"Stay still!" Nathan Jackson ordered as he continued to undertake the rather taxing job of treating Spike’s wounds. The vampire had been less that cooperative, believing that medical treatment of any kind was wasted on him since he was creature of the night that had great recuperative abilities. However, large gapping wounds in the flesh was not something that the healer would tolerate on anyone, even a vampire, and was determined to treat Spike no matter how much he protested.

"It’s a bloody waste of time!" Spike rolled his eyes in exasperation, wondering if Nathan had any pit bull terrier in his lineage.

"Listen," the healer glared at him with eyes harder than Spike had seen on some species of hell spawn. "If you don’t stay still, you’re going to bleed even more! Now you will sit there quietly and let me deal with this or I am going to kill you!"

Spike stared back and replied with a mischievious smirk, "you’re pretty when you’re angry."

"ARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!" Nathan threw his hand up in frustration. "What am I thinking trying to help this..this...this demon?" The healer ranted. "It make more sense if I signed up for the Ku Klux Klan!"

Spike assumed that would be all the man could tolerate of his behavior and started to rise out of his chair when suddenly Nathan grabbed him by the shoulder and growled with more savagery than any vampire had ever attempted. "Did I say you could go anywhere? Sit your ass back down on that chair!"

"Oh bollocks!" Spike groaned and obeyed, deciding that he better stop being a pain in the neck (no pun intended) before Nathan popped a vessel, though it was nice to know that is ability to kill through sheer annoyance had not diminished one whit in any time. He had begun perfecting the craft for use on Angelus but the opportunity never came.

"Spike, shut up and stop giving Nathan grief!" Chris finally came to the rescue although it had been entertaining to watch. The group had been watching Nathan attempting to patch up Spike ever since their encounter with the vampires in the tavern and could not help being amused by Nathan’s escalating temper. When they were hurt, irritating Nathan was one of the games they used to pass the time in the infirmary. Inez had returned to the tavern once the danger had passed and was presently tending to the minor injuries that had been incurred by Chris, JD and Giles.

"Whatever," Spike grumbled supposing that he ought to give the healer a break since the man was trying to help him. Still, Spike always enjoyed taunting people whose buttons were so easy to push and about now, he was missing the slayer very much.

Chris took another swig of whiskey, allowing it to relax him after the recent episode within the tavern. Even though he had seen Spike turn into a vampire, a part of Chris had been hoping that all this was a mistake, that a quartet of vampires were not trying to kill one of his own in order to prevent a slayer from being born in the future. When Spike and Giles had told them what had brought them to the past, Chris was trapped in ambivalence, unsure of what he ought to feel or how he should act to deal with the situation. After being faced with Spike’s younger self and seeing the vampire Angelus, all those illusions had faded and they were faced with a reality that there were more terrifying things in the night then they had possibly imagined, things that could not be stopped with bullets. It shattered the walls of the world Chris Larabee had felt secure in understanding.

"You said we’re going to need the slayer," Chris turned to Giles who was holding a wet rag against his forehead. "Mind telling me how that’s gonna happen?"

"Well I believe the Slayer of this time period is in Rhodesia." Giles replied.

"That’s a long way to come," Josiah remarked frowning.

"We need Buffy." Spike declared over Nathan’s shoulder. "Look, she’s the only one who’s taken us all on and not had her liver handed back to her. The gambler isn’t dead yet so she still exists in the future."

"Spike we don’t even know that’s possible," Giles returned with a frown. "The spell Tara used to bring us here was very specific, I don’t think it can be adapted to bring someone here from the future."

"We’re gonna have to think of something soon," Chris stated firmly. "Angelus or whatever his name is, will be back, if not tomorrow night then soon. It’s more than curiosity with him now, he’ll be taking this personally."

"You think so?" Josiah looked at him and hoped he was wrong but then Chris seldom was about such things.

"Yeah," Spike nodded. "The man in black is right on the money. Once Angelus takes anything personally, he won’t be let go. He’ll finish this, one way or another."

"Damn," Josiah muttered under his breath.

"Hey is there something about the one who was your girlfriend?" JD called out to Spike.

"What do you mean?" The blond vampire returned.

"Well she was looking at Chris real funny, " the younger man reminded. "For a second, he looked kind of out of his head."

"Yeah," Chris nodded, remembering that strange feeling when he had lost all power over himself and was trapped in Drusilla’s eyes. If it had not been for JD, he would most likely be dead or worse yet, a vampire. "It was odd. I just couldn’t move."

"Dru’s got some special mojo," Spike explained, unaware that none of the men present had any idea what mojo meant. "She was like that when she was human. She could see things before they happened and get these feelings about people. When she became a vampire, it still stayed with her. Word of advice, don’t look her in the eye."

"You might have told us this before," Chris scowled at him.

"I didn’t think you were going to get that close mate," Spike retorted. "So what’s the plan Watcher? Are we going to get Buffy or not?"

"We’ll have to talk to Tara," Giles said skeptically.

"This girl gonna make that much difference?" Chris asked somewhat dubious about the whole concept of a slayer especially when it was a girl.

"Yes," Giles nodded, not knowing Buffy herself but was knowledgeable enough about the slayer’s abilities to be certain that they could use the assistance. Being unable to kill any of the four made it extremely difficult for them to form a decisive plan. They needed an edge and a slayer would provide that. "I believe it would."

"Then we better ride out at first light to my place," Chris sighed, unable to understand how any of this was possible but after what he had seen tonight, he was at least able to accept the impossible to a degree.

"I want to come with you," Spike stated firmly.

"You can’t even stand up," Nathan deadpanned.

Spike ignored him and explained before Chris could say no to him. "Angelus is going to be even more determined to find your friend and I wouldn’t underestimate him. You saw what you were up against, you still think you can protect him?"

As much as Chris hated to admit it, he knew that Spike was right. Ezra was hurt and he did not know what Tara was capable of to be certain that she could protect herself in the event Angelus and his family discovered them. Chris had every confidence in Vin and Buck’s ability to handle themselves in any situation but this, not when he remembered how close he had come to dying at Drusilla’s hands. Spike had managed to defend himself against Angelus and would have continued to do so if it were not for the vicious interference of his past self.

"Alright," Chris conceded to Spike’s will on this point. "Nathan as soon as he’s patched up, Spike, Giles and I are taking a ride to Ezra’s."

"On a horse?" Giles swallowed.

"I don’t think he meant convertibles made for men with mid life crises, Rupert." Spike said sarcastically.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Giles stared at him bewildered.

"Nothing," Spike sniggered to himself. This version of Giles had no idea that his other self would be driving an expensive red convertible that screamed out to everyone who saw it that the man driving it was middle-aged. The only thing that was missing was the bimbo at his arm.

"Yes, horses." Chris said impatiently. "You can’t ride?" He looked at Giles with astonishment. He didn’t think any man would not have this most basic of skills.

"No, I’m librarian." Giles respond. "I don’t usually need to."

"That’s alright Watcher," Spike smirked. "We’ll find you a nice pony and lead you there."

"Spike," Giles glared at him. "I’d tell you to drop dead but I’m afraid in your case, it’s a somewhat redundant gesture."

+ + + + + + +

Despite his injury, Spike insisted that they ride immediately to Chris’ shack in order to put forward the suggestion to Tara about bringing Buffy back from the past to help them with their predicament. It seemed to make sense in a roundabout way when one remembered that it was her life they were attempting to save as well as the reality that had existed in tandem with it. It had been a long time according to Spike since he had been on a horse but the same analogy that went with riding a bike seemed to apply in this instance. Giles however was uneasy about being astride any animal and Chris kept a close eye on him as they journeyed to his parcel of land. The shack was not too far out of town so he was able to keep their travel at a somewhat leisurely pace and still manage to reach it before sunrise.

They arrived at the shack shortly before dawn and awoke everyone with their presence. Predictably, Ezra had complained about the interruption to his slumber especially in his convalescence. As usual, Chris paid little attention to the gambler’s complaints mostly because he was certain Ezra did it to be annoying. Once he had explained what had transpired that night in Four Corners, regarding their confrontation with Angelus and his family, Ezra’s complaints subsided and he expressed his gratitude that no one including Spike was hurt.

"Not that we ain’t glad to see you," Vin glanced at Chris after they had all settled down to some breakfast and hot coffee, "any reason that you took all the trouble to ride out here? I reckon Spike there shouldn’t be moving on account of him being hurt."

"Tell me about it," Spike muttered as he took the spare cot that Chris had in the house for the rare occasions when Vin or one of the seven dropped by for the night. The injury was starting to heal rapidly and by night it would probably be gone altogether but for the moment, the pain bit at him.

"We have reason for coming out here," Giles exchanged a brief glance with Chris before turning to Tara. "We need to know if you can do the temporal spell again, Tara."

Tara stared at him. "To do what?" She asked somewhat bewildered. As far as she was concerned, they had accomplished all they needed to do with the time travel spell and should not have to perform it again until it was time to leave.

"We need the slayer here," Giles explained after a second. "We did not fare well last night and we believe Angelus will be back tonight or tomorrow night perhaps, with minions. We are greatly handicapped by the fact that we cannot harm them for fear of damaging the timeline, however we lack the strength for that. We need the slayer, specifically Buffy. Can the spell be modified for that?"

Tara stiffened with uncertainty. "I don’t know," she muttered. "I think it can be but assuming that she’s alive in the future, for me to get her back requires specifics I don’t have."

"What kind of specifics?" Chris asked.

"Like you understand anything she’s saying," Buck retorted.

Chris scowled at him before turning to Tara for an answer. It was true, much of what was being said was so far beyond the boundaries of credibility that he scarcely believed that any of it was being discussed in a serious conversation. However, these were far from ordinary circumstances and after the last 24 hours, he was more inclined to believe in the fantastic no matter how incredible it might seem.

"Well I need to know exactly where she’ll be. I’ll have to be able to see it in my head so that I can bring her back," Tara explained. "I don’t know if I can do that. I mean I’ve never even met her. I don’t know what she looks like."

"That’s it then," Chris sighed. "We’ll have to do this on our own."

"Unfortunately, it appears that you’re right" Giles frowned. "I did not think that we would be able to succeed but I had hoped otherwise. It would have made things less complicated."

"No argument there," Vin nodded in agreement. "Looks like you’re going to have to rely on us to keep you alive Ez."

"As much as that would normally comfort me to hear you say that Mr. Tanner, I’m afraid in this instance, I feel as if I should acquaint myself with a wardrobe that includes cloves of garlic, holy water and numerous crucifixes."

"Why can’t I do the spell?" Spike suggested.

"What?" Giles stared at him.

"Why can’t I do the spell? I know the Slayer, I know what she looks and I sure as hell remember the time and place the last time I saw her. If the Witch helps me with it, why can’t I do the spell?"

"Don’t call her that," Vin said with an edge to his voice.

"Its what I always call her," Spike growled. "Come on Witch, what do you say? We can do it, can’t we?"

Tara did not answer immediately and felt increasingly uncomfortable with the way all eyes were staring at her, waiting for a response. Her mind whirled at the possibility. It was not possible for Spike to do the spell, he did not have the power that she had to make it work but his offer, had opened up another avenue they might take. She could use him as the conduit to direct her power in the performance of the spell, let his memories find the slayer in the distant future so that she could bring Buffy back to this time. That had some chance of succeeding and it was better than the brick wall of impossibility they had faced a few seconds ago.

"Yeah," she nodded meekly. "We can."

"Are you sure about this?" Giles gave her a concerned look.

"No," Tara answered honestly. "I’ve never tried anything like this before so I can’t be sure of anything. It might work and then might not. We won’t know until we try."

"I suppose we can’t ask for more than that," the Watcher sighed in resignation.

"You can do it Tara," Vin said encouragingly, giving her a little smile in the process.

Tara blushed, unaccustomed to having the attentions of a man aimed in her direction. After being friends with Cordelia for so long, she had grown used to being overlooked when it came to the opposite sex. They seemed to prefer the spectacular radiance of the former cheerleader in comparison to her plain appearance. However, ever since they had been sequestered at the shack protecting Ezra, Tara had noted the consideration the young man was showing her. He ensured that Buck Wilmington, whose aim in life was to charm every woman he met, did not bother her with his usual forward manner. The others said nothing, noting the interest the tracker was showing her but had the good manners not to make mention of it. This however, did not apply to Spike and while the vampire did not say anything out loud, he lapsed into that juvenile bout of sniggering she was at a loss to explain.

"We’ll have to do it tonight," Tara spoke in an effort to break the pause that Vin’s statement had wrought upon the discussion.

"That suits me," Spike remarked, easing into the pillow on the cot and closing his eyes. "I’m in no hurry to turn into a crispy critter."

"Alright then," Chris replied, feeling his own weariness taunting him with dreams of sleep and rest. It had been a long night and by the looks of it, Giles and Spike needed the rest almost as much as he did. "We’ll get some sleep and deal with this spell or whatever tonight."

"What about Angelus?" Vin asked before they ended the discussion. "He liable to drop in on us?"

"Not until tonight," Chris retorted. "Even if he does, the others know that their best bet tonight is to stay indoors and not get in his crosshairs. Hopefully that will keep them out of our way until you can do this spell of yours to bring the Slayer here."

"What’s her name again?" Buck asked.

"Buffy," Giles responded.

"Buffy," Ezra snorted. "It is a good thing I am unable to disown any progeny of mine for inflicting such a title upon an infant. Imagine naming a child Buffy."

"Well if this thing the little gal’s gonna do, works," Buck shifted his gaze at Tara. "You can ask her yourself who named her that."

Tara swallowed thickly as the conversation descended into jokes about Ezra’s future as the progenitor of the Slayer, hoping that she would be able to manage what they wanted.

That she could deliver the Slayer.

+ + + + + + +

It had been a long time since Angelus felt this kind of fury and hatred. However, now that he was experiencing it, he noted that it gave the demon inside him the edge he needed to plan his next move. His blood boiled with rage as being defeated by one rogue vampire and a bunch of sniveling humans. The family should have been able to kill them all but they had failed because the humans knew what they were dealing with and how to fight them. The leader, the one who had caught Darla’s eye and had gone hand to hand with William had rallied them together with enough will to launch a defense that should of all rights been impossible.

It was not in the order of things that the prey should defeat the wolf.

This was to be have been a night of pleasure, a nice of screams and terror, where the blood of the strong would fill his lips and nourish his soul. It was not meant to be defeat and yet in his loss, in the wake of their injuries, Drusilla’s burns and William’s near staking, he felt himself surging with the salt of challenge. It had been a long time since he had encountered a situation that required his utmost concentration to deal with and Angelus could not help but revel in the possibility. The humans and the strange aberration that was the other Spike had declared war upon him and Angelus was never afraid to fight, as long as he won.

And he intended to win.

Upon being driven from Four Corners in defeat, Angelus left Darla to deal with William and Drusilla’s injuries while he journeyed south. His destination was a town called Purgatorio and he knew it by reputation. It was the kind of place where the worst in human villainy seemed to congregate and he needed that. In the small town near the border of the continental United States and Mexico, Angelus was certain what he would find what he needed in abundance. He and Darla had visited the place once before and they had fed well. Fortunately, a dead body in this town was hardly a novel experience and no one seemed to care very much about corpses found in the street. Most were stripped of their possessions long before questions about their death were asked, if any. His return to Purgatorio had nothing to do with feeding in this instance.

The humans in Four Corners had thrown down the gauntlet before him. Angelus had no difficulty picking it up. However, he would have them know what it was to challenge him. If they wanted a war, he would give them one and in Purgatorio, he had more than enough bodied to create soldiers for his new found cause. He fed on as many as he could that night. They were easy enough to lure and those who did not come often wander away alone. It was a simple matter to waylay them and during those vulnerable moments and did what he needed to. Some came willingly, not truly understanding what he offered, beyond the gift of immortality. Others resisted but he took them anyway and their blood was always sweeter than those that wanted to die. By the time the sun had begun to rise, he had them sequestered in one place, having paid handsomely for the accommodation that allowed them to continue the turning in peace. He himself was trapped in Purgatorio during the daylight hours but that was fine with him. It had been a long night for him and he needed to rest.

When the sun set tonight, his minions would awake and they would return to Four Corners and teach the humans who dared to harm him and his family, what it was to die in agony.

+ + + + + + +

Nightfall came too quickly in Chris’ opinion.

During the day, that had been this feeling of safety that wrapped itself around him with its warmth. To see the world in sunshine ensured that the evil that crept in the dark places of night was held at bay, kept powerless by the glimmer of light. But with the inevitable coming of dusk, that security withered away and though their hiding place was meant to be a secret for now, Chris knew what comfort he drew from that was fleeting. It would not be difficult for Angelus to find out where Ezra was, Chris had realized. He did not underestimate the vampire enough to believe that Angelus would not be able to narrow down the possibilities of Ezra’s location. All he had to do was question someone who lived in the town.

Ezra had insisted on remaining at the shack tonight, much to the gunslinger’s annoyance but Chris could not find it in his heart to deny the man. Instead, he summoned the rest of the seven to the shack, hoping the increased numbers would aid in protecting the gambler in case Angelus and his company did learn where he was. He could understand Ezra’s desire to stay and supposed that if it were his descendant about to be conjured up in a spell, he would want to stay to meet her. Besides, Ezra seemed a great deal healthier than he was two nights ago while Spike’s injuries had disappeared all together. He had not lied about the vampire’s powers of recuperation because the wound that had given Nathan so much concern earlier was no longer visible on his skin.

Now, they stood watching as Tara and Spike sat within the circle she had created from the contents of the bag she had brought from the future. The seven and Giles stood within the small clearing of trees near the shack watching the spell being invoked. Tara and Spike were sitting on the ground, legs crossed and facing each other. Their hands joined as a thin black candle illuminated their small space .Chris understood nothing of what was transpiring, aware that something was happening that was beyond his comprehension but he was somehow accepting as being real. The young woman who was shy and prone to stammering whenever anyone spoke to her seemed different now. If Chris had to put a word to it, he would say she felt radiant.

Chris glanced at Vin next to him and saw the tracker’s face etched with concern. It was not easy for Vin Tanner to show his feelings. Even though he was just shy of his thirties, he was wiser than most people his age. His blue eyes saw a lot and were much older than he appeared to be. Somehow through the course of his life, Vin had learnt to guard his emotions while Chris had forced his behind a wall because of grief and despair of having lost a wife and child.

Together they had formed a bond of friendship, far stronger than the attachments that kept the seven together. He knew, with the same kind of insight that made spells and vampires possible, that Vin would be at his side always, no matter what turns their lives took. That is why he knew that Vin cared for the girl Tara more than he should. It worried Chris because anything between them was impossible and when Vin fell for any female, he usually did so with his hart worn on his sleeve. He would be hurt deeply because when this was all over, assuming that they survived that is, she would have to leave. And that departure would break the tracker’s heart if his feelings for Tara were as far along as Chris suspected.

Chris turned back to Tara when the young woman began to chant and noted that the rest of his companions were just as transfixed as he by her words, dipped in enigma, laced with all things unreal. Even her voice seemed to change, for there was none of that uncertainty but a power that was as old as time, perhaps even older than men. It was a power that was uniquely female, a presence the Indians might call as Mother Earth making herself known to all. Even Spike seemed transfixed by her words.

Suddenly, Tara’s eyes opened and she stared at Spike directly; her eyes were completely black. There was no iris, not whites, nothing but a soul crushing darkness that sent shivers of fear through all the men present. The hands holding Spike’s clenched and her veins began to throb on her neck and her wrists with such force that they could see it against her pale skin. Chris saw Vin reacting, wanting to stop this but instinctively, he knew that the spell had gone too far for that and he grabbed the tracker before he did anything to interfere. Vin looked at Chris in question and all Chris could do was stare at him stricken, before shaking his head in an order to desist. Vin stared at her and suddenly a furious wind appeared out of nowhere, blowing like a powerful gale as leaves and dust started hurtling through the air.

"What the hell is happening?" Buck demanded, the fear in his voice was clear.

"Stay where you are!" Chris shouted over the sound of the gale. "Don’t do anything."

"It’s the spell," Giles struggled to explain as he held his glasses to his face.

Spike had started to cry out because Tara’s nails were digging into his skin, her finger nails impaled his flesh and drew blood. It ran in rivulets down his pale skin, hissing into the candle as it dribbled. However, the vampire did not pull away and seemed to be enduring the pain. His head was thrown back and his face had changed to its demon mask, with fangs bared and yellow eyes wide with agony. It was more than just her fingers that was causing his pain, Chris realized. Something else was happening.

The air became charged with electricity and the first clap of thunder roared through the air. They had not seen the lighting come before it and the sound repeated itself, growing louder until they could hear nothing else, not even the violent wind blowing around them.

But they could still her the words.

"If I command the stars, they will fall;
If I see inside the mind of the undead, I will make his thoughts real
If I see the one to whom his heart belongs, I will make her appear,
And if she were lost in time, I will bring her through the mist.
I call to thee, Goddess of the Three,
Tisiphone, Alecto and Magaera,
Listen to your daughter's call,
In the eye of the undead,
Find the one, who is endless,
Find her, whose soul does not die,
Bring to us the chosen
I call upon thee as a daughter of the moon
Bring forth the Slayer!


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