Title - The X-Factor
Authors - Teresa & Ashley
Category: C, alternate universe
Written: January 1999
Spoilers: XF--all seasons to date, Buffy--all seasons to date
Disclaimer: All XF characters belong to 1013 productions, FOX and anyone else who can legally lay claim to them. Ditto for the Buffy characters with Mutant Enemy productions. This story is lovingly crafted with the utmost respect for ALL characters involved (crosses fingers behind back).

Summary: A bored vampire ropes in a hapless FBI agent to stir up his town. Because Mulder is the agent in question, things don't turn out like they should.

Authors' Notes: This story just started with two simple girls, a kick ass TV series and an episode of XF neither aforementioned authors even liked! We'd also like to thank Jen Mauricio for her helpful edits and hints. To quell any confusion beforehand, there is absolutely NO UST between any of the characters...well, except a few. We can say, however, with 100% certainty: There is NO UST between Mulder and Scully whatsoever!

"In any battle scenario, there is always one variable you cannot predict." --Caesar...Julius Caesar, "Render Unto Caesar", *Hercules: The Legendary Journeys*.

Sunnydale High School
Wednesday 3:30 PM, PST

Buffy Summers pushed open the door to the Sunnydale High School library, her backpack slung casually over one shoulder. She had a study date with her best friend, Willow Rosenberg. If she didn't ace the next history test, she could kiss a decent grade in the course good-bye. Stopping at the check-out counter, Buffy put her backpack down and looked around the empty library. If Sunnydale had one place completely void of life, it was the high school library. The library had probably seen more use in the last few years than since the school was built.

"Giles?" Buffy called out the librarian's name, raising her eyebrows expectantly. She leaned over the counter, making sure he wasn't just hiding. Sometimes he just popped up out of nowhere, damn near giving her heart failure. When no one replied, she leaned against the counter, her brow furrowing. That was odd. Rupert Giles, Buffy's Watcher - and her friend- was almost always in the library. This was one of the few stable elements in the young Slayer's life-always knowing where Giles was.

Sighing softly, Buffy folded her arms across her chest, hoping Willow would arrive soon. As she folded her arms, Buffy noticed a worn, leather-bound book at the end of the counter. She strolled to the end of the counter, unfolding her arms when she stopped in front of the mysterious volume.

"What's this?" she mumbled as she lightly ran her fingers over the chipped gold title embossed on the cover of the book. She flipped it open carefully, so as not to damage the fragile pages inside. Her face crinkled at the stench of mildew wafting up from the leaves of yellowed paper.

The pages were rough to the touch. With each page that she turned, the smell of mildew intensified. The words that neatly lined the aged paper resembled English; but strange punctuation, capitalization and the unfamiliar spellings of the vaguely familiar words suggested otherwise.

"Is this even a language?" she asked aloud, leaning over to study the words on the page. Convinced she had the book upside down, she spun it around, then tilted her head to the side. No, that hadn't solved the mystery. It was still unreadable.

Buffy jumped as the doors to the library burst open and a bright, cheery Willow bustled in. Willow sighed as she ran a hand through her shoulder length hair, brushing it out of her face. "Sorry I'm late, Buffy," she breathlessly apologized, heaving her bookbag so it would stay on her shoulder. "I was tied up with Oz."

Buffy swallowed, still shaken by the way Willow had burst into the library. She couldn't help but notice the way Willow was staring at her trembling hands.

"Hi," Buffy quickly said, clasping her hands together tightly. She glanced over at the open book on the counter then back to Willow, whose face was showing definite concern. She rubbed her hands together, not completely sure why she'd been so jumpy all day. "I don't mind, Willow. You and Oz haven't seen much of each other lately because of all this extra tutoring." She laughed stiffly then quickly flipped the book on the counter shut.

Willow took a few steps closer to Buffy, her eyes flicking from her friend's face to her fidgeting hands. She'd rarely seen Buffy this uneasy. "Are you all right?" she finally asked.

"I'm fine!" Buffy replied brightly, tossing up her hands as if she hadn't a care in the world.. She knew her act wasn't fooling Willow. She grabbed her bookbag and headed for one of the tables. Still, she kept up the happy act. "I'm just fine, Willow. Come on, I have a lot of questions to go over concerning the reconstruction of Europe after World War One."

Willow's head tilted to the left, a bewildered expression on her face as she watched Buffy move to the table. "Buffy, are you sure you're ok?" she asked as she approached the table. She looked down at Buffy, who was deliberately avoiding eye contact with her. "Nothing's bothering you?"

"Nope, not a thing!" Buffy said, shaking her head while she unzipped her bookbag. She raised her eyes to Willow. "What makes you think something's wrong?" She pulled her history book and notebook out of her bag, flashing a quick smile at Willow.

"Because of this," Willow replied, holding up her hands and fidgeting in an exaggerated manner. "You're...edgy." Willow set her bag on the table and sat down in the chair across the table from Buffy. "You're never like this...not without a good reason." Her eyes lit up for a moment. "Are we in for another battle with a monster? I mean, one so evil that only the fast wit and wisdom of Buffy and her friends can save the entire human race?" A shy smile spread across her pretty face.

Buffy couldn't get over how Willow could be so cheerful at the thought of such dire circumstances; it was just part of Willow's charm. Still, she couldn't help but smile at Willow after that remark. "No, nothing is wrong, Willow," she replied. She paused then looked down. "That's what has me totally puzzled, actually."

"That nothing's wrong?" said Willow, a bit confused. "But wouldn't this be considered a good thing, to be rejoiced over and savored?" She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table. "I mean, it's pretty rare that we're not in some kind of danger, Buffy."

Buffy nodded as she looked to Willow. "You're right," she said. "But in this town, quiet is something I've come to fear." She leaned back in her chair, her eyes never leaving Willow's. "I haven't seen one vampire out for a midnight snack in the last four nights."

Willow shrugged slightly. "There have been quiet spells before, Buffy," she replied.

Buffy folded her arms across her chest then looked away from Willow. "Yeah, but so *not* like this, Willow." She sat up as she met her best friend's gaze. "Even the undead scene is, well, dead."

"Which *is* rather odd," Giles' added in that familiar British accent of his. Rupert Giles set down a stack of old books on the counter top then pushed his glasses, which had slipped down the bridge of his nose, back into place. "Vampire activity is usually high during spring--nice weather." He paused as removed his glasses then examined them for a minute giving them a cursory wipe with his ever present handkerchief.. "It's-due to--it's..oh, yes," he stumbled over his words as he placed his glasses back on his face. "A-a lot more people are out at night."

"I concur...awfully dead, even for the undead!" said Xander Harris, stepping out from behind Giles, wearing a smile. "No vampires means no slaying. No slaying means more time to party!" Xander thunked his own bag on the table with Buffy's and Willow's then spun around. He leaned over to Buffy. "Quite frankly, I don't see what the problem is, Buff. Now, you can have that life you've always dreamed of having." He flopped down in the chair next to her.

"Unfortunately, this Slayer gig has eliminated *all* possibility of that dream being realized, Xander," Buffy told him. "Just the roll of the dice. Some of us are destined to be prom queens, others, vampire slayers."

Xander considered her words then nodded. "I suppose you're right," he said. "How would that look in the yearbook? 'Buffy Summers--Prom Queen', then right above the caption a photo of you in a dress and a tiara with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a stake in the other?" He used Buffy's history book as the bouquet in his right hand and her pencil as a stake in the other. He smiled sweetly at her.

Buffy look at him, not at all amused by his pantomime routine. "Xander, tell me again why you're here?"

Xander's smile disappeared as he set the book down on the table. Actually, he'd just wanted to see Buffy and Willow, and never before had he needed a reason to be in the library with them. He drummed his fingers on her history book then his eyes brightened as he looked to her. "I wanted to help you study for the history test tomorrow!" he replied.

"*You*?" Willow blurted, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. "Xander, you're barely passing history yourself!" she declared.

"Yeah, I know!" Xander said, pointing a finger at Willow. He paused, trying to think of a good response. "BUT--I *am* passing!" He added as he lowered his finger, ignoring the look Willow gave him. "I figured I could teach our dear Buffy some of my skills on 'How To Successfully Skim Through Classes'."

"Well," Giles interrupted as he thumbed through one of the books he'd lugged in. "History tests and class skimming aside, I believe Buffy is right about the decrease in vampire activity." He looked over at them. "It could be a harbinger of something far--,uh, far more sinister."

Xander grinned as he wagged a finger accusingly at Giles. "You really love this part, don't you?" he said in a teasing tone. "Warning us of impending doom--it's your forte, Giles."

Giles half smiled but his attention went back to the matter at hand. "Buffy, this, uh, this decrease in vampire activity, was it sudden or did it gradually drop off?"

Buffy pondered the question for a few moment. "It was gradual," she replied, looking over to him. "I noticed the change about a month ago."

Giles flipped through another book, shaking his head. "I, uh, I haven't found anything that resembles this phenomenon in any texts I've read," he said. He paused as he scanned one page closely. "Perhaps it's something new, maybe part of a larger plan?"

Buffy slowly shook her head as she mulled over Giles' suggestion. "No, I don't think it is, Giles," she replied. " I know this is gonna sound totally crazy, but it's almost like they're *afraid* to come out anymore."

Xander half-raised his hand. Once he had their attention, he lowered it then said, "Not for nothing, but maybe it's because you're the Slayer, you live here and it's your duty to destroy them? Just maybe?"

"That's never stopped them before," Willow replied. She glanced over to Buffy. "N-not that I'm saying you don't do your thing well, Buffy. It's just--its--they're not...well, you just don't---"

"Willow," Buffy interrupted her friend's floundering attempt to make the comment sound less like an insult. "It's ok. I knew what you meant." She sighed, that look of worry coming back to her face. "It's definitely something else. And I'd sure like to know what."

An abandoned mansion
Outskirts of Sunnydale
Wednesday 10 PM, PST

When he'd first discovered Sunnydale, the place had enchanted him tremendously. Wonderful place to settle down, destroy townsfolk, and it was on the Hellmouth, to boot.. All the things truly evil creatures, such as he, would take comfort in. Recently, though, this had changed, and not for the better. Things had seriously quieted down. Somehow, it just wasn't as fun when no one was on the playground with you.

The quiet had descended with the arrival of new vampires. Normally, a large group of nomadic vampires coming to town would have pleased him a great deal. The more the merrier, in his opinion. Providing, of course, that the newcomers respected a few rules Spike laid out. But, these vampires were different from every other vamp he'd ever encountered. They had a leader. One who was, for all intents and purposes, a pacifist.

Spike shuddered: a band of peaceful vampires? Bloody hell! It went against everything he held dear about being undead. Aside from questioning how in the hell they had continued to exist, the thought of all those wasted vampiric talents and tendencies irritated him to no end. A whole group of these pansies running around doing absolutely nothing. Somehow, they had managed to convince a good number of the other vampires in town to tone it down as well. The place turned into some magical Happy Land straight out of a fairy tale. Something had to be done, and soon.

However, as badly as he wanted to get things in Sunnydale back to the usual hellish state of affairs, Spike was loath to take on the entire task himself. A few wayward vamps at a time, yes. But this was a large group, and required fast action on a grand scale.

His group of allies was small, to say the least. One. But, as wonderful as she was, Drusilla's scattered way of thinking was more of a hindrance than a help to his attempts to restore the fun to Sunnydale.

The main objective was to get rid of the Boy Scout vampire leader. With him out of the way, the rest of the group would be easier to deal with, one way or another. The goody-two-shoes bastard obviously viewed the Hellmouth as the perfect place for his vampire missionaries --or whatever they thought themselves to be-to set up camp. What Spike needed was someone to take Mr. Nice Guy out quickly and neatly. Once he was eliminated, his followers would fall into disarray. Then evil would be free to reign again.

He wandered back and forth across the floor, weighing his options. Spike didn't buy that Anne Rice crap about vampires not killing other vampires. What he needed was an inside advantage. Then, it dawned on him; he remembered one rather talkative vampire from the group. The way the kid had whined about Hartwell's operation, Spike got the impression that the youth was sick of the touchy-feely company he'd been keeping. Spike had rebuffed the lad due to his innate stupidity and misguided loyalty to his kind-hearted vampire leader. However, before Spike had turned him away, the boy had told him an interesting story.

It seemed the charismatic leader of the peaceful vampires had aroused the suspicions of some crackpot FBI agent who investigated the paranormal. At first Spike didn't believe the kid, but he did a little checking around on his own and found that this wacko Fed did exist.

Spike despised telephones, but Dru insisted and he found saying no to her to be incredibly difficult. And even he had to admit, the damn thing had its uses. After a quick call to 4-1-1 and an utterly unpleasant exchange with the operator, he had all the information he needed to contact his potential ally. Of course, he wasn't going to risk a call to this fellow. He needed to maintain some anonymity for the time being, and these government types probably traced every phone call they got. A telegram should do the trick. Untraceable and just unusual enough to not get lost in the shuffle.

J. Edgar Hoover Building
Mulder's Office
Thursday 7:03 PM EST

Special Agent Fox Mulder stifled a yawn as he removed his glasses, then rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. The glow from the computer screen cast an eerie pall on his face. Mulder set his glasses down beside the keyboard, and stretched his arms above his head.

What time is it? he wondered as he lowered his arms. He glanced at his watch: 7:04 already! Damn, had it been almost two hours since Scully left? What he wouldn't do for an office with an actual window.

He turned his attention back to the computer screen, skimming over the report he'd been typing up for Skinner. This particular case was rather unique, even for the X-Files: a small community displaying perfect behavior not unlike something out of "The Stepford Wives." Mulder believed the people had been exposed to some sort of mind control experiment. Scully, however, did not. Of course, that was no surprise.

Lately though, Mulder noticed Scully being much more vocal in her discontent with the X-Files and with him. It seemed every time he introduced a new case to her, he was met with Scully's trademark "Look" and, if he was really lucky, a little bit of eye-rolling. Still, he couldn't fault her for being frustrated. The Files were the source of most of the pain and grief his partner had suffered in the past few years. The more they investigated, the more Scully had to endure - mentally and physically.

Mulder saved his work to a disk. He'd worry about the conclusion of the report tomorrow. Once the save was finished, he exited out of the word processing program, and shut the computer off. He sighed as he scooped up the piles of folders and loose paper on his desk. As he shifted a few of the folders resting in his left arm, an envelope slipped from between them and fluttered down to the desktop.

He looked down on it, reading the front. It was a telegram addressed to him. Slowly, he put down his files and picked up the envelope from Western Union. He vaguely recalled a messenger catching him as he entered the office earlier that day. He was too busy having a discussion with Scully to notice what it was he was signing for. He'd just shoved it into the folder he happened to be toting with him and forgot about it.

Mulder ripped open the envelope and read the short note inside:

"Angry over the Hartwell incident STOP Suggest visit to Sunnydale, California STOP William B STOP"

Hartwell. Oh, how that name brought back memories.

Lucius Hartwell and his group of trailerpark-dwelling vampires had caused him a load of trouble a few months earlier. While investigating a vampire-like murder in the small town of Chaney, Texas, Mulder and Scully had the pleasure of being attacked by a rogue member of Hartwell's troupe. The end result of a long chase through a dark wood was Mulder driving a stake into the chest of the young vampire: Ronnie Strickland.

Ronnie's death sparked a monumental uproar, not only within the FBI, but in the press, as well.. Skinner demanded a complete account of what happened in Chaney. A detailed report of the events leading up to the death of Ronnie Strickland was virtually impossible. Scully recalled events unfolding one way, while Mulder had a different view. Not that the confusion was limited to point of view; heavy drugs were involved for both agents. Not illegal narcotics, but significant doses of chloral hydrate. To add insult to injury, the family of Ronnie Strickland had filed suit against Mulder, Scully and the FBI to the tune of $446,000,000.00.

Soon, thanks to a careless morgue attendant unfamiliar with the methodology of killing vampires, Ronnie Strickland rose again, escaped the morgue and ran back to Chaney.

Mulder winced recalling the morning after he and Scully arrived in Chaney, searching for the newly-resurrected Ronnie Strickland. He awoke in his rental car, in the now-empty trailer park. Scully, looking as though she were stoned, wandered up to the car wearing Hartwell's jacket. The vampire clan was gone and there was not one clue as to where they had headed.

"Sunnydale, California," he said, as he sat down in his chair with the telegram. "William B?" He shook his head, bewildered by this tipster. Telegram was *not* the usual medium by which people sent Mulder leads on open cases. E-mails, cryptic phone calls and surprise visits while he was out and about were commonplace, but this was his first telegram. If the sender's intent was to grab his attention, he had certainly succeeded.

He debated over contacting Western Union, but they probably wouldn't be able to give him any more information on who sent it. Throwing his official FBI weight around people like that never went over well. If he pissed Western Union off, it'd probably leak out to other services, like UPS and the regular mail. He'd never see another copy of Celebrity Skin arrive at his door again.

Leaning back in his chair, Mulder lowered the telegram and let out a long breath. Why would vampires relocate to California of all places? And why some pissant town named Sunnydale? One would think they'd head for a big city like Los Angeles or San Francisco; there were plenty of weirdoes in those cities to get lost among.

Mulder picked up his glasses and put them back on as he waited for his computer to reboot. Opening his web browser and calling up a search engine, he ran a search on 'Sunnydale, California'.

Mulder's Office
Friday 9:00 AM EST

Dana Scully entered the office, pulling off her trenchcoat and closing the door behind her in one fluid motion. She hung her coat on the rack, noticing Mulder's coat was already there. Usually Mulder wasn't in the office this early unless--

"Scully!" Mulder practically shouted as he walked in from the small room adjoining the office. He was wearing the same clothes he'd had on the day before. He was slightly wrinkled, but still somewhat presentable. "I'm glad you're finally here!"

Scully took a few steps towards Mulder, a curious expression on her face. "Mulder, are you ok?" she asked after a moment.

Mulder put the book he'd carried into the office onto his desk then looked at his partner. "I'm just fine! Why do you ask?" He sat down and started flipping through the book, occasionally sipping hot coffee from the mug sitting on his desk.

"You're just so...perky," she replied slowly, from her spot in front of his desk. She raised her eyebrows slightly when Mulder looked up to her. "Have you been here all night?" she asked. She watched him take another drink of his coffee. "Have you *slept* at all?"

"Oh, yeah! Sure!" Mulder replied, then waved a dismissive hand at her. "I caught about an hour last night. I hadn't meant to. I was doing a search through a German university library and I fell asleep while the browser was working." He took another swig of his coffee. "But, unfortunately, my inactivity after the search was finished caused me to lose my connection before I could print anything out. I had to do it all over again." He whipped a printout from his stacks of books and papers then held it up to Scully. "Here, read this. It's absolutely fascinating!"

Scully took the printout but her eyes never left her partner. She watched him finish off his coffee then head over to the machine for more. "Uh, Mulder?" she asked, as he poured himself another cup. "Exactly how much coffee have you consumed in the last 12 hours?"

Mulder glanced over his shoulder at her as he poured out his coffee. "Oh, not much," he replied with a shrug. When the cup was full, he started to gulp it down.

"I see," Scully said, folding her arms across her chest. "And exactly how much is 'not much'?"

Mulder finished off the cup then replied, "About 5 or 6 pots, give or take." He began to pour himself another, but paused and looked back to her. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did you want any, Scully?" he asked as he raised up the pot of steaming black coffee.

"No, thanks," she replied.

Mulder shrugged then finished pouring. He motioned to the paper in her hands as he passed her on the way back to his desk. "You haven't even looked at what I found, Scully," he said then sat down. "You may find it interesting, considering your religious upbringing." He chuckled a little at his comment.

Scully looked from him to the printout in her hands. "Sunnydale, California?" she read the shook her head as she switched her gaze to Mulder. "The only California that means anything to me is 'Hotel California', Mulder."

"Read on," Mulder said, continuing to flip through his book. "Sunnydale, California, is a small town but it has interesting attributes." He stopped flipping through his book while Scully looked over the printout. "According to my research, the area where this town is located is like a G-spot of mystical forces. Has been for some time. Take a look at the rap sheet on that place. Unexplained murders and disappearances have occurred there for ages, but have been on a steady rise over the last 60 years."

Scully read the lists of missing persons and the dates of the bizarre murders and serial killings that happened in the area. A string of violent murders took place after an earthquake rocked the place back in '37: gruesome murders involving extreme trauma inflicted on the neck and shoulder area of each victim. More recently, there was an alarming amount of gang-related activity involving drugs like PCP. She looked over to Mulder, who eagerly awaited her response to the information.

"Mulder, I fail to see what any of this has to do with my religion - or anyone's for that matter," she said, shaking the printout a little. "Unless you found proof of some sort of cult activity in this area, or perhaps some religiously motivated serial killer--" She shrugged for lack of anything else to say.

"When the Spanish came to this particular part of California, they called this place 'Boca Del Infierno'. Roughly translated," Mulder glanced down at his book then turned it around so Scully could see what he was looking at. He shoved the book across the desk towards her and tapped his forefinger on a picture. "The mouth of Hell."

Scully picked the book up, cringing as she looked at the drawing, which depicted a most foul scene. A gate of iron covered with spikes and barbed wire sat open, flanked on all sides by terrible monsters and demons. Some of the creatures killed and maimed young women, while others performed the vilest of acts with men and women and with each other. Back behind the gate, set apart from the chaos below, was the recognizable form of Lucifer, flames surrounded the laughing fallen angel.

"God, Mulder," Scully whispered, shaking her head as she dropped the book back on his desk. "It's 9 o'clock in the morning and you're showing me *this*?" She put shoved the book back across the desk to him, closing her eyes for a moment.

"Don't you see, Scully?" Mulder asked as he rose to his feet. He took the printout from her and rested it beside the picture in the book. "All of these odd goings-on - the deaths, the vampire-like murders, the disappearances - they are extremely commonplace in Sunnydale. According to my research, this town sits right smack-dab on top of the Hellmouth! It's a revolving door between Hell and earth." He pushed the book in her face once again.

"Yes, I see it, Mulder," she answered, meeting his gaze. "And this means what to me?" She raised her eyebrows slightly, waiting for an answer. "Why do we care so much about Sunnydale, California? What could your research have uncovered that was important enough to lose sleep and venture into the wonderful world of caffeine poisoning?"

Mulder sat back down in his chair, looking away from her. "I got a lead on an open case," he responded quietly.

Scully nodded. "Really? What case? And what does it have to do with this?" She waved a hand at the mess of research scattered across his desk.

Mulder pulled out the small yellow sheet of paper and handed it over to her. "I received this yesterday," he replied as she took it.

"A telegram?" Scully said, visibly surprised. She read it over, her expression morphing from interest to puzzlement then to flatly unreadable. She slowly lifted her eyes from the paper to Mulder. "What is this all about?"

"Hartwell is in that town, Scully," said Mulder. "Sunnydale." He looked down at his book. "If it truly is a magnet for everything paranormal, as I imagine it is, that town must be a haven for creatures like him."

Scully didn't even attempt to hide her disgust with this statement. She let out a frustrated breath and rolled her eyes. "Mulder, this is a telegram signed by," she glanced at the paper. "Someone calling themselves 'William B.'. You're taking this seriously? How do you know it isn't some bored weirdo trying to create trouble?" He opened his mouth to respond, but she kept going, "That's right, you don't."

"I've looked into this place, Scully," he said as he rose to his feet. "This town recently hired a new deputy sheriff: Lucien Hartwell. He only works the night shift." He gave her an 'I told you so' look. "He's been working the town for a month. And if he's there then the rest of those vampires have to be with him. He's their center."

"And you're going to Sunnydale to...what?" she asked. "To harass Hartwell? To stir up trouble in this town full of innocent, unsuspecting people? And why? Because some...some person," she waved the telegram around, "sent you a telegram."

"He *is* there, Scully," Mulder snapped, snatching the paper from her hands. "And he's harboring a murder suspect. He's just as guilty as Ronnie Strickland. Just because you have a crush on him..."

"I *what*?" Scully exclaimed, her eyes widening. She blinked a few times. "I do not now, nor have I ever had a crush on Lucius Hartwell. And this 'William B.', whoever he is, obviously has a personal beef with Hartwell; just read the note!" She pointed to the paper in his hands. "He wants you to come out there and disrupt a quiet little town." She lowered her voice, muttering, "No doubt your reputation stretches far and wide, especially concerning this case."

Mulder's expression filled with amusement after that comment. "It doesn't matter what this guy has against Hartwell, Scully. Hartwell is sheltering Ronnie Strickland. Even you can't deny he's breaking the law even if he isn't terrorizing the Sunnydale community."

Scully let out a long sigh as she rubbed her temples with her fingers. After a moment, she dropped her hands to her sides. "Yes, Mulder," she said, softly. "You are right, but for the last time, they were not vampires because--"

"Vampires don't exist," he said along with her in a bored tone, nodding. "I know your position on the existence of the undead." He smiled a little as he gathered up all his work. "Pack your shades and suntan lotion, Scully, 'cause...California, here we come!"

Scully closed her eyes, wishing she hadn't let her partner corner her into this cross-country wild good chase.

Sunnydale High School
3:00 PM

The bell rang, signaling the end of last period and freedom from school. Buffy left her history class, her head held high and a bright smile on her face. She made her way to her locker where Willow awaited her.

"So?" Willow said anxiously as she watched Buffy spin the dial on her locker.

Buffy smiled even wider, looking to her left as Xander joined them in the hall. She pulled out the books she'd need over the weekend, dropping them into her bag. "I aced it," she confidently replied. "I totally aced that history test, thanks to you, Willow." She slung her bookbag over her should and kicked her locker shut.

"A cheat sheet, huh?" Xander knowingly said as the three of them walked down the hall together. He laughed weakly when both Willow and Buffy turned to glare at him. "Kidding!" he declared tossing up his hands. "Really, I'm glad you did well, Buffy."

"It was amazing," Buffy explained as they moved through the crowded halls. "I took one look at that test, and had this good feeling rush over me. If you hadn't spent so much time helping me study, Willow--" She paused, trying to think of something. "Well, let's just say I wouldn't be in a such a good mood right now."

"You did the real work," Willow replied, semi-blushing from all the praise her friend lavished on her. She shrugged. "I only guided you."

"I owe you my passing grade, Obi-Wan," Buffy said to Willow then smiled once more. "I just feel so good! I feel like a weight or something has been removed from my shoulders. I want to celebrate."

"Celebration, partying, I'm in," Xander said as they left the school. They stepped out into the warm and sunny California afternoon. "A little ice cream sounds good, then perhaps a little loitering around town. The Bronze later."

Buffy nodded. "I'm definitely there," she told him. She looked over to Willow. "Come on, Willow, you deserve my gratitude. Hey, as many ice cream sundaes you can possibly eat--on me."

"Oh, uh, I'd like to, Buffy," Willow said as they stopped at the bottom of the steps. "But Giles just got in these great new volumes of spell books. I've been dying for new spells to learn."

"We wouldn't want to keep you from any pressing duties there, Wendy," Xander said.

Willow's eyebrows furrowed at his comment. "It's Willow," she said quietly. How could Xander get her name wrong? They had been friends since they were 2!

"Huh?" Xander looked over to her. He noticed the curious way she stared back. "What is it?"

"Well, it's--you called me 'Wendy', and it's not 'Wendy'," she replied. She saw the puzzled looks on Buffy's and Xander's faces then she sighed. "You know, my name," she added in a low voice, color creeping across her cheeks.

Xander, still staring at her with a bewildered expression, said, "If anyone else has no idea what Willow is talking about, please, raise your hand." He raised his hand and glanced over at Buffy who just shrugged.

"Uh, well, I'm gonna go," Willow told them as she shifted her bookbag to her other shoulder. "I was--I have some other, you know, stuff to do...too." She looked from Buffy to Xander then lowered her eyes as she walked away from them.

"What's with her?" Xander asked as he watched Willow walk away.

Mulder pulled the car to a stop across the street from Sunnydale High School. He shut off the car, resting his elbow on the door as he watched the teenagers leave school grounds. He adjusted his sunglasses.

"Doesn't seem like a Hellmouth," he commented, his attention on two kids horsing around the school yard.

Scully leaned her head back on the headrest and sighed. "Mulder, it's a high school, by definition, it's a hellmouth," she told him. "And why are we here?"

Mulder opened his door and got out of the car. "Curiosity," he replied then slammed his door shut.

Scully got out of the car and looked over the top of the car to Mulder. "Curiosity?" she replied. "What does any of this have to do with Lucius Hartwell or Ronnie Strickland, Mulder?" She brushed the back of her hand over her forehead, wiping away the mild sweat. She regretted wearing a suit now. She slammed her car door shut then jogged a little to catch up with Mulder who walked across the street. "Why are we here?"

Mulder stopped on the sidewalk, watching the kids pass by him. "Scully, 25 people have either died or have been found dead on school property in the last three years. You don't find that the least bit interesting?"

"The way schools are nowadays, Mulder, 25 is low," Scully replied. She started to walk but slammed right into someone. "Oof!"

"Oh! I'm sorry! Excuse me!" Willow exclaimed. She brushed her hair out of her face then bent over to pick up her bookbag which sat at Scully's feet. "I'm so sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going." She straightened, her book back in her hands.

"Are you ok?" Scully asked, gently placing a hand on Willow's shoulder to steady the girl. "We hit pretty hard." She smiled a little when Willow finally raised her eyes up to look at her. "Sure you're all right?"

"Oh, yes," Willow replied, nodding. "I'm fine. I'm sorry. I was looking for this--" She held up a tattered notebook. "In my bag." She stuffed the notebook back in her bag. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine," Scully assured Willow, letting her hand drop from the girl's shoulder. "I wasn't watching where I was going, either."

Willow looked from Scully over to Mulder, realizing these were strangers to Sunnydale. "You two aren't from around here," she said.

Mulder pulled out his badge and showed it to Willow. "We're FBI agents from D.C.," he told her. "I'm Fox Mulder, this is my partner, Dana Scully." He flipped his badge wallet closed and returned it to his jacket pocket. "And you are?"

"Me?" Willow said, motioning to herself. "I'm Willow...Rosenberg." She studied both of these agents for another moment. "What is the FBI doing here in Sunnydale?"

Scully looked over to Mulder, folding her arms across her chest, waiting for him to reply.

Mulder paused, then said, "Have you lived in this town long?" He figured it was time to start asking questions, starting with this kid right here. Hartwell could wait.

"All my life," Willow answered, her expression becoming slightly puzzled with Mulder.

"Have you noticed a lot of strange things going on in this town?" he continued, trying to sound official and not rabidly curious. "You know--anything paranormal?"

Willow glanced over to Scully. She could tell the lady agent wasn't too thrilled with the questions Mulder asked either. "Paranormal?" she repeated. She'd seen plenty of things that could be classified as 'paranormal', but why did he want to know?

Mulder sighed, tiring of this girl. "Don't you find it odd 25 people have died or have been found dead on school property in the last three years?" he asked. Before she could answer, he continued on. "Most of which are bizarre in nature and greatly unexplained."'

"You're here because of 25 murders in three years time, Agent Mulder?" Willow replied, her eyebrows arching. That was weird. She always thought the FBI went for kidnappings and major stuff like that, not 25 unexplained and bizarre deaths in some little old town.

Mulder nodded. "To an extent, yes."

"Shouldn't you be in Detroit or New York City or some place where that sort of thing is a real problem?" Willow asked. "I mean, I don't know much, but 25 murders in three years, given the population of this town, is more than reasonably low."

This time, Scully's eyebrows arched as she looked from Willow to Mulder. "She has an excellent point, Mulder," she told him. She looked back to Willow, rather impressed by the girl's reply.

Willow watched the two agents exchange their looks. This wasn't good. One of them had an interest in the odd happenings in Sunnydale, while the other--she definitely did not. She cleared her throat. "Hey, I have to be going," she said, gaining Mulder's and Scully's attention. "I have some place to be." She walked away from the two agents, but stayed within earshot. She had to know what these two were doing in Sunnydale--to keep them from possibly getting killed.

"Mulder, this is insane!" Scully said, shading her eyes from the afternoon sun as she looked at him. "You told me we were here to find Ronnie Strickland and Lucius Hartwell, but we're not, are we?"

Sheriff Hartwell? Willow thought, her raising up. She'd been sitting on the concrete steps, pretending to be interested in what was in her notebook. What would the FBI want with a nice guy like Hartwell? Sure, the guy was a vampire, but not dangerous. Buffy sure didn't seem concerned about him. If Buffy had a concern, especially where vampires were the issue, then it was time to worry. And who was Ronnie Strickland? She shook her head and continued to listen.

"We are, Scully," Mulder replied. He saw the look on her face; she didn't believe one word coming out of his mouth. "Look, Hartwell won't be going anywhere. This place is too valuable for him to just gather up the 'fam' and run. He'll fight for his stake on this town."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully sighed, rolling her eyes slightly as her hand dropped to her side. "You are unbelievable sometimes, you know that?"

"What? This place is a gold mine. It could open up a whole new section in the X-Files: Mysteries of the Hellmouth."

They know about the Hellmouth? Willow thought, a panic spreading over her. She glanced over her shoulder at the two agents. Oh, no.

"You're drawing this conclusion from a *name* the Spanish gave this place," Scully replied, waving a hand around, indicating the town. "I'm sure years ago this place, as desolate and hot as it is, reminded them of Hell. There are a million different explanations to 'Boca Del Infiero', and you're taking the most literal one. If I dig into the history of this town, I could find ample official documentation on this place, which would support a logical explanation for this 'hellmouth' business."

"But what about the murders?" Mulder asked. "You can't explain away the bizarre murders, like the ones back in '37." He sighed, looking away from her. "Look, Scully." He motioned to the kids. "These people are just as oblivious to the power and danger of this place as you are."

"Oblivious?" Scully repeated raising her eyebrows at him, rather surprised he chose that word. "Mulder, exercising rational, common sense can hardly be classified as oblivious." She gazed around the school yard. "This town is just like any other--all places have their odd mysteries, their distinctive characteristics."

"And the rash of brutal, vampire-like murders in '37? That's this town's historical quirk?" He laughed slightly. "There is only one explanation for those murders, Scully--"

"Mulder, if you say 'vampires', I'm getting in that car, driving to the airport and ditching you for a change," Scully snapped in reply. She chuckled a little, shaking her head. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you--here and now!"

Willow turned a little, watching Mulder and Scully. Mulder knew more about this place than any outsider should. He seemed gung-ho to prove all of his theories correct to Scully. That sort of thing only led to trouble.

"Scully, we are standing on an entrance to Hell," Mulder told her, pointing to the ground. "Doesn't this interest you at all?"

"No, it doesn't," she flatly replied, folding her arms across her chest. "And I should've known you'd want to play around out here. I only agreed to this because *you* pointed out a murder suspect is possibly hiding out in this town. You neither want to find him nor the person who might be able to tell us where Ronnie Strickland is."

"But, Scully--" Mulder started.

"Look, Mulder, I really don't *care* what you believe this town is, what it sits on, or what sort of creatures gravitate towards it. That's not why we're here," Scully sharply interrupted. Her impatience with him had reached it's peak. "If you want to investigate that sort of thing, fine. If you don't care about finding Hartwell or Strickland, fine, too. I, however, will *not* gallivant all over this town with you while you make an ass of yourself!"

Mulder blinked a few times, stunned by the ferocity in Scully's words. He'd never taken a verbal beating like that from her--well, not for some time, anyway. He couldn't see what the big deal was--so they spent a few extra days?

"This is an important addition to the Files, Scully," he finally responded. "Our work."

"No, Mulder, not the Files," she retorted. She pointed a finger at him. "It's important to *you*. The Files are *our* work, and this is not *our* work. You feel free to investigate it, but you can count me out."

After a moment of silence, Mulder asked, "Well, what will you do?"

"I'll find something to do," Scully said then sighed. "Maybe I'll find the public library and do a little research of my own on this town."

"Ok," Mulder slowly replied. "Have a ball!" He pulled out the keys to the rental car and started across the street.

"Well, what are you doing?" Scully called after him, her arms dropping to her sides. "Mulder?"

"I'm doing my thing, Scully!" he called back then waved the keys. "He who hath the keys, hath the car!" He opened up the driver's side door and looked back to her, smiling. "See you later!" He got in the car, started it up then drove away.

Willow watched Mulder drive away then heard Scully mutter, "Son of a bitch!" She turned to see Scully standing there with a hand to her forehead. She felt sorry for Scully, being ditched so cruelly by a man who was supposed to be her partner. But...she began to get an idea.

Allowing Scully to roam about Sunnydale, so unbelieving of everything that *was* a real danger in that town, could prove disastrous. A vampire could pop up and munch on her while she wandered about Sunnydale at night, or any other monster the Hellmouth attracted, for that matter. Besides, Willow was rather interested in talking to Scully.

Scully let out a sigh, her hand falling to her side. Goddamn it, Mulder, she thought. When I find you-- "Uh, Agent...Scully?" Willow's voice interrupted Scully's thoughts. She looked to her right to see Willow standing beside her.

Willow clutched her bookbag in both hands, swallowing a little when Scully turned her attention to her. "Excuse me, I was sitting right over there--" She pointed to the concrete steps a few feet away. "And I couldn't help but overhear you say something about a...a library?"

Scully hesitated. "Yes," she slowly replied. She looked around. "The public library wouldn't be within walking distance of here, would it?"

Willow shifted her bag, holding it in her arms instead of her hands. "Uh, no, not really," she answered. "But the *school* library is nearby, you know--" She pointed towards the building. "In the school. It's a good library, and--and ever *better* than the public library if you want to research the town."

Scully sighed as she put a hand on her hip then glanced around the almost empty school yard. "Are you sure about this?" she asked, looking over to Willow. "That using the school library will be all right?"

"Oh, sure!" Willow assured her, nodding vigorously. "I know the librarian, Mr. Giles well. He won't mind." She could tell Scully was considering whether or not to go. Please, please, say yes, Willow begged in her mind.

Scully brushed her hand over her forehead, once again, wiping away sweat. What the hell? she figured. It was too hot to walk around, and there was a library close enough. "All right," she said. She looked to Willow again. "As long as its ok with the school. I really don't want to walk all over town." She pointed to her feet which sported a pair of black suede pumps.

As Willow and Scully walked into the school together, Willow glanced at Scully a few times. She was happy Scully had decided to go to the school library. If the agent would be safe while in Sunnydale, the library, with Giles, was the best place.

"So," Willow said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "You are going to research the town history then?" After Scully nodded, Willow went on. "Going to the school library is definitely the right move. Giles know all about the history of Sunnydale."

Scully nodded, looking over at Willow. The young girl reminded her a little of herself. Of course she was as never as calm and collected as this Willow Rosenberg appeared, but that spark was there.

"Mr. Giles has lived here a long time?" Scully asked.

"Oh, no," Willow replied, lowered her eyes to the floor, watching the linoleum pass under her feet. She raised her head up quickly as she said, "But he makes it a point to know. History. All kinds of.....things."

"Should prove useful," Scully said. Hopefully this Giles would have a better grip on reality than Mulder. Hell, he was a *librarian* in a high school. The guy was probably so level, normal and dull, he could put her to sleep.

"Here we are," Willow said as she pushed open the door to the library. "I think you'll like Giles, Agent Scully," she added as they stepped inside.

"Buffy?" Giles' voice said. He was nowhere in sight but his voice originated from somewhere close by. "I've been reading this old text and this passage--" Giles rose up from behind the counter, the tattered leather bound book open in his hands. "O-oh, W-Willow," he said when he pulled his nose out of the book. "I-I thought, uh, you were--" He trailed off when he noticed the strikingly beautiful redhead with Willow. He couldn't recall what he'd been saying.

"Giles?" Willow asked as she approached the counter. She thunked her bookbag down on it, causing him to blink and come back to the world. She raised a curious eyebrow. "Who did you think I was?" She saw Giles stared right passed her, so she followed his gaze which led right to Agent Scully.

Giles blinked again slowly turning his attention to Willow, who leaned forward on the counter. She rested her elbows on the counter and propped up her chin in one hand, her eyes twinkling a little. "Oh! Y- y-yes," he suddenly replied. "I, oh, I--I was hoping you were Buffy. This--this, um, book I found is...is just fascinating--" He flipped through the pages. Shutting the book Giles cleared his throat and looked back to Scully. "And, uh, who is this, Willow?"

"Dana Scully," Scully supplied as she joined Willow at the counter. She extended her hand over the counter to him, a pleasant smile on her face. "I'm an agent with the FBI."

Giles' eyes widened just a bit as he accepted Scully's hand. He lightly shook it, but didn't let go. He glanced over to Willow, who grinned at him and nodded to his hand still clasped with Scully's. "F-FB I, you say?" he replied, letting go of Scully's hand as he switched his gaze to her. "What interest do you have, uh, in...in Sunnydale, Agent Scully?"

"It's not really my interest," Scully said, resting her hands on the counter. She found a smile still parked on her face. "And I take it you're the 'Mr. Giles' I heard about." She exchanged a look with Willow who tried to hide her amusement with the whole scene.

"Uh, I--uh," Giles stumbled over his own words. He heard Willow stifle a snicker. "I--I....Who?" he finally managed to spit out. It then hit him what Scully had said. "Oh! Yes, yes, t-that's me, all right. I'm Rupert...uh..." He paused, tapping a finger on the counter, trying hard to remember his last name. "Giles!" Yes, that was it.

Scully tried to keep her smiling to a minimum. The librarian's stuttering was cute, in a way. "I understand you're also the librarian here," she continued. "I seem to be without transportation--"

"Her partner ditched her," Willow interjected. She pursed her lips together when Scully looked over to her, an eyebrow raised. She clapped a hand over her mouth as she uttered a muffled, "Oops."

"And I hoped to use the library here," Scully went on, flicking her gaze back to Giles. "I've been told you'd allow me use of this place for some research." She motioned with a hand, indicating the library.=0D

"R-research?" asked Giles. "On what...exactly?"

"*Town history*," Willow replied for Scully, stressing the two words. She gave Giles a knowing sort of look. "You know, find out things about the *history* of the town."

Giles curiously stared at Willow, wondering why she spoke and acted in such a peculiar manner. Town history? Then it hit him. "Oh, yes..." he said, switching his attention to Scully. "Town history...yes." He remained quiet, but a blank expression washed over his face.

"That isn't a problem, is it?" Scully asked when Giles just stood there, almost dazed. She waved a hand slightly, trying to catch his attention. "Mr. Giles?"

"Oh! Uh, it's--it's not a problem," Giles quickly responded, snapping out of the daze, looking to Scully. "It's just--you can use the library for as...as long as you'd like." He held his book in his hands, drumming his fingers on it.

"I can help!" Willow piped up, her eyes glimmering as she smiled at Scully. "If you will let me help, that is," she added. "I'm actually very useful...sometimes...I'm an accomplished researcher." She waited anxiously for Scully's response to her offer.

"I'd appreciate your help," Scully answered. She smiled again when Willow broke into a huge grin. "You know this library well, Willow?" she asked.

"Like the back of my hand!" Willow replied, holding up her right hand between them. She looked at her hand, a curious expression on her face. "That saying has always puzzled me--'like the back of my hand'. It's a hand. How much is there to know?" She noticed Scully staring at her, and Willow lowered her hand. "And I'm babbling."

"Agent Scully, if you'll pardon my asking," Giles said. When Scully turned her attention to him, he continued. "Uh, why is the FBI so interested in...in this town's history? Why are you here, is more to the--uh--the point."

Scully laughed lightly. "Mulder, my partner, he thinks this town is a gateway to Hell, or some sort of nonsense." She shook her head, embarrassed she was even repeating this out loud. "Mulder believes this place is a Mecca for monsters, demons, what have you, because of it. Crazy, huh?" She smiled, glancing from Giles to Willow. "Well, I'll start with--" She looked around then spotted the card catalogue. "Oh, a card catalogue," she said, rather surprised. "Been quite awhile since I've seen one. I'll be right over here."

When Scully was busy sorting through the card catalogue, Giles focused his attention on Willow. "This *is* a problem," he said, keeping his voice low. "We have one agent who believes in the Hellmouth and all the--the beasts it appeals to--" He glanced at Scully. "And one who thinks the other is crazy." He sighed. "What exactly do you know about why she and her partner are here, Willow?"

"Well, I overheard them talking," said Willow. "The guy, Mulder, and she are both interested in Sheriff Hartwell. You know the guy, Giles. The *other* good vampire. Or *one* of the others...depends on how you look at it."

Giles continued to watch Scully sift through the catalogue. "Yes...I, uh, I know of him. Buffy's mentioned him quite a bit since he arrived in town." He looked back to Willow. "Did either say why they were searching for Sheriff Hartwell?"

Willow shook her head. "No," she said. "Just something about finding him. Oh! Wait, and they mentioned another person--something Stryker...Stricker..." She snapped her fingers. "Strickland." She paused. "A murder suspect, that's what Agent Scully said. Strickland," she repeated. "Doesn't sound like the sort of name a demon would have."

"No, and I doubt he is," Giles replied, setting his book down on the counter. He drummed his fingers on the book, thinking for a few moments. "Perhaps this...this Strickland character is part of the clan that arrived with Sheriff Hartwell." He shook his head a little. "A murder suspect? Doesn't fit the literature. Why..." He trailed off.

Willow shrugged then she saw the distant look on Giles' face. "You're not concerned about Sheriff Hartwell or those other vampires with him, are you, Giles?"

"N-no, not particularly," Giles replied, shaking his head slightly. He drummed his fingers on the book a few moments. "I only wonder exactly..exactly what this FBI agent plans to do here."

Downtown Sunnydale

Mulder stepped out of the shop onto Main Street in downtown Sunnydale - all 2 city blocks worth of it. He glanced over his shoulder as the shopkeeper inside yelled, "What are you, crazy?" Sighing, he slipped on his sunglasses. As the lady continued to call out after him, Mulder started to walk away, nodding at the passers by. He tried to smile at a couple he'd talked to earlier, but they didn't return the gesture.

"Some kind of nutball," he heard the woman mumble to her husband as they passed.

Mulder continued down the street, ignoring the curious stares he received from the townsfolk he'd already encountered. His eyes remained forward, doing his best not to look at any of them. Apparently he was correct in his assumption the people of Sunnydale were oblivious to the danger and power of the Hellmouth that their city rested upon. When he questioned people on phenomenon like vampires, demons, witches, and the like., the reaction was the always the same.

"Are you crazy?"

No wonder these people turned up dead so often. They were clueless about the world which surrounded them.

Mulder looked up to the sky. It would be dark soon, and Sunnydale would truly come alive, so to speak. He slowed down as he felt as though someone was watching him. It wasn't the stares of the townsfolk. This was something more - intense. He continued to walked as he looked over his shoulder. He didn't notice anyone who seemed to be watching him or acting in a suspicious manner - WHAM! "Ow!" a girl's voice yelled as Mulder slammed right into someone on the sidewalk.

He faced forward to see a very pretty blonde teenager wearing a flower print sundress glaring at him. With her was a teenage boy, not very pleased with Mulder either. The boy had vanilla ice cream smeared all over the front of his shirt.

"I'm sorry," Mulder immediately apologized. He pulled out his handkerchief and held it towards the boy. "I didn't see you two."

The boy snatched the kerchief from Mulder's hand. "I'm not surprised," he grumbled in reply. He focused his attention on wiping away the ice cream from his shirt.

The girl took hold of the boy's shirt, pulling it taut for him while he attempted to fix the damage. "It helps if you're facing in the direction which you're walking," she told Mulder. She looked over to him. "I take it this is your first day as a bipedal creature?"

Mulder snorted, amused by this girl loosely slinging insults at someone she'd just met. He watched as she helped the boy clean off his shirt.

"Xander, don't press down on it so hard," the girl said, glancing up at her friend. "If you don't stop that, you'll never get this stain out."

"I know how to clean myself up, Buffy," Xander said. He let out a sigh of slight annoyance as Buffy took the kerchief from his hands and set to work. "Thanks, Mom. So glad you're here, because I'm not capable of cleaning my own shirt off," he added with a not-so-subtle trace of sarcasm.

"Look, I'm sorry," Mulder apologized again as Buffy straightened. "I thought someone...was....behind me." He couldn't say 'watching me', that'd sound too paranoid. And God knew he had enough of the townsfolk thinking he was nuts.

Buffy waved the kerchief around, indicating the crowded main street. "It's a Friday afternoon on Main Street. Of *course* someone's going to be behind you." Her face scrunched up when she realized she was chastising a perfect stranger. "Who are you anyway?"

Mulder pulled out his ID and flipped it open. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI," he replied, making sure both of the kids saw the badge.

"*Fox* Mulder?" Xander repeated, grabbing hold of the ID wallet. "You're kidding, right?" He scrutinized the ID and saw the name printed there, neat and all government-like--Fox Mulder. "Okaaay," he slowly said, letting go of the ID. "I guess you're not."

"FBI?" Buffy said as Mulder put his ID away. "What is the FBI doing here?"

"Investigation," Mulder told her. "That's what the 'I' stands for." He smirked a little when the blonde gave him a dirty look. "Who are the two of you? Are you students at the local high school?"

"Ok!" Xander exclaimed, tossing his hands in the air. "I did it! I cut gym class three times the last two weeks, but I didn't think the FBI would get me for it. You guys take that whole national student health thing more seriously than I thought."

Mulder chuckled at Xander's reply. "No, that's not why I'm here," he assured him. "Who are you?" he asked after a pause.

Buffy handed Mulder's kerchief back to him. "I'm Buffy Summers," she stiffly answered. She lowered her arm after Mulder took back his kerchief. "This is Xander Harris." She motioned to Xander. "Now, why don't you tell us what the FBI is doing in Sunnydale?"

Buffy and Xander? And they had laughed a *his* name! Mulder thought, somewhat amused. Well, it's Southern California. "I'm doing some research concerning Sunnydale," he replied as he stuffed his kerchief in his jacket pocket. "Just about everyone else I've spoken to in town doesn't believe a word I say."

"And what word are you saying?" asked Xander. "That has a major effect on how people are going to react to you."

"It's a combination of words, actually," Mulder said to Xander. "Words like 'vampire', 'demon', and 'hellmouth'." He tilted his head a bit when Buffy and Xander exchanged a glance. "Those words mean anything to you two?"

Xander began to say something but Buffy cut him off. "No, not a thing!" she said then smiled. "I didn't know the FBI cared about stuff like vampires and demons."

"They don't, but I do," Mulder answered, his eyes locked in a gaze with Buffy. He knew she had a clue as to what he was talking about. "Have either of you noticed anyone new in town? Any recent arrivals?"

"Not counting you?" Xander asked. He shrugged when Buffy shot him a look.

Buffy flicked her gaze back to Mulder. The game was up. This guy knew they were covering up their knowledge of the Hellmouth. She raised an eyebrow at him. "Is there a specific time frame we're shooting for here?" she asked. "Two days? Two...centuries?" She shrugged a little.

Mulder laughed again, but not out of amusement. He glanced from Xander back to Buffy. "Either of you believe in vampires?" he asked.

"Vampires?" Buffy repeated. She nodded, a serious look spreading over her face. "Oh, absolutely. The blood-sucking undead?" She looked to Xander. "We totally believe in those, don't we, Xander?"

Xander scoffed, waving a hand at Buffy. "Oh, yeah! Absolutely!" he replied.

Mulder couldn't tell if they were humoring him or not. He decided in favor of the latter. Neither had called him 'nuts' like just about every other person had at this point. "You ever see a vampire in this town?" he asked.

Buffy scratched her head, pretending to think it over. Finally, she shook her head. "No, not lately," she replied. "But, still, I wouldn't go out after sunset in this town, Agent Mulder. It's so *not* safe around here at night."

Mulder opened his jacket and his hand brushed against his gun clipped to his belt. "I think I'll be all right," he said then let his coat drop closed. "You, on the other hand." He paused as he gave Buffy's thin little frame the once over. "You should heed your own advice."

Xander's eyebrows shot up as he looked over to Buffy. Whoa, this FBI guy was going feel the wrath of Buffy Summers for sure now!

"Look," Buffy sharply said, folding her arms across her chest. "You may *think* you're safer around this place because you have a gun, but I have a news flash for you: Shooting most of the things around here only pisses them off. So when you end up dead, don't come haunting me. I warned you!" She turned on her heel and started up the sidewalk.

"Buffy!" Xander called after her. When his friend didn't turn around, Xander looked over to Mulder. "You're definitely *not* on her Favorite People list."

"I was only offering her a bit of advice," Mulder replied, motioning in the direction which Buffy had gone. "She said herself this place was dangerous at night."

"Oh, I don't think you need worry about Buffy, guy," Xander replied, laughing and shaking his head a bit. "You ever hear of the Vampire Slayer, Agent Mulder?"

The Slayer, Mulder thought, more interested in this kid for referring to the myth of the Slayer. It just wasn't something a high school kid would know or probably even care about. "Yes, I do," he replied. "'In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer'."

Xander nodded, rolling his eyes at the same time. He held up a hand. "Yeah, yeah. You know it," he said.

"What about the Slayer myth?" Mulder asked.

Xander jerked a thumb behind him. "You know the blonde you just insulted?" he said. "She *is* the Slayer." He patted Mulder's arm lightly. "I'd listen to her, if I were you." Without another word, he jogged off in search of Buffy.

Mulder lifted up his sunglasses, watching Xander leave. *That* girl was the Chosen One? The only girl in this generation with the skill and strength to slay vampires? No, it couldn't be. Any self- respecting vampire would overpower her in two seconds flat.

He dropped his sunglasses back onto his nose, raising his eyes to the sky. Maybe he'd find Lucius Hartwell out on patrol--or whatever Hartwell called it--that evening. Mulder looked around the crowded street when he felt that tingle on the back of his neck - like someone was watching him. He shook off the chill then continued on his way. He had more people to question before the sun went down.

Standing under a shop awning, Ronnie Strickland, dressed in jeans, a long sleeved shirt, and wearing a pair of sunglasses, kept a close eye on Fox Mulder. He grumbled a little and shook his head.

What a dork, Ronnie thought. He leaned against the building, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets. This was one of the few perks to being an ancient vampire--the ability to walk in the sun--and here he wasted a perfectly good afternoon following Mulder around Sunnydale.

So far, Mulder hadn't done a damn thing to get rid of Ronnie's master, of sorts--Lucius Hartwell. He'd hoped Mulder would be the same jerk he'd been in Texas. Because of Mulder, Ronnie and the others had to flee, and Lucius was *not* pleased with the idea of moving again. The Hellmouth appealed to Lucius because they could live in relative peace. Or so he'd thought.

Ronnie grinned, remembering the first time Lucius went on night patrol- his new job as Deputy Sheriff in Sunnydale. Lucius was outraged at the behavior of the vampires who flocked to the Hellmouth-- a bunch of "careless, undisciplined children". Lucius Hartwell thoroughly disapproved.

Ronnie's smile grew wider as two young women dressed in shorts and tank tops walked by him. He rather liked the chaos in Sunnydale. These vampires were on his wavelength. Human beings--like the two tasty morsels passing by--were meant to be eaten, not respected. And it was here in Sunnydale Ronnie had found his kindred spirit. The "guy" around this hole--a vampire named Spike.

He frowned a bit when he recalled his attempts to join Spike's inner circle of "cool" vampires being rebuffed. He was desperate to get the hell out of Lucius' clan--a little too desperate. He'd come off as a simpering idiot when he tried to convince Spike to allow him to join the club. Damn it, he had talents, but none of that mattered.

Eons of living in a pansy vampire clan with Lucius had eradicated almost all of his vampiric tendencies. It'd been many millennia since Ronnie was able to "vamp out". In Chaney, he had to resort to a specially made dental fixture to draw blood from his human victims. Even more embarrassing, he had to drug the victim so he could overpower him. But not Spike--no way.

Spike was truly the coolest vampire Ronnie had ever met. He'd do anything to be accepted by Spike--even give him the means to drive Lucius out of Sunnydale. And it appeared as if Spike was desperate to rid himself of Lucius too. And why not?

Lucius had taken over the town at night. Vampires in Sunnydale couldn't have any fun because of Lucius' patrols. He kept the other vampires in line, ordered them around as if they were part of his clan. And, boy, were these young'uns terrified of Lucius! No longer could they roam around the town at will, free to kill whomever they wanted, or torture whomever they pleased.

Ronnie left the shade of the awning and continued to follow Mulder. If Mulder didn't stop playing around with the humans in Sunnydale, and start making life miserable for Lucius, well, he'd just have to finish what he'd started in that motel room in Chaney. With Spike's permission of course.

Sunnydale High School Library
Friday 5:51 PM

Scully sat at the central table, her attention riveted on 'The Complete History of Sunnydale - Volume One'. She sighed, settling back in her chair and removing her glasses. For the last hour or so she had gone over just about every book and newspaper article she could find on Sunnydale, the journals of the Spanish who'd settled the area first, as well as police documentation on all of the 1998 unsolved murders, missing persons reports, and more.

In her professional opinion, Sunnydale was no different from any other town. If a high crime rate was inicative of something paranormal, Washington, D.C. would have been a much likelier Hellmouth. How did Mulder form this hypothesis on the information she'd just reviewed? He would have found the exact same information she had just read during his research. Sure, like Chaney, some of the murders in Sunnydale's colorful history were vampire-like. Someone looking for it would definitely find it. She'd seen some damn strange murders on the evening news--even stranger than the stuff that happened in Sunnydale, and the people who had committed those crimes were very much alive.

'But what about the murders in '37, Scully?' She could just hear Mulder's question in her head. Easily explained. People reacted differently in disaster situations--like, say, after a horrific earthquake. Perhaps someone just used the chaos to his advantage while he committed his grisly murders. It wasn't uncommon. And the weird gang murders which plagued Sunnydale in the present were the easiest to explain. The kids were on drugs. With its proximity to gang-riddled Los Angeles, it's no wonder that Sunnydale had a gang and drug problem. Pretty much everything "weird" in Sunnydale had a very rational explanation.

Scully looked to her right, catching Willow staring at her. Scully smiled a little when Willow quickly turned her head, pretending to be lost in the ragged book lying on the table in front of her.

"What are you reading?" Scully asked as she placed her glasses on the tab le.

Willow raised her head slowly then looked over to Scully. "Who, me?" she asked, pointing to herself. "Oh, it's nothing much. Just an old..." She couldn't say 'witchcraft book'. "Uh, an old book, uh, on something...old." She pulled the spell book closer, almost protective like. "And it's not an interesting subject. Well, not to someone like you because you're in the FBI and I don't really think you'd like a book of witc--uh, um...old...stuff." She bit her lip and pulled the book even closer. "Did you find anything in the books and the articles?"

Scully shrugged a bit, half-nodding. "Plenty of evidence proving Mulder's out here on another wild goose chase." She picked up something she'd found in old issues of the local paper. "I did, however, find this rather interesting."

Willow scooted her chair closer to Scully as the agent pushed some computer printouts towards her. "What is it?" she asked, looking the pages over.

"Obituaries," Scully answered as Willow studied each page closely. She sighed softly. "It tells a fascinating tale," she added.

Giles stepped out from the rows of library books, the tattered text in one hand and a neat, recently bound book in the other. He looked down upon Scully and Willow, who were both absorbed in various computer printouts. Closing the newer book, using his right index finger as a bookmark, Giles listened as Scully elaborated on her interest in the obituaries.

"Do you notice anything about the obituaries over the last month?" Scully asked. She paused, watching Willow read through the pages.

Willow nodded slowly. She could tell right off what Scully meant. "There are significantly fewer for the past month than in previous months," she responded, looking up at Agent Scully. "Right?"

Scully nodded, pleased that Willow had figured it out so quickly. The kid was sure bright. "Yes, drastically fewer than the month before."

"Oh, yeah," Willow whole-heartedly agreed, pushing the papers back to Scully. "But what do you think it means, Agent Scully?"

"I'm not quite sure," Scully replied slowly, picking up the printouts. She looked them over as she continued. "I've noted other drop-offs in the deaths in this town's history. Fluctuations in crime are not unusual for any town, but somehow this is...odd." Her brow furrowed. "I'm not much of a profiler--that's Mulder's area of expertise, but what I've found is in my area: cause of death." She glanced up, noticing that the librarian was watching her intently. Embarrassed, he retreated back into the stacks.

"Cause of death?" Willow repeated, eyes widening. She couldn't wait to hear this.

Scully's gaze shifted back to Willow. "Yes. Before, most of the deaths were murders, or freakish accidents." She tapped the printout with her finger. "But not in this lot. Natural causes, mostly." Sighing, she dropped the papers on the table. "Just seems odd to me."

An uncomfortable silence fell between the two.

"Is investigating obituaries part of your job, Agent Scully? I mean, what exactly do you *do* in the FBI?" Willow asked.

"I'm a licensed medical doctor, but my primary focus is in forensic pathology," Scully replied. "My interests are purely in the science of the division in which Agent Mulder and I work. We are the only agents investigating the X-Files--unexplained or unsolved cases shuffled away and forgotten about. As for what's it like--" She couldn't help but shake her head. "Working with Mulder is hardly ever boring."

"Forensic pathology?" Willow said, making a face, feeling a slight wave of nausea rush over her. Dead bodies. Ugh. She definitely didn't mesh well with the dead. "I think I'd like to be in the FBI one day," she thoughtfully added. "Oh! But not with the, uh, dead bodies and the forensic pathology and...stuff." She shuddered at the mere thought of cutting up a dead body. "May I could be in the computer crimes section!" she suddenly said. "It takes a hacker to know a hacker." As soon as those words left Willow's mouth, she scrambled to change the subject. She told a federal agent she was a hacking fiend! What could she possibly say to--"Hey, do you want to see me change ice into fire?"

Scully's eyebrows arched in extreme surprise but Willow saw definite interest there. Willow had really turned the conversation upside down with that question. "And how do you plan to do that?" she asked, sitting back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest.

"It's a spell I learned," Willow explained. Oh, well, if it took Scully's interest away from the 'hacker' comment, what was the harm? "I've been learning a lot of new spells." She pushed the spell book over so Scully could see it. "See?"

Giles carefully stepped out from behind the stacks, watching Scully as she talked to Willow. He closed his tattered text, focusing his attention on how the skeptical agent would respond to Willow.

"Spells?" Scully said, glancing from the open book to Willow, who nodded enthusiastically. "As in witchcraft? Witches? Warlocks?" Scully received a nod after each question. She chuckled softly. "Those things aren't real, Willow. According to some scholars, the myth of the witch evolved in an age when women were oppressed. Mid- wives and those who used herbs for healing were feared because of their medical knowledge. The women who practiced this herbal healing were usually loners. Since it wasn't deemed proper that women have knowledge like that, people believed they were in league with the Devil. That these women had exchanged their souls for preternatural powers. Also, herbal healing was seen as a pagan practice by the Catholic church. They were branded witches." She tried to smile. "There is no such thing as witchcraft, or sorcery or magick."

Giles took a few steps forward, totally captivated by Scully's matter of fact and no nonsense reply to Willow. Scully had just explained away the existence of witchcraft--an art which he knew for a fact was very real. He had even performed a bit of it himself. But if he didn't know better, he would have believed her.

What an intriguing woman, he thought. Absolutely intriguing.

Willow glanced from her spell book to Scully. "I'll take that as a 'no'," she replied quietly, and went back to her reading.

The awkward silence that followed didn't last long. The library doors burst open, and Buffy, dressed in more appropriate slaying attire--gray T-shirt, black sweatpants, and sneakers--charged into the room. She didn't even notice Scully sitting at the table with Willow because her attention was focused on Giles.

"Giles, we have a *major* problem," she said, stopping at the table where Willow and Scully were. She waited for the Watcher to respond, but Giles kept pointedly looking down, indicating the table beside Buffy. After sighing heavily, she asked, "What?" then she looked down, meeting the curious gaze of Scully. "Um...hi!" Buffy politely said to Scully. "Excuse me, please?"

Scully didn't get a syllable out before Buffy ran up the steps to Giles. She turned around, as did Willow, to see Buffy pull Giles back into the privacy of the bookshelves.

That was weird, Scully thought. She heard the hushed voices of Giles and this other girl.

"Do you know what that is all about?" Scully inquired as Willow turned around. "Seemed awfully urgent."

Willow shrugged. "With Buffy, it could be anything," she replied. She glanced in the direction where Giles and Buffy talked. Oh, boy. Something terrible was about to happen. She glanced at her watch-- almost 6:15. And she had the feeling Scully's partner, Mulder was in danger.

When Buffy was sure she and Giles were out of earshot of Willow and the strange lady, she began talking. "I'll say it again, Giles," she told him in a low voice. "We have a major problem. Earlier, while Xander and I were in town, I literally ran into some FBI guy. Well, he ran into us...anyway! He was totally strange! Asked a lot of questions about vampires and the Hellmouth." She paused, peeking through the bookshelf, to see if Willow and the lady with her were listening in, but the two redheads were talking. "Apparently," she continued, looking back to Giles, "he's been all over town, asking this stuff. It's all anyone could talk about. The FBI, Giles. This is not good."

Giles nodded slightly. "Yes, I-I know all about it," he replied, in an equally quiet voice. "I mean him. This man--Mulder."

Buffy's eyebrows raised in surprise. "You do?" she said. "How?"

"The redhead with Willow, s-she's this Mulder's partner," Giles answered. He smiled faintly recalling Scully's well-crafted explanation of witchcraft. "She's...she's quite the impressive woman..." His sentence trailed off.

Buffy gave him a stiff poke in the shoulder with her finger, drawing his attention. "We have a problem, and you're going all ga-ga googley over some FBI lady," she said, waving her hands around in a goofy manner. "Now I need 'Serious' Giles, not 'Sappy' Giles." When Giles focused back to her, she said, "Great. Back to the FBI guy. Do you know what these two are doing here?"

Giles adjusted his glasses after he shifted the tattered text to one hand. "As I understand it, they're looking for Sheriff Hartwell," he replied. "Willow mentioned it was something about a murder suspect; someone named, uh, Strickland. Does that mean anything...to you?"

"Strickland? No, nothing at all," Buffy answered.

"These agents are searching for him," Giles went on. "And they believe that Sheriff Hartwell knows the whereabouts of this...this Strickland character." He tapped his book, thinking. "I imagine he's a member of this nomadic vampire clan which arrived in Sunnydale with Hartwell. I- I keep thinking I've heard this name Strickland recently, though."

Buffy shook her head slightly, holding up her hands. "Whatever this is, I know Sheriff Hartwell can't be part of it. He's just...not that kind of vampire. I mean, come on, Giles, how many vampires do you know who *enjoy* law and order? That's right, just the one!"

Giles remained quiet for a moment, pondering a thought. "I don't...I don't understand why this didn't occur to me before," he started, drumming his fingers lightly on the book. He looked to Buffy. "Did you ever think that--that Hartwell's presence is the reason for the decrease of vampire activity of late? You said yourself the drop off didn't happen till...about a month ago. That was..when he arrived."

Buffy considered Giles' conclusion for a minute. "Yeah, it could be," she replied thoughtfully. She shook it off, remembering the real problem. "That's not the issue now. I told this Mulder not to go out at night, and he insulted me. He's probably out there right now, getting his throat ripped out, or worse. It's so not good if some federal guy gets whacked out here, Giles."

"Yes, yes, you...are quite right," Giles agreed. He peeked around the stack of books. Scully smiled and laughed at something Willow said. "It...it wouldn't . Umm... why don't you k-keep an eye on this...Mulder." He flicked his attention back to Buffy. "Follow him tonight."

Buffy nodded. "Affirmative," she replied, giving Giles a slight salute. "And what are your plans?" She jerked a thumb in the general direction of Scully and Willow. "About the lady agent you've got the hots for?"

"I'm-I'm not...quite cer--" Giles started to reply but abandoned that in exchange for a "What? What are you talking about?"

"Don't pretend, Giles," Buffy teasingly replied, shaking a finger at him. She wore a smile on her face. "You get this teeny weenie glimmer in your eye and this look on your face every time you refer to her. It's a look that just says, 'Take me, I'm yours'."

"I most certainly do not," he declared. The smile on Buffy's face told him she wasn't convinced a bit. Not a single bit. "L-look, why don't...you go a-a-and keep an--an eye on her--" He placed a hand to his forehead, closing his eyes momentarily, attempting to gather his thoughts. "I mean, keep an eye on *Mulder*," he corrected himself as he lowered his hand and opened his eyes.

Buffy folded her arms across her chest, nodding every so often as he spluttered out his instructions. The smile continued to grow. "Yeah, of course, Giles," she said in a serious voice.

"A-and...I'll just keep Agent Scully...*here*...for awhile," Giles continued. "She and Willow, they appear to get on quite...quite well."

"Gotcha," Buffy said, giving him a thumbs up. "I'll do the best I can." She started to leave, but paused and looked over her shoulder. "Hey, Giles." When he looked over to her, she added, "Good luck." She nodded in Scully's direction.

Willow turned in her chair as Buffy came down the steps, a sly smile on the Slayer's face. "Buffy, is everything all right?" she asked.

Buffy stopped at the bottom of the steps, glancing from Willow to Scully, who also looked at her. "Um, yeah," she answered. "Everything's just fine. I thought I'd lost a library book, and you know how much Giles loves that book I checked out."

Willow raised an eyebrow in puzzlement at Buffy's replied. "I don't remember you checking out anything lately, Buffy," she said.

Scully turned around, going back to work when she saw it was only a major problem in a high school life which plagued this girl, Buffy.

As soon as Scully turned around, Buffy emphatically shook her head and pointed to Scully, mouthing, "Her partner." She held her arms out, almost level with her shoulders. "Big problem."

Willow glanced at Scully. Boy, did she hate being right sometimes. She motioned to the library as she looked back to Buffy. "We'll be here," she mouthed back to her.

Buffy nodded. "I'll see you on Monday, Willow!" she called as she left the library.

"Bye!" Willow called after Buffy's reatreating figure.

Spike's Mansion
6:19 PM

Ronnie took a deep breath before he knocked on the door. While Ronnie wasn't scared as such, he was a little worried about how Spike was going to take the news. It's bad news, but what's the worst he's gonna do, kill me? He might get pissed, but that's what walls are for - to put your fists through when you want to hit someone but know you can't.

Actually, I'm doing him a favor by telling him this, Ronnie thought, his confidence growing by the second. So he can come up with another plan. Yeah, I'm doing him a favor. Nodding, he repeated the word "favor" to himself as he knocked.

The door creaked open slightly, but no one showed up to see who it was. Ronnie looked over his shoulder.

Oh, yeah, he thought with a chuckle. Daylight. =0D He'd forgotten these vamps didn't take to sunlight as well as he did. He stepped inside the mansion then shut the door behind him. He turned to the meek-looking little vamp who had opened the door.

"Spike," Ronnie said authoritatively. On a weak little guy like this one, he could afford to pretend to be in control.

The vampire pointed towards a closed door. Ronnie puffed himself up a little as he strutted across the room. He could feel that confidence slipping away with every step he took. =0D Favor, I'm doing him a favor. He'll thank me for this. No problem here, he thought as he walked into the dark room.

"Hey, Spike?" Ronnie called out. He paused when no one answered him. "It's me, Ronnie. Where are you?" Even thought Ronnie couldn't see Spike, he could sense him, and the others with Spike in the room.

Spike's eyes rolled backwards. Just when he was starting to have a nice, relaxing afternoon... another visit from the geek. Deciding there was no point in staying quiet because the little worm would just walk in and eventually find him, Spike called out, "Over here, Strickland."

He noticed the spring in Ronnie's step immediately. The geek wasn't going to be... perky, was he? A perky vampire was almost as abominable as an altruistic one. Spike braced himself for good cheer as he stood up to greet Ronnie. "Hello. What brings you here today?"

"I had some news for you about the...the Hartwell project." Ronnie looked around furtively, spotting two men and one woman lurking in the shadows. "Are we among friends here?" he asked in a low voice, leaning conspiratorially towards Spike.

Spike sighed. Clearly, this was Ronnie's first time at anything vaguely resembling a covert operation. He was enjoying it a little too much. "What's the matter, Strickland, someone make you check your cloak and dagger at the door? Everyone's fine here. I take it this isn't a social call, so... talk."

Ronnie looked for a place to sit down. No place except the couch Spike had just vacated. Standing was fine. "I... I have some news about..."

"Sheriff Hartwell, yes, so you said. What is it?"

Ronnie mentally repeated "favor" a few times before he said, "Mulder's here, and... " He paused to nervously chuckle. "and...uh, he's not quite doing what we thought he would."

"Correction, he's not doing what *you* said he would do," Spike replied, pacing in a circle around Ronnie. "I know nothing about this Mulder or his behavioral patterns." He stopped in front of the frumpy vampire. "Regardless, what's he doing?"

Ronnie shifted from foot to foot. This was going to *seriously* blow his cool. "Mulder's... he's...well, he's just not doing anything." He scratched his head, avoiding eye contact with Spike. He sensed Spike wasn't happy with this house call as it was. "Well, he's doing something, but it's not what he was *supposed* to, and it doesn't look like..."

"Now that you've defined dithering, could you get to the point?" Spike interrupted.

"Okay." Ronnie took a deep breath. "He's not looking for Hartwell." A quick glance at Spike. "I followed him around for a while, and he's just asking people in town about the Hellmouth. It seems like he's... shifted his focus." After clearing his throat, he added, "I, uh, I kinda thought you'd want to know." A tense cough. "Or something," he muttered.

After a few moments of chuckling, Spike's mood did a complete 180. "Thought I'd want to know!?" he shouted, grabbing Ronnie by the shirt. "Shifted his focus?!" He lifted Ronnie up from the floor. "Are you telling me that in addition to your friend the Boy Scout with Bicuspids, there's now a nosy FBI agent here to screw things up even further?!"

Ronnie winced at the force of Spike's reply, then meekly replied, "Yeah."

"And, correct me if I'm wrong," Spike continued, shaking Ronnie a little, "but this FBI agent wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for *you*?!" He let go of the kid then turned away from him.

Ronnie smoothed down his shirt. "Yeah," he repeated. His head hung low.

"So now we have TWO problems to solve--" Spike turned back to Ronnie, who ventured a glance up at him. "--thanks to your sage advice?"

"Hey, I didn't *have* to come here and tell you about Mulder," Ronnie declared, his head raising, his gaze meeting Spike's. His moment of courage dwindled away when he saw that look in Spike's eye. "If it hadn't been for *me*," he went on, motioning to himself slightly, "--*you* wouldn't have known he was screwing up."

"No, if it hadn't been for *you*, he wouldn't be here to screw up!" Spike paced back and forth by the couch, muttering, "I'm so mad right now, I could..." Whirling around, he suddenly knocked a glass against the wall. Watching it shatter, Ronnie decided that it was okay, at least it wasn't a fist through the wall.

"Now look, you little pissant," Spike snarled as he walked back over to Ronnie, pointing a finger at him. "*You* brought this problem into town. Therefore, it's only logical that you take care of the problem, right?" He waited for an answer. "RIGHT?!" he shouted when Ronnie didn't give one.

"I-I-I did you a favor--" Ronnie started to respond.

"You did *nothing*!" Spike growled, cutting Ronnie off. He took a few moments to calm himself then, in a much more controlled voice, said, "You have a small but open window of opportunity to rectify the wrong you have done." He paused when Ronnie quickly looked up to him. "Do you want to take it?" Spike asked enunciating each word carefully.

Ronnie saw the two men in the room start to come closer. Three against one, he thought. In my present condition, definitely not my kind of odds. "What do you want me to do?" he softly asked.

"That's much better." Spike grinned, pleased this Strickland idiot saw things his way. "Take care of this Mulder person."

Ronnie's face twisted slightly in confusion. "Take care of him meaning...?" he asked, letting the sentence trail off.

"Take him out, fool. *Kill* him." Spike shook his head. "What would I ask you to do, take him to dinner and a movie?"

"Kill him. Yeah, right, good plan," Ronnie said quickly, nodding. He cleared his throat, taking a few steps back from Spike. "I'll go right now," he added. Spike didn't seem so cool now--terrifying was more like it.

As Ronnie started to back up the stairs, Spike said, "Where are you going?"

Ronnie stopped on the stairs, turning back to Spike. "T-t-to kill Mulder," he spluttered. Stop it, he told himself. You're in deep enough crap already. Stop sounding like a moron.

"In broad daylight?" came Spike's incredulous reply. He rolled his eyes then added, "For God's sake, at least wait until it gets dark, will you?"

"Right!" Ronnie said, nodding vigorously. "Dark. Yes, good point. I'll wait until... tonight. Sound good?" Great, he thought. Way to get back into his good graces, acting like an idiot.

"Sounds fine. You may go now." Spike dismissed him with a hand wave. As Ronnie started to leave, he called out, "And, Ronnie?"

Ronnie paused, swallowing hard, before asking, "Yeah, Spike?"

"Please don't come back unless Mulder's dead or gone. Preferably *dead*." The tone in Spike's voice told Ronnie this was a command, *not* a request, so Ronnie left without saying another word.

Spike watched him walk upstairs, then sighed wearily. Falling back onto the sofa, he said to no one in particular, "Why me? You try to take a new vampire under your wing, and this is what happens, your protegee turns out to be an imbecile." He looked around the room, his eyes resting on one of the men standing aimlessly nearby. "You," he pointed across the room.

"Yeah, Spike?"

"Follow him," he said, waving his hand towards the stairs, meaning Ronnie.

"Now?" the vampire asked, panicked. He shook his head. "I'll be fried!"

"No, when he goes out tonight. Make sure he does what I told him to do."

"Okay. Wait... how will I know where he's going?" Before Spike said anything, he added, "I think I know... the usual place?"

Spike nodded. "If he's as big a moron as I think he is, he'll wait until this Mulder creature goes to the cemetery."

"Right. If he screws up, should I kill him?"

"Please do." Both of the men left the room, leaving Spike alone with the woman. Spike sniffed the air, then said inquisitively, "What is that smell?"

"You know what it is," a female voice purred behind him.

He sniffed again, then smiled at Dru. "You're right, love. All redheads DO smell like peanuts."

8:15 PM

Mulder drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the rental car, humming a nonsense tune to the beat. He looked to the police station across the street. He'd been staking out the place for almost a half an hour and no sign of Lucius Hartwell. Hartwell had to be in that building someplace, Mulder'd seen him go in there.

Sighing, Mulder stopped drumming his fingers and relaxed in his seat. He fished around in his coat pockets, grumbling when he came up empty. "Dammit," he muttered. He grabbed his trenchcoat lying in the passenger's side seat. After rummaging through those pockets, he pulled out a bag of sunflower seeds. "Ah-ha!" he triumphantly declared.

The sound of a car starting up caught Mulder's attention. He looked up in time to see Lucius Hartwell drive passed his rental car. "Shit," Mulder muttered. He stuffed the bag of seeds into his jacket pocket then started up his car. He threw the car into "drive" and pulled onto the road.

Mulder followed Hartwell's police cruiser at a safe distance. He sat up in the driver's seat, his eyes never leaving the back end of Hartwell's car. The cruiser took a left turn, headed towards one of the 12 cemeteries in Sunnydale. And Mulder was right behind him.

Cemetery, Mulder thought. I bet the others are around here. It makes sense they'd be around a cemetery.


Mulder fought hard with the steering wheel to keep control of the car. Damn, flat tire. Damn! Gently, he pumped the brake, slowing the car down as he pulled over to the side of the road, right next to the cemetery. As soon as the car stopped, Mulder threw open the door and got out. He saw Hartwell still driving up the street until the rear lights disappeared.

"Dammit!" he growled as he slammed the car door shut. He walked around the car, checking to see which tire had blown out. When he reached the right rear tire, he swore again and repeatedly kicked the flat tire.

In the bushes, just outside of the rickety cast iron fence surrounding the cemetery, Ronnie Strickland watched Mulder open up the trunk of the rental car. A smile spread across his face, his eyes glowing a mild green for a moment.

Flat tire, Agent Mulder? Ronnie thought as Mulder threw the jack onto the grass, muttering curses the entire time. This just isn't your lucky day.

Mulder stopped cursing under his breath when he heard a rustling in the bushes nearby. He forgot about the spare tire as he turned around. He saw the bushes move as if someone walked through them. "Hello?" he called out. The bushes quieted, but resumed after a moment. "Hey!"

He pulled out his gun. Slowly he made his way towards the bushes which continued to move. "Hey! Who's in there?" he called as he stopped near the bushes. When the bushes stilled, Mulder swallowed hard, raising up his gun.

Ronnie heard Mulder's heart thumping, and the mixture of adrenaline and blood rushing through the young agent's veins. Deep inside, he felt old instincts re-emerging, stirring. An ancient memory arose, a memory from the days when his clan fed on humans, and lived as masters of the world.

Yes, Ronnie thought as that feeling became stronger and stronger. The demon inside him, the demon who'd been repressed for so long, fought to reach the surface. A low growl escaped Ronnie's lips as he spotted Mulder moving in closer.

Mulder's eyes widened slightly as he heard a guttural growl come from what ever was in the bushes. He jumped back when Ronnie, completely vamped out, emerged from the bushes. "Oh, shit!" he gasped, his finger moving to depress the trigger.

Ronnie grabbed the gun by the barrel, yanked it out of Mulder's hands then tossed it away. It sailed over the fence into the cemetery. "Hello, Agent Mulder," Ronnie greeted as he seized the agent by the lapels of his suit jacket. "Remember me?" he asked pulling Mulder closer.

Mulder chuckled nervously and replied, "You know, I never forget a face, but for some reason, I've forgotten yours." He gagged a little when Ronnie tightened his grip.

"Let me give you a hint," Ronnie snapped, shaking Mulder. "You shoved a stake in my chest." He growled. "Ring any bells?"

Mulder blinked a few times as he realized who this was. "Ronnie...Strickland?" he asked, his voice all but a whisper. He looked the boy, who now held him off the ground, over. "But...how did you...what did you...?"

"No more time for talk," Ronnie said. With a force of strength that Mulder rarely encountered in his life, Ronnie threw the agent into the air. Mulder sailed over the fence and into the cemetery. He landed hard, but continued to roll until he slammed into something.

"God...damn....ohhhh," Mulder groaned, as he tried to touch his back. He attempted to sit up but only fell onto his back, groaning. The groaning died off when he saw a headstone to his right. That was what he'd slammed into. "Oh, great," he muttered.

Hidden behind one of the mausoleums of the cemetery, the vampire Spike had sent out to make sure Ronnie did his job, watched the ancient vampire easily hop over the fence. He laughed a little, watching Ronnie slowly approach Mulder.

Ronnie chuckled as Mulder struggled to sit up. "You're more trouble than you're worth, you know that, Agent Mulder?" he said as he looked upon Mulder.

Mulder coughed. His hands searched the ground in hopes of finding his gun. "Oh, really?" he replied in nothing more than a whisper since the wind had been knocked out of him. He coughed again. "And why is that?"

Ronnie kicked Mulder in the ribs. Mulder cried out in pain as he curled up in the fetal position. "Because, Mulder," he hissed then kicked the agent again. "You were *supposed* to get rid of Hartwell." Another swift kick to the ribs. "Not goof off out here."

Mulder went into a fit of coughing. His hands brushed against something. The fingers of his right hand curled around a...a good sized stick. He raised his eyes to Ronnie, who towered over him. "Oh yeah?" he said, voice still hoarse. "And what do you plan to do about it, Pee-Wee?"

Ronnie grabbed Mulder by the shirt with one hand, pulling Mulder up slightly as he leaned over. "I'm gonna KILL you, that's what, dork," he snarled.

"Not if I get you first," Mulder responded. He brought up his right hand, grasping the stick tightly. He was two inches from Ronnie's chest when Ronnie's left hand effortlessly batted the stick from Mulder's hand.

Ronnie tightened his grip on Mulder. "Not this time, Mulder," he growled then whipped his razor sharp nails across Mulder' left cheek, leaving four lines which oozed blood.

Oh, shit, Mulder thought as Ronnie bared his fangs--*real* fangs. I'm gonna die. I'm truly gonna die. My life should be flashing before my eyes right now. It would help to have *had* a life.

Ronnie was just about to sink his teeth into Mulder's neck, but he froze when a voice said, "Ew, I really don't want to know what this is all about, do I?"

Ronnie and Mulder both looked towards the sound of the voice. Standing a few feet away, a stake in one hand while the other rested on her hip, was Buffy.

She shook her head, her ponytail waving slightly. "Oh, wait, one of you is a vampire," she said, her eyes locked on Ronnie. "Guess one of you is gonna die." She shrugged then flipped the stake. "At least I came prepared." She gave Ronnie a swift kick to the face.=0D

Ronnie flew off of Mulder and landed hard on the ground. He shook his head. That kick had really dazed him. He looked up to Buffy. "You've walked into the wrong fight, girl!" he yelled. He growled as he charged her. He caught her by the waist and tackled her to the ground.

Buffy lost her stake in the fall, but her only thought was to survive this fight. This vampire was a thousand times stronger than any she'd encountered before. This fight was not going to be easy. She managed to wiggle out of Ronnie's grasp, giving him a kick to the face before she flipped up onto her feet.

Ronnie was up in a flash, growling. "You should've walked away," he said. He ducked a spin kick from her. "What kind of Slayer are you?" he asked as he blocked another kick from her. "You're terrible!" He laughed as he grabbed hold of her right arm when she tried to backhand him. "You know, we were always kind to Slayers," he said as he twisted Buffy's arm behind her back. "For so many damned years, we helped you people out. But I'm not gonna do it anymore."

Buffy tried to kick Ronnie, but he seemed to anticipate all her moves. The kick was easily blocked. "Ok," she said, trying to look over her shoulder at him. "Now you're really starting to irritate me."=0D

"Likewise," he hissed in her ear. Gripping Buffy's arm with both hands, Ronnie whirled her around. As she whipped around him, Buffy felt her feet lift off the ground. She found herself gliding through the air when Ronnie let go of her arm. He grinned. He felt so...undead.

"Oof!" Buffy slammed into the rickety cast iron fence, blowing right through it. She thumped onto the sidewalk, dazed for a moment, but sat up. She saw Ronnie going back over to Mulder. She looked around for anything to use against him. Her gaze fell on a nice sized pole from the cast iron fence.

Ronnie laughed as Mulder tried to sit up. "Heh, stupid girl," he grumbled as he put a foot on Mulder's chest, shoving him back to the ground. "Surprised, aren't you, Mulder?" he asked as Mulder looked up at him, utter fear in the agent's eyes. "I'm not that same dumb assed kid you chased through those woods back in Chaney." He laughed as he stood straight. "I'm back to full power, thanks to this Hellmouth!"

A black metal pole whirled around and whacked Ronnie in the face. He flipped to the left and backwards, landing on his back. Buffy twirled the pole around like a staff then stood in a battle ready position, the pole in one hand. She glanced down at Mulder. "Don't you just hate it when they have to make speeches?" she asked.

Ronnie sat up, his hand on his forehead where Buffy had hit him with the pole. He looked over to Buffy who protectively stood between him and Mulder. "That really hurt," he said, almost whining.

Buffy took the pole into both hands. "Had enough? Or would you enjoy another?" she called out to him. She raised her eyebrows, waiting for his answer. "I'm always happy to oblige, ya know."

Ronnie got to his feet growling at Buffy who now twirled the pole around in her hands. "I'd enjoy tearing your head off!" he yelled then he charged towards her.

Buffy, still twirling the pole, side stepped as Ronnie neared her. He barreled past her, but quickly skidded to a halt. Buffy brought the pole around, much like swinging a baseball bat, but Ronnie's hand caught the pole before it struck him. "Uh, oh," she said. She widened her grip on the pole, but Ronnie pulled her closer, grabbing onto it with both of his hands.

"Your Watcher should be strung up," Ronnie snorted, shaking his head. He laughed as Buffy tried to wrestle the pole from his grip. "Letting you go out all alone like this...so defenseless. Must be some sort of idiot who trained you."

Buffy's eyes narrowed on Ronnie. "All right," she declared as she regripped the pole in her hands. "You can insult me, but don't you trash-talk Giles." She twisted the pole as she raised it above her head. Through swift manipulation, she and Ronnie were back to back, hands high over their heads grasping onto the pole.

Ronnie brought his hands down over his head, leaning forward as he did so. Buffy rolled over his back and landed on her feet in front of him. They still held onto the pole. "Looks like we're right back where we started," he said.

A grin spread across Buffy's face as she shook her head. "I don't think so," she replied. She kicked Ronnie in the stomach. When he fell forward, holding onto the pole, she gave him another kick to the face. He stumbled back, his hands slipping off of the pole. Grinning even wider, she whirled the pole around, but yet again, before it made contact, Ronnie caught it in his hands.

He yanked the pole out of her hands then growled. "Guess I get a turn now," he snarled. He kicked Buffy in the stomach, knocking her flat on her back. While she was down, Ronnie came up to her. "That was quite fun," he said, gripping the pole in both hands. He positioned it so the pointed end was over her heart. "Bye now."

As Ronnie brought the pole down on Buffy, a bunch of sunflower seeds scattered onto the ground beside the girl. He stopped the pole just before it hit Buffy in the chest, then turned to see Mulder grasping onto the headstone with one hand, and a bag of sunflower seeds clutched in the other.

"Man!" Ronnie yelled as he threw the metal pole away in frustration. "You *always* do that!" Sighing, he forgot about Buffy and proceeded to gather up the seeds on the ground beside her.

Buffy flipped to her feet, curiously watching the vampire carefully pick up the seeds. "What the--?" she said. Well, he was occupied so she decided to find her stake while she could.

Ronnie straightened, all the seeds clutched in his hand. He looked around for Buffy, but she was no longer where he'd left her. He turned to find the girl searching the ground. "Hey!" he called, gaining her attention. "What are you looking for?"

Buffy grinned when she found her stake. It was just in front of Ronnie's feet. She raised her gaze up to him, and replied, "Never mind. I found it."

She did a few handsprings towards him. As she went into a handstand, she grabbed the stake in her left hand. She locked her legs together at the ankles around Ronnie's neck then pulled herself up so she sat on his shoulders, uneasily. "Buh-bye," she said, grinning down at him. She rammed the stake into Ronnie's heart through his back.

As Ronnie disintegrated, Buffy landed on her feet, covered in dust. She brushed off her clothes as she made her way over to Mulder. He stared up at her in awe. He shook his head slowly then said, "You really *are* the Slayer."

"Can we say 'Duh'?" Buffy replied as she looked down at Mulder. He struggled to get up, so she offered a hand to him. "Here. Are you all right?"

Mulder took Buffy's hand, wincing as his ribs throbbed. "Yeah, I think so," he answered. He used the headstone to push himself up as Buffy pulled. "Oohhh," he groaned, letting go of her hand, falling against the headstone.

She steadied him by placing both hands on his shoulders. "Are you *sure* you're ok?" she asked. She removed her hands when Mulder nodded. "That was quite a beating you took."

Mulder groaned loudly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Oh, don't remind me," he grumbled. His eyes flicked over to the pile of dust which was Ronnie. "What did you do to him anyway?" He nodded towards the dust.

Buffy glanced back to the dust pile. "I staked him," she said. "You know, I'm the Slayer--" She pointed to herself. "--he was the vampire." She waved a hand towards the dust. "I stake him, he dies. The end. It's not like quantum physics or anything."

Mulder shook his head, grasping his left side in pain. "No," he said, between clenched teeth. "When I staked him, he didn't turn to dust like that. He just went down."

"Wait, when *you* staked him?" Buffy asked. She put her hands on her hips, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean? Did you know that guy?" She jerked a thumb at the dust pile.

He nodded. "Ronnie Strickland," he replied. He waved her off when she stepped forward to help him balance himself. "I was attacked by him in Chaney, Texas, a few months ago." He sighed. "He was different at that time." He motioned to his own face. "He was...normal. Not all with the face and everything. He *ran* from me. My partner even saw him after I staked him, and he didn't do that." He nodded to the pile of dust again.

"Then you did it wrong," she told him. She put an arm around him, catching him when he tried to take a step. "You should leave the slaying to the professionals," she added. She looked around the cemetery. "This really isn't the best place to hang around and discuss this."

"My car has a flat tire," Mulder said as they made their way out of the cemetery. Buffy supported Mulder as he walked all the while. "And I lost my gun, too."

"Like *that's* gonna help us anyway," Buffy replied as they left the cemetery. They stopped on the sidewalk. "And I'm not standing around while you change a tire." She paused, her body tensing as she sensed a vampire nearby.

The vampire ducked into the bushes as Buffy looked around. Damn, she'd sensed him. She probably wouldn't leave the human alone now. And no way was *he* fighting the Slayer. She'd defeated one of the oldest vampires he'd ever known, he didn't have a prayer.

Buffy let go of Mulder as he gained enough balance to stand on his own. The vampire was near, watching. So Ronnie had not been alone. Great, she thought. Just great. Now what am I going to do?

"My motel isn't far from here. If you have...Slayer stuff to do, you go ahead--"

"No," Buffy cut in, whipping her head around to look at Mulder. "I will not leave you alone out here." She snapped her fingers when an idea popped into her head. "Giles. You can go to the school library. And your partner is there, too. Great idea!" She grabbed him by the jacket, tugging him along behind her. "Let's get going."

"Hey!" Mulder said, pulling his arm away from her. He stumbled a little but fell into step beside her. "I don't need you to hold my hand. I can walk."

Buffy glanced behind her. She felt that vampire near. "Ok, ok." She sighed, looking over to Mulder. She noticed him popping sunflower seeds into his mouth. "What was it with that guy and those sunflower seeds anyway?" she asked.

Mulder tossed an empty shell into the grass. "In some legends, vampires are very obsessive-compulsive creatures."

"Yeah," agreed Buffy, nodding. "They obsessively and compulsively kill people." She glanced over her shoulder again. Whoever had been following them was now gone.

Mulder, however, continued on. "Back in Chaney, I used that legend to save myself from Ronnie." He shrugged. "I figured it would work again. His need to pick up those seeds made him lose interest in the fight." He popped another seed into his mouth. "The least I could do in return for you saving my ass."

"I warned you about going out at night," Buffy said after a few moments of silence. "Didn't I tell you? What are you doing out here anyway?"

"Following Lucius Hartwell," Mulder answered then spat out a shell. "I hoped he'd lead me to Ronnie Strickland, but *he* doesn't really matter anymore now." He glanced over at Buffy, smiling slightly. "Justice has been served. But...Hartwell and the others are still out there."

"I heard the tale of Ronnie Strickland," she said then paused. "Well, not really, but I do know he was wanted for murder. Now *that* I can understand." She looked at Mulder. "But why do you want to bother Lucius Hartwell? Or the vampires with him? I mean, they don't *do* anything, and the guy's not bad as a sheriff."

"He's a vampire!" Mulder replied, tossing up his hands. He winced as a pain stung his left side. "I thought it was your job to *slay* them, hence the title 'The Slayer'?"

"I only slay the ones who don't behave," Buffy said. She could think of a few current undead residents who caused trouble at every damn opportunity. "Lucius Hartwell isn't like most vampires."

"How can you be so sure?" Mulder asked. "How can you *know* he's not the same demonic blood-sucker as Ronnie Strickland?"

"It was a few days after Lucius and his tribe breezed into town," Buffy explained. She tucked a loose lock of hair over her right ear. "I watched Hartwell while he was on night patrol. New vampires usually mean a megaton of bad news. Anyway, while he walked through a park-- it's across town--" She gestured to her left "--he came across a vampire attacking some kid. Of course, I was totally gonna handle the sitch, but Hartwell jumped right in."

"What did he do?" Mulder asked when Buffy didn't continue with her story.

Buffy stopped then turned to him. Mulder stopped as well. "He *saved* the kid!" she answered like he should've figured that out for himself. "And since then, I've pretty much been out of a job. At least around here."

Mulder scoffed, shaking his head. "And you believe he's here to help you out?" he asked then snorted.

"No, I don't think he knows about me," Buffy stiffly replied. "And I don't mind him being here either. He and his vampires don't bother anyone."

"Except Ronnie Strickland," Mulder interjected, pointing a finger at her, a look on his face that said, 'Ah-HA!'.

"Yeah, but he's dead now," Buffy retorted, folding her arms across her chest. She looked away, muttering, "No thanks to you."

"What?" Mulder exclaimed. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Think about it," Buffy snapped flicking her gaze back to him.

"Well, I don't know what version of the fight you saw, but I recall a certain vampire Slayer almost having a metal pole become one with her chest cavity!" Mulder told her. He raised his eyebrows a little. "And maybe, just maybe, I didn't want Ronnie Strickland dead. Huh? You think of that?" He paused to let his words sink in. "He escaped with the rest of these vampires when I tried to arrest him."

"You wanted to put a vampire in jail?" Buffy asked then laughed as her arms dropped to her sides. "Oh yeah! That alone would totally fix the prison overpopulation problem!" She smirked a little when Mulder narrowed his eyes at her. "Look, Strickland is dust, and Lucius Hartwell isn't unappreciated in Sunnydale. Why are you still here?"

"To...satisfy my curiosity," Mulder replied after a few moments. He nodded a little.

"Curiosity? About what? What it feels like to have your blood Hoovered out of you?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "You *so* don't have a clue about Sunnydale, Agent Mulder! Come on." She started up the sidewalk, heading towards the building.

"Where are we going?" Mulder called out after her, throwing his arms out in frustration. "Huh?"

Buffy turned, walking backwards. "To the school? Hello?" she replied, jerking a thumb at the building. "Sheesh!" She faced forward, rolling her eyes a little as she continued into the school.

Mulder sighed as his arms dropped to his sides. "This is just great," he sarcastically muttered as he shook his head. "I just *love* it here!"

A rustling noise nearby caught his attention. Slowly, his raised up his head, his muscles tensing. The rustling grew a little louder. He casually stuffed his sunflower seeds into his jacket pocket then looked around. After a moment, Mulder broke into a run, headed for the front doors of the school.

"Meow." A cat trotted out of the bushes, and headed up the street.

Scully sifted through the card catalogue. She paused for a moment as she yawned, covering her mouth with her hand. Blinking a few times, she shook her head then check her watch.

Almost 9? she thought. I wonder where Mulder is?

"A-Agent Scully, may I help you, uh, find something?" asked Giles' voice from beside her.

She jumped slightly in surprise but steadied herself rather quickly then looked to Giles. "Oh, no, Mr. Giles, I'm only browsing," she replied. She flipped through a few more cards. "You have a great deal of books for such a small town school." She plucked a card out of the file drawer.

"W-well, yes. It's important to make certain these...these children have sufficient information on any...any subject," he answered. He glanced up at Willow as she came back into the library.

Scully nodded. "Yes, as I've noticed, Mr. Giles," she said. She placed the card back into the file then looked back to him. "But books of...witchcraft?" She raised her eyebrows. "Do you really think those sort of books are appropriate for high school age kids?"

Giles flicked another glance over to Willow, who flipped through a book lying on the check out counter. "Agent Scully, I believe it is necessary for these children to understand what is in the world around them." He paused, impressed by the fact he hadn't stumbled once during that sentence to her.

"As do I, Mr. Giles," she agreed. She shut the drawer of the card catalogue and turned to him. "But witchcraft?" She kept her voice low so Willow couldn't hear her. "Willow is a very bright girl, and she's been here for hours reading spell books. Don't you find that disconcerting?"

Giles tried to find the words, any words, to respond to Scully. She'd never believe the truth since she was so bloody skeptical, but still, he didn't want her to think *he* was off his rocker, as she seemed to think of her partner. "W-w-well," he started.

The doors to the library burst open and a dirt laden Buffy, followed by a disheveled Mulder, entered. Buffy sighed as she stopped in front of Giles. "I followed him," she said. "And it's a lucky thing that I did."

Scully looked from Buffy to Mulder who stood a few feet back, picking at a few minor scratches on his cheek. "My God," she said as she rushed over to her partner. "Mulder, what happened to you?" She studied the marks on his face.

"Flat tire," Mulder replied. He glanced over at Buffy. "Ow!" he exclaimed when Scully touched his injured cheek. "Hey, hey. Sore."

"Mulder, these look like claw marks, like from some kind of animal," Scully said as she looked up to her partner. "How did you get these?"

Willow came up just beside Buffy. "What happened?" she asked Buffy in a whisper.

"I was following Hartwell," Mulder replied. He saw Scully's expression switch from concern to suspicious. "I was hoping to find the others."

"And Sheriff Hartwell attacked you?" Willow asked, her eyes wide in astonishment.

"No," Mulder said, glancing at Willow then to Buffy. "Different vampire, same clan."

Scully sighed as she rolled her eyes. Did he have to do this in front of complete strangers? She'd just met some normal folks on one of his wild escapades, now he had to open his mouth and sound like a crazy man.

"How did you get away?" Willow inquired.

"Yeah, gee, Agent Mulder, how *did* you get away?" Buffy asked, feigning enthusiasm. After a few moments of silence from Mulder's end, her eyebrows arched with a look that said, 'We're waiting!'

Mulder cleared his throat, scratching the back of his head. "My, uh, masculine prowess?" he replied, more of a question than a statement.

"God," Buffy muttered as she rolled her eyes while Scully snorted at Mulder's reply.

Mulder's gaze settled on the floor of the library. Quietly, he mumbled, "Buffy showed up." He coughed a little then cleared his throat again.

"What?!" Scully exclaimed as she looked from Mulder over to Buffy. "What the hell is he talking about?"

Buffy looked to Giles. "Guess there are a few things she missed in her research, ay, Giles?" she said.

"She's the Slayer, Scully." Mulder told his partner as he held out a hand in Buffy's direction. "She's the Chosen One. The one girl in this generation who possesses the strength and the skill to destroy the vampires." He laughed. "There's your proof, Scully! Proof that vampires exist!"

"Mulder, did you receive a blow to the head?" Scully asked, staring up at him, wearing a puzzled expression on her face. She glanced at Buffy. "All I see is a normal high school girl! There's no proof whatsoever!"

Buffy looked to Willow beside her. "Should I take offense to that?" she asked, pointing a finger at Scully.

Giles walked over to the counter and picked up the tattered text he'd lugged around the last few days. "Buffy, are you certain this vampire you fought was a part of, uh, of Hartwell's clan?" he asked as he came over, flipping through the pages of the book.

"Well, he was one of the strongest vampires I've ever battled--" Buffy paused then shook her head. "Scratch that. *The* strongest vampire. Yeah." She nodded then looked at the page which Giles skimmed, then added, "Then Agent Mulder said it was." She flicked her gaze over to Mulder. "What was that guy's name again?"

"Strickland. Ronnie Strickland," Mulder supplied.

"Ronnie Strickland never was, and is not now, a vampire!" Scully declared as she stepped between the two factions--Mulder on one side, Buffy, Willow and Giles on the other. She glanced from each side.

"You're half-right," Buffy said, gaining Scully's attention. "Ronnie Strickland *was* a vampire, but not anymore. I killed him." She flicked her fingers against her dirty T-shirt. "I'm wearing most of what's left of him."

Scully tossed up her hands as she walked over to the counter. "I give up!" she said, shaking her head. "This is just...crazy!" She faced the four of them, who all stared at her like *she* was the insane one. "Vampires do *not* exist! They are creatures of fantasy, the direct result of ignorance."

"I'd really like to believe that, too, Agent Scully," Buffy said. "I'd actually have a way cool life then." She shrugged. "But it just ain't so."

Scully took a few steps forward. "No, I've seen these so-called vampires for myself," she told Buffy. "They were quite normal human beings, a little eccentric, I'll give them that. And they walked around during the *day*. These people are *not* vampires!"

Giles cleared his throat, drawing everyone's attention. He took a step forward and glanced at Scully. "I'm-I'm afraid you're quite wrong, Agent Scully," he told her. "T-the text I've been reading the last few days suggests...suggests we're dealing with an ancient clan of vampires."

Scully rolled her eyes a bit, letting out a light scoff. This was a nightmare. Everyone around her sounded like Mulder. "Oh, really? How ancient?" she inquired.

"Well, a-according to these writings by a 12th century monk," Giles started as he consulted the book in his hands. "These specific vampires are so old that most, uh, most vampires consider them a legend."

"Oh, yeah, that's very interesting," Scully said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She nodded. "Mythical creatures considering other mythical creatures legend." She rolled her eyes slightly.

"What else does it say?" Mulder asked, coming up to Giles. He looked over the librarian's shoulder, trying to decipher the Latin written on the pages.

"The monk writes these particular nomadic creatures have...have been around since the dawn of modern man. T-t-that's quite a long time, considering when..." Giles stopped mid-sentence, forgetting the anthropology lesson. He laughed, nervously. "They're e-e-extremely old. The text is sketchy at best. The monk who wrote it received most of this information second-hand."

"They can't be all that old if Buffy killed one of them," Willow said. She looked to Buffy then opened her mouth apologize for how that sounded.

Buffy held up a hand. "Don't, Willow," she said. She smiled reassuringly at her best bud. "I know exactly what you meant. And it wasn't an easy task, either, killing Ronnie Strickland."

"I-I'd imagine it wasn't," Giles replied, looking up from the book to Buffy. "Since this text is over 800 years old, w-we can safely, uh, assume that they're older than--than 800 years." He flipped back through the pages. "The monk writes these vampires have been inactive for many millennia." He glanced over to Mulder. "Explaining how they've survived for so long."

"Inactive?" Scully repeated. She gave Giles a half-questioning look. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?"

"Inactive," Giles said. He adjusted his glasses, thinking of how to explain it to her. "Uh, it's--it's...they haven't fed," he finally told her. "At least on human beings."

"Until recently," Mulder put in, glancing from Giles to Scully. "Chaney. Ronnie Strickland grew bored with his life and decided to relive the glory days." He looked back to Giles. "Does that book say *why* these vampires ceased to feed on humans?"

"Nothing much," Giles responded. "Only speculation based on, uh, the stories." He ran his finger down the page, searching for a particular passage. "Oh, here it is. Oh, yes. A l-leader of sorts emerged a hundred or so centuries before. He, uh, he preached isolation f-f-from these creatures known as humans. Those who agreed with him followed, and those who opposed--" He paused then looked from Buffy, to Willow then to Mulder. "--they were, uh, were destroyed. But this is...is only speculation, in part."

"Ronnie mentioned something about his clan 'being kind to Slayers' in the past," Buffy said.

"Yes, the Slayer is also mentioned," Giles told her, tapping the book. "Humans had a-a-a champion, a powerful one--The Slayer. It's not hard to discern why they would respect the Slayer. I'm quite sure they had enemies among their own kind. These vampires turned to seclusion, uh, in order to survive. It...it also explains why Hartwell would relocate after the incident in this other town."

"Survival," Mulder matter of factly said, nodding.

"That doesn't explain why Ronnie Strickland attacked Agent Mulder," Willow said. "I mean, if Ronnie got in trouble the last time, why would he do it again?"

Mulder shrugged, but suddenly a strange expression washed over his face. "Ronnie told me something while he beat me to a pulp," he replied. "He said I was here to get *rid* of Hartwell. Apparently, I wasn't doing a good enough job."

"That's it!" Scully exclaimed coming over to the group. She grabbed Mulder by the arm. "Excuse us, please," she said to Buffy, Willow and Giles. She practically dragged Mulder out of the library. When they were in the hallway, she demanded, "What the hell are you doing in there?"

"What am *I* doing in there?" Mulder exclaimed, pointing to himself. "What are *you* doing? You're always preaching to me about proof, Scully, and now when I present you with it, you blow it off!"

"Proof?!" Scully incredulously replied, a little more loudly than she'd meant to. She lowered her voice. "What proof? All you've shown me is a girl and a book which is full of myths and stories written almost a thousand years ago! Where is this proof?"

"She's not just 'a girl', Scully," Mulder replied in an equally restrained voice. "She's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. You didn't see her do what *I* saw her do." He pointed towards the library. "Ronnie Strickland hurled her through a cast iron fence, and she wasn't even phased! She wielded a metal pole as a staff with skill I've never seen before." He took Scully by the upper arms. "I saw Ronnie turn to *dust* in front of my eyes, Scully!"

Scully stared up at Mulder, that skeptical 'Look' firmly in place. "Mulder, what part of 'What proof' didn't you understand?" she calmly asked.

Mulder's hands dropped from Scully as he sighed. "Why can't you believe this, Scully?" he demanded. "Ronnie Strickland did this to me." He motioned to his face. "You said yourself they looked like animal scratches."

"The operative words in that statement being 'looked like'," Scully responded. She sighed softly. "Mulder, you were under a lot of stress tonight, and you haven't slept much in the last 48 hours. I'm sure you believe you saw all of these things."

"Scully, the girl--Buffy--she's confirming my story!" Mulder said, waving a hand wildly at the library doors. "An-an-and that guy--that guy seems to know what the hell is going on around here!"

Scully folded her arms across her chest, shifting her feet a little. "I don't know why this Buffy is humoring you," she said. "Perhaps she likes the idea that *you* believe she is this mythical Slayer," she suggested. "And Mr. Giles--" She paused, scratching her forehead with her pinky nail for a moment. "Well, everyone has their little idiosyncrasies."

"Oh!" Mulder said, raising his eyebrows at his partner. "So with me it's 'crazy' but with him it's an 'idiosyncrasy'. Hmm?" he added when she looked away from him. "Scully...do you have a little thing for that guy?" He jerked a thumb at the library. He laughed a little when Scully didn't respond. "You do, don't you?"

Scully's eyes flicked up to him. "Mind your own damn business," she snapped. "And if you pursue this stupid vampire angle any further, Mulder--"

"You won't have to worry about it, Scully," Mulder interrupted, holding up his hands in surrender between them. He turned and started up the hallway.

"Mulder, where are you going?" she called out after him. He kept walking up the hallway, not even acknowledging her. "Mulder? Mulder, don't you--" He turned a corner, disappearing. "Dammit," she muttered.

Mulder slowed to a stop after he'd turned the corner. As he leaned against a row of lockers, he spotted an open classroom door. Wanting to stay away from Scully for a while but definitely having *no* desire to go back outside, Mulder went into the room.

He flicked on the light and took a look around. It was a high school chemistry classroom. Mulder laughed, almost as if he were mad, as he sat down on one of the tables full of tubes, beakers and tools. He'd wanted to get away from Scully and he'd walked right into a *science* classroom.

Spike's Mansio

Spike rested comfortably on the sofa when the vampire found him. "Uhh...?"

"Yes?" Initially, he didn't open his eyes at the sound of the voice because he recognized it as belonging to someone that didn't annoy the hell out of him. Just as a precaution, he sniffed the air. No peanut butter scent. A good sign. He opened his eyes slowly and let his glance fall on the vampire standing nervously beside him. "Strickland's not with you?"

The vampire's gaze fell on the floor, and a little shifting from foot to foot followed. "No. To say the least."

"This means one of two things: The little wimp either failed to kill Mulder and fled, or he's been staked." He paused, a slight smile creeping onto his face, then he added, "Make me happy, tell me it's the latter."

The vampire smiled as he looked back to Spike. His shifting around stopped. This wasn't so hard after all. "It IS the second one."

"Oh. Pity. Wait," Spike paused briefly, then said, "It's passed. I *almost* cared. What happened?"

"Well, he went to the cemetery, he found Mulder, he was all set to kill him." The vampire stopped, chuckling as he remembered the beating Mulder took from Ronnie. Who'd have thought that small guy could whip the hell out of that FBI character? "Actually, he managed to pound Mulder pretty good. Really, I thought he was going to succeed but... someone showed up and staked Strickland."

"Someone?" asked Spike, casting his gaze onto the vampire. "Could you be a little more specific?"

The vampire looked down at the floor, shifting from foot to foot again. "Well... I... honestly, I've never seen anything like it," he replied, flicking his gaze up from the floor to Spike. "Ronnie fought like hell, but she just kept coming back for more until she got him. This girl was... *ferocious*."

At the mention of the word "girl," the smile disappeared from Spike's face. This was something he hadn't counted on. With the arrival of Sheriff Do-well in town, he'd just assumed the Slayer had taken a vacation. Preferably someplace *very* far away from Sunnyhell. Obviously that was too good to be true. The only response he could muster up was a very dry, "Really."

"No, Spike, I mean it," the vampire said, his shifting coming to a stop. He shook his head, a look of amazement on his face. "This chick looked like a twig, like you could snap her in half with your pinky finger--" He raised his own, crooking it slightly "--but she fought like a... like a... well, it was scary. Since she didn't come after me, I sure as hell wasn't going to go after her. I wouldn't be here now if I'd even congratulated her on her work."

No question about it - it was Buffy. While Spike was more than a little pissed that the vampire hadn't even tried to get her, he couldn't blame him, having gone up against Buffy himself. "Well, at least you were smart enough to know your limits. Something our departed friend didn't do. Do you have any idea where Agent Mulder might have gone?"

"They said something about... the school?"

The school. Of course. Buffy, while being able to fight splendidly, was occasionally as predictable in her thinking as most humans. Thanking the vampire for the information, Spike was left alone to plan his next move.

This... Agent Mulder person proved to be more of a pain in the ass than he could have imagined. Somewhere in hell, devils should be making Ronnie Strickland dance the hula naked over hot coals for all the trouble he'd caused with the simple statement "Hey, there's this FBI guy that *really hates* Sheriff Hartwell..." Clearly, this was going to be one of those times where the old adage was true - if you want something done right...

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of someone else in the room. "Spike," her voice cooed.

He smiled widely. "Yes, my love?"

"Are you thinking again? You shouldn't, your face looks so bad when you frown," she said as she sat down next to him.

"Don't worry, pet, I'm not thinking anymore. Now I have to take action."

"Are we going out to play?"

Spike considered the options. While the company would be nice, the process of taking Agent Mulder out would be much simpler if he went alone. "No, I'm afraid I have to go on my own. Daddy has to go kill an FBI agent."

Dru seemed momentarily pleased with the idea. "Do they die faster than most people?"

"No, but I'll wager it gets you bonus points in hell when you do it. Now, I must be off."

Dru pouted. "You always get to go out. Bring me back a souvenir?"

"I promise. Head or heart?"

She thought for a moment, then smiled. "I really wanted to go out with you, so... both."

Smiling as he pretended to sigh in exasperation, he left the room.

On the drive to the school, he pondered how easy it was going to be to get to Mulder with a Slayer nearby. Not knowing enough about the FBI agent to devise a way to lure him into a secluded room, he'd have to hope the agent would eventually be a normal man enough to have to use a restroom at some point.

While Spike didn't relish the thought of hiding out in a high school washroom, it seemed the only time the agent would be without Buffy nearby. After all, following his experience in the cemetery, Mulder couldn't possibly be silly enough to wander around on his own.

Best to leave things as simple as possible. Go in, kill this annoying Mulder person, then bring back presents for Dru and his existence would return to normal.

Sunnydale High School

Scully entered the library. Giles, Buffy and Willow were gathered around one of the tables, the text lying open before them. She slowed to a stop, unsure of what exactly to say to them.

"Where is Agent Mulder?" Willow asked, looking beyond Scully. Her gaze met Scully's. "He didn't leave the school, did he?"

Scully shook her head. "I'm not sure where Mulder went, but I doubt he left the school grounds, " she replied.

"Learned his lesson," Buffy muttered, sitting down in one of the chairs. "At least he knows what we're dealing with now."

Scully took a few steps forward. "And what exactly are we dealing with?" she asked Buffy. She looked to Giles. "I don't believe this vampire story, so please, don't repeat that." She switched her attention back to Buffy. "I don't think I'll ever know what really happened out there tonight. Frankly, at this point, I don't *want* to know."

"Why can't you just accept the fact these things exist, Agent Scully?" Buffy asked, picking up the text. She waved it around slightly, much to Giles' disapproval. "I'm a vampire Slayer," she went on as she dropped the book on the table. "I didn't believe in any of it...until I saw them. They *are* real."

"Look, Buffy," Scully said as she walked over to the table. "There is a logical, scientific explanation for everything in this world." She glanced over at Giles. "Vampires are interesting bits of folklore, but they simply do not exist. No matter what Mulder believes about you, you're not a...a vampire slayer."

Buffy rose to her feet. "I didn't choose this life, it chose me," she told Scully. "It's hard enough I have to deal with it every day, but to have someone come along and say that--" She paused. "Well, it just hurts, ya know?" She leaned against the table.

"A-agent Mulder appears quite...knowledgeable on the subject of vampires," Giles said. "Perhaps you should take your partner more...seriously."

"What?" Scully exclaimed, looking over to Giles. "I've been with Mulder for five years. He has yet to prove anything paranormal exists. Now I'm here--" She pointed to the floor "--and you're telling me to take him seriously?" She sharply laughed. "He tells me about this Hellmouth, a revolving door between Hell and earth, in this town. That's not something I readily believe in."

"I suggest you start believing in it, "Buffy said to Scully. "Sunnydale has everything you can dream of: demons, werewolves, witches, vampires--" She took in a breath. "Basically, this town is like a Rob Zombie album."

Scully looked to Willow who'd been quiet through the discussion. "You all truly believe in this...this Hellmouth?" she asked.

Willow nodded. "It's true, Agent Scully," she said. "I was a lot like you are now when I found out about this stuff, but I've learned since then. I didn't want to believe it because it's a hellmouth. It's not really a nice thing. Nice things are puppies." She stopped and looked away. "But then again, there was that time Xander was possessed by a hyena, so maybe that wasn't a good example." She brightened as she looked up at Scully. "Oh, kittens are nice! I don't...I don't recall anything bad happening with them. Kittens, I mean."

"Oh, *I* could tell you some stories about cats," Scully replied. She let out a long sigh. "I need to sit down," she said. Giles pulled out a chair for her which she practically collapsed into. "I just need...to sit." She put her elbows on the table.

"Agent Scully, I know this is...is quite a bit for you to take in," Giles said as he sat down on the table. He gazed down upon Scully who buried her face in her palms. "But these creatures do exist, like Buffy said. Your...your survival depends upon you believing it. E-e- especially if you remain in Sunnydale."

Scully slowly raised her head, lifting her eyes up to Giles. Hearing him say that kind of thing, it sounded so *normal*. If Mulder had told her that, she'd simply have shrugged it off. But with Giles, it was completely sincere, as if a danger was actually present in Sunnydale. She gazed into Giles' eyes for a few moments then buried her face in her hands again.

It had to be the accent, she concluded.

Sunnydale High School
9:45 PM

Steering clear of the library, Spike crept around the exterior of the school building. Concentrating on finding the aura of a living, breathing full grown man, he expected to find him hidden away in a back room. To his shock, the first room he walked past contained a very boring-looking man who appeared vaguely pissed and fairly beaten up.

Spike watched for a moment, unable to believe that this *person* was Mulder. Being off on his own like that? Didn't he learn anything the last time?

The man inside played with the Bunsen burners, idly turning them off and on until he nearly caught himself on fire. Though the fire sent a mild shudder through him, Spike smiled. This hapless creature was obviously his man.

Just to be on the safe side, he went over to an open window and said quietly, "Agent Mulder?"

Mulder turned around quickly. "Yeah? Who's there? Come on in."

And an invitation as well. This man was making things SO simple. Why not have a little fun with it? Spike kicked in the window to make an entrance for himself, his face changing into "demon mode" as the glass shattered.

Mulder backed across the room, reaching for his gun as he saw the vampire come through the window. After a brief scramble around, he remembered that he'd lost his gun earlier. He glance around as the vampire approached him, then grabbed a high stool by the seat and thrust the legs out. "Stay back," he called out in warning.

"Please, like you'd know the first thing about using that on me," the vampire snarled, knocking the stool easily out of Mulder's hands. The stool flew across the room, clattering against the blackboard.

Mulder was temporarily stunned. The force of the chair being cast away from him was extremely powerful. This wasn't a vampire in the same league as Ronnie Strickland, but it looked a lot more pissed. He threw a punch at the vampire's midsection, hoping to at least slow him down. However, he ended up hurting his hand as it struck what felt like a solid mass.

"You call that a hit?" the vampire snarled. "I'm ashamed to be the same race as you."

"I'm part of the human race," Mulder shot back, still gasping from the pain in his hand. "I doubt you could say the same."

"And thank God for that," Spike retorted as he slammed his fist against the side of Mulder's head. The blow sent Mulder flailing back. His head slamming against the edge of a lab table with a sickening thump as he fell backwards.

Spike looked down calmly at the unconscious agent. That wasn't so hard at all, he decided. I barely even paused for breath. Killing him now would be no fun at all. Still, I DID promise Dru a present. Bet she'd never expect this, he thought as he picked up Mulder, slung him over his shoulder, then carried him across the room and out the window.

In the library, a thump caught Buffy's attention. She looked around the library then over to Giles and Scully who sat together at the table. "Did you guys hear that?" she asked. Her eyes traveled around the room as they listened for anything. She shook her head. "That's weird." She looked back to Giles and Scully. "I heard something."

Willow closed her spell book and said, "I heard it, too." She shrugged when Buffy turned to her. "I thought I imagined it." A slightly panicked expression washed over her face. "Y-you don't think some monster is lurking around in the school?"

Scully sighed as she stood up. Monsters, indeed. "It's probably Mulder," she told them. As she walked towards the library doors, she added, "And he's probably breaking something."

She left the library, headed in the direction Mulder went earlier. "Mulder?" she called out, stopping at the end of the hall. Her voice echoed in the empty hallways of Sunnydale High. She glanced up each end of the hall then called out louder, "Mulder! Where are you?"

She let out a long exasperated sigh when no one answered. She saw an open classroom door to her right. "Mulder?" she called out as she approached the open door. "Goddamn it, Mulder, this is not fun--"

Scully skidded to a halt as she entered the classroom. The chemistry lab was trashed. A stool lay on the floor by the blackboard, it's metal legs contorted into complicated shapes. Only a significant amount of force could've done that. Shattered glass from broken beakers and vials lay scattered all over the floor. As she walked further into the room, the glass crunched under her pumps.


She stopped and looked down when her left foot kicked something. A small ID wallet lay on the floor. Slowly, Scully crouched down and picked it up. When she opened it, she wasn't surprised to find out it was Mulder's. She rose up, gazing around the lab. Where could he be, though? If he'd gotten into a fight, where was he?

"Mulder?" she called out as she proceeded to search the room. Perhaps he was lying unconscious nearby.

After a few minutes of searching the room, Scully left. Mulder definitely was not in there. She continued up the hallway, checking the other rooms. "Mulder?" She peeked into an English classroom. No one answered.

I'm assuming you're not in the building, Scully thought as she tapped Mulder's ID wallet against her leg. So where the hell are you?

As Scully headed back towards the library, she remembered her cell phone. Of course! She could call Mulder's cell phone! Pausing in the hall, she pulled her phone out of her suit jacket pocket then clicked it on.

"I swear to God, Mulder," she muttered as she dialed his cell number. "You'd better pick up." The phone rang. "And you'd better be in this damn school." It rang again. "Pick up, pick up, pick up," she whispered, more out of fear now than annoyance. Mid-fourth ring, someone answered the phone.

"Agent Mulder's residence," a male voice with a British accent answered.

Scully froze in her tracks. "This is Special Agent Dana Scully," she said. "Where is Agent Mulder?" she demanded. "Who is this?"

"Oh, I'm quite sorry, but Agent Mulder isn't able to come to the phone right now," the voice replied from the other end. "If you'd like him to get back to you, please, leave your name, number and a short message after the scream." In the background, Mulder's voice cried out, "SCULLY! HELP!"

Scully gasped. "Mulder!" she shouted into her phone. "Mulder, where are y--" Click. The person on the other end of the line hung up. "Dammit!" she swore, clicking off her own phone. "Mulder," she grumbled, shaking her head. He'd gone and did something stupid. Now someone had a federal agent as a hostage.

She continued on to the library, a half-pissed off and half-tired expression planted on her face. Time to get some answers about this damn town, and the truth, she thought. She shoved the doors to the library open, startling Buffy, Giles and Willow. "Mulder is gone," she said, stopping a few feet from Giles at the counter. She put her hands on her hips.

"Gone?" Willow asked as Buffy said, "He left?!"

Scully shook her head as she looked at each of them. "No, I don't think he left of his own volition." She held up her cell phone then clanked it down on the counter. "I called his cell phone. Someone else picked up." She settled her gaze on Giles. "All this over that stupid telegram!"

"Telegram?" Giles asked as he came closer to Scully. "What...telegram?"

Scully leaned against the counter. "Yesterday Mulder received a telegram, informing him Hartwell was in this town--Sunnydale," she explained. "I thought it would be a waste of time coming out here, but not Mulder. He was convinced he'd find something here." She laughed. "But that's just like him, to run all the way across the country because of some mysterious telegram signed by a 'William B'."

Giles, Buffy and Willow exchanged an urgent look. Scully noticed the panic very apparent in the look they shared. "What?" she asked. When Giles looked at her, she came closer to him. "What is it? Do you know something about all this?" Giles glanced back at Buffy, but tensed up when Scully grabbed him by his jacket, pulling him close. "If you know who has Agent Mulder, tell me!" she demanded.

"You wouldn't believe us if we told you," Buffy replied, coming over to them. She looked from Giles to Scully. "And could you please cease and desist with strangling my Watcher?" She nodded to Scully's hands clamped on Giles.

Scully looked up at Giles then released her grip on him. She flushed with embarrassment as she lowered her eyes. "God, I'm sorry," she apologized in a low voice. She drew in a breath, trying to gather herself up and act like a professional. "You...you said you knew who has Mulder?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. She glanced at Giles who straightened his jacket. "And I also said you'd never believe it."

Scully looked from Buffy to Giles. "Well, run it by me," she said. "It's obviously a person. Who is he?"

Giles cleared his throat as he adjusted his glasses. "William...B. it's short for a rather formal name--William the Bloody," he explained. He paused, trying to decipher that blank look on Scully's face. "He...he's better known by his nickname--Spike."

"William the Bloody?" Scully flatly said. She sighed, rubbing her temples with her fingers after he nodded. "Do I even want to guess at how he got that name?" she asked. She held up her hands as Giles opened his mouth to reply. "No! Never mind. I don't. Just tell me where I can find this...Spike?"

"I know where he is," Buffy told Scully. "But you can't go after him alone. He'd totally skewer you." She shrugged when Scully raised an eyebrow at that. "Hey, no offense, but I can't let you go up against a vampire by yourself. It's in my job description."

"A vampire?" Scully said then laughed as she shook her head. She let out a half-chuckle, half-sigh. "A vampire sent Mulder a telegram about Lucius Hartwell?" she said. When the three of them confirmed it, she snorted, amused. "I can't decide which is better--that, or the fact you believe it.

"Um, actually, it kind of makes sense...sort of," Willow said as she came over to them. She continued when she had their attention. "I mean, who here in Sunnydale loses the most with Sheriff Hartwell patrolling the streets at night? Things have been very...nice since he arrived."

Buffy snapped her fingers. "I heard Ronnie tell Agent Mulder that's why Mulder was here," she suddenly said. She looked from Scully to Giles. "But I guess Mulder didn't do it quick enough for Spike's taste."

"Or perhaps he didn't care for Mulder's fascination with the Hellmouth outweighing his interest in Hartwell," Scully put in, immediately tacking on, "And please tell me I didn't just say that."

"I believe your theory is correct, Agent Scully," Giles replied. "Perhaps that is why...Strickland sought out your partner. To...to remedy the situation--?"

"This is all super, but if you want to see Agent Mulder in one piece, complete with all his pints, we have to motor," Buffy interrupted, looking from Giles to Scully. "Spike isn't exactly a candidate for any awards when it comes to patience with people--living or undead."

Scully shook her head as she pointed a finger at Buffy. "No, you're not going," she firmly replied. "It's simply too dangerous."

"You know, it *is*," Buffy said, nodding in agreement. She motioned to herself with her hand. "I'm surprised I'm letting you tag along." As Scully started to protest, Buffy added, "*And* I am the one who knows where Spike is."

Scully's mouth shut. Buffy did have a good point. Well, she could let the girl take her there, wherever that was, then go after Mulder. "What about local law enforcement?" she asked as Buffy headed for the doors.

Buffy paused and turned around. "Trust me when I say it's a total waste of time," she replied then went out of the library doors.

Scully opened her suit jacket and pulled out her gun. "I really don't like this," she said as she checked the clip. Full. As she replaced the gun in the holster clipped to her slacks, she looked over to Giles and Willow. "It's better if you two stay here." She started to leave.

"Agent Scully, do...do remember what I told you?" Giles called out after her. He paused as she stopped by the doors to look back at him. "I-I-If you hope to survive this confrontation, you'll need to...to place conventional thinking aside."

Scully's hand pushed against the door, opening it up just a crack, but she didn't leave. Slowly, her gaze shifted to the floor as Giles' words sunk in. Somehow, this time around, she didn't believe it was the accent which made that warning sound valid. Gathering up all her strength and wits, she shoved the door open the rest of the way, leaving the library.

The doors fell shut behind her.

Spike's Mansion

Before Mulder opened his eyes, several scents caught him at once. Muskiness that he associated with basements or attics, blood, probably his own, and a heavy perfume. VERY heavy. He opened one eye, wincing in pain. He found himself in a room that, sure enough, didn't have any windows. Closer inspection revealed the blood was, in fact, his own. As for the perfume scent, he couldn't see past the shadows to find the source of it. He tried sitting up, then howled at the pain shooting through his side.

"You've been hurt," a soft voice cooed in his ear. "You went through a window, and the glass cut you."

"Yeah, probably," he replied, now looking around for the source of the voice.

He felt cool hands against the back of his head. "You poor thing. Does it hurt much?"

"Only a little," he tried to reply manfully. Where WAS she? And, more importantly, what was she doing here?

"Well, that'll never do," she said, sitting down next to him. "Where else does it hurt?"

"Really, it doesn't hurt. I'm fine." He wasn't sure if he was lying because he wanted to perpetuate the macho illusion or because he was still worried about why this... girl was here. For now he just wanted to listen to her pretty little British voice.

"Then it must not be much of a wound. Let me see it." She parted his hair in the back to study the wound there, then moved in front of him. Mulder watched the slip of a girl, all dark hair and big, round eyes study the blood on the front of his shirt with a huge degree of interest. "Why are you here?" he asked.

"Sssh. I'm here to make everything different," she replied as she poked one finger near the blood.

"Maybe you shouldn't do that," Mulder said as he squirmed at the touch. "You might make it worse."

"I know what I'm doing," she replied calmly. She spoke so slowly, so musically that Mulder started to relax. Until she started to pull his shirt up over his head.

"Hey!" he called out, trying to pull away, hampered by the pain shooting through him and the surprisingly strong arms holding onto him. Looking at her face, he saw something in the placid expression, especially in the glimmer in her eyes, that slammed the realization into his head that it was another vampire that was trying to undress him. Not a good thing.

"Hmmmm." She studied the exposed flesh around his midsection. "This doesn't look that bad at all. You were exaggerating."

"I was not," he shot back. Great, I'm arguing with a vampire, he thought.

"Yes, you were. That's no matter, Agent Mulder," she responded in her cooing voice.

Agent Mulder? Uh oh, she's in on things with the blonde guy.

"We'll just make it worse," she said as her head bent down with astonishing speed. With one deft move of her mouth, she ripped open the small wound in his midsection, tripling it in size, then sucked at the blood in long, slow movements.

Mulder felt a bit more lightheaded with each exhale. His thoughts moved towards, I'm gonna die at the hands of this woman. Okay, there are worse ways to go. He noticed a slight stiffening in an all-too familiar area as he listened to the little noises she made as she drank. Of course, now this. Typical. "I have a question," he said weakly.

"No, I'm not going to kill you," she said in between laps of blood.

"That wasn't the question, but thanks for the information. What I was going to ask was..."

"Yes?" She managed to look up at him as she drank.

"Is it wrong that I'm totally aroused by this?"

She took one last sip, then backed away from him. "Shame on you for talking to a lady like that," she said disapprovingly.

"Yeah, shame on you," a voice behind Mulder which Mulder recognized as the man from the school lab said. He felt himself being hauled up off the sofa he'd been sprawled on. The man threw him down on the ground, then stood over him as Mulder struggled to turn over.

"I was planning on ripping you to shreds on general principle," Spike said as he looked down at the shaking wreck underneath him. "Now it looks like I'll be pulverizing you to defend the honor of my love. How noble of me."

Before Mulder had a chance to shrink back or say anything in response, Spike kicked him full force in the side of his head. Letting out a loud yelp, Mulder grabbed his head where Spike's boot had made contact and rolled over into a fetal position to protect himself. Spike leaned down and grabbed Mulder by the shoulders, hauling him into an upright position.

"Not that it makes any difference, but she *did* start it," Mulder said as he tried to stand on his own.

"Don't you *ever* shut up?" Spike asked with a groan. "Obviously I'm going to have to punch you in the mouth to shut you up." With a wicked smile on his face, Spike did just that, blood spraying from Mulder's mouth as Spike's fist made contact. He threw Mulder onto the back of a chair, then systematically threw a right, then a left, then a right, as Mulder tried unsuccessfully to move away and groaned with each hit.

Outside the Mansion

Buffy crept around the outside of the dilapidated mansion Spike and Drusilla called home. Her senses were at their height, every muscle in her body on alert, just waiting to be jolted into action. It was rather quiet around the place. She didn't notice any perimeter guards. That meant Spike didn't expect company, or...

"Stay back," Scully whispered as she pushed her way in front of Buffy, taking over the lead. She looked around. The place appeared dead.

Buffy sighed in frustration as Scully pulled out her gun. Great, Buffy thought. Nobody can handle anything without a gun these days!

"Agent Scully," Buffy said in a hushed voice. "Like I told your partner, a gun won't kill vampires."

"They aren't vampires!" Scully hissed back as she glanced over her shoulder at Buffy. "Now stay back and don't follow any longer. I don't want you to get hurt." She proceeded to the front door, on her guard.

"Oh yeah?" Buffy muttered as she scanned the area, looking for anything she could use as a weapon. She spotted a nice stick, about the size of the quarterstaff, lying on the ground. "Well, likewise, lady," she finished as she snatched up the stick.

Buffy examined her weapon, guessing it'd been a broom or mop handle back in its glory days. She smiled. Better yet, the stick sported a decent pointed end. She twirled the "staff" a little between both hands. "Here's a skill I'm racking up good practice time on," she said to herself.

Scully positioned herself on the right side of the door, her gun clutched in both hands. She closed her eyes, letting out a long, steadying breath. She reached out with her left hand to knock on the front door. Someone grabbed hold of her wrist before she could knock. Her eyes flicked open to see Buffy standing beside her, grasping onto her wrist.

"What, are you crazy?" Buffy asked as she let go of Scully's wrist. She nodded to the front door. "For the love of Mike, don't knock! You want to alert every vampire who works for Spike we're here? No, we just go in." She shifted her staff from her left hand to her right then grabbed the doorknob. "And don't yell 'Freeze, FBI!' in here, and get all Nicholas Cage on me, ok?" she added, glancing over at Scully.

Scully blinked a few times, stunned by the way Buffy had taken command of this rescue. From the way Buffy talked and handled the tension of the situation, Scully knew it wasn't the first time the girl had done something like this.

Buffy gripped the doorknob, paused a moment then pushed on it. The knob popped through the door easily. She pulled her hand back, showing the knob to Scully. "Follow me," she told Scully then tossed the doorknob away. She glanced from the gun to Scully. "And put that gun away, would you? I don't want to get shot!" She pushed the front door open with her foot then took her staff in both hands as she walked inside.

Keeping close behind Buffy, Scully, gun still drawn, followed the girl inside the mansion. Inside, Scully secured the right side of the room while Buffy kept her eye on the left. Certain no one was near, Buffy rested the blunt end of her staff on the floor and scratched her head in puzzlement.

The girl shook her head. "This is total weirdness," she commented, turning to Scully. "It was way too easy to get in here. And now there's nobody guarding the fort?" She let out a breath as she scanned the room. "I don't like this."

Scully lowered her gun to her side. "Are you sure you're at the right place?" she asked. She gave the dreary, half-lit room the once over. "This place looks like it hasn't been lived in for years."

"Oh, trust me, Agent Scully," said Buffy as she held onto her staff with both hands then leaned on it. "No living happening in this place -of any kind." Suddenly, she stood straight; her eyes flicked around the room as her body tensed up for the approaching battle. Picking up her staff, she shifted into a defense position. "Keep your eyes open," she said in a low voice. "We are not alone."

Scully tossed her free hand up in frustration as she sighed. "Great! Now what?" she said. "Aliens, too?"

"No," Buffy replied, shaking her head as she took a few steps backwards. "Vampires."

Scully started to say something, but gasped as four men, dressed in dark clothes, stepped from the shadows of the room. She couldn't even begin to guess what was wrong with the faces of these thugs. They sure weren't any welcoming committee--that much was certain. Slowly, she brought up her gun, but these men showed no interest in her. They all surrounded Buffy.

Buffy glanced from each of the vampires advancing on her, gripping the staff tightly in her hands. She knew Scully would be relatively safe for the time being, as long as the agent didn't call attention to herself in any way. These creeps wanted to take out the viable threat first.

"The Slayer," said the leader vampire, the one directly in front of Buffy. He laughed when she looked at him. "You don't look so tough," he went on. "You and your little stick." He laughed again. This time the others joined him.

Buffy blew a loose lock of hair out of her face then grinned. "We have something in common then," she said. She arched her eyebrows slightly. "We both have little sticks."

The lead vampire growled then advanced to attack. Buffy ducked as the vampire tried to clothesline her with his right arm during his advance. She rotated the stick around and jabbed the pointed end of the stick up behind her. She caught one of the other vampires off-guard, and the stick penetrated the chest and moments later, the vamp vanished into a poof of ash.

Scully drew in a sharp breath, amazed when she witnessed the man explode. No! She hadn't just seen a man disintegrate! No way! It simply couldn't happen! All logic ruled against it. But, however, the man was no longer there. She shook her head as she retreated further away from Buffy and the last three thugs.


"Do you have some deep-seated problem with me that I'm just not aware of?" Mulder said after Spike let him fall to the floor again.

"Oh, what a lovely loaded question," Spike said as he placed one foot squarely in the middle of Mulder's ribcage, on the left side. "Hmmm... where to start. Dru?"

"Yes, my love?" Dru appeared next to Spike.

"What is my problem with Agent Mulder?"

"Ohhh, good question. Well..." Dru pretended to ponder while she walked to Mulder's right. Stepping down lightly on his left ribcage, she said, "He did make advances toward me that were VERY ungentlemanly." Mulder wasn't worried about the damage she would do - her foot felt like nothing on his midsection.

Pressing down a little harder with her foot, she added, "And he isn't dressed very well."

"And I dressed to impress today," Mulder dryly said.

Without missing a beat, Dru added, "And he talks back far too much" as she placed her full strength on Mulder's ribs. He screamed as she rocked back and forth, shifting the weight, and said, "What else has he done wrong, my love?"

"Well, Dru, I'd say the biggest error he's made is his inability to follow simple instructions." After a glance down at Mulder, he commented, "You look puzzled as well as pained. I guess I need to explain. I credited you with more intelligence, I'm sad to say," he concluded while he slammed his foot down on Mulder's midsection. Pausing only until Mulder's howl of pain died down, he said, "You can't even follow through on a simple telegram."

"You... sent... that...?" Mulder wheezed.

"Of COURSE I did, you cretin!" Spike kicked him in the hip. "All I wanted you to do was track down Sheriff Hartwell and destroy him. But, no, you had to make like a second-rate Sherlock Holmes and interview everyone!"

"What...?" Mulder started to ask for clarification, but the blow to his ribs stopped him from making any sound other than another wail in pain.

"After everything that vile Strickland child told me, I'd have thought it would have been enough to be in the same town with Hartwell, you could just be left to your own devices. But you had to go poking around about the Hellmouth, didn't you?"

"Ronnie probably exaggerated," Mulder shot back.

Spike responded with a smash of his foot against an extremely sensitive area on Mulder's lower half. The scream that resulted almost drowned out Spike yelling, "You just don't realize every word you say makes me want to kill you more, do you Agent Mulder?"

"Come here, bitch!" yelled one of the other vamps as he charged Buffy, intent on tackling her.

With lightning quick speed, Buffy whirled around, putting all her weight behind the staff. The blow struck the vampire in the face, hurtling him backwards. He did a complete back flip then landed flat on his stomach. She took her staff, pivoting as the last vampire tried to make his move. She gave him a series of blows to the head, legs, and arms, advancing as he backed away.

As she handled this vamp, she sensed one of the other two coming up behind her. She paused in her attack on the one in front of her to give a back kick. She caught the vamp behind her square in the chest. While the one behind her was off-balance, she did two spin kicks, hitting that vamp in the head. She then used her staff to sweep the vamp's feet out from under him.

Buffy spun around on one foot, whirling the staff around with her. She smacked the leader vampire in the chin, sending him back a few steps. Forgetting the leader, she turned back to the vampire on the floor, attempting to get up. Quickly, she brought down the pointed end of the staff on him, making direct contact with his heart.

A loud scream faded as the vampire exploded, the ash raining down on Buffy. She took a breath then turned around. Only one vamp was still there. The leader with the attitude had disappeared.

She twirled the staff around then executed a flying spin kick, connecting with the last vamp's chest. While he tried to recover, Buffy swing the staff around, hitting him upside the head. The staff hit the vamp with such force, he flipped over and to the left, landing on his back. Taking the staff in both hands, she plunged the sharp end into his chest.

Buffy sighed and wiped the sweat from her brow with her forearm as the third vampire poofed away. "Agent Scully?" she said as she turned around. Scully only stared at her, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. Buffy took a few steps closer. "Are you ok?" she asked.

Scully held out her empty hand to the three piles of dust around Buffy. "Am I ok?!" she repeated. "I just saw three men explode and I have no logical explanation for it! No, I'm not ok! What else would I be?"

Buffy's eyes widened as the leader vampire popped up behind Scully, his teeth bared and ready to take a bite out of the agent. "Duck!" she yelled, grabbing the staff like a javelin.

The vampire growled as Scully dropped down to her knees. She didn't even question Buffy or have a second to wonder why she didn't. Buffy threw the staff, which sailed across the room. The vampire roared out as the pointed end of the staff drove straight though his body. He barely had time to grab the staff before he disintegrated. The remains showered down upon Scully, while the stick clattered beside her.

Cautiously, Scully raised up her head, jumping slightly as dust fell from her hair and her suit. She looked behind her, her eyes wide when she saw another pile of dust. What the hell was going on around this town? This...this was nuts!

"Hey, are you all right?" Buffy asked as she jogged over to Scully. She cocked her head to the left as Scully gazed up at her in wonder. "That was *so* close," Buffy continued. She held out a hand and helped the agent to her feet.

Scully brushed her clothes off as Buffy picked up the staff. "How..." she managed to say. She sighed, looking from Buffy to the dust. "I don't understand...." She motioned to the dust then settled her gaze on the dirty, sweaty teenager.

"Do you believe me about the vampires now?" Buffy asked. She took her staff in both hands, looking around the room. "I think I know where your partner is." She looked over to Scully. "Come on. And be quiet." She started across the room.

Scully looked at each of the piles of dust then to the gun still clutched in her hand. She shrugged. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, she thought. "Guess there's really no need for this then," she muttered. She put the gun back in its holster under her suit jacket as she walked across the room to catch up with Buffy.

"Where are we going?" Scully whispered as she crept along behind Buffy. She glanced around, wondering where this dreary corridor led. She let out a breath, rubbing her arms.

"Shh," Buffy softly said, glancing back at Scully. She placed a finger to her lips, making sure Scully got the message. She pointed straight ahead where a light originated--the end of the corridor. "Listen," she added.

The sounds of blows landing on something--or someone--echoed up the corridor from the room at the end. Each thump was followed by a groan or a yelp of pain. As they neared the end of the corridor, Buffy and Scully noted the noises growing louder. Buffy slowed to a stop at the corner. After taking in a few steadying breaths, she peering around the corner.

"What do you see?" Scully whispered after a few moments. She tried to take a look for herself but Buffy pushed her back, gently, with her makeshift staff.

In the room, Buffy saw Mulder on the floor, doubled over on his knees. The agent's head rested on the floor as he coughed then spat out blood mixed with saliva. Spike circled Mulder, his hands locked together behind his back. He appeared rather pleased with his work thus far. Drusilla put her foot on Mulder's right side then shoved him over onto his back.

Mulder remained in a fetal position. His hands immediately went to his face, shielding himself the best he could. "N..no...no more," he hoarsely whispered, shaking his head vigorously. "Please...no more."

Buffy gripped her stick tightly in her hands. Spike and Drusilla had really worked Mulder over. The agent's suit was barely recognizable as a suit, every inch of his body was either bleeding or had blood spattered upon it. She felt bad about making fun of him on the way to the school earlier that evening. Nobody deserved that kind of torture -not even a nosy, clueless FBI agent.

The simpering, shaking wreck of a human being continued to repeat, begging actually, "No more...please, no more."

"What's happening in there, dammit!" Scully demanded, impatiently. She found it hard to keep her voice to a whisper. "Is Mulder in there?"

Buffy ducked back then looked over to Scully. "Would you be quiet?" she hissed then jerked her thumb in the direction of the room. "They'll hear you!"

Scully sighed, frustrated with all this standing around. "Is Mulder in there?" she asked again, in a quieter more controlled voice.

"Oh, he's in there," Buffy replied, glancing around the corner once more then focused her attention on Scully. "Spike is in there. Along with his significantly wacky other, Drusilla." She bit her lip slightly, concerned on how to make the next move. "Separately, they're not so hard to handle. But together..."

"Why don't you go in there and stake them...or whatever it is you do?" Scully hotly asked as she waved a hand towards the room.

Buffy stared at Scully for a moment then said, "Ok, like, where did I lose you on 'separately, they're not so hard to handle'?"

Mulder groaned as he dared to look up at Spike and Drusilla. He was so, to put it bluntly, fucked. Scully would never find him, and if, by some miracle, she did, she'd never believe these two were vampires. She'd only wind up dead herself. For once, he realized Scully was right. They should've never come to Sunnydale.

Drusilla dropped to her knees beside Mulder and turned his head so the agent looked at her. She stared into his eyes for a moment then a devilish smile crept to her face. "He's thinking of someone," she said. She ran a finger down his face, between his eyes and stopped at the tip of his nose. "Let's kill him now while he's still afraid."

Spike started to reply but his head lifted as he sense something...familiar. That scent in the air--the smell of Buffy. But the Slayer was not alone. The other scent was something much...softer. He smiled slightly. Another female.

Drusilla, vamped out, leaned over to take a bite out of Mulder's neck. The agent was too exhausted and in too much pain to do anything but whimper as the vampire drew near.

Spike looked down when he noted Mulder's whimpering. While he hated to interrupt Dru right before she started feeding on someone, it was best to stop her before she got too involved in her work. If the other woman out in the hall was half the fighter Buffy was, catching Dru mid drink could be calamitous. Best to get her out of the room, out of harm's way.

He cleared his throat, startling Drusilla. "Dru," he said. She looked up at him with the appearance of an innocent young woman. "Why don't you let me finish up here, love?"

Drusilla pouted. "But I wanted to play with his insides--" She lowered her eyes meeting Mulder's frightened gaze "--while *he* watched."

"Daddy and the very rude man have a few more things to discuss first," Spike told her as he held out a hand to Dru. "You go and wait for me, love." He helped her to her feet. "And I'll bring you all the parts when I'm done."

Drusilla smiled, enchanted with the suggestion Spike made. "All his parts? So I can put him together again, like a puzzle?" she asked.

"Yes, pet, just like a puzzle," Spike replied.

Buffy peeked around the corner again. Drusilla was leaving! She grinned for a second then looked back to Scully. "I think we caught a break. Drusilla's leaving the room. It's just Spike and your partner now."

Scully slipped into Buffy's spot along the wall then peeked into the room. "Oh my God," she gasped when she saw the sorry state Mulder was in. She looked from her partner to the blond fellow who remained in the room. *That* was Spike? *That* was William the Bloody? He looked like a kid! Then again, Buffy *was* a kid and very lethal.

"He doesn't look so good," Buffy said when Scully turned to her.

"What's the plan?" Scully asked. "How do we go in?"

Buffy peered around the corner then settled her gaze on Scully who anxiously awaited her reply. "The plan starts with you staying here," she replied. She grinned. "Ya like it so far? And it's right off the top of my head, too."

"I can't stand here and hide," Scully protested, shaking her head. "I'll help Mulder out while you handle this...this Spike person."

Buffy opened her mouth to say something but a loud growl caught her attention. She turned to see a vampire coming towards her. Scully let out a yelp of surprise as the vampire and Buffy tumbled into the room together. She gasped when two more vampires headed up the corridor towards her. Stumbling over her own feet, Scully backed away from the vampires...and right into the room.

"Agent Scully!" Buffy called out as she wrestled with the vampire who'd tackled her. "Get out of here!" She punched the vampire in the face then flipped up to her feet. As soon as she was upright, Buffy did a cartwheel, picking up her stick from the floor. One of the two new vampires used a roundhouse kick on her. Buffy held up her staff to block the vampire's attack but the stick had taken enough abuse. It gave up and snapped into two pieces.

"Buffy," Scully said. When Buffy used the piece of stick in her left hand to strike one of the vampires in the side of the head, sending him hurtling back, Scully remembered the girl could take care of herself.

Buffy looked at the pieces of stick in her hands. "You broke my staff!" she yelled at the vampire she'd just smacked in the head. She twirled each stick in her hands in perfect sync. "Chobos," she said as she looked at the sticks then shrugged. "You guys are just lucky Giles showed me how to use them."

One of the vampires kicked Buffy in the back. She stumbled forward. The vampire hadn't hit her hard. As she turned around, her right arm extended, the stick hammered the vampire in the back. Quickly, she used the stick in her left hand to whack the vampire in the back of the knee. He fell flat on his back.

"Say good-night, Nancy," Buffy told the vampire. She drove the pointed end of the stick in her right hand into the vampire's heart. As the vamp vanished into a poof of ash, she added, "Guess there's no silver medal for you, though."

Scully watched Buffy fighting multiple vampires at once with some degree of fascination. Maybe after this is all over, she can teach me a few moves, she thought. It'd help in battling psychopaths twice my size.

It took Scully longer than it should have to remember she was in the room to help Mulder. The surprise of those vampires and the hypnotic grace of Buffy's fighting style were to blame. She was about to turn around when she heard a low voice say directly into her left ear, "Hello, darling."

She froze. "Mulder?" she said, knowing it probably wasn't him, due to how horrible he'd looked when she caught the glimpse of him. Plus, Mulder wasn't British. It was an idle hope at best.

"Sorry, no," the voice replied. "Mulder's lying on the floor, a broken, bleeding man right now."

Okay, that was a dumber thing to say than I thought, she decided. Still not able to muster up the energy to turn around, she looked ahead, hoping to catch Buffy's eye. Unfortunately, Buffy was still busy with the troupe of vampires who'd jumped them.

"Why aren't you fighting the girl with the others?" Scully asked, hoping it would stall him.

A pause. "They seem to be doing all right," the voice replied. "I prefer one-on-one action myself." Scully felt the lump in her throat as she swallowed. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced," the voice behind her continued. She felt a hand on her shoulder, gently guiding her to turn around. When she did, she found herself face to face with the blond vampire.

"Are you usually a stickler for formalities?" she asked. She was nervous and scared as hell, but tried her best not to let him know that. Though, she suspected he already did.

"Well," he said as his hand slid away from her shoulder. "We *did* talk on the phone before."

Mr. Message Service, Scully thought, nodding slightly. That's what was familiar about the voice. "So that was you," she said. "What did you do to my partner?"

Spike took a cursory glance over at Mulder's inert form. "Beat the crap out of him, essentially."

Scully nodded. "Ah," she said then paused before asking, "Any reason why, or just general principle?" She gave a half shrug as she reached up to scratch the back of her head. Her stomach did flip flops, but her outward exterior was cool and composed now.

"It's very complicated," Spike answered with a dismissive gesture. "Entirely unimportant now."

The agent nodded once more. "And you sent the telegram," she concluded as she lowered her hand from the back of her head. "You're William."

To Scully's mild surprise, Spike smiled. "I like the way you say my name, Agent Scully."

On the verge of responding with a "What?" Scully was stopped cold by Spike's next action - a very noticeable sniffing of the air. She watched him for a moment, then dared to ask, "What the hell are you doing?"

"Smelling," he told her. He met Scully's curious gaze. "I've been told that most redheads smell like peanut butter." He sniffed the air once again. "You certainly don't. It's a... different smell."

Vampire or no vampire, if he says I smell like a summer breeze, fruit or flowers, I'm going to vomit, Scully thought.

Spike took a step towards her, his face moving closer to hers, then lightly sniffed at her hair. "It's... a chemical smell." He raised his eyebrows as he looked down upon her. "Do you dye your hair?"

Enough was enough. The hair comment was the last straw. She pushed at his shoulder, sending him back at least a foot or two. "Give me a break," she snorted.

Shocked, Spike looked down at the spot on his shoulder where she'd pushed him. He actually felt a slight twinge where her hand had shoved him. She hadn't put that much effort into it, but she had caused a bit of discomfort. How... fascinating. He was too wrapped up in amazement that she'd caused that reaction to advance on her again.

If I piss him off enough, I could probably take this joker, she thought. "If you want to kill me, just get it over with," she said then rolled her eyes. "The Frank Langella routine is pathetic!" She scoffed.

*She* was insulting him? She'd caused mild pain and now she was insulting him? More fascinating than before. Spike was grateful he'd sent Dru out of the room - if she'd seen him now, she'd never let him hear the end of it. "Frank Langella? Please," he snorted. "There are some vampires who can charm without coming off like a soap opera actor."

Images of Sheriff Hartwell flashed through her brain but she ignored them. "Are you going to just stand there and stare at me?" she impatiently asked. "Or may I leave in peace?"

Spike's normal mode of behavior came back to him. "Leave in peace?" he repeated, amused. "Oh, I'm afraid we're past that point, Miss Scully. Your partner's going to leave in pieces--that much is certain." He gave her a critical once over then added, "The jury's still out on you."

Spike advanced on Scully once more. As the vampire reached out for her, Scully side-stepped quickly and grabbed a hold of his right wrist. Getting a firm hold on him, she brought his arm down, using the kinetic energy of his own forward motion to flip him over. Spike landed flat on his back, looking up at Scully.

Scully stared at the vampire on the floor for a few seconds, then got her bearings. She started searching for Mulder so they could get the hell out of there. She spied Mulder over in a corner, where he'd managed to drag himself to get out of the path of the fighting. Before she had a chance to move towards Mulder, Spike seized her ankle and pulled her down on the floor.

"Nice move," he complimented her as she fell into a sitting position with a thump. "Bet you can't do it twice." He raised himself onto his knees, then leaned towards her again.

"I won't need to," she said matter-of-factly. She let a perfectly formed right hook clock him in the chin. While he was stunned, she quickly got to her feet, then kicked him in the face with her foot. His head whipped back severely then he collapsed onto the floor, groaning in pain.

Spike didn't take long to get into a pissed-off state. As Scully made her way to Mulder, Spike stood up, his face morphing into his vamped out state. And he attacked. When Scully slammed against the wall, the side of her head hit the wall before her body did. Stunned, she started to slump down but Spike grabbed her by the waist and held her up.

Scully blinked a few times, trying to shake off the daze from being smacked into the wall. Then she saw the demonic face inches away from hers. She opened and closed her eyes deliberately but that face remained. The same sort of face the thugs Buffy battled in the mansion had. Vampires.

"You fought well, Miss Scully. Even managed to hurt me a few times." He winced remembering that wicked kick to the face. "At first I respected it, now it's pissed me off. Fun's over." He growled.

Do something! she frantically told herself.

Scully struggled to push him away, but he pinned her arms by her sides as he leaned towards her. She wriggled as she felt Spike's body leaning against hers. Whimpering slightly, she jerked around, her hands flailing around in an attempt to hit him.

Spike took his time, allowing the little woman to fight. This was the most fun part of being a vampire, anyway; feeling all the fear a human went through before death. Even more exciting about this particular situation was the fact the great Slayer hadn't a clue Agent Scully was about to die.

Scully grunted as she slipped her right hand behind her back. She strained as she reached up and up...until she found what she wanted. I've got something for you to bite, she thought as her fingers curled around the handle of her gun.

Buffy looked up from staking the last vampire when she heard an ear shattering blast. The surprised look on her face matched Scully's, who was standing in front of Spike, recently fired gun in her hand, staring at the unholy mess the single bullet had made of Spike's stomach. As he fell to the ground, his hands unsuccessfully trying to cover the mess that had been his midsection, Buffy yelled, "I told you guns don't kill vampires!"

"No, but they sure seem to slow 'em down pretty good," Scully said blandly, still staring at the sight of a vampire trying to hold his stomach together. She suddenly snapped out of the reverie, looking around and saying briskly, "You're right, though. Let's get the hell out of here before things get worse." She started for the door, then stopped as she looked out the window. No. Couldn't be. Here? Now? Impossible.

"Uh... Agent Scully?" Buffy called out.

"Yeah?" she replied, still looking out the window.

"Don't you want to get your partner?" She jerked a thumb behind her. "You know, Mulder? The guy you came here for?"

Scully blinked a few times, her focus still out the window. "Yeah. Mulder. Right. You get him, I'm tired of carrying him around. I'll meet you outside." Before Buffy could say anything, Scully left.

Buffy sighed in frustration as she threw her two sticks aside then ran over to Mulder. As she passed Spike, she took a second to kick him in the side. That would give her a little more time to escape.

"Agent Mulder?" Buffy said as she leaned over to the battered, groaning man who struggled to get up. "Come on. We need to get out of here now."

"Huh?" Mulder mumbled. He groaned as Buffy heaved him up to his feet. He was very surprised by the girl's strength, yet didn't care enough to comment on it.

Buffy supported Mulder. "You have to help out a bit," she told him. After a few steps, Buffy finally took on all the work, practically lifting him off the ground while they left the room.

Outside, Scully skidded to a halt. Sheriff Lucius Hartwell turned around after he opened the back door of his police cruiser. Giles, Willow and Xander all got out. Hartwell smiled when he saw Scully staring at him. "Agent Scully," he greeted pleasantly.

Scully swallowed. Hartwell was just as, if not more, gorgeous as he was in Chaney. She sighed and, under her breath, uttered, "Hoo, boy."

"You all right?" Hartwell asked as he came up to Scully. He looked her over. Physically, the woman appeared fine.

Willow ran up to them, stopping just behind Hartwell. "Where are Buffy and Agent Mulder?" she asked of Scully. When Scully continued to stare at Hartwell, Willow glanced over her shoulder to Giles and Xander then shrugged.

Buffy, still lugging Mulder, hobbled out of the mansion. She let out a sigh of relief as she reached Scully. She let go of Mulder and he dropped to his knees on the ground.

"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed, relieved her friend was ok. "You're all right!"

Buffy dragged her left forearm over her forehead. "Barely," she said. She saw Giles and Xander by a patrol car. "What are you guys doing here?"

A growl caught the attention of everyone. Spike, still clutching his gut with one hand, charged out of the mansion headed straight for Scully. Buffy quickly went on the defensive as she placed herself in front of Mulder.

Hartwell pushed Scully behind him. As soon as Spike was close enough, Hartwell backhanded the younger vampire. Spike sailed backwards through the air until he slammed against the front of the mansion. Dazed by the blow, Spike sat slumped on the ground.

Buffy blinked as she lowered her defense. She looked from Spike over to Hartwell.

The sheriff shook his head, displeased, as he stared at Spike. "Didn't I tell y'all kids to behave?" he said, pointing a finger at Spike.

Spike, hand on the back of his head, met the narrow gaze of Hartwell. Boy, did that hick vampire looked pissed. A full retreat was definitely in order. At least for now. Quickly, he scrambled to his feet and went inside the mansion.

Buffy held up her hands. "Whoa! Wait a second here!" she declared, making a "T" for a timeout with her hands. "How did you know where to find us," she asked Hartwell then she looked at Xander who stood by Giles. "And, Xander, what are you doing here in your pajamas?"

Xander glanced down at himself. He wore a pair of pajamas with Scooby Doo characters on them, along with his tennis shoes which were untied. Suddenly, he felt embarrassed. When he'd stumbled out of bed after Willow's frantic call, he'd never thought about what he was wearing. "Well, uh," he started as he looked over to Buffy. "Well, I sleep in the nude, but there are laws against showing off a body this good in public."

Buffy snorted slightly. "You mean a body that good that's still in the pupal stage, right?"

Xander opened his mouth to respond but paused then held up a finger. "I'm not entirely sure what that means but I'm guessing...not a compliment."

Giles reached into the pocket of his jacket as he cleared his throat. He pulled out Scully's cell phone and held it out to her. As Scully accepted the phone from him, Giles glanced over to Hartwell. "We, uh, we took the liberty of using your phone," he told her. "I called Sheriff Hartwell shortly after you and Buffy left." He gave the sheriff another quick glance. "We would've been here sooner, but--"

"Willow called me and said you guys needed help," Xander put in. He stopped when he realized he and Scully didn't really know one another. "And it's pretty pointless to tell you who I am. From now on, you'll just remember me as 'The Dorky Kid in the Scooby Pajamas'."

"We'll pay you back for the calls, Agent Scully," Willow chimed in. "We saw your phone on the counter, and well, we would've used our own phone, but it was just...easy access."

Xander looked at Willow, nodding. "Sure we'll pay for the calls," he said. "We'll just have to pool our allowances and Giles' salary for a year together to cover the cost of two phone calls." After a moment, he realized something. "Hey! Why should I pay for a call that was made to me? Will, you're covering that one."

Scully put her cell phone away. "Don't worry about it," she told them. "That's what expense accounts are for."

Hartwell joined them. "I doubt he'll come back out for awhile," he told them, jerking a thumb towards the mansion. "Who was he, anyway?"

"Spike," Buffy replied. "One of the troublemakers of Sunnydale. He didn't really dig the whole law and order thing happening around here since you arrived."

"That's why they're here," Willow added, pointing to Scully.

Scully looked to Hartwell. "Ronnie Strickland told this Spike about Mulder and what happened in Chaney," she explained. "So Spike sent Mulder a telegram, alerting him to the fact you, and the others, were in this town."

"Ronnie?" Hartwell said. He shook his head, clicking his tongue. "That boy needs to get it into his thick head we're not like that anymore. He never understands. He'll be the death of us all."

"You don't have to worry about him anymore, Sheriff," Buffy said. "I pretty much cured all his ills earlier tonight." She made a staking motion. "Oh," she suddenly continued as she extended her hand to him. "I'm Buffy Summers. Your friendly, neighborhood Vampire Slayer."

Mulder coughed as he clutched the left side of his rib cage. He looked up at everyone. All of them talked and carried on like this was a high school reunion and not a rescue. And Scully, of all people, paid more attention to Hartwell than to him! He moaned a little. Dammit, he needed a hospital!

"Uh," he groaned loudly, trying to get the attention of anyone as they talked. "Hello?" He waved his left hand slightly. "Hurt...broken...bleeding. Need help please?"

Scully rolled her eyes then closed them upon hearing that voice which had graduated to insufferable. She opened her eyes then looked down upon her partner. "Mulder," she said in an even voice. "Not now." She motioned to herself and the others with her. "The *adults* are talking."

Mulder stared back at her in complete shock. What? That what? She didn't just say that, did she? She couldn't have! She was Scully, his partner! She always had him first in her mind.

"But, Scully," he started.

Scully sighed as she leaned over to Mulder, putting her hands on her knees. Calmly, she said, "Mulder, is it possible for you to shut the fuck up for ten seconds?"

Giles' eyes widened at the sound of that word coming from Scully's mouth. Willow gasped but quickly clamped her mouth shut. Xander took a few steps back as he said, "I'd just like to take this opportunity to say 'Wow', and I'll be waiting in the car." He nodded then made his way for Hartwell's cruiser.

Scully, however, didn't even notice the responses she'd elicited from the others. She hadn't finished with Mulder yet. "You think I was a bitch in Chaney, Mulder?" she asked. "Well, watch out now. I'm sick and tired of wasting my life chasing after you. I've put so much on the line for *you*, Mulder, and it's led to the same place. Pain. And when it's not my pain, it's your pain. And it's still my pain, too, because I have to fix it!"

Mulder shrank back as Scully launched into him. He'd never seen this level of hostility from her directed at him. "Scully--"

"No, Mulder!" she snapped, cutting him off. She pointed to herself. "*I'm* talking! I was almost killed by a vampire tonight because of you. Yes, you heard me--vampire!" She stood straight. "I admit it, Mulder, I do owe you something. You opened my eyes this time. Here I was, wishing we'd never come to Sunnydale, but I've found out an interesting fact about myself here: I'm sick of this job." She reached into her suit jacket, pulled out her badge and gun then threw them on the ground in front of Mulder. "Consider that my official letter of resignation." She walked away, calling out as she left, "Find your own goddamn way to the hospital!"

After a few moments of an awkward silence, Giles cleared his throat and spoke up. "Uh, well, I-I believe that's just about everything, Sheriff...Sheriff Hartwell."

Mulder stared at Scully's gun and badge lying on the ground before him. Scully had...quit? Just like that? He slowly lifted his head when he felt a hand touch his shoulder. Hartwell stood there.

"Come on, Agent Mulder," Hartwell said. "I'll get ya to a doctor." Gently, he helped Mulder to his feet.

"Wait," Mulder said to Hartwell. Wincing, he reached down and scooped up Scully's gun and badge. "Ok. Let's go." He clutched her things close. She'll be back, he thought.

Buffy came up to Giles and Willow. The three of them watched Hartwell help Mulder into the cruiser. She folded her arms across her chest.

"Do you think Agent Scully is really quitting the FBI?" Willow asked no one in particular. She looked over to Buffy. "I mean, they're, like, partners."

Buffy shook her head. "Well, I think she's serious," she answered. "Mulder is one of those guys that goes to prove the rule."

Giles, puzzled, looked over to Buffy. "Rule?" he said. "What rule is that?"

"A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and a woman's gotta do everything else," Buffy replied. She shrugged. "Looks like Agent Scully is tired of doing everything else."

Sunnydale High School
Monday 3:35 PM


Giles hit the floor hard after Buffy had swept his feet out from under him. He coughed a little. Despite all of the padding he wore when he worked with Buffy, the Slayer still managed to inflict a bruise or two. "Very...nice," he stiffly said as he lay on his back. "Good show."

Buffy put her hands on her hips, the practice chobos still in her hands. "And that's how I did it," she said to her Watcher.

Willow looked up from her book of spells to Giles still laying on the floor. "Maybe that's one you should save for the bad things, Buffy," she suggested.

Buffy took both of the sticks in one hand. "I think I should," she agreed as she used her free hand to help Giles to his feet.

The door to the library opened causing everyone inside to tense up. Giles knew he'd put out the sign saying the library was closed for reshelving of materials. Scully, dressed casually in jeans and a long sleeved light blue shirt, entered. She noticed Giles wearing all of the pads and Buffy holding two sticks in her right hand. She half smiled.

"Hi," she said as she took a few more steps into the library. "I...I saw the sign, but I knew you were in here."

Giles removed the padded helmet quickly. "Agent Scully," he said as he placed the helmet on the counter. He glanced over to Buffy. "We...we thought you'd left."

Xander came out from the stacks holding a book in one hand. He saw Scully in the library. He came down the steps to join everyone else.

Scully glanced at Xander, over to Willow then she clasped her hands together. "It...it has been a few days, hasn't it?" she said.

"We thought you'd just left town after the other night," Willow replied as she and Xander approached. "Your partner came around here looking for you too."

"Mulder?" Scully said. "Is he...did he leave?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah. He left yesterday afternoon," she answered. "He dropped by here, hoping we'd know where you were."

"He said...uh...he said you'd checked out of the local motel," Giles added. He finished removing all of the pads then set them on the counter.

"I had to get out of there," Scully replied. She tucked her hair behind her left ear. "I spent a lot of time thinking, and on the phone, this weekend." She cleared her throat a little. "I...talked to my immediate supervisor and told him I was leaving the Bureau. He tried to talk me out of it, but had no success."

Buffy and Willow looked to Giles. They saw a glimmer of hope in the librarian's eyes. Both girls exchanged knowing smiles.

"You really did quit, huh?" Xander said. "I don't blame you at all. That Mulder...I don't think all his thrusters were firing." He twirled an index finger by the side of his head then added, "If you know what I mean."

Scully chuckled shortly. "So...I'm...I'm pretty much out of a job," she went on. She shrugged as she looked around the library. "And...something about this town really appeals to me."

"As long as it's not the Hellmouth, we're all cool with that here," Xander replied. He grunted when Buffy elbowed him in the ribs.

Willow's face brightened with a smile as she got an idea. "Hey! The coroner's office is looking for another M.E.," she told Scully. "You're, like, *there* with the dead people, right?"

Scully raised a curious eyebrow at Willow. "How do you know the coroner's office is looking for another M.E.?"

Willow's face flushed slightly. "I have the website bookmarked in my favorite places," she replied. "Cause sometimes we need to know about what's happening there. You know...with the dead stuff."

Scully nodded a little as she considered Willow's suggestion. It was a great idea, she decided. California--3,000 miles away from her old job. Across the country from her mother, but Bill Jr. being in the same state would work wonders in alleviating her mother's worrying. Yes, Sunnydale could be the place for her to start a real life.

"I think I'll stay," she finally told them with a smile. But the moment was interrupted by a blood-curdling scream from the hallways of Sunnydale High. Scully whirled around in surprise as the screams continued. "What's going on out there?"

Buffy sighed as she took a chobo in each of her hands. "Just the usual," she answered then ran out of the library doors.

"Can't wait to get to know ya!" Xander called to Scully as he ran after Buffy. "And the name's Xander," he added before he barreled out of the doors.

"You can tell me that cat story later!" Willow said as she, too, went to help Buffy.

Scully turned around, looking at Giles. What was going on?

"Just a moment," Giles said to her. He went to the door then peeked into the hallway. His expression changed as he flicked his gaze to Scully. "You, uh, you may want to take a look at this."

Scully, curious, joined him in the doorway. She gasped at what she saw Buffy and her friends battling down the hallway. "What is *that*?" she asked, her eyes wide as she looked up to Giles.

"Chaos demon," he told her. He started to leave, but turned around to say, "Uh...welcome to Sunnydale, Age--*Ms.* Scully!" then continued down the hall.

Scully put a hand to her forehead. What had she just gotten herself into here? After a moment, she let her hand drop to her side as she shrugged. "Oh, what the hell?" she muttered. She ran down the hall to join the Slayer and her friends.

The End (???)

If anyone feels so inclined to post this story elsewhere, please do. But give us credit or we'll send Spike after you. Hey, and it rhymed and everything.

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