This was going to hurt. A lot.
The stone edge of the headstone felt as if it sliced all the way to her spine, both knocking the metaphoric wind out of her windless body and rendering her momentarily dazed, and therefore unprepared for the Slayer’s follow-up kick. Buffy had to give the newbie kudos. She really knew how to make it hurt. And not just the I’ll walk it off kind of hurt; the big kind. The kind where she would have to drain a hospital dry before she felt anything like herself again.
“Now,” she drawled, limping up, her eyes clashing with her enemy’s, “that was uncalled for.”
“I don’t think you get it,” the girl spat in her thick accent, leaping in the air and landing a whirling kick against Buffy’s jaw. She waited until Buffy flopped uselessly to the ground before continuing, which was really thoughtful, all things considered. “This is not a game.”
“Sure it is,” Buffy replied, climbing back to her feet. “It’s all a game. And I won.”
The Slayer scowled and threw her another kick, but Buffy was ready this time; she caught the girl’s leg and sent her flying to the ground. It had been like this for the past few weeks—every other night or so, no matter where she went, the Slayer was there. In her hair, in her business, fucking everything up, and while it had been amusing at first, she was damn tired of it now. There were only so many ways she could not kill the girl.
Spike thought it was a hoot, which only furthered Buffy’s irritation. It was bloody well deserved, he said, considering all the times she’d thwarted his schemes or mucked up his dinner plans. Every time he turned around, she’d been on his case. Strangely, Buffy didn’t remember it that way, but what mattered was he was right: the Slayer was a nuisance, and one she needed to silence.
And that was the problem.
She didn’t want to be responsible for killing a slayer. There were certain things death couldn’t eradicate, and the connection she felt with her sisters was among them. No one else out there could possibly understand the loneliness and fear that came with getting out of bed every morning—none save the girl crawling to her feet now, wiping sweet-smelling blood off her split lip and glaring stakes in her direction. Buffy didn’t want to kill her, but it was becoming more and more difficult to avoid it.
“You know,” Buffy said conversationally, spiraling in place and landing a kick in the Slayer’s side that sent her flying back to the ground, “I really don’t understand why you guys couldn’t just leave us alone. We bowed out gracefully. We don’t go out of our way to piss you off. We—”
“You are an abomination!”
She rolled her eyes. “Here we go.”
“This is the world you are supposed to protect, and you allowed yourself to be turned. You—”
“Yeah. I was totally responsible with the lying there and having no control over the situation.” Buffy made a face. “And that isn’t even the point, psycho. Honestly, what you don’t know about vampires could sink the Titanic.”
“I know enough.”
“Well, I don’t want to kill you.”
“You can’t!” the Slayer hissed, throwing a kick toward Buffy’s midsection. She dodged easily, dropping to the ground and rolling a safe distance away. At this rate, she was never going to make her evening date with Spike.
Fucking figured the girl would ruin her night.
You asked for it, pet, the Spike in her head warned, bemused.
Oh, bite me, she replied.
“I can,” Buffy replied, fangs descending. She had yet to get used to the feeling, but that didn’t matter. She was too addicted to the raw power fueling her veins and crackling between her fingers. “And I will if you force me.”
“If I force you?” The poor girl seemed honestly perplexed. “You are a vampire.”
She waved a hand. “Like I said, Titanic of things.”
It was a useless debate; one she and the Slayer had entertained several times before. Every time Buffy thought she might be reaching the moronic teacher’s pet, something intervened. Another vampire, a slightly more-than-flesh-wound wound, or, most frequently Spike, who spied on these trades more often than he would admit.
He loved watching her in her element.
“You are a creature of evil,” the Slayer said slowly. “The person inside a vampire dies the second a vampire is born.”
Buffy shook her head and tsked. “Sorry to burst your bubble, honey, but that’s just…oh, what’s the word…bullshit.”
“I know my vampires.”
“I think tonight is proving you don’t.”
The Slayer’s expression melted into a scowl and she barreled forward without warning. A wild fist flew toward Buffy’s face and was quickly deflected and countered with a swipe at the Slayer’s legs. Buffy seized the opportunity to leap away the next second, but the situation was quickly spiraling out of control. Every confrontation became sloppier, more violent, and though there was a sizable part of her enjoying the thrill of the hunt, it was damn difficult avoiding the killing blow when she didn’t want the girl’s blood on her hands.
“The Council will have you killed,” the Slayer warned, her accent growing thicker with rage, and a stake materializing in her grasp. “If you kill me, another will follow.”
“Yeah, I kinda know how it works.”
“And I will not rest until you are dead.”
“That’s a damn shame.”
The Slayer swiped at the air between them with her stake. “Why do you not fight?”
“Are we really back on this?” Buffy demanded, bored. “How many times can I say I. Don’t. Want. To. Kill. You. You and me? We got the shaft. I just found a way out.”
“Death is not a way out!”
“Where the hell have you been? Death is the ultimate way out.”
“You should have walked into sunlight rather than become a monster.”
“Yeah, but then I wouldn’t be here having a ripe old time listening to you yammer on about things you don’t know anything about.” Buffy shrugged, wiping dirt off her outfit. Short skirt—easy access for Spike—and a camisole, both of which had looked smashing before the annoying do-gooder ruined her evening. “I know what it’s like to be you,” she reasoned.
“That girl died,” the Slayer argued uselessly. Honestly, it was like talking to a brick wall.
“Twice, now that you mention it.”
A confused frown. “Twice?”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “Think that makes me the expert on death, wouldn't you say?”
Another wild swing came rolling for her head; she ducked gracefully, throwing back a kick that landed the Slayer on the ground.
“You are a murderer,” came the righteous accusation.
Buffy shrugged. “Girl's gotta eat.”
“This ends now. Tonight. I've let you go too many times.”
“Aww, did someone get a poor performance evaluation?”
The Slayer huffed indignantly and sprinted forward, stake aimed in what would have been a perfect arc for Buffy's heart. A split second decision rendered, a minor stab of guilt later, Buffy twisted and jerked the weapon from the Slayer's grasp, flipping her onto her back with a vicious growl.
“For the record,” she said, snapping her fangs, “I didn't want it to end this way.”
The Slayer spat in her face and wiggled. Well, that was just rude. There was no telling the stupid girl anything. Perhaps the next slayer would be a better listener—because there would be a next, and then a next, and a next. And as long as she and Spike walked the Earth, there would be no rest for them.
At least it would keep life interesting, she supposed.
Buffy sighed, wiped her skin clean, and pressed the jagged end of the stake against the girl's chest. “If you're gonna be that way,” she said conversationally, “let me show you how it's done.”
Strangely enough, for all her hesitation, as the stake broke through flesh and bone, as the Slayer gurgled and spat up blood, Buffy didn't feel a thing.
Not a goddamn thing.
“She’s killed a slayer.”
If there was ever an announcement that could make the air fall still, it was that. Somehow, it made everything harsher, more real. As though the months spanning Buffy’s absence had, in a way, been make believe until that moment—as though all could be forgiven and forgotten. But that ended now—now everything was real in ways it hadn’t been before. Killing a slayer was different business.
Killing a slayer was a sin of a different color.
“Oh, my God,” Jenny Calendar whispered, placing a hand over her mouth.
“Are you certain?” Giles asked softly. “Are…there has to be…”
“What? A mistake?” Xander demanded. “She’s a vampire, Giles. Not much with the moral compass.”
The look on the watcher’s face was heartbreaking. There were things he understood, of course, things he’d always known…but Buffy killing one of her own was unimaginable.
Angel nodded and took a step forward. “News travels fast in the underworld,” he said, speaking to everyone, though his eyes didn’t waver from Giles’s. “Especially news like this. I’m guessing you’ll get word within the next day or so.” He paused. “Her name was Kendra, and she’d been sent specifically to locate and destroy Buffy and Spike.”
“Locate and destroy?” Willow echoed, voice bathed in worry. “I thought…I thought we’d decided we’d try to—”
“Yes,” Giles said, quickly recovering. “But the Council is a different matter. The second Buffy was turned she became an enemy, and there is nothing more powerful or frightening in the world than a sired slayer. The Council would have wanted her eradicated immediately.” He paused. “Before she could impart serious damage.”
“But that’s not what we decided,” the redhead objected.
Xander tossed her a sympathetic glance. “Don’t really think the Council cares what we decided, Will.” He turned back to Giles. “Vampire slayer turned vampire. Think I can see where they’re coming from.”
Angel hesitated then took another step forward. The library had become even more of a second home in the aftermath of Buffy’s turning. Every second not dedicated to schoolwork and keeping up appearances was wasted away in the library, poring over books, looking up spells, and discussing options regarding their missing slayer. They spent more nights encircled by dusty books than they did at home, but for all the effort, there was little in the way of options.
Little aside from staking her.
“Do we at least know where she is now?” Giles asked. “If we have a location…”
“My sources say somewhere near New York,” Angel replied. “But I’m not certain if they’re reliable.”
Xander raised his hand. “Why wouldn’t they be?”
“I was snapping off their fingers at the time.”
Willow winced. “Ouch.”
“Not exactly the preferred method of extracting information,” Giles said dryly. “Demons aren’t known for telling the truth to begin with.”
Angel shrugged. “They weren’t talking. I made them talk.”
“And they might have said anything.”
“Even so, we have a lead, which is more than I can say for where we stood yesterday.” Angel turned to Jenny. “How close are we?”
“I’m missing some ingredients, but we’re close.” She sighed. “Or as close as we’re going to get. I keep telling you, I have no idea if this is actually going to work. Casting spells on people requires a large amount of focus…and at my skill level, there’s no telling whether or not I’d be able to reach Buffy with a whole continent between us.”
“It’s still worth a try,” Giles reasoned. “Anything is worth a try.”
“And then what?” Willow demanded. “We give Buffy a soul and…how do we even know if it worked?”
A series of glances were exchanged.
“We’ll know,” Angel said softly. “One way or another.”
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