Cassius placed another log on the fire and glanced at Aurelia on the couch with a pile of brochures on her lap. "College, huh?" He said.
"Higher education. An intense proposition." Aurelia said.
"Where do you wanna go?"
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "My mom was the one that got all these. She's so excited, she can't stop talking about it."
"She doesn't know about the prophecy."
"Not the part we came up with. She's having enough trouble dealing with the Slayer issue. I doubt she'd be able to even begin to comprehend just exactly what the end of the End of Days entails. Anyway, I think this college thing is just a reaction to the whole Slayer thing."
"She just wants you to get out."
"She has a point." Aurelia sighed. "But it's too late. The End of Days will begin and we'll be dead again…. Together finally."
Cassius laughed. "We're an odd couple."
"Slayer and vampire? Yeah."
"No. No one in history has been as nonchalant about their own deaths as we are."
"Well, once it's happened to you more than once, you kind of get used to it after a while."
There was a sudden pounding on the door. Cassius walked over and opened it to find Oz and Cordelia standing there looking frantic. They spotted Aurelia sitting on the couch and stormed in past Cassius.
"Thank God you are here." Cordelia said.
"Something's up." Oz added.
Aurelia and Cassius stood with Cordelia and Oz in the science room at the high school. The room was a mess. "We were supposed to meet in here." Cordelia said. "I don't know what could have happened."
"What is all of this?" Aurelia asked, picking at the spell ingredients on the table.
"Was Willow messing with her magic tricks again? Maybe they disappeared. Maybe she turned Xander into something ishy!"
"Whatever happened, there was obviously a fight."
"I don't see any blood." Oz said.
"Either they were taken or they ran or maybe…."
"You're having too many ors! Pick one!" Cordelia said.
"I don't know. I need you two to find Giles, ok? Cassius and I will look for them. Maybe they didn't get too far."
"Where is Giles?"
"Uh, he's at a retreat in the clearing in Breaker's Woods."
"Yeah, I know the spot, but it's like a forty-five minute drive." Oz said.
Aurelia gave Oz a look and Cordelia and Oz rushed out. Cassius and Aurelia went to the library to get some weapons. Almost as soon as they walked in, the phone started ringing. Cassius went into the cage to get weapons and Aurelia rushed over to the counter to answer the phone. "Giles?"
"Hi, Buffy." Joyce said. "I was hoping I'd find you at the library."
"Uh, Mom, actually…."
"I was hoping that we could schedule a college talk later tonight. I admit I overreacted before. You don't have to go all the way across the country. I, um, picked up some brochures from some nearby schools, ok?"
"That's great, but now's really not a good time…."
"Hello, Joyce." A new, familiar voice said from behind Joyce.
"Oh God…." Aurelia dropped the phone and ran out.
"Aurelia!" Cassius called, dropping the weapons and running after her. He could barely keep up with her since his strength still wasn't 100%. When he finally made it to her house, she was knocking Spike onto his back on the island and keeping him pinned there by the throat.
"Cassius, why don't you come on in?" Aurelia said, remembering that he hadn't been back to her house since he'd come back from hell. "You shouldn't have come back, Spike."
"I do what I please." Spike said. He made a grab for Aurelia's arm, but Cassius took Spike's arm, yanked it off of her, and pinned it to the island. Aurelia grabbed a wooden stirring spoon and made a move to stake him. "Willow!"
"You took Willow." Aurelia asked.
"You do me now, you'll never find the little witch.""Willow's a witch?" Joyce asked.
"And Xander?" Aurelia asked, ignoring her mother.
"Him, too." Spike said.
"What, Xander's a witch? I…." Joyce was silenced by the look her daughter gave her.
Cassius grabbed Spike by the coat and lifted him off of the island. "Where are they?"
Spike shoved him off. "Doesn't work like that, peaches. And when did you become all soul-having again? I thought you outgrew that." He turned back to Aurelia. "Your friend's gonna work a little magic for me. She does my spell, I let them both go."
"You're not famous for keeping your promises, Spike." Aurelia said.
"Well, you and your great poof here wanna tag along, that's fine. But you get in my way, and you kill your friends."
Aurelia, Cassius, and Spike walked out of an alley into downtown Sunnydale. Spike was saying, "Look, I just need a few supplies, and then I'll take you to…." He stopped and grabbed his head. "Oh, God."
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Oh…. My head. I think I'm sobering up. It's horrible. Oh, God. I wish I was dead."
Aurelia pulled out a stake. "Well, if you close your eyes and wish really hard…."
"Hey! Back off!"
Cassius stepped between them. "Aurelia, we still need him to find the others."
"Need him?" Aurelia rolled her eyes and lowered the stake. "He's probably just got them locked up in the factory."
"Well, hey, how thick do you think I am?" Spike said, offended.
"Fine. Can we just get this over with?" Aurelia started down the road and Spike and Cassius followed close behind.
When they reached a corner, Spike stopped by a bench. "Oh, God."
"Now what?" Cassius growled.
"We killed a homeless man on this bench. Me and Dru. Those were good times." He stepped over to the bench and sat on it. "You know, he begged for mercy, and you know, that only made her bite harder." He looked to Aurelia and Cassius for a reaction, but they just stared back blankly.
"I guess you had to be there." Aurelia continued on her way to the magic shop hidden in a little alcove. She kicked the door open and they walked in. There was yellow police tape stretched across the room, separating the counter and the shelves of merchandise from the entry area. "Your work?" She asked Spike as she yanked down the police tape and tossed it aside.
"Here's your list." Spike said.
"'Essence of violet, cloves….' Cassius?"
"Right." Cassius started to look.
"'Set of runic tablets.' Spike can get the rat's eyes."
"I used to bring her rats. With the morning paper." Spike said.
"Wonderful. More moping. That's going to get her back."
"The spell's gonna get her back."
"Lot of trouble for somebody who doesn't even care about you." Cassius said.
"Shut your gob!"
"She really is just kind of fickle."
"SHUT UP!" Spike ran at Cassius, turned him around, and punched him in the face. Cassius grabbed his arm in mid-swing before he could do it again and Aurelia grabbed Spike from behind. Between her and Cassius, Spike got thrown back, though he managed to keep his footing. "What do you know? It's your fault, the both of you! She belongs with me. I'm nothing without her."
"That I'll have to agree with." Aurelia said. "You're pathetic, you know that? You're not even a loser anymore, you're a shell of a loser."
"Yeah. You're one to talk."
"The last time I looked in on you two, you were fighting to the death. Now you're back making googly-eyes at each other like nothing happened. Makes me want to heave."
"We're just friends right now because that's all we can be."
"Oh, yeah. You're just friends."
"That's right." Cassius agreed.
"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You've never been friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood…. blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it." Spike turned his attention back to finding Willow's ingredients. "Hmm! Eye of rat."
They finally managed to find everything and Cassius put the ingredients in bags. They each carried a bag out of the shop. "Ok, Spike, we got the stuff. Where are they?" Aurelia asked.
"What's your hurry?"
"My hurry is my intense desire to get you out of my life. You tend to cause trouble."
"I'll be out of your life in a few short hours. No trouble at all."
Without any warning they found themselves confronted by one of Spike's former men. "Hello, Spike." They looked around at the gang of vampires surrounding them.
"No trouble at all." Aurelia echoed sarcastically.
"Lenny. How have you been?" Spike said.
"Better since you left. You should have stayed gone." Lenny said.
"Is that right?" Spike tossed his bag aside.
"He was just leaving." Aurelia said. "Don't you start anything."
"This pissant used to work for me."
"The guys are in trouble. We can't risk this." Aurelia said to Cassius.
"Look, I don't think we have a choice." Cassius said.
"You other two can walk away from this." Lenny said to them.
Spike turned to Aurelia. "I die, your chums die."
Aurelia sighed. "Sorry. We're staying."
"Not for long!" Lenny said.
Aurelia moved first off to her left. Cassius reacted instantly and moved off to his right. Aurelia threw her shopping bag at one vampire, catching him off guard, and kicked him in his gut. He fell immediately and another vampire rushed her. She did a spinning kick to his face, knocking him away.
Another vampire swung at Cassius, but he ducked it and punched him in the gut. Cassius turned around and backhanded another vampire in the face and followed it up with an elbow to his gut. The first vampire got a firm hold of Cassius's sleeve and twisted it around, forcing him to roll to the ground. He used his momentum to roll back up to a standing position. Another vampire lunged at Cassius, but he grabbed him and lifted him into the air, sending him head first into a nearby garbage can. Another vampire ran at Cassius from behind, but he crouched down and swept his legs out from under him, making him trip.
A vampire tried to slam Aurelia into a low wall, but she used her momentum and his leverage to jump sideways over the wall into the outdoor table area of the Espresso Pump. She landed on a table on her back, rolled off, and came up in a standing position. A vampire inside the cafe' rushed her and she did a spinning kick that connected with his stomach. She kicked the vampire in the neck and he flew backwards into some chairs.
A vampire swung at Cassius with a pipe, but missed. On the next swing, Cassius grabbed hold of the pipe and twisted it around, wresting it from the vampire's grip and knocking him out cold. Cassius spun halfway around and slammed the end of the pipe into another vampire's crotch. The force of the blow lifted him from the ground. Cassius dropped the pipe and punched the vampire in the face, sending him spinning to the pavement.
A vampire jumped over a chain into the cafe'. Aurelia saw him coming, though, and grabbed a round metal table. She swung it at him, smacking him hard in the face, and knocking him to the floor. Aurelia looked around for a weapon and saw a mop by the wall. She stomped on the base, breaking the mop head off and leaving her with a long wooden pole. As a vampire attacked again, she swung the pole at his stomach and he fell to the floor. As the other one tried to get up again, Aurelia slammed the pole down onto his face, sending him back to the floor also.
They scrambled away and to their feet and Aurelia swung her pole at another vampire and got him in the stomach. Spinning around to face another one, she slammed the pole into his head and kicked him in the side, sending him stumbling into a wall. A third vampire jumped in and tried to kick her. His kick was too weak and she was able to block it with her pole. Then she thrust it up into his neck and threw him to the wall as well. He landed against the other vampire, and Aurelia shoved her makeshift stake through both of them. She let go of the pole and ran out of the cafe' as they simultaneously exploded into ashes.
Cassius had a firm grip on a vampire's collar and punched him hard in the face, sending him spinning wildly to the ground. They all noticed that they were temporarily without opponents, and they regrouped in front of the magic shop, but it didn't take long for several members of the gang to surround them. Aurelia made a break for the shop's door while Cassius and Spike slowly backed in that direction as well. At the last instant they also ran into the shop and slammed the door closed as the gang of vampires gave chase.
Once inside, Aurelia headed behind the counter to see what she could find for a weapon. Spike and Cassius grabbed one of the bookcases and slid it over against the front window. Behind the counter Aurelia smashed the shopkeeper's chair and picked up the legs to use as stakes. She came back out from behind the counter and yelled for the others to join her. Once they were at her sides, she handed them each a chair leg and the three of them made their stand, just waiting for the already teetering bookcase to give and the gang to storm into the shop.
"This should be a kick." Spike said.
"I violently dislike you." Aurelia growled at him.
Suddenly the back door was kicked in and a vampire came running in. Cassius turned and attacked. The vampire lunged at him, but Cassius ducked and got underneath him, lifting him and sending him flying over his head and onto a table arrayed with books and candles. Two more vampires rushed in and made their way toward Aurelia. Cassius slammed the back door closed and leaned against it. Aurelia kicked the rolling ladder used to reach the upper shelves and it smashed into the two vampires coming at her, knocking them to the floor.
The first vampire was off of the table and tackled Spike into a wall of shelves filled with jars. Several of them broke and Spike and the jars went crashing to the floor. Cassius struggled to keep the door closed. One of the vampires who went after Aurelia swung at her, but he missed as she stepped behind the sliding ladder. He punched again, this time through the rungs, but she sidestepped it. She grabbed his arm and held onto it as she swung her stake home through the ladder.
Aurelia then turned her attention to her other attacker and kicked him in the face as he was trying to get up. She grabbed him by the shirt and shoved his head into a display case, breaking the glass, then yanked him up through the glass top as well. She pulled the dazed vampire around and shoved his head between the rungs of the ladder and kicked it away. The back door was beginning to give and so was the bookcase at the front window.
Aurelia turned to look at Cassius. "We need to get out of here!"
"Can we get to the roof?" Cassius asked.
Aurelia scanned the ceiling for a possible way out, but the back door finally gave. Cassius was knocked to the floor and the heavy door fell on top of him. Lenny stepped on top of it, scanned the room quickly, and headed straight for Spike. Behind him another vampire ran in and Aurelia rushed in. She kicked him in the face and tried to follow up with a backhand, but he blocked the hit and wrapped his arm around hers, yanking her arm downward. She yanked back up and pulled her arm free before punching him twice in the face. Cassius was laying dazed under the door. Aurelia wanted to help him, but her vampire wasn't giving up. She punched him in the gut and then in the face. While he was stunned, she grabbed onto his head and yanked it around and down to her left side, flipping him over onto his back.
Finally she got to Cassius and pushed the heavy door off of him, helping him up. "I'm alright." He said.
"You're not up to your full strength yet." She protested.
Cassius attention was diverted to the bookcase at the front window as it shook violently. "That window's about to go." Then he saw what may have been the answer. "Aurelia…." On a shelf in front of them, they saw several dozen small bottles of Holy Water.
"Great thinking." Aurelia started to load up on Holy Water and Cassius followed suit. They moved out in the open and saw Spike repeatedly smashing Lenny's head onto the table. He lifted Lenny and flipped him over onto the table on his back.
"Why doesn't baby have a nap?" Spike crowed as he raised his stake high and plunged it violently into Lenny's chest.
"Spike! Get down!" Aurelia called.
Spike ducked to the floor as the bookcase at the front finally gave way and fell with a crash, along with plenty of broken window glass. Spike looked up to see the vampires storming the shop. They quickly realized their peril as Aurelia and Cassius began throwing the bottles of Holy Water at them like grenades. They broke when they hit, spraying the vampires and burning them like acid. Spike caught some wayward drops and quickly pulled his coat over his face and stayed down. The burning Holy Water soon had the attacking vampires making a hasty, screaming retreat.
Spike stood back up and watched them run, letting out a breath of satisfaction. "Now, that was fun." He faced Aurelia and Cassius only to get disbelieving looks. "Oh, don't tell me that wasn't fun. Oh, God! It's been so long since I had a decent spot of violence. Really puts things in perspective." Cassius bent over in pain and weakness and Aurelia moved to gently support him. "Oh, yeah. You two. Just friends. No danger there."
"Could we just do the damn spell now?" Aurelia growled.
"Oh, sod the spell. Your friends are at the factory. I'm really glad I came here, you know? I've been all wrongheaded about this. Weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back, I've just gotta be the man I was, the man she loved. I'm gonna do what I shoulda done in the first place: I'll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her until she likes me again." He walked past them toward the back door. Just before he went out, he turned back. "Love's a funny thing."
Aurelia and Willow walked along a street next to a cemetery talking. Oz and Cordelia had found Xander and Willow, only to be surprised that the two were kissing passionately. Cordelia had run up the stairs and fallen through the stairs, spearing herself on a piece of rebar.
"So Cordelia's going to be ok?" Aurelia asked.
"She lost a lot of blood. None of her vitals were punctured." Willow said.
"Has she talked to Xander yet?"
"She wasn't allowed to have visitors at first. He's gonna see her today."
"I never knew there was anything inside me that could feel this bad. For the longest time, I didn't know what I wanted. I wanted everything. And now…. I just…. I just want him to talk to me again."
"Just give it some time. And be prepared for some groveling."
"Oh, I'm ready. I'm all over groveling."
"Good. Because, you know, I hear sometimes it works." Aurelia hugged Willow tightly.