TITLE: Whiskers Of Fury
AUTHOR: AussieBullDog
RATING: R (occasional violence and language issues ahead)
FEEDBACK: See, it's this thing where you read someone else's fic, then you tell the writer what you thought of it. The writer gets enough good feedback, they keep writing. Everybody wins. (Email it to me at abd@ozonline.com.au, or post it to me at the Bronze Beta. Or better yet, you can find this story at fanfiction.net and review it there.)
DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon? Yes. Me? No. Enough said.
DISTRIBUTION: You want it? You can have it. Just let me know where to see it.
SUMMARY: BtVS/Angel crossover. The Scooby Gang and the Angel Investigations crew are brought together to face their toughest enemy yet. And it's an enemy that none of them ever would have expected ...
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Consider this fic set at some point after Buffy season 5/Angel season 2. A few months, maybe. None of the new season stuff has happened. The lyrics used in chapter 2 are from "The End", performed by The Doors, and which I did not write. Hell, I wasn't even alive in 1967.
DEDICATION: To Spikmeister. Bring on the army of kitten minions.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10


CHAPTER 1 - She Will Scratch You


Night time in Sunnydale.

It was a little after midnight. Main Street was deserted, and eerily silent. If you listened hard, you could just make out the sound of two dogs barking in the distance, but aside from that, not a sound could be heard.

Then, the sound of footsteps, shuffling along the sidewalk. Under the bright glare of the streetlights in the otherwise darkened street, a figure could be seen moving along the path beside the road. It was a young man, early twenties from the look of him, walking at a mildly slow pace. A half- smoked cigarette dangled from between his lips. He had a set of headphones over his ears, and he listened to a CD that was playing on the portable disc player that rested in a pocket in the inside of his jacket.

As the young man passed an alley that ran down the space between the magic shop and the butcher shop, he heard a noise coming from the alley. It sounded like something being knocked over. A trashcan lid, perhaps, or a stack of packing crates. The sound, whatever it was, was loud enough to register in his ears over the music coming from his disc player, and it startled him. He stopped walking abruptly, took his headphones off and stuffed them in his jacket pocket, and turned his head to look down the alley.

He heard nothing.

Dismissing it, he was about to start walking again when another noise got his attention. It, too, came from the alley, but this sound was different. A strange, unfamiliar, unsettling hissing sound that created a disturbing feeling of unease in the pit of the young man's stomach. This sound wasn't like anything he had ever heard before. There was a frightening quality to it that he didn't like in the slightest.

The young man stood frozen to the spot. The ugly hissing noise had registered within him a level of irrational fear he hadn't even known he was capable of feeling.

However, that fear was nothing compared to the terror he felt during what happened next.


Night time in Los Angeles.

Cordelia Chase was in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, seated behind her desk, struggling to stay awake. She had been to a glamorous Hollywood party the night before, and had been up most of the night. She had finally arrived back at home a little after five in the morning, and had gone straight to bed, only to be woken again at seven by the ringing phone on her night table by the bed. She could have sworn she told Dennis to take it off the hook before she fell asleep. It was Wesley, calling her in to work.

And now, she had been called in again. Angel, Wesley and Gunn were on the other side of the town at the moment, fighting off a particularly nasty pack of slime demons, and Wes had asked Cordy to come in and hold down the fort in the meantime, and deal with anyone who happened to come by. Wolfram & Hart lawyers, for instance.

So, here she was. Sitting in her desk chair behind her desk, and re-reading the latest issue of "Excruciating Headaches Monthly" in a feeble attempt to alleviate her boredom.

Feeling hungry, Cordelia started to get up to go and grab a snack, but quickly fell back into her seat and grabbed her head, as the full force of a vision hit her like a thunderbolt.


Willow and Tara were headed back to their dorm room. Willow had to support Tara as they walked. The two of them, along with Buffy, Xander, Spike, and Giles, had gone to a dorm party that night, and Tara had gotten more than a little drunk. Willow had to take Tara back home with her, and leave the others behind early. She realised this when she turned around to see her lover standing on a table, wearing a lampshade on her head, and singing "We Will Rock You" at the top of her lungs, while a large group of college students gathered around her, cheering.

As the two girls walked into their dorm room, only Willow noticed the mess the room was in. Tara staggered across the room, giggling, and crashed down onto the bed, where she promptly passed out. Willow, meanwhile, stared in shock at the sight before her.

The room was a shambles. Objects had been knocked to the floor, the curtains had been violently torn and now hung in strips, and a familiar glass cage was lying on the floor, smashed and broken open.

Amy's cage.

Quickly, her heart in her mouth, Willow dashed over to where the remains of the cage lay beside the bed. Tara grunted, and rolled over on the bed. Amy was nowhere to be found. Willow squatted down on all fours, and started looking across the floor for any sign of the human-turned-rat. Her breath caught in her throat when she spotted something long and thin under her bed. Reaching under the bed, she picked it up, brought it close to her face, and looked at it. Then she threw it away with a disgusted and sickened expression on her face when she realised what it was.

It was a rat's tail.

Willow had yet to notice who should have been in the room, but wasn't.


Angel, Gunn and Wesley entered the lobby of the Hyperion, where they saw Cordelia sitting slumped in her chair, her hands at her forehead. Quickly, the three of them jogged over to her.

"Cordy, what is it?" Angel asked her.

"You okay?" Gunn asked her.

"Was it a vision?" Angel asked her.

Cordelia didn't answer right away, and Wesley motioned for the others to move away and give her some space. Angel and Gunn moved back a few steps, but no further. Then they stood still, watching Cordy with matching looks of deep concern.

Wesley squatted down next to Cordelia, and put a hand on her arm. "How are you feeling?" he asked her, speaking quietly. "Did you see something?"

Cordy nodded.

"What did you see?" Wesley gently prompted.

"A man," Cordy answered after a moment. She spoke in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. "An alley."

She lapsed into silence again, and Wesley grew more concerned when her face showed an expression of pain. "Are the visions still hurting you?" he asked her.

"That's not the problem," Cordelia replied, her voice still almost inaudible. "This time, anyway. It ... it was what I saw." She shuddered.

"That's quite alright," Wes assured her. "Just take your time."

Cordy nodded, looked up at him, and gave him a small smile. Wesley could see the anguish behind it, though. "This guy," she said slowly. "He looked young, maybe early twenties. He was ... he was on his back. Something was attacking him. There were claws ... and blood ... oh, God." Cordy started to shudder again, and Wesley patiently waited for the shudder to pass. He put a comforting hand on her back.

When she had calmed again, Wesley spoke. "What was attacking him?"

Cordy looked up at him again, and Wesley was shocked by the look of unbridled terror in her eyes. The words she spoke next sent a chill up the ex-Watcher's spine.

"It was a kitten."


CHAPTER 2 - The End Of Laughter


Xander Harris walked down the hall toward the door to his and Anya's apartment. It was roughly half past two in the morning, and the whole building was pretty quiet. Reaching his door, he unlocked it, opened it slowly, and stepped into the apartment. He moved across the room as silently as he could, not turning on any of the lights, for Anya would certainly be asleep by now. Aside from Willow and Tara, who left the dorm party early due to Tara's extreme drunkenness, Xander and the rest of the group had stayed out pretty late tonight. Or should that be this morning? He had invited his fiance to come along with the rest of them, but Anya had irritably begged off, citing illness. She had been suffering from a strain of stomach flu for close to a week. This was Anya's first time stricken by an illness since becoming human, and she hadn't been much fun to live with lately. If he wasn't in love with the ex-demon, Xander would have been seriously considering moving out and getting himself a new place by now, if for no other reason than to get a little peace and quiet for a change.

As he walked into the dimly lit bedroom, Xander looked down at the sleeping Anya, who lay under the covers, not moving. Only her head and one of her arms were sticking out. Her head was turned to one side, facing his side of the bed, and the moonlight coming in through the drape pulled across the bedroom window cast shadows on her face. Xander smiled, and moved over to the chest of drawers in which he kept his pajamas. He passed the lamp they kept in the room on the way, but left it too turned off, so as not to disturb Anya. He found it somewhat strange that he still wore pajamas to bed, something he had done since he was three, at the age he was now, but Anya told him one time that he looked cute in pajamas, and the rest is history.

As he pulled the top drawer open, Xander heard a muffled noise that sounded like a door slamming, and his head jerked up. After a moment, he realised that it sounded too far away to be his own door being slammed, so he assumed it was old Mr. Whedon from down the hall again, drunk on his butt, and headed out to wander around the streets of Sunnydale for a few hours, as he seemed to be fond of doing most mornings. Xander and Anya had been woken in the small hours of the morning on more than one occasion by the sound of that door slamming. How the guy could spend so much time outside on the streets of Sunnydale at night and still arrive back home in one piece every morning was beyond the limits of Xander's comprehension.

Looking back down at the open drawer, Xander couldn't see his pajamas in the darkened state of the room. Hoping he wouldn't awaken his fiance, he reached out a hand, and turned on the lamp. Dull yellow light filled the room, and Xander snuck a quick glance at Anya to see if his actions had roused her. Luck was on his side, as she still lay peacefully under the covers, not moving. Xander turned back to the open drawer, and now he could see his pajamas. They were under a couple of his workshirts, that was all. He fished the PJs out from under the shirts, and turned back to the bed.

In the dull yellow lamplight, Xander got his first good look at Anya. At the unnatural position her body lay in beneath the covers. At the rumpled state of the bedsheets.

At the bloody cuts that streaked her face.

Xander's breath caught in his throat, and his pajamas fell out of his hands, and to the floor.


This early in the morning, traffic in the streets of this part of Los Angeles was almost nonexistent, save for the taxicab that moved through the streets, headed for the Hyperion Hotel.

In the back seat of the cab, Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok clan, Lorne to his friends, and the Host of Caritas, sat in an uneasy silence. He had been in the same uneasy state for the past few hours now, ever since that new guy who came into the bar to have a few drinks and sing a couple of songs gave the Host the fright of his life. Lorne let out a nervous breath, and absently ran a hand over his face, brushing his horns. There was no need for travelling incognito this morning, for the cab driver was Gordy, an old friend of Lorne's, and a Caritas regular. Lorne always enjoyed Gordy's visits to his club, especially when the cabbie was in a singing mood. His rendition of "Hey Mickey" was to die for, and it always got the joint jumping.

Lorne cast his mind back to the earlier events of the evening, trying to ignore the heavy feeling of dread in his stomach, and not quite succeeding ...


(Four hours earlier)

"The end of laughter ... and soft light ... the end of nights we tried to die ... this is the ... end."

Lorne held the last note for a good fifteen seconds, then finished the song. Silence reigned in the club for a few moments, and then the entire audience, humans and demons alike, burst into enthusiastic applause as one. Lorne smiled widely, thanked his audience, and stepped down off the stage. He was proud of himself. His tribute to Jim Morrison had gone over beautifully, and he had never performed a Doors song in front of an audience before tonight, so he was as pleased as punch.

Lorne moved over to the bar, and treated himself to a vodka and tonic. Behind him, a small, balding, plain-looking man had taken the stage, and was readying himself to do a Karaoke number. The song started to play, and the small man began to sing, glancing over at the small television screen every few moments as he did so to keep track of the lyrics.

As he sang, over at the bar, Lorne started to feel strange, and a little faint. He had taken a sneaking glimpse into the guy's mind, as he did with most of his customers, just out of curiousity. These glimpses had only adversely affected him once before, when that guy whose little science project was going to freeze the world came in one time to do a number, so he didn't have any reason to think that continuing to do so would be too risky, but when Lorne started to feel the same lightheaded feeling come over him now, he began to wish he had kept his mind-reading powers to himself this time.

Just before the blackness claimed him, the images hit his mind. They were fuzzy and vague, but immensely frightening in their vagueness. The last thing Lorne saw, before he lost consciousness and hit the floor, was a snarling feline's face.


Now, Lorne was on his way to find Angel and fill him in, but he wasn't looking forward to having to do it. A few months ago, one of Cordelia's psychic flashes had resulted in Lorne having to return to the place he had left behind him years earlier. Now, one of his own psychic flashes was going to result in Angel having to do the same thing.

As much as he hated it, Lorne knew that he was going to have to go along as well. And so was the rest of Angel's crew. They would all be needed in this thing, because this thing was more dangerous, more horrible, and more terrifying than any of them had ever encountered before.

And it was entirely possible, maybe even probable, that not all of them would survive it.


CHAPTER 3 - A Rat's Tale


Buffy Summers unlocked her front door, stepped inside her house, and shut the door behind her. The house was silent, as Dawn had to be upstairs asleep in bed by now, but Buffy's ears were still ringing from the loud music at the dorm party. Willow had left the party earlier, taking a very drunk Tara with her, but the rest of the group had stayed around for a while longer, before Spike dropped everyone off at their respective homes, Xander first, then Giles, then her. Buffy was sure that Spike had deliberately saved her for last so that he could spend a little more alone time with her.

Heading upstairs, Buffy stopped outside Dawn's room. Slowly and quietly, she opened the door, and peeked inside. Dawn was in bed asleep. As Buffy watched, Dawn rolled over. As she did, her arm snaked out from beneath the covers, and dangled over the edge of the bed. Buffy smiled a little, and closed the door again.

Feeling tired, Buffy decided to go to sleep herself, then realized that she was thirsty, and changed her mind. Walking back downstairs, Buffy moved into the kitchen to get a drink. As she passed the phone mounted on the wall, it started ringing. Buffy quickly snatched it up before the noise could wake Dawn, and quietly answered it. "Hello?"

"Buffy?" It was Willow. Buffy frowned as she recognized a distraught tone in her friend's voice. "Buffy, is that you?"

"Yeah, Will, it's me," Buffy answered. "Is something wrong?"


While Willow was filling Buffy in on her gruesome rat's tail discovery, a taxi was pulling over at the side of a road on the outer limits of Sunnydale. Behind the wheel, Steve, the driver, took one last sneaking glance in the rear view mirror at the gorgeous teenage girl sitting in his back seat, then asked her for the fare. Silently, the girl handed over a hundred dollar note, then exited the vehicle, still not a word, without waiting for the change. Shrugging, Steve put the money away, turned the car around, and drove off, headed back to LA.

The girl was eighteen, with long, brown hair that came almost to her waist, and she carried a backpack on her shoulders. Her face was blank, and she walked along the sidewalk, headed for the center of Sunnydale, not looking at anything in particular, alternating between looking down at the sidewalk and looking straight ahead of her.

In the cab, Steve watched the girl in the rear view mirror as her reflection grew smaller and smaller. He wasn't sure what to make of her. When you had a job like his, you encountered all sorts of people, and usually, you were able to categorize them in one way or another. Not this girl. She had been hot, sure, but that was really all Steve had been able to tell about her.

Eventually, Steve could no longer make out the girl's reflection in his rear view, and he put her out of his mind, keeping his eyes on the road ahead, and looking forward to the leftover steak that awaited him in his fridge at home.


"Then once I realized what it was, I threw it across the room. I mean, it was disgusting! Then I realized who it must have belonged to, and I ... I-I- I ..."

"Hey, Will, it's alright," Buffy said to her friend, in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. "We'll figure it out. Whatever this is, we'll get to the bottom of it, I promise. Okay?"

"Okay," Willow sniffed.

"Good," Buffy said. "I'll be there in a few minutes. Don't go anywhere, okay?"

"Okay," Willow sniffed again.

Buffy hung up, and headed for the door.


Willow hung up, and turned back around to look at the messed up state of the room again. Tara still lay slumped on the bed, not quite asleep. Every so often, she rolled over and snorted. As Willow watched her, she rolled over again, and snorted again. "Waving your banner all over the place," the blonde witch murmured, and smiled a little, her eyes remaining shut.

Willow sniffed, and tried to compose herself. Buffy was coming over soon, and she would stop whatever had done this. If only Willow had any idea of what this was.

Gradually, Willow became aware that something was missing. She looked around the room, and frowned. "Where's Miss Kitty?" she asked herself.


In the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, Angel and Cordelia sat side by side. Angel had an arm around Cordy's shoulders, and her head rested on his shoulder. Wesley and Gunn were upstairs, gathering weapons. If what Cordelia had told them was in her vision was right, Angel had a feeling that they would need a lot of them.

Just then, the front doors opened, and Angel looked up to see the Host walking in. Lorne looked haggard, and worried. His eyes landed on Angel, and he let out a deep sigh of relief. "Am I glad to see you," he told the vampire. "We've got problems. Serious problems."

"I know," Angel answered.


CHAPTER 4 - Cobblestone Stained Red


(Galway, Ireland, 1753)

Curt had no idea where he was when he regained consciousness. The only thing he was aware of at first was that his head hurt.

The second thing he discovered was that he was lying face down on the cobblestone, somewhere near the tavern he and Liam had been thrown out of earlier. Curt didn't know how long he had been lying there, but when he drunkenly climbed to his feet and looked around, Liam was nowhere to be found.

Staggering a little, Curt began to walk down the cobblestone street, hoping he hadn't forgotten which direction his home was from the tavern. It had been a typical night of drinking and fighting for he and Liam, and he had only the vaguest recollection of the two of them being thrown out, and no memory at all of passing out and hitting the cobblestone in a dead faint. He remembered Liam saying something about his father's silver, but nothing after.

As he walked on home, Curt passed an alleyway, and heard a faint noise. It sounded like something being knocked over. He couldn't place the sound exactly (he was still somewhat lightheaded from drinking, and wasn't at his most alert at this particular moment in time). It had passed his ears almost before it registered in his brain that he had heard something. Curt stopped walking, and turned his head to look down the alley. The alley was pretty dark, and he had to squint a little just to try and make anything out in the space between the two homes it ran between.

There was nothing.

Dismissing it, forgetting he had heard any noise almost instantly after he started moving again, Curt again stopped when he heard another noise. This noise was louder, probably closer to him than the previous sound, and it was different. If Curt had had more time to sober up, this new noise probably would have made him feel uneasy. It was some kind of hissing noise, one that seemed to echo up and down the alley before finding its way out into the street.

In his still somewhat intoxicated state, Curt moved towards the alley, toward the source of the sound. It would turn out to be the last foolish choice he would ever make.

Before he could even react, a dark shape leaped out at him, seemingly from nowhere, taking him completely by surprise. Curt's head snapped back, as the dark shape collided with his face with all the force of a runaway freight train. His knees buckled, and his legs gave out from under him. Curt crashed to the cobblestone path, as the first slivers of pain shot through his face and sent waves of fear coursing through his body. Whatever had launched itself at him now had a firm and unforgiving grip on Curt's face, and would not relent.

In the dark night, in which nothing else stirred, Curt began to scream. His screams, however, soon turned to loud whispers of anguish and pain, as the last breaths forced themselves out of his chest, up through his throat, and out of his mouth. And as the blood that flowed from the deep gashes on both of his cheeks and above his eyes began to flow down on either side of his space and splash tiny red drops on the cobblestone, Curt's thrashing body began to grow lifeless, and still.


It was a little after three in the morning, and Spike was just arriving back home at his crypt. He stood just outside the crypt's entrance for a few moments, taking a few last puffs from his cigarette, until there was little more than a few specks of ash between his fingers. Flicking the remainder of the butt away, Spike dusted the ash from his hands, and walked into his crypt.

The visitor he found waiting for him inside was the last person he ever expected to see again.

Not that she was actually what you would call a person specifically, but he was stunned regardless.

"Drusilla," he said, taking a few steps inside the crypt.

The dark-haired vampire looked back at Spike from the other side of the musty crypt, answering his wide-eyed look of surprise and confusion with a small innocent smile and eyes that seemed to defy the darkened room with their brightness and mischief. After a moment, Drusilla spoke. "And I brought along a friend," she said softly, her voice lilting in that tone that seemingly only Dru could speak in. "An old friend. She misses you, Spike. And she's very cross."

"You don't mean ...?" Spike started.

Giggling, Dru pointed behind him, and Spike turned back around to face the open doorway of his crypt. The sight that greeted him caused his eyes to go even wider.

"You," Spike said breathlessly.


CHAPTER 5 - To Be A Brit In Sunnydale


As Rupert Giles unlocked his front door and entered his home, he looked down at his wristwatch. 3:12 am, it said. Good Lord. He couldn't remember the last time he was awake at this hour without some kind of demon to research or upcoming mystical event to investigate. A part of him still regretted accepting Buffy's offer to come out with the group to the party at Willow & Tara's dorm on the UC-Sunnydale campus, but he supposed it was good for him to be out and socializing. Even if there wasn't a single other person at said party he wasn't old enough to hypothetically be the father of. Still, Sunnydale was his home. It had been his home for the past five years, and if there wasn't a single person whose age came within single figures of his own in the entire town, there wasn't much he could do about it.

He was fairly tired, though. Much like Buffy's eighteenth birthday party a couple of years back, he had pretended to be having more fun than he was actually having tonight. With the exception of one bleached blonde hundred- and-twenty-two-year-old vampire who wouldn't stop helping himself to Giles' chips, the former high school librarian found himself completely surrounded by twenty-something-year-old college youths. He knew his own youthful days of wild partying and debauchery were long behind him, and that he no longer fit into this scene. These days, he preferred sitting at home with a cup of tea and a musty old book, keeping tabs on the happenings of the forces of darkness in this town that sat, just as it always had, on the Mouth of Hell.

Stifling a yawn, and closing the door behind him, Giles decided to go straight to sleep. It had been a long day of jogging and cross-referencing, followed by a long night of standing around listening to loud music and manufacturing interested facial expressions, and a good few hours of sleep would be enough to see him fresh and rejuvenated come the morning.

Giles headed upstairs, entered his bedroom, stripped off, and collapsed onto his bed. He fell asleep almost instantly.


Ten minutes later, he was awakened by his ringing phone.

"Bloody hell."


"Is he answering?"

"Not yet," Buffy answered. She turned back to face her best friend. Willow looked a little better than she did when Buffy had first entered the room a few minutes ago. She sat on the floor at the foot of the bed, her legs folded, and her head down. She was still sniffing on occasion, and dabbing her eyes with the handkerchief Buffy had loaned her, but she looked calmer now than she had before. Buffy was glad her presence was helping Willow to feel a bit better. Certainly Tara was no help at the moment. The blonde witch was zonked out on the bed, dead to the world, grunting almost inaudibly on occasion. "I probably woke him up. I just hope he's not angry. He shouldn't be. I mean, once I explain why I'm calling. What's going on, you know?"

Buffy knew she was rambling, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. She didn't know what had happened here in this room tonight, just that whatever was behind it had evidently taken two lives already, and not just one as Buffy had first thought. When Willow called Buffy at her home earlier, she was very distraught, and understandably so. You try discovering the remains of the rat who used to be a person, not to mention one of your best friends, lying under your bed sometime, and see how much you feel like singing and dancing. But as if that wasn't bad enough, whatever had killed and eaten Amy the rat had seemingly also done the same to Willow and Tara's kitten, Miss Kitty Fantastico. Willow had taken this newer development hard, and Buffy could only imagine what the redheaded Wicca must be going through, having lost two close friends in the space of a few minutes. Miss Kitty may have never been a human at any point, but Willow still loved the feline dearly.


Buffy was torn from her interior monologue by the sound of Giles' groggy voice. "Hi, Giles," she said, a little hesitantly. "It's me. I'm at Willow and Tara's. Something's happened. Or ... happening."

"Something bad?" Giles' voice was clearer now.

"Looks like. We need you here."

"Yes, of course. Shall I bring the others?"

"That's OK, I'll call them. I'm going to call Xander next, have him go over to my place and watch Dawn for a while. Then I'm gonna head out and find Spike. I'm not sure what's going on exactly, but my spider sense is tingling again."

"Right. See you soon." Giles hung up.

Buffy replaced the receiver in its original position, then crossed the room and crouched down by Willow. Willow's eyes turned up to look at the blonde Slayer. "Is he coming?"

"Yeah." Buffy reached out a hand, and gently stroked the top of Willow's head, in what she hoped was a soothing gesture. "He'll help us figure out what's going on."

"Okay." Willow's face had been blank throughout this exchange, but now her lower lip started to tremble, and her eyes started to tear up again. "Who could do something like this, Buffy?"

"I don't know," the blonde Slayer replied, her expression firm. "But I'm gonna stop it. Whatever this thing is, it picked the wrong time to come strolling into town."


"So," Spike said. "Look who's decided to come strolling into town."

"Spike. It's been a while." The blonde vampire took a few steps into the crypt, and looked at Spike, grinning slightly. "Miss me?"

"Yeah, like a bloody hole in the head," Spike muttered.

"Ssh, my sweet," Drusilla scolded him lightly, swaying on her feet a little. "Grandmummy has something important to say. My daughter."

Spike looked at Drusilla with a slightly confused expression, before turning back to face the blonde vampire as she spoke.

"Dru and I, we're moving in," Darla said. "And we're taking over."

"Yeah?" Spike asked blandly, crossing the crypt to sit on the edge of his coffin, and taking out a cigarette and lighting it. "Best of luck. Hope it works out for you." Darla and Drusilla watched him in silence as he looked away, took a puff from his cigarette, then looked back at them. "And this concerns me how?"

Darla smiled, and her eyes lit up. "Because you're coming along."


CHAPTER 6 - An Important Lesson In Dagger Safety


"All I'm saying is, if Cordy saw what she says she saw, we're gonna need everyone we can to fight this thing."

"Granted, an enemy of this nature should not be underestimated or taken lightly, but we're talking about a young woman who, to the best of our knowledge, has not so much as faced a single vampire, let alone ..."

"So, what? We just gonna leave her here all by herself while we drive up north and go on a kitten hunt?"

"Well, I hardly think it would be wise to bring her with us. We're used to fighting the forces of darkness, but she isn't, and this new threat from Cordelia's vision may be even out of our league. A woman like Fred has absolutely no place anywhere near ..."

"Anywhere near where?"

Startled by Fred's voice, Wesley and Gunn dropped the weapons they were carrying, and spun around to face her. The dagger Wesley had dropped fell on his shoe, the heavy silver handle landing squarely on his big toe. The ex-Watcher let out a yell, and immediately squatted down to grasp his toe tightly in pain between his thumb and his fingers. Gunn managed to hold back a chuckle as Wesley blinked away tears of pain.

"Oops," Fred said meekly.

"Angel's downstairs!" Wesley yelled at the brunette. Getting the hint, Fred left the room.

"You alright, man?" Gunn asked Wesley. The laughter that wanted to violently burst out of his mouth he was just barely able to suppress, but the huge grin on his face was another story.

Wesley looked up at Gunn's grinning face with a not-very-amused look. "Oh, I'm just bloody marvellous," he grunted. "I think I've just had my bloody toe broken."


Downstairs, in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, Angel, Cordy and Lorne watched as Fred came down the stairs and made her way over to them, standing just beside Angel. "What was that yell?" the souled vampire asked her.

"Oh, that was Wesley. He dropped a dagger on his foot. It was kind of my fault. Well, okay, it was completely my fault, because his back was turned when I walked into the room and I spoke and it startled him and he spun around and he dropped the dagger and it hit his foot and he yelled out and that was the yell."

The three of them stared at Fred for a few moments in silence, then Angel and Cordy turned back to Lorne. "You were saying?" Angel asked him.


In Xander Harris' living room, the telephone began to ring.

No one answered it, and the ringing eventually ceased.


"Is he answering?" Willow asked Buffy.

"No," Buffy replied, hanging up the receiver. "I don't like this."


Xander Harris walked slowly down the sidewalk of Sunnydale's main street, looking down at the sidewalk, but not really looking at it. His face was devoid of expression.


"Well, maybe he's sleeping," Willow offered helpfully. "Maybe the phone woke him up, but he didn't feel like getting up and answering it, so he fell alseep again instead."

"This is Sunnydale, Will. Town on a Hellmouth. Xander knows to answer the phone when it rings at half past three in the morning, because it usually means bad news that really can't wait until sunrise." Buffy thought for a moment. "Will, can you keep trying him? I'm gonna go find Spike and ask him to keep an eye on Dawn."

"Yeah, of course."

"Thanks. Oh, and tell Giles what's happening when he gets here." Buffy left.

Willow looked over at Tara. The blonde Wicca was still lying motionless on the bed, her face in the pillow. Willow sighed, walked over to Tara, and turned her over so she was on her back. As Tara stretched for a moment then became still once more, the phone rang. Willow snatched it up quickly. "Hello?"

"Willow?" It was Dawn. "Do you know where Buffy is?"


"I'm telling you, Angelcakes, it was like that college brainiac with the time-freezing gizmo all over again. Although, fortunately, no vomit this time."

"And he was gone when you woke up?" Angel asked.

Lorne sighed. "Yeah. Guess you can't blame him for scramming. When the psychic faints, it's a pretty good sign your future isn't going to be filled with hugs and rainbows. But, listen - something big is happening in Sunnydale right now, and I don't know how exactly, but somehow, this guy is involved."

"Well, we don't have time to go Karaoke bar-hopping again," Angel said forcefully. "We've gotta get to Sunnydale."

"Don't worry about that," Lorne assured the vampire. "I've got a hunch our mystery man is already on his way there right now. And we need to be as close behind him as possible. Or else all hell is gonna break loose. And I do mean that literally."


The doors to the Bronze opened, and Darla and Drusilla entered, side by side, both of them smiling widely. Spike followed them in, a few steps behind, a worried look on his face. Darla surveyed the room, and her smile grew even wider.

"Let's have some fun," she said cheerily. "Anybody hungry?"

Drusilla giggled.


Xander was turning a corner into another street, still looking down at the pavement, still with that same blank, far-off look on his face, when he collided with somebody. The force of the collision knocked him on his butt, and when he looked up at the person he had collided with, he snapped out of his trance, and his eyes widened. The familiar brunette was carrying a backpack on her shoulders, and she was looking down at him with a wry grin.

"Not exactly your smoothest move, Xan-man."

For a few moments, Xander could only stare, but then he found his voice.



CHAPTER 7 - How Not To Pick Up Women


(New York, 1977)

With the exception of two corpses, the stopped subway car was empty. One of those corpses belonged to a vampire Slayer. The other belonged to a vampire.

As Spike removed the young girl's black leather duster and put it on, he couldn't help the grin that broke apart his otherwise hardened features. This had been a bloody incredible night. The protector of humanity was dead by his hand. Sure, this night didn't quite match the euphoria of the night in China at the turn of the century, the night upon which he killed his first Slayer, and he knew that, but this was still a pretty sweet one.

With a cocky strut to his walk, Spike left the subway car, and headed off into the night. Drusilla would be sorry to have missed this, but she would at least be able to celebrate deep into the night with him.


Nathan Carter sighed, looking sadly down at the group of teenagers dancing and chatting to each other as the band played a forgettable tune below him on the lower level. The Bronze was totally dead tonight. He had come out to the club in the hope of finding a nice piece of tail he could put the moves on, but it was not to be. Every good-looking girl in the room seemed to be taken already.

"Looks like I'm wasting my time here," Nathan said to himself, and turned to leave, only to bump into an attractive blonde, who looked up at him, and smiled widely. Nathan was fairly tall for a nineteen-year-old, and the top of this woman's head barely reached his chin, but she looked a little older than him. Still, when an opportunity presented itself to him as obviously as this one had, Nathan knew when an age difference stopped being a problem.

"Why, hello," the gorgeous blonde said, smiling confidently up at him.

"Hey there," Nathan returned, acting casual. Chicks loved that in a guy. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a dump like this?"

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Nathan realised that the line he had just used was hardly original, but this woman didn't seem to mind. If anything, her smile grew even friendlier, and more suggestive.

"Just looking for a good time," she answered.

"Hey, I know just the place." Nathan knew now that he had scored big time. He just hoped he wasn't grinning too much and making himself look like a moron.

The blonde raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Nathan nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah, it's right outside."

The blonde smiled. "Well, then, let's go."

"So, you got a name, or can I just call you sweetheart?"

The blonde chuckled. "Call me Darla."


Spike and Drusilla looked up to the top level of the Bronze, watching as Darla led the young guy away from them, down the stairs, and out of the club. Drusilla giggled, and turned to Spike. "Can I go and watch, Spike?"

Spike thought fast. "Yeah, why not?" He smiled at her. "In fact, I'll come with you."


Outside, Darla let herself be led into the alley just around the corner from the front entrance of the club by her new companion. In actual fact, she had expected that the two of them would end up here. She was just surprised that he had been the one to bring her here, and not the other way around, the way it normally happened. Luring morons into dark alleys was one of her favourite things.


Spike and Drusilla came outside just in time to see Darla and the kid she was about to make a meal out of disappear around the corner. Spike immediately started after them, and Drusilla followed close behind.


"Close your eyes."

Nathan obliged, and Darla let her true face show. Just as she was about to sink her fangs into his neck, though, she was interrupted by an unfamiliar female voice.

"Damn, I've only been back in this town eight seconds, and already I've got vamp issues."

Darla's head snapped around to look at the person who spoke. At the far end of the alley, there stood two figures. The young brunette girl who had spoken was taking a backpack off her shoulders and dropping it onto the ground. She held a rather large and sharp-looking stake in her hand. Just behind the girl, a taller, male figure stood a few steps further back, his eyes never leaving the blonde vampire.

"Who the hell are you?" Darla demanded, an uncanny sense of deja vu coming over her.

"Name's Faith," the brunette replied. "What, you haven't heard of me? Maybe you'll recognize the other name I go by. Slayer? That one ring a bell?"

Darla's eyes widened. The deja vu grew a little bit stronger.


Spike and Drusilla reached the top of the alley, and looked down it at the scene before them. Spike took it all in quickly. Darla, game face on, holding the kid against the wall by the shoulders. At the far end, two figures he couldn't make out, although the taller one looked kind of familiar. Beside him, Dru gasped audibly.

"Dru?" Darla called out. "Would you come down here for a minute?"

"Yes, Grandmummy," Dru said obediently. She stepped past Spike, moving in front of him. It was just the opening Spike had been waiting for. Before Drusilla knew what was happening, she suddenly found herself being held tightly from behind by her Childe, and the pointy end of a stake pressed into her chest.

"Spike, what the hell are you doing?" Darla thundered, shocked and stunned beyond belief.


In a cemetery across town, Buffy was nervously pacing back and forth outside Spike's crypt. "Spike, where the hell are you?" she groaned in frustration.


(New York, 1977)

As Spike stepped off the subway car, underneath one of the seats, a small, four-legged shape lurked. As the vampire strutted off into the night, the creature under the seat hissed softly.


CHAPTER 8 - Dawn Of The Dreads


Tara came awake to find herself facing down into a pillow. Looked like the party was over. She tried to remember how she had gotten back to her room, but she couldn't remember much of tonight at all. It was hard to think past the headache, which pounded at her temples with all the ferocity and enthusiasm of a drum-beating South American soccer fan. She figured Willow had brought her back.

Raising her head, Tara looked across the room to see Willow standing by the desk, facing the other way. She was on the phone, and talking to someone, too quietly for Tara to make out the words.

Pushing herself up from the bed a little, and opening her mouth to say something and get Willow's attention, Tara was suddenly overcome by a vision-blurring wave of dizziness, too strong for her to deal with in the early stages of what was probably going to be an incredible hangover come sunrise. She collapsed back down onto the bed, her face hitting the pillow once more. After a moment, she passed out again.

On the other side of the room, Willow continued to talk into the phone, oblivious to what had just happened behind her.


Angel heard sounds of footsteps on the stairs, and turned to see Wesley and Gunn heading down to join the rest of the group in the Hyperion lobby, both of them carrying large bags which would no doubt be fully stocked with as much heavy duty weaponry as would fit inside them. The ex-Watcher was heavily favouring his right foot, awkwardly making his way down the staircase. A couple of steps above him, Gunn lingered just behind Wesley, ready to steady him should he suddenly lose his balance, which had already happened twice since the top step. Wesley's face bore a very angry expression. Seeing it, Fred moved behind Angel, where she hoped the head of Angel Investigations couldn't see her.

Beside Angel, Cordelia let out a snicker. "Hey, Lefty!" she called out. "While we're still young!"

Both Gunn and Lorne burst out into raucous laughter, but a stern look from Wesley to each of them in turn silenced them both. Turning his gaze back Cordy, Wesley's stare grew even more angry. "How do you feel about unemployment?" he returned flatly.

Hearing the unamused tone in Wesley's voice, Cordy got the hint, and backed off.

"Wesley, are you alright?" Angel asked, concerned.

"Oh, I'm bloody marvellous," Wesley replied. "Who needs the excitement of a ferocious kitten hunt when you've got your own recently broken toe to keep you entertained?"

Feeling bold, Fred stepped out from behind Angel, and gave Wesley her best apologetic smile. "Sorry," she offered meekly.

Wesley looked at Fred for a moment, grunted, and headed for the front doors. "Get moving, people. Despite my limp, I am still in charge here. Let's go if we're going."

The rest of the group watched Wesley as he left the hotel, then started heading out after him. "Boy, he's not much fun to be around when he's cranky, is he?" Lorne asked.

"You should see him when he's forced to miss Wheel Of Fortune," Cordy responded. Gunn let out another laugh, then abruptly stopped, instantly afraid Wesley had heard him.


Dawn was pacing nervously back and forth through the Summers living room, the cordless phone held up to her ear. She didn't like what Willow had been telling her one bit, and the fact that she had woken up a few minutes ago to find that Buffy wasn't there hadn't put her in a very relaxed frame of mind to begin with. "I'm coming over there," she said.

"Dawn, no," Willow responded immediately. "Buffy wants you to stay there."

"Where is Buffy?"

"She went out to look for Spike. Spike's gonna come over there and stay with you while we try and find whatever's causing all this. She was gonna send Xander over, but she couldn't reach him."

Dawn's heart skipped a beat. "Xander's missing?"

"Well, we're not sure. Buffy tried to call him, but there was no answer. I'm gonna try him again in a minute."

"Well, let me know as soon as you find him," Dawn insisted.

"I will, I promise. Just stay put, OK?"

"OK," Dawn reluctantly agreed, hanging up the phone.


As Willow hung up, a knock sounded at the door. Moving quickly, she crossed the room, and opened the door to reveal Giles standing on the other side.

"Oh, good," Willow said, relieved, and stepped back to allow him inside.

Giles walked in, and looked around the room. He couldn't resist a small chuckle as his eyes landed on Tara's sleeping form, but his amused expression soon turned to a look of shock and horror as he took in the demolished state the room was in.

"Good Lord," he said, almost whispering.

Willow nodded sadly, closing the door quietly so as not to disturb Tara. "Yeah, 'Good Lord' sounds about right." The redheaded Wicca also spoke quietly. The last thing she wanted to do at the moment was disturb Tara, who would probably have one hell of a headache right now if she wasn't unconscious. "We don't know who or what did it either. Buffy's gone out to find Spike and send him over to watch Dawn. We've both been trying to reach Xander, but no one's answering the phone when we call."

Giles thought quickly. "Perhaps I should head over to Xander and Anya's apartment and check on them, make sure they're OK."

"OK. You want me to come with?"

"Uh ... no, that's alright. You should stay here, in case Tara wakes up." Giles headed for the door again.


He turned back to look at Willow. "Hmm?"

Willow looked at him seriously. "Be careful."

Giles gave her a small smile. "I will." Than he opened the door, and left. As he closed the door behind him, a little too loudly, the noise echoed up and down the corridor outside. Afraid the sound had roused Tara, Willow looked over at the bed, but Tara was still dead to the world.

"She's gonna be sorry when she wakes up in the morning," Willow murmured to herself.


The front doors of the Hyperion opened, and a figure dressed in grey slacks and a pale brown short-sleeved shirt, wearing a bright sparkly purple cape, and wielding a large silver broadsword, dramatically leaped in through the doorway, striking a threatening pose with his sword as he landed on the plush red carpet. "Demons of the underworld, bew..."

David Nabbit trailed off, as he realized he was addressing an empty hotel. He looked around the lobby and up towards the upper levels, looking for any sign that somebody was around.



Dawn sat on the couch in the living room, the TV on in front of her, but not really paying any attention to the program that was on. Willow hadn't called back yet, and she was still worried about Xander. She knew that he and Anya were happily engaged, but old crushes died hard, and it seemed to her that she knew that particular fact of life better than anyone.

A knock at the front door interrupted her troubled thoughts. Getting up and crossing to the door, she was about to grab the doorknob and turn it when she suddenly stopped. Wouldn't be a very good idea to just open the door when literally anything could be on the other side, especially considering what Willow had told her over the phone earlier. It was probably Spike, but you could never be too certain in this town.

Looking through the glass, she saw a reasonably attractive man standing on the doorstep. Late twenties or early thirties from the look of him. He wore a grey T-shirt and blue jeans, and he carried a backpack over his right shoulder.

Dawn opened the door, and took a better look at the guy. Reasonably attractive? Hardly. Brown hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones ... this guy was a full-blown hottie! Any and all thoughts of Xander or Spike vanished from her mind in that moment.

Outwardly, she remained straight-faced. "Hello?"

"Does Buffy Summers live here?" the guy asked.

"Depends. Who the hell are you?"

"Don't worry." The guy reached into his T-shirt, and pulled out a silver cross on a chain which hung around his neck for her to see. "I'm not a vampire." He smiled a little. "You must be Dawn."

Dawn's eyes widened. "How do you know who I am?"

The guy chuckled. "I know quite a bit about you. We had quite the file on you at my old place of employment. But that doesn't matter right now. What does matter is I need to see the Slayer right away."

"Who the hell are you?" Dawn repeated, realising she hadn't gotten an answer to that question the first time round.

The guy chuckled again. "My name is Lindsey McDonald, and this really can't wait."


CHAPTER 9 - Too Much Pizza Will Do That


Xander Harris was starting to believe this whole night was just some really fucked up dream he was having. He wasn't standing here, in this alley. No, sir. Right now, he was asleep in bed beside Anya, who had not been killed or violently attacked in any way, thank you very much. He had just eaten one slice of pizza too many tonight, and this was the price he was paying.

In his head, Xander began to review the events of this night over again. First, drunken Tara at the dorm party. Since when? Tara just wasn't the type to get herself smashed like that. If any member of the Scoobies was gonna get smashed, it had to be Spike. But the chipped vampire hadn't even gone near the booze, opting instead to stuff himself full of chips (most of which he stole from Giles while he was looking the other way). Again, since when?

Next, Spike offering to drive everyone home after the party was over. Huh? Even if Buffy was riding shotgun, and the bleached blonde vamp kept subtly adjusting the rear view mirror so he could sneak peeks down the front of her shirt, that ain't gonna happen.

Next, coming home and finding Anya's dead body lying motionless in their bed, his fiance having been savagely mauled by something or other. Nuh-uh. That didn't happen either.

Then what happened? Let's see. He left the apartment, and went wandering aimlessly around the streets of Sunnydale for a while. Oh, yeah. There's a sensible thing to be doing in this town when sunrise is still hours away. And who does he just happen to bump into, of all people? Faith. Excuse me, but isn't she in prison? What, so they just let her out for an early morning stroll in a town hours away from L.A.? You couldn't write a story like this and not be locked up for being insane and a moron.

So when Faith decides to tag along, the two of them find themselves in an alley. And what happens? Vampire attack. That, at least, is believable. Town on a Hellmouth, after all. But then, the vampire in the alley (who does look a bit familiar) calls out to someone named "Dru". And that can only mean one thing. Undead Insane Girl's back. Always a good time. Not that this part was actually happening either.

"Dru?" the vampire calls out, looking down the other end of the alley at the two figures standing side by side. "Would you come down here for a minute?" One of the figures starts to move, but the other quickly and suddenly grabs her from behind, holding her tightly in place.

And just when Xander thinks that this dream can't get any more fucked up, a familiar and annoying British voice rings out down the alley.


"Grandmummy?" Drusilla whimpered, struggling to free herself from Spike's grasp. He had a firm hold on her, though, and her efforts were for nought.

"Hey, Darla!" Spike called out. "You think you can just waltz back in here and do whatever you like and I'll just sit back and watch? Never gonna happen, honey."

Darla's vamped-out face bore an angry expression as she glared daggers at Spike. "Drusilla told me about you," she spat out. "How you help protect these pathetic creatures." She motioned to the young guy she still held against the wall in front of her, her hand clutching his throat. His eyes were bugging out of his head, and he was making small choking sounds. "How you run like a frightened mouse to do the Slayer's bidding. It makes me sick. You're pathetic."

Drusilla felt Spike's hold on her grow just a little bit tighter when Darla mentioned the Slayer. "Oh, I'm sorry," Spike responded, a mock tone of interest in his voice. He vamped out himself now for extra effect. "I didn't realize you wanted me to stake your sire. Feel free to keep insulting me if that's what you want, though." Drusilla let out a loud squeal as she felt the tip of Spike's stake press harder into her chest.

"Uh, excuse me?" Faith called from the other end of the alley. "Slayer over here, holding a stake, about to start dusting, remember me?"

"Buffy?" Spike called out, uncertain. She didn't sound like Buffy. "That you?"


Xander had been watching this exchange, not speaking. He had been too stunned for words up until now. This dream just kept on getting stranger. First, Drusilla back in town, then Spike standing right beside her, then Spike threatening to stake his own sire, and now it appeared that the vampire Spike was talking to was none other that Darla, Angel's sire.

Only one problem with that, though. Hadn't she been a pile of dust for a few years now? Yet another reason why he had to be dreaming all of this.

Now he found his voice. Hell, this was his dream. He might as well have a speaking role. "Sorry to disappoint you, Spike, but you've got the wrong Slayer."

Spike was opening his mouth to call something else out, but just then, Darla hissed at Faith, and tossed the guy she'd been holding against the wall in her direction. Faith stepped aside to avoid being knocked down, but Xander wasn't so lucky. Faith's movement only made him the new target. The guy smacked into him, and they both went down. The guy scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could, and took off screaming into the night. Xander was slower in getting back to his feet, hurting from his collision with the ground.

Quick as a flash, taking advantage of Faith's momentary distraction, Darla turned and ran in the opposite direction, heading right for Spike and Drusilla. Spike barely had time to release Dru and step aside before Darla barrelled into her. Dru was almost bowled over, but Darla caught her by the arm, and the two of them took off, disappearing into the darkness as Spike looked on. He considered going after them, but decided it was futile. Besides, if what Darla had told him earlier was any indication, they wouldn't be going far. He'd see them both again soon enough.

Turning back, Spike looked at the two figures who were now approaching him. He thought he had heard Xander's voice before, and sure enough, there he was. He was limping a little as he walked, still feeling the effects of his collision with Darla's intended snack. And though Spike had never laid eyes on the stake-wielding brunette beside Xander (not in the strictest sense, at least), he had a pretty good idea who she was.

"Looks like we meet again, Spike," she greeted him as the two of them reached him and stopped.

Spike grinned at her a little. "Looks like. Although I don't remember you being quite so ... not blonde as you were the last time."

Faith had to return the vampire's grin at that.

"You guys know each other?" Xander asked them.

"You might say." Spike's eyes never left Faith. "Bit over a year ago now. She really livened up a dull night for me."

"I wasn't really myself that night," Faith told Xander.

"Oh," Xander said, joining the dots. "You were Buffy." He spoke pretty calmly as he said it. Under ordinary circumstances, any conversation about Faith being in Buffy's body would be making him really uneasy. But you were normally awake during ordinary circumstances.

Faith nodded, then looked back at Spike. "So. I take it William the Bloody is still wearing his white hat these days?"


The phone rang, and Willow quickly snatched it up before it could disturb Tara. Crossing to the other side of the room again, she spoke quietly into the receiver. "Hello?"

She was expecting it to be either Dawn or Buffy. It was neither.

"Willow?" Cordelia said. "Is that you? It's kinda hard to hear you with this static."

"Cordelia? Yeah, it's me. What is it? Is something wrong?"

"Boy, that's the understatement of the year so far," Cordy replied. Willow couldn't help but grin when she heard the old bitchy Queen C come out in that voice. "Just on the off-chance, you guys wouldn't happen to be having a kitten problem, would you?"

Willow frowned. "What? A kitten problem?"


CHAPTER 10 - Silence In Green


It was about half past four in the morning, and traffic going both in and out of Los Angeles was starting to pick up again. Amongst the outgoing traffic, a shiny, black convertible with the top down, headed north for Sunnydale.

Behind the wheel, Angel was deep in thought. He had heard that letting your mind wander while you were driving was not an incredibly intelligent thing to do, but it didn't seem to be doing any harm so far. He was still having trouble getting his head around the idea that he was returning to Sunnydale. So much had changed since he was last there, he wondered if the town would even recognise him anymore.

Beside him, Cordelia sat in the middle of the front seat, talking loudly into her cellphone to combat the static she was trying to be heard over. Wesley sat on Cordy's other side, looking expressionlessly at the passing buildings as they left L.A. Gunn, Fred and Lorne were in the back.

"Willow? Is that you?" Cordy moved around in her seat, leaning forward, then back again, twisting around from side to side, as she tried to position the cellphone so the interference would be as small as she could get it while she tried to talk to Willow. "It's kinda hard to hear you with this static."

In the back seat, Fred leaned over toward Gunn, and spoke softly into his ear. "So, why's this kitten such a big problem that it needs all of us to go and find it and kick its ass?"

Gunn raised his eyebrows. That was the strongest language he'd heard Fred use since they brought her back from Pylea with them. "I dunno," he answered quietly, turning his head to face her. "Wesley didn't tell me much back at the hotel. Guy's got a real stick up his butt ever since we found out about this kitten thing." Gunn's eyes flicked over to the leader of Angel Investigations sitting up the front, hoping he hadn't heard his name being mentioned. If Wesley had heard his name, though, he didn't show it. The ex-Watcher remained as he was, staring out at the street and the traffic and the buildings, looking distant. Gunn didn't think either he or Fred were among Wesley's favourite people right now - Fred for startling their boss into dropping the heavy dagger onto his foot earlier, and Gunn for laughing at him, more than once.

"Boy, that's the understatement of the year so far. Just on the off-chance, you guys wouldn't happen to be having a kitten problem, would you?"

Beside Cordelia, Angel looked irritated, flinching away from her as she spoke loudly into her cellphone. "Hey, Cordy, you wanna keep it down? I can barely hear my heart beating over here."

Cordy smiled sarcastically at the vampire. "Oh, so very, very funny." She looked away from him again. "What? Oh, no, not you, Willow. What are you saying? ... Hello? ... Will, are you there?" Sighing loudly in frustration, Cordy slammed the cellphone shut, and tossed it uncaringly onto the dashboard. "You were right about the warlock."

"Huh?" Angel looked at Cordy in confusion for a moment, then back at the road in front of him.

"The warlock?" Cordy prodded him. "You know? The really bored one who you said invented cellphones? I'll bet that's exactly how it happened."

Angel got it now. "Oh," he said. "So, what did Willow say?"

Cordy sighed again, her expression turning serious. "I don't know, I could barely hear her. I'm really worried, Angel. Something incredibly bad is happening in Sunnydale right now, and whatever this kitten's prime goal is, there's nobody up there that can really stop it right now, you know? I mean, with one Slayer in prison, and the other ..." Cordy trailed off. The look on Angel's face told her she didn't need to finish that sentence.

"Yeah, I know." Angel said no more.

In the back seat, Gunn looked over at Lorne. Like the man seated in front of him, the green-skinned Pylean looked like he was a million miles away. He hadn't seemed to have heard any of the conversation since the six of them all climbed into Angel's convertible and left the hotel. "Hey, man, you alright?" Gunn asked him.

Lorne snapped out of his trance, and looked back over at Gunn. "Hmm? Oh, me. No, I'm fine." He frowned. "Why?"

"Nothin'," Gunn answered. "'Cept that that's the first thing you've said in over five mintues now. I can't remember that ever happening ..." He considered this for a few seconds. "... well, ever."

Fred was looking at Lorne with some concern. "Are you alright?" she asked him. "Because, you look bad. No, I mean, you look fine, not bad. I mean, except for the horns and the green skin. Not that that's a bad look, for you, that is, I just, well, not that I think you're ugly or anything, just that, uh, you look bad. I mean, you look worried."

A large grin broke out on Gunn's face. Fred's rambling never failed to have that effect on him.

Lorne gave the young woman a small smile. "Don't worry about me, honey. It'll take more than one little kitten to ever make me look unappealing physically." Fred giggled, while Cordy snorted her amusement from the front seat.

A moment later, Wesley turned around in his seat, and stared right into Lorne's eyes. The Englishman's face was grim. The cold, empty look in his eyes made Lorne suddenly very uneasy. "One little kitten?" Wesley repeated softly, slowly. "I think it would be wise of us all not to underestimate our new foe in such a patronizing fashion." His voice grew louder as he fixed his gaze on Gunn. "And furthermore, if anyone here wants to talk about me in the third person, I don't think it would be terribly rude of me to ask you to wait until I'm either not around or at least out of earshot before you do."

"Come on, Wes, chill out," Gunn broke in. The leader of Angel Investigations was making the three of them in the back seat all increasingly nervous. Gunn became aware that Fred was clutching his right elbow tightly with both of her hands. "We were just making conversation back here. And Lorne was just making a little joke to ease the tension. Go easy."

Wesley stared at Gunn in silence for a few more moments, then turned back around, and stared out at the passing traffic once more. Gunn let out a quiet sigh of relief, then gave Fred a reassuring smile. Fred seemed to relax a little. Her grip on his elbow softened, but she didn't let go.


Buffy Summers was tired of waiting.

She had been standing outside this crypt for God knew how long now (she had taken her watch off after arriving at home earlier, and hadn't thought to put it back on before she went out again), waiting for Spike to show up. But the vampire remained a no-show.

Letting out a loud and irritated sigh, Buffy finally gave up on expecting Spike to get back anytime soon, and started walking. She wanted to get back home and check on Dawn, since neither Xander or Spike were anywhere to be found, and she wanted to get there and make sure her sister was okay as soon as possible.

Elsewhere, the unlikely trio of Spike, Xander and Faith were heading down Sunnydale's main street, while Giles was looking around in dismay at Xander and Anya's empty apartment, wondering where the engaged couple had disappeared to, but Buffy was aware of neither of these things. All her mind was focused on right now was getting back to Dawn. And the next time she saw Spike and Xander, she was going to have a serious talk with them.


Behind the reception counter in the foyer of the Wolfram & Hart building, Rhiannon Martinson looked down at her digital wristwatch as the alarm went off, signalling that the time was exactly 4:30 a.m. Immediately, Rhiannon looked up at the front doors. Sure enough, they were opening, and Lilah Morgan was walking in. "Good morning, Miss Morgan," she greeted the well- groomed lawyer.

Lilah glanced at Rhiannon briefly, and kept on walking, headed in the direction of the elevators. "Miss Martinson." Lilah Morgan was a picture perfect copy of the no-nonsense, coldhearted, high-powered business woman. She was starting early for the fifth morning in a row, and she didn't have time to stop and chat to a lowly receptionist. Almost as if they automatically knew she was there, the elevator doors slid open in front of her, and Lilah didn't have to so much as slow down as she stepped into the elevator.

The doors slid shut again, and Lilah instantly tensed, her calm facade evaporating. She was both nervous and excited about today. For the sole head of Wolfram & Hart's Special Projects division, today was a big day.

The kitten was coming.


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