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[personal profile] last01standing
Title- The Fallen
Rating- pg-13 (violence)
(other story info on chapter one)

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Fourteen—End of the World

By the time Wesley had gotten into the lobby, they were already gone. He glanced at the nearly empty weapons rack, and against his better judgment, grabbed a slightly rusted sword before running out the door to catch up with the rest.

He found them two blocks later, a conspicuously visible group of people holding swords. Wesley wondered what would happen if anyone had seen them. In Sunnydale, sights like this had become almost commonplace, but here in LA, things were different. They would be lucky if no one called the cops.

He grabbed Buffy by the shoulder and, almost wildly, she turned around, instinctively raising a fist. Wesley glared at her stoically. “Buffy, we can’t do this.”

The group kept moving slowly, steadily, leaving Buffy and Wesley alone.

“What do you mean we can’t do this? Wesley, one of my best friends is out there and they’re going to kill her if we don’t do something to stop it. Why are we even having this conversation.”

“You didn’t have all the facts,” Wesley protested. “Buffy, the Rite of Blood requires bloodshed from seven distinctive sources. One of which is you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Buffy said, “you can’t know that.”

“Blood of the Chosen?” Wesley challenged, “Blood of a seer? I believe that Oz and yourself are key to this ritual. If they manage…”

“I can take care of myself Wesley. I’m a big girl.” She sighed heavily. “And you know Oz. He’d follow Willow to the ends of the earth. Not to mention the fact that he never seems to get hurt.”

“But…”

“Wes, if you’re looking to be the one to tell Willow she’s not allowed to try to get her girlfriend back, be my guest. But if you’re not, please don’t go shouting about this end of the world crap and freaking everyone out.”

Effectively silence, Wesley nodded.

They turned a corner and suddenly Wolfram and Hart loomed in front of them.

“I hope we know what we’re doing.”

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“They’re coming,” Tara informed Eve with a trace of a smirk. “I knew they would be.”

Eve nodded almost imperceptibly and turned to the assembled group of demons, eyes automatically picking out Angelus, the Master and Glory. “Kill them.”

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Even though Doyle had made it a point to know all of the demon haunts in LA, he had never been inside of Wolfram and Hart before. The was something about the place that drove the more benign elements of demon kind absolutely crazy. And he knew it wasn’t just him. He could see Oz’s grip on his axe tense as they walked slowly through the doors, hear Cordelia’s heart race as they entered..

The room seemed to be empty save for them but he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched.

Someone cleared their throat and Doyle saw a tall man dressed in a very fine suit standing in front of them. “Welcome to Wolfram and Hart,” he said in an oddly formal voice. “My name is Marcus Hamilton. I’m the new CEO of the firm.”

“Wait a second,” Fred (Doyle was fairly sure that was her name) sputtered, “We’re in charge of this place. Angel’s in charge.”

“Angel,” Hamilton informed the group, “is currently indisposed. I’d be happy to relay your presence to the proper person. May I inquire as to the reason of your visit.”

“He’s playing us,” Cordelia hissed into Doyle’s ear.

“This was a bad idea,” he whispered back.

“Gee, you think?”

Behind him, he heard Buffy whispering into Jesse’s ear. “You think you can slip away, see what you can find?”

Jesse’s response was even softer, but Doyle’s senses were on overdrive so he could pick it up: “I’m stealth guy.”

“We just want Tara back.” Willow said evenly.

Hamilton smirked. “I will inform the boss that you have arrived.”

“Hold on,” Alonna said, “I thought you said you were the boss.”

Hamilton turned to head up the staircase. “You were sadly mistaken.”

Doyle’s coward’s reflex suddenly set his eyes searching for the nearest exit. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jesse creeping off into the building alone.

Somewhere from the depths of the building, a clock struck midnight.

And all hell broke loose.

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Gunn knew a distraction when he saw one. The flood of demons that had swarmed, almost out of nowhere wasn’t fighting blindly. He could tell that they were pushing them further and further into the building, cutting off the exits.

But somehow it didn’t seem to matter very much, when he was fighting, everything else seemed to drop from his mind. He had his favorite axe in his hands, his sister fighting just behind him, a bunch of baddies, ready for a slaughtering. It was the most fun he’d had in ages.

He couldn’t help but be a little suspicious, because even though they were cutting through the demons like, he could see Doyle and Cordelia drifting farther away and Buffy was already fighting alone.

And he couldn’t help but pick out a few familiar faces in the melee. People who worked with him at the firm. People he hired. People who were supposed to be the first wave of good guys at Wolfram and Hart.

People, he thought forlornly as he lopped the head off of one of his old co-workers, who he’d surely misjudged.

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Jesse squeezed through a barely opened doorway, pulling an arm around his aching ribs. He seemed for the most part to go unnoticed. But then again the default state of a person in a melee was fighting anyone else was just visual noise.

He way up a hidden set of stairs, and kept moving upwards. After the two floors, he stopped hearing the sounds of all out war. The fifth and sixth floors were nearly silent.

But on the seventh, he heard lowered voices and he crept silently out into the empty hall.

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Spike knew Dawn was somewhere behind him. Not to mention the strange watcher wanna-be. They were surrounded by demons on all sides.

Dawn.

Why the hell did Buffy let the bit tag along anyway?

It only distantly occurred to him that Dawn was holding her own and it was Andrew he should be worried about.

But Spike couldn’t think like that.

Dawn was behind him.

“I’m counting on you… to protect her.”

“‘til the end of the world.”


He’d made a promise.

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“Blood of the innocent is a rare thing,” Eve said as she drew the circle in blood. “A vampire who was in the world of the supernatural, yet never took another’s life. And the McNally boy just stumbled into our hands. No longer a vampire, but pure enough for the blood.”

She emptied the last of the blood, completing the circle around Tara who sat cross-legged in the center. Eve swallowed. “It’s ready.”

Tara nodded once and leveled her gaze, her eyes black and glossy. “Hades, god of the underworld. I beseech you. Accept this sacrifice and heed my request. Seven bloods shall be shed and I bid you to bind their power. I give you blood of the innocent, blood of a Master, blood of Magic, blood of a seer, blood of the chosen, blood of a partner, blood of sacrifice, blood of true evil. All spilt on a thrice damned ground. Bind their power and allow the world to become what it was.”

The circle of blood glowed intensely until in a flash that covered the entirety of the building, it vanished.

From the doorframe, Jesse cowered and listened.

Blood of the innocent

Realization crept over him, and he turned and ran.

Inside the room, Tara stood up and looked at Eve. “We have work to do.”

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“There’s got to be something useful in here!” Wesley hissed frantically to Fred.

“You’re the one who showed up without a weapon!”

They were huddled behind one of the lab tables in the corner as the swarm of demons rampaged the lab.

“Look on the bright side,” Fred tried to sound upbeat. “There’s so many of them they’ll probably take each other out right?” Her eyes widened as she looked to Wesley for reassurance.

“Right,” Wesley affirmed, the thought of staying out of the melee prominent in his mind. Running at that many demons was suicide, plain and simple. And as long as Fred was safe, there was no need for fighting. He just prayed Buffy knew what she was doing.

They sat in silence as they heard the tinkling of breaking glass and occasional thudding as every part of Fred’s laboratory was demolished.

And then it stopped.

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Buffy swung her sword only to hit air. Confused, she looked around.

She was alone in the small room. Only seconds earlier there had been at least a hundred demons but they had all vanished.

Unconsciously, she tensed, pulling her sword up into attack position.

From somewhere behind her, she heard a familiar voice. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Slowly, Buffy turned around and meet her foe in the eyes. “Glory.”

A fist collided with the side of her head and she slammed into the opposite wall. “In the flesh.”

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“This way,” Lindsey said urgently as he ushered Kate into the open elevator.

“Where are we going?”

“Trust me,” Lindsey said as he punched in a series of numbers. “I hope they didn’t change the sequence.” He hit the last number.

“What sequence?” Kate asked frantically.

A large white button appeared overtop the numbers for floor numbers. Lindsey smiled crookedly at her. “And now, we get some answers.”

He pressed the button.

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“We’re not dead,” Doyle said in amazement. “Why are we not dead?”

The demons had disappeared leaving him and Cordelia staring at each other in surprise.

“I don’t like this.” Cordelia said, bending over, “No icky demon guts or anything.”

Doyle nodded vaguely feeling slightly punch drunk. “We got to be getting out of here,” he said suddenly, coward’s reflex surging to the forefront. “This smells like a…”

“…Trap,” someone supplied from behind them and Doyle and Cordelia turned in unison.

Angelus smiled at them. “Good guess.”

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A solid blow to the nose had stars dancing in front of Buffy’s eyes. A slow steady stream of blood was slowly dripping down her face. She could taste it in her mouth.

She had stayed on the ground for a few seconds longer than necessary. It may hurt her pride to do it, but it would also get Glory cocky.

…in theory.

“C’mon Slayer,” Glory taunted as she delivered a vicious kick to her side, “had enough already?”

Buffy moaned a little as she felt her ribs crack.

This plan sucked.

Her sword was lying only an arm’s length away and she reached for it only to have it kicked away. Buffy grimaced and pushed herself to a standing position. Glory smirked. “Scared Slayer?”

Buffy put her hand to her nose. It seemed to have stopped. Most of the blood seemed to be in a small puddle where she had fallen.

Blood of the Chosen

“Scared?” Buffy scoffed, “You wish.”

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Jesse stumbled out of the stairwell, expecting to run straight into all out war. But the lobby was surprisingly quiet and empty. He stopped and looked at his surroundings.

Nothing moved, not a sound.

“Willow!” He screamed. “Willow! It’s a trap! Get out of here! It’s a trap!”

Something in the shadows moved behind him and he went still.

“Willow?”

Someone grabbed him by the throat, lifting him slowly and steadily off the ground as his feet kicked wildly. His axe clattered to the ground as his hands flew to his throat to try to regain his airway. Just a flick of their wrist, he realize with a cold chill, a flick of their wrist and I’m gone.

The Master hissed in his ear. “I'll be back for you.”

And a second later, Jesse crashed into the wall.

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When Angelus’s fist swung in the direction of Doyle’s face, he didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. He just stood there with a oddly determined look on his face.

And a split second before the punch landed, he let himself change.

Angelus’s fist collided with about a dozen short blue spikes and he recoiled, howling. Doyle struggled to keep the guilt off his face as he said, “Lesson in using your advantages.” His face slid back to a human’s. “You taught me that.”

From behind him, Cordelia smashed him with the hilt of her sword and he collapsed to the ground.

Angelus looked up at her. “You won’t kill me.”

“That’s where your wrong,” Cordelia said drawing her sword up. “You see, I promised Angel I’d kill you.”

And as Doyle’s eyes widened slightly, she brought the sword down.

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Willow pushed open the door with a frantic light in her eyes. “Tara! Tara! Are you here?”

She thought she heard someone calling her name in the distance, but she ignored it. Tara was here. She could feel it. “Tara!”

“Tara!” Willow called again and this time, she heard a muffled response.

Tara was sitting huddled in a corner, hands bound behind her back, a gag stuffed in her mouth with wide frightened eyes.

“Tara!” she cried and rushed to her side, fumbling with her bonds

Oz entered the room behind her, looking around for any sign of a trap before, resigning himself to watching.

Her bonds loose, Willow brought down Tara’s gag, almost sobbing with relief. She hugged her tightly, not even noticing that Tara wasn’t returning the embrace.

Tara smirked over Willow’s shoulder and Oz immediately knew something was wrong.

He tried to warn her, tried to say her name, but she wasn’t listening.

She was sobbing into her dead girlfriend’s shoulder. “I though I lost you, I thought you were…” her body seemed to hitch in mid-sentence and Willow raised her head slowly to look questioningly into Tara’s eyes, “What was that for?” Her breath hitched again and red stuff filled her mouth. “What did you do?”

Tara stepped away slowly and Oz could see a dagger protruding from Willow’s chest, the blue shirt had already growing a dark stain.

Blood dripped slowly from down and pooled in a small circle at her feet. She swayed violently and turned to face him as she collapsed, croaking, “Oz!”

Blood of Magic

He caught her before she hit the ground. Looking at her bloodied stomach with helpless confusion. Grimacing, he pulled the knife out, wincing as he touched it.

Silver.

He ignored the twinge of pain and tossed it behind him, putting pressure on the wound with both hands.

“Tara,” Willow muttered again, “why?”

Oz rounded on Tara in a rare display of suppressed outrage. “What did you do Tara?” His hands shook as he felt the wolf rising to the forefront.

Tare stretched her hand out and the dagger soared back into it, the blade now sparklingly clean. “Don’t you get it?” she asked with a disarming smile. “I’m not Tara.”

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The ground of the hotel shook as the first stage of the spell began to take hold, Angelus took advantage of the distraction and rolled out of the way, disarming Cordelia in one smooth motion, and grabbing her by the throat. “Not that I’m unimpressed, but you do know that I could snap your neck at any time. You’re not fast enough.”

Doyle stood across from them, paralyzed. He held his sword limply in his hand. “Let her go.”

“Or what?” Angelus challenged, “you can’t do anything.”

“Let her go.” His face kept changing in his panic, demon, human, demon, human. He couldn’t control it.

“I don’t think so.” Angelus cackled. “I think killing her would be doing her a favor. You never were good with the relationships.”

Doyle’s eye twitched.

“You kiss her, and then you die. Not exactly the best way to start.” He leaned closer to Cordelia. “I bet I got farther with her than you ever did. What do you think Doyle? Does she scream?”

“You bastard.” Doyle hissed.

Cordelia managed to free an arm and sunk an elbow deep into Angelus’s chest, scrambling to the other side of the room.

Angelus seethed. “You stupid bitch!”

He grabbed Cordelia’s sword and started towards them and they slowly backed into the wall.

“Way to go out, huh?” Doyle said bitterly, “No blaze of glory, no nothing…”

The door opened behind Angelus and for a second, both Cordelia and Doyle dared to pray for rescue.

Angelus didn’t turn around. He threw his sword backwards, impaling the intruder in the chest, pinning him to the wall.

“Can’t you see I’m busy.”

He turned and pulled the sword out of the Master’s chest.

“Idiot child,” spat the Master, “have you forgotten the r…”

Angelus swung the sword and beheaded the Master as a stunned Cordelia and Doyle watched.

A precious few drops of cold dead blood dripped off the sword and to the ground.

Blood of the Master

Angelus turned back to Cordelia and Doyle, eyes alight with manic glee. “Who wants to go first?”

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A hard knock to the face and Buffy’s nose was bleeding again. She had regained possession of her sword only to have a kick to the wrist send in sailing back to the ground.

She needed the troll hammer. But it was probably back in England being studied by all the watcher types.

They always seemed to take all her good weapons. She still didn’t see why should couldn’t keep that rocket launcher…

She blocked a punch and delivered one of her own, but she’d obviously miscalculated because a second later she was flat on her back, breath temporarily knocked out of her.

“You know slayer,” Glory said slowly, picking up Buffy’s fallen sword. “I don’t see how you ever beat me. You’re nothing. You think slayer means something, but their common as dirt.”

But all the other Slayers were gone. It was just her left. Even Faith had woken up minus super powers. Common as dirt? She could very well be the last ever chosen one.

The sword sailed towards her, slicing through the air with terrifying speed. Out of instinct more than anything else, she rolled right and tried to push herself up, only to find that she didn’t have the strength.

Glory yanked the sword out from the floor and advance on Buffy, raising the blade.

Every slayer has a death wish.

Buffy closed her eyes.

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The elevator opened and Kate was blinded by white. She felt like she was in a hospital. She’d always hated hospitals. She gave Lindsey a wary glance. “What’s supposed to be here?”

“Answers.” Lindsey was looking around the room intently and Kate had the awkward sensation that he saw something she didn’t.

Kate around, only to see an empty white room. “What the hell is this place?”

“Welcome to the center of Wolfram and Hart,” Lindsey said, opening his arms wide.

“I don’t like it.”

“Yeah.” Lindsey seemed to deflate a little. “Me neither.”

Kate shook her head and caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. “What’s that.”

Lindsey followed her gaze. “No idea.”

It was a glass jar, sitting discretely in a corner of the white room, filled with a sort of orange mist. Kate picked it up, grinning faintly. “It’s kind of pretty.” She shrugged and started to pry the lid off the jar.

Lindsey grabbed at it. “What are you doing? That could be dangerous!”

Kate rolled her eyes and pulled the lid off.

The light inside the jar evaporated.

And a voice came from somewhere behind them. “You really shouldn’t have done that.”

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“If you’re not Tara, then who are you?” Oz asked, well aware that he was stalling for time.

Tara smiled maliciously. “What I am makes the beast in you seem like nothing.”

“Tara,” Willow mumbled thickly, “why aren’t you Tara?”

“Tara was a stupid misguided girl. Thought it was best to block me from using her form when I wanted to talk to you.” She bent down and lifted Willow’s chin. “She thought she could protect you. But I was just words then.” She let her chin drop back. “Now I’m flesh. It all evens out in then end. Everything you stupid humans do has consequences.”

“What are you?” Oz asked.

“The first,” Willow muttered. “You’re the first.”

Oz made tried to go to Willow’s side, but Tara threw a knife at him. It sliced threw Oz’s left shoulder. He winced in pain as small beads of blood dripped from the cut, down his arm and to the floor.

Blood of a seer.

Oz turned and grabbed the knife and attacked, the silver burning his hand.

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“I think I should kill the girl,” Angelus said, “It’s the classic way to go.” He examine the deadly blade. “And I always was one for the classics.”

He smiled and brought the blade up and Cordelia screamed.

And a light went through Angelus’s eyes and he collapsed. Doyle, sensing the opportunity grabbed his own sword from the ground and prepared to make the killing blow.

Angel looked up at him. “Where am I?”

Doyle faltered. “Angel man? Is that you?”

“Who else would it be?” He said, confused.

Doyle exchanged and look with Cordelia and offered his friend and hand up.

Cordelia breathed a sigh of relief. “Someone up there likes us.”

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“Eve.” Lindsey’s voice was quiet.

Eve stood perfectly still, features sharp against the glow of the white room. “You shouldn’t have done that,” she repeated, “the senior partners are gunning for you as it is.”

“You know what Eve,” Lindsey said slowly, “I don’t think the senior partners were ever after me. It was all you. You were the one who convinced me to move back here! You were the one who insisted on me getting these damn tattoos!”

“We’re all tools Lindsey. They knew exactly what you were going to do and they let you do it.” Eve smiled widely. “We’re all part of the plan.”

Kate, fidgeted uneasily, hand making its way to her gun… she still kept a gun, even after everything she’d seen it fail to do…

Lindsey’s voice was calmer when he spoke again. “Eve, whatever they’re making you do, you don’t have to do it. You can get out. You don’t have to be their pawn.”

Eve shook her head. “You don’t get it, do you Lindsey? You never were a big picture kind of guy. I’m the liaison to the senior partners. Their blood flows through my veins. I was born for this. And if they say you die, then you die.” A look of genuine regret crossed over her delicate features. “I really did like you Lindsey…” She moved forward to attack.

And suddenly, a shot ran out and Eve crumpled, blood splattering on the white behind her.

Blood of a Partner.

Lindsey turned around in a daze to see Kate holding a smoking gun.

Kate looked equally shocked and she had to fight to keep her composure. “We’re done here. Let’s go.”

A small smile spanned Eve’s cooling lips.

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“Jesse!” Xander was at his fallen friend’s side in a second. “Jesse are you alright?”

He cracked open an eye.

“Giles! I need some help here!”

Anya hovered somewhere behind him.

Giles, knelt down beside him. “Jesse? Jesse? Can you hear me?”

“Yes!” Anya said wildly, “How many fingers?”

“Willow,” Jesse croaked, trying to push himself up.

“That’s not how many fingers.”

“Willow can handle herself Jess,” Xander assured him.

“No!” It was only Giles’s hands that held him down. “You don’t get it! Tara’s not… it’s not Tara! She planned this whole thing.”

Giles paled. “Where is Willow, Xander?”

“I don’t know,” Xander said slowly, “we got separated. I think they pushed her upstairs.”

“Stay here.” Giles stood up. “I’ve got to warn her.”

“Giles,” Jesse muttered, eyes going in and out of focus.

Ms. Calendar sat in front of Jesse. “Don’t worry about that now. Just stay conscious here.”

“He dropped something.” Jesse said distantly, pointing to a scrap of paper on the floor.

Ms. Calendar picked it up and shoved it into his pocket. “You can give that to him when he gets back. I think your leg’s broken and you might have a concussion. Stay awake Jesse, just focus on staying awake.”

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Oz had the dagger pressed to Tara’s throat, the silver burning at his hands. The cut on his arm was bleeding freely, an infuriatingly steady stream. He felt light headed, the effort from holding the silver was almost enough to make him pass out. The wolf hovered just below the surface.

It had been almost too easy.

He had her in a choke hold. One hand holding her down, the other holding the blade pressed to throat. Another ounce of pressure and it would slice skin.

He had always dreamt about killing her. Ever since he realized what she was to Willow, he’d wanted it.

Tara smiled serenely up at him, not struggling, not flinching. “You know, Daniel,” Oz flinched at his given name. “You’ve already lost.” Her laughter burned his ears. The blade burned his hands. “You’ve lost your girl, you’ve lost your hope, you’ve lost the fight, you’ve lost the war.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Willow slump down, unconscious. He unconsciously pressed the blade harder, breaking the skin. Sending the blood out in tiny thin rivers.

He had always dreamt of killing her.

“Kill me,” she dared. “Go ahead. I know you want it.”

The wolf in him howled.

“It doesn’t matter,” An ounce more pressure would sever her vocal cords. “You’ve already lost.”

And Tara’s blood, the first evil’s blood, dripped slowly down her neck and onto the floor.

Blood of true evil

Tara smiled widely. “See you in hell.”

And before Oz could add that last ounce of pressure, Tara’s body seemed to swallow itself and shrank into oblivion.

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The killing blow never came. After almost a minute, Buffy opened her eyes again wondering what had happened.

It wasn’t Glory standing above her.

It was Ben.

Sweet gentle Ben who’d tried to ask her out. Who’d comforted Dawn at her worst…

Who was sharing a body with her most dangerous enemy.

Ben looked around, confused. “Where am I?”

Buffy slowly pushed herself up.

Ben looked in surprise at the sword in his hand. “What was she doing?”

“Fighting me.” Buffy took a step towards him, reaching for the sword, half afraid that he would turn back into Glory at any second.

You should kill him, her brain was suddenly screaming, kill him and all of this is over.

But in her heart, she knew she couldn’t kill him.

He saved Giles’s life once.

And he looked so pathetic, standing there in Glory’s clothes. A short dark skirt and a v-neck blouse that showed chest hair instead of cleavage.

He looked up at her as if he had only just realized that she was there and unconsciously echoing the words of Lloyd Reylord he said, “Sacrifice starts it.”

Buffy’s brow wrinkle in confusion as Ben’s earnest brown eyes bored into her own. “You remember.”

She remembered. Oh, did she remember, Dawn standing at the top of the tower, she remembered the blood that dripped down her chest. She remembered…

As she daydreamed, Ben had crossed the room and wedged the hilt of his sword into the uneven flooring where Glory had slammed the same sword only seconds before. He smiled distantly. “Sacrifice starts it, and sacrifice will end it.” He seemed to be looking for approval, but Buffy didn’t know what he was talking about.

And then it occurred to her. Her final jump to save the world, to save Dawn. When the blood stops flowing. She met Ben’s eyes.

He swallowed. “I done being someone else’s tool.”

Buffy realized what he was doing only a split second before he did it. She started making her way across the room, intending to stop him.

But whether it was the fatigue from the fight, or Ben’s sheer determination, she got there a second too late.

Ben smiled broadly, spread his arms, and fell forward onto the blade.

Buffy reached him only a second later and bent down next to him, searching for a pulse. He turned his head a fraction so he could see her. “Don’t worry,” he said, “this time, I did it right.”

His eyes closed and his breath faltered and stopped.

Blood of Sacrifice

His blood trickled slowly to the floor.

Sacrifice starts it.

The room exploded into light.

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Giles ran into Willow and Oz making their way back down to the lobby, both much worse for the wear.

“Tara?” he dared ask.

Oz shook his head faintly grimacing as he strained to hold Willow’s weight.

“What happened up there?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Oz grunted, “Let’s just get out of here.”

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“What did I do?” Angel asked as Doyle hauled him to his feet.

Doyle opened his mouth to explain, but Cordelia beat him to it. “We’ll talk about this later. The last thing we need is you going all broody on us.”

“That bad huh?”

“Cordelia was going to behead you.”

The ground shook.

They looked at each other. “We need to get out of here,” Cordelia said loudly as a piece of the ceiling fell four feet in front of them. “Like, now.”

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The lobby of the firm was starting to fill up with people in various states of panic.

Fred pounded at the doors. “We’re locked in!” She looked helplessly at Wesley. “They won’t budge.”

“I think I did something wrong.” Buffy said as she watched the glow shine from the upper stories.

“I should think so,” Wesley snapped as he followed her gaze, “it appears that the ritual has been fulfilled.”

“The end of the world?” Gunn asked in disbelief. “Can’t be. We beat the bad guys.”

“The doors won’t open,” Fred repeated in a panic, “we’re stuck in here.” She stared fearfully at the light. “It’ll be ok, right Wesley?”

It wasn’t going to be ok. And they all knew it. Nothing good consumed entire buildings.Nothing good came from dark magic. Nothing good involved blood sacrifices.The entire group was trapped in the lobby, in various states of shock as the energies tore the building apart, prepared to tear the world apart.

“This is our fault.” Giles said mournfully. “This is it. The last…”

“Don’t say it!” Xander snapped. “We can fix it. We can always fix it.”

“We’ve just got to go over it.” Ms. Calendar said in a falsely calm tone as she tried to examine Jesse’s leg. “What did the prophecy say?”

There was a crash as some of the roof caved in and the winds started to pick up. The passage to hell gained in size, in strength.

Kate and Lindsey stumbled in to the room. “What the hell did you do!” Lindsey screamed in their general direction. “You’ve started it! It’s…”

“I can see them,” Willow muttered from Oz’s arm, almost giddy with blood loss, “demons and witches and Taras and magicks and death…”

Doyle slowly wrapped his arms around Cordelia’s waist. “We’ll be OK princess.” Angel stood beside them.

“The fallen,” Wesley muttered, trying to recall the prophecy’s exact wording, “evil’s champions, balance, the end of everything.”

Spike came up behind Buffy, Dawn at his tail. “I kept her safe,” he muttered. “Nothing’s going to get to her...”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Buffy said brokenly, “It’s all over, we finally lost.”

“The fallen, evil’s champions, life, death…”

“Balance,” Alonna said suddenly and her brother looked at her strangely. “That’s what this is all about isn’t it? Balance.”

And one by one they realized it. Knew what had to happen.

“No,” said Xander, absentmindedly reaching for Anya’s hand. “There’s got to be…”

“Even if there was,” snapped Ms. Calendar, “there’s no time.” She helped Jesse to his feet. “We weren’t supposed to be here in the first place.”

And one by one, the group known only as the fallen pulled their battered bodies up. Jesse leaned against Mrs. Calendar for support, Alonna nodded stoically to her brother. Doyle gave Angel a knowing look. Cordelia shrugged at Oz. “Hail the new vision guy.” Spike whispered something in Buffy’s ear. Anya squeezed Xander’s hand. Goodbyes had been said years ago. There was nothing left to do. And together, they drew themselves up tall and walked into the light, into eternity.

There was a balance to be restored.

The rest of the group watched them as they disappeared. Watched them walk into the ball of destruction that could have meant the end of mankind.

But even after they had disappeared, the light remained, seemed to grow bigger even. There was the roar of various hell beasts as they forced their way through the barriers that separated the earth from the various hell dimensions.

“We were too late.” Kate shouted over the deafening roar.

Fred frantically pulled at the doors, but they were still sealed tight.

Angel screamed for Cordelia, for Doyle.

Buffy swore she hear the first evil laughing at her.

And in the midst of it all, Oz collapsed to the floor convulsing. Willow, loosing balance, toppled down on top of him, groaning as her wound tore open again. “What’s happening!”

“He’s having a vision,” Angel leaned down beside him. “Oz! Can you hear me?”

He opened an eye and smiled through his pain. “It’s going to be alright.” He sat up with a considerable effort and wrapped his arms around Willow. “It’s all going to turn out alright.”

The building collapsed.

The light swallowed them whole.

The world ended.

And everything changed.

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