the bunny warren v. Faith

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Falling Star

Author: Mikelesq
Concept: A client of Angel's seeks eternal youth in Sunnydale; takes place just prior to "New Moon Rising" episode of BtVS (Season 4) and "Five by Five" episode of AtS
Rating: PG-13.
Feedback: Please.
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction, and is expounded from "Eternity" episode of AtS. Distribute if you like.

Prologue


Normally the only film crews that set up in Sunnydale came from local news stations reporting on unexplained murders. The movie production was a welcome change of pace.

Buffy and Willow stopped briefly among the crowd of bystanders watching the film shoot. In front of the crowd, a man stood behind a camera mounted on a small crane. Massive lights sat behind him, illuminating the night. Another man stood behind him, and yelled:

"Action!"

Two men emerged from the entrance to the Science Building. The cameraman followed them with the camera. The two men walked past the camera without speaking, and the director shouted:

"Cut!"

The cameraman, the director, the two actors, and several other people in the production crew then gathered to discuss the next shot.

"Well," Buffy said sarcastically, "that was exciting."

"Movies aren't like plays," Willow responded. "They don't shoot in order of the plot. There's a bunch of little individual shots which are cut together to make the story."

"Seems pretty boring to me," Buffy said. "I can't believe everybody's making such a big deal over some stupid movie coming to campus to shoot a couple of scenes."

"Hey," Willow said. "How do you know it's stupid?"

"Well, what's it about?"

"It's a horror movie."

"I repeat," Buffy said, "Stupid movie."

"Well, I guess everybody's hoping to see some of the actors," Willow said. "Rebecca Lowell is supposed to be in this one."

"Who?"

"You know, the actress," Willow explained. "She was Raven, from 'On Your Own.' It was on television forever."

"She's a TV actress," Buffy said. "What's she doing in a movie?"

"Well, the show was canceled last year," Willow said. "She's probably trying to make the leap from TV to the big screen by doing this horror movie."

"Yeah, right," Buffy said, rolling her eyes. "Like that's ever happened."

Buffy and Willow continued walking toward the doom. On their way, they passed several trailers that had been set up for the actors. Inside one of the trailers, Rebecca Lowell was mixing martinis for herself and a guest.

"Now," Rebecca said, handing her guest a martini, " Let's get down to business, Mr...?"

"Willy," the man replied. "You can just call me Willy, Ms. Lowell. Have I mentioned what an honor it is to meet you. I've met a lot of people in my day...."

"And a lot of nonpeople," Rebecca replied, taking a seat on a chair opposite Willy. "That's why you're here."

"Yeah, well. It sure is exciting. Meeting a star, and all. I mean, being on a real movie set! Wow! And I'm sure it's going to be a great movie. Just great...."

"It's going to be awful," Rebecca interrupted. "The plot is stale. The script is garbage. The budget is nonexistent. I only have twenty-six lines. I'm working for scale. And I'm hoping that this alleged movie will be released straight to video so I will suffer as little embarrassment as possible."

"Gee, Ms. Lowell," Willy said. "If you hate the movie so much, if you don't mind my asking, why are you doing it?"

"Well, if you ask my agent," Rebecca said, taking a sip from her martini, "I'm doing it for a little exposure, to make some easy cash, and to keep my name circulated among producers. But the reason I chose to do this movie is because it's being shot in Sunnydale. I'm trying to find someone. Someone you know. I've had my people researching some of the local goings on among the...how shall I put it? Among the...underground...residents of Sunnydale. My people think that they're doing research for my part. You know, so I can get into character. Well, they've given me most of the information I need. They've given me a name, but not a place where I can find who I'm looking for."

"Gee, Ms. Lowell," Willy said, "I don't know that many people...."

"You know this one," Rebecca said. "He was a patron of your little drinking establishment. He likes his drinks straight up, O Negative."

Rebecca placed her martini glass on the coffee table between her and Willy, leaned forward and said:

"His name is Spike."


Part I.


Spike adjusted the antenna of his television. The wires on the antenna were becoming worn. Eventually, he'd need to steal a new one.

"Hey, Spike?"

Spike turned toward the voice that came from the mausoleum door and took a half step backward to be sure that none of the sunlight hit him. Spike said:

"Willy? How many times have I told you not to deliver blood during 'Passions.' They've lost the amulet again, and if I miss one minute...."

"Uh, Spike, sorry to bother you," Willy explained. "But, you see, there's this woman..."

"That would be me," Rebecca said, walking past Willy into the mausoleum. She reached into her purse, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to Willy. "This should cover your fee, Willy. Well done."

"Thanks, Ms. Lowell," Willy said, taking the envelope. He opened it, and flipped through the cash. "See ya, Spike. I'll bring by the blood tomorrow. After 'Passions.' I promise."

Willy walked out of the mausoleum into the daylight.

"Why that little rat," Spike said.

"Don't be angry," Rebecca said. "I'm not here to hurt you. In fact, I believe that I can help you. Provided, of course, you're willing to help me."

"I'm not the bloody Red Cross, luv," Spike said.

"I don't need that kind of help," Rebecca responded. "I need help of a less conventional nature."

Spike pulled a cigarette from his pocket. "What do you want?"

Rebecca asked:

"How old are you?"

"A hundred twenty odd. Why?"

"I have a problem," Rebecca answered. "An aging problem. I'm getting older. I could get my skin pulled taught by a surgeon. Chemical peels. Liposuction. But I'd prefer a more...lasting solution."

Spike lit his cigarette and took a drag. "What did you have in mind?"

"Make me a vampire," Rebecca replied. "You get blood, and I get eternal youth."

"Interesting," Spike said. "But you're a rather skinny bird. Not much more than a couple of pints I could get out of you. Hardly seems worth my wile."

"I'm rich," Rebecca responded. "Money is not an issue."

Spike considered this. "Why me?"

"The last time I tried this," Rebecca responded, "the vampire I selected proved to be untrustworthy. He tried to kill me. It's my understanding that you can't harm people. I don't have to worry that you'll double cross me."

"Well, you seem to have this all thought out," Spike said. "There's one problem. If I'm the only vampire that you can trust, then I'm the only vampire that you can deal with. That gives me what you call a monopoly. That means that the price is going to be steep, luv."

"How about getting that chip out of your head?"

Spike raised his eyebrows. "How do you plan on doing that?"

"I told you," Rebecca said. "I'm rich. The plastic surgeon who was going to take a couple of millimeters off of my chin would also be willing to take a couple of circuits out of your frontal lobe."

Spike considered this. He said:

"Fine. Get this chip out of my head, and I'll vamp you up."

"No deal," Rebecca said. "I can only trust you while you have that chip. I'll give you cash up front. Fifty thousand. After you make me a vampire, I'll have the surgeon remove the chip."

"You have the cash?"

"I can get it in twenty-four hours."

"Alright, deal," Spike said, throwing his cigarette butt to the ground, and smashing it with his foot. "But, understand, luv, after I do it, you won't be human anymore."

"I know that," Rebecca said. "I know that I'll have to live with restrictions. I know that I'll have to do...unseemly things to stay alive. I'm willing to do all of that."

"That's not what I mean," Spike said, stepping forward to face Rebecca. His face was less than an inch from Rebecca's, and he said:

"What I mean is, once you're a vampire, this chip in my head that keeps me from hurting people won't keep me from hurting you. Try to pull one over on me, and I'll beat you like a bloody pinata."

"Understood," Rebecca said. "I'll meet you here tomorrow. Same time."

"Make it tomorrow night," Spike said.

"'Passions'?"

Spike smiled. "This time next week I plan to be on a rampage. I'd better get in my telly time while I can."


Part II.


"Look who got a mention in 'Variety' yesterday," Cordelia said, handing the paper to Angel.

"Hmm, Rebecca got a movie," Angel said, skimming the headline. "That's good."

"If she's working," Wesley chimed in, "she's not getting in trouble."

"She may be doing both," Cordelia said. "Check out where they're shooting on location."

Angel read the body of the article. "Sunnydale," Angel said. "They're making the movie in Sunnydale."

"Figures," Cordelia said. "I spend my whole life in Sunnydale, a star just waiting to shine, and the only nightlife they had involved vampires. Then I go to LA where all the producers are supposed to be, and Sunnydale goes Hollywood."

"The irony does make one question one's belief in a benevolent God," Wesley said sarcastically.

Cordelia stuck her tongue out at Wesley, and then said to Angel:

"So, do you think she's up to something?"

"I doubt it," Angel said. "I'd think that her last attempt to toy with the supernatural would have scared her enough. It's probably just a coincidence."

"You're right," Cordelia agreed. "I mean, after your little Rick James imitation, she's probably on the straight and narrow."

The telephone rang, and Cordelia walked out to the receptionist desk to answer it.

"Angel," Wesley said. "I know that, despite the...problems you had with Ms. Lowell, you still feel a certain...affection for her."

"She got in over her head," Angel said. "It doesn't mean she's a bad person. Anyone can make a questionable choice. Trust me. I know."

"You're probably right," Wesley said. "But, with Ms. Lowell spending time on the Hellmouth, is it really wise to assume that she has abandoned her interest in becoming a vampire? Some precautionary measures...."

"Rebecca's in Sunnydale," Angel said. "Buffy's made it abundantly clear to me that we're to stay off each other's turf. It's not my problem."

"It will be," Wesley said, "if Ms. Lowell comes back to Los Angeles and she's developed a taste for blood."

Angel considered this, then said:

"Alright, call Giles. Tell him about our history with Rebecca. If he feels it's worth checking out, that's between Buffy and Giles."

"Right," Wesley responded. "I'll simply tell him that Ms. Lowell was at one time interested in becoming a vampire, and he should take whatever steps he feels prudent under the circumstances."

"Tell him whatever you think he needs to know," Angel said.

"And I'll leave out what I do not feel that he needs to know," Wesley replied. "Don't worry, Angel. There's no need for anyone to know that Angelus made an appearance."

"Thanks, Wes. But tell him everything. The last thing I need is for a detail to get left out, and for it to prove important to Buffy. I've gotten into enough hot water for picking and choosing what I feel she needs to know. Don't worry. I can deal with it."

"As you wish," Wesley said, picking up the telephone.


Part III.


"She wants to be a vampire? Sick!"

"It's not unprecedented, Buffy," Giles said. "After all, your friend did come to Sunnydale...."

"Ford wanted to be a vampire because he was dying," Buffy exclaimed. "He was desperate, and confused! This actress is just vain! She want's to be a killer, and I have no intention of letting her get away with it!"

"I apologize," Giles said. "I didn't mean...."

"Skip it," Buffy said. "Look, are we sure that this actress is here to become a vampire?"

"Wesley was a little vague," Giles said. Better not to tell Buffy all the details. "He said that her last attempt at becoming undead was somewhat traumatic. However, it's probably worth checking on anyway."

"So what do we do? Check the papers and see if someone posted a classified ad for part time vampire help?"

"Well," Giles said. "I did get a call from one of the producers of the film, asking if I'd be a script consultant. Apparently my library on the occult is one of the better collections in California."

Buffy's eyes widened. "You got a call to work on a movie and you turned it down?"

"Buffy, the knowledge I gained becoming a Watcher can be rather dangerous in the wrong hands. One doesn't share that knowledge with persons who are not capable of dealing with it responsibly."

"Noble," Buffy said, "in weird way. Look, did Wesley say...?"

"Angel is fine," Giles interjected.

"He could have called himself," Buffy said.

"I thought the purpose of your last trip to Los Angeles was to make it clear that any personal interferences by Angel would be regarded as...well...interferences."

"I wouldn't mind if he picked up the phone to warn me about trouble," Buffy said. "When he throws in a little stalking in the shadows, then I mind."

"And I'm sure you communicated that in a clear, unemotional tone in your last conversation with Angel?"

"Back off, Giles."

"Buffy," Giles said, "whatever personal problems come and go between you and Angel, the fact is that you're allies in the same fight whether you like it or not. You're going to have to find some way to communicate with each other that doesn't always involve high drama."

"I said back off."

"Very well," Giles said. "I will contact the producer who called and tell him that I have become available as a consultant. Perhaps you should start checking whether there have been any vampires who have taken an interest in the movie?"

"I know where to start," Buffy said. "I'll call when I know something." Buffy threw her purse over her shoulder, and left.

Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Every attempt he made lately to guide Buffy was met with resistence and resentment. Not unusual, he thought. Buffy was in college. It was normal for a young person at university to assert their independence. However, he was starting to wonder if the gap that had grown between Buffy and himself wasn't widening beyond his ability to bridge.

Giles remembered his advice to Buffy:

You're going to have to find some way to communicate with each other that doesn't always involve high drama.

Physician, Giles thought, heal thyself.


Part VI.


Willy dropped a couple of glasses into the sink. He put a couple of drops of Palmolive in the water. He always used Palmolive. Nothing was better at getting blood off glass.

"Hey, Willy."

He looked up. The Slayer stood before him. He checked the room. His customers were visibly tense. He said:

"Hey, howya doin'? Can I get you something?"

"Information," Buffy replied.

"Well, I don't really know anything."

"I haven't told you what I want to know yet."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure whatever you want to know, I don't know."

"We gonna have to do this the hard way?"

"Look," Willy said, "just ask. If I can help, fine, but I'm sure I can't."

"I need to know if there's anything weird going on with that movie they're shooting at Sunnydale U."

"I haven't been anywhere near that movie shoot."

Odd, Buffy thought. She'd asked whether he knew anything, not whether he'd been there. It seemed like a good time to try a bluff.

"Willy," Buffy said. "I'm a student at the university. I saw you there."

"Well, I may have been there. But I didn't talk to nobody."

"Look," Buffy said, seeing if she could take the bluff further. "I'll pay you. But no more than a hundred. I know that's all you got when you were over there."

"She paid me two hundred!"

"She," Buffy said. "I'm guessing that was Rebecca Lowell. So she talked to you. What did she want?"

Willy swallowed. He'd really screwed up.

"Look," Willy said. "Maybe we can cut a deal. She paid two hundred."

"She can't snap your neck like a popsicle stick," Buffy said. "I can. Spill it."

"Alright," Willy said. "She was just asking about the local history. Research for her movie part. That's all."

"So she wasn't looking for vampires?"

"Nope. No vampires. She didn't say nothing about vampires."

"You're lying," Buffy said. "I know she's here looking for vamps."

"Alright, she asked if there were vamps here, I told her there were. What's the big deal?"

"She didn't pay you two hundred for that. C'mon, Willy. Are you going to tell me what I want to know, or do I start breaking things. Your arm, for starters."

"Look, if I tell you who she was looking for, I'm going to lose good business."

Buffy scowled. "She's looking for a particular vampire?"

"Cut it out! I can't tell you!"

"Look, Willy," Buffy said. "This woman's playing a dangerous game. If she's trying to deal with a vampire like you'd deal with a normal person, she's going to get hurt."

"Heh, not likely. Not this vamp."

Buffy considered this. A vampire that wasn't a threat. She only knew of one vampire who fit that description. She asked:

"It's Spike, isn't it? She was looking for Spike."

"I said I can't tell you!"

"Thanks, Willy," Buffy said.

Buffy walked out of the bar. Willy shouted:

"I didn't tell you nothing!"


Part V.


"Rebecca, this is Rupert Giles."

Oliver gestured toward Giles. Rebecca extended her right hand and said:

"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Giles."

"Please, Ms. Lowell," Giles said, shaking her hand. "Call me Rupert."

"Call me Rebecca," she responded. "I'm so glad you've decided to join the team. Of course, I should tell you, I've completed my research for this part."

"I doubt you have been given a complete history of the area," Giles said. "After all, this is a horror movie. I doubt anyone told you of all the local legends of Sunnydale."

"I'm told that there are a lot of superstitions associated with Sunnydale," Rebecca said. "I don't really need to know all of them. Just enough to make the my performance seem authentic."

"Oh, but so much of the local history is fascinating," Giles said. "Native American myths. Cults that have been associated with Sunnydale. And, of course, the vampires."

Rebecca sat up. "Vampires? Really! How gothic."

"Not really," Giles said. "Even most of the European vampires who made it to Sunnydale assimilated rather quickly."

"You speak of them as though they were real, Mr. Giles," Rebecca said. "Surely your not suggesting...."

"Oh, of course not," Giles said. "It's just that if you research these myths enough, you tend to think of them as real."

"Oliver," Rebecca said, turning to face her agent, "could you excuse us for a moment. I need to speak to Mr. Giles privately."

Oliver was visibly concerned. However, he complied. "I'll be right outside," he said, and exited the trailer.

"So," Rebecca said. "You're familiar with the local myths?"

"Quite familiar," Giles said.

"And did you happen to get this knowledge by being the Observer of the Slayer?"

Giles paused, and then said:

"Watcher is the correct term. I can see you've done your homework."

"Well, Cordelia talked about Sunnydale a lot while I was pumping her for history on Angel," Rebecca replied. "She mentioned that he had a girlfriend who was a vampire slayer, and that an older librarian acted as the girl's mentor. The rest I researched on my own. I've come to Sunnydale prepared, Mr. Giles, although I didn't think I would arouse any attention by being here."

"Your fame precedes you, Ms. Lowell," Giles said. "Angel saw a newspaper story on your movie, and alerted us to your...interests. As a precaution. He didn't think that you still desired to go forward with your scheme. Based upon what you've told me regarding your preparations for your visit, I can see that we were wise to be cautious."

"Mr. Giles," Rebecca said. "I'm not here to hurt anybody. I simply wish to retain my youth at a point in my career when I simply cannot afford to continue the aging process."

"The inability to go into the daylight would seem to be a rather severe career impediment as well."

"I work mostly in television," Rebecca explained. "All of the shooting is indoors. If they want me to shoot outside, I'll tell them I have a rare skin condition that keeps me from being able to go out in the sun. I'll talk about it in People Magazine. Hell, I may even set up a charity for it. Fund raisers are great publicity. A harmless lie."

"Your appetite for blood won't be harmless," Giles said.

"I'll feed on animal blood, like Angel. Secretly, of course. I don't want PETA to send Bob Barker after me."

"If you become a vampire, you'll hardly care about Bob Barker," Giles said. "Or about feeding on humans."

"Why not? Angel managed to curb his blood lust."

"He's cursed," Giles said.

Rebecca blinked.

"That's what makes him what he is," Giles continued. "Gypsies cursed him with a soul. You didn't know that, did you?"

"I...I knew he was different, but....."

"Ms. Lowell, you are dealing with forces you cannot possibly comprehend. Allow me to hit a few of the major points for you. When a person becomes a vampire, they die. The soul, that which makes us who we are, perishes just as if the person had been killed conventionally. A demon possesses the body. It has the pleasure of retaining the memories of the victim, but that comes from the mind, not the soul. If you become a vampire, you will be dead. Pure and simple. Your body will become the tool of a hellbeast which is incapable of any human emotion. It will use your body to kill so that it can feed. And you will be as much to blame as the monster, because it was your choice that made it possible. That is why Angel's humanity is a curse. His soul was reunited with his body, and now he has to live with the responsibility for what he did while he was a vampire."

Rebecca absorbed this.

"Ms. Lowell," Giles said, "I hope you now realize that it is madness to continue down this path."

"I'm already closer to madness than I ever thought possible," Rebecca replied. "Being an actress is all I know. I can barely remember any time in my life when I was anything else. Success in my career was the only definition of happiness that I ever had. And now I've lost that, and I have no idea who I am. You can't possibly know what that's like."

"I know a lot more about that than you'd think," Giles said. "And I know that, whatever your motives, your means are unjustified."

"And what are you going to do about it?"

"Stop you, if possible. If you do manage to go through with it, the monster you become will be destroyed."

"Very well, Mr. Giles," Rebecca said. "Consider war declared. I don't believe that we will be needing your consulting services on this film. Please show yourself out."


Part VI.


"You warned her?!?"

Buffy paced the floor of Giles' living room.

"Buffy, whatever she wishes to become," Giles responded, "the fact is that as of now she is still human. I wasn't trying to warn her. I was trying to dissuade her. What did you want me to do, chop her head off?"

"That would have saved me some trouble," Buffy said.

"Buffy, she's a person. If there's a chance she can be reasoned with, we have to take that chance."

"And what about the people she'll kill if she goes through with it? What kind of chance do they deserve?"

"We can't give up on someone just because they have nefarious intentions," Giles said. "Killing a human is simply not an option."

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare throw that at me! Faith killed that guy! I didn't!"

"Buffy, please! Calm down. I was not in any way referring to that incident. I agree that Ms. Lowell must be stopped. I simply tried to do it as humanely as possible."

"Great," Buffy said. "Just great. So I have to put my neck on the line, the lives of innocent people are risked, all so we can be humane. Giles, this woman is a ticking bomb!"

"The same might be said for Angel."

Buffy's jaw trembled. She shouted:

"You know that's different! He's different! He's trying to do good!"

"He wasn't trying to do good when he attacked Ms. Lowell!"

Buffy's face dropped. "What are you talking about?"

"That nasty experience with Ms. Lowell's first attempt to become a vampire," Giles continued. "She put a drug in Angel's drink. A tranquilizer. It gave him momentary bliss. Which gave Ms. Lowell a momentary encounter with Angelus."

"And you didn't tell me that?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," Giles said sarcastically. "I should have told you that Ms. Lowell tried to seduce Angel in a drugged state so she could become a vampire. I should have told you that she brought out of him the most dangerous enemy you have ever faced. That would have allowed you to keep your objectivity. You've been doing a marvelous job maintaining your objectivity so far!"

"You should have told me! I'm not a child anymore!"

"Then stop acting like one! We're in the business of saving people, not delivering cowboy justice!"

Giles and Buffy averted each other's eyes. The anger had built to the point where both of them realized that it could go to far. Every second that passed seemed like a lifetime. Finally, Buffy said:

"She slept with him."

"No," Giles replied. "The effect of the drug was the sole cause of Angel's...relapse. And it was temporary. He's fine. But it could still happen again. People could get hurt. Human suffering is not always caused by demonic forces. It can just as easily be caused by free will. Angel has that potential for evil. Ms. Lowell has it. We all have it. But were not evil. She's not evil. She's making a rash choice. She's wrong, but that doesn't mean she can't be talked into seeing the error of her ways before she makes a choice that she cannot unmake."

"Fine," Buffy said. "You tried to talk her out of it. You didn't. Now she knows we're on to her. But she doesn't know that we know about Spike."

"It may be time to take care of Spike once and for all," Giles said. "As much as I hate to have you attack a creature that cannot fight, he certainly cannot be reformed. He has on occasion proven useful, and he seemed harmless. However, under the present circumstances, I cannot see any alternative other than...."

A knock at the door interrupted Giles. Buffy and Giles exchanged glances. They weren't expecting any visitors.

Giles walked to the door and opened it. Spike stood in the doorway.

"I need your help," Spike said. "Some crazy bird want's me to make her a vampire."


Part VII.


"So, Spike," Giles said. "Explain to me why you didn't agree to Ms. Lowell's plan."

"I did agree," Spike said. "Anyway, I pretended to agree. But there's no way I'm going through with it."

"I see, Spike," Buffy said. "And that would be because...?"

"Because I'm not a moron," Spike said. "Do you think I want some quack who gives tummy tucks and boob jobs to Rodeo Drive housewives messing around in my skull? I've never even heard of any vampire getting brain surgery. I'm going to get this chip out, but whoever does it is going to bloody well know what they're doing! No way I'm ending up in a wheelchair again."

Giles turned to Buffy and said:

"It seems like a plausible explanation."

"Fine," Buffy said, still looking at Spike. "So you don't want to make a deal with Rebecca Lowell. Why come to us?"

"Because if I don't do it," Spike explained, "some other vamp will, and I don't want to be on the receiving end of some vamps anger if I tell her to sod off. As soon as she becomes a vamp, she'll come after me. That's what I'd do. If it was just her, I wouldn't care. I can take care of some tenderfoot vampire any day. But this lady's rich. If she becomes a vampire, she's going to use that money to put together quite a little entourage around her, and that could be trouble."

"And you thought we'd pay you if you agreed to help us," Giles added.

"I think a hundred should take care of it," Spike said. "Small price to pay for keeping a vamp off the streets."

"No deal," Buffy said. "We're doing you as much of a favor as you're doing us."

"Oh, come on," Spike said. "Fifty? That barely keeps me in blood for a week."

Giles and Buffy exchanged glances. Buffy shrugged.

"Alright," Giles said. "Fifty. But you have help us deal with Ms. Lowell."

"I can't kill her," Spike responded. "Damned chip. But you shouldn't need my help with that."

"That's not an option," Giles said. "We have to find some other way of handling Ms. Lowell."

"Oh, please," Spike sighed. "You humans and your bloody morals. You never have the nerve to go through with any of the unpleasant necessities of life."

"Spike," Giles said, "I am quite proud of the fact that I am not as brutal as you would...."

"Giles, wait," Buffy interrupted. "I think Spike has come up with a solution."

"Yeah," Spike said. "Kill the bitch, and be done with it."

"That's not what I was talking about," Buffy said. "I had something else in mind."


Part VIII.


"Where are you going?"

Oliver stood by the door of Rebecca's trailer while she tied a scarf around her neck.

"I'm meeting someone," Rebecca replied.

"I don't like this," Oliver said. "I'm your agent. If you're meeting someone, I should go."

"It's not that kind of a meeting," Rebecca said.

"Rebecca, are you on something? Is it heroin?"

"Oh, Oliver," Rebecca said. "Don't be silly."

"I'm not being silly. You never tell me anything you're doing. Mysterious papers you won't let me see. Meetings with people you don't tell me about. I have a right to be informed about...."

"You have the right to do what you're told," Rebecca interjected. "And you have no right to lecture me about trust. You had a fake stalker after me, and you didn't tell me. You don't have the right to insist on anything anymore. You have the right to take your ten percent and keep your mouth shut. I'm leaving."

Rebecca walked out of her trailer. Oliver could only watch her go.


Part IX.


Rebecca pushed open the door of the mausoleum. She called out:

"Hello?"

"Come on in, luv," Spike called from the back of the mausoleum.

Rebecca entered and closed the door behind her.

Buffy and Giles watched Rebecca enter the tomb from behind a tree. As the door closed, Giles said:

"And now we wait."

"I hope this works," Buffy said.

"So do I," Giles said. "I hate to pay Spike fifty dollars for nothing."

"I hate to think of what we might have to do if this doesn't work," Buffy added.

Inside the mausoleum, Rebecca walked toward the back of the room. Spike was sitting on the floor with a cat on his lap. Rebecca asked:

"Pet?"

"Snack," Spike responded. "I can't always wait for Willy's deliveries. Do you have the money?"

"Here," Rebecca said, throwing a large envelope toward Spike. He picked it up off the floor, looked inside, then dropped the cat to the ground and said:

"Alright. Take off the scarf."

Rebecca swallowed, pulled the scarf off her neck, and allowed it to drop to the ground. She asked:

"Will this hurt?"

"Only until you're dead," Spike responded as he stood up. "Let's get to it."

Spike walked up to Rebecca. His face morphed into it's vamp form. Rebecca gasped. Spike looked into her eyes, then bent his head toward her neck. Rebecca closed her eyes and held her breath.

"Arrrghh!"

Rebecca recoiled as Spike screamed in agony. He was bending down and grasping the sides of his head. Rebecca asked:

"What's wrong?"

"Damn chip," Spike said, standing upright. "I thought that if I had your permission, and if I wasn't going to drain all of you, it wouldn't kick in. Apparently this bloody chip cares more about your health than you do."

"Dammit," Rebecca exclaimed. "That's just great. Look, if you can't deliver, I'll just take my money back, and...."

"No, wait," Spike said. "I've got an idea."

Spike turned to the back of the mausoleum, saw the cat on the ground, picked it up, and said to Rebecca:

"It's the swapping of blood that's important. Normally, I'd drink you, and you'd drink me. Well, we'll just use Tabby here as a kind of a go-between."

Spike sank his teeth into the cat. Rebecca squirmed almost as much as the cat as Spike drained the animal. Spike lifted his head. Blood dripped from the corners of his mouth. The cat was twitching slightly.

"Alright," Spike said, handing the cat to Rebecca. "Tuck in."

Rebecca raised her hands. She gulped as she felt the warm feline body laying in her hands. She asked:

"Isn't there some other way?"

"Oh, come on," Spike said. "If you're squeamish about a cat, how are you going to like it when you've got a set of fangs and you have to chew on a human neck? Look, it's easy. You just open wide, bite down, and suck on it. You know, kind of like the way you suck a lemon after a tequila shot."

Rebecca paused, and then opened her mouth. She trembled as she lifted the cat to her mouth.

"Remember," Spike said. "You've got to get through the skin to hit a vein, so really dig into it. If you don't hit bone, you're not there."

Rebecca winced. She dropped the cat. One hand went to her stomach, the other went to her mouth. She bent over, and screamed:

"Damn Bob Barker!"

She turned and ran for the door.

From outside, Buffy and Giles saw Rebecca running from the mausoleum, sobbing.

"There," Giles said. "She couldn't do it. She's an absolute wreck. I actually feel sorry for her."

Buffy replied:

"I feel sorrier for the cat."


Epilogue


Giles pulled his car up to the curb in front of Buffy's dorm.

"Well," Giles said, "that went well."

"For now," Buffy replied. "She may try again."

"It's always possible that a person can choose evil over good," Giles said. "But I doubt Ms. Lowell will make another attempt. She stopped, and this time it wasn't because she was scared of being harmed. It was because she was scared of what she would become."

"I guess," Buffy said. "I suppose it's been tough for her."

"We always think that people who are rich are also happy," Giles said. "It's easy to forget that the higher one soars, the greater the fear of falling."

"I guess Spike's performance was convincing," Buffy said.

"It must have been," Giles responded. "I wish I could have seen it."

"Giles," Buffy said. "There's something I need to know. About how a person becomes a vampire."

"Well, Buffy," Giles said. "It's pretty basic. You know the process. The vampire drinks from the victim. The victim drinks the blood of the vampire...."

"I know that," Buffy interrupted. "But does the victim have a choice? I mean, do they know what they're doing? Can they choose not to drink the blood, not to become a monster, to just die?"

Giles paused. The Council had told him that the Slayer might ask this question eventually, and he should be prepared with a lie. Giles decided that Buffy deserved to know the truth.

"No one knows," Giles said. "There is a theory that the victim goes into a sort of hypnotic trance, and drinks the blood on command. But there's no way to be sure. It is just as probable that the victim, facing death, chooses to grasp whatever semblance of life that's offered, despite the consequences. Since vampires usually don't talk about it, and are generally untrustworthy in any event, there's no reliable source. Angel is the only vampire known to have ever regained a soul. I would suppose that he's the only person who could really say with any credibility how it happens."

"I know," Buffy said. "But I could never bring myself to ask him."

"One can certainly sympathize with the victim," Giles said, "if in fact it is a choice. At the moment of death one can make desperate decisions."

"But that doesn't make it right," Buffy said. "I've seen so many people, including my friends, become vampires. It's easy to kill the demon inside them. But outside, they look the same. They talk the same. When I kill them, they...scream...the same. It's always been easier to pretend that there was no part of the person left in the vampire, that the person's gone and it's not their fault that their body is being used for evil. But if it's a choice, then that's not really true, is it?"

"I don't have an answer," Giles said. "You're already past the point where I can answer every question you have."

"Sometimes I get angry," Buffy continued. "Not at the vampires, but at the people they were. All the death, all the pain that's caused. Professor Walsh said in psych class that it's natural to be angry at a person when they die, even though it isn't their fault."

"Well, she would have known," Giles said. "She was responsible for enough death to be an expert."

Buffy smiled. She opened the passenger door of Giles car and got out. She closed the door, and said:

"See ya, Giles. Thanks for the help."

Giles watched to make sure Buffy got safely into the dorm, and drove away.

Back at the mausoleum, Spike counted out the money from Rebecca's envelope. It was all there. Fifty thousand dollars. And there was no way in Hell she'd ever dare come back for it.

"Well," Spike said aloud, "it looks like Spike isn't going to have to nibble on any kitties for awhile."

THE END


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