POOR MISS EDITH

Written by Michael K. Donovan

mike@vmp-canada.com

Author's note: The character of Gabriel was introduced in a previous story I wrote entitled "Divergent Paths".

* * *

Gabriel Giles sat quietly in his hotel room, studying a detailed map of the city of Prague. He had only been off the plane for three hours andalready he had committed the map to memory. He was his father's seventh son, who was, in turn a seventh son himself. That numerical coincidence had gifted him with powers beyond the human norm, not the least of which was an uncanny adaptability. Given enough time and exposure, he could theoretically learn any skill he needed to.

Gabriel had been learning for as long as he could remember, absorbing every skill he could find time for, from wilderness survival to martial arts, training for some unknown destiny that only his father seemed to know about.

When he had just turned thirteen, his father, Peter, had taken him aside and told him that for the next six years, Gabriel would live for one year with each of his six uncles. Gabriel had known that something had been wrong. One of the things that made the Seventh Son special was the fact that he could often sense things that were a mystery to others. His father called it the Second Sight, an ability that was known to occur in other types of people in various forms. Peter wouldn't explain why he was being sent away and Gabriel had already learned early on that the man did not like to be pressed. In the next two years, he was left with little time to contemplate, as his training became even more intensive and his eldest two uncles each concentrated on exposing him to the particular culture in which he lived.

Life had not been so bad, though. He was with family most of the time,his six older brothers taking turns visiting him from time to time. He got along with all of them to varying degrees, but none were as close to him as his oldest brother, Raphael. Aside from the twins, Raguel and Sarial, the eldest and youngest of Peter's sons were the only ones who shared a mother. Raphael had been spending a lot of time with Gabriel since he had come of age, most recently at his uncle's home in Sudan, and, although there were more than four years between them, the two got along amazingly well.

Gabriel admired his oldest brother greatly. Raphael always seemed to be there with a watchful eye or a word of encouragement whenever he needed it. Even in the first days of his training, when Peter had left him and he had felt most alone, Raphael had been there.

Gabriel was fifteen now and had not seen his father in almost two years. Until yesterday, that is. Peter had arrived at his brother Marcus's estate in Sudan and immediately loaded both Gabriel and Raphael onto a plane bound for Czechoslovakia.

Gabriel knew why his father had brought them here, even though he hadn't been told. He had an intense feeling of anticipation and thedistinct impression that his father was readying him for something. H ewas here to be tested, he knew, but against what, he could only imagine.

The door opened swiftly and his father walked briskly in, brushing a fine dusting of snow off the shoulders of his long overcoat. Behind him, Raphael strolled along casually, with his hands buried in his jacket pockets and smiling faintly, content to let the snow melt on its own into his hair.

"Did your business meeting go well, Father?" Gabriel folded the map up and replaced it in the drawer of the nightstand.

"Perfectly." The man answered, looking to his fine gold watch, "And more quickly than I expected."

Gabriel smirked. It had been strange getting reacquainted with the man over the last twenty four hours. His strong british accent sounded comfortingly familiar after spending the last two years in Africa. His own accent was very different, he had been told, sounding like a faint,exotic blend of many different inflections.

Raphael's was like that, too, although his was even more diluted beyond recognition. The black-haired young man stifled a yawn and slumped into a nearby chair, gazing out the window with deep blue eyes. He took after their mother's side, Gabriel assumed, seeing little resemblance between himself and his brother. Raphael's coloring was different and his body was thicker and more solid.

Gabriel himself resembled their father greatly, sharing the same auburn hair and vibrant green eyes, although Gabriel's were marked with a halo of gold. They were of similar build, the father being a few scant inches taller than the son and a little slimmer in the shoulders. Gabriel had never known who his mother was, but there was never any doubt of his father's identity.

"So, that's it?" Gabriel asked, reaching for his suitcase, "We're leaving already?"

"Actually, no." Peter reached over and took the suitcase from him, placing it back on the bed. "Something has come up and we'll be staying for a few more days. I assume that's not a problem for you."

"No!" Gabriel insisted, "No, not at all. So what's up?"

"What's up?" Peter arched a dubious eyebrow, "Wherever did you learn that from?"

"I made a few new friends at Uncle Marcus's." Gabriel shrugged, "I guess I picked it up from them."

"The reason you were sent to Sudan was to train," Peter reminded him harshly, "not to go wasting your time with the local . . . children."

"Take it easy, Dad." Raphael shook his head from his seat by the window, "Gabriel's doing fine. He can outfight me more than half the time now."

"He SHOULD be able to beat you all the time." The auburn-haired man shot his oldest son an angry glance, "You're supposed to be watching out for him, Raphael, not letting him carouse with hooligans." Raphael, rolled his eyes tiredly and went back to staring out the window.

"I-I'm sorry, Father." Gabriel's eyes dropped to the floor in shame,"I'll try harder, I promise."

"Well, you're going to need to." Peter said unsympathetically, "I assume you are both aware of the recent development with your uncle Rupert?"

"You mean the new Slayer? It's true, then? He really is a Watcher?"Gabriel was excited at the news.

"Yes." His father answered sourly, "This new Slayer is gaining quite a reputation with the Watcher's Council. But you're better than she is."

"But she's the Slayer." Gabriel hedged uncertainly, "Her coming has been foretold."

"And you are the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son!" Peter snapped angrily,"There is more potential within you than ANY Slayer! All you have to do is prove it to them."

Gabriel shrank back from his father's vehemence, looking worriedly toRaphael.

"How?" the youth asked quietly.

"There is word of a plague of vampires in the city, lead by a pair soevil that the others obey them unquestioningly." Peter's voice grew grave with deadly calm, "But you can stop them. You can protect the people of this city."

"Just tell me what to do." Gabriel stood, eager to make his father proud.

The older man smirked at his Seventh Son's exuberance.

"His name is William the Bloody, called Spike by some due to his fondness for using railway spikes as a means of torture." He explained,"He is a ruthless killer. The Watchers have already lost two of their Slayers trying to destroy him and his insane vampire lover. The old goats will choke on their crumpets when they hear that you've exterminated both of them in one fell swoop."

"Hold on." Raphael re-entered the conversation, "Don't you think that's a little dangerous? He's only a boy."

"No, it's all right, Raphael. I'm not a boy anymore." Gabriel informed his brother, a pit of nervousness turning in his stomach. He had never faced a vampire before. How was he supposed to succeed where twoseasoned Slayers had already failed? "When will I get my chance?"

"Soon." Peter clapped his hand across the boy's shoulder, "I think we can get the two of you into action tonight if you feel you're ready. What do you think?"

"Yeah, I'll be ready." He answered, his heart thumping like a jackhammer in his chest, "I'll be ready."

* * *

The bleach-blonde haired vampire reclined sideways in a large, stiff backed chair, sifting through a small box of expensive gold rings. His lover, another vampire, sat on the floor at the foot of the chair,absently ripping a hole in the rich carpeting with a long, sharp talon. Her deep, mysterious eyes were wide and vacant, like they often were,focused on another world entirely.

"You know what, Pet?" the male vampire asked in a distinct British accent, "I think I'm getting tired of gold. Maybe we should get the boys to start stealing something else for a change.

"He carelessly dropped the box of rings to the floor, scattering them all over. A spindly vampire lackey fell to his knees and scrambled togather them up. The blonde vampire paid the scurrying servant no heed.

"Dru?" he peered over the edge of his chair at her, "Are you listening to me?"

"There's something terrible on the horizon, Spike." She muttered, "Like an angry storm. It's dangerous, Spike. It wants to hurt us."

"Relax, Pet. We have nothing to worry about." He assured her confidently, "We OWN the nightlife here. No one can touch us. Not even that dirty politician, Barstow. Not that he wouldn't love to get his hands on us."

"This one is different, Spike." She insisted softly, "He SEES."

"Forget it, Luv." Spike wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders,"Now what can we do to get your mind off all this nonsense?"

"I'm hungry, Spike." Drusilla sighed, slipping out of her agitated state and rising slowly to her feet, "But I'm so bored with killing here. I want something different. Something new."

Spike slipped his legs over the edge of the chair and stood next to her, taking her in his arms.

"Something new, hmm?" he smirked, intrigued, "One of the boys told me about an orphanage on the east side today. You can't get much newer than that."

"Oh, can we, Spike?" she bounced excitedly, "And then maybe on the way home, we can stop at a pet store for dessert? Please? I would so love a fluffy little kitten to play with. I'm so excited. It's been so long since you've taken me on the town, I'll have to wear my most beautiful party dress."

"You do that, Luv." He smiled, pleased with her brightened mood, "I'll be waiting right here."

Drusilla gleefully left the room and went to their bed chamber as Spike watched her with pride. Considering his own attire, he decided that he might dress up for the occasion as well. Maybe he'd wear that new,black coat Dru had gotten for him. . .

* * *

Gabriel gathered his long auburn hair into a stubby ponytail and tied it at the base of his skull. Nervously, he paced back and forth across the roof of the orphanage, waiting. It was one of the tallest buildings around and afforded him a good view of the streets below. Peter had expressly instructed him to stand on guard there with that in mind.

His father had sent Raphael to the opposite end of the city, hoping to cover as much ground as possible. Gabriel wished he would have let them stay together. He always felt safer with his brother nearby.

Continuing to pace, he twisted his hands into the pockets of his jacket, bracing himself against the bitter cold. He would have just as soon gone out hunting them instead of waiting here, stagnating in his own agitation like this. But his father had been insistent. Stay on top of the orphanage.

Checking the bag that contained his weapons, an assortment of wooden stakes and vials of holy water, one more time, he sat down on the cold brick in a lotus position and sought to calm his mind. He had fought creatures of darkness by himself before, but never vampires. Mentally,he rehearsed the rules for fighting the blood-drinking fiends.

A stake through the heart, immersion in holy water, decapitation,exposure to sunlight. These were the means to kill a vampire, that he was sure of. Defending against one, however, was far less straight forward. Never let them get their teeth into you, that much was obvious, but there were other factors to consider. Vampires possessed enhanced strength and speed and, often, they tended to pickup some proficiency with combat over the years. There was no real wayof telling what he might come up against.

A sharp sound, like that of a door creaking open, reached his ears and,instantly, his eyes snapped open. Someone was moving around inside. Crawling down onto the metal fire escape, he jiggled open a window and slipped inside, touching down on the tiled floor. He eyed the prominent sign which read "Enter Here" in Czechoslovakian with disgust. An invitation, no matter what the source, was all a vampire needed to gain access to the inside of a building.

He could hear voices in the next room and crept silently to peer through the open doorway. Near the door, the dead body of the night watchman stared blankly at him from a plain metal chair, his throat a bloody mess. Gabriel recoiled, but forced himself to look past the corpse and inside.

There were four child-sized beds in the room, only one of which had an occupant, and a homemade crib sitting in the corner. Two figures, a man and a woman, both obvious vampires, stood over the form of a small girl as she slumbered in her bed. Cautiously crouching down, Gabriel strained to hear what the two were saying.

"This one is special, Spike. I can feel it." The dark haired woman whispered, caressing the sleeping child's soft, curly hair. "And look, she's got a little dollie that looks just like her! How sweet. I'm going to eat them both."

"Go ahead, Luv. You take this one." Her companion encouraged her,wiping the back of his hand across his blood-stained mouth, "I'm feeling a bit full after that guard, but I suppose I could squeeze in one more. As long as it's a small one."

He leaned over the railing of the crib and reached inside. Gabriel knew that he could wait no longer and leaped into the interior of the room.

"Halt, Creature of Darkness!" he shouted, bracing his feet and pointing at the male vampire with a sharpened wooden stake, "Your reign of terror is over!"

The blonde vampire turned to him slowly and folded his arms across his chest.

"Creature of Darkness?" he cocked an eyebrow skeptically, "Reign of Terror? What do you think this is, a comic book?"

Drusilla stepped away from the sleeping girl, watching the auburn-haired young man who had suddenly appeared in their midst with amusement.

"Spike, look, it's my baby brother Joshua, come for a visit." She marveled happily, her eyes focused on some other time and place, and approached him with her arms held out, "Come give Big Sister a hug."

Gabriel shrank back from the vampire, unnerved by her obvious madness.

"That's not Joshua." Spike shook his head softly, "Just some punk kid looking to play hero. Kill him and let's be done with it."

"Oh, but you're wrong, Spike." She cooed, circling Gabriel slowly,"Look at his eyes. He has the Second Sight. Only Joshua has eyes like that."

"Joshua's been dead for a hundred years, Dru. He threw himself off a bridge because he couldn't handle the visions, remember?" Spike reminded her with strained patience, "Now go on and kill him or I'll have to do it myself."

"Spike!" she scolded, swiftly clutching Gabriel in a steely grip and holding him protectively to her breast, stroking her fingers consolingly along the side of his head. Gabriel gasped, trapped against her. She had moved so swiftly, he hadn't even seen it coming,"You'll frighten him. Joshua is a very sensitive boy. He's like me,he sees things."

"At least SOMEONE around here can see." Spike muttered, tapping his temple and rolling his eyes.

Gabriel twisted out of Drusilla's grasp, grabbing her by the throat and pressing the tip of the wooden stake against her chest. She squeaked in surprise, eyes wide and her hands fluttering nervously in the air.

"Dru!" Spike leaped toward the Seventh Son, faster than the boy would have thought possible, and smashed a hard kick into his chest, throwing him back and giving Drusilla a chance to escape.

Gabriel hit the floor and skidded across the hard tiles. He came upagainst the wall and paused before rising, in mild shock from the pain. He couldn't remember ever being hit so hard in his life. Forcing air into his lungs, he pulled himself to his feet, springing forward atSpike with his arms outstretched. Grabbing the vampire tightly about the waist, he bore him into the opposite wall.

"Persistent little bugger aren't you?" Spike grunted, struggling to get a grip on the young man.

Gabriel pushed upward with his legs and smashed the top of his head into Spike's chin then cracked a hard punch into his jaw. The vampire fell dizzily to the floor and Gabriel was upon him with a stake drawn. Spike gripped the descending arm tightly, holding the sharp tip of the stake away from his black heart.

"You can't beat me." He growled, "I've already killed two Slayers who have tried. You're nothing but a boy."

"It will probably be pretty embarrassing when I kill you, then." The young man grinned cockily, forcing the stake a little closer, "Say goodnight - !"

Gabriel's world exploded in a flash of white as Drusilla brought the stock of a heavy lamp down across the back of his head. His body jerked and went limp, dazzling sparkles of light dancing before his eyes as they rolled up in his sockets. Spike roughly tossed him asideand climbed unsteadily to his feet.

"Thanks, Baby." He straightened his long, black overcoat and pulled Drusilla into an appreciative kiss, "Punk just caught me off guard,that's all."

Gabriel pulled himself up and reached for the fire alarm, hooking his fingers in the lever and letting his body weight pull down on it. Instantly, a distant bell started clanging loudly.

"Damn it!" Spike drove his foot into Gabriel's stomach, doubling the boy over and dropping him to the floor, "Come on, Dru. Grab the girl and we'll go eat somewhere more private."

Spike tugged open the window and stepped onto the fire escape as Drusilla stood before the tiny girl and crouched, smiling sweetly ather from eye level.

"Time to wake up, little one." She sang in a whispered voice, "Get your pretty little dollie, Sweetheart. Auntie Dru is going to take you on an adventure."

The little girl, accustomed to obeying grown-ups, hugged her porcelain faced doll to her chest and allowed Drusilla to scoop her up into her arms. Turning happily, the vampire headed for the open window.

"No." Gabriel staggered weakly to his feet and took hold of the girl's dangling leg.

Drusilla tugged and twisted on her prize and the girl began to cry. Gabriel's eyes blurred in and out of focus as he struggled keep his feet under him, but he would not release his grip.

"Let . . .her. . . go." He gritted his teeth and gave a strong pull, bringing a sharp cry from the girl.

"Hurry up, Dru!" Spike urged from outside the window, "The damn police are going to be here any minute! Drop the girl, we'll come back for her later."

With a high pitched moan that was almost a wail, Drusilla released her hold on the child and retreated to the window. Falling back, Gabriel staggered, clutching the little girl protectively to his chest.

"I'll come back for you, little one!" Drusilla promised desperately as Spike dragged her outside, then turned her dark gaze murderously toGabriel, "And you too, baby brother, I will definitely come after you."

Gabriel said nothing as the two vampires disappeared down the fire escape, shivering with fright like the child he held in his arms.

* * *

"You let them escape!" Peter demanded furiously as he paced back and forth agitatedly across the hotel room floor.

"I didn't really have a choice." Gabriel winced in his chair as he adjusted the ice pack against the back of his skull. "I was lucky enough to make it back here without passing out."

He and Raphael had returned to the hotel almost half an hour ago and Gabriel's head was splitting. Across from him, oblivious to the argument, the little girl from the orphanage sat on Raphael's knee,playing happily with her tiny, porcelain-faced doll.

"That's no excuse! I can't believe you let them get away." His father reiterated, "And THIS!" he continued, pointing at the girl, "What were you thinking when you brought her back here? This isn't a child welfare office, you know."

"The woman, Drusilla, said she would be back for her." He sighed heavily, in too much pain to be arguing so heatedly, "I wasn't about to just leave her there."

"He's got a point, Dad." Raphael commented absently as he made a series of silly faces to entertain the girl, "If he left her, she would have been defenseless."

"All the better." Peter stated heartlessly, "With her there as bait,you would have been sure they would return and we could have used the opportunity to lay a trap. Remember, your main responsibility here is to destroy those two vampires. Now how are you supposed to find them again?"

"I will NOT use an innocent child as bait." Gabriel declared defiantly,"If I have to wait ten years before I find them, I will wait."

"Then consider this, Gabriel." Peter jabbed an accusatory finger under his son's nose, "For every night that those two remain free, at least two human lives will be lost. How many will die so that you can believe that you have saved this child?"

Gabriel's face fell and, shoulders slumped, he sat back, defeated. As much as he hated to admit it, his father's argument made sense logically. Peter's face softened and he sat on the edge of the bed next to his distraught son.

"It was a mistake, Gabriel," he offered in a soothing voice, "and everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to learn from those mistakes so that they are not wasted effort. All right?"

"Yeah, I guess so." Gabriel raised his eyes and smiled weakly, "I'll do better next time, Father. I promise."

"I know you will." Peter smiled reassuringly, "Now you two keep an eye on little whatever-her-name-is here. I have to run out for a while."

"Edith." Gabriel nodded affirmatively as his father picked up his overcoat and walked toward the door.

"What?" Peter turned a quizzical eye on him.

"The little girl's name." Gabriel clarified, "It's Edith. Strange name for a girl from this region, isn't it?"

"Hmm, quite." Peter returned, opening the door and stepping into the hallway.

Once inside his room, he withdrew a small cellular phone from inside the pocket of his business suit. He dialed a quick series of numbers and held it up to his ear.

"Yes. It's me." He said, hearing the other end pick up, "There's been a small change in plans. I will meet you in half an hour"

Folding up the phone and pulling on his coat, he headed quickly to the nearest elevator.

* * *

The next evening, Gabriel sat on the window sill, staring out across the artificially lit cityscape. Big cities were nothing new to him,but he often enjoyed watching the particular silhouette of each against the dying light of dusk. The sun had gone down an hour ago, but the city was as alive and bustling with activity as if it were high noon.

"Gabrell! Gabrell! Look!" Edith called gleefully, holding her doll up in the air and squeezing it.

He smiled kindly at her, enamoured with her bright, innocent smile. There was something special about her, he could feel it. But then, it could have been nothing more than the fact that he felt personally responsible for her ever since he had saved her from the vampires. Earlier in the day, he had purchased an ornate silver crucifix and hung it from a chain around her tiny neck. As long as she wore it, she would have far less to fear from psychotic vampires.

Edith clambered into his lap and looked out the window, emulating him. He liked having her around, he realized. As the youngest of nine children, he had never known what it was like to have a younger sibling. He found that he rather liked the idea.

The bathroom door opened and Raphael stepped out amid a cloud of steam,rubbing his dark hair with a white towel. He zipped up his jeans and slipped a shirt over his shoulders, sitting barefoot on the corner of the bed.

"She seems to have taken quite a shine to you, Gabriel." He noted with a smile, tilting his head and jiggling the towel into his ear, "Who knows, maybe she has an older sister who would like you just as much."

"Funny, Raphael." Gabriel shook his head and smiled, setting his shoulder length locks swinging softly to Edith's delight, "She's a sweet girl. I wonder where her parents are?"

"They could be anywhere." Raphael shrugged, pulling on a pair of socks and buttoning up his shirt, "She's probably just someone's accident. Orphanages are filled with kids like that."

Gabriel gathered the girl's dark brown curls into his hands and pulled them back away from her face.

"I don't think so, Raphael." He commented, smiling into the child's pretty face, "There's something about her. I looked at her with the Sight. I don't know what it is, but she's special."

"Maybe she's an angel in disguise." Raphael joked, hopping up and reaching for the TV set.

The door to the hallway opened suddenly and Peter burst in breathlessly.

"Father!" Gabriel slid Edith off his lap and jumped up in concern, rushing to his side, "What is it? What's wrong?"

"The vampires. . . " the man panted, "They're attacking people in the public park just north of here."

"Let's go." Raphael shoved his feet into his shoes and pulled on his jacket, stepping quickly into the corridor.

Gabriel nodded in agreement and was halfway out the door when he stopped dead in his tracks. "What about Edith? We can't just leave her here."

"Well, we can't take her into battle." Raphael pointed out, "She'll be safer here than with us. As long as the door is kept closed, no vampire can enter."

Gabriel continued to hover in the doorway uncertainly, while his father watched him impatiently.

"You're right." He decided swiftly, turning to Edith, "We'll be right back, Edith. I promise."

The little girl waved, smiling as the three men exited and closed the door behind them. Too impatient for the elevator, Gabriel took to thestairs, bounding down entire flights at a time with Raphael close behind. Peter hesitated for a moment by the door and turned the small plastic sign that hung around the knob so that the 'please make up the room' side was facing outward. Smirking deviously to himself, he calmly pressed the down button and waited for the elevator.

* * *

"Nothing!" Gabriel stalked swiftly along the park's pathway for thethird time. "How could they have disappeared without a trace likethat?"

"Calm yourself." Peter advised, half running to keep up with the driven young man, "The night is a vampire's domain. Hunting on your prey's native territory is never easy."

"He's right, Gabriel." Raphael scanned the night carefully on his side of the path, "Vampires don't usually stick around after a kill. They're probably long gone by now."

Gabriel's face tightened stressfully. He remembered what his father had said to him the night before about the consequences of not using Edith as bait.

"You don't think they did, do you?" he whispered in horror, "Kill, I mean?"

Raphael's face fell sadly and he looked to his father uncertainly. Peter shook his head almost imperceptibly.

"No." Raphael lied, "I'd say they were just looking to spread a little terror. Those people are probably locked up in their bedrooms right now, scared stiff, but safe, at least."

Gabriel relaxed instantly, visibly calmed by the untruth. He sighed and spread his hands helplessly.

"Let's get back to the hotel." He suggested, "Maybe we can use the map and work out a search pattern."

"It's worth a shot." Raphael shrugged, awaiting his father's decision.

Peter paused, considering the course of action and furtively checking his watch.

"Alright then." He allowed, "Back to the hotel."

The three entered the hotel lobby twenty minutes later and walked into the elevator. Gabriel was unusually quiet, folding his hands in front of him and staring sullenly at the numbers above the double doors as they slowly climbed to the eleventh floor.

"Come on, Gabriel." Raphael patted his brother reassuringly on the shoulder as the elevator slowed and stopped and the three men walked out into the corridor, "This isn't your fault. You'll get your shot at them soon."

Gabriel angrily turned the knob to their suite and yanked the door open.

"Yeah, well right now I'm O for . . . two." His eyes darted about the empty room in panic. "Where's Edith? Edith!"

"How did they get in?" He demanded shrilly, ducking his head into the bathroom while Peter inconspicuously slipped the sign off the door and dropped it into the garbage can, "How were they able to just take her like that?"

"Perhaps they came to the window." Peter suggested, "She is only a small child. They may have deceived her into inviting them in."

"No." Gabriel shook his head in denial, "The window is still locked from the inside."

"Here's something." Raphael held up his hand. Edith's crucifix hung from his thumb and there was a small business card trapped between two fingers.

"Let me see." Gabriel snatched both pendant and card from his hand. The front of the card was emblazoned with the insignia of a well-known stage theatre, one he recognized from the map he had studied earlier. Flipping it over, he found writing on the back.

Bold, red letters were etched on the card with a stylish painted script. 'JOSHUA', THE BRAT IS NOT DEAD. YET. MEET US AT THE ST.AGNES CEMETERY. It was signed with a small drawing of a bloody railroad spike at the bottom.

"They have her." He intoned softly, tucking the card into his pocket,"I'm going after them."

"You can't seriously be thinking of following them?" Peter's eyebrows stitched together in disbelief, "Surely it's a trap."

"No choice." Gabriel snatched up his kit bag and opened the door,slipping Edith's pendant into his pocket, "I have to save her."

"Right." Raphael stuffed a handful of wooden stakes into his pocket,"That's why I'm going with you."

Gabriel smiled appreciatively at his brother and the older boy winked and smirked. Raphael squeezed past his brother and started down the hallway.

"Gabriel . . ." Peter reached out with his hand and Gabriel stopped in the doorway. His father looked at him and pursed his lips, ". . . good luck."

Gabriel nodded quick acknowledgement, then dashed for the stairs after Raphael.

* * *

Spike paced in agitation, his hands clenched tightly together. He could faintly make out the sounds of people filing into the theatre above their underground lair. Absently, he made a mental note to snatch a couple of bleeders from the audience before the show was over.

The orphan girl sat curled up fearfully in Spike's throne while Drusilla crouched before her and attempted to entertain the little girl with her small porcelain-faced doll. The blonde haired vampire swore viciously under his breath and pounded his fist on the polished oak tabletop. Edith started at the sound and began to whimper quietly to herself, clutching her tiny doll tightly to her chest.

Drusilla held Edith's eyes steadily, touching her hands to the sides of the child's head and making a low, moaning sound in the back of her throat, "Stop it." Almost instantly, the child's dark eyes went wide and distant and she became placid.

"There's something wrong with all this. I can feel it!" Spike snarled angrily, "First that hot shot punk shows up out of nowhere and snatches our little orphan girl from the jaws of death. Then an anonymous phone call tips us off to where they hid her. It doesn't make sense. Why go through the trouble to save her, then give her right back to us? Someone's screwing around with us."

"I see treachery and deceit." Drusilla agreed with him, her voice soft and hollow and her eyes staring blankly into the distance, "The leaves are talking to me from their branches again, Spike. They are warning me."

"What is it, Pet?" he asked her, careful not to disturb her delicate trance, "What are the . . .leaves telling you?"

"The boy and the girl are both special, but in different ways. He has power, Spike, old power, but he is young, inexperienced. He stumbles through the dark, lead by the hand of another." She winced, closingher eyes and pressing her fingers to her temples. "And the girl, they are afraid of her, afraid of what she might someday become. She is a threat and they want her eliminated."

"Eliminated, huh?" Spike smirked, considering the small child, "Now what would someone be so afraid of that he would need US to kill the little snot for him?"

Drusilla snapped out of her fugue state and left the zombie-like child in the chair, snuggling close to her lover.

"I've just had an idea, Luv." He grinned evilly, nuzzling his face into her neck, "They want her dead? Then that's just what we'll give them."

Drusilla smiled hungrily and walked with him toward the orphan girl, her arm wrapped tightly around his waist.

* * *

Gabriel cautiously looked around as he entered the old St. Agnes cemetery, careful not to let his boots make too much noise on the crusty snow. Raphael was right beside him, employing similar care. The air was chilly this late at night and fog blanketed the ground in a thin concealing veil, but the full moon overhead lit up the darkness. Gabriel started nervously as an owl hooted ominously and took flight from a nearby tree. He noted that his brother was watching and did his best to appear calm in front of the older boy.

Relax Gabriel, he cautioned himself silently, it's just a graveyard,nothing to be worried about. It's no different than any other piece of property.

Somehow, the reminder didn't really help.

Resting his hand on the reassuring length of wooden stake in his jacket pocket, he approached a blocky stone mausoleum. It was very old, built with ornate pillars and surrounded by a square perimeter of three foot high metal fence.

"Why do these places always have to have at least one huge crypt?"Raphael whispered condescendingly, "They might as well have just built a vampire hotel."

Raphael jumped back, pulling a stake from his pocket, as he noticed a shadowed figure reclining along a section of the wall, apparently waiting for them. Gabriel mirrored his brother's readiness, holding his own stake ready. It was the blonde vampire from last night at the orphanage.

"Brought company, did you?" He said, pushing himself off the wall and sauntering a few steps toward them, his voice overly loud in the solemnity of the cemetery, "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show up at all."

The woman vampire emerged from behind him and strolled slowly to his side, holding Edith in her arms like a mother with her baby. The blood drained from Gabriel's face as he noted that Edith was not moving.

"I have something for you, Joshua." Drusilla sang teasingly, jostling the limp child in her arms.

Spike jerked on a length of the metal fence and tore off a long, jagged piece, holding it in his hand like a sword.

"I've got something for you, too." He snickered darkly.

"Edith better still be alive, William." Gabriel glared at the blonde vampire.

Spike shrugged and looked over at Drusilla, unconcerned, "She's fine. Why don't you have a look for yourself."

Gabriel approached the woman vampire cautiously, wary of a trap. Drusilla eased the small girl down onto her feet and turned her around to face Gabriel. Edith's eyes were red and swollen from crying and she clutched her tiny doll close to her body.

"Gabrel?" She whimpered quietly.

Gabriel crouched down and held out his arms.

"Come here, Edith." He urged calmly, "Raphael and I are going to take you home now."

The girl hesitated fearfully for a moment then ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. Gabriel lifted her up and backed away from the two vampires, calm, but watching them with suspicion.

As Edith wept quietly and clung to Gabriel's neck, Raphael's face tightened in a troubled frown. Why would a vampire kidnap a child only to give her back without a fight? The evil creatures had nothing to gain by such a move. Unless they wanted her to be rescued.

"Gabriel, drop the girl!" he cried, lunging to protect his brother.

Gabriel turned his head toward him in confusion as Edith's face transformed into a vampiric mask and she drew a short knife out from under the dress of her doll.

"Nooo!" Time slowed and Raphael reached out to stop her, too late. Edith plunged the knife downward and buried it into the center of Gabriel's back.

The Seventh Son screamed and fell to his knees, his face a grimace of pain. Edith released the knife and sank her teeth into the young man's throat, sucking and growling ferally. Raphael grabbed a handful of the child's hair and jerked her back, separating her from Gabriel and throwing her to the ground as he collapsed onto his side and lay still. The child rolled to her feet and ran instinctively to Drusilla, a smear of blood staining her tiny chin.

Raphael turned to follow her and the world exploded in a flash of crimson as Spike smashed the metal pole into his temple. As Raphael crumpled into the snow, Spike continued to pound on his body and then delivered a heavy boot to his stomach for good measure.

"There, yeah, you like that?!" he snarled triumphantly, stomping his heel down on the young man's spine.

Raphael coughed a spatter of blood onto the pristine snow and groaned weakly as Spike crouched low so that his mouth was next to the young man's ear.

"I don't know who sent you punks." He whispered harshly, "But when you see them again, you better tell them that Prague belongs to us. And anyone who thinks otherwise is going to end up like the hotshot over there. Got it?"

The vampire straightened and walked over to Edith and Drusilla. The dark-haired woman squeezed the child lovingly in her arms and rubbed a fingertip through the blood on her chin.

"Look, Spike, isn't she precious?" she cooed proudly, sucking the bloodstained finger loudly into her mouth, "She made a little messy on her chinny-poo."

"Precious?" he raised a dark eyebrow, "More like clumsy. Come on Dru,let's get back to the lair before I freeze my bloody rocks off."

Raphael tried his best to push himself up as the vampires walked away, straining against the frozen ground with his hands, but a sickening wave of dizziness overtook him and he collapsed, his eyes rolling up into his skull.

"Gabriel . . ." he wheezed softly as he finally lost consciousness.

* * *

"Raphael, wake up." A voice called to him from a great distance, "Raphael you have to get up."

Raphael struggled to open his eyes, but his eyelids felt like they had been weighted with anvils. His throat felt as dry as the Sahara and his entire body below the neck was utterly numb.

"G . . .Gab . . .where's . . . my brother?" he groaned weakly,wondering why his arms and legs were responding so sluggishly.

"I'm right here, Raphael." Gabriel carefully eased his brother up into a sitting position.

Raphael managed to crack his eyelids a little and forced his pupils to focus. Gabriel's face was pale and filled with concern as he looked down at him, shoulder length tendrils of auburn hair hanging down loosely over his cheeks and blood oozing from the bite mark on his neck. Behind him, a few scattered snowflakes fell across the dark sky. Somehow, his brother was still alive.

"How?" he attempted to lift his head and instantly regretted it as his skull was assaulted with blinding pain.

"Easy." Gabriel stroked his brother's blood-caked forehead, "Let ME be the one to take care of YOU for once. The knife didn't cut too deep. It must have caught on a seam in my coat or something. Thank God, I took my jacket."

A siren arose in the distance, getting gradually closer and Raphael could see faint, flashing red lights reflected on the snow.

"I think you've got a concussion, but you're going to be fine." Gabriel told him, "The ambulance is here now. They'll warm you up and take care of you."

Despite his half-conscious condition, Raphael could sense something from his brother.

As the ambulance attendants arrived and Gabriel started to rise, he reached out weakly and caught his younger brother's sleeve. His mobility was thankfully returning, although slowly.

"Let them go, Gabriel." He pleaded quietly, "Edith is gone. It's not worth it anymore."

The attendants carefully straightened him out and hoisted him onto a stretcher, while Gabriel looked on silently.

"Promise me you'll let them go." Raphael whispered as he was wheeled toward the back of the open ambulance.

Gabriel shook his head sadly and clutched a sharp tipped wooden stake in his hand, "I'm sorry, but I have to do this. I won't fail Father again."

* * *

Gabriel checked the logo on the card in his hand against the one over the entrance to the theatre house, his blood pumping in his veins and his senses sharpened to a razor's edge. This was definitely the place. The shallow wound in his back and the bite mark on his neck stung terribly, but he had bigger things on his mind. There was currently a show on stage and he knew he would not be allowed past the lobby area without a ticket. That wasn't a problem. He doubted the vampires' lair was located at center stage.

Looking quickly to the roof, he surmised that there was only modest attic space in the upper part of the building, certainly inadequate for the ruling vampire in a city this size. That left only . . .the basement.

He quickly circled around back and found a small, low-lying window. He took off his coat and spread it over the glass before shattering it with his foot and pushing the shards inside. Slipping his head through the opening, he wriggled and squeezed his upper body into the open window. Once his shoulders were through, he slid inside effortlessly and lowered himself quietly to the floor.

Gabriel crouched and squinted his eyes, waiting for them to adjust to the darkness. He was in some sort of boiler room, with a set of stairs leading up to the main level, probably backstage, and a service door leading to the basement.

Readying a stake in his hand, he inhaled deeply and forced his pounding heart under control. This was it. The first true test of his abilities. He wouldn't let his father down.

* * *

Spike reclined sideways in his throne watching Drusilla as she grinned gleefully at the tiny vampire beside her. Before them, a sleek rat skittered across the tabletop seemingly unaware of their presence.

"Call to it, Edith." Drusilla instructed, "Bring it to you."

The little girl squinted in concentration, balling her tiny hands into fists around the arms of her doll and grunting cutely. The rat continued to ignore her.

"Not working, Auntie Dru." Edith pouted, hugging her doll and staring up at the other vampire with dark, soulless eyes.

"Mummy." Drusilla corrected softly, "It's Mummy Dru now, little one. And you're just trying too hard. Be in it and let it be in you."

Edith let her arms hang loosely by her sides, her doll almost touching the floor, and relaxed, staring at the rat with unblinking eyes.

"Be in me." She intoned quietly, "Be in me."

Spike snorted in disgust, "She should be learning to make kills, not wasting her time with useless rat tricks."

"Quiet, Spike!" Drusilla hissed at him, covering Edith's ears with her hands, "You'll break our baby's concentration."

"Our baby?" Spike raised his eyebrows, "She doesn't even look like me."

"Don't listen to him, sweetie." Dru murmured to the girl, "Daddy's just getting hungry. Keep trying."

Edith continued to concentrate and the rat made a sharp turn toward her.

"Gooooood!" Dru cooed excitedly, "Now send it away from you."

Edith ignored her direction and snatched the furry creature up in her small fist, jamming the animal's neck greedily into her mouth and biting down.

"Edith!" Drusilla exclaimed, appalled by her lack of table manners and tugging on the girl's arms in an attempt to get the animal out of her mouth.

Spike observed the child vampire's stubbornness and smirked.

"Maybe she's my baby after all." He chuckled amusedly.

Gabriel emerged from the shadows with a stake in his hand, his face a mask of intensity, "She doesn't belong to either of you."

Spike leaped to his feet and whirled to face the Seventh Son as Drusilla gathered Edith into her arms and shrank back cautiously.

"How the bloody Hell did you get here?" Spike snarled, "We left you for dead."

Gabriel stalked forward, brandishing his stake, "Guess death didn't want me."

"So what do you think of the place?" Spike spread his hands and turnedto indicate his surroundings, "Pretty slick, huh?"

"Yeah," Gabriel observed dourly, "Not bad for a sick animal like you."

Spike tilted his head, unconcerned, "I stole the idea from a trashy novel I read a few years back. Some woman author had the crazy idea that all vampires do is ponder the mysteries of creation and bitch and moan about the tragedy of their lost humanity. Imagine it, the 'Theatres des Vampires'!" He raised the back of his hand to his forehead and mimed languishing against the arm of his throne, "What aload of horse puckey."

In the blink of an eye, Spike lashed out, backhanding the young man across the jaw, and pounced on him as he fell back. Gabriel gripped the lapels of the vampire's coat and twisted around, throwing him back onto his throne. He followed with a swift kick, narrowly missing Spike's throat as the vampire fell.

The vampire sprang upward, slamming his shoulder into Gabriel's midsection. The auburn-haired youth held on and staggered with the force of the blow, whipping out his stake and jamming it down into Spike's back, just shy of his heart.

"Arrgh!" the blonde vampire bellowed in pain and stumbled to his knees.

"Spike!" Drusilla cried, rushing across the room to his side.

Edith ran with her and leaped on Gabriel, yowling like a wild animal and biting at his face. Startled by the child vampire's ferocity, he fell to the floor, wrestling with her surprisingly powerful body and holding her away from his throat.

"Dru. . ." Spike gasped in pain, "get me upstairs."

Dru pulled her lover to his feet and limped with him toward the stairs,three inches of exposed stake jutting from his back. She paused at the doorway and looked over her shoulder worriedly to Edith. The feral child seemed to sense her new mother watching over her and immediately rolled off Gabriel and scampered up the stairs to her waiting,outstretched hand.

As the vampire family retreated toward the upper level, Gabriel sat up and gathered his wits. His face and upper chest bled from a number of shallow scratches and the wound in his back had reopened, coating his spine with warm stickiness. He ignored the pain, pushing himself to his feet and pulling a fresh stake from his belt.

They were upstairs, he knew, waiting for him. He would have to be ready. Steeling himself, he bounded up the stairs in pursuit.

As he emerged into the gloomy boiler room, he caught the door to the next floor closing quietly shut. A moment later, he burst through the heavy door into a roll and came up crouching with his stake in his hands.

His vision blurred and his head snapped back as Edith smashed her tiny fist into his face. He fell back and the stake clattered out of his grip across the hard floor. Sitting up, Gabriel rubbed his jaw and glared at the three vampires.

While Edith prowled calmly back and forth, watching with bloodthirsty eyes, Spike was bent over an open box that bristled with stage props,grunting in pain as Drusilla yanked on the stake in his back.

"Eyah!" Spike snarled as she jerked the wooden weapon out of his flesh and the cheers of the nearby crowd rose in answer. Spike peered out through the thick stage curtain and smirked evilly, straightening and rubbing at the open wound.

"You missed the heart." He glared at Gabriel, "Big mistake."

"Don't worry. I'll get it right before the night is over." The Seventh Son assured him darkly, flexing his swollen jaw.

"Somehow, I doubt that." The blond vampire sneered, "Edith?"

At the sound of her name, the child vampire dove at Gabriel, reaching for his throat with his tiny fangs. Drusilla stepped forward to assist her adopted child, but Spike placed a hand on her shoulder and stopped her.

"Let her be, Dru. She can handle this. You kill him, Edith, and you get to drink him!" he offered cheerily.

Edith redoubled her ferocity, snarling violently. Gabriel grasped the tiny vampire and tried to throw her off him, but she clung tenaciously with her small arms. Flipping her over, he snatched up his fallen stake and pressed it against her delicate chest.

"Edith!" Drusilla cried out, but again, Spike restrained her.

Gabriel leaned forward to drive the stake into the little girl's undead heart, but hesitated, unable to complete the deed. Edith growled viciously and jammed her thumb into his eye, twisting out of his grip. She sank her teeth into his hand, snarling maliciously, and he reacted blindly, heaving her body away from him.

A high-pitched keen cut through the room and he rubbed at his eye,hoping to restore his vision. Through blurred sight, he saw Edith's tiny body impaled on the tip of a silver-painted wooden sword that protruded from the prop box.

His jaw fell in horror, opening in a silent scream of denial. His pain found voice in Drusilla as she wailed piteously at the rapidly disintegrating corpse of her child. The woman vampire turned her eyes murderously on Gabriel and the wail became a shriek of torment.

"You killed my baby!" she dove at him and slammed into his chest,carrying both of them through the heavy curtain and onto the stage.

"Dru!" Spike leaped after his lover, hesitating before setting foot on the open stage.

As Gabriel and Drusilla battled and the stage actors fled, the crowd reacted confusedly but remained seated, thinking it was all part of the show. Gabriel kicked the vampire away and grabbed up a burning metal torch that had been set out for the performance.

"I'll eat your eyes!" she snarled in anguish, circling around him, just beyond the reach of the guttering flame in his hands, "I'll rip your heart out and rend it into shreds! You killed my Edith!"

Gabriel choked as he heard her say the words and he jabbed at her with the torch, his lip curled in pain. The spectators were getting worried now and some of them started for the exit.

"Drusilla, come on!" Spike shouted to her from off stage, "We have toget out of here!"

Drusilla ignored him and slashed at Gabriel with a taloned hand. The Seventh Son reacted swiftly, jamming the end of the torch into her midsection and shoving with all his strength, launching her burning body into the crowd.

"DRU!!" Spike jumped forward, his eyes locked on her flailing body as she fell screaming into the near-hysterical mob.

Gabriel cut him off, flashing the torch in his face in challenge. Spike's gaze flicked again to the maddened, fleeing crowd, searching out his lover's form. The flames that had threatened to engulf her had been extinguished, smothered by the surging spectators as she was carried along in the tide.

"Dru!" he made a move to go after her, but Gabriel swiped the torch across his path, stopping him short.

"Don't worry about her, William." Gabriel growled, brandishing the torch, "You've got bigger problems."

Spike hesitated, caught, looking back and forth between the crowd that bore Drusilla away from him and the killing flame in the Seventh Son's hands. With a grunt of frustration, he bolted for the stairs, up to the roof. Gabriel followed close behind, bounding up the steps with the torch in his grasp.

Kicking open the door at the top, he skidded out onto the snowy rooftop. Spike was waiting for him and kicked the torch from his hands to clatter down the steep slope and fall to the street below. Gabriel slipped on the icy tiles and fell forward into a hard uppercut. His jaw clenched in pain and he dropped to his knees.

"Couldn't leave bloody well alone, could you?" Spike drove a hard boot into Gabriel's side, shoving him a few feet closer to the edge of the roof. He kicked the boy again, this time in the face, pushing him to the edge of the dangerous precipice.

Hauling the Seventh Son's head up by a handful of his auburn hair,Spike spat in his face.

"You're just a punk kid, you know that? I'm going to make you pay for hurtin' Dru." he bent Gabriel back over the corner of the roof,grinding his wounded back against the cold, rough tiles, "I'm William the Bloody. I didn't get my name for nothing."

Gabriel strained against the vampire's unholy strength, clawing desperately gain a hold on anything solid. Tangling his fingers into Spike's collar and reaching into his pocket with his free hand, he jerked himself up and raked a small silver object across the vampire's left eye.

Spike screamed in agony and fought to escape the burning pain, but Gabriel held on, grating the jagged edges of Edith's pendant against his eyebrow. Spike had no choice but to pull away from the edge and shake the Seventh Son off.

Spike fell to his knees, clutching the smoking, brutalized flesh around his eye and writhing in torment as Gabriel readied a stake and stood over him.

"It's over, William." He panted, gripping the vampire by the back of the head and raising his hand for a fatal strike.

Spike seemed to accept his fate for a moment, then thrashed violently and kicked Gabriel's legs out from under him. The Seventh Son landed hard on his side, tumbling and sliding to the edge of the roof. As he went over, he grabbed onto a jutting cornerstone at the last second and hung on for his life. The wound in his back stretched and spilled fresh blood onto the paved street below.

Spike staggered weakly to his feet, watching, waiting for the boy tofall, but a familiar cry sounded from the streets below, capturing his attention.

"Dru!" he cried, staggering for the door to the ground level, "I'm coming, Baby! Hold on! Daddy's coming!"

Gabriel clambered up over the edge of the roof and pulled himself to safety, too weak to pursue. He lay on his back wheezing puffs of steam into the cold night air, shivering from something other than the bitter cold.

* * *

Peter set his suitcase down at the Prague International Airport boarding gate and checked his watch. Raphael stopped next to him with a bandaged forehead and a limp that would stay with him for weeks. Gabriel was in no better shape, rolling along slowly in a wheelchair. After they had taken him down from the roof of the theatre house, Peter rushed him to the nearest hospital to have his back stitched up and the multiple lacerations on his body cleaned and treated. Exposure to cold and trauma had left him weakened and the doctor had put him in a wheelchair as a precaution. He was a resilient boy, however, and a fast healer. He would be in perfect shape again within a couple of weeks.

"I have to go make a phone call before we board." The boys' father said, "It won't take but a minute."

Raphael nodded and Gabriel hardly seemed to notice, absently toying with a small, silver crucifix with his hands in his lap as Peter headed toward the main lobby.

"You did good out there last night." Raphael told his brother in a quiet voice that was filled with pride, "Better than anyone could have expected."

"Then why does it feel like I failed?" the younger boy's voice was very soft.

"Sometimes that's the best victory that can be expected." Raphael shrugged, "You just have try and do your best."

Gabriel turned to face his older brother sadly, "When Father first told me about the vampires, I wanted to be a hero, Raphael. I thought it would be just like in the stories. But I was wrong. I had no idea what it would cost me."

"That's what heroism is all about, little brother." Raphael wheeled the auburn-haired young man over next to a seat and sat down, "Sacrifice. All things considered, I think you did a pretty good job."

Gabriel smiled and nodded softly, straightening in his wheelchair, and slipped the pendant into his pocket."Thanks, Raphael."

* * *

Peter sank into the soft leather seat in the back of the black limousine and looked across at the dark-clad man next to him.

"Let's make this quick, Barstow." he said curtly, handing the man a small, white card with a series of numbers etched on it, "I have a plane to catch."

Barstow accepted the card and slipped it into the breast pocket of his business suit.

"I assume this is an offshore account?" he asked plainly.

"Of course." Peter scoffed, "I'm hardly an amateur."

"Then you can expect payment before the end of the day." Barstow nodded, "You did quite well, despite certain . . .setbacks."

"Those were unavoidable." Peter snapped hotly, "The plan still went through. The vampires have fled Prague and I took care of the girl for you. There's not even a body to find."

"As I said, Mister Giles, your soldier did an impressive job." The man held up a calming hand, "I'd be interested in seeing him when his training is complete."

Peter didn't answer, merely staring expectantly at the other man. Barstow matched his gaze patiently and then broke into a broad smile.

"I assume you are waiting for the other half of your payment. Ofcourse you are." Barstow reached into his pocket and produced a small plastic cylinder filled with shiny black pills and handed them to Peter.

"The formula is far from complete, but this will certainly set your research ahead by many months, perhaps even years." He considered theenglishman for a moment before continuing, "If you don't mind, might I ask what you plan to do with all this research?"

"You might," Peter alluded, "if you shared with me the reason you needed that child dead."

Barstow shrugged, unsurprised, "I suppose you've earned the right to know. Besides, you are one of the few people who can appreciate what I'm about to tell you. Are you familiar with tales of the VampireSlayer."

"More than you think." Peter revealed sourly.

"The political climate is very delicate in this region, Mister Giles. Sometimes a politician like myself must resort to outside influences to insure control over his territory. Influences who tend to shun daylight, if you understand my meaning."

"I understand that William the Bloody was standing in the way of you gaining control of the local vampire population." He narrowed his green eyes, "But what does this have to do with the Slayer?"

"Disturbances to the delicate balance around here can be very costly. A new Slayer could upset things irrevocably, even if it would not before many years."

"You mean Edith?" Peter gasped, "The next Slayer?"

"Some believed so." Barstow nodded, "Enough for me to take precautions. So, Mister Giles, are you now going to tell me what your plans are for the research I have given you?"

"I'm preparing a gift for someone." Peter opened the car door and stepped outside, "Goodbye, Mister Barstow. A pleasure doing business with you."

"As always, Mister Giles." Barstow waved as the door closed with a thud, "Always."

* * *

Spike sloshed through the water-filled sewer tunnel, lost and carrying Drusilla's limp form in his arms. They had been running since last night, not once surfacing to find out where they were. They would run all the way to the sea if they had to, beyond even. He had heard rumors of a Hellmouth somewhere in America and that his old sire,Angelus, had settled there. Perhaps they would pay him a visit . . .

Dru stirred weakly in his arms and moaned softly.

"Is . . . is he gone, Spike?" she whispered tiredly.

Her dress was blackened and some of her flesh had been scorched. Worse still, the fear-crazed mob had trampled her in their rush to escape the theatre. She had survived, but it would be a long time before she would recover,if at all.

"Who, dumpling?" he cradled her a little closer to him as he walked. It was the first time he had heard her speak since he had found herlying in a heap on the street.

"The nasty boy with the eyes that see." Her eyelids closed and she turned her face into his chest, "He's coming to find us, Spike. I can feel it. He wants to kill my Edith."

"What?" he frowned down at her and paused at a fork in the tunnel.

She unfolded her arms, revealing a tiny, porcelain faced doll with dark glittering eyes and curly hair the color of black coffee in her lap. She stood the doll up and began stroking its soft hair.

"She's frightened Spike, my Edith." She hugged the lifeless doll protectively against herself and caressed its hard, cold cheek lovingly, "Poor Miss Edith. But Mummy Dru won't ever let anything happen to you, Sweetie. Promise."

Spike rolled his eyes and turned sharply down one of the branches with a harsh sigh.