It was morning before Nathan was remotely agreeable to allowing Ezra make the journey to Chris’ shack, much to the gunslinger’s chagrin. Refusing Spike’s offer to bite Nathan, Chris decided that it was probably best to let the healer have his way in this matter since Nathan could be a holy terror when it came to endangering anyone of his friends’ life because of indifference to their wounds. Spike on the other hand remained within the confines of the jailhouse, since the back cells allowed little light to reach them and offered him some measure of protection from the daylight.

It did not impress the vampire very much to remain confined but supposed that this was no different from being trapped in his crypt all day waiting for Buffy to call. He still did not like the idea of letting Ezra Standish out of his sight but supposed he had little choice in the matter. Chris Larabee, the leader of the seven men was right in the fact that he was needed to deal with Angelus and the others that would inevitably come with him. As it was, Spike had no idea how the remaining lawmen were going to manage defending themselves against four of the most vicious vampires he knew, himself most of all.

He expected a few of them would not survive the night.

Spike tried to rest on the lumpy bunk within the jail cell and wondered if half the torture of being a criminal was being forced to sleep on beds like this. After some tossing and turning he managed to get a few hours sleep, not being able to do so since walking up to the nightmarish world where the Master ruled and everything that had transpired since coming to this point. His sleep was less then peaceful for he was plagued with images of Buffy on that gantry except this time, it was not she that leapt off its edge, it was he that pushed her. He watched the betrayal in her eyes, the trust he had almost died to earn withering before him as gravity did its work, pulling her into the darkness. He clawed air, trying to reach her but it was too late, the black swallowed her up and he had lost her forever.

"BUFFY NO!" Spike cried out and sat upright.

For a minute he could do nothing but sit there, panting as his anxiety started to diminish at the realization that he was back in the waking world. If he was still alive, he would be covered with sweat but as it was, he was jittery all over and the images of her eyes lingered with him longer than they should have. He was so wrapped up in his experience that he did not realize that he was entirely alone.

"You okay?" He asked the low rumbling voice of the man they called Josiah inquire.

Spike’s gaze shifted quickly to the older man’s face and he immediately felt foolish for exposing his vulnerabilities to anyone. "I’m fine," Spike muttered a little sitting up.

"Brought you something to eat," Josiah remarked as he tried not to look at the mug of blood that they had acquired from the butcher shop a little while ago.

"I’m not the bacon and eggs type," Spike pointed out and was mildly surprised when Josiah handed him the cup. "Thanks."

"Raised an eyebrow or two getting that," Josiah replied as he sat down on the bunk across Spike’s. "Had to tell Carlyle the butcher that we needed it to bait a coyote that was roaming the hills."

"You’d be surprised what people would believe," Spike remarked as he started to drink. The blood was fresh and judging by the texture, from a cow.

"So what’s the future like?" Josiah asked, appearing unconcerned at Spike’s dietary requirements. There were rituals were the drinking of blood was customary and more than a few that Josiah had witnessed during his travels.

"Decadent," Spike retorted shortly. "Loud, noisy, better plumbing, less restrictive. It has its moments and it can be a right bastard too."

"I think every generation says that," Josiah added with a smile. "You know, seeing you has reinforced my faith in God."

Spike’s brow shot up in puzzlement. "How?" He asked lowering the steel cup.

"You being a demon, meaning there is a hell and if there is a hell by definition there must be a heaven and all that goes with it." Josiah explained.

"I suppose," Spike nodded. "But us demons aren’t all evil and destruction you know. There are some who just are what they are and can’t help it. Most of the time, they remain hidden, going about their business, not wanting to hurt anyone or anything."

"I suppose that is further proof that we are all God’s creatures." Josiah pointed out.

"I wouldn’t go that far mate," Spike smiled a little, unable to deny that the man’s understanding of things was extremely enlightened for his era. "I don’t know what it is we have inside us, whether demons have a soul or not but we feel and we react to how we feel."

"Like you and this slayer." Josiah stated.

"Yeah," Spike nodded slowly, "like me and the slayer."

"You’re very much in love with her." The preacher stated.

"Much to my dismay, " he muttered. He did not want to talk to the preacher about Buffy but somehow the words were coming from him without hesitation. Perhaps it was just the preacher’s willingness to listen that made him speak. "Don’t want to be you know? I mean she’s tough to love. Can’t blame her I suppose. What she does takes a lot out of her. She was called when she was sixteen and she’s had to grow up fast, faster than most people should ever have to."

"We’ll find someway out of this," Josiah said sympathetically.

"I like to know how," Spike grumbled. "This isn’t going to be easy. We can’t kill them. They effect the future considerably. Kill them and we change how it goes. Its all cause and effect mate and we can’t alter any of it. Somehow, we have to drive them out of town without killing them."

"Well find a way," Josiah repeated himself, his faith telling him that they will find some way to handle the situation, no matter how bleak it was.

"Do all you preachers live through rose colored glasses?" The vampire asked, a little smile on his lips.

‘Most of the time," Josiah chuckled. "The rest of it we just have unswerving faith in the people around us."

"That sounds bloody awful." Spike commented with open distaste.

"You have no idea," the older man chuckled.

+ + + + + + +

"There it is," Ezra grumbled openly when they approached the shack on Chris Larabee’s little parcel of land in the distance. "My prison until this nightmare is over. I think I shall be sick now."

The small shack did not appear to be terribly lavish as far as Tara was concerned, but then she came from a world that was dilapidated into wreck and ruin ever since the Master had risen and so any place safe was usually acceptable to her. Besides, it overlooked a nice stretch of land with sun burnt grass and trees framing it in places. The air was heavy with pollen and dry soil, smells she equated with the great outdoors and a serenity that seemed a world away from what she had known. The sun was high in the sky and it appeared as if it was going to be something of a scorcher.

For the sake of blending into their new environment, she had worn a garment of the period and wondered how women of this time did not go insane form heatstroke at having to wear such cumbersome clothes. She had drawn the line at the ridiculous undergarments and was grateful for that decision. All that linen and lace under an already thick dress would have stretched even her usually unassuming temperament to something quite vicious. Tara smiled, thinking it was a good idea that Cordelia had remained with Angel, she would have surely balked at the suggestion of dressing up in Old West clothing.

"You ride pretty well ma’am." Vin Tanner, the handsome tracker with the blue eyes remarked. "You ride back where you come from?"

"A little," Tara responded. "My dad bought me a pony when I was a little girl." Of course this was in the days before he was convinced that her demon seed would emerge and destroy them all. Later on she learnt from Giles and Angel that she was perfectly normal and the myth of the females in the family possessing a demon gene was just a ploy used by the chauvinistic males of the same to control their women.

Vin Tanner did not talk much, Tara noticed, where else Buck Wilmington and Ezra Standish did not seem to stop. However, there was no doubt in her mind that while Vin was younger and quieter than his older companions were, they clearly followed his lead. Tara wondered what the Slayer was like and remembered how quiet Kendra had been. Was Spike’s much loved Slayer the same way when coming from such a verbose ancestor? She realized she would never know for certain. If they were successful in being able to protect Buffy’s existence then the reality she knew would never exist. Spike said that it was for their own good, that the world that was meant to be was so much better for them all. While it was not in her nature to trust a vampire, there was enough sincerity in his voice for her to believe he was telling the truth.

"Do people still ride horses in the future little lady?" Buck inquired.

Tara found himself smiling at being called that. It was easy not to be offended by the big man because he was so damn friendly and determined to see to her safety that it bordered on being sweet at time. "Some do," she answered. "But mostly for fun. We ride in cars mostly."

"Cars?" Ezra raised a brow. "Pray tell what is that?"

"Its like a carriage that has a motor like steam engines, only small enough for five people." Tara explained, hoping that was clear enough.

The concept was obviously difficult for them to accept because Karl Benz’s invention was still some years away and little more than a dream at the moment. Tara supposed it was difficult for them to accept so much of what she, Giles and Spike told them. The politics of these men’s lives were confined to the law of the gun and the harsh, real world which they could see, not the supernatural which she was accustomed to. As it was, she was somewhat amazed at how much they had been able to believe considering everything had been dropped into their lap somewhat abruptly.

"What its like where you come from?" Vin asked.

Tara sucked in a breath as she thought about the world she had left behind when she had traveled to this time.

"Well we stay indoors at night." Tara explained as they closed the distance towards Chris’ shack. "We have a curfew set for an hour before dawn, just to make sure people get inside. It’s not so bad in other towns so a lot of people have left Sunnydale. We keep the doors locked and put garlic and crosses on the windows. We keep holy water on hand at all times. Sometimes the vampires are smart, they wait until daylight when people have let their guard down and attack where places are shaded. They can come out during the day, they just can’t enter sunlight."

"Jesus," Ezra whispered. "And this is how you live?"

"I help Giles," Tara volunteered, nothing the horrified expression on all their faces. "I know magic and sometimes I use spells to fight them off. Giles, he knows everything about them and there are few of us that fight them. Me, Angel and Cordelia that is."

"And the slayer?" Buck asked. "Clue me in on how that works?"

"Oh," Tara considered the questions since the Slayer was more Giles’ area of expertise then hers. However, she remembered what Kendra had told her about being a slayer. "A slayer gets called whenever one of them dies. After Kendra, there was Faith but she died fighting the Master. They’re lot stronger than normal humans are though. I once saw Faith bend the barrel of shotgun with her bare hands. They are trained as early as possible to fight vampires, using stakes, knives, maces, Kendra actually used a sword once."

"And they don’t live very long." Vin mused, remembering that much from what Giles told them. "I don’t think I could live like that."

Tara wholeheartedly agreed but then the slayers did not live very long with that either.

+ + + + + + +

The tavern was quite tonight and Chris had no idea what he was expecting.

Even though Inez stood behind the saloon counter, polishing glasses and keeping up the appearance that business was running smoothly, the handful of patrons in the establishment were there by invitation only. Nathan, JD, Spike and Josiah were engaged in games of cards with the vampire looking to be quite the cardsharp like his past incarnation. Outside the sun had well and truly set and the darkness seemed particularly pitched tonight beyond the illumination of the saloon’s lighting. Chris wondered how Vin, Ezra, Buck and Tara were faring; hoping this gamble of keeping them out of town was not in fact monumental mistake. Spike was certain that Angelus was going to investigate his presence in Four Corners once Marsden reported it to the head of his family.

"I hope this works," Giles remarked seated next to Chris. Unlike the gunslinger, Giles was not as calm. They were taking a gamble with this course of action and though he understood the merit of facing their enemy, Giles knew all too well how dangerous a confrontation with Angelus could be. The Watcher chronicles were filled with vampire hunters who thought they could best Angelus and were disastrously wrong.

"Got to know if they’re still a threat. We might be lucky, they could have moved on." Chris remarked, even though he did not believe it.

"I don’t think we’re that lucky," Giles retorted, downing the shot glass of whiskey before him, wishing it was bourbon.

"I thought I was pessimistic," Chris drawled.

"I have reason to be," Giles replied. "I’ve seen too many friends die to be anything else."

"I’m sorry," Chris said earnestly, knowing what it was like to lose people.

Suddenly, Spike dropped his cards and shot a gaze towards the door, the gesture was noticed by every one present in the tavern.

"They’re here." He remarked and stood up.

"Inez," Chris turned to the lovely Mexican barmaid. "Get out of here now."

The woman nodded quickly, not about to question the gunslinger on such matters. She disappeared out the back room, making her way to the church as instructed earlier.

There was little more than a second of warning before the batwing doors swung open and walking in first was Angelus, followed by William, Darla and Drusilla. They looked like exactly what they were, four aristocrats travelling the Territory but their eyes bore into those present with a predatory gleam that Chris never realized was so powerful until now. The humans in the room stood up, guns unsheathed even though their real weapons were tucked inside their coats. It was all concealed in order to maintain the element of surprise for as much as possible. Chris had almost hoped that the vampires would have taken their exposure as a sign to leave Four Corners but now it appeared that was never going to happen. However, instead of attacking as he had expected them to do when they came calling, Angelus and his family were not making any aggressive moves as they entered the tavern.

"Well you were right William, he does look like you." Angelus remarked as he stared at Spike.

"Hello Angelus," Spike eyed the master vampire cautiously. "Thought you’d be smarter than this and move on."

"He sounds like you too," Angelus continued to speak to William.

"He isn’t me!" William snorted.

"I’m afraid I am, junior." Spike winked at his direction.

"We don’t want a fight," Chris Larabee said entering the conversation. The gunslinger strode forward and took up position next to Spike, his gun drawn and ready to fire. "But we will if we have to. We know what you are and we know how to kill you."

"So masterful," Darla replied with a cold smile. "I am impressed."

"Aye," Angelus nodded with agreement. "He’d make a fine vampire if he turned."

Chris bristled uncomfortably at this talk of his potential as a vampire. "Never going to happen. The best thing you can do is leave. You take your ‘family’ with you and go."

"Never going to happen," Angelus glared at him. "We’re here to get answers. Where is he?"

"Who?" Spike said innocently. "Bustling town, lots of blokes running in and out of town, faces get mixed up. You know how it is Angelus."

"The gambler," Angelus demanded. "We want the gambler. I want to know what’s so important about him that you, if you are indeed William, are willing to fight your own to save."

"Its Spike." Both of the vampires declared hotly.

"I won’t ask again." Angelus stared at him hard. "These humans are just that, humans. If I want it from you, you can’t stop me from getting it and we’ll go through your friends to get the answers if we must."

"Go to hell," Spike snarled.

"Not before you." Angelus returned in kind and came at Spike swinging.

The peroxide blond vampire ducked the blow easily, catching Angelus arm while throwing a kick that impacted on his side. Heavy combat boots slammed against his ribs and Angelus roared, his face changing into its demonic visage as he staggered back. The rest in his party did the same, launching themselves into the fray as the humans leapt into action. Spike went after Angelus in particular, because he was the strongest of them and the only one present with any hope of defeating the master vampire. Angelus’ reaction was immediate once he become accustomed to the unusual manner of William’s fighting skills. Obviously he was not facing the minion that had been travelling with recently but a more seasoned and deadly version of Wiliam. Angelus did not understand how this could be but he had no doubt that this was indeed William he was fighting, albeit a more experienced one.

Chris had rushed forward to help Spike when he saw William coming at him. The vampire was far swifter than Chris possibly gave credit and before he knew what was happening, a strong hand was grabbing his throat and lifting him off the floor, his legs dangling wildly over the floor. William’s fingers dug into his throat and when Chris stared into his face, he found himself facing the horror that Ezra had when he had saw the demon’s true face. Yellow eyes glared back at him as William started choking the life out of him. Chris could feel his vision blur as he saw JD run forward to help him, only to have Drusilla slam her fist into the young man’s face and sent him flying across the room. Chris began to gag but he had still presence of mind to bring his foot up, connecting with William’s groin. It was not the most dignified way to fight but at least it forced the vampire to release him.

Chris crumpled to the floor as William howled in pain and reached into his duster for the stake hidden there. He knew he was not supposed to kill the vampire but apparently a stake would do considerable harm even if it did not penetrate the heart. It was certainly more effective than bullets anyway. He brandished the stake and went after William who was trying to recoup from the sensitive blow. William recovered quicker than Chris gave him credit and by the time the gunslinger advanced; the vampire was already on his feet. Chris threw a bunch and caught William on the chin and attempted to throw another punch when his blow was deflected by the vampire who hissed at him with fangs bared and pushed him backwards. Chris stumbled a bit and was about to use the stake again when Giles smashed into William’s body with his shoulder and sent him to the floor. William glared at Giles and threw a backhanded blow that sent the Watcher into a table, collapsing it with the force of his landing.

A surge of panic filled Chris when he saw Giles did not move and his fury forced him to attack again; running forward and leaping, ensuring that when he landed it would be on William’s knee. The action brought the vampire to his knees as Chris intended and the gunslinger impaled William through the shoulder with the stake in his grip as he attempted to recover. The vampire howled in pain, his teeth glistening as he recoiled in pain, taking the stake with him before Chris could pull it out.

"Spike!" Chris heard one of the female vampires, Drusilla cry out as she saw her lover hurt.

Her eyes flashed in green fire as she strode towards Chris, with all the fury of hell behind her. Chris searched for a weapon, sweeping the floor as and resting on the broken fragments of table in which Giles was lying quite unconscious. He quickly grabbed a jagged piece of wood and looked up just in time to see Drusilla right on top of him. She grabbed Chris by the neck once more and forced him to straighten up, her eyes glaring at him.

"Be in my eyes," she said staring straight into his eyes and for a moment, Chris felt all the will drain out of his body when he became transfixed by those mesmerizing eyes. He saw her smile an enchanting smile that held much promise. Desire, need and hunger hypnotized him as he stared into her dancing eyes. Chris could feel his mind slipping from his control and he tried to drag his gaze away, fighting desperately to keep himself from becoming her creature.

"Chris!" JD staggered to his feet, blood running down the side of his face. The young man grabbed a chair and brought it against Drusilla’s back. The female vampire let out a soft cry and upon releasing her hold of Chris, the gunslinger staggered back, blinking furiously as he tried to regain control of his faculties.

"Chris!" JD shouted again. "Catch!"

Almost on reflex, Chris grabbed the small bottle the younger man had thrown at his direction. He caught it with one hand and immediately threw it forcefully against the floor near Drusilla’s feet. The bottle shattered spectacularly, sending fragments in all directions, but more importantly, the fluid it contained in a wide spray. The liquid splashed onto Drusilla who squealed loudly as it began to hiss upon contact with her skin. The holy water burned into her and she screamed painfully and fled the scene, her skin sizzling where the fluid had touched her. Chris saw her disappear into the darkness beyond the batwing doors with William calling after her.

"Dru!" He shouted indignantly, still clutching the stake buried in his arm, blood flowing profusely down his sleeve.

Spike saw his younger self screaming at the batwing doors but had no more time to reflect on that because he was locked in a life and death struggle with his grandsire Angelus. Once Angelus learnt he was not dealing with an experienced William but a seasoned Spike; the master vampire altered his plan of attack. He came with Spike with almost ferocious intensity. For each blow that Spike threw, Angelus was there to counter it until they were matching each other, strike for strike. Spike threw repeated kicks at his direction, staggering Angelus who was not used to fighting this way but was far from helpless. Angelus’ strikes were powerful and each one that connected with Spike had the potential to do serious harm. There was no way that this was going to end without one of them killing each other, Spike thought to himself and knew that he had to find someway to end this battle before it came to its bloody conclusion.

It came sooner than he thought when he heard Chris shout at him. "SPIKE!"

Spike turned to the sounds of the human’s voice just in time to see William coming at him with a bloody stake. If the Sunnydale resident had been warned a second later than he was, it might not have mattered. The stake sunk into the soft flesh between his ribs, tearing through his side with enough force to make him scream. The pain was excruciating and he was driven to his knees, seeing through blurry eyes that Angelus was enraged that William had dared to interfere. Spike grit his teeth, trying to stand but the pain was beyond comprehension. Unfortunately, the master vampire was not about to see an opportunity wasted because he closed in for the kill.

He never made it.

"Get back!" Josiah Sanchez somehow appeared between them both, a wooden cross in his hand as he protected Spike from Angelus. "Get back or I’ll burn this into your hide!"

Angelus hissed in fury at the interruption. "This isn’t over," his eyes moved across the room, meeting the faces of all the combatants that he now counted as the enemy. "Not by a long shot. We’ll find him and then we’ll finish this."

With that, the remaining members of the ‘family’ swept out of the tavern like an ill wind.

For a few seconds, no one spoke, as they came to the grips that they had survived the fight, even though Chris had a feeling that it was by the skin of their teeth. The side of JD’s face was bleeding. Nathan who had been battling Darla along with Josiah was breathing hard, fear clearly showing in his eyes. Neither the healer nor the preacher were hurt and had managed to hold their own against Darla, the oldest of the vampire family. Nathan immediately went to Spike, forgetting that Spike was a vampire only that he was hurt and needed help. Spike who was a pale specimen to begin appeared almost pasty white now from the loss of blood. His injury was severe even though he was trying hard to hide how much pain he was in. Giles had emerged from his unconscious state and judging by the way JD was helping him to his feet, the Watcher would recover.

"It’s alright," Spike tried to fend off the ministrations of the healer when Chris approached. "You can’t do nothing for me."

"But you’re bleeding!" Nathan protested not to take that as any kind of answer.

"I’m a bloody vampire!" Spike retorted in exasperation. "I’ll heal. Just get this damn thing out of me!" He glanced at the stake imbedded firmly between his ribs.

"Spike, listen to Nathan." Chris ordered. "He’ll fix you up."

"I get fixed up on my own," Spike grumbled uncomfortably, unaccustomed to being tended to for injuries. Not that he needed it really. Vampires tended to have amazing powers of recuperation.

"At least we beat them," JD exclaimed, trying to see the positive side of things.

"We got lucky," Chris deadpanned. He was aware of just how close the fight had been and knew that they were here thanks to sheer fortune and nothing else. "The next time they come, we may not be."

"We need help," Spike grunted in pain. "We can’t take them on the way we are. It’s just the four of them now, I can bet that Angelus will have help the next time they come back."

"You mean more vampires?" JD exclaimed.

"Yeah," Spike nodded, bracing himself for the pain when Nathan yanked out the stake impaled in his body. The vampire growled in pain, his face changing momentarily into his vampiric mask until the agony subsided into something he could tolerate.

"I’d better get Vin and Buck back here," Chris sighed begrudgingly because Spike was right.

"No," Giles shook his head, speaking for the first time. He had been a little dazed but had not taken long to regain his faculties. "We need more than just men."

Spike caught on immediately and finished his statement for him. "We need the Slayer."


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