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Fic update: Gently Down the Stream (chapter 4 of 6)
You know, all day I've been feeling excited in anticipation of posting this chapter. I love having fic to share again!

By the way, I'll be posting chapters 5 and 6 together next week, since chapter 6 is actually just a short-ish epilogue.

So ... that scream? Yep, that was Willow.

Title: Gently Down the Stream
Length: about 25,000 words total; this chapter is about 5700 words.
Pairing: Spike/Buffy along with other canonical pairings, but this isn't really a shippy story.
Warnings: Canon-typical violence; almost no sex.
Cross-posting: Dreamwidth, LiveJournal and AO3; read wherever you're most comfortable.

Chapter 4

The scream came from a cave practically right in front of them; they could easily have missed it in the dark. Buffy started to run in, but Angel caught her shoulder.

"Let me go first," he whispered. "Better night vision."

"I brought a torch," Wesley said.

"How about a pitchfork?" Buffy suggested. "Mob of angry peasants might come in handy, too."

Wesley gave her a puzzled look and held up a flashlight.

"Don't turn it on yet," Angel said. "It'll give us away."

So Buffy followed a little behind Angel, with Wesley right on her heels. The cave started out as a narrow, twisty passageway heading deeper into the rock. It smelled dry and earthy. It wasn't completely dark; as they went deeper in and turned a corner, the last remnants of moonlight from outside were replaced by a faint flickering light coming from farther in.

There was another scream, very close now. They started running.

They burst around another corner and found themselves in a large rock chamber, lit by a series of oil lamps placed around the perimeter. In the middle of the room: Willow, naked, lashed to an old wooden door. The door was propped up at a steep angle against a large rock, so Willow was half upright. She was looking directly towards them but her eyes were vacant. Nails had been driven through her hands into the wood of the door. Buffy felt a whimper rising involuntarily in her own throat.

And at Willow's side: Drusilla.

Dru was dressed in the same long black-and-purple dress she'd worn on the visit to Buffy's house three nights previously. There were stains on the lace that might be dirt but were probably blood. She'd been leaning over Willow but now she stood up straight. "Angel," she crooned. "Have you come to see my new dolly?"

"Step away from the girl," Angel said in a growly tone, holding his sword in front of him and advancing slowly. Buffy tightened her own grip on her borrowed axe. Behind her, she could hear Wesley easing sideways around the edge of the chamber.

Dru cocked her head. "Shan't be doing that. Osiris would be furious with me if I let her go now."

"If you don't step aside, Dru, I'm going to have to kill you," Angel said.

Dru gave a little-girl giggle and clapped her hands. "Oh, Daddy! I'd like to see you try!" She dropped out of sight suddenly behind Willow's rock and a split second later was back on her feet with a scythe in her hands. It was long-handled, sharp-looking—total Grim Reaper vibe. She was wearing her vampire face now. She smiled, showing her fangs. "Shall we dance, Daddy?"

"There's three of us and one of you, Dru. You don't stand a chance," Angel said.

"Why exactly is she calling you Daddy?" Buffy asked under her breath.

She never got an answer, because that was when Dru leaped at Angel, swinging her scythe, and the fight was on.

For a crazy chick in a long dress, Dru was fast. Angel barely managed to get out of the way of Dru's first swing. Buffy tried to get around back of her and found herself ducking underneath the vicious blade, narrowly avoiding an unflattering haircut. Wesley, meanwhile, had already dropped to the ground. Buffy spared him a glance but he didn't seem to be hurt. Weirdly, he was scrubbing a spot on the cave floor near Willow with the sleeve of his jacket.

No time to work out what was up with Wesley; Dru was swinging her scythe at Buffy's kneecaps. Buffy jumped—high, much higher than she'd thought she could jump—and while Dru's weapon went whooshing under Buffy's feet, Angel swung his sword at Dru's neck. But Dru dropped under its path, twirling, and it was Angel's turn to jump over the scythe. Buffy hefted her axe and tried to take a swing at Dru's back, but somehow Dru got out of her way and Buffy had to pull back to avoid hitting Angel.

"I've missed you so much, Daddy!" Dru called out in apparent childish glee. "Nobody else knows how to hurt me so deliciously like you do."

"If that's what you want, Dru," Angel grunted, deflecting the handle of her scythe with an awkward clunk of his sword, "just stand still."

"Just so you know, Angel," Buffy called out, trying and failing to find an opening for her axe, "I'm finding your banter very disturbing and I am seriously going to ask you about it later."

And then the cave sort of exploded.

At least—there was a flash, and a boom, and some kind of pressure wave that threw Buffy against the cave wall and made her ears pop. She managed to keep her feet, but she dropped the axe. Blinking away stars, she scanned the cave wildly, looking for Dru.

Instead, she saw Willow. Willow standing ramrod straight in the middle of the cave, eyes strangely shadowed and one bloodied hand raised towards the ceiling —

And there was Dru. Pressed against the ceiling by some invisible force, eyes wide, limbs askew.

"Thanks, Wesley," Willow said. Her voice was hoarse, but strong.

"Willow!" Buffy cried. "You're okay!" She started to run towards her, but her steps faltered as her rattled brain caught up with the latest developments.

It wasn't just that the lighting in the cave was bad. Willow's eyes had gone completely black. And her upraised hand ... she was the one holding Dru on the ceiling. With magic.

"Willow?" Buffy said again, in a smaller voice.

"I'm really sorry, Buffy," Willow said, sounding almost like her normal self. "I wanted to keep you away from all of this."

"Osiris will not be thwarted," Drusilla called down from the cave ceiling. "If you slay me, witch, he will only send another."

Willow scowled, narrowing her creepy black eyes. "Yeah, I get that," she said. "So I'd better not slay you just yet." She looked back at Buffy. "Again—so sorry to drag you into this. I'll explain everything back at the house."

Buffy opened her mouth to answer, but before she could say a word, Willow had vanished into thin air with a faint popping noise, along with Dru.

Which was maybe for the best, because Buffy had no idea what she'd been planning to say.

"What the hell?" Angel said. "Wesley, what did you do?"

"Broke the binding circle," Wesley said, standing up. He looked unsettled. "I had no idea what it was for, but I thought that if Drusilla wanted Miss Rosenberg bound, then it would probably be best to un-bind her." He glanced up at the now-empty ceiling. "I'm not entirely sure I was correct."

Angel gave a grim sort of nod. "New theory: Willow wasn't an innocent victim. Osiris is after her for bringing Buffy back from the dead, and she's changed reality to cover her tracks."

"Wait, what?!" Buffy said.

She seemed to be saying that a lot tonight.

"Hold on," Wesley said, sounding about as incredulous as Buffy felt. "Willow raised Buffy from the dead? And you knew about this? And you didn't see fit to mention it?"

Angel waved a hand vaguely. "It happened nearly a year ago. It didn't seem relevant."

"But I haven't been dead," Buffy said. "I mean, I almost died ... oh. Shit. The minivan that hit me. Waking up from the coma ... I didn't wake up, did I? In the real reality, I was supposed to have ... died." A fragment of a nightmare: a coffin, dirt, and suffocating darkness. Buffy shivered.

"You weren't hit by a fucking minivan," Angel growled. "You died saving the world."

"Okay," Buffy said faintly. "Let's say for a minute I believe you about that. What do you think Willow's done, exactly?"

"She resurrected you," Angel said. "They all helped, all your friends, but Willow was the one with the magic. She shouldn't have done it. It was dark magic. There were consequences. But I understand why she did it."

"And Osiris is offended by this assault upon his dominion," Wesley said slowly, nodding. "He cannot act directly, of course, so he sends his creature Drusilla—her madness making her particularly receptive to the messages of a god."

"That explains why Dru didn't kill Willow," Angel said. "Osiris wants Willow to un-do the spell."

Angel and Wesley both looked at Buffy.

"You mean Osiris wants me dead," Buffy concluded. "Um, wants me dead again. Re-dead. Can I just say, yikes?"

"But this doesn't explain the altered reality," Wesley objected. "Why would Willow want to hide the fact of Buffy's resurrection from everyone but Osiris? Surely she would have realized that a god would see beyond any such alteration.

Angel sort of humphed. "So you finally believe me that reality's been messed with?"

Wesley nodded. "In light of these new developments—yes. I remember Willow Rosenberg as a quiet, academically gifted student who often came to the library to supplement her reading for her classes, but never glanced in the direction of Rupert's special collection. You remember her as a witch powerful enough to raise the dead. It's clear now which version of history must be accurate." He frowned. "But in that case, how did you alone escape the reality-altering effects?"

"Magic-proof lead-lined box," Angel said. "Bottom of the ocean."

"Hey guys?" Buffy said. "I think we should talk to Willow. She did say she'd meet us back at my house."

"I'm not sure we can trust her right now," Angel said. "If she really is the one who changed reality, then she's been deceiving you all summer."

"She's my best friend," Buffy said firmly. "And she's been kidnapped and tortured by a vampire, probably to save my life. I want to see her. Now."

They didn't go straight back to Revello Drive; they went to Anya and Xander's place first. Angel and Wesley weren't happy about the detour, but Buffy insisted. Now that they'd found Willow, there was no way Tara would forgive them for leaving her out of the loop.

A haggard-looking Xander opened the door for them. All of the lights were on, and the apartment smelled strongly of coffee. The rest of the crew minus Spike was huddled together on the sofa.

"What's happening?" Tara asked fearfully, disentangling herself from Dawn's embrace. "Have you found out anything?"

"We found Willow," Buffy said. "She's okay," she added quickly and maybe not entirely truthfully, wanting to quell the panic she saw in Tara's expression. "Dru had her, but she ... she's safe now. She's waiting for us back at the house."

Dawn let out a squeal of joy and grabbed Tara for a bear hug. Tara submitted to the hug, not taking her eyes off Buffy. She looked relieved, drained, but also still wary. Unlike Dawn, Tara clearly sensed that there was more to this than Buffy was telling.

"Where's Spike?" Buffy asked. "We need to get back to Revello Drive—well, at least with Tara, for sure."

"Spike's sacked out in the bedroom," Xander said. "He was the only one who could sleep—I guess he was still wiped out from the seizure."

"Probably best to let him rest," Buffy decided. "The rest of you, too. Willow's okay. You'll all be safe here for the night." They'd originally come here to hide from Drusilla, Buffy remembered. And now Drusilla was ... where? What had Willow done with her?

"No way," Dawn said. "Do you have any idea how worried we've all been, hiding here? I want to see Willow."

"We should bring Spike," Angel said. "There are still a hell of a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of them are about him."

Xander shook his head. "What is it with you and Spike?" he asked.

Buffy put a quelling hand on Angel's shoulder. "It can wait until morning," she said in a low voice. "Seriously."

"What can?" Spike asked, wandering into the room looking rumpled. He eyed Buffy, Angel and Wesley. "Didn't find her yet, then?"

"Actually we did," Wesley said in a not very encouraging tone.

"She's waiting for us at home," Buffy said. She looked around the room, and saw a lot of worried faces. Even Dawn was clearly sensing now that something wasn't right. "Okay. Let's all go together. Now."

By the time they'd loaded themselves into three cars and made it back to Revello Drive, it was past four a.m.. The street was utterly quiet. So was the house, but the kitchen light was on.

Willow was sitting on a bar stool at the kitchen island, nursing a mug of steaming tea. She'd put on her pink flannel pajamas, and she'd wrapped bandages around her hands. In the bright light of the kitchen she looked haggard and pale, with tangled hair and a green bruise over one cheekbone. But she smiled when she saw them.

Tara let out a choked cry and ran straight into her arms. "Oh sweetie," she gasped, pressing her face against Willow's shoulder. "I was so scared."

"I'm sorry, love," Willow murmured, stroking Tara's hair. "I'm sorry you went through that. It's all going to be okay now."

Tara lifted her head, sniffling, and gave a nervous laugh. "You're sorry for being kidnapped by a vampire?"

Angel stepped into the room, looking grim. "Where's Drusilla?" he asked.

Willow looked around, taking in the crowd. "Maybe we should talk in the other room," she said in a careful tone.

"They've all got a right to find out what's really going on," Angel said. "Dawn and Anya and Tara were attacked by vampires earlier tonight. Buffy helped slay them. Keeping your friends ignorant isn't keeping them safe."

Willow paled, and looked from Tara to Buffy. "Is that true?" she whispered.

"We're fine," Tara said. "Bruises and scrapes. What's he talking about, Willow? What's really going on?"

Willow, looking unhappy, turned back to Angel. "I chained up Drusilla in the basement. I wasn't sure what else to do with her. It'll definitely hold her—I put a spell on the chains—but obviously I can't just keep her there forever. And I have to figure out what to do about Osiris."

"Hey," Buffy said. "I get the feeling this is gonna be a long story. How about we all go out to the living room where it's comfy?" The kitchen was crowded, and she didn't like the dynamic of them all looming over Willow.

They transferred to the living room. Willow, once off the bar stool, moved gingerly and with obvious pain. Tara exclaimed over her in concern and Buffy rushed to support her from the other side.

"You need to get to a hospital," Tara said.

"No," Willow insisted. "I'm fine. Or ... anyway, I will be. I can heal myself. Don't worry."

"With magic?" Buffy asked, and Tara gave her a sharp look of surprise.

"Yes," Willow said simply.

Tara eyed her lover uncertainly, but didn't ask questions for the moment.

So finally they were all settled in the living room, with Willow propped up by pillows on the couch. Tara perched next to her, protective and anxious, and Dawn curled up on her other side. Angel and Wesley declined to sit, so Buffy kept to her feet as well, but Anya took the armchair and Xander and Spike brought over chairs from the dining room.

"So," Buffy began, wanting to take control of the conversation so that Angel wouldn't, "Is an Egyptian god actually out to get you because you brought me back from the dead?"

Willow's eyes widened. "No," she said. "Well ... not exactly."

"Then you didn't bring me back from the dead?" Buffy glanced at Angel.

"No, I did," Willow said. "But that's not what Osiris is cranky about."

"Buffy died?" Dawn exclaimed. Everybody not previously in the know turned shocked faces towards Buffy.

"Bloody hell," Spike said faintly. "The minivan."

"She wasn't hit by a minivan," Angel said, sounding rather offended on Buffy's behalf. "She died in the act of stopping a hell god from destroying the boundaries between your world and a thousand hell dimensions."

"Reality has been altered," Wesley clarified. "Miss Rosenberg, would you care to explain?"

Willow looked awful. There were tears in her eyes. "Reality was broken," she said. "I tried to fix it."

"What do you mean, sweetie?" Tara asked, her voice quiet and fearful.

"So much pain and suffering." Willow shuddered. "I couldn't stand it. At first I thought the only merciful thing would be to end it—end it all. But then Xander was there, and I couldn't. Couldn't do it. But then I thought—if I could only fix it for them. Buffy, Xander, Giles ... Tara. Just make it right for them, take away their darkness, then maybe I could stand the rest of it." She shuddered, then burst into sobs.

Wesley, sounding more stern and British than ever, spoke up. "To alter reality as you seem to have done would require more power than one human could possibly call upon. Did you force Osiris to help you?"

Willow shook her head, regaining control of her voice. "I had ... borrowed ... power from a few other people. And I channeled it through an old satanic temple up on Kingman's Bluff. Actually I sort of told Osiris to piss off." She gave a wan smile, which nobody returned.

"I don't really get where Osiris comes into this," Angel said. "If it wasn't about bringing Buffy back from the dead—you altered reality so that Buffy didn't have to be the Slayer anymore, is that right? It was a terrible burden and I can see why you'd want to lift it from her, even if you were totally wrong to do it. But why would Osiris care about—" He stopped suddenly. "Jenny Calendar. In this reality, she never died."

"Osiris told me I couldn't bring back someone dead of natural causes," Willow said. "But I found a workaround. With enough power, you can go back and ... rewrite reality. Make it different."

"Will," Xander said quietly, "you know I love you. But right now you're giving me a serious wiggins. What the hell are we talking about here? Did you change our memories?"

"No," Willow said. "You remember everything exactly as it happened. It's Angel and me who remember things differently. We remember a different timeline that isn't real anymore." She looked at Angel. "And I don't know why you remember it."

"Your spell missed me," Angel said. "I was out of the office."

Wesley cleared his throat, exchanging a look with Angel. "One can't simply go around retroactively changing reality to suit one's preferences," he said. "Osiris is not likely to let this one go, nor should he. Miss Rosenberg, whatever changes you've made, you're simply going to have to change them back."

"No," Willow said. "I won't be doing that." Her tone did not invite argument. Buffy remembered Drusilla on the ceiling of the cave, and felt a little afraid.

"Why now?" Angel said. "Jenny Calendar died four years ago."

"You should be thanking me," Willow said, giving Angel a sharp look. "One less ghost."

"I'm not arguing with you," Angel said, though his tone wasn't exactly conciliatory. "I'm just trying to figure out what you did and why you did it. What the hell is Spike doing here?"

"Well, I actually live here, mate," Spike said flippantly, obviously trying to break the tension a bit.

He didn't know, Buffy realized. That whole thing with Angel going on and on about Spike being a vampire—nobody had told Spike yet. And probably he'd have to find out eventually, but right now in a confrontation with Angel was so not the time.

"Does it matter what the changes were?" Buffy asked. "This is our reality now, and it's the only one I know, so I think we'd better just start dealing with it. Apparently I'm supposed to be dead, our old computer science teacher is supposed to be dead—but I gotta say, I like not being dead. So there's a vampire chained up in my basement. What are we going to do about that? There's an Egyptian god trying to hurt my friends. How do we stop him? Let's come up with constructive ideas, people."

Never had she expected to put her management training from the Double Meat Palace to use in a situation like this one. But it seemed to be working. They were all looking at her like she was in charge—even Willow.

Dawn raised her hand. "Research? I mean, everything I know about Ancient Egypt fits on one sheet of poster board, and that's with half the space taken up by a big picture of the pyramids. I got an A on that project, but it was in sixth grade, so ... not so much with the helping now. Maybe if we learned a bit more about Osiris, we'd figure out how to deal with him."

Angel shook his head—apparently in wonderment, not negation. "They're exactly the same," he said to Willow. "You changed their memories, but you didn't change them."

"Duh," Willow said. "Also, if you start to think of getting judge-y about me changing reality, remember that you've never technically met Dawn before."

"Huh?" Dawn said.

"Different reality re-write," Willow said. "Earlier. Not mine."

"Exactly how often does reality get altered?" Anya asked. "Because I have to say, this is rather unnerving."

"That question is inherently unanswerable," Wesley pointed out.

"Right," Buffy said. "Okay, first thing in the morning, Dawn goes to the library to see what they've got on Osiris. Who can help with that?"

"I've got work," Anya said. "So does Xander."

"Me too," Buffy said, "but for this, I'm calling in sick."

"I'll go with Dawn," Tara said.

"We might also gain information by questioning Drusilla," Wesley suggested. "If indeed she is acting as Osiris's agent for the moment..."

"It's hard to get a straight answer out of Dru at the best of times," Angel said. "But it's worth a shot."

Xander caught Buffy's eye. "Do you want me to stick around tomorrow?" he asked. "Don't know what I could do to help, exactly, but..."

Buffy shook her head. "No point in all of us getting in trouble at work. Check in at the end of the day, though, okay?"

"In that case..." Xander stood up, stifling a yawn. "I'm thinking the pregnant lady and I should go get a couple of hours' sleep."

Anya and Xander said their goodbyes quickly, each of them giving Willow a slightly awkward hug before departing.

"The rest of us should get some sleep too," Buffy decided as soon as they were gone. "Angel, Wesley—can you stay a little longer? I think we need you guys."

Angel nodded. "Nothing happening in L.A. that can't wait a day or two."

Wesley said nothing, but didn't disagree.

"I guess, well, one of you can have the couch," Buffy said, her thoughts turning to sleeping arrangements. "Oh—there's a cot in the basement we can bring up. But you'll have to share the living room."

"Actually," Willow interjected, "Drusilla's on the cot."

"Drusilla," Buffy echoed. "Right." Somehow Buffy kept forgetting that there was a mad vampire chained up in her basement.

"Wesley can have the couch," Angel said. "I don't need to sleep. I'd rather go down and keep an eye on Dru."

"I'd like to see her," Spike said.

"No," said Buffy, Angel and Willow simultaneously, in varying tones.

There was an awkward moment. Spike raised an eyebrow. "Well she is my bloody ex-girlfriend," he said. "Or is that part of what's not real?"

"It's real," Willow said. "It was real before and it's real now. It's just the details that changed."

Angel snorted.

"Remember, she's a vampire," Buffy said. "I saw her fight, when we went to rescue Willow. She's pretty dangerous."

"Well she's all chained up now, isn't she?" Spike asked. "So what's the harm?"

Buffy wasn't sure, honestly, but her instincts said to keep Spike away from Dru. Especially until she'd had the chance to gently tell him about his own alternate history. "She messes with your head," she said. "You know she does. I just think you should wait until you're rested before you face her."

Spike eyed Buffy, Willow, and Angel. "You all know something you're not telling me," he said. "I can bloody well tell that much. I'll go to bed like a good boy now, but tomorrow I want some bloody answers."

Buffy snuck back downstairs after seeing Spike and the girls off to bed. It was already starting to get light outside, but Buffy found she still had energy. Maybe vampire slayers needed less sleep than normal people.

This whole superpowers thing was going to take some getting used to.

She noticed, on the way to the basement, that the couch was unoccupied. This didn't surprise her. She wasn't totally clear on the relationship between Angel and Wesley, professional or otherwise, but it was pretty obvious that they had a history of dealing with weird stuff like this together.

The basement stairs were creaky, so her entrance had the effect of stopping whatever conversation had been happening down there. Dru, Angel and Wesley all turned to watch her descent.

Drusilla was sitting on the cot, looking incongruously prim. Thin chains looped around her ankles and wrists, connecting them to the pipes running over her head. The arrangement looked way too flimsy to hold someone of Drusilla's strength, but Buffy remembered that Willow had claimed to have reinforced the chains with magic.

Anyway, Drusilla certainly hadn't escaped yet.

"I wondered when you'd get here," Angel said.

Buffy shrugged, joining Angel and Wesley in a semi-circle at what was obviously just past the limit of Dru's chains. "What have you found out? Um," she added belatedly, "Hi, Dru."

"Drusilla seems to be in the unique position of remembering both timelines," Wesley said.

"Mirrors and hedge mazes," Dru added, tracing a finger through the air. "Everyone is wandering terribly lost, but I peek through the little holes the falcon makes and I see the way." She giggled.

Buffy gave Wesley a skeptical look. "And you're getting something out of that?"

"She's had moments of clarity," Angel said. "She definitely remembers Spike as both a human and a vampire. She knows that Willow changed reality. And she knows that Osiris wants Willow to change it back."

"Four lives," Drusilla said, talking to a point somewhere over Buffy's left shoulder. "Not quite so many souls, but then Osiris was never very fussed about souls. He only wants the dead back."

"Four?" Buffy repeated sharply. She exchanged a look with Angel and Wesley—this was new. "Me, Jenny Calendar—who else was there?"

Drusilla laughed again. "You, the Slayer-who-lived-thrice? Your life was bought and paid for, all the proper forms filled out in triplicate. It's the four of them he wants." She shuddered suddenly. "Beetles," she murmured, brushing at her arms. "He simply will not stop sending me beetles. You must tell the witch to set it all right, or Osiris will be terribly cross." She brushed harder at her arms and then began clawing at herself, crying out.

"Willow herself told us that your own resurrection was not the issue," Wesley murmured, apparently undisturbed by the vampire having a total freak-out in front of him. "But she certainly didn't tell us about four others."

"Spike," Angel said. "He was a vampire—dead. Now he's human—alive."

"Oh." Buffy took a breath. "Right." Not a comfy thought. But right now there wasn't time to get upset about this stuff. "So Spike and Miss Calendar—that only makes two, and by the way what the heck does my old computer science teacher have to do with any of this?"

"In the original timeline," Angel said, "she ... was killed, just as she and Rupert Giles were beginning to explore a romance. Willow was close to her—she never spoke of the incident afterwards, at least not with me, but I suppose it may have haunted her.

"Or," he added, frowning, "Willow might have been thinking that giving Jenny back to Giles would make him less likely to fight for the restoration of reality, if he ever found out."

"Okay," Buffy said, "What does my old high school librarian have to do with any of this?" She remembered his name coming up earlier in the evening, but she couldn't remember why—and it was hard to concentrate while watching Drusilla writhing in pain from the attack of the invisible bugs. "Guys, should we be doing something to help Dru?"

"I doubt we could," Wesley said. "Even before Osiris's intervention, she was quite mad."

"Osiris will leave her alone when we get this sorted out," Angel said. "Dru, who are the four people Osiris wants back?"

"Daddy," Drusilla moaned, turning her tear-streaked face to him, "Osiris is hurting me." She curled up into a ball and began to sob.

"I don't think we'll get anything else out of her tonight," Angel said.

"Why does she call you Daddy?" Buffy asked quietly.

Angel hesitated, but Buffy stared him down. This was a question she wanted answered.

"I sired her," he said finally. "Made her into a vampire. It was centuries ago, before I had a soul. First I tortured her into madness, then I killed her and turned her."

"Oh," was all Buffy could manage to say.

Angel gave her a grim look. "You asked."

Buffy felt a little shiver go down her back. She kept forgetting—this was not the Angel she thought she knew.

"In the morning," Buffy said, half-unconsciously taking a step backwards away from Angel, "I'll ask Willow. About the four dead people."

Wesley cleared his throat. "Keep in mind," he said, "that you cannot fully trust her."

Buffy glared at him. "She's my best friend."

"She hasn't told us everything," Angel pointed out. "You must realize that. Just ... be careful around her."

"Right," Buffy said. She glanced over at Drusilla's sobbing form. "Well. Good night, then." She turned to walk away.

Angel's voice caught her halfway up the stairs. "Are you sleeping with him?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yes. Obviously. You know how many bedrooms we have."

"You could sleep in Dawn's room," Angel suggested.

"Going to bed now," Buffy said, continuing up the stairs. "With my boyfriend."

"It's a lie," Angel's voice followed her. "Whatever relationship you remember having with him—it isn't real, Willow made it up. He's a vampire, Buffy."

"I'm too tired and cranky to have this conversation, Angel," she said. She left the basement—slamming the door behind her.

She'd hoped to crawl into bed without waking Spike up, but it turned out he hadn't been sleeping.

"How's Dru?" he asked, rolling over.

"Pretty bad," Buffy said, snuggling up next to him. "She thought she had bugs crawling all over her when I left. Also, she's a vampire."

Spike stroked Buffy's hair. "Think I'm gonna have to see her for myself before that one really sinks in," he said.

"You missed most of the action tonight," Buffy acknowledged. "Are you having trouble believing this stuff?"

Spike put a hand to the bandage on his neck. "Honestly, no. Feels more like the penny dropping."

"I know," Buffy said. "Me too."

"Those dreams we've been having all summer..." he said.

"Yeah." She kissed him gently, and knew it was time to tell him. "There's something Angel told me. About you. In the other reality."

She felt Spike tense. "Yeah?" he said.

"So you know that Angel is a vampire. And Drusilla is a vampire. ..." She couldn't quite bring herself to say it.

"Me," he finished. "I'm a vampire."

She only had to nod.

Spike sat up, put his head his knees. "Fuck," he said.

Buffy sat up too, and put a hand on his back. "You're sort of not entirely completely surprised," she observed.

"Angel barely stopped himself from saying it about three times tonight," Spike pointed out. "I could tell something was up. And, well ... the dreams."

"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "The dreams." She understood now that she'd been dreaming of being the Vampire Slayer.

Spike had been dreaming of being a vampire.

"So I suppose I've killed people, then," he said.

"Maybe," Buffy said. "I mean—I'm not sure I really get it. Willow said that this reality is the real one now. Whatever happened before ... didn't happen."

"Only we all keep dreaming about what we're supposed to be," Spike reminded her. "Bloody hell, I have no idea who I am."

"I know who you are," Buffy said firmly. "And I love you."

"We're not supposed to be together," Spike said. "Angel made that perfectly sodding clear."

"Oh come on, even in this reality he didn't know we were dating," Buffy pointed out. "If he'd been all synced up with our reality, he probably still would've wigged when he saw you here. Well, I mean, he wouldn't have bit you. But otherwise—yeah, it probably would've gone about the same."

Spike let out a quick snort of laughter. "Too bloody true," he said. He lifted his head, meeting Buffy's eye with a rueful look. "Can't blame the bloke, really. Vampire or junkie—either way I'm no bloody good for you."

"Former vampire, ex-junkie," Buffy said firmly. "Don't start that again. I mean it, Spike. Your past doesn't define you. I love who you are, my sexy vegan radical pacifist musician boyfriend."

Spike managed a quick smile at her description, though Buffy could tell that the vampire thing was still upsetting him. "Anyway, look at you," he said. "A superhero. Somehow I'm not exactly shocked."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, there was something about the snappy way I flipped burgers..."

Spike shook his head. "There's something about you," he said. "The way everyone looks to you in a crisis. The way you hold us all together."

Buffy shrugged it off, and shut him up with a kiss. "If I'm going to hold it together today," she said, "I'd better get a little sleep."

Comments at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable

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I realized I haven't replied for a bit, but I wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying this! I've really missed reading your writing, and you've certainly come up with a really unique and clever twist on things! I was actually a bit surprised to figure out when, exactly, Willow had changed reality. Very clever! Can't wait to read the rest!

I'm so glad you're still liking it! I had a lot of fun dropping in all the little clues about the reality-change. :-)

Oh, so good! I can't imagine how you're going to get them out of this - there will be bloodshed, and tears, and horrible things... I can't wait. LOL But I'll be reading through my fingers.

Haha! Awesome.

So glad you're enjoying it! (Reading through your fingers, heehee.)

Ooh!!! Think I figured put the other two...

:-) All will be revealed next week!

Oh dear. If they come back to reality, where will they land? Season six? eek. I can't wait to see how this works out.

Thanks for commenting; it's so fun to hear readers' reactions!

I can't for the life of me think who those other two people could be. Kendra? Mr Snyder? Er...

Loving this still, and a bit sad for Buffy and Spike if it has to go back to the old reality at the end.

Oh man, Willow totally should have saved Snyder when she re-wrote the timeline! That would have been awesome!

(But no.)

Joyce, maybe?

I know you can't tell me.

Yay, this chapter was just as good as the previous ones, and now we know even more. Really looking forward to reading the final parts. Wonder how you will end this.

Glad you liked it! I hope you like the end next week. :-)

Love it. Very intriguing. I'm really, really curious who's the fourth dead person, besides Tara.

Glad you're enjoying! Tune in around 9pm EDT on Friday, when all will be revealed. :-D

New theory: Willow wasn't an innocent victim.

Now they're getting it!

There is something really disturbing about jammies-in-the-kitchen-avoidy Willow. She's just completely not facing the import of her actions.

Dru manages to get the crucial point across, even with her communication-challenged way of speaking. Four, and the mystery (to us readers) is who is the fourth? *ponders*

Love the way it all makes sense to Spike, now. And everybody, really. It must be a relief to have an explanation for the wrongness, if not exactly reassuring.

Ooooh, nicely appropriate userpic.

There is something really disturbing about jammies-in-the-kitchen-avoidy Willow.

Very glad you feel that way. :-)

I hope you enjoy the final pieces!

Oh, this is really good !

I'm glad you're enjoying it! :-D

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