The cavern around them began to collapse. Spike could see the new slayers scrambling to escape through the seal.
“Go on then.” he said to the slayer.
“No! No, you've done enough! You could still-” said Buffy.
“No, you've beaten them back,” said Spike, the light pouring from his chest, destroying Turok-Han wherever it passed. “It's for me to do the cleanup.”
“Buffy! Come on!” Faith shouted from the top of the seal, as more of the roof caved in around them.
“Gotta move, lamb. I think it’s fair to say, school’s out for the bloody summer.”
“Spike!” Buffy yelled.
“I mean it!” Spike said, the heat from the amulet burning him. “I gotta do this!”
Buffy looked deep into Spike's eyes, and took hold of his hand as it burst into flame.
“I love you.”
“No, you don't, but thanks for saying it.” He said with a sad smile. “Now go!”
“You're right.” Buffy said standing in front of him, the emotion gone from her eyes.
“What?” Get out of here!” Spike screamed as flames licked his body.
“I could never love you William.” Buffy said with a smile. “You're beneath me...”
The flames consumed Spike's writhing body, as Buffy stood laughing...
Spike awoke with a jerk. The nightmare again. He got up and splashed cold water from the sink into his face. He looked up and saw the empty mirror in front of him, nothing but the room staring back at him. Blood. Thats what he needed.
He made his way downstairs to the kitchen. Laura was sitting at the table, drinking a cup of tea.
“Can't sleep?” she said to Spike.
“Yeah. Funny thing about dying in a pillar of fire, leaves a lasting impression..”
“Getting nightmares? I never seem to get them. Or if I do I never remember them.”
“Its better that way Red, trust me. You never want to get stuck in your head with your own nightmares. Especially when you have done some of the things I have over the years...”
The phone rang. The Council had a job for them.
When everyone had assembled in the lobby of the Hyperion, Laura explained the mission the Council had for them.
“According to the Watcher who called, there has been an outbreak of mystical comas across L.A. They have managed to discover a few details, but they are pretty sketchy.”
“What details do they have for us then?” said Angel.
“A few reports state that just before the coma a mysterious, inhuman figure was seen around the victim, who disappeared right before they fell into the coma.”
“Fair enough,” said Spike, “Sounds like some kind of demon so far. What else you got?”
“The victims have almost all died a couple of days after falling into the coma. Eyewitnesses said that the victim's eyes flicked open, they screamed in obvious terror, and then died, their face twisted in a look of fear.”
“Well that can never be good..” muttered Oz.
“There's one other thing.” Laura said. “Each of the victims seem to have been present at the bedside of the person to die before them.”
“Now that sounds a lot to me like a clue.” said Faith.
“Well the Council have given us the details of the last person to fall into a coma, name, address, hospital they are being held at.”
Angel stood up. “Faith, Oz. I want you guys to start doing some research on this. Get the stuff the Council gave Laura, and work from there. I want to know what we are dealing with here.”
“Right boss.” said Faith.
“Spike, Laura. You're with me. Lets visit the latest victim. Hope you got plenty of sleep guys. Looks like we have a long night ahead of us.”
Angel, Spike and Laura arrived at the hospital where the girl, named Jenna, was being cared for. Using some fake ID provided by the Watcher's Council, they managed to gain access to Jenna's room.
“Handy that is..” said Spike as they rode in the elevator to her room.
“What?” said Angel.
“Well, we just left an evil organisation who could supply us with fake IDs, paperwork and stuff. Now we have another!”
“The Council isn't evil though.” said Laura.
“Keep telling yourself that Red.” Spike said. “Anyone with that much power is bound to get a little grey after a while..”
The elevator doors opened and they stepped out into the hall.
They made their way to Jenna's room, and opened the door. They found the girl laying unconscious on the bed, twitching. Tears were streaming down her face. An older woman looked up at them.
“What do you want? Who are you?”
“We've come to check on Jenna.” said Angel.
“You don't look like doctors. I haven't seen you around here before.”
“We, uh, we just transfered here today.” Laura said, quickly thinking of an excuse.
The woman looked down at Jenna's comatose body.
“What's wrong with my little girl?” said said, bursting into tears.
“That's what we're here to find out.” said Angel. “We won't give up. I prom..”
Angel stopped mid sentence, his eyes drawn to Jenna. Everyone turned and followed his gaze. Jenna's eyes had flicked open.
Her mother rushed towards her.
“Jenna! You're aw...”
She was cut off as Jenna sat bolt upright and uttered a bloodcurdling scream. The girl fell back to the bed, pale as a ghost, her face twisted in a mask of terror. The heart monitor began to flat line. Laura rushed to the girl and began CPR, but it was too late. Jenna was dead.
Back at the Hyperion, Faith and Oz had been researching for hours. So far they had nothing.
“Council didn't have much for us to go on, did they?” said Faith.
“When do they ever?”
“Yeah, I gotta admit, they have been a little short on the info for a while.”
“I'm starting to think they don't trust us.” Oz said. “I mean, when was the last time you even spoke to Buffy, or any of the Scoobies. Apart from that visit from Xander I mean.”
“Here..” said Faith.
“What?” said a confused Oz.
“I think I've got our demon. Its called The Sandman. It enters a host mind, putting the victim into a coma and forcing them to live out all their worst nightmares over and over, feeding on the fear. Eventually the victim literally dies of terror.”
“We need to call Angel.”
Angel, Laura and Spike were making their way back to the car from the hospital.
“Did you see the look on her face?” muttered Laura. “It was horrible..”
“That's fear, love. Seen it plenty of times. We both have.” Spike said, nodding at Angel.
“It was... I mean, I have never seen someone look that scared before. It looked like the fear itself killed her.”
“Crap.” said Angel.
Laura and Spike looked at what Angel had just seen. Near the car stood a tall, robed figure. Nothing of it's face was visible, except for two glowing blue eyes.
“What do you want?” Angel demanded.
The figure said nothing, but raised its arms in the air. Suddenly it burst apart into a cloud of sand, and began whirling around the group.
“What the hell?” shouted Spike over the raging winds.
Suddenly the sand concentrated around Laura and began to consume her. It flooded into her mouth, her ears and her nose. Angel and Spike couldn't do anything to stop it as the winds pushed them back. Suddenly the sand vanished and Laura screamed, and fell to the floor. Angel and Spike rushed to her side.
“I hope Faith and Oz have had more luck finding out about this thing.” said Angel. “We got two days to save her...”
Laura woke up coughing and spluttering, but suddenly realised there was no sand in her throat. She looked around and saw that she was in a massive desert, and the sky was a swirling mass of colour.
“What the hell?” she said, “Angel? Spike?”
Getting no reply, she stood up and began looking round.
“I don't think I'm in Kansas any more...”
Suddenly the sand in front of her began to rise up, and formed into a large swirling pillar. In the centre of it there was a misshapen face staring out at her.
“Where am I?” she shouted at it.
All around her, evil laughter began to echo.
“Your worst nightmare...”
Angel and Spike arrived at the Hyperion with Laura. Oz and Faith rushed over, concerned looks on their faces.
“What happened?” Oz questioned.
“Some guy made of sand attacked us.” said Spike. “Bugger dived on Red, and before we could stop it the thing had vanished and she was out.”
Faith and Oz looked at each other.
“The Sandman.” said Oz.
“It's gotta be. Damn it!” Faith growled.
“Would someone explain whats going on?” a confused Angel asked.
“The Sandman is a 'dream demon',” said Oz, “That possesses a host, and forces them to live their worst nightmares over and over, feeding on the fear generated until they die of terror.”
“Kinda like Freddy Krueger.” said Faith. “Only without the knives, nasty skin, and really bad fashion sense..”
“You can’t scare me you know!” Laura cried out in to the endless desert before her, “I know you need my fear to feed you, and frankly after hearing Angel sing in the shower, nothing can scare me!”
“We shall see about that…” A powerful voice boomed from the misshapen face in front of her, “Your hand already quivers at the thoughts of what I can do to you. You cower at the terror of what childhood fears, dark secrets and greatest loss I can uncover and inflict upon you.”
True enough, Laura looked down at her hand and clenched it to prevent it shaking further.
“I’m gong to have fun with you Slayer!” the voice of Sandman boomed again as the creature faded away, taking the desert that had been surrounding Laura with it. Leaving nothingness…pure, limitless darkness.
Despite her recently acquired slayer strength bringing with it the primal need to kick ass, she was rooted to the spot. She had always had a slight fear of darkness and now she was standing in the thick of it. It loomed all around her, clutching at her, suffocating her…the darkness twisted and somehow gained form, knocking the Slayer to the ground…
Laura opened her eyes, and the darkness had gone, as had the desert. She was back in L.A., in a rain soaked alleyway. A voice started speaking in her head.
“This is my world, slayer. You are only what I see you fit to be... a scared little girl....”
Laura looked around her. Suddenly girls her age all walked into alley. She saw Faith leading them.
“Oh my god...” Laura whispered.
She was in the alley behind the Hyperion, where she first met Angel and Spike. Where the Senior Partners' army tried to tear them apart. She had nightmares about this day for months afterwards, and she still hated walking there now.
“Get ready girls!” Faith yelled. “Now!”
The slayers charged into the rear of the demonic horde, weapons flashing in the moonlight. Laura went to join her fellow slayers, but her feet were rooted to the ground. She began to tremble, as a bead of sweat trickled down her face. She stared transfixed at the demons charging into the slayer team, and a chill ran up her spine.
“You feel that don't you?” a voice said next to her ear. She turned but no one was there.
“You feel that chill? The trembling of your bones? Thats every doubt, every worry, every fear you have had about this moment hitting you at once, slayer.”
Faith turned and looked at Laura from across the alleyway.
“Laura! For the love of God help!” The older warrior yelled.
Laura turned just in time to see a demon tear it's claws across Faith's throat. The slayer dropped to the ground in a pool of her blood.
“Faith! NO!”” Laura screamed, her anger overcoming her fears. She dashed towards the demon, and struck out with a powerful roundhouse kick.
As her foot made contact with the demon, pain shot up her leg, and she fell to the floor. The demon stood over her, unaffected by her kick. She lashed out again at the demon, this time driving her foot into its stomach. Nothing. Laura began to panic and crawled backwards, away from the demon, but it kept getting closer, until it held her against the wall by her throat. She could feel the monster's hot, reeking breath against her face and it moved closer for the kill.
“See? I told you in this world, you are nothing but a little girl....”
The demon's mouth opened wider and wider, moving to bite deep into her throat.....
With a start Laura jerked up…
“Are you okay?” Oz’s voice came sleepily from beside her.
Breathing heavily Laura looked around her. She was back in the Hyperion, in her room, in her bed, with Oz lying next to her.
“Laura what’s wrong?”
“Uh…nothing…I think…it must have been a bad dream…”
“Don't worry,” Oz said, cradling Laura in his arms. “It's okay. I'm here and it was only a dream.”
Laura looked up at Oz, fear still in her eyes.
“It felt so real... I was terrified.”
“What was the dream about?”
“There was a demon, and it made me face my worst nightmares..... I was trapped in my own dreams and forced to fight the armies of the Senior Partners, without my powers.”
“Well don't worry,” Oz said, holding her close to his body. “I'm here now...”
Unseen by Laura, a vicious grin spread across Oz's face.
Laura and Oz walked downstairs into the lobby of the Hyperion, where the others sat talking.
“Awake at last then!” Faith said. A grin spread across her face. “Up late again were we?”
Laura poked her tongue out at the older slayer and took a seat.
“Whats going on then guys?” Laura said.
“Well,” said Angel, “The Council have asked us to look into some mystical comas that have been cropping up.”
“What?” said Laura, a surprised look on her face.
“I just.. I had a nightmare last night. It started off with us investigating a load of mystical comas.”
“What happened after that then?” Angel said.
“Well, we found that there was a demon called The Sandman. He was jumping into victims' bodies, and making them live out their worst nightmares, feeding on their fear. He.. he got inside me.”
“No offense Red,” said Spike, “But the bad dreams of some stupid little girl probably ain't gonna help us here.”
“What?” Laura said, shocked.
“Spike's got a point.” said Faith. “She's never been much use to us, always the one getting hurt. Never did get what you saw in her Oz, especially when you got me down the hall...”
Faith walked over to Oz and started kissing him.
“Why are you saying these things?” Laura shouted. “Stop it!”
Faith and Oz looked at Laura and began to laugh.
“Well Laura.” said Angel. “Looks like Spike, Faith and Oz want you out. Just one more person to make a decision.”
His face morphed into that of the demon inside him.
“Oh my god.” Laura said, fear in her voice.
“God's gonna sit this one out, cutie.” Angelus said. He turned to Spike.
“Willy! What say you and me have ourselves a little game while the lovebirds over there have their own fun?”
“What you got in mind?” said Spike, his face twisted into the demonic visage of a vampire.
“Give her a ten second head start. First one to catch her, gets to keep her as a little toy.” Angelus grinned. “Just a shame we like to play rough...”
Laura turned and ran. Her heart pounded, it felt like it was going to burst out of her chest.
“One.” she could hear Angelus' voice echoing down the corridors. She had to find a weapon and get out of the hotel. “Two.”
I have to get to my room, Laura thought. Get my weapons, then I can fight them.
She ran up the stairs to her floor and kicked down her door. Who am I kidding? I couldn't take on Angelus on his own, let alone with Spike as well..
She stepped through the door into her room, and suddenly stepped out into the corridor of the tenth floor.
I'm still in the nightmare. Laura thought. The walls continued to shift, to change until Laura was totally lost.
Laura turned a corner, and at the end of the hall stood Spike, grinning.
“I was never any good at maths anyway..”
Laura turned and ran. She had no weapons, nothing to defend herself with. Spike would tear her apart. She ran through a door and straight into someone.
“Surprise!” said Angelus.
“How's she doing?” said Faith, concern in her voice.
“She... she looks terrified.” said Oz. “She's been crying for the last hour or so.”
Angel put his hand onto Oz' shoulder.
“We'll save her Oz.” said the vampire. “I swear to you, the spell will work. We won't lose her.”
“How much longer for the spell prep Faith?” Oz said.
“Half hour tops.”
Oz turned to Laura. She lay on the bed, her face wet with tears. He could see her shaking with fear. Bruises were forming round her throat and the rest of her body, as if someone was hitting her. Oz leaned close to her ear.
“Hold on Lau.” He whispered. “Hold on. We're going.....”
“To save you....”
She could hear Oz' voice, like a whisper on the wind. Laura lashed out at Angelus with her foot, knocking him back enough for her to escape. She ran through the corridors of the Hyperion, the doors changing as she passed them.
“Its no use running Slayer,” shouted Angelus, “but if it’s fast food I have to have, then so be it!”
I need to get downstairs. Get to the weapons cabinet.
Laura ran into an elevator and pressed the lobby button. The carriage creaked and groaned as it began it’s slow decent to the lobby. The tinny elevator music pulsing out from the speakers only served to make Laura more edgy. The carriage stopped suddenly, and the doors began to creak open.
Laura stepped out of the elevator into the lobby. She made her way towards the weapons cabinet cautiously. The room was silent except for the slow ticking of the clock. She looked up at it, and was shocked to see the hands spinning around incredibly fast. As she reached the weapons locker Laura wondered if this was it, would she die here in her dreams, locked away from her friends, from Oz. She opened the cabinet reached for a sword.
“Hope you didn’t forget ‘bout me love…”
Laura spun around to see Spike halfway across the lobby, his yellow vampire eyes pulsing with hunger.
“Fancy helping ol’ Spike up his score to three dead slayers, Red?” said Spike, as he advanced on her.
“Drop dead.” Laura growled.
“Been there, done that.”
Laura swung the sword at the blonde vampire, who ducked her swipe, and delivered a kick to her stomach. She staggered back, but quickly recovered, just in time to avoid a brutal punch aimed at her head.
“You’re quick love, I’ll give you that.” said Spike. “Not as quick as Buffy, but then again she liked getting down and dirty with us dead guys...”
Laura ignored Spike’s comment, and lashed out with a kick to his midsection, knocking him back.
“You’re gonna pay for that you bloody witch.”
The enraged vampire leapt at Laura, pinning her to the floor, his fangs closing in on her neck.
“One more slayer for a home run….”
Suddenly Spike paused, a shocked look on his face, and a second later he exploded into dust.
“Strike three. You’re out.” snarled Laura.
“We’re nearly there babe; just hang on a little longer…”
She could hear Oz’ voice again, calling her back, giving her something to hold onto. If she could just avoid Angelus until they could pull her out. She moved back over to the weapons locker, and pulled out a couple of stakes to go along with her sword. If she had to fight him, she needed to be ready. Angel had warned everyone when they got together that some day they may have to face his dark side. Faith and Spike had been fine with it as they both had encountered Angelus before, and Oz was his usual self, if he had been worried he made no effort to express any fear at the monster that he had seen emerge once before in Sunnydale. The thought of Angelus terrified Laura though. That one of her friends, a man who had done so much good, helped so many people could be responsible for so much callous brutality and evil sent a shiver right down her spine.
“Hey baby, you don’t call, you don’t write, how’s a vamp supposed to find you?”
Sh*t. Too late.
Laura turned slowly to face the monster wearing her friend’s face.
“So, you’re the great Angelus then.” Laura said, trying to mask the fear in her voice.
“The one and only.”
“I know this is just a dream. Any minute now the real Angel is gonna pull me out and you’ll go back to the hell you came from.”
“I’ll just have to make sure you die before that happens then.” said Angelus menacingly. ”Shame really, was hoping you would stick around and play for a while. I do love a good torture session, and this dreamland can make me anything I want. Anything that scares the living hell out of you… like this…”
He nodded towards a tray full of long sharp needles, filled with different coloured fluids.
Needles. Why did it have to be needles?
“What is it that scares you so much about this little thing I wonder?” said Angelus. “It can’t be the cutting, the bleeding, because you don’t find swords so terrifying…”
He rushed Laura and knocked her to the floor, pushing the first needle into her skin, pumping its contents into her veins.
“Don’t worry, it won’t kill you. Its just stops all that annoying wriggling while we have a little chat…”
He lifted up her defenceless body and threw her onto the couch.
“Now, as I was saying.” He walked over to the tray, and picked up another syringe, filled with a bright orange substance. “What can it be that scares you so much?”
Laura wanted to tell him to go to hell, but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth.
“Is it the invasiveness I wonder?” Angelus mused. “Don’t you like the thought of something long and hard being pushed into your body?”
Laura tried to spit in his face, but the slack muscles of her mouth just wouldn’t respond.
Angelus laughed. “Hit a nerve there did I? Something you should have told that puppy you roll around with?” He moved closer to her, waving the point of the needle in his hand past her face.
“Shall we see what this one does? We have so little time, and so much fun I can have!”
Laura drew on all her strength and opened her mouth.
“Now that’s a show of strength. Wanna say something do you honey bun?”
“Nearly there!” Angelus laughed at the paralyzed slayer.
“Go to hell, you son of a bitch.” Laura said, standing up.
“How the hell…?”
“Only my fears can control me here you baseborn cad.” Laura said. “Time for the fight scene.”
“Well then missy,” snarled Angelus. “Lets’ see what you really got.”
Laura attacked Angelus with a ferocity she had never unleashed before, hurling a punch into his face before he could attack her, and following it up with a roundhouse kick to his stomach. The vampire stumbled back but quickly recovered, grabbing an axe and swinging it at Laura. She dodged the axe, but he followed it with a low kick that took her legs out from under her.
He’s too strong, too fast. I can’t last much longer.
The vampire swung the axe down at her prone form, attempting to cleave her in two. Laura rolled to the side narrowly avoiding the axe.
“Stay still… I’ve never taken a slayer out before, can’t have that peroxide king Spike holding that over me…”
“Five more minutes…”
Oz’ voice filled her with renewed vigor. From her position on the floor she kicked the axe from Angelus’ hands, and followed through with a sweep taking him to the floor. Throwing herself on top of him, she drew a stake from her pocket. Angelus laughed.
“You mind wriggling a bit while you’re on top…?”
“Just die…” Laura growled as she pushed the stake into the monster’s heart. As he crumbled to dust the world around her began to swirl and change. Suddenly she was back in the desert that started all this. In front of her a figure formed. It was humanoid, with dirty ragged clothes and a scarred body, as if it had been burned. Its hands were vicious metallic claws.
“Looks like I’ll have to finish you off myself, Slayer.” The Sandman snarled.
“Starting the spell, just a few more seconds…”
Hearing this, Laura threw herself at the demon, driving it to the floor and throwing punch after punch.
“You can’t defeat me here slayer.” said Sandman. “This is my world, my rules.”
“Wake up, Laura... WAKE UP!”
Laura smiled and looked down at the demon.
Suddenly Laura was back in The Hyperion, on her bed. In her hands she grasped at the throat of the now corporeal Sandman. She snarled and threw the monster across the room.
“Welcome to my world, bitch.”
Laura leapt to her feet. She delivered a roundhouse kick that slammed the demon through the door of the room. She turned to grab a weapon, and noticed Angel, Spike, Faith and Oz staring at her in disbelief.
“Oh, hi guys..” Laura said.
“Uh, you need a hand there Red?” said Spike.
“No thanks, I got this one.” Laura said. She turned to Angel. “Can you chuck me that sword Angel?”
Angel threw Laura the sword next to him. Laura caught it, and moved towards the door.
“Back in a minute guys.”
As she walked out of the door, Oz moved to follow her, and help her out. Angel put his arm up and blocked him.
“This is her fight Oz. She's gotta do this alone.”
“But nothin' kid.” said Spike. “Not often I say this, but Angel's right. Red needs to do this. She needs closure.”
On the other side of the wall, Laura fought against the Sandman, venting the fury she had build up. She smashed the hilt of her sword into the face of the demon.
“How dare you!” she screamed at it. “You violated my dreams, turned my thoughts against me!”
The demon ducked under a slashing blow from the sword.
“If it's any consolation slayer, you lasted longer than most. I'll just have to feed on you here, in your world now...”
Sandman slashed his claws across her stomach. Laura managed to jump back in time, avoiding the brunt of the attack, leaving shallow cuts across her stomach. She dropped to the floor and took out Sandman's legs with a vicious snap kick.
“Not so tough out here are you?” she growled. “How does it feel to have all your power stripped away?”
Laura struck out with a kick to the demon's head. The Sandman rolled to the side and sprang to it's feet.
“I am going to rend your soul in half slayer, and feast on your spirit for eternity...”
Laura kicked the demon in the chest, and with a mighty blow hacked it's head from it's body.
Laura walked back though the door into her room, where the others stood.
“Are you alright?” Oz said, rushing to her side.
“Uh, yeah, just kinda spaced out.” Laura said. “This is real now isn't it?”
Oz leaned over and kissed her.
“Real enough?” he said.
“Not even close...” she said, leaning back in for another kiss.
Suddenly Angel's mobile phone rang.
“Angel here.” He listened to the voice on the other end.
“Alright. I'll be there as soon as possible.” He turned to the group.
“I have to go away, something has come up. I'll be as quick as I can.”
“Angel,” said Faith, “What is it?”
“The end of the world.”
“Again?” said Spike.
To be continued in Angel 6X07: Mirror Mirror