Title: Meltdown
Part 13 of the ABC series

Author: Frau Hunter Ash 
Copyright © 2002 by Hunter Ash. All Rights Reserved.
hunterash@sti.net Feedback welcome!!
Homepage Addy : www.hunterash.com
Disclaimers: The characters and show all belong to Joss Whedon , Fox, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui , and God only knows who else. The storyline, however, is the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
F/F romance : the story assumes a loving and sexual relationship between people of the same gender, different genders, and may even include 3 at the same time <G>. If this offends or is illegal for you, then please leave. Come back when you are older, have an open mind, moved, or changed your laws.
Spoilers: Sometime after Wrecked
Summary: Can the gang handle what's happened to Giles and Buffy at the hands of Praetorious, Rack and Amy? How will they stop the Hell God from taking his revenge on the gang and the entire world for Glory's defeat?
Rating: 15
Author's Note: Pairings: W/G, B/F, A/C, X/An

Buffy barely looked up when the door to the warehouse was kicked in. Her mind was barely able to register that Faith, Willow and Angel were rushing in towards her as she looked back down at the Watcher in her arms.

Victor had been right, Giles had snapped and told the Hell God what he wanted to know. Rack and Amy had laughed at the vampire and Slayer as Victor cut Giles down and let him fall.

Buffy had rushed to Giles' side and whimpered to find him in even worse condition than before she had fed him.  She didn't know how long it was since Victor, Rack and Amy had left and Faith kicked in the door, all Buffy knew was that she held Giles, rocking and talking to the vampire.

“B!” Faith skidded to a stop in front of the other Slayer and slowly knelt down in front of her. “B?”

Willow's eyes widened at the sight of her lover and went into game face unconsciously in her anger.

“Oh God,” Angel muttered and moved beside Buffy, snapping her chain. “Buffy, let me carry him, okay?”

Buffy nodded absently, tears streaking her face as she looked up at Will.

“He couldn't take anymore, Will,” she said softly.

“We know, Buff,” Willow said gently, bending to stroke Giles' cheek. “We saw those three bastards earlier tonight and Tracy put a tracking spell on them. We saw them leave.”

Angel carefully pulled the Watcher Vampire into his arms, wincing at the feel of Giles' bones and dry flesh. Willow whimpered at the sight of her burned, cut, bruised and battered lover's body. Clad only in boxer shorts, they could see all the tortures Victor had inflicted on Giles.

“Angel?” Willow whimpered.

“He's alive but vampire coma,” the elder vampire said softly as Faith helped Buffy to her feet. His quick eyes took in the numerous bruises, cuts, broken arm and the way the Slayer was moving, deducing broken ribs as well.

Faith wrapped and arm carefully around Buffy's ribs, supporting her lover.

“We have to stop them,” Buffy said softly. “End of the world stuff.”

“As usual,” Faith muttered. “First we take care of you and tweed vamp.”

# # #

Angel watched from the doorway of the bedroom as Willow held Giles close, tears streaming down her face.

Buffy walked up next to him. He glanced at his former lover and nodded. She had taken a shower, had her arm in a sling and had obviously slept for a few hours.

“Any change?” she asked softly.

“No, none,” he responded sadly. “He won't swallow the blood.”

“What happens now?”

“We put him someplace safe and wait for his body to heal. That could take a few days, a week, a month or years,” Angel explained. 

“Years?” Buffy squeaked, looking in at Willow. “How can she handle that?”

“She either continues living or she waits by his coffin like some gothic romance,” Angel said bluntly. “We keep him safe and we try to stop those bastards from doing that ritual.”

“Did they find the parchment?” Buffy asked wearily.

“Yeah, Faith and Tara found the stone lions outside Sunnydale library smashed to pieces. No sign of Victor or the other two,” he nodded.

“Giles said that the ritual would open the major portal and release the Old Gods back into this realm. Victor's revenge for us stopping Glory,” Buffy explained. “They'll have to do the ritual on top of that nearby mountain, the one we call Baldy.”

“Did he know when?”

“Dark of the moon and they'll need the usual virgin sacrifice and virgin offering,” Buffy shrugged.

“Offering? Different than sacrifice?”

“Well, the sacrifice is to open the portal, the offering is… uh, the creepy Old Gods like, uh, getting horizontal with human females,” Buffy blushed.

“Right,” Angel nodded with a frown of disgust. “Let me deal with Willow and Giles.”

“What will you do?” Buffy asked, her heart breaking for her friends, especially Willow's pain.

“There's a hidden wine cellar in the mansion. I've got a very strong and secure coffin down there. We'll put him in there. He'll be safe from prowlers, other vampires, and hunters and Willow can stay close to him,” Angel explained.

Buffy nodded, she had looked at the calendar when she woke up, they had a week to find the Hell God and figure out how to stop them.

“Willow,” Angel said softly as he entered the room. “We need to let him rest and get you some blood. We're going to need you to stop them.”

“I'm not leaving him,” Willow said firmly.

“He'll sleep for days, Willow,” Angel urged. “Let me put him someplace safe. Safer than the curtained bed.”

“Alright,” Willow finally agreed and got up reluctantly and watched as Angel lifted her lover into his arms again.

# # #

Buffy curled up in Faith's arms, trying to nap but twitched in her sleep, remembering Giles' screams and her own.

Faith flinched and tightened her arms around Buffy, whispering softly to try and calm the other Slayer.  Finally Buffy had fallen into an uneasy sleep and Faith got up to pace. It was hard doing nothing and she wanted to pound something. She had barely held herself in control when she had seen Buffy's body and helped put the sling around her lover's neck.

Faith found Tara and Tracy pouring over books in the living room and Xander frowning as he watched Anya playing with Jesse.

“What's up, Xan-man?” Faith asked softly.

“Thinking how many times we've faced the end of the world,” he shrugged.  “Everything has changed since Jesse was born. It's more important now. Willow and Giles are vampires, Buffy's hurt, and it's the end of the world again.”

“Yeah and we'll pull through, just like always,” Faith smiled, watching the small boy throw a ball at his mother.

Xander nodded but didn't look convinced. 

“Where's Red?” Faith asked after a moment.

“Downstairs with Giles, no change,” Xander's frown deepened. “It's strange, he's always been like the dad I always wanted and now he's a vampire and looks younger and stronger. Very wigged out.”

“Yeah, kinda sexy too,” Faith smirked at Xander's “eww” face. “He'll get better, he has to.”

”Yeah, he's Giles,” Xander sighed. “How's Buff?”

“Tossing and turning,” Faith said softly. “She's not bouncing back like she usually does.”

“I don't think I want to know what she saw and went through,” Xander nodded.  “Giles has always been there for us. Watching each other get tortured…”

“Yeah, we all need a week on the beach,” Faith sighed.

“Deal, we survive the end of the world again and we'll go to Disneyland and then the beach,” Xander smiled, watching Anya and little Jesse play.

# # #

It was late evening before Willow came up from the cellars. Tara and Tracy quickly rose from the table and wrapped their arms around the vampire. Willow hugged them back and then moved around the table, hugging each of her friends, especially Xander and Buffy.

“Okay, what's the 411?” she asked as she sat down next to Tara around the research table.

“We've got five days and nights before Victor opens the gate to the Old Gods and mankind becomes munchies,” Xander said softly.

“We know that they'll do the ritual on Old Baldy,” Buffy added. “Giles was muttering something about an old Satanic site that few know about.”

Willow frowned as Tracy took notes and Tara rummaged through the books in front of her. “We can hit the computer and find old articles and stuff, see what the connection is. Might give us a clue how to disrupt the ritual. I have an idea that no one is going to like…”

Xander leaned back and wrapped an arm around Anya as she held a napping Jesse. “Why do I suddenly fear for everyone's sanity when you say that?” he smiled softly.

“What is it, Will?” Buffy asked, ignoring Xander's quips.

“We're fighting magic and I'm not strong enough to take on Rack, Amy, and Victor,” Willow said slowly. “Even with Tara and Tracy. I know someone slimy enough that might be able to help me.”

“Who and why slimy?” Angel demanded, frowning.

“I think a two pronged attack might work, like it did with Glory,” Willow said slowly. “Multiple prongs, actually. Buffy, Faith and Angel do the physical pounding, Tara and Tracy use white magic to batter and throw them off, me and Ethan use black magic to attack them and shatter the ritual apart. Everyone else protect us from the bad guys they'll have fighting with them.”

“Ethan? Ethan Rayne?” Xander squeaked.

“Why would Ethan help us? He's always causing trouble!” Buffy protested.

“Is that the guy who cursed the Halloween costumes and candy?” Faith asked as Buffy nodded.

“Ethan's human and more of a trickster than a total villain,” Willow explained. “His magic is more like Giles and mine, closer to Rack and Amy. We can fight on the same level while Tara and Tracy really whack them with the white-light stuff.”

“Willow, that's opening you up to the black stuff again,” Tara said gently. “W-what if…”

“If I'm tempted again?” Willow finished, her eyes soft. “Then we'll deal with it.”

Buffy looked down at her hands for a moment and then nodded. “I won't trust him for a moment but he's never threatened Giles' life.”

“I'll contact him if everyone agrees,” Willow said softly, looking around.

“I trust you, Will,” Xander said after a moment.  “Whatever it takes to stop these guys. Did you send Dawnie back to San Fran?”

Buffy nodded. “Now that she knows I'm back, I got her out of town. She's pissed off at me but I don't care. I promised Mom I'd take care of her.”

“Is there anything we can do before the ritual night?” Angel asked, looking over the map of Sunnydale.  “Can't we stop them before then? Why wait?”

“We can try and keep them off balance but the negative energy from the Hellmouth helps them,” Willow shrugged.

“Tara and I can go out to the mountain and attempt to cleanse the place and shield it, that should slow them down,” Tracy suggested.

Willow and Buffy nodded.  “Sounds good,” the Slayer smiled. “And I've still got that troll hammer I used on his sister, let's find out how Victor likes it!”

“Cool, ass kicking,” Faith smirked.

# # #

Ethan looked down at the gaunt and gruesome looking vampire and winced. “Doesn't look my old mate, does it?” he asked softly as Willow moved past him and stroked Giles' cheek.  The vampire looked something akin to the classic image of Nosferatu; skin pulled tight across the skull, thin hair, pointed ears, protruding fangs, veins showing through the skin, eyes sunken back and fingernails that were more like claws than human.

The sorcerer blinked. He had always suspected the little red-head might have it bad for his old running mate but he never would have pictured them both as vampires and mated.

“He does when he's well,” Willow said in a low voice. “Will you help us? If not, then he's dead along with the rest of us and you'll be a slave to demon gods.”

Ethan nodded after a moment. “I'd much rather be somewhere a little higher on the ladder other than at the bottom or on a dinner plate. Besides, maybe as vamps I stand a good chance at both of you.”

“What does that mean?” Willow demanded.

“Please, you're incredibly beautiful and he's more than a tiger in bed, as you well know,” Ethan smirked. “Don't worry, let's stop the nutcases first. Have you seen sketches of those Old Gods? I sure don't want any of those tentacles near my body, thanks!”

Willow shivered in agreement. Research into the old Cthulhu, Lovecraft and Old God myths had left them all very determined to stop Victor from opening those gates.  One example had been Shudde M'ell which was described as a slug like being with tentacles where a face should be.  That was not the most pleasant imagery and that had been the least gruesome of them all they had found.

Buffy watched from the stairs as Willow stood protectively over Giles' coffin.  None of them trusted Ethan.  The blonde Slayer also had to admit that Willow's power concerned her.  Before, when Willow had been human, her magic had been growing and out of control. Now, as a vampire and trained witch, it was beyond what Buffy had ever imagined for her friend.  It was also more on the darkside than the light and that concerned Buffy at times.

With Ethan around and his dedication to chaos, Buffy was now officially worried.

Ethan frowned as he watched Willow with Giles. “So when does he wake up and what will he be like when he does?”

“Could be tonight or it could be years,” Willow said softly. “He'll be very hungry, almost mindless in his need for blood. After a few feedings he'll slowly come back to himself and look more human.”

“Well, gotta say, ducks, he's not very shaggable right now,” Ethan smirked.

“Ethan!” Buffy growled from the stairs. “You've seen him, let's go back upstairs and figure out how to stop this mess.”

Ethan nodded but continued to look at Giles.  After a moment he approached the coffin slowly and took Willow's hand. “I can help if you'll trust me,” he said softly.

“How? Tara and Tracy couldn't help,” Willow shook her head. “I couldn't channel the right energy or something.”

“I'm still connected to him somewhat,” Ethan said slowly. “My type of magic will mesh, I think. I'd rather him on his feet since he is the brains of your little gang of misfits. Besides, I can't seduce him or you if he's sleeping in a bloody box.”

Willow shook her head but managed to smile. “Help him, please.”

“What's the price tag, Ethan?” Buffy demanded. “You never do anything unless it's for yourself.”

“A chance to get under his skin again, bother the hell out of you and having him awake might just save our arses, especially mine,” Ethan shrugged.  “The Old Gods don't think a lot of the Gods and Goddesses that are around since they went bye-bye.”

“Like Janus and Egyhon?” Willow surmised as Ethan nodded.

“Exactly,” Ethan smiled and raised his hands over Giles' body.  “Now, bring some blood down here and leave me with him for a few minutes.  He'll be almost top form but still need a bit.”

Buffy looked at Willow and her friend nodded.

“I'll get a few bags,” Buffy said softly and trotted back up the stairs, saying a quick prayer that whatever Ethan had planned would work.

“What's the 411, B?” Faith asked, hovering around the kitchen, obviously waiting for her girlfriend and sorcerer.

“Ethan's going to try and get Giles back,” Buffy explained as she opened the fridge and grabbed three bags of blood.  “I'd feel better if Giles was in on this.”

“He is the smart one of the bunch, him and Red,” Faith nodded, walking up behind Buffy and hugging her.  “With him coma like and Red distracted, not a good thing, B.”

“That's what Ethan said,” Buffy nodded, leaning back into Faith's arms. “Cross your fingers, Ethan's not known for his… scruples.”

“Got it, girlfriend,” Faith smiled, kissing the back of Buffy's neck where the tattoo glyph of Eyghon had once been.

“I can't believe the way things have changed,” Buffy sighed. “I'm just glad Dawn didn't argue about Anya and Jesse joining her in San Francisco.”

“Yeah, Dawn complained but I think she realizes how important her safety is to you,” Faith shrugged. “Xander is sulking but relieved.”

“If we lose here, it'll spread from Sunnydale until the Old Gods have the entire world,” Buffy sighed. “I really hate this End of the World stuff.”

Faith grinned and hugged Buffy again. “Yeah, but it keeps the blood flowing, you know?”

“You know there's a chance Ethan could switch sides,” Buffy said thoughtfully as she looked down at the bags of blood.  “The promise of being a god has to be tempting.”

“You ever get tempted, B?” Faith asked thoughtfully.

Buffy's eyes flashed for a moment and Faith wondered if she was going to bring up Faith's past involvement with the Mayor and turning on the Scooby gang.  Then Buffy looked like she was pondering Faith's question.

“Not really,” Buffy said slowly. “I break the rules to get the job done but not for any gain or power or anything. The only time I was tempted with the dark stuff was with Dracula. He almost had me convinced darkness was a major part of being a Slayer.”

“And Spiky?” Faith asked with a grin and then laughed when Buffy blushed.

“Okay, I was in a dark place, not tempted by it, surrounded,” Buffy said after a moment.  “I didn't know how to get out of it and fighting and… whatever with him made me feel something for a few moments.”

“Always Miss Perfect?” Faith teased but there was an edge in her tone.

“No, anything but perfect,” Buffy said softly. “That's why Giles and Tara left and Willow was vamped, I'm not perfect and was a miserable friend.”

“Sorry, B, I didn't…” Faith started but Buffy held up her hand.

“It's okay, Faith,” Buffy smiled sadly.  “I'm going to check on Giles.”

“C-can I go with you?” a shy voice asked from the doorway to the rest of the mansion.

Both Slayers looked up and smiled. “Hey, Tare,” Buffy said softly. “You sure you want to see this? He might be a little out of control, all vamp game-face and stuff.”

“Yes, I do,” Tara nodded firmly. “I need to know what they go through.”

“Why? Thinking of changing sides?” Faith teased and laughed when the witch blushed in response.

“No, I want to understand what Willow and Giles go through,” Tara repeated. “I still love Willow in some ways and Giles was my friend.”

“Let's go take care of them,” Buffy sighed, opening the basement door.

Faith looked down at the table with an intense frown. Things had been progressing towards a solid relationship with Buffy before she and Giles had been kidnapped. Now Faith could feel a distance between them again and hated it.

The dark haired Slayer hoped Ethan Rayne could get Giles back on his feet, maybe Buffy wouldn't feel so guilty for not protecting her mentor.

# # #

Giles opened his eyes slowly and looked around, surprised to find he was in a dark room with Willow holding him from behind. He sensed they were underground and figured it was a basement or a tomb. Tara was sitting on the floor on a blanket next to him, holding his hand.

“Tara? Willow?” he managed to whisper.

“Hey, lover,” Willow said gently. “Take it a little slow, okay? You've been through a lot.”

“I'm safe?” Giles asked, his voice raspy.

“Yes, Ru,” Willow said, helping him sit up slowly. “We found you and Buffy and brought you back to the mansion. Buffy's alright, especially with the Slayer healing thing.”

Giles looked down and unbuttoned his shirt and was surprised to find most of the burns healing and no sign of the cuts. “How?”

“Hello, Rip,” a voice called cheerfully from the stairs.

Giles blinked in surprise when Ethan stepped into the dim light. “E-ethan? What? How?”

“I prefer complete sentences but I'll tell you,” Ethan smirked as he walked up and sat beside Tara.  “Your gorgeous vampire there got ahold of me and I rushed to help.”

“You never rush to help anyone but yourself,” Giles growled.

“True, but having you awake is much better than looking at a mummy-like corpse,” Ethan shrugged. “Besides, they need your brains to stop the latest apocalypse. You know how I feel about the Old Ones.”

Giles nodded, leaning back and wrapping an arm around Willow, pulling her close and next to him.

“I remember. So you healed me?”

“I channeled the energy that you needed to get you back on your feet,” Ethan clarified. “I'm not sure I'd call it healing energy.”

“He healed you and after a few bags of blood you slept peacefully,” Tara said softly. 

“Buffy went up to investigate that site Rack and Victor want to use or she'd be here,” Willow added. “She didn't leave until she knew you were okay.”

“Victor,” Giles' eyes changed to vampire yellow as he growled. Ethan stumbled back in surprise.

“Whoa, mate! This whole vampire thing you've got going is a little disorienting!” he complained.

Giles shrugged as he nuzzled Willow's neck.

“You do look good though,” Ethan admitted.

“Let's get you two back up to your room,” Tara suggested with a smile. “We've got three days before the ritual.”

Giles' eyes narrowed. “And we kill Victor, Amy and Rack,” he said firmly.

# # #

Faith found Buffy standing on top of the hill the locals called Old Baldy, the wind whipping blonde hair around as Buffy looked out over Sunnydale.

“Hey, B, you okay?” Faith asked as she walked towards her lover.

Buffy shrugged and didn't turn, she felt Faith walk up beside her.

“Not really,” the blonde admitted. “I keep hearing him scream and Rack and Amy laughing. Victor was bored, Giles was screaming and that bastard was bored!”

Faith looked over and saw Buffy's fists clenched tightly and her eyes bright with anger.

“And you couldn't do anything to help,” Faith added. “You didn't mind them pounding on you, kinda comes with the territory, right? But Giles, he's been your rock, always there when you needed him and you watched him screaming in pain.”

Buffy spun with an angry shout and kicked a fencepost into pieces. 

Faith smiled sadly and reached out, spinning Buffy around to face her.  The dark-haired Slayer wasn't surprised when Buffy used the spin to try and backhand her in her blinding anger.  Faith easily blocked the swing and the next one as well.

“Come on! That the best you've got, B? You drove him off after you got back and now you just watched him suffer,” Faith taunted and felt her head rock back from a blow she didn't even see coming. 

Faith barely managed to get a foot up as Buffy jumped her, tossing the blonde head over onto the dirt.  The dark haired Slayer jumped to her feet at the same time Buffy did and blocked the blonde's next few blows and got one in across Buffy's nose, bringing tears from the stinging pain.

Buffy backed up and blinked. “W-what?”

“Hi, girlfriend,” Faith grinned, beginning to dust herself off.  “You needed to release some of that pent up guilt you were carrying.  Want to run off the rest of that energy?”

Buffy blushed and nodded.  “Uh, sorry about… you know.”

“Hey, you'd pound me if I needed it,” Faith grinned and wrapped an arm around Buffy's shoulders.  “Let's take a run, work some of that out and get ready for this confrontation thing. I really, really want to kick some ass.”

“Faith, Rack and Amy are human but that won't stop me this time,” Buffy said softly.

“B, last thing you need to do is learn how to live with killing somebody, trust me on that one,” Faith said slowly. “Concentrate on taking Victor down and leave Rack and Amy to the witch and vamps.”

Buffy looked around at the barren foothill with a frown. “Okay, let's take that bastard down. Glory scared the hell out of me, I thought I was going to lose Dawnie and we almost lost Tara, Willow and Giles.”

“And they did lose you,” Faith added. “That's not something I'm willing to accept this time.”

“I'd rather not repeat that, myself,” Buffy managed to smile about her death and unpleasant and unwelcome return.  “Gave me more time with Dawnie and now a chance with you.”

“Still regret they brought you back?” Faith asked as they began to walk down the deer path.

“No, took me awhile but I realized that I was given a fantastic third chance at life and decided to run with it,” Buffy said slowly, thoughtfully.  “Took care of Dawn and took responsibility for showing her life rather than trying to hold her down. Had a good life beginning with Riley and was content. Should have known it wouldn't last.”

“Life always changes, B,” Faith shrugged.  “It's not just because you're in Sunnydale and the Slayer, you know.  Look at Xander, married and with a kid and still drawn into the fight because that's just who he is.”

“Yeah, it's amazing at times, it comes down to us being together again, like high school but everyone is so different,” Buffy smiled sadly. “Willow's a powerful witch who's afraid to use the magic and a vampire, Giles is head over heels in love with her and a vampire, Xander is… Xander.”

“Feel like running now?” Faith grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.  “I think Giles, Willow and Ethan were debating magickal ethics when I left.”

“God, Ethan Rayne, just so what I don't need in my life! Or Giles in his!” Buffy complained but with a smile.  “Race ya!”



Next: Never Say Never

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