[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Ongoing...
 

This story takes place in an alternate universe setting spun off from events at the close of season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow and Buffy are dead, Giles and Xander have left town and Dawn is trying to figure out her 'destiny' with a little help from the ghost of Tara Maclay and an angel called Zauriel, not to mention her friends Janice, Drew, Chrissie and Helena. For more information, go and read the stories preceeding this one. Fallen Angel, As I Am Now and Trick or Treat mark the first appearances of characters that play important roles in this series, but the stories are hardly essential reading to understand this tale. The epic really begins in Finale and continues through Prelude, with Summoned by Shadows forming a bridge between what has gone before and what is yet to come. Speaking of which, now that we've all caught up, let's begin...

 

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

War in Heaven

by Duncan Johnson

Episode One - The Crew

King Mortimer looked down from his throne and smiled.

Well, it wasn't a throne as such, just a normal-sized wooden chair. That said, given that everyone else in the school hall had to sit on those itty-bitty chairs designed for five year-olds, he reckoned he could count his chair as a throne. Truth be told, Mort was not really a king, but the local vampires looked up to him because, unlike them, he had been sired in Sunnydale, home of the Slayer, and lived to tell the tale. Okay, so Mort had high-tailed it out of town that same night, but his adoring supporters didn't need to know that, did they?

And, when all was said and done, Mort's smile would be more accurately called a grimace.

Kneeling in front of him - Mort liked it when his minions were on their knees - was Geoff. Geoff the vampire. Hardly a name to conjure with, Mort felt, but you had to make do with what you could get. And why was it Geoff always had to be the bearer of bad news?

'My apologies, oh glorious, brave and wise majesty,' Geoff grovelled, 'but I bring bad news.' (You don't say, Mort thought to himself.) 'Becca, Cornelius and me, we were, um, attacked on the edge of town. Our assailant was big and powerful and, um, probably had magic too - yeah, definitely magic - and killed Becca and Cornelius. I fought as hard as I could for as long as I could, but he was too powerful for me, sire.'

Most likely, you ran with your tail between your legs at the first sign of trouble, Mort mused.

'You said 'he',' Mort said slowly. 'Are you sure. It couldn't, possibly, be that your assailant was a woman.'

Reston was a long way from Sunnydale, but Mort still lived in fear that the Slayer, perhaps having heard of his exploits, would one day travel north to find him. Actually, the finding part wasn't really the problem. It was what came after that bothered Mort.

'No, sire,' Geoff insisted, 'I think I would have noticed.'

Mort was not convinced.

'You, you and you,' he said, picking out the three largest of his minions, 'go and…investigate. With extreme prejudice. I want this person found. Better yet, killed!'

Then the doors to the school hall were flung open and three men strode in.

'Why don't we just save you the trouble,' the man in front drawled.

Mort stared at them, open-mouthed. 'But…but…'

'What?' the intruder demanded. 'You were expecting someone else?'

* * *

Pike didn't have to tell his people what to do. They had been through enough scrapes by now to know how to function as a unit without him constantly shouting advice in their ears. That suited him just fine because he didn't rate his abilities as a leader anyway. Funny how things turned out.

They had the element of surprise and, since that was probably the only advantage they had, Pike was going to make it count. Stake in each hand, he flowed through the throng of vampires, tatty grey overcoat billowing behind him. The vampires tried to rise up to meet him, but got caught up in the tiny chairs, unable to provide any kind of counter to Pike's well-aimed stake thrusts. For now.

Pike could hear Owen bellowing nearby, taunting the vampires while swinging his sword with abandon. He was going to get himself killed and sooner rather than later. Pike had tried speaking to him about it, but his advice never seemed to get through. Owen treated it all like a game, like Dungeons and Dragons without the dice, and nothing Pike said was going to change that. More than once, Pike had considered abandoning him by the side of the road somewhere, but he had to admit that Owen knew how to handle a sword. Besides which, Pike felt responsible for him. On his own, Owen wouldn't last five minutes. At least this way, he has Pike and the others to watch his back.

A vampire in a cowboy hat loomed behind Pike and snarled.

'Do that again and I will stake you,' Pike said, but it was an empty threat and they both knew it. Lyle Gorch was far and away the strongest member of the group and Pike needed him. Fortunately, Gorch needed Pike as well. Something was after him, something pretty big and powerful if the fear in Gorch's eyes was any indication. Pike had offered Gorch his protection in return for the vampire's help…and his promise to abstain from feeding on humans for the duration. Gorch had agreed without reservation, which told Pike all he needed to know about whatever it was he was running from. One of these days, their deal was going to come back to haunt Pike, but there was always the possibility that they would all get themselves killed long before then so he tried not to worry about it.

He just took things one day - and one vampire - at a time.

* * *

Mort knew a lost cause when he saw one and it took him all of three seconds to make up his mind to start up a new kingdom in some other town. Using his 'throne' as a step, Mort clambered up the wall to the narrow window. Kingship had been good for Mort and he had grown fat. For one horrid moment, he feared that he was too fat to get through the opening, that he would be stuck up there until someone took pity on him and staked him. However, terror must be slimming because all of a sudden he popped through the window like a greased pig and landed on the damp grass outside.

He struggled to get up.

'I wouldn't bother if I were you,' a female voice advised him.

'Who said that?' Mort asked. It was supposed to be a demand, but it came out as more of a whimper.

He glanced around. It was dark, but as with cats, vampire's eyes were adapted to make best use of any available light. That said, he still could not see the person talking to him.

'You know,' she said, 'you look so pitiful down there.' Mort could feel her breath on his ear as she whispered to him, but he still could not see her. 'I've half a mind to let you go.'

'Please,' Mort begged.

She was a ghost, she must be. The ghost of one of his victims come back to haunt him.

'Pathetic,' the woman spat. 'Of course, if I did let you go then I'd just have to hunt you down all over again. Wherever you went, there I'd be. And you'd never know because - and I don't know if you've noticed this yet - I'm invisible.'

If she was a ghost, Mort mused, then she probably was not solid. And that meant she could not really hurt him. Deciding he had nothing left to lose, he tried to get to his feet.

Someone shoved him back down to the ground.

'Naughty, naughty,' the woman sang. 'You know, tempting as the chase sounds, I've not got a very long attention span, or so I'm told. I reckon I'd get bored pretty quick. Best to just put an end to it now before we both end up disappointed.'

'But…' Mort begged.

His eyes widened as they focussed on the stake hovering apparently unsupported in the air in front of him. It was the last thing Mort ever saw.

* * *

Pike hefted the crate of supplies up and into the back of the van. Gorch, already inside the van and hiding from the sun, took the crate from him and found somewhere to stow it securely. Reston's inhabitants had been more than generous in rewarding the people who had rid their town of their vampire problem, at least in Pike's opinion. He would have settled for just a full tank of gas for the van. Owen would have settled for even less - he was just in this for the glory, which suited Pike just fine because he hated being the centre of attention. It was Gorch and Marcie who were the mercenary ones within their little band.

Gorch lay down on one of the two wooden benches they had set up in the back of the van, draped a blanket over himself and tipped his Stetson down over his eyes.

'Comfy?' Pike asked.

'Well, it ain't exactly a feather pillow,' Gorch drawled in his thick Texas accent.

'I'll see what I can pick up at our next stop,' Pike shot back. Then he turned to get the others.

'Don't,' Gorch said.

Pike looked back over his shoulder. 'Don't what?'

'Don't ever turn your back on a vampire, ya hear,' Gorch told him. 'You're smarter'n that.'

'If you kill me,' Pike said, 'where you going to find anyone else stupid enough to protect you.'

'Can't say as I rightly know,' Gorch replied, 'but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought 'bout drinking you up. That's my nature, after all, and don't you be forgetting it.'

'I won't,' Pike promised, mentally chiding himself. He had forgotten it. Gorch had been hanging around so long know that Pike had a hard time imagining the group without him. He had to keep reminding himself that Gorch was a wild animal, caged, but by no means tamed.

'Come on, Owen, time to go,' Pike said, literally having to drag Owen away from the kids who had gathered around him to hear how he had vanquished the evil vampires. Single-handedly, of course.

'Can't we stay just a bit longer,' Owen protested. 'These people love us.'

'Yes, I'm sure they do,' Pike replied, 'but it's not about the accolades. It's about helping people. We've done our bit here. Time to move on.'

Pike clambered up into the driver's seat of their nondescript white van.

'Everybody in?' he asked. 'Marcie? Marcie?'

'Don't suppose we got lucky, do you, and the chicklet split?' Gorch suggested hopefully.

'You wish,' Marcie replied.

'One of these days I'm going to leave you behind,' Pike told her.

'No,' Marcie corrected. 'One of these days you're going to think you've left me behind.'

* * *

They drove in relative silence. Owen was lost in a book of poetry he had picked up in Reston and Gorch was trying to get some sleep. Marcie was humming to herself. Pike could not decide whether it was because she liked the tune or because it annoyed Gorch. Probably both.

That left Pike with his thoughts.

Not for the first time, he found himself wondering why he still did this. Not the travelling from pace to place. He had never been one for putting down roots. He had thought about it once, maybe, but that had been a long time ago, back at the beginning. It wasn't worth wasting time on now. But who in their right mind would deliberately go looking for demons? Well, Pike would, but he never claimed to be in his right mind.

The problem was that, once you let Jack out of the box, it was very, very difficult to force him back in. He had, however much he wished he hadn't, been exposed to the fact that vampires were undeniably real. He had been forced to accept that there was more to the world than most people believed. And, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't go back to living his life in ignorance.

But that didn't mean he had to do anything about it, right? He wished. It wasn't his problem, none of it was, but every night he spent in a comfy bed, away from the night terrors, was a night when someone died. Someone he might have been able to save. And so every night he spent away from the terrors was a night alternating between sleeplessness and nightmares.

So, reluctantly, he went back out and he did his best - which back then wasn't terribly impressive - to fight back the dark. She had been fifteen if she had been a day, dressed, if that was the right word, as if she was looking for a good time. And he, in his leather jacket and luminous green shirt, was more than happy to give it to her, right there in the alley behind the room Pike rented on behalf of the cockroaches. Well, the girl was kind of cute and Pike hated the thought that a promising life might be snuffed out all because she wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, so he had gone out there to give the guy what for.

It never occurred to him that she might be the vampire.

All told, as rescues go it was pretty shambolic, but it marked Pike's return to active duty against the undead. And he found he slept much better as a result.

* * *

'Are you sure she's going to be here?' Owen asked, draining his glass.

The club was in a converted warehouse. From the outside, it looked like all the other abandoned buildings in this district, so you really had to know it was here to be able to find it, though judging by the mass of writhing young bodies on the dance-floor, word must get around.

'You saw the poster, didn't you?' Pike replied. His glass sat on the table in front of him, but remained untouched. He wanted to keep a clear head tonight.

'I saw an ad for some band called Xtreme, fronted by a gal called Crystal,' Gorch drawled. 'Hardly conclusive evidence.' He belched and handed his empty glass to Owen. 'Your round, boy.'

'And don't forget me this time,' Marcie said. She was drinking hers through a straw. It was slightly more discreet than the floating effect whenever she lifted a glass to her lips.

'I still don't see why we need her,' Marcie remarked.

'Because, since Graham's accident,' Pike said, 'we're a body short.'

'Accident?' Gorch guffawed. 'That crawler-thing took his damn leg clean off.'

'Less of the clean, thank you very much,' Marcie retorted. 'I don't think I'm ever going to get the blood out of that outfit.'

'Shoot, it's not like a body's going to notice,' Gorch pointed out.

'I'd notice,' Marcie told him.

'Whatever,' Pike cut them off. 'We're a man down and I'd feel better of we had more muscle.'

'We're doing all right so far,' Gorch said.

'Against the all-powerful King Mort and a dozen or so vampires even more pathetic than he was,' Pike replied. 'Let's face it, it was hardly our most challenging encounter.'

Marcie laughed. 'Yeah, you guys should have seen him, curled up in the dirt, mewling like a baby for me to spare his life. Shame I didn't have more time to enjoy myself.'

Pike and Gorch stared at the seemingly empty chair Marcie was sitting on.

'What?' she asked.

'Hey guys,' Owen said, returning with drinks. 'Did I miss anything.'

'Actually,' Pike replied, turning towards the activity on stage, 'looks like you're just in time.'

The singer who called herself Crystal strode out in front of her band and coiled her arms around the microphone. When she opened her mouth to sing, it was with a voice that was deep, raw and sexual in a primitive, animal lust way.

'I'm suddenly liking this whole recruitment drive idea,' Gorch commented.

'She's got nothing I haven't got,' Marcie sniped.

'Maybe so,' Gorch conceded, 'but on her I can appreciate it.'

* * *

The band took a break between sets and Pike took the opportunity to slip backstage.

'Gary can we do this another time,' 'Crystal' said when she heard the door to her dressing-room open. 'An argument will only stretch my vocal cords and we wouldn't want to disappoint the fans now, would we?'

'I'm not Gary,' Pike told her, closing the door behind him, 'but then you're not Crystal so I guess we're even, isn't that right, Veruca?'

'One scream and there'll be another four guys in here, bigger and badder than you are,' 'Crystal' warned him.

'From what I've heard about you,' Pike riposted, 'I'd say they'd be the least of my worries. So what do you say we drop the act.'

'Who the hell are you?' Veruca demanded.

'Name's Pike.'

'Never heard of you,' Veruca told him.

'No reason why you should,' Pike conceded. 'I've heard of you, though. Heard you were dead.'

Veruca shrugged. 'I got better.'

'So I see,' Pike said.

Veruca stood up and crossed the room so that she was very definitely inside, Pike's personal space.

'So, are we just going to dance around one another all night,' she asked, 'which I can't say I'd mind, or are you going to tell me why you're here?'

'I need your help,' Pike said simply.

'Really,' Veruca purred, running a hand over, Pike's shirt. 'And how can I help you, Pike?'

'I want you to help me hunt demons,' Pike replied.

'What?' Veruca shouted, shoving him away. 'Are you completely out of your mind.'

'Probably,' Pike shot back. 'But someone's got to do it.'

'Isn't that what the Slayer's for?' Veruca asked.

'Bu…the Slayer can't be everywhere,' Pike explained. 'You and I aren't like normal people.'

'Got that right,' Veruca remarked.

'We know what's out there,' Pike continued. 'Most people haven't got a clue and so they serve themselves up as welcoming platters to the first demon they unwittingly come across.'

'And I should care because?'

'Because you have the power to do something about it,' Pike persisted. 'I've put a group of people together. We help people.'

'What, like the A-Team?' Veruca retorted. 'Count me out. There's only one person I'm interested in helping and she's right here.'

Pike released the breath he had been holding and it whistled between his teeth.

'And what happens when I tell your band who you really are,' he said, 'and what you really are?'

'You wouldn't.'

'Try me.'

'That's blackmail,' Veruca pointed out.

'It's worked before,' Pike replied.

Veruca shook her head. 'No, you wouldn't do that to me. You've got too much of the all-American hero about you.'

Pike shrugged. 'It's your life you're gambling with. I'll be around if you want to talk.'

Then he turned and left Veruca to stew.

* * *

'So how did it go, boss-man?' Owen asked when Pike returned to the table.

'About as well as I expected,' Pike admitted.

'By which you mean she told you where you could stick your grand plan,' Marcie deduced.

'So did you first time, as I recall,' Pike told her.

'I'm only saying,' Marcie said.

'Well don't,' Pike said. 'They're starting again.'

'Something's staring,' Owen announced. 'Look!'

Cracks were appearing in the club's ceiling, letting in the moonlight. Metal creaked and one set of spotlights fell to the ground in a shower of sparks, narrowly missing a cluster of clubbers. Then a fireball smashed a hole straight through the roof and, writhing in the heart of that fireball, were two battling figures. Screams droned out the music as young people ran in any direction so longs as it was away from the blazing conflagration in the heart of the club.

'Owen, help get people out of here!' Pike ordered. 'Gorch, Marcie, follow me.'

'Why can't I come with you?' Owen asked.

'Because no one can see Marcie,' Pike pointed out, 'and Gorch is, in case you've forgotten, a vampire and he just might decide that the best way to solve the problem is to reduce the number of people needing to find the exit.'

Owen didn't argue any further.

'Can you see what they are?' Pike asked as he and the others approached the two figures, still shrouded in flames.

'I can't see much of anything,' Gorch admitted, shielding his eyes from the light.

At that point, the club's sprinkler system kicked in.

'Oh, this is just typical,' Marcie complained. 'Another outfit ruined.'

'I don't suppose anyone thought to bring a sword?' Pike remarked as the flames were quenched, only to be replaced by smoke and steam. 'Thought not.'

'Who needs a sword,' Gorch said, his face morphing as he unleashed the demon within.

'Hold back a sec,' Pike cautioned. 'We don't know anything about these guys yet.'

'Except they cause major property damage,' Gorch pointed out.

'Not to mention ruining a great pair of Prada shoes.'

'You can afford to buy Prada?' Pike asked.

'I can afford to steal Prada,' Marcie corrected.

The smoke was clearing and Pike could now clearly see two humanoid figures - humanoid figures with wings - going at one another with swords.

'We could just leave 'em to it,' Gorch suggested.

'Tempting,' Pike conceded, 'but they've already caused enough damage. Let's break this up and then they can settle whatever grievance they have using paper, rock, scissors.'

'Then let's not keep them waiting,' Gorch declared, charging forward.

He fell to his knees clutching his chest. Pike raced to his side.

'Gorch, what is it?' he asked. 'What did they do?'

'Burns…' was all the vampire could manage.

'Damn,' Pike muttered.

He looked desperately for some kind of weapon. He picked up a chair. It was awkward to swing, but it was better than nothing. Of course, if these two could take out their heavy hitter without even looking up, maybe now would be a good time to start looking for the nearest exit.

One of the winged people stuck his sword right through his opponent and the impaled creature fell to the ground. The one still standing turned to face Pike. The glare of those burning red eyes made Pike feel very small indeed.

'Marcie, drop him!' he ordered.

Marcie grabbed the microphone and swung it at the creature's back. Without turning, the creature swatted her away backhanded. The microphone landed on the stage. Pike had no idea where Marcie had ended up.

'Human,' the creature sneered. 'We gave everything for you. We dedicated our lives to you, but still you prove the ultimate disappointment. It will be a relief to cleanse this place.'

'Hey, we didn't ask you here,' Pike retorted. 'I don't know what your quarrel is with kebab-boy down there, but you had no right to bring it in here.'

'No right,' the creature boomed. 'Look upon me in my majesty, human, and tell me that I have no right!'

The creature spread its wings, feathered like a swan's, and began to glow with a white light that burned the soot and darkness from its clothing.

'Do you recognise me now, human?' the creature asked.

'No way,' Pike breathed. He refused to believe it, refused to process the fact that the creature standing in front of him looked exactly like an angel.

'My right, human, is the divine will itself,' the angel declared, 'and it is the divine will that this world be unmade. The grand design has failed and it is time to start anew.'

'Divine will or not,' Pike said, 'that's my planet you're talking about and I'll be damned if I let it go without a fight.'

'Than damned thou shalt be,' the angel mocked.

With inhuman speed, the angel grabbed hold of one of the legs of the chair Pike was holding. Pike released the chair in shock as it crumbled to dust at the angel's touch.

'You're next, human,' the angel promised.

Motes of light floated before the angel's outstretched wings, dancing candle-flames of

Bright primary colours. Their movement was hypnotic and Pike found himself unable to run as the angel advanced upon him.

'Be not afraid, mortal man,' the angel told him. 'I still know what it is to be merciful. You shall feel no pain.'

'Damn right he won't!' Veruca said as she barrelled into the angel, fur and feathers rolling across the dance-floor.

'I knew humans were little more than beasts, but this was unexpected,' the angel announced, forcing the werewolf away from him.

Veruca growled at him, ready to spring.

'Perhaps another time,' the angel said. Then, with a single beat of his massive wings, he propelled himself up and out of the hole in the roof.

Pike stumbled forward, no longer held in place by the angel's magic.

'Veruca, he said softly, approaching the wolf cautiously, 'is that you?'

The werewolf shivered and the fur was drawn back into her body as Pike watched until where there had been a wolf there was now a naked woman huddled on the cold floor.

'I thought you didn't want to help,' Pike said, shucking off his jacket and draping it over Veruca's shoulders.

Veruca rolled her head to get the kinks out of her neck.

'Like I'm going to let a good-looking guy like you get mauled by an overgrown Christmas Tree decoration,' she remarked.

'I appreciate the save,' Pike told her.

'Shall we go somewhere more private so you can show me just how grateful you are?' Veruca teased.

'Another time,' Pike replied. 'First we have to find that…thing.'

'What?' Veruca protested.

'You've got his scent now, Veruca,' Pike explained. 'You can track him.'

'And what are we supposed to do when we find him?' Veruca demanded.

Pike planted his foot on the fallen creature's chest and pulled out the sword that had been stuck through it. Blood bubbled up and out of the now open wound.

'This killed one of them,' he said. 'I'm betting it can do the same to the other. So, are you coming or not?'

'Can I at least get dressed first?' Veruca asked petulantly. 'This look may be doing wonders for you, but it leaves me cold.'

* * *

'You sure he went this way?' Pike asked.

'This isn't an exact science,' Veruca snapped back. 'I'm as sure as I can be, okay?'

'Okay. Sorry,' Pike apologised.

'What's to stop this guy just flying back up to Heaven anyway?' Veruca asked.

'He's not an angel,' Pike insisted.

'Hey, I saw what I saw,' Veruca replied.

'I don't care,' Pike said. 'He may look like an angel, but he's not. He can't be.'

'Fine. Whatever,' Veruca conceded. 'But what's to stop him flying back up to wherever it is he came from?'

'I think he's injured,' Pike explained. 'It's hard to tell, but I reckon the fight that brought him here took a lot out of him.'

'Would explain why he didn't kill us when he had the chance,' Veruca agreed.

'It also means we have a fighting chance,' Pike added, hefting the sword.

'You really are insane, you know that,' Veruca said.

'Is that a problem?' Pike asked.

Veruca looked him up and down, appraising him.

'Not necessarily.'

She sniffed the air.

'He's in here,' she said.

'What was your first clue?' Pike commented, examining the door that had been torn off of its hinges.

He started to enter, but Veruca put a hand on his shoulder, causing him to pause.

'I can smell blood,' she told him. 'Lots of blood.'

The mother was on the stairs, her back broken over the banister. The father, what was left of him, decorated the living-room.

Veruca growled, her beast rising close to the surface.

'We'll get this guy,' Pike promised her as they began to slowly climb the stairs.

The carpet was matted with blood and there was a squelching, sucking noise with each step they took. Veruca took off Pike's jacket.

'Hate to ruin this when I change,' she explained.

Then she shook herself and fur sprouted all over her body. Her face elongated into a wolf-like snout and she dropped to all fours. The wolf nodded towards a door at the end of the landing. Pike kicked it open.

'Ah, the human and his pet,' the angel said. 'I thought that you were following me.'

He stood in front of the window, silhouetted in the moonlight. In his arms he held a little girl, who quietly sucked her thumb.

'I wouldn't come any closer, if I were you,' the angel warned, 'or I might be forced to harm this child.'

Veruca roared and sprang. With a sudden burst of speed, the angel side-stepped and the force of Veruca's leap carried her through the window. Glass shattered as the werewolf fell into the street below.

The angel turned towards Pike.

'Now, you strike me as someone more sensible than your colleague,' he said, playing absently with the girl's blonde hair, 'so I'll give you a simple choice. Drop the sword or I snap the child's neck.'

'Help me.'

Owen looked up. At first he had thought that he had imagined the voice, but then he heard it again, weak and reed-thin, but definitely there.

'Help me.'

It was coming from the corpse, the winged creature that had been run through by that sword.

'I'm here,' Owen told the creature. 'How can I help?'

The creature's eyelids fluttered open, revealing golden orbs beneath. Not a corpse then, Owen deduced, but not by much.

The creature coughed up blood.

'I am Variel,' he explained. 'I am…was one of the chosen selected to preserve the Grand Design.'

'What are you talking about?' Owen asked.

'They think that the Design is lost,' Variel continued, 'but they are wrong. There is still a chance. They want to start over, but we believe this world can still be saved.'

'So you're one of the good guys?' Owen reasoned.

Variel tried to smile, but the movement caused him pain.

'I remember when one could have considered all of the angels 'good guys',' he said. 'Would that that were the case again. Bruriel, he with whom I fought, he was a spy within our ranks. He learned of our plans so that he might undo them. If he returns to his fellows, he…'

Variel choked and his whole body shook.

'Variel!' Owen shouted, taking hold of the angel. 'Variel, talk to me! What will happen if he gets back? Tell me.'

But Variel was gone.

* * *

Pike dropped the sword and it clattered on the floor.

'There's a good boy,' Bruriel said.

Then he snapped the girl's neck.

'No!' Pike shouted. 'Why? Why did you have to kill her? I did what you wanted. She was an innocent.'

'No one is innocent,' Bruriel insisted, 'or haven't you heard of Original Sin?'

Pike's vision clouded. A red mist rose in front of his eyes.

'What in hell's name are you?' he demanded.

'Hell?' Bruriel laughed. 'I have seen Hell, little man. I have fought in the border wars all my life. There are things in Hell the very sight of which would liquefy your mortal eyes. No, I am not a spawn of Hell. I am a soldier in the glorious legions of Heaven!'

'No!' Pike shouted.

He crouched down and his fingers closed around the hilt of the sword.

'No!'

He swung the blade high over his head.

'No!'

Sparks flew as the heavy blade struck the angel's armour.

'No! No! No!'

Pike swung the sword again and again and again, his rage driving the angel back.

'I don't know what you are,' Pike said, 'but you're no angel. You're not worthy of the name.'

He brought the sword down time and again, ignoring the protests of his aching muscles as his anger and hatred drove him on, drove him to wipe this creature completely out of existence.

Then he felt cool hands upon his arms, gently encouraging him to lower the blade.

'It's over,' Veruca whispered, indicating the broken shape on the bedroom floor. 'It's over.'

* * *

The five of them regrouped at the van.

'So where to now, boss?' Gorch asked.

'What, is no one going to talk about what happened?' Owen demanded. 'Those were angels, for crying out loud.'

'No,' Pike said coldly. 'No, they weren't.'

'Whatever,' Marcie said. 'Owen's got a point. This is well outside our usual league.'

'We need Buffy,' Owen said.

'No,' Pike replied. 'We can deal with this ourselves.'

'Is there something I'm missing here?' Veruca asked. 'I'm not exactly Buffy's biggest fan, but what's the problem with going to her for help.'

'We've had this discussion before,' Marcie explained. 'Our great leader is always going on about how we need to recruit more people, but will he hear of recruiting the biggest gun there is? No way.'

'The Slayer has her own problems,' Pike said.

'Worse than angels threatening to wipe humanity off the face of the planet?' Owen demanded. 'Get real, Pike.'

'Kid's got a point,' Gorch agreed. 'Don't take a genius to figure we need all the help we can get on this one. And if that means that Slayer, well, guess that means we're all taking a ride back to Sunny-D.'

'Fine,' Pike snapped. 'Have it your way.'

He hauled himself up into the driver's seat. Veruca clambered into the passenger seat beside him.

'Room for one more?' she asked.

'Thought you didn't want to come with,' Pike replied.

'Thought you were going to expose me if I didn't,' Veruca said.

'I was bluffing,' Pike confessed.

'I know,' Veruca replied. 'Don't bother trying to lie to a wolf. We can smell it on you.'

'Guess I should have thought of that,' Pike mused.

Veruca stretched he arms high above her head.

'Any case, my cover seems well and truly blown around here so I might as well see where you're heading for a while.'

'Well, it looks like we're going to Sunnydale,' Pike said. 'You sure you want to go back there?'

'What the heck,' Veruca replied. 'Whatever happens, it's bound to be interesting.'

 

 
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