, what was I going to say? My brain is totally scrambled by this whole thing. Not that all the Spike related sex-thoughts didnít already give that little fact away.

"Have a connection." Yes, that was it. Anya remembers something too.

"Yes, obviously, but what kind?" Good question Giles. I am so confused. This conversation is making no sense. Not that thatís a new experience, but stillÖ

"Oh, I get it. That's very crafty. Glory's worked the kind of mojo where anyone who sees her little presto-change-o instantly forgets. And yours truly, being somewhat other than human ... stands immune." Huh? What did Spike say?

"So ... Ben and Glory ... are-are the same person?" Willow sounds as clueless as me. Thatís definitely new.

Oh, wait, I get it "Glory can turn into Ben, and Ben turns back into Glory." Right, that makes sense. In a Hellmouthy kind of way.

"And anyone who sees it instantly forgets." Anyaís got it too.

"Kewpie doll for the lady." Spike sounds relieved. Wonder what thatís all about.

"Excellent." You got it, G-Man. Weíre all working from the same page now.

" Now. Do we suspect there may be some kind of connection between Ben and Glory?" I guess thatís possible. Wonder if Spike knows anything. What. What was that sigh for. Spike looks pretty sweet when heís pissed off. Gah. I did not just think that. I have to stop thinking things like that. Lets get on with the Slayerette stuff, before my brain explodes.

Part Six

Man, I hate hospitals. Iíve spent far too much time here in the last few years. Everyone I know has been hospitalised at some time or another. Buffy a couple of times, Willowís coma, Joyce when she was sick, Riley, Tara, even Anya when Harmonyís crew broke her arm. Now Giles. Iím the only one whoís never done major hospital time. And thatís pretty much tempted fate, hasnít it. I really need to learn to shut up. Even when Iím not actually talking out loud. Better go see how Giles is doing. Maybe heís ready to leave.

"Uh, can you, uhÖ" Huh? Oh right - one arm working, canít put his coat on. Sure, Iíll play nurse to the librarian. That sounds like some sort of kinky game. And ugh, canít believe I thought kinky in a sentence about Giles. Thereís not enough yuck in the world. Okay, jacket on, letís go.

"There. How you doing?" If itís anything like as bad as you look, weíre in trouble.

"It only hurts while I answer pointless questions. Where's Buffy?" Ooh, touchy. I guess I deserved that though. Howís he supposed to be doing after the whole knight attacking him with a lance thing? And I think there was a question. That was it. Buffy.

"Willow's on it. Or ... in it. She's workin' some spell, trying to reach Buffy psychically." And doesnít that sound like a fun way to spend the evening. Communing with the comatose slayerís brain. Who needs TV or Pictionary?

"Uh, she's gone into Buffy's mind?" Giles sounds about as thrilled with that idea as me. It could be dangerous, or something. I mean, danger, in Sunnydale. What are the odds?

"Pretty tricky stuff." Lets pretend Iím not totally freaked, and maybe Giles will tell me itís really not that difficult, and thereís nothing to worry about.

"It's extraordinarily advanced. Um, I was thinking we should check on Glory's victims while ... we're here." Not quite the huge reassurance I was looking for but, never mind. Iíll deal with the fear. As always. Magic pretty much not a good thing in my book, what with the disastrous love spell and the mystical syphilis and all. What did Giles say? Oh, yeah, Gloryís victims

"Oh, the mental ward? I already been. The vegetable section's closed. Nobody there. It's like they all just got up and walked away." And isnít that a cheering thought. Oh, Spikeís here. Good. I mean Ďcause of the rescuing Dawn thing. Did he just steal some blood off that trolley? I canít believe heÖOh, who am I kidding. Of course I can believe he did it. Maybe I wonít say anything to Giles though. Heíll get all high-moral whatsit and open his stitches.

"Checked out Glory's flat. Looks like the great one has scampered." Heís gonna pretend he didnít do anything. I know he saw me see him steal it. Oh well, if I say anything, heíll just do the whole, ĎHello, Iím evilí thing, and that song is getting old and a little pathetic. Especially when heís put his life on the line for us. Well, for Buffy and Dawn. Pretty embarrassing for a master vampire to be in that position. Not that Iím sympathising with him for having to help the good guys, but it must be pretty rough, and okay, Iím totally sympathising. Time to stop thinking about Billy Idol here and focus on the big issue.

"Gone to, uh, perform her ritual with Dawn and leaving us entirely clueless." Thanks for another happy thought, Giles. I know thereís impending disaster and all, but could you at least pretend to think we can fix it. We do usually. Okay so usually we have a fully functioning Buffy on our side, and twice as much witchy power, but still, weíve done major disaster before and survived. A little hope wouldnít go amiss.

"Not entirely." Although, gotta say, I wasnít expecting it to come from Spike. He has moments when I donít think that Iím totally wrong to like him. Although not often. Most of the time I donít even like him, let alone think its okay, and shutting up now. Mentally, cause I was actually silent anyway.

Oops, Spike was giving us hope. Need to listen. "I know this bloke. Well, not so much a bloke so much as a demon. But still, bookish. All tuned in to the nastier corners of this our magic world. It's a bit of a last resort really, but still, we might persuade him to suss out Glory's game plan." Oh my god, heís gonna light a cigarette. This is a hospital. And again, why am I surprised. Heís already pillaged the blood supplies. I wish I could remember heís not a good guy. I never used to have a problem with that. Even when he was at his most pathetic, it was Will that wouldnít let me help him stake himself. I wanted to kill him just cause heís a vamp, and now Iím all shocked that heís ignoring No Smoking signs. I need a serious reality check. Maybe then Iíd stop with the lusty bad thoughts that I am totally not having, so thereís no need to stop. Glad weíve got that settled

"Sound worthy?" What, oh right, demon book guy. I guess weíve got nothing to lose. Just for a change!

"Off we go then. Meet back at the shop." We? Oh, me and him. Spike wants me to go with. Cool. No, not cool. What am I thinking? This is not about the evil undead guy wanting to spend time with me. Right? I wish it was though. Yeurgh. No I donít. I donít care what he thinks of me. Not like that.

Oh, leaving now. Gilesíll have to hobble back to the magic shop on his own.

"Found Ben's room at Glory's. Didn't learn much." Ben has a room at Gloryís. Whatís that about?

"Wait, wait, wait. Ben? At Glory's? You're saying all this time he's been subletting from her?"

"This ... is gonna be worth it." What? Ouch. Pain. Spike hit me.

"Ow!!" Pain for him too, though. Hey, did he just touch my ass. No, he canít have been copping a feel. Maybe just preventing a chip-inflicted collapse to the floor. And maybe he didnít touch me at all and Iím having some sort of hallucinations. Wish-fulfilment or something. No, I donít mean that. Spike hands on my ass. Eeew. Why did he hit me, anyway?

"Last time. From the top." Guess heíll explain it all on the way. There better have been a good reason. That really hurt. Which means it must have really hurt him, too.

"It's always open!" Well, I guess weíre coming in then. Does that count as an invite? Not that it matters. I guess Spike must have been here before, and anyway, he said this guyís a demon, so no invite rule anyway.

"What can I do for you boys? Want some cocoa?" He sure doesnít look like a demon, or sound like one. In my experience, they usually pummel first, offer hot beverages later. Or not at all. This man is more like somebodyís granddad. Although, not my grandfather, what with having clean clothes and not smelling like the bathroom at Willyís. No disrespect to my grandfather, but the man does bring a whole new world of meaning to the word incontinent.

"No. We need information. We need-" Spikeís being all forceful and manly. Itís quite sexy in a - Oh my God. Ben. Glory.

"Ben's Glory!" I remember now. They did that shape shifting morph thing.

"Who's what?" Right, the old guy doesnít know what Iím talking about. But at least I do, finally.

"Look at this. Special Ed remembers." Yes I do. And also, hey.

"Yeah. I do. Ben's Glory and Glory's Ben. It's like this... fog's lifting." So thatís why Spike hit me. Guess he wasnít just trying to cop a feel, then. Damn. No, I donít mean that.

"Wonderful. But not why we're here. Hell-god type. Name of Glory-" Hey, dead punk wannabe. I remembered. You could at least give me credit for that.

"A.K.A. Ben." It totally makes sense now. Ben is Glory, Glory is Ben. And Spikeís talking. I should probably pretend to be listening.

"-Has gone missing. She's brewing up some major-league bad, and she's nicked the Slayer's kid sister in the bargain."

"Hmm. That girl you brought here." What. He brought Dawn here? "Sweet little thing. How'd things work out with her mom? Changed her mind, didn't she?" Oh my God. Spike helped Dawn try and resurrect Joyce? What a jerk. Thatís supposed to be really dangerous. And once more, why am I even remotely surprised. These things never used to surprise me. When did I start thinking of Spike as a good guy? Probably about the time Buffy suggested I was having sex with him and now is really not the time for that train of thought. Not in public, anyway.

"Yeah. You got any idea where Glory would take her?" Please say yes. I need to go somewhere, do something, stop thinking lusty thoughts about the vampire. I just want to get some action. In a total non-sex, just fighting sort of way, I mean.

"Glory ... Glory. Oh! You don't mean Glorificus. Gosh. What do you wanna get mixed up with her for? That's a sure way to get yourselves killed. I hear she's awfully unpleasant. When it comes to hell gods, my best advice ... is get out of the way ... and stay there." Much as weíd love to, itís a bit late, what with the sheís-kidnapped-Dawn thing.

"Love to. Can't." Whaddaya know. Something Spike and me agree on. How scary is that?

"Well, uh, other than that ... I'd like to help ... but I-I'm a small-town guy." Yeah, real quaint, demon Grandpa Joe. Whatever. Heís acting a little strange now. Thereís something off about him. Beside the whole sweet and innocent demon thing. My spider sense is tingling, as Buffy would say.

"This Glorificus, if it is her ... whoo, she's big city." Cute, Mister Iím-a-demon-who-looks-like-a-benign-OAP. Can you help, or not?

"She's got Dawn." Spike really sounds like he gives a shit. I suppose he does care about Dawn, in a freaky Ďheís a vampire who shouldnít really care about anything except blood and sexí way. And can I please stop thinking Spike and sex in the same sentence. That way lies embarrassment and sweaty palms, as Willow would say.

"Right. Well, I may know a fella ... you know, who knows a fella in...in China. He might-" China. Real helpful.

"How the hell are we supposed to get to China? Teleport?" Oh, I never thought of that. Well, it could be fun, and - oh, right. Sarcasm. Youíd think Iíd be able to spot it seeing as itís such a key part of my own brand of humour. Or maybe you wouldnít think that at all. Maybe youíd just expect me to be all dense and not work it out. And as Iím having this conversation in my own head, who the hell are *you*?

"I guess." Demon-grandpa didnít get the sarcasm thing either. Iím glad itís not just me.

"You know, if you're in that much of a hurry." Is he hiding something?

"Wish you luck." Sure you do, pal. He seems to be in a bit of a hurry to get rid of us. Maybe we should -

"You're lying." - out and out accuse him of lying. Thatíll persuade him to help. What the hell is Spike playing at?

"And what's more ... I believe you're standing right in front of the very thing we need." That box. I thought this guy was too small-town-demon to be true.

And, oh my god, heís gonna decapitate Spike. Thatíll kill him, and Iíve never even kissed him, and *so* not the time for that thought. Okay, heís a demon. Spike can fight back. Good, thatís good. Until he falls over and gets himself killed orÖ

Eew. Giant tongue. Headed straight for me. And ow. Wall. Head. Pain. Címon Spike. Get up. Fight. Youíre the one here with the super-strength. Iím just the bait, or something.

"You think only underworld bottom-feeders worship the beast?" Isnít that just typical. Spike finds us a lead, and heís in league with the other side. Why am I not surprised? But itís good that Iím not surprised, cause that means Iím remembering the whole Spike is evil aspect of this relationship. In the Ďwe know each otherí sense, not in the dating, kissing sense of relationship. Obviously. Cause Spike and I do not have, do not want to have, will not ever have that sort of relationship. Especially if I just lie here and watch the denture-demon here kill him.

"Her day is coming, boys! And when she returns, then you're gonna see something" Okay, getting up. Helping Spike. Fighting with the demon. Ouch. Ooh, sword. That could be useful. Especially if Spikeís gonna let me get beaten to a bloody pulp while he...sticks his hands in the fire. Whatís he doing? Vampires and flames, not really mixing. Oh right, getting the box. And Iím fighting still. Sword. Stab demon. Oh, gross. Demon blood. Blue demon blood. Typical.

HowĎs Spike? Not all incinerated. Thatís good. And he got the box. Thatís even better. Every evil undead demon has its day, I guess

"What do we got?" Hope itís something that helps.

"Something worth dying for." Yay me. I killed a demon. All by myself. And Spike saw me. Wonder if heíll be impressed. Wonder why the hell that matters to me. Iíve got to see Anya soon, remind myself who I really want, cause this is getting stupid. Thinking he was hot was one thing, but wanting him to like me and be wowed by my demon bashing. That suggests my mind is in a serious mess. Oh well, lets go. Time enough to worry about my impending gender-orientation crisis after we deal with the marginally more important Hellmouth-related disaster. Hell, now Iím channelling Willow, or possibly Giles. Someone who thinks long words are necessary.

Given my current brain-frying confusion, maybe itís a good job I live in Sunnydale? Less time to think. Although, if I lived anywhere else, less chance of meeting ludicrously sexy blond vampire men. That was supposed to be a good - the less chance of meeting Spike-like vampires thing - but looking at that ass, Iíve forgotten why. And leaving now. Not thinking. Or ogling. Not at all.

"Buffy? She's back." Oh thank god. I thought Giles was gonna make us drink more tea. And also because of the we need her to help us save Dawn thing. Which is a much bigger issue, obviously. Wonder how sheís doing

"You're okay?" Please say yes. Or anything. Just function, and all will be right with the world.

"Yeah. I'm okay." Well thatís a start. A good start. We have a fully operational slayer on our side. That makes me feel a little less panicky about the whole hell-dimensional thing that Giles just told us. And now heís gonna have to tell Buffy. Boy do I not envy him that job.

"Hear you found the ritual text." Sure. We found it. Donít much want to talk about it though.

"Uh, something like that, yes." Neither does Giles. Donít blame him.

"Did you know that ... Ben is Glory?" And Iím changing the subject. Man, Iím such a coward. I just really donít want to be here for this conversation.

"So I'm told. What do we know?" The Buffster is obviously not to be distracted though. Still, points for effort. Maybe.

"Um ... well, uh ...according to these scrolls, uh, it's possible for Glory to be stopped." Giles doesnít want to do this either. At least Iím not the one who actually has to say it. And, Buffy is not gonna let him delay it much longer.

"I-I'm afraid it's, um ... well, Buffy, I've read these things very carefully and there's not much ... margin for error. You understand what I'm saying?"

"Might help if you actually said it." Sheís not stupid. She knows thereís something bad coming. Giles is opting for the take off your glasses and pretend they need cleaning tactic. Never delays the inevitable though. Just makes it harder to see your impending doom. Which is probably a good thing

"Um ... Glory ... plans to open a ... dimensional portal ... by way of a ritual bloodletting." And here we go.

"Dawn's blood." Buffy is catching on pretty quick. G-Man had to explain this to me twice. Although I think the reason I had a problem was one part not wanting to hear what he was saying and one part being distracted by Spike sitting there trying to look like he wasnít interested. I could watch him for hours.

Gah. Purely out of scientific interest, obviously. You know, curiosity about the habits of another species, that sort of thingÖ and why am I trying to convince myself. I already know I have the warm-and-fuzzies. I just donít understand why. Heís bad, and male and a vampire, and I am straight, and not evil, and have a very lovely, if a little strange, girlfriend. What is wrong with me? Maybe itís a little pre-apocalyptic panic. Totally understandable, given the whole pre-apocalyptic situation. Which I really should be focussing on. Look at Giles, not Spike. And certainly not in the same way Iím looking at Spike, because, well, eew, to borrow a popular Dawn-ism..

"Yes." Huh? Dawnís blood. Thatís what we were talking about. "Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place ... the fabric which separates all realities will ... be ripped apart."

"Dimensions will ... pour into one another, uh, with no barriers to stop them" Hey, I know this one. Hordes of hell beasts flood the earth et cetera "Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and ... chaos will reign on earth." Sounds like the sort of fun thatís not.

"So how do we stop it?" Oh, god she asked. Please donít say it Giles. Please

"The portal will only close once the blood is stopped ... and the only way for that to happen is, um Ö" He canít even look at her. I canít believe he has to tell her this.

"Buffy, the only way is to kill Dawn." He said it. He actually said it. Shit. Now what.

Part Seven

Oh wow. I canít believe he said it. That was the scariest thing ever. Buffy just went all stary and silent. It was so quiet in hear you could have heard a heartbeat. You could have heard Spikeís heartbeat. Then there was this almighty crash from outside, and Buffy went running out like Glory, Adam and The Master were all chasing her. I hope she comes back. Buffy running away would be bad right about now. I think I can hear her coming back. Thatís good. Wouldnít want to be stuck here facing an apocalypse with Spike as our number one weapon. Okay, Buffyís back. Just gonna sit here and pretend, well, pretend Iím not here. I hate the whole tension thing.

"Something goin' on out back?" Or, I could just ask stupid questions and make sure pissed-off Buffy knows Iím here. That works too. Idiot Jed, glutton for punishment strikes again.

"Vampire." Sure, why not? Hell god not giving you enough stress? How about some normal everyday vampires as well? And how did I end up with a life where vampires are normal and everyday? A life where Iím thinking about the kinky things I could do to the bleached blond one sat three yards away from me? Oh, stop asking yourself pointless questions and say something helpful.

"Oh." Nice. Totally contributing to the conversation. All right, shutting up now.

"Anything?" In these books? You mean other than the whole Ďyou can save the world by killing your sisterí option? Zilch. Nada. Niente. Absolutely nothing. But whoís got the balls to tell Buffy that?

"Nothing you want to hear. The ritual is, uhÖ" Okay, so Giles is braver, or possibly stupider than I thought. And as I never thought of him as stupid, thatís entirely possible. But still, why would he want to do this?

"Explain it again." Maybe cause Buffyís not gonna give him a choice. Sheís gonna listen to that all over again. I guess Idiot Jedís fallen to second place in the Glutton for Punishment Championships.

"There's nothing new to-"

"Go through it again." Oh, this is harsh. Iíve seen Buffy look scary before but this is the worst. Worse than after she died. Worse than when the Angelus thing was happening. Way worse than all that. Even than when Joyce died. Dawn is all she has left, and weíre sitting here telling her that the only way to save the world might be to kill her.

"The key was ... living energy. It needed to be channelled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy ... would flow into that spot, the walls between the dimensions break down. It stops, the energy's used up, the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back into her own dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on earth in the meantime."

Great. Hell on earth. Done this one before. A couple of times. However many apocalypses you see, it never gets any less scary. Must be strange for the fangless one though. Not the potential apocalypse - hundred and twenty years, heís probably seen a few more than we have - but being on the how do we stop it side for a change. Although, I guess he did have that whole truce with Buffy over the Acathla thing.

Maybe he really doesnít want the world to end. Heís not such a bad guy for a, well, bad guy. And I am gonna stop justifying my fucked up attraction to him, and accept that itís wrong. Heís a demon and a man. And I am straight, and human, and on the side that wants to stop apocalypses. Apocali? Whatever the plural is. Weíre supposed to be preventing one, and I should pay attention. What am I paying attention to? Oh, right, the channelling energy to bring hell to earth thing. Nope, that really doesnít sound any better the second time around.

"Um, but only for a little while, right? The walls come back up, uh, n-no more hell?" Hereís hoping. Youíd think Anya would be a little more blasť about all this. I mean, eleven hundred years old, she makes Spike look like a pre-schooler. But becoming mortal really hit her hard in terms of not wanting to die. Not that it's surprising that she really doesnít want to face hell on earth any more than the rest of us. You'd just think that she'd be less freaked by the possibility.

"That's only if the energy is stopped. And now the key is human ...is Dawn." Thatís still making no sense to me. Dawn is not a key. Sheís a teenage girl. Sheís Buffyís little sister, who has a crush on me. Or she did until the bleached blond menace came along all dangerous and strong and sexy and, okay, sheís in good company with the whole crush on Spike thing.

""The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more." When Dawn is dead." Oh god. This is awful. Weíre talking about Dawn dying and Iím sitting here day-dreaming about the vampire with the bad peroxide job, who thinks heís in love with the slayer. Heís crazy. Iím crazy. Iím sick and depraved and I need help.

"I have places to be!" But hey, at least Iím sharing the crazy train with Tara. Although, to be fair, she has a better excuse, what with getting her brain sucked by the Hell God. I have no excuse beyond the never-ending lunacy that is my mind. Which is so messed up, I need more than help. I need shooting. Seeing as no one here - other than Spike, who canít - is likely to be prepared to do that, maybe I should concentrate on my impending death by apocalypse now, and contemplate the possibility that it would probably be a welcome release if it doesnít happen tonight.

"Why blood? Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be like a, a lymph ritual?" Great. Even when I try to be helpful, it comes out sounding like a stupid joke, like I donít care. Which, obviously, I do.

"'Cause it's always got to be blood." Sure, Mr ĎBlood is LifeĎ, you would say that. Just when I think Spike might be okay, he has to remind me of the whole heís a blood-sucking monster issue. Thatís probably good, cause it puts me off a little, which really canít be a bad thing.

"We're not actually discussing dinner right now." Thatís good. Sound like youíre pissed at him. That way, hopefully no-one will realise youíre actually thinking about what it would be like to kiss him, or lick that amazingly toned body from top to bottom, and back up again. Oh. As Dawn would say, eew. Enough. Remember, we donít want people, especially Spike, to know what weíre thinking.

"Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. Course it's her blood." Oh boy. Heís really not helping. Hard Spike. Thatís quite a thought. A bad one. This is ridiculous. Iím getting all hot and bothered because Spikeís talking about blood. There really is not enough yuck to describe how vile that is. Which is why Iím not at all turned on by it. Really Iím not. These trousers are just really tight. Me being known for my tight fitting clothes, of course. Aaargh. This is stupid. World ending here. Focus.

"Pretty simple math here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?" Thank you, Buffy. Weíre talking about saving Dawn. From now on, my thoughts are totally focussed on that. Iím not gonna think about Spike hard, or licking Spike, or Spike licking me, orÖenough. That is it. No more thinking. At all. Iím fairly sure no oneíll notice the difference.

"If my calculations are right. But Buffy-" Maybe Giles is trying to compete with me and the Buffster in the Glutton for Punishment tournament. He really is very stupid. And I never thought Iíd be thinking that about Mr Iíve read every book in this reality and some that havenít been written yet.

"I don't wanna hear it." Buffyís going for the ostrich approach. Stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away. Well, itís worked for me so far. Whereís the fun in facing your inner turmoil when you can let it stay both inner and turmoily until you totally lose control of it and canít think about anything other than naked vampires. Yeah, denial is the best.

"I understand that-" Oh boy. Guess Giles really is stupid. Even I know that trying to tell Buffy he understands anything about this is the surest way to be beaten to a bloody pulp. Not that she would. But youíd think heíd try and remember that she could when he starts trying to tell to kill her own sister

"No! No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this." And again with the ostrich, Buff. I hate this, but I know we have to talk about it.

"Yes, we bloody well are!" Okay then. This is as bad as it gets. When Giles starts shouting, you know weíve hit rock bottom. It doesnít go with the whole British staid and stuffy breeding thing. And I hate it. Iíve always hated shouting, and this is the worst kind. Even Spike looks a little stunned. Guess he didnít think the watcher had it in him. He probably doesnít know about the Ripper side of Gilesí teenage years.

"If Glory begins the ritual ... if we can't stop herÖ" Please, G-Man, stop. This is all gonna end in tears. What am I saying? Of course itís gonna end in tears, Hellís gonna be released onto the Earth. Iíd say tears are pretty much inevitable.

"Come on. Say it. We're bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister." Shit. I think we all forgot what this conversation was about. How can we even be talking about this?

"She's not your sister." Christ, Giles. How can you say that? I know he remembers Dawn the same as the rest of us. As the littlest Summers. The annoying one who was always getting in the way and breaking things when he was trying to train Buffy. And I know heís saying this because it has to be said, but this is beyond harsh.

"No. She's not. She's more than that. She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her ... and I feel closer to her than Ö It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn ... is a part of me. The only part that I-" Oh, Buff, please donít cry. Tears would not be a good thing right now. We need super-strength slayer, not freaked out catatonic girl.

"We'll solve this. We will. Don't have another coma, okay?" Looks like Willís thinking the same as me. Sheís really holding things together right now, even with Tara being all mind mushed. How did my little Willow get so brave and strong? Itís actually kind of embarrassing that the girls around here are keeping it all going, and Iím sitting having a mental breakdown because I canít cope with lusty thoughts about the chipped vampire. Could this get any worse?

"If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death ...including Dawn." Why do I ask such stupid questions? Of course it could get worse. It always does.

"Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her." I hate this. Iíve never been good at the whole tense silence thing. Thatís why I always open my mouth and insert my foot at moments like this. Unfortunately, even I canít think of anything incredibly stupid to say right now. Maybe somebody else could do it for me. Spike? Giles?

"You'll fail. You'll die. We all will." Okay then. I was thinking more along the lines of Ďwho wants teaí, not Ďweíre all facing certain death and thereís nothing we can do.í Maybe it would've been better if Spike had chipped in, pun not intended. More chance of something stupid being said. And, he probably feels less bad about the apocalypse thing, given that heís an undead demon and all. So possibly slightly more cheerful. Or maybe not. Heíd probably agree with Giles just to get a happy from seeing us freaked. I know. Thatís not really fair. He really does give a crap about Dawnie, and he thinks heís in love with Buffy, so maybe I should cut him some slack.

Did I really just think that? There will be no cutting of slack for the evil vampire. He is bad and not your friend and in no way the recurring star in your nocturnal fantasies and now Iím talking to myself. I canít believe Buffy let the vampire who thinks heís in love with her hang around so that I could drive myself crazy thinking about the things I could do to his body with my tongue and a bottle of maple syrup. Why would she do that to me?

"I'm sorry." Huh? Did I say that out loud? Is Buffy answering me. Please, no. Okay, I canít have done. Spike isnít laughing and, for once, everybody isnít looking at me like Iím insane. Sheís apologising for something else then. Thatís good. But what is she sorry for?

"I love you all ... but I'm sorry." Oh right, of course. The whole, I wonít kill my sister to stop hell being released onto earth, so youíre all gonna die thing. Forgot about that for a minute. Which says a lot about my mental state at the minute. Insane. Iím totally insane.

"Okay. All in favour of stopping Glory before the ritual. Suggestions, ideas? Time's a-wastin'." Alright. Thatís a good idea Anya. Stop this before killing Dawn becomes our only option for world-saveage. I canít believe Buffy felt she had to apologise for this. I mean, Iím not really up for dying right now, but I donít expect Buffy to kill her sister to save the world. Who the hell would be unfeeling enough to evenÖ

"Uh ... when you say you love us allÖ" Apart from Spike. Okay, so there are those whose sensitivity is a little impaired. Why canít he just get over it?

"Shut up." Gaah. Great, now Iím synchronised speaking with Giles. Admittedly, wanting Spike to shut up, not the deepest thought ever. And Iím fairly sure we didnít think it for the same reason. At least I hope not. Really donít want to think about Giles being jealous because Spike wants to get groiny with Buffy instead of him. And now Iíve thought it and yeuch, now I want to wash my brain out with bleach. Bad enough that Iím thinking about me and Spike doing the nasty, but Giles and Spike? Thatís seriously disturbed. Iím gonna stop thinking at all now, and worry about the less confusing stuff instead. You know, the life and death, facing the end of the world stuff.

"Willow. I bet you've got some dark spell a-brewin'. Uh, make her a, a, a toad? Little hoppy toad, we can hit her with a hammer?" Anya still on with the super helpful vibe. Sheís really freaked by being mortal and facing death. If I remember rightly, last time things got apocalypsy she hightailed it out of here. But maybe sheís right. We should start thinking seriously about ways to stop this. And, thinking about it, I realise that everyone else probably already was. Iím sure Iím the only one here having such crazy thoughts when thereís an end of the world scenario to deal with.

"Hoppy toad." Okay, maybe not the only one. But certainly the only one without a valid excuse. Being brain sucked by a hell god is a slightly better explanation for insanity than Iíve got. Wanting to be sucked by Spike is probably not gonna be acceptable to the others - especially my beloved girlfriend - as a reason why I canít come up with any helpful stop-the-world-from-ending suggestions. Gyah. There will be no sucking. Okay. Enough mad thinking. Iím totally gonna contribute now. Thereís got be something in my messed up head that can help.

"What about Ben? He can be killed, right? I mean, I know he's an innocent, but, you know, not like Dawn innocent. We could kill a ... regular guy." Okay, so Iím helping. Or not. Did I really just say that? Being around Spike really has rubbed off on me. Oh and thereís a pretty mental picture. Gah. Focus. I canít believe I just suggested killing someone.

"God." Man, there are times when I amaze even myself with my lack of thinking before speaking. How could I even think that? We canít kill someone. Maybe - well okay, definitely - Spike could, if it wasnít for the chip, but not the rest of us. And itís Ben, a person I know. Okay, so I didnít like him much, but this is awful.

"It's doubtful he'll surface again this close to the ritual. We can expect its Glory we're dealing with." Oh thatís good. No oneís going to ask me to kill Ben. Obviously. No one who wasnít as insane as me would even have suggested it. Okay, so Spike might, but he probably falls into the insane category too, so no prizes for that one.

"We don't have to kill her. Uh, we just have to stop her from doing the ritual. I mean, there's only the one time that she can do it, right?" Okay, thatís good, weíre coming up with sane, useful suggestions now. Well, I say we - actually, Iím gonna shut up and let everyone forget about my totally helpful murder the human idea. Except Spike. Maybe heíll think itís cool, and stop thinking of me as the total loser. Oh yeah, and I really want to get in Spikeís good books that way. Not that I care what he thinks of me at all.

"Yeah. We get her on the ropes, we just gotta keep her occupied till it's too late." Great, even he has more to contribute than I do. And Anya is being more useful than me. The two demonic types - granted one ex and one neutered, but still demons - are trying to help save the world and all I can do is make pointless, murderous suggestions. Brilliant. My sanity is no longer in question because my lack of any at all has been confirmed. At least so far itís only me whoís realised that. I think. Maybe if Iím very quiet and donít think about Spike, I can keep it that way until hell opens up. Which, Iím remembering, may well be tonight.

"Okay. But I'm still not hearing enough ideas. She's a god. Let's think outside the box." Much as Anya wants to help, I think all this enthusiasm from someone who used to revel in apocalypses - apocali, whatever - is likely to really annoy somebody if she doesnít tone it down.

"Why don't you go think outside the bleeding box." As, for example, Spike.

"Yes, Anya, apart from your incredibly uninfectious enthusiasm, have you anything else to contribu-" And obviously Giles also. Thatís my girl! Try to help and utterly irritate everyone, live and dead, within a five-mile radius. Why would anyone think I had strange tastes? Anya, Cordy, Spike. All with a fairly major talent for pissing people off. What does it say about me that I find that attractive? And why am I still thinking that way about Spike. Enough already. Thereís a Hell God to fight, and Iím not helping.

"The Dagon sphere!" Huh? The what

"Sorry?" Oh, good. Giles doesnít know either. That means the problem here is probably Anyaís approach rather than my brain, or lack thereof. Thereof. Thatís a Giles word. I really have lost it.

"When Buffy first met Glory, she found that magical ... glowy sphere that was meant to repel Glory. We've got it in the basement. It might drive her away or hurt her." Go, Anya. Why is everyone looking so surprised. Anya may be a total pain, but sheís not stupid. Iím the crazy idiot in our relationship. Talking of which, I have to break up with her. This is totally unfair on her. She has a right to a boyfriend who doesnít spend most nights dreaming about the things he could do to the impotent vampire in the corner. Although, hopefully not too impotent, because where's the fun?

"And Olaf the troll god's enchanted hammer." Okay, Anya is still here, and still your girlfriend. And she's really kicking ass today. Only in a metaphorical way. Although I realise that could change if she knew what I was thinking. Hopefully, that will never ever happen.

"You wanna fight a god, use the weapon of a god." Well, that makes sense. Maybe if my brain wasnít so messed up with Spike thoughts, Iíd be able to come up with some useful suggestions.

"Uh, nah, that thing's too heavy to- Yeah. Good." Hah. That was pretty funny. Spikeís face when Buffy just picked the axe up like it was a balloon. Hey, Spike looking stupid gave me a happy. Thatís progress, right? Laughing at him is better than wanting to jump him when my girlfriend is in the room. My ex-vengeance demon girlfriend. Whoís really on top form today. Oh, I donít have a death wish at all.

"I like this. Thanks." Boy, oh boy. Buffy thanking Anya for help with the slaying thing. Never thought Iíd see the day. Check out the irony. Iíve spent months wishing my friends would accept my girlfriend as part of the group. Now theyíve started to, and I just wish sheíd go away so I could get a little closer to the vampire. The very male vampire. And thereís nothing on this earth that will make them accept him as part of the group. Not in an ĎIím Xanderís boyfriendí way, anyway. What am I talking about. I donít want Spike as my boyfriend. This is strictly stress related hormone overload. Not actual attraction to the very male very dead vampire. No way.

"Here to help. Wanna live." Especially not with my currently ass-kicking ex-demon girlfriend around to witness, suspect or even have an inkling about it. I really donít want her to know that Iím thinking about the possibilities for Spike, our shower and large quantities of lubricating substances. Oh, Gross. Please stop thinking before you open your big mouth and say something stupid.

"Smart chicks are soooo hot." Did I say that? Thatís pretty scary. Maybe my subconscious is protecting me from the whole death wish thing after all, because that is so far from what I was really thinking, itís on a different planet - a nice, safe one, where Iím totally convinced of my own heterosexuality and there are no sexy blond vampire men helping us to save the world. Still, at least some part of my brain is going to prevent me from being eviscerated or castrated by a seriously vengeful woman

"You couldn't have figured that out in tenth grade?" Or possibly not. Hmm, who to piss off. The millennium-old vengeance demon or the hugely powerful sorceress? The words Ďrockí and Ďhard placeí spring to mind. And not in a double entendre kind of way, either. Still, Willowís smiling at me, so weíre probably okay for now. At least as long as the survival instinct part of me carries on making me say things that arenít going to put me in a very embarrassing position. As long as I donít ever say what Iím thinking. Or I start to think something different. Hey, I could think about the end of the world. Thatís less dangerous.

"Well, we have some ideas, if we could actually get Glory on the run, but, umÖ" Címon Giles, spit it out. What big stumbling block have we hit now. Heís really pessimist guy today. Which is not really surprising, given the circumstances, but as Watcher guy, shouldnít he be waving the flag in the slayer parade and giving us lots of false hope? That would be nice right about now.

"But, we still have no idea how to find her." Oh right. Finding Glory. That could be a problem.

"Big day. Oh, it calls me! I have to be there!" Or possibly not. Tara could just lead us right there. That would work.

"Big day!" You got it Tara. Big day. Save Dawn. Save the world. Work out how to break up with Anya without losing an essential part of my anatomy. Deal with the fact that I have the hots for an evil creature of the night who hates me, and claims to be in love with one of my best friends. Biggest day ever. I can hardly wait.

Part Eight

Oh god. I canít believe I did that. We had sex in Gilesí basement. Well, the Magic shop, but it is Gilesí all the same. I was gonna break up with Anya, I really was, but then she was so scared, I couldnít do it. And any time we try to have a serious talk, it ends in sex. Still, at least no oneís seen us.

"Any luck? Have you found the Dagon sphere?" Gah. Please donít come down here, Giles. Please.

"Um, I'm sure it's here, just be a minute!" Cause itís taken us twenty minutes to only look in part of the basement. Yeah. Heís gonna believe that.

"Yeah, we're on it! Let's look over here, where we didn't look yet." Why the hell did I do that? This was not supposed to happen. I canít break up with her now. Not after we justÖin Gilesí basement. Sheíll kill me. And with a girlfriend who spent a thousand years avenging the wrongs done to women, thatís not just an idle fear. Not to worry. Weíll just get through tonight, then Iíll sit down and have a nice civilised chat with her. Iíll tell her the truth. Itís not her. Itís me. Iím not ready for a relationship. There isnít anyone else. I just donít want to be with anybody right now.

What? You thought I was gonna tell her the actual truth? Yeah, right. ĎAnya, hon, the real reason I donít want to be with you any more is that Iíve decided Iím gay. And I like Spike. The last few times weíve had sex, Iíve been thinking about him. I want to break up because youíre not an evil, blond vampireÖmale vampireÖand thatís what I really want.í Yeah sure. I like my body parts where they are thank you very much. And if I can spend so much time denying all that to myself, Iím sure as hell not gonna tell it to Anya. Iím insane, not suicidal. My life may be screwed up, but I donít have the sort of death wish that includes being tortured in some unspeakable way by a demon with a millennium of experience wreaking terrible vengeance on unfaithful men. Anyway, gonna finish getting dressed before I do anything.

"Time is a factor." Of course it is, Giles. Have you noticed that, despite all those ancient prophecies and scrolls, we never get advance warning on the need for world saveage? No one ever says, in 2008 thereís gonna be a giant demon trying to open a Hellmouth in Cleveland. Can you start planning his defeat now, please? Itís always, Ďand by the way, the worldís gonna end tomorrow unless you can find an amulet thatís been lost for six hundred years and assemble an army of hundreds to fight said demon guy.í

"Yes. Yes. Not to worry." Okay, Anya, no worrying. We wonít worry about the end of the world. We wonít worry about finding the Dagon Sphere. And, most of all, we wonít worry about breaking up, because I donít have the courage, or possibly the lack of common sense to do it. No, I know I have necessary shortage of common sense. I want to make out with the evil vampire, for god sake. No sense here at all. Obviously Iím just a coward. So Anya and meíll just have pre-battle sex, and pretend everything is one hundred percent fine.

"So, are you more, uh ... Relaxed?" I mean, that whole Gilesí basement thing was stupid, but the actual Ďsmooshingí was good. I hope Anya feels better for it.

"No." Huh? I just did the sympathy sex and she didnít even enjoy it? That canít be right. Can it?

"No? I mean, it sounded like you, uh ... Arrived." Donít tell me she faked it? That means she could have been faking it all along. Thatís embarrassing. And if I canít even please Anya, whoís only ever been with me in the last thousand years, what the hell would I be able to do for Spike. I mean, heís a vampire. Heís got to have loads of experience. I bet him and AngelÖno, donít think about that. Not now. Thereís no time for that kind of fantasy. Not that that is a fantasy of mine. Not Deadboy. No way. But anyway, Anya. I was sure sheÖyou know.

"No." Dammit. Thatís not good. "Yes. Um, I had the pleasure moment, and the blissful calm that comes right after it." Oh thank God for that. "But that only lasted a couple of seconds, and now I'm terrified again." But at least she enjoyed it. Thatís what matters. Or possibly not, given the whole world-ending fear. Could be slightly more important.

"Well, you don't have to be." Sure. I canít even convince myself of that. How am I supposed to convince her?

"Gah!" Okay, now Iím terrified. What the hell? Oh right. Itís Buffy. Not real Buffy, obviously. Robot Buffy. Not that scary really.


"Spike's sex-bot. Why didnít they just melt it down into scrap?" Cause then it wouldnít be there, looking at me, reminding me of that night. Seeing her - it - and Spike. Thatís the night Buffy said something about me having sex with Spike. If it wasnít for this stupid robot, I wouldnít be here now, having lusty wrong thought about Spike and trying to figure out a safe way to break up with my ex vengeance demon girlfriend.

"Maybe Willow wanted it." What? Thatís more disgusting than Spike using it. Or me. Me using it, I mean, not Spike using me. Cause I wouldnít let him.

"I don't think Willow feels that way about, about Buffy. I mean, I know she's gone through a lot of changes, but-" That would just be horrible.

"To study it." Oh, right. Willow as study girl, not Willow as lesbian. That makes more sense. And is way less icky.

"Right. Robotics. Science." Now Iím a little less disturbed. Not such scary thoughts. Whatís also scary is that Anya knew what I was thinking. Hope she doesnít usually. Not with the sort of thoughts Iíve been having recently.

"Pervert." Okay, maybe she can. Or itís possible sheís still talking about the Buffy-bot and Willow thing. More likely, I suppose, what with the whole me still being alive and in one piece thing. And also, hey. Who is she calling pervert.

"Other pervert." I think thatís fair, given that she was obviously thinking the same thing.

"And don't frighten me like tha-aah!" Aaargh. Now what? Isnít today bad enough without a basement full ofÖrabbits? Sheís screaming about bloody bunnies. And now Iím channelling my inner Spike again. Great

"God, who, who would put something like that there? Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke?" Stupid bunny fear. Not really enough to give me a heart attack over. We need to get out of this basement before I do something stupid.

"I mean, things aren't bad enough! This is an omen." I donít think, given how bad this situation is, that we need any omens. Or any panic. Better try and calm her down.

"Hey, hey, shh" Yeah, that ought to do it.

"No, no, it's an omen. It's a higher power, trying to tell me through bunnies that we're all gonna die. Oh god." Or perhaps not. But I refuse to see rabbits as bad omens. There are too many genuinely bad, bad omens to give fluffy bunnies a look in.

"No it's not." That ought to work. Just tell her sheís wrong.

"It's okay." Gee, Iím really doing my stuff with the comfort today. Wonder how many more pointless platitudes I can come up with. Not that they seem to be working.

"No, you see, usually when there's an apocalypse, I skedaddle. But now I love you so much that instead I have inappropriately timed sex and try to think of ways to fight a god ... and worry terribly that something might happen to you. And also worry that something'll happen to me. And then I have guilt that I'm not more worried about everyone else, but I just don't have enough! I'm just on total overload, and I honestly don't think that I could be more nervous than I am right now." Oh great. Now I have guilt that Anya has guilt. What can I do to make this right? Wait, whatís this in my pocket?

"Care to wager on that?" Oh god. What am I doing? This is not a good idea. In fact, this idea sucks.

"Anya ... you wanna marry me?" Oh shit. I said it. Oh god. Iím such an idiot. I know, like thatís news. Maybe sheíll say no. Ouch.

"Can I take that as a "maybe"?" Or maybe sheíll hit me. I know I didnít exactly think this through, given that I was gonna break up with her, not ask her to marry me, but even when I wanted to marry her and was scared of asking, I never thought sheíd hit me.

"You're proposing to me!" Please donít remind me.

"YesÖ" What else would I be doing? With the ring and all? Discussing demon-killing tactics? Okay, so thatís a real possibility, but still, it was a stupid question.

"You're proposing to me 'cause we're gonna die! And you think it's romantic and sexy and, and you know you're not gonna have to go through with it 'cause the world's gonna end!" No. Iím proposing to you because Iím a crazy lunatic who just had sex with you instead of getting up the courage to break it off, and who felt guilty because you love me and youíre here facing the apocalypse with me and all I want to do is find Spike and spend what is possibly the last night of my life experiencing whole new horizons of male on male action. But I might not tell you that.

"I'm proposing to you, Anya, because it's not." Okay, that sounded better. Although, even though I think we could fight Glory and win, the world as I know it has pretty much already ended, what with the admitting I like Spike - only to myself of course - and the proposing to my girlfriend, who I no longer want to marry.

"You can't know that." What? That I donít want to marry her. Unfortunately, I really do. I know I want Spike, and that scares me, but I donít want to marry Anya. Is that really what she meant? Oh, sheís talking about the world not ending. I guess sheís right. I donít know that. But I can hope, right? Maybe Iíll get through tonight, Anya will decide she doesnít want to have orgasms with me anymore, and Spike will declare his undying lust for me. What. It could happen. In the world without shrimp, or another one of those alternative universes! Probably not in my world though, cause how often do things go the way I want them to? In this one, Iíve just proposed to Anya, and Iíve got to figure out a way to deal with that without one or both of us getting seriously hurt.

"I believe it. I think we're gonna get through this. I think I'm gonna live a long ... and silly life, and I'm not interested in doing that without you around." Oh, my subconscious is good at this. Itís kinda nice how I can think one thing and say something else completely without, well, thinking about it. Although, the whole proposal thing suggests it could also get me into a world of trouble.

"Oh. Okay." Like, for example.

"Okay?" Please let that not be a yes. Let it be an Ďokay, youíre clearly crazy and Iím not gonna hold you to thisí okay.

"Yes. I mean, yes." Oh boy. Okay, smile. Pretend this is a good thing. Maybe sheíll change her mind.

"No." Oh thank you god. But why?

"No?" She really doesnít want to. That hurts. I mean, itís a good thing, but it hurts all the same.

"After. Give it to me when the world doesn't end." Oh damn. She means yes. How do I get myself into these messes? Now, I donít just have to break up with the vengeance demon, I have to break off our engagement. Thatís such an improvement, I donít think. Oh well, I suppose I can worry about how to sort out my life without dying if I get through tonight without, well, dying.

Part Nine

Okay, so on a scale of one to disastrous, this day probably couldnít get a lot worse. Iíve accidentally asked my soon to be ex girlfriend to marry me, possibly earning myself a hugely painful retribution when I try to take the proposal back. One half of our witchy duo is pretty much out of this world. In an Ďon another astral planeí way, not a Ďsheís fantastically wonderfulí way. Well, I mean, she is fantastic. Not saying Taraís not great. Sheís just a little spaced at the moment. Which is bad. Obviously.

Sorry, Willow style babble occurring. Where was I? Oh yes, disasters of today. All the things I just said, and now we have to go rescue Dawn from the psycho fashion victim hell god who wants to use her to open a door to hell. I love my life. And Iíve just totally jinxed us by saying today couldnít get any worse. I have to stop doing that. On the bright side, we found the glowy dragon thing, and another potentially useful secret weapon to run by Buffy.

"Buffy." Great, the one good idea Iíve had today and Giles is gonna try and steal my thunder by telling her about it himself. Maybe heís trying to make up for telling her she has to kill her baby sister. Not gonna work, Iím thinking. Not a whole lot he could say to help her get over that little misdemeanour. Anyway, new weapon found for the battle with Glory, Ben, whoever she, or he, is. And I want to be the useful one. itís about all Iím gonna be able to do to help here, in between not having any super powers or magical talents and being totally distracted by Spike thoughts.

Okay, so hereís how it works. We take the Buffy bot with us. She - it - fights Glory while we rescue Dawnie. Problem solved. Though itís probably not gonna be quite that easy. In my life long experience of trying to save the world, these things never are. Take Adam. Handy little spell. Unite our essences. In a non-sticky kind of way. Have the power to kill the demon robot man. Donít find out till later that pleasant little side-effect where the First Slayer appears in our dreams and tries to kill us all. No big deal, right? So, clearly, thereís gonna be a catch. Not sure what it is yet, but I really could wait forever to find out. Donít think thatís really an option. Although itís possible Iíll have to wait till the end of the world, given that that may well be tonight.

Still, as a secret weapon, itís an improvement on what we had before, namely a certain sexy undead guy prepared to save the world for the slayer. Sometimes I really hate her. I mean, what does she have that I havenít. Okay, apart from super slayer powers, an amazing body and, lets not forget, breasts. Not that I want them exactly, but for attracting Spike, probably fairly useful. Iíve never seen him sniffing around other guys the way he does with Buffy. And now is probably not the time to be thinking about this. Iíll think about helping Buffy save the world - again - instead.

"No. No, no, that's good. That could be pivotal. Thank you guys." Youíre welcome, Buff. It was a handy distraction, finding that. Although it probably indirectly caused me to ask my girlfriend to marry me, instead of breaking up with her. When she wreaks her fiery vengeance, and Iím totally disfigured, donít feel you have to hold yourself responsible. Itís not your fault Iím insane.

Unpleasant and unwanted thought occurring. If I break up with Anya and she turns to demon-style vengeance, I may lose certain essential parts, and even if Spike did want to, you know, I wouldnít be able to. Oh thatĎs just fantastic. Damned if I do, damned if I donít. Even if Spike did, in some strange alterna-world, have the remotest interest in me, I wouldnít get the chance to do anything about it. That sucks. Unlike Spike, who unfortunately for me, wonít get the opportunity. Aaargh. Enough with the sucking thoughts. Theyíre really not helping me to stay calm and collected. Focus on the world saving. Anya is not a demon any more, and youíre not gonna break up with her tonight anyway, so slightly more important things going on.

"Well, um, you're gonna need some-" Prozac? Therapy? Oh right, Giles is talking to Buffy, not me.

"Way ahead of you. We have time?" Time for what. Whatíd I miss?

"Yes, if you hurry." What is she going to do? Oh, right, more clothes for the Buffy bot. I remember something about that. In between the panic-driven marriage proposal and the Spike sucking thoughts. Gah. Spike sucking me. Not thinking about that, remember, cause of the need to concentrate on bigger things. More important, I mean, not bigger. Whoa, down boy. Now is not the time. At least Spike wonít know what Iím thinking if I can just stay calm

"Okay. I'll grab some weapons too." Oh god, Spikeís here, near me. Deep breaths. Please let him not be able to tell what Iím thinking, or how turned on Iím getting. No, donít think about him. Think about weapons. Something long and pointy. Okay, so not helping. Weapons, fighting. No sex. Sex is not the issue.

"I'm looking for something in a broadsword." Good, you want a weapon. That was a normal, sensible thing to say. Well done, me.

"Don't be swingin' that thing near me." Oh great, Spike doesnít even trust me with a sword. Not exactly foundations for future bliss.

"Hey, I happen to be-" Totally in lust with you. Have sex with me now. Please

"A glorified bricklayer?" Hey, that hurts. Iíll show him Iím not as lame as he thinks. What else do I do? OhÖ

"I'm also a swell bowler." Yeah, thatíll do it. Spikeíll think Iím the ultimate in cool now, I donít think.

"Has his own shoes." Anya, not helping here. Please shut up.

"The gods themselves do tremble." Yeah, I really impressed him then. I need help. I canít believe I standing here worrying about what the evil undead guy thinks of my coolness factor. Maybe I can redeem myself while weíre waiting for Buffy to get back. Less competition if heís not ogling her.

"Spike, shut your mouth, come with me." Or maybe sheíll take him with her and I can sit here and be jealous. That works too. Why is she taking him? Sheís going to change her clothes. She really better not need Spike for that. Or Iíll want to know why. If heís gonna be involved in anyoneís undressing it should be mine. Okay, so Iíll just sit here and fester until they get back. Fine.

God, how long does it take to collect a couple of axes and change your clothes? I bet theyíreÖnoÖthatís crazy talk. Or crazy thought, even. Buffy would neverÖNot with Spike. She wouldnít, right? I mean, heís a vampire. But of course, she likes that. But Angel had a soul. Spikeís just on an electronic leash. Heís still evil. I canít believe Buffy would do something like that.

Okay, calm down. This is total insanity. Buffy is not having sex with Spike while her sister is kidnapped and needs rescuing. I am the only person here who would be stupid enough to do that. Given the opportunity. Which, of course, I wonít be. But where are they? I wish theyíd hurry. Anya keeps smiling at me like she wants to sneak off and have sex again, and I think one stupid mistake a day is quite enough. If we did that again, Iíd probably suggest that we should have a baby. Or a whole Little League team full. No thank you.

And another thing. Who am I kidding, one stupid thing a day? Donít I wish. I always do several stupid things a day. Take today. Lusted after Spike. Proposed to Anya. Fantasised about Spike. Didnít realise that Glory and Ben were the same person - although, Iím not alone in that one. Dreamt about energetic naked games with Spike. Okay, so youíre getting the picture? Many stupid things. And also, Iím sensing a theme. And I really donít want to think about that now. Where the hell is he. They, I mean.

Oh, thank God. Theyíre here. No Spike and Buffy sex happening. Unless it was really quick. Gah. Enough.

"We on schedule?" Right on target. Headed for total meltdown in about ten minutes. Oh, right, she probably meant the Dawn thing, rather than my head. Oh well.

"Yes, it's time." And here comes the fear. This averting the apocalypse gig never gets any less scary.

"Will?" I hope this works. I feel kind of nasty using Tara this way when sheís all sick and everything, but we have to get the Dawnster back.

"Tara, baby? Is there somewhere you should be?" Like in hospital, for example, rather than leading us into battle.

"They held me down." Wish Spike would hold me down. And ravish me. Right here, right now. Yeurgh. No I donít. I really donít. As mistakes go, that would be right up there with, well, with having sex with Spike at all. Only more major, because itíd be in full view of all my friends. And my girlfriend. Looks like my brain has stopped trying to protect me from myself. Iíd better be really careful what I say now. Although, with a bit of luck, the world ending might distract them. Or maybe not.

"No one's holding you. It's the big day, right?" Shit, big day. God fighting about to occur. No kinky Spike thoughts now. I need to focus. And also, if I started making out with Spike now, Buffy and Willow might get a little distracted. And they really need to focus, being the big guns and all. What the hell. Iím talking like this is something that could actually happen. Spike is in some freaky place where he thinks he loves Buffy. And he thinks Iím a glorified bricklayer. Clearly, no wild passionate sex is ever going to happen. And most especially not in front of my friends.

"Do you wanna go?" Nope, I wanna stay right here with Spike. And itís possible she was talking to Tara and not me. Man, this is really getting to me. When did I turn into the sort of jerk that would rather stay behind and get groiny with the soulless undead than go help save Dawnie from a hell god? I am sick and evil, no doubt about it. I deserve pretty much anything Anya tries to do to me when I break it off with her. Which I will. Eventually. When Iím not quite such a coward.

Oh, there goes Tara. Looks like weíre off to save the world again. Good. I could do with the mind numbing terror that goes with that. Itíll be a pleasant change from the earth-shattering trauma of realising that Iím fantasising about the bleached wonder. What in Godís name happened to me?

"You're a killer. This is all set down." Huh? Tara is talking to Giles? Spike, that I could understand. Why am I even trying to make sense of this? Tara at the moment is almost as crazy as I am. Not, quite, because Iím fairly certain that sheís not currently thinking about how hot Spike looks when he does that puzzled little frown. Itís actually kind of cute. And with that insanity confirming thought, enough, no more thinking. Taraís gone, and weíre gonna follow.

"Stay close but don't crowd her. We'll follow in a minute." Willowís off to keep an eye on Tara. Poor Wills. I hope this spell sheís been working on does some good. How awful if we canít fix Tara. Willow really needs her back. Okay, looks like Buffyís gonna do the pre-battle speech now. This should be good.

"Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn." Or maybe not. Wow. This is it. And thatís the speech, thatís supposed to inspire us to go off and save the world. Well, considering that either we save it quickly or Buffy kills us all, Iím inspired. In a really disturbing way.

"Well, not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?" The what? Sometimes I forget that Spike is actually over a hundred years old. Then he says something that I just donít get. And I remember how old he is. How different he is. How stupid I am to want him. Though, I suppose, he could be my sugar daddy. Oh and thatís a not at all freakish thought. Shutting up now. Going to fight.

"We fewÖwe happy few." Iím guessing that means Giles understands it. Course he does. Heís book guy. And also, older. Though not quite as old as Spike. Wonder what itís like to live that long. Maybe Spike would turn me. Gyah. Oh my God, that is it. No more. Did not just think that. There will be no turning. I may have occasional, okay, constant, lusty thoughts about a vampire, but by all thatís unholy, I do not want to be one. Ever. Right. Glad thatís settled.

"We band of buggered." Did he say something about buggering? Spike and buggering in the same thought. Thereís an image. One that I am not going to think about now. Weíre gonna go fight now. Iíll think about that later. If we survive. Just once, Iíll let myself think about it. As a reward for not dying. Or something like that.

Okay, weíre actually moving now. Tara does seem to look like she knows where sheís headed, which is good. But also worrying. What did Glory do to her brain to make her know that? The faint chill of terror is starting to get even colder now. Like we could walk around the corner and see somethingÖOh my god.

"Shpadoinkle." And I say to myself, what? First of all, Shpadoinkle. What the hell does that mean. Second of all-

"What is that?" Thank you Anya. You took the words right out of my mouth.

"The portal must open up there." Ya think, Giles? There I was, thinking the Sunnydale City Council had gone in for a new style of modern art.

"Will, you're up." Oh, boy. I know how much Willow loves being key girl. In a totally different way to Dawn, obviously. She must really be shitting it right now. We all know she can do it. I just wish she had the same kind of confidence.

"Need anything?" Howís about another three weeks to prepare for this. That might give Wills chance to psyche herself up. Or it might give her time to stew so much she decided she really couldnít do this.

"Could use a little courage." You and me both, Willow. Not sure right now whether Iím most scared about facing off against Glory or the fact that I really have to face up to Anya after. I know sheís not actually a vengeance demon right now, but Iím sure she could figure out a way to get her powers back if she really wanted to. And Iím fairly sure that Iím gonna giver her a pretty good reason. Even without mentioning the identity of the new object of my affections. Well, fantasies. Wouldnít go so far as affections. Not yet. Okay, not helping here. Need to give Willow courage.

"The real kind." What? Oh right, sheís rejecting Spikeís flask, not my inner babble. I guess sheís probably powerful enough to read my mind if she wanted. Okay, I really have to stop thinking about this, or about Spike at all. Ideally ever. But thatís probably not gonna happen.

"But thanks." See. She can be nice to Spike. Thatís good, right? It means that if, by some freak of luck, I ever, well, got involved with him, she might not stake him straight away. Right? Oh hell, who am I kidding? Heís a vampire. Heís evil and unsouled. Sheís just being polite. Thatís Wills. It doesnít mean sheíd be all open-minded acceptance girl if I told her I wanted to shag him. And now
Iím sounding like him again. Great. Okay, no more Spike thoughts. Thereís a real battle to have first. Lets do this.

Part Ten

And weíre fighting. Well, theyíre fighting. Iím just sitting here waiting for my key moment, well away from the actual hand-to-hand. Even Anya is handier with a baseball bat than I am. Guess all those years of fiery vengeance give you a yen for violence. And the ability to wreak it. Itís not that Iím clumsy. Well, actually, it kinda is that Iím clumsy, but itís more that I just donít like to hurt things. Even things I know are deserving of the pain.

Like, for example, Spike. I know heís evil, and if he didnít have the chip heíd probably kill us all in an instant, whatever he says about loving Buffy. Itís just; I donít think I could bring myself to hurt him. And not just because of the lust thing thatís clouding my judgement at the moment. Heís, maybe not a friend, cause, hello, evil vampire, but someone whoís helped us, whoís slept in my bedroom, though unfortunately not in my bed. How could I kill him? How could any of us?

And all of a sudden Iím feeling guilty. I was such a jerk towards Buffy about the Angel/Angelus thing. I guess I never realised how hard that must have been. I mean, I thought I did, but at the same time, I thought it was easy. Heís evil; therefore he must be killed, no matter how nice he was before. I should probably apologise. Although, how do I do that without explaining that my epiphany-thingy was kind of the result of some totally inappropriate thoughts about the latest non person-killing vamp to drop into our oh-so normal lives?

Maybe Iíll just be especially nice to her, without explaining why. That way I can get rid of some of my newly developed guilt without risking her going all psycho-slayer on me. She might try to kill Spike. Or me. Or, worse, she might laugh. I did, when she told me Spike liked her. Itís not like she owes me any sympathy. More like a whole lot of mocking. And I deserve it a whole lot more than she did, because of the whole, I like Spike, rather than Spike likes me. Which bothers me more than Iíd like. I really have to get over this. And soon. I could handle the gay thing. And I could probably deal the vampire thing. Maybe. I just really donít want to have to handle them both in one well-wrapped package. Except of course, that Iíd love to handle Spike. Just in a more hands-on kind of way.

Gah. Enough. Iím supposed to be doing Angel style brooding about how awful Iíve been to Buffy, not thinking sex-thoughts about the undead punk wannabe over there. And, thought occurring. Iím not really supposed to be doing either. Iím supposed to be paying attention to the big battle and getting ready for my moment of glory. Pun absolutely not intended. Sorry. And who the hell am I apologising to? My subconscious? This talking to myself thing is becoming too much of a habit. Okay, focus. I really have to learn not to zone out when weíre fighting a god.

Nope, think Iím okay for now. Not time to rev up this baby yet. Iíll just sit and watch Spike fight, instead. He really is amazing when he fights. Although, gotta admit, wouldnít want to be fighting against him anymore. Even if I didnít have the warm and fuzzies. Heís pretty brutal, and Iím not exactly kick-ass martial arts guy. So, watching is good. Very good. And I am totally not drooling. At all. I am focussed on the fight, not the amazingly sexy ass of that blond vampire.

Oh, Buffy and Glory. Is now the time to make my move? No. Shit, thatís Dawn screaming. Oh God. I forgot for a minute what we were doing here. I really have to sort my sick head out. Iím gonna stop thinking about Spike and start thinking about Dawn instead. Although not in the same way, of course, cause, really not that sick. Gyah. Evil thoughts. Please stop.

Címon Buffy, get up that tower, get Dawn, then we can all go home and I can break up with Anya and try and figure out a way to get Spike without looking like a total dork and having all my friends despise me. What? It could happen. Stranger things haveÖprobably never happened, but this is Sunnydale, we specialise in strange. Whereís Buffy now? Oh shit, Gloryís there too. Okay, fighting on a tower, really not safe. Someone mightÖ

Fall. Okay, maybe now is time for me to spring into action.

"You lost your hammer, sweet cheeks. What are you gonna hit me with now?" Oh you had to ask, lady, now youíre gonna find out. Move that lever andÖkaboom. Oh yes, that was good. So much fun.

"Whatever's handy." And yet still Buffy manages to take credit. Okay, it was partly her idea, but I pulled it off. "The glorified bricklayer picks up a spare." So there, stick that in your pipe and smoke it oh bleached one. Okay, I should probably go and help with the fight now. The guys seem to have gone into hiding, and thoughts about Spike sticking things anywhere, really not helping my inner calm.

"How we doing?" Real good, Iíll bet. Dawnie is still at the top of the tower, and said tower is surrounded by hordes of brain-sucked acolytes. Whatever an acolyte is. Must have got that from Giles.

"So far it's a tie." A what? Not sure this is the sort of game where you can have a tie.

"We haven't got up to Dawn, but then neither has anyone else." Okay, I guess Ďtieí makes sense in an Anyaish sort of way. Although usually she only talks about tying in the bedroom. And I am really not gonna start thinking about being tied up by Spike. Not now.

"Someone's up there." Especially not when heís quite so close to me. Iím still a bit worried about the idea that his vamp senses might be able to tell if Iím getting hot under the collar. Although, bright side, he might get off on the fact that Iím sick enough to be turned on at a time like this. And when the hell did I become so totally disturbed that that could be a bright side. Okay, he spoke. Up where? Oh, right, Dawnie. Tower. See, Iím remembering, playing my important part in keeping the world safe for humanity. Really.

"Okay, we gotta charge or something." Yeah, that sounds like a plan. Thereís like hundreds of them, and four of us. Who would have such a crazy idea? Oh, right, I said that. Guess my subconscious is doing that straight to speech, do not pass brain thing again.

"We tried that." Oh, good. For a minute there, I thought I was actually gonna have to do the brave but powerless dive into the fray thing that I seem to be making a very dangerous habit of. Iím really much more of a coward than people think, and so glad they canít tell what I'm thinking at times like this.

"Yeah, loud and clear." What? Was he talking to me? No, that wouldnít make sense, and he canít really read my mind. Right? Please god, donít let Spike be telepathic. I was thinking I might start with just being a little bit politer than usual to him, not leap straight to him knowing exactly what fantasy about him Iím having at any given moment in time. I mean that makes sense, doesnít it?

"Yeah, can't tell who." Unlike that. What the hell is he on? I mean, I know what, well, who, Iíd like him to be on, but Iím not thinking about that now and what is he talking about?

"Are you talking to us?" Or are you about to join the ranks of the crazies guarding the tower. Inquiring minds wanna know whether to panic or not.

"Yeah, but-" But what? Okay, this is freaking me out now. Whereís he going? I didnít think he was actually gonna go and join them. We need him. I need him.

Wow. That was like the parting of the Red Sea, or something. Will and Tara must be on the magic train again. Does that mean he was talking to Willow? Does that mean she can read minds. Or he can. Oh god. *Now* Iím panicking. Cause, you know, being outed and in lust with a vampire, way more scary consequences than a fight to the death with a blonde curly hell god.

Oh, God, where the hell is Spike? Wish I could see what was going on up there. Was there someone else up there? Who, though? Glory is still fighting with Buffy. Well, at this point, being repeatedly bludgeoned with a troll's hammer, but as itís the hell-bitch on the receiving end, itís the sort of fight I like. Maybe when Buffyís done with her, sheíll look as bad as Spike did when sheíd finished torturing him. I didnít even think vampires could bruise, but that was brutal.

Is that something, someone falling? Spike. Itís Spike. Shit. Heís gonna die. No. Vampire. He canít die from falling. Unless he gets decapitated, or lands on a large stake. Oh god. If heís down here, someone else is up there with Dawnie. We have to do something. Us, with all our lack of powers. Me, Giles and Anya. Not magic, not dead, not slayers. What the hell are we supposed to do?

Okay, Gloryís down and Buffyís on her way up. Good, thatís good, sheíll get Dawnie this time, and Gloryís still down here, so she hasnít done the ritual thingy. No world ending, right Giles? Huh. Whereíd Giles go?

Oh god, Dawnís screaming again. Who is that up there? Falling down from there, in fact. Not Dawn, she's still screaming. Buffy must have made it up there. I should help Spike. Or maybe not. What if I go over there and heís dust. Not that Iíd know, cause thereís a lot of dust around anyway. God, Buff, hurry up and get down here.

What the hell is that? Oh god. Is that the portal? But how? Glory is here so how can there be a big glowy portal in the sky. Unless, whoever was up there did the ritual. Shit. Dawnie. Oh, I hate this. Especially with the lightning and demony things and hellís about to be on earth. Iím stuck here with Anya, and all I want to do is go find Spike, maybe get a quick kiss before the world ends and I really have to stop. If ever there wasnít a time for this itís now.

"Xander!" What? Oh, lightning. Shit that hurt. Oh god. Anya

"Anya!" Shit. Fuck. Oh god. What happened to her? I canít believe that. Iím busy thinking about Spike and Anya just pretty much saved my life. Please let her be okay. Iím such a jerk.

Holy fuck. Was that a dragon? This is bad. This is the worst ever, and Iíve seen some pretty awful things. Buffy engaged to Spike right up there among them. No. No more Spike thoughts. Ever. This is just wrong. Although, at this rate, ever might not be very long. I have to help Anya, pick her up off the floor.

You know, if this wasnít so awful itíd be beautiful, sun rising and storm raising and all that. Shit. Sun rising. Spike. Oh, no, not caring about Spike. What the hell do we do now? Just wait for it all to happen? Iím guessing painful death is gonna be a theme in my near future. All my future. Where the hell are Buffy and Dawn. Itís too bright now to see whatís going on up there, with the glowing and the lightning, but I think I can make out some movement.

What the hell. What is it doing? Oh god. Itís stopping. Whyís it stopping? Did someone save the world? Does that mean Dawnie is dead. No, Buffy wouldn't let that happen. So who?

Someone's falling. Oh god, Buffy. No, please, not Buffy. She canít be dead. Right? Shit. It is her. Look at her lying there. She looks so small and fragile. Oh no, God, no, please donít make this be real. The world hasnít ended, so I guess it must be. And Spike looks so broken. Heís crying. How could I think he didnít love her? I guess that means he could love me, but somehow that doesnít seem to matter so much now. How can I even think about things like that when Buffy is gone? I canít believe this. How can she be dead? Oh, god Dawnie, poor little Dawn. She needs Buffy. We need Buffy. What are we supposed to do without her?


Dear Buffy,

This seems kind of silly, writing you a letter that youíll never read, but I needed to tell you some things. Things I wish Iíd said before.

First of all, sorry. Sorry for not saving you. Sorry for always expecting you to save the world. This time, just like always, you totally came through for us, for the world. God, that sounds schmaltzy. Iím really no good at this letter-writing thing, even if no one is going to read it. Anyway, thereís one more thing I need to apologise for, and thatís me. Iíve been, at times, a real jerk. The main thing that bothers me is Angel. You know that I didnít tell you about the soul restoration spell when you had to fight Angelus. We both know that, but never talked about it.

I guess you thought it was better left unsaid. And me, I was so glad you left it alone, I wasnít ever gonna bring it up. Believe though, that I always felt bad. Hard to believe, given my hatred of everything Angel, but I really did. Do. I should have told you. I tried to tell myself that I was doing it for you, that youíd fight better if you didnít have that hope, if you just wanted to finish it. But, I think we both know the truth. I was jealous. Of Angel, of course. He had you. Loved you, and you loved him. And even then, I still wanted you. But also, jealous of you, of what you had. Someone who loved you, no matter what, even though you were the one thing that, as a vampire, he should totally despise, fear or whatever.

I thought, because he was a vampire, he couldnít love you. I was wrong. I know that now. Being a demon doesnít stop you from loving. Spike showed us that. He cried, you know. When you died. It was so hard to watch, because weíd been so cruel, mocking him. And yes, this is me, Xander Harris, demon-hater extraordinaire, feeling guilty about the way I treated a vampire. So Iím sorry. Sorry for lying, even just by omission. And sorry for never letting you just be happy with Angel. I guess, in some ways, thatís a good thing, because of the whole curse, turning evil thing, but I also know I didnít help, didnít make your life any easier with the way I was. You should have been able to love him without one of your so-called friends ragging on you for it.

Youíre probably wondering whatís brought on this fit of soul baring. Mostly itís you. Dawn told us, what you said before, you, you know. God, I canít even bring myself to write it. Itís still so hard to believe youíre gone. So partly, this letter is a thank you. You did something amazing, again, and I feel like this is the least I can do to return the favour, even if it comes a little too late.

Thatís not the only reason though. Mostly it's because of Spike. He made me realise what a bastard I was. Not just because he loves - loved - you, but also (hanging head in embarrassment) I think I might like him. In a more than just friends kind of way. Not that we are even friends, exactly. When I realised all that, I guess I figured out that things arenít always as black and white as I liked to tell myself. Not all demons are pure evil, just like not all humans are good. I know most people, (mainly Cordy) thought I was just jealous, that I hated Angel because I wanted you, and sure, that was a part of it, but more than that, I hated what he was, thought he was an evil demon, and should die, soul-having at times or not. But I know now that it is never as simple as that.

Youíll notice Iíve brushed over the surface of Spike. That came out very different to how it sounded in my head, and Iím really sorry if Iíve given you icky thoughts about me and Spike. I really didnít mean to. Theyíre the sorts of thoughts that Iím only just getting used to myself. And thatís why the brushing. Iím not ready to deal with it. And neither would Spike be. Not now. I realise that when you said to live, this probably wasnít what you meant, and if you were reading this youíd be totally freaking out, but I think this is what I want. Not yet. I do love Anya, and Iím not ready to break up with her anyway, itĎs too soon, and I donít want to hurt her like that. She saved my life, you know. Also, there is Spike to consider. He pretty much despises me, and I can understand that. Heís too broken up about you to even notice anything else except Dawn at the moment.

Despite all this, Iíve decided that, in time, Iíll try to live, try to have what I want, rather than what I think I should have. Iím probably insane, and Iím pretty sure thatís what youíre thinking. But this is what I want. If Spike doesnít want me, so be it, but I have to try, because I know now that itís right for me. Most of all, this letter is me asking for your blessing. I know you canít give it, but it wouldnít feel right, to go chasing after Spike without apologising to you first for, well, everything. Please, forgive me, and be okay with this, because, once I get up the measly amount of courage I have left, and enough time has passed that thinking about you doesnít hurt either of us so much, Iím gonna do it, and Iíd like to do it without thinking that youíre out there somewhere disgusted and despising me for my hypocrisy.

For the last time, Iím sorry, thank you, and remember, I love you.

Always, Xander

The End

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The Spander Files