“What do you get for the woman who is the love of your life and also your Slayer and also brought you back from the dead and also regularly saves the world?” Luke asks desperately.
“You lost me at ‘woman,’” Alex replies.
Luke, Alex, and Reggie are collapsed around Luke and Reggie’s living room after a long night of slaying, Luke and Alex each on a couch and Reggie on the floor. While Julie and Flynn are out of town for the week leading a Slayer training camp in upstate New York, the boys have been left to hold down the fort. The girls are due to return on the day of Luke and Julie’s first anniversary, and the part of Luke that hasn’t bought her a gift yet feels the day approaching like a bomb clock in the back of his mind.
“I need an epic gift, but I have zero ideas.” He glares at the ceiling, as if the ceiling has the answer and is just stubbornly withholding it.
“Yeah, you really ran through the best ones early on.” Reggie ticks off on his fingers. “Soul for me, repairing her relationship with Dad, her mom’s Watcher diaries. In the future, save some of that stuff.”
“Ugh, this has to be the best gift ever—“
Alex clears his throat pointedly. “Second best. I brought her back from the dead, so I win forever.”
Pulling a pillow over his face, Luke screams quietly. “I’m doomed.”
Intellectually, he knows that the gift isn't that important. But he's never in his life or afterlife been as happy as he's been for the past year with Julie, and she deserves to be showered with reminders of how much he loves her and loves them.
“You realize Julie isn’t dating you for your gift-giving skills,” Alex points out.
“But then why is she dating him?” Reggie asks.
Alex grins mischievously. “At least 70% the arms, let’s be real.”
Luke chucks the pillow at him. “Gifts are symbols of how well you know someone, you know? It’s a way of being like, look, you mean so much to me that I pay attention to what you want even if you haven’t thought to want it.”
“Aww, Luke, that’s kinda beautiful.”
“But I have no ideas! I was on Etsy yesterday debating getting her a personalized stake.”
Horrified, Alex sits up to properly stare at Luke. “What on earth would you put on a personalized stake?”
“I don’t even know, I was trying to come up with some sort of heart pun, but it got super gnarly.”
“Okay, my main advice would be to not do that.”
Reggie raises his hand. “Also, speaking as her vampire brother, gifting her a stake is offensive and dangerous.”
Luke prods Reggie with his foot. “Bro, have you been in her apartment? It’s, like, 30% stakes.”
Humming thoughtfully, Reggie taps his chin. “Inside jokes are always a good basis for gifts. It makes things thoughtful beyond what they are.”
Alex puts a hand to his heart. “Now Reggie’s talking beautifully. I’m starting to feel like you’re both infringing on my brand of being the insightful one.”
Luke’s eyes light up. “We have this joke about machetes. I could get her a machete.”
“I stand corrected. My brand is safe.”
“She’s the Slayer! A machete is a great gift.”
“For her birthday. Not for your anniversary.”
Luke collapses back onto the couch. “Honestly, dudes, I am a mess.”
“That's not new." But Alex has pity on him. "Just give it time. You’ll think of something.”
He does think of something, but “something” does not come to him how he expects it. It comes, as per his afterlife, in the form of a punch.
“Fuck, this demon is strong.”
Said demon, a large green demon in leather armor with a red gem on his forehead, launches at the three boys with his knife, grunting fiercely. Reggie barely manages to backflip out of the way, snarling in the way he tends to when his vamp face is on.
“Should I get a Slayer?” Luke asks.
Reggie punches the demon back ineffectively. “Yeah, I think we may die otherwise.”
“I think Carrie’s on call tonight.”
“Never mind, we fight alone.”
Panting heavily as he shoots a spell at the demon, Alex yells, “Are you serious??"
“Look, Alex, nobody lives forever.”
“You’re literally immortal!”
Lunging forward with his sword, Luke manages to stab the demon through his chest, but the demon just rips out the sword and swings it at Luke, nearly taking the ghost’s head off.
Luke poofs over to the guys. “Yeah, I’m thinking we maybe need to retreat and do some research first.”
“I got it. A Mohra demon!” Luke holds up the Book of Kelsor triumphantly to the group assembled in his living room.
Alex, who lies on the couch with a large cut on his forehead, cheers sarcastically. “Yay, knowing the name of my attacker makes it all better.”
But Willie pauses in the middle of cleaning Alex’s cut to stare at the Book of Kelsor, stunned. “Oh, wow. Bro, I’ve never even seen a Mohra before.”
“I would like to never see one again.” Alex tries to rub his face, only for Willie to gently shove his hand away from the cut.
“Yeah, they’re demon assassins.”
Alex stares at Willie, waiting to see if he’s kidding. When Willie nods, Alex collapses back on the couch with a look of abject horror. “Cool cool cool, demons have assassins, what a fun twist, love that for us.”
Reggie pauses in the middle of drinking his mug of blood. “Wait, so demons who get hired by other demons?”
Luke sighs. “Nah, Mohra demons are more... assassins for the forces of darkness. Like, if an agent of good is getting majorly in the way, the Mohra are sent to get rid of you. So it’s a compliment to us, really.”
Alex groans as he touches the bandage on his face. “I was really okay without the compliment.”
Sliding onto the couch next to Alex, Willie snuggles up to his husband. “You love compliments.”
“Call me old fashioned, but I like my compliments to come in the form of words and kisses, not murder.”
Reggie puts an offended hand to his chest and turns to Luke for support. “Do you hear this? Alex thinks he’s too good to be murdered.”
Alex rolls his eyes. “How do we slay them?”
“It says you should stab them. ... wait, no, shouldn’t stab them. If you stab them, they regenerate and come back bigger and stronger than before.” Luke glances up from the book with an awkward smile. “My bad.”
Alex throws his hands in the air. “I hate this. I literally hate this so much.”
“Oh yeah,” Willie nods. “That’s their Blood of Eternity thing, right?”
Alex’s jaw drops. “They’re eternal???”
Luke and Willie shake their heads. “Nah,” Luke launches into Watcher mode, “the Blood of Eternity is—“
His brain fills in what it is and he stops speaking for a moment, shocked as he processes the implications. Willie gapes back at him, having reached the same conclusion, and they both turn to stare at Reggie.
Reggie blinks, confused. “What?”
“Let me get this straight,” Reggie raises an eyebrow. “I want him to stab me?”
“We just need your blood to mix with his blood,” Luke explains.
“Why does it always have to be blood? Why can it never be, like, a really good hug? I’m a very good hugger.”
“He really is,” Alex nods, glancing nervously around the saline factory they’ve tracked the Mohra demon to. Salt crunches under their feet. “Are we sure we’re not doing a crime right now?”
“Oh, we’re definitely breaking and entering,” Reggie points out.
“Heroically breaking and entering,” Luke corrects him. “The Mohra broke and entered first. We’re just, like, correcting his crime. Like heroes.”
Reggie slows down. “I was convinced until Luke said that.”
The vampire stops walking for a moment to wipe his sweaty palms on his flannel. Luke studies his face. “Bro, do you not want to do this?”
“Of course I do. Just... big change, demon assassin, etc etc.”
“We got your back. Promise.”
Reggie smiles nervously, then seems to realize something. “Hey, just in case...” He wraps Luke in a big hug. For a moment, Luke lets himself enjoy the hug, this small reminder of his remaining connection to the world. It is a really good hug.
Reggie steps back and smiles nervously. “Okay, let’s do this thing.”
Grabbing Reggie’s hand, Luke drags his sword across the vampire’s palm.
“Ow! Why the hand?”
“You need to have an open wound. That’s one of the best places to have an open wound.”
“But it… stings.”
Luke claps him on the back and tosses him the sword. “Go give that Mohra demon the fight of his life.”
Suddenly the Mohra demon, now much bigger than he was before, jumps into their midst and swings his sword at Reggie, almost slicing him in half. He only manages to roll out of the way at the last second.
“Or, you know, just try not to die.” Alex suggests as he skips backwards away from the battlefield.
The Mohra demon swings his sword again and Reggie leaps back, seeming to forget the sword in his own hand at the sight of the towering demon. The Mohra swings again and Reggie leaps back again.
It’s not the best start.
Luke poofs over, seizing the demon’s arm to keep him from using his sword.
“Reggie, stab him!”
Reggie lunges forward, but the demon punches Luke with his other arm, sending the ghost tumbling head over foot. The Mohra swings his now free sword arm around to slam his sword against Reggie’s. Reggie’s sword goes flying out of his hands, soaring across the factory.
Alex rolls his eyes. “Honestly.” Muttering a spell, he waves his hand and knocks the Mohra demon backwards.
Luke poofs over to Reggie’s sword, grabs the weapon, and poofs back, tossing it to Reggie. Reggie catches it and, without pausing, leaps forward, stabbing it into the Mohra demon’s gut. Green blood seeps out of the wound, spilling onto Reggie’s hand.
The blood swirls around the cut on his palm and vanishes. Reggie staggers back, stunned, then stumbles to his knees. For a moment, his whole body glows white, and it’s almost like Luke can see the vampiric demon who’s lived in Reggie for the last five years leave his body. His breath comes out in loud, disbelieving gasps, and his hand drifts to his chest.
“My heart. It’s… beating.”
Alex grins. “Welcome back. Also, run.”
The Mohra demon flips up onto his feet and lets out a giant roar as he charges at Reggie. Luke grabs a handful of salt from the floor, poofs in between them, and throws the salt in the demon’s eyes.
Reggie sprints away to take cover behind a… some sort of saline machine. Honestly, Luke hopes they’re not breaking valuable infrastructure at the moment—he doesn’t actually know what a saline plant does, and he’s really relying on it not being important.
Luke poofs to Reggie’s side as Alex rushes to meet them.
“Okay, so Reggie’s alive?” Alex doublechecks.
Reggie rolls his head, trying to get his vampire face to show. It doesn’t appear.
He beams. “100% human here.”
Alex grins back. “Okay, then we can slay the Mohra demon. Luke, how do we do that?”
He knew he’d forgotten something.
Alex reads the look on his face. “You didn’t figure out how to slay him before we came here??”
“I was kinda focusing on making Reggie human again!”
Horrified, Reggie stares at his trembling hands. “Wait, so we made me human just so I can die horribly?”
“Dude, you’re not going to die. Okay, the Book of Kelsor said that to slay a Mohra demon, ‘one must bring darkness to a thousand eyes.’”
Reggie groans. “Why is it never just clear step-by-step instructions? He only has two eyes!”
“Okay, so we need to find 998 other eyes.”
“Guys,” Alex tries to cut in.
“And do what? Chuck them at him?”
“Guys,” Alex tries again.
“Maybe we have to brew, like, some sorta gnarly eye soup, and then we put his eyes in the soup, and then—"
“GUYS. Do we maybe think we have to smash the big red gem in the middle of his face?”
Luke and Reggie exchange an embarrassed glance and reluctantly nod. “Metaphoric eyes. Yeah, that makes more sense,” Luke admits.
“Honestly, I can’t believe they made you a Watcher.”
Luke grabs Reggie’s sword, shoots Alex two middle fingers, poofs right in front of the Mohra, and slams the pommel of the sword into the gem. The Mohra lets out a scream as he vanishes in a flash of light.
Reggie pops up from their hiding spot with a grin and slaps Alex’s arm playfully. “And you were worried about the demon assassin. That was easy.”
Luke shakes his head. “They keep sending Mohra demons until they succeed.”
“And there’s, like, thousands of them.”
Alex immediately starts marching out of the plant. “Again, there are no words for how much I hate this.”
Shellshocked, Reggie trails after him. “Was this the wrong time to become mortal again? It feels like this was the wrong time.”
Alex tugs his friend into a side hug. “No, just wait until you feel the sun on your face.”
“I thought we were meeting at the restaurant?”
Making her way across the beach with Flynn, Julie approaches Luke, grinning up at him. His heart catches at the sight of her—he’s always thought she was beautiful, but since the other Potential Slayers were called, she’s gained new levels of joy and confidence. Being an unofficial general who doesn’t have to bear the burden of destiny alone suits her.
The fact that she’s on the frontlines less often suits Luke.
She wraps her arms around him and kisses him. Conscious of Flynn’s presence, he keeps the kiss shorter than he wants.
“I wanted to give you your gift here,” he explains. “It looks better in the light.”
Julie looks confused, but Flynn shoots him a quick wave. “Was everything okay while we were gone? I got some frantic texts from Alex about demon assassins?”
“Uh… we should definitely have a Scooby meeting. But, turns out that demon assassins have a silver lining. Hence the gift.”
Julie groans while Flynn shakes her head smugly. “Told ya.”
“What?” Luke asks, confused.
His girlfriend rests her head on his shoulder. “We made a bet on whether my anniversary gift was going to be related to slaying somehow. I had faith in you. Now you’ve made me look silly.”
Luke wants to insist that he didn’t plan to get a slaying gift, but to be honest, he didn’t really consider anything else. Something to work on in the future. But he grabs Julie’s hand and tells Flynn, “I think even you’re going to like this gift.”
Shooting him a dubious look, Flynn crosses her arms. “You know your anniversary gift isn’t supposed to be for me?”
“What can I say? I’m an overachiever.”
He tugs Julie up toward the picnic area next to the beach, with Flynn trailing skeptically in their wake. They round a palm tree to reveal Alex, Willie, Ray, Carlos, and Reggie sitting at a picnic table.
Luke dances to Reggie’s side and does jazz hands. “Ta da!”
Julie stops short, unimpressed. “It’s Reggie.” Then her eyes go wide as she looks up at the sun and back to her brother. “It’s Reggie. How—”
Sporting a giant grin, Reggie pops to his feet and approaches her. “The Blood of Eternity from a Mohra demon. Obviously.”
“Yeah, obviously,” she replies faintly. Then it finally seems to click that this is real, that her brother is actually in front of her in full daylight. She launches herself on him in a hug. “Holy shit, you’re not weirdly cold anymore.”
His jaw drops and he pulls away. “You thought I was weirdly cold this whole time??”
“Because you were.” Flynn shakes her head at him but can’t squash her giant grin. She wraps the former vampire in a hug of her own. “Welcome back to the puny mortals club.”
“Glad and terrified to be here.”
“Eh, I’ll mentor you through it.”
Flynn releases him, only for Julie to grab him in another hug. Her giant smile looks like it’s about to split her face.
Processing everything, Flynn raises an eyebrow at Luke. “Wait, you’re saying there was a demon out there who could have made Reggie mortal this whole time, and you wasted time with the Orb of Methuselah?”
Luckily, Willie jumps in. “You don’t find Mohra demons. They find you. And only if they’re planning to kill you.”
Alex nods, his voice rising pitch. “It’s actually really bad news, but let’s just enjoy it for now.”
Conceding, Flynn nods approvingly at Luke. “Okay, it’s a good gift.”
Reggie grins at Luke and goes to give him a fist bump, then pauses. Glancing between them, Julie exhales sadly. Luke doesn’t tend to talk about how much he misses having a basic physical connection to others, but Julie put it together as soon as they started dating and she realized how touch-starved he was. Without him needing to say anything, she gets how hard the loss of Reggie will be, and he falls in love with her all over again for it.
Luke forces a smile. “No time like the present to confirm.” He pushes his fist to Reggie’s. And meets skin.
A delighted laugh leaves his mouth. Willie chuckles. “See, bro, I told you. Souls forged by magic.”
Luke wraps Reggie into a hug. “Dude, I’m so happy for you.”
“You weren’t happy for me before?”
“Happy for you, sad for me. Now I just get to be happy.”
Alex turns to the group. “Okay, so all the rest of us need to do is become vampires, get our souls back, mix our blood with a Mohra demon to become human again, and then we can all hug Luke.”
There’s a silence among the humans. Ray breaks it, shaking his head at Luke. “No offense, mijo, I’m not doing that.”
“Speak for yourself! I wanna be a vampire.” Carlos flings his arms around Reggie.
“Carlos, you’re not becoming a vampire,” Ray answers sternly (or sternly for Ray).
Reggie shoots his dad an offended glance. “Why? What’s wrong with vampires?”
Ray turns beseechingly to Julie, who feigns offense. “What, just because I’m the Vampire Slayer, you think I’m anti-vampire? Dad, I do not like this side of you.”
As Reggie and Carlos continue to tease Ray, Julie turns to Luke and asks him quietly, “When’s our dinner reservation?”
“Already cancelled,” he whispers back. “It’s time for family, right? We’ll have an anniversary every year, Reggie only comes back from the dead once. Hopefully.”
She smiles fondly and leans into him. “I love you so much.”
He kisses her forehead. “I love you more.”
After a joyful night of celebrating, Julie and Luke collapse onto his bed. Luke doesn’t need to sleep, but he stills feels the relief of lying down after a long day and this has definitely been a day.
Julie rolls over to face him. “You know you’ve made a problem for yourself. You brought my brother back from the undead. What are you going to get me next year? Every gift from here on out is going to be a letdown.”
He slides his hand into hers and plays with her fingers. “You have the same problem.”
“No, I’m pretty confident about this one.”
She sits up and grabs a small black box from her purse. The box that used to house the Orb of Thesulah, he realizes with a grin. He opens it up to see a key. A very familiar-looking key.
“I already have a key to your apartment. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is my key to your apartment.”
“It was your key to my apartment. I was thinking now it could be your key to our apartment.”
Her eyes meet his as she grins shyly. He sits up immediately.
“Okay, that’s pretty rad. Still don’t think it’s as good as bringing your brother back to life.”
“I don’t know. You should see your face right now.”
Yeah, his face feels like it’s doing a super dopey grin. “You realize I’ve never needed a key.”
“It’s a gesture.” She shoves him gently. “And you haven’t answered.”
He starts to pepper her face with kisses, triggering a bout of giggles from her. “Yes, Julie Molina, I would love to have my key back.”
As he sits back, he takes in her giddy face. All at once, he’s reminded of the night before she died, when she sang Jason Derulo to him and he realized that she was it. That sense of love, peace, and certainty that filled him to the brim.
“Actually,” he grins playfully. “Next year’s present is easy. Just figured it out.”
“Really? Probably not a great present if you just thought of it. Is it a personalized stake?”
He shoots her a suspicious look. “Reggie?”
“What was he going to do, not tell me?”
“I think you’re gonna like this present. It’s gonna be round.” He touches his thumb and pointer finger together in a circle. “And about…” Taking her left hand, he slides the circle down her ring finger, tightening his fingers around hers as he goes. He holds up the smaller circle, now measured to her finger. “… yea big.”
A giant beam begins to spread across her face, and it’s a moment before she can speak through her smile. “Spoilers.”
He presses his lips to her ring finger. “Act surprised.”
But he still thinks he’s got this gift-giving thing down.