Spike was beginning to regret his new vocation. It had been fun at first, getting free license to beat up on whoever the hell he liked - well, nearly. He couldn't hit humans, which was a bit of a downer, especially given that he hung out with some of the most irritating members of that particular breed - but he could at least punch demons. He could stake them too, and behead them - even garrotte them, or disembowel them slowly if he chose. He didn't bother usually; largely because they were inevitably trying to rip his own head off at the time; and secondly because Buffy Goody Two Shoes, Slayer of Fun and All Things Pleasing, objected. She had a thing about being humane, although why she would want to be humane towards a seven foot slobbering demon with a head like a cabbage with fangs was quite beyond Spike. Quite how she could honestly expect a vampire to act humanely was another problem - but one he hadn't bothered trying to raise yet. She demanded quick, clean Slays - and therefore quick, clean Slays was what her adoring band of Slayer groupies faithfully delivered - most of the time at least.

Spike's problem was that he didn't fit in. On the Slaying side he fitted perfectly. Blood, death and the distribution of fatal blows was, after all, largely what he had been put upon the Earth for. It was on the social side that he had a few problems. Take Buffy's fan club, for instance. That meant Willow, primarily. Willow was a sweet, thoughtful girl, which was going to count against her for starters. She was a redhead, which might have been a turn on, and she was also a witch - definitely a plus - but she was so... so... so bloody good. All the time. Plus she had a thing for a werewolf, about whom she mooned constantly. Oz, the guitar playing hero - one of the few members of the group Spike had any time for, if only because he did actually have a decent taste in music - had vanished quite recently, disappearing into the night after a brief, ill-fated fling with another werewolf. Spike wasn't entirely sure what had happened, but he did know that Willow was even less fun to be around now than she had been before. Before she had simply been good. Now she was good and mournful. The combination was definitely not much fun.

Next there came Xander. Originally Spike had quite liked Xander. He was irreverent and amusing, and he didn't seem to take much seriously. Sadly, however, he was also Buffy's greatest supporter. A short spell living together had done Spike and Xander's working relation no particular harm - but it had done it no particular good either. The kid's girlfriend had possibilities, mind. Spike could relate to the ancient-demon-with-teeth-removed situation; but the Xander-is-the-be-all-and-end-all-of-everything situation was a total no-hoper. Spike could only wish that he had met her before she had become mortal. That had something to do with Rupert Giles, he was sure of it. There was something in the way that she glared at the Watcher whenever they were in the same room together - something about the unbridled malice with which her eyes shone. Spike could relate to that too. It was the same way he liked to look at the other member of the gang - Buffy's latest flame, Riley. Riley was a member of the band of marauding mercenaries who had taken to defending the citizens of Sunnydale during the hours of darkness. They were a dangerous group, who didn't let anybody stand in the way of their defence of the innocent - including the innocent themselves. It seemed to be a case of an 'Either you let us defend you, or we'll kill you', sort of a situation - which was fine, until they had taken to kidnapping vampires, and implanting them with bizarre electronic devices. As a previous victim of theirs, Spike now found that he could no longer attack mortals. His power to bite, and thus to feed on living blood, had been taken away from him. Riley was, at least in part, responsible for that. Therefore Spike was not happy - and was definitely beginning to regret his new vocation.

Especially now.

It was midnight. The wind blew gently through the tree tops lining the graveyard, making eerie, gruesome shapes in the shadows of the towering crypts and leaning headstones. It was just warm enough to be pleasant, but just cool enough to give an edge to the night air. An owl hooted. Somewhere a small creature - most probably the furry rodent kind, screamed in pain. It was the kind of night Spike liked best, when mortals jumped at the slightest sound, and young women walked home from the Bronze dressed in skimpy clothes that left their warm, sweet necks so deliciously exposed...

"Are you alright?" The voice beside him made Spike jump, and he almost fell off the gravestone he had perched himself upon. He frowned.


"You were... well... licking your lips. It's a bit off-putting."

"It's meant to be." Spike dug his hands into the pockets of his much-stressed leather jacket. "It's midnight, and you're sitting in a graveyard with a vampire. Of course it's bloody off-putting."

"Yes. O-of course." Rupert Giles, former librarian of Sunnydale High, and also former Watcher of Buffy the Infuriatingly Gifted Vampire Slayer, smiled a little cautiously. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

"I had." Spike grinned, only too well aware that the 'psychotic fiend' grin he had spent much of the past hundred years perfecting no longer had quite the same effect. He pulled out a cigarette, deciding to go for the 'terminal hardcase' look instead. That one he could still do.

"Do I, um... do I look particularly tasty or something?" Giles might have been joking, or he might have been genuinely concerned. Spike shrugged.

"Actually I prefer young girls. Early twenties, or maybe late teens - although those are harder to come by these days. There was a great time during the sixties when everybody loved each other, and you could walk through a poppy field and get two or three of them one after the other. Blondes, brunettes, redheads - and during the seventies and eighties there were Technicolor ones too." He raised his eyebrows. "Course, I'd take what I could get. The only one I ever really regretted was an old bloke of about eighty. He tasted of meals-on-wheels, and cheap sherry." He sighed mournfully. "I miss those days."

"Oh." Giles rubbed his hands together, although he couldn't have been cold. Maybe he was still suffering from exposure to the elements, after having spent the past three years sealed in layers of tweed. "I see."

"Weetabix have their appeal though." Spike folded his arms, puffing clouds of cigarette smoke skyward. "Bloody hell this is boring. We haven't seen a vampire all night."

"It's been a slow week." Giles stood up and began to pace up and down, hands sunk into the pockets of his leather jacket. He looked oddly like a middle-aged tearaway. "Actually it's er, it's been rather a slow month."

"Yeah. I'd noticed." Giles was feeling left out; surplus to requirements. Maybe a long life had given Spike a better insight into human nature than most mortals ever achieved - or maybe he was just naturally sensitive. No, he definitely preferred the first theory. Either way, he had picked up on Giles' problem from the moment they had first moved in together, which was some time ago now. Spike had been in his own place for a good few weeks, and before that he had bunked with Xander - metaphorically speaking - so presumably Giles had been down in the dumps for some months. And still none of his young friends seemed to have noticed. Spike would have been sympathetic - were he the sympathetic sort. Instead he was just aware of the problem.

"We could summon our own demon to fight." It wasn't a bad idea actually - and from what Spike had heard of Giles' past, it wasn't an entirely unlikely one either.

"Funnily enough Xander suggested the same thing to me, not long ago." Giles smiled briefly, but not in any way that gave Spike reason for hope. "I'm afraid I really can't countenance such a plan. It would be morally indefensible, a-and, and quite impractical."

"It was worth suggesting." Spike sighed and pulled his cigarettes from his pocket, offering them across to his companion. "Want one?"

"No thanks. I gave them up about twenty years ago. I'm not immortal, and I have my lungs to worry about."

"Go on. Be a devil." A smirk found its way onto the vampire's face. "Or a demon. Again."

"Very funny." Giles' recent stint as a Fyarl Demon was still a sore point as far as he was concerned; not least because he had had to rely on Spike's help in order to fix the situation. "Just shut up and patrol."

"Ooh, touchy." Smirking around his cigarette, Spike jumped down from his gravestone resting place. "Tell you what; I'll race you around the graveyard. Last one to Slay a vampire is a sorcerer's toad."

"I think I could win that one easily enough." Giles waggled his stake in a mock-threatening manner. "I'm cold. Aren't you cold?"

"No." The bleached-blond vampire feigning shivering. "Vampires don't feel the cold much. It's an 'of the flesh' sort of weakness. But then we're not exactly sun-worshippers, so it follows that we're not going to let a cool evening chill us out. Why? You wishing you'd put on a warmer coat before you came out to play?"

"No. No I don't mean like that." Giles was frowning, staring towards the large, white marble crypt they had set up base so close to. It was familiar, which probably meant that something horrible had erupted from its depths in the past. "I just felt... odd for a moment. Like somebody had - h-had walked over my grave or something." He managed a weak smile. "Most peculiar."

"Most." Spike nodded in agreement. "Well let's check it out. I don't know if a vampire can get piles, but if I sit around out here much longer I think I'm going to find out." He gestured towards the crypt. "Over there?"

"It certainly seemed as though something over there was... was..." Words failed Giles. "Well - as though something over there was a trifle odd. It was like a - a sort of a premonition."

"Which would usually be cause to run away." Spike shrugged, and spat the last of his cigarette out onto the ground. It fizzled in the grass, as though trying to set fire to the undergrowth. Giles frowned.

"There are bins for that sort of thing you know."

"Hey, what can I say?" Already heading towards the crypt, Spike threw a glance back over his shoulder. "I'm an evil creature of the night; demon born in the pits of hell, all that sort of thing. Littering was never really a crime when I was a kid."

"Very funny." The sarcasm sharp in Giles' voice, the ex-Watcher followed on behind his companion. "You're a joy to be around, you know that?"

"Ssh." Spike held up a hand for silence. "Listen."

"What?" Taking a few steps forward, Giles frowned, head cocked slightly on one side. It seemed to him as though he could hear faint scratching coming through the walls of the crypt. Spike raised his bleached eyebrows.

"What do you think? Vampire hordes awaiting release? Or rats trying to make a nest?"

"Only one way to find out." Shifting his grip slightly on the stake, Giles dug inside his jacket pocket, and pulled out a small wooden crucifix. Spike growled softly.

"Try pointing that thing somewhere else."

"Hmm? Oh, sorry." Turning the cross away, Giles took a few steps towards the crypt. "Are you coming?"

"Sure. I just thought I'd let you do the detective work first. Assess the risks, gather information. It's what you live for. You know you love to play the hero."

"Thanks." Giles mounted the steps of the crypt. "Sure you'll be safe staying out here on your own?"

"Positive." Spike folded his arms. "You can tell me later what you find. If it's rats don't bother. I'm not a big rodent fan at present. Got a bit of an infestation problem back home."

"Oh." Giles nodded. "I'm feeling duly sympathetic."

"You really dig that sarcasm thing, don't you?" Glaring at the former Watcher, Spike tried not to seem too frustrated. "You want to watch out, or somebody's going to pull your sharp little tongue right out of your head."

"Oh yeah?" Giles could not resist a grin. "Well it won't be you, that's for sure."

"Oh yeah?" Spike took a step forward, stake brandished threateningly. "Want to bet? Maybe I'm still allowed to rip the heads off Watchers. I've never tried to find out."

"Be my guest." Giles held up his crucifix, and the infuriated vampire backed away. "That was difficult. You're a fearsome foe, Spike, and no mistake."

"Er... Giles." In the midst of his outraged retreat, Spike had come to a halt. Giles grinned down at him from the top of the steps.

"What? Are you going to terrify me again?" The crucifix still stretched out in amused readiness for another abortive assault, Giles was grinning. Spike didn't seem inclined to take the bait.

"Shut up. Don't move." Instead of making any further attempt to attack his companion, Spike held his hands out in front of him, as though to prove his harmlessness. Giles raised an eyebrow.

"This is a new one. You can't bite me, so you're going to talk me to death?"

"Will you just shut up!" Spike shook his head, his exasperation exploding forth once again. "Much though I'm sure that the rest of the world appreciates this whole new you, could you drop the witty ripostes for just half a second, and listen to me!" He took a deep breath, and succeeded in bringing his voice back down to its usual level. "There is a very large, very hungry looking demon standing about six feet behind you. I'd say you've got about ten seconds before it jumps forward and tries out its interesting new French kissing technique. I'm betting you don't want that. And given that I'm likely to be the second course, I'm not sure that I do either."

"A demon?" Giles had gone very rigid. "That's... that's not very funny, Spike."

"Yes it is. It's bloody hilarious." The vampire was holding his own stake very tightly in his upraised right fist. "Now try taking a few steps forward. Very slowly, one foot at a time. Nice and easy..."

"Nice and easy?" The words came out as a curious squeak. As slowly and as cautiously as he could, Giles raised his right foot. From behind him came a low and throaty growl. The ex-Watcher swallowed hard.

"He's, er... He's not looking as though he's a... a friendship demon or something? Is he?"

"No..." Spike's eyes were fixed on the creature, which as yet was still invisible to Giles himself. "More a sort of a... psychotic-mass-murdering kind of a demon." He shrugged. "Or a middle-aged-Brit-in-a-leather-jacket-eating kind of a demon. Which ordinarily would be a favourite of mine." Another growl rolled across the graveyard, and both vampire and Watcher froze. "Okay. Forget slow and easy."

"You think?" Trying not to let his voice shake too much, Giles stole a look over his shoulder. He could see little in the darkness and shadow, but there was something behind him - something very big, and very powerful. The cold sensation he had felt before now flooded through him again. "Er... how about fast and panicked instead?"

"My favourite option." Spike was already looking on the verge of flight. "How about on the count of three?"

"Three?" Giles shook his head. Behind him the growling was fast becoming a roar. "I was thinking more of something a little quicker." The ground beneath his feet began to tremble.

"Yeah." Taking a step back, Spike nodded slowly. "I'm with you there. One?"

Giles nodded back, although at that precise moment his eyes were tightly closed. His voice sounded cold and determined, if just a little shaky. "One." Neither of them moved. Spike blinked, frowned, looked curiously about.

"What that it?"

"What?" The demon was shuffling closer to Giles, although he did not seem entirely aware of it. Its huge left hand was reaching for his shoulder. The ground shook harder still.

"Was that you counting? Are we supposed to be running now?"

"Was I supposed to be the one doing the counting?" The huge, clawed hand was touching Giles' shoulder now, and he felt the demon's hot breath on his neck. He gulped. "Forget it."

With an involuntary yell, Giles hurled himself down the steps, crashing to the ground on his hands and knees. Spike caught him by the collar of his jacket, hauling him to his feet just as the demon, with a roar of mighty rage, leaped forward. The earth vibrated on its landing, and both Spike and Giles nearly lost their footing.

"Run for it!" Spike tripped on the rough turf around a fresh grave, and would have fallen had not Giles caught his arm and hung on tight. Tangled in each others arms, the pair stumbled forward, racing each other towards the edge of the graveyard. Behind them, bellowing like a mad creature, the demon gave chase. They were almost at the graveyard perimeter when Giles skidded to a halt.

"What are you doing?" Spike tried to pull him onwards again. "I'm not intending to be demon fodder!"

"We can't lead it out into the street. People could get hurt." Giles glanced back to where the huge demon was pounding closer. Its massive feet were leaving deep depressions in the soft ground. Spike rolled his eyes.

"Who cares? Look at me. This is me, not caring. A big 'no' to caring." He took a few steps back. "You want to play tag with the big green scaly thing, it is so very much not my problem." He broke into a run, leaping the graveyard fence. Giles watched him go.

"Coward!" He had intended it as a parting gesture - a last insult to his colleague's fleeing back. Instead, he realised, as the demon cocked its head on one side and turned its speeding form in his direction, it had turned out to be nothing more than a lure. Taking a deep breath, he raised his stake and crucifix, and prepared to stand his ground. Earth sprayed in all directions as the mighty demon slammed on its metaphorical brakes.

It was large. Even by normal demon standards, this one was big. Its green and grey skin, made up of many hundreds of large, armour-like scales, exuded a curious, sweet-smelling ooze. The secretion gave the creature a shining appearance in the faint light of the moon, and seemed to add to the illusion of its height and majesty. Beauty was not really a word to use in its description; and yet Giles found himself marvelling at it all the same. There was something in the sheer size of its body and head; something about the poise with which it carried itself, despite its vast bulk. Something, quite indefinable, about the wide, eerie yellow eyes. Demon and demon-killer stared at each other in the darkness. Seconds passed, but time lingered.

"Er... hello?" Quite what had led Giles to the thought of making contact, he did not know. Perhaps it was his natural courtesy. The demon cocked its head on one side, and gave a low growl of undoubted ferocity. The former Watcher managed nothing in reply save a decidedly nervous smile. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.

"Crucifix?" He spoke it as an offer, stepping forward at the same moment, and offering the creature the powerful symbol. It roared fury, and with a wild, downward swat, struck at Giles' wrist, sending the wooden cross tumbling to the ground. In the same movement its other hand struck forward, catching the Englishman by the front of his shirt, and hauling him close. Giles felt his feet leave the ground, and saw a huge, many-toothed mouth opening to greet him. In a moment of blind panic he waited for his life to flash before his eyes; wondered if that only happened when you drowned; wondered whether he really wanted to see his life again anyway. He felt warm breath wash over his face. Dusty and stale rather than the usual odour of rotting flesh. He wondered if the wide mouth was big enough to bite his head off in one go, or whether the creature would prefer to tear him apart in still living chunks. Given the choice, he would have preferred the former - but then, given the choice, he would have preferred neither at all.

"Put me down!" With a sudden, fierce heave that threatened to rip his shirt rather than free him from the creature's grasp, Giles kicked out with his legs. He felt his feet strike at the demons own legs, and felt shock waves resound throughout his body as his feet hit rock hard scales. He yelped in pain, and in the same, last-ditch bid for freedom, he struck out with his stake as well. It hit the creature's chest, bounced off, struck again - and as the demon let out a furious scream of rage, raising its free hand for the killing blow, the stake entered its chest and stuck there, quivering. A mighty bellow erupted from the demon's mouth, and a gale of hot air blasted from between its lips. The ground shook. A row of stones fell from the top of a nearby crypt. A large, moulded concrete angel slipped sideways, and pointed the tips of its wings towards the nearby twenty-four hour eatery - which was never open twenty-four hours. With sudden, violent speed, the demon became ash. Its body vanished. Suspended in the air for a second, Giles felt the hand that gripped him suddenly lose its substance. He felt the momentary wash of heat that came from somewhere unearthly - felt the powers that came to suck the remains of the demon into hell. Then he felt nothing save the ground rushing up to meet him. He rolled, and came up onto his feet. Watcher training could still come in useful, now and again.

"Very good." The dull clapping that greeting his kill came from the other side of the fence. "I'd give it... eight of ten for feeling, but only a five for aesthetic appeal. You strung it out a bit though. I liked that. Nine out of ten for drama."

"Spike." Retrieving his crucifix and his stake, Giles glared at the vampire. "Where were you?"

"Hiding." The leather-jacketed shoulders shrugged unrepentantly. "What can I say? I wasn't ready to offer my life in place of yours. It was only a little demon anyway. Good on the roars, crap on the menace. Modern demon. They lack true commitment."

"Modern?" Giles shook his head, pausing to brush the dust and ashes from his clothes. "That looked to me like one of the demons of Lokosha. An ancient cult. Dates back centuries."

"Lokosha?" Spike seemed to be trying the word out on his tongue. "Doesn't ring any bells, but then I always left the knowledge bit to Angelus. He thrived on it. I was more of one for having fun."

"Twelve demons, summoned by a magician who was skilled in the dark arts. He bound them to him with a promise of eternal loyalty, in return for the power to commit limitless sins."

"That bit sounds like fun." Spike shrugged. "Still, he went down easy. Can't have been that limitless."

"Yes. Yes it did die rather suddenly. I, er... I confess I would have expected more of a struggle. Still, it had only just awoken. Probably still half asleep."

"I wonder where the other eleven are?" Spike shook his head. "No, on second thoughts I don't give a damn about the other eleven. I can definitely get by without them." He slapped Giles on the shoulder. "Come on. What do you say we hit the bars? There's a nice little place I know, full of vampires and demons. Should be right up your street. We could share a pint of blood, have a sing-sing round the piano. Course, you'd wind up having your head torn off, but that would be the whole point of going, at least from my perspective."

"Thankyou." Knocking the hand from his shoulder, Giles glared with all of his customary disdain. "I think I shall go home, and dig out the relevant volumes. The demons of Lokosha were a fascinating cult as I recall. Most of them are dead now of course. In fact if memory serves me right, and this really was one of their number, then I'm sure that only three remain."

"Fascinating I'm sure." Spike lit up another cigarette. "You feel free to return to the land of dust and tweed. I'm going to call it a night. See you whenever."

"See you now." It wasn't Giles' voice, and as Spike began to turn back, and saw the startled expression on Giles' face, he realised that it hadn't been a stab at ex-librarian humour, either. He looked around.

"What did you say?"

"I said...." There was a violent shaking of the earth, a deep, powerful rumbling, and the ground between the two would-be Slayers tore apart in a sudden, furious exhalation of mud, stone and turf. A wide pit yawned, the stones hanging from the sides forming great jagged teeth; pieces of half-unearthed coffin dangling out at intervals like part-digested food. Green slime began to ooze from the walls. "I said I'll be seeing you now." Gradually, piece by piece, little by little, the green slime was coming together. As the pair watched, it became the recognisable form of a pair of feet; then ankles appeared above, followed by a pair of slime drenched, well-formed calves. Giles took a step back, and the earth at the side of the pit caved in, almost as though trying to drag him down. He stumbled, but retained his balance, and managed to make it to safety.

"What's going on?" There was a demand for knowledge written on Spike's face. Giles looked hesitant.

"Um... well, nothing that springs immediately to mind."

"This is something to do with you killing that demon isn't it." Infuriated, Spike threw up his arms in a gesture of disbelief. "Brilliant. Absolutely bloody brilliant. Here I am, trying to wait out the apocalypse, and I find myself about to get sucked into hell because my patrolling partner has to stake himself a demon. You could have let it go. You could have let it rip your head off, and then tear the bloody heart out of this hellhole of a town. But no. You have to play the hero and kill it. And now I have to deal with the vengeful daddy demon." He thrust a sharp, angry finger at Giles' chest. "Well this is the last time I go patrolling with you. Next time I'm going to stay at home with a bowl of warm blood and some cheesy dips, and I'm going to watch movies until doomsday." He turned smartly on his heel and began to stalk away. "And if I get my bloody head ripped off because of your bloody zeal, I'll send every demon I can bribe back here to make your life miserable."

"Er... Spike?" Breaking into a run, Giles headed off after him. Behind them he could hear the slurping sound of rushing slime as it began to form the hips and stomach of whatever creature it was creating. Spike did not reply, and Giles caught hold of his shoulder in an effort to make him turn. "Spike!"

"What?" Whirling around, Spike sent clouds of cigarette smoke gushing into the air. Giles blinked.

"Just a bit of advice. I think that thing..." he gestured back at the gaping pit, "is Lokosha, the demon creator. The evil magician I mentioned earlier, remember?"

"Your point being?"

"Well..." There was a suspiciously drawn out pause. Giles looked as though he were having trouble finding the right words - not rare for him, but no less infuriating for Spike. "Lokosha... is a being about which the Watchers were... were never able to gather much information..."

"And if you have any of it, I'd suggest you spit it out. How long is it going to take that green slimy thing back there to take its form completely?"

"Er... well, good point." There was another infuriating pause. "You see, the, er, the thing is, many of the tales about Lokosha have since proved to be false... but many others haven't. There is a-a rumour that he bound himself to his demon brood with promises of vengeance and blood. If one of his, um, h-his demons is killed... Lokosha will rise and demand revenge."

"And the Creature From the Slime Lagoon back there is Lokosha?" Spike spat his cigarette out onto the ground. "Alright, this is fine. See, I didn't kill the demon. It wasn't me. If Lokosha is looking for revenge, he can take it out on you, 'cause I'm out of here."

"Lokosha won't see it that way. As far as he is concerned, y-you were, you were, um, here with me. A-and th-therefore..."

"Oh great." Spike glanced back towards the pit, to where the growing form of a humanoid was just visible, rising on a tide of crackling green slime. "So thanks to your crusading zeal, we're about to get hammered by a refugee from a chemical spill. Well thanks a bunch, Giles. Remind me never to trust a fellow countryman again." He frowned, caught between a desire to run, and an equally powerful desire to know what was going on. "But you said that the stories about Lokosha often prove to be wrong, right? So that might not even be him at all."

"I'm pretty much banking on it being something unpleasant." Giles also took a look back in the direction of the pit. The creature was almost a fully formed man now, standing close to seven feet tall, its powerful body gleaming with the lustre of its slime coating. "If it is Lokosha, and the tales of his desire for revenge are true, then he won't rest until we're dead. He'll destroy everything in his path until he's been able to kill us both." He frowned, eyeing up the repulsive creature from a distance that was increasingly not seeming distant enough. "He could lay waste to the whole of Sunnydale."

"Well if you're thinking of suggesting that we sacrifice ourselves for the good of Sunnydale, you can think again." Spike folded his arms, looking resolute. The skin of his face rippled, as though he were about to turn bestial. "I'm am not given to acts of self-sacrifice."

"Er, well, actually I-I was going to suggest that we run." Giles shrugged. "But if you'd rather try self-sacrifice, I--" He glanced back at the pit. "I-I really think you're going to be on your own." He hesitated no longer. "Come on!"

"Where to?" Racing after Giles, impressed by the mortal's ability to run so fast, Spike threw a glance back over his shoulder. "This thing is going to come after us, right?"

"Wherever we go until either it or us is dead." Giles spied a car parked by the side of the road. "I just thought that perhaps if we put a little distance between us and it, we might be able to... to... well, maybe come up with a plan or something."

"Isn't this the sort of thing we go to Buffy about? We find demons, she kills them. That's the best part of this 'hanging out with the Slayer' thing. She gets to do the dangerous bits."

"That might work, were it not for the fact that I don't have the faintest idea where Buffy is right now. She could be anywhere, and running round in circles in Sunnydale is not necessarily the best way to avoid being killed by a demon." The lock of the car gave way, and Giles hauled open the door. "Inside."

"Where are we going?"

"I don't have the foggiest." Ducking into the car after his vampire companion, Giles dug around under the dashboard until he was able to locate the wires he needed. With a flourish he could not resist, he hot-wired the engine, and the car burst into life. Spike grinned.

"Not that I couldn't have done that even quicker, but that was cool."

"I'm touched." Giles yanked at the stick and sent the car lurching forward. "Now hang on!"

If there were any policemen patrolling the edge of Sunnydale that night, none of them reported seeing the small black sports car that raced out of town at a speed that was well beyond the legal limit. None of them reported seeing the two men who sat inside, arguing insanely, and both gesticulating wildly as they went. Nor, too, did anybody report seeing the huge naked man who charged down the road in their wake, his body encased in green slime, and his hot, white eyes burning with fiery powers. Only one person in the whole of Sunnydale saw the figure - and he was left dangling from a road sign, his hands burnt black, and his spine crushed into powder.


"We heading for anywhere in particular?" The miles had sped on by, and Spike was sitting miserably in his seat, waiting for dawn to come up over the horizon. There was no protection in the car, and no back seat to hide in either - not one that was big enough for him to sit in comfortably at any rate, so that he could be sure of keeping out of the sunlight.

"Away from Lokosha." Giles was driving with his eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror, which was not an inspiring state of affairs for his already nervous passenger. "Is there anywhere you'd particularly like to go?"

"I've always fancied Acapulco." Spike shrugged. "Or failing that, some chemists where they sell factor three thousand sun cream, or I'm going to be toast within the hour."

"Remind me why that would be a pity." Giles swung a hard right onto a new road. "Maybe we can find a place that sells blankets. You can hide under a few of them. I'd like to be able to stop some time during the day, anyway, so I can get some sleep."

"You just drive. This is your bloody fault." Spike sunk down lower in his seat, until he could barely see over the dashboard.

"And what was I supposed to do, Spike? Leave a big demon running about the streets, just because I was worried that its creator might be a trifle miffed at its destruction? That's not the way I work."

"That's not what I hear." Spike was smirking, as though party to some knowledge of which he was particularly proud. "I've been hearing all kinds of things on the grapevine. London during the seventies. Wild parties. Demons. Wizards and witches on the guest list, and you running the whole show." He lit up another cigarette, grinning around it. Giles glared at him.

"That was a long time ago."

"So was my wild youth, but I don't see anything changing, do you?"

"How would you like to walk the rest of the way?" The look on Giles' face did not brook argument. Spike scowled and folded his arms, putting his legs up on the dashboard.

"Not much. Man, you're touchy tonight."

"Maybe it's the company." Giles tried to mentally turn his back on his passenger, and focus only on the road. It wasn't easy. Having Spike around was always a distraction - not because he feared him necessarily, but because the vampire was violently irritating. He also reminded Giles far too much of himself as a young man. He had not had bleached hair and fangs, perhaps - but after that the resemblances were endless. Attitude, speech, arrogance and general demeanour... he almost winced. But then, how far could he really say that he had changed? He had dressed himself up in tweed, and had hidden behind a pretence at being somebody else - but now that his days in the library of Sunnydale High were behind him, and his days as a Watcher were similarly over, tweed, calm and patience had turned rapidly back into leather, rash action and restlessness. And having Spike around definitely did not help.

"The company isn't a whole lot of fun for me either." Spike was sinking into a sulk. "This time last year, I--"

"Oh do shut up." Giles tugged unnecessarily hard on the wheel, turning the little car onto a large, many-laned road that stretched out before them for miles. "Do you really think that I want to spend the next few days in your company? Quite apart from the fact that we're supposed to be mortal enemies, there's also the simple fact that quite honestly I don't like you very much. You're a bully, you're arrogant, you like to play at being ignorant - which isn't very funny, and quite frankly does nothing for you - you hurt people for fun..."

"Oh and you're such a bundle of fun. Mr Knowledge-Is-Good-For-Your-Soul, with your books nobody else can interpret and your self-righteous bloody determination to save the world. Well who says that the world wants saving? And what right have you got to save it anyway? You're not even a Watcher anymore. You should be back in Britain, fumbling around in some musty little museum, all wrapped up in tweed again." Spike looked disgusted. "It's no wonder the Slayer would rather hang out with her friends these days. Ever thought about why she doesn't ask for your help as much as she used to? It's got nothing to do with her growing up - and everything to do with you being the most boring prat on the face of the planet."

"That's it." His face rapidly turning an ugly shade of red, Giles slammed on the brakes, nearly sending Spike flying through the windscreen. As it was the vampire was hurled forward, colliding violently with the dashboard. He yelled aloud in pain and rage.

"Serves you right for not wearing your seat belt." Giles was not looking at him, and instead was struggling to control the rising tide of his rage. It had startled him, the manner of his sudden loss of control something that he had begun to grow unaccustomed to. Putting the brakes on so abruptly had been dangerous, and was something that he would never have done a year ago. He certainly would never have acted so thoughtlessly, with so little regard for the safety of his passenger, when he had first come to Sunnydale. Perhaps it was the influence of the Hellmouth, bringing out his darker side. Perhaps it was being around Spike. Or perhaps he was just losing hold of the façade, and changing back into his real self. Either way it was hard to come to terms with. He took a deep breath. "Let's just agree not to speak to each other for the rest of the journey. Alright?"

"Fine by me." Hunching up into his seat, Spike made a point of dragging on his seatbelt, and clamping it tightly into place. "Just drive."

"Just shut up."

"Why do I have to--"

"Spike." Giles' eyes were hard as he started the car up again, and he took a moment to turn towards his companion. "Just put a sock in it. Or I'll pull all of your teeth out one by one, and use them as an amusing ornament for the dashboard. Got it?"

"Got it." Spike lit up a cigarette, and made a point of blowing the smoke towards the human. "Next time I'm going patrolling with Willow. At least she's something nice to look at."

"And you can keep your paws off Willow too."

"I didn't--"

"Just don't even think about her, alright?"

"She's a big girl now. She can look after herself."

"Yeah, I know." Wrenching the wheel once again, trying to focus all of his frustration into his driving rather than risk it escaping by some other means, Giles started them back on their way. A couple of other cars beeped their horns at him, and he scowled. "Just remember that I can beat you into a bloody pulp if I choose..." He paused for effect, and allowed himself a little smile. "And you can't lay a finger on me."

"When I get rid of this microchip..."

"You're all words these days Spike. All bluff and bluster."

"At least I'm not a bloody librarian."

"Neither am I, anymore."

"Once a tweed-clad git, always a tweed-clad git."

"I thought we'd agreed not to speak to each other."

"Yeah." Spike turned away, and punched the radio hard. It burst into life, the speakers erupting into the sound of a late night rock show. The hard, energetic sound of The Clash fired through the car, and the vampire grinned. "I'll listen to this instead."

"Oh great." Giles kept his eyes fixed to the road ahead, disapproval writ large on his expressive features. He was trying to look as though it was the music he disliked - but the truth of it was that he hated the realisation that he and Spike had something in common. Maybe they couldn't stand each other - but he had a feeling that Spike would be a big fan of his record collection. It was strangely galling.

"London in the seventies." Spike was getting into the rhythm, banging his head in time to the music. "We knew how to party then. I saw this band live in about '78. What were you doing then?"

"In 1978?" Giles sought for a suitable answer. He had probably been muddling along, still struggling to get his life back in order after his black magic days with Ethan and the others. Life had been one long blur throughout the seventies. He certainly wasn't going to tell Spike the truth - namely that he had probably been present at that very same concert. He might even have been standing nearby. "I guess I was around."

"Working in your local library." Spike smirked, as though he considered this to be an impressive insult. Giles cast him a sidelong glance, before reaching out to turn up the volume of the radio.

"Maybe," he said loudly, with growing good humour, "but at least there's one thing to be said for librarians."

"What?" Spike sounded suspicious, as though certain he was being set up for something. Giles' grin broadened.

"We may be boring, but at least we don't explode when daylight hits us." He gestured up ahead, and his grin broadened still further. "There's rather less than an hour before dawn by my reckoning. Would you like me to put you in the boot?"

"Bloody brilliant." Spike scowled. "There's got to be somewhere where we can get hold of a blanket, or some kind of sun shade. Anything."

"I can't see any shopping centres."

"Then look for a house. You're not going to let me fry?"

"No." Giles put a very magnanimous tone into his voice. "But I might make you simmer a little."

"You... you - you--" Anger frustrated Spike's attempts to be insulting. In the end he broke off, as something at the side of the road attracted his attention. "There! A sign! There's a shop ahead. We might be able to get a blanket there."

"Maybe. Must be some tourist place." Giles shrugged. "I suppose we might as well stop there for a few minutes."

"Thankyou." The word quite clearly had needed some forcing out, and Giles smirked as he pulled the car into a little turning, following the handmade wooden signs. The road was deserted at such a late hour, and he hoped that the shop would be likewise. Certainly, as they approached it, there was nothing to indicate that anybody was there. The place was tiny, little more than a simple booth, constructed mainly out of local wood and with a ceiling of nothing more substantial than tarpaulin. Handmade offerings hung from the walls. The sun was already beginning to rise, but Spike insisted on helping, jigging incessantly from one foot to the other as though trying to avoid being burnt by rays that were not yet there. Giles made short work of the lock, which was of the simplest and most flimsy type, and then grabbed a few of the blankets from their display hooks. He felt bad about taking them, especially given the amount of time which had so obviously gone into their creation. Money was a valuable commodity, though, when you were on the run; and he didn't think that he could risk letting their already small supply dwindle even further. He thought about leaving a brief explanatory note - but words failed him, and so did time. Spike was already frantic by the time he re-emerged.

"Took you long enough." Snatching the blankets the vampire wrapped himself up in their midst, and then scuttled back to the car. "I thought we were supposed to be in a hurry?"

"Oh do stop whining." Climbing back behind the wheel, Giles cast a sideways glance at his travelling companion. Hidden beneath a canopy of blankets, Spike was endeavouring to make sure that the direct sunlight could not reach him. He looked, thought the ex-Watcher, with no small amount of glee, thoroughly miserable. Giles could not resist a grin.

"What?" Spike's eyes flashed with pure poison. Giles shrugged.

"Nothing." The grin spread.

"Oh just shut up and drive." Sinking back into his seat, Spike inadvertently let a corner of his uppermost blanket droop. A pale ray of early sun touched the top of his head, and he gave a yelp. A plume of smoke rose in gentle tendrils from his scalp. Giles giggled. As the sun began to grow stronger, and Spike's fearsome glower grew darker still, the little black sports car pulled back out onto the road, and continued its journey to who knew where. Far behind them, a tall, well-built man dressed in an expensive and somewhat ruffled business suit, huddled up into a corner of a little store room, where he was to spend the day. Lokosha was still recovering his strength after his long sleep, but it was returning to him with every passing second. The dead body sprawled on the floor at his feet, recently stripped of its clothes, might have been testament to that, were there enough of it left to be sure of what it had once been. Lokosha brushed some fragments of bone and skin from the sleeve of his recently acquired jacket, and ran his hands through his hair to be sure that the last of the green slime was gone. Come nightfall, he would begin his journey in earnest.


"Good evening sir, and welcome to Pizza People. Can I take your order?" The redheaded, statuesque waitress sounded like a tape recorder set on too slow a speed. The words did not so much trip or tumble from her tongue, as leap from it to their doom, pausing momentarily on the brink as though reconsidering their suicidal plans, before going ahead with them anyway. Her eyes stared dolefully down at the pair of leather-jacketed customers before her.

"Yeah." The younger of the two, a tousle-haired blond who somehow managed to look healthy whilst being in possession of one of the most dangerously pale complexions she had ever set eyes upon, gazed up at her through eyes that were startlingly intense. "We'd like a big round one, with pepperoni and those red things..."

"Tomatoes," interjected his companion. The blond one nodded.

"Yeah, that's right. Tomatoes. And, er... extra cheese."

"Right." Looking as doubtful as she felt, the waitress wrote down the order. "And to drink?"

"You got anything warm and red?"

"We'll have beer." The older of the pair, a dark-haired man in glasses, shot his companion a withering glare. The waitress nodded.

"Be right with you." Her eyes travelled over the odd duo. "Say, are you British?"

"Yeah." The blond man leaned back in his chair, the better to smirk up at her. His companion kicked him very noticeably under the table.

"We have to talk, Spike." His voice was intense. His companion scowled.

"Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Being in your company twenty-four hours a day is not a whole lot of fun, you know that? I feel like I'm married, and somebody just declared divorce illegal."

"I really want you to know how utterly unmoved I am by that touching speech." Leaning forward, the darker-haired member of the duo lowered his voice. The waitress took this as her cue to leave, and scuttled away across the restaurant.

"So what did you think?" Standing behind the counter, a second waitress passed the order on to the chef. Her colleague shrugged.

"British. They're both pretty cute, but I don't think they're interested." She sighed. "I did think at first that they might be father and son, but once I got a little closer..." She picked up a couple of bottles of beer and a pair of glasses, and set them down on a tray. "Not fair, is it."

"It sure isn't." The second waitress glanced over towards the two customers, who were leaning so close to each other now that it was barely possible to see moonlight between them. "Still, they seem pretty happy together."

"Like a married couple." The first waitress shook her head. "Story of my life. I always go for the inaccessible ones."

"She's staring at me." Over at the table, Spike saw the waitress looking in his direction, and ran a hand through his hair. "I reckon I'm in with a chance there."

"Sure. If she likes moaning ninnies, and doesn't value sunlight too highly, you've definitely got a future together. Now keep your mind on the present." Giles waggled a breadstick, using it as a pointer with which to illustrate their journey cross-country. "Lokosha may well be travelling by night at first, but with each passing day his strength will be increasing. There's no telling how long he was asleep before we reawakened him--"

"You. It was you that reawakened him. I was the innocent bystander."

"Yes, whatever. At any rate, I was thinking that we could head for the mountains. By the time that we reach there, Lokosha will be back to full strength, and will probably be about to overtake us. If it comes to a fight..."

"Yeah I know. We're stuffed."

"Ah. No." Giles was smiling, clearly pleased with the chance to show off yet another piece of obscure knowledge. "We may be able to defeat him. J-just because he's survived for some eleven hundred years so far, is - is no reason to assume that he's indestructible."

"It's a pretty sure indicator." Spike shook his head, frustrated. "Forget tactical whatsits in the mountains. Can we stake this bloke?"

"Stakes have no effect. He's not a vampire, although stories tell of him having a - a marked fondness for the taste of blood."

"Can we behead him?"

"That does tend to be fatal, yes." Giles frowned. "Although I do seem to recall an incident in about 1750, or thereabouts, when a Watcher of the period beheaded Lokosha."

"Then I'm guessing it didn't work."

"No, it would appear not. The, er, th-the Watcher was found in the Forest of Dean, spread over some four cubic miles. He had been torn apart completely."

"Fine..." Spike paused for a second, in order to nod his surprisingly gracious thanks to the waitress as she delivered their beers. He saluted her with his bottle. "Thanks love."

"Your pizza will be with you in a few minutes." She wasn't quite meeting his eyes. He offered her a broad grin.

"Thanks. No hurry." Giles' look rather contradicted that statement, but Spike was ignoring him. "Have you worked here long?"

"A few months." She was smiling awkwardly, still not quite meeting his gaze; but Spike had never been one to give up at the sign of a challenge. He touched her hand.

"It's your perfect vocation. Nothing in the world could suit you better than that uniform." Giles choked on his beer. Spike glared. The waitress flashed them both a quick smile.

"Thankyou. I think I hear the kitchen calling." She scuttled away. Giles began to laugh.

"Oh, shut up." Hunching over his beer bottle, Spike tried to shut the other man out. The attempt did not last long, however, for he glanced up again almost immediately.

"He must have some weakness, right? Something that kills him. Water, or gold, or sulphuric acid or something. Everybody's got a weakness."

"He certainly appears to have no great fondness for pewter." Giles was holding a slim volume in his hands, although quite where it had come from Spike had no idea. It looked much like a hand-written work, on sheets of hand-made paper. The Watcher was frowning. "That's a strange one I must say. It's usually silver."

"Where are we going to get hold of some pewter?" Reaching out, Spike grabbed the book, and glanced briefly through it. It was one of the Watcher diaries; a less long-winded instalment than some of those he had read in the past. He smirked. "Naughty naughty. Weren't you supposed to give all these back?"

"That's the diary of Jonathon Straker. He was the Watcher at the close of the eighteenth century, although only for a very short while. His diary is little more than a brief summary of each of the demons and other evil beings that he encountered - or in the case of Lokosha, beings on which he was able to find the time to do a little research. I find it useful." He snatched the book back. "According to this, Lokosha cannot stand the presence of, of pewter. In small amounts it causes him great irritation, and in larger amounts it - theoretically of course - should kill him. Or - or at the very least, banish him back to the demon universe."

"So all we have to do is borrow lots of old fashioned candlesticks and Christening mugs, and we're away. Great. I'm right with you, Giles. As usual your plan is foolproof." Spike knocked the little book from the Watcher's hands. "Except of course, for the fact that you're a bloody fool. What do we do? Say 'Excuse me, Mr Lokosha, while we - we just s-surround you with lots of cheap trinkets. Here er, er h-hold this serving plate for a moment, so we can see if it burns your hand off.' I can really see that working."

"Probably not." Bending down, Giles retrieved the fallen book, and placed it carefully on the table beside him. His voice, when he spoke, was entirely level, but Spike was not fool enough to miss the icy undertones. Perhaps he had gone too far in his rather exaggerated imitation of the former Watcher's speech. "But do you have any better ideas, Spike? I don't see you coming up with any great plans here. All that you've done so far this trip is cower under a blanket and keep me awake with your incessant moaning. All last night and all day long you were jabbering away about how unfair this all is. How hard done by you are. Well maybe if you stopped complaining, and turned your mind to other things, we could get our heads together and actually achieve something. It's just the two of us this time. And I'd rather keep it that way."

"Um... excuse me?" The waitress was standing before them, looking rather apologetic for having interrupted them in the middle of their conversation. "Your pizza."

"Thankyou." Giles flashed her a small smile, moving the beer and glasses out of the way, so that she could put the large box down in the middle of the table. She returned the smile, albeit a little hesitantly.

"Will there be anything else?"

"No thankyou." Giles thought that he detected some relief in the young woman's eyes. Perhaps Spike's 'friendly' overtures were hard for her to deal with. She nodded in reply.

"Then enjoy your meal, gentlemen." She disappeared again. Spike stared after her, looking morose.

"Maybe I'm losing my touch."

"I wouldn't be at all surprised." Picking up the cutting wheel, Giles sliced off a large piece of the pizza, and practically threw it at his companion. "Now hurry up and get that down you. We've got a long way still to go."

"It's not terribly nutritious." Seeing the look on Giles' face, Spike scowled. "But very tasty I'm sure, and I'm oh so looking forward to existing solely on human food this trip. Can't we catch me something alive?"

"If you think I'm raiding some small child's rabbit hutch, just so that you can have a quick fix, you can think again." Giles had returned to reading his book as he ate, his eyes never rising above the page. There was something rather comradely about sharing a pizza, and drinking beer from bottles whilst the night passed by outside the window. It reminded him of things he had spent years trying to forget. Odd that he didn't seem to mind remembering them now. Beside him Spike took a big bite of pizza, managing to scowl around a heavy mouthful. He tried to cheer himself up by offering the waitress a sparkling smile; but she merely looked a little sad, and turned away to deal with her other customers. Spike couldn't understand it. The others were all a lot older than him (to look at at least), and were dressed far less stylishly. None of them had his charisma, he was sure. So why wasn't she interested in him?

"We should be making a move." He said it without really noticing Giles' refusal to assist him in obtaining some blood. He hadn't really expected the human to help out with that anyway. Giles looked surprised.

"But you haven't won over your waitress yet."

"Ha bloody ha." Spike rose to his feet, picking up the box. The warm pizza was so large that the cardboard threatened to flop completely, and deposit much of the food on the floor. "Let's just get going."

"Fine." Grabbing his book and the two bottles of beer, Giles threw some money down on the table and followed his companion to the door. Their waitress held it open for them, and both men smiled at her as they passed.

"Bye love." Spike sounded wistful. "If I happen to be passing this way again, I'll be sure to drop in and say hi."

"I'd be happy to see you again." She looked more regretful than awkward now. "Both of you."

"Huh." Spike jerked his head at Giles, in a most unceremonious gesture to hurry up. "That depends on how lucky I get." He started to head back towards the car. The waitress opened the door to go back inside, but at the last moment she hesitated, looked back, and called out to Spike. Her voice echoed around the parking lot, carrying strongly due to the direction of the prevailing wind.

"I think that the two of you make a lovely couple! Whatever it is, I'm sure that you'll work it out together."

"Yeah, sure." Spike waved a hand without looking back, and was halfway into the car before her words sunk in. He looked up, his eyes meeting those of Rupert Giles. "Did you hear that? She thinks--"

"I heard." Giles was already starting up the engine. Spike made a grab for the door, but the human caught his arm, dragging him back into his seat. Spike began to splutter.

"But she was gorgeous. I mean - well think about it. Beauty like that should be eternal, not rotting away in a pizza café. And she thinks--"

"You're whining again." Giles reached over and switched on the radio, before slamming down his foot on the accelerator. The car shot forward, zooming out of the parking lot and back out onto the open road. Music filled the car. Spike, looking deeply miserable, leaned his arm on the door and stared morosely back at the café.

"We could have been great together. Her and me. And instead she thinks I'm shacked up with you."

"Oh shut up and eat your pizza." Distant thoughts of responsibility and care beginning to drift away, Giles took a swig of his beer, and reached over to turn up the radio. The wind was blasting in through the open roof, and for reasons that escaped him, he reached down to fumble in the glove compartment. A pair of sunglasses lay on the top of a pile of assorted tapes and CDs, alongside a scattering of maps and a bag of sweets. Spike made a grab for the sweets and, even though it was the middle of the night, Giles discarded his ordinary glasses and slipped on the new ones. The world instantly turned a few shades blacker.

"Not bad." Through a mouthful of chewy sweets, mingled with a quick swig of beer, Spike leaned back in his seat. Ahead the moon glowed softly.

"Yeah." Giles was on the verge of another laugh. Spike was beginning to realise that no matter how well hidden the Watcher had once kept his sense of humour, it had not become in any way diminished. He was also beginning to learn that Giles' giggle was at once both infectious and deeply annoying - especially since it always seemed to be directed at Spike himself. "It's quite romantic really. Big moon, beautiful starry sky..."

"You're really asking for a kicking, you know that?"

"Yeah, but you wouldn't do that to the love of your life." Giles could no longer keep back the broad grin. "We make such a lovely couple."

"I swear, if you weren't driving, I'd..." Words, to say nothing of possibilities, failed Spike, and the vampire turned his sorrows to his bottle.

"You'd what? Beat me into submission with a barrage of rude words?"

"Maybe." The smile was beginning to creep back onto Spike's face now. "You know something? Your voice."

"What about it?" Giles was no longer sounding quite so cocky.

"I'd swear that every mile we drive you start to sound more like me."

"I do not."

"Yeah you do." Grinning around the neck of his beer bottle, Spike began to laugh. "Who'd've thought it. Rupert Giles, cockney rebel."

"Oh... get stuffed." Giles pushed the sunglasses on more securely, whilst beside him Spike's laugh grew louder. After a moment, unable to stop himself, Giles began to join in; and far, far behind them, listening to the sounds of the night, Lokosha heard their mirth and turned himself towards it. It would be soon now - maybe even tomorrow night. Those that killed his demons would suffer for their crimes. And he raised his mighty wings, and the moon closed its eyes. Giles and Spike saw the clouds that blew up to steal the light, and their laughter dimmed. In a single breath of cool, dry air, the danger they were escaping seemed about to take them both.


"I'm looking for my friends." Gazing up at the redheaded waitress through disturbingly unblinking eyes, the tall, powerfully-built customer in the expensive business suit tried out a smile. The waitress wished he hadn't bothered.

"Certainly sir." She gestured towards the menu. "Would you like to order?"

"I'm still considering my options." He smiled again, and this time she blanched, trying to cover for her momentary slip by toying with her hair.

"And you-your friends. What did they look like?"

"They were British." Lokosha hated the British. They stormed all over the world with their fleets of sailing ships, and they tried to banish his kind in a whirlwind of enforced Christian belief. Like the Spanish. And the French. And the Portuguese. Lokosha had once sworn to eradicate the lot, and now perhaps he would do so. His long rest in the Hellmouth had done him the power of good. Or maybe the power of evil. He smiled again, and his tongue flickered over his lips for a second, darting restlessly like that of a snake. "One had whitish hair. He was dressed in leather trousers and a white shirt, with a black leather jacket. The other was younger..."

"Oh." The waitress looked surprised. "I thought that I knew who you meant for a moment, but the only man by that description that I've seen was with an older man."

"Older?" Yes, of course. The humans would see the second man as older. They saw what was visible, not what was necessarily the truth. "Yes. My mistake. The second man was older, with darker hair. He was dressed entirely in black. He was wearing glasses." His eyes narrowed. "You have seen them?"

"Yes..." The waitress was looking uncertain, as though she should not say anything more. "They passed through here some time ago, just after it got dark. They looked tired, said they'd been driving a long time. They talked to each other a lot."

"Did you see anybody else with them?"

"Oh no." The waitress was smiling now, happy at some distant memory, and perhaps a little sad at another. "They seemed to want to be alone. They were very nice."

"Yes." Lokosha smiled at her, and this time the waitress smiled back. "Thankyou. You may return to your duties now."

"Don't you want to order?"

"In a moment." The smile was firm, and so were the words. The waitress found herself nodding, and almost before she realised it she was back about her duties. When she looked up, only a second later, she saw that Lokosha's table was empty. He had gone. She couldn't see him anywhere outside, even though every wall of the restaurant was little more than sheets of glass. The door hung still, as though nobody had gone through it for hours.

It was some half an hour later before the young waitress, brushing clouds of red hair away from her face, went outside for a breath of fresh air. It felt good to take a few moments to rest, and to fix up her hair once again. Strictly speaking she should never allow it to tumble in such a fashion. Hygiene rules were quite clear about that. It was just that the customers were so very complimentary about her wavy locks, and she enjoyed showing them off; especially since she had taken the plunge and decided to go red. Blonde had been boring. Everybody wanted to be a blonde these days, and when you were born with it that way quite naturally, it could start to become a little passé. She wandered across the parking lot, enjoying the cool breeze of a night just coming to its end. The burning wash of stars above her was little more than a trail of pale light now, like freckles on the face of the night. There was nobody about, for in the earliest hours just before dawn the world seemed to create the illusion of sleep. The coming of morning brought a greater peace with it than ever existed in the hours of darkness. Nobody slept at night.

"Hello." She recognised the voice and turned, startled to see the strange customer from earlier on. She had expected him to be long gone, and smiled at him in confusion.

"Hello. I thought you'd be after your friends by now. They'll be getting quite a head start on you."

He shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

"Do you want to rent a car? We can do that for you. Or I could find you a bus timetable. We sometimes get late night Greyhounds through here."

"I don't want a car. And I don't need a bus." He took a few steps towards her, tilting his head on one side as though to see her better. "You have lovely hair Danielle."

"How - how do you know my name?" She took a step backwards, and Lokosha smiled.

"I know all kinds of things my dear. But they aren't important now." He took a few steps towards her, and she found that she could not move fast enough to avoid him. "I want your help."

"What for?" Her words seemed unwilling to leave her throat. Lokosha reached out and touched her neck, tracing the length of the short black cord that was fastened there, brushing her skin with his icy cold fingertips as he followed the cord to the ornament hanging from it. It was a little silver disc, with a pale amethyst in the centre. Danielle's birthstone, winking in the moonlight.

"I've been considering the menu. And I'd like to order now." He stared into her eyes and smiled, and she saw the dying moon shining on the points of his huge fangs. Her legs gave way.

"Now now." Lokosha was still smiling as he caught her, and carried her gently away from the restaurant. Even though dawn was coming, the inky blackness seemed to follow in his path, and the lights framing the car park blinked out one by one. Danielle whimpered. With the softest of gentle hands Lokosha brushed her hair back, away from her face and her neck. He smiled down at her.

"Make a wish," he whispered, and her terrified eyes glazed over. He chuckled, and his questing fingers stroked the warmth of her jugular vein. Danielle was trying to speak, trying to plead for her life. Lokosha silenced her with a heavy hand, pressing it down over her mouth, just as his own mouth was pressing down against her neck. She struggled for a moment beneath his grip; but soon her struggles ceased, and the only movement was that of his teeth. He felt her vitality flood into him, and his pale lips twisted into a grin. He felt good. Time to move his pursuit to the next level.


It was hot - blindingly so. Giles leaned against the side of the car and gazed out at the great expanse of desert. It didn't make any sense. He was sure that the map had indicated mountains in this direction. According to the route finder currently spread across the raised soft-top roof of the car, he should be standing at the foot of a mountain right now, on green grass beside a stretch of carefully cultivated fields. Instead he was in the midst of some of the most inhospitable land that he had ever set eyes upon. The fierce sun assaulted him, and inside the car, beneath his blankets, Spike was in agony. They had rigged the blankets up over the windows to try and give him a little more air, so that he wouldn't have to be wrapped up all of the time; but it was still almost unbearably hot. Giles had needed to get out into the open air for a little while, even if it was just a case of moving from one oven into another. Once again replacing his glasses with the sunglasses taken from the glove compartment, he slid back into the car. Inside it was like a kiln, the blankets soaking up the heat and sealing it inside. Spike was stretched out on the floor, his leather jacket folded up as a pillow beneath his head. He blinked blearily up at Giles.

"Any sign of the other side?"

"Nothing in any direction." Giles ran a hand through his hair. "All I can see is sand."

"Well you were navigating. It's your bloody fault."

"I've been driving for two days and nights with hardly a break, Spike. If I misread a map, I don't think that you can really blame me."

"I offered to take over the driving so that you could get some sleep." The heat exhaustion did not seem to have dimmed the vampire's belligerence any, and it seemed only to be fuelling Giles' own temper still further.

"I've seen the way you drive. No thanks."

"Suit yourself." The vampire groaned. "But if I don't get a drink soon, something's gonna give. You're starting to look like a cool drinks dispenser. Even head pains aren't going to keep me away from your neck forever."

"I'd like to see you try." Stretching out his legs across the passenger seat, Giles leaned his back against the door. It was hot to the touch but he ignored it, his stiff muscles anxious for the chance to relax. The illusion of night inside the car was confusing his already bewildered body clock, and he felt his eyes begin to close. Spike bashed his arm with a tired hand.

"Hey. Shouldn't we be doing an about face?"

"I'm not sure that we can." Giles stifled a yawn, pulling off the sunglasses. His eyes had lost some of their usual piercing intensity, and his intelligent face now just looked tired. "Lokosha will be on our trail."

"We've left him miles behind. He'll only be travelling by night. It's a demon thing."

"Lokosha isn't a demon, he's a sorcerer. A wizard who dabbled in the black arts. Night or day means no more to him than it does to me - so as far as we know, you won't even be able to touch him, thanks to your - your implant or whatever it is." Giles stifled another yawn. "His powers will have been diminished following his long hibernation, but now that he's had a while to recuperate, and probably to get a few meals inside him, he'll be moving just as fast as we are. And he'll be travelling by day as well. We shouldn't even be stopping now."

"Well if we can't go back, we've got to go on." Spike was looking increasingly miserable. "I can't take this heat. And we've got nothing to drink, nothing to eat... there's no telling how long this desert's going to go on for."

"Tell me about it." Giles threw the map at him. "Take a look at that. See if you can make head or tail of it. It's all gibberish to me."

"I'm a genius with maps." Spike fumbled with it, at first unable to unfold it without sitting up, and then stared blankly at it for some moments before realising it was upside-down. "Okay. Where are we now?"

"We took a left off the..." Giles trailed off, seeing a blank look on the vampire's face. "See the long snaky grey thing in the middle of the page? Well right next to your left thumb there's a road heading left. Left means east."

"I see it." Spike was frowning. "It says we're in the mountains."


"Does this mean we've discovered a new desert? People were always discovering new places when I was a kid. I wanted to try something like it myself, but they said they'd found everything."

"It doesn't mean we've discovered a new desert." Giles snatched back the map. "It means that something's wrong. Either Lokosha is playing with the map, the scenery, or our heads. I don't much like any of those options."

"Hey hey hey." Spike was shaking his head. "We agreed. Sorcerer guy is miles back. We left him behind. We've got the nice fast sports car, he's got the green slime. How did he suddenly get to be here, playing with our minds?"

"I don't know." Staring at the mountains on the map, Giles looked deep in thought. "But I can't think of any other explanation. My knowledge of Lokosha - anybody's knowledge of Lokosha - is so sketchy that I can't really be sure of anything. I can't imagine that he would have the ability to move mountains."

"So he screwed with the map?"

"Or the third option." Giles tapped his head. "Could be that there's no desert out there at all. It could be that we're just seeing what he wants us to see."

"No point, unless he's in to torture. Why mess with our heads? It would make more sense to mess with the map, and herd us somewhere where we have a tactical disadvantage."

"Except that he has no need to do something like that. Tactics are nothing to him. Strictly speaking there's nothing that we can do to defeat him. He's indestructible, he has apparently limitless magical powers at his disposal, his only known weakness is a dislike of pewter, which is hardly the world's most abundant material - why bother trying to herd us somewhere where we'd find the going hard?"

"Maybe there's just a mistake on the map." Spike didn't sound convinced. Giles shrugged.

"I'd rather not wait around to find out. I think we should get moving again."

"Moving where? We could be heading right into a trap."

"Or out of one."

"Or into huge expanses of trackless desert from which there'll be no escape."

"Yeah." Turning around to face the dashboard, Giles slid the sunglasses back on, and reached up to adjust the blanket hanging across the windscreen. Spike moved his legs to avoid being struck by the penetrating rays of the sun, scuttling like a spider across the floor, then climbed back onto the passenger seat. If Giles only uncovered a little of the windscreen through which to see, and left the other windows covered, the vampire should be safe enough.

"If you ask me, we're taking a big risk," he muttered sulkily. Giles looked at him askance.

"You're immortal," he said darkly. "We're not taking any risk. Maybe you can only travel by night, but you'll get out of this desert however big it is." He started up the engine, and tapped the fuel gauge. "Now keep an eye on that. It's been a while since we last filled up."

"So we're about to drive into the middle of nowhere on a third of a tank? Remind me not to take you along when I next plan a major excursion."

"Strangely enough, I wasn't planning on accompanying you next time." The engine coughed into life, apparently thinking none too highly of the intense heat. Peering through his small section of windscreen, Giles wished that he had something to cool down the steering wheel. The mere act of driving was going to be a great discomfort.

"Want the radio on?" Some of the fire and whine had gone from Spike's voice. Giles shook his head. He no longer felt in the mood for driving rock music. Spike seemed to sympathise. Curled up in the shade against the door, the vampire pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. A small coil of smoke drifted ceilingward, its own heat apparently no match for that of the atmosphere. It seemed to wilt more the higher it rose, and it hung miserably against the roof, unable to disperse. Spike coughed.

"Those things'll kill you," Giles told him. Spike nodded.

"Yeah. So they say. But then they say the same thing about psychotic sorcerers and endless deserts." Taking another, longer puff, Spike rested his head against the car door. "What do you reckon they're doing back in Sunnydale?"

"I don't know." Giles wanted to imagine Buffy missing him, and worrying about where he had gone - but the truth was that he couldn't be sure if she would even have noticed his absence. She had so many other interests these days; so many other people to help her in her work. He was just a hanger-on now, or he felt it at any rate. Reaching out, he snatched Spike's cigarette from his mouth, and took a long pull. The fumes nearly made him choke, but he swallowed, and remembered how to compensate for the alien gases. He remembered right, he thought ruefully. It was a horrible habit, and it did make you sick. And yet right now he found it strangely comforting. Spike smirked.

"Stick with me, Rupert. I'll have you sucking blood by the end of this trip."

"Get lost." Giles took a longer pull on the cigarette, then threw it back. Exhaled smoke filled his vision, and for a moment he could not see to drive. It brought back memories of six of them in a van, trying to see through the clouds of marijuana smoke, as Philip, Randall and Thomas sprawled in the back, singing songs by Cream and Led Zeppelin.

"I already am lost. And so are you. Lost without a bloody hope, in some demon's bloody oven."

"Well look on it this way." Glancing across at him, Giles' eyes flashed beneath the sunglasses with a light that was harsh indeed. "All that I need to do is move these blankets, and you're gone for good. You'll never have to worry about demons again."

"You wouldn't."

"Wouldn't I." Despite their forward motion, Giles had no interest in looking out the front. Instead he kept his eyes fixed firmly on Spike; and the vampire saw things in the masked green eyes that he had no wish to see at all. He swallowed hard. After a second Giles broke into a smile; but the light in his eyes remained horribly cold. He laughed and turned back to the windscreen, watching out of the small space that was his link to the outside world. It seemed to him for a second that the blazing sun was replaced with the image of a madman's laughing face. It even seemed, for one brief moment, as though he could hear the mocking laugh of that same madman, his insane giggles echoing unpleasantly in the stillness - and then Giles realised that he himself was laughing, and that the mad giggles he had thought were just dreams might well be his own. His laughter died, and vanished into the still heat.

But some miles away Lokosha heard it, and added it to his own.


Soft silk was below him, cooling his heated body and relaxing his exhausted mind. He felt himself smiling. There was cool air blowing across him from somewhere, and its touch chilled the damp material of his shirt. A gentle hand stroked his hair.

"Has my baby been getting too hot?" The voice stirred his senses, and made his heart sing. It was a disturbing sensation - or should have been. Vampires weren't supposed to feel the higher emotions. They weren't supposed to be capable of love, or of caring for one another. They were only supposed to be interested in destruction and in death; in killing and blood; creating more of their kind and dragging the human Earth down into hell. Instead here he was, lying in the embrace of the woman that he loved, listening to her voice caressing him. He was happy, and he was beginning to realise that he would never really be happy anywhere else.

"It's the sun. It hurts." He smiled as he spoke, and heard his words drifting off into the coolness of the room above him. A gentle hand stroked his brow.

"The sun's nasty. You shouldn't go out in it to play."

"I know, baby. I'm sorry." He rested his head against her, feeling the curve of her shoulder beneath his cheek. "I won't do it again."

"My poor Spikey." The stroking hands stroked on. "My poor, poor Spikey." Abruptly the stroking hands were claws. "Getting a suntan. Getting what you deserved."

"What?" He tried to sit up, but he couldn't. Drusilla's hands were holding him down, her animal strength so very much greater than his. He stared up into her eyes, seeing the face that he loved so much - the life that he loved more than his own. Behind Drusilla, slinking up and down the room like a panther, he saw the sly shape of Angelus. The dark eyes laughed at him, mocking and accusing, and he felt his strength begin to fade. "Dru... Baby--"

"Shut up." She slapped him hard, and he felt her blow sting his skin. "You betrayed me, Spike. You chose the Slayer over me."

"No! I did it for you!"

"You just don't get it, do you Spike." Angelus spoke with a voice that was so soft, so gentle. "You never did. You're not supposed to care. You're not supposed to want to do things for her. You're a vampire. A demon. You're supposed to be demonic."

"Where did I go wrong, Spikey? Where did I lose my baby?" Drusilla's hand was on his forehead again. "Was it your Becoming?"

"No." Far up above them both, Angelus was growing in size. His head filled Spike's vision now, the light of ten thousand flickering candles reflecting in his eyes, and on the points of his huge, bared fangs. "It wasn't you, baby. It was him. He's too human, and he always was."

"No." Spike was struggling, but he couldn't seem to move. "That's not true."

"We're better off without him. Just you and me, like it always was before." Angelus reached out, touching Drusilla's shoulder. She smiled up at him, eyes soft and loving, in just the way that she had once looked at Spike. Helpless between them, Spike felt his heart threaten to burst. Drusilla's soft, smiling mouth was opening, her fangs bared in the candlelight. Her fingers brushed against his cheek.

"Poor Spike," she was saying gently. "Poor baby. Time to go now."

"No." He heard Angelus' mocking laughter, and his pain deepened. "Dru, no. Please."

"Goodnight, Spike." Angelus' voice was the voice from the doorways of hell. The ten thousand candles flickered with menace. Anguish burned in a heart that Spike should not have had. He saw the teeth coming for him, and he felt the pain of their penetration. But the pain that he felt most keenly was something else entirely.

Spike awoke with a jerk. Giles, unlit cigarette clamped firmly beneath his teeth, was guiding the rattling sports car forward through sun-drenched, arid lands. He was smiling out of the side of his mouth, his hard green eyes hidden by the sunglasses. Spike didn't need to see them to know how cold they were.

"Pleasant dreams?" The slight tone of mockery suggested that Giles knew exactly what Spike had been dreaming about - or at the very least had a basic idea. The vampire let out a long breath.

"What do you care?"

"I don't. Just making conversation." The car jolted and rattled on a little further. "But if it's any consolation it might be a little gift from Lokosha, just to remind you that he's still out there."

"As if we need the reminder." Spike shifted in his seat, running a hand through his hair. He seemed to be drenched in sweat, either from the heat or from the trauma of the dream, and his throat was painfully dry. "If he's after both of us, why's it my nightmare he's chosen to throw us into?"

"Is this your nightmare?" Giles seemed surprised. "Perhaps it's nobody's."

"Is it yours?"

"Now that would be telling." Giles glanced out of the windscreen, leaning low in his seat so as to be sure of seeing the sun. "But in case you were wondering, it's gone eleven - at night I mean. That should be the moon up there."

"Then it is my bloody nightmare. It's every vampire's nightmare." Spike moaned. "What did I ever do to deserve this?"

"Aside from a hundred years of murdering and torturing the innocent? This isn't about what you deserve, it's about what Lokosha is capable of." The car juddered to a bone-shaking halt. "And right now he's capable of rather more than we are."

"That the last of the gas?" Spike peered at the gauge, and gave it an experimental bash. The needle failed to rise from his horizontal position. It looked as though it had crashed back down to empty through the sheer exhaustion of having to hold its head up in the heat.

"It would appear so." Giles leant back in his seat and folded his arms. "Looks like we're stuck. If you leave the car you'll burn, and if I leave I wouldn't last very long. Not in this heat."

"If it gets much hotter you're not going to last anyway. This car is already like a kiln." Spike fiddled with the radio, but just as it seemed about to spark into life, there was a flash and a bang from the engine. Smoke began to pour out from under the bonnet.

"I think it's fair to say that we're not going anywhere soon." Giles gestured to the door. "I'll go out. Take a look at the engine."

"You know anything about cars?"

"Not much beyond the basics, but I'm the best we've got. Our only other potential mechanic is likely to explode in a ball of flames if he tries to take a look, remember?" Giles pushed at the door. "Keep back for a second."

"My pleasure." The door swung open, and Spike curled himself up into a ball to escape any intruding sun rays. A gust of hot, dry air rushed into the car, almost welcome for a moment as a relief from the sweltering stuffiness of the stale air they had been breathing up to now; but almost immediately the novelty faded. It was a relief to have the door shut again, so that the a little of the dryness was gone.

Outside, the world was dead. For as far as Giles could see, there was nothing but dust. The sun burnt him through his clothes, the black cloth soaking up the heat and holding it tight against him. Even the dark glasses were little in the way of protection, and the glare was still dazzling. He passed a hand across his forehead, already soaking wet, only to find that the sweat had gone - dried up almost before he had been aware of its presence. His skin felt taut and dry as a result, and he could feel his shoulders wilting. Tugging the sleeves of his shirt over his hands, he lifted the bonnet of the car. The metal was painfully hot despite his makeshift gloves, and the moment that the bonnet was opened he saw the reason why. Great clouds of steam burst forth, and he had to retreat at speed to avoid being scalded. The heat made his ears ring.

"Any luck?" Spike's voice came to him faintly through the thick heat and the choking steam. He tried to shout back, but his voice failed him, his throat too dry and tight to adequately form the sounds. Instead he ignored his companion, and peered down at the engine. He saw damage - pieces no longer connected to things he was sure that they should be connected to. Wires were burnt right through, and the contacts on top of the battery were melted. He growled something unpleasant, and slammed the bonnet back down.

"Any luck?" Repeating his question as his comrade in arms climbed back into the car, Spike looked up hopefully. Giles shook his head.

"Nothing. This car isn't going anywhere."

"So what do we do? Sit and wait for Lokosha?"

"What can we do? We could try and walk out of here, if you think you can stand being wrapped up in blankets in this heat - but I don't like the thought of leaving the car. We could have to walk for days, and--"

"And what? It's not like it's going to spring to life when we're least expecting it. The car's gone. Leaving it behind isn't a worry. All we need to think about is whether to head back the way we've come, or to go on in the direction we've been heading in up to now."

"Good point." Giles shrugged. "I vote that we go on. The chances are that one way will be very like another, especially if Lokosha is behind this."

"And if he is, we're already dead. He can kill us without coming in close, so there's no way your pewter theory is going to work - even if we had several truckloads of the stuff waiting round the corner."

"You always look on the bright side of life, don't you Spike."

"I'm a bloody demon." Beginning to carefully take down the blanket screen, so that he could cover himself in preparation for their walk, Spike grabbed his leather jacket and slid his cigarettes and lighter into one of the pockets. "What do you expect? Sunshine and roses?"

"Not really." Giles opened the door. With his jacket draped over his head as an improvised shade he did not look exactly stylish - but then neither did Spike, in his jumbled mishmash of blankets. He looked like the monster from a cheap fifties sci-fi movie. "Are we ready?"

"For anything." Spike sounded muffled and extremely insincere. "Before we go, I'd just like to say that this is the lousiest holiday I've ever been on. I'm not voting for you as tour operator of the year."

"I'm deeply hurt." Giles took the vampire's arm. "Come on. It's this way. Mind the cactus."

"I want a refund on my deposit."

"You'll have to take that up with head office."

"Your customer service is crap, you know that?"

"Yeah." Giles guided him around a scattering of rocks and loose stone. "But then tour operator was never my chosen occupation."

"Yeah?" Spike actually sounded interested. "What was?"

"Firstly? When I was six I wanted to be Douglas Fairbanks. Unlikely one that, but then fencing lessons were never hard to get. Not with my destiny."

"You're lucky there. My parents certainly never gave me any vampire training."

"Be fair. Your destiny was a little harder to predict."

"True enough. I think they were intending me for a career as a chimney sweep. Or at the very least a boot-blackening boy." Spike stumbled over a cactus root, and yelped in pain as a misjudged foot received a quick burst of sunlight where his trousers did not quite meet his shoes. "So what did you want to be when you grew out of your Doug Fairbanks phase?"

"Who said I did?" Giles smirked. "I think that was when I decided I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Then later on I wanted to be Eric Clapton. There was a while in between when I was thinking about joining the Foreign Legion, but I gave that up when I found out that Beau Geste wasn't a terribly realistic depiction of life in the Forces." He shook his head wistfully. "Bit of a blow that."

"Losing your childhood dreams can be tough." Beneath his blankets Spike was nodding sagely. "My childhood hero was a bloke who lived in the next street. Robert Smith. Housebreaker by profession; a real artist. He once let me watch while he took an informer apart." He gave a sigh of contentment at what was evidently a sweet memory, for him at least. "He was a real artist. You should have seen him, Giles. I mean, that time Angel tried to get you to tell him the secrets of Acathla - remember?"

"I'm hardly likely to forget."

"Yeah, well - I suppose not. Anyway, Angelus had nothing on this bloke. He was the greatest."

"So what happened to him?"

"He was hanged. Cried like a baby in the dock, when the sentence was passed. Man, it was a let down. That guy was my hero. I looked up to him more than I ever looked up to anyone - except maybe Angelus, in the early days. I was gutted."

"I shouldn't think that Mr Smith was too overjoyed either." Giles paused for a moment to look up at the sky, trying to get his bearings. It was not easy, for the sun appeared to be everywhere at once - overhead, to the left, to the right - as though the whole sky was on fire, and the sun itself had spread out to overtake all. It made his head spin.

"Something wrong?" Spike sounded doubtful. Giles shook his head, then realised that Spike could not see him.

"No. There's nothing wrong." He started off again, carefully leading the way, but he could feel his footsteps flagging. Each step seemed slower than the last, each act of raising his feet somehow harder. Perhaps the sand of the desert was getting inside his shoes, making them heavier with each step - or maybe he was just growing steadily weaker. He wanted to lie down. He couldn't even remember the last time that he had slept. But he kept on plodding onward. What else was there to do, save die?


Jenny was calling to him, her voice floating in on a breeze blowing from the balcony. He smiled to hear her use of his name. She was the only one who called him Rupert. Nobody else had called him that for years. Even his closest friends called him Giles, and before that, Ripper. Rupert was Jenny's special name for him, and he loved the way her American accent made the word so different. Nothing like the clipped way that his parents had said it. Soft, loving, gentle. Still smiling he went out to the balcony to join her.

She was standing in the shade, watching the rising sun. Streaks of silver light highlighted her hair, and as she turned to face him her eyes twinkled in the glow of the early hour. She reached out a hand to him, and he took it, holding it tight. Jenny smiled, pulling him close, handing him a single red rose. He could smell it from a distance, the gentle fragrance borne to him on the light wind. It made him smile, made his mind dance with memories. He had once told her how a certain smell could reawaken old thoughts, and he felt that happening now. A red rose, held in his hand, a realisation that a wrong was about to be righted - that somebody he had loved was going to be his once again. He remembered going upstairs to be with that somebody, wondering what it was that she was planning. And he remembered finding her laid out on the bed, neck broken, eyes staring. He remembered the jumble of grief and rage.

"Is there something wrong, Rupert?" Jenny was caressing his cheek, but he pulled away from her, eyes hurt. Jenny's head cocked on one side. She was frowning. "Rupert?"

"Ripper?" Jenny was gone, and it was Deirdre now. Deirdre Page, staring back at him through the decades, a red rose held in her hands, the sharp thorns drawing beads of blood from her fingertips. She was gazing at him with fearful intensity, her eyes wide, glazed by substances both legal and illegal. "What's wrong, Ripper?"

"You can't save her." Angelus spoke with the voice of doom. "You can't help her. She's gone. They both are."

"Gone." Drusilla lurked in the corners of his mind, her face changing each time he caught sight of her, her features flickering into those of Jenny Calendar. "Gone forever." She wiped a trickle of blood from her lips, and grinned. Angelus laughed. He was holding Jenny now, and she was reaching out her arms for Giles, her face twisted into an expression of deepest anguish, her eyes screaming silently for help from the man that she loved. Giles tried to run towards her, but as fast as he moved, Angel was quicker. His hands gave a quick, expert twist, and Jenny fell. Giles watched her drop, saw her body tumbling. He heard her screams fade. He wanted to shout, but he didn't seem able to make his hot, dry throat obey his will.

"Take it easy, Giles." Spike sounded too tired to be either sympathetic or studiously not so. "You've been dreaming."

"Dreaming?" Sitting slowly up, Giles looked around. They were still in the desert, and it was still very hot. "I fell asleep?"

"Yeah. I figured you needed the rest." Spike actually sounded as though he was concerned, or perhaps it was just that he no longer had the energy for belligerence. "No sign of Lokosha. Maybe he took a wrong turning. One bit of desert looks very like another."

"Oh, I think he's here." The simmering former Watcher stood up, straining his eyes in every available direction. No sign of life anywhere, although he thought for a moment that he saw a shadow pass across the sun. "Otherwise we'd be sitting in the mountains, enjoying a cold night wind."

"Yeah." Spike was hugging his knees beneath his blankets, head bowed either through thought, dejection or heat exhaustion. "The world so dark that you can hardly see a hand in front of your face. Cold wind raising the hair on the back of your neck, and a hundred demons screeching through the treetops. Sunnydale watch out."

"You miss those times, don't you." Giles was not sure why he had spoken. Perhaps it was just for the sake of conversation. Spike seemed to wonder too, and he was silent for a long while before the shifting of the blankets showed that he was raising his head. He peered out at Giles, face almost entirely hidden by shadow.

"I am who I am. But I can't be that now. My friends don't want to know, because of the time I've spent with you and the Slayer. It's a real killer, socially speaking. First Dru, then my brethren." He shrugged. "Not that we were very close. Your average Sunnydale demon is a dull sort; all brawn and no brains for the most part. I miss them though, in a way. It's tough when you're the only one of a kind."

"Maybe now you know how the Slayer feels."

"Except that she's not the only one of her kind anymore. Hasn't been in a while." Spike shifted his position so that the blankets hung a little more loosely, so as to increase his flow of fresh air. "But you you understand. I can hear it in your voice."

"You're not so blinkered as you like people to think, are you."

"I'm a hundred and twenty-six, Giles. I may look wet behind the ears, but I sure as bloody hell am not." The blankets shrugged. "Maybe a little of Dru's sensitivity brushed off on me."

"She's not what I would have called sensitive."

"Yeah, well you two never did get a proper introduction. Maybe if she was with us now, and you got the chance to talk the way we have..."

"I'd probably like her even less. Sorry Spike, but unhinged nuts aren't exactly my cup of tea." He began to brush the sand from his trousers, once again looking purposeful. "Now come on. We should be making a move. Time doesn't stand still you know."

"It does for us. Time hasn't moved on since we reached this desert." Spike was staring up at him, his eyes aglow beneath the coverings of his improvised sunshade. "So what is your cup of tea then, Giles? If not Drusilla, who?"

"This is hardly the time for--"

"Isn't it?" There was a dull ring to the voice now. "When is the time then? What are we hurrying for exactly? We're stuck in a desert, you need water, I need blood, and pretty soon neither of us is going to be strong enough to travel any further. Whatever you may think, Giles, I'm not immortal. I can die out here if I don't get nourishment. So we're both sitting out here on borrowed time, waiting for the end; waiting for your pal Lokosha to come and finish us off. Why bother walking? Why weaken ourselves any further? We might just as well wait for the end here, instead of walking about and killing ourselves that little bit quicker."

There was a silence. Giles hesitated, then lowered himself down slowly onto the sands at Spike's feet. The vampire shifted aside slightly to make room for him, so that they could sit side by side. Giles nodded.

"Okay. If you're sure it's what you want."

"It's what I want. Let's make Lokosha come to us."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then he doesn't." Spike shrugged. "What can we do about it? Unless we happen to chance across a bloody pewter mine." He smirked. "And yes, I do know there's no such thing as a pewter mine."

"I don't like just sitting here."

"Then pace. Do whatever it is you do when you're waiting for the Slayer to come back safe and sound. I'm not going to walk anymore. It's what he wants."

"No." As though obeying Spike's suggestion, Giles rose to his feet and began to pace. "What he wants is to send us both mad. Perhaps he's hoping that we'll kill each other. In this sun, who wouldn't freak out?"

"Great. Well I can't kill you, so I think we know who's going to win that little battle." Spike seemed to be sinking lower, the sun sapping his energy still further. "Shame. There were a lot of things I wanted to do before I died. I wanted to win Dru back. I wanted to flatten Angel. I really wanted to be rescued at nightfall from a choppy sea by a bunch of the girls from Baywatch." He sighed. "That would have been good."

"Yeah. There are a few things I wouldn't mind doing as well." Giles ceased his pacing for a moment. "I always wanted to discover if the legends of the Three Demons of Akutra were really true - and I wanted to master the spells of invisibility. I tried them once, many years ago. Didn't work."

"You've done more than most. How many other humans can lay claim to sharing their baths with a vampire?" A little of the fiery humour had returned to Spike's voice, but Giles could tell that his companion was still fading. It worried him. Spike might be a vampire, and one of the worst at that - but right now he was the only company on offer. If the vicious sun and endless heat were not terrifying enough, more terrifying still was the prospect of being left alone. The threat loomed large in the back of Giles' mind. He managed a smile though, in half-hearted response to Spike's comment.

"True." It was certainly not an achievement he was likely to include on his CV, but nonetheless it was one more thing of note to have happened since moving to Sunnydale. Not that Spike was the first being to have slept in Giles' bathtub. There had been a female stripper who had moved in temporarily back in... 1978? And a fire demon, mistakenly conjured later that same year during an attempt to impress an attractive young actress who was heading for great things. The fire demon had proved to be rather more interesting than the young actress, who, when last Giles had heard of her, had been appearing as the back end of a cow in an Anchor Butter commercial. It had therefore been the fire demon which had eventually been invited to cohabit - and which had managed to set fire to the entire street during a night of ill-judged passion. Giles couldn't even remember her name now, but he could see her in the back of his mind. Her orange hair, set like a flowing, heated mane around her head; her red-gold eyes with the hot white centres; her inhumanly hot, brown skin, with its loose coverings of red and yellow silk. She had singed his eyebrows and melted his gold earring - and then made him another with a flash of sparks from her fingertips. He smiled. As bathtub guests went, she had been the queen. It was just a shame that she had not stayed sleeping in the bathtub. Giles had barely made it out of the flat alive the night that her fiery skin had set the bed ablaze. His scorching companion had returned to hell in a burst of white hot flame; and he had been left looking for a new home. He had a feeling that he still bore a few scars from that encounter.

"Want to share?" Spike had seen the reflective smirk on Giles' face as he thought his way back through time. The former Watcher blinked, startled back to the present in a rush. It seemed fitting that he should return to this world of unbearable heat after thinking such thoughts of his fire demon.

"No. There's, er - there's nothing to tell." He sat down again, moving more slowly this time. "Spike?"


"If Lokosha doesn't come... what happens?"

"We fry." The blankets shrugged. "You're the expert on this stuff. I'm just the tagger-on."

"Yeah, I know." Pulling out his little book, written so long ago by another, rather better informed Watcher, Giles flicked through the pages until he found the entry on Lokosha. It was pitifully small. "There's nothing here about torture, mental or otherwise."

"So he fancied a change of approach. It is the twenty-first century. Maybe he's not in the mood for old style slashing and bashing." Spike coughed. "Urgh. I feel dreadful."

"Yeah." Giles could feel his own energies draining. "I never thought I could hate the sun this much."

"I did." Spike's voice sounded like a hoarse whisper. "Do me a favour, yeah? If the bastard doesn't show, make it quick. I'd return the favour, but thanks to you-know-who I couldn't even start."

"I'm not going to kill you Spike."

"Then I'll end it. What else is there? I'm not going to sit here under this bloody blanket until you die of thirst."

"I wasn't planning on doing that any time soon."

"No. And funnily enough I wasn't planning on spending today roasting in a bloody desert, but look where I am."

"I'm sorry." Hunching his shoulders, Giles rested his head on his arms. It felt hotter still curled up into such a small shape, but he felt so drained that nothing else seemed to matter. "It's all my fault. I knew what that demon was before I killed it. I just never believed in the tales of Lokosha's revenge. Or maybe I didn't care."

"Always the hero."

"Always the berk." Giles managed a smile, but with his head buried in his arms it went unseen. It would have done so anyway, given that Spike was now invisible beneath his blanket shroud. The vampire no longer had the energy to peer out at the world, or even to hold himself upright. He had slumped into an untidy heap of blanket and black leather. "At any rate, I apologise. I got you into all of this. I'd like to say that I'll get you out, but I'm afraid that that's not likely to happen anymore."

"Doesn't matter." Spike's voice sounded thick, as though his tongue was not able to properly form the words. "Ancient history now."

"Yeah. Suppose so." The heat seemed to be growing more intense. Giles could feel his body wilting. He wanted to raise his head, for he was sure that if he did he would have seen a human-shaped shadow stride across the sand before him. He thought that he heard unhinged laughter in the back of his mind. "I'm going to get some sleep now."

"Yeah. Me too." The blankets slumped, and the figure beneath them also fell. "Night."

"Night." It wasn't night; wasn't even close; but Giles was too tired to care. Too tired to care that, if he fell asleep right now, he probably would never wake up again. Too tired to wonder at the huge human shadow that was falling across his mind. All that he could think of was his fire demon, curled up in the bath, sizzling softly whenever a few drops of water fell from the leaky hot tap. A tired smile found its way across his face, and in the back of his mind the human shadow smiled too. A second later Giles fell backwards into the sand, and his sprawled form slipped into unconsciousness. In the fiery wastelands of his tired brain the human shadow reached forward, and snatched the blazing sun from out of the sky.


When Giles awoke the world was dark. He lay still for a long time, listening to the wind across the sand, and the scratching of some unidentifiable animal scratching for food. For a moment the world seemed almost frighteningly normal; as though the enchanted desert in which he lay was the most ordinary place in the world; and yet he knew in his heart of hearts that it was not. Beside him Spike stirred, like a child beneath a pile of bedclothes, unwilling to emerge into the morning. Giles sat up, his head spinning. The heat might have vanished, but its effects still lingered.

"Spike?" His voice coughed into life only falteringly at first. His tongue felt too big for his mouth, and he had to concentrate to make his vocal chords work at all. "Are you okay?"

"Mmmppfhfhh." The unintelligible reply was muffled by layers of blanket, and Giles scrabbled his way through the coverings to locate the buried vampire. Spike's pale eyes glared up at him, fear showing brightly for a moment, until gradually it sunk in that the sun had vanished. The vampire gave a long sigh.

"Are we safe?" He stared up at the sky, apparently drinking in the substance of the night. "Have you seen anything?"

"I was out of it." Giles stood up, swaying for a moment as the world spun in uncooperative circles about him. "I haven't seen or heard anything since... since whenever." He stared around. The milky blackness had swamped all, as though there was not only no sun, but also no other light of any kind. He could barely see his feet below him, and the vast sky was utterly starless. It might as well have been invisible, since all that he could see was blackness above him. For all that his eyes could tell him, the canopy might as well have been a giant blanket, like the ones that Spike had hidden beneath. He could make out no clouds, no moon - nothing anywhere but darkness.

"We're still in the desert." Spike lifted a handful of sand, watching the grains trickle through his fingers. "The ground feels cold though, as if the sun has been gone a long time."

"Maybe it has. Maybe it was never here." Giles reached down, pulling the vampire to his feet. "What do you want to do? Make a run for it?"

"Maybe." Spike was still staring about, almost as though he were sniffing the air for signs of danger. Giles could not remember reading about that being one of the talents of demon-kind, but he was willing to try anything. "Maybe we should wait here. Perhaps Loko-whatsit is about to make his move."

"If he is, I don't fancy being here to see it."

"And I thought that you were such a hero."

"Maybe I am." Reaching down, Giles caught up his jacket from the ground and slung it on. The leather felt cold. "Maybe I'm not." He made a brief and useless attempt to tidy his clothes and hair, for a second showing shades of the old Giles, the one that Spike had always thought of as all tweed and little else. With the now pointless sunglasses stowed away, and his more familiar glasses in their place, there were echoes of that tweed-clad librarian - but they were echoes that seemed to have been dimmed by distance, preparatory to fading away altogether.

"Maybe we should split up." Finally turning his mind away from irrelevant thoughts of tweed and boring librarians, Spike turned his back on Giles and looked back the way they had come - at least he thought that it was the way they had come. In the darkness, following his fevered slumber, it was almost impossible to tell. "Give you-know-who something to think about."

"I doubt that it would deter him." Giles shrugged. "But if you want to give it a try..."

"No. He'd probably only pick us off all the easier." Spike sounded haunted, which was hardly a surprise. Giles himself would have far rather taken the chance for a quick confrontation, whatever the outcome. Spending so long being toyed with was beginning to be more than just a strain. "Come on. Let's get moving." With that he strode forward, his long, leather-clad legs carrying him forward across the sand - for all of a few, impotent strides.

With a sudden, blinding intensity, the night was no longer night, and instead the daylight once again ruled supreme. Hot, violent sunshine burned down on the sand, and Spike gave a yell of agony. His feet burst into flame and he collapsed to the ground, hair steaming, clothes beginning to ignite. He fumbled for his blankets, but his hands did not seem able to move.

"Spike!" Giles leapt forward, galvanised into belated action, the sunlight reflecting onto his glasses so powerfully that he was barely able to see. He snatched up the blankets, covering the vampire, trying to beat out the flames that were making their way up the other man's ankles. Spike was still shouting, his cries now muted by the thickness of the blankets. He was moving feebly, shock clearly audible in his voice. The yells faded as the flames finally died, and the body beneath Giles went limp. Exhausted and shaking violently, Giles rolled away. He lay on the sand on his back, eyes closed, the intense sun painful.

"What happened?" Spike's voice was like the pained sob of a child.

"Trick." Giles sat up, shielding his eyes with his arm, trying to see past the glare to whatever lay ahead of them in the desert. "Just a trick."

"Damn it." The pile of blankets sat up abruptly, and Giles almost reached out to stop the vampire. It was only the memory of accelerated healing that stopped him. "Damn him, he can't bloody well get away with this." A covered fist slammed down hard on the sand. "I want the bloody moon back, and I want it now."

"Don't we all." Giles climbed to his feet, and helped Spike up. The pale, furious eyes glared at him from under a drooping canopy.

"I can manage." Venom spat forth alongside the words. "I'm a vampire, not a bloody invalid." He turned his covered head to the blazing sky. "And I don't care about some sorcerer prat, either. If he's so bloody indestructible, why's he hiding himself away?"

"Forget it." Giles turned his back, already preparing to carry on the march ever onward. "I really don't think he cares."

"On the contrary." A soft voice came floating in with a shadow, a black shape that blew across the sun without dimming its glare in the slightest. "Let him speak. I'm interested."

"Lokosha?" Giles whirled, his feet sending up plumes of hot sand. Before him, dressed in an expensive, if somewhat rumpled grey business suit, stood a tall, broad-shouldered man with iron-grey hair and piercing green eyes. He was smiling just enough to show twin rows of slightly pointed yellowing teeth. Blood stains marked the front of his starched white dress shirt, a fine shower of tiny droplets and a few long, thin dribbles that stood out starkly red against the whiteness. He was wearing a little necklace that seemed familiar, although Giles could not seem to make any connection. For some reason it dragged his mind back to the pizza café, and the beautiful red-haired waitress who had thought that he and Spike were an item. Now there was an anecdote never to tell Buffy and the others. If he survived to tell them anything of course.

"Right first time." The sorcerer strolled towards them, eyes alight and burning. His widening smile made his teeth stand out, the points inhuman and deadly. "So they do teach you people something worthwhile. And I thought that Watchers only knew about obsolete rituals, and futile prophesy."

"You'll find that we know quite a lot these days." Giles' voice was cold, but all too obviously Lokosha did not care. He gave a light laugh.

"And the vampire. Cowering beneath his blankets like a child afraid of the monsters under his bed. I was intrigued by you two, I must confess. A Watcher and a vampire, working together. But then I looked a little closer." He reached out, his fingers stroking the blanket above Spike's head. Spike tried to dodge aside, but found himself unable to move. An unseen force was holding him immobile. "A neat piece of work, I must say; although it lacks style. Personally I would have come up with something a little more interesting."

"Leave him alone." Armed with nothing more deadly that his glasses, Giles took a step forward. Lokosha did not even bother to glance in his direction.

"Be silent." His voice was deep and powerful, and for a second the air seemed to vibrate with its sound. Giles found that he could no longer move or speak. His lips moved soundlessly, the muscles of his throat and mouth struggling to form words that had no means of making themselves heard. All that he seemed able to do was frown at his own sudden impotence. Lokosha smiled his satisfaction, and continued to run his gentle hands over the still form before him. Spike was making curious choking sounds, unable to gain any kind of control over his speech.

"Relax, my little vampire." With a brief whisper under his breath that made the hair on the back of Spike's neck rise in inexplicable fear, the sorcerer made an abrupt twisting motion in the air with one hand. Spike gasped, his head was flung back, and he felt the muscles in his neck protest sharply. The blankets fell away, but he felt no pain. He tried to grab for them as the confining force around him vanished, but he merely overbalanced and fell to the ground. The hot sun burned down on him, but there were no flames.

"What did you do to me?" For a second he was afraid, irrationally perhaps, that he had been returned to mortality. He felt no different however. Lokosha shrugged.

"Simple. The sun is only there if you perceive it to be. It amused me to watch you cower in fear for your life. But now maybe I have a better plan." He held up his right hand. Lying in the palm, bright against his skin, was a tiny device. Clearly it was electrical in nature, and as his unknowing eyes fell upon it, instinct brought Spike's hands to the top of his head. He could feel nothing - no scar, no blood, no alteration to his bristling hair - and yet he knew in his heart of hearts what device it was that Lokosha was showing to him. He smiled.

"I'm free." The desire to bite and feed was almost overpowering, and he could not help turning his eyes to the Watcher, standing so helplessly such a short distance away. "I can kill again? I can kill people?"

"Whatever takes your fancy, my friend." The sorcerer stepped aside, gesturing towards Giles with a flamboyant flourish. "I'm sorry the menu is so limited at present, but I'm sure that he'll do as a starter."

"Maybe." Spike was grinning, his dry mouth straining as it stretched into its new expression. It was all that he could do not to lick his lips. Unable to back away, or even to speak to Spike, Giles swallowed hard. His eyes darted from the hungry vampire to the towering sorcerer, and then back once again to the vampire. Spike took a few steps towards him.

"It's not as if anybody's going to know." This time he did lick his lips, and in the same instant his face changed. Gone was the smooth-featured young human, with the all-too human eyes. In his place was a fanged demon, eyes a cold yellow, brow ridge enlarged. A low-voiced growl escaped his throat, and his mouth twisted into a wide and toothy grin. He raised a hand, and with a gentle, lazy movement, took hold of the back of Giles' neck. The ex-Watcher could feel hard fingers gripping his skin, pressing painfully against his spine. The lowermost curls of hair along the base of his head stung as they were snared and pulled. Giles began to feel his feet losing touch with the ground.

"Drink your fill, vampire." There was a curiously sing-song quality to the soft voice of the sorcerer. "And then turn and face me, and hear my voice."

"I can hear it already." As Spike spoke, Giles felt the words as a soft, warm breath against his neck. It confused him. Beneath the fear questions burned. He tried to articulate meaningful sounds, but all that came from his throat was a strangled gasp. Spike's grip tightened, and a low, rumbling growl escaped him as his strong, forceful fingers pushed Giles' head back, better exposing the warm veins he could already practically taste. Giles felt the soft prick of sharp teeth press down on the skin of his throat.

"And I don't like it." With a roar of astonishing fury, Spike hurled Giles aside, sending the human tumbling into the sand in an ungainly sprawl. In the same motion Spike dived forward, his powerful hands seizing the sorcerer, dragging him back, pushing him down, mouth open to grip the enchanted mortal's prominent veins. Lokosha let out a shriek of rage, and his hands raised to begin another spell. Regaining his awareness in a blur of desperate confusion, Giles stumbled forward, falling forward with an urgent haste, and grasping the infuriated sorcerer by the arms. The threesome toppled, collapsing together in a whirlwind of enmeshed arms and legs, ensnared by one another, and inextricably entangled. Lokosha roared, and in the same moment Spike struck. His teeth showed strong and white and powerful for a second, reflecting all the light of the sun. Lokosha let out a muted growl, cut short into a choking sound that echoed and fought for audibility. Spike felt the other man's blood flow.

"You stupid, misbegotten infidel!" With a crash of faraway thunder that was at once elsewhere and everywhere and yet still distinctly overhead, Lokosha's voice returned to him in a flash of fiery rage. Heat flowed through him, light burned in his eyes, and Spike let out a scream of pain, stumbling back away from the sorcerer, hands thrown up to his lips as the ancient mortal's fearsome powers burnt him by their touch. Blood still flowed from Lokosha's neck, but it seemed to be slowing with each second. Stunned by the change in their fortunes, Giles' grip on his prisoner faltered and Lokosha tore free, waving one hand in a dismissive motion that sent the former Watcher flying through the air. He crashed into a heap on the sand, blinking dazedly up at a sky that was suddenly streaked in black and shades of red. Thunderous purple built on the horizon, and streaks of lightning began to tear apart the heavens. A wind was beginning to be born somewhere in the distance, and its progress was easily visible as it tore towards the little group, bringing with it a maelstrom of raging, churning sand.

"Uh oh." Still licking his singed lips, Spike stared towards the furious sorcerer, his eyes wandering intermittently towards the fast approaching sandstorm. Overhead the clouds raged faster, and the lightning exploded in force. Still the sun burned down, and still the violence of its heat touched all. Spike felt light-headed and ill.

"I'll destroy you." Stalking forward, hands held out, Lokosha snatched hold of the vampire's clothing, almost tearing the material apart in his desire to kill the creature that had dared to defy him. His strangely pointed teeth gleamed as he opened his mouth wide. Spike was treated to a glimpse of a set of bloodstained canines, and molars that showed plain evidence of the sorcerer's last meal. Raw flesh clung to the tips of the teeth, and a faint perfume hung in the air. To a human it might have been indistinguishable, but to a vampire, with the sense of smell of a predatory animal, it was as clear as daylight. It was a perfume that belonged to a statuesque redheaded waitress, a young girl who had hated her job and loved her customers. It surprised Spike - although perhaps not as much as it once would have done - that he felt a burst of illogical sorrow at the inescapable conclusion.

"Just try it." His face, still twisted into its bestial horror, wrenched itself into an unpleasant smile. Lokosha laughed.

"A fitting end. You'll curse me forever once you're trapped back in hell." Lights flashed, and Spike could no longer move. He did not fight the spell. Somewhere he could hear Giles approaching, back on his feet but clearly flagging. The sandstorm was almost upon them, and it was clear that the human would not reach the vampire in time. Hot, swirling blasts of air were already upon them, bringing the first whirling tendrils of spinning, angry sand. Strong hands gripped Spike's chin, dragging his head back, fingers digging in and making the veins stand out more strongly. Spike's light-headedness increased. He felt a witty retort grow within him, but there was no way to voice it through his paralysed throat. In the same instant that he heard Giles shout his name - in the same instant that he heard the Watcher's panic, heard Lokosha's triumph, heard the screaming of the demons that Lokosha had once created - the sandstorm struck. Everywhere was insane, everywhere screamed. Spike's feet lost the ground, his mind lost its certainty. All that he could feel beyond the pain of the raging sand and the burning of the unadulterated heat was the bite of sharpened teeth into his neck. He felt his blood flow, he felt the strong sucking of a mortal not designed for such a kill, and yet determined to make it anyway. And he felt something else.

It grew slowly at first, like a distant fire that was building in strength and heat. It began as a cloud of smoke in the distant recesses of hell, and it charged forward like a bolt of fury from the gateway to another world. A scream of joy was born in another dimension, and it tore forth into the earth as the cry of a creature just born. Lokosha's mouth flew open, he made a wild grab for his own throat, and a cry of something between fear and rage burst from his mouth. Blood - Spike's rather than his own - bubbled forth at his lips, pouring down his chin and his neck, staining the sand that flew past him. The intense, roaring wind obliterated his furious denials, his desperate attempts to disbelieve his own situation. Blinded now by the sand, Spike staggered back, felt his searching hands grabbing Giles. He could not see the Watcher, and he knew that the Watcher could not see him, but he knew that between them both their was understanding. In the heart of the maelstrom, deafened by the noise, out of touch with any form of reality that could make any sense, they tumbled together to the burning ground, and waited for the madness to fade.

It faded slowly. The sun was the first of the players to once again make itself known to the world, as it shook off its unwanted coating of sand and turned its violence once again upon the wilting tableau beneath it. Spike was next, struggling to his feet despite the attempted refusals of his tired legs. He dragged Giles after him, the Watcher bashing sand from his clothes and his hair, resettling his glasses upon his nose with a look of deepening exhaustion. Spike grinned at him, his expression one of deepest satisfaction. Clearly he was of the opinion that he had done something truly inspired.

"Go get him tiger."

"Huh?" Giles looked up at the sound of a bellow of rage, just in time to see a huge vampire bearing down upon him. Plumes of sand rose and flew beneath the creature's pounding feet, and furious yellow eyes burned with feral wrath. "What the bloody hell am I supposed to do?"

"Slay it!" They dodged aside as one, stumbling back as the vampire tore on past them, then skidded to a ungainly halt. It turned slowly, eyeing them from a distance, clearly turning its twisted mind onto thoughts of better plans of attack.

"I'm not the bloody Slayer! I'm the Watcher!" Giles gestured to Lokosha with something akin to disbelief. "You changed him into a vampire. Why in Heaven's name would you want to turn him into a vampire!"

"So you can stake him you imbecile! He was indestructible, and now he is inherently destructible! Stake him! Bloody behead him for all I care. I've done my bit."

"Stake him? What with? My front door key?" Lokosha was advancing towards them again now, his arms held out and his eyes bright with the promise of sorcery. "I don't believe you! We had a mortal to deal with - and now we've got a pissed off vampire. Bloody brilliant, Spike! You're just a bundle of genius, aren't you. Why didn't you tell me you were going to do this?"

"It was a spur of the moment thing. Look, we didn't have any pewter right? So what were you planning to do? Talk it to death? I took the bloody initiative, okay? I used my brain. I came up with a solution. Now stake him and let's get the bloody hell out of this sodding desert!"

"My stake is in the car!" Lokosha was a mere stone's throw away now, his eyes hot white beneath the yellow glow of his newly demonic persona. "Which, at this current moment in time, is about six miles..." His voice trailed off as he scanned the featureless desert for clues, before pointing. "In that direction. Now do you have any more brilliant ideas?"

"I--" Spike was cut short by a blow to the chest which sent him sprawling to the ground. His attacker, Lokosha, glared down at him.

"You tricked me." His voice was guttural and strange, the old Lokosha struggling to be heard beneath the demon now inhabiting his conscious. Giles made a grab for him, but a powerful fist gripped a handful of his shirt, twisting and holding, effectively immobilising him. From his position on the ground, nervous and breathless, Spike managed an uncertain grin.

"Yeah, but look on the bright side. You'll never grow old."

"You tried to kill me." Lokosha's grip on Giles tightened with the growth of his rage, and the Watcher felt his chest constrict. "You tried to destroy my mind beneath this inferior demon. I am not a vampire!"

"Oh but you are, chum." Finally making it back to his feet, Spike managed a cocky grin. "Let go. Let it take you."

"Never." With a flick of his wrist, Lokosha sent Giles flying through the air. "I still have my powers. I still have my sense of self."

"But you're still a vampire. I drank your blood, mate. You were dead the moment you drank mine. You think you're still yourself, but you're not. Lokosha is dead. What's left is something else."


"He's right." Still sprawled on the ground some distance away, the dazed Giles struggled part of the way up. "You're a vampire now. Any powers you retain are - are merely residual. Lokosha's knowledge may remain. Your past may still be clear to you. But that - that's all."

"Then if that is so, your agonising deaths will atone for your crimes against me." Sparks spat from the tips of the sorcerer's fingers. Halfway to his feet now, Giles found himself suddenly slammed to his knees. The impact with the hot sand sent shocks of pain racing up his legs, and he nearly collapsed. A hand that did not exist was gripping his throat, pressing against his windpipe. His desperate fingers, weakened and blind, scratched feebly at his shirt, searching for something that he knew was beneath it.

"You don't want to fight me." Still making vague and pointless attempts to impress Lokosha with his feigned bravado, Spike tried to attract the attention of the other vampire. Lokosha glared at him, and Spike found himself lying flat on his back on the ground. The sun hurt his eyes, and his head swam. He felt a desperate urge to bury himself once again beneath his blankets, but he had no idea where they were, or how to get to them. Nearby, Giles had finally succeeded in clasping the cross that hung about his neck. With a terrible effort he tore it free, holding it out by its chain so that the violent sun struck its metal face and made it glow. Its shadow, dark as pitch and larger than life, fell across Lokosha's face. The vampire let out a scream of wretched agony.

"You're a dead man, Lokosha." Stumbling back to his feet, Giles took a few steps forward, the whole time keeping the cross held out before him. The vampire sorcerer stumbled and staggered away from him, but in his new certainty it was Giles that moved the quickest. Soon he stood before the demon, cross held out as a protecting talisman, empty of all weaponry save the badge of his defence. His eyes searched the bleak tableau for signs of inspiration.

"You won't defeat me." Covering his eyes with his hands Lokosha spat sparks from his mouth along with more of Spike's blood. This time it was tainted with his own. Giles felt his legs begin to collapse, but he fought against the impulse, and fought against the spell. Nearby Spike was going through the pockets of his companion's fallen jacket. There was a wallet, a handful of loose change, a set of keys for the sorry heap of junk that he laughingly called a car - and nestling in the bottom of one, forgotten pocket, there was a broken pencil. It was no more than four inches long, and it had long ago lost its lead. Dust clung to the long unsharpened tip, and faint letters could still be discerned running faintly along its red-, white- and blue-painted length. It looked as though it said, in faded gold lettering, Silver Jubilee - 1952-1977. There was the mark of something that might once have been a Royal Crest. With a grin that was more a grimace, Spike started forward.

"No!" Lokosha saw him coming, and fling up his arms to protect himself. Winds rose and fell, the sun burned more strongly. Spike redoubled his efforts and fought on against the defiant elements. His hands sought those of Giles, and the broken pencil slid into the Watcher's waiting fingers. Giles did not look at the pencil, although he remembered it. His fingertips felt its length, and knew what it was. He remembered taking it, remembered using it once - remembered the face of the shop girl he had stolen it from. It all meant nothing as he held it out before him, cross in the other hand, eyes set cold and hard beneath glasses scratched by the assault of too much hot, raging sand. Lokosha screamed, and his sorcery fought. Spells flew. Giles felt his mind burn. About him and around him the heavens opened, and the lightning exploded the sun. He thrust forward. Lokosha dodged, but somewhere in the recesses of his mind Giles had anticipated his move. Decades of Watcher training and preparation invaded his subconscious, and the moves came easily to his unending surprise. He felt his makeshift weapon strike home, and all at once his vision was stolen by a rush of hot black ash. And then there was silence.

He was standing beside the road, near the smoking ruins of a sleek black sports car. Spike was sitting in the road nearby, looking terribly confused and extremely lost. One of his blankets hung around his shoulders, but the sun was gone and night was all about them. There was no trace of sand or desert, and the broken chain of the cross was whole again, and once more hanging around Giles' neck. The only sign of continuity to the suddenly stolen past was the broken length of red, white and blue pencil that he still gripped in his left hand. His knuckles had gone white from the force of his grasp, and it took a moment's concentration to relax his fingers, and allow the tired hand to return the pencil to the pocket of a jacket that he found he was wearing once again. Half-frozen throat muscles forced themselves to swallow.

"What just happened?" It was Spike who first found the ability to speak. Giles turned his eyes to look at him, for a moment unable to answer.

"I suppose we must have won." He managed a shaky smile. "Lokosha is no longer with us."

"So much for the all-powerful demon. If you ask me, most of these creatures are all legend and no substance." Climbing to his feet, Spike glanced towards the smoking ruin of the car. "How are we going to get home?"

"Taxi?" Beginning to regain his balance with his wits, Giles turned about. They were on the edge of a town, where the sprawl of suburban mediocrity met urban realism in a clash of compromise and conflict. There were any number of cars parked about. Some of their owners were coming out of their houses, staring at the two men and their smoking vehicle. Somebody somewhere shouted something about calling the police.

"I'm not calling a bloody taxi." Spike pointed to a nearby car, apparently unattended, left at the roadside with its roof down. It was a black car, more powerful than the little one they had stolen in Sunnydale, with twin exhausts that gleamed in a vast tribute to the glory of chrome. Giles grinned.

"Good idea." They climbed in, hearing a shout from somewhere that could only have come from an incensed owner. Giles' fingers were already reaching for the relevant wires, and as footsteps pounded along the tarmac behind them, the engine burst into life. Spike let out a whoop of delight, and the car lurched forward.

"Bring that back!" The angry voice of the car's owner faded behind them. Giles breathed out a sigh of relief, then as the sand-scratched condition of his glasses began to frustrate, he tore them off and threw them out onto the passing street. It took only a moment to pull the sunglasses from the breast pocket of his leather jacket, and he slipped them on instead. They felt right for the moment, and he relaxed back into his seat. Beside him Spike flicked on the radio. For a second there was a burst of disco music; a flash of static; a momentary warble from some operatic soprano - before the loud, heavy jarring of a rock station filled the car with music. Spike grinned.

"Home James." He leaned back in his seat and put his feet up on the dashboard, reaching into his pocket to light up a cigarette. Giles put his foot down on the accelerator.

"Fine." The car roared forward with a burst of unleashed power, and the volume of the radio rose in answer. "Sunnydale here we come."


Buffy Summers knocked one last time on Giles' front door, and then sank to the ground outside his apartment. The hard path was cold, and the gentle music of the wind chimes above her head were doing little but adding to her sense of misery and solitude. The sound was supposed to be relaxing and soothing, but she felt neither relaxed nor soothed. Worried was far closer to the mark, along with a fair measure of annoyance. Where had Giles got to? How could he just disappear for two days without telling her where he was going? Okay, so maybe she hadn't been visiting him so often these days... and maybe it was harder for him to be a part of her life... but that still didn't mean that he could vanish whenever he chose. Didn't he know that she worried for him?

"You'd better have a good excuse, Giles..." Drawing her legs up to her chest, she rested her chin on her arms and stared morosely back towards the road. There was the sound of a car in the distance, but it was not the unhealthy cough of Giles' car engine, and so she ignored it. It was not until she saw a powerful black sports car drawing up, and two very familiar figures emerging from within it, that she jumped to her feet and hurried over to the road edge. Her eyes opened wide.

"Giles?" He looked odd - tired but strangely happy; and although she had been adjusting herself to the recent lack of tweed and tie, and the sudden appearance of black leather jackets, when combined with a pair of very dark sunglasses and at least two days worth of stubble the look was more than plain disturbing. She felt a burst of concern that could only grow as she saw the open bottle of beer in his left hand. When Giles let the Ripper out, the consequences were apt to be unpleasant.

"Buffy!" He handed something to his companion, sending a plume of smoke drifting into the air. Spike grinned, and set the something back between his lips. A cigarette tip glowed in the dusk air. Giles coughed. Buffy glared.

"What - I mean where - Giles what the hell is going on? You vanished without a word. I've been worried about you. And now I find that you've been spending the last two days bonding with the Cockney Creep? Do you have any idea how scared I was that something had happened to you? Where have you been?"

"Steady on, Buffy." Gesturing in a vaguely placating motion with his beer bottle, Giles pulled off the sunglasses and smiled his familiar smile. Beneath the Ripper's veneer Buffy's old Watcher was clearly visible, but still the Slayer could not shake her concern - or her sharp sense of hurt. "I wasn't exactly... Well it's complicated, shall we say. I had something to deal with, and Spike here was kind enough to--"

"Yeah. Really kind. Taking kindness to a whole new level." Stubbing the cigarette out on the nearby wall, Spike tossed the butt back into the car. "Oh, say - you're the insufferable do-gooder around here. Couldn't take that thing back to its owner could you? Blond guy, lives in the suburbs. Blue T-shirt. Sorry I can't be a little more specific." He giggled, and raised his own beer bottle in a mock salute.

"I think the address is on the documentation in - in the, er, glove compartment." Giles nodded to his door. "I could do it, but I need a rest. We'll talk later Buffy."


"Later." He slipped the sunglasses back on, although in the growing dark they were more a hindrance than a help, and half stumbled towards his front door. Buffy followed him back, stepping over the threshold with a strong sense of growing trepidation. Spike followed on, tripping over the doorstep, and collapsed onto the nearest easy chair. Very slowly, Buffy lowered herself onto a seat nearby.

"Hello Buffy." Reacting rather as though she had just that moment dropped by for a visit, Giles gestured towards the kitchen. "Tea?"

"No, not tea. Explanations, Giles." She gestured at Spike. "What are you doing in a stolen car with him? And why haven't I heard anything from you?"

"My head hurts." Spike was gripping his skull, tufts of blond hair sticking up between his fingers. Buffy kicked him hard in the leg.

"Shut up. This is a Watcher/Slayer moment, and you're just the creep with no more teeth. Keep out of this."

"He can't, Buffy. This does concern Spike too." Giles glanced from one to the other of them. "Perhaps this could wait until morning? Or - or maybe until tomorrow night."

"Like hell it can Giles. I--"

"My head really hurts." Happy to ignore the Slayer's growing irritation, Spike took a long pull from his beer. Buffy pulled a stake from inside her jacket, and brandished it threateningly. The vampire hunched his shoulders and looked sulky.

"It's simple." Suddenly all business, Giles headed towards the kitchen, clearly intending to prepare some tea for himself whether she wanted any or not. "We were in the graveyard, we were attacked, we needed to get away. Unpleasant sorcerer, powerful spells of vengeance, we'll go over the details tomorrow." He knelt to rummage through the bottom of the fridge, and eventually came up trumps with a packet of blood. "Don't know how long this has been in here. Still, technically speaking he's immortal, so I can't see a few lethal germs bothering him." As Buffy winced, he tore open the packet, rapidly decanting its fluid contents into a bone china teacup.

"A sorcerer? Why didn't you come and find me?"

"Because we were rather preoccupied, Buffy. And quite frankly it's not all that easy to get hold of you these days, if you catch my drift. I'm sorry, but we didn't have the time to search all over Sunnydale for somebody who might not have even been available." He relented at her sharp wince, and put his hands on her shoulders. "I'm sorry. It's been a long couple of days. Meet me somewhere tomorrow, and I'll talk you through it all." She smiled a little ruefully.

"It's at times like this that I miss the library at Sunnydale High."

"Hmm. Yes, well life's all about change Buffy. There are some things that you just can't do anymore - some things that can't be the same." He gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze. "Now excuse me for a moment. I think I remember promising to show Spike my Led Zeppelin albums."

"You're not friends now. Are you?" She sounded concerned, albeit only in a vaguely comic way. Giles grinned.

"Perish the thought. We worked together, but to be perfectly frank we can barely stand to be in the same room as each other. He's okay when he's bordering on drunk, but once that wears off I have no doubt that he'll be his usual insufferable, whining self once again." He frowned. "Especially once he realises that his cure was just an hallucination."

"His cure?"

"Long story." He stifled a yawn. "Tell you tomorrow."

"I'll meet you here." She smiled. "In the meantime you look like something out of a Mad Max sequel. Maybe you'd better get some sleep."

"I will." The kettle boiled, and he poured the hot water into a mug. "Goodnight Buffy."

"Night." She walked back through the apartment, studiously ignoring Spike, and paused only when she had reached the front door. Giles was heading back into the living room, handing Spike the blood before seating himself at his desk, the sunglasses abandoned. He was toying with them in just the same way that he had used to toy with his glasses, in the early days of his acquaintance with Buffy. She had found him quaint then, sweet in an odd way, like a lost and shy boy in the body of a middle-aged man. She didn't think that anymore, and she wasn't sure whether or not she missed that old, tweed-clad persona. Still; Giles himself had said it - there were some things that just couldn't be the same. Stepping out into the night, she closed the door gently behind her. She could hear Giles and Spike for a moment, lost in conversation in the lamp-lit darkness of the eccentrically decorated apartment behind her; and she paused just for a moment to listen to their conversation. Spike was commenting on a limited edition Clash record, in a way that made her think, sadly, of Oz. The words were muted, faded by the thick wooden door, but she could just about make out Giles' reply.

"It was a present from a friend. Her name was Katherine."

"I knew a Katherine once. Only girl that ever turned my head away from Dru." Spike sounded reflective. Deciding that she had no wish to hear the tales of a vampire's love life, Buffy strode away into the deepening night. Distance and the clicking of her footsteps prevented her from hearing the rest of the conversation. "Her name was Katherine DeVere, and she put a whole new spin on 'exotic'. I met her in 1900, when Dru was still mourning for Angelus."

"She was quite something alright." Giles was thinking back through the years, to the time when a beautiful woman with lustrous black hair had shown a confused young loner a world that he had never imagined. Spike's eyebrows flew up.

"Katherine DeVere? We're talking about the same Katherine DeVere? Four hundred years-old...?"

"We celebrated her four hundred and fifty-fourth birthday together." Giles sighed at the memory. "I think we were in Luxembourg at the time. Or possible Constantinople. I rather lost track after Paris."

"She was a vampire."

"Mmm." Giles nodded, still toying with the sunglasses in his hand. "She wanted to turn me, and I actually did think about it for a while. She left the offer open."

"Do you think she's still alive?" Sipping his blood with the air of a connoisseur, Spike turned over the record that had started the conversation, and glanced at the sleeve notes on the back. There was a scrawled message hand-written there, just next to a photograph of the band - but a combination of tired eyes and bad light made it impossible for him to read it.

"Oh, she's still alive. She killed a Watcher a month ago in Beijing." Giles did not meet the vampire's eyes.

"You walk with the Slayer... you spend every night thinking of nothing except wiping my race off the face of the Earth... and yet you fell in love with one of the most deadly of us, and you keep her a secret from your people?"

"They're not my people anymore."

"But they were."

"Yeah." Giles finished his tea and rose to his feet. He seemed slower now, and stiffer - as though his age had come back to him with his return to Sunnydale. Memories of temporarily shirked responsibilities slowed his step, and worries and concerns that were always with him found their way back to the surface of his mind. "There's a lot that I've kept secret from the Watchers."

"And from Buffy."

Giles nodded. "And from Buffy. I hid my real self from her for several years. I tried to protect her from the truth."

"You shouldn't have bothered." Spike leaned back, hands behind his head, feet on the nearest table. "From what I've seen these last couple of days, there's a side to you that I could grow to like."

"Precisely." Giles knocked the vampire's feet off the table. "And if you like it, that means it's something I've got to keep buried very deeply indeed."

"You don't think your Slayer would like to know about your shady past? Vampire lovers? Secrets that get people killed? It didn't take much to make you show your true colours when we were on the run. Maybe it's time you told Buffy a few truths - before somebody else does."

"Are you threatening me, Spike?" Quite suddenly the space between them had halved, and cold green eyes shone done into Spike's upraised, pale face. He smiled a small smile that spoke of certain triumph.

"The way things are going, Ripper, I won't need to bother."

"Huh." Giles spun on his heel and marched away, heading for the stairs. "See yourself out when you've finished. I'm going to get some sleep."

"Hiding again, Rupert? Hoping that the big bad Ripper will go away?"

"No." Giles paused on the stairs, looking back down at the man that he couldn't help hating - and yet couldn't help feeling a tremendous closeness towards. The man that reminded him so very much of himself, and of all that he kept hidden. "I hoped that once, but I learnt the truth. And I have a feeling there's a lot about me that Buffy is going to find out before very much more time has passed." His eyes narrowed, and with a slowing of his step and a visible slump to his shoulders, he turned about and began to head once more up the stairs. "I only hope that when she does find out, she'll still want to keep me around."

"It's that bad?" Spike couldn't stop the grin. Giles' step hesitated, but for only the briefest of moments. He did not look back.

"Oh no." His voice was both sharp and soft, like a whisper of wind, or - Spike couldn't help making the comparison - the hissing of the serpents and monsters that guarded the gateways to hell. "It's worse. It's a whole lot worse."

"Is it indeed." Down below, left alone, Spike smirked into the shadows. Some of them, he was certain, had watchful, searching eyes. His own voice softened, but he could not match the threatening sibilance of the Ripper. "Then I think I might just stick around." The way things were going, maybe he didn't regret his new vocation so much after all.