Almost Heaven

Knee Jerk Reaction

Willow and Dawn sat dutifully on the couch and skimmed through countless books. Giles refused to let them do anything but research. He even hid the remotes.

"This is boring, why doesn't Buffy have to help?" Dawn whined.

Giles looked up from his own book. "Because Buffy is the slayer, and we need her well rested."

"I wanna donut break, Xander got one."

Giles shifted in his chair, his bottom half numb from hours of sitting. "Yes, well Xander was singing insipid jingles. It was between giving him a donut or killing him."

Xander walked into the room, the aforementioned donut clenched between his teeth as he juggled soda and cups.

"Oom aunts un?" he mumbled around the donut.

"Dear lord Xander, not around the books!" Giles cried.

"Farry," he managed to look sheepish even with the apple fritter protruding from his lips.

Dawn jumped up and took the cups while Willow took the soda.

"Aink oo," he said.

"Xander Harris, don't talk with your mouth full," Willow chided.

Xander pulled the slobbery pastry from his mouth. "Sorry Wills."

"It's alright, just don't be a little piggy."

He laughed. "Okay, mom."

Dawn poured herself a cup of the coke. "Giles is a slave driver."

"Dawn, we have a prophesy foretelling the death of a hero, but not how Buffy dies, and an apocalypse but not how it happens or who does it. And to tie everything up in a nice jumbled puzzle, her bloody past somehow comes into this whole thing. I'm sorry if you think cavorting around with your friends, or watching the damn telly should rate higher, but I refuse to stop searching until we know how to save Buffy."

Dawn looked at Giles, guilt washing over her. "I'm sorry, Giles. I was just kidding."

"Well this is no time for jokes. Your sister's life is on the line."

Dawn opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again. "I gotta go to the bathroom." She left swiftly, tears pricking her eyes.

"That was kinda harsh, wasn't, Giles? She's just a kid," Xander said quietly.

Giles hurrumphed and hunkered back down in his chair, his book planted firmly in front of his face.

A swirl of fire and brimstone appeared out of thin air. Hurtz and William were left in the wake of the malodorous lightshow.

Xander's eyes widened. "Y-you!"

Hurtz narrowed his eyes on Xander. "There's been a change of plans. I'm dissolving our deal."

Xander and Giles both leapt to their feet; Giles to hush the demon, Xander to argue.

"You can't do that. We made good, you have to too," Xander growled.

"What deal?" Willow asked.

"Shut up, Xander," Giles hissed.

"I've had a better deal," Hurtz said coolly.

"All you had to do was keep him in hell, and you couldn't even do that?"

"Good god, Xander, stop talking," Giles pleaded.

"What deal?" Willow yelled. "What did you and Giles do?"

Dawn came in, confused about all the noise. She saw William and lit up before remembering her stance on the vampire. She moved to Willow, keeping quiet.

"Tell them, tell them what you did," William said in a quiet rage. "Surely you aren't ashamed of it?"

"We did what we had to do. Buffy wasn't thinking straight, none of them were. You're a filthy vampire, you deserve to be in hell." Xander seethed, glaring at William.

Giles dropped back into his chair. "I give up."

"No, Xander. You didn't act selflessly. It had nothing to do with me, not really."

"What the hell does that mean?" Xander barked.

"You can't believe that Buffy would want anyone over you. You've wanted her a long time, I'd say. I've watched you, it's blatantly obvious. Except, Buffy doesn't see it; the longing looks, the lust."

"I- I don't want Buffy. She's my friend."

"Yes, she is your friend, and it kills you. It makes you mad that she slept with me, but not you, that she wanted me, but not you. That's why you did it."

Willow scrubbed her hands over her face. "You guys gave Spike to the demons?"

Dawn looked between her friends with horror. "No…."

Xander ignored Willow and Dawn, stuttering instead at William. "N- no! I- I did it for the same reason as Giles."

"No, Giles did it because I contradicted his teaching. A vampire who won his soul was too much for him. It confused him, so he got rid of the splash of grey in your black and white world. You, Xander, you did it out of petty jealousy. The two of you put me through hell for your own selfish reasons."

"It was to protect Buffy," Giles said. "You confuse her, make her act irrationally. You're a greater risk than an asset."

"Would you like to know what they did to me there?" William yelled, his emotions causing his eyes to gloss over with tears. "The- the torture? The pain?"

Hurtz coughed awkwardly. "I'm uh… I'm going to go now." He disappeared in the same fashion as he arrived.

William was close to breaking down. He took a deep breath and his whole body shook; his demon tried to edge out. There was blood in the air. Strong blood. Slayer blood. He didn't hesitate, didn't wait to tell the others. He followed the scent to Buffy's heart to her room and threw open the door. He saw her tossing around on her bed, blood burbling from her shoulder.

"Buffy," he whispered, confused.

Twin bite marks appeared on either side of her neck. William jumped on the bed, assuming there was an invisible enemy. There wasn't. He shook Buffy's shoulders, trying to wake her up.

"Buffy! Buffy, wake up. Please…."

XxXxXxXxXxXxXx

Buffy's heart pumped furiously against her ribcage as she ran aimlessly through the corridors of the hellish catacombs. She didn't know how long she had been running, but it had to be on the long side of forever.

The taunting remarks of her past foes followed her. They seemed to always be a step behind.

"Come on, Buff, this really doesn't seem like your best," Angelus sneered.

"Slayer, there is only one conclusion to this. One outcome. Your resistance is futile," Adam intoned.

"Come on, I so don't like running in these shoes! They're Prada! Just give up and get it over with," Glory moaned.

"Slayer, I killed you once, do you think I can't do it again?" the Master susurrated around his fangs.

Buffy took a shuddering breath and stopped. Her legs burned, her lungs refused to take in enough air and every muscle ached.

Angelus stuck his bottom lips out in an exaggerated pout. "What, giving in so soon? Come on, lover, you can do better than that."

Buffy forced herself to stand straight. "Who said I was giving up? You, ass face, you're first." She crooked her index finger, summoning her ex honey.

Angelus broke out in a wide, Chestier Cat grin. "Oh baby, I'm gonna make it hurt so bad."

Buffy stood her ground, ready to fight; despite the fact that crippling fear threatened to overtake her at any moment.

Angelus started out slow, throwing easily avoided punches, doing little more than blocking Buffy's attacks. He tossed out a weak left handed punch towards her head, quickly changing it into a vicious right into her ribcage. She gasped, taken by surprise.

"What, you weren't ready? But Buff, I was taking it easy, letting you warm up. Tisk, tisk. You really should be better than this."

Buffy took gulps of air and straightened out again. "Ready now."

"Ooh, it's just so much fun fighting a slayer. So much stamina. You know, lover, I have a lot of stamina too," he purred suggestively.

"Really? Guess you were all tuckered out the night we were together. Riley had more stamina."

Angelus' eyes shone gold and he snarled, snapping his teeth. "Bitch."

He jumped at her, furious. Buffy took advantage of his sloppiness, sidestepping him and thumping the back of his head with a rock hard fist. He slumped to the ground, moaning.

"Oh! Now you look like you did after those long three minutes."

Angelus rolled to his back, laughing. Okay, that wasn't supposed to happen. He sat up, looking truly amused.

"Buff, you really might wanna look behind you."

Buffy turned, her eyes widened as Adam fired his arm gun at her. She jumped out of the way, sprinkles of rock hitting her as the bullets chewed up the wall.

Glory tapped her foot impatiently. "Let me kill her. Without that damn troll hammer she won't last three seconds."

The Master stepped over to Buffy, lifting her up by her throat. "I think it's my turn." He slashed his hand over her shoulder, cutting her flesh.

Buffy cried out and squirmed as he bent his head and sucked blood from the open wound. She tried to kick him, tried to fight back, but Angelus was suddenly there, holding her down.

"Gotta learn to share, lover," Angelus teased as he leaned over her, grazing the skin of her neck with his fangs. "Just want a taste. Don't worry, baby, I want you awake for the rest of it."

The Master and Angelus bit down at the same time. Pain shook her to her very soul as they savagely tore into her neck. She squeezed her eyes shut, readying herself for death.

Suddenly William's voice surrounded her; soft hands urgently shook her shoulders. Her eyes wrenched open and she gasped. William was over her, terror in his sharp blue eyes.

"William?" Her voice was thick, lethargic, the loss of blood rapidly making her sleepy.

Instinct took over and William bowed his head, lathering one side of her neck with his tongue before moving to the other.

"What the hell!?" Xander cried as he and the others raced to the door. He tackled William off of Buffy. "You tried to kill her," he growled, slamming his fist down into William's face.

Buffy pushed herself up on her arms. "Xander, stop it."

Xander ignored her, hitting him again and again. "You bastard, you frickin' bastard."

William grabbed Xander's shoulder and rolled him into the wall. "I didn't do it," he spat. "I've had enough of you. I won't take this abuse. I won't. I refuse."

Giles stepped forward. "Stop this right now."

William turned his golden eyes to Giles. "Stay out of this," he snapped, "or I swear I'll break you."

"Stop it!" Buffy yelled, but again was ignored.

Xander crawled to his feet, one of Buffy's stakes clenched tightly in his hand. "I am so gonna stake you."

William snatched his wrist as he attacked, and tossed him into the bedpost. He straddled Xander, pinning his hands with one of his own.

He spoke to Giles, though he was glaring at Xander. "Try something, Mr. Giles, and I'll rip his throat out."

Giles backed down, worried for the dumb boy trapped by the angry master vampire.

Buffy struggled to her feet. "Let him go, William."

William gripped Xander's neck. The rage was overwhelming; the need to extract revenge almost entirely consumed him. This wasn't about the fight they just had, and William knew it. It was about the time he had spent in hell because of the sobbing boy beneath him. He paused, blinking, this wasn't him, he'd never hurt anyone, this was evil, this was his demon. William threw himself back, as though burned by touching Xander. He moved back until he was pressed against a wall.

"Sorry," William mumbled. "I'm so sorry."

Dawn moved to her sister. "Buffy, your neck."

"Yeah, I was bitten. The bleeding stopped, I think."

Dawn touched her neck. "It's totally closed. Your slayer power doesn't work that fast, does it?"

Buffy furrowed her brow, her fingers gliding over each side of her neck. She realized for the first time that there was no pain.

"N- no, it hasn't acted that fast before." She traced the light scar left as a souvenir. "What…?"

William looked up miserably. "Vampire saliva closes vampire bites."

"You…you did it?" Buffy asked, shocked.

William nodded. "My demon, he… he knew what to do, I didn't."

Dawn glared at Xander. "He was saving Buffy, not hurting her," she hissed.

Xander shrugged, rubbing his bruised neck. "How could I have known? Vampire plus bleeding person equals much badness."

Buffy sat down on her bed. "I think my dream almost killed me."

Giles moved to her side. "Oh dear, we must look into this. It might have to do with the prophesy."

"I'd say so. It was all the big bads I've fought... well, minus the mayor. But it was people, demons from my past."

Giles paled slightly. "This definitely pertains to the prophesy."

Buffy touched her still bleeding shoulder. "I need a first aid kit."

Willow was out of the room in a flash, searching for the kit.

"Could always let Spike do it," Dawn said.

"No," Giles and Xander barked at the same time.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "No, I don't think that's necessary. Hey, how is William even here?"

William shifted to his feet, staring at the wide eyed men and the angry teenager. He settled his gaze on Buffy. "I struck a deal with the demon." He pulled up his rumpled black t-shirt, revealing a scar over his heart.

"I made a blood bond with him." William tugged his shirt down. "I have to find the man who killed his father and brother, or I go back to hell."

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