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The Way It Was Meant To Be

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The fight with Caleb was long and bloody. And for a few minutes she hadn't been too hopeful about the outcome. But that was before Angel had showed up. Just by his presence alone she seemed to gain strength. She could feel it coursing through her body. Maybe he was lending her his own by some cosmic means. Or maybe, just maybe, the slayer was that tough. Right. She swallowed the derisive laugh that had bubbled up inside of her. Whatever the reason, the battle ended the moment she sliced Caleb in half.

Her relieved sigh echoed through the tomb as she watched the two halves of her enemy fall to the floor, crumpled and lifeless.

A few minutes later Angel walked towards her holding something shiny in his hand; Some kind of magic crystal. She wasn't sure how she knew, she just did. Buffy couldn't help but stare at the amulet in Angel's hand. It wasn't remotely pretty, more gaudy than anything else but something in it called to her. Urged her to hold it, to wear it. She raised her hand to reach out and take it. But before her fingers could touch the crystal Angel quickly pulled his hand away.

"It's not for you."

What the...? She could feel it calling. How could it not be for her? She let her hand fall to her side. "Splainy?"

"I don't know everything about this amulet. All I do know is that it's very powerful and very dangerous. It's supposed to bestow strength to the right person who wears it."

Even though she knew he didn't mean it as an insult, Buffy couldn't help but be a little offended. "And you don't think I can handle it?"

"You know better than that, Buffy. I don't know enough about this to risk you. I won't. Besides, it's supposed to be worn by someone with a soul but stronger than a human. A champion.

"I'm the slayer. I'm stronger than a human. Doesn't that mean..."

Before she could even finish her sentence, Angel was already shaking his head. "No, it doesn't. It means me. I'm the one who will be wearing it."

"No." She couldn't get the word out fast enough. There was no way she was going into this battle with Angel. She couldn't, she wouldn't risk him. Not ever.

"Why the hell not?" Angel couldn't help but be a little miffed at how quickly Buffy had refused him. He was a champion damn it! If there was one thing he was absolutely sure of, he was the one who was supposed to wear the amulet. He was the one who was going to help Buffy.

Buffy bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling at Angel's tone. Honestly sometimes he sounded just like a two year old being denied his favorite toy. "I can't risk you."

"Guess what?" Angel leaned his head down to peer into his love's eyes. "You can't tell me no. I'm staying. I'm helping you." He resisted the urge to stick out his tongue in a so there kind of gesture.

"I still don't like it, Angel. What if something bad happens? This is The First we're talking about. The last time it got near you it had convinced you to kill yourself. If I hadn't gotten to you in time..." She let her sentence trail off as she stared at Angel with worry in her eyes.

"Deal with it."

Buffy's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. Surely, Angel hadn't said what she thought he had said. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. You need me and I'm going to help you. End of discussion." Angel voice brooked no argument as he folded his arms across his chest and stared down at Buffy.

"Of all the pig-headed, stubborn..." She muttered under her breath. It was all she could do not to stomp her foot in anger. Honestly, sometimes he made her so mad! "Fine! But if you get killed...."

Angel quickly hid the smile that threatened. She was just so cute when she was angry. "Then you can say I told you so."

Buffy chose to ignore the remark and instead asked, "You're going to play nice and work with Giles, Xander and the rest of us?"

Angel didn't understand why she had felt the need to ask that question. He had never had any problem working with any of them. Okay, maybe Xander but then again that wasn't his fault, the boy had issues. He had always played nice with the rest of them. Well, with the exception of that one time when he was Angelus but that so didn't count. He had been an evil vampire at the time. And now he was...not evil. "Of course."

"And Spike?"

Angel couldn't stop the growl from erupting at the mention of his grandchild's name. Spike? "What do you mean Spike?"

Great! Jealous vampire crap. This was so what she didn't need. A huge sigh escaped her before she began to explain. "He's good. He's been helping me for a while now. Even before he..." How was she supposed to explain? She released another sigh before she continued to speak, "A few months ago Spike fought to regain his soul..."

He would just bet Spike was helping Didn't she remember Spike was devious? He couldn't be trusted. He would use anything to get what he wanted and he wanted the slayer's blood obviously along with other things. He could smell Spike's scent on her. It was enough to drive him insane with jealousy. He wanted to tear Spike apart. He wanted to.. Wait. What did she say? Spike had a what? Angel quickly spoke before she could continue. "He has a soul?" Angel kicked the loose dirt on the tomb floor as he began to mumble. "I was the first one who started it, you know? The whole having a soul thing. Now because Captain Peroxide has a soul it's the cool new thing. Everybody wants one."

"Oh my God! What are you twelve?"

Maybe she had a point. Maybe he did come off sounding like a little kid but Spike always had had a way of getting under his skin. "Okay, I'll play nice." At the look on Buffy's face he quickly added, "Even with Spike."

"You promise?"

Angel nodded his head. "I promise." A rueful grin crossed his face as he quickly changed the subject. "So what do we do now?"

Buffy couldn't help but smile in return. "Now we assemble the troops." She dusted off her pants, reached down and picked the scythe up off the dirt floor. "And make a plan." She walked out of the tomb with Angel quickly matching her steps.

 

The first person Buffy noticed when she walked into her house was Dawn, who wasn't supposed to be there, but before she could say anything her younger sister had kicked her in the shins. "Ow!"

"Dumbass."

As Buffy turned to look at Xander, he quickly held his hands up in a ‘don't blame me’ gesture. "Hey, don't look at me. I tried. But this is a Summer's thing. It's all very violent."

She glared at Dawn. All she had wanted to do was keep her safe. "Fine. But if you get killed, I'm telling."

At this point Willow felt it prudent to interrupt. Arguments between the two sisters had been known to go on for a while. "Did you find out anything interesting about the scythe?"

Buffy turned to Willow and grinned as she nodded. "It slices, dices, and makes julienne preacher."

"Caleb is dead?" Giles was the first one to ask what everyone wanted to know.

She couldn't keep the grin from spreading. "I cut him in half."

A shot of something went through Giles at her words. It had been such a long time since he had felt anything like it, he almost didn't recognize the emotion. Hope. For the first time in a very long time, he had hope.

"During the fight with Caleb, I had an idea."

Everyone looked at Buffy in silence, waiting for her to continue.

"You all know the famous slayer rule that Giles is always saying. In every generation, a slayer is born. One girl in all the world. She alone will have the strength..." At their nods she continued, "Well, that's only because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. Willow, you're a lot more powerful than all those men combined. This scythe has a lot of power too. I say we take the essence of this power, my power and we give it to the potentials, all of them. Now." She took a deep breath. "What do you think?" Buffy finished speaking and turned to look at the people in the room, her friends and her watcher and waited for their reaction.

For a moment Giles appeared to be lost in thought, suddenly he stood. " Buffy, what you said, it... it flies in the face of everything we've ever... every generation has ever done in the fight against evil." A huge smile spread across his face. "And I think it's bloody brilliant."

Buffy couldn't help but smile. Even after all they had been through together, Giles' opinion still meant more to her than anyone else's opinion accept for Angel's. "You really think so?"

As he looked at Buffy he nodded his head. "Yes, I do."

Buffy turned to look at the rest of them. "What about you guys?" Her face fell at the doubtful look on their faces. "You guys don't like it? You don't think it'll work."

"Wait a second, Buffy. I don't want to be the party pooper here, but I'm the one who's going to have to work this magic. And this is way past the darkest place I've ever gone." Willow bit her bottom lip. "I'm not sure I can do this. I'm not sure I should do this."

Giles took off his glasses and began to wipe them before he slid them back up the bridge of his nose. "I have faith in you, Willow. You can do this. We will all help in any way we can. I'll even call the Coven and see what they can do to help ground you.

Xander grabbed his best friends hand in his. "What do you say, Willow?"

For a few moments Willow stared into Xander's eyes before she answered. "Y...ye..." She cleared her throat and tried again. "Yes."

They all gave a small cheer at her agreement. They all felt as if finally something was going to go their way.

 

Everyone was so busy being discussing Buffy's idea no one noticed as Angel came to stand behind her. No one except for Spike.

"What's tall, dark and forehead doing here?"

Angel turned to glare at the other vampire. "Spike." His enemy's name was a snarl on his lips.

"He's here to help." Buffy answered Spike's question before she quickly turned and placed a hand on Angel's chest. "You promised." She reminded him softly.

He had? Damn! Angel lifted her hand from his chest, gently kissed the tips of her fingers before he whispered, "I know. Don't worry, I'll behave." As much as it would pain him, he would keep his promise to Buffy. Even if it killed him and Spike in the process.

"Let's go let the others in on the plan." Xander paused on his way out the door. "Guys, you coming?"

With one last warning look at Spike, Buffy walked out of the room, the others right behind her.

 

The sun had set a few hours earlier and now the moon was just beginning to rise. Buffy sat down on the steps of her porch. Maybe she should still be inside going over the plan again. But after all of the potentials had been brought in on the new plan, she had needed a break. She could tell a lot of them hadn't liked it. A core group of them didn't even like that she was back in charge. That was just too damn bad. She had been the slayer since she was fifteen. This was her job, no it was her calling. And she was going to do what she had to do in order to protect the rest of the world.

"Taking a break?"

At the sound of his voice, Buffy jumped. She had been so lost in her thoughts she hadn't even heard him sit down. She was so unfocused on slayage at the moment, it was a good thing Sunnydale was abandoned by demons and humans a like. "I was just thinking."

"You were wondering if you were doing the right thing."

It was a statement but Buffy nodded her head anyway. Angel really did know her too well.

"I can't tell you that. I..."

"Well, that's just so helpful, Angel." She interrupted sarcastically.

Angel shot her a quick grin. "Just let me finish. I can't tell you if you're doing the right thing. This is something you have to decide for yourself. You've thought about it, you've went over it with everyone. You have all the information and all of their opinions. But what is your gut telling you?"

"That we're going to win."

"Then you have your answer." Angel stood up and held his hand out to Buffy. "It's going to be a rough day tomorrow. So, let's get you to bed."

"Angel!" As Buffy placed her hand in his, she blushed to the roots of her hair. She hadn't even thought about where she would sleep, much less where Angel would.

For a brief moment, Angel allowed himself the luxury of picturing Buffy and himself in a bed together, sweat glistening off their bodies, sheets tangled... He quickly shook his head to dispel the image. "I didn't mean..." Angel cleared his throat. "I meant we should get some sleep, we have a big day tomorrow."

He was right. Of course, he was right. But that still didn't stop her from wishing he had meant what she had first thought. Buffy tried as hard as she could to keep the disappointment from showing on her face as she followed Angel back inside.

 

The next morning, everyone walked into the high school and listened to Robin give his speech as if they were there on something as mundane as a field trip. If only that was true. Most of them would give anything to be back in high school ignorant of things that went bump in the night. And most off them would have loved not knowing anything about being a slayer. They all knew that not every one of them was going to make it out of the battle alive. But they all put on a brave face and pretended to believe otherwise.

As they walked through the halls of the empty high school, they slowly began to split up. Each of them knew where they were supposed to be, they had went over the plan often enough the night before and again this morning. Buffy watched as the potentials followed Faith and Spike into the basement, before she turned to face Dawn.

"Dawn, I..."

Her sister quickly interrupted. "No, Buffy. Don't say anything. This isn't goodbye. And anything else you say will sound like nagging. And now is definitely not the time. You can nag me again after this is over."

"I don't nag." Buffy looked over her shoulder at the rest of her friends standing behind her. "Do I nag?"

Giles took off his glasses and gave his full attention to cleaning them. Angel bit his lip to keep from smiling at her tone. Willow's eyes widened but she didn't say anything. Robin looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but in the middle of the conversation. Xander was the only one brave enough to speak up.

"A little bit." Xander quickly reached around Buffy, grabbed Dawn by the hand and took off towards the atrium.

"I'll get you for that, Xander!" All laughter left as she realized she might not have the chance. "Be careful, Xander! And watch out for Dawn!"

He grinned back over his shoulder. "See, what did I tell you? Nag, nag, nag."

A small sad smile flashed across her face before she turned to face the rest of them. "Willow, you can set up.." She glanced at Robin and waited for him to take over.

"In my office." He pointed at the doors. "It's right through there."

Buffy watched Willow walk through the doors before she spoke again. "Anya.."

"Yes, I'm stuck with..." Anya quickly glanced at Andrew. There was no sense in hurting the poor monkey's feelings. "I mean I'm with Andrew in the north hall. And we will defend it with his very life." She grabbed his shoulder, spun him around and began to walk away.

"Giles?"

"I know. I'm with Robin in the lounge." Giles grabbed Buffy's hand and gave it a squeeze. A soft smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. And with once last squeeze, he let go of her hand, turned and began walking towards the lounge with Robin.

She couldn't help but stare after Giles until he was out of sight before she glanced at Angel. "Angel..."

Angel took the few steps necessary to bring him to her side. He grabbed both of her hands in his. "I'm with you. Where ever you go. Whatever happens. I'm with you." He dropped one of her hands, entwined his fingers through the other and began walking down the hall by her side.

A few moments later, Angel stopped behind Buffy as she stood in front of the seal beside Faith. They waited until the potentials had gathered around the edge to form a circle. She knew the price they would have to pay in order to open the seal. It required a sacrifice of blood.

Faith handed Buffy her knife. "You first, B."

With a soft sigh, Buffy took the knife and sliced a shallow cut into the palm of her hand. She watched as the blood began to pool into the center of her palm. Without a word she handed the knife back to Faith. After Faith, the rest of the potentials repeated the same process. Within moments, they all held their cut hands over the seal and let their blood drop onto it. The seal opened within seconds of the blood hitting its surface.

Buffy was the first to climb into the hellmouth followed by Faith and then the others. Quietly, they walked closer to the edge of the cliff and peered over to the floor of the hellmouth where thousands upon thousands of Turok-Han were gathered. A collective gasp went through the group as they stood staring at the enemy below.

Angel stood behind Buffy his fingers wrapped around the amulet as if he could make it work from just sheer willpower alone. But nothing happened. His big save-the-day amulet was going to turn out to be nothing but a cheap trinket. It was probably just another way for Wolfram and Hart to get under his skin. To give him false hope and then take it back. He released a resolved sigh as he let the amulet fall back against his chest. It didn't matter. One way or another he would make sure Buffy made it out safely even if he didn't.

The soft noise from the potentials got his attention and he looked down further into the hellmouth. The potentials had a right to be frightened. This was enough to frighten most seasoned warriors. He could almost imagine how it would scare someone who didn't possess his, Buffy or Faith's supernatural strengths. He couldn't help but admire Giles, Xander, and Anya. And even after Robin had tried to kill Spike, a pleasure he wanted for himself, he still had to admire the man for willingly risking his life to help protect the world.

"Come on, Willow." Buffy whispered softly. If the spell didn't work the battle would be a very short one. And the world as they knew it would change forever although it would be doubtful if any of them even made it out alive to see it.

Suddenly, thousands of snarling Turok-Han rushed toward the cliff, with superhuman strength they charged toward Buffy and the others. Nails and teeth met fist and feet in an epic battle for domination. The two slayers and the potentials along with Angel and Spike fought with everything in them. But it wasn't enough. Potential slayers fell by the handfuls before their eyes.

The fight took on new meaning as suddenly the frightened girls being picked off one by one finally come into their own power. Willow had come through in the nick of time. Kennedy ran down into the hellmouth, tossed the scythe to Buffy and rushed into the battle. The balance of power had shifted and the Turok-Han were the ones looking for a way out. But even that wasn't enough, a lot of the new slayers sadly, weren't slayers for very long.

Angel kicked the nearest Turok-Han as another came upon him from behind. He tossed the uber vamp over his shoulder and smiled wickedly at the sound of bones crunching against rock. It wouldn't kill them but the sound was still pleasant to his ears. As he reached out for the next one the amulet started to glow brighter. That was more like it. For a while there he had thought... His thoughts trailed off abruptly as the metal burned into his skin hotter than Buffy's cross had the night at the Bronze when they had kissed goodbye.

A low growl escaped him and as the pain intensified a bright light came from the amulet. It knocked a hole through the ceiling, through the floor where Willow still lay weakened by the spell and finally through the opening to the sky above.

"Buffy!"

"Angel!" She screamed as she saw him sway on his feet. No! Please God, No! Was the only thing that ran through her mind as she fought to get to Angel's side. She was almost to him when the light shot through the hellmouth like a laser beam. From the collective sounds behind her she knew the light was somehow dusting the Turok-Han. She heard Faith shout for everyone to get out but she couldn't bring herself to respond. The only thing that mattered to her was Angel and the look of extreme pain in his eyes.

She couldn't take it, she never could stand the thought of Angel being in pain. Buffy ran as fast as she could, the Turok-Han were mere puppets she broke as she forced her way through to Angel. As the ground shook and the walls began to crumble Buffy finally reached Angel's side. She bit back a scream of horror at the pain she knew he must be feeling. Guilt clawed at her insides. She had known she shouldn't have let him wear the amulet.

 

"Angel, I..."

"Well? Aren't you going to say it?" He tried to keep his tone teasing even as the fire burned him.

"What?"

"I told you so?" He gritted his teeth as pain shot through him.

Tears sprang to her eyes. "There's no time for this, Angel. You've done enough. Please, come with me." She laced her fingers through his and watched as they caught fire.

"No. I have to finish this, Buffy. You have to let me do this." He fought the urge to take her in his arms and run like hell. But he resisted. This was what he did. He was a champion and he was going to save the world. For Buffy.

As the fire spread through his body, tears fell down her face unchecked as she stared at Angel. "Please, please." She whispered as her heart broke.

"Buffy, you have to go. Now." Angel urged between greeted teeth. There was a lot he hadn't known about the amulet. The only thing he had known was that the amulet was powerful. He hadn't thought it would be a walk in the park but he just hadn't realized quite how painful it would be. Buffy didn't need to see this. She didn't need to know the kind of suffering he was going to have to endure.

"I can't, Angel. I love you." Tears fell down her face as the fire burned her only love from the inside out.

"I know, baby. I love you, too." The pain started to intensify as the fire burned brighter, scorching him. He could feel his skin starting to melt through to his muscles and bones. He knew it was almost over but he had to make sure Buffy was safe. He had to ask the one person he distrusted most for help. "Spike, get her out of here!"

"Angel?" Spike was torn. On one hand, a few months ago, he would have gotten a sadistic sort of enjoyment out of Angel's pain but now on the other he could just imagine if he was the one being burned alive from the inside. It was a sobering thought and one he couldn't take pleasure in.

"Now, Spike!"

With one last quick look at Angel, Spike scooped Buffy up in his arms and ran from the shaking hellmouth.

He watched silently, through tear filled eyes as Spike disappeared through the clearing with Buffy held tightly in his arms. "Keep her safe." Those were the last words he said before his body slowly dusted into nothingness and the hellmouth crumbled in around him.

 

The next few moments were nothing but confusion, panic and horror as everyone fought against time for their lives. They made it outside of the falling rubble and rushed onto a big yellow school bus parked in front of the school. As Dawn climbed into the bus she searched for Buffy and almost panicked until she saw Spike stepping onto the bus with Buffy still wrapped in his arms.

"Where's An,,,,,?" At the negative shake of Spike's head she stopped in mid question. She couldn't believe he didn't make it. But then again she couldn't believe a lot of them hadn't made it.

Suddenly, the engine screamed as the bus roared to life and took off like a shot. The buildings around them were crumbling and the street was being dragged into the crater. Everyone was holding onto whatever they could as Robin drove like a man possessed.

A few horrifying moments later and almost everyone who had made it out of the hellmouth alive climbed out of big yellow school bus as soon as Robin had stopped. They stared in awed silence at the horrific scene before them. Nothing was left standing where the town used to be. Sunnydale was gone.

Everyone was so busy wondering how it had happened no one noticed two of their group was still on the bus. Spike sat in the world's most uncomfortable seat with Buffy still cradled in his arms. She hadn't moved from her safe haven since the hellmouth had caved in taking Angel with it.

Tears ran unchecked down Buffy's face as she stared out the window at the survivors. They had went into battle with thirty-odd potential slayers and had left with only five new slayers; Vi, Colleen, Amanda, Chao-Ahn and Shannon. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Xander holding a crying Willow in his arms. There was only one reason Willow would cry like that, as if her heart was breaking, she'd been told Kennedy hadn't survived the battle. Guilt coursed through her body. She should have known better than risk their lives. If it weren't for her they would all be alive now. Her breath caught in her throat. Angel would be alive.

"Stop it, Buffy."

She turned her tear stained face upwards. "Stop what?"

Spike shook his head, she wasn't that dense. She knew exactly what he was talking about. "This massive guilt trip you have going. It's not going to do you any good, luv."

"But it's my fault they're all dead." Her voice was so soft he had to lean his head closer to hers in order to hear.

"Bollocks!"

"What?"

"You heard me. You're the world's worst to go on a guilt trip. Well, right now you can't afford one. So, snap out of it! You came up with a plan, it worked and people died to save the world. That's very sad. But these things happen. And the world keeps on revolving. Now the rest of these people are counting on you. You have to figure out what the next step is." Spike gave her shoulders a soft shake. "Where do we go from here?"

She wiped the tears from her eyes. "You're right, Spike. I can do this. I have to do this." As she pulled away from Spike's arms and stood up, she quickly leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks." She whispered as she turned and left the bus.

"Anytime, Slayer, anytime."

Dawn was the first one to greet her as she stepped down off the bus. "What are we going to do now, Buffy?"

Buffy placed her hand on her sister's shoulder as she turned to Giles. "Isn't there another hellmouth somewhere?" She thought she had heard him mention another one a time or two.

Giles stared intently at the look in Buffy's eyes. He had seen Spike talking to Buffy, whatever he had said must have finally gotten through to her. "Yes. There's another hellmouth in Cleveland."

Buffy nodded her head. "Then that's where we'll go."

 

 

Months later, they were settled in Cleveland. Giles and Anya had opened a magic shop off main street. And life as they knew it finally began to get back to normal. Or as normal as a slayer should expect her life to be. But no matter how long she lived there, Cleveland would never be her home. She'd left her home over two thousand miles away.

The move to Cleveland wasn't the only big change in their lives. Willow had left them before they were even settled into their new home properly. Kennedy's death had hit her pretty hard. She had said it wasn't because she was upset but because she was upset that she wasn't more upset. Buffy shook her head. Just thinking about it made her head hurt. Willow hadn't told anyone where she was going. Only that she would let them know as soon as she ended up where ever the hell that was. Their numbers had dwindled steadily after that. Almost a week after Willow left, Giles had sent Chao-Ahn and Shannon to Los Angeles to help Angel's team, she guessed it was Wesley's team now. Robin and Faith had taken off to have a little time for themselves to see if what they had was something worth fighting to keep.

With a deep sigh, Buffy walked out of the front door and down the steps. She didn't look back, she couldn't. It was bad enough she had walked in on Giles and Anya when they were... But looking at the house was another matter entirely. The house looked almost exactly like the one in Sunnydale. It even had a tree that looked like the one she used to climb down to go to.... A sad sigh escaped her. After almost a year she still missed him. She would always miss him. She quickly schooled her thoughts away. She couldn't go there. That way lay badness and sorrow.

At least there was some happiness to be found. Not for her but at least Giles and Anya had managed to find happiness. They had spent a lot of time alone together since they had moved to Cleveland. Apparently more time than anyone had realized. And she wasn't really surprised the day they came back from a fact finding mission legally married.

It hadn't surprised anyone else either. But it had led to another big change. Xander left with Dawn, Amanda, Colleen and Vi to try and track down more slayers. At least that was what Xander had said when he explained his idea. Although, she was almost positive it had more to do with Anya getting married to Giles than he was willing to admit.

No matter how things changed Buffy couldn't blame Giles and Anya for grabbing at happiness with both hands while they could. Life was too short to do otherwise. But she could understand Xander's feelings even if he didn't want to admit to them. Sometimes just looking at them reminded her of the things she couldn't have. And she had to get out of the house. Over the last few months she had taken a lot of walks. As a matter of fact she was beginning to think she would soon know Cleveland as well as she had known Sunnydale. Buffy repressed a shudder. God! She really hoped not.

 

 

As he walked into the kitchen, Giles spotted a lone letter addressed to him lying on top of the table. At first he thought it might be from Xander or one of the others. It had been a very long time since he had heard from any of them. He was kept informed by the new council of watchers he had started almost immediately after the collapse of Sunnydale. But nothing was better then hearing from loved ones. He quickly picked the letter up and opened it. As he read the note his eyes widened. The words were a complete shock. Angel was never meant to wear the amulet. Giles turned the paper over in his hand. Surely, there had to be more than what was written. Some explanation. He quickly reached for the envelope again. There was no return address. Nothing to indicate who had sent it or even from where it came.

"What is it, Rupert?"

Giles turned to look at his wife. He still couldn't believe how lucky he had gotten. For almost four years she had been nothing more than another one of Buffy's, well Xander's friends. Unless he counted that one time when Willow's spell had made them believe they were engaged to each other. If he had only known then how it would work out, he wouldn't have wasted so much time and would have acted a lot sooner. Life was too short to waste. "I don't really know, Anya. It says here..." He quickly glanced around the room. This wasn't something he wanted to discuss within earshot of Buffy without further investigation. "Where's Buffy?"

"She went for a walk."

Giles pulled off his glasses and began to clean them. "Another one?" At his wife's nod, he sighed deeply before he placed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. He adjusted his glasses before he continued to speak, "The note said that Angel wasn't meant to wear the amulet."

Anya brow furrowed. "I don't get it. What does that mean? If Angel wasn't meant to wear it who was? And if he knew he wasn't supposed to wear it well that was just stupid of him wasn't it?"

He couldn't help but smile at her candor. That was just like her. Break everything down to the bare bones of the matter. "But what if he didn't know?"

Her eyes widened. "Oh."

"Exactly."

"So, what do we do now?" Anya bit her lip as she stared at her husband. For some reason she had a bad feeling she wasn't going to like his answer.

"I'm going to go to Los Angeles and see what I can dig up. I would like for you to stay here and keep an eye on Buffy. But don't let her know where I've gone or why. Okay?"

A rueful smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. She had thought she wasn't going to like it and boy was she right. The last thing she wanted to do was baby-sit a depressed Buffy. When she was depressed she knew how to cheer herself up. She handled the money. But for some weird reason it didn't seem to cheer Buffy up. And she didn't know what else to try.

He could tell she wasn't thrilled with his plan. "Anya, for me?"

How could she say no to him? "Okay, but you'll owe me."

"You already have my heart and my soul. What more could I possibly give you?" Giles teased as he leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips before he headed up the stairs to pack. He was only gone a few minutes before he came back down the stairs, suitcase in hand, kissed Anya deeply on the lips and walked out the door.

Anya watched the love of her life walk out of the door before she started peeling potatoes. If she kept busy she wouldn't miss him so terribly and maybe if she was very lucky the time would pass very quickly.

 

 

A little over four hours later, Giles stepped off the plane, hailed a cab and went straight to the law offices of Wolfram and Hart. If anyone would know anything about what the letter had meant it would have to be them.

A few minutes later, as Giles stepped off the elevator a man was there to greet him. As he spoke he held out his hand to shake Giles'. "Hello, you must be Rupert Giles. I'm Lindsey McDonald. It's good to finally put a face to the name I've been reading about all these years."

Common courtesy dictated Giles accept the handshake. Sometimes, as much as he loved his homeland, he really despised being British. The Americans had it a lot easier. Everyone expected a certain amount of rudeness when dealing with them. Since he couldn't in all honesty say the same, he got right to the point. "Where can I find Wesley Wyndam-Pryce?"

"Wesley doesn't work here. As a matter of fact none of Angel's people work here anymore." A huge grin spread across the young man's face. "You see after Angel....left. The senior partners realized Angel couldn't be trusted not to run off at a moment's notice to save the girl. Not that I blame him of course. From what I've heard she is quite the looker. But it's bad business so they gave the LA branch of Wolfram and Hart to me. Lock, stock and barrel. And now there's a new policy where Angel's concerned." At the quizzical look on Giles' face he continued, "We don't care. The more Angel's not around the more I like it."

Of all the... From the look in Lindsey's eyes, he was positive Wolfram and Hart had had something to do with Angel going to Sunnydale to begin with. Somehow Giles manage to keep a tight lid on his anger. "Do you know where I can find..."

Lindsey shook his head as he quickly interrupted. "I wish I could be more help." He shrugged his shoulders, a crooked country boy smile spreading across his face. "I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing. Now if you'll excuse me. I do have clients waiting." With another smile, Lindsey turned and began to walk away. "You have a good day now, ya hear." Lindsey called over his shoulder as he walked through the double doors into his office.

 

As he walked towards the elevator, Giles called Lindsey McDonald every name he could think of under his breath. A few of them he had heard from Xander. Within moments Giles walked out of the Wolfram and Hart building still muttering. Thirty minutes later he found himself standing on the landing of The Hyperion. It was the only place he could think off where the rest of Angel's team might be. He took a deep breath, opened the door and walked in.

As he walked over the threshold he was greeted by the very man he wanted to see. Wesley held his hand out and shook the other man's hand. "Giles, to what do I owe this..." His sentence trailed off as he whipped off his glasses and began to clean them furiously before he placed them back onto the bridge of his nose.

Giles bit back a smile. It seemed that underneath all of the jean wearing, Marlboro man exterior still beat the heart of the pompous watcher he knew and...loathed. He quickly got right to the point of his visit. "I received a letter. No return address, no markings of any kind. It only said 'Angel wasn't meant to wear the amulet'."

"What does that mean?"

Giles turned to look at the brunette who had asked the question. "That's exactly why I'm here. I need to find that out." He looked at Wesley. "Any ideas."

"Several in fact. But each one just as unlikely as the next. However, I did manage to acquire a few of the more helpful books from Wolfram and Hart's library before we were given the boot after Angel..."

"And by acquired he means he stole it." Gunn quickly jumped in before Fred could start crying at the mention of Angel's name. The last thing he wanted to see again was his girl in pain.

"Yes. Quite." Wesley walked over to the cabinet where all of his books were stored. He quickly reached for one that didn't look as if it would be any help at all. At the look on Giles' face Wesley couldn't help but tease, "Don't judge a book by its cover, old boy." He brought the book up to his mouth and whispered, "Angel the vampire with a soul." After a few seconds wait, he opened the book and began to read. After a few more minutes Wesley once more whispered into the book before he began to read again.

"Well?"

"Well, I would have to say whoever sent you the note was right. Angel wasn't meant to wear the amulet. As a matter of fact as a vampire he should have been one of the very last to even think about wearing it."

"Why?" Giles wished he would learn to share information more quickly.

Wesley had almost forgotten how impatient Giles could be. He ignored Giles' outburst and continued speaking as if he hadn't been interrupted. "It was meant for someone more than human but with a soul. Which explains why Angel thought he had to be the one. But from what I can decipher the amulet was meant to be worn by a slayer. Buffy to be exact."

"Are you saying Buffy was supposed to be the one who died?" Every cell in his body screamed against the thought.

"That's just it. I don't think she would have died. I believe the amulet would have used the slayer's strength to fuel the burst of energy it needed to destroy the hellmouth. She would have appeared, in the same location, unharmed after everything was over. The soul part was so just anyone or anything wouldn't try to wear it."

"But Angel..."

"Being Angel..."

"Refused to let Buffy take the risk." They finished in unison.

"And instead of just the hellmouth being destroyed the whole town was." Wesley pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You just said, and I'm assuming here because Sunnydale wasn't destroyed, Buffy would've appeared back. Does that mean Angel would have done the same thing?"

Sadly, Wesley shook his head. 'I don't believe so. There was nothing left of Sunnydale for him to appear to. Now the only thing we can do....." Whatever he was going to say was left unsaid as Fred interrupted.

"Hey, y'all listen to this. This guy is talking about Sunnydale." Fred yelled as Gunn leaned over to turn the volume on the television up.

"I'm sure everyone remembers the horrible earthquake quite a few months ago that completely destroyed Sunnydale." A picture of the crater where Sunnydale used to stand flashed across the screen. "Our Governor decided 'Sunnydale would be back.' "The reporter sported a slick smile as he spoke. "In a national press conference he stated that he wasn't going to let Mother Nature keep one of his towns. It's a complete mystery to most of us how he had the town rebuilt from the crater and those that do know are keeping very quiet on the subject. But now, after almost a year of construction, using a variety of photos, the town has returned to its former glory. While there are still quite a few buildings to be finished, the high school among one of them, Sunnydale is indeed back. Within a few days, our Governor will be here to cut the ribbon on city hall and the town will be opened once again for its residents to return." The reporter pointed to the town laying sprawled behind him as the camera spanned outwards. "This is a great day for the state of California." Another slick smile spread across his face. "And of course for Sunnydale. This is Matt Matherson for WKLA. Back to you, Larry."

Giles stared at the screen until someone clicked the remote to shut it off. He was absolutely stunned. It had never occurred to him there was any chance Sunnydale would be rebuilt. Something the reporter had said clicked.Oh dear Lord! The reporter had said after a year of construction. They must have started rebuilding Sunnydale almost immediately after it was destroyed. Could that mean...? "Oh dear Lord!"

Wesley, Gunn and Fred all turned to look at Giles. 'What?"

"They started rebuilding Sunnydale right after...." He didn't need to finish his sentence as it finally dawned on Wesley what Giles was getting at.

"Oh dear Lord!" He repeated Giles' sentiment exactly.

Gunn looked at Wesley and then Giles. "This means that Angel could be...?"

"In Sunnydale." Once more Giles and Wesley spoke in unison.

"What are y'all waiting for? Let's go get him." Fred was almost to the stairs when Gunn pulled her into his arms effectively stopping her in her tracks.

"Fred, hold on. I'm guessing there's a good reason we're not rushing out the door."

Wesley nodded his head. "There is a good reason. We have no idea how Angel came back or even if he did."

"What do you mean you don't know how Angel came back? He's Angel." Tears pooled in Fred's eyes as she thought about Angel being all alone.

"We don't know what he's been through. There's a chance he might not come back completely himself." Wesley looked to Giles to explain further.

"Angel has come back from a hell dimension feral. He didn't even recognize Buffy at first. It would behoove us to take precautions and not just rush in blindly." Even before he finished speaking, Giles was already making mental notes as he tried to decide whether to check it out first himself or to tell Buffy.

Finally, with a deep sigh, Giles stood and began to walk towards the door. He paused. "I meant to ask how are Chao-Ahn and Shannon getting along here?"

Wesley didn't ask what Giles was going to do about the situation. He already knew he would break the news to his slayer first. "We had a rough few days but thankfully I'm able to get by in Chao-Ahn's dialect so we're managing swimmingly. Thank you by the way for sending them to us. After Angel...."

Before Giles could say anything Fred interrupted. "Wait! We're just going to stay here and let him handle it? What about Angel? What if he needs us?"

"Fred, we can't leave Los Angeles unprotected. Angel wouldn't have wanted that. Besides, if I don't miss my guess, the only one Angel will need or want is Buffy. I'm sure if Giles needs our help he'll be in touch."

With a firm nod, Giles walked out the door.

 

 

On the plane ride home Giles had tried to come up with a way to break the news to Buffy. But he hadn't been able to come up with anything. And now as he sat across the table from her he was even more at a loss.

"Would you just spit it out, Giles. All this staring is giving me the wiggins."

Giles took a deep breath and began to speak, "Buffy, I have some news. While at first it might seem improbable and I can assure you I felt the same way when I heard it; but if you'll just listen...."

"Giles."

He took off his glasses, wiped them on the handkerchief before he placed them back on his nose. "Sunnydale is being rebuilt."

For some strange reason, Buffy felt an odd sense of let down at Giles words. It was almost as if she had been expecting to hear something else, something a lot more important. "I know. I heard it on the news today."

"Of course. But there's more. There isn't an easy way to say this. I'm just going to come right out and say it." Giles took a deep breath before he continued, "Angel might be alive."

That was the one rule about being the slayer she had learned. There's always more.Wait. Angel's what? "Angel might be what?"

Quickly, Giles told Buffy the whole story starting from when he'd read the letter until he'd sat down in front of her.

Buffy listened silently until he'd finished before she jumped up from the table, kissed Giles loudly on the cheek and ran towards the door.

"Wait, Buffy. Don't you need to pack?" Giles quickly asked as Buffy walked towards the door.

Buffy stopped, glanced down at the black pants and black tank top she was wearing. It would do. "Angel could be alive in Sunnydale right?"

Giles nodded his head. "Yes, but..."

She knew the next thing Giles' would say would be for her to wait and let him go with her. But she couldn't wait. She wouldn't. After being without him for a year, she wasn't willing to wait another second longer. Besides, Angel needed her. "He's all I need." Without another word she walked out the door.

 

 

The moon shone brightly as Buffy looked around the town she had seen destroyed a year ago. Then there had been nothing left but a crater. But now she couldn't believe her eyes. Sunnydale looked exactly like it did before the battle. The mall, the theater, even the high school stood exactly as it had before. Granted the school still needed some work but the building was the same. She would be willing to bet if she walked over to her street she would find her house still standing exactly as she had left it that last morning. But she wasn't going to go look. Her first priority was Angel. A sad yet hopeful sigh escaped her. Angel was her only priority.

"Fancy meeting your here, Slayer."

Buffy turned around quickly to see Spike standing behind her. "Spike? What are you doing here?"

"It's good to see you. How have been? I've sure missed you since you've been gone. Why did you leave?" Spike's tone was sarcastic as he peeled off the questions one after the other.

"I'm sorry, Spike. It's just that..."

Spike quickly interrupted. The last thing he wanted to hear was how much she had to get to Angel. Honestly, she was like a broken record when it came to his grandsire. Spike couldn't help but shake his head. He had really expected more from the slayer, he had hoped she would open up her eyes and realize he was the better vampire. Better might be a strong word but at least he wasn't burdened with the whole 'curse' problem. He'd proven over and over again, he had no problem shagging her senseless. But she had made her choice and although he didn't understand it, there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it now. "You're looking for Angel."

Her body ram-rod straight, she stared at Spike. "How did you know that?"

A laugh sounded through the almost empty town. "Please, you have a one track mind when it comes to the big Poof."

"Spike."

He quickly swallowed his laughter. Before she could say anything else, he turned and began to walk away. "Follow me. I have what you're looking for."

As Buffy began to walk curiosity got the better of her. "Why are you here? The last anyone saw of you was one night a week ago back in Cleveland. You left without a word."

A thrill shot up his spine at the hurt tone of her voice. It was nice to know that he was missed even if it was by someone who couldn't see the forest because of Angel. "I was in a demon bar that night. And with a little persuasion, a little birdie whispered to me all was not as it seemed with the amulet. I did a little more investigating. And by that I mean I hit him a few more times and managed to get the full scoop. I gather old Rupert came to the same conclusion because here you are."

"He went to LA and talked with Wesley. They looked through old books that somehow explained what the amulet was supposed to do. To be honest I didn't really listen all that closely. I..."

"Of course you didn't." Spike interrupted once more. "Once you heard Angel's name, you were your normal gung-ho self.

Buffy was stunned. It wasn't like him to be this sarcastic, especially not since he got his soul. Okay, maybe he was this sarcastic, it was Spike after all, but he hadn't been this mean, at least to her, in a very long time. "Is there something you're not telling me, Spike?"

Spike took a deep unneeded breath before he answered. "Sorry. It's just been a rough few days." As he stepped into the light, Buffy finally got a good look at his face. He was one big walking bruise.

"Spike! What happened?"

'It's nothing. It'll heal." Before Spike could say any thing else, he stopped in front of a house and nodded toward it. "Angel's in there."

It took Buffy a few moments to realize where she was. The exact same place she didn't want to be. At 1630 Revello Drive. "He's in my house?"

As he walked through the door, Spike nodded again. "Yeah. A word of warning. He's not as you remember him. The thing is he needs blood and nothing here is stocked yet. If he can hold out until Monday the supply truck is expected."

"How long can he go without blood?"

"A vampire can last a long time without it. But lack of it does something to the mind. It's not pretty. If he doesn't get blood soon...." Spike let his sentence trail off. There was no point in going into any more detail. He knew Buffy understood what he was saying.

Buffy didn't say a word as she followed Spike through her house to the basement. Curiosity bit at her but she managed to stop herself from asking.

Spike finally stopped at the bottom of the stairs and pointed to the cot where he himself had spent some time. Buffy was completely shocked to see Angel curled up on the cot, his hands shackled above his head. His face bore the marks of a recent fight.

"You hit him?"

It was all Spike could do not to roll his eyes but he couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "In case you didn't notice, he hit me too. I don't know how long Angel has been back or how he managed to survive this long. But he..."

"But.."

"Look, Buffy. Do you think Angel wanted to come along quietly?" Spike shot her a look. "It wasn't exactly easy getting him here. Why yes, Spike. Do take me to the Summer house, chain me up and watch as I go even more insane from lack of blood." He was completely feral when I found him, luv. He didn't have a clue who I was. Hell, he didn't know who he was. Just be grateful I managed to find him at all."

As she stared at Angel, tears gathered in her eye. "Spike, I..."

His tone was brusque as he quickly interrupted. "I'll leave you to him, then." He didn't want to stick around to get the brush off. A man had his pride. If he didn't he sure as hell should. And Spike had enough pride for more than one man. He turned and began to walk away.

With great difficulty Buffy tore her gaze away from Angel. 'Wait. Spike, where are you going?"

"You have what you're looking for, Buffy."

"What can I do? How am I supposed to help him until Monday?"

Spike's non-beating heart almost broke at the tone in her voice but his damnable pride kicked in before he could do something stupid. "I've done what I can. The rest is up to you. I'm sure you can figure it out. After all Angel needs you."

Some bit of the pain Spike was feeling flashed in his eyes and Buffy quit asking. The last thing she wanted to do in the world was cause Spike anymore pain. She had caused him enough of it already. "Thank you, Spike."

"You're welcome." Without another word he climbed the stairs and left without a backward glance.

A snarl from behind her brought her attention back around to Angel. What was she going to do now?

Tears fell down her cheeks as she reached her hand towards Angel. She quickly pulled it back as he lunged towards her. "Angel, it's me Buffy. Don't you remember me?"

Angel turned his head back and forth as if trying to decipher what she was saying. But he couldn't quite grasp it. With a roar, he banged his head into the wall over and over again. He didn't stop until blood gushed from the wound.

Before she could stop herself, Buffy rushed forward intent on saving Angel from himself. "Stop it, Angel." She wrapped her arms around his body and pulled him away from the wall. "You have to stop it." Buffy reached up and unclasped the shackles from around Angel's wrists. She wasn't worried about him running away. He wasn't going to go anywhere. She was the only one around who had what he needed.

Within seconds, she was trapped as arms of steel wrapped around her and dragged her into his tight embrace. Even though she knew the danger, Buffy couldn't help but let her body relax against his. Finally, after a year without him she was back where she belonged; in Angel's arms.

A hungry growl was the only warning she received before his fangs pierced the scar he had given her years ago. As he drew her blood deep into his body, Buffy started to fight him off but then she remembered Spike's words. She let her body go pliant in his arms. This was Angel. She could do nothing less but give him what he needed. And what he needed was blood, her blood. She could only hope that some part of him would remember and stop before he killed her. Even if he didn't it would be okay. As long as Angel was alright everything would be okay.

 

She came to at the feel of something wet being applied to her neck. The smell was unpleasant as Buffy slowly opened her eyes and stared at Angel's scowling face. Despite the look of anger, she still thought it was the most perfect face she had ever seen.

"What the hell did you do that for? Do you know the risk you were taking? I could've killed you!" Angel's nostrils flared in anger as he finished applying the medicine to the wound in her neck. It was all he could do not to shake her. He wanted to turn her over and give her a spanking for scaring him like that. Didn't she realize he wasn't worth her life? If the smile on her face was anything to go by he could see she didn't. He seriously needed to consider the spanking option.

Soft fingers smoothed the frown lines on his face. "You could've died, Buffy."

Unconcerned, Buffy shrugged. "But I didn't."

"There had to be another way."

Before he could say anything else Buffy interrupted. "There wasn't enough time. Besides my blood had worked to heal you before. I hoped it would do the same this time."

Hoped. She had hoped. A chill raced down Angel's spine. It could've all turned out so badly. He had no idea he'd said the last part out loud until Buffy answered him.

"But it didn't. Enough worrying about things already done." With that being said, she quickly changed the subject. "Do you remember anything?"

"The last thing I remember is watching Spike carrying you out of the hellmouth. Then I woke up in the middle of the basement of the high school. I couldn't leave because there wasn't enough of the building done for me to risk venturing out. Thankfully there was enough of the basement finished without the risk of bursting into flames." At those words his body flinched. The pain of being burned alive was still fresh in his mind. It wasn't something he ever wanted to do again. But he knew it was something he would do again in a heartbeat if it meant saving Buffy.

At the look of pain in his eyes, Buffy quickly scooted closer and wrapped her arms around him.

"How did you know where to find me?"

Buffy took her time answering. She tried to decide how much she should tell him. In the end she knew she couldn't keep the truth from Angel. He had the right to know.

Angel listened quietly to everything Buffy had to say, only interrupted with an occasional question. After she finished a rueful smile played at the corners of his mouth. "I didn't need to wear it?"

Buffy shook her head as tears welled in her eyes. "No. It was supposed to be me." The memory of watching Angel burst into flames was forever burned into her mind. "It should've been me."

With a gentle tug, Angel pulled Buffy onto his lap and cradled her in his arms. "No it shouldn't. I said then that I wouldn't risk you. I wouldn't do it then and I wouldn't do it now. There is nothing about that day I would change."

"Nothing?"

Angel kissed the tip of her nose. 'Well maybe I would have changed one thing."

"What?"

"I would've done this a lot more often." Angel lowered his head until his lips captured hers in a passionate kiss. A growl sounded deep in his chest as her lips opened beneath the onslaught of his. This was the way it was meant to be, Buffy in his arms and his heart, forever.