by Karen

Xander, his hand tightly holding onto Chloe's elbow, guided her footsteps up the stairs the fifth floor of their apartment building. They walked down the hallway, and when they came to their door of their apartment; he paused long enough to shuffle around in his pockets until he emerged with the keys. He unlocked the door and removed the silk scarf they had used as a blindfold. It was dark, and Chloe half-expected Xander to turn on the lights, when she nearly collapsed back into his arms, when she noticed movement in the living room, and suddenly a loud shout went up: "Surprise!"

Someone turned on the lights, and Dawn, Willow, Tara, and Giles trying to blend into the paint of the mural hanging on the wall, emerged from their hiding places behind the cream-colored sofa.

"If I am not mistaken, traditional ceremonies like these, or baby showers, are supposed to be held before the baby is born, not after," Giles said.

"I know, but we're not that much for following tradition," Xander replied.

"What have you decided for a name," Giles asked, cradling the small infant with its mop of tangled brown curls and intense brown eyes. He rocked the baby on his knee as she reached out a small hand to gently yank on the frames of his glasses. Giles unsuccessfully tried to coax the baby girl into exploring other items on his person, for instance the baby pacifier and the bottle of formula. Of all the duties he had anticipated performing since accepting the position as the Slayer's Watcher, even though he no longer officially held that title anymore; by extent, he felt a certain responsibility for the entire group. He had not anticipated to fill the role of Watcher, confidant, and surrogate father to the entire group, let alone this most recent addition. But here he was, playing grandfather to a child. On one hand, it made him feel older than his 40-odd years. On the other hand, he wondered what he would do if he'd been the father. Well, it was too late to worry about that.

"Her name is Christabel Zoe Harris," Xander answered.

"We really thought it was going to be a boy," Dawn said. "And if anybody had bothered to ask me, which they didn't, I think they should have gone with Kendall or Colin."

"Now that the baby is here," Willow murmured, "Uhm. I'm not really sure how to put this, but are you guys going to get married?"

"We really haven't thought that far ahead," Chloe. "I suppose that would be the next logical step." Turning her attention to her daughter, Chloe rubbed her hand through her tangled red curls, and considered this small person: It appeared that her daughter's features: the dark hair, and dark eyes, and the snub of a nose were almost identical to Xander's, except all duplicated in miniature. "Which," she thought, "is probably a good thing." "Christabel." Chloe said, a note of reproval in her voice.

At the sound of her name, the baby sat up, wriggled around, and crawled over to Willow, who immediately picked her up and settled her onto her lap. Willow began running her fingers through the tangled brown strands, trying to bring some order to them. The baby cooed and then fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Tara went into the kitchen and brought out a platter of crackers and cheese, and with Tara's help opened up and passed around lemon flavored wine spritzers. "It's time to open the presents.'

"Oh." Dawn said. "How much of this were you in on?" turning to Chloe.

"I figured I would leave the decisions up to them," Chloe replied. "It's my first time."

"It's weird," Xander said. "When she first told me we were going to have a baby, I freaked, and then I fainted. Not necessarily in that order."

"Don't feel bad, " Willow said. "I guess all guys react that way," Tara added.

"There's one thing I still don't understand," Dawn added.

"Yes?' Giles asked.

"Why didn't they tell us when they knew for sure that Chloe was pregnant?" Dawn asked.

"I wasn't sure," Chloe trailed off. "I didn't know how." She shrugged. "I'm sorry. I

guess I'm still not very good at this sort of thing." Sitting on the sectional sofa beside Xander and unwrapped each present as it was handed to her. Christabel had taken a shine to the colorful wrapping paper that Chloe had removed from the presents and, sprawled flat on her stomach.

Because Willow and Tara were the brains behind the operation, she unwrapped their presents first. They pair had chipped in and bought a car-seat upholstered in blue and purple fabric, it's handle painted the same shade. Giles had given them an antique silver cup, and on it's surface he had engraved Christabel's name. Dawn's present was a card and envelope with money inside of it. It was extravagant, and she'd agonized for weeks over exactly the right gift to buy, but the sentiment and the personalized note she'd written in the margins, felt expressed what she wanted to convey far better than a store- bought gift.

"It's the thought that counts," Chloe whispered, getting to her feet, and giving Dawn a hug. "Thank you, Dawn. Thank you, everyone." She hadn't realized how much human emotions could overwhelm a person, or how they much they meant to people. Her green eyes shimmered. "How can I be happy and sad at the same time.? She thought, and then pushed it to the back of her mind.

"You know, most of the gifts are for her, but at this age, she'd be just as content with the wrapping paper and the cardboard boxes," Giles said, watching her assembled the ribbons and paper into separate piles.

"I really wish Buffy could have come," Xander said, watching Chloe open the presents and Christabel gather up the discards.

"She's on patrol," Giles replied.

"Willow and I should really get going if we expect to make our evening lecture," Tara said.

"Hope you enjoyed the party, but it's late and we really should be going," Willow added.

"You see, Chloe wants me to become a co-ed along with the rest of you," Xander replied.

"You are actually going to attend college? Willow asked.

"It's never too late to start." Besides, she thinks it's good for me," Xander added.

"But I'm probably going to need help."

"You could always find a competent daycare facility. I believe that they have one on campus. Although, I am unfamiliar with the system used by American college campuses; I believe they are geared more for students majoring in that field to have a practical hands-on experience," Giles said.

"Isn't Christabel a little young for that sort of thing?" Chloe asked.

"Not really, but you should check their references, " Giles said.

"How are we going to afford something like that?" Xander asked.

"I've done some checking into that, luv." Chloe said. "You could always apply for financial aid. In the meantime, I was thinking about applying for a job at your construction company. They have a position open for a trainee in blueprint drafting."

Xander almost choked on his lemon spritzer, and was only able to swallow down the mouthful of lemon flavored liquid when Willow came up behind him and gave him a few swift whacks on his back. "You what?"

"Hmm, working together at the same company, this could prove interesting," Willow said. "Keep me posted, " Willow added as she gave Xander and Chloe a hug.

"Do you mind babysitting, Dawn? I don't know how much time I'll have to take care of her." Xander said.

"We`ll pay you," Chloe added. "Although, I wouldn't want to miss classes or other social activities. "

Dawn stared at the wall mural for a few minutes, than it gradually clicked, that she being asked to accept a task that involved responsibility for another human life, other than her own. They trusted with an adult job, something payment for a service. As these thoughts were going through her head, she realized that everyone was staring at her expectantly; she nodded and brushed back the strands of ash-blond hair that kept getting into her eyes: "OK, I'll do it.. "


Midnight. Buffy sprinted across the fifty yards of blacktop that separated the train yard from the cemetery. Covering the distance in record time, she paused to take stock of her surroundings and check for potential hostiles. The night air was cool on her flushed face, and she was running high on adrenaline rush, scanning her surroundings for any signs of vampire activity. She allowed her shoulders to slump a bit when no creatures of the night made their presence known, or jumped out hiding to take a stab at her.

Turning on her heels, Buffy back-tracked on her own route, and figured she would make another sweep of the area, just for the sake of a job well done. Despite what Giles might think, she took her job as the Slayer seriously, and wouldn't be caught with settling for half-measures during one of her nightly patrols.

Turning the corner, that led into the public park, Buffy stopped to catch her breath, her hands resting on her knees, and sucking in chill, but refreshing night air. She walked over to a nearby park bench, and tilted her head back, until her blond hair cascaded down her back. She looked straight up into the velvet black sky, where the first stars were coming out. It was a glorious night, when her sense sharpened, and she could faintly hear the echoes of an eerie howl, almost but not quite like that of a wolf; but it sound too high- pitched to be a wolf. "What the hell was that?" she muttered aloud to herself. Just that instant, Buffy glanced up at the moon, only a quarter full, and could have sworn she glimpsed the silhouette of wings gliding across the surface of the moon.

"Better be getting back," Buffy decided. "Want to ask Giles about what I saw."


Meanwhile, a hammering at her door woke Dawn from a drowsy half- sleep. She rolled over and glanced at the glass-fronted surface of the antique clock resting on the fireplace mantel; her mother had picked it up at one of the galleries she used to work for. Thinking of her mother, always made her sad, even though she knew that she was gone; it still hurt sometimes to see these reminders of their mother all around her.

Each time, it just hurt too much. She' cried out all the tears left in her and she just wanted to hide.

Buffy had told her she had to be strong, that she had to let go, and move on. That was all right for Buffy, she was the strong one. She was the Slayer, but sometimes it felt like for Dawn, she was all by herself.

Dawn stood up and made sure that Christabel was sleeping peacefully in her carrier.

It wouldn't do, that now that she'd been entrusted with this new responsibility, to blow it. In the back of her mind, "About time, everyone stop treating me like a kid. I'm not made of glass. I won't shatter into a thousand pieces if I'm dropped on the floor." Then again...."

Dawn went to the front door, responding to the insistent and somewhat demanding knocking, her homework lying sprawled in a pile on the coffee table. She peered through the spy hole and saw a red-headed woman, dressed in a tight-fitting business suit, that by some coincidence, matched exactly the shade of her hair. She could have been either a entrepreneur running late for a emergency midnight emergency session, or a super-model in search of a photo shoot; Dawn didn't want to take any chances. "Who are you?" Dawn demanded, her voice trembling.

"Dominque Destine." the strange woman replied.

"What do you want?"

"Thank you, my dear. Might I trouble you for use of your phone?" she asked.

"I'm not supposed to open the door to strangers," Dawn replied.

"Excellent precaution, " the woman said. "I can appreciate when young modern woman have been properly raised."

"I guess, it would be okay, just one quick call," Dawn replied, detecting a faint foreign accent, and guessing it was French from the name supplied by the strange woman.

The woman nodded and walked in, Dawn pointed to the phone hanging on its hook in the living room wall, and decided she would look in on the baby while the woman made her phone call.

The baby was sound asleep, and Dawn resumed her position on the sofa, relaxing into a half-alert doze, pretending not to listen in on the woman's conversation, while trying not to make it obvious that she was eavesdropping. She'd be in trouble if she was making a long distance call to somewhere everyone spoke French or some other language, but the woman was speaking in English.

"I've been delayed, reschedule the board meeting for another week. It does not matter if they board of directors grumble and complain; they will simply have to wait until I can turn my attention to them. Please arrange it." Dawn heard the woman say, and then the click as the phone was replaced back in its cradle.


"Thank you for allowing me to use your phone, I've misplaced mine. I couldn't find a phone anywhere, " Mrs. Destine said. "I hate to impose, but might I rest here for a bit, I promise not to be any trouble. It's just pouring out there, and I'd like to regroup before heading out there again."

"Sure," Dawn shrugged. "What do you do?"

"I'm here on business, and I run my own company. It sometimes seems is that when I'm gone, nothing gets done right." I'm sorry, where are my manners, we were never even properly introduced." You are?" Domnique sat down in the leather reclining chair.

"Dawn Summers."

" A lovely name."

"What company are you with?" Dawn asked, thinking that maybe she be paying more attention to her current events class, or watching more news.

"How inquisitive. I admire that trait in the young. It's rather sad that in this age of technology, many of our young are in over their heads in errant nonsense." Dominque said.

"I'm not stupid,' Dawn shouted.

"No child," she soothed. " "Just these few minutes with you, I could determine that. And to answer your original question; I've started up my own company, Nightstone Unlimited. In the beginning, it was a partnership, in the early days. However, I now run the company."

"What happened to your partner?" Dawn asked. "Where is the company headquarters?"

"We`re based out of New York. "As for my partner, it's a shame, really," Domnique replied. "He met with an unfortunate accident, and was no longer able to help run the company."


"T feel like I've known you forever, even though we've never met before this, " Domnique said.

"All the same, tell me about yourself."

"Not much to tell,' Dawn shrugged, blowing off the question.

"I'm in high school, I have an older sister, and I just lost my mother." End of story."

"Hmm, " Dominque tapped her one well manicured fingernail on the armrest of her chair. "Dawn, have you ever given any thought to what you want to be when you grow up, or better put, what you'll do once you graduate from high school?"

"I guess not," Dawn shrugged. "I mean, most of the kids I know here in Sunnydale, don't think they'll ever get out of this town."

"What if I could offer you an alternative?"

Dawn narrowed her eyes, thinking she that there must be some ulterior motive to the offer, subconciscously sensing something not quite right and dangerous about Dominque, but she couldn't put her finger on exactly what it was that was bothering her. She shoved it to the back of her mind, and leaned forward. "What kind of alternative?"

"It just so happens that I have an opening at Nightstone Unlimited for a paid internship, and although we haven't exactly gone through the formal application and interview process, " Domnquie laughed, " I think you would be a perfect candidate."

"Me?" Dawn asked, taken off guard.

Dominque smiled, "Yes, you."

"I'd have to think about it," Dawn hesitated, wondering what Buffy would have had to stay about all of this.


Spike rushed into the room of the Magic Shop, his entrance causing the metal wind chimes hung over the entrance to jangle with a teeth- jarring clang.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Xander yelled, dropping the box of onyx worry stones he had been assigned to stock the display shelves with. Upon impact with the floor, they made a loud clink and shuffle as the were shifted around in the newspaper they had been wrapped in, to prevent breakage.

"I did not come here, git," Spike shouted back, "because I enjoy the pleasure of yer company. This is important." Spike ignored Xander and all but hurtled himself towards Buffy like the magnetic needle of compass seeking true north. His fists were clenched and his eyes were bloodshot. Not unusual in that, for being a vampire that was normal for him, especially when he'd been drinking heavily.

"Spike, what's wrong?" Buffy said.

"I found this at the house. Dawn's gone. All that was left in the place, was this note." Spike said. "Someone's taken the little bit. Not that it's any of your business, but I'm rather find of the kid, bugger that," Spike replied.

"Dawn's missing?" Buffy took the crumpled sheet of paper from Spike and read it aloud.

`If you ever want to see either girl again, you will come to New York, and bring a ransom of $1 million dollars. Only then will I be willing to negotiate for their release and take the Slayer in exchange. Come alone" .=Demona.

Buffy clenched her hand into a fist, crumpling the paper, and then tossed it into the nearby waste basket.

"My little girl!" Chloe shouted.

"Why do you care?" Xander tried.

"Who's Demona?" Giles asked.

"Never heard of her," Spike shrugged.

"That's a comfort," Buffy muttered. "I could hit the streets, pump you know-who for information."

"Wait a minute," Willow interrupted, "Didn't the note say we have to go to New York?"

"We don't have that kind of money. Not to mention getting all the way across country," Xander said.

"I, however, do." A woman's low-throaty voice came from the threshold of the Magic Shop's open doorway.

"Nice outfit," Buffy commented, eyeing the newcomer's tight-fitting red and blue outfit that looked she had ordered out of Guns & Ammo weekly. It was very form-fitting, and covered her lithe but well- muscled body like a second skin, but left her arms bare. The skin showing was white as a lily, but not quite as pale as vampire's. The strange woman had platinum blond hair piled on top of her head in a tight knot. She dripped with sweat and thin tendrils of her hair plastered to her forehead.

"Who the hell are you?" Buffy demanded. Buffy tried to contrast the woman's confident and arrogant attitude with that of her old flame, Riley Finn to the mental picture she still had of him and the Initivative, and grimaced at the differences.

"Robyn Canmore." she replied.

"Color us so not impressed," Buffy said. `As if `that' explained everything." she thought to herself.

"Let's establish some ground rules, right here and now, so there's no such of any confusion later. You're going with me to get your loved ones back. You can't trust the Demon to uphold her end of any bargain," Robyn said.

"The Demon?" Tara wondered.

"What else would you call her?" Robyn shrugged.

"What kind of bone do you have to pick with her?" Giles asked.

"I have to avenge a blood debt. One centuries old." Robyn replied. "You wouldn't understand, and it's too complicated to get into further right now. Suffice it to say, you're going along on sufferance. But when push comes to shove, I've got first dibs on Demona."

"Vengeance?" Buffy asked.

"Yes." Robyn replied. "Not that it's any of your concern."

"That may be, " Chole yelled, but choked and what she wanted to say, then opened her mouth to try again.

"I think we deserve more than that," Xander yelled. "I for one, would like to know exactly what we're up against. And one thing I don't understand, is what a gargoyle, even one's that admittedly insane, would want with ransom money?"

"She's a gargoyle. She's been around since the Dark Ages, specifically circa 994 AD. She was trained a sorceress, and made a deal with a Trio of witches called the Weird Sisters, to become immortal. For the last ten thousand years Demona has been engaged in one scheme after another to destroy humanity, mainly her malice was provoked when humanity betrayed her kind, so now she believes that all humans are her enemy, or worse her prey," Robyn added,

"Prey?" Willow echoed, arching an eyebrow.

"Hey, Chloe. Remember the last group of gargoyles we encountered, " Xander nodded. "That Goliath was all gung ho about how gargoyles protect, in fact, he struck me as being over-protective. "

"I remember. Turning back to confront Robyn once more. We're going with you," Chloe added, wrapping her hand around Xander's her lips pressed together to keep from crying. For a flash of a second she wondered if she had made a mistake in her choose all those months ago, when she had chosen to stay in Sunnydale, and accepting the proposition put forth by the Weird Sisters, by not returning to Avalon, she had become mortal, and given up her magic. She had grown to love Xander, their child, and their friends, especially Willow, and Tara, along with Buffy and Dawn.

"I'm going after Dawn." Buffy fingered the edge of her wooden stake, her blue eyes icy. She knew she couldn't afford to lose her resolve about going, nor could she afford to trust this woman. In the back of her mind, she wanted very much to lay the blame for this mess squarely on this Robyn's blue-flared shoulders. If it hadn't been for her, they wouldn't even have been in Sunnydale, and Dawn would have been spared being kidnapped. Although, given the kind of live they lived in Sunnydale, Dawn wasn't that much of a stranger to the weirdness that seemed to inundate their lives. With their mother recently deceased, Slayer or not, Buffy knew it was her job to protect Dawn, above and beyond the call of duty as Dawn's older sister.

They're was never any doubt that we'd have to go after them, " Xander added

"Any idea what Demona might do to them?"

"I don't normally take on passengers," Robyn said," but I'm willing to make an exception in this case."

" I don't want to guess, " Buffy interrupted. "I want to know!"

"I don't know about the rest of you," Willow said, "But I remember the last time Sunnydale was left undefended. If the minions of darkness get wind that the Slayer is away, the town will be left wide open. "

"Then we will stay here, " Giles decided, "Byt that I mean, Willow, Tara, and Spike., and myself."

"Agreed," Buffy decided, and no arguments." as she took her attention off of her weapons. She glared at the indignant vampire, who had just sprung to his feet from his seated position on the floor, and was about to launch a protest. "

"If you're finished here," Robyn glared at around at everyone in general, "I suggest we depart immediately for New York. My helicopter is waiting outside."


The helicopter's rotors ground to a halt and landed on the landscaped grounds of the Cloisters. The moonlight left dappled patches of shadow across the grass and left hollows in the lead paned windows. The place was big, and although she didn't know much about architecture, it looked like the place had belonged to several different centuries; none of which was the present. I had red brick stones, a peaked roof, and large double doors.

"Are you certain this is the right place?" Xander asked, getting off, and then handing Chloe down and waiting for everyone else to get off as well.

"Yes," Robyn said, dismissing them from her thoughts completely.

"It's called The Cloisters." a deep bass voice rumbled directly behind his back startling Xander and making him jump. When he recovered, he turned around and saw the granite, but handsome face of the big male gargoyle, called Goliath he met about a year ago. *add description*

"Geez. " Xander griped. "Could you not sneak up on people."

"My apologies, Harris, isn't it?" Goliath said. "I recall that incident with the Weird Sisters. I do hope things turned out for the best."

"Yeah, everything's fine, how did you know to come here." Xander replied

"We were about to ask you the same thing, lad," Hudson said.

"I think I'll field that one, " Elisa answered. "We received an anonymous tip that indicated that there would be trouble going down here tonight."

"You a cop?" Buffy asked.

Elisa just smiled and pulled out her police badge from her jacket pocket and brandished it around.

"The reason we're here, is that Demona's holding two kids hostage," Buffy answered. "One of them is my sister, Dawn, the other is their little girl, Christabel."

"Say no more," Angela said, "We understand. We will be glad to help in any way we can."

"Angela is my daughter," Goliath said. "I could not bear the thought of anything happening to her, so count me in as well."

"You haven't had the opportunity to meet the rest of the Clan," Hudson said, "I am Hudson, that is Brooklyn, the one with the red coloring, who's sulking...."

"I am not!" Brooklyn snapped.

"Oh, you could have fooled me, lad," Hudson teased.

"The big one with the belly and in love, is Broadway, and that last but not least, this is Lexington." Hudson finished the round of introductions. I believe you have already meet Goliath, Angela, Elisa Maza, and Bronx."

Xander shrugged, and introduced his companions as well.

Just then, Bronx, his corkscrew tail whirling in double time, hung as close as possible to Xander's heels, bumping him with his flat head; almost knocking him down.

"Heel, boy," Hudson ordered. "I think he likes you.

"Oh, I think he definitely likes you, Xander" Chloe said, nervously giving the garg-dog a cautious pat on the head, recalling the circumstances of their last meeting.

Xander glanced down and resisted the urge to rub the garg-dog between his bat-winged ears. See those ears and that tail, brought back memories back of the first time that they had met. Bronx had been bound and determined to give his face a through face-washing, not to mention sit on him. Bronx looked just as big as ever, although it looked like whoever was responsible for feeding him had cut down on the rations. "Ah, good boy," he tried.

"Let's go." Buffy led the way, yanking on the carved door knocker, and opened the door.


"I don't care what kind of personal grudges you've got against this Demona," Buffy interrupted. "She's got my sister, and come hell or high water, I'm going to get Dawn back."

"Hey, not to mention she's got our baby and we'll get her back too," Chloe said.

"We'll get them both back," Xander replied.

"We're here. Now what?" Buffy demanded.

"We split up. That way we cover more territory, The Cloisters is a maze, and there's no telling how many traps and security measures Demona has set into place. She no doubt knows where by now, " Goliath said.

"Enough of this," Robyn snapped. "This is a far as you go. From here on in, you're on your own."

"I don't trust you," Chloe turned to confront Robyn.

"No reason why you should, either of you," she added, staring Goliath with a sneer.

"Let's go," Chloe said.


"I hate it here, " Brooklyn muttered under his breath.

"Hey, bro," Broadway said out of the side of his mouth, his bat- winged ears flapping in the cool night breeze. "No one is ever gonna trust Demona. How long are you gonna hold onto your personal grudge against her? So, this was the scene of the big temptation, where she tried to convince you to come over to her side and do the sorcery mojo on Goliath. It ain't the place that matters, bro."

Brooklyn stared at him, "When did you become so wise?"

Broadway grinned, "I am in love. That makes me so wise in matters of the heart, or so Angela tells me."

"Oh, brother," Brooklyn sighed.

Angela laughed and smacked Brooklyn on the back, and nearly upsetting his balance.

"He understands, " Angela smiled. "He just doesn't like to admit that he does." Angela pulled back a swath of velvet curtain that concealed yet another hidden passageway and wondered how they would ever find Demona in this maze.

"Oh, I'm sure," Brooklyn replied. "I've blocked out the entire incident, it's not something I'd care to relive; even though Goliath forgave me. At the same time, I can remember my way around here pretty good."

"So, we're on the right track?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah," Brooklyn replied.

"Be prepared for anything, Demona is bound to have defenses prepared."

No sooner than Goliath said that, Hudson, Broadway, and Bronx smacked into an invisible force field seemingly made of nothing more than air. Bronx butted his head against it several times, forward, backed up, forward, backed up; growled at the block in his path. Hudson came forward and grabbed the garg-dog by the scruff of his neck, and patted him on the head. With his free hand, he punched the invisible barrier, with disappointing results.

"Now what?" Elisa asked.

"Maybe she'll..."" Buffy began, but was cut off.

Goliath tried, and received an unpleasant tingling sensation that made his entire frame shake. He gathered his wings around him, and adopted a thoughtful pose.

"Look, we don't have all night," Xander shouted, nervously pacing back and forth. "There has to be a way through this thing.


"My, my," Demona purred. "I told you to come alone, but if I'd known I was to receive so many unexpected guests, I would have baked a cake." Demona smiled, her teeth gleaming in the light of wall torches in their brackets on the walls. In the dim lighting it looked more like the rictus grin of a skeleton, coming into view behind yet another tapestry, this one depicting a unicorn hunt, all very Medieval. She had dropped her human semblance, and caped her wings so it draped over her shoulders like a cloak. Her eyes blazed red. "Slayer. You've brought the ransom money?"

"Yeah, the kind that goes boom." Xander replied, thinking back as he did so to the time he'd been recruited into a gang of thugs who just happened to be undead as their wheel-man and had driven around town raising the dead, literally, and picking up ingredients to blow up the Sunnydale high school. It had been one of the most surreal nights of his life, and that was understatement in a town like that.

Demona ignored him, and stared at Buffy. "The Slayer, I presume?" and the entire Manhattan Clan. I should be so honored."

"Don't play dumb," Buffy demanded, "You know why I'm here, Where's Dawn?" And what do you want with us?

"She's around. But I told you to come alone, " Demona purred, and here you are, in stereo no less."

"Buffy! Dawn shouted, "Over here!" from where she had been tied to a folding chair by beside a crib where Christabel lay in a wooden crib. The shouting and the explosions awakened her, and she began wailing.

"Dawn!" Buffy yelled back. "Hang on, just a little longer! I'm coming!"

"Christabel!" Chloe shouted.

Just then, a loud explosion came from the opposite side of chamber, and Robyn, clad in full body-armor burst through the wall. Over one shoulder was arguably one of the biggest guns that Xander had ever seen; not even the Initiative's soldiers had toted guns that big.

"Time has come, demon, " Robyn shouted, firing off several blasts at Demona.

Demona whirled around, instinctively dodged the blasts, hurtled herself forward, and slammed into her enemy with enough force that made her resemble a linebacker in full blitz, knocking the gun away, where it collided into the opposite wall.

"Who knows," Xander shrugged. "We should be so luck and they'll finish each other off."

"No such luck, lad," Hudson shrugged, rubbing his burnt hands.


Buffy gathered herself and got a running start, bracing herself for the electric tingle against her skin; it came, but it wasn't as bad as she had expected. She burst through the invisible force field, wondering what made her think she could take either of the two opponents with her bare hands. Mentally kicking herself for not having brought along more weapons than just wooden stakes.

Xander and Chloe, standing frozen in shock for an instant, followed her through the force field.

On the other side, Elisa and the rest of the Manhattan clan were left with looks on their faces of mingled puzzlement and worry.


Meanwhile Robyn and Demona exchanged blows, both snarling with fury. Demona lashed out with a fist and it connected with a solid right hook to Robyn's jaw. "I hate those who betray me." she snarled under her breath.

"You're a fine one to talk!" Robyn shouted back, her head snapping back from the force of the blow, and returned the favor with a left hook to Demona's jaw. The two separated and took a mutual step back to reassess their strategy. Robyn gasped for air, and a made as if to go for her laser blaster where it lay on the floor about two yard from her present position. Demona grabbed her around the waist, and tossed her in the other direction,; sliding across the marble floor of the chamber, and finally came to a halt.

"Hey, remember me? The Slaye?" Buffy shouted. "I don't like being upstaged."

Demona turned around at the sound of her voice.


"I've spotted where Dawn and Christabel are being held, " Chloe whispered to Xander. "Let's take advantage of the situation and go rescue them."

"I'm with you all the way," Xander whispered back, taking her arm and running with her to the far darkened part of the room.

"Buffy! Help me!" Dawn shouted, squirming around in her chair, trying to loosen the ropes that bound her arms and legs.

"We're coming, Dawn!" Chloe shouted, trying to find Dawn in the darkness by the sound of her voice. "Keep shouting, we're almost there!"

"I found them!" Xander shouted, rubbing his shin where he had bumped into the chair and then into the wooden crib.

Chloe ran up beside him and knelt down next to Dawn's chair. "Dawn, hold still. I can't see very in the dark. I'll have to use the knife I brought along to cut the ropes. "

"Okay," Dawn whispered back, holding still.

Chloe began cutting the ropes, hoping that was all she was cutting, it wouldn't do to either pink Dawn's skin or heaven forbid, slash a wrist.

Meanwhile, Xander heaved a sigh of relief when he removed the velvet blank from the crib and reached inside to make sure that baby Christabel was inside and safe. He picked her up, and tried to shush her insistent wailings.

"Thanks for the save, guys," Dawn said. "Is Buffy here?"

"She's here," Chloe replied, blinking a bit as all the lights in the room came on at once.

"Buffy!" Dawn screamed, grabbing the knife that Chloe had used to free from the binding ropes and rushed into the fight, leaving Xander and Chloe behind with the baby and worried looks on their faces. "We'd better go after her," Xander said, when he'd recovered breath to speak.

"Right," Chloe nodded.


Meanwhile Demona and Buffy faced each other. "So you're the Slayer?" Demona purred. "I've heard a great deal about you. Dawn is quite devoted to you. You may have her back, after you've paid the ransom of course. "

"Not even a snowflake's chance in hell," Buffy replied.

"Well, I guess we'll have to do things the hard way," Demona said.

"Fine by me," Buffy replied, "That's the way I like them." With that, Buffy propelled herself forward, her right leg extended for a judo kick to Demona's middle rib section. It connected with a satisfying thud, but on the follow through, she found her foot in Demona's hands and herself thrown over her shoulder. Demona had resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book, using her opponent's own momentum against her.

Buffy tucked herself into a roll and went head over heels, and whirled around for another attack, this time on the defensive.

Demona came at her , again with similarity to a full blitz, both hands clenched into fists and began

hammering at Buffy, who took the blows on her crossed forearms.

Just then, Dawn rushed into the fight, the knife held upright in her clenched fist, oblivious of the tears that streaked her face, followed almost on her heels by Xander and Chloe; the latter holding Christabel wrapped up in his jacket.

"Face it," Buffy said. "It's over."

"For you, maybe." Demona snarled, her tail lashing out and tried to sweep Buffy off of her feet. Buffy dodged it and swung her fist for another solid right hook, her eyes icy blue.


Demona fled the chamber, her piercing screech mingled rage and frustration, not having expected the Slayer to give her a difficult fight, not to mention thwarted again by Goliath and the rest of his gargoyle clan. "Why must they always ruin my fun?" she thought to herself as she glided away on the rising night thermals.


"Goliath, the spell should be broken now," ELisa said, "I think it may have gone when Demona was no longer concentrating on maintaining it." Elisa stepped forward, carefully avoiding cracks and bits of broken marble. She had drawn her .38 caliber gun, cocked and loaded at Robyn Canmore. "Guess what?

"What?" Robyn muttered, gasping, the wind knocked out of her, having finally regained consciousness.

"You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to attorney. If you do not have an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the state. Do you understand these rights as I've explained them to you?" Elisa finished, one foot resting on Robyn's arm.

"Go to hell!" Robyn spit out.

"You'll end up there eventually, I've no doubt," Elisa evenly replied. "For the immediate future, after you've had trial, you'll be going to jail."

"Agreed," Goliath said, marching into the chamber, followed by Elisa and the rest of the Manhattan clan.

"I should known the offer was too good to be true," Dawn sobbed. "She was so persuasive, so beautiful. I wanted to believe her. One thing, I don't understand, how come she looked human if she's really a gargoyle?"

"How come we couldn't kill her?" Buffy asked, holding a sobbing Dawn in her arms, biting her own lips to keep from crying in sheer relief that her sister was safe and sound.

"Demona's immortal, lass," Hudson rumbled. `Thanks to a magical spell cast by the Weird Sisters a thousand years ago. She and a fellow by the name of Macbeth can die, they just can't be killed permanently unless slain by each other's hand."

"How come she looked human, but then changed back into a gargoyle?" Dawn asked.

"Again, thanks to another spell, this one cast by the trickster known as Puck. Demona can take on the semblance of a human during the day, and return to her gargoyle form at night. That she way she avoids having to turn to stone," Goliath answered.

"And here I thought Sunnydale has the market cornered on weirdness," Xander said. " This happen to guys every night?"

"Not every night," Elisa smiled, "just often enough to make life interesting."

"Not that Robyn is going to jail, how will we get back to Sunnydale," Buffy asked.

"Not a problem, We happen to know some with a lot of money and resources at his disposal. I am sure he won't mind, giving you a lift home," Elisa smiled.


"Goliath," you might want to ask him. You know how Xanatos is about lending people his toys," Elisa replied.

"Agreed," Goliath rumbled.

Xander came forward, and picked up Christabel from where she lay in a wooden crib.

"Amazing, she actually slept through the whole thing," Xander smiled down at the little face that looked so much like his own, wondering if that was a good thing or a bad thing, sensing Chloe hovering anxiously beside him. "Is she all right?"

"She's fine, Chloe. Just fine." he replied, drawing her near, and squeezing her hand. "Let's all go home."


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