Three vampires at once, was a daunting task. Well, to Willow anyway. She had gotten stronger magick wise and more adept at slaying over the past two weeks. She wouldn't say that battling vampires was a walk in the park now, but it was definitely easier. Still, when they attacked in a pack, it got tricky.
She knew the Goddess was watching. The woman had tried to keep her distance, slowly trying to build up Willow's confidence in herself and to teach her self-reliance. And Willow was learning. Even how to pun too.
She looked at the three vampires around her. "Do I have to shoot a starter pistol or wave a checkered flag? Let's go!" That was one of her better ones.
They obliged her. Two ran around behind her, and one charged from the front.
'Concentrate.' She thought quietly.
She round-housed the one in front of her, while at the same time, moving a fallen branch off the ground. Waiting to see where he landed, she then thrust the branch into his chest. He turned to dust.
The two behind her each grabbed one of her arms and held her. This was the tricky part. As she was trying to figure out what to do, she felt a pain in her stomach.
The pains had been coming fairly regularly recently, and just when she thought she had gotten rid of them, they came back stronger. And so were the vampires grips.
Mentally telling her body to knock it off, she propelled herself, using all her strength, over and behind her two captors. When she finished the backflip, the vampires were stunned. Using that, she got Mr. Pointy from her jacket, and using the old fashioned method, staked one in the back. She grabbed the other by his shirt collar, and reached her arm around to his heart area, and finished the job.
Taking a breath, Willow started to walk. "They seem more focused lately. Wonder why."
"I'm not one to take all the credit," Angelus said walking towards her from the street, "but I have to be honest. It was me."
'Don't freak out, Willow.' "Doesn't look like you've done a very good job."
"Oh they're still idiots, but like you said, they're focused. But enough about me. You seem to have gotten a little more interesting since I've been gone. Now it's my turn to ask why."
"Steroids." Willow deadpanned through her fear.
"Where's Buffy, Willow? I've been watching you for awhile. Never any Buffy. In fact, I can't seem to find her at all."
"And it's gonna stay that way." She felt the pains begin again.
Time was running, and he didn't have time to beat around the bush.
"I still can't figure out how you didn't die." His face shifted, his yellow eyes locked on hers. "And right after I beat what I want out of that pretty, red head of yours, I'll correct my mistake."
Across the ocean, a secluded complex sat in the English countryside. Inside the series of connected buildings, everything seemed normal. People were going about their business. Potential watchers not assigned to Slayers trained, studied, and some just did paperwork.
But there was an underlying tension that enveloped everyone. Ever since the active slayer, Buffy Summers, had removed herself from the Council, they had been waiting for the inevitable dissolution of their institution. If they weren't connected to the Slayer, there was no need for them to exist.
There had been suicides. Demons they held captive for study purposes had picked up on the fact that things were falling apart, and had risked escape. People had died. Of course, nobody spoke of the occurrences. It wasn't good policy. The Council ran a tight ship. Or tried to.
They all knew that with Buffy's calling, things were going to change, they just hadn't anticipated how much. She had friends, a life, and a mother who knew about her destiny. Slayers weren't supposed to have those things.
They lost one of their most respected watchers. Rupert Giles had been very respected. But some, basing it on his rebellious past, had suspected that he would follow his darker tendencies, and turn against his employers. The loss was still great, however. And a shame.
In the extensive occult library on the grounds, one man was searching volumes furiously. A man who knew all about the 'Buffy situation', and had experienced it first-hand. Wesley Wyndam Pryce was one of the youngest watchers enlisted in the Council's ranks, very promising, and to some, the most impressionable.
He had left Sunnydale months before, his views, the rules he lived by, shaken. When he first met Buffy and her friends he couldn't figure out how a Slayer, a misguided ex-watcher, and a few civilians had managed to last three years. One would have expected them to last at the very least, three months. He soon found out why.
Emotional attachment, he had figured out, was the reason for their survival. And that was surprising, because that was one of the main things the Council frowned upon. But emotional attachment gave those people reasons to fight. To keep each other alive.
And they were efficient, and creative. He had tried to keep control, but at the time he hadn't realized that it was already under control. Just not the kind he was used to. Terrible things had happened to them, things that could have destroyed them, and not just physically. Yet they were still strong and together.
They were the balance between the Earth and its destruction, and he knew now, but the rest of the Council chose to ignore it, that the mixed group in Sunnydale was necessary and nobody could do any better. And now that the situation had taken a turn for the worse over there, he had to do something. Had to help.
In the library, he was sure the Council had the book that held the right spell, the right instructions, to restore Buffy's soul back to her. And the quicker he found it, the better. As necessary as Willow was to the cause, and important as she and Buffy were to each other, a Slayer's soul belonged in the body it was born to. No one else.
But if he was reading the spell correctly, he was only half-right.
"What are you researching?" A man walked up to the table Wesley was sitting at.
"Mr.�Mr. Travers. Just for my personal knowledge. Can't be too informed."
"Quite." Quentin Travers looked down at the book, and began to read. "I hope you're not planning on sharing this with anyone."
'Stand up to him, Wesley.'"We have the information they need. Why not give it -"
"Because they chose to leave us. You know the policy."
"I hardly think the policy applies anymore. We're losing our status. Besides, and correct if I'm wrong, we were created to rid the world of evil creatures, and they've done that better than any single slayer in history. We cannot let them -"
"If she dies, we can summon the next slayer. Then we will regain control."
"You and I both know that something big is approaching," Wesley stood from his chair, and looked Quentin in the eyes, "and any slayer we activate will not be prepared for the battle."
"What did they do to you?"
"Nothing. Sir. I just went out in the world. You should try it sometime."
"I could have you fired, you know."
"I suppose you could."
Quentin picked up the book off the table, and placed it in Wesley's hands.
"But I won't."
"If you want to help, why -?"
"I have some power, some influence, but we all answer to someone. Now go. And good luck."
Wesley looked at him, and then they both turned and saw another man approaching. A man he recognized as a fellow watcher. When Wesley turned back, Quentin was gone.
Willow and Angelus approached each other cautiously, both assuming battle stance. She was scared out of her mind. Slayer abilities or no, this was Angelus. The man who had inflicted hours of torture on her while she was chained against a wall. But she couldn't let him see that, or he'd use it to his advantage.
He snarled, and threw a punch, which she avoided. She kneed him in the chest, and magickly threw him backward onto the ground.
"Hiding behind spells. I never pegged you as a cheater."
"Being moral is at the bottom of my list right now. And like you wouldn't cheat if you got the chance."
"You know me too well." He lunged at her, tackling her to the ground. She tried rolling, but it didn't work. His body weight kept her firmly beneath him, and her brought his arm down towards her head. "Tell me what I want to know, or I start crushing."
"You'll do it whether I tell you or not."
He brought his hand closer, and leaned down closer, and she was starting to find breathing difficult. Then he started to smoke, and recoiled, jumping off her. She flipped back up into a fighting stance, and showed him the cross around her neck.
"Thanks." She grabbed her stomach. Why wouldn't the pain stop?
Angelus was enraged now. This was Willow. So what if she had some slaying ability, and a little magick? Still, there was something strong about her, and something making her weak at the same time. He couldn't figure it out.
He was about to use Willow's temporary pain, to kick her head in, when the Goddess appeared between them, facing Willow.
"Let's go, child."
"This isn't your business, witch." Angelus said to her.
She turned around. "I'm not stopping you." Not having learned his lesson from last time, he tried to attack her. Without lifting a finger, the Goddess' mere essence caused him pain. She turned back to Willow. "It's time to leave."
They walked away, and Angelus stared after them, and then disappeared into the shadows.
"That was close. Thanks." Willow said to the Goddess when they were far enough away.
"I will not always be there to help. Or be able to."
Willow nodded. "I�Buffy and I will get him."
"Keep that determination. You'll need it. It seems the pain is getting worse."
"I'm a little scared. What's happening to me?"
"What do you think is happening?"
"I don't know. It probably has something to do with�Buffy's soul?"
"It is not my body. You have to discover the problem for yourself."
"Well I just can't talk to my soul. It's not something you talk to. 'Hey soul, how are you? Keeping my girlfriend company?'"
"Not in the conventional way. You're soul, Buffy's soul, is a part of you. You can communicate with it. Not many people know how, but you have the ability. Most times it happens involuntarily through dreams. Although it doesn't have to happen that way."
"Oh�okay. Well�um�I have to go see her."
She visited Buffy after every patrol. It was a ritual. "Be careful."
"I know. Will you be at Giles'?"
The Goddess had vanished. Willow should've gotten used to that by now, but it still freaked her out a little. She glanced over her shoulder, and made her way to the hospital.
Cordelia, Xander, and Oz sat in Giles' house, reading. They had been trying to find anything to put Buffy back where she was supposed to be, but so far, there was nothing at all. They were starting to get worried.
On the plus side, Xander was back to full strength. His legs had healed, and his bones had set rather quickly. Quicker than expected by normal medical standards, anyway. They all figured that it had to do with the Goddess' presence in their lives every day.
She hadn't healed him directly, but when she was around, things seemed to flourish, and the air was charged with feelings. Feelings of goodness, healing - positive things. Of course Xander hadn't thought that deeply. He was just glad that his legs were in working condition again.
"Who else is frustrated?" Cordelia asked. The three other people raised their hands.
"These books could use simplification." Oz said.
"Somehow I don't think that would help." Giles said.
"What are you saying?" Xander asked, already knowing the answer.
Giles took his glasses off, and rubbed his eyes. "That none of these books may hold the answer."
"Well, what about the Goddess person? Who by the way, could use massive amounts of plastic surgery."
"She chooses that guise."
"Well that's the worst choice in the history of choices. So back to my question� what about her? She's gotta know something."
"If she did, I think she would have given a clue as to where to look, but she hasn't. We cannot rely on her for everything. We're lucky she's aiding us at all."
Cordelia flinched slightly at his tone. "Somebody needs a pill."
"I'm sorry, Cordelia. I'm just -"
"Exhausted. Like the rest of us." Xander finished.
"Call it a night?" Oz asked, although it was more like a statement.
"Yes, you three should. I have to wait for Willow to return." They all hesitated. "Go. I'll call each of you when she gets back."
They waited another second, and went out the door. Giles turned around, and came face to face with the Goddess.
"You should rest." She said.
"Eventually I'll get around to it. Is she all right?"
"For now. When she returns she'll have things to tell you. Things are�"
"Things are what?"
"Progressing. On both sides. Someone carries the answer to restoring Buffy to her rightful place, but there are difficult times ahead."
"When are there not?"
The Goddess smiled briefly, and disappeared as quickly as she had come.
Angelus followed Willow as she walked. Seeing no sign of the Goddess, he was glad. More than he would admit to himself. He was evil, sure. But he wasn't strong enough, powerful enough, to match the goodness, and the light that emanated from the old witch. So he had no choice when he succumbed to her.
But it was still embarrassing.
He followed Willow every night, but somehow after awhile, she had managed to elude him. Fighting her tonight, he came to the conclusion that it probably had something to do with magick. A trick so she was invisible to him or something. He always despised spells. Well, only when it was used against him.
He noticed that she always passed by the hospital. She would walk the next block down, turn onto the next street, and that's when he'd lose her. Tonight as she turned down that street, he hung back, and waited across the street from the hospital.
Sure enough, a couple minutes later, Willow jogged to the hospital entrance.
'So�Buffy's out of commission. Clever, Willow.'
He started to walk over to the hospital, and then stopped, cursing under his breath. He could smell the sun coming. Frustrated, but feeling better, he stalked off. He'd be back. After all it was good manners to pay respects to sick. He was practically family, after all.
Willow entered Buffy's room. The nurses had stopped trying to deny her access. It wasn't worth the effort. She saw Joyce asleep in a chair, by the bed. Willow smiled sadly. She didn't know who missed Buffy more. Her or Joyce.
Not wanting to wake her, Willow walked around to the other side of the bed. There were no more chairs, so she knelt on the floor, and grasped Buffy's hand.
"I�kinda need to talk to you. Big patrol tonight. Finally ran into Angelus. That was a big, not very fun thing. We're close to getting you back. I can feel it. So, I'm gonna try something."
'The Goddess said I could talk with my soul. I just have to close my eyes, and concentrate.'
She closed her eyes, thought about Buffy, envisioned her inner self, and took deep breaths. After a few seconds, she wasn't aware of the hospital anymore, and the next thing she saw was her dorm room. Their dorm room.
That was Buffy's voice. Willow looked around to Buffy's bed, and saw her soul and Buffy's sitting on it, joined together. "Buffy?"
"You're here." They both said at the same time.
Willow went over to her, and they embraced.
"And here I thought�" Buffy trailed off when she felt the tug of her soul partner.
"Soul You has been a little more active lately. I've been fighting it, but I don't know how long I can last."
"I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with permanent melding."
"That's probably what�"
"Nothing. I'm gonna get you back in your body, don't worry."
"If you tell me not to, I won't. You been okay?"
"So far. You?" Not exactly sure what to say.
"Even with -"
"This," Buffy said looking over at Soul Willow, "is just a part of you. I want the whole package."
"Big agreeing ditto from me. I miss you."
"Same here, Will. Come 'ere." They hugged again.
Willow looked over at her soul. "And you behave. Don't fight with her. You'll hurt both of us."
"But�I want her to stay." Her voice echoed back at her.
"You know where she belongs."
"In your arms? Physical arms, I mean." Buffy smirked. Well, as much as she could in her current state.
"I like the sound of that." Willow felt herself, her body, calling her back to the world.
"I know you have to go�just hurry, okay?"
"Count on it. Love you."
She heard Buffy echo her words as everything disappeared.
"Willow? Willow, are you all right?"
It was Joyce. She was leaning over her, and Willow realized she had been lying on the floor of the room. She knew what she had just experienced had happened, but every time she did something mystical and metaphysical, she was always questioning if it was real or a dream.
She realized she hadn't answered Joyce. "Yeah, Mrs. Summers. I'm fine."
"I woke up and you were laying on the floor. I tried to wake you, but you wouldn't, and I was just about to get a nurse -"
"I'm fine, really." Joyce had been through a lot lately, and Willow saw how worried she looked. She embraced her.
"I was so scared. If something happened to you�Buffy wouldn't have a reason to come back." Joyce took a deep breath. "That sounded horrible�I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I know what you meant. Did you get much sleep?"
"Enough. Come on�I'll give you a ride to Mr. Giles' house."
"Okay." Willow put her hand in Joyce's. "Soon. I promise."
Joyce smiled at her, and they walked out of the room.
Around noon the next day, they were all in Giles' house, and Willow had filled them in on everything that had happened. They all were a little more hopeful, because it meant Buffy was really there. With Willow. It was something to help them keep going.
There was a knock on the door, and Giles went to answer it. They all looked as he opened it.
"Hello everyone." Wesley said, as they stared at him.
"Wesley. What brings you here?" Giles asked.
Willow studied his face. She walked up to him. "You have something, don't you? Something to bring her back."
"Possibly, yes." He pulled a large book out of his bag, and opened it up. He handed it to Giles.
"Not to sound, ungrateful, but why are you here?" Xander asked.
"As in, why are you helping us?" Cordelia asked.
"Valid questions. The Council's in a less than stable state at the moment -"
"Someone wants to get a Slayer back into their employment. Anyone else sense a bribe?" Xander asked.
Oz raised his hand in answer.
Giles studied the book, and shook his head. "Once the Council hands down their decision, they don't go back on it. No matter what the circumstances."
"Quite correct, and as I was about to say, I came here because I've been aware of what happened to Buffy, and I want to see her well again."
"They let you leave?" Giles asked, astonished.
"It surprised me as well. There seems something off about the Council now. Quentin seemed strangely�unraveled. I believe something rather big to be coming."
"Yes there must be, if the Council has let you leak information."
"I don't mean to sound rude, but right now the Council really doesn't matter to me. What is this book, and how can it help Buffy?" Willow asked, impatiently.
"Sorry." Wesley said. "Ah, this is the hand-written journal and spell book of Jonas Barton. He was a self-proclaimed warlock in the Middle Ages. It's true that most of the reported magick done during that time period was a hoax, but this man 's talent was genuine.
"He didn't advertise his services. In fact he was very much into isolation. However, he did extensive research and experimentation on soul existence. Soul mates, and the like. He was very adept at it."
"Kinda strange that a guy into isolation, would be interested in soul mates." Oz said.
"There are sketchy reports that even though he had a magickal ability for most of his life, the reason for his sudden interest in the subject was that he had lost his wife to a murderer, and he was afraid that she was not at rest in the afterlife�" They stared at him. "Which is a story for another time. Anyhow, he refined his spells, and his learnings, into this book. Before he passed on, he donated it to the Council."
"That's great, but what spell -"
Giles pointed it out to Willow, and began to read Jonas' writing.
"This is your last chance to eliminate the obstacles that are a threat to our coming. A threat to the opening of the gateway below your feet." The cloaked figure said.
"Whether or not you succeed, your energies must be refocused on preparing for my return. Completely. If the two light warriors are still breathing when I walk on this ground fully once more, they will be the first to die."
"They're my kill."
"We'll see. Focus, Angelus. I hope you're successful tonight, then you'll have fewer distractions later."
The figure vanished, and Angelus sat in the Master's old chair. There were eight hours until sundown.
They read over, more like scrutinized, the spell again and again. Willow mostly, because she was the one who had to recite it. It seemed simple, but she wasn't taking any chances.
Joyce had come to the house. She was basically a bystander, leaving her daughter's well being in her friends' hands, and out of hers. She wished she could've been more helpful, but Buffy's condition had to do with something she barely understood. But Willow was in control, and she cared about and loved Buffy as much as Joyce did. She would get Buffy back.
"Read it to me. Again?" Willow asked Giles.
" 'This must be performed in a completely positively charged environment. No negative emotions whatsoever, no hate, anger, they all must be cleared in order for this to work. The person's soul mate must be the one to carry it out, whether he or she is magickally versed or not. They must also be alone. No outsiders.
" 'Physical contact is necessary for the transference, as well as an open heart. This may sound less like magick and more like poetry, but in all my studies, I find that the soul creates its own magick, and we follow what it tells us. It is connected to every part of us, but for those special cases, the souls that are so joined together that they belong as one, but reside in two bodies, they sometimes get confused. So we must help them return to where they belong. The following words -' "
"I'm sorry, but can I mention something?" Joyce asked. They all nodded. "Buffy is in a hospital. The doctors won't let us take her home, so it would be�difficult to perform this without interruptions."
"I hadn't thought of that." Giles said.
"Speaking of things we haven't thought of, what about Angelus?" Xander brought up.
"When you do the spell, Angelus won't interfere." The Goddess said, appearing in the room. "But after this point, direct contact won't be allowed. You're on the right path, Willow, and I can't take you much further. You will learn much in the near future, and with Buffy at your side, you will go far."
Willow walked up to her. "Will I see you again?"
"I'll be around. Good luck to you."
But the Goddess was already gone.
"Best entrances and exits I've ever seen." Oz said.
"We will worry about the hospital later. The sooner we do this the better for everyone. For the world." Wesley said.
"Tonight." Willow said, and closed her eyes fighting off the pain. Her soul wanted to keep Buffy bad. Not that she could blame it.
"Are you okay?" Cordelia asked.
"I will be. Giles, can you finish reading?"
At sundown, Angelus made his way to the hospital. He had one thing on his mind. No more games, no more scheming, nothing else except finishing off his ex once and for all.
So what if Willow had slaying ability? He didn't care. It was somehow connected to Buffy, and he figured if he got rid of her, Willow wouldn't be far behind. It would be simple. And it would have to be quick, because he had bigger obligations. Buffy and Willow were insignificant next to the larger plan.
Whether he believed that or not, it wasn't up to him to make the decisions. He had orders, and he hated following them, but that was the only way he'd get to stay among the human populated world. And get his power later on.
He entered through the automatic doors, and went to the front desk.
"Can I help you?" A woman asked, sitting beside a computer.
"Buffy Summers' room."
"Friend or family?"
"Killer." He said under his breath.
"Close friend of the family."
The lady was wary, but seeing look in his eyes, she also didn't want to object.
"Third floor. Room 308."
Xander and Oz returned to Giles' house after buying supplies at the magick shop. Willow was talking with Wesley and Giles, and Joyce was on the phone. Cordelia was simply offering silent moral support.
Willow saw them, and walked over. "You get the stuff?"
"Yep. One bag of pixie dust and a bottle of Love Potion Number Nine." Xander joked.
"Xander." She said forcefully.
"Sorry. Don't worry. We got everything."
"No," Willow grabbed her head, and took an exhausted breath, "I'm sorry. It's just�I'm on edge, you know? This is the only option we've got, and if it doesn't work�"
Xander put his hand on her shoulder. "It'll work�It'll work."
"Make me believe that. Please."
Oz took his turn. "If anyone can do it, Will�it's you. She'll come back because you want her to. The spell stuff is just a helper, but if you want her to come back, she will. Want something badly enough, and you'll get it."
"I gotta tell you, Oz, when you decide to say more than a word, its strangely moving."
"I'm full of surprises."
Willow chuckled a little. "Thanks, guys. You're right. Just have to use my resolve face."
Joyce just got off the phone, and went over to Willow, Xander, and Oz.
"It took some pushing, but using the mother card, I got them to move her to a more secluded wing on the hospital. It's older, but they'll be fewer people around, and it'll be pretty much isolated."
"What about Angelus?"
"Oh, I gave them his description. They won't let him go near her."
"And they'll stop him, how?" Cordelia asked, coming out of her silent state.
"We go now." Willow stated, and Giles grabbed a bag of slaying tools off the table.
They were out the door immediately, no objections or questioning. This was Willow's plan, her rules. It was time to get Buffy back.
Angelus walked into Room 308, intent on his task, only to find it empty. He found it hard to keep his temper. He walked along the hallway, until he saw what he assumed was a doctor. He stopped him.
"What happened to the girl in that room?"
"Blond-haired girl? Coma?" The doctor asked.
"She was moved to another area of the hospital."
"Her mother asked us to, and as we saw no harm in it -"
'Joyce. Who would've thought you had any intelligence?'
Angelus grabbed the doctor by his shirt, and held back a snarl. "Where is she?"
He looked the man over who was holding him more carefully, and knew from description and his current predicament, that this man was dangerous.
"I'm sorry. I can't reveal that."
"Listen to me. I can do one of two things. If you tell me, I let you go. If you don't, I can kill you and tear this building apart until I find her. Your choice."
"I won't." The doctor squeaked out, still trying to appear unfazed. Plus he figured that this was a hospital. With potential witnesses. The man had to be bluffing. But he was wrong.
"Don't you know the brave ones are always the first to go?" He snapped the doctor's neck, and threw him to the ground.
"Security to the third floor. Security to the -" A nurse said into an intercom on the wall.
Angelus rushed over to the woman, and knocked her to the floor. Tears were forming in her eyes. "I know you're not as foolish as the doctor. Are you?"
The woman didn't move or speak.
"Tell me what I want to know."
"She wasn't on my rounds, I don't -"
"Wait!" She said frantically. "I can find out."
Everyone got to the hospital, and went to the wing on the lower level where they said Buffy was moved. They were all pretty much regulars, so the staff recognized them, and didn't bother them. But one of the women at the reception desk saw where they were headed, and ran to them hurriedly this time.
"Are you going to see Miss Summers?"
"Yes. Is something wrong?" Giles asked.
"It's not safe. There's this crazed man, and the guards have -"
They ran past the woman, ignoring her warnings.
"He isn't going to take her from me�he isn't going to take her from me�" Willow kept repeating to herself.
He stood in Buffy's room. Seeing the machines, the tubes, the wires�he was getting a rush of pleasure just from the sight before him. He walked to her beside.
"We could've made such a good team�" He kicked the plug for the heart monitor out of the wall. "But you made your choice."
He bent down to her face. "I'd say goodbye, but�let's just get this over with." He removed the ventilator tube from her mouth, and started to push down on her throat.
As they raced into the hallway, Willow completely hunched over and nearly screamed. "He's�he's killing her. We have to -"
One of the security guards came running down. His face was bloody, and his shirt was torn. "He's a monster! Don't go�" He kept running.
When they got closer to Buffy's room, they saw more guards' bodies piled up.
'Come on, Goddess. If I ever needed you, it's now.'
"Remove yourself from this room." The Goddess said, appearing from behind Angelus.
"Not this time. I'm not finished."
"Remove yourself now." He ignored her. "I banish you from this room. I cleanse it of your evil, and may the goodness of this girl and all she represents torment and torture you."
Angelus tried to fight the sensations trying to overpower him, but it was gaining strength. His flesh started to crawl, and he felt like he was burning. His head started to throb, feeling like it was about to explode.
"I spare you because it is not my duty to kill you. I leave that pleasurable task up to this girl and her partner. And believe me when say that I sincerely hope it is slow and painful for you."
He was flung from the room, and the Goddess vanished.
They reached Buffy's door just as Angelus slumped against the wall. Willow ran over and saw he was shaking.
"Does it hurt? Here, let me help." Using a combination of slayer and Wicca ability, Willow threw him down the hall, and he crashed into the doors. "I don't think he'll try anything else, but watch him anyway." She moved to go into the room.
"Good luck." Giles asked.
"We're all here for you." Joyce said, as her friends nodded.
"Thanks. And you too, Wesley. Without you�"
"No need, Willow." He said, even though he was touched.
"Here goes nothing."
"Hey." She said to Buffy. "You ready?"
She set candles in a circle at the side of the bed, on the floor. Pink, for love and friendship; White, for peace; Red for protection, passion, strength, and courage; Orange, for vitality; and Purple, for intense healing. She stood in the middle of the circle, and then sat down.
She lit each of the candles, and pulled a bowl, ingredients, and a knife from her duffel bag. She put a dove feather in the bowl, and a powder that held healing properties. She needed something. Symbols of their union.
She took her ring off, and put it in the bowl. She stood up, and leaned over Buffy.
"Just need to borrow this." She carefully got Buffy's ring off her finger, and put in the bowl.
The final ingredient was some of her blood. Jonas wrote that for a soul to leave its mate's body, it needed something from that person, something familiar in its body to entice it to return. Blood was the best choice.
So Willow took the knife, and cut her finger slightly. She let a few drops fall into the bowl.
Now the true test. She stood once more, and gripped Buffy's hand.
"Help me, okay?" Willow shut her eyes. "With complete love, trust, and friendship, I call on my soulmate within. It is time to return back to the body to which you were born. Our joining is forever, but you must take your rightful place.
"Return knowing that we are one. That flesh is a necessary boundary between us."
She felt Buffy begin to shake. She felt herself start to shake.
"Our feelings surpass the body. Take comfort in the fact that we are not weakened by minor separation. That the love and feelings are expressed in every possible way. Return to this plane. This physical world. Come back so we can be together as we were meant to. Not just our souls, but our minds and bodies as well. Come back. Come back to me."
The candles flickered, and the contents of the bowl, created energy in the air, a bright blue energy, that went right into Buffy. Their convulsing increased, and Willow felt something leave, as well as stay.
After a few seconds, it was over. The candles were out, and sometime during the course of the�whatever happened, Willow ended up on the floor. She cleared her head, and jumped up to see if it worked.
Buffy's eyes slowly came open, and she smiled. Willow thought she was going to faint. She had so many things she wanted to say, do, but she had to tell everyone. She squeezed Buffy's hand, and smiled when Buffy squeezed back.
"I'll be right back, okay? Gotta go tell your mom and everyone. Right back. So don't go anywhere."
Buffy rolled her eyes, and Willow went to go get their friends.
Later, Willow sat at Buffy's bedside late after the big welcome back, and after the hectic time they had with the cops, and trying to explain what happened to the guards outside in the hallway.
'Will? You there?'
Willow was a little startled. 'Whoa. It's been a long time.'
'Too long. Come sit the bed up for me?' She got up, and hit the remote, and the bed moved so Buffy was in a sitting position. 'Now come closer.'
"So I can kiss you." Buffy said aloud, but softly.
Willow leaned in immediately and kissed her soulmate. Her friend. It had been so long. There was a passion and a gentleness to it at first, and then Willow increased it, needing to feel her breath, her warmth. Just to make sure it was real.
And then they stopped, and Willow broke down into sobs. Partly out of sadness, but mostly out of joy. She had been holding it in for months, and it all came pouring out.
"I missed you so much�I�"
Buffy put her arm around her, and felt tears start to come as well. Her body had been doing nothing, and she had no way to release her emotions. It was a relief for her. She could feel again, feel Willow again.
"God, I missed you too. But I knew you'd do it."
"Now that I have you again�I don't want to let you go�"
And Willow didn't. In fact, she gripped Buffy tighter. "Love you."
"I love you too, Will. I love you too."
They both cried until they couldn't anymore, and fell asleep content in the knowledge that everything was restored, and that they were in each other's arms.
The lights in Jake's bedroom were off. Candles were lit all around the room. The flames flickered showing the various objects that he had on display. A Freddy Kruger poster hung on his door. A glove with five razors sat on his bureau. All seven films were on his shelf, along with a doll, a dirty brown hat, and red and green sweater.
Playing in his VCR was the original film. The one that started the series. Started his obsession. His friend sat beside him, looking nervous.
"This is crazy."
"Why? You scared?" Jake asked, amused.
"Course not, it's just -"
"Ssh. This is cool. Right before Tina bites it."
The TV showed Tina, the first victim, staring down an alley at an approaching Freddy.
He held up his gloved hand. "This�is God."
Jake focused his attention back on his task. He dropped a magazine clipping of Freddy into a bowl, and a piece of the sweater. He bought the original outfit at a recent auction, it had cost him, and his parents' credit cards a lot of money.
"He's the best horror villain of all time, man."
"Yeah, yeah he is. Isn't this�dangerous?"
"Look, I got this book that said that if people believe in something enough, even something in a movie, it can take on a life of it's own."
"But�he's just a guy in messed up latex."
"Maybe, but the name Freddy Kruger scares everybody in some way. He's etched in my mind. Every night I go to sleep." He knew he sounded nuts, but he was beyond caring.
"So you wanna make him real? Come on, Jake."
"If you don't believe, get out. I won't stop you."
Jake closed his eyes, and began to chant the words from the book. He had become fascinated with the occult. And that coupled with obsessing over a teenage-killing maniac, was not a good mix.
"Bring forth the essence of the being." Jake lit a match, and started burning the contents of the bowl. Smoke started to rise. "Let him enter reality. Let his evil leave the fictional realm, release him from his prison."
The wind picked from outside and the candles blew out. The movie was still running.
"I brought something back from my dream." Nancy said on screen, holding Kruger's hat.
It all stopped after a minute. And both boys jumped up, looking around the room frantically.
"Didn't work." His friend sighed in relief.
"Guess not." Jake said, almost sadly.
"See you tomorrow? Gotta get home."
"Sleep tight." He said sarcastically.
An hour later, Jake went to sleep frustrated. He knew it wasn't going to work, but still�
In the middle of the night, he woke up hearing a screeching sound. He reached over to his bureau, and turned on the lamp.
The glove�was missing. He got out of bed quickly.
The TV came on. Little girls in pure white dresses were jump roping in a park. And singing.
"One, two Freddy's coming for you,
"Three, Four better lock your door,
"Five, Six grab your crucifix,
"Seven, Eight better stay up late,
"Nine, Ten never sleep again�"
He went over to the TV, and checked the VCR on top of it. No tape. This dream was different. He didn't feel�in control. He went to turn the TV off, and a gloved hand reached through the screen, and grabbed his shirt.
He was staring face to face with his obsession.
"You wanted me, Piglet. Well, Freddy's home."
"But� this isn't Elm Street."
"You watch too many movies."
The last thing Jake saw was razor blades coming at his eyes.
"So what's the up?" Buffy asked Giles and Willow when she entered her ex-watcher's home.
She had just come back from the college campus. That was not one of her top things to repeat. Trying to explain why you were not attending classes for a little over two months was not easy.
But together with her mother, doctor and nurse testimonials explaining her situation, she had cut a deal. She would study with a tutor to catch up on the stuff she missed. Which wasn't so bad, except that wasn't it. She'd have to attend courses over the summer so she'd have all the necessary credits to not repeat her freshman year.
But besides that, it was amazing how great she felt. She was back. Whole and complete. She could hold Willow again. Ever since she got back, using Willow's own blood to help her come back, they were closer. In every sense of the word.
They just couldn't place how. Something about the spell Wesley provided them with, maybe. Oh, well. It wasn't like it was a bad thing. Plus, they had other things to worry about. Like dealing with Angelus, who had gone into hiding. Nobody liked that at all.
Willow handed her a newspaper. "A gift? Really, Will." She said sarcastically. The red head smirked a little, but quickly looked worried. Buffy took the hint, and read the headline on the front page. "Teenage boy found murdered. Not to sound uncaring, as I am kind of desensitized, but what else is new?"
"The reporter doesn't go into many details, but�he does say that the eyes were�removed. And there were carvings."
"On his chest. Like razors." Willow said quietly.
"So that rules out vamps, right?"
"And leaves us an endless supply of various demons to consider." Giles said.
"Something�doesn't seem right." Willow added, sounding unnerved.
Willow was going full-speed into the magick area. She still trained herself, although not with the Goddess, sometimes it was with Buffy. She was more attuned to, well, everything. And it scared her somewhat. Add to that that she still felt residual effects from Buffy's slayerness, and had no idea why, she was rushing to get a grip on everything.
So much had happened to her during the time that Buffy was gone. She had become different. Not in a bad way, just�different. More independent, she was realizing that there was more purpose to everything she did, and everything she would do.
But even as independent as she had become, she thanked whatever forces had helped her to get Buffy back, because she needed her. That was the one thing she was clear on.
"As in?" Buffy asked her.
"Not sure. Just a feeling."
"Maybe you should visit the morgue. See if --" Giles started.
"Oh no. Giles, Willow and I are not going to go snooping around in a morgue. You're the reason they say romance is dead, you know. Sending us to places like that."
"Do you have to be romantic everywhere you go?"
"Maybe." Buffy said, pulling Willow to her, and giving her a quick kiss.
"Then what do you suggest we do?"
'Tell him, Will.'
'Duh! Why didn't I think of that?'Willow sent back, seeing what Buffy had in mind.
"I hack into the medical examiner's files and get the autopsy report. I may have been real witchy lately, but I haven't forgotten how to use a computer."
"Plus, it's safer." Buffy added. "Where's your laptop, Will?"
"It's in the closet upstairs. I kept it here�while you were gone�I�"
'It's okay. I'm right here.'
Giles watched as Willow nodded to what he assumed was a silent exchange. He was happy, extremely happy, that Buffy was safe, and that Willow had her back. Any parental figure would be. But he was also envious of them. Of the deepness, and the unspoken feelings they shared with one another. He didn't know if he'd ever feel that. He hadn't had enough time with Jenny.
He had shut himself off to the hope of ever finding companionship again, which was probably a bad mistake on his part, but he'd have to live with it. He made his own choices, and he couldn't blame anybody else for them. And he most certainly couldn't hold Buffy and Willow's happiness against them.
"I'll," They looked at him, "I'll go get it."
Nikki Coleman was an intern. Sunnydale was the only place in the world that offered internships for a morgue. But she was studying forensics/pathology, so it was a good place to learn. She had a pretty strong stomach. She had seen a lot of gruesome stuff come in, and she had dealt with it. She could handle anything.
But the new one that had come in�was weird. The pathologist had found no fingerprints, no real sign of a struggle; and whatever or whoever had done it, had fun. Of course she wasn't supposed to know that, but having access to the computer system helped. It was all part of the learning process.
Besides, she had assisted the pathologist before. She would've found out anyway. Eventually.
The guard had left her alone while he ran home to check on his kids. They had been sick lately. So she was left alone with drawers of dead bodies. They never seemed to run out of those. And it was exhausting.
She could doze off for a few seconds. It wouldn't hurt.
A few seconds later, she opened her eyes.
"I guess sleep doesn't want me."
"I want you." A deep voice said that echoed across the walls.
"Who said that?"
Then there was a banging. In the storage room. She got up cautiously, and walked into the room. It was quiet, and then�there it was again. It sounded like it was coming from inside one of the drawers.
"But that's impossible."
"Nicole�" The voice said her name. How'd it know her name?
The noise started again, and she went over to the drawer she thought it was coming from. Frightened, but curious at the same time, she opened it, and slid out the tray.
Laying on it was a man, about twenty-five years of age. If she remembered correctly, the funeral was in a few days. They were going to give the body to the funeral home tomorrow so they could prepare it. As she was about to push the tray back in, she heard a tearing sound.
Looking down at the man's chest, she was horrified at what she saw. One by one cuts were being made. Jagged ones. When they stopped, she felt sick. They were words.
'DO YOU WANT TO DIE, NIKKI?'
Her mind was telling her to run, but her body wasn't reacting. And that was a mistake. Because the dead body sat up on the tray, and cold hands reached for her. She stumbled backwards into a sitting position against the opposite wall of drawers.
Then all the drawers flung open, one right after the other, and bodies in all types of decay were crawling out. They were making their way towards her. They were everywhere. Moaning and saying her name.
She did what any frightened, unable to move person would do. She closed her eyes, and screamed. And then�silence. Tears streaming down her face, she opened her eyes. There was nothing there. Except the man towering over her, who was moving his fingers, his razors, tauntingly.
"What the hell?" She recognized this guy. Where had she seen him before?
"You think you can handle death? Think you've got the stomach for it?" Kruger lifted her up by the throat so his gloved hand was at the same level as her stomach. "Only one way to find out."
He rammed his hand into her stomach, his razors piercing her skin, and laughed evilly as she lurched from side to side. She couldn't feel the stomach wound, but she could taste the blood bubbling up in her mouth. She watched it spill to the floor.
"Sorry. You fail, bitch."
The guard came back, and rushed in when he heard the commotion. He saw Nikki's body in the air, hanging. Before he could go over, and before he registered the blood and other�things that were spilling to the floor, she was thrust across the room and into the computer, which smashed to bits.
"I can't get in." Willow said, as Giles and Buffy watched her.
"What do you mean?" Giles asked.
"The system must be down, because I'm not getting anything." She was puzzled.
"Happy now, Giles? Looks like we're off to the morgue." Buffy said, moving towards the door. "We'll bring you back something nice. Oh, wait. Forget I said that."
Willow was still shutting down her laptop. 'Wait up.'
'Forgive me, Miss Slowpoke.'
'I'll get you for that.'
'I hope so.'
Willow blushed as she followed Buffy out the door.
When they arrived at the morgue, there were cops everywhere, and they had put crime scene tape around the outside of the building. Buffy and Willow watched as a cop, young by the looks of him, came running out and vomited on the grass.
"Get the feeling we missed something?" Buffy asked Willow.
"Yeah and I also get the feeling I'm glad we missed it."
"If I didn't have to do this, I'd be turning around right now, but there's two things we have to figure out."
"What happened -"
"And how to get inside to figure that out."
Willow thought about it for a second.
'Don't talk and don't make a lot of noise or else this isn't going to work, okay?'
'You're the boss. Are we playing Jedi Mind Trick?'
'Something like that.'
Buffy watched her whisper a few words, and then Willow motioned her to start moving towards the morgue. She was amazed at the amount of ability Willow had managed to tap into. How powerful, magickly, she was. She was glad and worried at the same time.
The gladness was that they had both pretty much figured out that Willow was meant to fight along side her. That she could be in all aspects of her life. And most importantly, that Willow finally realized how gifted and special she was. Something Buffy had been telling her for a long time.
The downside was that Willow was fighting along side her. She couldn't keep her safe anymore. Actually, Willow could probably protect herself better than Buffy ever could. But still, the risks were higher.
She felt Willow's hand on her arm as they continued to walk.
'It worries me too.'
Buffy smiled at her, and they saw a cop staring in their direction. Only he didn't see them. So they kept walking, squeezing past people, praying the spell would hold. They got inside, and looked around.
The chalk outline of the body was on the floor; fresh blood still sitting there as the photographers took pictures. They saw a woman in medical scrubs come out of a side room. One of the cops walked up to her.
"Except extreme brutality? No. The most damage was done by the�opening of the stomach, but that wasn't what killed her. Although it would have if the killer was patient. The impact from hitting the computer, and the amount of force, well, it broke her neck. Not to mention caused several lacerations around the facial area.
"Excuse me, she was a friend and�"
"It's okay, doctor. We'll call you if we need anything more."
Buffy and Willow looked at each other.
'I guess we know why I couldn't use the computer.'
'It's probably the wrong time to bring this up, but why are we assuming demon? Okay, a part of me is just saying that so we can get out of here�'
'We should still�check. Just so we can tell Giles and all.'
Buffy nodded reluctantly, and they made their way into the side room. On a table, covered by a white sheet, lay a body. They were both waiting for the other to remove the sheet. Together, they both went over, and pulled down it down.
"Jesus." Buffy said aloud.
"Oh my God�" Willow said, putting a hand to her mouth. Then she realized something, and whispered. "The spell's broken."
"Then we have to�hurry." They both stepped up to the body to get a closer look. "Well. I've seen enough."
"Wait." Willow was focused on something. "It looks like after he�opened her�he did one continuous cut up her chest."
"What's your point?"
"They look like razors."
"Like the last�"
They heard people moving. Like they were leaving. They poked their heads around the door, and saw two guys heading their way. They saw the back door in the other direction, and then watched as the two men were stopped momentarily by one of the photographers.
"Make a break for it?" Buffy asked.
Willow nodded, and they did.
Later, back at Giles' house, everyone was there. Xander and Oz were watching TV on the couch, Cordelia had her face buried in Xander's chest so she didn't have to look at the screen, and Buffy and Willow were talking with Giles.
"I know this is gonna sound weird, but I've seen that before." Willow said.
"The person?" Giles asked.
"No, the cuts. The way she died. I've seen it too." Buffy agreed.
"Dare I ask how?"
They shrugged, and spoke in sync. "Don't remember."
A loud scream caused the three of them to look in their friends' direction. Buffy walked over to the TV, and watched as girl on a bed flailed around, trying to escape an unseen force.
"What are you guys watching?" She asked.
"Nightmare on Elm Street. Of course it's TV so they edit most of the language, and then there's horrible lip-syncing -" Xander started to rant.
"But it's still a classic." Oz cut him off.
"Is the killing over?" Cordelia asked, her voice muffled.
Xander grinned at Oz. "Yeah, it's over."
She looked up just as four, long razor-like cuts sliced the actress' stomach, and blood began pouring out. Cordelia promptly hit Xander. "Jerk."
Buffy kept replaying that in her mind. Razors, slicing, blood, body�
"What is it?" Giles asked.
"I know this is going to sound crazy, bordering on insane even, but I think I know where I've seen the cuts before."
"No way." Willow echoed.
"Will one of you explain?"
"The villain from those horrid eighties films?"
"The very same. The cuts look like it was made by his glove-knife thingy." Buffy said.
"Whoa. Are you saying Freddy's real and killing? You know, the scary thing is, that doesn't sound as crazy as it should. Damn Hellmouth." Xander said.
"Let's not jump to hasty conclusions." Giles said.
"Right. It could be a copycat, some horror film buff." Willow said.
"That would be Scream." Oz added.
Giles had picked up the newspaper off of his coffee table. " 'Jake Wilson was found on his bed, apparently murdered, in the early morning hours by his parents. Police searched his room thoroughly, and found little that would explain the reason for the teenager's death.
" 'However they did find an extensive collection of Nightmare on Elm Street merchandise, paying homage to the eighties slasher villain, Freddy Kruger. There has been no evidence to support any connection between his love of the films and his death�'"
"There's your answer." Xander said.
"What?" Willow asked.
"Just some crazed kid who -"
"There's one problem, Xand. He's dead, and there's been another murder. Unless he staged his death, and let's not forget remove his eyes -" Buffy began.
"I get the point. But it's just not possible."
"I didn't think vampires were possible, not to mention werewolves, but hey." Oz said.
There was dead silence, which was eventually broken by Cordelia.
"Anyone want coffee?"
Rob Nachan sat in his bed that night. Jake was dead. After they had done that spell, or whatever it was. Sipping his eighth can of coke, he forced his eyes open. He hadn't believed it would work, but it had. He knew it. And he wasn't taking any chances.
Freddy had left him alone, but it would be his turn soon. A cat screeched in the alley outside his window, and he almost jumped off the bed.
"Keep it together�keep it together�"
He was on guard constantly. This was Sunnydale. It wasn't a town out of a horror film. This kind of thing wasn't supposed to happen. He felt guilty as hell. He should've stopped Jake. Shouldn't have left him alone. That's how Freddy won. There was strength in numbers.
He wouldn't fall asleep�he wouldn't fall asleep�
"Rob, man, get up."
His eyes were playing tricks on him. It couldn't be. Jake was standing at the foot of his bed.
"Everyone thinks you're dead."
"That's their problem. Come on, I wanna show you something. It's awesome."
Rob got out of his bed, and followed Jake. His friend opened the bedroom door, and they went out into the hallway.
Except it wasn't the hallway. It was outside. They stood in front of a chipped, white picket fence. Rob's vision went from the overgrown front yard, to the dilapidated house.
"Nancy's house." He whispered.
"I know. Isn't it great? Come on."
Rob heard laughter in the wind. Little girls' laughter. He shook his head.
"Wuss." A flash of lightning suddenly interrupted the darkness of the sky. "You wanna get caught?"
Jake started to run for the front door, and Rob followed. They ran inside, and the door shut behind them. They stood in the foyer, and Rob looked at around the dark house. The windows were boarded up; the stairs were there, that led to Nancy's bedroom, it was all like the movie.
"Now what?" He asked.
"How long can you survive?"
Jake turned around. His eyes were missing, and blood dripped from his empty sockets. His stomach showed where Freddy made his cuts, and they started to bleed.
"You left me to die."
"I didn't�I didn't know�"
"You were my friend."
"Jake could use some company." That was Freddy's voice. Rob looked around frantically. When he looked back at Jake, Freddy was standing in his place. "True friends stick together, Rob."
He pushed Freddy as hard as he could, and ran up the stairs. Their consistency changed, and his feet got locked in place. His balance was off, and he struggled to stay still.
'Think, damn it! Gotta get free.'
He pictured himself strong. His legs powerful. Concentrating, he pulled his feet free, and the step broke. He was about to fall so he grabbed the railing. He finished getting up the stairs.
"Where are you?"
"One, two Freddy's coming for you�" A girl's voice said.
He turned into Nancy's room, and looked around for any way to escape. The window. He dove out. And fell, and fell, and fell�
"Wake up! Wake up!"
Rob shot up in bed, sweating. He went to pull off his sheets. They were�red and green.
"You can't escape me."
The sheets wrapped in a circular motion around his body, slowly, moving from his legs and going up, suffocating him. Crushing his lungs. He felt his bones break.
"Please let me go! Please!"
Those were his last words.
It was late at night when they all were researching to try and figure out just how Freddy became real. There were different variations on 'making fantasy into reality' incantations, but something was missing. They required a lot of energy and preparation to pull off.
"We're all agreed that it was probably Jake who caused this to happen, correct?"
"Yeah." They all said.
"And he was probably messing with one of these spells." Willow said.
"I get that much. But how can one kid, who was probably just screwing around, do something like that without help? It just seems�too easy." Buffy said.
"I really could care less about how he did it. Let's just kill him." Cordelia said.
"You can't kill Freddy." Xander said.
"They did it in the films."
"And then what happened?"
"He came back in the next one."
"Well, that's not exactly true." Oz said. Everyone looked at him. "In the sixth one, they brought him out of the dream plane and finished him off."
"What about -" Xander started.
"The seventh one doesn't count. Different storyline."
"How did they bring him out?" Giles asked.
"They held onto him as they woke up. It's a long shot." Oz said.
"It's one more shot then we had before." Buffy said. She turned to Giles. "Break out the sleeping bags."
"Okay here's what we're gonna do." Buffy said when they got everything ready. They moved Giles furniture to the side, and laid blankets and pillows out on the floor.
"Me, Willow, and Oz will go to sleep. The three of you have to stay awake in case it looks like we're in trouble. And if it looks one of us has him, wake us up. Man, I can't believe we're doing this."
"Why can't I go in?" Xander asked.
"Do you really want to?" Willow asked.
"I wouldn't let you anyway." Cordelia told him seriously.
"We'll be counting on you to get us out. Besides Oz's surprisingly extensive knowledge of this stuff might come in handy." Buffy said.
"Oh." Xander said masking his disappointment.
"Sleeping pills." Oz said handing Buffy and Willow each one.
"You're sure you want to do this?" Giles asked.
"We don't have a choice." Willow said.
The three of them laid down, and within fifteen minutes, were fast asleep.
"I can't believe they have to risk themselves like this again." Xander said.
"What are you talking about?" Cordelia asked.
"Don't you remember? Freddy goes after your soul."
"Where are we?" Willow asked as she looked around the boiler room.
"More importantly, where's Oz?" They started to walk forward looking at the steaming boilers and the chains that dangled from the ceiling. "Wait. If he separated Oz from us -"
"Why didn't he split us up?"
"Welcome to my playground." Freddy's voice told them.
They both held onto each other a little tighter.
"Damn." Oz said quietly.
He should have expected this. This was Freddy's turf, and he made sure Oz was isolated. He was in the middle of nowhere, in a field, where strangely enough; there was a bright sun out.
Oz's only hope was to envision himself with Buffy and Willow. Slip past Freddy temporarily. He'd be a goner by himself.
Then, within a blink of an eye, the sunlight was gone, and the night came. And so did the full moon. He dropped to his knees.
"Bring the doggie out to play." Freddy said.
Xander felt helpless. Ever since he graduated, he had gone from one problem to the next. Job after job, lost to Angelus, ended up in a cast, and now three of his friends were on their own against a dream-hunting, child murderer. And he wasn't allowed to do anything about it.
What good was he? He even felt responsible for Cordelia's situation. It seemed that ever since she had become his girlfriend, she had developed his lifestyle. Her family riches disappeared, and the life she was used to was taken away. So, she tried to make it own her own, barely managed, and now she was stuck back here. She had come back to him. Why?
Everyone had a purpose except for him. An ability. A strength. Something that made them part of the group. Even Cordelia. She had an inner strength, an ability to rationalize something down to its simplest form when everyone was about to lose it. What was he? A distraction. A demon punching bag.
Cordelia walked over to him. And slapped him.
"What was that for?"
"I know self-pitying when I see it. Knock it off. And pay attention." Her gaze went down to Oz, who was shaking a little. "Should we wake him up?"
"Not yet. If he really starts moving then -" Giles was rubbing his eyes. Xander saw the struggle he was having. "Giles, you need sleep."
"As much as I want to, I can't."
"We'll watch them. We're the younger generation here. Got more energy."
"He's talking about Kruger, Xander."
"Oh. He never goes after adults. He has his boundaries you know. You'll be safe. Besides, I'm sure he's got his hands full."
"I really should�" Giles yawned.
Cordelia started pushing him up the stairs. "Go to bed. We'll wake you if there's real trouble."
Buffy and Willow kept walking through the boiler room. They ran across a catwalk, and a long set of metal steps. Wherever Freddy was, he wasn't showing himself. They heard screeching on one of the pipes.
"Show yourself, asshole!" Buffy screamed.
'Where the hell is he?'She asked Willow silently.
'I don't kn -'
'I'M HERE.'Freddy's voice said, penetrating their heads.
They grabbed their heads in pain, and ran to the bottom of the stairs. They ran to the right, and stopped when they saw a large furnace. Willow reached out and touched it. It was cold.
"What happens to witches, Willow?" Freddy's voice taunted.
Willow didn't speak, and Buffy was worried. "Will?"
"They get burned." She answered softly.
The furnace door swung open and a fire started inside. The flames were huge. Before Willow knew what was happening, she was flung inside.
"No!" Buffy screamed, and without thinking, dove in after her.
Freddy now stood in where Buffy and Willow had been. He shut the furnace door.
"I'm just getting warmed up." He laughed, and vanished.
Oz was transforming. His werewolf side was taking over. And there wasn't anything he could do to stop it.
He looked up through half animal, half human eyes, at an approaching Freddy. The man took off his hat, revealing more of his burned face.
"Don't come near me." Oz growled.
"Can't let a wild animal run free."
A spiked collar appeared around Oz's neck, and a long pole came out of the ground, to which he found himself chained. The ground changed, and he was now sitting atop coals, and a fire raged around him.
"Hungry?" Freddy asked. Out of the fire came the forms of Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, and Giles. "Eat up."
"Oz�" The voices of his friends called to him.
"They want you to. They're begging for it."
He transformed completely now, and his feral form snapped the chain, and went right for Freddy�and sunk his teeth into the killer's arm. Freddy screamed, and Oz vanished into nothingness.
Giles laid in his bed, restless. Turning to his side, he came face with Jenny. More specifically, her body. He jumped out of bed, horrified, and saw Angelus standing over her.
"What do you think, Rupert? Should I turn her head to the left or to the right?"
Giles charged him, and began punching him. Hard and furiously. All his pent up hatred was coming out. And all Angelus did was laugh. Somehow Giles found himself holding a stake.
With single-minded determination, he drove it home. Angelus looked down at it and then back up at him. The vampire's form changed, into Freddy Kruger.
"Good aim." He grabbed Giles by his throat. "No one's safe from me."
Giles was tossed onto the bed, and Jenny got on top of him. Her broken neck made her head sit at a strange angle. She pushed her hands onto his throat.
"You never were good enough for me."
"No�this isn't you�it isn't you, Jenny�" Giles gasped.
He used his knees to lift her up, and then threw her backwards off the bed. He felt himself being forced down, and he disappeared into the mattress.
Xander and Cordelia saw their friends' bodies lurching and moving wildly. Cordelia was on the verge of full-blown panic, and Xander wasn't handling it much better. He tried to shake them, but they weren't coming awake.
"Wake up! Snap out of it!" He yelled. Cordelia ran over and tried slapping Buffy in the face, but that didn't work either. "Get Giles!"
She ran upstairs.
'Do you want to be responsible for killing your friends? Come on Xander.'
Cordelia came running back down. "He's doing the same thing."
"I'm going in."
"No you're not."
"I have to."
"There's four of them against one of him, and they're still getting beat. How much better do you think you'll do?"
"I have to do -"
Buffy, Willow, and Oz stopped moving, and they stopped arguing.
"God�are they dead?"
Xander closed his eyes, and bent down to feel Willow's pulse. He smiled in relief. "No."
"Then what the hell is going on in there?"
Buffy and Willow landed in a hallway. Actually, they crashed through a window.
"Are you okay?" They both asked at the same time.
"Your friends thought they could save you. Thought they could wake you. But you belong to me now." Freddy's voice said.
Before either of them could respond, Oz came crashing through another window. Followed by Giles.
They all rushed over to one another. Oz was human again.
"Thank God you're okay." Willow said to Oz.
"What are you doing here, Giles?"
"Xander said�it doesn't matter now. How do we capture him?"
They all looked at Oz. "Each of us has some power, some strength. If we work together, and hit him hard enough, we can grab onto him. Once we do that�"
"You won't get the chance. I'm forever." Freddy said, standing at the end of the hallway.
"If you're so sure of yourself, why don't you come and get us?" Buffy asked.
"As you wish." He said, now behind them. Buffy spun around, and he sliced her arm. Willow's arm was cut too. "Two bodies, one nice, juicy soul. Delicious." He said licking his lips.
"Get him!" Giles yelled.
Oz and Giles went to grab him, but he knocked them back.
"Five, Six grab your crucifix." A little girl's voice said, eerily.
Buffy and Willow both pulled their matching crosses off their necks, and held them up to his face. He recoiled, and covered his face with his hands. Buffy kicked his glove off his hand, and Willow caught it and put it on.
"You're not so tough without this."
She moved in to attack him with it. Her hand turned around involuntarily, and the blades were coming at her eyes. Oz tackled her to the ground, and yanked the glove off her hand. It flew back onto Freddy's.
"Wanna try again?"
"He knows we're powerful together. He tried to get to us separately, but we beat him. We saw past his tricks." Buffy told everyone. "And he knows he can't beat us until he wears us down. Until we feel like giving up. So don't."
Freddy grimaced, opened his mouth, and blew. They all flew down the hallway, and through an open door.
"Come on, guys. You can beat him." Xander said.
He saw cut marks on Buffy and Willow's arms. He was scared. He couldn't wake them up and couldn't help them. How much longer would they have to wait?
Buffy stood�somewhere. She couldn't see a thing. It was misty and there was thick fog. She could barely see in front of her. If what Freddy said was the truth, and it would make sense, she and Willow were sharing a soul, so she couldn't be far away.
That explained a lot, actually. The reason why he couldn't separate them, the reason they had matching cuts, and the reason for their new closeness. Now, they were connected mind, body, and soul.
And Freddy was after them for it.
"Willow! Giles! Oz! Can you hear me?" She yelled into the fog.
She walked forward. Standing in place was not a good idea. She had to find her friends. As she continued, the ground under her started to loosen. And then it completely gave way.
She fell into water. Deep water. Then a hand started pushing her down. As much as she tried, she kept getting pushed farther and started gasping for air.
"What's the matter? Water got you down?" Freddy asked.
Damn him for finding her fear. Flashes of the Master and her death entered her mind. And then his hand jerked away.
"Let her go!" It was Willow. Buffy heard a noise, then Freddy scream, and then Willow called to her. "Buffy, swim up!"
Buffy fought to swim to the water's surface, and she saw Willow reach for her.
"Grab my hand."
She did, and together, they pulled her out of the water. Willow immediately wrapped her arms around her.
"Thanks�how did you�"
"Gotta love it. We're never gonna find Giles and Oz in this."
They stood up, and Willow called out. "He's hiding in here! We gotta get rid of this. On the count of three, think about getting through the fog.
"Three." Freddy said, reaching out and grabbing Willow, and pulling her into the fog.
What they did was enough, though, because an archway formed, and Giles and Oz came running down the clear pathway.
"He has her." Buffy told them.
Then more of the fog cleared, showing more of a path. "Follow the breadcrumbs to the Witch." Except they weren't breadcrumbs, they were drops of blood.
They looked at one another, and ran down the path.
They ended up at a house, and the only thing visible was the door. Buffy opened it, and they were about to go in when something jumped out and tackled Oz. His werewolf form.
"Meet your better half." Freddy told him.
"Go!" Oz yelled to Giles and Buffy, struggling with the wolf.
"No. That's what he wants."
Giles steered Buffy inside, and the door shut behind them. She looked down at her chest, where a golden cord protruded outward. It was her connection to Willow.
"Shame if that broke." Freddy said in front of them, dangling his razors over it. "Then she's mine."
"No way in hell."
She assumed battle stance, as did Freddy. Her eyes told Giles to go find Willow. He reluctantly followed the cord, leaving Buffy alone with Freddy. She sweep kicked him, but he jumped out of the way.
"Is that all you've got, bitch?"
"You kidding? I'm just getting started."
Giles ran into a large room. Willow was in the center, tied to a large, wooden stake that was situated vertically over a boiling pot of water, and a fire. She was gagged.
"Hang on, Willow. I'll cut you down."
She shook her head and mumbled something he couldn't understand. Then, surrounding them were people in conservative, black and white dress. They were Puritans.
"Kill the sinner! Burn the Heretic!" They chanted.
"Religion. The ultimate sin." Freddy's voice echoed through the room.
"Lower her!" The crowd shouted.
Giles tried to reach her, but they forced him back.
"You may be forever now," Buffy said to Kruger, "but you know the difference between movies and reality?"
Freddy took a swing at her, and she dodged to the side and kicked him in the groin.
"Once I kill you, you aren't coming back in a sequel."
"You haven't won yet."
He quickly recovered, and opened his mouth. A tongue flew out, and latched itself around Buffy's throat. She started to choke, and tried to pull it off. Seeing the cord that connected her to Willow, she grabbed it, and wrapped it around Freddy's neck.
The tongue unlatched itself, and Buffy let the cord down. She grabbed his head, twisted, and he dropped to the ground.
She knew he wasn't out, but it gave her time to get to Willow. With that in mind, she ran along the cord's path.
'Relax. You can get out of this. You're in control.'Willow told herself.
She pictured the stake she was tied to being swung past the pot. Slowly snapping the rope used to lower her. She felt it start to move slowly. She had her eyes closed, but she could tell it was working because there were gasps from the crowd.
The rope was tearing; people were starting to panic. Willow felt herself fall, and the stake stuck vertically into the ground. There were screams, and then�nothing. She opened her eyes, and the only other person in the room, was Giles.
"Little help?" She asked.
He rushed over, and began to untie the ropes. Buffy came running in, and the cord vanished.
"You're okay." Buffy said, and began to help Giles untie.
"I distracted him for a minute but -"
"You're finished." His voice called to them.
Just as the ropes fell away, and Willow walked free once more, Freddy dropped from the ceiling, his arms elongated, and landed on top of them. His arms wrapped around the three of them, and they were smothered in red-green fabric.
Freddy was looking directly at Buffy and Willow as he was crushing their bodies.
"Give us a kiss." He flicked his tongued in an up and down motion. "Your soul is mine, Piglets."
Just then, Oz and his werewolf half, came crashing through the wall, struggling. Freddy got distracted, and loosened his grip. The three of them worked together, and pushed him off.
Oz rolled into the pot of boiling water, knocking it over, and pushing his werewolf into the fire underneath. It burned, howling. The pot spilled its water all over Freddy, who cried out in pain, holding his face.
"Grab him!" Buffy yelled. The four of them rushed and tackled him to the ground, holding on as tight as they possibly could. "Get us outta here, Will."
Willow closed her eyes, and�
Xander and Cordelia both nearly jumped through the ceiling when their three friends shot awake. They all got up immediately, and started looking around.
"Did you get him?" Xander asked, grabbing a knife he got from the kitchen, off of the table.
"We had him." Oz said.
"Then where is he?" Cordelia asked.
As she asked that, dropping out of thin air and landing at their feet, came Freddy's form. But he wasn't doing anything. He was curled up, and his skin started to melt away, his form disintegrating. Into an angry, slimy, green, clawed demon.
It sprung up, snarling. And it tackled Buffy to the ground. Without thinking, Xander jammed the sharp knife, into the demon's back, piercing its heart. It shrieked, and burst into flames, vanishing.
For a few minutes, no one spoke. Buffy and Willow embraced, finally realizing how close they came to losing each other again. They broke apart, and went up to Xander.
"You saved our lives." Willow told him seriously, and then hugged him.
"Well done." Giles said warmly.
Oz simply patted him on the back.
"That's two I owe you, Xand." Buffy said. She hugged him tightly.
He smiled, but didn't know what to say. He didn't have to. Maybe he wasn't so useless after all.
"We're all alive, great, but one question." Cordelia said, breaking the moment, as she was known to do. They looked at her. "What the hell�was that?"
Underground, in the Master's old lair, Angelus sat on the ground, speaking with a cloaked figure.
"We have provided all the help we're willing to give. A minion is dead. I hope the distraction and loss was worth it."
"All the preparations are almost finished. After I collect the last items, all that's left is waiting for the proper time to come. Then you and your minions can come through."
"Our arrival must occur or we will have to wait another thousand years. See that it is not interrupted."
"It won't be."
The figure vanished, and for the first time in his incredibly long existence, Angelus was frightened.