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Disclaimer: The characters of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess have been borrowed for this piece of fiction. No infringements are intended by their presence here.

This piece is rated General for all audiences. The setting is an imagined present day where Xena and Gabrielle have survived the centuries as vampires after Xena failed to kill Bacchus in the storyline seen in the second season episode of X:WP entitled "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." In consequence, you must imagine that none of the following four seasons events of Xena: Warrior Princess occurred, and Xena and Gabby remained daughters of darkness instead of continuing their path for the Greater Good. Chronologically, this story takes place in the midst of season five of BTVS. Enjoy!

* * *

The streets of Sunnydale were strangely quiet that night. She hadn't had one good slaying the entire evening. Although this should have made her feel better about her job, the ease of tonight's patrol put her more on guard than ever. The silence didn't give her the feeling that she was finally accomplishing something in her fight, only that a bigger storm was brewing just ahead.

"This would be when some big nasty thing comes jumping out to surprise me," Buffy muttered.

The moon emerged briefly from behind its mask of clouds, illuminating the marble headstones lining the cemetery. Buffy jerked toward the faint sound of rustling in the western corner of the grounds. Expecting to see the vulpine features of a vampire's face breaching the darkness, she was disconcerted to see only a wisp of leaves pass by on the breeze.

"Should of at least brought Willow with me," she murmured, shuddering. Buffy normally elected to work alone, but company on a night like this didn't sound too bad.

The two women who watched from behind a large tombstone nearby turned to each other and grinned. The gleam of teeth outshone the moon for one moment. After centuries together, they no longer needed to speak aloud to convey their thoughts. Their minds were inextricably bound.

The smaller one gestured toward the Slayer with one pale hand. Her long blonde hair seemed to shimmer in the darkness. Her taller friend shook her head minutely.

Time, she thought, the message ringing clear in her partner's mind. I want some time to watch before we take her.

She was a massive creature, standing six feet tall and tight with muscles. Her long black hair fell past her shoulders, brushing the taut leather of a corset more suited to the bedroom than a cemetery. The ensemble was very impractical for these times, but she'd always preferred leather.

Her friend appeared more contemporary. The ready availability of cottons and linens in these modern times amazed her. She collected clothing as she hunted her prey—stalking malls and boutiques whenever darkness fell before closing time. She was never seen in the same outfit twice.

I thought we were here to fight, the smaller one complained. We left Paris for this and now you're just going to watch--

That's enough, Gabrielle. I came to have fun. Playing with her will give me just as much pleasure as killing her.

Well, I'm bored. I'm going to Starbucks. Stupid humans hopped up on caffeine are all tingly on my tongue.

With that, the blonde flitted away, faster than the human eye could see. Her friend shook her head ruefully. The little one had grown in many ways since Bacchus turned them so many years ago, but in others remained the innocent child she'd been before the bite of the Bacchae. She'd had no dark side to nurture, and so her cruelties remained more the simple desires of a spoiled child.

Xena had been evil once before becoming a Bacchae. Her time of goodness and charity remained blessedly short. She now knew that there was a reason for her do-gooder change of heart. She never would have met and joined up with Gabrielle if her entire life had been devoted to hate. And now she had her fun as well as her soulmate. What more could a girl want?

Speaking aloud at last, she whispered, "I've never hunted a Slayer before. This will be great sport."

Gazing out across the cemetery once more, she was shocked to find no trace of the human. She tensed when she smelled the cloying scent of young blood pumping through a living body and knew that someone now stood behind her.

"Didn't anyone ever teach you that line about counting chickens, or do none of you have any common sense?" Buffy questioned before striking.

Her stake met air before skittering across the nearby gravestone. The tip snapped off evenly. Peering at her useless weapon a moment, Buffy frowned.

"Damn," she whispered, tossing it aside and reaching for her spare.

A low chuckle rolled out of the darkness. "Oh, you are fun," Xena murmured. "Not many humans can catch me off guard."

"Well, I'm not like other girls," Buffy responded. "Now, do you think we can get on with this? It's almost light."

"Oh, past your bedtime," Xena clucked sympathetically. "Very well."

The night grew still once more as Xena withdrew. Buffy glanced around herself quickly, losing sight of her foe. As she had the first time, she relied on her senses to find the vampire again. She heard the whisper of a sigh at her right, and whirled in that direction just as Xena rushed at her.

The blow hit her square in the middle, knocking the breath out of her. Buffy kept her balance, however, dropping and rolling out of harm's way before she could strike again. A streak of black whizzed by, and she easily used the leverage of her position on the ground to kick up. Her boot connected solidly. The responding grunt of surprise made her smile.

"All right, we'll dispense with the kid gloves," Xena said. A metallic scrape followed this comment, and Buffy jumped to her feet when she spotted the gleam of a long blade.

She'd noticed something strapped to the woman's back when she stood behind her, but didn't associate it with a sword right then. Not many vampires carried those around, anyway.

"Wow," Buffy said. "That's pretty old. Twelfth century?"

Xena smiled in response. "Oh, it's a little older than that. It's held up pretty well, too," she added, gazing lovingly at the weapon in her hand. "Much better than my poor armor ever did. Regular bathing in Bacchae blood preserves the steel," she explained.

"Bacchae?" Buffy questioned, wondering if the woman was intent on talking her to death.

"Sorry, antiquated term. What would you prefer—the undead, Nosferatu? Or that ghastly old standby…vampire?"

"That's fine…if we can just skip to the part where I stake you, that would be great."

To her surprise, the vampire started laughing. "You know, you remind me of myself at your age. Of course, that was a few millennia ago…"

This time Buffy was intrigued in spite of herself. "Millennia?" she repeated, processing the information.

Xena shook her head. "Not too quick in the mental area, though. I guess those lightening quick reflexes make up for that, huh?"

"Who are you?" Buffy asked, quickly getting annoyed.

"Name's Xena. Now, as you say, can we get on with it?"

Then she raised her sword with an impressive cry and darted forward. Clenching her stake tightly, Buffy ducked to avoid the first slash of Xena's sword. Unfortunately, her piece of wood wasn't about to defend her against that weapon. She knew she'd have to simply dodge Xena's attacks until she had an opening to strike.

Buffy leapt back when another swing brought the sword a little too close for comfort. She felt the cool hardness of a gravestone behind her. Grabbing it for balance, she used it to flip herself backwards, landing behind. It shielded Xena's next blow, causing the sword to strike its marble surface and spray a shower of sparks overhead.

"Ooh, I'm impressed," Xena said. "Gabrielle never could master those flips."

Xena jumped, easily mounting the gravestone to stare down at her prey. Buffy was in a vulnerable position now, and thought by the expression on Xena's face that she could use that to her advantage. If she thought the Slayer was easy pickings, maybe she could catch the vampire with her guard down.

Indeed, Xena quickly moved in for the attack. But when she thrust down with her sword, Buffy was able to kick her wrist hard enough to loosen her grip. The weapon went clattering off to one side. But she reacted just as quickly, punching Buffy in the face with her other fist. Stunned, Buffy lost her grip on the stake. Knowing she'd lost her advantage yet again, she kicked one last time, catching Xena in the stomach and throwing her backwards off the gravestone.

Buffy jumped to her feet, grabbing her stake and hurrying back several steps. She wanted to be sure of Xena's location before she tried anything else. But the vampire woman didn't reappear over the gravestone.

"Very good!" a delighted voice cried from above. Looking up, Buffy spotted her perched in a nearby tree. "You do well in a pinch. I think it might be interesting to have you around for awhile. Ever thought of it?"

"You mean hang out with someone like you?" Buffy asked.

"It's not that bad of an idea."

Buffy snorted. "Let me think about that….um, no. I kill evil bottom-dwellers, remember?"

"Oh, I was a very well-behaved human for a good couple of years there before Bacchus got me. I'm not as bad as all that. But it's your call, Slayer. We could have had fun."

"You're not running off on me, are you? Big, bad Xena's afraid of little old me?" Buffy taunted.

"I guess you could say I have a thing for irritating blondes. I'll let you live, for now. Think of it as a gift for managing to disarm me. Maybe you'll be able to extend me that same courtesy the next time our paths cross."

Buffy shook her head. "Can't promise you that." Looking up into the sky, she saw the faint beginnings of a sunrise streaking overhead. "Time's up," she whispered. When she looked toward the tree once again, Xena was gone.

Her boring patrol had quickly become anything but. She knew she'd be hurrying back to Giles' house to pump him for information. How had he neglected to realize there was a two thousand year old vampire on the loose? Buffy hurried out of the cemetery just as the sun rose, knowing for a fact that she'd be meeting up with this Xena again.

Part Two

Buffy slammed the book shut in irritation. She despised studying. All of this sitting around when she could be out doing something made her want to pound the stuffing out of somebody.

Glancing up, she saw Giles staring back at her, apparently startled by the sound. She smiled sheepishly. "You know how I get when the answers aren't coming."

Clearing his throat, Giles reached up to adjust his spectacles. "Why don't you head home and get some sleep, Buffy? I can finish here."

"I'm fine," she answered. Then she stopped herself. "You have something, don't you?"

"Now, they may be unrelated…" Giles hedged, paging through his book once more.

Buffy jumped to her feet. "Give it to me," she said, crossing over to him.

Giles sighed, obviously annoyed that she'd made no move to leave and let him go back to bed. He still wore the rumpled shirt and trousers he'd probably fallen asleep in. She'd found him on the couch after he hadn't answered her knocks. Funny, he hadn't seemed to appreciate her demand to start scouring his library for any mention of a vampire named Xena.

"I have found a small mention of an archeological discovery in the early twentieth century. Several ancient Greek manuscripts dating before the birth of Christ. They have since been lost to a series of private collections, so there's nothing here about the primary sources themselves, but they were supposed to have been written by a woman named Gabrielle, also known as the 'Scourge of Poteideia.'"

"That's what you found?" Buffy asked, disappointed.

"Well, you said she mentioned a Gabrielle. The documents are said to relate the exploits of a woman known as the Warrior Princess. And it's certainly old enough to be the right time period. Perhaps these stories discuss Xena's life before she became a vampire."

Buffy fell into a nearby chair, exhausted. "That still doesn't help much, Giles. I have a feeling she's a little bit different now."

"Did she tell you outright that Gabrielle is still around?"

"I think I can assume Xena has a few followers. She seems very…seductive," Buffy mused.

"Unfortunately we might be dealing with a very powerful circle of vampires. I'll need more assistance in researching this," Giles said.

"I'll call Willow," Buffy answered, rising.

"Buffy, it is six o'clock in the morning," Giles chastised. "Xena won't be going anywhere for awhile and you haven't slept. Now if you're intent upon making yourself completely useless when she finally does make a reappearance—"

Holding up her hands, Buffy stopped him. "Okay, I'll ease up. I'm sorry, I don't know what's got me so charged here. It's just something about her really rubbed me the wrong way."

"It's fine," Giles said. "You've been under a lot of stress lately with…" he trailed off, not wanting to say the words.

Buffy still felt the pain, however. Her mother's death had pushed her in directions she'd never gone before, even with the multitude of experiences she'd already surpassed. She knew she was forcing herself to the brink of collapse, working to take her mind off things. Sleep only meant dreaming about that day again.

"I'll go home now," she murmured. "Let's meet at the magic shop early this afternoon. Get the gang together for it."

Giles nodded. "Of course."

While Giles and Buffy said their goodbyes, a dark-haired figure rolled over in the spacious four-poster bed she shared with her partner. Opening her eyes, Xena smiled. She knew the Slayer was discussing her with her Watcher. She felt a tremor each time her name was spoken. The Slayer had been affected by her presence, she noted with satisfaction.

Bacchae and humans alike, it was the same wherever she went. Where the mortal Gabrielle had drawn all to her with her innate goodness and light, Xena now attracted people with a darker promise. They did not understand their desire for her, but could not ignore it completely, no matter how virtuous or untainted they were.

She stared at their surroundings with a speculative eye. Gabrielle hated this hotel with its heavy furnishings and dour appearance. But they were well-protected from the sunlight, and paid enough for the rooms that no one dared question their eccentricities. Americans as a rule allowed less personal privacy, she'd observed, wanting to barge in on every little detail of a person's life. Xena had to admit that Paris held more opportunity for the Bacchae. Rio had a nice nightlife.

But neither city was home to the Slayer. After meeting the whelp Xena was determined not to kill her but to turn her toward their everlasting darkness. The destruction the two of them could accomplish together was unimaginable. She was practically drooling just thinking about it.

"Old Drac-boy was right," Xena murmured. "She'd be a welcome addition to any family."

The small blonde beside her stirred at the sound of her voice. "What's the matter?" Gabrielle asked sleepily.

"Just thinking out loud," Xena answered.

Gabrielle sat up, sighing. "More scheming about the Slayer? Xena, why are we still here? You said you wanted the challenge of destroying her. Instead, you simply tease her a bit and then let her escape. Do you even know what you're doing anymore?"

Xena smiled lazily. Stretching a bit, she stifled a yawn and responded, "My dear, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were jealous."

Gabrielle snorted. "It's just that I'm bored! There is nothing to do in this wretched place. I hate the United States," she finished, her lower lip trembling.

Rolling over, Xena presented her friend with a view of her back. "I'm not going to discuss this with you. You could have stayed with Marie."

"Well excuse me for wanting to be with you," Gabrielle said sourly.

"Let's just sleep. I should finish things up tonight."

Buffy jerked awake, shaking. The final image of her dream sat vividly in her mind, and she finally understood what it was about Xena that was bothering her so much. She'd dealt with so many vampires in the past, but only one had effected her in a similar manner. Xena reminded her of Dracula, the only vampire who'd been able to penetrate her defenses for one brief moment and taste her blood.

She pulled the blankets aside and got out of bed. Her skin felt clammy and her breath quickened. The dream had been so real she nearly wanted to check her neck for bite marks. Thinking about that last moment, when Xena had leaned in toward her neck, her teeth bared, Buffy shivered again.

"Got to get to the magic shop," she muttered, quickly getting dressed.

"Well, Giles filled me in on this Xena person," Willow explained a half-hour later. She and Tara sat hunched over her laptop. "Haven't found anything yet, but I'm thinking a vampire that old has to have a rap sheet somewhere."

"Maybe she's lived this long because she's kept a low profile," Buffy said. She reached up to touch her neck gingerly. Giles glanced at her and she dropped her hand.

The bell over the front door jangled suddenly. Xander breezed inside, immediately blurting, "We're late, we know, but we were…kinda busy."

Behind him, Anya bustled inside. Glancing up at him, she turned to the others and said, "We were having sex."

With Xander's blush and the responding expressions of the others in the room, Anya asked, "What?"

Buffy shook her head. "Anyway, join in. We're trying to find whatever we can about a vamp named Xena…she may have a buddy still around named Gabrielle, but we haven't—"

Anya interrupted, strolling behind the counter and nonchalantly opening the cash register. "Ah, Xena. She's a crazy one all right. What?" she asked again when they all stared at her. "I'm checking to make sure you counted the till correctly," she informed Giles.

Giles brushed aside her comment. "You know Xena?" he asked.

Anya nodded. "Sure. Most demons do…or did—" she shook her head. "You know what I mean. Anyway, she overthrew Bacchus years back. Caused a big ruckus. Most of his devotees ended up losing their heads after that. It's pretty dumb going after the Warrior Princess."

Giles cast a smug look in Buffy's direction, which she pointedly ignored. "Bacchus…I thought he was a god. I mean, I remember some things from high school."

"Actually, there is a theory in some circles that Bacchus was a demon. His cults were well-known throughout Greece and the Roman empire. In fact, the Roman senate was forced to outlaw a few of their more outlandish practices, merely because of their raucous nature…" he trailed off when he saw that Buffy was losing interest. "It could be one of the rare instances in history when demons and vampires were actually working together cooperatively."

"All right, Giles, the history lesson is really gonna help us out with this one," Xander said. "So what do you say we figure out a game plan for the present day?"

"Game plan is kill her before she manages to cause any more harm," Buffy responded. "Anya, does Xena travel on her own or with a group?"

Anya shrugged. "Just her girlfriend. You know, the Scourge of Poteideia? That's what they called Gabrielle after the two of them laid waste to half the Greek countryside. You did know that she's into girls, right?"

Catching the look on his face, Buffy gave Xander a shove before his thought could find its way out of his mouth. "That is irrelevant," she said firmly. "But it does change things if there is more than one of them. We might have to find a way to take out Gabrielle first. It should shake Xena up enough for us to get to her."

They were interrupted once more by the sound of the bell going off above the door. When Buffy saw Dawn standing in the doorway, she froze. "What's the matter?" she asked, seeing the look on her sister's face.

"Glory's coming," Dawn answered. Before she finished the words, Buffy was at her side, pulling her into the shop.

Slamming the door shut, Buffy peered outside. Night had already fallen once again. She couldn't believe the entire day had passed them by so quickly. "Why the hell did this have to happen now?" she demanded.

"It was only a matter of time before she returned to find you," Giles answered.

"To find me, you mean," Dawn said, shuddering.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to let anything happen to you." Buffy pulled the door open once more, her expression determined. She'd find Glory and settled things once and for all…somehow.

"Why so glum? Looks like the party's just starting," a familiar voice drawled behind them.

She appeared unaffected by the teleportation spell inflicted upon her by Willow and Tara. Her blonde hair perfectly coiffed, her red dress without a wrinkle, Glory looked the same as when she'd left them those weeks before. She'd snuck inside the building from the back, entering through the room Buffy used for physical training.

Buffy grabbed Dawn once more and pushed her to one side.

"You have something of mine, as you know," Glory purred. "We can play this game for as long as it takes, little darling. Where is the key?"

"Now, I know for a fact that I got into this before you did. I think there are too many men on the field."

Buffy wanted to scream upon hearing that voice. She didn't have to turn around to know that Xena stood in the open doorway. How the vampire had managed to find her so quickly was a mystery, but one that would have to remain unsolved for the moment. With the two of them together, Buffy didn't stand much of a chance. And in between it all stood the people who meant the most to her in the world.

"What, do you have a vampire fan club or something?" Glory sneered. "Mind your own business, meat puppet!"

Buffy edged away so she could catch the look on Xena's without losing sight of Glory's position. The vampire woman was scowling. "I don't know who you are, and I don't really care," she said coldly. "But I don't share." She turned her head to gaze at Buffy. "Now, aren't you going to invite me in?"

Part Three

Buffy stared at the dark-haired vampire in dismay. As if Glory weren't enough for her to handle at this point, Xena had to make an appearance. Thankfully, the "warrior princess" would not be allowed to enter until invited. Buffy wasn't about to let that happen. Turning her attention to Glory, she saw that the woman was still very perturbed by Xena's presence. Maybe she could use that to her advantage, after all.

"Giles, why don't you take the others and find some cover?" Buffy suggested, barely raising her voice.

But Giles had already ushered her friends closer to the bookshelves lining the left side of the Magic Shop. It was the only place they could go with Glory standing right there in the center of the room. Buffy knew she could count on him to get everyone out as soon as she gave him an exit.

"You know, this is getting extremely tedious," Glory said. She held her right hand up in front of her, fingers splayed, and examined her manicure. Apparently there was something not to her liking, for she scowled and rubbed at a spot on one of the long nails. "Little scabs," she muttered. "A girl can't depend on anyone but herself, can she?

"But where was I?" Glory continued. "Right. You have something that belongs to me. As I can see, one of your little witches is missing tonight, so no more cute spells to send me flying. I'll swat Red here like a bug. Or better yet, rip out that pretty pink tongue before she has a chance to utter a word."

Buffy saw Willow grimace before frowning at the insult. She held up one hand, knowing her friend had something to say about her abilities. "We'll just keep this between you and me, Glory," Buffy promised.

"How very mediocre," Glory intoned, rolling her eyes. "Well, I can just kill you now…I have a sneaking suspicion your friends here know how to get what I want. I don't really need you."

"Slayer," a voice hissed behind her. Groaning, Buffy glanced over her shoulder to see Xena still standing in the open doorway. "Let me in, and I'll make her eat those words."

Glory snorted. "As if you had the remotest chance, vamp," she sneered. "Her peroxide buddy didn't get very far with me, but if you really feel like getting dusted..."

"She'll learn to fear me," Xena promised, not sparing Glory a glance. Her ice blue eyes were steady on Buffy, who felt a small shiver of fear at their intensity. "The slut is just asking for a good lashing."

"Like I'm afraid of some undead bitch you can't even dress herself properly," Glory scoffed, gesturing toward Xena's leather bodice. Her eyes fell to the vampire's feet, and she raised her brows in surprise. "Are those boots Prada?" she asked. Then, shaking her head, she snarled, "I wouldn't waste my time with a little maggot like you."

Buffy felt a stirring of wind, and knew she'd made a grave error in allowing her attention to be swayed. Glory swooped in behind her, and grabbed her around the neck with one impossibly strong hand. Her feet left the floor an instant later, and Buffy was holding onto Glory's wrist with both hands in an effort to give herself some support. The woman was unaffected by her struggles. She began to tighten her grip, adding steady pressure. Black dots swam before Buffy's eyes.

"I'll just squeeze you like a grape," Glory whispered, her red lips curling luxuriously around the words. "No more trouble."

Gasping, Buffy had just enough breath to force a few words out of her strained throat. "Xena, come in."

What sounded like a faint scream echoed through the cold air that whistled into the room. Buffy saw Glory's eyes widen in surprise, and then she was suddenly released to come crashing to the floor. Clutching her throat, she coughed as she took her first unhindered breath. She glanced toward her friends to make sure they were okay, then gazed around the store.

Her eyes fell on the dueling women just as Xena sent a sweeping punch straight into Glory's chin. The blonde woman lurched backward a few steps at the force of the blow, her head falling back. Standing straight a moment later, she twisted her neck with an audible crack and rubbed her chin thoughtfully.

"Okay," she said. "More distractions. Now it's my turn."

She rushed forward, her red dress rustling around her thighs with the sudden movement. The fight began in earnest. Both women were completely intent on one another. Buffy rose to her feet and hurried across the room to her friends. She settled Giles's unspoken question with a nod.

"Now's a good time to get everyone out of here. Watch out for Dawn for me, okay?"

"Buffy, you're going to stay behind?" Dawn asked in amazement.

"I have to see where this goes," Buffy responded. Behind her, Xena's warbling cry was followed by a particularly snide comment by Glory. "See who's left standing in the end."

"They are ruining the merchandise," Anya whispered, gesturing. At that moment, Glory fell back into a glass display case after being kicked in the gut by Xena. "We will not be held responsible for damaged goods."

"Anya," Xander interjected. "Not a good time for this discussion."

"You'll be careful?" Giles asked Buffy, ignoring the previous two comments.

Buffy nodded again, then ushered them through the front door of the Magic Shop. Standing near the front wall, she silently watched the skirmish. Xena fought as well as she remembered, blocking more hits than she took, and dealing out blows like an old pro. She smiled, realizing that for the two of them it had been hate at first sight. Perhaps they'd take each other out and end her troubles.

Panting, Glory held one hand to her side and grinned. "You've got some major spunk," she admitted. "I won't have to worry about my workout today."

"No worries at all," Xena agreed, pausing to watch her. A strange glint lit her eyes, and Buffy wondered what she was thinking. "We haven't even started yet."

"You know what? I've really had enough of you," Glory muttered.

Running forward, she met Xena in mid-stride. Buffy had a hard time keeping up with the exchange of blows after that. Glory moved so fast she appeared as a blur, her fists catching Xena in the face, then the chest. Her foot hooked around the vampire's ankles and swept the other woman off her feet. Glory bent over, grabbed the fallen woman by the waist, and heaved her across the room into the stand of bookshelves. The structure collapsed immediately, covering Xena in pieces of heavy oak and glass.

The blonde woman stood silently a moment, watching the mess with a speculative eye. Xena could not be seen under the massive pile, and there was no movement of any kind for several moments. Sighing, Glory brushed her hands across her soiled dress.

"God, she was annoying," Glory exclaimed, whipping her hair back with one hand. Her gaze fell on Buffy. "I hope you don't mind me saying this, because I do tend to get a little personal, but you hang out with some real freaks, you know? Now, where were we?"

Buffy steeled herself for another harrowing encounter. She cast a quick glance about herself for any sign of a weapon, but came up dry. Just as Glory took her first step forward, the pile of rubble behind her burst outward with the force of a small bomb. Whirling in surprise, Glory threw her hands up as a rain of debris fell around her. They watched a dark figure loom out of the pile of wood and glass and fly up above their heads. Xena executed several midair spins as she leapt across the room, finally landing on her feet at Buffy's side.

"You don't just kill me and walk away," Xena crooned.

Glory looked at her with new appreciation. "I thought you were dust for sure," she commented.

"I'm not that easy to get rid of."

"That's a pity. You see, we're kind of busy here, and there isn't a lot of time for whatever personal politics are going on between you and the Slayer here," Glory explained.

Xena shrugged, unconcerned with the blonde woman's ire. "What can I say?" she asked. "She grew on me."

Buffy stifled a groan. She liked it better when Xena just wanted to kill her.

"That's enough," Glory said. "I'm outta here. I've got other options here. I'll just leave you two alone now."

Realizing that Glory meant to find her friends and find the key through them, Buffy hurried forward several steps when the woman turned and began walking out the way she came. But Xena was much quicker on her feet. The vampire zoomed across the room, completely silent. Glory's back was turned, and she didn't sense Xena's approach. Suddenly, the vampire had an arm thrown around the other woman, pulling her close in a tight embrace.

"But we haven't finished playing," Xena whispered.

Amazed that she could actually hold Glory, Buffy watched as the blonde woman twisted in the vampire's arms. When Glory's eyes met Xena's, the scowl on her face slipped away. Her lips parted, and her head tilted back to rest against the vampire's shoulder. Buffy was dumbstruck. Xena had actually enthralled the woman somehow.

She didn't try and stop Xena when it became clear what the vampire intended to do. Buffy simply turned her gaze toward the floor when the dark-haired woman's mouth opened wide to reveal large fangs. Glory moaned, and Buffy knew she'd been bitten. That was an approach she hadn't considered, Buffy thought snidely.

"Whoa," Xena groaned after several moments. "She's got some kick to her."

Glancing up, Buffy carefully avoided staring straight into Xena's eyes. She looked at Glory instead, who appeared to be unconscious. She sagged in the vampire's powerful arms, a faint smile on her face. A line of blood ran from two bite marks on her neck to soak into the red fabric of her dress.

"What is this one worth to the Slayer, hmm?" Xena questioned. "She seems to have been after you for some time now."

"Oh, now we're negotiating?" Buffy asked. "No way. I don't deal with vampires."

"Well, I'm going to keep her for awhile anyway," Xena shrugged. "This blood is very good…a vintage year, I'd guess. I might as well take her out of your hair. Gabrielle wants to see Paris again," she mused.

"You do what you want with her," Buffy answered. "But I'm making no promises. If you come back to Sunnydale, you'll meet the business end of a stake."

Xena laughed then, a husky sound that sent shivers up and down her spine. "You think big. I like that. Very well," she said, hefting the blonde up into her arms. "I'll just retire with my prize."

"And I'm reversing the invitation, so don't think you can just traipse in here again," Buffy threatened. It was futile, though. This was no victory, just another long delay.

Xena walked past her, bowing slightly as she passed. "Then until we meet again," she said, waggling her eyebrows. "Don't you just love that line?"

In an instant, she was gone. Buffy ran out into the street, but there was no sight of the vampire or Glory. She heard someone call out her name, and turned to see Giles and the others hurrying across the street.

"We saw Xena take off with Glory," he said. "What happened?"

Buffy shrugged. "She took her. Said something about Paris."

"Glory's gone?" Dawn asked, her voice hopeful.

Shaking her head, Buffy said, "Doubtful. Xena won't be able to hold her forever."

"Agreed," Giles said. "But I think we may have bought ourselves some time to perhaps come up with a suitable defense, should Glory return."

Buffy stared out at the starry sky, imagining she saw a small dark shape flitting through the inky blackness, a dot of red in its embrace. "Oh, she'll be back. They both will."

The End.