Sinclair entered the demon’s office and stopped short. Everything was gone, all but the midnight black desk and Lillith Prophet herself. She dropped the name placard from the desktop into her briefcase.

“Good morning, Mr. Sinclair. And how are you doing this fine day?” she asked as she latched the case.

Sinclair looked around once more and asked, “What’s going on? You can still win, with or without a claim on the Slayer’s soul. We still have control of all the necessary industries and individuals. How can you give up now?”

Lillith rested her hands on the top edge of the briefcase and smiled. “Gabriel, the woman condemned herself to an eternity in Hell to save the man she loved. Where I come from, that sort of self-sacrifice is the equivalent of a royal flush. I play by the rules. She won this hand fair and square. No point in taking it personally.”

“So all our work was for nothing?”

“Heck, no. I’m just a herald. Others will follow, each with its own test for mankind. And the next time, it looks like good will have to make do without its champion. Things are looking up for the bad guys. You just have to see the big picture.”

“If you say so,” said Sinclair.

Lillith moved from behind the desk and walked with him to the bank of elevators in the marble-tiled lobby.

“You know, there’s this delightful little coffee house just down the street I’ve been dying to try. How about you and I discuss the future over a nice latte, hmm?” she asked.

They disappeared behind the brass covered doors of an arriving elevator, leaving Prophet Industries empty and cold behind them.

*                              *                              *

“We can’t just leave her there,” said Willow.

“No, of course not. But at the moment, I haven’t any idea how to get her back. There may not be one. We have to accept that possibility,” said Giles. He sounded distant, lost in an infinite, private sadness.

“There has to be a way.”

“Without the talisman to act as a reference beacon, I don’t see how. Hell is impossibly vast, and it shifts relative to us continually. We could open a portal to it every second from now until the end of the universe and never find her.”

“Maybe Angel knows a way. He was there long enough,” said Willow.

Giles’ face darkened.

Willow continued undaunted. “This wasn’t his fault. Miss Calendar wasn’t his fault. You know that.”

He nodded, not looking at her directly. “It’s … very difficult, Willow. I know the heart is different, but the face is the same and it is hard to separate the two sometimes.”

“I know Buffy. She wouldn’t love someone who didn’t deserve it. Let him help.”

“If it comes to that.”



“If we can’t bring her back, what will happen to all of us?”

Giles’ eyes met hers. “We’ll continue the fight, I suppose. But I do fear that without the Slayer, without Buffy, it will be the end of us all.”

*                              *                              *

Angel stood atop the Autumn-tinted hill as the sun rose over Sunnydale below, watching the cold, golden light play across the surface of the little silver cross as it dangled from his hand. He stared at it for a long time, lost in thought, mesmerized by the patterns the light played across its surface.

As the faint warmth of the Autumn sun began to make itself felt, a sense of purpose gradually began to melt through the cold void that had filled him since he had come through the portal the night before. The feeling began as a vague thing that slowly resolved itself and grew tangible, until it became as bright and clear as the first sunrise he had seen in ages.

The purpose became a promise.

“I will find you, Buffy,” he said, the reflections from the cross dancing in his eyes. “If it takes me all eternity, I will find you.”

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