Angelus sat in the empty corridor, taping his fingers incessantly on the floor in anticipation. He could sense them coming, the whole lot of them, rallying their forces and creating their battle plan. Let them come, Angelus thought. They don’t threaten me any. I’ll kill every single one of them before the day is out. Keeping in that positive mood of thinking, Angelus augured the outcome of the battle that still lay just beyond the horizon, and all he could see was himself, standing over the slayer’s exsanguinated corpse, in the middle of a room full of dead slayerettes.
The vampire was getting anxious for the arrival of the great showdown. He had been honing his skills and he was now ready for the fight. Also, Angelus felt the insistent need to kill Xander itching in the back of his skull. That annoying boy had caused him so many setbacks in both the past and the present he didn’t dare think about them lest he upset himself to the point where he’d just break the teenager in two, as he wanted to do so very many times.
What ticked him off even more was the fact that Xander loved Buffy deeply, and more importantly, she returned that love. He had seen the passions the two harbored for the other during the previous evening while he watched them in the cemetery from a tree, and Angelus didn’t like it one bit. Of course, it would be more fun torturing Xander and, in doing so, hurting Buffy. But at the same time, it relinquished his emotional grip on her mind, making him unable to manipulate the ingenious blonde with his phony Angel acts, which had always got her to let her guard down in the past. However, all of this wouldn’t really matter when it came time to fight because he was going to win; he was at least sure of that much. And Angelus would be again allowed to roam freely through Sunnydale, hell, through the world if he so choose. Just like in the good old days.
How fondly he remembered the those ancient times when he could just wander from village to village, slaughtering hundreds, feeding on their coppery sweet blood. What an appetite he’d had then! But when he’d gotten that damned soul back, Angelus recalled the “happiness” he’d experienced in the time he often privately referred to as the Dark Ages. Those were the days when he couldn’t feast on the weak, couldn’t enjoy the wonderful feeling that now coursed through his veins every time he drained the life out of some helpless passerby. Oh, how he loathed to think back to those days, his Lost Years, when he’d actually HELPED the innocent, saved them instead of sucking their blood like any other decent vampire would do. And all because of one blonde teenager, a mere girl named Buffy Summers.
Oh, Buffy. How Angelus had come to hate the name with every drop of malice his non-existent heart had to offer. She’d brought him so close to humanity, closer than he’d ever been to it before, and on top of it all, made him experience that evil thing called love. How she’d managed to do it, Angelus would never know; all he knew was that she’d done it, and he’d loved her. Well, technically it hadn’t been him—it had been that wimp Angel, the good vampire that he had been ashamed to know was inside him—but even then it was still his body that was in love with her. And how he had loved her! Every waking moment had been for Buffy; he’d dream of her during the day, and at night, comb the cemeteries for any sign of her. What made the love even more special was the fact that she had returned his feelings and had no problem telling that to anyone else. As Angelus thought back, he actually wished he’d made love to her sooner, for, as it turned out, that was the only way the vampire could have lost his now dreaded soul and be free to run rampant through the streets again. Yes, it was only when they tried to make their emotional love become physical that literally all hell broke lose, and Angelus’ two favorite things—terror and suffering—ensued. After that, he’d experienced a strong zeal to kill the slayer and her pals, much like the olden times, and he’d acted on it, and the rest was history.
Now here he sat, in the hallway of an abandoned meat factory, drumming his blood-encrusted fingers on the chilly cement floor, sucking up the very faint aroma of blood that still lingered in the empty hallways from years of butchering long past, and anticipating the moment when he could finally reenter the old meat locker and begin his routine of intense, mind-numbing torture on Xander. Oh, what incredible fun that was going to be; to feel the stupid child wince under each brutal lash the vampire sent flying his way, to feel his heart race, to feel his blood pulse within his veins, to taste it. He cast a fast sideways glance at his watch. Quarter till eleven. Only 15 more minutes and then the fun would begin.
No, unthinkable, Buffy Summers dead? Impossible. Xander knew he’d never let anything harm her, and he most certainly wouldn’t let anyone kill her; he would die before he let that happen.
I’ve got to stop thinking this way, Xander decided. He’d rather watch the grisly scene ahead of him than imagine that Buffy was dead.
His head throbbed ardently and his wrists were beginning to burn from ceaselessly grating up and down against the rope. His muscles ached with a tired feeling he’d never experienced before in all his youthful days and never wanted to again, and an intense languor plagued the poor boy and gave him a mild migraine. If only Xander could use his hands. He wanted nothing more than to just rub his eyelids with his fingers and soak up the relaxing sensation each circular motion produced.
But what Xander really desired over all else was to sleep forever and never have another nightmare about his beloved. All of these nightmares were keeping him awake, and by now, he was so exhausted that if he weren’t dead already, he might just die. Xander would’ve given practically anything for one hour of peaceful, uneventful slumber, but he knew that was one of the many things he wasn’t going to get.
The young boy wondered what time it was; he couldn’t see his watch (actually, he couldn’t even feel it anymore), and since there were no windows, he couldn’t even judge from the sky if it was day or night, though, at this point in time, it didn’t really matter which it was. He just hoped that someone would come for him soon because Xander surely wasn’t looking forward to Angelus tormenting him. He could only pray that Buffy would hurry and find the clue he left her back at Willow’s place, for it was his only hope of ever getting out alive.
Coming through the silken blanket of fog was the ghastly apparition of the vampire slayer named Buffy. She still appeared graceful, even on her crutches, taking large strokes and closing the gap between Rupert Giles and herself rather quickly. Though she looked like the Buffy he’d seen just a half-hour ago, this Buffy now seemed to posses renewed vim and was showing an effervescence she hadn’t shown all day. In moments, she had climbed Willow’s porch steps and was standing amongst the group, barely taking notice in the fact that she was the only one dripping wet.
Giles was relieved to see that Buffy was ten times happier than she’d been the first few hours of the morning. He was especially glad to know that her deep depression and self-pity phase had been merely transitory, and now she was ready to move on and finish what she’d started; he was thankful for that much.
Ever since Angelus had taken away his Jenny, he had hated him with all that his empty soul had to offer. That vampire had ruthlessly murdered her, then displayed her corpse in Giles’ house as if Jenny were nothing but an animal at the zoo, there simply for people to gawk at. She’d meant so much to Giles, to all of them—a fact that Angelus had known quite well and used to his full advantage. Rupert had never gotten a chance at revenge because Buffy had sent Angelus to Hell before he could do anything (not that he’d minded any), but he’d always wanted to hurt Angelus the way Angelus had hurt him. Giles wanted to take away the most important thing to Angel and crush it into nothingness, pulverize it, obliterate any happiness in his life, steal away his sunshine, and force him to live out the rest of his days in a dark hole filled with nothing but unending pain and quiet torment. Of course, he never let this information of his secret vendetta on to anyone else for fear of them thinking he’d gone mad, but over these months the urge for revenge had always been present, and at the same time, had grown considerably stronger.
“Giles?” Faith called. “You there? I think Giles has nodded off or something.”
“Uh, yes, I mean, no, I mean, I’m here. What’s going on?”
“Buffy’s got our game plan all laid out and we were just waiting to hear it. So what’s our first move, B?”
She looked from one slayerette to another, studying each individual’s face and expression. They all seemed a little frightened and confused, but they were obviously all ready for the battle that lay ahead.
“The first thing I’m gonna do is arm you guys; you’ll need some weaponry.” Buffy handed out the weapons: A crossbow for Giles and another for Faith, a sword for Oz, and a bottle of holy water and a cross each for both Willow and Cordelia. The slayer was to keep Mr. Pointy for herself, and Mr. Pointy alone, despite Giles’ argument the she should have more armaments to protect herself. “I wanna stake him with my own two hands, not have some arrow or long sword do the work for me,” she’d argued right back.
“All right, enough of this bickering!” shouted Faith. “Let’s get to work. So what are we supposed to do now, B?”
Looking left, right, then back to Faith on the left, Buffy answered, “We’re going to split up and spread out over the perimeter.”
Everyone listened intently as she shot out orders. “Willow, cover every inch of your lawn. Look for any evidence of a fight, anything of Xander’s that might lead us to find him. Leave no stone unturned, ignore nothing.”
“Gotcha,” Willow said, readying her umbrella.
“Oz, you’ve got the next couple of houses up the street. Look for the same stuff I mentioned before.
“Faith, you’ve got those few houses there,” Buffy commanded, motioning across and up the road.
“Cordelia, you’ve got the house across the street. Make sure you go over the place carefully, twice if you have to. And Cordy, don’t do a half-assed job like you normally do. Follow through with something for once in your life.” Cordelia scowled deeply, but managed to keep her retorts to herself and save them for a more choice time.
Giles nodded affirmatively as had the rest of the group when Buffy ordered, “Last, but not least, Giles. I want you to take those houses down there, on the right.”
“Just holler if you find anything, absolutely anything that’ll help. And search everywhere, you guys. Cover every square inch cause we’re not leaving until we find something. I won’t settle for less than anything, got it? If you need me, I’ll be down here, searching the road itself. Okay, let’s go, let’s find Xander.”
They broke from their huddle and dispersed to the areas they had been assigned. As they walked, Buffy couldn’t help but notice that she was the only one without an umbrella or raincoat; she just walked right out into the violent weather, not minding it one bit.
On the roadway, jumping right into her task, Buffy’s eyes darted from right to left constantly, inspecting each hole and every crack, searching for anything that would be of some help to them. It took her a long while to cover only a few feet and already her neck ached from bowing it so long while searching for clues. Good, it means I’m being thorough. Numerous times as the search dragged on, Buffy had given a thought to quitting and abandoning this needle-in-a-haystack, hide-and-go-seek game, but quickly threw that idea out in favor of a more positive one.
Glance right, left, right again. Nothing. Keep going. Be persistent. Buffy began to wonder what time it was anyway because seemed like it was almost midnight, it was so black. She paused briefly for a quick peek at her watch and discovered it to be only eleven in the morning. The slayer couldn’t help but think darkly to herself, Boy time flies when you’re having fun. Glance right, left, right again…