From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
"Alone" - Edgar Allen Poe
The inside of the room was heavily scented with layer upon layer of
different types of incense. Lavender was overlaid with jasmine, and
those with wild roses, and those with the heady scent of natural musk.
Candles were stuck willy-nilly around the room, some in holders, some
attached to various surfaces by their own melted wax. The warm light
they cast off illuminated a space filled in every corner with a bazaar
of old and rare objects. Shelves carved right into the stone held row
after row of fantastic trinkets-tiny figurines of every color and shape
imaginable from knights in glittering silver armor and pastel gowned
women frozen forever in a formal dance to blood red dragons and
brightly plumed peacocks. Scattered all over the floor were stacks of
books, magazines, paintings, papers - anything that would not fit
Lupercus stepped around her, making his way through the piles, picking
his way through them somehow without disturbing anything. Teresa
followed, passing an enormous pewter candelabrum, an old carousel horse
that, on second inspection, proved to have the bottom half of a fish, a
carefully laid out collection of preserved butterflies pinned under
glass. The walls rose high on either side, but the space between them
They passed by a stained, cracked mirror hanging upside-down from a
peg bored into the wall. There was no reflection as Lupercus went by,
but Teresa could see herself in it-half a hundred tiny images slowly
walking by and distorting with perspective. Up ahead, she could see
where the room widened out, but kept gazing up at the collection of
wonders she was given this opportunity to enjoy. Two-dozen dusty but
otherwise untouched men's hats were stacked up on top of each other.
Four delicate porcelain dolls of the sort that Drusilla had cherished
rested together in a corner that had never seen light, mouth to ear as
if whispering secrets. A long, spiraled narwhal tusk formed a barrier
between them and the edge of the shelf. A little jar of black ink with
its label yellowed and peeling was balanced precariously on top of a
tiny orange satin pillow.
Everything smelled old. Even the odors of the few relatively modern
objects that she could see-a plastic alarm clock with its face broken,
an electric sewing machine with the cord half ripped off-were masked by
the bits of lace and men's pipes. Teresa remembered what age had
smelled like when she was still human, or mostly so. It had been the
stink of stale air, and dust, and the sickening, sour taste flat water
that had been left to sit too long. Now she could sense so much more to
it-layer after layer after layer that she would never be able to
describe to someone who hadn't already experienced it.
The two minutes that they had walked in silence through Lupercus'
treasures awed her more than he ever would. Unspeaking, she took the
seat that he gestured to when he came to a fortress of a desk and sat
down behind it. In front of him was one of the largest books Teresa
had ever seen. She could smell the age on the crackling paper and the
grayish leather. She tried to shake off the wonder of the place, but
found that she didn't want to. She had to begin, though, or risk
simply surrendering to the pleasure of it. Perhaps awe was another way
that Lupercus kept his position.
"I've been searching for a long time," she said quietly, and was glad
to see that Lupercus merely nodded. "Maybe not so long in comparison
to some." She took in a deep breath, inhaling the myriad scents.
"I've found the Triami Library, and seen Azrael."
"And he sent you to me. That was wise of him. I'm surprised-the last
time I saw him, he was quite mad." Teresa didn't respond, except to
narrow her eyes a little. He leaned back in his chair. "Why don't you
tell me the story of how you came to be here?"
She shook her head, and for a moment he thought she wasn't going to
answer. Instead of sitting mutely, however, she leaned forward and
tapped her fingers across the front of the desk. He gave her a
"It's a short, sad little tale, really," Teresa said finally, folding
her arms across her chest. "You know that I'm a mind reader- I've
already told you that. I have always suffered from my gift, if you
want to call it that." She appeared as if she'd call it anything but.
"I spent my entire life up to a few years ago almost completely unable
to control what was happening inside of my head. It's always worse
when I sleep, but I don't have to do that so much now."
He gestured for her to go on when she trailed off, deep in thought.
"I moved to Sunnydale, a nice little town right on top of a Hellmouth,
and within a week had met Angelus, gotten involved with the current
Slayer, who is an Immortal, met three other Immortals, found out that I
was one myself, except by that time I had manipulated Angelus into
turning me, found out that I was more than your average vampire, formed
an alliance with Spike and Drusilla, two of Angelus' children, prodded
the Immortals into a hopeless fight between them and the four of us,
after I had let them feed off of my Immortal blood, tried to bring
forth Armageddon, got caught in the psychic backlash of Angel's soul
being restored, and slipped into a coma where my existence quite easily
could have been ended."
She paused to take a breath.
"When I woke up, I left Sunnydale. I wasn't exactly thinking clearly
at the time. Months later, I returned. I guess I needed something to
do- some sort of purpose to life, and I... I wanted a few things that I
had left behind. I wasn't going to spend eternity miserable and
aimless and suffering." She frowned a little. "Come to think of it,
things have been a lot easier lately. I think I'm gaining a little
"But you still came here."
"There's more to what I am than that."
"How do you know?"
She cast an emotionless, level gaze directly at him, not about to
allow anything. "I've already told you what you need to know. Now you
tell me- what am I?"
Lupercus smiled, neither smug nor hesitant. Yes, he had gotten quite
a deal. "You're a demon."
Teresa made a disgusted sound high in her throat, and rolled her eyes
quickly heaven-wards. "The man's a genius. A demon! Really, that was
something I would have never guessed in a hundred years. All vampires
"No, not all, I think you'll find, but that's not what we're here to
talk about. Teresa, you are a demon." He waited until she was looking
at him again. The glare she cast his way would have intimidated him at
any other time, but now he expected no less. "Something entirely
different from any of us, and anything you might have been before. The
"I've had more of prophecies than I need in ten lifetimes."
"If you would let me finish?" Teresa looked away, for all the world
like one of the bratty little girls he provided shelter for. "To give
your proper title, you are the Khimaira. You're the living fulfillment
of a prophecy thousands of years older than I am. It was ancient
legend when the one who turned me was young."
"Khimaira..." She rolled the word around on her tongue, tasting the
sharp, foreign sounding work in her mouth. It felt like the East, like
places she had yet to go, and lifetimes to discover. He grinned at her
experimentation, childlike, but revealing sharpened canines and
"Yes, you might as well get used to it. You are the Khimaira, all in
one, capable of wielding all the lost magicks, of dwelling in the
forgotten places, the ghost roads, even the haunted pools and missions
where even we," He gestured to himself. "The lowest and most demonic
form of vampire fear to walk. Your blood is dead, yet warm, a mortal
death you have suffered, yet you are as human as the six billion who
now walk upon the face of the Earth. You are Immortal - one of a race
that appeared from out of nowhere and live side by side with human
beings, never aging, never falling victim to disease or injury unless
your head is separated from your body. You are demon, dead, the blood-
drinker and night-hunter. But fire will not destroy you. The sun
cannot kill you. From your first moments of life, you suffered,
unguided, with the 'gift' that you spoke of." He stopped the flow of
words long enough to flip through the tome to his side - ancient, but
no dust rose from its pages. He squinted, trying to identify faded
writing in the flickering candlelight. "I believe they now call it
telepathy, or a combination of telepathy and precognition, though those
terms are sadly lacking."
Teresa snorted at the understatement, and relaxed her limbs in a most
undignified and unladylike manner, slumping in the chair's worn
Lupercus frowned at the girl's nonchalance. That she could do exactly
as she was and fear no repercussions his was starting to raise hackles,
and his eyes shown with a glaze of golden yellow. Even in one of his
age, patience only stretched so far. Perhaps he had no hope of
controlling her after all - he had had very little thought of doing so
in the beginning - but he would have her cooperation, and her
protection. She had already promised. None of his minions would lay a
hand on her while he still lived - not that they would get very far.
It simply wasn't fair that one as young as she had more power than he
ever hoped to possess.
He looked up, and knew from the mischievous twinkle in her otherwise
calm, midnight blue eyes that his carefully constructed mental shields
were giving way under her steady, patient probing - and that she was
doing simply for the pleasure of seeing him riled. Indeed, a ripple of
annoyance crossed through his mind, and he did not know whether it was
his own or a gift from the Khimaira. Forcing a smile, he raised his
hand and snapped his fingers.
Instantly, a male figure, looking to be between six and seven years
old, appeared from the inky darkness just beyond the door. Teresa
blinked- she had not noticed he was there just a moment before.
"Refreshments for Miss Knight and myself, if you would Gaius."
"Yes Regent," the boy, or, rather, no boy to judge by his name, bowed
his head and was off with only a moment's glance at the legend.
"As I was saying," Lupercus continued. "A very long time ago, there
were remedies given to those with the your first, inborn ability.
Their power was harnessed and directed, put to use, since in their
suffering they were of little use in either the fields or the
She glared, and he ignored her.
"They were the True Oracles."
Abruptly her face lost all expression, becoming unreadable as a
silhouette. Something shifted within her thoughts, and he could almost
swear that the air became thicker and charged with static. Apparently
she, too, was finding it difficult to control herself.
"They told men of the future, and decided when the old gods felt their
sacrifices lacking. It is in your power, as it was theirs, to
communicate with souls long departed, and to see through time as most
see through the air on a clear day."
A small clinking of glass against metal signaled Gaius's return,
carrying a silver tray laden with a dark-tinted bottle, crimson-stemmed
goblets, and a dish of soft white substance with an oddly citric smell
to it and tendrils of steam rising from the center. He set the tray
delicately between them on the desk, then bowed his head first to
Teresa, and then to his lord and master.
"Will that be all, Regent?"
"Yes, thank you Gaius."
The boy-vampire muttered a hasty 'yes Regent', 'thank-you Regent', and
started to back away, but Lupercus held up his hand, stopping him in
his tracks. "On second thought, send for Tyrivnya. Tell her to bring
the DeOrc Glass."
Gaius trembled, partly at the thought of asking anything of the nest's
least sane resident, but mostly at the mention of the blackened mirror
that was rumored to be in her possession. He licked his lips
nervously, mustering the courage to speak. "Tyrivnya isn't accepting
anyone, regent. She's refused the Hunt for the past three nights."
"Tell her, then, than a kindred spirit seeks her council," Teresa
smiled, wolf-like with her unusually conformed and gleaming fangs.
Gaius looked hesitant to obey, and he looked to Lupercus, who merely
waved his hand.
"Do as the Khimaira says, and be quick about it."
Swallowing convulsively, the boy turned without even a small,
respectful nod. Teresa imagined he would have been white as a sheet,
if he wasn't already.
As soon as the heavy cave door was pulled shut, Lupercus sighed and
shook his head. "It's so hard to find good help these days." At her
unspoken but clearly thought question, he chuckled. "He fancied
himself to be regent, a long while ago. He has no more such flights of
fancy." A sneer appeared on his features, but since it was not
directed at her, Teresa faced it without a thought. "I assume you'll
not be too put off if I interrupt my explanations long enough for us to
eat. You don't mind human blood?"
When she shook her head in a negative, to both queries, he smiled.
*It's not exactly as if one out of the billions will matter now.* She
had too much sense to think that. She couldn't help, though, but look
up at the face before her. There was so much emotion, perhaps even a
soul behind those eyes. A vampire doesn't have a soul. It's nothing
but an animal. Worse than an animal - a demon. Was that just another
As Teresa accepted one of the small, white cakes, her hand brushed
against his. She caught a glimpse of how exactly Lupercus had handled
the would-be usurper. Her wide-open eyes turned in the direction that
Gaius had gone. No soul. "Thorough, aren't you?" she whispered,
grimacing. But at the same time, she was sniffing in appreciatively as
he uncorked the bottle and poured the smooth, crimson liquid into the
"He didn't need it anyway," he grinned, holding out one of the full
goblets to her. She took it, holding it under her nose like a fine
wine before sipping. She couldn't help it - she smiled. It had been
warmed, and was fresh; an older man, she decided, past the prime of his
life - it tasted of brandy and pine, not entirely unpleasant.
"Though, in all fairness..." Lupercus thought a moment, then chuckled.
"No, he deserved it." Falling quiet, he picked up his own goblet and
one of the luagás cakes. As his teeth bit into the thin white crust,
the signature wrinkles and brow ridge appeared on his forehead. She
watched, intrigued. It was the first time that she had seen him
entirely vamped out.
He didn't swallow that, but instead raised the goblet to his lips,
took some of the blood into his mouth, and held it there. Teresa
frowned slightly, and sniffed at the hot, white cake in her hand. It
just fit into her palm, and would have been a small meal for a mortal
child the size of most of those here. She was more curious than
concerned - any poison strong enough to do damage she probably could
sense in one way or another, and it didn't seem to be doing Lupercus
In fact, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying it, one cheek puffed
out like a chipmunk's. But she had never heard of any vampire who made
eating solid food a habit.
At last he swallowed, and ran his tongue around his lips, cleaning
them of the dark red liquid - he was a messy eater. "Try it. I
believe you'll be pleasantly surprised, even if it is not exactly
traditional for... our kind."
"What is it? Besides luagás I mean. That's only a name."
"Cake, nothing more," Lupercus smiled. "It is neither enchanted nor
poisoned - you have my word."
Abandoning caution to the wind, Teresa vamped and bit into the cake as
she would any regular food; she was hardly out of practice, though she
has spent most of the past few days subsiding on blood. The thin crust
was flaky, and melted on her tongue the moment it touched, spreading
warmth and a delicious lemon-sugar taste throughout her mouth. She
took a small sip of blood, and the flavor of the thick, creamy center
magnified and sweetened, dissolving so that the liquid she swallowed
was thick and rich as syrup. Though there was nothing that escaped,
she licked her lips anyway, hoping for more. She met his eyes, smiling
"Most of us never loose the 'sweet tooth', you might say," Lupercus
rumbled in amusement. "Luagás satisfies as does nothing else we've
found, though it's hardly necessary. The recipe is yours, if you'd
"You're trying to bribe me," Teresa responded, nearly laughing. It
was really quite funny, trying to buy her- what? Cooperation? Good
will? Protection? He already had the one. The others were highly
"Perhaps," Lupercus smiled. "Or perhaps I simply am interested in
you, Khimaira. It is not every day that I find a legend come to life
and willing to sit down and chat. For all your power, you do not yet
know the first thing of what you are capable of. The stories say that
you can fly." At her startled expression, he nodded gravely. "Have you
"Fly? Vampires can't fly. Neither can Immortals, as far as I know."
She glared openly, almost daring him to prove her a liar.
Lupercus licked the crumbling edge of his luagás cake, and drained a
portion of his goblet. "Of course they can't," he said, licking red
from his fingers. "Not our kind of vampires anyway. You, however, are
far much more than the sum total of your parts, as I've said. You are
Khimaira, something else entirely." He sighed, turning to face the
oversized book and leafing back a few pages. "Azrael once thought that
he was to be Khimaira, before he disappeared. I thought he might be,
at first - after all, he was the only Immortal that had been
successfully turned in all my memory."
Teresa felt the luagás melting between her fingers, but she ignored
it. There were so many things that she wanted to know, but she didn't
trust the annoyance, almost disgust, in his voice. "Successfully
He flinched, a hard enough task in a two and a half millennia old
creature not faced with any immediate threat to life or limb. She
plucked the fragile thread of thought from his mind - a memory so often
examined these days that it slipped past - it was clear, and as
disturbing as any of the nightmares that haunted her when she could no
longer keep the exhaustion at bay.
A girl, no more than ten - an Immortal child, already, and Lupercus
had tried to bring her across...
Teresa's head suddenly throbbed, and she put her hands against her
ears in immediate, ineffectual defense. She squeezed her eyes shut as
tightly as they would go, hissing against the pain. A small puddle of
blood drained toward a depression in the floor. Shards of glass and
bits of white meal mixed where they had fallen on the floor. "Stop.
Stop thinking that. Now. Please..."
His mouth fell open as her demands turned to pleas, and the girl began
to hyperventilate, drawing her arms and legs up to her body. At first
the more she suffered, the more he couldn't help but think about the
whole unfortunate incident. When one of her fangs pierced her lip, and
he could see that only sheer force of will was keeping her from leaping
up and tearing him to bits, he started to chant - clearing his mind.
Teresa let out a small whimper, and she started to suck on the wound
that pierced right through the flesh of her lower lip, shivering in her
chair. Lupercus stared at her, realizing how ridiculously easy it
would be, even with all her strength and ability, to entrap her, and
force her to his will.
"Don't even think about it," she gasped, opening up her pulsing gold-
red eyes. "If I had sensed even the slightest hint that you had done
that deliberately, your minions would be hard pressed to tell which
pieces to expose to the sun, promise or no."
He swallowed, nervous as he had been in centuries. *On second
thought...* Teresa wiped the pink-tinged sweat from her forehead, then
reached for the half-full bottle on the tray before her. Uncorking it,
she tipped it back and swallowed the entire contents in one long
She stopped, shaking, and returned the bottle with a small growl.
"Tell me how Azrael came to be."
"And stop calling me that," she snapped, "My name is Teresa."
"Very well, Teresa," Lupercus began, looking far too much the small
boy that his body suggested.
"I've all the time in the world," Teresa said grimly, gazing down at
where she dropped her meal. The white and red had mixed together to
form a small puddle of stomach-turning brownish-pink as the blood
dried. Lupercus followed her gaze, then turned his mind away -
"I didn't turn Azrael, if that is even his real name. Truth be told,
I don't know who did. I found him, wandering, alone, confused - he
must have just risen, and there were dirt and leaves clinging to his
gown. The blood from his first victim was still fresh on his lips.
"This was midwinter's even in the year 981. I had been regent for
less than a decade, and those few who had remained at the nest, loyal,
or had been turned since Karnus's death, took him in. We taught him
all that he needed to know to survive.
"At first there were words - rumors, only, and I paid them no heed.
There is always talk among us, and the smallest triviality can become a
matter of such great importance, it is not even worth telling. But
then, when the stories did not abate, but grew louder, until everyone
seemed to agree... Screams came from the Sanctuaries in the daylight
"Azrael remembered little of his life before becoming a vampire, but
he was convinced, and refused to be dissuaded, that he had died once
before, and come back to life. I brought him into my private chambers,
here, where you are now, and through his rantings and ravings - his
mind was close to gone already, I think - he told me much the same that
he'd told all the others.
"'I lived before - as many years as a man, but as I am now.' 'A
vampire, yes,' I said. 'That's what you are, what you will remain.'
He became enraged, flying into such a fury that I was certain he would
tear the place apart with his bear hands, or dash his head against the
cold rock until he would do no one any more harm.
"'Where is my sword?' he asked, and when I told him that I had found
him with neither sword nor dagger, clothed in the white gown of the
dead, a vicious fire burned in his eyes. All of a sudden, a change,
like a great pressure had been lifted from his shoulders, came over
him. He was furious still, but weeping at the same time. 'I felt so
naked without it. My sword. I need my sword or they will come for
me.' 'Whom?' I asked. 'Them!'
"He was trembling all over, I remember, like a blade of grass before a
storm. Again I told him that I did not know who could menace him, that
all the demons of the weir were under my protection. That as long as
they served me and only me, they need have no fears. He was so scared,
almost terrified, couldn't move at all. 'The others will come for me,
kill me once and for all and I'll be dead. No more Azrael; no more
"At that time I started to believe he meant the Slayer, that he might
have been a Watcher's child, or a Watcher himself, or had some
knowledge of her... There had not been a Slayer in the vicinity of the
nest in over three and a half centuries, and I wanted at all costs to
avoid attracting one. I tried to get more out of him, but he would say
nothing, and had taken up residence in a corner of the room, growling.
"I ordered him taken to the dungeons and chained in the cubiculo sol,
so that he cold not escape even if he could undo the fetters that bound
him. It took eight of my strongest to subdue him.
"Rumors, of course, began to circulate, fresher and stronger than ever
before, that Azrael was no ordinary demon, not once of 'our kind'.
There was no way to prevent it, especially with the screams that came
up from the dungeons, day after day." Lupercus sighed, casting his
golden eyes down. "I should not have waited as long as I did, but I
knew only that if there was a Slayer that knew of our existence, we had
to distract her, then drive her away, or kill her if we could. But we
couldn't kill her, not even all of us together, and there were more of
"Six nights went by in this way, me trying to decide what to do.
Then, when the count was taken that morning, one was missing from the
ranks. Alescia, little Alescia. She was the smallest of us, but
nearly the oldest. I miss her still - those sweet golden curls, her
small smile, how much she delighted in playing with her food before she
sucked them dry as old husks..."
He could sense that Teresa's interest was quickly declining, and shook
his head, trying again to bring to mind the image of his sweet Alescia.
She'd died long before the age of instant cameras and video tapes that
could record a vampire's face.
"We turned on him, drove him out, would have killed him. I haven't
seen him since then, but I knew in the back of my mind that he wasn't
"Tell me about the legend."
"Start from the beginning," she snapped, licking her lips. For some
reason the blood was settling uneasily in her stomach. Usually it was
the opposite that occurred - food was more likely to turn sour when she
was upset or irritated. Perhaps it was the smell of the blood on the
floor, drying, that was causing it.
Lupercus hardly needed the book in front of him to remember what she
was asking for, but he turned toward the beginning anyway, the very
beginning, where the pages were more brittle and broke easily. He
could barely read the faded words - brown seeped into brown so that
they were little more than irregularly placed splotches marring the
"Once," he began, not looking up at her. He was too lost in thought,
remembering the time when he had first been told this same legend as
his fingers skimmed across the pages. "A long, long time ago, before
mortal animals, before humans, before the Immortals had first appeared,
demons controlled this reality-demons of unrivaled power and strength.
This was their home, their paradise. Then, gradually, things began to
change. The world that they knew was beginning to dissolve. They were
loosing control over this world, but they fought for it."
"When the first mortal animals began to appear, they were driven away,
hounded back to the furthest corners of the Earth. Many of them died,
but unlike the demons that had come before them, they didn't simply
vanish. They lived on, in a way that few of the demons could
understand. It has been that way since the very beginning-lack of
understanding leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to horror.
It was not long before the mortal animals, humans included, began to
fight back. They started killing the demons that were killing them.
There was slaughter all over the face of the Earth, and blood ran like
water over the ground. For an age, it looked like neither would gain
control - that the world would become barren - a wasteland where
nothing grew, and nothing lived."
"The oldest and most powerful of demons began to disappear, simply
going away, never to be seen again. As they left, a new race started
to appear among the humans. They were foundlings, all of them, raised
with the human families that took them in. On the outside they
appeared normal, but after they died for the first time - and life was
short back then, instead of going beyond, following the rest of the
mortal animals, they rose from the grave. They were reviled, cast out,
attacked as demons, but since nobody knew how they could be killed,
they generally survived, becoming wild and reclusive, living on the
edges between early people and the last remnants of the demons."
"Every day, fewer and fewer demons were seen. Those that remained
were the smallest and sharpest of their kind, the ones that humans had
either ignored or been unable to catch. The great hunts became rare.
There were no more of the big ones to overcome. They had all either
disappeared or been killed. One of the last demons to leave this
reality fed on a human, and in the fight, their blood was mixed. Both
the human and the demon died, but the human rose, his body cold, but
his mind alive. The spirit of the demon was inside of him, controlling
him, living on through him. He learned by experience that he could not
stand sunlight, that he must feed on blood to survive. It was not
until he had made more like himself what else could kill him was
discovered-the stake through the heart, immolation by fire. Water from
holy springs would burn the skin. Symbols of human faith would repel
"For a little while, a bare breath of time in the grand scheme, there
was a proliferation of hybrids-results of matings and rituals, even
accidents between the few remaining demons, the mortals, and the
Immortals. Most had the appearance of humans. They varied in power from
those able to call disaster with a thought, to those who could change
forms, to those who could work such small magicks as encouraging
flowers to grow, or creating images of things and creatures using
pigments and cave walls."
Teresa shifted in her chair, no longer as irritated as she had been
just a few moments before, blinking. Lupercus noticed her surprise,
and nodded solemnly.
"Yes. Creation of that type is very much a trait bred into humans.
It is far older than them. People today don't realize how much magic
is around them. Every painting or drawing they see, it's there." He
gestured toward the book in front of him. "Every word they read. It's
there. Every song, every hymn, every crude sailor's ditty has a bit of
something in it that goes back toward the beginning of time. Every
dance, every tapestry, every piece of embroidery, it's in there too.
Every hint of color or creative impression not absolutely necessary for
survival is magic. Humans bemoan the loss of magic because they're so
swamped with it that they cannot see it - they're drowning in beauty
and begging for more." He smiled, dusting at the subtly embroidered
vest he was wearing. It wasn't considered anything special now, but
even two hundred years ago, it would have taken weeks of work and a lot
of money. "But I digress."
"With the new types of people being discovered, and the growth in
their population, the Immortals that had once been so hated found their
way back in to the primitive cultures. They formed loose societies,
supported each other, and moved around so that no one knew of them.
The lived by their own rules, and somewhere along the line the first
head was taken, the first Quickening released."
"With various kinds of vampires, Immortals, and hybrid demons like the
Sphinx and the Centaur all living with and around the humans, it seemed
like the few pure demons remaining, already forced into hiding, could
be forgotten. There was hunting and agriculture, clothing, children,
lives to be lived. Why think about the monsters that attacked
occasionally then disappeared into the woods when tomorrow's meal is
far from a certainty? The solidarity of the mortal animals broke
apart. Some of the more intelligent species, those who might have
rivaled humans, were killed off, or died off. People killed them.
People killed people. Vampires killed people. Immortals killed
Immortals. Immortals killed people, killed vampires, killed hybrids.
No one was there to notice when in the deep of the woods started again
to whisper with nightmares that had not been seen in ages."
"By the time that the earth's inhabitants discovered what was lurking
in their shadows, it was too late. Demons - the old ones, the ancient
ones that had simply gone away long, long before - appeared among them.
They attacked en masse, wiping out whatever they touched, determined to
reclaim what they felt was rightfully theirs. They killed everything
living, everything undead. If it had a shred of mortality to it, they
destroyed it. Nothing was safe."
"What was needed was a miracle. Populations were being wiped out
faster than ever before. No one and nothing was safe. Somewhere along
the line, a small group was forced together--Immortals, mortals,
vampires, and several hybrids, all driven by one of the ancients. They
saw what was going to happen if they fought each other instead of
working with one another, and somehow were able to put aside their
"It was decided that between them they would create a champion-a being
as powerful as the ancient demons, faster than the fastest vampire,
with the best of the abilities of the hybrids, the Immortal's tendency
to cling to life, and the human being's adaptability and tenacity. They
knew there was danger in creating such a life-how easily it could turn
on them, especially with its demonic component-but there was no other
"The magicks that they used to do what they did are long lost;
possibly they were never known outside of the small group that worked
them. Legend has it that the one pre-immortal among them was chosen as
the focus. Some versions say that she went willingly, others that she
was forced, but in the end, what emerged was a creature far different
than anything the world had seen before, and they called her the
"She was able to defeat the demon that held them locked together for
survival, but when it was dead, the others in the group tried to gain
control of her, each for his own benefit. Disgusted at their behavior,
and able to know the simple, selfish power-grabbing behind it, she left
"There are many different accounts of what happened to the Khimaira in
the years that followed, some even saying that she fled into isolation,
living as an animal or worse, but most seem to agree that she went
after the demons that she had been created to destroy, that she slayed
them or helped to banish them to separate demon realms. Since there
was no one with her to record what happened, it is only known that
again the ancient demons began to disappear."
"The record of her existence ends with a demon, just as it began, or,
rather, three demons. A powerful trio of dragon-like creatures, each
linked by mind and body, since separating them from each other was the
only way to destroy them." Lupercus handed Teresa a small fragment of a
paper, showing three identical monstrosities covered with coats of
needle like scales and razor sharp wings. If she credited the scale
given, each was close to a hundred feet long.
"They breathed poisonous gases, and each of their scales was capable
of delivering a lethal dose of venom. They could not be surprised,
because there was never a time when at least one of the three was not
awake. A single brush of their wings could slice a man in two. As fairy
tales go, your typical indestructible monster, but this was no fairy
tale, and it was killing on a massive scale."
"With the help of some local tribes, the Khimaira was able to lure the
demon into a narrow rocky ravine, and push the boulders that lined the
cliffs on top of it. They were separated, and two were crushed, buried
by the falling rock, but the third one escaped and fled. It could be
killed, but it's far from easy to destroy a beast like that, even after
it has lost its invulnerability."
"Somehow, they met up again, and the Khimaira managed to grievously
wound the demon. There were few people to witness the event, but it is
one of the first recorded in several Watcher chronicles. It was written
that just before the creature died, it grabbed the Khimaira in its
claws, trapping her. Slowly, it pulled itself up, and spread its wings.
As it rose up into the air, those down on the ground could see the
Khimaira struggling in its grip. Then suddenly a blast of freezing cold
wind washed over them, and they saw a black rent in the sky open up.
The demon was swallowed up by the blackness, disappearing completely,
and only a moment later the tear vanished. The last full demon and the
champion of the earth's current inhabitants were gone completely."
"When the sun set that night, one of the few who had been there, a
young man by the name of Samiul was dreamt that the Khimaira appeared
to him. She told him that she was trapped, but that someday, somehow
she would return. Some day the fates would pull her back to earth, to
another body prepared for her arrival. She would come in time to fight
when the creatures of earth put forth from themselves one of such evil
that the demons shivered in anticipation of its birth."
Lupercus licked his lips, not exactly smiling, but something close to
it. "Samiul was one of the first Watchers of one of the first Slayers,
and I would tell you that story, but certainly not tonight. It is it is
getting close to morning, and you could find out from any Watcher's
library the origins of the Slayer."
Teresa nodded slightly, her manner subdued, her mind doing its best to
come to terms with what she was hearing. "Then I am the same? I am
her?" she asked quietly.
"Perhaps you share the same soul, Teresa. You can't remember what it
was like back then, but perhaps it's there, somewhere, waiting to be
let out. Or perhaps it's not. But you -are- the Khimaira, Teresa. Make
no mistake about that. You were an Immortal, yet you were successfully
turned. That in itself seems to happen only once every few hundred
years. If Azrael sent you to me, he must believe that you are the
Khimaira. Tell me, what made you come here?"
"Why did you come here?"
"I wanted to know what I was. I already said that."
"But Teresa," Lupercus said, shaking his head, then looking up at her.
"Everyone wants to know her own identity. Tell me you didn't feel some
need, some compulsion, to search in places that few know of and fewer
still see. Tell me you didn't know in your heart that you would find
something. You said yourself that there was something more to your
story, before you heard any of this."
Teresa was silent.
"One of the most important and wide-spread prophecies concerning the
Khimaira was recorded in the year 70 AD by a reclusive Roman scholar.
His name has been lost, but it was hard to forget, once heard." He
closed his eyes. "And one shall come from a land of war... And one
shall come from a land of peace... And the chains of love being bound
together in blood and pain... And the one that would be called
Evil..." Lupercus stopped, noticing Teresa's reaction to the phrasing.
"You've heard it before, then. It would be the one that you've heard.
So many others were burned during the Inquisition that you're virtually
unknown. Time was that the prophecy of your coming was as widely known
a legend as vampires or unicorns-"
"Unicorns." There was a touch of sarcasm to her voice.
Lupercus looked at her in all seriousness. "You really think people
are that creative?"
Teresa just shook her head, wondering if there was any mythical
creature that had never really existed. She was living proof that
prophecies sometimes come true. "So what do I do until I have to
fulfill this, this all seeing prophecy?"
Lupercus actually laughed, real mirth dancing in his eyes which had
returned without her noticing to their rich brown color. "Why, you live
Teresa. You go out and do whatever you feel like doing. You have
eternity in front of you, and you ask, 'so what do I do now?'. You're
free. You can be anything you please in the world!"
"Anything..." Teresa was mumbling more to herself than speaking aloud,
her eyes unfocused. "A new identity? A different me?"
The disturbing sensation of something creeping nearby, like long-
legged spiders crawling up and down her spine, tore Teresa instantly
out of her ruminations. She jumped in her seat, and cast her eyes back
toward the exit, only to find that a girl dark haired as herself was
standing less than an arm's length away. She gulped back a cry of
surprise. Here, in this underground lair, she had met two beings whose
minds were closed to hers. If they decided they wanted her... Teresa
could see far into the nearly black pools that were Tyrivnya's eyes,
and in them she saw a creature nearly as mad as Drusilla, and perhaps
even more dangerous. The confidence that she had shielded herself with
took a direct hit, yet remained intact.
"Tyrivnya," Lupercus said, gesturing for her to come forward. As she
did, Teresa noted the blouse and skirt combination, almost gypsy-like
with bright bits here and there, that she wore. The fabric brushed
against her legs. "I see you've brought the DeOrc Glass. What color is
"Black as coal, black as pitch," Tyrivnya whispered, standing right
next to Teresa. Though she wavered as if she might fall to the floor
any second, she didn't lean on the desk or against the wall. She turned
her wide, nothingness-filled eyes to Teresa's, and the two females
locked that way for a moment. "Black as the heart of the blackest
Teresa glanced at the small silver object that Tyrinvyna held against
her body. It looked stained and tarnished, and had the shape of a hand-
held mirror with a long handle. The entire thing, what was not covered
by the mad vampire's fingers, was elaborately inscribed with some sort
of runes that she had never seen before. Tyrivnya flexed her hands
"You see nothing for our guest here then?" Lupercus asked, not exactly
certain what was going on between the two. He knew well enough what the
different colors of the DeOrc Glass meant, and black wasn't one of
them. "Show us the Glass," he ordered when neither breathed a word.
Tyrivnya turned such a look of contempt his way that Lupercus was
tempted to add a few words. She was his junior by some thirteen hundred
years, and hadn't much strength, but she was unpredictable. One of the
innumerable drawbacks to being turned early-one couldn't rule by brute
force alone. He was glad when she faced Teresa again.
"Black in the night, brings us starlight," Tyrivnya chanted, keeping
the DeOrc Glass pressed tightly against her abdomen. "Light we need
though we are black, perfect vision we sadly lack. Though nations fall
and empires rise, this one brings a sweet surprise."
As she listened to the girl's words, Teresa felt little. It was as if
she had managed to separate herself into two halves-one to watch and
listen, and one to mull over what she took in.
"When the deeds are done, and the wars are won, when the world is born
again, she will be alone with he, who dying will unbalance the plan."
Tyrivnya grinned toothily. "So it again it goes, the story grows, and
the fights begin anew. Emerging again from nothingness, she regains her
innocence, and therefore there's the blackened hue."
Tyrivnya laid the DeOrc Glass down on the desk so that both Teresa and
Lupercus could see into it. There was nothing to see. It was like
staring at the dark sky from underneath the ice of a pond-slick and
shifting, but sickening too, with the strangling feeling of being
drowned. Teresa looked away as Lupercus handed the Glass back to its
owner. "You're free to go Tyrivnya."
The girl-vampire took her prize possession with another beaming smile,
aiming it directly at Teresa, before clutching it to her chest and
taking off at a run down the narrow, tightly packed room. Somehow, she
made it through, knocking over only one large fuzzy stuffed bear with
nothing but threads for eyes. The soft sound it made as it hit the
stone floor covered any from Tyrivnya.
Teresa calmly focused on Lupercus, who was not looking at her, but
rather at where Tyrivnya had gone. She quickly glanced at the book he
could easily have crawled on to, then shook her head, bringing his
attention. "I have to go. Tonight. Now." She stood, watching his
expression shift briefly to disbelief, then become stone once more.
"You don't want to hear the other prophecies? The words of people
who've predicted you for thousands of years? Don't you want to know the
future? Your future?" He smiled, as if that should instantly cause her
to return to her seat.
*No. Not if I live to be a thousand, no. Not if I live to be ten-
thousand. I want no more part in this.* "No." Teresa almost stumbled
over a collection of nestled wicker baskets as she turned away and
started to head for the exit. When she felt a hand on her arm, she
viciously shook it off, causing Lupercus to hit hard against the solid
wood of the desk. She snarled, pressing forward so that he had to push
his back up against the unyielding surface to avoid coming into contact
with her. Teresa crouched down, putting on hand on the floor and
leaning toward him.
"I have learned enough. I don't want to know any more prophecies. If I
have no choice in the future, then I don't want to know about it. If I
wanted to know my life was going to be nothing but doom and gloom, I'd
go to New York and find some nutcase on the street wearing a cardboard
box. If I wanted to know my life was going to be a bed of roses, I'd
phone the Psychic Hotline. Now, I would like to thank you soundly for
what you've given me, but, as you so keenly pointed out, I have a life
She released him, and shook her head slightly as her face returned to
normal. "I will remember the bargain. If I can ever help you, I will,
but don't expect anything more than that. I don't know whether to like
you or hate you, yet. Maybe I'll come around here again some time in a
few hundred years, or maybe I won't."
Teresa knew, somehow, in that instant, that something had changed. A
terrible premonition washed over her that was all emotion with
absolutely nothing substantial to back it up. There was going to be a
shifting, and she was going to be there. She jumped across the room,
moving from open space to tiny open space, and was, within a fraction
of a second gone from view.
Lupercus shook his head, and standing, brushed the dust off of his
pants and shirt. He looked up at his shelves, and rearranged three sets
of salt and pepper shakers with a century old deck of cards. "Nothing
like young demons to add a bit of excitement to a dull day."
Teresa stepped from the close, smelly confines of the public bus and
onto the hard pavement. It was just before dusk, and the sun was
putting on a truly outstanding display, painting the sky with sleepy,
warm colors. She smiled a little, slightly surprised that the din she
expected to hit her was not quite as bad as it had been the first time
she had set foot in Sunnydale.
She slung her heavy, overloaded backpack, her only luggage, over her
shoulder, and stepped away from the bus as it started away with a
whoosh from the brakes and a renewed rumble from the engine. She was
the only one getting off at this stop.
Standing and closing her eyes, Teresa could all but see Giles, still
at work in the small bookstore he now owned. Buffy and Angel, she knew,
were almost certainly sequestered in their sun-proofed home until
The urgency that had driven her away from Lupercus had not abated. In
fact, it had only grown stronger with each passing hour, every hour.
She'd nearly lost control once, when someone had grabbed her while she
slept. If he'd questioned for a moment why her eyes were yellow... The
nightmares seemed to be seeking to outdo themselves.
Even now, stooping down to lay a hand on the Californian soil, Teresa
felt conflicted. Obviously, there had to be a reason that she had given
in to the vague premonitions. She'd had much worse before, rarely with
anything coming of them, and if something was about to happen, and even
if she could prevent it, should she? What if, instead of stopping it,
she decided to help it along?
"Depends on what it is, I guess," Teresa said to herself, pulling out
a handful of grass, then letting the thin blades trickle through her
fingers. Bits of dirt stuck to her fingertips, staining them brown. She
rubbed them off on her pants.
Yes, it always came down to that, didn't it? Deciding which side to
choose. She had time, she decided; she could wait.
"At least I have a good excuse for being here," she added, thinking
aloud as she started the short trek further into Sunnydale. She'd be
doing Watchers everywhere a great service by giving Giles the location
of the Triami Library. Having a few favors owed was beginning to look a
lot more enticing than it had when she had set out. She wasn't quite
the same person.
So much had changed, and so much had stayed the same. Teresa could
still see how many buildings were left empty-either abruptly vacated by
their owners as soon as they found a better place, or abandoned by
those who had died unexpectedly. The Laundromat that had been closed
when she first arrived was open again, though, and the twenty-four hour
gas station. She wandered idly past it, wondering whether it was now
owned by a human or a demon.
There were people out. A pair of little kids, twin boys no more than
ten years old, with rust-colored hair and freckles, ran toward her from
across the street, laughing the whole way. Their parents, along with a
tiny three-year-old girl clasping her mother's hand, crossed after
them. The two boys scrambled in the grass, coming up with a Frisbee
clasped between them, which they immediately started to argue over. As
Teresa moved past them, she smiled slightly at the boys' mother, who
gave her back a short, harried smile that wasn't unfriendly. Dressed
unobtrusively in worn blue jeans and a purple t-shirt, with only a
small, silver cross necklace, she sensed that the people around her
would never guess for a moment what she was-so much the opposite of
that night in Paris.
Maybe there were too many people out. They were starting to trickle in
groups and pairs out of their houses, enjoying the night unaware of
most of its dangers. Their minds buzzed around hers, forcing her to
dampen her senses to cope with the overflow of thought. She'd been
trying to track down Giles with her mind alone, but, seeing a telephone
on a nearby corner, Teresa turned toward it. The directory was still
there, and, after a moment, she was on her way again.
The tiny bell just above the door vibrated as she entered the tiny,
dark shop set just below street level.
"I'm sorry, we're closing." Giles's voice, coming from behind the
counter. He was bending over, his head buried between to stacks of
books; he couldn't see her. Silently, she stepped forward until she
leaned against the cool countertop, her weight supported by her elbows.
"Aw, but I thought you loved me."
Teresa winced sympathetically as Giles's head hit the underside of the
counter with a thump that sent ripples along the hard material next to
her ribs. He muttered a few well-chosen curses as he looked up at her,
rubbing his aching cranium.
She grinned mischievously, offering her hand. "Last time I checked."
As close as his immediate thoughts were, she wasn't at all offended
when he looked warily at the extended appendage and decided it would be
a better idea to help himself up.
Giles gently brushed his fingers over the throbbing spot on his head,
half expecting to see blood and glad when he saw none. His mind was
racing a half a million miles a minute-too fast to make any sense. It
was she. Part of him had almost completely forgotten about her, it had
been so long, but that bare week what seemed, now, like forever ago,
seemed determined to press itself forward, along with the brief time
they'd spent together in the library. He looked at her young face,
expectant, waiting. "You, uh, you look well."
"Immortality will do that for you," Teresa said, cupping her head in
her hands with a sweetly innocent expression that was completely at
odds with her usual self.
"You're here for, um, Buffy and Angel's wedding, I presume?" Giles
asked, unable to make up his mind as to how nervous he should be. That
she appeared more normal than not was not helping him.
"No!" Teresa said, blinking in complete surprise, and putting her
weight back on her feet as she slipped off of the counter. Instantly,
she opened up her mind, but she was rewarded only with a jumble of
images and sensations in such profusion that it brought a stab of pain
to her head. She groaned, and leaned over until the throb had lessened.
"Damn." She grimaced, then noticed Giles looking at her. "Years older
and wiser, and yet I still keep doing that."
Giles chose to ignore her last comment, knowing that he could do
nothing to help her. "If you're not here for the wedding, then why are
"Danger," Teresa answered, hoisting her backpack onto the counter.
"Among other things." She unzipped one pocket, and quickly pulled out a
small, cheap, brown daily journal of the sort that could be found at
any discount store. She tossed it carelessly in front of him, and
nodded toward it. "And that."
"What is it?" He adjusted his glasses then picked the small book up
off the counter.
"Maps, charts, dates, directions, et cetera," she grinned, feeling
more herself again. "The location of a certain library, lost for
centuries and thought destroyed..."
"You found the Triami Library?" Giles asked, incredulously flipping
through the pages of notes that Teresa had meticulously written out.
There were also incredibly detailed drawings interspersed throughout
the text, and what appeared to be a blueprint of the place, but he
couldn't make heads or tails of it. "This is it?"
"The very same," Teresa chuckled. "Now," she continued, tapping on the
open page of the book that he had quickly become engrossed in. "A
wedding? I admit it's been awhile since I did any serious looking," *a
long while* "But how could I possibly have missed this? It's
"I-I don't know, to tell you the truth. They've been preparing for
nearly six months now, since they announced their engagement. It's five
days from now, on Sunday. Everyone should be arriving soon, tomorrow
night. Adam and Willow, Duncan with his girlfriend... Joe should be
here tomorrow morning. Xander and Cordelia are supposed to make it in
time for the ceremony..."
"Everyone here, at the same time..." Teresa felt a wash of emotion
pour over her, exactly as it had done before in the cavern. It started
with a jolt of terror that mellowed slightly into a sort of unfocused
dread of the future. She wasn't going to knock Giles around like she
had Lupercus, though. He'd break. The blood drained from her face with
a noticeable color change. "Just liked old times," she whispered.
"Teresa? Are you feeling well? I could get you some coffee..."
*Yech* Of all the nasty concoctions to be offered. "Got any blood?"
"Uh... um..." Giles fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Nevermind," Teresa said offhandedly, picking up her backpack. "Just a
word of advice and a question for you. Be extra careful this weekend. I
think I know that things have been quiet around here lately, but I have
the worst feeling that that may be about to change." She waited until
he nodded in response, then took a deep breath. "Have you ever heard of
Giles wrinkled his brow then shook his head as he answered. "No, I
can't say that I have."
*I guess Lupercus was right.* "Oh well, thanks anyway." Teresa pulled
the shoulder straps up, preparing to leave.
"Wait, is it some sort of demon? This Khimaira?"
Teresa felt a momentary thrill-perhaps he did know... perhaps others
knew-but just as soon as she had though so, the moment had passed. She
"Yes, it is."
"Is it what we should be looking for? If you know, I could research,
and find something to stop it before it does... whatever it is that
it's going to do."
"No," Teresa said, turning to head for the door. "It just a name that
stuck in my head. No danger here, at the moment. Besides," she added,
pausing by the entrance. "If the Khimaira decided that it truly wanted
to do something, there's absolutely nothing that you could do about
"How very odd," Giles whispered to himself, watching as Teresa exited
the shop without even the tiny bells above the door ringing. He held
the book that she had left in his hands-solid, undeniably physical
evidence that she had been here. "How very, very odd."
Kenny knew that he didn't have very much time left, that he was
cutting it almost too close, but it wasn't every day that he found a
pair like this, and he had been keeping up his charade perfectly.
Almost perfectly. Buffy suspected nothing; Angel, he had been watching,
and seemed to know that he wasn't everything he had said he was. Then
again, he knew that Angel wasn't everything he said he was. One didn't
generally live eight hundred years without meeting up with a few
vampires along the way.
Watching the preparations for their upcoming marriage had been
occasionally amusing, until he had snuck a peek at the guest list.
After that, he had had to make the decision: stay, or disappear. He
wanted to stay. He wanted to be there, hiding, watching when MacLeod
and Amanda found the bodies, or at least one body and the dust of
another. They had nearly been his end once before. He would give them
Alone in his room, the guest room that they had given him, with the
television on, he fingered the perfectly sized blade that he had
smuggled into the house. They'd be here tomorrow, he'd overheard, but
others would be coming earlier. Best to do it in the early morning,
just after sunrise. They would both be asleep. A couple of bullets to
the head would ensure that they didn't wake up during the procedure.
The first person to enter the house would probably think it empty.
Perhaps he could deal without actually watching Amanda and MacLeod
having to look at the bodies. Knowing that he had caused them pain
would be enough.
He glanced at the digital clock on the table next to the bed. The
liquid green display read 8:54. They were both out right now. "Patrol"
they called it between themselves, allowing him free reign of the
house. Eight hours until showtime. Too soon, and the blood would be
drying on the pillows. Too late...
She entered the Bronze as a siren, every sense heightened to a nearly
unbearable pitch in the seething mass of humanity. The hearts beating
around her added their rhythmic pounding to the music blaring through
the speakers in every corner of the building--they'd decided to go it
cheap tonight, not bothering with a band. Carefully, ever so
carefully, she scanned the area, wondering if she'd find the object of
her quest. In Sunnydale, how could she possibly not?
She hadn't learned exactly what she was searching for in all those old
books and ancient scrolls. Azrael had been little help at all, despite
his apparent importance. Lupercus... he had given her a story, which
she could accept, or deny, even though she knew he was telling the
truth as far as he knew. Months of study with her only companion the
thoughts that she either invited or those that intruded, had not been
She should have known. How could she have missed something as
important as a wedding? Buffy and Angel getting married? But she had
made it back to Sunnydale, in time. Perhaps she had known, deep down,
just been too busy to think about it. She couldn't expect anything so
warm as an invitation. In fact, she severely doubted the bride would
care to see her within a hundred miles. Everyone back in Sunnydale that
had scattered so soon after her leaving... Almost everyone, at least.
Spike and Drusilla were dust, and Giles had not breathed a word about
Richie. Maybe there was nothing to be worried about, that the
premonitions, vague as they were, had merely served as a way to get her
here. No. She accepted that she was fallible, but she was not
delusional or stupid, and she knew there was something more.
She had not seen them yet, would not, without something that she had
read about in one of those ancient tomes. A gift. It was something only
she could provide, actually, which made it all the more special. She
tried to put out of her mind everything but her focus. If it were to be
ready in time, it would not wait. She had already started the
preparations, simple as they were.
A few of the young men, boys really, paused to watch her as she passed
them by without a second look, perhaps a little disappointed. Then
again, how could they have ever hoped for a chance? That hair--
lustrous and long, a stained glass butterfly comb holding it up--eyes,
mesmerizing, so blue that you could loose yourself in their depths--
that short, deep sapphire dress, shading to black, that clung to every
curve... and something about her, an aura that made one want to devote
himself to her for the rest of his natural life. She was in a class
above theirs, but still, why couldn't they hope?
Just as the last strains of some forgettable song drifted away, Teresa
felt another of her kind--vampire--close by. And he couldn't sense her
as anything more than another of the many young, foolish girls going
about their small lives, albeit one with something a bit above the
rest. He caught sight of her at the same time she found his eyes, and
fixed them to her own. His were warm, ruddy brown to go with a tan
that hadn't faded in what must have been only a few weeks since his
death. Warm... and seductive. Well, he would dine on no more of
Sunnydale's population after tonight. It took only long enough for him
to see her to decide what he desired. << Almost good enough to eat. >>
Thinking she couldn't see him, he licked his lips in anticipation.
//When they said I don't exist well you know they're lyin'
When they say you don't exist then you know you're dyin'//
Teresa chuckled lightly at the song's lyrics, low enough that not even
those nearest her would hear, a dangerous--to her prey, at least--gleam
beginning to sparkle in her eyes. Midnight danced with lightning's
delicious fury as she smiled ever so slightly, flirtatiously, more as a
silent invitation to him than to herself, though, really, she felt
every reason to be smiling. So amazingly simple to become this, when
she tried. Making certain that the vampire's eyes remained fixed on
hers, she slowly started to make her way across the room.
//Stripped of all my strength in the mud I'm lyin'
Stripped of all your thoughts then you know you're dyin'//
*Fate certainly has a twisted sense of humor,* she decided silently,
listening to the music blaring from the speakers and finally allowing
the lyrics of the song to sink in. *But that's to be expected, of
course.* The song had become amazingly popular lately, she registered
from the thoughts of those around her, and at the same time, she
realized that she'd never read the book that was its namesake.
//Won't let 'em take away what I know they're after
They can have my body but that's not what matters//
*They have -no- idea, and yet, they managed to capture it quite well,
for all that.* Halfway across the Bronze, Teresa paused--and brought
her hands from behind her back. With the air of royalty, she tilted
her head and preceded to examine her freshly manicured fingernails, a
bored expression pasted expertly across her features. Soft, warm
fingertips were drawn slowly across a countertop, an action guaranteed
to produce results in next to no time at all.
//When they I don't exist well you know they're lyin'
When they say you don't exist then you know you're dyin'
Screaming in the fire with the witches burning
Lookin' up the past 'cause I know it's turning//
*Would that the past could be taken back, I don't think I could have
done it any differently.* And the thought came, unbidden, not a moment
later: *But I doubt I could have borne a more normal life, either, even
if offered the choice.* With that on her mind, the other vampire's
quick movement across the room and to her side barely registered in
even her hypertuned senses.
"You're new around here?"
//Into something else 'cross the telephone wire
Starin' at Big Brother, he's the greatest liar//
*He has a nice enough voice. Pity he's already dead. Even such a
trifle as a nice voice can take you so far in the world...* Teresa
smiled again, shaking off the unnerving sensation of another so near
that his thoughts were almost pouring off. No control. Perhaps she
should simply shut down that warning system, but she decided it wasn't
worth taking even that slight risk. Besides, there wasn't much she
could do about quieting the din in this crowd.
//When they say I don't exist well you know they're lyin'
When they say you don't exist then you know you're dyin'//
"Yeah," Teresa admitted after an acceptable delay, allowing her voice
to sound smaller and more timid than she usually had cause for it to
be. "I just moved in a few days ago. I haven't met a lot of people
yet," she inserted the slightest hint of challenge into that statement
with his barely noticing how much he reacted to it.
//There's a cancer in the system and its heart is rotten
Yeah they took away my love but she's not forgotten
Two and two is four is the greatest thoughtcrime
Two and two is five well you're wasting my time//
"Well then, I think I might be able to help you with that..." He
smiled, revealing an even set of teeth that only daddy's money could
have produced, as he fished for her name.
"Teresa," she offered up sweetly. "Teresa Knight." *They know I'm
here already, and there's nothing they can do to prevent my leaving.
And no reason to take an alias yet. If anything, they owe me, don't
they?* Even if they didn't feel the same. Sunnydale was as close to a
home as she had had in a long time. Returning felt right, somehow,
though she wouldn't stay long. Get through whatever it was that brought
her here, then leave again. One hand, warm with the promise of
delicious life, snaked down from her side, where it had dropped as soon
as she had felt his chilling presence near, and brushed hesitantly
//When they say I don't exist well you know they're lyin'
When they say you don't exist then you know you're dyin'//
"Teresa..." The vampire rolled her name around on his tongue, testing
the sound of it. "Such a beautiful name." And he smiled, again, that
same false, charming smile that must have already lead dozens of young
girls to their untimely deaths. "I'm Seth Meisner." He caught her
fingers firmly in his grasp, and pulled her toward him. "Perhaps you'd
like me to show you some of the... sights of the city?"
//When I'm dead and gone then you'll know I'm history
But they will know I never was oh what a mystery
Screamin' from the pain and you know you're bleeding
Cryin' at the faces, cold unheeding//
*Either he's more hungry than I think, stupider than I think, or he's
decided I'm some sort of slut.* Without waiting or hesitating a
heartbeat, she peered into his thoughts, past the general,
unrecognizable patterns, focusing. The latter was, unfortunately, at
the top of his mind. Though she wanted, in that moment, to crush his
fingers into tiny, bleeding fragments for the pleasure of hearing his
screams, then watching him heal whole again for his presumption, Teresa
kept her touch light, and lowered it. *Better to let him think so.
Things will go all the more smoothly.* He wouldn't be thinking that
much longer either.
//When they say I don't exist well you know they're lyin'
When they say you don't exist then you know you're dyin'//
"I think I'd like that, Seth," she said in a whisper barely audible
over the music and the crowds flowing, mostly unnoticed, around them.
Smiling deliciously, cocking her head to the side, she caught his hand
in hers, pretending surprise at the chill to his flesh. "You're so
cold, I think you need someone to warm you up a bit." She was so
wrapped up in her own role that the Buzz hit her as a complete shock,
aggravating overly tuned nerves. Out of the corner of her eye, she
watched Buffy and Angel entering the Bronze. *Damn. Familiarity breeds
contempt, is that it?*
"Let's go out back?" Seth suggested, nuzzling far too close for
comfort toward the warm, inviting skin just underneath her jawbone.
Knowing that Buffy had sensed her at the same time as she had, Teresa
all too willingly lead the way.
//We will meet again when the world stops turning
We will meet again when the books stop burning
Take you in my arms and the world stops turning
Take you in my arms and the world is burning...//
Buffy stopped dead in her tracks just inside the door to the Bronze.
She no longer came here often, not since graduation, but it was still a
popular feeding place for the few vampires that stayed in Sunnydale.
She couldn't have made a mistake-that face was seared into her memory.
Even a moment was enough. Her stomach lurched. "Oh my God."
"What? What is it?" Angel asked, quickly scanning the crowd that was
occupying Sunnydale's only popular teenage hangout. Nothing caught his
eye immediately. It seemed a little too quiet, perhaps, for the number
of people, but that would not produce the sort of reaction that Buffy
had just displayed.
"Buffy..." Angel said, grimacing. It'd been around two years since
the last time he'd seen Teresa Knight, and that for only a few moments.
It had been longer, much longer, for Buffy. She had to be wrong; the
girl wouldn't have come back again, couldn't. He would have known, just
from the link between sire and childe, he should have known. And he
couldn't see her now. It didn't make any sense. *But since when has
sense come into play?*
"It was -her-, Angel," Buffy insisted, unwrapping his hand from around
hers when he refused to move as she started to. "I'd know her if I was
blind and deaf, if I was in a coma and she came within a mile of me,
I'd know. If she-" Before she could run for the back of the Bronze,
Angel caught her by the shoulder.
"Okay, you've made your point. But what would she be doing here?
Now?" He squeezed her shoulder, gently, and Buffy looked up into his
eyes, pools of deep brown, the soul behind them speaking louder than he
could. He didn't think that it was really Teresa. She should feel hurt
that he didn't believe her, should feel something, at least, toward
him. Instead, she felt a growing anger only at Teresa.
"I don't know. All I know is that Teresa Knight just went behind the
Bronze with some poor guy who has no idea what he's getting himself
into. She's probably looking for a quick meal. It's my job to make sure
that he lives to see another day, now come on."
Hauled bodily through the Bronze by one fuming Slayer, Angel found her
impossible to resist, literally. A few people gave the pair odd glances
as they went by, and more than a few shot off suggestions as to what
they were in such a hurry for. Buffy, he was certain, didn't hear any
of it; he ignored them.
*If she thinks she's going to ruin the wedding one little bit...*
Buffy pushed open the back door to the Bronze, hoping she wasn't too
Feeling them coming closer, now that she knew they were there, Teresa
hurriedly led the vampire to the nearest partially secluded corner. The
light flickered above them, going out; metal bars prevented them from
going forward. Now, if she could stop him from struggling... It didn't
take much, really. That very moment, he stopped, grabbing her tightly
by the wrist.
"I bet you'll be good to the last drop," Seth said huskily, his face
vamping out as he held tighter, forcing her to turn toward him. With
his free hand, he reached for her neck. << Ten to one, she screams. >>
"Unlikely," Teresa grinned, in one move too swift for him to react
pinning him against the bars that had been behind her. His face pressed
up against them, and his hands were behind his back, held together. She
licked her lips as her face changed, and ran her tongue over the bared
fangs. He snarled as she sunk the sharp canines into his neck, stealing
back the blood that he had taken from others.
The cold, powerful taste of another vampire's blood delighted her.
Even with this weak fledgling, it held an intensity that no mortal's
blood possessed. There was no heartbeat to bring it to the surface, but
it still flowed sluggishly somehow, and each mouthful was a new
experience. She didn't stop when she felt his consciousness lose its
grip, nor when the body sagged against hers. She held it tightly,
continuing until there was nothing more to be drained. When she
released him, he collapsed to the ground, his true face still showing.
Looking up, Teresa saw Buffy and Angel, watching her, not ten steps
The few seconds that the three stood, staring at each other, dragged
on like eons. A dribble of dark crimson dripped from Teresa's lower
The light went out completely.
When it flickered on again, weakly, Teresa was gone.
*Well that turned out well,* Teresa thought to herself, sarcastically.
*Why don't I just crash their wedding too? And then the honeymoon?
Buffy thinks I'm evil incarnate, and Angel barely knows what to think.
This had better work, or the next time I get the urge to come to
Sunnydale, I'll stake myself.*
She very carefully opened her mind, tracing back to the spot that she
had vacated less than a minute ago. When Buffy put a stake through the
heart of the motionless vampire laying on the street, she knew. When
Buffy and Angel started discussing what they should do, she knew.
Making a slight detour to pick up the backpack from where she had left
it, she knew when they began to search for her.
*I can't keep beating around the bush like this. I'll wait until just
after sunrise, then catch them in their house and tell them what's
what. And if they don't accept that, then, well...* Teresa sighed,
still feeling a little odd from the effects of the vampire's blood
moving through her. She wouldn't do anything to them, no matter what
they did to her-not now anyway.
It was getting easier, as people started to drift off to sleep, for
her to keep up her gentle scan. Throughout the city, ones and pairs and
groups were settling in securely for the night. The predators were
outside. *And so am I.*
Teresa was passed by a trio of young male vampires, easily sensed, and
they weren't doing much to hide themselves from mortals either-their
eyes were practically glowing with hunger. She hardly thought she
warranted the lewd thoughts she was getting from them, though, until
she realized that she was still wearing her short, fluttery dress-not
built for moving, and definitely not for moving swiftly, at night, with
a breeze. So it was both sex and hunger that was on their minds, and
she appeared to be their favorite sort of prey. Too bad she didn't have
time to deal with them. Teresa smiled as she felt them turn, quietly
approaching her back, then took off at a dead run.
The wind pressing against her body was exhilarating, but not quite as
good as the disbelief in the minds of the three vampires she had left
behind. She laughed for the sheer pleasure of it, delighting that she
could produce such effects. The thrill was over all too shortly,
though, as she reached her destination-a cheap, disreputable hotel on
the edge between the good and bad parts of town. Unfortunately, it was
all that she could afford, and just a tiny bit better than staking out
a corner in some run-down building.
Two minutes and a bit of sweet-talk that left her nauseous later;
Teresa was in a tiny room with all the luxury of a day at boot camp.
She could hear the couple in the room next to hers in more ways than
one, and only hoped that the wall would survive the night.
*Directions, directions, what were the directions?* Teresa plopped her
backpack onto the bed, and hurriedly unzipped one of the numerous small
pockets that sprouted like weeds from every surface. There wasn't much
time left until the blood within her would be too weakened to be of any
use-it would dissolve into her own. Her fingers encountered the smooth,
cool outline of the Swiss Army Knife that she had left in her luggage
more for its can opener than for its blades. She fumbled getting it
*The blood of a vampire that has recently drained another of its kind
to the point where rejuvenation is impossible to the individual has
several uses, as it is unusually potent. If a small amount which is not
sufficient to turn is given to a mortal, it aids in restoring a balance
to the humours, especially good with maladies to the nerves and heart.
Care must be taken in using this method, as an especially weak or
sickly person may turn without warning. Should this occur, the person
must be staked immediately and the body burned if it remains intact.
Between vampires, this blood also has uses, but the secret is not well
known, due to the rarity of circumstances which lead to such
interaction. A small amount will increase the overall strength and
vigor of the recipient. A large amount, from completely draining the
original attacker down to a few cups, will result in a tremendous
increase in strength, especially in ability to withstand the vampire's
most fatal enemy, the sun. The field researcher that observed this
particular occurrence estimated four swallows to every day in which the
vampire was able to walk during the day. The knowledge of this was cut
by the valiant efforts of local villagers, who were able to stake the
vampire. Thus it seems that while immunity is increased, it is not
perfect. It has been theorized that a string of vampires, one draining
the other completely, then being passed along to the next, might
result, after a time, in a demon of incredible strength, all but
impossible to kill. This knowledge must never, at any time, be allowed
to fall into their hands...*
Teresa shook her head as she came back to the present, and carefully
retrieved the knife from its pouch. She opened up the largest blade,
looking at it carefully. It was perfectly clean, unused, and glistened
even in the dull light given off by the lamp beside the bed. She bit
her lower lip, wondering... *Four swallows, twelve swallows is how
much?* And she needed some sort of container... There had been another
gas station just across the street...
She was gone and back again without anyone at the hotel noticing, but
this time clasping a large glass jelly jar in her hands. Teresa sat
down on the bed and opened it-strawberry. Too bad she wouldn't have
time to enjoy any of it. She upended the jar, dumping the contents into
the garbage can, then grabbed the knife and went into the bathroom. The
water from the faucet was tepid. Bits of sweet red jelly washed down
the drain, swirling around the rust stained ceramic.
"Now or never..." Teresa took a deep breath, then turned her wrist
over and put the knife against it. The sharp metal slashed through her
flesh so quickly that she barely felt it until it cut across her scar,
and then she opened her tearing eyes with a gasp, seeing the mess of
crimson liquid pumping out. Most of it flowed into the jar, which
filled more with every pulse. Some of it dripped down the sides,
turning the little bit of water left in the bottom of the sink a
horrible dark pinkish color. She watched, detached, until the jar was
nearly three-quarters full. Watching it come out, she remembered the
woods... It had mixed into the dirt then, making mud...
Her flesh was starting to knit together again. Tiny flickers of
electricity danced along the deeply slashed edges, healing them. Teresa
leaned her head over the sink, weakly holding herself up against
gravity that seemed to have doubled in the past minute.
The jar was just over three-quarters full, with more coating the
sides, but the only indication that it was her blood was the stain left
behind on her wrist. Teresa wanted nothing more than to pick up the jar
and take back what she had just given up, but if she did that, she
doubted her ability to repeat the whole procedure. She forced herself
to put the lid on the jar, and content herself with licking the sides
clean and doing the same with her wrist, then the knife. She turned on
the faucet, cleaning up the last remaining traces.
Just five hours left until sunrise.
Buffy and Angel were perfectly quiet as they returned to the home they
shared. Not even the crickets were chirping outside the door. They
were dragging, tired. Over four hours of searching for Teresa had
turned up nothing, but it was only the threat of the sun that had
eventually turn them back. In the east, Angel could just barely make
out the first pink tinges that heralded the dawn, too faint for Buffy
Not saying a word, they both began the usual routine that they had
adopted. Angel went to the refrigerator, downing nearly a bottle of the
"wine" that he kept there. Buffy checked in on Kenny, and found him
curled up on the bed, the television still on. She turned it off, then,
meeting Angel by the stairs, they descended into the cool darkness of
Kenny cautiously opened one eye, peering into the pre-dawn twilight.
He had known the instant that Buffy walked in the door, of course. Her
Buzz had alerted him better than any other warning system ever could.
He swung his legs to the side of the bed, scattering dirt and a few
fragments of leaves from his shoes. Hidden under the covers were his
sword and the gun that he had just stolen from a neighbor. The time was
now. He crept silently from the room.
There was something wrong. Teresa knew it five blocks away from their
house. Four blocks away, a hard knot twisted her stomach, sickening
her. At three blocks she began to panic, and wasn't because of the
sunlight striking her back as she ran. This was no vague, uncertain
premonition of doom; this was a sense of horror and certainty that
painting a picture of a future missing something vital. They were both
asleep, but the other was not... Unheeding of the few people that were
already outside, she ran as fast as her legs could carry her, so fast
that it felt more like flying along the ground than running.
It took one shot to prevent any interference from Angel. Kenny did his
job well, with little mess. The vampire never knew what hit him. Buffy,
of course, had woken up the instant the shot was fired, but got only a
glimpse of her attacker before he silenced her as well.
"Here's to a job well done." Kenny raised his sword, standing almost
directly over Angel. He wasn't certain how long the vampire would take
to reawaken, but he wanted to chance that his well-deserved Quickening
would be interrupted. His mind calm, his body tensed for the down
***A riddle, a riddle, what to do with a little Immortal who doesn't
play by the Rules...***
The sword nearly dropped from his hands. They had gone cold, as Kenny
heard a voice speaking inside his head. Along with the voice, there was
anger, and predatory malevolence. As clearly as he could hear the
words, he could sense that whatever was happening, it would not be good
for him. Unbelieving, trying to figure out the source of the voice, he
looked all around the room. Nothing, no one, except the two unmoving
bodies in the bed he stood over.
***Perhaps we should beat him, perhaps we should eat him, perhaps we
should feed him to flesh-eating ghouls...***
"Aaah!" Kenny groaned as pain lanced through his head. It exploded in
white-hot stars behind his eyes that refused to stop when he shut them.
His fingers lost their grip on the hilt, and the sword fell harmlessly
to the side of its intended victims.
***A better idea I think it would be, to take off his head and claim
it for me. That then would teach him to play by the Rules.***
He heard the whisper of a sharp blade through the air just a split
second before he felt the sword at his neck.
His world went black.
"Oh, ow..." Buffy awoke, groggy, and put her hand up to the side of
her head. "God, what time is it?" She couldn't see anything in the near
perfect darkness, but she was used to that. What she wasn't used to was
feeling as if she was experiencing one hell of a gigantic hangover.
"Oh, ow..." What had they been doing last night? She couldn't
remember... Sniffing, she laid her head down until the dizziness
stopped. *Immortality does have its perks. Now, if I could just
"Angel?" Gently, she snaked her hand across the sheets, encountering
her fiancé's cold, still body. That, like a lot of things, didn't phase
her anymore-she'd grown used to it. When he didn't respond, she tried
again, a little louder. "Angel?"
Still not terribly concerned, Buffy rolled back to her own side, and
reached for the lamp that she knew was right beside the bed. Only, her
fingers found only empty air where it should have been. Coming fully awake, and more than a little uneasy, she tried again. Where there
should have been a table, there was nothing. She leaned down a few more
inches until she found it-laying on its side.
"Angel?" Pulling the covers off of herself, Buffy sat up in the bed.
He still didn't answer. "Angel? Please, answer me!" Her eyes had
adjusted as best they could, but that was still only enough to make out
the vaguest of outlines. She groped to his side, finding, then shaking
him by the shoulders. He was still whole-there should be no reason for
him to stay silent... "Angel!"
*Okay, calm down, get a grip, think straight... Oh, God, I wish he
would wake up...* Buffy shook her head, willing herself not to panic.
*What's the first thing to do? Light. I need light.*
Half-stumbling, she crawled out of bed, working her way across the
floor, until she came to the far wall-nearest the main entrance to the
room. Bits of furniture and scattered clothing hampered the way
slightly. She stood, tracing her way up the cool surface, letting her
hands wander until they came upon the light switch, only about a foot
to her right.
The light that suddenly flooded the room blinded her for a moment.
Buffy blinked rapidly, clearing her vision. The first impression that
she got was that the room had been ransacked-the table next to her side
of the bed was on its side, the lamp that had been on it smashed. A
heavy wardrobe that had been against one of the other walls had been
knocked over somehow, and the clothes that were in it were strewn
across the floor. Her eyes immediately went to the bed-Angel looked,
amid the clutter, singularly serene. No, too still for normal sleep.
He would have answered her... Buffy walked back across the mess,
kicking things aside as she went without thinking.
There was a little bit of blood on his forehead that she could see,
and a small, ugly blackish mark that was surrounded by the blues and
purples of injured flesh. So he'd sustained some sort of head wound-a
bullet, probably, from the look of it-that would explain why he wasn't
answering her, and, left to its own, it would heal itself in another
half-hour or so to judge from how quickly she knew vampires to
regenerate. *But why wouldn't I have woken up? Why don't I remember?
Buffy reached up again to touch her own forehead, almost out of
reflex. There was no mark there that she could feel, but when she
brought her fingers down, they were stained with sticky, dried blood. A
chill passed through her stomach. *So that's why I can't remember.*
What had Duncan told her...? She wiped her fingers off on her
nightshirt, looking down. *Damage to the head and neck are the worst
sort of injury an Immortal can sustain. Very occasionally, bad wounds
will leave scars, and some memory can be lost if the head injury is bad
enough. Most of the time, though, it will return not long after the
flesh is completely healed.* Immortals healed faster than vampires, but
not much faster. If Angel was still unconscious... She had to be
patient, had to wait. There were no sensations of anyone else in the
Her eyes flew open. *Oh, no. Kenny!* Whoever had gotten them must have
gotten him as well, either shot him, or kidnapped him, or... she didn't
want to think about all the possibilities. Leaving Angel behind, she
whipped open the door and all but flew up the stairs.
"Kenny?! KENNY!" He wasn't in his room, but she could see no signs of
a struggle. Everything looked exactly as she had seen it last, except
missing one small, Immortal child. "Kenny!" Buffy raced around the
house, thudding upstairs to check the rooms there, searching in closets
and behind old trunks filled with everything from books to crosses and
Holy Water. "Kenny!"
He wasn't anywhere; that much was obvious. She would have sensed him.
Rounding the kitchen for the third time, Buffy finally noticed the note
attached to the refrigerator with a magnet. It had not been there when
she had come in just a few hours ago, before the sunrise. The memories
were coming back. Pulling it off, she immediately began to read.
Dear Buffy and Angel,
I wasn't exactly sure how to say "I'm sorry for the
decapitated body in your bedroom", so I took care of
Kenny myself. Good thing I showed up when I did-he
apparently handles a gun just as well as he does a sword.
A loud noise, a shadowy figure-small and childlike, looming over her.
I'm almost certain once Duncan arrives, he'll be able
to tell you everything about your little houseguest from
Hell. He was, by the way, several hundred years old, and
definitely not the sweet little tyke you took him for.
He likes to draw his victims in that way. He's taken
hundreds over the years. Quite an unusual experience for
my first Quickening. Quite the thrill, to be honest.
A blast, and then blackness... She still didn't want to believe it.
And Kenny was dead now? He'd killed them, then been killed by
someone... Another memory tugged at the back of her mind. The
darkness... the child over her... Kenny wouldn't-couldn't...
Your room was a disaster when I left it. Sorry about that
too, but I suppose you can just be glad that the
Quickening didn't set the entire place on fire. In any
case, I've decided to stick around for a while.
Premonitions are funny things, you know? I thought that
after I killed Kenny, I would just pack up and leave town
again, but something's holding me here still. Anyway...
The Bronze. A face that she remembered. A vampire... Teresa. Teresa
Knight. No, that just didn't make sense. Teresa Knight, draining a
vampire outside of the Bronze, then leaving his body for her to
stake... Teresa Knight, in Sunnydale to help them? "Impossible..."
I can't exactly see you inviting me to your wedding,
but I left a present anyway, in the refrigerator.
It's for Angel, really, but Buffy, I'm sure you'll
enjoy it. Enough of my blood for him to spend three
days in the sunlight, no SPF 10,000,000 needed. I'd
recommend using it soon though-I'm not exactly
certain how long its potency lasts.
*What the Hell?!* Buffy opened the refrigerator door. There, next to
Angel's usual green-tinted bottles, was a large, clear jar of some
kind, partially full of deep crimson colored liquid.
Buffy, I am not evil incarnate, no matter what you
think. Angel, Buffy, I just wanted to say I'm happy
for you. I hope you get to spend forever together,
just like in the fairy tales. God knows, somebody
Yours in Eternity,
She could hear Angel start to move around downstairs. He would wake
up, wondering where she was, probably as confused as she herself had
been... Buffy, feeling too many conflicting emotions to feel much of
anything at all, closed the refrigerator door, laid the note down on
the kitchen table, and, mechanically, walked toward the basement door.
The others would start arriving, soon.
"I don't know. Are you sure it's going to stay this way?"
"Buffy, your hair is perfect. If we put any more spray on it, you're
going to go up in flames when you walk past the candles." Willow
carefully rearranged for the fourth time the tiny white flowers twined
through her hair. Her fingers kept slipping. The butterflies in her
stomach were terrible, but at the same time, she was nearly giddy with
excitement. She glanced at the other women in the room, and was
somewhat glad to see that she wasn't the only one.
"Buffy's not really going to catch on fire, is she?" asked the little
girl hiding, wide-eyed, behind Cordelia's skirt. Amanda laughed,
scooping her up and depositing her on the bed next to Willow. "Of
course not sweetie. How would you like some flowers in your hair?"
"Oooh, yes!" She squealed in delight, abruptly forgetting any
reservations she might have had a moment before. Willow laughed along
with everyone else. Daphne was Cordelia's baby cousin, and, at four
years old, the perfect choice for flower girl. Privately, Willow
thought she was the most adorable child she had ever seen. "I'm going
to look just like a princess!"
It was Buffy who looked like a princess; like a character stepped
right out of a fairy tale. She was radiant, standing in the center of
the room, patiently allowing Cordelia to go over every detail of the
shoes, the hair, the makeup, the gown... The gown was gorgeous-one of a
kind-the sort that few others but an Immortal of a few hundred years
could afford. The only thing missing was the cross that she always had
around her neck, and she would not be wearing one today.
"Put your hands over your eyes." Daphne did as Amanda instructed, and
the thousand year old Immortal applied enough spray to keep the little
girl's hair in place, even if she suddenly decided to take up
gymnastics. Willow remembered not to shake her head, coming out of her
thoughts. Just half an hour left until they would all depart for the
She moved carefully, not wanting to get a single wrinkle in her own
dress. Though she might have been a little apprehensive about wearing
the dark blackish-purple color a few months ago, it seemed perfect now.
For Buffy's wedding, she'd wear anything, even 'eggplant'. It made the
pure satin white of Buffy's gown stand out just that much more.
Buffy saw Willow fidgeting on the bed. *Maybe she'll be the next one
of us to go through this.* Her smiled widened. *I wonder if I'm going
to have to kick Adam in the pants to marry that girl.* The love between
them was obvious from the moment they stepped off the plane, even if
they didn't display it quite as noticeably as certain others did...
"What?" Willow blinked, not expecting anyone to actually talk to her.
"You'd swear you were the one that was getting married," Amanda
winked, taking Daphne off of the bed and setting the little girl free.
"Don't worry, I'm sure you will soon."
"Don't tell me you haven't discussed it yet!" Cordelia said, looking
over at Willow as if she might have missed something before. "I hope
you're not going to have one of those Vegas weddings."
"Make sure he gets down on one knee to propose to you. That's the only
way to go," Buffy grinned.
"But... I- but..."
"It's okay, Willow, we understand," Buffy added, winking. "Don't we,
"Oh, of -course-," Amanda said, biting back another laugh. The redhead
looked exactly like a child who had gotten caught not with her hand in
the cookie jar, but a few steps from a safe getaway, and was now trying
to hide the evidence.
"Well, yes, but I say you should run up and grab the bull by the
horns, so to speak." After receiving a few odd glances, she frowned.
Buffy smiled again. There wasn't much time left... She couldn't
remember when she had felt so happy, or so nervous... As she watched
the others, her thoughts drifted back over the past months, how
everything had led up to this point...
There was still a chance that something could go wrong. There was
always that chance. No matter how well you've planned, prepared, and
schemed, there will always be something you've left out without
realizing it. And things that pop up at the last minute. Amanda and
Duncan had confirmed Kenny's identity after seeing one of the few
pictures they had taken of him, but Buffy could still barely believe
what had happened. Teresa was still out there. A loose canon. No one
had seen or sensed her during the week.
"Buffy?" Willow's voice.
"Huh?" What was it now?
"It's time to go."
Everyone else was ready, standing, waiting for her. She took a deep
breath, stepping forward. "Here we go."
"Companion to our demons... They will dance, and we will play..."
Accompanying the sounds of her singing was the steady, soft brushing
of a cloth over a flawless steel blade. She had found the dagger buried
up to its hilt in the soft ground in one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries
and claimed it as her own. An hour ago, she could have seen herself
reflected perfectly in the flat blade. Now, she continued to rub
without looking down. It was the sort of rhythmic motion that allowed
one to stay awake without thinking. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it
didn't. It wasn't working this night. And it wasn't her own thoughts
intruding on the silence of the condemned building. There were small
things: an assignment due, a cat to be shooed off the couch; and big
things: a first date, a first kiss... And there was the wedding. Buffy
hated her. This was Buffy's night. Teresa wanted nothing more at that
moment than to not be able to experience the wedding through their
eyes. *I should have left.* But it wouldn't go away, and she would not
feed in Sunnydale. *They're already at the church. I should have left.*
She wished that she could be there to give her good wishes.
"With chairs, candles, and cloth... making darkness, in the day."
Angel jumped when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder and heard the
voice at the same time. Methos's hazel eyes, highlighted by a smile
that was just short of a smirk, met his when he turned to look. If his
heart had been beating, it would have been racing. There were some
advantages to being a vampire--but they didn't include losing the
feeling of butterflies in the stomach. He lied. "A little."
"I was nervous for the first, oh, thirty or so of my marriages."
Methos took his hand off of Angel's shoulder to adjust his tux jacket
once again. Classic black. It went with the flowers. "It goes with the
territory. Don't worry. Everything will go just fine."
"Not a good thing to say in Sunnydale. I can just imagine it." Angel
cringed, his already pale face going even paler. "It'll probably be a
fire demon, or The Araazi Cult. I heard they were in LA a few weeks
ago. Even the vampires have been quiet for the past week. I keep seeing
something, or somebody, bursting in during the middle of the ceremony
and ruining everything..."
He did have a point, but Methos wasn't about to let him start brooding
over it. "Try not to think about it. Try to relax. Try to think of the
Angel turned to him, an actual smile on his face. Methos laughed and
clapped the young vampire on the back. "Come on."
"God dammit!" The dagger imbedded itself in the crumbling wood beam
across the room. Teresa didn't bother with doors, or stairs. She was to
the nearest window in a second, and through it the next, shards of
glass falling along with her. As soon as she hit the ground, she was
running. But they were closer. Like a fast approaching storm, they had
sprung up without warning. She hadn't anticipated, hadn't known. Even
if she could make it...
Everything was ready. They were standing together in front of
everyone... Willow's reassuring smile gave Buffy the extra courage she
needed to start, and, in a moment, it seemed that everything was part
of some wonderful dream. The Priest's voice was just enough to twine
reality and fantasy together.
"...do you, Buffy Anne Summers, take this man, Angelus Nicholas Snowe,
to be your honored and cherished husband, to live with and love for the
rest of your life?"
Breathlessly, "I do."
"Then turn to him and make this profession of your faith..."
She didn't need even the guidance of his words, but could have
repeated them in her sleep. "I, Buffy, take you Angel, to be my
husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for
poorer, in sickness and in health." Angel's wink nearly made her laugh,
but she was able to continue. "To love and to cherish until death does
"Uli, Vanessa, you'll go around back, cut off the basement door.
There's only one door, and five from San Francisco should already be
there. Anyone that comes out kill or turn as you please. Remember that
some of them might be Immortals, so if you snap their necks, they'll
stay down longer."
Olivia wasn't concentrating on driving the enormous van she had stolen
off of a recent victim. The curbs, and passengers, suffered as a
result. Her green eyes shifted into gold.
"Ryan, Kate, Marc, you three will rush the back of the crowd as they
leave the church. Remember to wait until the happy couple, at least,
are out, but don't wait so long that people start to straggle. I have
word that the wedding party isn't very large, and that it's on Holy
Ground, so the Immortals have been persuaded to give up their swords
for the ceremony, but don't assume anything."
"Maire?" The wide-eyed, brown-haired, bespectacled, mousy girl in the
seat beside her looked up from the laptop computer she had been busily
clacking and clicking over. "Are the others ready?"
"In assigned positions and ready, Master. No pre-assignment gatherings
to rouse suspicion. Three lost to the Slayer, but no information
leaked. The twenty-seven from the Seattle contingent will arrive as
scheduled just as we do."
"Only three, but yes, they're already there. Xavier refused to allow
any of his to become entangled, just as you predicted." Maire pushed
the glasses back up on her nose. Only three weeks turned, she still
clung to some of her human mannerisms. "Dylan was able to make it."
"Good," Olivia snarled happily, pushing the gas pedal to the floor.
"...and do you, Angelus Nicholas Snowe, take this woman, Buffy Anne
Summers, to be your honored and cherished wife, to live with and love
for the rest of your life?"
Her smile was like a ray of sunshine. "I do."
"Then turn to her and make this profession of your faith..."
After they had been through so much together... "I, Angel, take you
Buffy, to be my wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for
richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. To love and to
cherish," There was a tear in her eye. "Until death does us part..."
Dylan felt a tap on his back, and turned, expecting one of his
companions. Instead, his head was thrown back as a fist like iron
connected with his nose. His body made contact with the sidewalk that
ran around the church, blood from the broken bones in his face staining
the pale concrete. Just before the stake plunged into his heart, he
caught sight of a young woman with dark hair and gold eyes bending over
"Loser." Teresa waited until the ashes blew away in the strong breeze
that was coming off the ocean, then went silently for her next target.
Half of the church was in tears, and the other half looked near it or
incredibly proud, or happy. Daphne was bouncing up and down, but
whether she was excited or had to go to the bathroom, Cordelia wasn't
sure. Between the organ music and the various sounds made by people as
they started to stir, she couldn't be certain, but she could almost
swear that she heard someone fighting outside, beneath the window.
***Everyone get out of the church! Get out now! The back!***
Nearly everyone in the ceremony broke with the orderly, traditional
path they had been following, the bride and groom themselves pausing in
confusion in the middle of the aisle. People stopped what they were
doing, unsure how to proceed with this new intrusion. Willow and Methos
looked toward each other, each wondering if the other had heard the
same thing and not reassured by the knowledge that they both had.
***I can't fight them all off at once! Get out!***
They were almost frozen in place-- some in shock, some startled, some
simply too confused to move. Amanda reached for her sword out of
reflex, only then remembering that she'd left it with the others'. They
couldn't fight here anyway. It was Holy Ground... So what the Hell was
Cordelia screamed as the glass behind her shattered inward, raining
her and the rest of the bridesmaids in a shower of glittering
splinters. She felt something knock into her before her head hit the
floor, and remembered nothing after that.
Vampires immediately poured in through the broken window, snarling,
angry, some coated with dirt and blood. At least one had marks around
its chest, showing where a stake had narrowly missed. Most of those who
realized they would be of no help in a fight against a bunch of
bloodthirsty demons made a dash, some stopped in their tracks as the
front doors burst open and more mobbed in.
Two vampires gripped her right arm, and another three were holding on
to various points of her left side. Teresa kicked out with her only
free limb, the right leg, managing to catch one of the four in front of
her off guard. She hissed as the large male that was attached to her
left shoulder leaned in for a bite, and suddenly pulled away from all
of them, quickly twisting his neck so that his face was turned exactly
the wrong way. He dropped like a rock, but as she watched another one
of them right his spine, she knew he would only be out of the game for
a few minutes. Her stake had been dropped minutes ago.
*Oh, come -on-!* Teresa whipped herself nearly out of reach, ramming
heads together as she went forward. She crouched as one of them
regained his footing, and tripped him with an outstretched leg. A
nearby sign provided the wood necessary to reduce him to dust. Just as
he died, another jumped on her back, forcing her down momentarily. She
met her end as quickly as Teresa could roll over, but they just kept
"This isn't happening," Buffy said once, still trying to deny what was
going on right in front of her. Angel's hand on her shoulder shocked
her back to life. "Can you fight in that dress?"
One of the more IQ resistant rushed toward them, held back by Angel's
"Damn them all!" She reached for the vampire Angel was restraining
with one hand and with the other grabbed and splintered the top edge of
one of the wooden pews. It left a ragged edge perfect for impaling. She
didn't bother with wiping the dust off before follwoing her new husband
into the meelee.
"Uungghh..." Teresa slammed her fist down on one side of her knee,
popping the twisted bone back into place. One of the few left outside
saw her "helpless" state. Ran for her. Stake. Dust. The cold, numbing,
tingling sensation around her leg told her that it was healed. With the
arrival of yet another van, she'd been overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
She blinked her yellow eyes and knew that they had gotten into the
church... A pile of rubble against the wall... the window now a gaping
hole... screams... Why hadn't they listened to her? With a surge of
adrenilin produced by anger, Teresa leapt across the dark ground,
directly through the ragged hole.
If panic and confusion has reigned a moment before, an ordered chaos
had upsurped its place. Close to fifty vampires swarmed in the church.
Half a dozen left to fight...
The Slayer whipped around at the sound of her name. "Olivia."
Several vampires, two males, one female, broke off from the main pack
to take sides with their master against the Slayer.
"Glad you remember me, Buff."
The circle inched forward, closing in.
"You know, I can't imagine why you didn't kill me the last time, but I
assure you, you will regret it."
Buffy shifted the position of the stake in her hand. Out of the corner
of her eye, she saw Duncan taken down by the combined forces of nine
vampires, two attached to his neck and sucking. In the back of her
mind, she remembered that vampires were always stronger after feeding
on Immortal blood.
Methos' sword sliced cleanly through the chest of one, then came
around for a second slice that cleaved its head from its body. It
instantly dissolved to dust, but four had jumped him from behind in the
meantime. If they got his weapon... She couldn't see Giles or Amanda,
and with Duncan temporarily out of the picture, his nine started toward
"It's not going to end like this. Not now. Not tonight," Buffy said,
her eyes going back to the vampires slowly circling in front of her.
Her voice lacked the conviction that she needed to hear. Olivia,
standing slightly in front of the circle, threw her head back in an
empty laugh, and Buffy's heart sank. She could sense another group
approaching, and knew that someone had been killed or disabled. She
couldn't fight them all at once, there were just too many, and closing
Olivia allowed her forces to gather in, letting them take their time.
She wasn't about to spring forward; even for the glory of a Slayer
kill, she wasn't stupid. Having done a little research herself, and
seeing the complete lack of cuts or scratches on the girl, the rest
fell into place. An Immortal Slayer. Both intriguing and dangerous, and
it would fit with sketchy reports of a second active Slayer operating
"You plan to stop us? Do something then!" The Slayer stood perfectly
still, and Olivia watched as the group that had been ringing the other
female Immortal stood back, then headed for them. She chuckled. Despite
the unforseen appearance of another ensouled vampire just outside the
church, and she had no idea how they had accomplished that, things were
falling neatly into place. "You're finished, Slayer, but I'll have your
blood before I have your head."
Teresa worked silently through those she came across, picking them off
one at a time. The stragglers she caught first, using stakes ripped
from whatever wooden surface was nearest. They went without having time
to alert those around them. Draining, then snapping the necks of a few
gave her the initiative to continue, and kept her on the edge of
frenzy. Giving into that animal would get more than the other vampires
killed, however, and she contained it.
Under a blanket of glass shards, her dress ripped and back bleeding,
Teresa found Cordelia alive, but unconscious, barely inside the church.
She must have been trampled in the first wave, then ignored. She moved
on, feeling as Duncan was taken down, but right in front of her was
Giles, very mortal, and hampered by the attentions of four vampires.
One stake. Two. The third was dispatched in the second second, its
fangs tearing into the Watcher's throat. The fourth had enough warning
to widen its eyes, but crumbled to dust the moment after.
***Stay quiet and listen to me,*** she calmly thought to him. Ignoring
her, her reached for his neck. She grabbed his hand mid-way. It was
better that he not feel the blood oozing from the ugly wound. ***Get
Cordelia and get out of here. Go to the hospital. Don't stop until you
get there.*** She visualized where the bridesmaid was, and Giles
finally looked up at her with some recognition. "Teresa?"
"It's me. Can you do that? Can you help Cordelia?"
His first concern, always his Slayer.
***Alive, but not for much longer if I don't move. Help Cordelia.***
Teresa sensed the approach of two vampires from behind. She twisted,
impaling the first one with its own momentum. The second had enough
warning to slow, skidding on the waxed floor, but Teresa leapt
silently, pressing her hand over the demon's mouth and twisting its
arms behind it. Her own fangs found the carotid artery, taking freely
from the cold fluid that came into her mouth. Three sucks. Stake. Dust.
She turned, and Giles was already gone. Her eyes sought him out,
disappearing through the back door, Cordelia limp in his arms. Two less
to worry about. Had Joe stayed? No, he'd gone with Willow...
Against all odds, she felt Angel and Methos still fighting. Methos was
working with a dozen snarling, grimacing vamps piled on top of him. She
couldn't even see him through the undead mass. He must have staked one,
because the entire heap collapsed in on some inner cavity.
There were ten or eleven roaming about the church, reluctant to get in
a tangle with the Slayer despite the number already surrounding her.
Teresa crawled beneath a pew and slid forward on her back across the
waxed floor. She grabbed the nearest one by his leg, and he fell
between the cracks in an instant; the next, he joined the rest of his
deceased fellows. When his female companion rushed over, seeing him
fall, she met his fate.
They weren't falling fast enough. Even the number that she had killed
was barely making a dent in the pack, and the slow going was
frustrating. Another opening. Another second, and the third in a row
went down without a fight, taken like an unsuspecting buffalo by a
lurking piranha. The thought came to her that if she could only find
Angel, and get Methos, Buffy would have a chance. She could take the
ones on Methos by herself, but only if the others didn't all rush her
way. But where was Angel? She couldn't see him... she had to see him to
send to him... a moment of confusion, then an attempt.
His answer was a question in his own thoughts, but despite the ruckus
around her, Teresa could hear it plainly and all but see his head going
from side to side. Apparently he was doing exactly as she was, hiding
beneath the pews and moving to pic off the stragglers, working towards
Buffy. They must have been pulled apart... <>
***It's Teresa. Where are you, and can you make it to Methos?***
***She's surrounded. There's about twenty-five circling her, waiting
until she makes the first move, from what I can hear. Listen to me. We
need to get Methos and...*** She felt the first stirrings of Duncan
reawakening. ***Duncan if we're to have any chance of all of us getting
out of this alive.***
Teresa felt the seconds grind like hours as he argued the matter back
and forth in his mind, eventually hearing the answer she expected.
Before he could rethink it, she dashed across the floor, diving right
for Methos. With her face as it was, none of those struggling around
her questioned what she would be doing there. Once she saw Angel,
however, Teresa whipped the stake she had concealed out of her sleeve.
One. Two dusted. Three. On the other side, Angel got one before cries
from the rest alerted the others. Teresa screamed as someone she had
not felt arrive kicked her viciously in the back. Hot pain lanced
across the suddenly fractured ribs. In the second that she was
vulnerable, she was tackled. Thoughts and sounds and pain blurred,
burned, attacked, forcing higher thought down, out of her mind. A stake
was brought down in her chest, but missed the heart, and was deflected
by the hard plate of the breastbone. The rent flesh oozed blood. With
another scream, Teresa blindly bit upwards, and was rewarded by a
mouthful of flesh. She tore sideways, and cold liquid splattered all
over her. There was no scream. She spit out chunks of skin and fat from
the neck of a demon who was now out of the picture.
Someone kicked her in the side of the head, and some broken metal
piece ripped open the skin. She shrieked, this time, pulling free from
however many were holding her down, uncaring how many or how strong
they were. They were trying to get her by sheer numbers, exactly as
they had outside, but she had learned from that, and took them as she
could get them, using teeth, fingers, elbows, fists, knees, and feet as
weapons. She had the satisfaction of landing a solid blow to the crotch
of one male, who immediately went down like a ton of bricks. Something
tried to grab her leg, only to run, whelping in pain, when she pulled a
fistful of hair and bloody scalp from its head.
Somehow she managed to clear the seething tangle of human shapes to
find the fount... she must have been dragged through half the church...
unmindful of the welts she raised on her own flesh, Teresa grabbed the
bowl full of holy water and launched it at those nearest her. Screams.
The smell of burning flesh. Several blinded, then dead as Teresa found
the remnants of a pew and smashed them chest-first into it. Another.
She grabbed a convenient sized piece and dived toward another. Her back
was turned, trying to run. Dust. Another. Dust. The third swerved,
lived another few seconds, but was ended in the second lunge. Dust.
Another. Dust. A red haze had come over her vision, enraging her
further. There was no counting, no thinking, no hesitation -- grab,
stake, dust. Another. She hated them, and didn't know why, only that
they deserved no mercy.
What was happening? "Vanessa!" Olivia screamed, momentarily stunned as
her perfect attack splintered into groups of threes and fours, some
running. The front doors were thrown open. How? The metallic flash of a
sword as it cleaved a head from its dissolving body. Dust, drifting
thick in the air. Someone in a frenzy, moving almost too fast to be
seen; not human. Not even vampire. Not her kind of vampire, at least.
Uncertainty. Crumbling. Escaping. She was grabbed across the shoulders
from behind, the grip of the Slayer strong and true. Sweetly, "Pay my
respects to Jeremy, would you?" The stake hit home. White. Black.
Buffy jumped back as Olivia turned to dust, slamming into the stunned
remnants of those who had been surrounding her. Even they were breaking
up. Seeing the Slayer loose, most fled. Those that didn't, died. The
church doors were wide open, revealing a cloudless sky. Vampires
scrambled across the lawn, dashed off into the night. She half turned
with her stake held at the ready, but not one pressed its snarling face
next to hers. They were gone... Except for one, and that one was still
wearing his torn tuxedo, now grey instead of black with dust. He was
helping Methos, Duncan, and Amanda, who must have just woken up, to
hold a snarling, unrecognizable figure against the church wall. The
howls that came from it were animalistic and unnatural, and sent chills
down her spine. It snapped at Angel, and he slapped it across the face,
holding it down at the same time. Buffy let the stake lower as she
stepped in front of them all, her wedding gown torn and blood-stained.
Teresa was not in control of her body. She was buried beneath blood
and grime and the demon's flaming gold eyes, hotter than any the Slayer
had seen since... since Angelus. For a moment, the fear that she felt
overwhelmed her. The look was too alike. She was his childe, after all.
Angel cracked the girl across the cheeks again, and her head hit the
wall hard, and stayed. Instead of bouncing back, she opened her mouth,
moving the bruised jaw. The ridge disappeared from her brow in an
instant. Her eyes shut, and she hovered for a moment, unmoving, then
collapsed, muscles quivering in exhaustion. Only the hands that had
held her back a moment before supported her now, lowering her as gently
as they could manage, their own bodies still healing.
When Teresa opened her eyes, they were still gold, but as they faded
into orbs of shadowy blue, Buffy realized that they were not looking at
her. They were unfocused, staring at some distant point. The cut on the
side of the girl's head was healed, a spot of pale flesh uncovered. The
ugly welts on her forearms were all but gone, leaving skin that
appeared mottled where there was no dirt. They all heard when her
fierce intake of breath forced several ribs back into place, the
benefits of Immortal physiology.
Angel stood back from the others, another urgency taking over his
thoughts. Seeing Buffy only a few steps away, he rushed to her,
encircling her in his strong arms. She grabbed his head, bringing him
down for a desperate kiss that lasted until the panic had stopped. They
were alive. They were still alive, and together.
Teresa tried to stand up. The first attempt was weak, but by the second
her body at least was fine. Her mind, however, had not entirely
returned. Amanda held her under the arm when she took a few awkward
steps, then stopped. She held up her head slowly, as if it were too
heavy for her neck. Though no tears fell, her eyes glistened with
moisture. Her voice halting, her expression one of near agony, she
looked away from them. "I was too late."
Duncan put his hand against the shrinking Immortal-demon's back. "It's
only a building, Teresa. You've saved our lives."
Painfully, she turned her head again, keeping her eyes to the floor.
Methos felt the slight, timorous brush against his mind, neither a
word nor an image, but a feeling, and grabbed for the nearest support
to keep himself upright at the way it spread through him. "Willow..."
Buffy snapped back to herself, the Slayer coming to the fore at the
mention of her best friend. "What about Willow?" Teresa didn't answer
her. "Dead?" She couldn't believe she could be asking this. Angel
grabbed her hand.
"Worse," the Khimaira admitted quietly.
"Turned," Methos interrupted the Slayer, standing firmly again. It
seemed like such a short time... It was just the blink of an eye for
him... He'd come here for a wedding... a wedding of Immortals, and he
would have to-
"I'm sorry I couldn't save all of you... I'm... sorry-" Teresa broke
from their grasp. She felt the just-healed knee nearly give out,
turned, saw them all staring after her, and ran from them. There were
no tears in her eyes, only a small hollow in her heart. Stupid
mortals... so... fragile... The wind pushed her hair back and struck
the blood-tears off of her cheeks.
There was not a cloud in the sky. Bright, golden sunshine, cool with a
hint of the previous night's rain, bathed her body. She took in the
sweet-tasting air, delighting in the newness of it; she was drinking in
spring. Even the grass was smooth against her skin, the tiny velvety
buds of flowers poised to release their perfume.
The transition lasted only a moment, so that she barely noticed the
darkening of the sky, the lengthening shadows on the ground. Dusky blue
covered everything, blanketing, erasing minor faults and obscuring
larger ones. There were buildings around her- low rows of houses, and
in the twilight just before the disappearance of the sun, they were
perfection. Teresa felt them around her, comforting, present... home.
She was walking along a road which seemed to go on indefinitely in
either direction, its ends a haze that she did not need to see.
Someone, a man, was walking along the opposite side, far, far in the
distance- an immense journey to get to him. He was talking to another
someone, but the figure was indistinct as a ghost or spirit. The spirit
noticed her, and she felt the first jolt of shock go through her. It
was real, and it knew her. No one was supposed to know her... Then
pain, then fear. Her eyes were sizzling.
"The light! It burns! It burns my skin!"
She screamed in terror. A bright flash of light that lasted for several
seconds and bathed everything in terrible white and red, like a nuclear
explosion, stripped the skin from her bones, and melted the eyes right
out of their sockets. She screamed, but her mouth was on fire, and the
sound mixed with the ripping, groaning howl from the explosion that
Nothing had happened. In fact, no time at all has passed. The man and
his now completely fleshed companion - a curly, brown-haired woman,
were in the same place that they were before the flash.
Teresa felt that the buildings on her right side - small buildings,
houses still, but old and falling apart, were now menacing, angry at
her. On her left, the side where those people were walking so far and
yet so close, was now an enormous open field; manicured as a formal
park in some prim Victorian town.
Old-fashioned band music, low, unidentifiable, came from that park.
Someone, for a moment, was enjoying himself. There was a moment of
laughter, of smiles. Then, above that, a low, pulse-like growling
started deep within, beating with her blood and in her veins like a
sound that wasn't a sound, and terrified her.
She tried to run, to force her legs to take her away, to even move. The
wind blasted suddenly, screaming in her ears and holding her in place
as firmly as steel shackles.
Then the man and woman were there, not more than a few feet away.
Neither were the same. Neither could possible be real. They are both
hideous to look at - the flesh rotting from their faces and hanging in
brown and gangrenous black strips. Yellow puss pooled in their empty
eye sockets, and noseless nostrils show a gleam of green bone under
decaying - burned flesh. They both smiled, and showed perfectly white
and strong fangs to her, making a sound something like a hiss.
Her heart thudded erratically in her chest, the terror a living thing
gripping her vitals in its iron vise, telling her to save herself, to
dive down into the save earth beneath her feet and move through the
soil as through water. But she couldn't - she was caught-helpless-
unable to move.
The horrible creatures - she could see that despite their flesh, their
hair shone glossy and smooth and clean, and their clothes were fresh
and unstained, continued to move forward. The male licked his cinder-
black lips, staring at her without eyes. The growling picked up
volume. It was close to her now - too close, and she could feel its
rancid breath on her shoulders. The man, holding his arms protectively
about the female, turned his head toward the darkness gathering behind
her. He looked at her again, sightlessly, and hissed, but his soft,
almost inaudible outpouring of air came with an impossible to ignore
warning - 'Run, we're coming after you...'
He laughed horribly, bits of flesh falling off of his teeth, and Teresa
recognized the voice: Spike's. And the woman with him was Drusilla.
Soundlessly, instantaneously, another impossibly bright flash exploded
around her. Again, her voice failed. Her screams of searing pain were
swallowed in the absence of sound. Her eyes failed. No black, no white.
A nothing. But then she was running, her feet pounding against the
gravely pavement beneath her - she slipped, fell, felt her knees grind
against the sharp rocks until they drew blood, but the panic gripped
her heart. 'Run. Run. Run.'
No more thought. All was thought. Nothing could be real. And the was
growling increasing, blotting out all other sound save the sand and
gravel flying under her feet. And for a moment, everything was black -
an utterly dark, soundless, heatless void. It did not last long enough
for her to scream, or to panic, but disappeared, and all there was was
It was a familiar place, one that she'd been to many times before...
She'd passed that intersection of roads many times before... All sight,
and nothing else... And then she could feel her body again, feel her
hands against the hard road, and her legs - nearly bare, against the
sinking-soft and yet sharp and unyielding gravel shoulder. Sand and
rocks bit into her hands, but she could feel herself slipping. She knew
that there was something there, a sewer tunnel, to the right. No,
mustn't slip that way. If she fell, she'd fall into the slime and
muck... And again she could not see. The only sense missing was sight,
this time, and though she could feel her hands moving, she could not
see anything, could not tell whether she was staring into blackness, or
a grey mist. More knowledge, suddenly acquired- to her left was
something unknown, and possibly wild, or possibly sanctuary. In front
of her was more road, and houses- homes, but nobody was in them. And
there was so very much road- impossible to take the right course from
there. Behind - there was no behind, only a wall of nothingness that
is silent until she realized what it was. Her head was splitting, her
mind racing and painfully restrained...
Then it began to pulse, and the pulse was the same speed and frequency
as the growl. Cold panic ate into her from the inside, freezing her
reason, her will... 'No, no, no... nononononononononono!'
Something lurking in the tunnel was trying to draw her in- into the
darkness- something slimy and wet and running with ooze that gave off
no smell. But it was strong, and its only thoughts were dark. There
was no good in it, no life. It was a creature of darkness, and hunger.
Without seeing, Teresa knew that a bright light had instantly banished
the darkness in front and to her sides, but not to her back. She
shrieked, clawing at the ground in front of her- trying to dig her way
in-she was as terrified of the light as she was of the darkness; there
was no thought in the light, no emotion, just light.
Then the light disappeared, and she was paralyzed, frozen solid as a
marble statue as that rancid breath curled hot and wet against her
shoulders. There was something canine about the presence, but not
right- not natural- not something that would be allowed to appear
anywhere but in the dream realms. The air stunk, and she was sick.
There was still no sight in her eyes, but she felt it draw closer, and
the utter blackness had turned to blood... spoiled blood and bruises -
dark purple pulsing black stains...
Teresa awoke suddenly in the darkness just before dawn, and for a
second could not tell whether or not she was still dreaming-the sky was
the same color-dark... a bruise against the sky, angry and boiling. The
clouds of a gathering storm churned and roiled above her, the breeze
whipping fine tendrils of her hair back and forth. Pressure and
moisture hung in the air, building in concentration. Her heart was
still frantically racing in her chest, and her forehead was covered
with icy beads of blood-sweat. She shivered, disoriented and dizzy, and
After running through the night, she had dropped, unable to continue,
on the beach. Some guiding instinct had sent her towards the water,
keeping her from running in endless circles. She had needed to get
away, to run as fast as she could to get away from that place. So
stupid, to put herself so near the Hellmouth for so long... It played
on her, used her... The waves licked at the sand only a hundred yards
from where she was, their sound unsteady as the coming gale drove them
Calming quickly, she put a hand up to her cheek. The flesh was cool,
smooth, solid. Somehow, she must have slept away an entire day and
night, under the wide-open sky, without anyone finding her. A rocky
overhand had provided some shelter from the blistering sun, but there
was no other screen. Anyone could have wandered in. There was only a
single track on the sand.
Spike and Drusilla... No, she wouldn't think about that. The dreams
were just that, dreams. Nightmares. So terribly, terribly real... No.
Her mind opened slowly, stretching, waking. There was something
missing that had been here before, always around but never in front. A
life that was no more. There was another still there, but different...
and the rest...
She had saved them. All but two were alive because of her. It had not
been her fault, and things could have gone far worse. They hadn't...
Cordelia, Giles... They were alive because of her. But what had she
"And I asked her for some happy news," Teresa whispered to herself,
sitting up and wrapping her arms around her knees. Her clothes were
still torn and stained with blood and dust, now nearly covered with
sand. The wind was picking up. Perhaps, this time, she wouldn't come
back. There was no one who needed her, no one who really wanted her.
*I've nearly been around the world and back again, and for what? A
name? Yes, Khimaira, what are you going to do with yourself this time?*
And if she didn't want a new life? A few cold, heavy drops fell around
her, then hit, running down the dry fabric. Teresa backed into the
chilled rock and laid her head down, burying it in her arms, alone,
tired again, and very, very small. She would feel better soon, she knew
from long experience.
"But she just smiled and turned away..."