Actions

Work Header

Btvs Seasons Rewrite: Season 3

Chapter Text

Anne.

With blind determined stubbornness Xander managed to get Giles to Willow's hospital room without any one finding out the true extent of the Librarian's injuries. Every member of medical staff they passed all assumed that the younger man was steering his father to the help a previous member directed them to.

His best friend had just finished the ritual and whatever had possessed her departed. Dully she looked up at the new arrivals. "Where's Buffy?"

Xander shook his head. "Still fighting Angel last time I looked."

"Angelus, not Angel. Jesus, have you learnt anything these two years?"

Shocked by both the words and intrusion, the five people in the room turned startled to gaze at their visitor. Of short height and questionable fashion sense, he was regarding everybody as if they were old acquaintances. "Well," he began, as they were all too dazed to form a voice with which to try and kick him out, "this is the Scooby gang. A finer set of Slayer friends I ever did see. And I've seen a few believe me. But I'm here to tell you that your timing really sucks."

At this Willow gained the power of speech. "The curse failed?"

"Oh no, the curse worked fine. You just produced at the right results at the wrong time. At this moment your friend is fighting the hardest battle of her life. And she's about to lose."

"Then you go and change things," Giles uttered angrily.

"Can't I'm afraid. Not my job. What's about happen must continue, I can only alter one little thing. That's why I'm here. Now I'll be going in a few minutes, there's a couple of omniscient beings that I have to visit. But first I'm to give you a warning. In a few moments the slayer will say goodbye to her soulmate perhaps forever. And she will be taking the next bus out of here. You will need to find her before she tries to forget. You all think you've seen the greatest evil. Let me tell you that you haven't, not by a long shot. The biggest is yet to come. And you'll need all the alliances you can get."

"I don't understand," Giles began, "If you know what is to come, why can you not........"

"Change other things? I don't know, Englishman, I honestly don't. I'm only the one whose sent to balance things out. But as for whom you're talking about, I'll see what I can do. Maybe she'll be needed." And with that he was gone.


With an energy that she hardly knew she had, Joyce Summers dashed up the flight of stairs and along the corridor until she had reached the room that was her daughter's. Foregoing the usual politeness she wrenched open the door, walked forward and found.....

Nothing. At least not at first. Then she noticed that the window, closed by her yesterday, was wide open. She saw the note, lying on top of some left behind clothes. Dazed, she went to pick it up.

Before Joyce had a chance to even glance at it, a figure walked into the room. "Yes, she's gone," he remarked.

"Who are you?" Joyce asked in anger and fear.

"Name's Whistler," he replied, walking further in.

"What are you? A vampire?"

"Heavens no," he cried in laughter. "She hasn't told you a lot has she? I'm a demon. Sent to keep the balance of good and evil." He stepped forward once more. "You want to know who she is, don't you? Well, she isn't here to tell you. But others can. Do you know Sunnydale well?"

"Yes," Joyce replied, still too shocked to form an attack.

"On Oakpark Street, there's a a block of Spanish suburban apartments. Go to number 523B, and you will find your answers. But I warn you now that you won't like them."


Four Months Later.

It was a moment which she would remember for the rest of her life. A scene imprinted on her mind as permanent as a scar or burn. For as long as she lived the moment would haunt every second of her waking hours, and every second of her now sleepless, nightmare filled nights. There was no resentment in this consequence, only acceptance. It was her dues. Her punishment. A just sentence for the crimes she inflicted upon the person she loved most in the known universe.

She would never forget his expression after he looked down and realised what she had done. His silent, haunting gaze spoke volumes to her, which, even if she were struck blind, deaf and dumb, she could not fail to comprehend. Astonishment, followed by horror, followed by outrage, followed by mortal dread of the fate which her sword thrust had consigned him to. Above all, blame. He blamed her, and he was right to do so. She had betrayed him, she had lied to him.

She had killed him.

No, what she did was far more worse than that. She had sent him to hell. Not the demon, the soul. She had dealt the love of her life the same punishment the demon gifted her when she lay with him. Her weakness, her insistence, her ignorance caused him to be released, when she should have listened to her love's caution. Instead she had offered herself to him, sacrificed her honour, and ultimately his. And now, they both were in hell, and it was all because of her.

Waves crashed against the sand below her feet, cooling the grains which burned under the hot sun. But she could not feel that same relief. For her body was burning, just as surely as his was in hell. If she let the sea cool her, she would betray him again, because it would mean that she could live without him.

Then two hands appeared upon her stomach as two arms surrounded her waist, and suddenly he was no longer in hell, but somehow here with her. She leaned against him, her hand reaching up to caress his dear face which rested beside her own.

"How did you find me here?" She asked, surprised at the calm tone of her voice. It was not what she wanted her first words to be. She wanted to turn round, to fall on her knees and beg his forgiveness. She expected him to wound her as she had wounded him, causing the physical counterpart to what she already suffered inside.

"If I was blind, I would see you," he answered, the caressing tone soothing her turmoil of emotions, her tortured mind. Words failed her. Instead she let the hand which had stroked his face to drift down to his at her waist. Closing her eyes, she clasped him against her, revelling in a moment she thought was lost forever.

"Stay with me," she felt herself plead, though she had no right to ask such a privilege. Nor did she feel it was earned, after all she had done to him.

"Forever," he answered. "That's the whole point. I'll never leave," his mouth turned to her ear, as he struck the next blow. "Not even if you kill me."

Her eyes opened as her body bent double from the wound he just dealt her. Astonished, horrified, she turned to him outraged, only to collapse on to the sand in mortal dread. The grains around her became soaked in blood, as she raised her eyes to his face.

"Forever," he murmured, as his body turned into ashes, his claddagh glinting in the sunlight as it slipped from his finger to the shore.


The sirens woke her up. Silencing the cry which threatened to wrench itself from her, Buffy gathered her legs to her, clasping the duvet about her knees. Tears soaked the material, but she had not the energy or the will to surrender herself to them. Listlessly she rose from the bed and walked to the window, where she gazed out to see the familiar vehicle carrying Los Angeles' finest to the scene of a crime.

When the vehicle had disappeared from her sight, the relatively empty streets below her studio apartment conveyed a black night back towards the glass, displaying her reflection. It was a pitiful sight, one which her friends and family- if she still had any left, that is -would be horrified by. Dark circles conquered the pale skin below her eyes which makeup barely hid. Her hair, dyed reddish blonde to disguise, lay unwashed and bedraggled below her shoulder line, ends split.

The only adornments, if one could notice them beyond this pitiful sight, were the sliver cross and claddagh ring, his gifts to her. He had given her few gifts, uncertain as to how much he should do, so every one was precious. She felt unworthy of them since she sent him to hell, but she could not bare to remove them. They were all she had left to comfort her, as her memories and her dreams could not. The one she experienced now was a typical example. It would start off blissfully, until it convinced her that her previous reality was but a dream. Then he would speak challenging words and regard her with questioning, tortured eyes, eyes that reminded her of what she had done, before truth and reality crashed in, making him die before her eyes once more.

Sometimes she wondered what she would have done if she knew, if Xander had told her the truth instead of acting on his irrational jealousy. Would knowledge have changed things, she asked herself, would she have been able to prevent the demon opening Acathla before her love was returned to his body. Every instinct, every feeling within her struggled to convince her that she could have done so.

Which was why she blamed herself all the more. For she should have known. The demon had not killed her friends, only wounded them. She should have realised that it would not prevent them from trying to curse him again. She should have trusted them, trust her instincts. Trusted the slayer within her.

Instead she had betrayed them. She had betrayed him. She had betrayed herself, consigning the two of them to hell forever.

With that thought the tears came again, blinding her view of the glass panes infront. She made a conscious effort to find the security of the bed before letting go and collapsing completely.


Daylight found Buffy in another disguise in the last place anyone who knew her would expect to find her in. With what little money she had left from the bus ticket from the hellmouth to the city and the deposit plus one month's advance rent on the two room apartment now her home, she had brought makeup and hair colorant to convince the owner of Helen's Kitchen that she was a worthy waitress. The wages barely covered her scant outgoings, but somehow she survived.

Brushing the short braids of her hair out the way, she picked up the two burgers and conveyed them to the table in waiting. "Anything else?" She asked tonelessly.

The two men eyed her lecherously. "That'll do us, Peaches."

Buffy ignored the comment, placing the bill on the table cloth. "Pay at the counter."

"Sure you don't want me to work it off for you?" The man leered, causing his comrade in arms to laugh.

Buffy turned to walk away, but not quickly enough to escape his hand slapping her ass, causing laughter. She stopped, but only for a second, reminding herself that she no longer had the authority, let alone the confidence to turn round and fight.

Her next table was a complete contrast. A young couple sat there, obviously poor by the lack of quality to their clothing, but too happy to care. Their loving gaze was pure torture to her, reminding her once more of what she lost.

"You guys ready?" She asked.

The guy still gazed at the girl beside him as he answered. "Yeah. I think we're good. Um . . .," he broke off to finally look at her name-tag. "Anne."

Buffy forced herself not to flinch. She preferred her middle name, it was normal, something she had striven to be all her life. The irony was, now that she had that normality, she hated every moment of it. "What'll you have?"

The guy reached into his pocket and sent a pile of coins to crash on the table. "Well, okay . . . What can we get with this?"

Buffy silently did the math on the pennies, nickels, and dimes before them.

"Can we get cake?" The girl asked.

"Don't be stupid," the guy turned to her. "We gotta eat healthy. We can't have cake." He turned back to Buffy. "Can we get pie?"

"We've got a peach pie," Buffy replied, glancing at the price to make sure it was within their means. "I can't guarantee there's a peach in it."

"We shouldn't have blown all our money," the girl remarked.

"Come on, it was worth it," the guy argued, making her smile. "Hey, check this out." He looked at Buffy as the two of them held out their forearms, revealing tattoos. Like a friendship chain the two made up an image of a red heart blazoned by a ribbon bearing their names; Lily and Ricky.

"It's nice," Buffy replied, though. "It's nice and, uh, permanent."

"Yeah, forever," Ricky said, putting his arm around Lily. "I mean, that's the whole point."

The words echoed in her head, spoken by his voice, together with his finishing sentences, and it was all she could do not to break down in front of them.

"Hey, do I know you?" Lily asked.

"I don't think so," Buffy lied, for she knew who the girl was now.

"Really? Where're you from?" Lily asked.

"I'll get your pie," Buffy uttered before walking away. She felt the girl's eyes continue to stare at her, until Ricky said something, pulling her attention back to him. Relief coursed through her, but only for a moment.

She put the order down by the cash register, then turned to the other waitress while her hands reached behind her waist to undo her apron. "I'm not feeling great. Do you think you can cover for me?"

"Sure, okay," the other waitress replied.

Buffy turned and headed outside. In the glaring sunshine she blinked to adjust her teary eyes to the natural light and turned, heading for her apartment. Forever. That's the whole point. I'll never leave, not even if you kill me. Her dreams were turning prophetic once more reminding her that she could not escape the primitive inside her.

She was still the slayer, and the existence was killing her just as sure as a one of her stakes used to kill them.


Two hours away, and several hours later, at the hellmouth, a hand unearthed itself, followed by the rest of its body as it crawled out of the grave mourners and priest had consigned the once human to. Blinking the soil away from his eyes, the demon's first vision of the world about him, was the wide, attack ready stance of a redhead standing before him.

"That's right, Big Boy," Willow uttered. "Come and get it."

Outraged that a mere mortal dared to challenge his right to exist in this body, the vampire launched himself out of the grave, surprising her. Then his next move was restrained, as someone, another mere mortal grabbed him from behind, making him lose his balance.

"I got him!" Xander cried. "Go!" He shouted.

Another jumped out from behind a hedge and ran towards them, coming to a halt as he struggled to release the stake from his pocket.

"Any time now . . ." Xander remarked sarcastically, as the vampire regained his balance, kicking up both legs to hit his second assailant's face.

Oz stumbled backward and fell to the ground. The vampire leapt again, somersaulting over Xander's head, freeing himself.

Xander attempted to rush him, but the vampire turned his attack back at him, sending him into Willow, causing them to fall to the ground.

By the time they all recovered, the vampire was running away.

"He's getting away!" Willow cried. "And . . . ow," she added as the impact of her fall made itself known to her.

Oz scrambled to his feet and retrieved his stake. Swiftly he threw it as if the wooden implement were a javelin, aiming it at their escaping prey.

The stake hit a gravestone, bounced, then fell to the ground.

Oz shook his head. "That really never works," he mused before turning to the others. "Are you guys all right?"

"First of all, what was with the acrobatics?" Xander asked. "How did that happen?"

"Wasn't Andy Hoelich on the gymnastics team?" Oz queried.

"That's right, he was!" Xander realised. "Cheater!" He shouted after him. "Okay, and the, uh, second problem I'm having . . . 'Come and get it, Big Boy?'"

"W-well, the Slayer always says a pun or-or a witty play on words, and I think it throws the vampires off, and, and it makes them frightened because I'm wisecracking," Willow replied. "Okay, I didn't really have a chance to work on that one, but you try it every time."

"Uh, if I may suggest: 'This time it's personal,'" Oz said. "I mean, there's a reason why it's a classic."

"I've always been amazed with how Buffy fought," Xander remarked in a slightly graver tone. "But in a way, I feel like we took her punning for granted."

"Xander, past tense rule," Willow scolded.

"Oh, sorry. I just meant we in the past took it for granted and, uh . . . we won't when she gets back."

"Do you think Buffy knows school's starting tomorrow?" Willow asked.

"Tomorrow," Oz uttered in remembrance. "Right. Big day."

"Oh, I'm gonna be busy a lot," Willow explained to her boyfriend. "But, but only till three, and that's when you usually get up."

"I can't wait to see Cordelia," Xander said. "I can't believe I can't wait to see Cordelia," he added, surprised.

"I wonder what our first homework assignment's gonna be," Willow said eagerly, causing Xander to glance at her. "Hey, you're excited over Cordelia, okay? We've all got issues."

"I guess we should pack it in," Oz remarked.

"Yeah," Xander agreed.

"We need to go to Giles' first," Willow reminded them. "He asked us to check in with him after every patrol."

"Do you think he'll be back by now?" Xander asked as they began to walk in the direction of Oakpark Street.

"He should be," Oz said. "Oakland's only a flight away and I don't think he was certain that she was there anyway."

"I hate this," Xander cried, kicking a branch away from his path. "When Whistler said to us that we had to find her, I assumed he meant that it wouldn't take long. But's it's been almost four months of dead ends."

"You can't fault Giles for trying," Willow pointed out. "I don't think it's up to us anyway. I think Buffy will be found when she wants to be not before. And maybe we should wait for her to return of her own accord."

"What do you mean by that?" Xander asked her.

Descrying the resentment in his tone, Willow glanced at him, debating on whether to say what was in her thoughts.

Then the door opened in front of them, changing the conversation entirely.

"So, no joy at the cemetery?" Giles asked as he stepped back to let them inside his apartment.

"No, he got away," Willow replied. "We still have some glitches in the system, like vampires getting away. But I think we're improving."

"For God's sake be careful," Giles advised as he closed the door behind them. "I mean, uh, I appreciate your efforts to keep the vampire population down until Buffy returns, but, uh . . . Well, if anything should happen to you and . . . you should be killed, I should take it somewhat amiss."

"You'd be cranky?" Willow offered.

"Entirely," Giles answered.

"Well, we try not to get killed," Willow assured him. "That's part of our whole mission statement. Don't get killed."

"Good," Giles uttered, before ushering them into the living room.

"Hi!" Willow cried as she saw who was waiting for them.

"Hey, Willow," Cordelia replied. "Hi Xander," she added, as he came up to her.

"Hi," Xander returned nervously.

"How was your summer?" Willow asked.

"Oh, I can't believe you brought that up," Cordelia remarked, sounding slightly relieved as they sat down. "Las Palmas was the nightmare resort. They order you around and make you have organised," she raised her hands in silent quotation marks, "'fun,' and I used sarcastic quote marks. Plus the fact there are cockroaches in Mexico big enough to own property. It was all about dread. How was your summer?"

"Oh, it was okay," Willow replied. "Slaying vampires. Or not, as it happened tonight."

"Still not getting any easier?" Cordelia sought to confirm.

"I don't know," Oz replied. "I think we're kinda getting a rhythm down."

"We're losing half the vamps," Xander revealed.

"Yeah, but . . . rhythmically," Oz argued.

"We just need to work on our timing, I think," Willow replied. "So what happened in Oakland?" She asked Giles.

The watcher was about to answer, but a knock at the door prevented the motion, causing them to fall into an uneasy and hopeful silence as he walked up to answer it.

Instead of their best friend, it was one of the last people they expected to see.

"Hi," Joyce greeted nervously.

"Hi," Giles returned.

"I tried calling round earlier, but no one was in," Joyce added.

"Oh," Giles uttered. He stepped back, silently gesturing for her to enter. "I've, uh, just come back from Oakland. A friend of mine called with a lead."

"Stories about someone fighting vampires?" Joyce queried, causing him to glance at her with surprise.

No one said anything for a moment, digesting the information.

"Buffy told you?" Giles questioned at last.

"Yes and no. She told me she was a slayer, she didn't have time to say anything else." I didn't give her time to explain anything else, she silently added to herself.

"The Slayer. Buffy is the only Slayer," Xander clarified.

"It, uh, didn't pan out, I'm afraid," Giles continued.

Joyce sighed. "No Buffy."

"No vampires," Giles added. "Bunch of school kids in heavy mascara listening to extremely silly music."

"Well, thank you for going," Joyce found herself saying. "I can hardly, uh . . . I can hardly leave the house. I'm just afraid she'll call and she'll need my help."

"Buffy is the most capable young woman I've ever known," Giles said. "I mean, she may be confused, unhappy, but I honestly believe she's in no danger."

"I just wish I could talk to her," Joyce added. "The last thing we did was fight."

"Mrs Summers, you mustn't blame yourself for her leaving," Giles said.

"I don't," she answered, surprising him. "I blame you."

Everyone was too taken aback to summon a contradiction, letting her continue.

"You've been this huge influence on her, guiding her. You had this whole relationship with her behind my back. I feel like you've taken her away from me."

"I didn't make Buffy who she is," Giles argued.

"And who exactly is she?" Joyce asked.

Silence met her words, as everyone wondered what they could say.

"A demon named Whistler sent me here," Joyce replied. "He said I would find answers to my questions. If I knew which ones to ask, that is. Buffy told me very little."

Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them as he began. "In every generation," he began almost reverently, using the words as if they were a mantra, "there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer."

You won't like them, Joyce remembered Whistler warning her. How right he was. "H....how long has she been this?"

"Since she was fifteen," Giles replied, knowing Mrs Summers deserved nothing less than honesty and wondering what had happened to make Buffy tell her mother the secret she had kept for three years.

She alone......... "She's done this by herself for three years? Or have you been in her life for as long as that?" Why could I not help her? Why didn't she trust me?

"No, I'm her second Watcher," Giles replied, causing everyone to look at him in confusion, as the question had never occurred to them before. "I took over when you and she moved here. I'm meant to guide her, prepare her for what demons or vampires she might have to face," he added.

"What happened to the first?" Willow asked.

"He was killed by a vampire," Giles replied. "His name was Merrick. I knew him well. I respected him."

"How did all of you find out?" Joyce asked.

"Me and Xander found out when she first arrived, Cordelia took awhile longer, and Oz found out on her birthday." Her last birthday. That thought scared Willow.

Joyce finally dared herself to ask the question that had troubled her from moment she had stumbled on to this discovery. "Why did she not tell me?"

"She's not supposed to," Giles replied too quickly. Seeing the flash of anger he hurriedly added, "the more people that know, the more lives that are in danger. Buffy's the first to have friends and family who know the truth." Giles paused and then asked the question he wanted, no needed, to be answered. "Why did she run?"

Joyce found it no surprise that he knew she had. "I came home to find her with someone and then these.... vampires rushed out at them. She....... killed both of them and then told me."

"Who was with her?" Giles asked.

"I never found out his name. He was blond, white blond. English accent."

"Spike?" Giles queried, as things began to make sense to him.

"What on earth was Spike doing with Buffy?" Xander wondered.

"He wanted to strike a deal. Dru's life for Angel's," Joyce continued, unsure if this would make any sense to them. It certainly did not to her. She looked up at Giles. "She said if you died, Druscilla would die."

Giles understood now why he had been able to escape. The rest of that scene, the part he did not get to see, was someone else's story. Someone who was not here. "Did she go back to you?" He asked, fearing the answer.

Joyce hesitated. How would they react to this? "I told her not to come back. That if she walked out the door she wouldn't be let back in."

The room seemed to acquire a new depth of deadly silence. Joyce looked at the ground, fearing to see what they thought of her now. No more excuses. She had been wrong to contradict him before. This was all her fault. Slowly she reached into her pocket and pulled out the note she had carried around with her for almost four months. She handed it to Giles. She no longer had the right to know its contents.

Rupert's hands shook as he held the single piece of paper. It took time for his eyes to distinguish the words, form sentences, determine meanings. This proved she was alive. That Angel had died. Had she really nothing left? What had he done to destroy her trust in him? He had no right to be her Watcher. Reluctantly he gave it to Willow's outstretched hand and closed his own over his eyes, suddenly feeling ten years older.

Willow's reaction to the note was much the same. Annoyed with herself for not giving her best friend a chance to confide in her. Angry that she had judged her too quickly, judged Angel too quickly. She saw the difference now. "Whistler was right," she began, tears in her eyes and her voice. "The demon is completely different from Angel. It may exist in the same body, have the same memories, but its not Angel. Buffy saw that, while we were all too blind and too selfish to realise it."

"Will, look at what he did!?! How can that justify what he did?" Xander asked angrily.

The redhead looked him in frustration. "You're still jealous, aren't you? You always hated him, even when he had his soul. After all he did for us, the minute he was lost you were quite happy for Buffy to kill him. Even before."

"Now hang on a minute, I never meant........."

"Yes you did," Willow cried, "'you're the slayer, he's a vampire.' That's what you said to her. 'Its obvious what you have to do.' I bet you didn't even tell her we were trying to curse him again!"

"I...." Xander trailed off, realising his friend was right. He hadn't. Instead he told her to kick Angel's ass. "That doesn't change a thing!"

"Yes it does, you know it does! She could have delayed things, so she didn't have to kill him. So Acathla never broke from his shell. You told us yourself that he had yet to awaken!"

Xander glanced around in desperation. "Will no one back me up here?"

"No way," his girlfriend said. "I'm with Willow on this one."

"I completely agree," Giles replied. "Regardless of my misgivings about Willow attempting the spell again, you had no right, Xander, to do what you did."

"Giles, have you forgotten Jenny!?!" He regretted those words the minute after they had left his mouth, for the Watcher seemed to grow even angrier.

"Don't you dare bring her into this! You have not the right!" He bellowed, startling the entire room, Joyce included. "Her death has always been your first line of defence. You welcomed the chance to finally have a reason to attack him! Have you forgotten what she gave us? The power to restore his soul! And she had more reason to wish him dead than any of us! You never gave him a chance to prove himself, all because of your petty jealousy!"

"Stop this, stop!" Willow suddenly cried. "This does us no good! We have to concentrate on getting her back, not why she left!"

"Willow's right," Oz remarked. "She needs to come back. The sooner the better."

Giles nodded and leant back in his chair. Glancing at Joyce, he noted the mystified expression on her face and realised there was one thing he needed to explain. "Did you ever meet Angel?" He asked her.

"Yes," Joyce replied. "She told me he was her history tutor," she added. "You're saying he was a vampire?" She sought to confirm.

Giles nodded. "His situation was more complicated than that. When a person becomes a vampire, the part of the self that is them, the soul, dies. In its place a demon rules. And it may share its past, have its memories, but its not the person. Angel's case was unique. His soul was restored to him, taking over the demon, restraining him from doing further harm." He suddenly halted and when he began again, the words were thoughts spoken aloud. Revelations. "Imagine the torture he must have endured. All those memories of what the demon had done, using his body. Endless nightmares about the past, about what those the demon sired had done, what the demon had taught them. Knowing that he was powerless to change it. Wanting to atone for it, when it was not him who needed to atone. We're to blame for this. All of us."

This time, no one objected to his final words. All knew that he was right.

"She's not gonna come back, is she?" Willow remarked tearfully.

"We can't think like that," Giles returned, rising from his chair to walk into the kitchen where he set about making some tea. "Whistler told us, remember, that she has to. So we just have to keep searching until we find her, and keep a eye on things here in her absence."

"You mean keep letting the vampires run away?" Cordelia remarked.

"Well, obviously we need to fix that," Giles said. "Perhaps I should start helping."

"No, I know what we need," Xander remarked, looking at his girlfriend.

"A Vampire Slayer?" Oz returned.

"Next best thing," Xander replied. "Bait."


Two hours away and an hour or two earlier, Buffy wandered the streets, trying to wear herself out in the probably vain hope that such a plan would result in no nightmares.

"Hey, how are you?" She heard a voice ask, and turned to see a man talking to one of the homeless guys who was huddled in a blanket by the wall. "Can I talk to you for a moment? I have something you might be interested in."

Relieved he wasn't talking to her, Buffy walked on.

"I'm no one," another voice, this time female uttered, causing her to stop and stare.

An old woman emerged nervously from the shadow of a recessed doorway. "I'm no one," she repeated.

Buffy walked on, quickening her pace. She turned a corner, completing the long circuitous route back to her apartment.

"Anne?" A voice called out behind.

Buffy ignored the voice and walked on.

"Anne?" The voice shouted. "Buffy?" She added, causing her to stop. She turned round, and waited for the girl to catch her up.

"Don't be mad," the girl began. "I won't turn you in or nothing. I guess you don't recognise me."

"Lily?" Buffy queried.

"I mean from before," Lily replied. "I was calling myself Chantarelle then. I used to, Well, I was in this cult that worshipped vampires. So lame, I know."

"Yeah . . . I, uh, I remember," Buffy said.

"But . . . you kinda saved us. I never thanked you or anything."

"Did you tell anyone who I was?" Buffy asked her.

"Oh, no! Not-not even Ricky. I mean, I was so surprised to see you here, waiting tables . . . But I wouldn't tell. I know how it is when you gotta get lost."

Buffy nodded and walked on, letting Lily fall into step with her. "Do you, uh, do you live nearby?" She asked.

"Well, there's a couple of places. Uh, they're abandoned, and a lot of people stay there. So how come you came up with Anne?"

"It's my middle name," Buffy replied.

"Lily's from a song. Ricky picked it. I'm always changing anyway. Chantarelle was part of my exotic phase."

"It's nice. It's a . . .it's a mushroom," Buffy recalled.

"It is? That's really embarrassing."

"Um, well, it's an exotic mushroom, if that's any comfort," Buffy added.

"Well, before that, I was following this loser preacher and calling myself 'Sister Sunshine.'"

"What do they call you at home?" Buffy asked, causing Lily to look away. Seeing that she had caused her pain, Buffy hurriedly said, "I like Lily."

"It's cool for now," Lily replied. "Hey, do you have any money?" She asked suddenly, causing Buffy to look at her. "I didn't mean it like that. Well, I just mean . . . I know this guy, he's gonna have this kinda rave thing in his basement. We could go. I mean, I could show you if you had money, 'Cause I'm broke."

"I don't think so," Buffy replied. "I just kind of . . . I want to be alone."

"I didn't mean to bug you," Lily uttered.

"No! I-I didn't, I didn't mean that, it's just . . . Well, a-a lot of people like that, it's, it's too much." Buffy paused for breath. "I do have the money, though, so, why don't you and Ricky go, and then maybe I could meet you some other time?"

"No. It's okay, it's okay. Forget about it."

A homeless man suddenly pushed his way through them.

"That's not very polite," Lily scolded.

He stared at her blankly.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked him.

"I'm no one," he uttered, repeating the phrase she had heard the woman say. He turned from them and left the pavement, walking into the busy road, causing drivers to slam on their brakes.

One truck was not going to be able to stop. Buffy dropped her bag and rushed out into the road, pushing the guy aside in time to save him, but not to avoid being hit herself. Her body fell on to the hood of the vehicle as she slid into the windshield. The force of the impact bounced her back, sending her to the asphalt. She hit the road with a roll, stunned.

Slayer instincts kicked in, causing her to recover, albeit slowly. As she struggled to her feet, Lily and the driver ran to her.

"Are you okay?" Lily asked.

"Jeez, I didn't see you," the driver apologised.

"Oh . . . Maybe, maybe you shouldn't move," Lily remarked.

"Maybe you should lie down," the driver advised.

"No, I'm fine," Buffy replied.

"Somebody call an ambulance!" the driver cried.

That was the last thing she needed. She held up her hands. "No! I'm okay, I just . . . I need to go."

Her running away seemed to convince them, at least not to follow her. Hurriedly she turned a corner, and suddenly collided with someone.

"Whoa!" The bloke cried, then crouch down to help her retrieve his leaflets. "Where are you running to?"

"Sorry," Buffy apologised.

"Maybe I should ask, where are you running from?" He asked her. "You're pretty new around here. Uh, you've got the look, though."

"The look?" Buffy echoed.

"Like you had to grow up way too fast. What's your name?"

"Anne," Buffy replied, and brushed past him to get away.

"Hey, um, I'm Ken. Here, go ahead, take one of these," he proffered one of the leaflets to her. "Don't be shy about stopping by. I mean, I guess you're not starving, but . . . we're not just interested in feeding the body. You might find something you're missing."

Buffy put as much conviction into her tone as she was currently capable of. "I'm alright."

"Then why are you here?" Ken countered. "This is not a good place for a kid to be. You get old fast here. The thing that drains the life out of them is despair. I mean, kids come here, and they got nothing to go home to, and . . . this ends up being the last stop for a lot of them. Shouldn't have to be that way."

"It shouldn't," Buffy agreed. "But I'm not one of them. Now, I have go."

Ken watched her walk away. "Oh, but I think you will be," he murmured to himself.


"Buff--um, Anne? Can I talk to you?" Lily asked.

It was the next day. Buffy had returned to her apartment, suffered another nightmare, then woke up and forced herself to return to work.

"Look, this really isn't a good time. Can it wait?" She asked the girl.

"Ricky's gone," Lily revealed. "I haven't seen him for more than a day. I he's never left for that long. I think something's . . . happened."

"Well, did you call the police?" Buffy asked.

"Ricky skipped out on his parole," Lily explained. "Uh, they would just cause more trouble."

Buffy saw the look on her face, and knew what was coming. Nevertheless, she tried to stall it's arrival. "I don't know, did you, did you ask around?"

"Can you help me?" Lily asked.

"Uh, I-I can't," Buffy replied, trying to walk away.

Lily followed. "But . . . but that's who you are and stuff, right? I mean, you help people, and, you know...."

"I can't get into this," Buffy replied, knowing it might cause her whereabouts to become known. "I'm sorry, Lily."

"You, you know how to do stuff," Lily insisted.

"I don't," Buffy argued. "Not anymore."

"But I don't know what to do," Lily finished, tears falling from her face.

It was too much. Buffy could not ignore the grief facing her, even if she doubted she could begin to cure it. "Where do you go?" She asked.

Lily brightened immediately. "Come on," she said. "I'll show you."


"We gave blood lots of times 'cause you get a few bucks," Lily explained as they walked into the blood bank some minutes later. "And they have cookies!"

"You're a fan of the sugar rush?" Buffy asked.

"It's nice," Lily replied.

"Hi," a nurse greeted. "You here to donate blood?"

"Uh, we're looking for a friend," Buffy began.

"Ricky T.?" Lily added. "We come in sometimes."

"Ricky, sure," the nurse remarked. "Uh, he's not here."

"Well, do you know if he's been in the last day or so?" Buffy asked.

"Let me check the sheet," the nurse replied and walked away to fetch it.

Buffy turned to Lily while they waited for her to return. "This'll probably go faster if we split up."

"Can I come with you?" Lily asked.

"Okay, where did I lose you on the whole 'splitting up' thing?" Buffy joked.

"Oh. Sorry," Lily replied.

"I was thinking we could check out some of your hangouts and, um, I guess, meet later at my place," Buffy explained.

"Okay," Lily replied.

"Sorry, guys," the nurse said as she returned. "He hasn't been here."

"Thanks," Buffy acknowledged before walking away.

"I'll tell him you were looking," the nurse offered.

"Great," Buffy remarked as she and Lily headed out.

The nurse watched them leave, wondering how long it would be before they caught on to her, and what she had done.


It was night by the time Buffy discovered the first clue to his disappearance. She was exploring one of the abandoned buildings Lily had suggested as a possible place to find her boyfriend, when she stumbled past a homeless man, who seemed to have sought the means to end his life with a empty bottle of drain cleaner.

Buffy crouched down and checked the pulse at his wrist. As she put his arm down, death confirmed, she noticed the tattoo of half a heart, with a ribbon across it, inscribed Lily.

"Ricky?" Buffy murmured in disbelief, for the body before her was not a young man but an old one. Yet she could not doubt the evidence before her.
Rising to her feet, she turned and ran to her apartment.

The sight which met her inside almost made her turn and run once more. Lily was stroking the stuffed pig otherwise known as Mr Gordo, reminding her instantly of the moment when she had returned to Revello drive to find Angel holding him. Breathing deeply, she reminded herself where he was, and where she was, then closed the door.

"Did you find Ricky?" Lily asked her, putting the stuffed animal down. "I thought of, well, he likes to go to this movie house, you can get in around the back. . ."

Buffy interrupted her. "Lily . . . I think he's dead."

Lily stepped back, retreating further into herself, if that was possible. "But . . . he takes care of me."

"I'm sorry," Buffy added.

"We're gonna get a place," Lily added, as though the reality had not quite hit her yet. "His cousin can get him a job at the car wash."

"Lily, there's something else," Buffy added. "The, the person that I found . . . was old. He looked about eighty."

"Well, that's not Ricky!" Lily cried.

"I saw the tattoo," Buffy replied. "I, I don't know how, but . . . it was like something drained the life out of him."

"Do you mean like a vampire?" Lily asked.

Buffy shook her head. "No. A vampire couldn't accelerate the ageing process. Maybe it was something in his blood. When was the last time you guys gave blood together?"

"I don't understand," Lily replied. "Maybe it's not Ricky, okay?"

"Lily, this is something you're just gonna have to deal with," Buffy remarked.

"But he didn't do anything wrong!" Lily cried. "Why would this happen to him?"

"That's not the point. These things happen all the time. You can't just," her voice cracked slightly, ". . . close your eyes and hope that they're gonna go away."

"Is it 'cause of you?" Lily asked.

"What?" Buffy queried.

"You know about . . . monsters and stuff. You could have brought this with you."

"I didn't bring anything with me," Buffy returned, annoyed. "And I didn't ask for you to come to me with your problems. I just wanted to be left alone. If you can't deal, then don't lay it off on me!"

Lily gasped a cry, and hurried out of the apartment.

As the door slammed shut, Buffy fell to the bed, regretting her words. She hadn't meant to be so harsh. The whole thing just reminded her too much of her own situation. True, there were certain differences, but the comparison was there to be drawn.

She turned and grabbed Mr Gordo, remembering once more the night she had found Angel holding him while he waited her return. Like many of their moments together, it had been a mixture of happiness and sadness. He brooded on being unable to be an ordinary boyfriend, while she tried to tell him how much he meant to her. She had loved him then, even if she couldn't say the words. And she knew now that he had loved her too, despite his belief that he wasn't enough for her. She hoped he realised that he was all she could ever want, ever wish for.

A wet patch appeared on the pink fur, dragging her back to the present. Reverently she placed the pig on her bed and rose to her feet. She had to finish what she had started with Lily. She had to find the truth of Ricky's disappearance.

And she knew of a place to start.


"Are you okay?" A voice asked. "Hey, it's okay," he added when he received no reply from the crying blond girl, "maybe I can help."

"You can't," the girl despaired.

"Look, I know you all think I'm a big square handing out leaflets about hope. But hope is a real thing, just like despair. And hope can fill up a part of you that's missing."

"But Ricky . . ." the girl uttered.

"Ricky?" the man echoed. "Say, are you Lily? Right! Right, he was talking about you."

"You've seen Ricky?" Lily asked him hopefully.

"Oh, sure! Ricky's with us now," the man assured her.

"She said he was dead," Lily uttered.

"Well, someone's sure handed you a tall tale. Ricky's no more dead than I am. Why don't you come to Family Home? We'll get you taken care of."

Lily nodded, causing Ken to smile as he led her away.


She chose to wrench the doorknob from the door, rather than a more discreet lock pick to gain entry to the blood bank. Heading for the filing cabinet, she searched the files within until she found Ricky's form. It appeared normal, save for one word in the additional comments section. Candidate.

"Candidate for what?" Buffy wondered aloud. She turned to take another file out at random, and noticed the same word on that aswell.

"What are you doing?" A voice asked her.

"Breaking into your office and going through your private files," Buffy replied. "Candidate for what?" She asked her.

"I'm calling the police," the Nurse replied, going to the phone.

Calmly Buffy reached over and yanked the device off the wall. "Now, you've got a whole bunch of candidates here. I wonder if any of them are missing like Ricky." She looked at the Nurse. "Gosh, I bet they are."

"You're getting yourself in a lot of trouble," the Nurse remarked, but her tone no longer sounded convincing.

"I don't want any trouble," Buffy replied. "I just want to be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cosy. I don't even know what a tea coy is, but I want one. Instead, I keep getting trouble, which I am more than willing to share. What are you doing with these kids?"

"Nothing. I just . . . I give him the names of the healthy ones," the Nurse revealed.

"Give them to who?" Buffy asked.


"Well, don't you look nice?" Ken remarked to Lily as she entered.

"I guess," Lily said uncertainly, fiddling with the plain smock he directed her to change into after they arrived.

"Well, you don't want to wear your own outfit to the cleansing," Ken explained. "It'll get soaked."

"A cleansing is like a baptism, right?" Lily asked.

"Not quite the same," Ken replied, gesturing ahead.

"Will I see Ricky after?" Lily asked.

"Oh, of course. He's waiting for you. He's very excited," Ken lied.


"Why do I have to be bait?" Cordelia asked as they stalked the graveyard. "I'm always bait. Why can't Willow be bait?"

"He's already seen Willow," Xander returned. "And could you complain louder so that all the vampires leave?" He added sarcastically.

"I think this is a good spot," Oz said, causing them all to halt. "Is everybody packing?"

Willow and Xander pulled out stakes and crosses.

"Let's do it," Oz decided.

The three of them separated, choosing suitable objects to hide behind to wait in ambush, leaving Cordelia alone. Spooked, she followed her boyfriend.

"I'm doing this for Buffy's sake," She said to him. "This has nothing to do with you."

"Yeah, like I needed that cleared up," Xander muttered, before concealing himself. "Go away," he added when Cordelia stayed put. "This is my hiding spot."

"Where do I hide?" Cordelia asked.

"You don't hide. You're bait. Go act baity."

"What's the plan?" Cordelia asked.

"The vampire attacks you," Xander replied.

"And then what?"

"The vampire kills you," Xander added. "We watch, we rejoice."

"Everything's a joke with you," Cordelia returned.

"No, just our relationship," Xander countered, causing Willow to sigh as she overheard the beginnings of another fight.

"What relationship?" Cordelia returned.

"Oh, that's right, I forgot. We want to bury that piece of the past, don't we?" Xander remarked, causing Cordelia to look outraged.

Willow sighed again, contemplating using the stake she held on them.

The vampire creeping up behind her had no idea of her thoughts.


"We come to this station to wash away the past," Ken explained. "Go ahead, kneel."

Lily hesitantly kneeled before a seemingly oil filled reflecting pool, wondering what kind of cult she had entered now.

"We let the water run over the sin and the pain and the uncertainty," Ken continued.

"It looks kinda," Lily searched for the polite word. ". . dirty,"

"Yeah," Ken uttered, trying to ignore the sounds coming from the front of the house.

At the door Buffy stood trying to come up with a suitable lie to get her inside the Family Home.

"You know, I just . . . I woke up, and I looked in the mirror, and I thought, hey, what's with all the sin? I need to change. I'm," she searched for the right word, ". . . I'm dirty. I'm, I'm bad with the . . . sex and the envy and that loud music us kids listen to nowadays." She paused, but the guy before her clearly wasn't fooled. "Oh, I just suck at undercover. Where's Ken?"

The guy shoved the door in front of her, but she kicked it down and punched his face. "Wrong answer," she uttered before walking further into the house.

She kicked open the first closed door she found, and saw Ken standing before her.

"This is a private moment," he began. "If you could just...."

Buffy interrupted him. "How do you make them old, Ken? Do you feed on youth? What's the deal?"

"Do you really wanna know?" Ken asked her.

"What's going on?" a voice asked, and Buffy moved a little forward to see Lily kneeling before a oily reflective pool.

Suddenly the oil grabbed her, drawing her into it's depths. Lily screamed as she was consumed by the blackness.

Buffy ran to help, but Ken grabbed her by the neck. She struggled against his choking grip, causing him to lose his balance and they both fell in.

They hit the ground hard, Buffy instinctively rolling to lessen the impact. She rose to her feet to gaze at the stone flame lit surroundings.

"Lily," she uttered as she saw her friend, clutching her head by the wall. Slowly she crouched beside her.

"Oh, my face!" Ken cried. "Ow! My face!" He pulled his skin and hair away, revealing the demon within. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to glue that thing on?!" He shouted at them. "Guards!" He yelled, turning.

Buffy grabbed Lily's hand and attempted to run away. Two guards joined Ken in pursuit of them, as she led her friend through a maze of halls, until they reached what looked like iron railings. Coming to a halt she peered cautiously over the barrier, seeing young women and men, chained and clothed in smocks like Lily, shuffling along the ground, protected by guards with whips. They were forcing them to pound metals on anvils, push wheelbarrows from place to place and swing sledgehammers.

"Welcome to my world," Ken said, "I hope you like it." He punched Buffy twice, hard in the face, sending her to the floor. "You're never leaving."


"Let me just ask you one thing: how long did it take you to forget me?" Xander taunted his girlfriend. "Were you still taxiing down the runway, or was it actually in the cab?"

"Oh, yeah, Mr. Faithful?" Cordelia mocked. "You probably met up with some hot little Inca Mummy Girl. Yeah! I heard about her."

Xander would have responded with something about her past boyfriends, when his best friend suddenly screamed as the vampire they were here for tackled her to the ground.

Oz rushed to pull the demon away, throwing him aside. Willow rushed to her feet, as he held up his stake, ready to attack. Oz lunged at the vampire, but he dodged the strike, sending him aside, tumbling to the ground.

Fight forgotten, Xander came at him, only for the arm with which he held his stake to be grabbed by the demon, followed by the other, wrestling for control.

Cordelia joined the fight, attacking the vampire from behind, pushing him and Xander to the ground. Due to the resulting position, the undead demon was unable to avoid the wooden weapon plunging into his chest, turning him into ashes.

Xander fell on top of her, and they gazed into each others eyes, relieved and amazed. Quarrels and worries concerning their absence from each other were immediately forgotten, and they kissed passionately.


Buffy came to in a cell. Struggling to a seated position on the cold hard stone floor, she turned to find Lily in a similar position. "Oh. Lily?"

"I always knew I would come here, sooner or later," Lily murmured. "I knew I belonged here."

"Where?" Buffy asked.

"Hell," Lily replied.

"This isn't Hell," Buffy argued. For if it was, she would be held before Angel, forced to watch as oppose to imagining as he suffered the torture her sword thrust had consigned him to endure for eternity.

"Isn't it?" Ken asked as he came to stand before their cell. "What is Hell but the total absence of hope? The substance, the tactile proof of despair. You're right, Lily. This is where you've been heading all your life. Just like Ricky."

"Ricky?" Lily echoed.

"He forgot you. Well, it took him a long time. He remembered your name years after he'd forgotten his own. But, in the end...."

"Years?" Lily queried, confused.

"Oh. Uh, interesting thing: time moves more quickly here than in your reality. A hundred long years will pass here. On Earth, it's just a day."

"So you just work us till we're too old and spit us back out," Buffy guessed.

"That's the plan," Ken replied. "See, Lily, you'll die of old age before anyone wonders where you went. Not that anyone will, that's why we chose you."

"You didn't choose me," Buffy pointed out.

"No. But I know you Anne. So afraid. So pathetically determined to run away from whatever it is you used to be. To disappear. Congratulations. You got your wish."

He slid the bars back, ushering the guards behind him inside. They grabbed the girls, forcing them to their feet, herding them out of the cell and into a mining elevator nearby.

When it finished descending, they were herded out into a line.

"You work, and you live," the guard explained. "That is all. You do not complain or laugh or do anything besides work. Whatever you thought, whatever you were, does not matter. You are no one now. You mean nothing." He turned to the first guy in the line. "Who are you?"

"Aaron," the boy answered.

The guard hit him with the club he carried, causing the boy to fall to the floor. He turned to Lily. "Who are you?"

"No one," Lily replied.

"Who are you?" The guard asked the next in line.

"No one," the boy replied.

"Who are you?" The guard asked the next one.

The slayer looked at him, a plan forming in her mind. She smiled. "I'm Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. And you are?"

Incensed at her insubordination, the guard roared and swung his club backwards then forwards to strike at her with all his might. Buffy side-stepped him, grabbing his arm as he bend forward to follow through with his strike. slamming her forearm down on his. The bone snapped, causing him to fall to the floor in pain. Picking up his club, she swung it at another guard's head, also sending him to the floor. She struck a third in the gut, then turned to the slaves. "Anyone who's not having fun here, follow me."

She turned and ran, and with Lily leading the group followed her to a metal staircase, where she crouched under it to assess the situation. "There's no way we can get back up there without meeting new people," she uttered, turning to Lily. "Okay. Lily, when those guards leave- and they will leave -I want you to take these people and get them up there, okay? Fast and quiet."

"You're leaving me?" Lily asked her.

Buffy clasped her hand. "Lily, you can handle this. 'Cause I say so."

A siren broke through the sounds of metal hitting stone.

"We've gone public," Buffy murmured. "Okay, quick, get them up. Go! Quiet!"

Lily led them, turning to apologise. "I'm sorry I said this was your fault before."

Buffy sighed. "Lily, this can wait."

"Well, in case we die," Lily added.

The slayer smiled at that, but this was not the time. "Go! Go!"

Her order was just in time. Two guards came towards them, and she rose, leading them away from the group, further into the ironworks. She saw a pole before her and she grabbed it, using it to swing herself round, knocking down one of the guards. Letting go of the pole she began to run again, until she reached a platform more suited to fighting.

The guard tried to aim a sledge hammer at her, but she ducked his first and blocked his second. He followed it up with a kick to her stomach, winding her. He punched her, sending her to the floor. He took another swing, but Buffy rose back up in time to block it.

More guards joined the fight.

Above, Lily led the escape party. "C'mon, c'mon, everybody go! Go!"

Buffy continued to fight the guards, dodging first two swings from different ones, then a third entered the fray, and then a fourth.

Ken watched outraged from railed walkway. "Humans don't fight back," he murmured.

"Humans don't fight back!" He cried. "That's how this works!" He turned to his escort. "Get down there!"

Buffy continued to fight. One girl against hundreds of guards, evenly matched, and refusing to surrender, even though the odds seemed irrevocably against her. Again and again she dodged and blocked and struck at the guards, sending them to the floor one by one.

Suddenly the odds looked to be in her favour.

Disgusted Ken turned to the door, and caught sight of the escape party. He recognised the blond in the rear, and decided to use this opportunity. Grabbing her, he manhandled her towards the nearest railing, thrusting a knife to her throat.

Buffy caught the sight out the corner of her eye, and froze.

"One of you fights . . . and you all die!" Ken yelled. He turned as the rebel leapt up and grasped the edge of the raised platform, rose to her feet and then came towards him. "That . . . was not . . . permitted."

The slayer smiled. "Yeah, but it was fun."

Ken returned the expression. "You've got guts. I think I'd like to slice you open and play with them." He held up his knife and addressed the crowd. "Let everyone know! This is the price of rebellion!"

Lily, who had been released from his grasp when he moved the knife, crept up behind him and pushed, sending him to the ground.

Buffy glanced at her in surprise, then took advantage of the guards similar disbelief to strike them down.

"They'll be coming," Lily warned her.

Buffy nodded and led them to the last iron barred barrier. "I'm gonna feel this for a week!" She groaned as she used all her strength to lift them out of the way.

Suddenly Ken tackled her to the floor, before screaming in pain. Buffy rolled out of his way, and watched him roll about the floor in agony whilst behind her Lily helped the others to escape through the black oil entrance.

"You've ruined everything," Ken struggled to utter.

"Hey, Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?" Buffy asked, before bringing the club down hard on his head, crushing his skull.

"Gandhi?" Lily queried, confused.

"Well, you know, if he was really pissed off," Buffy explained.

They turned and climbed out into the house above.

"What do we do about the pool?" Lily asked her after she had helped her to her feet.

A flash of light speared its oily darkness, and the pool abruptly disappeared, transforming itself into an empty tiled shallow bath.

"I love portals that clean up after themselves," Buffy remarked.


"I thought the way you grabbed him from behind was particularly ingenious," Xander was heard to say to his girlfriend as Giles opened the door of this apartment and stood back to admit them inside.

"Yeah, I thought; hey, this guy will fall and be staked if I do this!" Cordelia mocked back, but with none of the sting she had used before the fight.

"I take it that the vampire is slain?" Giles sought to confirm as he closed the door behind them.

"Yep, one vampire all dust," Willow replied. "Or is it ashes?" She asked.

"Both words will do," Giles replied.

"How did your evening go?" Oz asked as they caught sight of Joyce rising from one of the sofas in the living room.

"Oh, well, I think," Giles answered.

"I still don't understand some of it," Joyce explained as they took seats once more. "But I'm no longer angry at her or at you," she looked at Giles. "I just want her back."

"We all do," Giles agreed, before getting up to make another pot of tea.


"Let me give you the tour," Buffy began. She crossed the small space from the kitchen to the living area to the bedroom. "This concludes our tour," she finished sheepishly to her companion.

"It's really nice," Lily assured her.

Buffy leaned against the dresser. "All the rent's paid up for the next three weeks," she informed her, before turning, opening a drawer, and retrieving a piece of clothing. "I spoke to Mitch at the diner. He said you can start on Thursday." She moved to bed, laying the uniform out before Lily. "He's, kind of . . . repulsive, but, he won't give you a hard time. I'll call and check up on you."

"I'm not great at taking care of myself," Lily confessed.

"Gets easier," Buffy lied comfortingly. "Takes practice."

"It's the all consuming loneliness which kills your soul," Lily utter wryly.

Buffy smiled. "Gets you every time," she agreed.

"Hey, can I be Anne?" Lily asked her, indicating the name tag.

"Sure," Buffy replied. "Normal was never my style anyway."


Joyce could not believe it. All these years and she had seen nothing. Her daughter was the Slayer. The Slayer. Those two words resounded in her head, repeating themselves over and over as she sat in Giles' home, listening to Willow, Xander and Cordelia as they told stories about the events she had missed. With every conclusion her grief grew. But along with it so did her admiration. Her daughter had done this! She killed vampires every night, went to school on a Hellmouth every day and saved the world on a regular basis. Her daughter; the Vampire Slayer.

She glanced round the room, taking in the people she had never really known until tonight. Giles, Librarian but also her daughter's Watcher. The man was almost like a father to her, in a way that her real father had never been. Willow, the best friend and a budding Witch on the side, supporting her no matter what. Oz, new friend and a werewolf three nights of the month, but accepted for simply who he was, not the primal that could take him over. Xander, who despite his jealousy cared deeply for his friend. Even Cordelia cared for her daughter, if one ignored the mask of popularity.

Lastly, she considered the man who she had yet to properly meet. Angel. A two hundred and forty-two year old vampire with a soul. Who worshipped her daughter with a devotion that surprised even her. Who had lost his soul because she had made him for one moment truly happy, at peace with the world. Even to her protective, mothering instincts, it was a powerful, awe inspiring love, something she had never known herself, something only found once in a lifetime.

She almost envied her daughter.

Out of the blue the door to the apartment vibrated with the sound of a knock. Stunned, the Scooby gang hesitated in rushing to open it. All glanced at one another until finally everyone's eyes rested on their host, silently asking him to gather the courage that they could not. Giles put down his mug and walked forward. He opened the door slowly and froze, dazed by the sight which accosted him. Then he opened his arms, pulling her into his embrace, tears of relief combining with hers.

The rest stayed still, silently watching the Slayer clinging to the man she loved as a father. She had returned to them.

To Be Continued In
Acceptance.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This episode continues from where the first left of, as I vent a lot of the bitterness I felt after watching the cannon episode, Dead Man's Party, which this ignores entirely. Buffy and the group continue to deal with their emotions here, coming to terms with the events which occurred after her birthday and during her absence, as well as her return, and realising that someone else must return as well, or they will have the slayer back, not Buffy herself. There are some elements of the first version; such as a certain dream sequence, and the research session. There are also some lines from the cannon Anne, which I decided to move to this episode as they fitted better here. Enjoy.

Acceptance.

Of all the scenes she had imagined would occur when she returned home, this was not one of them. Instead she expected a silent, awkward standoff, full of accusing expressions, all aimed at her with powerful intensity, until she was unable to withstand the onslaught any longer, whereupon she would fall to the floor in floods of tears, apologising for every wrong they had ever done her, taking all the blame they felt her unexplained absence granted them the privilege of bestowing towards her. A tried and tested routine, used frequently for whenever she chose to disagree with their opinions.

Though, or perhaps because she was the slayer, they thought themselves far more mature and experienced with regards of matters concerning the real world, and usually resented it when she always proved them wrong. They had used these methods when she caused Angel to lose his soul, making her feel guilty for her impulsive instincts ever since. Xander in particularly had gloated over his superior hindsight, reminding her constantly that she should have listened to him in the first place. This expectation, this fear of the very real possibility that such scenes might occur, were what kept her from returning to the hellmouth. Even now, if she thought she had a choice, returning would not be what she decided.

Giles embracing her as a father would his daughter, was something she had never dared to hope for, even though it was the kind of relationship she nearly always felt they had. Nevertheless, this embrace was the reality she was currently experiencing, and soon further evidence of its truth came her way, as she felt a sudden wetness on her hair, which could only have come from his eyes. Emboldened, she clung back, taking what comfort he was offering her, worried that it might soon end, and she would have to endure what she had previously expected to happen. Due to this, she did not cry aswell, despite the almost overwhelming temptation to lose her self-control completely in his arms. She also feared that once she began, she might not stop.

All too soon he withdrew, placing an arm around her waist to usher her the rest of the way inside, then closing the door with his other. Slowly she took in her surroundings, noticing for the first time the other people gathered in his living room. She was surprised to see her mother there, for she knew that Giles' place was one her friends usually went to when the library was barred to them inside a locked high school. She was also surprised to see nothing of the anger which had taken residence in her mother's expression the last time they faced each other, in the aftermath of her being outed as the vampire slayer. Instead there was a nervousness that matched her own, with hope that her daughter had forgiven her explosive reaction and disownment to the shocking news she discovered almost four months ago.

Door closed, her watcher ushered to the nearest empty spot on the sofas and gently forced to her sit down, before placing a cup and saucer of soothing Earl Grey on her lap. Taking several deep breaths, she took a sip, then looked at all of them cautiously, waiting for some kind of sign on where, when and how to begin. Fixing on Giles, who was crouching to her left, brushing the hand which carried her claddagh, she took that probably comforting gesture as an answer.

"I guess you want to know what happened after Xander got you out of the mansion," she said, her voice a little hoarse from her nerves and her recent excursion into the realms of alternate dimensions.

"Only if you're ready to tell," Giles replied softly. "Whistler informed us of the outcome, but he seemed rather pressed for time, and we were too shocked at our failure to ask him to go into further details."

"I wondered where he had gotten to," she remarked, "I found him here raiding your drinks cabinet when I came looking for........." she sighed, "I'm not sure what I was looking for. Anyway, he gave me his version of a pep talk and sent me to the Mansion. Where I met Xander, who told me...."

"That Willow said to kick Angel's ass," Xander finished shamefacedly. "I'm sorry, Buffy, I shouldn't have said that. I know now that I should have told you that Willow was trying to curse him again."

"Anyway, I saw you and then I entered the mansion," Buffy continued, inwardly pleased that things seemed to going so well. "He and I fought, until Acathla was released, then we fought some more until I gained the upper hand. I was ready to....." she hesitated, struggling to get out the next word, "kill him, when all of a sudden he was Angel again." She breathed, trying keep control. "H-he didn't remember anything. Nothing since the night of my birthday. I wanted to take him in my arms, to tell him......" she blinked away her tears, "but Acathla was open, and only blood could seal him. So I told him I loved him, then I asked him to close his eyes. Then I put the sword through his stomach, sending him to hell." She stopped, swallowing her tears with soft, audible cry.

"Oh god, Buffy, I'm so sorry," Giles said, taking her hand in his with a comforting clasp. "I had no idea it would be so hard."

She couldn't take his well-meaning words in. Retelling the events had brought memories of the night once more to the forefront of her mind. Openly crying now, she uttered something she never imagined telling them. "It was my fault. If I hadn't persuaded him to.... love me, none of this would have happened. I couldn't even kill him right. He was still alive when Acathla sucked him into hell, looking at me. He blamed me, I could see it in his eyes."

"Buffy, no," Giles uttered, taking the cup and saucer from her lap before taking her into his arms once more. "You had no idea, none of us had, that his curse wasn't without a clause. I'm sure he doesn't blame you."

"He should do," she uttered, her voice slightly muffled by his embrace. "I consigned him to years of sufferings. Time passes differently there, I know. One day here could be years to him. And he'll be tortured, because he isn't pure demon, until all he can remember is who sent him to endure that fate."

"Angel's stronger than that," Giles tried to assure her. "He survived over a hundred years with a curse I'm almost certain that the Kalderash expected would cause him to take his own life. He will survive, Buffy, and may be find a way to return to tell you not to blame yourself. Others are at fault here, not you."

"He won't return," she sobbed, soaking his jumper. "They won't let him return. I've damned him for eternity."

 


"He was right."

She heard the voice, over and over, resounding inside her subconscious mind, calling to her like a siren song, luring her inward, into the darkness.

"He was right."

She could see now. The caverns were lit with flaming torches, emitting crackling sounds as they burned away the accelerant coating on the wood. A shadowy setting, full of invoking sensations, unsettling and creepy. Ceremonial, and ritualistic.

Above all, evil.

"He was right, and so were you," the voice said, behind her now, causing her to turn, to gasp, if she was capable of doing so, as she saw him. He was as his demon counterpart, visible by the clothes he wore, and the expression of evil upon his face.

"He is stronger than that," he continued. "It's annoying actually. He was always such a coward before. All he cared about was drinking and whoring. He was lucky not to catch a disease before Darla noticed him. Ironic really, when you consider what her human form was dying from before the master granted her immortality."

The caverns widened around them, revealing surroundings of a sunken church, similar to the Master's hideout over a year ago. Flaming torches continued to crackle and burn, as the sound of distance cries joined their chorus.

"I changed all of that," he said, in reference to his words before. "I made him knuckle down, gain some intellect. Most of what you love him for was my influence you know. If I hadn't intervened he would have died of a drunken bout a long time ago. Thanks to me, he lives forever."

Cries were louder now, and closer too. She tried to peer into the shadows, but they remained dark to her, refusing to give up their sources.

"And thanks to you," he continued, "he's suffering forever too."

Suddenly the shadows lessened, and the cries turned into agonised shrieks. Suddenly she could see him, shackled to the cavern wall, the chains biting into the skin around his wrists. His body sagged under the strain, twitching and shivering, physically insensible to the temperature and conditions. His eyes were closed, his head constantly shaking, his mouth emitting incomprehensible mutterings to himself.

Instinctively her hand reached out to touch him, somehow knowing it could, even though he was too far away for her to succeed. Nevertheless, her hand did grace his cheek, bestowing a gentle caress, stilling him for a moment.

He opened his eyes and looked straight at her. "You," he whispered. "You sent me here. This is all because of you!"

The darkness closed around her, sucking her down into it's depths, joining with his last words, to consume her forever.

 


She woke to screaming, insensible of the source until Giles put his arms around her, and she realised the sounds came from herself.

"Buffy, it's alright, it was only a nightmare," he said to her, as she clutched at him, the scream turning into sobs.

He held her till the worse was over, till enough of her grief was spent to calm her. Then slowly he drew back so he could see her face.

"Where is everyone?" She asked, glancing around to find that she was lying the bed of his guest room, and gathering from the light streaming through the curtained windows, that it was the next morning.

"Your mother's in the living room," Giles replied, "she spent the night beside you. You fell asleep soon after you finished telling us what happened. As for the others, they've gone to school."

"Oh, Giles, you're missing the first day," Buffy began, ready to apologise for all the trouble she was causing him.

"It's fine, Buffy, don't worry," He assured her. "I was there a few minutes ago, actually. Persuading Snyder that it was in his best interests to rescind your expulsion."

"How ever did you manage that?" Buffy asked him curiously.

"I have my methods," he replied, causing her to remember when he told her of his wilder youth. "I even managed to persuade him that you needed some more time off to recuperate after the horrible trauma he caused you when he had you charged with murder."

"Thank you," Buffy uttered, nervously smiling a little. "How does Mom feel about all of this?"

"She agrees with me," Giles replied. "She came over yesterday, and we had a long talk about everything. She's taken it very well, Buffy. I'm sure she'll tell you that and more herself." He paused to rise from the bed. "Why don't I leave you to freshen up, and then you can come down for some breakfast."

"Thank you, Giles," Buffy said again as he walked to the door. "For all you've done. I'm not sure I deserved at least half of it."

"You deserve all of it," Giles replied. "And more besides," he added, before closing the door.

Buffy got out of bed, attended to her ablutions, changed into the freshly laundered clothes she spotted lying on a chair, then emerged into the living room, where she found a selection of breakfast stuff spread out on the coffee table.

"Are you alright?" Her mother asked, pulling her into a hug almost as soon as she entered the room.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Buffy replied, allowing herself to ushered to the sofas once more. "I just had one of my dreams, that's all."

"Dreams?" Her mother looked from her to Giles, who placed the pot of freshly brewed tea he had been carrying on the table before he spoke.

"Buffy can have prophetic dreams, of what's to come," he explained. "Usually they're deeply symbolic warnings, preparing her in some respects." He paused, sitting down. "I've never heard of a slayer screaming because of them though, which makes me think that it was nothing more than a nightmare."

"What else could it have been?" Buffy countered as she took a seat. "I was there, Giles, in hell. He was being tortured. He told me it was all my fault."

"Did he?" Giles sought to confirm.

"Well, Angelus did, and so did he. He yelled that it was all because of me."

"Buffy, that could have been nothing more than a reaction to your own insecurities," Giles remarked. "A product caused by misplaced guilt."

"He's right, Buffy," her mother added, taking a seat too. "You've been carrying this guilt around with you for almost four months. It has to have affected your mind, your emotions. You need to learn to accept that there was nothing you could have done to change the outcome."

"I can't," she uttered, shaking her head. "Not while I know he's suffering. It would be admitting defeat. Saying that our love was all for nothing. Proving all of those who thought we were wrong to fall in love, right."

Silence met that, neither Joyce or Giles sure of what they could say next, unable to deny that there was some truth in her words. Quietly they ate the breakfast, making sure she ate as heartily as they thought was needed, musing on what they could do to restore her happiness, short of the impossible.

Bringing Angel back.

 


"You came to visit me," Willow uttered happily as her boyfriend suddenly joined her passage through the corridor at the high school. Abruptly she noticed what he was carrying. "You came with books? Are they books for me?"

"Well, actually, they're kind of for me," Oz revealed.

"I don't get it," Willow returned.

"Well, it's sort of a funny story," he added as they resumed their walking. "You remember when I didn't graduate?"

Willow thought for a moment. "Well, I know you had a lot of incompletes, but that's what summer school was for."

Oz nodded. "Yeah. Well, you remember when I didn't go?"

She turned to him in shock. "But you never said anything. How am I supposed to react to this rather alarming news?"

"Well, actually, I was pretty much banking on you finding it cute," Oz informed her.

"Well, traditionally, you know, repeating a grade isn't exactly a turn-on. And you're practically a genius. You're Mr. Test Scores. It's all a little weird."

"So the cute thing is out?" Oz queried.

"I'm trying to get to cute, really," Willow assured him. "But I'm still sorta stuck on strange."

"Well, I'd be willing to bargain down to eccentric with an option on cool," Oz offered.

"Hey guys," Xander greeted them as he and Cordelia joined them. "Any news on how Buffy is this morning?"

"Giles said that he was gonna check in on her during recess," Willow replied. "I hope she's alright."

"We all do," Cordelia agreed. "Last night was freaky. I've never seen Buffy cry like that before. I always thought she was so strong."

"I think she hides that from us," Willow said. "To protect us. She doesn't want us to worry too much when things are bad."


"So what do you want to do today?" Giles asked her when breakfast was over.

"I think I better check in with school, even if I'm not going back yet," Buffy replied. "See what work I need to do to catch up. I'll just stick to the library though. Try and keep a low profile."

"I'll join you," Joyce remarked. "I have people covering at the museum for me. Besides I'm running out of rooms to clean or washing to do at home."

"Mom," Buffy began nervously, but she shook her head, rendering the words unnecessary.

"Buffy, it's me who should apologise, not you. I was wrong to react the way I did when you told me what you are. I have no excuse, save that I've been so worried that I would lose you along with your Dad."

"You'll never lose me," Buffy replied. "At least as long as I have a say in it. I can't guarantee that the vampires won't object."

"I know that now," Joyce added, smiling at her. "And I wanted to say that I'm proud of you. Not many kids could handle what you did at fifteen. I know I couldn't have."

"I didn't handle it too well," Buffy mused. "I got my first watcher killed and I set my first high school on fire."

"You had to, to slay the vampires," Joyce pointed out. "Giles told me all about it. And Merrick's death wasn't your fault. A vampire killed him, not you." She paused, before adding. "I'm also a little envious, if you don't mind my saying so."

"Envious?" Buffy echoed.

"You have this life full of new, exciting possibilities. You had the kind of love that only comes once in a lifetime. And you have a career doing something useful for the world. Making a difference."

"Yeah, shame it doesn't grant me a salary though," Buffy returned. "Thanks, Mom, for being so understanding."

"If I was anything else, I wouldn't deserve to have a superhero for a daughter," Joyce replied, causing Buffy to blush.


The three of them arrived at Sunnydale High School during lunch recess, gaining entrance to the library via the emergency exit at the end of the stacks. When they arrived at the stairs which led to the research table below, they found the rest of the Slayerettes waiting for them.

"Hey guys," Buffy greeted, and suddenly she was swamped by them as they all hugged her, nearly toppling her over, but for the strength of the primitive within. She revelled in their welcoming, until she needed space.

"Okay guys, losing oxygen here," she uttered, causing them to part and return to their seats. "What have you all been discussing?"

"Nothing much really," Xander replied. "Just wondering if we could maybe help with something."

"What something?" Buffy asked.

"Getting Angel out of hell," Cordelia revealed.

"Could it be done?" Willow asked Giles, while the slayer stared at them, a mixture of emotions swirling in her thoughts.

"I'm not sure," Giles answered. "Opening up portals to other dimensions is not an exact science."

"Well, we must have something like 'Idiot's Guide to getting souled vampires out of hell?'" Xander asked.

"Not exactly that copy, but I'm sure I could find a translation or two," Giles returned, walking over to where the index cards were located. "Oz, put that sorting sign outside the door, and then let's begin."


Joyce Summers looked up from her numerous books and once again marvelled at the sight before her.

It was two hours later. The Library of Sunnydale High had been overtaken by the 'Scooby Gang' - one pop culture reference that Joyce did understand. Piles of books lay scattered across the table and its surrounding floor and stairs, each being sorted through by one of the seven people that occupied the room.

Rupert Giles was in his office, collating all the information that had been found and scanning the Watcher and Slayer diaries for reference to Angelus, Acathla and the dimensions of hell to see if any had dealt with something like this before. Xander and Cordelia were on the stairs, pouring through the occult section on demons, hells and everything else under the sun. Willow was at the table, dividing her time between internet supernatural chatrooms, search engines and the Wicca collection that Giles owned for any spells or rituals that might bring someone back from hell. Oz was beside her, reading the classical and philosophical volumes of the ancients and the renowned to see if they could provide an clue.

Joyce turned back to her own volumes she had been studying. The Codex, a chronicle of Slayer prophecies, most of which she had been shocked to find out had actually happened. Especially the one that had caused her daughter's own brief end. Joyce sighed, angry for herself not realising that she had been upset for just more than a date to the Spring Fling. She glanced at her daughter, who was reading through the religious section to see any keys lay there. Every now and again she would pause, her right hand drifting to her left, twirling a silver ring that sat on her third finger. It was a piece of jewelry which Joyce had never seen before and apart from the cross that adorned her neck, it was the only thing which she was wearing. The ring was never fully seen by her and for the past two hours Joyce had been debating over whether she had the right to ask Buffy about it.

Suddenly, as if she had heard her thoughts the slayer looked up. "Have you found something?" She asked hopefully.

"No," Joyce replied sadly. She glanced round the room, and seeing that the rest were engrossed, decided. "Buffy, may I ask you something?"

"Sure." The Slayer tried to mask her fear at what the something might be.

"May I have a look at that ring?"

Buffy hesitated, then took it off her hand and handed it carefully to her mother. Joyce held it before her, her experience in art identifying it instantly. "Who gave this to you?"

"Angel," Buffy whispered. "Its a claddagh ring," she explained listlessly. "Before he was changed his people exchanged them as a sign of devotion. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty and the heart represents love." She paused, the last words shaking her. Gathering her strength once more she added, "wear it with the heart pointing towards you means you belong to someone." Buffy closed her eyes. She shivered again, as the night that he had given it to her came back to her mind. Despite the situation and the brief time that it took, that night had been one of the most romantic moments of her life. Lately she had been using it as a distraction from the dreams that haunted her nights. She would close her eyes and picture him and his voice, as he said the words she had just used. Now it seemed to bring her even more grief. The one person she had belong to, the only one who had the ability to make her feel safe, she had sent to hell.

Joyce looked at the ring in her hand with nothing less than surprise and awe. Thanks to her job at the museum she knew well of the legends surrounding the claddagh rings, yet she had never imagined that one day someone would give one to her daughter. She knew instantly that Angel meant for every one of the legends to apply for his age belied any reference to the contemporary. He had promised his heart, his love and his soul to her. "Did he tell you that wearing it on the left hand pointing in usually means the wearer is married?"1

Buffy shook her head, tears forming in her eyes, even though she was smiling over her beloved's sentiments. "No, he did not, but then he was nervous about telling me that he loved me," she confessed.

"There are a collection of some of the earliest examples at the museum," Joyce explained. "One usually said when bestowing the ring; 'with my hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love.'"1

"I never knew that," her daughter replied, before taking the ring back, sliding it on to her finger in the same position once more, causing her mother to smile as she caught the unspoken message within the movement.

Then they both returned to their books.


Buffy walked through the doorway that led to the master bedroom of the mansion. She felt herself gasp as her eyes settled on the figure who sat upon on the bed. "This is a dream," she heard herself uttering.

Angel stood up and came forward to stand in front of her. He took her hands, cradling them with his own as though they were the most precious things in the universe. "Yes it is," he replied huskily, stroking her hands. "But there is a way for it to become reality."

Buffy felt her tears start to fall as she remembered what she had been trying to ignore. "It can't," she choked out. "We've been looking for four hours. If there was anything........."

Angel suddenly cupped her face with his hands, brushing away the tears. "Shush," he commanded tenderly. "Do you trust me?"

Buffy felt herself replying even before she was ready to. "I trust you with my life. With my heart. And with my soul." Like all the others she had no control.

His lips replaced his hands, kissing away her tears, as his hands moved to wrapped themselves in her blond tresses of hair, now seemingly reverted to their natural colour. She felt her own go around his neck, as her lips met his in a passionate kiss.

Then suddenly they were on the bed, and their clothes were being pealed away. His hands caressed her, his lips worshipped her, and Buffy was powerless to stop it. Even if she wanted to. She had wanted him for so long.

The blankets covered them, as she felt her bare skin connect with his.

"There is a way," Angel repeated huskily, his voice near her ear. "You have the key," he kissed her shoulder blades.

Buffy stilled, remembering their first time, and then her emotions took over as she experienced a more powerful bliss and a greater peace than any she had ever known. She felt him roll off her, gathering her body into his arms, clasping her left hand in his. The last thing she remembered was the clash of their rings as they met and four last words from him. "There's nothing to forgive."

 


Buffy opened her eyes. She was back at the library, where, judging by the looks she was receiving, she had been sleeping for awhile. She also saw something else in those glances, a deep despair and guilt that after six hours of research they had found nothing.

"Buffy," Giles began tenderly, his fatherly concern showing, "I am so sorry......."

"It doesn't matter," she found herself replying. "I know what needs to be done." She got up and left the table, coming to a brief halt before her mother. To that person's surprise she hugged her. "Did I ever tell you Mom, that you're a genius?" She asked rhetorically before walking away.

For a while the Scooby gang just stood there, watching the swinging doors that showed her departure. Then all at once they looked at one another and followed her.


The mansion was deathly quiet. The Slayer came to a halt in the main room, her eyes on the stone floor, tracing its edges, as if somehow it would give her hope as to what she was about to do. Slowly she stretched out her shaking hands. For a moment she hesitated, fearing to take off one of the few things that had kept her going over the past months. Then she resolved herself, taking a deep breath. Tears clouded her eyes as she slipped off the ring, falling to the floor to surround the claddagh's new resting place.

Her task now done she collapsed on the floor, her eyes never leaving the spot where her ring lay. Unable to form the words she began to pray silently in her head for the first time. Hoping desperately that she had correctly interpreted the message from her dreams.

Hours seemed to pass by, each remaining unnoticed by her. The Scooby gang soon joined her vigil, although their presence was likewise not detected by her. She just remained fixed on the floor, her eyes afraid to close, fearing to do anything different in case it changed everything and prevented him from returning.

Suddenly the mansion began to shake. The ring once still, started to rattle on the floor along with it. The space around it started to glow a murky yellow, reminding everyone of his feral eyes, then promptly driving that and every other thought from their minds as the ceiling opened up above them. A body, naked and curled up, shivering with cold and exhaustion, despite his species' immunity to the former, dropped to the floor. Unknowing to the those who watched it retained enough presence of mind to retrieve the thing that had brought it back, clasping it in a fist, unwilling to let go of it, even for a second. Sounds came from within, neither human or animal, or even vampire, varying between grief and relief.

For a moment the Slayer knelt dumb struck. Then her emotions took off and she rushed to him, clasping herself around him, assuring herself that he was real. Angel had returned.

The End.
To Be Continued In....

An Uncertain Return.

1) Visit the Wikipedia. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claddagh_Ring, for more information.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: I've moved Faith's arrival further into my cannon, which gives me the chance to explore Angel's return more fully, which I felt was needed in a rewrite which attempts to keep B/A romance surviving despite the odds. I have also made this continue on from Acceptance, and a cliffhanger ending which will continue in The Power of Souls.

I felt such focus was missed in JW's cannon, which was due to Buffy feeling she had to keep Angel's return a secret from everyone, and which complicated her relationship with him. As I have made the slayerettes closer in mine, I felt shrouding his return in mystery was unnecessary.

This episode continues the dream themes which I explored in both Anne & Acceptance, which will be explained in The Power of Souls. These dreams include scenes from The Prodigal, Becoming, & Amends as well as my own creation. Enjoy.

An Uncertain Return.

With gentle tenderness Buffy lifted Angel's head into her lap, softly stroking his hair and skin. The former was dirty and greasy from neglect, while the latter felt fevered, despite the fact that being a vampire, even a souled one, he should be insensible to internal body temperature.

He also seemed insensible to her comforting gestures, continuing to shiver and mutter incomprehensibly to himself. She had prepared herself for this possibility, for her worse fears to become reality, but preparation meant nothing when presented with the very scene before her eyes. At that moment, a moment she knew that she would remember for the rest of her life, she felt her guilt and culpability for causing his suffering to be at their fullest.

For what seemed to a long minute in time, the others stood around the couple, stunned by the scene before them. During the hours of research each had forced themselves to be resigned to the possibility that they could never bring Angel back from hell. Each had imagined what suffering and torture he could be enduring in this nightmare other world, but like the slayer, none of them had been prepared for the reality of it. Giles was the first to move, placing a thick blanket over Angel's shivering body, which like the slayer's comforting movement, seem to have little effect to alter the souled vampire's condition.

"Cordelia, Oz," he said to the two, who dragged their gaze away from the couple on the floor towards him, "do either of you have your cars?" Both nodded. "Right, I need one of you to go the hospital and raid their first aid supplies. We need gauze, bandages, antiseptic lotion, as much as you can find. The other needs to go to the butchers and pick up some blood, as fresh and as much as possible." He handed over his credit card for the bill.

The two slayerettes left the living room, and Giles turned to everyone else. "We need to get him upstairs into a bed. Comfortable surroundings might persuade him that he's out of the hell dimension."

Buffy reluctantly rescinded her position and helped to carry her soulmate upstairs into the large bedroom on the first floor. None of them had scene the upper floors of the mansion before, but now was not the time to explore, as they manoeuvred Angel from their arms into the bed which only now they had discovered existed there. She sank on to the duvet, unable to resist reaching out to clasp his hand in hers, even though, as before, he appeared to remain insensible to any form of contact.

Willow, Xander, Joyce were reluctant to leave the slayer alone in her quiet attendance, but Giles silently gestured for them to leave the bedroom. "I think his recovery will take a long time, and he'll need constant attention," he said to them outside the room. "I suggest we work in shifts, for which we need to sleep. We also need to cover for ourselves with the school and your parents," he directed this to Willow and Xander, "and aside from the necessities I sent Oz and Cordelia to get, we will need to check if this place is still producing hot water and wired for electricity."

The three nodded at him and went to accomplish those tasks, leaving him to turn back to the open doorway, where the scene behind was still unchanged. "Buffy," he began, "I probably already know the answer to this, but I must ask anyway. Would you prefer to take the first shift? Are you able to do so, after all that has happened?"

"I can't leave him, Giles," Buffy replied. "What happened to me is nothing by comparison. I need to stay with him as long as I can."

"He is not likely to recover for a while," Giles warned her. "Are you sure?"

"I am," Buffy replied firmly, and he could see that there was no use arguing further with her. So instead he headed for the stairs down to the double height living room.

Buffy turned her gaze back to her beloved, inwardly grieving at the suffering she had caused him by sending him to hell. At the time she believed that she had no choice, but hindsight was creating doubts within her mind as she gazed down at his shivering, fevered body, until she felt sure that she could have done something different, something which would have prevented this traumatic scene from occurring.

Abruptly, while she sat there thinking this, he opened his eyes, his black pupils seeming to fix on her. Daring to hope, she spoke to him. "Angel, it's me. You're safe now. No one here will hurt you." Hesitantly she reached out to touch his face. "Can you hear me?"

He shied away from her touch, burrowing deeper into the pillows, sheets and duvet, causing her hand and voice to cease their actions. His eyes closed, and she felt her own begin to weep with tears, as her mind convinced her once more that he blamed her. Unable to bear it, she attempted to rise from the bed.

But his hand, the one which she held in her own, tightened their grip, compelling her to remain. All his strength seemed to be tied to keeping her hand within his, as though some part of him remembered what they had been to each other, and derived comfort from it. No longer able to analyse and understand, she resumed her seat and waited silently for him to begin to recover.

 


She saw herself standing before a well, as the sun was beginning to salute the horizon with its traditional morning kiss. Dressed in clothes more suited to a different time and a lower class, as she filled the pitcher she was carrying with water.

"Anna," a voice uttered, and she felt herself respond, turning round to discover the source. She saw nothing but a figure standing in the open doorway, seeking support from the frame. Nevertheless, a part of her seemed to recognise him. "Master Liam?"

"Anna, come closer," he insisted, remaining in the shadows.

"Master Liam, your father..." she began to say, as he moved unsteadily closer to her, putting a stop to the rest of whatever she was about to say. "Will be off to church by now, repenting of his sins, and well he should. Closer, Anna."

"Why do you keep to the shadows, sir?" she heard herself ask. "Are you not well?"

"The light," he answered. "It bothers my eyes just now."

"And I know the reason why," another voice remarked, disapproving and stern, as he pushed him out of the shadows and into the morning sunlight which caressed the courtyard.

"Up again all night, is it?" he asked, but without need for an answer. "Drinking and whoring. I smell the stink of it on you."

She watched as Liam picked himself up from the sun-baked stone floor. "And a good morning to you, father."

"You're a disgrace," his father declared.

"If you say so, father," Liam replied, but with none of the remorse or guilt his father wished for him to possess.

"Oh, I do. I do say so," she heard his father continue. "Have you not had enough debauchery for one night?" He asked. "Must you corrupt the servants as well?"

"Servant, father," Liam corrected him. "We have one servant. Anyway, - everyone gets corrupted, - but I find some forms of corruption - are more pleasant..."

His father cut him off, bestowing a violent slap upon his face. "I am ashamed to call you my son. You're a layabout and a scoundrel and you'll never amount to anything more than that."

She watched Liam stumble to his feet once more, then felt herself curtsey as his father told her to take the pitcher to his lady wife. She carefully carried the wooden object into the darkness which first the son then the father had previously emerged from, only to find herself back at the mansion, at Angel's bedside.

It was nothing more than a dream. She opened her eyes, blinking away the sleep, to find that it was indeed morning, as a slight outline of sunlight cast itself across the room from the edge of the heavy black curtains which covered the window. Following it's journey to the end, she found her mother sitting the other side of the bed, watching her.

"Another dream?" Joyce asked her softly.

Buffy nodded, before turning to Angel, whom she realised now, had been the wayward son Liam in it. "How is he?" She asked.

"He's sleeping more peacefully now," her mother replied. "Occasionally he will mumble to himself, but it is less violent that it was before."

"How long have I been asleep?" She asked.

"Only when couple of hours," Joyce informed her. "You should go and get some more. We made up some bedrooms on the upper floors."

Her daughter shook her head. "I can't leave him, Mom. I tried earlier, when he shied away from my touch. But then he refused to let go of my hand."

Joyce inclined her head in understanding. "Some part of him recognises you as comfort. It's a good sign that, given time, he'll recover."

Buffy took that in, but her fears doubted the soundness of that possibility. "Did Giles tell you about him?"

"I know he was made a vampire over two hundred years ago," Joyce revealed. "And I know he was cursed with a soul by the ancestors of Miss Calendar. And I gather that none of knew that the curse would be removed if he forgot the crimes of his inner demon."

"That happened the night of my birthday," Buffy explained, her face unable to conceal a blush at the memory. "We had been dealing with this demon called the Judge, who could burn all the goodness out of you with one touch. He had been defeated before, his body parts spread across the world, and Spike and Druscilla were trying to reassemble him. We manage to snatch one of the pieces from them. Miss Calendar advised that Angel took it as far away from the hellmouth as was possible." Buffy paused as she remembered that night. "I know now that she did it to keep the two of us apart, as her relatives feared the lifting of the curse. But we had no idea that was possible. I went with him to the ship he was to travel in, but we were attacked by vampires, and the box was taken back. We fell in the sea, and what with the storm, ended up seeking his apartment for shelter. Where we......" she trailed off, embarrassed to say the words.

"I think I can guess what happened," her Mom said. "And in the morning his curse was lifted?"

"I think it happened during the night," Buffy replied. "I woke up alone. Anyway, that was when Angelus; his demon, decided to stalk our house and send me those black roses, basically cause me as much trauma as he could devise. Until after he killed Miss Calendar and we discovered that she had found the incantation to return his soul to him. And you know the rest, I think."

"I do," Joyce nodded. "How did you two meet?"

"When I went to the Bronze, that first night after school, he was waiting for me in the alleyway. He gave me the cross," she gestured with her free hand at the necklace before going on to describe the rest of that first meeting. "I'm not sure how he knew I was going to be there. But I'm glad he was. He's saved my life, the life of my friends so many times."

Joyce descried the remorse, the guilt within the undertones of her daughter's voice. "Buffy, you must stop blaming yourself. You had no choice."

"I'll try, Mom," she replied, but without conviction. "Where are Giles and the others?" She asked in a clear attempt to change the subject.

"They're downstairs," Joyce answered. "Giles thought it best that they continue to go to school, but come back here as soon as lessons were finished, and take over from our shifts so we can get some sleep." The last word was uttered pointedly, with deliberate meaning.

"Message received and understood," Buffy replied, and carefully attempted to extract her hand from Angel's grip. This time she was met with success. "I'll go and get some now. But you will wake me if there's any change?"

"I promise," Joyce replied.


The bedrooms on the second floor were almost the same size as the one on the first, both equipped with ensuites, conveying the fact that the mansion had been occupied at one time by humans before being forced to endure vampire habitation.

Buffy chose the one which lay situated above the room Angel was recovering in below. She underwent her ablutions then divested herself of her clothes, before covering herself in the sumptuous duvet. As she closed her eyes, her thoughts focused on the dream she had awoken from, wondering why she would dream that she knew Angel before he became a vampire. Perhaps because she wished, never for her own sake, but for his, that something would make him human, ending the suffering she believed his soul did not deserve. Yet that did not explain her imagination depicting him as the drunken, whoring, wayward son, feared by the domestics and treated with contempt by his father. The last illusion to such a description had been from her previous dreams, the one she dreamed the night after she returned to Sunnydale, at Giles' apartment. At time she had distrusted the demon's judgement on Angel's human past, but obviously a part of her had chosen to believe Angelus' cruel words. Clearly her subconscious was expecting her to learn something from these dreams, however indistinct their symbolism appeared.

And the only way to gain a clue to their meaning, was if she continued to experience more of them.

With this resolve in her mind, she closed her eyes.

 


This time she was not a servant. Instead her clothes were made of richer materials, corseted tight and revealing, with her blond hair caught up in an elaborate confection of curls and ringlets. Her gaze was not on her appearance, for somehow she knew she was designed to be seductive and beautiful, but on a brawl taking place in front of her.

"Who is he?" She asked a passing tavern maid. Her voice was cultured in tone, referring to a pedigree and elegant breeding

"Who, that one?" the maid indicated the victor, who was presently taking a drink from his tankard of ale before returning to the brawl.

"Yes," she heard herself confirm. "He's magnificent."

"Oh, yeah, God's gift, alright," the maid agreed.

"Really?" she heard herself query. "I've never known God to be so generous."

"Oh, his lies sound pretty when the stars are out," the maid remarked. "But he forgets every promise he's made when the sun comes up again."

She returned the smile he sent her. "That wouldn't really be a problem for me actually," she heard herself utter to the maid.

She watched him walk towards her, but someone broke a bottle over his head, causing him to return to his fight. Knowing she had captured his interest, she left the tavern, walking into the darken streets, waiting for him to join her in the alley.

It did not take long. He strode confidently towards her, obviously drunk, but a great deal sober than he had seemed before.

"So, I ask myself, what's a lady of your station doing alone in an alley with the reputation that this one has?" He remarked.

"Maybe she's lonely," she heard herself reply.

"In that case, I'd offer myself as escort to protect you from harm and to while away the dull hours," he continued.

"You're very gracious," she heard herself say.

"Hm. It's often been said," he agreed.

She turned to face him. "Are you certain you're up to the challenge?" she asked.

He advanced closer to her. "Milady, you'll find that with the exception of an honest day's work, there's no challenge I'm not prepared to face." He came to a halt just before her gown. "Oh... But you're a pretty thing. Where are you from?"

She felt herself smile. "Around. Everywhere."

"I never been anywhere myself," he informed her. "Always wanted to see the world, but..."

"I could show you," she heard herself offer.

"Could you, then?" he asked.

"Things you've never seen, never even heard of," she added.

"Sounds exciting," he decided.

"It is," she heard herself agree. "And frightening."

"I'm not afraid," he assured her. "Show me. Show me your world."

"Close your eyes," she heard herself say, and when he did, she watched her hand place itself on his shoulder. She felt her forehead crease into hard ridges, and a growl come from deep within her throat. She saw herself bite into his neck, hearing him gasp from the shock and the pain. She felt herself let go of his neck, to stand before him. Her eyes were upon him as she put a slender finger to her heaving chest and scratched away the skin to reveal a thin trickle of blood. She felt herself taken him by the neck and press his mouth to the wound, forcing him to taste her blood as she had just tasted his.
As he surrendered, she closed her eyes in pleasure.


Buffy woke up gasping. With a rush she sat up in the bed, gathering her legs towards her, resting her head on them for support as she attempted to comprehend what she had dreamed. There was no doubt in her mind now that she was definitely dreaming about Angel's past. It had to be a product of the slayer within her, for he had been reluctant to tell her anything of his origins. She felt shocked by the vividness of it. Everything, from the detail of her surroundings to the feel of the gown she had worn appeared astonishingly real to her senses and mind. And yet she had experienced a certain detachment from the scene, as though she had little control in what she was saying or doing.

She wished she could verify the truth of this dream, and the one before it, but there was no way to do so, for she doubted the Watcher's or slayer's diaries contained a eye witness account. There was only one person still existing who knew the truth, and he was lying in the bedroom on the floor below her, his conscious probably still too traumatised to satisfy any of her questions.

Dressing in the clothes she had worn the day before, she made her way down stairs to that bedroom, where she found Oz and Giles in attendance. Both looked up at her entrance, the former putting the spoon he had been holding to Angel's mouth back in the gently steaming ceramic mug his other hand held.

"I thought we best try to get some...... nourishment into him," Giles informed her as she entered the room.

"Everyone else is resting downstairs," Oz added, as she joined him at the beside. He handed her the mug, and she turned her gaze to Angel.

His eyes were open, their gaze trained on the silver spoon end they could see sticking out of the ceramic. Understanding the silent focus, she took it out and carefully placed a teaspoon of blood before his lips. His delicate, tentative consumption was such a contrast to the dream's depiction of his first time. She forced the images away from her mind's eyes, and directed it's attention on him. He seemed more aware of his surroundings than before, yet still too afraid to speak or move, or take control, lest the reality was destroyed as a consequence.

Silently she continued to offer him spoon after spoon of blood, until the mug was drained of it's contents, whereupon she set it aside on the nearby beside table. His eyes watched its journey, then abruptly fixed themselves on her. She returned the deep, penetrating stare, trying to determine the nature of his being from it just as surely as he seemed to be doing with his.

"Angel?" She asked even before she was aware of her lips moving to form the word.

He continued to gaze into her eyes, perhaps waiting for more.

"Do you know where you are?" She asked softly. She wanted to ask if he knew who she was, but she feared the reply.

Solemnly he shook his head.

"You're in the Mansion on Crawford Street, in Sunnydale," she softly revealed to him. "You were returned here almost two nights ago." She paused, reluctant to ask this next question, but knowing she must. "Do you know where you were?"

He nodded. "Hell," he whispered, and despite herself, it was a relief to hear his voice.

"Yes," she confirmed, "but you're not anymore. You're back in my freaky world," she added, hesitantly smiling at him.

"I'm the one thing which makes sense to you," he uttered, and she gasped, realising that he remembered that moment when she told him those very words, and that this would be a sign to his impending recovery.

"That's right," she uttered, reaching out to stroke his face. This time he leaned into her touch, allowing her to caress him back to sleep. When his eyes were closed, she leaned down and gently bestowed a kiss on his no longer fever temple, before turning to her watcher.

"Yes, Buffy, I think we can be hopeful that he's over the worse of it," Giles assured her, anticipating her question.

"Thank you, Giles," she uttered. "I'll take over now. I think I've had enough sleep to last me for a while."

"Why, what's wrong?" He asked.

"Nothing, just more dreams." She shook her head, dismissing any further enquiry.

Giles gestured to Oz, and they left her to it.

Buffy sat in the chair by the bed which had been placed their sometime during her absence. Her gaze drifted over Angel as he lay sleeping before her, while her mind dwelt on all which had just occurred. She had not expected such a sign to recovery so soon. Not after his condition when he arrived, and her experiences of different dimensions. If she had not fought her way out, she would have been left an old woman, aged a hundred years in a single day. She had no idea if the hell she consigned him to underwent the same time variation, but even if it did not, those three months of likely continued torture, would have been enough to traumatised him for life.

Instead he had survived. Once more he had proved wrong those who thought he wasn't strong enough in mind and body to endure the horrors inflicted and come through them triumphantly. She felt proud of him, pleased for him, but above all, she loved him as much she had before she sent him to hell, perhaps even more.

She wondered what he thought of her, aside from his recollection of her words to him when he proposed a skating trip one night in her bedroom. She longed to ask him whether or not he blamed her for what she did. Whether still loved her, and was willing to resume their relationship. She knew now, as before, that she could not choose someone else over him, that she would love only him and no one else, even if he told her otherwise. She hoped he would never do so.

Repositioning her posture, she gently took his hand in hers, watching him sleep, for the first time, hopeful about what the future might bring.


Within Angel's sleeping world, his subconscious silently attempted to acclimatise him to his new world. He knew that his senses were not deceiving him, that he was not imagining himself back in the real world, while his body was still undergoing torture in hell. Even now, a part of him could still feel the pain the weapons the torturers used to inflict on him, hear their mocking laughter produced by his suffering. Yet he also knew that it was only a memory, that it would soon fade into such, gradually losing the power which it presently held over him.

Resolution now settled within his mind, he turned his thoughts to her, the girl who his vampiric senses could feel sitting by his bed, clasping his hand in hers. The girl whom he had fallen in love with from the first moment he laid eyes on her. The girl who was the slayer. He wondered what she thought of him. He remembered now what he had forgot before, what the demon had done to her in return for union of their love. He had betrayed her, abused her, forced her to kill him, and yet she remained, watching over him. Caring for him. Loving him.

He doubted whether he deserved such love, even though he craved it and was glad of it.

Perhaps only time would tell. He had been granted a reprieve, an escape from the hell his demon's desire to inflict Armageddon had consigned him to. He had to ensure such a thing never happened again. To do that would limit whatever relationship he might now have with her, if she still wanted one. Could he let her accept that limit, could he live with himself for enforcing it upon them? He didn't know. But he knew that it had to be done, if he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

These resolves now fixed in his mind, he let himself return to a deeper sleep, one of healing and recovery. She needed him to be strong when she felt weak, he had known that from the beginning. There was no telling when the next danger would come, or from where, and it was important that he was as prepared for it as herself.

His mind relaxed into memories, recalling up a scene for him to dream of while he slept. The memory was old, or young, if one counted as a part of the life he spent in nothingness, while the demon controlled his body. Whether it was part of the curse or part of the vampiric state, he did not know, but he remembered the scene with too much detail to accept that he was not present when it occurred.

He was back in Ireland, eighty-five years after Darla had sired him. She was at the hotel where they had booked their rooms, most likely dining off the manager, to ensure that their occupation of the suite what not questioned. He waited in an alleyway off one of the main streets, watching the Dubliners pass him by, trudging through the snow, dressed warmly in preparation for the remainder of winter ahead of them.

One man hurrying along the street caught his eye. He seemed concerned with the possibility that someone was following him, as he continued to take glances behind him, searching for a sign to confirm his suspicions.

Angel felt his demon smile evilly, then grab this man, snatching from the busy street into the darkness of the alleyway, throwing him upon the snow-covered cobblestones.

The man rolled over, looking up to see who attacked him.

"Daniel," Angel heard his demon say. "Where were you going?"

"You!" Daniel cried. "You're not human."

His demon nodded in agreement. "Not of late, no."

"Wh-what do you want?" Daniel asked fearfully.

"Well, it happens that I'm hungry, Daniel, and seeing as that you're somewhat in me debt..." Angelus let the sentence fade into deadly silence.

"Please, I can't!" Daniel begged, frightened.

"A man playing at cards should have a natural intelligence or a great deal of money, and you're sadly lacking in both," Angel heard his demon advise.

Daniel rose with a rush to his feet and attempted to run away, but Angelus was too fast for him, and grabbed him, holding his body against his chest.

"So I take me winnings me own way," his demon finished, adjusting the man's head to gain better access to his neck.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," Daniel began, reciting the palm in hopeful plea. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."

Angelus could never stand biblical references. "Daniel, be of good cheer. It's Christmas!" He cried before placing his mouth on the man's neck, sinking in his fangs below the skin, draining the man's blood.


Angel woke from the dream with a shock, to find that he was back in the bedroom of Crawford Mansion. Sitting up, he gathered his legs to his chest, and cast a glance round the room. One of the less dubious blessings of his vampire symbiosis was an ability to see in the dark, which helped as the room was bathed in such nocturnal settings. His eyes defined the shape of the bed in which he lay, the small three drawer chests either side of it, the black curtains covering the window, in preparation to shield him from the eventual dawn.

He found his beloved girl sleeping in the chair across from his bed, curled against the back, a feat of slayer ability combined with gymnastic talent. For a moment he gazed at the scene, wondering of what she dreamed, while his body calmed down from the violent end to the sleep he had just awoken from.

Feeling more like himself than he had done since before his demon consigned him to hell, Angel decided to rise, and change into the clothes he saw lying on the bed for just such an occasion. When he was dressed, he turned back to his beloved, and with the greatest care, gentleness and tenderness, he lifted her from the chair to place her beneath the duvet of the bed. Leaning over her, he bestowed a breath-like kiss to her brow, before leaving the room.

He found the double height living room devoid of occupants, for he knew,- another less dubious blessing of his vampiric symbiosis, -that the rest of the slayerettes, including Giles and his beloved girl's mother, were somewhere about the mansion.

Silently he cleared a space for himself away from the windows and doors, before sinking into the movements of Tai Chi. It was a discipline which he had acquired after he was cursed, finding the moments beneficial to both his body and his mind. It reordered them, adjusting himself to the symbiotic relationship which existed between his soul and the demon within, forcing the latter to accept the former's reign over the body they both resided in, achieving a state with which to live by.

He went through the excises one by one, until his senses became aware that he was no longer alone, whereupon he brought his arms down in front of him into a position of prayer, before opening his eyes and fixing their gaze on his beloved girl.

She advanced hesitantly towards him. "I'm sorry."

He had not expected her to say that. "It wasn't your fault," he tried to assure her. "It was mine. You did what you had to do. I'm proud of you. If anyone is to blame, it is me, for losing myself within you."

As he uttered the last sentence, he saw someone emerge from the shadows to join them. To his surprise and his horror, it seemed to be the man his demon had drained the life of in his dream.

His beloved girl shook her head at him. ""I can't accept that. You weren't to know your curse had a clause," she replied, before taking another step towards him. "What happens now?" She asked, yet not to him, but in the direction of the man behind her.

Angel could not answer. He could stare at the two of them, wondering what new torment his torturers had decided to visit upon him now he thought that he was free from their grasp.


She was hurrying along a street, glancing behind her, worried that the people who she had been gambling with were following her in an effort to claim the money his defeat granted them right to. Such an event was impossible, for she had no money. Nor did anyone seem to be following her. Everyone around her were too concerned with what to purchase for the forthcoming festival to worry about one man who could not honour his debts.

Suddenly she felt herself being snatched away from the busy street into the darkness of an alleyway, before being thrown upon snow-covered cobblestones. She rolled over to see who had attacked her, to find a human with deep, hard forehead ridges and white glistening fangs, looming over her.

"Daniel," this demon said to her. "Where were you going?"

"You!" She heard herself cry. "You're not human."

Her attacker nodded in agreement. "Not of late, no."

"Wh-what do you want?" she heard herself asked fearfully.

"Well, it happens that I'm hungry, Daniel, and seeing as that you're somewhat in me debt..." her aggressor let the sentence fade into deadly silence.

"Please, I can't!" she heard herself beg, frightened.

"A man playing at cards should have a natural intelligence or a great deal of money, and you're sadly lacking in both," this demon advised.

She felt herself rise with a rush to her feet and attempt to run away, but her attacker was too fast for her, and grabbed her, holding her body against his chest.

"So I take me winnings me own way," the demon finished, adjusting the her head to gain better access to her neck.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," she heard herself recite a palm in hopeful plea. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."

Her attacker had no time from such biblical references. "Daniel, be of good cheer. It's Christmas!" He cried before placing his mouth on her neck, sinking in his fangs below the skin, draining her blood.

To Be Continued In
The Power of Souls.

Chapter Text

Author's note: This is a rewrite of Amends, which I decided to do to lengthen this episode, and because I felt it needed to be done immediately after Angel's return, because that is when he is the most vulnerable. It also fits nicely into the dream sequence them with which I began this series. Additionally, I rewrote the ending so episodes five and six follow on better. Enjoy.


the power of souls.

Buffy woke from her disturbing dream to find herself not asleep in the chair as she assumed, but in the bed which said piece of furniture was placed beside. Evidently, during her surrender to exhaustion, her beloved had woken to discover her condition and in his usual fashion, lifted her from the chair and placed her where he had been sleeping, to prevent the possibility of stiffness caused by spending the nocturnal hours in an rigid upright position. It was also another sign that he was nearer to full recovery than she or the others realised.

Smiling to herself at the amount of symbolism she read into one gesture, she rose from the bed and walked out of the room to discover her beloved's whereabouts. She soon found him on the ground floor, within the large double-height living room. At first he was unaware of her arrival, absorbed within the methods of exercise, a form of Tai Chi. She had not realised that he was familiar with such ancient and exotic practises, yet there was so much she did not know about him. That would have to change, she mused to herself as she watched him, marvelling over the grace, fluidity and elegance of his movements.

His demon senses soon became aware of her, and he turned, bringing his hands to a position of prayer, essentially concluding the exercise. She stepped into the relative artificial light of the room, the natural having been barred from entering by the black blinds installed when the vampires moved in months ago, advancing hesitantly towards him. Uncertain how to begin the talk between them, yet knowing that it must be done, she softly uttered two starting words. "I'm sorry."

By the expression on his face, it seemed that he had not expected her to apologise. "It wasn't your fault," he replied. "It was mine. You did what you had to do. I'm proud of you. If anyone is to blame, it is me, for losing myself within you."

Buffy shook her head. "I can't accept that. You weren't to know your curse had a clause," she said, taking another step towards him. As she did so, she noticed another rival, someone entering the mansion through the front door, parting the black curtains which hung before it, protecting those occupants within from the deadly rays of the sunlight. Recognising him, she addressed her next words to this new arrival. "What happens now?"

To her surprise, Angel seemed almost horrified that someone else was with them, for he seemed to stare at her nervously, before turning round and noticing the visitor.

"I must be getting rusty in my old age," he remarked, adopting a position of casualness as he took in the new arrival. "I thought vampires were able to sense demons."

"Its nice to see you back among the land of the unliving," Whistler replied, walking further inside. "Especially since I had to pull a lot strings to put you so."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, placing her hands on her hips, the primitive rising within her, ready to fly at one who was threatening her mate.

Whistler chose not to answer immediately, casting an eye about the room. "Nice," he uttered admiringly. "Much better than anything I've seen both of you in recently, even if neither of you were aware of my presence. But to resume my reasons for visiting. The Powers That Be are not happy with either of you. You," he pointed a finger at Angel, "were meant to protect her. Not fall in love. And you," he pointed at Buffy, "were not meant to get side tracked from your destiny and guardianship of the hellmouth by tall, dark and mysterious souled vampires."

"Yeah, well why didn't you take that possibility into account?" Buffy retorted, annoyed by his lecturing tone.

"They counted on you two having a modicum of good sense." Whistler responded pointedly, as he sat down on one of the sofa. "Needless to say however, I managed to talk them out of their anger. But this is your one and only deal. No more chances. So listen well. Your curse no longer has any clause. Courtesy of one well-meaning, anxious to redeem herself, gypsy and an amateur witch. Your keeping it comes at a price. No more slip ups. You two are welcome to have a relationship, as long as it doesn't get in the way of his redemption and your slaying."

Whistler paused, waiting for Angel take his words in, then answering before his old friend had a chance to ask the question. "Yes, your redemption. The Powers were reluctant to give you a second chance, but I managed to remind them that you can't control your demon, and that the Romany never bothered to tell you about the clause. I also added that I thought it was rather stupid on their part to insert conditions into curses on a vampire, but that's beside the point. I then reminded them about the upcoming big bad that's due to make their move, as well as several other troubles which they have the ability to foresee. Otherwise you wouldn't have stood a chance. So survive that with your soul still in tact and they'll consider granting you your reward. In other words, start talking." He rose up and walked out, leaving two dumbfounded warriors behind him.

Buffy and Angel stared at the door for what seemed to both of them to be some time before turning to face each other. Quietly they moved from standing to sit upon the sofas, facing each other. Where should they begin, each one silently wondered within themselves. It was confusing. Both of them had imagined that their reunion would be so easy; falling into each other's arms, avowing their love by touch and words, and somehow everything which caused their relationship to flounder last year would whither and die. But the reality of course was much more difficult. Memories of what occurred last year still haunted them, causing both to retain the guilt and thought that they were responsible for what happened, despite Whistler's defence of them to the Powers That Be.

Which was why when they both spoke, it was to utter the same words. "I'm sorry," they said in unison. This momentary mutual confession caused them both to smile and chuckle slightly, before trying again.

"Buffy," Angel began hesitantly, "I want you to know that I never meant any of those words the demon said to you the morning after your birthday. That night was the most wonderful night of my life. And I know that may be hard to believe, but its true. Before I met you, before I became a vampire, I wasn't the man you see before you. I was a disgrace, both to my family and to myself. The rich playboy; the wayward prodigal son, too concerned with drink and lust to care about the future, about anything in fact."

He paused to glance at her, attempting to see how she was reacting to this before he continued. The quiet expression upon her face seem to convey to him acceptance and compassion, encouraging him to go on. "When I became a vampire, my desires altered little in their essentials. My demon was content to feed and lust wherever he could, though now he focused those desires on the demon who sired him. Together we toured the world, leaving massacres and destruction within our wake. Until we arrived in Romania."

He grimaced at the memory, even now that it was over a century old. "Darla presented me with a gift, though, if she could look back on that moment now, I'm sure she would think differently. A gypsy girl, the prize of her clan, captured by her for me to take. As usual, my demon had more grand ideas. He was not content with just feeding on one, he wanted the entire tribe. Darla was only too happy to encourage that desire. Neither of them realised that it was to be their undoing." He paused here again, checking her expression, for he knew the subject of Darla was a difficult one between them, despite the fact that he had slayed her almost two years ago.

Still his beloved's expression lay unchanged, however. "You know what happened then. We; Darla, myself, Spike and Dru, feasted on the Kalderash until there were only a few left. Until they discovered that the Elders of the clan had restored my soul to me. After that, things were never quite the same. I was barely aware of who I was. I felt lost and confused, and, above all, overwhelmed with guilt and horror at what my demon had done.

"Darla didn't want to lose the demon who she had spent over a century with, and was determined to make sure that my soul did not start to rule my demon. But the mere idea of draining the blood of a human being was revolting to me. I did all I could to avoid it, and to make sure she didn't find out that I wasn't the evil being she loved. However, discovery was inevitable. The four of us arrived in China, just in time for the riots caused by the Boxer rebellion. Spike and Dru were crowing over the two of us, for he had killed his first slayer. Darla meanwhile, had learned that I saved a missionary family from her. She banished me from her sight.

"For the next years, I lived like a tramp; feeding off rats and what other animals I could find on the streets. I lost all care for my existence; if I wasn't such a coward, I would have killed myself. But then Whistler found me. I don't know how he came to learn of my existence, or that I would be in that alley when I was. He found me, and basically told me to wake up and get a grip. That if I gave myself a chance, I could make a difference. I could evolve into someone who mattered. He took me to the steps of your school, and I watched as you were called, slayed your first vampire, then returned home.

"As you looked at yourself in the mirror, something came over me. I was filled with a desire to help you, to protect you from what horrors I could. In short, you were my queen, and I was ready to be your knight." He felt his skin attempt to blush at these words.

"Looking back on that moment, I was lucky that Whistler didn't toss me back out on to the streets. I think he knew immediately that I had fallen in love with you from the moment I saw you, but that didn't seem to stop him from rehabilitating me into someone who could help you. He helped me regain myself, until you moved here, whereupon he sent me to help you out. I didn't realise that I would have to face my own demons as well as yours. And I didn't think for one moment that you would ever love me back. That was why I always tried to protect you from knowing everything about me. I was afraid that once you knew the truth you would hate and despise me as much as Darla and my family had done. I didn't think such a decision would destroy us anyway."

He seemed to reach the end of his thoughts here, clasping his hands in anxious silence, waiting for her to say something. But she couldn't. Not immediately. She was still awed by the depth of his words, by the almost full confession she had just received. It was the most she had ever learned of his life from his lips. Often she had hoped he felt this way, but never truly believed it until now. He was the best man she had ever known.

What she had done to deserve Whistler's matchmaking of the two of them she didn't know, but she was determined not to let them destroy whatever future they might now have a second time. "I don't think that destroyed us," she uttered. "Although it was part of the difficulties between us. I'm not blaming you when I say this, I still blame myself if I'm honest, but we shouldn't have made love when we did. Neither of us were ready for it, even if your soul hadn't been in jeopardy. We rushed into our relationship because we were both worried that we would never have enough time to enjoy each moment as it came, and that rushing caused our entire world to come crashing down around us." She paused, before adding softly, "if we are to resume such a relationship, it should be started from scratch."

Angel wasn't sure if he was meant to hear those last words, but his hearing caught them all the same. Looking into her beautiful fine eyes, he picked up the thread of conversation. "Buffy, that night was not your fault. Neither of us were aware that such act would cause me to lose my soul. If we had been, I would have held back until we could find someone to change my curse, or failing that asking you to chain me to the bed before fetching a witch and an orb of Thesulah." She saw her smile at that, and he felt emboldened enough to return the gesture before continuing. "However, though I'm glad that I can never lose my soul again, I'm not sure if we should be together."

"Oh," Buffy uttered, disappointed. "Why not?"

"Because I don't want to see you hurt."

"And what do you think will hurt me?" Buffy countered. "You? Your past? Angel, you've just told me a short summary of it, and some, I think that part of the slayer which controls my dreams has let me learn a few details recently. And I'm not hurt by it. I know you had to have a past before me, I'd be pretty stupid if I thought a two hundred and forty-five year old vampire, twenty-six year old man, just came into being purely for me. I know there are some things in that past which you're ashamed of, but you have to learn to accept them, otherwise it will always come between us. There are things in my past which I'm ashamed of, and I worry about you or my friends knowing, but I don't ignore them. I haven't learnt to deal with all of them, but I don't think anybody can until they feel that they're ready to do so. And this is beside the point. Whistler has just told us that we've been given a second chance. I want it. Do you?"

Angel saw the stubborn determination in her eyes, and knew that he could not lie to her. "I want it too. But there are certain difficulties to our relationship that we can't ignore, aside from my soul."

"Your soul is permanent, Angel," Buffy reminded him. "What else is stopping us?"

"My immortality, the sunlight issue, children...." He felt he should list more, all the things he wanted her to have, but she put a finger to his lips, preventing him.

"Stop," she commanded. "Firstly, your immortality does have it limits and realistically, I'm not going to reach an age where that might become a problem anyway. Secondly, not seeing you in the sunlight is something I can and do cope without, because it makes the time that we can have together all the more enjoyable. And if it's possible to curse a vampire with a soul surely it's not impossible to give them an immunity to sunlight. And lastly, I don't want children."

He couldn't help smiling at her arguments. "Buffy, you say that now, but...." He stopped as he was cut off once again.

"No. I thought a lot about that after you told me that you can't and I realised that unless I can have them with you, I don't want them. Plus I'm the slayer, hardly a reliable mother for them, because I won't live long enough to see them grow up, even if I was lucky enough to survive the pregnancy with demons and vamps hunting me all the time. And I don't want to bring children into a world like this. Now," she began afresh, searching his face for any other objections, "anything else?"

Angel gazed at her in awe. "I don't deserve you." At this her face paled in frustration, until he uttered his next words. "But I will try to make you forget that often."

Buffy smiled and willingly met his lips for a kiss. They still had things to talk about, things about his time in hell, about the night of her seventeenth birthday, about how far their relationship was going to go from now on, and about his redemption. But for the moment, none of that mattered. The only important thing right now, was that they had a chance.

 



The rest of the Scooby gang rose more less at the same
time an hour or so later. The sight that accosted them was nothing that they had
expected to see, but then again, things in Sunnydale were unpredictable at the
best of times, now was not any different. What they saw was the slayer and ensouled
vampire seated as closely as possible without actually touching, quietly talking
between themselves. Last night, none of them had been willing to bet that this
would be the result after only one night of seemingly uninterrupted sleep undisturbed
by intelligible mutterings, agonising groans, and frightened tears. But not one
could deny that they were relieved by it.

Buffy and Angel turned away from each other as the slayerettes advanced into the artificial light surrounding the sofas, and ceased their conversation.

"Hey Angel," Willow uttered in hopeful greeting.

"Hello Willow." He replied to the delight of all.

"It's good to have you back in the land of the living," Xander remarked, much to the souled vampire's surprise.

"We're all glad to have you back," Giles declared as the six sat down around them. His slayer beamed happily in agreement.

Angel bowed his head in acknowledgement. "I don't deserve to be welcomed," he began quietly, "but thank you."

"Angel, for the nth time, it's not your fault," Buffy replied. "Even Whistler said that you can't control your demon."

"Whistler was here?" Giles queried.

"Buffy rapidly told the story of the visit. "He didn't mention exactly what this big bad was, but then neither of us had the sense to ask either."

"No, I imagine not." Giles paused as his mind began to wonder what the 'big bad' could possibly be. "However, we can assume that whatever this evil is, it's in the future, so I think you were right in choosing to focus on your relationship. I'm sure we'll be able to learn whatever it is before it strikes."

"Thank you," Buffy acknowledged gratefully. "Now, I was wondering, if you all wouldn't mind clearing out of here today, and leaving me and Angel alone. We still have things we need to talk about."

Giles glanced at the others, silently waiting for a nod of agreement from each, before he spoke for them all. "Of course, Buffy. You let us know when you two are ready for company again."

He rose from his seat and headed towards the door, followed by the others. Joyce seemed to hesitate before joining them, causing Buffy to rise also, following them to door. To her relief, her watcher noticed this hesitancy and hung back, just in case she needed his support.

"Mom, I know we need to sort things out, but if you'll forgive me, Angel's my priority right now. I don't want things to become messed up between us this time, neither does he. And in order for that to happen we need to talk."

Joyce seemed to glance at her for a long time, when in truth it cannot not have been more than a minute before she spoke. "I understand, Buffy, I do. I know you fear that I'm still harbouring some resentment over you not confiding in me about being the slayer. And I don't know what I can say to reassure you that I don't, not anymore. I still want what every mother wants for her children, but I also want you to be happy. And I've learned enough over the past few days to realise that being with Angel makes you happy. So you stay here and sort things out. I'll be at home when you're ready to return." She kissed her on the cheek then exited the mansion.

Buffy was touched by her mother's speech, so much so that it took some time before she noticed Giles paying her a silent nodding farewell, before leaving her and Angel to it. She turned back to find her beloved staring at her silently. "Penny for your thoughts," she remarked, joining him on the sofa.

"I was just marvelling at your mother. She's come a long way in accepting all of this."

She nodded in agreement. "I still can't believe it. But I have to try, to heal things between her and me, just as we have to try and move past last summer to continue our relationship." She took his hands in her own, and looked into his soulful brown eyes. "How do you suggest we go about that?"

"I think we begin by being honest with each other," Angel replied thoughtfully. "Telling each other about things which bother us, or worry us, we've kept secret from each other because we weren't sure how the other would react."

"I agree," Buffy concurred with a smile. "And I'll continue this day of confessional, by telling you about my summer after Acathla." And without further ado she told him everything that had happened to her during his absence, including, and in hindsight, perhaps most significantly, her strange dreams which she had been having.

"I dreamt that too," he uttered when she came to the end of her tale, finishing with an astonishingly detailed account of the dream she had experienced last night, in which his demon had called her Daniel and drained the life out of her. "And it wasn't a dream, Buffy. That was really a part of my past. Or I should say my demons' past. And then when you woke, and came down here to talk to me, when you asked Whistler what was going to happen, I thought you were asking Daniel."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, puzzled and concerned.

"I could see him, as clearly as I see you now."

"Then this can't be just dreams," Buffy realised, her concern rising. "There has to be something causing us to have them."

"What?" Angel asked. "I'm not even sure that's possible."

"I'll call Giles," Buffy decided, rising from the sofa to hunt out the phone one of the slayerettes had installed during Angel's 'convalescence.' "If something that has this ability to manipulate dreams does exist, then he's bound to know about it."

 


"Well, I agree that something could be causing you to experience the same dreams," Giles remarked after Buffy had finished telling him all she could. "And I'll get in researching this right away."

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy replied. "Anything we can do to help?"

"Well, ordinarily I wouldn't advise this, but I suggest that the both of you try and get some more sleep. Your next dream may reveal a clue as to the nature of whatever it is that is making you suffer like this. And we need as many as possible in order to learn who we're dealing with."

"Okay, I'll tell Angel," Buffy said, causing her beloved to look up at her from his place on the sofa. "And we'll call you if we learn anything more." She put the phone down and turned to her companion. "Giles says he'll look into it."

"And?" Angel prompted.

"And that we should get some sleep, try and learn more about it. He thinks if we experience more dreams, whatever it might reveal itself to us."

"Oh," Angel uttered, looking a little nervous. "Er, Buffy," he began after a pause. "I don't know how many of the bedrooms here have furniture and...." he trailed off, too embarrassed utter anything more.

She smiled at him. "It's alright. When you returned, everybody sorted out things like beds and the sofas you're siting on. They've all been really understanding and accepting. Even Xander. From I can gather Whistler visited them during our absence and whatever he said must have put the fear of the hellmouth into them, for they've not mentioned once any resentment that they might still harbour about us and what we did."

"I don't know what I can say about that," Angel remarked. "Except to say that I'm grateful for you."

"As am I, for you," Buffy returned. "Right, back to beds. Um, this is gonna sound odd, but could we share one? I know we discussed that neither of us are ready to sleep together as in the....." she searched for the word, blushing.

"Loving," Angel suggested, unable to help smiling at her.

"In the loving sense," Buffy continued. "but these dreams feel too disturbing to wake up afterwards alone. Would you mind?"

"Not at all," he assured her, rising from the sofa and walking over to take her hand. "I just hope I don't disturb you or anything."

"Well, I know you don't snore," she replied, reminding him of the first time they had shared a room, at her house.

"And I know that you look beautiful when you sleep," he uttered softly, letting one of his hands stroke her face.

Buffy smiled happily at the gesture and the compliment before boldly leading him upstairs to the master suite.


She was in her bedroom at the house she shared with her mother on Revello drive. She had been sleeping, only to awaken and discover that she was no longer alone.

He was there, siting before her on the bed. He held out his hand, and she moved one of her own to touch, palm to palm, as though they could kiss.

Fingers moulded themselves into a clasp as she sat up before him, and with infinite gentleness he drew her on to his lap and her lips into a kiss.

With her free hand she tugged at his shirt, and he parted from her briefly, helping her remove the item of clothing from his body.

A moment later he returned the favour, tenderly removing her pyjama top, revealing her bare skin.

They felt none of the nervousness each expected to feel, and nor were they confused or concerned as to a reason why. For thoughts of any kind were impossible to them at that moment in time. All they could do was live the moment, live the pleasurable sensations caused by their rising passion.

Lying in the bed, he rolled himself above her, continuing to caress and kiss, worship every part of her as she worshipped him. Their hands came together once more, and she opened her eyes, as if to reassure herself that this bliss would not end by such an action.

Suddenly, she saw they were not alone. Something was watching them. A sightless being, clothed in monastic attire, standing by the door.

Just as she finished taking in the knowledge of this intruder, her beloved grabbed her wrists hard, pining her down on the bed, while his mouth tore at the skin on her neck.

Savagely he drained the life out of her.

>>>>>>>>

Angel was the first to wake. He sat upright with a rush, shocked by what he had just dreamed of doing to his beloved. Gathering his knees to his chest, he glanced downwards, expecting to find her asleep beside him, unharmed.

Instead he found one of his demons' victims staring back at him.

"You want her?" She asked.

"No," Angel managed to say, though he was lying. Yes, he wanted her, but only when they were ready, not before.

"Take her," the victim said. "Take what you want. Pour all that frustration and all that guilt into her, and you'll be free."

Angel shook his head, not understanding what she was saying. "No."

"You can't live for eternity with all that pain. This is what you are. This is why we brought you back. Take her! And then you'll be ready to kill her."


Buffy woke just as she thought herself to be dying, a victim of Angelus' desires. She sat up in a rush, only to find Angel no longer beside her. Hastily she glanced round the room, and to her relief, found him crouched in a corner. However, her relief only lasted a moment as she realised he was shaking.

She rose from the bed and knelt before him. "Angel, I'm still alive," she began, reaching out to take one of his shaking hands in her own. "You still have your soul. You can't lose it, remember, Jenny made it so."

"Jenny," he murmured, suddenly seeming to fix his gaze on her, realising his current surroundings. "She was here."

"What?" Buffy queried, puzzled. "How can that be?"

"I don't know," he answered, a little more calmly. "It was her and yet not her. It looked like her, it had her voice, but the words it said, they weren't hers."

"What was it saying to you?" Buffy asked him.

"It told me to take you. To pour all my guilt and frustration into you and by doing so I would be free. It said that was why they brought me back. And it said that then I'll be ready to kill you."

"Angel, whatever this thing is, it did not bring you back," Buffy attempted to reassure him. "I know what brought you back, I placed it on the very spot you landed on," she added, causing him to look at her curiously, silently wondering. Oblivious, she continued. "And it's manipulating you into destroying me by destroying yourself. What it doesn't realise though is that you can't lose your soul in me. Which gives us the advantage."

He watched her as she stood up and walked over to the chair where her clothes were placed some hours before. Unconcerned about privacy, she let the silken bed sheet fall from around her chest, revealing the underwear she had slept in, and rapidly put her clothes back on. She tied her hair with a band, then turned back to him. "Get dressed. I'm gonna go and call Giles, tell him about the sightless priest I saw in my dream. I'm sure that's a clue as to who is behind all of this."

She walked over to him, dealt him a swift but tender kiss to his temple, before leaving the bedroom. He couldn't help but smile at her actions. In a short space of time her whirlwind approach had been enough to soothe some, if not all of his worries about the symbolism behind the dream, and to reawaken the confidence within him that the precious piece of platinum he still kept close to him was responsible in returning him to this world and to her. Rising from the floor, he let the sheet covering him drop to the floor before getting dressed as well.

 


"I've found some letters," Giles said to them when they entered the library a half hour or so later, night having fallen since their sleeping investigation. "They contain references to an ancient power known as The First."

"First what?" Buffy asked.

"Evil," Giles replied. "Absolute evil, older than man, than demons."

The slayer glanced at the letters scattered on the table before them, and picked up one which contained the sketch of a familiar, sightless form. "I saw them in my dream. Who are these guys?"

"They're known as the Bringers or Harbingers. They're high priests of The First. They, can conjure spirit manifestations and set them on people, influence them, haunt them."

"So these are what you've been seeing," Buffy realised, turning to Angel, who hesitantly nodded in agreement. "How do we fight the First?" She asked her watcher.

"You can't fight The First, Buffy. It's not a physical being."

"Well, we can fight these priest guys," Buffy decided. "And by we, I mean you as well," she added, glancing at Angel. "This is your battle, just as much as mind. If we want us to work, we have to do this together."

"I agree, my love," Angel uttered. "But how do we find these Bringers?"

"I did find one passage," Giles said, grabbing a book off the table. " 'For they are the Harbingers of death. Nothing shall grow above or below them. No seed shall flower, neither in man nor...' the author, Lucious Temple, was into posturing as you may have gathered. Anyway he finishes with, 'They're rebels and they'll never ever be any good.' Nothing specific about their haunts."

"'Nothing shall grow above or below...'" Buffy trailed off, lost in thought. Then she looked at her watcher. "Has there been any reports recently about crops or flowers or trees, or anything for that matter, dying mysteriously?"

Giles walked over to the computer where he hesitantly typed in some words to the search engine. Since the sudden death of the woman he loved, he had tried to learn what she could do with a computer, accepting the possibility that one day it might help him and the slayer he loved like a daughter.

In a few moments he found what they were looking for. "Ah. There's an article here about some Douglas fir trees dying in unexplained circumstances. They were part of a crop planted in preparation for Christmas."

"Perfect," Buffy uttered before grabbing some nearby weapons.


Half an hour later Angel's car pulled up at the lot where the trees were growing. Surprisingly his black, 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible had managed to survive the storage oblivion his demon had consigned it to, and was still safely hidden near his old apartment. After they left the library he had led his beloved to it's parking lot and now he parked the vehicle in front of the trees they were looking for.

Buffy kicked open the gate and marched towards the trees, casting about until her keen eyes spotted six dead specimens arranged in a circle. Gripping the axe she had brought with her, she swung it at the ground until the weapon broke the soil below them.

Descending into the cave below, they discovered large amounts of candles, their tallows dancing in the slight breeze caused by their entrance. Cautiously they advanced further into the cave, in the direction of a sound coming from ahead.

They had not travelled very far where they found a six sightless priests chanting around a table. Motioning to Angel silently, they formed attack stances, preparing to announce their presence.

"Alright, ten more minutes of chanting and then you guys have to go to bed," Buffy mocked, causing the priests to stand. She swung the handle of her axe into one's stomach, causing the priest collapse to the floor.

Beside her Angel swung his own weapon into another, who doubled over, and then struck his head, causing him to be down and out for the count too.

The slayer smashed the artefacts on the table, and then suddenly the remaining priests were gone, and in their place stood Jenny Calendar.

Or at least what looked like Jenny Calendar. Thanks to the senses of the primitive within her however, Buffy could tell that it must be the First.

"I'm impressed," it uttered. "And disappointed in you," it added, looking at Angel.

"You won't get him," Buffy remarked defiantly. "He's a good man, the best I have ever known. And his soul is permanent, thanks to the soul whose appearance you've assumed to try and torture us with."

The First did not seem in the least cowed by her words. "You think you can fight me? I'm not a demon, little girl. I am something that you can't even conceive. The First Evil. Beyond sin, beyond death. I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me, but I am everywhere. Every being, every thought, every drop of hate."

"Alright, I get it," Buffy interrupted. "You're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?"

"You have no idea what you're dealing with," It added.

"Let me guess," Buffy's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Is it... evil?" She smiled. "You can't win, First. Angel's soul is permanent. No one can take it away from him this time around. Not even you."

"Watch your tongue, little girl," It remarked. "You haven't seen the last of me."

Suddenly the First's illusion of itself shrunk, transforming itself into a huge horned and clawed beast, with roaring sounds coming from it's mouth, and eyes which glowed a deadly red. It faded as quickly as it had appeared, causing the warriors to glance at each other in shock at what they had just witnessed.


Buffy and Angel returned to the library of Sunnydale High in a reflective mood. After relating all they could concerning the slaying of three of the Bringers and their brief encounter with the First itself,- withholding whose form it had taken to spare the watcher pain, -they saw Giles off the premises, with the assurance that they would lock up, the just needed to put the weapons away first. Tired due to the hours of heavy research on the First, Giles left for his apartment without any questions.

So no one was able to notice or query when an expensive sports car and slightly cheaper classic all American van drove into the school's parking lot, their drivers storing them in the places reserved for pupils.

Inside the Library the slayer waited for her friends to enter the room and take their seats before she told them why she had called them here.

"There's someone missing from our group," Buffy began. "We need to find a way to bring her back."

The End.
Continued In...

In Her Name: A Need To Atone.

Chapter Text

Author's note: Angel's challenge comes from the episode 'The Trial' from Angel, Season Two. I have given Buffy and Joyce a chance to bond, while lessening the importance of the Homecoming competition, as I'm delaying Faith and Trick's arrivals. Enjoy.


In Her Name: Part I.
A Need To Atone.

Angel emerged from the stairway hall of the Crawford Street mansion, a large satchel attached to him via a shoulder strap, and turned to face his beloved's mournful gaze. "I have to do this, Buffy."

"But it's a week!"

Angel sighed and stepped towards her. "I will be okay," he assured her.

"We don't know that," Buffy sadly pointed out to him. "I know its the only way, but I'm annoyed that a; I can't come with you, and b; that its certain death if you fail."

Angel cleared the space between them and pulled her into his arms. "I won't fail. We both researched this," he reminded her. "This was the only way we could find." He dealt a reverent kiss to her hair. "We were lucky to find a way at all."

"I think that Whistler had a hand in it," Buffy mused, leaning her head on Angel's chest. "Willow told me that while he visited them, he mentioned that he would ask if she was needed."

"Then this was the only way he could get," Angel concluded for her.

"He doesn't like our lives to be simple, does he?" Buffy commented rhetorically.

"Perhaps the Powers don't," Angel pointed out. "He did say that he had to pull a lot of strings to get me back."

Buffy sighed again. "I can see why you two are friends now. He's just as cryptic as you."

Angel leaned back so he could see her face. "I thought I'd got over that."

"You have, and believe me, I'm very grateful for it," Buffy reassured him.

It had been a fortnight since their reunion and already both felt that they were a lot closer and a lot more secure than they had been before her fateful seventeenth birthday. This was due to number of resolutions that they had made in order to prevent any misunderstandings that could lead to a rift. The first was to be completely honest with each other about everything. Any fears that one had, the other would know, thus preventing any further insecurities between them. Second was to tell each other about their pasts, the resolution that Buffy most enjoyed, for it enabled her to learn more about her boyfriend than she could ever hope to know, as the Watcher diaries only referred to the demon and not the soul. Angel had been concerned at first, afraid that Buffy would turn away from him when she learnt of his drunken rebellious human years, but that fear turned to relief when she did not. The result was a greater ease with each other than they had ever known.

Their third resolution was a more unconscious decision on their parts; to not yet repeat their actions on the night of her seventeenth. Angel wanted to wait for the right moment once more, and Buffy, the memory of Angelus' words still fresh in her mind, preferred for him to make the first move.

Despite this however, their relationship was more secure than it ever had been. Now though they were to face their first test; temporary separation. Angel was to be in Los Angeles for a week, on a research pilgrimage of sorts.

The ensouled vampire in question dealt another kiss to the slayer's hair, leaned back and kissed her lips devotedly. A long minute later they reluctantly released each other and walked from the living room to the door.

"I promise to be back for Homecoming," Angel uttered in farewell. "Love you."

"The feelings mutual. Stay safe."

"You too."


Pupils poured out of classrooms as the bell rang for lunch at Sunnydale High.

"So he got away okay?" Willow asked her friend as she joined her for the first time that day, both having been in separate classes all morning.

"Yeah," the slayer replied mournfully. "I'm missing him already."

"Missing who?" Xander queried as he and Cordelia joined them. "No, wait, I know. What I am wondering is how long we will manage to keep you know who in the dark."

"That we haven't planned," Buffy reminded him, as they neared the library. "Just try to avoid mentioning him." She paused as they walked inside, then changed the subject. "How's the campaign for Homecoming Queen going, Cordy?"

"Not bad, considering my switch to you lot," Cordelia replied, immediately falling into the routine they had formed ever since this plan had been created.

Giles came out of his office, book in hand, looking up at their arrival. "How did it go?" He asked his slayer.

Buffy flushed and smiled at her Watcher. "A minus."

"Buffy, that's marvellous! Well done!"

"Why didn't you say? That's amazing!" Willow began, turning to her friend. "Now you can go to France, and speak French, and....."

"Will, you're babbling," Buffy admonished gently.

"Our resident genius didn't help you then?" Cordelia queried.

"Angel helped," Buffy explained. "He can speak loads of languages. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Romanian, Gaelic, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, some demon ones I cannot pronounce, let alone spell...."

"I must have a talk with him soon," Giles mused. "I have some texts that could prove very useful if translated."

"I'll let him know," Buffy replied before he started to ask for a date when her boyfriend was available, rapidly changing the subject. "Has anyone dared to see what the cafeteria is serving today?"

"Been there, revolted that," Xander replied.


Two hours away in a deserted park, Angel stood wondering if Whistler had taken him for a ride. Before him lay an empty pool, the entrance to the quest that he needed to survive in order to accomplish the plan that the Scooby gang were desperately trying to keep from their ever curious Watcher. All he had to do was jump, although to where he had no idea, except that the space below him was a gateway of some sorts. Or not, as the case may be. Resolving himself, Angel stepped off the diving board and fell to the tiles below.

He landed with a controlled roll on to his feet in a room full of arches with a barred exit.

A valet appeared before him. "Well you certainly have faith," he began in greeting, his voice the cultured accent of an aristocratic Brit. "Now we will test your valour. I shall be assisting you with the trials, sir."

"Trials? How many?" Angel asked.

"Your test will consist of three challenges. I will need your shirt and shoes please."

Angel tossed him his jacket. "Unarmed combat then?" He asked as he diverged himself of the rest of the required garments.

The man chuckled. "Well, you'll be unarmed, yes."

"Three challenges. What are they?"

"That's for you to discover, sir."

"Can't you give me a hint?"

"Well I've never done that before, sir. Wouldn't be fair to the other combatants."

"How many have asked?"

"Well," the valet considered carefully. "The first test is child's play. When the gate goes up all you have to do is walk through it."

"That's it?" Angel queried, suspicious already. "What's the catch?"

"That would be telling."

"And the other two?"

"Oh, I wouldn't know about that, sir. No one's ever survived the first. Best of luck." He disappeared, leaving Angel alone. The vampire took a look at the door and tentatively stepped forward.

The archway opened. In walked a giant of a demon. He struck a punch and the fight began. Fiercely and intensely they battled, Angel finding himself a David against this Goliath, only minus what could have been a helpful weapon. Relentlessly he fought, mindful of the end result. Eventually he saw his opportunity and pounced, wrenching the sword away. His counterattack was instantaneous, a straight hit to the midsection, slicing Goliath in half.

Elated, Angel rushed to the door. It remained closed. Turning round he watched in horror as the demon pulled himself to his other half. Rushing forward Angel pulled the half away and chained it to the wall. He did the same with the other part.

The door opened. Angel dashed out before it could trap him once more.


"Mom, I'm home," Buffy called out as she walked inside the hall of 1630 Revello Drive later that afternoon.

"Hey," Joyce replied, coming out of the living room. "Did you have a good day?"

"Fairly," Buffy answered, dumping her books and bag on the nearest piece of furniture. "Lessons majorally dragged though I think that's because I'm little antsy."

"Why, do you need to patrol?" Joyce asked.

"No, Angel left for L.A this morning, remember?"

Joyce looked at her daughter blankly. "What? Why?"

"Oh, I didn't tell you," Buffy recalled. "My bad. After the thing with the First I gathered the gang together to search for a way to bring back Miss Calendar."

"From the dead?" Joyce queried. "Like a Zombie?"

"No. Angel wanted to repay her for finding a way to fix his curse, and Whistler mentioned it was possible to the gang while I was in L.A. Anyway, we researched for ways and found one a few days ago. It's called a trial. The chosen champion has to go through a number of tasks and win them before the Powers That Be will grant the request. Angel decided that as he was the one most responsible for her death in the first place- although I argued that it was his demon, not his soul, but that's beside the point -and unlike me he didn't have school to catch up with and certain immunities to death, he ought to be the champion and get her back. So he left early this morning."

"Which is why you didn't come home last night," Joyce remarked mildly.

"Yeah, sorry." Buffy said sheepishly.

"Honey, I don't mind you staying out late; you're the slayer, its part of your job and I have come to terms with that. I would just like to know why and when that's all."

"I will tell you next time I promise," Buffy vowed. "In the spirit of that I will probably be out tonight too. I have to patrol."

"Okay," Joyce nodded, accepting it. "Would you mind if I came with you one night?"

"Mom, I'm not sure that's good idea..." Buffy began uneasily, not wanting to destroy the good rapport between her and her mother which had existed ever since she returned home.

"I won't get in your way, I promise you," Joyce interrupted. "I just would like to see you in action. I've seen the research side, now I would like to see you do your destiny."

"Okay," Buffy agreed. "You can come tonight. But I need you to follow my instructions and take care to stay out of the way when I'm slaying. I don't want anything to happen to you, alright?"

"I promise," Joyce replied. "Now, what do I need to know?"


Angel came to an abrupt halt as he reached a corridor to his left. He turned, heard a noise and glanced up as the ceiling opened to reveal a moonlit night sky, bathing the next test in an eerie glow.

The sight which met his eyes was like something out of a vampire's worst nightmares, excepting the ones which included the slayer. Every inch of the entire hallway was littered with crosses. In the centre stood a stone font, and the other end stood a closed door, the exit he had to reach if he survived.

Angel took a deep breath, knowing there was little he could do about avoiding injury in this test. In fact he would be hurt the moment he put one foot on the floor or a hand on the wall. Brushing his fear and the thought of what his beloved would say when she saw him afterwards aside, he started to run, instinctively choosing the quickest way across, taking purchase with his feet on what little gaps he could find. Passing the font he stumbled, falling to the floor to receive burns to his chest.

Letting loose a screaming growl of agony, he somehow managed to rise from the floor and gather the rest of his strength to make it to the door. He wrestled with the knob, turning it one way then the other, only to realise that it was locked.

Breathing heavily he turned and rested his gaze on the only place he knew the key could be. The cross covered hallway loomed ahead of him, with the nondescript stone font marking the half way point. Suddenly he knew that the key to this door was hidden in that font. And he knew what else would bar him from simply putting his hand to retrieve it.

Holy water.

He took another deep breath, preparing himself to make the dash once more. Then he ran towards the font, diving his hand deep into the corrosive depths, grabbing the key. Ignoring the burning sensation from his injured hand as it absorbed the remaining moisture from the sodden metal, he turned round and ran back to the door. Almost stumbling again, not from exhaustion but from the pain caused by the many burns which now littered his feet, Angel's hand shook as he struggled to slot the key into the lock, turn the knob and escape from the corridor.


"So how do you know where a vampire or demon is likely to be?" Joyce asked her daughter as they entered the graveyard. Before they left the house Buffy had taken her Mom through a quick summary of what she needed to know about killing vampires or demons, and what not to do during a patrol. Then she had handed her mother a stake before they left for the nearest of Sunnydale's numerous cemeteries.

"Giles will tell me if someone died suspiciously enough for it to be mentioned in the papers, or if anyone is missing," Buffy replied, casting her gaze about the graveyard as they walked down the gravel path. "Or if a demon happens to be in the area, drawn to the hellmouth. Sometimes its real obvious though, like a fresh grave or a vamp who just happens to be passing. You develop a sense for it."

"Do you patrol alone?" Joyce asked, adopting her daughter's state of alertness, although she had little experience in these things.

"Sometimes. Occasionally Willow or Xander will come along, or Giles if he thinks the vampire or demon is connected to a prophecy. And Angel frequently came with me, though that usually turned out into a makeout session," Buffy finished with a blush.

"Do the others help?" Joyce asked, smiling at her daughter's embarrassment.

"Yeah, when they feel they can. I do worry though, I don't want them getting hurt. I even worry about Angel, though he can take care of himself in fight, sometimes better than me."

"Does he know all the vampires?" Joyce asked, curious.

"No, though he's heard of some of them, and they've heard about him. Having a soul makes you unique, and if you're with the slayer too, it lends a certain notoriety. And he knows the ones his demon sired."

"Like Spike and Druscilla?" Joyce asked, causing her daughter to look at her briefly. "Giles told me about them while you were in L.A," she explained.

"Yeah. Spike's all right, but Dru was a total wackjob," Buffy turned to scanning the graveyard. Suddenly she came to a halt, her hand moving to her pocket to retrieve a weapon.

Joyce's voice dropped to a whisper. "You sense something?"

"Yeah," Buffy replied. "Go wait by that large granite coffin."

"Good luck," Joyce uttered before obeying her daughter's order. Cautiously she sat down on the stone and watched as he daughter readied herself for the fight.

The vampire emerged from the darkness at a run, coming so fast Joyce was afraid that he would knock Buffy to the floor. But her daughter anticipated the move, and dodged the demon at the last moment, throwing out her arm to strike a blow to his midsection.

Winded the vampire fell over her arm to the ground. Buffy turned round, tracking it's progress as he rolled over to regain his footing. She advanced forward, striking him with another punch to his abdomen. This time the vampire was prepared for the move and blocked the punch with his palm. He made his stance rigid, attempting to transfer part of his strength into the block, hoping to knock the slayer off balance.

Buffy's quick reflexes put pay to that hope. She drove her fist into his palm, using the force to twist his wrist and then opened her hand to grab his, restraining him. In a move which Joyce barely caught the start of, she raised her other hand to strike, thrusting the stake deep into her attacker's chest.

The vampire exploded into dust, giving Joyce and her daughter a brief visual of his skeletal structure before transforming into ashes which fell to the ground.

Buffy put her stake back in her pocket and turned to her Mom. "Well," she began, "what did you think?"

"That was amazing," Joyce replied as she stood up from her granite seat. "Is it usually so fast?"

"Depends on how old the vampire is," Buffy replied. "The longer they've been around, the stronger they are, and the more it takes to kill them." She brushed a piece of ash off her jacket. "Come on, we've got other graveyards to check out before we go home."


Angel came to a halt, exhausted from running away from the second test. Suddenly, before he could summon the strength to go on, two manacles came out of the ceiling and wrapped themselves around his hands, raising them up, forcing his body to stretch as his feet tried to remain on the ground.

Then the valet appeared before him. "Well done, sir," he said almost cheerfully. "You've survived far longer than any other combatant. Now for your final challenge."

The dark chamber abruptly lit up, the bright light making Angel blink in order to adjust his pupils to the change of visibility. When he had focus once more, he saw that the darkness had previously hidden what the final test would be, as he was confronted by millions of stakes lying in a portcullis in front of him. "What is this?" He asked, confused.

"Your final trial," the valet informed him diffidently.

"But, those go through me and I die," Angel felt he had to remind him.

"Yes. Ready?" The valet paused and then added, "or you could refuse to accept it. Walk out of here. No one will stop you. You've earned that much."

The demon inside him was urging Angel to accept the valet's offer and walk away. Angel ignored him, hoping somehow that he was wrong about what would come next. "But you won't...."

"Yes, I'm afraid so," the valet confirmed, anticipating the end of his question. "Which will it be then? Accept death and succeed, or walk out of here and fail?"

Angel took a long look at the target, the valet's words still running over his mind. Something in the valet's words suddenly struck him as having significance. He repeated the phrase in his mind, wondering if it could be possible. There was only one way to find out. Slowly he nodded. "Ready."

The valet waved his hand, a silent signal to the portcullis, which let loose the stakes.

Angel's last thoughts as he prepared for the wood implements to impact into his body, were of Buffy.


Two hours away, another vampire was facing instant death. His last thoughts, were not of his love, for vampires consider such human frailties to be beneath them, preferring to lust where they may, and scorn those who indulged in such pointless monotonous choices. No, he was frustrated, for he was suffering the ignominious fate to be killed before reaching his half century. And it was not because of the slayer.

Joyce felt all the surrealness of the moment as she drove the stake into the vampire's chest, watching him as his skin and muscles gave way first to bones, then to dust. She watched the ashes fall to the ground, stunned by what she had just done.

Beside her, Buffy staked her own vampire, and then turned round to see how her mother had done. She felt annoyed, not with herself for not preparing her mother as thoroughly as she perhaps could have done, but with the vamps for deciding to two team them, thinking they could distract her and kill her mother. The emotion disappeared however when she saw her mother's hand outstretched, clutching a stake before the ash covered grass.

"Well done, Mom," she praised, causing Joyce to realise her surroundings once more. She turned to her daughter.

"That was incredible," Joyce uttered. "And weird," she added, lowering her hand.

Buffy nodded knowledgeably. "Felt weird for me too the first time," she replied. "In fact, I was so clueless back then that I missed the heart. Had to take the stake out and try again." She smiled as she realised that it was the first she had recalled that moment without feeling the same emotions which she felt that night; grief at what her life had become. Perhaps she was finally beginning to accept her destiny and all its conditions.

"You really think I did good?" Joyce asked her.

"Totally," Buffy assured her. "Three vamps is a solid effort for tonight. I say we go home now." She grinned. "I can't wait to tell Giles you dusted a vamp."

Joyce beamed, pleased that she was bonding with her daughter. The dark world which she was now part of no longer seemed so frightening and strange. She had always wondered at the distance which seemed to exist between them ever since the divorce and their removal from Los Angeles. Previously she had put it down to normal teenage rebellion, which was why she had been completely unprepared for the harsh awakening that was her daughter's expulsion from school for arson. It was also why she had been terrified and confused and angry when she discovered the truth behind her daughter's nightly absences and frequent quitting classes. Now there were no secrets between them, and thanks to that strange demon who had made her curious enough to go looking for the answers at Mr Giles' apartment, she and Buffy had a chance to repair their relationship. And she was determined to do it in a way that would make her daughter proud.


Angel opened his eyes, half expecting to be confront with hundreds of wooden pointed stakes, flying into his body. He felt that he had them closed for too long a time, and that the sound of their flight should at least have been heard by him, instead of this oppressive silence which now seemed to surround him.

He blinked in shock at seeing nothing before him. It took him a moment to realise that he was no longer chained to the ceiling, that the room was now devoid of stakes and he was fully clothed once more. Half angry and half exhausted, he glared at the valet, who did not look in the least affected by his fierce gaze.

"Congratulations, sir," the valet said agreeably. "I must say you are the first one who has not quailed at the sight of their own mortality."

Angel was in no mood for praise. "Cut to the chase. Will she?"

"Yes, sir. Not immediately- that we can only do that if she had just died, or was dying. She shall appear by voice, then all that is needed to bring flesh and blood is a simple invocation."

"And the invocation?" Angel practically growled.

"I believe you will find that in the same reference volume that led you to undertaking this series of trials, sir." The valet expressed a small smile. "Best of luck. The exit is up that stair way behind the arch."

"Thank you," Angel managed to force himself to say. He walked towards the stairs, slowly climbing them as his adrenaline faded away and the wounds which were still festering on his body made their presence felt once more.

He turned as he reached the ground above, expecting to have one final look at the series of underground caverns he had just spent god knows how much time in.

Instead, he found himself at the top of the ladder to the empty swimming pool once again.

Trying to summon some more energy out of his body, he made his way to the car, whereupon he cautiously climbed in and retrieved his phone with good hand. He dialled the number for his beloved's house and put the handset to his ear, waiting for her to pick up at the other end.

He could not help feeling slightly disappointed when the answering machine message received his call. "Hi, Buffy, its Angel. I've finished what I came here to do," he began, deciding to be circumspect about what happened, just in case Giles decided to visit. "And I wanted to let you know that I'm on my way home. I'll see you at the mansion." He hesitated, then decided to add, "I love you," before ending the call.

Slowly he put the cell phone away, turned the keys in the ignition and drove for home.


From outside the mansion on Crawford Street looked imposing and terrifying to any who would dare to walk past it. The inside was a remarkable contrast. A large roaring fire reigned inside the magnificent hearth, casting light over every particle of the large living area it was required to warm. Two plush sofas circled it, on one of which the slayer sat in wait for her boyfriend, who was expected home tonight. Since Angel's return she had persuaded him to get some furniture for the place, borrowing her mother's credit card to buy the purchases honestly, and retrieving what they could from his old apartment near the Bronze, after the scoobies returned the temporary furniture they had installed during Angel's convalescence. Having received his message after school that day, she had told her mother not to wait up and arrived at the mansion to wait for her boyfriend to come back.

She occupied herself by doodling various variations of her name coupled with his, all over her notebooks for school, while trying not to worry at what sort of injuries he possibly might have endured due to the Trial, the reference volume for having been typically vague on the details. She sat in a perfect spot to view the door and thus was there when Angel came home.

Actually, stumbled into the room would be a more apt description. "Angel," she uttered, shocked, "good god, what happened?"

"The trial," he replied thickly, gratefully accepting her arm to lean on as she escorted him to the nearest sofa.

The slayer's face formed a grimace, a sign that someone would be in trouble shortly, and that the death would not be quick. "I wish I could have gone with you."

"You couldn't. Your life might have been held over me and if I'd failed...." he hissed as she slid off his shirt to reveal the still healing burns from the crosses.

Buffy helped him sit down and then set about delivering first aid. Angel watched her for a moment, reading the emotions which were visible in her face. Seeing the mixture of fear, relief and frustration, he gently placed his bandaged hand underneath her chin, making her stop to look up at him. "It was worth it, Buffy. She's coming back."

"Just as well, else there would have been hell to pay," Buffy uttered as she carefully pressed antiseptic cream to one of his burns. "No one messes with my boyfriend."

She saw him smile at that, before closing his eyes, and letting her finish dressing his wounds. Eventually exhaustion took over, and he fell asleep.


"And the Homecoming Queen is; Cordelia Chase."

Cheers rang in the Bronze as the member of the Scooby gang walked to the stage to claim her prize and glory. Until now she had prepared herself to lose, knowing that her exile from the popular group was a clear barrier to wining this outright. Then she touched the trophy and a mixture of feelings possessed her. Relief at winning the title which had coveted for so long, and wondering almost what all the fuss was about. If Homecoming Queen compared to making the world a better place by being one of the slayerettes. Then the microphone was put before her mouth, and she was force to abandon searching for the answer, though she suspected that part of her already knew what it was.

Below her the remaining members relaxed in the arms of their significant others. Angel, no longer so much the worse for wear, thanks to vampire healing abilities and the tender loving care from his girl, had his arms wrapped tightly round his beloved, shutting the outside world away from the both of them as they relished the first public showing of their relationship since her seventeenth birthday. Willow and Oz stood next to them, the werewolf arms' around his witch, both of them smiling while Xander jumped and hollered in joy for his girlfriend's victory.

Rupert Giles stood behind them all, admiring at how well they had gotten past the difficulties and trials of last summer. Suddenly he stilled as a presence seemed to pass over him, a voice whispering in his ear, bringing back wonderful memories of happier, hoped for times, which promised at a future no longer alone. Convinced he was imagining things, Giles paid it no mind and forgot it just as quickly as he could.

Little did he know that this incident was only the start of things to come.

To be continued in.....
In Her Name; Part II:
The Loudest Whisper.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: To keep with continuity, I have used some scenes from the original episode, Band Candy, which as much as I liked, there was no place for in my cannon. I have swapped Willow for Giles in one scene, as he needed to be elsewhere. Aside from that, this follows on from the first part. Enjoy.

In Her Name: Part II. The Loudest Whisper.

There it was again. A sudden chill, together with a sense that there was a presence in the room, even though Rupert Giles knew fully well that there was not. However, this being Sunnydale and all, and the room being the only barrier between the world and the hellmouth below it, he came to a halt and surveyed his surroundings. Nothing. The library stood as silent as the grave, completely devoid of life.

The Watcher sighed and returned to his book. This was the fourth time in one week, and so far he had been forced to discount each circumstance of its occurrence. As yet he had not revealed the event to anyone, afraid that it would turn out to be nothing, or that they would think him crazy. The last time a ghost had come to Sunnydale, the results had nearly killed the slayer, although she still refused to tell him the exact circumstances of what had happened to put the two tormented spirits to rest. That time he had thought the spirit was someone else, until events had proved otherwise.

At the moment though, Giles was still convinced that he was imagining things. The sounds could be nothing more than birds or animals, the traffic from the highways echoing through the wind. He was so used to demons haunting the room that hid the hellmouth, that he was in danger of becoming paranoid.

He rose from his seat and closed the leather bound volume he was reading. Picking the book up he headed towards the door, ready for home. Turning the lights off, he glanced around the darkened room, letting his eyes adjust until they could distinguish more than just faint shadows. Once more he listened to the deceptive quiet. Nothing spoke to him. Satisfied that he was imagining, Giles exited the Library.

Alone and unsatisfied, the whispers expressed frustration at being denied once again. Dissolving into the darkness, they waited quietly for the next opportunity to make their desires known.

Hoping that this time, they would be answered.


"'And on that tragic day, an era came to its inevitable end.' That's all there is. Are you ready?"

Buffy turned from her sightseeing of the graveyard to her best friend. "Hit me."

"'Which of the following best expresses the theme of the passage?'" Willow read aloud from the prep sheet. "'A) Violence breeds violence, B) All things must end, C)...'"

"B, I'm going with B," Buffy returned, drawing a circle around the letter on her sheet. "We haven't had a B in forever."

"Buffy, you didn't even let me finish the options," Willow protested. "I'm trying to help you perfect this. If you just go on random letters without thinking about it, you could very easily fail, ruining chances of college."

"Gee, thanks," Buffy returned. "That takes the pressure right off."

"This isn't meant to be easy, you know," Willow reminded her. "It's a rite of passage."

"Will, you're going to ace the test. Me, I'm just hoping for something above average that won't include a trip to Snyder's office for a lecture on my stupidity."

"Then, please concentrate."

"All right, I will," Buffy promised, looking her friend. Suddenly she spotted something creeping up behind her. "Roll!" She cried, tossing her notebook and answer sheet off her lap, scrambling to her feet.

Willow looked up from the book. "What?" She queried, then saw her friend running towards her. Rapidly she rolled off the gravestone out of the fight scene.

Buffy leapt over the marble monument, then raised her leg, striking the vampire in the midsection. Unprepared, he bent double and lost his footing, flying back the way he had previously crept. She rushed towards him again, grabbing his legs and forcing them upwards, causing him to roll away from her before she could over power him.

Rising to his feet the vampire tried to punch her, but badly judged his aim. Buffy returned the favour, only to have her fist blocked by his hand, while the other tried to take a swing at her face. She clocked the trajectory and ducked, managing to dodge another attempt to punch her as well. Attempting to aim at kick at his side, he kept his balance and tried to return the move, but she ducked again, forcing him into a spin. He came to a stop facing her and tried to punch her face, but Buffy raised her forearm and blocked the fist. Using the opening before her, Buffy retrieved her pencil and staked his heart, slaying him.

"Hmm," the slayer mused while the ashes fell to the floor, "I broke my No. 2 pencil. We'll have to do this again sometime," she added hopefully.

"'C) All systems tend towards chaos,'" Willow uttered the answer to the last question, handing her friend another pencil.

Buffy reluctantly picked up her notebook and answer sheet before assuming her previous perch. "I just know that us and the undead are the only people in Sunnydale working this late."


"Mom, I'm home," Buffy called out as she closed the door behind her. "Slaying and SATs prep all done in one night. Next thing you know, I'll be bursting into," she walked into the living room and noticed that her mother was not alone. "Angel?"

"I invited him over," Joyce explained while the ensouled vampire stood up to welcome his beloved, settling for a small chaste smile due to her mother's presence. "I thought it was time I got to know the most important guy in my daughter's life."

"Okay, who are you and what have you done with my mother?" Buffy joked, causing smiles. "I can't say how pleased I am that you've accepted everything about my life," she added seriously.

"I almost lost you once over this, Buffy," Joyce returned. "I couldn't bear to lose you again through my own prejudices."

"Nor I you," Buffy vowed solemnly. Sheepish at the seriousness of the emotion, she glanced round, noting the hour through the darkness behind the window. "Angel, you better get home, the sun will be up soon."

"You're right," Angel agreed, rising from his seat. He turned to Joyce. "Thank you for inviting me over, Mrs Summers."

"Thank you for taking care of my daughter," Joyce returned. "Buffy, you can see him to the door before you go to bed."

"I hope Mom didn't inquisition you too much," Buffy said as she saw Angel into the relative privacy of the hall.

"No, she was very nice," Angel assured her. "I told her of my purely honourable intentions towards you. She asked me about my past."

"Sounds like you two had a long chat."

"Don't worry, she doesn't know my darkest secrets." He leaned towards her. "Only you know them."

Buffy smiled at him. "I'm glad she likes you. I'm glad she wants to know the man I love." She reluctantly opened the door. "I'll see you tomorrow. The meeting about the thing after school."

"I'll see you then," Angel replied before catching her lips with his.

Buffy kept the kiss short, and saw him out on to the porch and into the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. Then she returned to the living room.

"You really like him?" She asked her mother.

"I do, Buffy," Joyce assured her. "It is such a shame that the demon used to rule him, he's a lovely young man."

"It is," Buffy agreed. "But if he hadn't been sired, I would never have known him. And I am so glad I do. It's the one thing I thank Darla for." She reluctantly released a yawn.

"Has Giles asked you about the voice yet?" Joyce inquired.

"No, not yet. We're having a Scooby meeting about it tomorrow night," Buffy explained before yawning again.

"I'll let you get to bed," Joyce said, kissing her goodnight.

"Night, Mom," Buffy returned. "And thanks."

"You're welcome," Joyce replied.


"And then I was being chased by an improperly filled-in answer bubble screaming, 'none of the above!'" Buffy finished dramatically.

"Wow," Willow replied, properly sympathetic as they descended the outside stairs on the cloistered courtyard of Sunnydale High the next morning. "I hope that wasn't one of your prophecy dreams." Her best friend glared at her. "Probably not."

"Hey, you know, I took it last year," Oz informed them. "I could help you get ready. There's this whole trick to antonyms, but this isn't the place."

"Oz is the highest-scoring person ever to fail to graduate," Willow revealed proudly.

"Isn't she cute when she's proud?" Buffy aired for consensus.

"She's always cute," Oz replied.

"We could work on it tonight," Willow continued.

"Work on what tonight?" Xander asked as he and his girlfriend joined them.

"Oh, God," Cordelia groaned. "Are we killing something again?"

"Only my carefree spirit," Buffy replied.

"SAT prep," Oz informed them.

"Oz is helping," Willow added. "He's the highest-scoring..."

"We know," Cordelia interrupted. "We did the impressed thing already."

"I hate they make us take that thing," Xander remarked. "It's totally fascist, and personally, I think it, uh, discriminates against the uninformed."

"Actually, I'm looking forward to it," his girlfriend revealed. "I do well on standardised tests."

Everyone looked at her in shock.

"What? I can't have layers?" Cordelia asked, offended

"So, Buffy, study tonight?" Willow asked.

"Yes to studying, no to tonight," Buffy replied. "We've got to discuss the thing, remember? Giles hasn't mentioned hearing voices once, and we might need to plan a new strategy."

"That won't take all night, will it?" Cordelia asked. "I mean why don't we just tell him?"

"Oh, yeah, we'll say; 'Hi, Giles, have you been hearing voices lately?'" Buffy finished sarcastically. "I know his response will be that look of his wondering if I've gone mad."

"It's only been a week since Angel returned, Buffy," Willow reminded her. "I'm sure these things take time."

"Maybe," Buffy conceded. "We also need to find the incantation that's meant to bring her body back. Angel said that the valet who oversaw the trial told him that it was in the same book which told us about the Trial."

"How is Angel?" Willow asked.

"Healed, and talking to my Mom, which is both brilliant and freakily weird at the same time." Buffy paused. "I can't believe how cool she's being about all of this. When she first found out, she refused to believe any of it."

"Giles had a talk with her while we patrolled," Willow explained. "I don't know what he said, but one evening she was really bitter, blaming him, and then the next time she was all understanding and everything. Made me wish he could to talk to my parents."

"Giles the parent counsellor," Buffy mused, "we could put an ad in the paper." A bell rang, causing her to glance at her wristwatch. "Speaking of which I'd better get to the Library. He's going on about new training ideas. I swear ever since Whistler mentioned the new big evil coming he's turned paranoid on my readiness."

"Isn't it good to be prepared?" Xander asked.

"Yeah, but there's preparation and then there's brain freeze, which is what Giles seems to be experiencing whenever he tells me his next training idea."


"Now, stand still and let me put this on you," Giles remarked as he wrapped the blindfold around her head.

"Ow!" Buffy cried when his knotting yanked a bit of her hair.

"Sorry," Giles apologised.

"Why do I put up with this?" Buffy mused aloud.

"Because it is your destiny," Giles reminded her, walking around to face her. He handed her a large rubber ball.

"Okay, you're just doing this to take funny pictures of me," Buffy decided as she held the spherical object.

"I'm doing it to test your awareness of an opponent's location during a fight in total darkness," Giles explained. "Now, wait five seconds and then throw the ball at me." Silently he backed away from her position towards the cage.

"You ran out of new training ideas about a week ago, huh?" Buffy queried. "Okay. Five, four, three, two, one." She turned, facing the doorway into her watcher's office. Behind her Giles smiled, thinking she was about to be disappointed in her attempts to prove the stupidity of his training techniques.

Buffy threw the ball. It hit the wall above the reception counter, rebounding due to the strength of the impact.

"It's not that simple, is it?" Giles asked her, only for the ball to suddenly hit his head. "Ow. Ahem. Yes, well, very good."

"Thanks!" Buffy uttered, grinning as she took off the blindfold. "Anything else?"

"No, I don't think so. And you probably have SATs to prep for."

"I do," Buffy agreed, watching him walk to table and retrieve a book. "Giles, can I ask you something?"

"Of course, what?" He queried.

"Have you been hearing anything odd lately?"

"What do you mean?" He asked her, puzzled.

"Oh, you know, anything out of the ordinary."

"No," he pretended. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason," Buffy retrieved her books and school bag. "I better get to class." She exited the library.

Giles watched her go, staring at the doors as they closed behind her, wondering why she had asked him that question.

Around him the library suddenly seemed filled with those strange intelligible whispers once more. The voices seemed to be emanating from everything, the bookcases in the stacks above ground, his deserted office, the powerless computer, the locked filing cabinets. Even the weapons hidden in the cage seemed to trying to tell him something.

He stood still, trying to focus on the noise, only for the room to revert to his previous natural silence once more. Frustrated, Giles walked into his office, intent on conducting some research into the matter, his suspicions suddenly aroused.


Midnight. Candles were the only source of light in the darkened Library of Sunnydale High. Around the centre table six members of the Scooby gang sat, having agreed to gather here at the appointed time to discuss the current situation. Despite attempting their level best to hear out for the voice of the late Miss Jennifer Calendar, several days had passed by since Angel's return from Los Angeles, and nothing had spoken to them.

They were all becoming a little despondent, having hoped so much to be able to accomplish this thing for Jenny and Giles.

Just after Angel and Buffy had cowed the First into going away, they had gathered in the Library to read the curse which Miss Calendar had carefully spent many hours researching until she had everything on the original spell her ancestors had used to curse the Scourge of Europe.

Touched by the thoroughness the gypsy had put into it to make the incantation free from conditions or torture, the slayerettes had all decided that they had to try and see if Whistler had managed to arrange the possibility of her coming back from the dead.

A few hours of research, and they had found a volume detailing a series of tests called the Trial, which could be undertaken to restore a life. Angel had duly travelled to the location and succeeded in passing all three tests. Now, he relayed once more the words the valet had said to him after he finished the Trial to the rest of the slayerettes.

"Are you sure that's what he said?" Willow tentatively asked.

"Yes, he definitely said she would appear by voice," Angel affirmed.

"That's what I don't understand," Cordelia remarked. "Wouldn't we have heard her speak by now?"

"Unless she only speaks to Giles," Oz pointed out.

The Slayer groaned. "And Giles of course would discount it until it happens for like the nth time and even then I doubt if he'll tell us."

"Tell you what?"

The gang, including Angel, whose vampiric senses usually would have picked up on the arrival of someone else, jumped and turned to face a suspicious, concerned and slightly angry Watcher glaring at them, waiting for an explanation.

The slayer cast her gaze round the group and got a quick silent vote for the telling of the contingency plan Cordelia had aired earlier that day. Slowly she stood up and spoke. "We were wondering if anything weird had happened to you recently."

"Like what?" Giles asked, remembering her previous query earlier that day.

Buffy nervously met his glare. "Hearing noises. Strange whispery voices that you can't explain away as echoes of the night or day."

This time he decided to answer her honestly. "As a matter of fact, yes. Why?"

"Remember when Whistler told you that he could speak to the Powers That Be about Miss Calendar? Well, after Angel and I sent the First away, he wanted to have a look at the curse she had altered to make it clause free. We all read it and decided that we had to try and see if we could repay Miss Calendar. So we did a little research and found a way."

Shocked, Giles grabbed the nearest empty chair and sat down heavily. Even when the demon had mentioned to him, while they were at the hospital seeing Willow, about there being a chance of Jenny coming back, he had not allowed himself to hope, convinced that Whistler had just said the words to allay his anger. Now being informed that it was indeed possible, he still found himself struggling to accept such good fortune. "How?" He eventually asked, cautiously, almost afraid to know.

Buffy sat back down and carefully explained the research sessions, the finding of the reference to the Trial, how only the form that had caused her death could undertake it. Angel then continued her tale, telling Giles how he had travelled to Los Angeles and undertaken the three gruesome and deadly tests which the Trial demanded of him, and finally the message of the valet concerning how Miss Calendar would return first by voice, requiring an incantation to constitute her body as well.

Giles absorbed all of it, pushing away the questions about details to the back of his mind for later. He was fascinated and shocked and humbled by how much Angel had felt he was to blame for a death which his demon caused, and what he had gone through in order to make amends, not just to him, but to Jenny as well. But full knowledge could wait until later. Right now he needed to know only one thing. "Where is this incantation?"

Buffy handed him the leather bound volume she had opened before her. "It requires a few things to set up, but after that all you have to do is the say the words." She paused and then added in a rush, "look, I know we didn't inform you that we wanted to do this and that we should have done, but we wanted to surprise you and we weren't even sure that it would all succeed so we didn't want to give you false hopes. The only question now is, do you want her to come back?"

Giles was already asking himself that question even before Buffy had uttered the words. His mind drifted far away from them and began to reflect over all that had happened since the night Angel had lost his soul. The slayer, a girl he had come to regard almost as a daughter, had grown up so fast that night. When her friends had neglected to follow her, she had distanced herself from them, the distance increasing when she had to send Angel to hell in order to save the world. Giles understood all too well now why she had felt that she had to run away. He could imagine all too well the arguments that would have occurred if she never had.

The remaining members of the Scooby Gang had grown up over that summer, the nights of slayage combined with the despair of their friend's disappearance had taken their toll. Added to this was the confrontation they had with Joyce in his apartment, causing an eventual brokered agreement that they needed to wait for their friend to return and be accepting and understanding if she did, knowing that she had lost the love of her life and probably blamed herself for not knowing that his curse had a clause.

Then Buffy had returned, her visible sadness convincing them into researching for a way to bring back Angel too, not realising until the slayer experienced another dream that revealed she the key quite literally in her hand. Seeing Angel's whole being traumatised so deeply by his time in hell, had made Willow, Cordelia, Oz and Xander realise the difference between the vampire and the soul which resided in the immortal man. To understand and learn to accept him in a way they never had before. It seemed that the terrible breach which the demon had created between all after Buffy's seventeenth birthday was perhaps required, so they could start their relationships afresh with stronger foundations.

And now he was being presented with a chance to begin his relationship afresh with Miss Calendar. Assuming she wanted to of course. Giles could not bring her back for purely selfish reasons, he was too good a man for that. He recalled the final time he had seen her, before arriving back at his apartment and discovering Angelus' cruel note death scene. She had stayed late after school, working hard at the computer; translating the curse as he realised now. She had asked him if she could visit him, to talk about it.

For the first time since Eyghon she had seemed happy to see him, as if she was ready to let him into her heart again. To have that possibility presented to him then swept away by the harsh, torture Angelus arranged for him was heart breaking. Since then he had tried to move on, tried to accept that only his memories were left, but found it impossible. Like Buffy, he had realised that he had found and lost the love of his life. And now he was given the chance to have her back, just as Buffy had with Angel. Like her, he could only think of one thing to say.

"When do we start?" He asked.

Buffy smiled and stood from her seat, causing the others to rise as well. Without another word she, Willow and Cordelia parted to fetch the materials required, while Xander, Oz and Angel moved the chairs away from the table, creating the necessary space they needed for the ritual.

Giles watched them working, then turned his eyes to book, reading the words of incantation, while his heart finally began to hope.


"Not dead, nor not of the living," Willow slowly and solemnly recited. "Spirits of the interregnum we call."

Two hours later they had found the spell, its opening words bringing back a lot of memories concerning the last time they had attempted to restore a soul.

"What was once lost shall be found. Bring forth breath and resoreth this corporeal vessel as to that state it once was."

The table that usually covered the hexagon above the hellmouth had been moved and in its place were a series of candles laid out in the shape of a six pointed star.

"Bring forth the spirit of Jennifer Calendar, otherwise known as Janna, daughter of the Kalderash people and return it whole to the corporeal vessel from whence it parted."

In the middle lay a dress, sprayed with magic powder, the clothing a guide for the body that would form if the spell was successful.

"Let the river of life course through her veins once more. Give what has voice, flesh and blood. Give soul, give body, give heart, give life."

The whispering that had been surrounding the room ever since the discovery of the spell grew louder and more intense. A swirling mist appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Spooked, the Scooby gang watched the smoke warily until it settled over the dress and started to form a shape. Slowly but surely the sleeping figure of Jenny Calendar appeared before them.

The slayer glanced at Giles and then at the others who instantly received and understood her silent message. Without a word they got up and exited the room, leaving the Watcher to wake his sleeping beauty.

He refrained from fairy tale tradition and woke her with a gentle touch on her shoulder. Still the moment could not have been more romantic.

"I was wondering how long it would take," Jenny began with a smile, causing him to laugh as he helped her up.

"But how?" He eventually asked, still amazed and mystified by the entire event.

"I don't remember much of it," Jenny confessed. "Only Angelus and then being able to talk to you and see you, but you not being able to see me, or understand what I was trying to tell you." she glanced round the room. "I assume I've been gone awhile. What happened?"

Giles sat her down and told her. About his discovery of her, the aftermath, and everything else that had followed, embellishing nothing and revealing all, no matter had harrowing it might be. Jenny deserved to know as much as he did, so she understood everything, and so they could perhaps begin again with stronger foundations.

When he came to the discovery of a chance to bring her back and the events of the trial, which he had managed to draw out from Angel during a moment alone while the others prepared the Library for the ritual, Jenny expressed horror and shock at how much Angel had endured to bring her back to life because of his demon self that had put her to death. "And they all agreed to this?" She queried.

"Not willingly as far as I can gather," Giles replied. "From what Angel told me, Buffy had some very strong objections as to why she couldn't go in his place. She only backed down after he had reasoned with her to see the dangers in going."

"It still seems a gruesome thing to undertake just to bring me back," Jenny remarked.

Giles nodded. "But this was the only way. The important thing is that it was successful and Angel survived."

"I shall have to thank him," Jenny smiled.

"He wants to thank you as well, for making his soul permanent." Giles paused. "I realise now that was what you wanted to speak to me about."

"Not just that," Jenny admitted, causing him to look at her hopefully. "Rupert, I was so stupid before. I sent you away for doing something which I was just as guilty of, and mine was even worse than Eyghon. If I had been able to come to you that night, not only would I have told you that I had found a way to restore Angel's soul, but I would have asked you for another chance at seeing if us could work. And now that I have this second chance, I'm still asking you."

"My answer is the same as it would have been then," Giles replied. "Yes."

She stretched upwards and kissed him, and he joyfully returned it, wrapping his arms around her waist. Passionately they expressed all the emotions which they had been missing since her death, and the bliss they both felt at her return from that grave.

"I just realised," Jenny said when she broke from him to breathe, "how am I gonna live? I was declared officially dead."

"Well, Buffy told me that they had an idea about that too," Giles replied. "But I think that can wait until tomorrow, don't you?"

Jenny smiled at him. "I think so," she agreed before leading him out of the Library and into the world.


At the mansion on Crawford Street, Buffy was musing over the importance of her boyfriend's survival through the Trial as she sat in the arms of her beloved, leaning upon his chest in quiet contentment. Both had retired to the house after the spell, forgoing the usual patrol in favour of the chance to relax, while the slayerettes had separated for sleep. These were moments, Buffy felt, to be the best time, when nothing was required of them but the company of each other. She never felt more safe than when she was in his arms, fuelled by the knowledge that she did not have to be anyone else but herself. Not the slayer, not the student, not the rebellious daughter, just Buffy.

Angel bent his head and kissed her hair, causing her to look at him with a smile. "You really ought to get some sleep, Buffy," he began, however reluctantly, for he did not wish to lose her company, despite the hour. "You haven't slept at all tonight." He waited for her to reply, pleased despite himself when he received a sigh of annoyance and objection. "You can stay here if you want."

Buffy turned her eyes towards him. "I can?"

Angel simply lifted her up in reply. As she laughed in surprise, he carried her to the bedroom on the first floor, laying her down amongst the silk sheets. He waited until she was asleep before leaving, even though he was loathed to part from her. For a few moments he stayed reflecting- or rather brooding -on the past months since his resurrection.

So much of what had happened surprised him, particularly the rather rapid acceptance of his presence in the gang once more. He had expected a mild and discreet distrust and suspicion from all of them, instead he received calm acceptance, despite all the things his demon had done.

His beloved in particular understood things in a far more mature way than most her age, slayer or no. For Angel himself her view was difficult to accept, for he still felt that most of Angelus' crimes were his fault, influenced by his memories and resentments which he had believed in during his dissolute life as the eldest son of an Irish Squire.

After all, it had been his choice to go down that alley and if he were confronted with such a decision again, he would still make the same choice, this time with the knowledge that it would lead him to the love of his life as a consolation for all the horrors it had to offer before that.

Suddenly, as if she had heard his thoughts, Buffy woke. "No brooding," she ordered sleepily before closing her eyes again, leaving Angel to laugh as he finally left her in search of a good book in order to obey her last command.

The End.
To Be Continued In
Myhnegon.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Some dialogue was taken from the original episode; Revelations, but this plot is completely different from canon, as I have reworked the mystery of Miss Post, and Angel's return is already known by the gang. I also introduce Doyle to the recurring cast. Enjoy.

Myhnegon.

"Angel," Buffy called out as she brushed through the black curtains which guarded the entrance of the Mansion on Crawford street from the sunlight. Finding no one in the double height living room, she made her way past the stairs and into the kitchen, where she found her boyfriend, who looked up at her entrance. "Hey," she greeted him, dumping her school stuff on the table in the centre of the room. "How did it go?"

"I got a second interview," the ensouled vampire replied, setting down the ceramic mug he was drinking from before her entrance.

"That's fantastic," Buffy cried, rushing to hug him. He wrapped his arms around her, receiving the affection gratefully, but the uncertain expression upon his face did not change, causing her to look at him in concern. "What's wrong?"

"I'm still not sure about doing this," Angel confessed.

"We discussed this," Buffy reminded him. "You agreed with me that if you're going to be redeemed by the Powers That Be at some point, then you need to establish a life for yourself. And that means a real identity, and some means of income."

"That's just it," Angel returned. "It's not a real identity, it's one Willow and Oz had to hack into the government files to make so."

"Angel, there was no other way. Your real name died in 1753. We can't use it. Just as Miss Calendar couldn't use her name to return to her life. You didn't object when Willow and Oz used the same methods to get her a place in the world."

"That's different." Angel looked down. "She deserves it."

"And you don't?" Buffy countered. "Angel, how may times do I have to tell you that you and Angelus are two different people. You have the same memories, but he is not you. All the crimes you are guilty of, are only those you may have committed before that night in the dark alley where you met Darla. You are innocent of Angelus' crimes, just as Jenny is, and therefore deserve to have a life. And life includes the need for funds to provide one, which includes a job."

Angel nodded, although Buffy could tell that he would still require more convincing. The recent encounter with the First had lowered his low self-esteem even further than the demon who constantly whispered to his soul, and she would have to work hard in restoring it. "Even if I get it," he allowed with a small nod, "there's still the difficulty of actually doing it. I can't go out into the sunlight."

"I have told you that I will sort out that."

"But you haven't told me how."

"I want to surprise you," Buffy finished, smiling at him. She expected him to offer some more objections, as he had done ever since she first saw the advert in the newspaper and practically begged him to answer it.

Instead, he returned her expression with a smile of his own. "All right, I will let you," he said, using the same tone he had the morning of her seventeenth birthday, filling Buffy with a desire to kiss him, which she did, stretching up to capture his lips with hers. His hands let go of her waist to run their fingers down her back, causing pleasurable sensations through her clothes. Slowly one set reached her head, entangling themselves in her blond locks, pressing her closer to his as their mouths let their tongues begin a sensuous duel. Wishing to dispense with stretching, Buffy lifted her legs, wrapping them around him, pressing her thighs against the sides of his abdomen. She heard him moan involuntarily as she pressed herself closer to him. Before she was even fully aware of it, her hands were fiddling with the buttons of his shirt, easing them out of their holes. She felt his hand which had remained caressing her back, return to the waistband of her jeans, sliding underneath the limits of her top, his fingers now dancing on her bare skin. Lost within the motions, she uttered a moan of her own, murmuring his name through their engaged lips.

Abruptly he set her on the table and withdrew himself, standing against the cabinets, refusing to meet her eyes. She sat up straight, her blond tresses falling about her shoulders, her confused gaze seeking out his own. Despite herself she felt a momentary uncertainty about the depth of his feelings for her. Then she saw him swallow hard, and decided to be just as blunt. "Don't stop."

He seemed to blink, uncertain. "Believe me, I don't want to," he answered, realising only now how his actions could be misinterpreted.

Buffy frowned. "Then why?" She asked.

"I also want it to be right," he replied. "We promised each other that we wouldn't rush headlong into this again, and yet I've only been back for thirty-five days, and we're at that point again."

"Thirty-five days is hardly rushing things," Buffy pointed out. "What else is bothering you?" She asked.

"I don't want you regretting it like you must have done the last time," he answered softly.

"Oh," Buffy uttered, uncertain as to how to reply to that. "I did at first," she admitted, settling for the truth, as they had promised each other. "But then I realised that Angelus saw our love for each other as a weakness to exploit, a weapon with which to try and drive us apart. He hated me because you fell in love with me. And when you regained your soul, the way you were with me made me realise that." She paused before adding, "I can't pretend that I won't experience some fear, but then neither can you."

"No, I can't," he agreed, stepping away from the cabinets to be near her again. "Buffy, I can't deny that I want to make love to you. But not until you're ready, and I don't want you to feel that you're pressured into being ready."

"Angel, I'm ready," Buffy assured him, looking determinedly into his dark soulful eyes. "When is your interview?" She asked suddenly.

"Tomorrow evening. I'm teaching a late class, windowless room," he informed her, slightly puzzled by the non-sequitur.

"Then tomorrow night I shall be making love to a Professor of Art History," Buffy remarked in a soft seductive whisper, making Angel smile at her confidence in him.


"How did it go?" Jenny asked her host after he walked through the front door frame of his apartment across town from Crawford Street.

"Very well," Giles answered, closing the door and setting his briefcase down on the desk. "Principal Snyder is one of the most gullible people I have ever had the occasion to meet. He eagerly accepted that your identical 'twin sister' was fully qualified to take your job. He even seemed concerned that you might experience discomfort at being in the same environment."

"I probably will," Jenny agreed, recalling how weird it had felt to wake up in the library after the spell which had reconstituted her body out of nothingness, as though nothing had happened to her. "But I don't think I could do anything else." She turned away, unsure to meet Rupert's gaze. "After all, I can't stay here for ever."

"Can you not?" Giles asked her softly, causing her to look at him once more. It was impossible to misinterpret the meaning in his face; the desire that she would stay forever. The past seven days had been awkward at first, as they adjusted to living with each other, as Jenny adjusted to living again, as Giles adjusted to having her back. But these awkward hours had also been filled with lingering glances at each other, moments when hands would meet and touch, either by chance or deliberately, and times when the most wonderful evenings of their lives would be spent in conversation. Already he never wanted them to end, feeling grateful once more to the slayer and her friends together with Angel for going to so much trouble and undertaking so much risk to make this possible.

"Perhaps," Jenny answered, smiling. Impulsively she took the plunge and pulled him towards her, capturing his lips with hers. It was their first kiss since her return and everything they could have hoped for. All their previous awkwardness was forgotten as he wrapped his arms around her, while she caressed his neck, her fingers idly playing with the ends of his hair. Every facet of the feelings they felt for each other washed over them during this moment, as they affirmed and defined their relationship once more, redefining themselves as they did so.

Reluctantly, Giles kept the moment short and chaste. "I have to oversee Buffy's patrol," he managed to get out, his eyes still lost in hers.

"Okay," Jenny replied, returning the intense stare.

It no use. Resistance was futile. Giles pulled her towards him and kissed her again, powerfully this time, tangling his hands in her black hair. Jenny was with him every step of the way, matching power for power, so when they broke apart this time, they were breathless.

"I suppose I could be a little late," he said, his gaze silently asking her for consented agreement.

Jenny said nothing in reply. Instead she took his hand and led him upstairs.


Night had firmly established itself upon Sunnydale by the time Giles joined Buffy and Angel in one of the twelve cemeteries, slightly embarrassed as they smiled knowingly at him before the vampires came upon them, challenging them to a fight.

Absence from each other had by no means diminished either the slayer's or the ensouled vampire's capabilities to work as a team. They entered the fight almost with relish, answering the vampires' challenge by rolling on their backs side by side, the undead demons landing on top of them. Delivering backhanded punches, they struck their attackers, deflecting the vampire's strikes into the ground beside them, while Giles sought the relative safety of a nearby bench, and the soothing warmth from his flask of coffee, inwardly blushing as he recalled how Jenny had worn one of his shirts while preparing it for him.

Buffy and Angel lifted their legs, striking the vampires' in their midsections, sending them into the air, using the distance to regain their feet. Yanking the beasts towards them, they kicked them again, aiming for the same place, only for the vampires to see the punch coming this time and manage to block it.

Undeterred, they used their strength to twist the wrists, cracking the bones, causing the vampires to growl and retreat their hands. Buffy raised her leg and spun, delivering another strike to her opponent's midsection, this time achieving success. Angel meanwhile let the vampire come at him, faking a retreat until the beast had picked up enough pace before dancing aside at the last moment so his opponent hit the bench instead.

Giles retrieved his flask, depositing it on the other side for safe keeping, then made some notes on the writing pad balanced on his lap. Rising up with a large bruise on his head, the vampire glanced at him in confusion, before being yanked away by his attacker.

Angel spun the demon round until he impacted against the back of his undead friend. Behind them Buffy dealt one final punch to her own attacker before taking her stake out of her pock. Her boyfriend followed, raising his own in time to strike his opponent just as she did, the two vampires transforming into ashes together.

"Synchronised slaying," Buffy remarked, giving her boyfriend a high-five after the dust between them had fallen to the ground.

"New Olympic category?" Angel joked back.

Buffy turned to Giles "Whadaya think?"

"Sloppy," a voice answered, causing them to look round and then up, as a woman walked into view. Severely attired in a sombre pastel business suit with her grey blond hair pulled back from her face, she gave them impression that was she was older than youthful looks implied.

"You telegraph punches, leave blind sides open and, for a school-night slaying, take entirely too much time," she added, before turning to Giles. "Mr Rupert Giles, I presume?"

"And you are?" Giles asked, rising from his seat.

"Gwyneth Post," the woman replied. "Your new protégé."


"I apologise, Ms Post," Giles remarked as he exited his office in the library an hour later, "I have just spoken to the Council who confirmed your credentials. They swear there was a memo informing me that I was to be teaching you."

"No offence taken, Mr Giles, I quite understand the need for initial distrust," Gwyneth replied, glancing around at the shelves. While Giles had been on the phone she had avoided Buffy's gaze, exploring the books scattered about on the large research table. "Mr. Giles, where do you keep the rest of your books?"

"I'm sorry," Giles finished cleaning his glasses. "The rest?"

"Yes, the actual library," Gwyneth asked.

Giles continued to look at her in confusion.

"Oh. I see," Gwyneth smiled, conveying with it pure disappointment.

"I can assure you, Ms. Post," Giles started to say, "this is the finest occult reference collection..."

"This side of the Atlantic, I'm sure," Gwyneth finished. "Do you have Hume's Paranormal Encyclopaedia?"

Giles didn't reply.

"The Labyrinth Maps of Malta?" Gwyneth asked.

Buffy turned to her watcher hopefully.

"It's on order," Giles admitted.

"Well, I suppose that you have Sir Robert Kane's Twilight Compendium?"

"Oh! Uh..." Giles answered distractedly as he looked around for the volume in question. "Yes, I... Yes! Yes, I do."

Gwyneth still seemed unimpressed. "Of course you do. I must be blunt, Mr Giles. Not only have the council sent me here for my final evaluation, but they also sent me here for a very important reason. I am the best of my class, and the first to be allowed to finalise my training whilst in the field. The council wishes me to report on the entire situation here, including you."

"Me?" Giles queried.

"The fact is, there is talk in the council that you have become a bit too.... American."

"Me?" Giles uttered again, taken aback.

"Him?" Buffy uttered, shocked that anyone would think her watcher American.

"A demon named Lagos is coming here to the Hellmouth," Gwyneth said, abruptly changing the subject. "Mr. Giles, an illustration of Lagos, if you please."

Giles suddenly wished he had received that memo from the council, so he could have the information she required. "Oh, uh... Yes. Uh..."

"Perhaps later," Gwyneth remarked. "Lagos seeks the Glove of Myhnegon. No record of this glove's full power exists, but we do know it is highly dangerous and must not fall into the hands of a demon. Lagos must be stopped."

Thoroughly ticked off, Giles removed his glasses once more. "What do you propose?"

"Well, if it's not too radical a suggestion, I thought we might kill him," Gwyneth answered. "But, then again I am only the pupil here. We believe the glove to be buried in a tomb somewhere, so Lagos will be headed for the cemetery."

"There is more than one in Sunnydale," Giles informed her.

"I see. How many?" Gwyneth asked.

"Uh, twelve, within the city limits," Giles answered.

Even that did not seem to discompose the unflappable woman. "Well, we'll just have to take them one at a time. Anything in your books that might pinpoint the exact location of the tomb would be useful, but then, we cannot ask for miracles."

Giles let the book he was studying slam close, falling noisily on to the table.

"We'll begin tomorrow at sunset," Gwyneth finished. "And you are?" She finally addressed the one person who had remained silent so far since her arrival.

"Oh, I'm Mr Giles assistant," Angel lied smoothly. "He lets me help out sometimes."

"Of course he does," Gwyneth uttered condescendingly before walking out.

Giles visibly relaxed. "That was bracing," he uttered, slamming his fist on to the table, venting his frustration.

"Interesting lady," Buffy commented. "Can we kill her?"

"I think the council might frown upon that," Giles remarked, but the temptation was there upon his face. "You two better get home," he uttered, rising from the chair. "You both have full days tomorrow, and your mother will be worried about you," he added.

"What about you?" Buffy asked.

"I'm gonna call Jenny, let her know that I'll be bringing some research home about Lagos," Giles uttered despondently. "If I find any reference to him, that is."

"Giles, I know about him," Angel remarked, surprising them. "And the glove."

"How?" Giles asked.

"Angelus was into anything which could give him a lot of power," Angel answered uncertain as he always was when he referred to his demonic half. "The glove was given in trust to the Von Haupton family. It's probably in their crypt."

"In that case I'll get Willow to check the burial records tomorrow," Giles said. "Thank you, Angel."

The ensouled vampire nodded, touched by the acceptance in the watcher's tone. Buffy took his hand and headed to the door. "Goodnight, Giles. See you tomorrow morning."

"Goodnight," Giles replied, watching them leave before walking into his office to let Jenny know that he was on his way home.

 




"So we should be wary of angering Giles today?" Xander sought to confirm as the Scoobies wandered through the corridors the next morning.

"Yeah," Buffy asserted. "Ms Post had him seething in just an hour after meeting her. So glad Giles isn't like her."

"Did you guys hear Jenny's got her job back?" Willow asked them.

"Yes, thank goodness for Snyder's stupidity," Cordelia said. "We're also getting a new literature teacher."

"Who is it?" Buffy asked.

"A Mr Doyle," Cordelia informed them. "He's coming from LA."

"Cool," the slayer mused. "I wonder how long it will take before someone informs him of my school file. Unless my reputation proceeds me."

"Don't worry about it," Willow tried to assure her best friend. "Not all the teachers think you're going to destroy the school."

"Just think, if we're lucky, one of them might do it for us," Oz uttered as they entered the library.

"How is Deadboy?" Xander asked Buffy, only to receive a glare. "I mean Angel. How is Angel, my good friend?"

Buffy smiled, pleased that she could finally tell them. "Applying for a job."

"A job?" Giles echoed, surprised he had not been told of this the night before.

"Yes a job," Buffy confirmed. "He decided, or rather I persuaded him, that as his redemption is practically a certainty granted by the Powers That Be, that he ought to be able to exist in the normal world like I do."

"Buffy, doesn't this job thing have a slight snag, like sunshine?" Cordelia commented.

"Actually, I was hoping you lot could help with that. Is there anything?"

Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them, signalling intense thought mode. When he had put them back on, he finally spoke. "Well there's the gem of Amara, but I believe that's only a myth."

"I could try putting the power on something he could wear," Willow remarked, causing everyone to stare at her. "I've been reading about that lately, I think I could do it."

"And where have you been reading about this?" Giles asked.

"In those books that you keep in your office that supposedly I'm not ready for," Willow replied, smiling pleadingly at the Watcher to forgive her. "Miss Calendar's been helping me," she added, knowing Giles would now give it a stamp of approval.

The Librarian shook his head but accepted the plea.

"So," Cordelia asked, "What job is he applying for?"

"I'm not allowed to tell you until he gets it." Despite his insecurities last night Buffy was sure he would. "Could we manage to do this by tonight?" She asked Willow.

"I think so. Do you have something he usually wears?"

Buffy produced a chain from her bag, a small gold Irish coin attached to it. She had managed to 'retrieve' it from her boyfriend the night before, after he saw her to the door of her home in Revello drive like the gentleman he was.

"Ah, that looks like eighteenth century to me," Gwyneth remarked as she entered, causing Buffy to look pointed at her friend, who quickly closed her hand around the necklace, while the slayer tried to appear casual.

"Everyone, this is Ms Post," Giles introduced. "These are Buffy's friends."

"Friends?" Gwyneth echoed.

"As in comrades, People I hang with," Buffy explained sarcastically.

"I know what friends are, Miss Summers," Gwyneth remarked with disdain. "I was unaware it was usual slayer to have them."

"Buffy's a slayer?" Xander mocked, pretending to outraged. "What's a slayer?"

Gwyneth was not even amused. "Do American teenagers have no manners?"

"Sometimes," Giles informed her complacently. "I find their bluntness rather refreshing, actually."

"I came to find out if you have learned where Lagos is likely to find the glove of Myhnegon," Gwyneth remarked, ignoring his last comment.

"Oh, that is in the Von Haupton crypt," Giles replied.

"Glove of whatathon?" Xander asked.

"Myhnegon," Giles enunciated. He opened the book he had been carrying in his hand, holding out for the others to look at. "Here's a wood engraving. See? The Glove of Myhnegon."

"Yes, engraved by Father Theodore of Wolsham," Gwyneth remarked, still unimpressed. "Based, I believe, on very sketchy and unreliable folk legends. The pictures are fun to look at, Mr. Giles, but one really ought to read the nice words as well."

Giles closed the book with a loud snap, in time with the whistling of his kettle inside his office. "Ah. Yes. Some tea, perhaps?" He strode away, not waiting for an answer.

"Well, I'm going to visit the Von Haupton crypt tonight," Buffy revealed, trying to rescue her watcher. "Anyone know where it is?"

"Yeah, that's that big one over at the Restfield Cemetery," Xander informed her.

Gwyneth followed Giles into his office. "I know that you must find me tiresome, but it's insidious, really. A person slips up on the little things, and soon everything has gone to Hell in a hand basket. For example... Buffy, your Slayer..."

"Ms. Post... I can assure you that Buffy is both dedicated and industrious, and I am in complete control of my Slayer," Giles remarked, still annoyed. "It is your attitude that I am questioning at present. Haven't you come here to learn?"

"Yes, Mr Giles, you're right," Ms Post answer. "I have."


"So, you see Jane had no choice to stay at Lowood School, even though the conditions were terrible, for not only was she sent there by her guardian for her education, it was her means of escaping the harsh world of her youth. Charlotte Brontë is using education here as a symbol of feminine power, showing the reader than only through the acquirement of knowledge are they able to earn their freedom."

The bell rang just as Mr Doyle finished this point, causing Buffy and her friends to pack up their books and stationary.

"Class dismissed," Mr Doyle remarked. "Remember to read the next two chapters before we reconvene," he added. "Miss Summers, can I see you for a moment?"

Buffy looked up from her book bag, wondering what trouble she was in for now. She watched the other students exited the classroom, Willow lingering the longest in wait for her, then advanced a little way forward towards Mr Doyle.

He seemed not to notice her for a moment, closing his eyes suddenly and putting a hand to his head.

"Mr Doyle, are you alright?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, just a headache," he uttered. "Gwyneth Post," he remarked, surprising the slayer. "Don't trust her."

"Why not?" Buffy asked, curious and suspicious. "How do you know her?"

"Let's just say I've seen her around," Doyle uttered before walking past her. "Keep up the good work, Miss Summers," he added before exiting the room.


The sky was already beginning to darken by the time Buffy arrived at the mansion on Crawford Street, having spent dinner with her mother before going on patrol. She had staked out the Von Haupton crypt, waiting for the demon, only to discover that Lagos was nowhere to be found, and neither was the glove, causing her to jump to the only sensible conclusion and run to her boyfriend for suddenly needful backup.

"Angel," she called out as she brushed past the curtains guarding the entrance to the double height living room. "I think Lagos has the......" her mouth came to a stop as she caught sight of the room.

Every stone of the tiled floor was covered completely in rose petals, all of various colours, and looking entirely fresh, a contrast to the fall seasonal weather which had settled over Sunnydale. Candles were the only source of light, located on various tables in clusters around the room, casting a romantic glow over everything.

Buffy uttered a gasp of amazement, then one of surprise as, as if out of nowhere, her beloved's arms wrapped themselves around her waist. She leaned back into him as he kissed her neck. "Angel, this is beautiful. You didn't have to go to this much trouble."

"I wanted to," he said softly. "You deserve it."

"Does this mean you got the job?" She asked him.

"Yes," he answered, causing her to turn round in his arms and kissed him eagerly. "I start tomorrow," he added.

"Well, as much as I'd like to celebrate, we have a problem," Buffy began. "Lagos has the glove. I went to the crypt and it was empty."

"No he doesn't," Angel replied, taking her by the hand and leading her to the coffee table, where she noticed the package covered in rags. He removed them to reveal a blackened mediaeval glove, complete with chain-mail and claws. "Glove of Myhnegon."

"The world's ugliest fashion accessory," Buffy remarked, reaching out to touch it.

Angel put his hand upon hers, stopping her. "No, don't. Once you put it on, the glove can never be removed."

"No touching," Buffy promised, her eyes on him now. "The only thing I will touch tonight will be you," she uttered softly.

Angel used his free hand to recover the glove, then took her other in it before bringing her close to him once more. "Are you sure about this?" He asked her.

"More than anything," Buffy assured him.

Surprising her, Angel swept her into his arms, carrying her to the stairs. Buffy laughed as he did so, before smiling as she observed the trail of petals leading up the stairs, white and blood red, into the master suite, where they merged into a circle around the bed. Crisp white soft bed sheets and pillows covered that piece of furniture, gently creasing as Angel set his beloved down in the middle of them.

Buffy rose to her knees and manoeuvred herself to the edge of the bed, the side where Angel came to stand. She reached out and began easing the buttons on his shirt out of their holes. He stood silently before her, letting her set the pace, closing his eyes in pleasure as her fingers parted the shirt to stroke his taut abdomen.

Courage rising above her trepidation, Buffy dealt a kiss to his skin, then licked a wet trail up his chest, making him purr in contentment. When she reached his neck, he caught her lips in his, wrapping his arms around her waist. He caressed her back through her clothes, then tentatively sought the limits of her top, slipping his fingers underneath.

She groaned as his hands touched her skin, kissing him passionately before withdrawing from his lips to remove his shirt. Reluctantly his hands left her back to help her, letting the garment fall from his arms to the ground. Angel met her gaze as she sat a little back on her knees, raising her arms, letting him take the top off her.

He tossed the shirt to the floor, then tenderly placed his hands on the straps of her bra. She looked up at him, silently giving her consent for him to remove it, revealing her bare chest to his gaze. Angel let the underwear fall to the floor before gently wrapping his arms around her once more, placing his palms on her shoulder blades, then kissing her lips again.

Buffy had wanted to avoid thinking of their first time, but she could not help comparing the two, wondering this time what her lack of innocence would do to the occasion. She had known long before that Angel was experienced, she had even been pleased that he was, for her knowledge only stemmed from biology books, films and her mother's magazines. The heartbreak which Angelus had dealt her that morning after made her feel guilty that she wasn't, even though Angel had seemed not only to accept it but even be honoured to be her first, before experiencing his moment of happiness. Now, as before, that tenderness and acceptance, and honour were still present, but she could tell that he was making sure she was well aware of it, in an effort to placate whatever fears she might have. And she was glad of it, feeling herself fall in love with him all over again.

Angel's lips slipped gently from hers to her neck, beginning a long blissful trail down her skin, his body bending as he reached her breasts. He took each nipple into his mouth, sucking and nipping at them, causing Buffy to let her thoughts go, and just focus on the waves of pleasure he arousing from deep within her. He left her wanting more, moving to the valley of skin between, then down to her belly button, which he explored with his tongue, causing her to laugh as the motion tickled.

Withdrawing, he dropped to his knees and looked up at her, waiting for another silent glance of permission to unfasten her jeans. Surprising him, Buffy reached forward and undid his trousers, her fingers lingering a little inside, making him shudder. Purring, he slid the zip downwards on hers, his hands caressing her butt through her pants as he slid the jeans away.

They both stood up, letting the garments slip to the floor and bed, Buffy nervously adding the final piece of her clothing to the pile of clothes on the floor, along with her jeans. She watched Angel follow suit, her eyes unable to look away from the strength of his desire for her, slightly reassured and yet at the same time a little terrified.

He seemed to sense her need for reassurance, drawing her close to him once more. "I love you, Buffy," he whispered, the breath from the words sending a warmth through her body into her heart and mind, empowering her.

"I love you too," she returned, gazing into his eyes. He kissed her lips, using his height and strength to gently push her down amongst the pillows. She let herself descend without resistance, easing her legs out from under her, entangling them with his as he came to rest above her.

This time there was no rain pounding on the curtain covered window of the Mansion, the sound of her breathing the only noise to disturb the otherwise silent pleasure they were creating between them. Slowly Angel's hands caressed every inch of her skin, while hers settled on his back, tracing the lines of his tattoo. He reached her hips, shifting his body so he could explore between them, preparing her for his manhood, effortlessly seeking out her pleasure sources so when he penetrated her she almost hardly noticed, it felt so natural and wonderful.

"I love you," he uttered again as they became one.


The morning light began to shine through the heavy black curtains which covered the window of the master suite bedroom, casting itself over the scattered rose petals and burnt out remains of wax candles.

Buffy opened her eyes. Seeing empty bed sheets in front of her, she felt a momentary panic rise within her breast, before resolutely quelling it. "Angel?"

He wrapped his arms around her from behind a second later. "Good morning, beloved," he uttered softly, gathering her willing form up above his own. His eyes gazed at her with awe, reverence and love. "Thank you," he continued, smiling at her. "Last night.... you made me feel human, whole, happy for the second time."

"Thank you," Buffy returned, gazing back at him with equal emotion. "You made me feel hallowed, sacred, precious."

"You are," he replied, looking at her in such a way as if to say it was incomprehensible for anyone not to find her so.

"I have something for you, sort of in congrats for your job," Buffy reached across to the pile of clothes, reaching into her jeans' pockets and withdrawing the necklace she had pocketed from him the day before.

Angel glanced from the necklace to her in puzzlement. "I was looking for that yesterday," he uttered, wondering how she managed to get hold of it without him noticing.

"I borrowed it and Willow and Jenny put a spell on it." She slipped it over his head. "Now you can go into the sunlight."

Wordlessly Angel looked up at her, her gift slowly sinking in. His hands weave themselves into her blond tresses, and he kissed her lips in gratitude.

Buffy smiled through the kiss, and deftly wriggled her hips, causing him to groan as the motion awakened his manhood into stiffness. All her fears had been completely erased during the night before, when they made love until their bodies ached from exhaustion, sleeping only when their energy was spent.

Angel parted from her lips briefly. "You're insatiable," he declared, moving his body into her wriggling as he so.

"It's all your fault," Buffy returned happily, wrapping her arms around him. "You're too damn sexy to resist," she added, before kissing him again.


"Lagos is out of luck," Buffy announced to Giles as she walked into the Library during morning recess. "Here is the magic mitten thingy," she added, depositing the glove of Myhnegon on to the research table.

Giles cautiously unwrapped it. "Turns out that engraving wasn't entirely inaccurate," he murmured, examining the dangerous looking garment.

"Angel managed to get it the night we were told about it," Buffy revealed to him. "He said not to touch it. Once someone has it on them it can't be removed."

"Yes, so I've found out," Giles replied, covering the glove up once more. "I also discovered that we can destroy it, though we better wait until after school, when Ms Post arrives," he added.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot," Buffy began, jumping to sit on the table, careful to stay away from the glove. "Mr Doyle warned me about her yesterday after class."

"Mr Doyle?" Giles queried. "How does he know her?"

"He said he saw her around," Buffy answered. "Do you think we can trust him?"

"More than Ms Post," Giles decided. "I don't like her, Buffy, I must confess."

"Join the club," Buffy said, "I'll get Cordelia to make us some t-shirts and muffins for the weekly meetings."

"Do you have more English today?" Giles asked her.

"No, but I'm sure I could find an excuse to drop by his classroom," Buffy offered.

"Do so," Giles asked her. "While I call the Council and ask again about Ms Post."

Buffy leapt off the table. "On my way," she uttered before walking out of the library.

Recess was still underway, so the slayer found the English room to be devoid of all but the new teacher as she knocked on the open door. "Mr Doyle, have you got a moment?"

"Yes," he replied looking up at her.

Buffy walked up to the table, casting her slayer senses over him. "What are you?" she asked as she came to a halt before the desk.

"Oh, I'm human," Doyle assured her. "Half anyway," he added.

"What's the other half?" Buffy asked, instinctively readying herself to attack.

"Bracken," he informed her. "But aside from a green face with spikes, and the need for an aspirin after the mind numbing visions, I'm completely harmless I assure you."

"Visions?" Buffy echoed, dismissing the description of facial features for a moment.

"Yeah, a little gift the Powers That Be," Doyle answered. "They sent me here to help you, and not just with Ms Post."

"That's how you saw her, through a vision?" Buffy guessed.

Doyle nodded. "She wants something from you, something evil. I can't see what though, the visions end in darkness."

Buffy's face suddenly became concerned. "Come with me," she uttered, before running out of the room, giving Doyle little choice but to follow her.


"Giles!" Buffy called out as she rushed into the library. "GILES!" She yelled as she found the room deserted.

Doyle entered slightly out of breath to find her running to the office, where the stunned librarian was lying on the floor, a wooden statue beside him.

The slayer cradled his head into her lap, and Doyle handed her a small silver flask. "Put it to his mouth," he suggested.

Buffy obeyed, watching anxiously as the drops of alcohol slowly revived her watcher and surrogate father. "Giles," she uttered.

"Buffy," he uttered, drawing her name out slowly as he came to. "Ms Post...."

"Knocked you out and stole the glove," Buffy finished, while Doyle rose to his feet to grab the phone and call 911.

"You must... must destroy the glove," Giles uttered slowly. "Use... Living... Flame..."

"Where did she go?" Buffy asked.

"Rest...field," Giles replied, groaning.

"I'll stay with him," Doyle promised her, and Buffy reluctantly nodded, before putting Giles' head gently on the floor, then rising to her feet and running out of first the office, then the library, then the school.


Buffy arrived just in time to witness Gwyneth Post slide the glove on to her hand. The clawed covered cloth clung to her fingers as she closed them into a fist, and the metal claws which surrounded the end snapped one by one on to her wrist, embedding themselves painfully into her flesh.

"Taou huogan maqachte milegaing!" She yelled, asking the glove's power to come to her so she could use it do what she willed.

Above them the sky crackled with thunder, lightning striking the demon which Buffy only now noticed was rushing towards Ms Post, only to fall headlong to his doom, the lightning burning his demonic body.

"Tauo freim!" Ms Post yelled, turning her hand towards Buffy.

Foreseeing instinctively what was coming the slayer dived behind the nearest gravestone, the lightning striking the ground where she had stood only moments later.

"Tauo freim!" Ms Post cried again, calling upon the glove to direct the lightning towards the grave. "There's nothing you can do to me now."

Buffy rolled backwards, landing heavily against a nearby crypt as the granite monument which she had been sheltering behind was split apart. She turned, noticing the stained glass windows which adorned the entrance of this crypt, then covered her eyes as the glass shattered around her.

"I have the glove," Ms Post uttered. "With the glove comes the power."

"I'm getting that," Buffy replied, grabbing the biggest piece of glass and rising to her feet. She threw the shard at Gwyneth, sending it to the woman's arm, watching as it severed the limb and glove from her body.

Above them the sudden storm turned erratic, lightning flaring out from all directions, causing the slayer to dive for cover once more. She hit the ground behind another gravestone and then peered over it, just as the lightning struck Ms Post, causing her to writhe in pain.

Lightning continued to strike her, until she disappeared.

The claws of the glove unsnapped from the lifeless arm one by one.


"So there's no more glove thingy?" Cordelia asked.

It was afternoon, and the slayer had returned to school, going back to the Library to find her watcher recovering slowly, and then witnessing Jenny and Doyle destroy the glove of Myhnegon a minute late.

"No. Little Living Flame, little mesquite, gone for good," Buffy replied.

"Sounds like we missed a lot of fun," Oz remarked.

"Then I'm telling it wrong," Buffy said. She turned as Giles joined their gathering in the student lounge, his left temple covered by a plaster. "Let me guess: Gwyneth Post: not a Watcher."

"Yes, she was," Giles explained. "Though her name was Gwendolyne. She was, uh, kicked out by the council a couple of years ago for misuses of dark power. They swear there was a memo."

"And Doyle?" Buffy asked. "Can we trust him?"

"Brackens are harmless, like he said," Giles answered. "And he proved his membership into the gang by staying with me whilst you slayed Ms Post and helping Jenny destroy the glove." He sighed, still a little worse for wear. "I hope whatever we face next time is easier than this was."

"Motion seconded," Buffy agreed, just before the bell rang, calling them back to class.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

John 52:54.

Chapter Text

Author's note: Some of the dialogue has been taken from the original episode; Lovers' Walk, and the plot is almost the same, except for none of the relationship repercussions for the Scoobies, as Willow and Xander are not cheating on Cordelia and Oz in my cannon. I have put this into the time line of the X Files season which would have been showing the same time as Season three; Season Six. I also make references to the past two episodes of the X Files which included vampires; 3 in Season Two and Bad Blood in Season Five. Usquebaugh is an old Gaelic word for Whiskey. Enjoy.


John 52:54

"He who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life and I shall raise them up on the last day."

John 52:54, The X Files; 3.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington D.C

A click. A pause, followed by another click. Gradually the charred document on the computer screen before him was restored to it's original white background and black text. Mulder dealt the latest X File to be rescued from the flames which had consumed his office no more than a cursory scan at first, for there were many more in a similar condition waiting on the hard drive for him, and there were only so many hours when he could do such work without being observed. Then his eyes caught the pertinent details such as names and locations, making him come an abrupt halt. Sighing he leaned flush against the confines of his hopefully temporary office chair.

He could still remember the smell of the smoke coming from the fires which were wrecking another part of Californian forest that season. The firmness of the asphalt as he sank down on the sidewalk, cradling her little gold cross in his hands. It was the only case he had done during her abduction, and he had felt as if it was a betrayal even before he crossed the line and slept with his main suspect. Perhaps that was why it still haunted him, though it was two years ago and more important events had occurred since then. Why he had never told her about it when she returned to work. It was so strange. He had worked alone on the X Files for so long, yet from the moment they worked their first case together he had not wanted it any other way. That want remained unchanged, despite his recent encounter with Diana Fowley, whatever she may think.

"Something wrong?" She asked as she entered, rousing him from his musings. Mulder pressed the mouse button, closing the file before he replied. "No. What's that?" he asked, noticing the small pile of papers she was carrying in her hand by the side of her waist.

"It's a case actually," Scully informed him, coming to stand beside his chair and placing the small pile of records and newspaper cuttings before him. "A sequence of unexplained murders, dating back to the thirties."

Mulder leaned forward to scan the papers his partner had put on the keyboard. "Where the earthquake occurred in '37?" He sought to confirm.

"Yes," Scully replied, leaning on the desk beside the computer screen. "A steady stream of deaths, all with the same MO, occurring until about two years ago, whereupon they suddenly lessened."

"Why?" Mulder asked. "What's the MO?"

"Two small puncture wounds to the neck, exsanguination."

Mulder raised his eyebrows, surprised that their thoughts had been thinking about the same thing, though she could have no idea of what file he had just restored. "Vampirism?"

"That would appear to be the case." Scully paused. "Are you waiting for my usual objections? Or have you forgotten that case in Texas."

"I would thought you would have had some, despite that," Mulder admitted, scanning the newspaper cutting before him. Suddenly his eyes caught a familiar name. "Giles?"

"Who?" Scully asked, following the direction of his gaze.

"Giles, Rupert Giles," Mulder replied, brushing the pile of papers aside to access the database to confirm his suspicions. "I met him while I was at Oxford. He was studying for a PhD in Historical Anthropology."

"That's a little unusual, I'll grant you," Scully said. "But why is his name important?"

"Before I met him he had dropped out with a crowd who was interested in the last course he took as his first degree; Occultology."

"You think that he's connected to the drop in cases?" Scully sought to confirm.

"If any of the rumours I heard during my time in England are true, yeah," Mulder added before rising from his chair. "Have you got the 302 from Skinner?" He asked, knowing Kersh never worked this late.

Scully nodded as she straightened to her full height. "Let's go," she agreed, handing him his jacket as they headed out.

 



Sunnydale High, California

"This is a nightmare. This is...... My world is spinning."

"Its not that bad, Willow, really," her best friend assured her.

"740? Verbal?" The redhead waved the results of her SATs in front of Xander's face. "I'm pathetic! Illiterate! I'm Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel."

"That's right, and the fact that your 740 verbal closely resembles my combined scores in no way compromises your position as the village idiot," he returned.

Willow ignored his sarcasm, sitting upon the small wall in front of the school. "Where did I go wrong?" She asked the world aloud.

Xander smiled and put a friendly arm around her. "Nowhere. You did amazing, Willow. As usual."

"Did you guys get your scores?" Cordelia asked as she and Oz came upon them.

"Willow is very saddened by her academic failure," Xander replied, standing up. "How did you do?" He opened the slip of paper she had been carrying. "This is not good," he commented as he registered the result.

"What's not good?" Cordelia queried.

"Well I'm just worried that it may hurt my standing as campus stud when people find out I'm dating a brain."

His girlfriend rolled her eyes in mild irritation and yanked the scores from his grasp. "Please! I have some experience in covering these things up."

Meanwhile, Oz was reading Willow's. "Well, I can see why you'd be upset." Willow looked at him, hurt. "That was my sarcastic voice," he explained.

"You know, it sounds a lot like your regular voice," Xander commented.

Oz nodded in understanding. "I've been told that."

"Buffy!" Cried Willow, looking up and catching sight of her friend's arrival. "Hey, did you get your SAT scores?"

The slayer nodded weakly, causing Xander to comment, "by the look on your face, I'm guessing you and I are gonna be manning the drive-through window side by side."

"They're just test scores, right?" Buffy remarked, handing the paper to Willow. "What do they really mean, anyway?"

"1430! Buffy, you kicked ass!" Willow cried.

Everyone looked at her strangely, causing her to add, "okay, so academic achievement gets me a little excited."

"Buff, that's amazing," Xander commented as he looked at her results.

"Let me see that," Cordelia remarked, snatching the paper from him.

"Yeah," Oz agreed with Xander. "With scores like that, you can apply pretty much anywhere you want."

"Buffy, this could, like, change your whole future," Willow added.

"The thought had occurred to me," the slayer agreed.

"Then why the sour puss?" Xander asked.

Buffy shook her head. "I don't know. I guess... my future. I never really thought about it. I wasn't even sure I was going to have one."

"Well, I think this is great!" Cordelia cried. "Now you can leave and never come back!" She added, causing everyone to look at her. "Well, I mean that in a positive way. Get out of Sunnydale. That's a good thing. What kind of moron would ever wanna come back here?"

"It doesn't really matter anyway," the slayer began as they walked back into school, "whatever I get, the only place I can go to is Sunnydale UCA."

"Its not a bad university," Oz reminded her, who, as a senior who had stayed down already had friends there. "It's actually considered one of the good ones."

"And we're coming as well," Xander rejoined. "We wouldn't desert you in protecting the Hellmouth."

This made the slayer smile, to hear of their simple support after all the trouble she had caused for them in the previous months when she had given up. "Thanks guys."

"Most importantly, Angel's a Professor there now, remember," Willow reminded her best friend as they stepped into the Library.

"Remember what?" Giles questioned, looking up from the thick volume in his hands. In reply Buffy handed him her test scores. "Oh yes, the SATs. How did you all do?"

"Willow performed excellently, Oz.....?" Xander trailed off in a question.

The stoic boy shrugged. "I test well," he replied.

"Cordelia's a brain," Xander continued, "but mine are best left unsaid."

"Buffy, that's marvellous, well done," Giles handed her the results back with a wide grin. "What did your mother say?"

"She saw these scores and her head spun around and exploded."

The Watcher paled. "I've been on the Hellmouth too long. That was metaphorical, yes?"

"Yes. She was happy." Buffy looked at him solemnly. "Whatever you said her while I was gone worked miracles, Giles. I've never known her to be this supportive."

"Oh, I didn't do that much," Giles uttered modestly.

"I think you did," Buffy returned. "Thank you."

Her watcher smiled at her. "My pleasure," he murmured.

The telephone in his office rang then, disturbing the serious moment. Giles went to answer the call, and the slayer turned to her friends.

"So, how should we celebrate?" She asked them.

"I was thinking bowling," Xander suggested.

"Bowling?" Cordelia echoed incredulously.

"Come on. It'll be fun!" Xander argued.

His girlfriend shrugged. "I don't know. I just thought we were gonna do something... you know, classy?"

"What's classier than bowling?" Xander asked.

Cordelia raised her eyebrows. "Apart from everything ever? Let's see..."

"I guarantee fun," Xander smiled at her, causing her to laugh as she sorted out the books for her next class. Peering into her bookbag, he saw a pile of photos. "Hey, those are from the pier."

"Yeah," Cordelia confirmed. "Uh, I just got them developed, I was going to stick some in my locker."

"There will be pictures. Of me. In your locker." Xander didn't know what to say. "I never knew I was locker door material."

"Well... just barely," Cordelia replied, but without any real malice. "Besides, I look really cute in those pictures."

Buffy, Willow and Oz exchanged smiles. "So what's the verdict?" the latter asked the couple. "Do we bowl?"

Cordelia glanced at her boyfriend's pleading expression and surrendered. "We bowl."

Willow beamed. "Great! Triple bowling date. I'm on Oz's team."

"Yeah? Well, prepare to be crushed," Xander joked. "Maybe we should practice," he murmured to his girlfriend.

Willow turned to her boyfriend, who was holding a small package in his hand, wrapped in newspaper. "What's this?" She asked, taking it as he offered it to her.

"It's a gift," Oz replied.

"What's the occasion?" Willow asked as she unwrapped it.

"Pretty much you are."

Willow finished unwrapping and cried happily. "It's a little, uh, PEZ witch!"

"It's kind of a theme present," Oz explained. "Do you like it?"

"I like... I more than like," Willow uttered softly. "Oz, this is probably the sweetest... We have to find a little PEZ werewolf, so little PEZ witch can have a boyfriend."

"I don't think they make a werewolf PEZ," Oz informed her. "You might have to settle for a wacky cartoon dog."

"This is... just so thoughtful," Willow murmured.

"Well, I think about you," Oz returned.

"Oh... I don't have anything to give you," Willow realised.

Oz just smiled at her. "Yeah, you do," he said, kissing her.

Buffy smiled at her friends, wishing the school hours were over so her boyfriend could be here too. Since their decision to take the previously forbidden step in their relationship, they were closer than ever. It was as if the act erased the final barriers between them, insecurities caused by his first moment of pure happiness. She felt a tremendous freedom in the security which the permanence of his soul had given them, another part of the future which she was only recently realising was now a possibility.

Giles emerged from his office with a grim expression, causing her to exit her thoughts. "What's wrong?" She asked him.

"That was the Council," he answered, referring to the telephone call. "They told me that two agents from the FBI were coming to Sunnydale."

"Why would the FBI want to come to one Starbucks town like Sunnydale?" Xander wondered aloud.

"Well, there was that time with the invisible girl," Cordelia reminded him.

"I take it that the Council know something we don't?" Buffy remarked.

"Yes. The two agents manage a small department in the Bureau, known as the X Files. They investigate the paranormal."

"And the Council thinks they might find out about the vampires stalking the sewers and the mouth of hell which opens in the library," Buffy guessed.

Giles nodded. "Yes, they warned us to make sure they don't. And for the slayer to keep a low profile while they're here."

"Wouldn't they just visit the police?" Cordelia queried.

"These are not your typical agents," Giles replied. "I used to know one of them actually, during my university days."

"Before or after Ripper?" Buffy asked.

"After," Giles answered. "He was fascinated about the rumours which were flying around Oxford's campus about me and what I was studying. If he hasn't changed, he'll know I'm here and wonder why."

"So low profile," Buffy repeated.

"If that's possible," Giles agreed.

"Sure," Buffy assured him. "How hard could it be?"

 


As if those in power had heard Giles' plea for the hellmouth to be quiet, as darkness came to Sunnydale, like the unholy beast it was, Inferno closed his mouth to sleep, choosing not to disturb the Chosen One from her normal life, or at least whatever remained of it.

Unfortunately for the slayer though, not all demons were able to hear her Watcher's hope for serenity while the FBI were in town. One of those was the owner of a battered, banged up Dodge Desoto Fire Flite with blackened windows, whose chose this night to crash said vehicle into one of the 'welcome to Sunnydale' signs as he breached it's limits.

Screeching to halt, the driver's door opened, causing a practically empty bottle of liquor to make a kamikaze break for freedom, smashing on the asphalt. The owner followed, sliding out of the car and on to the street, the broken glass crushing beneath his drunken form.

"Home, sweet home," he chuckled, before passing out.

Time passes, and sobriety in its drunken form, came to the driver, who managed the nearly impossible feat of finding his previous haunt in such a sodden state. He stumbled through the old burned out factory, the alcohol he had imbibed causing him to sing.

"And more, much more than this," he sang, "I did it my way."

His drunkenness had caused within him a temporary happiness, causing him to smile as he descended the stairs to the basement room which once housed his bed.

"Druscilla! I'm home!" He called out before breaking into a fit of giggles. The combined effect of the empty room, his drunken state and the memory of why he was in such a state in the first place soon caused those giggles to turn into sobs.

Reaching charred remains of his paramour's dresser, he picked up a burned souvenir of their time here, a much damaged porcelain doll.

"Why did you do it, baby?" He asked the doll softly, as if it were Druscilla. "Why did you leave me? We were happy here."

Sadness tried to possess him once more, but with a growl he shook it off, letting his demon show his true colours. Swinging round, he grabbed an iron candlestick, and vented his angered grief out on the innocent doll.

"YOU... STUPID... WORTHLESS... BITCH!" He cried, and the anger passed as quickly as it came. "Look what you've done to me."

Spike's face resumed his human features as he dropped the candlestick on the now scattered remains of the doll, as his grief consumed him once more.

 


Having changed planes in Los Angeles, the two agents were just exiting customs in Sunnydale's small airport at about the same time Spike drowned his sorrows in the factory. Collecting their rental car from the lot, Mulder drove them to the Hampton Inn where their rooms had been reserved before leaving Washington.

Scully cast an amused glance at her partner as they walked the short distance from their parked Ford Taurus to their hotel rooms. "What were you expecting? The Sam Houston Motor Lodge?"

"From what research we did during the flight here, I wasn't expecting an ordinary small town," Mulder replied as he unlocked the door before. "I'm still hoping there's a copy of Bram Stoker rather than the Bible in every room."

"Don't you think that would clue more people in?" Scully pointed out. "I think few residents here realise what might be behind the town's unusually high mortality rate."

Mulder nodded, conceding the point. "Maybe tomorrow we should check in with the police and you can read their autopsy files."

"Then see your old friend in the afternoon?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, he might be willing to talk more after school," Mulder agreed. "I still find it strange that he left the position of Curator at the British Museum to work as a High School Librarian here of all places."

"Maybe he met someone," Scully suggested.

"Or something," Mulder returned as they entered their hotel rooms.

 


At first Buffy was reluctant to disturb the scene she witnessed as she stood at the threshold of the Crawford Mansion; Angel reading Jean-Paul Sartre's debut novel La Nausea, an extension of the philosopher's thoughts on existentialism. She had given him the book a couple of days ago, one of many for the collection he was beginning to build in an area of the large double height living room. Unsure a little still about what her boyfriend liked to read, Buffy was pleased to see him engrossed in the work, as oppose to his new scholarly requirements as Sunnydale UCA Professor of Art History.

Then Angel looked up, noticing her silent arrival. He smiled and closed the book, leaving the volume on the hearth where he had been resting to rise to his feet and meet his beloved at the doorway with a kiss. A powerful, passionate kiss which spoke volumes of the depth of love between them, newly deepened by their recent consummation.

"How did you do?" He asked her, when he pulled away to let her breathe.

"1430," Buffy replied, causing him to smile.

"That's incredible, well done," he praised, before taking her hand to lead her to the warm fire burning in the large hearth. Together they sat down before the flames.

"Yeah, just think, soon we'll see each other at College everyday," Buffy said, looking at him carefully for his approval.

"Buffy, you could go anywhere you wanted to with this kind of result," Angel uttered, surprising her.

"You think I should explore my options?" she asked him softly, suddenly aware of her pounding heartbeat.

Angel caught the uncertainty in her face, and realised how she had misunderstood him. "No, my love, I want you to stay here, with me," he assured her. "But I also think you should apply to other colleges, to see who accepts you. You may not realise it now, but the feedback you get will do wonders to your confidence."

"You're right," Buffy agreed, climbing on to his lap. She smiled at him as she settled herself upon him. "When did you get to be so wise?"

"I read a lot," Angel replied, wrapping his arms around her. "Thank you for the books," he added, looking deep into her hazel eyes.

"I'm glad you're enjoying them," Buffy returned, as well as the look.

"Not as much as I enjoy you," he uttered softly before kissing her.

As they wrapped their arms around each other, continuing to kiss and caress, the flames from the fire behind them unknowingly outlined their amorous movements for the audience of one who had decided to visit.

Outside Spike watched. "Yeah, you. You think I'm afraid of you?" He drunkenly uttered, surprisingly still sober enough to realise the need for discretion and safety in a low tone of voice. "We were happy! You brainwashed her. I could just..." he broke off to take another sip of the new bottle he was carrying. At least it had been new when the night began. Now the alcohol he sipped were the last dregs. "Yeah, I'll show you who's a cool guy. You're going down."

He turned to leave, not wanting to witness any more of another couple's happiness, and for once his needs were met, though not in the way he would have intended if he were not perhaps quite so drunk.

A flower bed of night blooming jasmines served first as a weapon to trip over, then as a cushion to break the vampire's fall as he passed out.

 


The one handicap of the garden attached to the Crawford Mansion was that while it was enclosed to allow for the floor of the master bedroom suite above, it also had windows to let the plants receive their necessary sunlight.

And burn any vampires who decided, even unknowingly, to be trespassers come sunrise.

It was the pain which this celestial object caused to Spike that made him wake into full undead sobriety, the addition of a thoroughly alcohol induced hangover only adding the agony of watching one's hand burst into flames.

"Whoa!" Spike cried, before leaping to his feet and running to the water feature in the centre of the garden. He stuck his hand in the rain of the fountain, which was anything but. With a growl of frustration he stuck the injured limb in the granite lined pool below.

Considering the size of his hangover, it was surprising that he realised within a few seconds of his body starting to smoke that the centre of the garden was not shielded from the direct sunlit windows either.

Yanking his coat over his bleached head, Spike dashed for the sanctuary of his Desoto, smashing empty beer cans and various other containers of liquor in his wake. Finding a new bottle, he pulled out the cork with his fangs, and used the liquid medicinally for once, over his injured hand. Then he put the rest in his mouth.

"This is just too much," he growled.

 


A few blocks away, stood the headquarters of Sunnydale's finest, who, aside from they were not answering calls from Mayor, spent their days in blissful ignorance, even to the point of making it annoying to any outside figures of authority who happened to visit.

Agents Mulder and Scully exited the building barely two hours since their entrance, both feeling that the passage of time had been too long and not entirely well spent.

"I've never known autopsy files to be so incomplete," Scully remarked to her partner as they walked the short distance to the rental. "Or quite so incompetent."
"I'll admit while I was expecting someone with a pronounced set of teeth," Mulder commented, earning a glare from Scully as he referred to their days spent in Texas investigating vampires, "I wasn't expecting such a scale of ignorance."

"It was almost too perfect," Scully agreed. "Maybe I've been working on the X Files for too long, but the ignorance felt deliberate, as though something was telling them to remain that way."

"I agree," Mulder nodded as he started the ignition and carefully reversed out of the parking lot. "So let's see if my friend is free now, instead of waiting for school to end."

"Mulder, I doubt that a librarian has this much control over the police of this town," Scully remarked with her usual style of grounding him in the real world.

"I'm not suggesting he's controlling them," Mulder revealed, once more displaying his intuitive style of thinking, one which always suggested he knew more than he feasibly could at this stage in the case. "I'm suggesting he knows why."

 


"So these visions are not a common trait of a Brackens?" Giles queried, fascinated by the conversation he was having with the newest member of Sunnydale High's teaching staff. "Half-Bracken I should say," he added, remembering.

Doyle shook his head as he leaned back against the chair. "No, they're unique to me," he replied. "Gift from the Powers That Be."

"And they sent you here?" Jenny Calendar asked from her position at the research table. Three of the four adults who were unofficial members of the Scooby gang had come together during free periods for a small conference of alike minds.

"Well, them and Whistler," Doyle revealed, causing them to glance at each in surprise. "I see you've met the guy."

"Yes, he visited during the Acathla days," Giles replied. "And afterwards, to warn Buffy and Angel about the forthcoming evil, though he did not mentioned what form said evil would take."

"He didn't reveal anything to me either," Doyle commented. "Beyond that if I didn't find a reason to come to the hellmouth, the visions would soon give me no other choice."

"Do you receive any warning?" Jenny asked him.

Sunnydale's newest addition to the teaching staff shook his head. "No, they just come and go when they please. Usually accompanied by a headache which entails a need for aspirin and usquebaugh."

"I imagine they would be quite painful," Giles uttered in compassion. "According to what I've read about them."

"Yeah, if I were human, I would soon be insane, no doubt," Doyle remarked feelingly.

Jenny was about to ask another question, if it hadn't been for the double entrance doors abruptly flicking open.

The three members of staff looked up at the same time, though Giles gave a cursory glance around the room to make sure that his usual collection of occult reference was out of plain sight for once before taking in the new arrivals.

"Hi, Giles," Mulder remarked. "Remember me?"

 


Buffy usually paid her first port of call to the library before she made her way home after school, but this time it was Revello Drive which she visited first, having experienced a sudden attack of conscience about not staying there the night before. The first night she spent with Angel she had returned home early enough for her mother not to notice that her daughter had not spent the night in her bedroom, though from the looks she received that morning during breakfast, she half suspected that was not true. This time however she had completely forgot to return home before first period, despite leaving Crawford Street in plenty of time for it, as Angel's new working commitments required him to be punctual, and likewise for his beloved to be just so concerning school.

"Mom, I'm home," she called out as she walked through the hall, trying to sound as breezy about it as she could. "Where are you?" She called out, having eliminated both the empty living and dining rooms from her inquiries.

Another voice became audible to the slayer as she reached the kitchen, one which she was surprised to hear, and not just because it familiar. Or daylight for that matter. So it was with some haste that she covered the remaining distance from the hall to the kitchen.

"So I'm strolling through the park, looking for a meal, and I happen to walk by, and she's making out with the chaos demon! And so I said, 'You know, I don't have to put up with this.' And she said, 'Fine!' So I said, 'Fine, do whatever you like!' I mean, I thought we were going to make up, you know."

"Well, she sounds very unreasonable," Joyce offered soothingly as she sat down across from him by the counter.

"She is," Spike answered. "She's out of her mind. That's what I miss most about her."

Joyce sipped her hot chocolate which her guest had requested for drinks. "Well, Spike, sometimes even when two people seem right for each other, their lives just take different paths. When Buffy's father and I..."

The vampire shook his head. "No, this is different. Our love was eternal. Literally." He sighed. "You got any of those little marshmallows?"

"Well, let me look," Joyce rose from her seat just as her daughter entered. Buffy stood in a state of shock at the scene before her, the slayer within her using her eyes to glance at the windows and see that the blinds were firmly down, guarding against what was left of the daylight hours, then checking to make sure her mother had no jagged wounds about the neck.

"I used to bring her rats," Spike mused. "With the morning paper."

"Great," Buffy remarked, causing him to look up. "More moping. That's gonna get Druscilla back."

"Hi Blondie," Spike remarked. "Don't worry, I haven't come here to kill. Your Mom's a lady and I respect that." He held up his drink. "She also makes damn good Coco."

"Spike," Buffy returned. "How long have you been back in town?"

"Not long," he replied. "Though I wouldn't have minded missing you and Peaches shagging. Or at least the beginning part of it, before I was thankfully knocked out."

Buffy blushed despite her glowering directed at her soulmate's grandchilde. "Thank you for giving me another reason to stake you."

"Hey, I'm not judging," Spike returned. "Dru's with a bloody chaos demon, so I can't. But I thought Peaches was past all that soul having days."

"He had his soul restored," Buffy informed him. "Permanently, I might add."

"Curses," Spike shrugged at his own incompetence. "I should have thought of that. Boils, leprosy. Even a love spell would do it."

"Why would you want her back?" Buffy asked him, inwardly wondering why she felt a little sorry for the moping vampire who had dared to cross the threshold of her home. "Dru was playing with only half a deck even on her good days."

"It was that truce with you that did it," Spike revealed. "Dru said I'd gone soft. Wasn't demon enough for the likes of her. And I told her it didn't mean anything, I was thinking of her the whole time, but she didn't care. So, we got to Brazil, and she was... she was just different. I gave her everything: beautiful jewels, beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them, but nothing made her happy. And she would flirt! I caught her on a park bench, making out with a chaos demon! Have you ever seen a chaos demon? They're all slime and antlers. They're disgusting." He paused to sip his hot chocolate, Joyce having now bestowed upon the beverage some marshmallows. "She only did it to hurt me. So I said, 'I'm not putting up with this anymore.' And she said, 'Fine!' And I said, 'Yeah, I've got an unlife, you know!' And then she said... she said we could still be friends." He broke down then. "God, I'm so unhappy! I mean, friends! How could she be so cruel?"

"Gee, that story just gets sadder every time you hear it," Buffy commented sarcastically. "Or pathetic, take your pick." She looked to her mother. "When did he turn up?"

"Just after I came home," Joyce replied. "He stood on the doorstep smoking in his leather jacket, begging me to let him in. I did threaten him with a stake, but then he just burst into tears and I realised it wasn't worth it."

"Yeah, I see what you mean," Buffy added as she looked on the hapless grief stricken vampire sitting in her kitchen. "Giles doesn't need this though, not this week with a old friend of his from the FBI visiting. But I'm gonna need to call him and break the bad news anyway."

"Buffy, I'm safe here with him if you want to go and tell Rupert in person," Joyce assured her. "Spike won't kill me, will you?"

"No," the bleached vampire said, surprising all present, including himself. "Though I haven't had a woman in weeks. I just don't have the appetite for it."

"As long as you know where the rest of my weapons collection is," Buffy decided. "In the travelling chest in the bottom of my wardrobe."

"I will remember," Joyce assured her. "Now, go."

"Gone," Buffy uttered as she headed out. "But I will be back as quick as I can," she called down the hall before she left the house.

 


"Vampires?" Giles tried to inject the right amounts of humour and incredulity into his speech. "Mulder, I know you heard that I was into some strange stuff during my Oxford days, but the kind of things you're talking about only exist in novels and fairy tales. Certainly not in Sunnydale."

"Then why did you leave the British Museum for a position here?" Mulder asked.

"I met someone," Giles replied, indicating Jenny with a look, hoping his old friend would not check the teacher records and find out that there were two Miss Calendars', one of which died some months ago.

"I apologise, Mr Giles, for my partner's inquiries," Scully began, a position she felt used to whenever they found themselves in situations like this.

"No need, Agent Scully," Giles returned. "I'm sure Mulder just got carried away." He gestured to the bookshelves. "If you do need research on such subjects, I believe we do have a large occult reference here, and I'm sure Principal Snyder would not object to my lending a helping hand to the FBI."

"Thank you, but we have to be getting back to Washington," Scully said. "Come on, Mulder," she turned to him.

"Giles," Buffy called out as she entered, "we have a big........." she paused as she caught sight of the strangers. "Problem," she finished guardedly.

"This is one of the students," Giles explained. "What is it, Miss Summers?"

"It's that book you were missing," Buffy began, rapidly thinking of a way to convey the problem without revealing any details which would alert the agents' suspicions. "On the uses of railroad spikes," she continued, looking at her watcher, hoping he understood.

"You mean the one by William B?" Giles asked her, returning the expressive look.

"Yes!" Buffy nodded. "My Mom found it and has it at her house. I just wanted to let you know before I fetched the volume for Mr O'Connor who was waiting to borrow it."

"Thank you for letting me know," Giles said. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Yes," Buffy replied, before exiting the library.

Giles turned to the agents with a modest smile. "Students," he murmured before ushering them out.

 


"Mulder, you're rushing me out the door," Scully pointed out as her partner almost herded them out of the library minutes later.

"I think we need to follow that girl," Mulder replied, hurrying after the slight blond who was rapidly exiting the high school campus.

"Why do we need to follow that girl?" Scully asked him.

"Because I don't think she came to Giles for a book on railroad spikes," Mulder said as they hurried out of the entrance into the night.

"Neither do I," Scully agreed, "but do you really think she is involved with this?"

"I intend to find out," Mulder replied as they followed her down the street in their rental car.

They watched her as she waited by the college campus, then the man who greeted her and drove her to a suburban house. At this point they felt ready to quit, trusting their paranoia instincts too much after five years of working on uncovering a conspiracy against the American public.

Then they saw the girl exit the house with the man, followed by another with bleached blond hair, and decided that their instincts could be right.

 


"The spell's gonna get her back," Spike remarked, having become fixated on this idea since Buffy and Angel arrived at Revello Drive.

"Why can't I kill him?" Buffy asked her soulmate. "He'll be dust and those agents from the FBI none the wiser."

"Because those agents have been following us from the college campus," Angel reminded her softly. "As much as neither of want to, we have to help him to keep that low profile Giles was so concerned about."

"Even if that means helping him shop for ingredients for a love spell on a crazy girl?" Buffy returned, without any need for an answer.

"What do you know?" Spike half yell, half sobbed out. "It's your fault, the both of you! She belongs with me. I'm nothing without her."

"That I'll have to agree with," Buffy commented. "You're pathetic, you know that? You're not even a loser anymore, you're a shell of a loser. Now lets get to the Magic Box, fix up this spell and have done with it."

"What's your hurry?" Spike asked, suddenly intrigued.

"My hurry is my intense desire to get you out of my life," Buffy returned. "You tend to cause trouble."

"I'll be out of your life in a few short hours," Spike assured them. "No trouble at all."

"Hello, Spike," a voice said suddenly from the darkness.

Within minutes the three were surrounded.

"No trouble at all," Buffy echoed before preparing herself for battle.

 


"Lenny," Spike greeted the leader who had spoken first. "How have you been?"

"Better since you left," the vampire returned. "You should have stayed gone."

"Is that right?" Spike queried challengingly.

For once, the slayer wasn't eager to follow through, and not just because Spike annoyed the hell out of her. "You know, he was just leaving," she lied, turning to Spike. "Don't you start anything." She urged.

"This piss-ant used to work for me," Spike revealed.

"We can't risk this," Buffy said softly to Angel.

Her beloved shook his head. "Look, I don't think we have a choice."

"You other two can walk away from this," Lenny offered charitably.

Spike laughed. "You do know who these two are, don't ya? The slayer and Angelus. Or Peaches with a soul rather."

"Thanks so much for spreading that term of endearment around, William," Angel said wryly. "Be sure to invite me to the next poetry recital."

"The slayer!" Lenny cried. "Not for long!"

Buffy knew what was coming the moment Spike spilled the beans, and threw a snap kick to the lead vampire's midsection, catching him off guard. Another rushed at her, causing her to step back, then spin round, aiming a kick to his face.

Angel dodged to avoid a swing from his attack, punching him in the gut. He dealt a backhand punch to another's face, then elbowed him in the gut too.

Spike was sent flying on to the hood of a car, landing of his back. He came to his senses just in time to avoid another strike from one vampire wielding a length of pipe, rolling out of the way, jumping to stand on the roof of the vehicle.

One vampire grabbed hold of Angel's sleeve, using his grip to force him to the ground. Angel turned the descent into a roll, colliding with the vampire before rising to his feet, the momentum causing his attacker to lose his hold of him. Another lunged at him, causing Angel to grab him raise him to the night sky, sending him ridged forehead first into a garbage can nearby. A third vampire attempted to come at him from behind, but Angel sensed his approach and fell into a crouch, throwing out a kick to his attacker's legs, causing him to trip and fall to the floor.

Where were the FBI agents during all this? Mulder and Scully had kept their trail of the girl and the two unusual men to a discreet distance, which was rapidly eliminated as the fight became audible. They rounded the corner on to the high street to find their three suspicious persons in the middle of a fight outside a shop called the Magic Box. Falling back on their training and years in the Bureau, they took out their guns and aimed them in that direction.
"Stop, FBI!"

Either the people did not believe them, or they were deaf, but no one stopped fighting. Another joined the bleached blond man on the roof of the car, who punched him in the face, causing him to fly backward on to the hood of the vehicle. A second decided to aid his friend and jumped on the vehicle too.

One cornered the girl, trying to slam her against a low wall, but to the agent's surprise the girl leapt sideways over the wall into the outdoor cafe area of the Espresso Pump. Landing on a table she rolled off on to her feet once more. Her attacker tried to rush her, but she raised her leg and spun round, before striking him in the stomach. The hit appeared to have been delivered with enough force to knock him out, but the man rose to feet and strode into the cafe, where the girl had entered.

Mulder and Scully rushed to see if they could help her, but witnessed instead the girl grabbing a metal table and swinging it at her attacker, smacking him hard in the face and knocking him to the floor. She turned round and snatched a mop, breaking of the end. She struck her attacker in the abdomen, then hit another in the face, sending both to the floor. They rose, and she raised her broken mop, sending it in their chests.

The agents thought they had seen everything while investigating vampires in Texas, even being sued by them for thousands of dollars. But they had never seen any of the vampires disintegrate into dust before them. Turning to each other in shock, it took some time for both of them to realise that a fight was still going on behind them. Mulder exited the cafe, Scully and the girl following, raised his gun to the cloudless night sky above and fired a couple of shots into the air.

This had the temporary effect of making everyone pause and glance towards them.

"FBI," Mulder called out. "Stop now or next time it won't be the sky we're shooting."

The bleached blond glanced at girl who had stepped in front of the agents. "Are these guys for real?"

"Yes," the girl replied, causing the agents to stare at her. "Another thing I could have done without tonight," she added.

"This is hardly a picnic for me, Blondie," the bleached blond haired guy remarked. "Fighting with the slayer hardly does wonders for your reputation, even if you've killed two of them."

The girl groaned. "Blow my cover why don't you," she muttered, while the agents glanced at her puzzled. Ignoring them, she turned to their attackers. "Guys, any other night, and I'd be happy to kill you, but for once we have a common goal. I want Spike out of here as much as you do, so if you'd just let us get to the Magic shop for some supplies, he'll be on his way."

One of their attackers nodded. "Slayer, we'll call it a truce for once," he said to the girl, before turning to his friends. "Come on, lets go."

Mulder prepared to follow them, but the girl grabbed his wrist, restraining him before he could make a move. "Don't," she ordered quietly.

"Now, that was fun," the bleached blond haired guy remarked, jumping off the car back on to the sidewalk. "Oh, don't tell me that wasn't fun. Oh, God! It's been so long since I had a decent spot of violence. Really puts things in perspective. I'm really glad I came here, you know? I've been all wrongheaded about this. Weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back, I've just gotta be the man I was, the man she loved. I'm gonna do what I should have done in the first place: I'll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her until she likes me again. Love's a funny thing."

He walked away, while Mulder and Scully turned to the girl. "What was all that about?" Mulder asked her.

Buffy smiled at them sheepishly. "Now, you see, this is exactly what Giles didn't want happening."

 


"Thank you, Giles, for explaining all of this," Mulder remarked in the library where they had returned for explanations mere hours after they had left it. "I promise we won't be making a report on this, though I doubt anyone reads them nowadays."

"I still appreciate you keeping this confidential," Giles returned. "The Council views the X Files department at the FBI with suspicion for the very reason that they fear publicity would cause widespread panic."

"Yes, well it appears to us that someone in this town is doing a great deal to keep the supernatural events which go on here private," Mulder revealed.

"Do you think so?" Giles queried. "I must admit I did wonder why the police, incompetent as they are, no offense, appeared to be doing very little to combat the crime in this town."

"I'll look into when we get back to Washington," Mulder promised him. "See what we can find out and keep you informed."

"I'd be grateful if you could," Giles replied. "My own resources in those areas are quite limited."

Mulder shook his hand in silent farewell, and the agents walked out of the library. He turned to Scully as they wandered through the deserted corridor of the High school. "Well, Scully, was the case everything you expected it to be when you brought me the files?"

"I'm grateful we didn't get sued," Scully remarked, causing her partner to smile as they walked back out into the night.

 


The battered banged up Desoto Fire Flite sped along the highway out of Sunnydale, further and further away from the hellmouth by every mile marker the vehicle passed. Inside a much more sober owner drove, relaxing against the confines of the weather-beaten leather interior, singing along to the song coursing through the radio.

"I plan each charted course, each little step along the highway. And more, much more than this I did it my way."

The End.
To be continued in...

The Pryce Of Faith.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Of course, we haven't yet learnt when, why, or where Angel got his tattoo. Presumably, because of the A, he got it after he was turned, and, according to my research, the Japanese were the most highly skilled at the practice during that time. This script takes lines from Faith, Hope & Trick, Bad Girls and nothing from original canon episode; The Wish, which I return to in a later season. There is a line which eludes to a poem by Wilfred Owen and another to a play by Shakespeare, both of which are fairly recognisable. I introduce Faith now into the series, and Wesley, who arrives to become her first watcher. As for Faith, I have made her reasons for coming to Sunnydale more complex, and written the episode almost entirely from her perspective. Enjoy.


The Pryce of Faith.

There was no word for what they did to her. No word. One can imagine the terrible, scene, born out of nightmares; the initial encounter, surprise and sudden, despite preparation and wariness; followed by a pitched battle, in time desperate, on the brink of defeat, but nothing, not even imagination, prepares one for the intensity of the reality, the powerful feeling that this fight could be your last. Death is a possibility only realised when circumstances demand for it to be, when fear convinces you that there is no other way out, whatever you attempt.

Mortality is the norm; for everything can die, nothing is invulnerable. Youth is a victim just as much as age, time for both a non-dependable passage, uncertain in longevity. End comes in many forms, never planned, even when one decides or desires for sovereignty over it. Above all, there is a feeling of helplessness; inescapable knowledge which comes upon you simultaneously, telling you that there is nothing you can do to prevent this end from coming to pass, that you can only watch and wait, hoping in vain for the salvation you know will not follow.

For two women, this fate arrived unexpectedly during one previously ordinary night in Boston. While the routine of this night would seem anything but to those who had no knowledge of the old lie; in every generation there is a chosen one, she alone will stand against the vampires, demons and the forces of darkness, she is the slayer; it was routine which turned against the norm for these two poor and unfortunate souls, a mortal possibility realised only when it was already too late.

She watched a scene which she would never forget, a scene born out of nightmares and violence which would haunt her for the rest of her life, though she was certain too that said life would not last much longer. There were other things she could be certain of; like the impossibility of escape from the once human restraints who held her fast before their leader. How exactly the end of her life would come, and by whose means. A desire to close her eyes, as if darkness would shut out not just what was happening before her, but the sounds it produced, the screams, the mortal dread expressed in a voice exhausted by fear, incapable of anything beyond desperate pleas for salvation. But her own fear overwhelmed the want, forcing her to watch someone else play god, on a night and in a town where she was once in the assumption.

Violent thoughts have violent ends, but so do ones born out of fear, just as sudden and swift, or just as prolonged. The vampire brought his victim's neck to his mouth and drank, draining the life out of her as well as the blood which he needed for nourishment. When that need was sated, he withdrew, looking into the eyes of the other woman, currently restrained by his devoted minions. Making sure she observed the remains which dripped from his mouth, and the devil which came out to play in his ridged forehead, gleaming white fangs, and amber wolfish eyes.

"When you die," he growled, the words and tone echoing through the descending night, "the moment will live with you forever. For you will be the first slayer who was turned into a slave by the one thing she is meant to kill."

"No," Faith cried, even as the henchmen dragged her to their master. "Surely there's another way. You don't have to kill me to gain my alliance."

Kakistos curled his tongue around his fangs, his head slowly nodding as he realised the wisdom of her desperate plea. "You are right," he growled, "a loyal slayer would have true advantage over that of one turned." He loomed forward, placing his mouth by her ear. "This, my dear, is what you shall do."

 


"When did you get this?"

"What?"

"This." Angel felt a slight pressure on his back, fingers which had previously been occupied in idly stroking skin, now froze in mid caress and increased their pressure, making their presence felt. "Buffy, honey, I can't see what you're pointing at." He reminded her.

Inwardly Buffy conceded the logic of her boyfriend's reply; for he was lying on his front upon the bed within the master suite of the Mansion on Crawford Street; where they retired after a non-eventful patrol. Not more than five minutes ago had they resumed conversation, surrendering before to desires which for three weeks since were now natural, comfortable, and above all, bliss. The permanence of Angel's soul, together with his talisman dependent immunity to the sunlight's mortal power, and their mutual resolution for honesty all provided a strength and longevity to their relationship which before this year they had never known, only dreamed was possible. Together they learned the art of loving each other, talking with each other of their past joys or regrets, and their hopes for the future. As they celebrated these parts of their relationship, they also realised the surprise that nothing within their souls had the power to separate them, only events beyond their control might possess the means. And this awareness only served to increase their happiness.

Now Buffy pressed herself against him, causing him to stiffen in pleasure as she dealt a kiss to the source of her current puzzle. "Your tattoo," she explained.

Catching her by surprise Angel rolled over to face her, deftly capturing her within his arms, one hand entangled in her blond hair, the other caressing her tanned skin. "You really want to know?" He asked, gazing at her seriously.

She nodded, looping a finger in the charmed chain and coin he wore around his neck, her present to him from three weeks ago, to enable him to walk into the sunlight.

"It was after the Boxer Rebellion, when Darla kicked me out. I travelled into Japan, where I persuaded a student of Hori Chiyo to give me it," Angel told her. "For the western world, tattoos were a recent fascination among the wealthy, but to the Japanese then they were banned except for criminals. I let it serve as part of my penance for my crimes."

Buffy looked at him steadily, silently reminding him that the crimes were his demon's, not his soul's before she inquired further. "Why the griffin?"

Angel accepted the silent rebuke before answering. "It was part of my family's crest."

Buffy raised her eyes. "Your family had a coat of arms?"

"Yes," Angel gather her closer to his chest. "It was an endowment from a once grateful kingdom to a gentry family." He paused, searching her hazel eyes. "Do you like it?"

Buffy blushed. "I trace its outline every time we...." she trailed off in embarrassment, leaving him to guess the rest.

Angel smiled at her. "I love you," he uttered, before bending to kiss her.

Declaration gave way to desire and passion; passion gave way to loving tenderness. The world faded away, replaced in prominence by their more private one as Angel threaded his hands around her; one in her hair, the other upon her skin; caressing, worshipping. His beloved moaned with pleasure in reply, he answered her with a contented purr, as her hands explored him with a familiarity which felt older than three weeks, as the feeling that their souls were mated long before this present life awoke within him once more.

In time Angel rolled her underneath him, returning them to the first position with which they had begun the occupation of the bed, his lips moving from her mouth as he readied a pilgrimage on her body. Only with her did he feel the holiness of the act, the divine pleasure which surely the higher powers intended to be experienced. Perhaps it was because he had taken her innocence, as opposed to being one in a long line to the demon who unknowingly sired him first for his soul's resurrection, then for this meeting. Or perhaps it was because in her he felt safe and loved; belonging not just to her, but to the world he previously felt exiled from.

All these thoughts ran through Buffy's mind in similar veins, as she stretched her arms to allow her fingers to trace his tattoo while he continued to kiss his way down her body, starting with the slender strokes of the letter which stood for his name, before moving to the mythical beast which adorned it.

Then the phone rang, disturbing their private world, marking the intrusion of the public one which both of them held as duty of service to.

"Ignore it," Buffy managed to utter, arching her back to meet Angel's lips, which had briefly withdrawn from their pilgrimage when the intrusive sound began.

"Okay." Angel obeyed easily, far too pleasurably occupied to gather energy for the demands of modern technology.

The ringing became established background noise, that abruptly shifted focus to centre stage as the answer machine kicked in, revealing the identity of the person that had dared to disturb them.

"Angel? Buffy?" A distinctly British accent inquired, familiar at once to both. "If you're there, please pick up."

The souled vampire reluctantly stopped kissing his beloved, raising himself up to look at her. "He sounds annoyed. Do you think we should answer?"

Buffy inwardly felt the same emotion as she detected in her watcher's tones. "If we must. Why did you get that thing anyway?"

"You wanted me to," Angel reminded her with a smile which almost made her forget the message entirely. "And you know I can't refuse you anything."

Unwillingly they got up and he punched the button for the speakerphone, while Buffy grabbed one of his shirts, feeling less exposed with the garment, even though she knew her watcher and surrogate father could not see her. "We're here, Giles."

"Finally." A very brassed off Watcher answered. "Get over to the Library. Now," he urged almost curtly before ending the call.

Buffy glanced at Angel. "Wonder what's got into him?" She mused aloud before tossing him the shirt and retrieving her clothes in order to change.

 


"Of course, training procedures have been updated quite a bit since your day," Buffy and Angel heard someone saying as they neared the library. "Much greater emphasis on field work."

"Really?" Uttered another, one they knew as Giles' bored and annoyed tone.

"Oh, yes," the other said, missing the undertone from his companion completely. "Not all books and theory nowadays. I have, in fact, faced two vampires myself. Under controlled circumstances, of course."

"Well, no danger of finding those here," Giles remarked.

"Vampires?" The someone queried.

"Controlled circumstances," Giles corrected just as the couple entered the library. "At last. Hello, Buffy. Now, could you please explain to this....." he paused, reconsidering his choice of insults. "Idiot," he finally chose as he gestured at a man standing next to him, possessing thin sliver glasses and a pin striped dark suit, "who you are?"

"Well... Hello," the man remarked with a smugness which was laced with condescension.

Buffy stared back at him, slayer senses on full alert. "Who are you?"

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," he replied, stepping forward and holding out his hand. "It's very nice to meet you."

Buffy made no move to return the gesture, turning to Giles. "Watcher?"

"Watcher," he confirmed.

"Is he evil?" Buffy asked.

"Evil?" Wesley queried, puzzled.

"The last one was evil," Buffy replied shortly.

"Oh, yes," Wesley recalled thoughtfully. "Gwendolyn Post. We all heard. No. Mr. Giles has checked my credentials rather thoroughly and phoned the Council, but I'm glad to see you're on the ball as well. A good Slayer is a cautious Slayer."

Buffy barely acknowledged his speech. "Is he evil?" She asked Giles again.

"Not in the strictest sense," Giles replied.

Wesley glared at him, causing Angel to hide his amusement at the expression. "Well, I'm glad that's cleared up," he stated. "I was ordered to come here to receive the new slayer, Faith, I believe her name is."

Buffy burst out laughing, catching everyone off guard. Collapsing into a chair, she slowly calmed herself down. "I die one year ago for five minutes, and Kendra is called. Now you're telling me that her death activated another? Have they forgotten that I'm still here?"

"You did run away, Miss Summers," the new Watcher reminded her, his tone still containing trace elements of condescension.

Giles looked at him with a suspicious glare of his own. "I never informed the Council of that," he remarked. His tone had reverted to calmness again; the calm anger of his misspent youth alter ego.

"We have our sources," Wesley replied back, his voice dripping with superiority. "One hardly keeps a secret when they are phoning almost everyone they know about a missing teenage girl."

The air in the Library acquired more tension as the two Watchers stared at each other, both trying to out scare the other. It did not take long to establish a victor.

"I gather as you know nothing of this Faith, that she has yet to arrive?" Wesley inquired.

"No," Giles replied. "But when she arrives I'll be sure to pass on your message and send her straight to you."

"I think I shall wait here, if you don't mind," Wesley returned.

Giles did, but he felt he could not air such an objection aloud. "Buffy, thank you for coming. As tomorrow promises to be an eventful day, I suggest you get home."

"Night, Giles," Buffy said, gratefully taking the exit given. She waited until she and her boyfriend were outside the deserted high school before she turned to him. "Something tells me he's going to be more trouble than he's worth."

Angel nodded. "If he survives that long," he agreed before taking her home.

 


Same time a few blocks away in the bad part of town, Faith checked into the motel, taking care to lock the door of her room, placing a chair under the door knob for further protection. Exhaustion was gradually establishing a hold on her, causing her to yawn as she mounted the bed, gathering her legs towards her chest. But she did not want to sleep. The scene which served to mark her farewell to Boston still haunted her mind, along with the alliance which she was forced into, and the plan which she was forced to follow. Both she loathed already, but the situation had left her little choice. Until she arrived here, that is. For the moment she had a distance between herself and the fiend who dictated these terms to her, which should give her time to form a plan with which to free herself of his shackles. Since he held her life in his hands, she had only option; end his. An act which while she felt incapable of doing herself, she knew of at least one other who could.

Which was why she had obeyed part of Kakistos' orders, for he was coming to this town anyway for his own purposes besides testing her loyalty. Now all she needed to do was retrieve her energy and her senses, so she could convince the next people required that she was vampire slayer she used to be.

Even if she felt as far from that woman as she thought possible.

 


Half way between the motel and the high school, a black stretch limousine came to a halt beside the takeout machine for one of the hellmouth's local fast food eateries.

"Welcome to Happy Burger," the machine seemed to speak, when in fact it was the lone nightshift worker. "May I take your order, please?"

The tinted window was slid down a little. "Diet soda. Medium."

"That'll be eighty-nine cents at the window, sir," the voice replied.

The customer raised the window and turned to his companion within while the chauffeur drove them to the required parking space. "Sunnydale. Town's got quaint. And the people? He called me sir. Don't you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know, strictly the Caucasian Persuasion here in the Dale. But, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute their death rate. I ran a statistical analysis, and hello darkness. It makes... D.C. look... like Mayberry, and ain't nobody saying boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun."

"We're here for one thing," he companion growled.

"Kill the Slayer," the customer remembered. "Still, big picture." He let the window down and leaned out, handing the lone worker a dollar.

The worker handed him his soda. "Have a nice night, sir."

"Right back at ya," he returned before sitting down.

"The Slayer," his companion growled. "I'm going to rip her spine from her body, and I'm going to eat her heart and suck the marrow from her bones."

Trick listened to his master's planned future meal, and realised his own, primitive needs. "Now I'm hungry," he uttered, before lunging out of the window, and grabbing the worker by the shirt, pulling him out of the takeout cubicle and into the limousine.

 


Day arrived, rousing the slayer and her friends, family and lover from their beds to their place of work, be it museum, university or high school. When Buffy met her watcher in the library during first recess, she expected the new slayer she had heard of from the night before to be there, but it was still just Giles and the new watcher, who appeared rather shocked at her training sessions, instead of composed or disapproving. But as each hour passed by, and still no sign, she began to wonder if her new sister in arms would ever turn up.

Evening caused her to join her friends at the Bronze, where in a quiet large booth on the ground floor they sequestered for themselves, each girl in the arms of their boyfriends, enjoying the music from the band, and observing the crowd of those who were dancing.

"Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave," Cordelia remarked, gesturing to the latest couple on the dance floor to catch her disapproving eyes. "What was the last thing that guy danced to, K.C. and the Sunshine Band?"

They watched the couple, the girl in her tight revealing black top and jeans with heavy dark makeup, and the boy whose dance and clothes had seen better decades, until the former urged the latter towards the exit.

Spider sense tingling, Buffy rose from her seat. "I don't think that guy thrives on sunshine," she said putting down her drink to follow the departing couple, causing Angel and everyone else to join her.

When they reached the alley, blinking to adjust their eyes to the darkness, it appeared deserted.

"Where'd she go?" Buffy wondered aloud.

"I bet it's nothing," Cordelia offered. "They're probably just making out."

"Hey!" A girl could be heard to cry, followed by the distinct sound of something breaking.

Silently Buffy retrieved her stake and darted down the alley for the source of the disturbance.

"That's not what making out sounds like," Willow decided. "Unless I'm doing it wrong," she added, glancing at her boyfriend before she joined the rest in following the slayer.

"Stop struggling," the boy could be heard saying as they neared the couple. "This won't hurt," he added, before moving in for the kill.

Buffy arrived in time to see the girl grab the vampire by the neck, putting enough distance between them for her to aim her elbow into his face. The strike caused him to stagger backwards to regain his balance, while she leapt on to a crate. The girl jumped again, delivering a roundhouse kick to the vampire's face, sending him to the sidewalk.

She noticed Buffy and jumped down to greet her. "It's okay, I got it. You're, Buffy, right?"

Not expecting the greeting, Buffy hesitated before answering, giving the vampire time to regain his feet and stalk his prey from behind. The girl however was aware of his movements, and snapped her head back, striking his face a third time, before grabbing his arm.

"I'm Faith," the girl introduced herself as she used her grip to bring the vampire forward into a section of the chain linked fence.

"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town," Oz murmured to his girlfriend, the only member of the Scoobies not surprised enough to remain silent, watching as Faith kneed her prey in the gut, causing him to turn round, trying to retaliate, but without success. She punched him again in the gut, then in the face, before kicking his jaw, grabbing his neck and throwing him to the ground. Then she reached to take the stake out of Buffy's hand.

"Can I borrow that?" She asked, not waiting for a reply as she turned back to her prey, who tried to rush her with a run. She ducked his punch, grabbed his shoulder, turned him round and sent him into the fence once more, before staking him.

As the vampire bit the dust, she turned to Buffy, handing the weapon back to her. "Thanks, B. Couldn't have done it without you."

The encounter caused the desired effect of rendering all onlookers speechless. Silently they stood still amazed, as Faith walked past them back down the alley, before recollecting their composure enough to follow her.

 


"The whole summer it was, like, the worst heat wave," Faith could be heard saying minutes later, after introductions and gathering in the Bronze. "So it's about a hundred and eighteen degrees and I'm sleeping without a stitch on. And all of a sudden, I hear this screaming from outside. So I go tearing out, stark nude, and this church bus has broke down, and there's these three vamps feasting on half the Baptists in South Boston. So I waste the vamps, and the preacher comes up, and he's hugging me like there's no tomorrow, when all of a sudden, the cops pull up and they arrested us both." She reached for a muffin while everyone else digested the tale.

"Wow," Xander murmured. "They should film that story and show it every Christmas," he uttered, causing Cordelia to glare at him.

"God, I could eat a horse," Faith said as she wolfed down her muffin. "Isn't it crazy how slaying just always makes you hungry and horny?" She added, causing everyone to stare at Buffy and Angel, and the former to blush.

"Well... Sometimes I crave a non-fat yoghurt afterwards," Buffy replied. "Anyway, you haven't answered my question from before. How come we didn't know you were coming to the hellmouth?"

"Neither did I until the Council told me to meet my new watcher here," Faith replied amicably. "I figured this was my chance to meet the infamous Buff and compare notes. So, B, did you really use a rocket launcher one time?"

"Uh, yeah, actually, it's a funny story. There was this demon who could kill you with a touch, who some vamps decided to put back together, having been dismembered for centuries. Anyway, he's all like no weapon forged can kill me, and I go 'that was then, this is now,' and fire the rocket launcher."

"Cool," Faith remarked, suitably impressed. "So was that your toughest kill?"

"No," Buffy replied, unable to help glancing at Angel just to make sure he was there. "That wasn't my toughest. What I mean is, everything on the hellmouth is tough."

"Something occurring," Oz uttered. "Uh, now, you both kill vamps, and who could blame you, but, I'm, wondering about your position on werewolves."

"Oz is a werewolf," Willow added.

Faith nodded in understanding, evaluating him. "Hey, as long as you don't go scratching at me or humping my leg, we're five-by-five, you know?"

"Fair enough," Oz replied.

"The vamps, though, they better get their asses to defcon one," Faith added to Buffy, 'cause you and I are gonna have fun, you know."

"You might change your mind when you meet your watcher," Buffy replied.

 



"So what happened to your previous watcher?" Giles asked after introductions when Buffy had ushered Faith to the library the next day after school.

"Oh, she got invited to a retreat thing in England," Faith replied easily. "Why weren't you?" She asked curiously.

Giles sighed. "There's a Watchers' retreat every year in the Cotswolds. It's a lovely spot. It's very serene. There's horse riding and hiking and punting and lectures and discussions. It's a great honour to be invited. Or so I'm told."

"Oh, it's boring," Faith decreed. "Way too stuffy for a guy like you," she added.

"Um, maybe I should introduce you again," Buffy decided. "Faith, this is Giles."

"I see him. If I'd have known they came that young and cute, I would have requested a transfer."

"Raise your hand if 'ew," Buffy murmured.

Giles smiled. "Well, leaving aside for a moment my, youth and beauty, I'd say it was, um, fortuitous that Faith arrived when she did."

"Aha!" Willow cried, causing everyone to look at her. "Sorry. I just meant... aha! There's big evil brewing. You'll never be bored here, Faith. 'Cause this is Sunnydale, home of the big brewing evil."

"Yes, well, I don't know how big an evil it is," Giles began, "but, two people have disappeared from the Sunset Ridge District," he handed Buffy a newspaper.

"Well, I'm good for patrolling," Buffy declared. "Late-ish, though. I promised Mom I'd be home for dinner." She paused, then recollected her manners. "Um, to which you're also invited, of course, dinner with us."

"Dying to meet the fam," Faith replied. "I'm in."

"Great! Great, then we can patrol, also together," Buffy uttered.

"Ah, this must be Faith," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce decided as he emerged from the relative darkness of the stacks.

"New Watcher?" Faith asked Buffy, who nodded.

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," he introduced himself, holding out his hand. "Honoured to meet with you."

"Same here," Faith returned. "The Council likes their men young and cute, I see," she uttered, causing the Scoobies to inwardly groan while Wesley preened.

"Yes, well," he said. "I was considered the best of my year."

"I bet you were," Faith remarked. "I'd love to stay and chat, but me and B have a dinner appointment. We'll catch you up tomorrow."

"Of course," Wesley agreed, while Giles merely shook his head in amusement before sending the Slayerettes and Slayers on their way.

 


"Mr. Trick," Kakistos growled to his minion in their new headquarters, "talk to me."

"Check this out. This town, this very street, wired for fibre optics. See, we jack in a T-3, twenty-five hundred megs per, we have the whole world at our fingertips. What I'm saying is, we stay local- where the humans are jumping and the cotton is high -but we live global. I mean, you know, you get the hankering for the blood of a fifteen-year-old Philippine, and I'm on the net and she's here the next day, express air."

"I want the blood of the Slayer." Kakistos growled.

"I'm running a computer check on every hotel, rooming house and youth hostel in town. Meanwhile, as soon as the sun goes down, we're out in force. She'll turn up."

A knock sounded on the warehouse door, causing Trick to grab a welding glove and make his way over to it. "Food's here, boys," he declared as he opened the door.

"Hi Trick," Faith remarked before the vampire had recovered his composure. "Thought I'd drop in before you went to all that trouble of rousing a welcoming party."

"Where have you been?" Kakistos growled as she entered.

"Establishing my rep with the slayer," Faith replied. "I've gotta dinner invite with her and the fam. tonight, so this will be a brief visit."

"When will you lure her here?" Kakistos growled to her.

"Tomorrow night I think," Faith replied, causing another growl. "Tonight is too suspicious, alright? This slayer's faced more deadlier creeps than you. I gotta earn her trust."

"Tomorrow then," Kakistos growled. "Now go,"

"Gone," Faith replied, before walking out of the warehouse, and into the waning sunshine of the afternoon. She encountered the 'food' on the way, a pizza delivery guy who was entirely unaware of what fate awaited him. For a moment she almost made to steer him away, but that would only enlighten the vampires to her betrayal. She followed his walk with her eyes instead, watching as the warehouse door opened and he was yanked inside by Trick. She almost wished she had surrendered to her fate back in Boston.

Almost. She still had her way to make in this town, and if she could convince B to like her, a way out of this Faustian deal which she had loathed from day one.

 


"So you're a slayer too," Joyce began as she served the two girls dinner later that evening. "How did that happen?" She asked her daughter.

"Kendra's death," Buffy replied. "Remember, Mom?"

"Oh, of course. So, do you like it?"

"God, I love it!" Faith replied.

"Why do you love it?" Joyce asked.

"Well, when I'm fighting, it's like the whole world goes away and I only know one thing: that I'm gonna win and they're gonna lose. I like that feeling."

"Well, sure," Buffy commented. "Beats that dead feeling you get when they win and you lose."

"I don't let that kind of negative thinking in," Faith replied.

"Right. Right. That could get you hurt," Joyce nodded in understanding. "Oh, Faith, can I get you another soft drink?"

Faith handed her the glass. "Oh, you bet."

"Right," Joyce rose and headed into the kitchen.

"She's really cool, huh?" Faith praised to Buffy.

Buffy nodded. "Best mom ever," she said, before rising from her chair. "Excuse me," she added before following her mother.

"I like this girl, Buffy," Joyce replied as she poured the soda.

"She's very personable," Buffy agreed. "She gets along with my friends, my Watcher, my Mom. Look, now she's getting along with my fries. This is creepy."

"Does anybody else think Faith is creepy?" Joyce asked her.

"Well, I've yet to ask Angel, but I'm the one getting single-white-femaled here."

"It's probably good you were an only child," Joyce remarked. "But consider the slaying. I mean, two of you fighting is safer than one, right?"

"I guess," Buffy agreed. "Seriously, Mom, I'm worried."

"I know you are," Joyce replied softly. "And I think you should be. There is something off about her."

"You think so too?" Buffy queried.

"I do," Joyce assured her. "She's trying to hide it, but sometimes she overplays. I think she was chased out of Boston."

"I'm glad someone agrees with me," Buffy said. "I just have to convince the rest of them."

"Why don't we finish dinner, then you two go on patrol and I'll call Giles, let him know my concerns?" Joyce proposed.

"Agreed," Buffy decided.

 


"Didn't we, um, do this street already?" Faith asked.

"Funny thing about vamps," Buffy replied as they patrolled. "They'll hit a street even after you've been there. It's like they have no manners."

Faith shrugged in mild agreement. "You've been doing this the longest."

"I have," Buffy said.

"Yeah. Maybe a little too long." Faith commented.

Buffy looked at her. "Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," Faith said.

"You got a problem?" Buffy asked her.

"I'm five-by-five, B, living entirely large, actually wondering about your problem."

"Well, I may not sleep in the nude and wrestle alligators," Buffy remarked, bringing up another story which Faith had told over dinner.

"Maybe it's time you started, 'cause obviously something in your bottle needs uncorking," Faith commented. "What is it, the Angel thing?"

"The Angel thing?" Buffy queried. "I wasn't aware you two were acquainted."

"Easy, B, I know just what your friends tell me: big love, big loss, big return."

"I got an idea, why don't you stay out of my life?" Buffy shot back, feeling at the end of her patience.

"What are you getting so strung out for, B?" Faith asked.

"Why are your lips still moving, F?" Buffy returned, causing her to halt.

"Did I just hear a threat?" Faith asked.

"Would you like to?" Buffy countered.

"Wow," Faith mused. "Think you can take me?"

"Yeah," Buffy remarked, but her gaze had moved from Faith to the view behind her, which was suddenly full of vampires. "I just hope they can't."

She shoved Faith aside as the vampire moved into attack, making her fall to the ground. Punching the beast in his gut, Buffy sent him flying on to his back. A second one emerged from the darkness, throwing a swing which was easily dodged. She blocked his second, then his third, before taking his hands and twisting the joints, causing him to fall to the ground.

Faith rose to her feet and grabbed a nearby trash can, just as a third vampire appeared and punched Buffy in the face. Catching her offguard, he went behind her and threw out his leg to trip her up. Faith sent the trash can down on his head, before taking hold and sending the beast into the nearest convenient wall.

One of the other vamps dove for Buffy, but she rolled out of the way, using the momentum to regain her feet. She crouched down and dusted him, before the second grabbed her from behind.

Faith waited for hers to rise back up, whereupon she spun round and kicked him in the abdomen, forcing him backwards into a low hanging pipe behind him. His comrade was also experiencing a temporary victory as he tossed his opponent on a stack of plywood. Buffy quickly rose to her feet and threw a leg to his stomach as he leapt up to join her, causing him to feel defeat as he landed on a dumpster.

The other vampire punched Faith in the face, but she wasn't fazed, blocking two more with her forearms and then sending a backhand one of her own into his face.

"My dead mother hits harder than that!" She taunted him before grabbing his sweater and throwing him into another sheet of drywall. As the impact caused them to break, she rushed up to him and punched him again.

Buffy flipped her opponent, sending him to bend a pipe, and glanced at her sister in arms, who seemed determined to punch the living daylights out of her attacker's face.

"Faith!" She yelled. "Stake him already and give me a hand!"

The slayer was deaf to her commands, continuing to punch her prey. Buffy turned back just in time to be snatched at by a fourth vampire, who threw her to the ground, before making a grab for her with her previous opponent.

"This is me, you undead bastard!" Faith yelled at her prey, punctuating every word with a punch to his face.

Buffy reached for the piece of wood lying on the floor in front of her.

"For Kakistos we live!" The vampire cried. "For Kakistos you'll die!"

The chant caused Buffy to hesitate but only for a moment. She staked one and turned to Faith. "FAITH!" She yelled in vain. Annoyed she jumped to her feet and staked the other vampire, before retrieving her usual weapon and heading over to Faith.

"You can't touch me!" Faith continued to punctuate with punches, until she was abruptly yanked away from her opponent by Buffy, who pulled her away before staking the vampire. "What is wrong with you?" She asked Faith.

"What are you talking about?" Faith asked.

"I'm talking about you living large on that vampire!" Buffy replied.

"Gee, if doing violence to vampires upsets you, I think you're in the wrong line of work!" Faith countered.

"Yeah, or maybe you like it a little too much," Buffy countered.

"I was getting the job done," Faith protested.

"The job is to slay demons!" Buffy reminded her. "Not beat them to a bloody pulp while their friends corner me!"

Faith shrugged. "I thought you could handle yourself," she replied before walking off.

Buffy let out an exasperated breath, inwardly wondering how much more she could take of this girl.

 


"Now, is it just me?" Buffy asked her boyfriend, an hour or so later at the Mansion on Crawford Street after she had seen Faith home.

Angel slowly shook his head. "She does sound a little intense," he agreed, cautiously, sensing that his beloved was still riled by her newest friend. "Almost like a vamp did some serious damage either to her or someone close to her."

"And......" Buffy trailed off as she considered his words. "You could be right," she agreed with a sigh, letting him take her into his arms. "Oh, Angel, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dump all of this on you tonight."

"That's what I'm here for," Angel pointed out, gathering her close.

"Mmmmm," Buffy moaned as she let smell and feel of him calm her. "Here's an idea; why don't we pick up where we left off last night?"

He drew back from a little to smile at her, the one which made her want to jump him even more than she already did. "You're insatiable."

"Mmmm," she replied, returning the grin, "but you like me that way."

"Love," Angel replied before sweeping her off her feet and carrying her upstairs.

 




"What you must realise, Buffy, is that you and Faith have very different temperaments," Giles tried devil's advocate as he sipped his tea with her the next morning in the library.

"Yeah, and mine's the sane one," Buffy replied, causing him to chuckle. "The girl's not playing with a full deck, Giles. She has almost no deck. She has a three."

"You said yourself that she killed one," Giles reminded her. "She's just a plucky fighter who got a little carried away. Which is natural. She's focused on the slaying. She doesn't have a whole other life here, as you do."

"She doesn't need a life," Buffy commented. "She has mine."

"I think you're being a little..." Giles began gently, but she cut him off.

"No, I'm being a lot, I know that," Buffy interrupted. "But she nearly got us both killed. The girl needs help."

"All right. I'll see if I can reach her first Watcher at the retreat. They're eight hours ahead now," he added, checking his watch. "I guess they're probably sitting down to a nightcap." He sighed regretfully. "I wonder if they still kayak. I used to love a good kayak. You see, they don't even consider..." he trailed off as Buffy looked at him. "Sorry. I digress. The vampires that attacked you, can you furnish me with some details that might help me trace their lineage? I mean, ancient or modern dress. Amulets, cultish tattoos?"

"No tats. Crappy dressers. And, oh, the one that nearly bit me mentioned something about kissing toast. He lived for kissing toast."

"You mean Kakistos?" Giles asked.

"Maybe it was taquitos," Buffy agreed, mishearing. "Maybe he lived for taquitos."

"Kakistos," Giles corrected as he reached for a book.

"Is that bad?" Buffy asked.

"Kakistos is Greek. It means the worst of the worst. It's also the name of a vampire so old that his hands and feet are cloven."

"Now, this guy shows up two days ago, right?" Buffy sought to confirm. "Right around the same time my bestest new little sister makes the scene."

Giles looked up. "You think he and Faith are connected?"

Buffy nodded. "Giles, there are two things that I don't believe in: coincidence and leprechauns."

"Well, Buffy, it's entirely possible that they both arrived here by chance simultaneously," Giles pointed out.

"Okay, but I was right about the leprechauns, right?" Buffy asked.

"As far as I know," Giles confirmed.

"Good. Okay, you get England on the phone. I'm gonna talk to Faith, see if Kakistos rings a bell. Or an alarm."

"Wait a minute, I won't be long," Giles advised as he dialled.

Buffy waited silently for him to finish the call. "So?" she asked when he finished. "What did her Watcher say?"

"Her Watcher's dead," Giles replied, shocking her. "There is no retreat. The Council sent Wesley when they heard about her first watcher's death in Boston."

 


"The room's eighteen dollars a day," the voice of the motel manage could be heard saying as Buffy arrived at the place after school. "That's every day."

"Yeah, I know," she heard Faith say, "I'll get it to you by tomorrow, I swear."

"It's not like I own the place," the manager added.

"But I bet you will someday," Faith remarked.

"Not if I listen to broads like you," the manager replied as Buffy reached the open door. "Roommates are extra."

"I'm just visiting," Buffy replied, waiting for the manager to walk away before she entered the room and closed the door.

"So, what brings you to the poor side of town?" Faith asked her.

"Cloven Guy," Buffy replied. "Goes by the name Kakistos."

"What do you know about Kakistos?" Faith asked, her voice suddenly lacking her usual confidence.

"That he's here," Buffy replied, causing Faith to blanch. "We're not happy to see old friends, are we? What'd he do to you?"

Faith turned and grabbed her barely unpacked bag. "It's what I did to him, all right?"

"And what was that?" Buffy asked. "Faith, you came here for a reason. I can help."

"You can mind your own business," Faith returned, continuing to pack. "I'm the one that can handle this."

"Yeah. You're a real bad-ass when it comes to packing," Buffy replied. "Faith, you can't run away from every vamp that you can't handle."

"You don't know me," Faith said, finishing her packing. "You don't know what I've been through. I'll take care of this, all right?" She headed for the door.

"Like you took care of your Watcher?" Buffy countered, making halt mid-walk. "He killed her, didn't he?"

Faith turned to her, an angry shadow of her true self. "They don't have a word for what he did to her."

A knock on the door sounded, and she put her face to the spyhole. "Oh, what now?" She asked, seeing the manager.

"Faith," Buffy called her back, "you run, he runs after you."

"That's where the head start comes in handy," Faith returned, opening the door.

On the other side the manager loomed before them, gaping wound in his neck, held up by a large, old cloven vampire. He caught sight of the slayer and dropped the body. "Faith."

"No!" Was all Faith had time to cry before he reached out to grab her. Buffy ran to get herself between them, dragging Faith back into the room, slamming the door on Kakistos' arm, forcing him to retreat behind it, whereupon she locked it, fastening the safety chain.

"I just bought us a little more..." Buffy paused as the door suddenly acquired a hole. as Kakistos made to grab her. "...time!"

Faith screamed. "NO! NOOOOO!"

"Scream later!" Buffy commanded. "Escape now!" she added, running for the bathroom, making sure to drag Faith along behind her. She kicked out the window, and pushed her through the opening, following her. "Let's go!" She added, taking Faith's hand and running down the alley.

They reached the branching off of two different roads and took the left, Kakistos and his henchmen only a moment behind them. Buffy and Faith settled for distance and safety however temporary, not glancing behind them until they breached a warehouse via a window.

"We're okay for now," Buffy decided, seeing the vampires run past. "What happened?" She asked her companion. "Faith, what happened?"

"I... I was there when he killed my Watcher," Faith admitted, "and I saw what he did to her... what he was gonna do to me. I tried to stop him, but I... I couldn't. And I ran."

"Faith, first rule of slaying: don't die. You did the right thing. Okay?" Buffy replied. "You didn't die. Now you do the math. One of him, two of us."

Faith looked past her into the relative darkness of the warehouse, and realised where they were. "No."

"Yes," Buffy corrected.

"No," Faith repeated, causing Buffy to look where her glance was directed, catching sight of a pile of dead bodies. "This is his place," Faith revealed as she realised that her previous plan was blown to hell.

"He drove us here," Buffy realised.

A growl reached their ears, causing them to see the vampire which had appeared at the entrance. Together they ran, making him give chase, until two others arrived from the other end to try and head them off.

Buffy paused by a bucket, and put her foot in it, before raising her leg and using her strength to throw the object into one of their attackers. He fell backwards over a chair, as she spun a hook kick at the other vampire, then a kick to the one behind them. He fell over a table, and she followed him, rolling over it to kick him in the back.

Kakistos entered the building in the midst of this attack, having eyes for no one but Faith, who was watching Buffy as she rolled to her feet on the table. She fetched a crowbar and swung it at the nearest vampire, hitting the beast in the neck, knocking it down and out.

Looking up, Buffy caught sight of Kakistos stalking Faith. "Faith! Don't die!" She yelled, throwing her the crowbar.

Instinctively Faith caught the weapon, but Kakistos reached her before she could strike, punching her hard, sending her into a series of wood beams which leaned against the nearby wall. The wood went tumbling, sending her to the floor.

Buffy knife handed her attacker in the neck, throwing into the table while Kakistos stepped up to Faith as she scrambled to her feet, picking her up off the floor by her shirt.

"NO!" Faith cried as he punched her in the face.

Buffy leapt down from the table, knocking the legs out from a vampire who had tried to gain that height advantage. He fell off the table on to his back and bit the dust as she staked him. She glanced in Faith's direction, to see her cowering under Kakistos' attacks. Buffy saw her go down and rushed to help, sending a roundhouse kick to the back of his knee. She tried to backhand him in the face, but he blocked her, causing her to try the other way.

Trick entered the warehouse and helped another minion rise to his feet. Calmly he surveyed the situation. "If we don't do something, the Master could get killed." Pausing, he realised the sudden advantages. "Well, our prayers are with him. There's a reason these vengeance crusades are out of style. It's the modern vampire who sees the big picture."

He turned to leave while Buffy attempted to stake Kakistos, but her trusted weapon was for once unreliable as it failed to penetrate him. Kakistos grabbed her hair and lifted up, then threw her back.

Buffy punched him again, and he tried to return the favour, but she dodged, trying to stake him again. The weapon went deeper into his undead body, but to no avail.

"I guess you need a bigger stake, Slayer!" Kakistos growled.

Faith came out of her panicked haze and glanced around, searching for one. She found a fallen broken wooden beam with a jagged end. Clutching it, she raised the implement over her shoulder, and staked him in the back.

Kakistos looked at the stake, then back at his slayer, before turning into dust.

Buffy turned to her sister in arms with a grin. "You hungry?"

"Starved," Faith returned.

 


Faith smiled as she recalled that meal in her motel room the next evening. She and Buffy had finally and properly bonded during the aftermath of the fight. She had learned what it was like to have someone else in the world who understood her troubles and some times experienced them too. She could get used to that support and connection, that friendship. She realised why Buffy was the toast of the slayer and watcher worlds, her reputation legendary, not just because of the vampires or demons she had killed.

There was a knock on the door, rousing her from her thoughts, though not entirely, as she realised in hindsight. But that was a gift acquired only after the fact. Now she looked up and called out without thinking that there was any possibility of danger. Vampires could only attack during the night after all.

"Come in!" She called out, smiling. Only for the smile to fall from her face as the door opened and she caught sight of her visitor.

"Hi, Faith," greeted Richard Wilkins, Mayor of Sunnydale. "Mr. Trick told me you would be here."

The End.
To Be Continued In...

Frost At Midnight.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This borrows dialogue from Dopplegangland, and Amends, although the plot is completely original, as I continue where the last episode left off regarding Faith, and give Buffy and Angel the Christmas they deserve. Enjoy.


frost at midnight.

Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Frost At Midnight;
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
(1772-1834)

Faith could only sit on her bed, stunned at the sight before her. For the second time as in many days she was caught off guard and unprepared; seriously bad form for a vampire slayer. Hurriedly she glanced around the motel room, searching for a conveniently ready to grab weapon lying somewhere nearby, but then she realised the mayor was human. At least he seemed human, she considered, causing her to raise her eyes to him once more.

"Now that I have your full attention," he remarked, "I shall begin. In case you haven't seen the recent PR articles about me, I am Richard Wilkins, the mayor of Sunnydale."

"Are you human?" Faith asked him cautiously.

"Oh, yes," he chuckled, "for now anyway," he added, causing her to wonder. "Kakistos, was one of my; how shall I say it? Campaign promises. I allowed him to come to my town, and recruit, under certain conditions of course. And now what do I hear from Mr Trick, but that he has been killed."

"Can't say I'm sorry about it," Faith returned. "What with him wanting to kill me and all," she added.

"Yes, he was driven, wasn't he?" Wilkins commented without need for a reply. "But I discovered from Mr Trick that killing you was not his first idea. In fact, he tried to recruit you, didn't he?"

Faith affected to shrug. "What can I say?" she shot back. "Not the brightest vamp in the graveyard."

"Oh, I beg to differ," the Mayor replied. "A slayer on my side would be a bonus, especially now that there's two of you."

"Thanks for the offer, but I've had my fill of deals with evil," Faith informed him. "Not wanting to be rude, but door's behind you."

"Oh, Faith," the Mayor chuckled again, and she realised for the first time how much it chilled her to the bone. "I'm afraid you don't have much of a choice. And, as you'll soon discover, there are benefits to joining my team."


"So, angel's on top again?"

Buffy blushed immediately, as another far less innocent meaning of her mother's words came to into her mind. She caught Angel's bemused face beside her; not only did he seemed to know exactly what she was thinking, he also was unable to blush, a partial saving grace when it came to their intimate relationship remaining unknown in the eyes of her mother. While Spike had put in crude forms the depth of her and Angel's relationship, it was still something Buffy would rather avoid talking through in detail with her mother, whether she approved or not.

"Er, star this year, I think," Buffy now replied, causing her to mother to smile before fishing out the appropriate ornament for the tree. Christmas was mere days away, and Sunnydale had seemed determined to make up for the usual lack of snow by going overboard in the decoration area. She was just grateful no one had decided to adorn the graveyards with tinsel, mistletoe and boughs of holly.

"Angel, has Buffy asked you to join us for Christmas day?" Joyce inquired. "I know you don't eat, at least not in the traditional sense, or do you?" She stopped, confused and concerned if she asked too much.

"I'd be delighted," Angel replied. "And I can't taste food, so I don't," he added. "I was thinking actually that we did something together; all of us, at the mansion."

"Celebrate Christmas there?" Buffy sought to confirm. "That would be great, I think. If we can get the others on board. Would we be able to decorate it in time?"

"They're still selling trees," Joyce informed them. "And judging from the shop displays, I think its unlikely that they've sold out of decorations. And we could all bring food over, as well as gifts."

"It's settled then," Angel agreed as Buffy beamed at him, causing him to smile back, glad he could bring her happiness once more.

"I'll ask the gang tomorrow," she decided.


"Are you serious about this place?" Faith asked wondrously as she explored the urban plush apartment which the Mayor had escorted her to from the motel.

"Of course I am," Wilkins replied. "No Slayer of mine is gonna live in a fleabag hotel. That place has a very unsavoury reputation. There are immoral liaisons going on there."

"Yeah, plus all the screwing," Faith replied as she checked out the kitchen. "This place is the kick!" She cried as she walked past the training area in one corner, with a leather punching bag, then into the sleeping area where a large bed was located.

"We'll keep your old place," Wilkins informed her, "in case you need to see your friends there, but from now on..." he trailed off as she leapt on to the bed and tested the springs. "Oh, hey, hey, hey! Shoes! Shoes!"

Faith hopped off the bed and walked up to him. "Thanks, Sugar Daddy," she uttered, fluttering her eyelashes. Wilkins had been right, there were benefits to being on his side.

"Now, Faith," the Mayor mildly admonished her, "I don't find that sort of thing amusing. I'm a family man."

He was smiling, but Faith could see the chilling demeanour lurking underneath. Once more she was reminded of the evils of this new Faustian alliance, one she realised that would perhaps prove impossible to wriggle out of. She would have to play very carefully, watch her step, as she was sure he would be watching hers.

"Now, let's kill your little friend," the Mayor remarked, causing her to glance at him uneasily. "Don't worry," he added, "I wouldn't ask you to do it. Not this early in the relationship. Besides, I think a vampire attack would be less suspicious anyway. In the meantime, let's take a look at the rest of the apartment, huh? If I'm not mistaken, some lucky girl has herself a Play Station."

Faith grinned at him. "No way."

"Yes way!" The Mayor chuckled as she rushed to the television to check it out.


"So guys," Buffy finished, "are you onboard?"

"Well, I'm Jewish, and my parents think the worship of Santa is something a kin to the devil, but I'm in," Willow replied.

"Where she's goes, I go," Oz added.

"Beats my annual Christmas Eve camp-out," Xander agreed. "See, I take my sleeping bag outside and I go to sleep on the grass."

"Sounds fun," Buffy remarked.

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I like to look at the stars, you know? Feel the whole nature vibe."

"I thought you slept outside to avoid your family's drunken Christmas fights," Cordelia revealed.

"Yes, and that was a confidence I was hoping you would share with everyone," Xander replied sarcastically.

"You, Cordy?" Buffy asked.

"Usually my family takes me to Aspen, skiing," Cordelia replied, "but what with my Mom's bout of Esptein Barr, Dad cancelled the tickets without so much as a by your leave. So I'm in too."

"That just leaves Giles, Jenny, Doyle and Faith to ask," Buffy replied. "Guess which one I'm dreading the most."

"Still have yet to bond with your sister slayer?" Xander queried.

"On a social front," Buffy nodded. "There's something holding me back, and vice versa, and I don't know what it is."

"What about the new watcher?" Willow asked.

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce at a Christmas party?" Buffy mused. "The idea gives me chills, I dread to think what the reality could be."

 


"What do you think about it?" Jenny asked him.

Giles looked up from the pile of leather bound ancient volumes which were scattered around him. "I don't know," he answered cautiously. "We had planned for a quiet celebration at our apartment," he reminded her.

Jenny noted the sentiment behind his words in the use of 'our', but she had known him long enough now to also descry the depth of affection he felt for Buffy as well. To him, she was not just a slayer, she was a daughter, a feeling she knew was also returned. "Rupert, if you want to go, we can, you know," she said. "I'm sure they want us to be there, and Joyce and Doyle will probably be glad of some adult company."

He caught her hand in his from where she leant against the table beside him. "Thank you," he murmured. "I do want to go," he admitted. "I was touched when Buffy asked me."

"I know she thinks of you in the way you think of her," Jenny said.

"And I'm grateful for it," Giles replied. "I've never liked the way past watchers felt about their slayers; halfway between indentured servant to the world and a tool to be disposed of at will."

"Disposed of?" Jenny echoed. "Tell me that doesn't mean what I think it does."

"As good as," Giles replied, causing her to frown. "I have to tell her something when her birthday comes up, that may change things between us forever. So a day spent as one of the slayerettes seems a wonderful way to spend Christmas."

He did not add that it might be his last occasion as a member of the group, but Jenny caught the silent addition of the words anyway. "Rupert, you realise you will have to tell me what exactly you're worried about?"

"I realise," Giles assured her. "But I need to sort out what I am going to do first, and I think I should tell her before I tell anyone else." He looked up at her, gazing into her eyes. "If that is alright with you?"

"Of course it is," Jenny replied, caressing his hand in support. "I just hope whatever it, the evil of it pales in comparison to what Whistler hinted at would be coming."

"Depends on how you evaluate the depths of the word," Giles returned enigmatically before rising from his chair to fetch a book from the stacks.

Jenny watched him go, silently praying that whatever was bothering him would be solved peacefully, and without the loss of anything which might be considered valuable.

 


The sun descended, ushering night into the world above it, sending some of the pupils of Sunnydale High out to the Bronze, along with other visitors as well. As had become customary before a patrol, the slayer and her souled vampire attended with their friends, the latter having met her at Revello Drive after his last lecture for the day.

A part of Angel who was still becoming accustomed to the relatively normal life he was enjoying after two hundred and forty plus years, considered the matter of his professorship at the university as something strange, more usual in the realms of fiction that the real world where he and Buffy lived. Yet it was real, just as his talisman against the sunlight which hung around his neck, below his dress shirt and jacket. He cherished the gift, but not as much as he cherished the giver, who was currently in his arms, gently dancing in time to the slow romantic song the band were playing. Before her, there had been no reason to involve himself in the world mortals inhabited, one which as a vampire he was all but banished from. For almost a hundred years since his curse he endured being exiled from the vampire world as well, as the old ones shunned the once Scourge of Europe, as though he were a carrier of the bubonic plague.

At first the loneliness he endured was a welcome contrast to from Darla's violent disgust for him, but all too soon the novelty wore off, leaving him in worse states than before when he struggled so hard to prove to her that his soul had not softened the demon within. By the time Whistler had appeared from nowhere, he was ready to do anything but continue to live the pitiful existence the demon found him enduring. When he saw Buffy before she was called at her school, he had little idea what the future would bring him, for all he wanted was to protect her from the world she was about to enter, a world which could bruise her heart forever. As much as he fell in love with her then, he never imagined himself worthy of her heart, and in the first year of their friendship, it had hurt him that she could fall for him so easily, that she could love someone as worthless as he.

It had taken him a long time to realise that her love was not just a gift from heaven, but one which he had earned, and was indeed worthy of. That by loving her and being loved by her, he was learning to be a better person, to be at peace with his curse in a way he would never be without her. To realise that the dark side to his nature was a blessing for her, not because he understood what she hunted night after night, but because it allowed him to protect himself when she could not, and provided a constant for her in an ever changing and often harsh world. Just as he was teaching her the ways of loving, so was she him, as well as how to live among mortals once more, ending his banishment from them. To vampires' relationships were something born out of lust and primitive base desires, as far removed from true love as any one human could imagine.

With Darla he was always well aware that she had brought him into her world, and could just as easily throw him back out again, as she did after he was cursed. Their relationship was not founded on equality, she gave the orders and expected him to follow. He had become so used to obeying, the idea of Buffy asking his opinion was still a novelty to him. Consequently, his relationship with her was entirely different. Before he had seen it as an extension from his protection of her. He had shut her out of his inner most thoughts, past and beliefs just as much as she had in her desire to be normal. He had done it because he was afraid she would fear him if he revealed every aspect of his past, demonic and human, and because he thought so little of himself to believe that it would last. But instead of it protecting her, the effect was quite the opposite, tearing them apart as much as the limits of his curse did. Every moment when he was Angelus that summer was printed indelibly on to his mind.

During his time in hell, he had come to realise that his demon was as much as in love with Buffy as his soul was, and the former had loathed the concept so much, he went into overkill on the slaying of her. The effect, he was surprised, did nothing to destroy to her love for his soul, in fact it only made her love him more. He had vowed during his rare moments of sanity and respite from the torture, that if he was ever given the chance to love her again, he would never do anything to forsake that love, to made her doubt that he was worthy of her heart, worthy of a second chance.

The music changed moods, from slow and romantic to fast and lively, causing Buffy and Angel to return to their seats, in the sofa booth which had become the slayerettes unofficial regular hang out in the nightclub. Willow and Oz, along with Xander and Cordelia, welcomed them back with nods, withholding a groan as the couple exchanged another long kiss once they were seated.

"Where's Faith?" Buffy asked, as the slayer had joined them that night.

"Dancing with another undead fashion victim," Cordelia replied, gesturing with her arm to the far side of the dance floor, where the dark haired slayer was keeping a vamp whose flares had seen better days- or more precisely, the seventies -away from any potential victims for a nightly meal.

"Do you think we should help her?" Angel questioned his beloved, wrapping his arms around her as she snuggled to rest against his chest.

"No, she looks like she has it covered." Buffy dealt a kiss to the skin under his jaw, her head resting in the prefect place to access it.

"You two aren't going to be doing that a lot while we're at the mansion?" Xander questioned with a groan.

Buffy smiled and deliberately dealt another kiss to Angel's jaw. "Not a lot."

Angel grinned. "Just all the time."

Xander uttered another half groan, to which his girlfriend hit his arm in reply. "We will be guests there, you know."

Buffy smiled as she watched the two of them. Despite his groaning she knew Xander had passed his hate phase over Angel a long time ago. Cordelia too, was much more relaxed since her split with the popular group of Sunnydale High, and her character strengths had helped a lot in making her boyfriend approve of the man he used to call deadboy. Not that he completely refrained from that title, but now it was just used, albeit rarely, as a friendly nickname.

Angel dealt another kiss to her hair, and Buffy found the world, along with her thoughts, fading away. Sometimes, she still wondered at how he managed, by just a single gesture, to do that. They had been together; since his return from hell, for almost four months, and even before that, although that had been anything but smooth, and everything still seemed a novelty. She hoped a part of it would always stay that way. She wanted to savour every moment of their happiness, especially their present bliss. There were so many things that could go wrong, so many unforeseen obstacles that they had yet to even think of, yet alone contemplate. Past experience had taught her not to take what they had for granted, but she could not ignore her hope that they would always stay together.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Angel whispered to her. Buffy glanced up at him with a smile. He understood the direction of her thoughts instantly, and dealt another kiss, this time to her lips. "We will, Buffy, I am determined that we will be together forever."

"I'm sorry," she replied. "I just....."

"Worry sometimes," Angel finished. She nodded. "I do too. And I don't want to take this for granted either," he agreed.

Buffy returned to resting under his chin, glancing round to see if anyone had noticed their sudden intense conversation, breathing a sigh of relief that no one had. Then she checked the dance floor, which was now devoid of Faith, who had presumably disappeared to slay her undead dance partner. Then she noticed a new arrival, and waved her hand. "Doyle! Over here."

The Irishman seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at noticing them, though he did not look as out of place here as Giles did when he visited. He strolled over to them. "Hello all," he greeted with his usual brogue, sitting down on a spare space of sofa.

"Hey," Buffy replied. "Had a vision?"

"No, just wanted to check this place out," Doyle replied with a glance around at the band once more. "Dingoes playing tonight?"

"Alittle later on," Oz answered.

They drifted into silence again. Buffy wondered if he had a reason other than wanting to spend time with them in coming to the Bronze. She ran her eyes over the sight opposite her, where Xander, Cordelia and Doyle sat. For a moment she almost believed she had seen the future, or at least a possible future.

But only for a moment. The image faded away, and the band announced their last track, signalling time for the Dingoes to get ready backstage. Oz kissed Willow, motioned a silent nod of temporary farewell to the others, then followed Devon and the other members. Cordelia and Xander followed to dance, along with Willow to perform the part of Dingo groupie.

Buffy glanced at Doyle, finding her imagination confirmed as he turned to stare at one of the departures. Not that she begrudged her other best friend's present happiness, but she also could not see a future in it. They were both two firebrands, sooner or later that would work against them. Unlike her and Angel, she doubted Cordelia and Xander would last because of the different worlds they came from. Their relationship was so contrary from what either of them had imagined they would find in high school, the foundations borne from violent dislike into the flip side of the same coin. Once the place in which teenage frustrations had brought them together was gone, it would revert into friendship.

Then Angel kissed her tenderly, rousing her from her thoughts. She leaned into in him, resting her head against his firm chest hidden beneath his clothes, letting herself forget her ruminations on the future, along with everything else. She focused on the moment, and the love she felt within his arms, and the certainty that it would last for ever.


Once they were outside the Bronze, the vampire turned to his prey with a sigh of exasperation. "Look," he began, "just because there are two of you now, doesn't mean you can kill us all. Can you not give us some slack?"

Faith smiled. "Oh, but I am. Haven't you heard the news on the sewervine?"

"You mean that a new boss looking for stooges? Yeah I heard. Why?"

"Well I'm the official Sales Rep. Interested?"

"What have I gotta do?"

"First, get in touch with the nineties, fashion wise. Second, go to the City Hall tonight. I'll be waiting to introduce you."

And with that, Faith turned round and walked back into the club. She walked across the dancefloor, coming to a halt before the slayerettes.

"Hey, Faith. Any trouble with the undead fashion victim?" Buffy asked.

"No trouble, B. No trouble at all." Faith replied easily, so easily as to make the first slayer content to revert to her previous relaxed state. As for herself, Faith still felt antsy, and she knew was due to the new alliance she was involved in now. While a contrast to the one which had brought her here in the first place, she still wished for the freedom to choose. For while Kakistos had been an old and powerful vampire, he was still a known quantity compared to the Mayor. She was a slayer, she knew how to kill vampires and demons, whereas Richard Wilkins fitted into neither category. It was clear that his plans went far deeper than simple alliance, or killing Buffy, but Faith knew she would have to earn his trust before she could even earn a glimpse of them. And she dread to think what new depths she would have to sink to gain said trust.


"Wow."

"I'll second that, Will," Xander remarked. "How many shops did you bankrupt for this, Angel?"

The souled vampire smiled at Xander's joke, and replied with one of his own, in the same vein. "Only a couple."

It was Christmas Eve, and the slayerettes had just arrived at the Mansion, and were now admiring the large tree decked with lights and trimmings which reached to the ceiling, along with the rest of the main room. It had taken him and Buffy the best part of the day to festoon the place, but seeing the appreciation on the Scoobies' faces, he knew it had all been worth every moment of it.

Faith watched everything from the sidelines, still feeling very much an outsider in a closely knit group. She was touched Buffy had thought to invite her, but she could not stop feeling that the invite was only out of politeness rather than any real desire to be her friend. She got the impression that B feared she would take over the slaying gig entirely, which while it might be what the Mayor wanted, Faith herself felt nowhere near ready for. She had been speaking the truth when she said that Buffy had been the slayer longer than she had. While her slayings had some moments of glory to impress others with, they paled in comparison to the demons and vampires Buffy had battled. Faith considered herself streetwise and more mature than others her age, until she met B. Now she thought herself innocent in more ways, and yet tainted at the same time.

Her life was harsh, teaching her self-reliance from an early age. The concept of friendship which the Scoobies offered was almost alien to her. She wanted nothing more than to embrace it, to learn the value of it, but at the same time a part of her hung back, because she feared that once they knew her true self, they would hate her. She envied Buffy for the loyalty she inspired, the love her friends, family, watcher and select teachers held for her. She envied her for the confidence and faith she held in her abilities as a slayer. She envied the ease she possessed with the world around her, that of night and of day, and the ability to find joy in the latter still. Faith found little from which to spring forth joy in her world. Even the lovely large apartment and gifts the Mayor bestowed on her felt tainted by the dark alliance he bound her within. Like Kakistos she had a feeling he could kill her as soon as he felt she betrayed him or lost her usefulness. Her position with him was precarious at best, and quite frankly, there were times already in which he frightened her.

Now however, as she watched the others admire the tree and the mansion decked with boughs of holly, Faith realised there was one other thing which frightened her more. The feeling which she felt that she could not confide in Buffy or any of her friends about the alliance with the Mayor. She doubted they would believe her as she had yet to gain their trust just as much as the Mayor's, and she doubted they would know how to rescue her from the pact, even though she wished they could.

Suddenly the idea of spending the evening here without venting the angst inside her was unbearable. "I'm going on patrol," she announced abruptly, causing all to look at her.

"I'll come too," Buffy declared, but Faith quickly shook her head.

"No, you stay here, B. I'll make it a quick one. Things have been so quiet around here since the holidays set in, I doubt that I'll be long gone." Faith attempted to smile at her before she swiftly left.

Buffy watched her departure. "She's a strange girl," she mused before returning to the warmth of her friends, family and lover.


By the time Faith had joined them from patrol, the night of Christmas Eve had cooled down from its previous typical Californian weather which fitted the name of the town in which they all lived. However, this was unnoticed by all of the people at the Mansion on Crawford Street, as they settled down to dinner. It was perhaps the first time that they had all assembled, adults included, for a meal. Neither the novelty nor the significance seemed to bother any of them though, as it passed without any incident.

Entertainment for the night, after the films had failed to capture their interests, eventually evolved into a large scrabble game, using letters from several of the boxes that had been bought round by all, and the floor as their playing board. Within in a few minutes it was easy to discover the mood of the younger generation, as the words became more and more related to a certain theme.

There was a hushed silence as the blond slayer lay her word down. "There," she announced. "twenty-one points I believe."

Another pause came as her opponents considered the new word before them. Finally, one commented, "Fangism, Buffy?"

"Its a word!" She protested.

"Really?" Her boyfriend commented. "I've never heard of it."

"It is!" She insisted, before turning to her Watcher, who had been nominated word-checker. "Giles!"

"I'm sorry, Angel," the Briton replied, "it is a word." He held up the Slayer's Handbook, which had become the dictionary authority when the game had gone into this sort of genre theme.

"See!" Buffy gloated, her eyes sending a look of challenge to her boyfriend.

Angel did not refuse, darting around from his position on the sidelines of the playing area to capture his beloved in a tussle that soon developed into a tickling contest. Their friends, mentors and parent watched them, the former briefly, then, along with Giles, rolling their eyes and turning away, having a fair idea as to where it would lead to; leaving them alone to witness and participate in the conclusion, as he trapped her beneath him, holding her hands in his. They exchanged a grin, then he caught her lips in his.

Suddenly however, the mood was broken, as a voice broke to get their attention. "Buffy, Angel," Doyle called out from the part of the double height living room where he had wandered to, "look at this."

The two stilled, remembered that they were in public, and reluctantly pulled themselves off the floor to glance at the windows, where the others had also directed their looks almost from the same moment. What they saw, made them smile in delight.

It was just past midnight and, contrary to usual weather, it was snowing in Sunnydale California.

 


For Giles, as he woke later that morning from the short sleep that all had indulged in after the long night before, seeing the snow thick on the ground was just as rare sight to him as it was for native Californians, because snow was not a regular or predictable weather occurrence in England either.

But that was not why the first emotion he felt was surprise. No, it was the sight of the slayer and recent Sunnydale UCA Professor of Art History indulging in a good, old fashion snowball fight. Once more he mused at the oddity that two of the world's greatest warriors could play like kids on any given day. And he smiled, hoping that they stayed that comfortable with each other for good this time.

No matter what demons came to fight against their cause.

The End.
To be continued in.......

Gingerbread.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue was taken from the original episode, which this follows the plot of, with necessary changes to keep with my canon of the series. I have included Faith in this episode rather than absenting her, eliminated MOO and Joyce's animosity with her daughter, and turned the Mayor's involvement into another, darker angle. Enjoy.

Gingerbread.

Faith fell backwards, inwardly grateful that for once her landing was cushioned and softened by the sand pit behind her in the children's playground. The vampire gave her the unusually generous courtesy of waiting for her to regain her feet before resuming his attack. Leaping up, she used the small incident of her body becoming airborne to aim a kick at his lower rib muscles, then another at his legs as soon as she landed.

As he lost his footing and faced his turn with the ground, the impact all the more harder due to the asphalt, Faith reached behind her and slid her stake out of where she had stored it before going on patrol; the waistband of her jeans, held in place by the belt loop. A kick to the vampire's and man's most vulnerable area as soon as he gained his feet, and then her stake was in his chest, and he transformed in dust.

She was alone on patrol tonight. Pryce and Giles decided that with two slayers both operating in the same hellmouth, alternate night shifts would make the best sense for patrolling, giving B or herself the advantage of a full night's sleep when the other was out protecting the town. Faith was grateful for the solitude, it gave her time to think. And also time after from the Mayor.

Wilkins had been everything that was charming and friendly, but just beneath the surface lay the kind of deadliest one found far more terrifying than your average bad guy used to having his own way. Despite the bribe of the slick apartment and his silence on the subject of killing Buffy since his one and only airing of such an intention, Faith still doubted her wisdom in choosing to side with him.

At the time she had been convinced that she had no choice in the matter, just as he said, but since then she could not help looking back on the day when he had walked into her motel room, confronting her about Kakistos and offering her this alleged fait accompli. Wondering if it would have made a difference had she pretended to play along, then told Buffy and Giles the moment she had the opportunity to do so.

But the old uncertainties were still at war with her desire for confession; would they believe her? The story sounded incredible to her, and she was involved in it. The truth was, she would never know unless she told them, and right now, her position with the mayor was too precarious to risk letting Buffy or any one else of her friends in the know. They had welcomed her with open arms, but Faith still felt very much the outsider, even during the Christmas celebrations at the Crawford Mansion.

Anxious now to bring this patrol and hopefully her troubled thoughts to an end, Faith turned round, her dark pupils raking a cursory glance over the deserted playground for any more vampires who might be lurking in the shadows. But the swings and roundabouts were still empty. Then something caught her gaze by the carrousel and she made her way over to where it stood on the other side of the playground.

Night was well past its ascendency, and dawn was nearing, time for vampires and other primal ancient beasts which tried to rule the hellmouth to be seeking secret sanctuaries from what was considered normal and rightful to live upon this earth. But what Faith saw as she gently crouched down by the carrousel was far from natural. As a slayer she was by no means immune to death in all its aspects, and the sight before her now was one of the ugliest she ever had the unfortunate privilege to encounter. Just like the Mayor, there was an outward appearance of innocence, yet the very presence of them was enough to convey to her the underlying taint of evil.

"Oh, my god," Faith murmured as she knelt before the two dead bodies, of children, killed before their time, in place which was supposed to be their haven.


"I am shocked," Mayor Wilkins uttered as he sought the comfort of his office chair after Faith told him of her discovery. Whatever misgivings she held about her alliance with him, she still choose his offices as her first port of call before either watcher or Buffy. "Deeply shocked. Who thought such violence could happen to children as young as that." He reached out and signalled her into one of the visitors chairs. "Was it vampires, could you see?"

"No," Faith replied, rather relieved at how normally he seemed to be taking the news. "There were no bites as far as I could see." She paused considering how best to phrase her question. Should I tell the others?" She asked cautiously.

"You mean Miss Summers and your watchers?" The Mayor confirmed. "Yes, but in the morning. This incident must be dealt with in the proper way." he reached across the desk to his phone and picked up the receiver. "I'll call the police, and then you must show me where you found them."


Buffy woke with her alarm the morning after in her bedroom at 1630 Revello Drive, taking care to keep her slayer reflexes from breaking the clock as she shut off the noise. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she rose from her bed and went to the wardrobe to select her clothes for the day.

It was not until she came downstairs that she noticed something was amiss from the usual routine of a school morning. Mildly concerned, she entered the living room, concentrating on sounds coming from the television.

"Mom?" She asked, causing Joyce to turn round from her position on the sofa. "What's going on?" She asked.

"Oh the Mayor discovered the bodies of two murdered children last night," Joyce replied, saddened and shocked. "I heard the news on the radio."

"I better swing by the crime scene and take a look on my way to school," Buffy remarked as she stared at the footage of the crime scene, watching officers taking photos, collecting evidence.

"You think a demon could do this?" Joyce asked her daughter.

"That's one of my words for them," Buffy replied grimly. "Whatever they turn out to be." She watched as the reporters turned to the Mayor, throwing out questions in the hope of an impromptu press conference. "Their parents' must be devastated," she murmured. "Do we know who they are?"

"The police are keeping the details quiet for now out of respect for the family," Joyce replied. "I can't say I blame them, they need all the time to grieve in privacy while they can, before this comes a symbol of the community."

Buffy nodded, before turning to grab her book bag. "I'll see you after school, Mom," she said in farewell. "Hopefully by then I'll know more," she added, before making her way out of the house.


"Take it easy, B, calm down."

Buffy rounded on Faith. "Don't tell me to calm down! They were kids, Faith. Little kids! You don't know what it was like to see them there."

I do, Faith longed to say, but she couldn't, because the Mayor had taken the matter out of her hands.

"Do we know how?" Giles asked her. "If it was a vampire?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. There were no marks," she uttered, before remembering. "Wait. I mean, there, there was a mark, um, a symbol." She paused to grab a pen, and sat down at the table, poised to draw.

Giles snatched the parchment away before the ink could do any damage. "Oh, uh, 12th century, Papal Encyclical. Write on this." He produced a spiral bound notebook.

Buffy carefully drew the symbol she had seen during her discreet swing by of the crime scene. "It was on their hands. The cops are keeping it quiet, but I got a good look at it." She turned the notebook round and slid it over for Giles and Faith to see. "There. Find us the thing that uses this symbol and point us at it."

"Hmm," Giles murmured as he studied the drawing.

"Hmm, what?" Buffy uttered impatiently. "Giles, speak."

"What? Oh, sorry. Um, no, it..." he trailed off as he picked up the notebook. "I just wonder if we're looking for a thing. The use of a symbol on a victim like this suggests a ritual murder and a cult sacrifice by a group."

"A group of... human beings?" Buffy queried. "Someone with a soul did this?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so," Giles replied as he moved to the bookshelves.

"Okay. Then while you're looking for the meaning of that symbol thingy, could you also find a loophole in that 'Slayers don't kill people' rule?" Buffy asked, causing Faith to glance at her in surprise.

And she was not the only one. "Buffy, this is a dreadful crime, I know," Giles began, "and you have every right to be upset, but, I wonder if you're not letting yourself get a shade more personal because it's happened in your town."

"Oh, it's completely personal," Buffy replied. "Giles, find me the people that did this. Please."

"I agree," Faith added, rising from her seat. "This has to be stopped, before we lose sight of what's demonic and what's not."


In the cafeteria, Willow looked up from her meal to call her boyfriend over to the table. "Hi, Oz," she greeted.

"Hey," he replied as he sat down. "I haven't seen you all day. What have been doing?"

"Oh working on something for Buffy's birthday," Willow replied. "Xander. Hi Cordy."

"Hey, Amy," Oz welcomed the other guest at the table.

"Hi, guys," Amy replied as she sat down.

"Hey, Amy. I like your new hair," Xander complimented.

"So, Buffy's birthday is next week," Oz recalled.

"Ooh! Yeah. Good. I've been pondering gift options," Xander remarked.

"Yeah, do you think we all have to get one, or can couples go joint?" Cordelia asked.

"Shh," Willow motioned before raising her voice. "Hi, Buffy."

"Buffy! What's up?" Xander asked.

"You guys didn't hear?" Buffy asked as she sat down at the table.

"Hear what?" Cordelia inquired.

"A murder," the slayer replied. "Somebody killed two little kids."

"Oh, no," Willow uttered shocked.

"They were, like, seven or eight years old," Buffy added.

"Oh, my God," Amy uttered.

"Kids?" Oz queried.

"Who would do something like that?" Cordelia wondered.

"A demon," Xander uttered confidently, "we are talking about a demon, right?"

"Giles isn't so sure," Buffy replied. "He thinks it might be something ritual, a cult. There was a symbol drawn on their hands, you see."

"You think know the level of violence in a town," Oz remarked. "You really don't have any idea until it shows itself."

"Hey," Faith uttered as she joined them, inwardly touched when they automatically moved aside to give her room at the table.

"Hey," Buffy returned. "How's the research going?"

"Giles and Wesley are still checking volumes," Faith replied. "I turned on the television in the homeroom to see if there was an update. Check this, the Mayor's holding a vigil tonight at City Hall."

"He finds two dead bodies and suddenly he's pillar of the community?" Cordelia remarked incredulously. "A vigil is hardly gonna help Sunnydale's finest catch whoever or whatever did this."

"And if whatever did this," Buffy added, "it really helps involving the whole town."

"I hear ya," Faith agreed, inwardly wondering what the Mayor's true motive was.


"This is great," Buffy remarked to her best friend and boyfriend as the three of them walked into the conference room of the city hall, taking in the large prominent placards with the phrase 'Never Again' in big font, above images of the two dead kids some photojournalist had managed to take at the crime scene. The room was almost filled to the brim with citizens of the hellmouth. "Maybe we could all go patrolling together later," she added.

"Your Mom's here too," Angel informed her, pointing out where Mrs Summers was standing, causing the trio to make their way over. "Evening, Mrs Summers."

"Angel," Joyce turned to him. "Glad to see you joined the rest of the professors in coming. How is the university taking it?"

"Same as the rest of the town," Angel replied.

"Can't believe how many people turned up," Buffy uttered to her best friend.

"At least your Mom's making an effort," Willow remarked. "My Mom's probably... " she trailed off as she suddenly caught sight of her. "Standing right in front of me right this second. Mom?"

"Willow, I didn't know you were going to be here," Shelia Rosenberg remarked as she joined them. "Oh, hi, Bunny," she uttered absently.

Buffy grimaced at the nickname. For some reason Mrs Rosenberg constantly forgot how to address her on the rare occasions they met. "Hi."

"Mom, what are you doing here?" Willow asked her.

"Oh, well, I read about it in the paper, and what with your dad out of town..." Shelia paused as she looked at her daughter. "Willow, you cut off your hair! Huh. That's a new look."

"Yeah, it's just a sudden whim I had..." Willow replied. "In August."

Shelia smiled, oblivious to the sarcasm. "I like it."

"There you are," Giles remarked as he joined them, with Jenny. "I almost didn't find you in this crush. Quite a turnout here."

"There's a rumour going around, Mr. Giles," Shelia remarked. "About witches. People calling themselves witches are responsible for this brutal crime."

"Indeed?" Giles queried. "How strange."

Willow laughed nervously. "Yes! Strange! Witches."

"Well, actually, not that strange," Mrs Rosenberg replied. "I recently coauthored a paper about the rise of mysticism among adolescents, and I was shocked at the statistical..." she broke off as the microphone coughed, signalling the Mayor's speech. "Oh. Are we starting?"

"Hello, everybody," Mayor Wilkins began. "I wanna thank you all for coming in the aftermath of such a tragic crime. Seeing you all here proves what a caring community Sunnydale is. Now, sure, we've had our share of misfortunes, but we're a good town with good people, and I know that none of us will rest easy until this horrible murder is solved. With that in mind..." he paused to pick up a placard, "I make these words my pledge to you. 'Never again!'" He paused for the applause of agreement which ensued. "Now, I know people would like to believe that this a rare occurrence in Sunnydale. But unfortunately these are not the times of innocence. How many of us have, have lost someone who, who just disappeared? Or, or got skinned? Or suffered neck rupture? And how many of us have been too afraid to speak out? I was supposed to lead us in a moment of silence, but... silence is this town's disease. For too long we've been plagued by unnatural evils. This isn't our town anymore. It belongs to the monsters and, and the witches and the Slayers."

In the crowd, Buffy looked at the Mayor in shock, along with Angel, Willow, Joyce, Jenny and Giles.

"I say it's time for the grown ups to take Sunnydale back," the Mayor continued. "I say we start by finding the people who did this and making them pay."

Buffy and her friends stood silent as the crowd broke into applause once more. She was struck by the mayor's choice of words on who he thought responsible. How did he know about slayers?

 


"Are you sure he knew what he was talking about?" Oz asked her as they walked down the corridors of the high school the next day.

"Why else would he have said it?" Buffy countered in reply. "You don't use that word in everyday conversation. I'm pretty sure he meant something by it. I just don't know what."

A loud noise interrupted their conversation, causing them to cast their gaze ahead, in time to notice a boy being slammed against some lockers.

"Hey, what is your problem?" Amy asked as Buffy and Oz neared the group.

The boy holding his victim against the lockers turned and spoke. "Everyone knows he's into that voodoo witchcraft. I heard about those kids. People like him...." he slammed the boy against the lockers again, "gotta learn a lesson."

"And what about people like me?" Amy asked.

"Get in my face and you'll find out," the boy countered.

Buffy stopped behind Amy, and smiled at the group. Her reputation caused the boy to let lose of his victim.

"No problem here," he declared. "We're walking."

Buffy watched the group walk away out of sight, then turned to the victim and Amy. "Michael, Amy. You guys okay?" She asked.

"Yeah," Michael replied. "We're fine," he added walking off.

Amy smiled. "Thanks, Buffy," she uttered before following him.

"You'll be one busy little Slayer, baby-sitting them," Cordelia remarked as she joined them in the corridor.

"I doubt they'll have any more trouble," Buffy remarked.

"I doubt your doubt," Cordelia countered. "Everyone knows that witches killed those kids, and Amy is a witch. And Michael is whatever the boy of witch is, plus being the poster child for yuck."

"It's warlock," Oz informed her. "Besides, witches didn't do it."

"Actually," Giles uttered in a low voice as he joined them, "I think they may have. My research keeps bringing me back to European Wiccan covens."

"You found the meaning of the symbol?" Buffy asked.

"I'm pretty sure, yes. There's a piece of information I need that's in a book that Willow borrowed. Can you find it?"

"Sure," Buffy replied, before turning in the direction of the student lounge. Seeing Xander sitting on one of the couches, they walked over.

"Hey guys," Xander greeted them.

"Hey. Is Willow around?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah. She's in the bathroom," Xander replied.

"Are those her books?" Buffy asked. "Giles needs one of the volumes he leant her."

"Yeah," Xander replied.

Buffy began sorting through the pile until she found the book in question. Removing it she discovered a spiral bound notebook underneath, with a symbol of a curled line above a triangle drawn on the visible page.

"Hey, Buff," Willow uttered as she joined them. "What cha looking for? You wanna borrow something?"

"What is this?" Buffy asked, showing her the symbol.

"A doodle," Willow replied. "I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too."

"This is a witch symbol," Buffy uttered.

"Okay, yeah, it is," Willow confirmed.

"Willow..." Buffy sighed, wondering how to begin.

"What?" Her best friend prompted.

"That symbol was on the murdered children," Buffy uttered.

Suddenly they heard the sound of lockers being slammed shut, causing them to look up as a police officer came into view.

"Please step back. Stay away from the lockers. This is police business."

Exchanging concerned looks, the slayerettes headed into the corridor to witness the police conducting a search of the lockets.

"Hand them over, please," an officer said to a student. "The books."

Buffy cautiously slipped the volume she carrying into the waistband of her jeans under the cover of her jacket.

"Aw, man, it's Nazi Germany, and I've got Playboys in my locker!" Xander complained, earning a glare from his girlfriend.

Principal Snyder was smug in his moment of glory. "This is a glorious day for principals everywhere. No pathetic whining about students' rights. Just a long row of lockers and a man with a key."

"They just took three kids away," Doyle remarked to the group as he joined them.

"What are they looking for?" Buffy asked.

"Witch stuff." Amy replied.

"What?" Willow uttered in concern.

"They got my spells," Amy informed them. "I'm supposed to report to Snyder's office," she added grimly.

"Oh, my God," Willow murmured.

"Okay, Amy," a police officer addressed her. "You'll have to come with me."

Willow turned to the group. "I have stuff in my locker," she confessed. "Henbane, hellebore, mandrake root."

"Excuse me," Xander interrupted. "Playboys. Can we turn the sympathy this way?"

One of the officers took out a hair spray from a locker.

"Hey!" Cordelia shouted indignantly. "Get your grubby custodial hands off that."

"Miss, you have to stay back," the officer instructed. "Miss, stay back."

"That hair spray costs $45, and it's imported!" Cordelia cried.

"Oh, God, my locker's next," Willow uttered. "Buffy, I didn't do anything wrong. The symbol is harmless. I used it to make a protection spell for you, for your birthday. With Michael and Amy. Only, now it's broken, because you know about it, so happy birthday, and please, you have to believe me!"

Snyder walked towards them carrying the items Willow was worried about. "Ms. Rosenberg. My office."

Oz placed an arm around his girlfriend in support and walked with her. Buffy glanced at the others and silently gestured for them to follow her to the library.

By the time the Scoobies reached said room, their usual sanctuary of knowledge, they encountered a police officer carrying a box full of books out.

"Giles," Buffy uttered as she entered, seeing her watcher stand helplessly watching as other officers raided the library shelves.

"They're confiscating my books," he uttered, stunned.

"Giles, we need those books," Buffy remarked.

"Believe me, I tried to tell that to the nice man with the big gun," Giles replied to her, causing Jenny to place her hand on his arm in comfort.

"There's something about the symbol that we're missing," Buffy said softly to them both. "Willow said she used it in a protection spell. It's harmless. Not a big bad. So then why would it turn up in a ritual sacrifice?"

"I don't know," Giles replied. "Ordinarily, I would say let's widen our research."

"Using what?" Buffy asked. "A dictionary and 'My Friend Flicka?'"

Giles sighed in barely suppressed annoyance. "This is intolerable. Snyder's interfered before, but I won't take this from that twisted little homunculus."

"I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning," Snyder deliberately parodied as he announced his presence in the library.

"You get out!" Giles shouted. "And take your marauders with you."

For once, Snyder was unmoved. "Oh, my. So fierce. I suppose I should hear you out. Just how is, um..." he snatched a volume from a nearby officer. "'Blood Rites and Sacrifices' appropriate material for a public school library? Chess club branching out?"

"This is not over," Giles threatened quietly.

"Oh, I should say it's just beginning," Snyder remarked. "Fight it if you want. Just remember, lift a finger against me, and you'll have to answer to MOO."

"Answer to MOO?" Buffy repeated. "Did that sentence just make some sense that I'm not in on?"

"Mayors Opposed to the Occult.'" Snyder translated. "A powerful new group."

"And who came up with that lame name?" Buffy asked.

"That would be the founder; Mayor Wilkins," Snyder replied before walking away.

"I can't believe this," Buffy murmured as she watched the officers leave. Suddenly a thought occurred to her. "Do you think they've gone to the university?"

Jenny took a permission slip out from her pocket. "Go. Now, while this chaos is still going on. I'll see if I can research on the internet."

Giles kissed her in thanks and followed his slayer out the door.


"They confiscated the books?" Angel queried. "Okay, this is bordering on fascism."

"I just don't get it," Buffy remarked as they walked hand in hand down the corridors of the university to the campus library. "All this fuss over two kids? At this point they're rendering my fight with evil fruitless."

"You can still make a difference," Angel argued. "I know it's important to keep fighting." He glanced at her, marvelling once more at how much he loved her. "I learned that from you."

Buffy sighed. "But we never..."

Angel nodded, finishing her sentence. "We never win."

"Not completely," Buffy added. "Sometimes not even remotely."

"We never will," Angel replied. "That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for. Those kids. Their parents."

"Their parents," Buffy murmured, realising something.

"What is it?" Angel asked her.

"Their parents," Buffy repeated with certainty, turning to Giles. "Come on, we have to get back to the library."

Before they could ask her why, she was running for the nearest exit, leaving them no choice but to follow.


Willow returned home to find her mother on the sofa waiting for her, with things from her room laid out on the coffee table.

"Oh, sit down, honey," Shelia began.

"Principal Snyder talk to you?" Willow queried.

"Yes. He's quite concerned," Shelia replied.

Willow tried to pre-empt the fight. "Mom, I know what this looks like, and I can totally..."

Her mother interrupted her. "Oh, you don't have to explain, honey. This isn't exactly a surprise."

Willow looked at her confused. "Why not?"

"Oh, well, identification with mythical icons is perfectly typical of your age group. It's a, a classic adolescent response to the pressures of incipient adulthood."

Willow sighed as she realised that she had reached another impasse with her mother. "Oh. Is that what it is?"

Mrs Rosenberg picked up a bag of herbs. "Of course, I wish you could've identified with something a little less icky, but developmentally speaking..."

"Mom, I'm not an age group," Willow said. "I'm me. Willow group."

"Oh, honey..." Shelia rose from the sofa and went join her daughter. "I understand."

"No, you don't," Willow replied, wondering if she could make her understand, as Buffy had done with her mother. "Mom, this may be hard for you to accept, but I can do stuff. Nothing bad or dangerous, but I can do spells."

"You think you can, and that's what concerns me," Shelia remarked. "The delusions."

"Mom, how would you know what I can do?" Willow countered. "I mean, the last time we had a conversation over three minutes, it was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Rogers Show."

"Well, with King Friday lording it over all the lesser puppets..." Mrs Rosenberg began.

"Mom, you're not paying attention," Willow replied.

"And this is your way of trying to get it. Now, I have consulted with some of my colleagues, and they agree that this is a cry for discipline. You're grounded."

Willow was surprised. "Grounded? This is the first time ever I've done something you don't like and I'm grounded? I'm supposed to mess up. I'm a teenager, remember?"

"You're upset, I hear you," Shelia remarked.

"No, Mom, hear this! I'm a rebel! I'm having a rebellion!"

Her mother smiled at her. "Willow, honey, you don't need to act out like this to prove your specialness."

"Mom, I'm not acting out. I'm a witch! I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon. And I'm dating a musician."

Now her mother was shocked. "Oh, Willow!"

"I worship Beelzebub," Willow continued sarcastically. "I do his bidding. Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them."

"Willow, please!" Shelia urged.

"All bow before Satan!" Willow cried.

"I'm not listening to this," Mrs Rosenberg walked out of the living room.

Willow followed her. "Prince of Night, I summon you. Come fill me with your black, naughty evil."

Suddenly her Mom rounded on her. "That's enough! Is that clear? Now, you will go to your room and stay there until I say otherwise. And we're gonna make some changes. I don't want you hanging out with those friends of yours. It's clear where this little obsession came from. You will not speak to Bunny Summers again."


"Any news?" Jenny asked as two of the Scoobies returned to the unofficial and raided headquarters of Slayer Inc.

"Take heart. We found the books," Oz informed them.

"Really?" Giles asked as he entered, followed by Buffy and Angel.

"You can put the heart back," Xander added. "We can't get at them. They're locked up in City Hall."

"What about you?" Giles asked his girlfriend. "Did you find anything out?"

"No luck on that symbol," Jenny replied. "What about you?"

"I think I have something," Buffy began. "What do we know about these kids?"

"What do you mean?" Doyle asked.

"Facts," Buffy stated. "Details."

"Well, they were found in the park," Xander replied.

The slayer shook her head. "No. Where did they go to school? Who were their parents? What are their names? We know everything about their deaths, but we don't even know their names."

"Well, sure we do," Xander remarked. "Um, it's on the tip of my tongue."

"That never came up," Oz realised. "Ever."

"And if no one knows who they are," Buffy continued solemnly, "where did these pictures come from?"

"I just assumed someone had the details," Giles sighed. "I never really... Well, that is strange."

The slayer nodded. "We need to get some information."

"I can look around," Oz offered, taking up Jenny's seat by the computer, "but Willow would really know the sites we need."

"That's great," Buffy sighed. "She can't even come to the phone. The wrath of MOO."

"Well, we don't need a phone," Oz pointed out before signing online. After a few tapping of keys, he added, "alright, we're linked. If anybody's ID'd the kids, she'll pull it up and feed it here."

Soon an article appeared before them. "Oh. 'Two Children Found Dead. Mysterious Mark...'" Giles trailed off as he read further. "No. No. These children were found near Omaha in 1949."

"Yeah, they ain't ours," Xander agreed. "Keep going."

"Wait," Buffy said, pointing to the photo which finished downloading on to the page. "Those are the same kids."

"Fifty years ago," Giles murmured.

Oz tapped the keys for the next article. "1899. Utah... Two Children... Rural Community Torn Apart by Suspicion."

"A hundred years ago?" Doyle queried. "How is this possible?"

"There's no mention of who they were," Oz commented.

"They've never been seen alive, just dead," Buffy realised. "A lot."

"Ah," Oz uttered as he read the instant messenger form from Willow. "There were more articles. Every fifty years. All the same."

"From as far back as 1649," Giles murmured. "Can I see that?"

Oz rose from his seat and let the watcher sit down. "Written by a cleric from a village near the Black Forest. He... found the bodies himself. Two children... Greta Strauss, age six. Hans Strauss, eight."

"So they have names," Cordelia commented. "That's new."

 


"Willow," Shelia Rosenberg remarked as she entered her daughter's bedroom to find her online at the computer. "I thought I made myself clear. You're not minding me."

"Mom..." Willow pleaded.

"I see what you're doing. You're challenging me. But I will not have you communicating with your cyber-coven or what have you."

"Coven?" Willow echoed. "What happened to me being delusional and acting out?"

"Well, that was before I talked in depth with the Mayor and his associates. It seems I've been rather close-minded."

"So, you believe me?" Willow asked.

Her mother sighed. "I believe you, dear. Now all I can do is let you go with love."

"Let me go?" Willow echoed, concerned. "What does that mean?"

Her mother said nothing. Instead she turned and left the bedroom, locking the door from the hall, leaving Willow concerned, alone and without the means of calling for help.


"Uh, wait, wait a minute," Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning as he paced the floor of the library. "Uh... Uh, there is a fringe theory held by a few folklorists that some regional stories have actual, um, very literal antecedents."

"And in some language that's English?" Buffy asked.

"Fairy tales are real," Angel replied.

"Hans and Gre.... Hansel and Gretel?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"Wait." Xander said. "Hansel and Gretel? Breadcrumbs, ovens, gingerbread house?"

"Of course!" Giles cried. "Well, it makes sense now."

"Yeah, it's all falling into place," Buffy remarked. "Of course that place is nowhere near this place."

Giles came to sit on the table by them. "Some demons thrive by fostering hatred and, and, persecution amongst the mortal animals. Not by destroying men, but by watching men destroy each other. Now, they feed us our darkest fear and turn peaceful communities into vigilantes."

Buffy nodded in understanding. "Hansel and Gretel run home to tell everyone about the mean old witch."

Giles inclined his head in agreement. "And then she and probably dozens of others are persecuted by a righteous mob. It's happened all throughout history. It happened in Salem, not surprisingly."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Xander said. "I'm still spinning on this whole fairy tales are real thing."

"So what do we do?" Oz asked.

"Giles, we need to talk to the Mayor," Buffy decided. "Get him to stop this before the whole town takes a trip to Salem."

The library doors burst open and Michael stumbled in, black and blue, bruised and sporting one large black eye which was not caused by makeup.

"What happened?" Buffy asked.

"I was attacked!" Michael replied.

"By whom?" Buffy inquired.

"My dad," Michael replied. "His friends. They're taking people out of their homes. They're talking about a trial down at City Hall. They got Amy."

"Michael, stay here and hide," Buffy commanded. "Giles, Angel, we need to unmask this demon now."

"We need to stop by my apartment, first," Giles replied. "I'll need some ingredients."

"Willow!" Oz cried and ran out of the library, Xander following.

"Tell Willow to get out of her house!" Michael called out.

"Stay in my office," Giles ordered, then turned to Jenny. "You too," he added to her, before kissing her goodbye.

"Be careful," Jenny warned them before they obeyed him.

 


Willow looked up as she heard her bedroom door being unlocked. "Mom, we really have to talk," she uttered, before catching sight of the large crowd behind her mother.

"It's time to go," Shelia remarked. "Oh, and get your coat. It's chilly out."

"Go? Go where?" Willow asked.

"I said get your coat, witch!" Shelia cried.

Hurriedly Willow slammed the door, and searched for something to move against it, so she could escape via the french doors.


"Sir, this is getting out of hand," Faith remarked as she entered the offices of the Mayor. "Even the vamps are getting restless, and usually they're the first ones to enjoy a riot like this."

"Faith, you worry too much for a girl your age," Mayor Wilkins remarked as he rose from his chair to place an arm around her. "You should learn to watch your stress levels. Now where would Buffy be at a time like this?"

"Either with Giles or in the heart of the action," Faith replied. "Why?"

"Because I think this is an opportunity which is too good not to make use of," the Mayor replied, in that tone Faith had learned to fear. "Now, you stay here, have something soothing to eat and drink, and I'll put in a call to Mr Trick and his associates. I'll send them to Mr Giles' place of residence, make sure he and your 'sister' are safe."

Faith watched the expression on his face, her thoughts a whirlwind, wondering once more what she had let herself in for by agreeing to his alliance.


At Oakpark Street, Cordelia and Doyle almost fell to floor as they burst through the unexpectedly unlocked front door of Giles' apartment.

Regaining their balance, they took in the smashed bits of glass, overturned sofas and coffee table, scattered remains of china, obvious signs that a struggle had taken place in the room, and the two prone figures lying on the floor of the living area.

Cordelia rushed to the watcher's side. "Wake up!" She cried. Slapping his face until he reached out and grabbed her wrist.

"Cordelia?" Giles opened his eyes.

"Took you long enough to wake up," Cordelia commented. "My hand hurts."

Angel rose to sit beside him.

"Pity," Giles murmured without any real sympathy. "Oh... Why are you here?"

"Things are way out of control, Giles. First the thing at school, and then my mom confiscates all of my black clothes and scented candles. I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious... again. How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you're gonna wake up in a coma."

"Wake up in a..." Giles shook his head. "Oh, never mind," he decided, rising to his feet, followed by Angel. "We need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel."

"Now, let's be clear," Cordelia uttered in their wake as she Doyle followed them out of the apartment. "The brain damage happened before I hit you."


"Buffy!" Willow cried, as her friend woke from the chloroform induced unconscious to discover herself restrained against a pole, nestled in the middle of the confiscated books. Around them crowds stood, fire lit torches in hand, with placards of the children. She glanced down to find some of the books around them already alight.

"Alright," Amy remarked, causing Willow and Buffy to turn to her. "You wanna fry a witch? I'll give you a witch! Goddess Hecate, work thy will!"

"Uh-oh," Buffy murmured as she realised what was about to happen.

"Before thee let the unclean thing crawl!" Amy finished, as a wave of dark energy surrounded her, causing her to disappear in a sudden burst of flame. Then the fire died, and a small black rat scurried through the books to freedom.

"She couldn't do us first?" Buffy wondered as she struggled against her bonds.

"You've seen what we can do!" Willow cried, wondering if she could prevent their deaths by scaring them. "Another step and you will all feel my power!"

"What are you gonna do, float a pencil at them?" Buffy murmured quietly.

"It's a really big power!" Willow continued. "Yes! You will all be turned into vermin. And some of you will be fish! Yeah, you in the back will be fish!"

"Maybe we should go," a man in the back decided.

Then the children suddenly appeared.

"But you promised," Hansel reminded them.

"You have to kill the bad girls," Greta added.


"I can't believe you had this stuff in your apartment," Cordelia commented as she surveyed the ingredients the watcher shoved into her lap. "It smells foul."

"Shred the wolfsbane," Giles instructed. "That's the, leafy stuff. And then you can crush the satyrion root." He murmured, trying to recall the incantation. "Luften sie den something. Schlumer? Schluter?"

In front of them Angel put his foot down and shifted up another gear, as he drove his convertible down the streets to city hall.

"What are you muttering about?" Cordelia asked.

"It's a part of an incantation," Giles explained. "It's in German, and without my book..."

"What does it mean?" Cordelia asked.

"It's about lifting a veil. It should, make the demons appear in their true form, which with any luck, will, uh, negate their influence. And, drop a toadstone into the mixture."

Cordelia took a guess and picked up the ingredient. "This? It doesn't look like a toad."

"No reason it should," Giles replied. "It's from inside the toad."

Cordelia rapidly dropped it in. "I hate you."


After breaking several traffic laws, they reached the city hall. Parking the car with a screech on the brakes, Angel, Doyle, Cordelia and Giles leapt from the vehicle to rush inside, heading for the conference room.

Reaching the doors, they wrestled with the knobs only to find them locked.

Giles turned, studied Cordelia's hair, and removed a pin, before kneeling down before the keyhole to get to work.

"Ouch!" Cordelia snapped indignantly. "You got hair with that!" She paused as she watched him deftly pick the lock. "God, you really were the little youthful offender, weren't you? You must just look back on that and cringe."

"Shh!" Giles ordered as he continued to work. There was a tense moment of silence, then the mechanism clicked, and he withdrew the pin in satisfaction before turning the knob and opening the doors. He pointed Cordelia in the direction of the fire hose, while Angel and Doyle silently negotiated their way through the crowd to the sacrificial victims.

"Buffy, I'm on fire!" Willow cried.

Her best friend struggled harder with the rope which bound her to the pole. "Cordelia, put out the fire!" She cried. "Angel, Doyle hurry!"

Cordelia turned her water vengeance away from the enthralled people of Sunnydale and on to the bonfires, dousing the flames almost immediately.

Giles threw the potion on to the floor, letting it smash and recited the incantation. "Ihr Goetter, ruft Euch an! Verbergt Euch nicht hinter falschen Gesichtern!"

Hansel and Greta Strauss transformed into one large Wagnerian like demon, which towered over them.

"Okay, I think I liked the two little ones more than the one big one," Cordelia said.

"Protect us! Kill the bad girls!" The demon ordered the now terrified populous.

"You know what?" Buffy remarked, causing it to turn and face her. "Not as convincing in that outfit."

The demon roared, and strode to confront her. Buffy abandoned struggling with the rope and opted to break the stake instead, bending until one end impaled the demon.

"Did I get it?" She asked.

"You got it," Angel replied as he reached over to untie the rope. Carefully he helped her from the stake, causing it to fall, taking the demon with it.


"Your mom doesn't mind us doing this in the house?" Buffy asked her best friend the next evening as they mixed ingredients in her bedroom.

"She doesn't know," Willow replied.

"Business as usual?" Buffy queried knowingly.

Willow nodded. "Hmm, sort of. She's doing that selective memory thing your mom used to be so good at."

"She forgot everything?" Buffy asked.

Her best friend shook her head. "No. She remembered the part where I said I was dating a musician. Oz has to come for dinner next week. So, that's sort of like taking an interest."

"Okay, should we try this again?" Buffy asked.

"Let's do it," Willow agreed. "I think we got the mix of herbs right this time."

"Okay. Ready?" Buffy lit a match and set it to the potion on the plate before them.

"Diana, Hecate, I hereby license thee to depart," Willow enchanted. "Goddess of creatures great and small, I conjure thee to withdraw."

Amy the rat merely sniffed the air appreciatively then went back to rustling around in her new little cage.

"Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies," Buffy suggested.


"So, that was a regrettable conclusion to this campaign," Mayor Wilkins remarked to his associates as they gathered in his office at the end of the day.

"There's always next time, sir," Mr. Trick pointed out.

"Yes, very true. I have plenty of campaign promises still to honour."

"Campaign promises?" Faith echoed. "You mean this was a sting from the very beginning? You let me find those kids?"

"Well, I did want Miss Summers to find them," the Mayor replied. "But I didn't know your patrol night would take you to the playground and not her. Still, these things happen. You cannot plan for every detail."

"I can't believe you played me!" Faith cried.

"Now, Faith," the Mayor's tone changed to his familiarly chilling one. "I told you before, this level of stress is not good for a good of your age. Now why don't you sit down, take some of this soothing drink here and relax. I've got everything under control."

Faith saw the unspoken threat in his and Trick's eyes, and wisely sat down as once again she remembered the dangers of her new alliance.

The End.
To Be Continued In......

Helpless.

Chapter Text


Author's note:
As much as I enjoyed the original version of this episode, one question
always remained in my mind. Why would Giles perform the test? He has abandoned
the handbook, he lets her be with Angel, why does he decide to adhere to this?
I could not understand it, given his relationship with Buffy throughout the series
until then. Enjoy.

Helpless.

"Close your eyes."

Buffy could not help utter a small, happy laugh, and smiling as her boyfriend's hands came round her face to place themselves over her already closed lids. They were standing in the kitchen of the mansion on Crawford street, two evenings before her eighteenth birthday. She had stopped by after patrol, a habit of hers lately, since their night together two months ago.

More often than not, the evening would lead to her staying over returning to her home shortly after dawn before her mother woke. It seemed she could not get enough of him, and nor he of her, something once doubted by her when his curse contained a clause, but now hardly remembered in the wake of her discovering how powerless she could render him with just one touch or smouldering look.

He was equally capable of returning the favour on her, using the same methods, just as the sensations caused by his fingers upon her eyelids now proved once more. Even though she could not see, she heard the smile in his tone as he spoke to her, the small one which lit up his dark eyes, letting her know how happy he was just being with her, the one he greeted her with every time she woke in his arms, in his bed. Few knew how much feeling that smile conveyed; the true depth of happiness his expression displayed, and how proud she felt as she realised that she was the cause.

It was a state which he was also responsible for causing within her, as when she was with him, she forgot the burdens of being the slayer, the worries she felt regarding Faith, the slight suspicions she had now for the mayor since he used the term slayer during his speech concerning the murdered children. Buffy was not sure whether he had been, like everyone else, enthralled by the demon who used the children to incite vigilante hatred, or if he had an ulterior motive for outing her.

At this moment, just before she was completely swept away into that tangent of worrying thoughts, she was brought back to the present by the sound of his voice; loving and low in her ear, as his hands moved from her eye lids, down her face, about her neck, across her shoulder blades, down her side in a caress, before finishing to take hold of hers.

"I know it's still two days before your birthday, but that I've been meaning to return this to you for some time now," he was saying, his fingers parting hers to slip a circle of cold metal on the third of her left hand. "You can open them now."

Buffy did so and gasped in surprise as she caught sight of the gift which he bestowed upon her. A claddagh ring was staring back at her, the same one which she paid farewell to before his body crushed it during his return from hell. "How?" She asked, looking up at him.

"I may not have been in my right mind when I returned from hell," he continued, "but there was some part of me that realised what brought me back and I clasped hold of it tight. I was afraid if I let go it, that this would all turn out to be a dream."

"That was why your fist was closed," Buffy realised, turning round in his arms, her smile becoming brighter as she wrapped hers around his neck, using their strength to bend his head down for a kiss. "Thank you, Angel," she uttered his name with a reverential tone. "You don't know how happy you've made me."

Their lips touched. Angel threaded his hands through her hair, as the world gradually faded from their notice. Buffy deviated between fiddling with the ends of his dark locks and tracing the intricate carving of her restored ring. She had thought that she had lost it forever. The moment she had laid it upon the ground to bring him back, she had never expected to see it again. But he had the foresight to protect it. And loved her enough still to give it once more, another sign of how much he cared for her, how important she was to him, in spite of all the girls before her, and the demon within him.

Just as the passion behind the kiss began to deepen into ardent desire, they were disturbed from their solitude by a knock at the door. Reluctantly they pulled apart, their danger senses suddenly alert. Who could be calling at this hour?

There was only one way to find out. They left the kitchen and advanced down the hallway through the double height living room to the entrance.

"Giles?" Buffy queried as she opened the door, catching sight of him standing on the step, his concern plain to see upon his face. "What's wrong?"

"There's something I need to talk to you about," he replied, in an anxious tone to match the expression on his face.

Buffy stepped out of the way of the door frame. Like her watcher she never uttered the words 'come in' anymore.

"Would you like an Earl Grey, Giles?" Angel asked, his eighteenth century manners alive and active in the wake of guests, particularly one whom he regarded as his beloved's surrogate father, the best either of them had ever had the privilege to know.

"That would be very welcome, thank you, Angel," Giles, looking up from his clasped hands, his worried expression seeming to lessen briefly.

Buffy watched him as she guided him into the living area and on to one of the comfortable sofas, her anxiousness increasing after Angel had brought the tea in, and Giles had taken a sip from a cup which clattered upon the saucer as his shaking hands returned it there after putting it to his lips.

Giles looked across at the two of them, wondering once more what reaction he would face when he told them about what he had been worrying about for several weeks now. He feared telling them, but nor could he go on withholding the truth any longer, for in two days it would be too late and the matter would taken out of his hands before he had time to make her understand that he would never dream of forcing this rule upon her or any slayer within his charge.

Taking a deep breath, he began. "For as long as there have been Slayers, there has been Watchers. And for as long as there have been Watchers, there has been the ritual of the Cruciamentum."

Angel abruptly paled, leading Giles to suspect that he like many vampires was well aware of the often Victorian and frequently draconian ways of the Council. Buffy meanwhile remained puzzled. "The Cruciamentum?" She echoed.

"It is a ritual which I have always held as the cause of death of as many as a quarter of all the slayers who have survived to reach it," he continued. "And which I had determined never to perform if I was ever granted the charge of a slayer, even though such refusal would most likely cost me my job." He paused to take another sip of his tea, his hand a little steadier than before. "Some days before a slayer reaches her eighteenth, her watcher is instructed by the Council to inject her with a muscle suppressant, forcing her to rely on only her wits and her current knowledge of a vampire's weaknesses. On her birthday he sends her to a deserted building, which is locked once she is inside, and then she faces a vampire captured by the Council specifically for this task. Only by the morning does anyone know who has survived."

When Giles had finished speaking, a horrible moment of silence descended on the room, full of tension. The calm before the storm, waiting for someone to put a stake of noise through. But it was only for a moment, despite how long it seemed to those involved. Within seconds the slayer had rose from her seat, all her primal, instinctive emotion in the fore. She paced before the men, her anger too great to form proper sentences but not problems in her vocal eloquence.

"Of all the arrogant, naive, dangerous, stupid,"

"Buffy," Giles began, in an effort to calm her down, though he had felt precisely the same words, as well as quite a few choice others when he first heard of the Cruciamentum. However, he had long since learned than anger only produced disgust from the council, never change for the better.

His slayer, who he loved like a daughter was not in the least placated by his pleading for calmness tone. "Unethical, immoral,"

"Buffy," Giles tried more forcefully.

But to no avail. "Evil, insane,"

"Angel, can you not," Giles stopped as he caught sight of the expression on the face of the man opposite him. Even when the demon inside him had been unleashed completely from the soul, and had tortured him, Giles had not seen him this angry. The vampire was ready to champion his mate. And the soul was willing to let him.

"Angel?" Giles' tone changed to concern.

The yellow eyes focused on him abruptly, blinked once, then seemed to realise where they were and what was required of them. The dark shades returned. He reached out and grabbed hold of her hand. Their rings clashed together, the sound unnaturally loud in the quiet atmosphere which had just set in.

Buffy stopped pacing. An intense look passed between them. She sat down and glanced at Giles. "How dare they think of such a stupid thing! It's completely idiotic and dangerous. To think they can control us. To hold your job over you, for something that'll do more damage than vampires ever could." She turned to Angel. "What do you know of the Cruciamentum?"

He hesitated. She pressed him further. "We promised. Honesty. No matter what."

"There are some things I don't want you to ever know," Angel finally replied. "But the Cruciamentum is regarded as something of an easy slay amongst the vampires. Some run competitions to be easily caught for the ritual."

"I suspected as much," she commented as Giles acquired a disgusted expression at what he had just heard for the information, while hardly surprising, was new to him. Buffy then suddenly chuckled. "I knew there had to be a reason why my birthdays have all sucked." She stopped then to gaze seriously at her watcher. "What's going to happen now?"

"Quentin Travers, one of the Council members, is coming to see me tomorrow," Giles replied. "I'll tell him then that I haven't initiated the ritual, nor do I intend to and that I've told you about it, making the test invalid. He will fire me, then probably make Pryce your watcher until another can be sent over."

Buffy's frown became one of concern. "You won't leave, will you?"

"Of course not," Giles promised, taking her hands, which had reached out across the table as if to stop him from leaving. "I'm still a librarian. They can't take that away from me. And even if I weren't, I could never leave you." He paused to add softly. "You became so much more to me than a slayer from the moment I met you."

 


Giles was still thinking over those words as he made his way back to his apartment. When it came down to the real reasons why he was not prepared to perform the Cruciamentum, the fact that he had disagreed with the ethics involved was not the only thing that was stopping him from conducting experiment. The first thing that had made him refuse was Buffy herself. She had become almost like a daughter to him from the moment they had met, when he had seen the pain in her that being a slayer had caused her and how, above all, she wanted to be a normal girl, though, when lives were at stake, she would always do the right thing, no matter what the cost, or the sacrifice. Her relationship with Angel last year proved as much. From then on, he had abandoned the rule book. And what a difference it had made. She was the strongest slayer yet, because of his refusal to follow centuries of tradition. And the Powers That Be smiled on his conduct, by blessing her with the return of her soulmate, and he with return of his.

He opened his front door to find Jenny waiting up for him. "How did she take it?" She asked as he walked with her into the living area.

"Reasonably well," he replied. "She and Angel were as upset as I was when I first learned of the ritual."

Jenny looked at him carefully. "You're still concerned, aren't you?" She asking, already knowing what his answer would be.

"I don't know how long I'll be able to protect her." Giles sighed, sinking into the sofa beside her. "I can handle Pryce, but I don't know who they'll send as her new watcher. Once I tell Travers, and he fires me, I'll lose the ability to protect her. I know a slayer doesn't need protecting, but Buffy's different."

"I know, Rupert," Jenny interrupted tenderly. "And I think slayers do need protecting. All heroes do, because they see a side of the world ordinary people rarely see. And it changes them. It has the power to damage them, more than blows ever could. Slayers witness all the evil of the world, and they rely on watchers to provide them with knowledge of how to eliminate it, or send it a message never to risk their wrath. There must be trust between them, and with that trust comes protection."

"And once the trust is gone," Giles mused, finishing her point, "so is the protection. And I doubt if either is ever even retrieved."


That was something which Buffy was pondering herself as she told the gang the next morning about the Cruciamentum. She had always trusted Giles. If he had chosen to perform the ritual on her, without telling her why beforehand, she doubted she would have been able to trust him ever again. And trust in a watcher was important. They held the key to the sources of knowledge which slayers relied on to survive. If they could no longer trust them, how much longer would they live? Not long was Buffy's opinion.

The Scooby gang's reaction was exactly as she had expected. Xander was disgusted, Willow angry, along with Oz, Cordelia and Doyle. Faith shrugged indifferently, but then her view of the world and the human race was much more bitter and cynical than her own. All were also expecting her to still be angry and were now surprised that she was calm while telling them and continued to be, even in the face of their anger and disgust. She still was, but no longer explosive. At times she could almost see their point, which was disturbing. The whole idea was about making a slayer realise that she had more weapons other than her strength to hand. And, ethics aside, they achieved that. If used right, the Cruciamentum could be a valuable lesson, for to many times did a slayer chose to depend on their physical strength, rather than their mental one.

It continued to prey upon her thoughts for the rest of the day, despite her best efforts to not think about it. She made her way out of the school grounds walking in the direction of home, via a detour to the mansion on Crawford. Angel only had lectures in the morning today, and had told her that he would be home with paperwork if she needed to see him. And she did, though rarely need was an excuse.

Buffy came out of her introspection at this point, as she arrived at Angel's door. A surprise greeted her, causing her to stop outside the front entrance. There was a piece of paper, wrapped around a rose, pushed in the door handle. Smiling she took it out and read the note, puzzling over the directions it gave, but following them nonetheless. The answer did not become clear, until she had stepped inside the darkened front room of her home.

"Surprise!" Came a second later, a cheer chorused by a large entourage, as the lights came back on, revealing all her friends, Angel, Giles, Jenny, Doyle and her Mom waiting for her, and the room covered in banners, streamers, and other traditional decorations.

"Guys, my birthday isn't until tomorrow," Buffy began as she greeted each of them with a hug of gratitude.

"Angel told us that you felt all your birthdays had been unlucky since you were called," her Mom replied, "so we arranged this party for tonight instead."

"Thank you," Buffy said, hugging her.


"This is from me," Xander began, handing her the first gift after they finished the birthday meal an hour later.

Buffy ripped the paper apart to reveal a home made book. "'Slaying for Dummies; A Humorous Guide to Dusting Vampires, And Other Demonic Entities.'" she read out loud from the title. "Did you write this?"

"Yeah," Xander admitted reddening.

"It's wonderful, thank you," Buffy hugged him.

"Here's mine," Cordelia said, giving her a gift as Buffy sat back down.

Ripping apart the paper, Buffy took out the small box and opened it to discover a necklace with a small silver stake attached. "Its beautiful, thanks, Cordy."

"You better have mine next," Willow directed, handing her it.

Buffy opened another box, this time to discover a pair of earrings with silver stakes dangling down. "Thanks Willow," she uttered hugging her best friend.

Oz's gift came next. Buffy tore the paper to reveal a Pez vampire, along with a new journal. Then came her Mom's which was a dress shirt she had been wanting for a while. Doyle gave her a volume on Irish poetry.

Giles' and Jenny's gift was another necklace. Buffy gasped as she opened the box to reveal a beautiful intricately carved cross. "Thank you," she uttered softly, touched by her watcher's thoughtfulness.

Finally came Angel's. "But you've already given me a gift," Buffy remarked, holding out her hand to show off her restored claddagh.

"That was more of a return," he explained. "Something I wanted to give you back," he added as he handed her the box. "This is what I wanted to give you this year."

Buffy unwrapped the gift. It was leather-bound volume of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's Sonnet's From The Portuguese. In the front leaf, was a happy birthday note, simply signed 'always,' conveying far more emotion and love in one word than she had ever known could be possible. "Thank you," she uttered, touched by his devotion, titling her face upwards for a kiss.

They reluctantly pulled apart as good natured groans erupted about public displays of affection. Someone switched some music on and the whole gang split into small groups.

"What's wrong?" Angel asked her as soon as they were alone.

"The Cruciamentum," Buffy replied in a low voice. "It's been bothering me all day." She paused to lean into his arms. "I can see why they want to perform it. And it's got me thinking about losing my strength, and what I was like before I was called. A cross between Clueless and the old Cordelia."

"I wouldn't say that," Angel remarked, causing her to turn round and look at him. "What?" She asked, wondering what he meant.

"I fell in love with you before you were the slayer," he answered solemnly.

Buffy looked at him curiously. "But how?"

"I told you that I witnessed when you were called outside your school in L.A." She nodded, and he continued. "Whistler found me living off the streets. He told me that I could make a difference, and that there was something I should see which would help me to realise how. He took me to Hemery. It was a bright afternoon in front of your school. I watched you come down the steps from a dark car. You were chatting with your friends, before they left you to sit on the steps, sucking a lollipop and waiting for a boy. And it was like the whole world had faded away. I saw you and I saw your heart. You carried it upon your sleeve for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life, I wanted to keep it safe, to warm it with my own."

"That's beautiful," Buffy uttered, gently falling into his embrace. "Or taken literally, incredibly gross," she added in afterthought.

Angel laughed, then bent his head to kiss her hair. "I watched you from the rest of that day," he added. "As you sat there, sucking a red lollipop, waiting for a boy you would later stand up. I saw your first watcher come to you, then as you killed your first vampire. Then when you went home, trying not to cry as your parents argued. I wanted to help." He stroked her blond strands lovingly, thinking of all which had passed between them since then. The reality was more dear to him than he could ever have imagined. A life time seemed to have passed since then. "Thank you, for making me realise I could do more than just exist."

"Well thank you," she looked up at him, "for sticking by me, even when I was bad." She clasped his hands, playing with them. "How could the Powers That Be know that we were meant to meet but not realise that we would also fall in love? Whistler told me once that Acathla was meant to be your fight, not mine. But they didn't know that your curse had a clause."

"They don't see everything," Doyle said, surprising them. The couple turned from each other to find him on the sofa opposite. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I wasn't listening, I only caught your last question. Anyway the Powers that Be have this mental map if you will, that gives an idea of how the future's gonna turn out. But the future changes everyday, because slightest thing that we do, has an impact on the outcome. And the possibilities of each outcome take awhile to get back to them."

"Thanks Doyle," Buffy answered. "Its nice to know that they have flaws."

"Everything does," he replied. "That's the vulnerability of the universe."

"I know what you're thinking about doing," Angel uttered to her when they were alone once more.

"Do you?" Buffy returned.

"Yes," he replied. "And I know you realise how dangerous it is, that this is what Giles tired to prevent. But I know how stubborn you are, one of the things I love about you, and that trying to talk you out of it, is pointless. So, all I'm going to do is warn you to be careful."

"I intend to be. And thanks." She kissed him briefly.

"Are you going to talk to Giles about it?" Angel asked.

"Not until after I persuade his boss. He'll just give me all the arguments you just gave, but in detail, and I'd rather counter them when there's nothing he can do to prevent me." She paused, then added in a lower tone, "sooner or later we're going to need that avenue of information open to us, and I'd rather get it from Giles than anyone else."

"You realise that they might not agree to this?"

"I do, but I have to try."

"Well, you have my support, even though I have certain reservations, which are to do with my worry over your safety, rather than my doubt on your ability to handle whatever vampire they throw at you."

"Thank you," Buffy uttered, before falling into silence as she rested in his arms. Angel tightened their embrace around her, wishing he could protect more than she let him, that his arms had the power and the strength to pose as a barrier between her and all the evil harm of the world and it's demons. She was very precious to him, he had no desire to lose her now, after all they had gone through to be together.


"Why did you fail to make our meeting last night?"

Giles looked up from his research at the stern face of his superior, Quentin Travers. "I was at a birthday party," he replied in a calm but deadly voice.

"I hope you are not letting social engagements take priority over your duties as a watcher," Travers admonished, "but we do not have time for that lecture. How is the slayer?"

"Buffy is fine."

"Good. I'll tell the men to expect her at seven, then?"

"Oh, Buffy won't be going," Giles replied in that same calm but deadly tone.

"What?" Travers queried, surprised. "Has something gone wrong with the suppressant?" He asked, concerned.

"I wouldn't know, I haven't given it to her." He paused to let that settle in, then added, "nor do I intend to, either."

Travers shook his head in disappointment. "You know, there were a lot of people that disapproved of you being assigned to the slayer. I was one of the few who supported you."

"A fact that you frequently choose to remind me of," Giles said, in a tone which showed that already he was tired of this lecture.

Travers ignored the tone. "The Cruciamentum is one of the most important rituals for a slayer," he continued. "It teaches them to rely on their wits as well as their innate, physical, supernatural strength."

"Nonsense," Giles returned. "The Cruciamentum is an exercise in control. You seek to control a warrior that will die under such pressure. Watchers are here to guide, not to order. We have no right to attempt to control a fight that we don't take part in. Or to subject a slayer to more danger than what she has to face on a daily basis."

Travers was unmoved by his eloquence. "Is that all you have to say?"

"No," Giles replied. "I also want you to know that I have told Buffy all about the ritual, so you can forget ordering Pryce or anyone else to perform it on her."

Travers was stunned by this piece of news. "You told the slayer about the Cruciamentum?" He stopped, shaking his head in disapproval. "I am very disappointed in you, Rupert. You have developed a father's love for a girl that is in reality just a tool. There have been others before her, and there will be others after her."

"Just as well really, since you choose to treat them so callously," a voice remarked as it entered the proceedings.

Giles tried to make them go away with silent hand and mouth gestures, while Travers turned round to face the arrivals, but to no avail. "Miss Summers, I presume?" He queried, which Buffy acknowledged with a nod. Then he regarded the man behind her. "And you are?" He asked the owner of the voice.

"Buffy, Angel," Giles began, solving the mystery of identities, "this is my battle, you do not need to be here."

"I think I do," Buffy replied, stepping further into the room, Angel close behind. "Are you going to fire him?" She asked Travers bluntly.

The councilman stuck to his contemptuous tone. "This is of no concern to you, Miss Summers. This is between myself and your watcher."

"He's my watcher," Buffy replied. "He is also the closest person to a father I have ever had. And I will not stand by and let you fire him for being in the right about a stupid ritual." She took another step forward until she was right in front of him. "Which is why I want to do the test."

"You want to perform the Cruciamentum?" Travers repeated, shocked.

"To keep Giles as my watcher, yes. I've already lost one watcher. I don't want to lose another."

"I'm afraid it's impossible," Travers replied. "You have been told about it, which invalidates the whole point of the test."

"Does it?" Buffy queried. "I know my strength will be taken, but I don't know who the vampire is that I will face. I have no idea of his or her history, age, strengths or weaknesses. I will still have to rely on my knowledge of the slayer lore and of vampires and demons to survive."

But Travers was no longer listening. Instead he was staring at Angel, realising suddenly what he was. "You let her be with a vampire?" He cried in shock.

No one bothered to reply with a cutting retort. Angel saved all his defenders a job by simply letting his demon out. Travers paled as encountered the death glare of hard, ridged forehead, fangs and golden eyes of a two hundred and forty-three year old vampire. A sight Giles doubted Travers had ever seen before, and now, was hardly likely to forget.

"Do we have a deal?" Buffy asked.

"I'll see you at nightfall," Travers managed to get out, before walking out of the library with what little was left of his dignity.

"This is exactly what I was trying to prevent from happening!" Giles exploded as soon as he had gone. "Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?"

"Yes." Buffy replied solemnly. "But if it's a choice between the test and having a new watcher, I'll take the test. If this has taught me anything, it's that there are few people whom I can trust. At some point, we might need information or help from them. If it's handed to you, I know I can trust it."

"But Buffy," Giles began, then sighed as he encountered her stubborn look. "Angel, do you agree with this?"

"I think it's dangerous," Angel replied, "but Buffy has a point. I'm concerned, but I love her, so she has my support."

"Then, thank you," Giles replied.

"Don't thank me yet," Buffy returned as she sat down before him and rolled up her sleeve. "Save that for when I've survived this."


Whatever she had imagined it would be like, Buffy found it differed completely from reality. Not only was she losing her strength, she realised that that strength had been with her for as long as she could remember. Every step she took to the place for the Cruciamentum was almost agony. She had forgotten, if indeed she had ever possessed the knowledge in the first place, what it was like to be ordinary. Silently she adjusted the large bag of weapons she was carrying, wondering if the muscle suppressant had suppressed more than her slayer strength. How had she used to cope with this before she was called? Or was the power always within her, unknown and unacknowledged until she had a name to define it by? She wondered how others before her had coped, how they had viewed this test set by their watchers. She remembered Kendra, her obedience in everything she did as the slayer, and wondered how she would have endured the test. She wondered what Faith would do, if she was given it by Wesley, though she probably knew the answer to that already.

When she arrived, the building appeared deserted. A old tavern, one of the oldest buildings in Sunnydale, long since abandoned by human ownership, with boarded windows and doubtless condemned notices. Travers stood outside the door, waiting her arrival. The grim disapproval on his face lightened as he took in her weakened appearance. He acknowledged her with a nod, then opened the door. She walked inside and he closed and locked it behind her.

The interior was lit, but that was not a bonus for the electric's were old and the wiring and bulbs faulty, delivering a flickering illumination. Windows were boarded up, rooms were devoid of all but the most age worn and damaged furniture and the rugs covering the hard wood floors were full of holes. Buffy checked her pockets to make sure they were full of slayer weaponry, just in case she had to ditch the bag, then cautiously advanced further into the abandoned inn.

"Oh slayer!!" A voice growled out, its tone mocking. "Come and find me, if you dare."

Buffy felt the fear rising within her as took another step forward, then suddenly she was lifted off the floor by an arm going around her neck.

"Too easy!" A voice whispered in her ear as she failed about, trying to escape his almost strangling grip. She was thrown back to the floor, landing in a heap by an upturned moth-eaten sofa. "Run slayer. I won't let you go again."

Buffy ran. She had never run from a vampire before, but there was always a first time. She felt the fear creeping into her, an emotion she rarely experienced, not since the time when she had killed her first vampire three years ago. That time she had missed the heart and had to withdrew the stake to try again. She remembered hearing her opponent laugh, mocking her inexperience, but luckily, the vampire had been too weak to fight her second successful and rapid attempt. This time however, she doubted she would have a second chance, for this beast was twice the size and double the strength.

They reached the dining room, where he reached out to knock her off balance. She fell to the floor, the impact causing her hands to sting. But she had no time to focus on the pain, only endure, as she rolled away from his questing hands. They grabbed for her ankles, causing her to frantically scramble away from him, stumbling to her feet. Spying a chair nearby, she lifted it and tossed it blindly in his direction. Luck was on her side, for her aim was true, the chair hitting his side, causing him to double in pain.

But his recovery was quick. He roared and rushed towards her. She waited for him to come, dodging aside at the last possible second, so he hit the wall instead. The old plaster collapsed under his weight and speed, and he groaned as the quicklime stung his eyes. He reached out to grab her before she could run away, and forced her arm behind her, pressing it against her back, until she felt her bones crack. She screamed, making him laugh as he pulled her close. His other arm closed around her neck, forcing it to his mouth. She opened her own and bit his rotting skin.

Roaring in pain, he released her, and she rushed from his arms, running to the stairs. But halfway up she discovered that they had fall away to the floor below, and she was forced to return to the dinning room, to find the one remaining room which she could access.

She dashed into the kitchen, her hunter close behind, having recovered from her last attack. She reached the kitchen sink just as he closed on her, her eyes casting about wildly for some kind of weapon. Her hand found a glass resting within the enamel basin, and her brain conquered her fear to present her with a possible solution.

Providence proclaimed itself in her favour. He halted, scrambling for breath, shaking in an almost epileptic fashion. "Pills!" He cried out rummaging through his pockets until he found them. The contents of the bottle rattled as his shaking hands removed the plastic cap. "Water," he croaked out, gesturing for the glass behind her. Buffy handed it to him, wondering why he needed such medication as a vampire, or if perhaps this dependency was a product of the control the Watchers Council used on him. He took a long drink, then tossed the glass away as he realised water was not in it. Not ordinary water anyway, but the kind more commonly used by priests.

He exploded as the acidic burning causing his insides to burn; from eyeballs to entrails. Buffy dodged the remains as they transformed into dust, then stood still for some moments observing what little was left of her attacker, as she tried to comprehend all which had taken place since she began the Cruciamentum. She wondered if this type of vampire was what all of the other slayers before her had faced, and how the Watchers took care of them until it was time. Then her body awoke to the pain the fight had caused, reminding her that it was time she informed Travers that she had passed the test, and sought the comfort, relief and safety of her bed, to sleep off the effects of the suppressant so she was herself again by morning.


"Excellent, Miss Summers," Travers commented when she returned to the library a half hour later and informed him of her victory and the means by which she achieved it.

Buffy merely rested in Angel's arms, sending the watcher death glares. "You better leave before I get my strength back," she threatened.

Travers shivered. Whether it was because of the threat, or the fact that Angel was in full game face, growling at the councilman, and scaring everyone else into the bargain, Buffy did not care. "Do we have our deal?" She asked.

"Yes." Travers replied. "I bid you farewell," he added, before almost running out of the room.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce regarded all of them with mild disapproval as he watched the rapid exit of the councilman. "I hope, Faith, you do not follow Miss Summers' somewhat unorthodox method when you are ready for the Cruciamentum."

"If you think I'm letting you inject me, you've got another think coming," Faith replied before heading out. "I have patrol tonight, B. You get some rest."

"Thanks Faith," Buffy replied, and smiled as Wesley muttered to himself before following in his slayer's wake.

"Er, Angel," Giles began tentatively, watching as the university professor continued to growl at the doors where Travers had just exited out of, his face still transformed by his demon within. "Perhaps you should take Buffy home to rest."

For a moment the watcher doubted that the souled vampire had heard him. But Angel reverted to his angelic face once more and rose out of his chair. Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes.

She did not open them again until she felt the sheets of Angel's bed coming to rest under her bare back. She looked up to find his concerned face gazing down at her. She heard the rain pounding against the windows and suddenly she knew what she wanted. "Make love to me, Angel," she softly implored.

He obliged. He could not refuse her anything right now. Kissing her tenderly, he began a pilgrimage down her body, peeling away clothes tenderly one by one, kissing her bruises better. Buffy lay back, letting the comfort wash over her. How was it he could make sex at times so energetic, and then at other times so relaxing? He nursed her bruised body into arousal, licking and kissing her clean as a wolf would his mate.

Gently but determinedly he made her lie back and let him take charge of this dance, as he tenderly nipped at her breasts, explored her stomach with his mouth, then her sex, first with his hands, then with his tongue. He stroked the fires of her desire tenderly and slowly into orgasm, causing her to sigh with pleasure as he brought her to the point with his hands, with his mouth, and finally with his manhood. This time when he slid inside her, after trailing kisses up from her sex to her mouth, she sighed blissfully, finally feeling at peace from the turmoil of the day.

They made love again and again while outside the storm raged on. But unlike the year before, no one or nothing would keep them from waking up in each other's arms the next morning.

The End.
To Be Continued In
jhe.

Chapter Text

Author's note: Dialogue taken from the original episode, the plot of which I have modified in order to include my alterations to canon. There is no reference to the Zeppo role which Xander explored in the original episode, as he and Cordelia are still together, and the group are not as lost as they were during the original season three. Also, more B/A scenes, as their relationship deepens. And apologies to Danielle Steel, whom I use as a culture reference here, I mean nothing but the deepest respect for the author whom I was named after. I only hope one day to become just as successful as her, though I don't know if I have that many novels in me. Enjoy.

Jhe.

Buffy could not remember a time when she had felt more content. Angel's arms encircled her from behind, underneath some sheepskin rugs, the only protection between them and the stone floor, as well as the only cover upon their skin, beside a roaring fire, in the double height living room of the Crawford Street Mansion. He rested against the arm of a sofa, his face beside the slender curve of her neck, while his hands caressed her beneath the rugs.

No other vampire was allowed so privileged a position. Though he was not like the others, there was a danger in it, for he was the first and the last of his kind that a slayer would let him drink from her if he needed to. She kept such a trust to herself at present, knowing him almost as intimately as he knew her, certain that he would be horrified that she had prepared herself for such an event, one which he would doubtless recoil from.

They had been in this position almost from the moment she arrived at the mansion after school, desiring to spend the evening loving each other tenderly, thoroughly and leisurely. Even now Angel explored her beneath the rugs without urgency, just in a quest to become familiar with every facet of her. Buffy rested relaxed in his arms, though her hands were by no means idle, occupied in exploring him with the same vein. Since the deepening of their relationship, she had become more aware of the power she held over him, installing a confidence within her which she had never felt before.

She had always been conscious of the women who had been there before her, before his soul, even before he became a vampire, unsure if she would ever measure up to them, an insecurity strengthened further during the time his demon stalked and hunted her after he lost his soul. Now she realised there was no need for her to be concerned for she surpassed them in every way. For none of them had seen the look she saw in his eyes when he told her he loved her, nor his expression when they made love, or the smile which lit his face when he caught sight of her.

There was just such a picture of contentment on his face now, as he kissed and caressed her beside the roaring fire. He was content because she was, intimately attuned to her as a hunter to his prey, as a lover. This knowledge existed even before their loving, even in the early days of knowing her, and their union now only deepened the depth of it. From the night of her seventeenth birthday to the night when he took her in celebration of his career, a tutelage began in where and how he could touch her that would derive the most pleasure, while in return, she journeyed in the same quest of discovery for him.

"Okay," she uttered, breaking the peaceful solitude around them, "this is getting way too Danielle Steel," she decided, turning round to face him.

Angel pinched the lining of the sheep skin rugs to keep them covering her, before returning his hands to caress her thighs once more. She arched into his touch, smiling at him coyly, an expression which he returned readily, matching the gentle, contented amusement within her. Then, surprising him, her eyes turned from his to study the open drawing book lying beside them.

He had only recently resumed the display of said talent, cautious and guarded, concerned above all for her feelings for the skill. His demon had used the artist genes from the soul's memories evilly to his dark, sadistic ends last year, tormenting his love and her friends with drawings of them to show how easily he was granted admittance to their houses. Since his soul's return, Angel had refused to taint paper with his pencil, oils or watercolours, for fear of invoking the same hatred his demon had. This vow however was reckoned without Buffy, whose curiosity caused her to discover an old drawing of his, sketched prior to the night of her seventeenth birthday, hidden in a drawer of the mansion. Her enthusiastic praise was the only thing to convince him to take up such materials again, along with a sound argument that he would need his talent for Art History, the subject which he lectured at Sunnydale University.

Now she removed her hands from exploring his body to pick up the sketch book and study the latest batch of drawings, some of which he only began and finished this evening. Almost all were of herself, the more recent ones in poses which made her blush even now, just as when he shyly asked for her to sit for them. He had caught her so well, so accurately, she could almost believe herself to be looking into a mirror. She remembered the drawings his demon did to torment her watcher, her friends and herself last year, but the ones she studied now bore no resemblance with which to identify that it was the same hand which cast these brushstrokes. There was a tenderness wrapped within these drawings, a sense of awe which she felt every time he looked at her, that the demon never conveyed. And the comparison between displayed the missing link of genius which Angelus always lacked, and Angel possessed in spades.

"How do you draw me so well?" She wondered aloud, gazing at the last, finished before they made love here by the fire. Her figure lay bare for him, nothing hidden, everything displayed for his pencil to draw. He had even caught the slight embarrassment within her eyes, self-conscious of such liberty before another being. "I'm never that beautiful," she uttered softly.

She was not fishing for compliments, but he gave them to her anyway. "I draw you how I see you," he replied. "How the world sees you. How you are. Beautiful." A hand left her thigh to caress her cheek, causing her to turn and face him. "I draw you with all the love I have for you, and that you return just as powerfully."

Buffy laid the sketch book aside, and softly put her hand on top of his. Her dark pupils met his own, and never left them, as she gently guided the hand down her body, lingering through the valley of her breasts to press upon the skin which covered her beating heart. "I need you here," she uttered, before leading his hand onward and southward, down to her sex, where she confidently pressed it against herself. "And here."

Angel bent his head and pressed a kiss to the skin covering her heart, then pushed her backwards so he could deal the same blessing to her sex. She bent herself willingly, unconsciously showing off her prowess, gained from genes and the slayer line which ran within her. His mouth continued upwards from its' starting point, letting his tongue out to caress her belly button, before moving once more, until she could straighten her spine and meet his lips with her own. Despite having made love countless times since arriving at the mansion, their energy nor their desires were sated, and the passion showed within this kiss, and through the movements of their bodies, as his erection stiffened in the space between them, and her sex pressed itself insistently against his groin, requesting fulfilment.

His hands left her hair where they had been massaging her head, to begin their own journey of passion, one going to her breasts, while the other went to her sex to try and restrain and torment her desire at the same time. Tenderly he dove between them to probe and caress her, pausing briefly to grab at the wrist of one of her own questing hands, to daringly guide it where his intended to go, showing her what he intended to do. Emboldened, she let her other join his at her breast, slipping under the palm for guidance, a small moan escaping her mouth as she did so.

Angel broke from her mouth to growl into the curve of her throat while his hands continued to arouse the fire within her. The borrowed breath felt warm upon her throat and she leaned into the warmth, as the sheepskin rugs slipped from her back to fall to join the others covering the hard stone floor. He leaned back a little, to take in the sight of their hands joined in the same missions of pleasure, before meeting her passionate gaze. Bending his spine, he tended to her neglected breast, nipping and sucking at skin and nipple, while his hands continued to fondle the other with her, and probe fingers into her sex below. She bucked into the combination of his and her touch as he expertly brought her to the brink of a climax before entering her.

His hands left hers and to clasp her butt from behind, pulling her tightly to him. Hers hands went to his back where she traced the outlines of his tattoo, and her lips captured his for a one more kiss. When he broke from them, he pressed another to the base of her neck before leaning back against the sofa arm to watch her as she rode him. The sight of her in all her glory, breasts proud with hardened nipples jutting outward, golden hair and skin glistening from sweat, never ceased to attract or amaze him. She was the slayer, a chosen warrior, an amazon among her kind, and above all else, a girl when these battle glories were stripped away. She could have had anyone, but she chose only him, and he felt humbled and honoured every time he received the gift which was her heart.

She met his dark gaze with one just as powerful as the love within the both of them strove to become one. His hands moved to press against the small of her back, then slid upwards where they came to caress her breasts. She arched into his touch, tightened herself around him, smiling into the bliss which soon came to take them.


Tonight was her allotted night to patrol, causing Buffy and Angel to prise themselves reluctantly from each other in order to fulfil her sacred duty by walking the beat of Sunnydale during the witching hour. Despite there now being two slayers who stalked the hellmouth, there were still some vampires who had not received the memo, causing a small engagement in one of the twelve cemeteries not more than an hour after they exited Crawford Street.

Brief as the encounter soon proved to be, it was nonetheless just as intense as a full scale long waged fight, with Buffy and Angel defending their cause as fiercely as if their losing held the potential to bring forth the next apocalypse. Summoning energy reserves from somewhere, a resource which most humans would find incredible and impossible; but then neither were completely just human; they battled their opponents with strength and skill, and occasionally brute force until the vampires were nothing but dust falling to grass.

Afterwards they patrolled the rest of the graveyards, where word had reached before them of their skill and prowess tonight, for they contained no life but the remains resting in piece six feet below their marble or granite monuments. Even so, the warriors chose not to relax their guard, and their foresight served them well, for the encountered another pack of demons looking for a fight just as they completed their tour of Restfield.

These demons were not vampires, nor were they a race which slayer or souled vampire had encountered before. Red eyed and bluish-grey skinned, with sharp teeth and long pointed ears, the former glistening in the night. A series of horns beginning from just above their eyes and ending on their forehead suggested another use for their heads other than eating, smelling, seeing or hearing.

Buffy and Angel took in the fierce sight of these creatures calmly, knowing even the slightest show of fear would be like nectar to them. The pack growled as they caught sight of the warriors and rose to meet them, welcoming battle as proudly as any war-hungry breed of warriors would.

On any other night, the two chosen warriors of the Powers That Be would have avoided such an encounter if they could, retreating home to learn more about their new enemy and recruit more fighters to their cause. But they had been seen now, making the fight unavoidable, leaving them no choice but to engage. Cautiously they advanced into the field, choosing an opponent from among the pack, seeking out the strongest in order to make them think twice about rousing the slayer again.

The demons let them dictate this wish of single combat, choosing to stalk in a circle around them, outlining the limits of the arena. If their kindred lost, the victors would not be allowed to survive the encounter for long.

Slayer and souled vampire fought bravely, summoning energy from who knew where, as they faced fierce and skilled opponents, as well trained in combat as themselves. It did not take long into the fight to realise that these creatures were their match, if not superior, causing them to doubt the wisdom in engaging such foes, even if it appeared that they did not have much choice in the matter. Still they pushed aside such doubts, knowing they could lead to mortal and violent ends, channelling their skills into what vulnerabilities they could discern within each of their opponents.

Buffy was the first to bring her combatant to the brink of defeat, choosing to ram a steak through their heart just as she would any vampire, having nothing else with her which counted as a slaying weapon. Angel was not long behind her, breaking his enemy's neck, the snapping sound echoing through the strangely silent night, before conquered by the crash as the demon fell hard upon the asphalt.

Knowing the demons would not take kindly to two of their breed falling beneath the hands of a mere vampire and slayer, the couple took to the streets before the pack realised their quarry were gone, heading for security and sanctuary that was numbers and knowledge, in the form of Rupert Giles' apartment.


It was with a sigh born out of frustration that the watcher opened his door that evening, his visitors having disturbed what was to be a quiet, romantic evening for two. His love, Jenny Calendar, empathised but also at the same time understood that he had duties which made sacrifices such as this a necessary evil. She leaned back against the sofa, waiting patiently for the intrusion to reach its end.

When Giles caught sight of who was visiting him this night, and the emotions which their facial expressions betrayed, he abandoned his frustration to silently usher them inside, cautiously checking the courtyard behind them to make sure they had not been followed, before closing the door.

Buffy wasted no time in detailing their encounters that night, calmly disclosing everything about the pack of demons she and Angel had just faced. Asking Giles for a piece of paper and pencil, she put both in her soulmate's hand, and commanded him to draw, in case the watcher might recognise them from image rather than description. Either she had forgotten the last time Giles caught sight of a drawing from Angel's hands, or perhaps she simply chose to outline the contrast between the demon and the soul which resided in the same body, but it caused hesitation to both the artist and the watcher before and after the command was obeyed.

Giles studied the picture as he listened to Buffy's description of the fight, casting his mind through the realm of information open to him as her watcher, searching for a clue which might reveal the demons' identities. He also noted the contrast in technique and style within the drawing, as his slayer had done only hours before; the stark comparison between the soul and demon that resided in the souled vampire who sat silent beside the latest in the generation of hunter and prey.

A part of him could not help but feel proud of the slayer whom he mentored, a woman he had come to love as a daughter, who risked her life recently to ensure he kept his job as her watcher. She could have done as others had, by refusing this souled vampire's help, casting him out of her world and her protection, scorning him when his one moment of happiness let forth a demon feared by all. But instead she loved the man, loved the soul within, and used that affection to inspire him; unique among his kind, exiled and revolted, into confidence and acceptance, not just of himself as he appeared to others in this world, but to his own character and ideals aswell. Her generosity humbled others by mere display, and caused them to wish themselves and attempt to make themselves as unprejudiced as she in order that they might earn her respect by default.

"I cannot immediately recall who they might be," Giles now replied to her and Angel. "But I shall look them up and see if I can discover their identity before nightfall tomorrow. If they have arrived in force as you say, their arrival could hold a darker significance."

"We'll get home now," Angel remarked, having silently noticed throughout Buffy's tale the evidence of the quiet, romantic evening which they had unwittingly intruded upon. He took his beloved's hand and rose from the sofa, as they bid a farewell to Jenny and Giles before exiting the apartment.


Having brought the car on their patrol, Angel drove the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible down through the streets until the automobile reached Revello Drive, and number 1630; the Summers' homestead.

"Will you come in for a while?" Buffy asked him when he turned off the ignition. "Mom's pulling an all night at the gallery."

Angel nodded and got out, rushing round the open the car door for her, making her smile at his gentleman manners, an eighteenth century relic.

Despite the emptiness of the house they still made for her bedroom, where they sat together upon her bed, nursing a mug of nourishment in their hands, which they had paused in the kitchen to make before coming upstairs. Hers was a product of cup a-soup, his a heated pigs' blood from her supply which she kept for whenever he visited her home.

Quietly they sipped the food, recovering from the two fierce and disturbing encounters which had haunted their patrol. New demons to the hellmouth were not unusual, but always unsettling nonetheless, causing speculation and concern until their identities were established, and their end assured.

When they finished their meals, it seemed appropriate for Angel's visit to end, but the souled vampire was reluctant to leave his beloved alone in the house after such a night like this, and the slayer was equally desirous of having him stay. After securing the house and tidying away the mugs, they returned to the bedroom, where she sought the comfort of his arms beneath the warmth of her duvet.

The last time he had spent the night in her room was nearly two years ago, beneath a spare duvet upon the floor beside her bed. Tonight there was no need for such gentlemanly restraint, nor indeed did either of them desire it, as they sought each other's lips in what was meant to be a goodnight kiss. However, passion such as theirs was never satisfied with such chaste beginnings, and the night witnessed them returning to what the afternoon saw them begin, consummation of their love.

Buffy felt the contrast between their acts conducted at the mansion to this first inside her home. The last time she had pictured them inside her bedroom was the product of a dream induced by the First, which ended in the demon savagely draining the life out of her. Reality, as always differed here, for there was no chance of his soul being lost now, securely fastened within his body by the rewriting of the curse which had first wrought such enchantment. Passion, love, desire, all these existed within the act, along with questing fingers, mouths and tongues, but there was an added tenderness, a chasteness to the love making which had not existed in the ones committed earlier. Angel took her as if it were her first time again, peeling each article of clothing from her body slowly, as if he had never been granted permission to see her nakedness before now.

When their clothes were gone from them he pushed her gently down upon bed before pressing his head between her legs, letting his mouth worship her sex. An awed silence rose around them which both felt loathed to break, causing nothing but a gasp from her as he brought forth her climax with his skilled tongue, drinking from her as if he needed the added nourishment. Deftly he worked her to the brink again, before journeying upwards to worship the rest of her body, pressing kisses to her stomach, her breasts, the valley between and the middle of bone at the crux of her neck, whereupon she took him up to her mouth, kissing him powerfully as he entered her.

Exhaustion was the only excuse for the abandoning of his initial intent to go home before her mother returned. Instead he withdrew from his beloved just to take her into his arms before they drifted off to sleep.


Something was ringing. Not a long non-ending noise, but of short beeps, insistent and continuous. The slayer opened one eye, identified the source, and relaxed, allowing for no damage to the offending object which unknowingly disturbed their peace.

Buffy reached across and switched off the alarm. With a soft groan at the time, she rolled over to meet the dark eyes of her boyfriend, who greeted her with a silent but revealing expression.

"It's rare I see you embarrassed," she remarked, though not in rebuke.

"When was the last time we spent the night in your room?" He countered.

Buffy ingested this information, not really recognising its worth until her slayer senses detected the sounds below the floor, drifting upwards, louder due to her advanced abilities. Abruptly she sat up, the duvet covering them going with her, revealing all too well exactly what had happened the night before.
"I'm eighteen," she uttered to herself, replenishing her courage. "I'm an adult, she can't object." These two sentences seemed to do the trick, so Buffy rose from her bed and walked over to the wardrobe.

Angel sat up, his eyes drifting to her body, watching as slowly her bare skin was hidden from his view. "Shall I climb out of the window?" He asked when she was dressed.

"I don't think that works so well in the daylight, honey, even with your talisman," Buffy replied. "Mom will be fine. Come on."

Angel complied, sliding his feet to the floor, making Buffy draw in breath at the sight of him. When he had put on his trousers, he came up to her and caught her chin in his hand. Slowly, he kissed her thoroughly. "Good morning," he replied when they drew apart for air.

"Mmm," Buffy murmured in appreciation. "Definitely good."

Ten minutes later and they made their way downstairs.

"Morning Mom," Buffy began as they entered the kitchen.

"Good morning, Buffy," Joyce said, looking up from her breakfast. She did a double take then, blinking in surprise at who was behind her daughter. She had thought that Buffy would be alone, as she usually was whenever Joyce was lucky enough to see her in the morning. Lately she had been spending more and more nights at Crawford Street. Joyce was starting to fear that she would lose her daughter before she was ready, even though she approved of the man who was taking her away, she nonetheless wished the day she would lose her little girl to him to be years into the future.

"Good morning Angel," she finally managed to say.

"Good morning, Mrs Summers," Angel replied politely. He leaned close to Buffy, speaking softly into her ear. "Have you any more..." he trailed off, still self-conscious about taking his own meal in public.

"In the pastry tin in the fridge drawer," Buffy replied, for she had made the meals the night before, leaving him ignorant as to the whereabouts of her supply.

"Thank you." Angel left her side to travel to the fridge. He retrieved his meal, putting it in the microwave to warm. "Your usual, milady?" He asked his beloved.

"Please," Buffy said. Joyce watched in amazement as Angel prepared some pancakes expertly for her daughter. She was only starting to realise that there was a lot she had yet to learn about Angel. She continued to watch as he returned to the microwave and took out whatever it was he had put in. Then his back was facing them for a few minutes and she could hear the sound of pouring. Suddenly she realised what was in the mug. She wondered what would happen as Angel turned round. She was surprised when nothing did.

"So," Joyce said in an effort to sound unaffected, "do you want me to take you to school, honey?"

"No, it's all right, Mom," Buffy answered, "I know you have that exhibition today."

"I don't have a class till ten," Angel supplied.

"Giles wants us to meet this morning, I imagine," Buffy added. "Angel and I ran into some new and tough demons last night, which he promised to have identified by the time we have to face them again." She ate the last of her pancakes and stood up to put the plate and syrup away. Then she walked over to Joyce and hugged her farewell while Angel drained the last of his pigs blood.

Joyce watched her daughter leave the kitchen to fetch her bag, then turned to Angel, who regarded her cautiously, and repentant.

"I'm sorry if my being here upsets you," he uttered carefully. "But after last night's encounter I didn't want to leave her alone."

"I can't deny that I feel a little uncomfortable about it," Joyce confessed. "But only because it's the first time it's happened. I know you Angel, and I trust you with my daughter. You'll always be welcome in this house, I assure you."

He bowed his head in gratitude. "Thank you," he uttered. "Not all parents would be so understanding."

"Buffy's far more mature than I was at her age, and all the wiser in the ways of the world for it," Joyce remarked. "I would be betraying my promise of acceptance and understanding if I barred her from using her instincts now. She's grown into a remarkable woman."

"You had a hand in that too, you know," Angel said. "For which I thank you."

Joyce smiled at the compliment. "You're both welcome," she uttered, before Buffy walked back in to claim her boyfriend for escort to school.


"They call themselves the Sisterhood of Jhe," Giles began when the slayer and the slayerettes had assembled in the library before their first classes. "They are an apocalyptic cult, existing sorely to bring about the world's destruction and I don't think you and Angel saw the last of them, Buffy. More will follow."

"How exactly do they wish to bring forth Armageddon?" Buffy asked. "Fight everyone who stands in their way until they're the only ones left on the earth?"

"No, based on the current astral cycle, I suspect they'll settle for opening the hellmouth," Giles replied.

"Sarcasm and seriousness," Xander commented. "I don't think he's joking."

"This isn't the time for jokes," Giles replied. "Unless we stop them, they will open the hellmouth. That demon we faced the night of your sixteenth, Buffy, is only the first of the creatures which harbour that doorway and he won't be the worse, not by a long shot."

"So are you saying batten down the hatches and run for the hills," Faith remarked, "or a pre-emptive strike?"

"Both options might have to used if what I've read about them is true," Giles replied. "For now I suggest we gather weapons and ourselves to fight them tonight."

"Well, I'll be there in spirit," Oz replied. "Night before the full moon requires me to see nothing but the inside of that cage," he added.

"We'll meet here at sundown, Giles," Buffy decided. "A battle plan which involves the element of surprise would be useful too," she uttered as they rose in time to the bell signalling the start of class.

"I think I know of something which could provide that," Willow remarked before they headed out of the library for class.


 

"Obscurate nos non diutius."

Hours later, and nightfall found them in what was previously thought to be a vampire's nest in the bad part of town. After finishing school they met up as planned, stocked up weapons, and after seeing Oz safely and securely inside his cage, headed for the location of the Sisterhood of Jhe headquarters.

Choosing the classic rule of divide and conquer, the slayerettes and slayers waited until a demon was alone before surrounding it and putting an end to its existence. Now was just such a case as one of the Jhe stalked its nest, growling in rage at discovering the amount of its kindred dead, threatening vengeance.

"Now!" The slayer yelled out.

The demon turned in the direction of her voice as planned, while Faith launched from her hiding place, to barrel into her with the sword she was carrying, sending the forged metal straight through the demon's heart.

Silence greeted the demise of the demon, and there was a long pause before others emerged from their hiding places.

"I think that was the last," Giles judged.

"Willow, you okay?" Buffy asked her best friend and spell caster of the night.

The redhead was breathing hard. "Yeah, I'm fine," she replied. "The shaking is a side effect of the fear."

"Well, if it wasn't for that clouding spell..." Angel murmured admiringly, causing Willow to smile proudly.

"Yeah, it went good!" She agreed, glancing at her candle which was the sole ingredient needed for the enchantment save words. "Nothing melted like last time."

"These babes were wicked rowdy," Faith commented.

"Yeah," Cordelia agreed as she helped Doyle up from the floor. "Where's Xander?" She asked, causing everyone to glance round, concerned.

He emerged from behind a rock. "I'm good. I'm fine," he answered. "Just a little bit dirty. Good show, everyone. Just great. I think we have a hit."

"Are you okay?" Cordelia asked him.

"Tiptop, really," he replied, stumbling to join them. "If anyone sees my spine lying around, just try not to step on it."

Buffy looked on worriedly at her best friend. "Xander, one of these days, you're gonna get yourself hurt."

"Or killed," Faith decided.

"Or both," Buffy agreed. "And, you know, with the pain and the death, maybe you shouldn't be leaping into the fray like that," she suggested cautiously, careful of hurting male pride. "Maybe you should be... fray-adjacent."

"Excuse me?!" He countered, miffed. "Who, at a crucial moment, distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?"

Faith smirked at his interpretation of the battle with one of the demons. "Yeah. That was real manly how you shrieked and all."

"I think you'll find that was more of a bellow," Xander replied.

"Uh, what do we do with this lot here?" Buffy asked, indicating the bodies of Jhe. "Should we burn them?"

"I brought marshmallows," Willow uttered with a smile, causing everyone to turn to her in surprise. "Occasionally, I'm callous and strange."

"I expect we can leave them," Giles replied. "It might give a message to the others not to mess with the hellmouth this century."

"Couldn't agree more," Faith added as they headed out into the night.

"I say bring 'em on!" Xander cried.

"Uh, Xander, I think in the future perhaps it would be best if you, uh, hung back to the rear of the battle, you know, for your own sake," Giles commented delicately.

"But, gee, Mr. White, if Clark and Lois get all the good stories, I'll never be a good reporter," Xander countered in a fake accent and whine.

"Hmm?" Giles looked at him blankly.

"Jimmy Olsen joke," Cordelia explained.

"Ahh," Giles nodded in understanding. "Still," he added, "something to think about."


"Giles could be right," Cordelia remarked to her boyfriend as she saw him home just before midnight. "There's a limit to how much the human body can take hits, and I think you reached it a couple of punches ago."

"N'ah," Xander shook his head as he climbed out of the car, staggering on to the driveway, grateful none of his family were home to witness this. The last thing they would think was that he had got in fight however. They would just think he was heading down the same alcoholic road as his forefathers. "Anyone who can withstand your driving is strong enough for anything."

"I'll ignore that comment," Cordelia replied as she helped him inside. "Because I know you use humour as a defence mechanism. Now, where is the first aid kit?"

"Right hand cabinet by the oven in the kitchen," Xander replied automatically before realising the essence behind her words. "You mean you're going to play nurse?" He asked her with a grin.

"Not play, be," Cordelia corrected as she returned with the box. "And if you think this is something to joke about, this will be the last time you see me tend your wounds."

"No joking here, ma'am," Xander replied as he presented the first of them for her to sanitise and bandage. He shivered as the alcohol wipes stung his skin, before settling down to enjoy the sensations her touch produced. Moments like this between them were rare, as usually they were too busy making out or bickering to be gentle to each other.

Cordelia sat back when she finished. "Right, shirt off," she commanded briskly.

"What?" Xander cried as he looked at her.

"I know you have a bruise or two underneath there," Cordelia replied. "So come on. This is no time for embarrassment."

Xander grabbed the ends of his shirt and tugged the garment off him. He blushed as she washed clean the bruises on his chest. "You haven't got one of those little nurse outfits hiding under that shirt?" He asked her.

"No," she replied, for like everyone else she had worn jeans and shirt for this battle. She dabbed a few more places with Savlon then sat back to admire her work. "All done," she replied.

"Really?" Xander queried as he looked at her. "I could have sworn you missed one here," he added, taking her hand and guiding it to the skin covering his heart.

"Oh yeah," Cordelia remarked. "How could I forget about that one?" She bent forward and kissed the skin, surprising herself and him with the motion.

"One here, too," Xander added, pointing to his lips.

"Of course," Cordelia replied. "Have to attend to the ego."

"Hey," he replied, wrapping his arms around her as he gathered her close. "No more talking," he added, before they kissed.


Faith patrolled before going home, as it was her night to fulfil the shared duty between her and Buffy. Giles' verdict on the demons' desires to bring about the end of the world, concerned her only a little, as she did not have much in the world which she considered worth saving.

At least if such a fight occurred she would know where her motives lay, survival bound, as opposed to being mired between Mayor and B. She had chosen not to inform the former about the Sisterhood of Jhe, not wanting to see the evil in his expression as he contemplated what he could do with this latest pack of demons in order to come out top.

She still did not know the full nature of his plans for herself and the town, but she dreaded what they might be already. The amount of times she came close to telling Buffy or someone else only to rethink the matter as the person looked at her were too many to count. If she told someone her problems might be solved, but she had no evidence save her new apartment, which she doubt would be convincing to any of the slayerettes, or slayer.

The Jhe she ran into halfway to said apartment gave her the distraction which she craved from her thoughts. The demon threw her against the fence again and again until Faith managed to break free and deliver a back swing to her head. She aimed a punch at the gut and attempted another to the head, but the Jhe blocked the attempt, grabbing Faith by the arms and throwing her to the ground.

Faith rolled as she hit the asphalt, regaining her feet to continue the fight. She kicked the demon in the knee, then raised her leg, spun high and kicked the beast about the head. She dealt another kick, which the Jhe blocked this time, grabbing the leg to throw it down, before grabbing her jacket and swinging her into the fence.

The slayer grabbed the fence, using the wire within as leverage to lift herself up so she could aim both legs at the demon's gut, forcing her back.

A engine revving disturbed the battle, as a car barrelled into the demon, sending the creature flying to the asphalt. Faith turned to see the driver, a college boy deciding to be chivalrous.

"Get in," he cried to her.

Common sense and safety would tell you to decline, but Faith could take care of herself, and was pretty sure the boy could see that when he arrived, as he had chosen his moment to provide assistance timely. She dived into the back seat of the convertible as ahead of the demon rose to her feet.

"Whoah!" Her driver commented. "What the hell is that?"

"Don't ask," Faith replied. "Just drive."

"Yes, ma'am," he said before pushing the engine up a gear and urging the car forward. The demon tried to catch up to them, but modern technology was far beyond her powers and she was soon forced to admit defeat.

"Thanks," Faith uttered to her escort as she climbed into the front seat.

"My pleasure," her knight replied. "I'm Kent by the way."

"Faith," she returned, shaking his briefly proffered hand.

"May I escort you home?" He asked her.

"You already are," she grinned at him. "Turn left here."


Kent pulled the car up outside her apartment and saw her to the door, where she felt it was only his due to invite him for coffee. Faith never used the actual words, instinctively testing him for vampire, which he passed with flying colours as he walked inside after her.

"Do you think whatever that was followed us?" He asked her.

"No, we're cool," Faith replied. "Bitch dislocated my shoulder though," she added as she tried to raise her arm and failed.

"Here," he offered, and she took his grip, using his strength to hold herself steady as she righted the joints.

"That's better," Faith murmured, as she tested the shoulder, moving her arm in gentle circles. "She got me really round up."

"I can tell," Kent remarked as he surveyed her.

Faith caught the tone in his voice and turned to face him. "A fight like that and no kill, I'm about ready to pop," she remarked. "You up for that?"

He closed the gap between them. "Oh I'm up," he returned. "Wouldn't want to leave a damsel in distress for long, me."

"A damsel, eh?" Faith grinned as she grabbed him. "I'll show you a whole new meaning of the word."

"Looking forward to your education," Kent replied before letting her kiss him.

It was the last movement he controlled, but he did not seem to mind her taking charge of the act. Faith led him to her bed as they practically ripped each others clothes off, frantic to have skin touching skin. This wasn't love, it was lust, in its purist, most animalistic form. The primitive within her was on overdrive, and Faith was more than content to let it take control of her, as she slipped protection between them before making the bed rock. He responded just as fiercely, but Faith no longer saw him as anyone of importance to her, simply an end to her need. If Kent understood this during their sex, he returned the sentiment, as he stove to match her, touch for touch.

It was over quickly, as fast as their libido would let them, and they lay together, panting only for a moment before separating. Kent grabbed his clothes as she grabbed a sheet, and they kissed casually at the door, promising to keep in touch, although neither had seen the need to exchange phone numbers.

Faith locked her door before seeking the comfort of a shower, where she washed the sex and fight off her skin and hair, silently wondering if the water jets could work such miracles as baptism, making her reborn, free of the Mayor's shackles.

She knew however, that such miracles were not meant to be.


Willow faced the sight before them ominously. "I've never seen him like this," she whispered, anxious not to disturb the beast which was her boyfriend.

The next day brought report from Faith of her encounter with another Jhe, causing Giles to decide to prepare for the hellmouth to open, which meant certain precautions taking place after sundown.

Now the watcher handed Willow the tranquilliser gun. "It's the Hellmouth. He can sense it's going to open. Be ready just in case."

Willow nodded and clicked the safety off the rifle.

Giles walked to the cage, where the growling werewolf regarded them, waiting. "Now don't hesitate," he reminded her.

The redhead nodded, putting the weapon to her shoulder, taking aim. "Do it."

Giles unlocked the cage. "Now Oz..." he managed to get out before the werewolf threw open the door, knocking him to the floor. He took a jump towards his girlfriend, but she was prepared for him, and pulled the trigger. The dart hit him in the side, causing him to yelp as he falls to the floor. It was not enough to keep him down however, and he rose to all fours as Giles scrambled to his feet.

"Again!" He urged.

Willow backed off a little as she reloaded the gun. Oz lunged forward, but Giles was ready and grabbed him, restraining his arms so the second dart hit his chest. The drug worked this time, sending Oz to the floor in a limp heap.

"We've got to move him before he wakes up," Giles advised, as she came to join them.

Willow stroked his fur tenderly. "Sorry. I hope you're not mad at me in the morning."

"Come on," Buffy added walking to join them, "I'll help you, Will."

Together they moved Oz to more secure storage closet further down the hall, before returning to the library, where Giles and Wesley were laying candles around the red pentagon which surrounded the tiles above the hellmouth, chanting as they went.

"Terra, vente, ignis et pluvia. Cuncta quattuor numina, vos obsecro." They intoned. "Defendete nos a recente malo resoluto."

"Okay," Willow announced as she laid the gun aside. "Oz is moved. He could barely walk after that mickey I gave him, but we made it. Is he gonna be alright there?"

"Anywhere is safer than here," Giles replied, before tossing her and Buffy a lighter.

"We're doing the binding spell from the Hebron's Almanac?" Willow asked as she and Buffy joined the rest of the slayerettes in lighting candles.

"Yes," Giles confirmed, "but once it's ready, you're to stay back and let us finish the recitation."

"But...." Buffy started, causing him to hold up a hand.

"Don't argue. I want you safe," he interrupted. "Who knows what's going to come up from beneath us."

"Or around us," Wesley added as he glanced upwards towards the half circle windows in the upper mezzanine, causing everyone else to follow his gaze.

And groan as they realised the Sisterhood had arrived.



"Oh, my God," Giles could be heard to murmur not more than fifteen minutes later. "It's grown."

The it in question was the first beast which harboured the hellmouth. Green, huge, as many heads as a hydra, with tentacles to match, it loomed over the slayerettes, as they battled the Jhe on all fronts, split between defeating the demons and the ones which exited the hellmouth. Fierce on both sides, there was no time to respond to Giles' comment with anything but silent consensus as they exchanged blows with the Jhe, trying to prevent them reaching the hellmouth before the watches finish their spell.

"Omnia... vasa... veritatis!" Wesley cried.

"Now, Buffy!" Giles shouted.

The slayer stood above them on the mezzanine level, a large battle axe in hand, poised to strike at the creature which leered out of the hellmouth. At her watcher's signal she swung the weapon forward, decapitating one of the demon's heads, causing it to retreat in pain.

"Terra, vente, ignis et pluvia. Cuncta quattuor numina, vos obsecro." The watchers chanted once more. "Defendete nos a recente malo resoluto."

Around them the slayerettes fought the Jhe, who increased their aggression as the demon from the hellmouth threaten to retreat, closing the gate to the hellmouth behind him.

Angel was struck by one from behind, causing him to fall to the floor.

"Angel!" Buffy cried before leaping on the creature, picking up her boyfriend's sword and killing his opponent.

"It's working!" Someone could be heard crying aloud, but who it was lay lost in the melee, as the battle turned in a blur of frantic punches, kicks and clashes, as the slayerettes fought the save the world for another day.


"Even after the Hellmouth was closed, you could still hear it screaming," Jenny remarked.

It was the next morning. Sunnydale had lived to fight another day, along with the township's chosen warriors, who congregated at a wooden table and seating ledge on campus before first class of the day.

"But Angel's gonna be okay?" Oz asked, who had been informed of the nights' activities as soon as the full moon was over.

Buffy readjusted the sling on her arm. "He was only out for a few minutes," she replied, calmer now for seeing her beloved awake. "Longest of my life," she added, pushing away the nightmare of what might have happened to him.

"I will never forget that thing's face," Willow remarked. "It's real face, I mean."

"Yes," Giles agreed.

"I don't know how you managed," Buffy said to her watcher. "It was the bravest thing I've ever seen."

Giles grinned, then immediately regretted the notion, as his face bore several vicious scratches across his left cheek, ear and neck. "Stupidest," he replied. "But the world continues to turn."

"No one will ever know how close it came to stopping," Wesley remarked solemnly. "Never know what we did."

"I don't know how I'm gonna get through class today," Cordelia said, supporting her head with a bent arm resting on the table.

"I know the feeling," Doyle agreed.

"We saved the world, why shouldn't we get a break?" Xander argued.

"Because no one knows, more's the pity," his girlfriend reminded him.

"And that's the way it has to stay," Giles informed them, taking his glasses off for a clean, a little slowly due to his aching arms and hands. "Mass panic would ensue otherwise. No, 'we work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.'"

"What's that, watcher philosophy?" Buffy asked tiredly.

"Henry James."

The bell rang for the first lesson of the day. By degrees the Scoobies split up, making their way to class, content to just have survived to die another day.

The End.
To Be Continued In....

Bad Girls.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode, with plot changes to allow for my canon alterations.


Bad Girls.


Character bonding, that's what the watcher had called it. Giles rolled his eyebrows at the term, but granted permission for joint patrolling all the same. After a few weeks of one slayer at rest while the other slayed, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in his infinite wisdom, decided that it might be wise for both slayers to patrol together occasionally, in order to learn how to fight as a team; to bond, and to improve upon any weaknesses the other might have.

Neither Buffy or Faith objected, not wanting to make an issue out of the fact that they still had yet to bond, but there was reluctance within both of them as they made their way out of the library and high school campus to the first graveyard for the night.

Fortunately for the slayers, a group of vampires intervened before the awkwardness between them could become any more apparent than it already appeared to be. Clothed in leather pants and crusade cross style tunics, they presented an unusual sight to the girls, who dealt them no more than a cursory glance before launching into the fight.

"So you're telling me, never?" Faith asked again as they launched into the fight, continuing the twenty questions style conversation which they awkwardly began during the journey to the graveyard.

"Faith," Buffy remarked as she struggled with her opponent, trying to wrestle herself free of the grasp he and his friend launched on them after ambushing the slayers as if out of nowhere. "Really, now is not the time!"

"I'm curious," Faith protested as she wrestled with her attacker. "Never ever? Come on, really? All this time and not even once?"

Buffy ducked a punch from her attacker. "How many times do I have to say it?" She asked aloud as she returned the strike, hers making an impact. "I have never," she paused to hit the vampire before her, "done it," she added, striking her prey again, "with anyone else," she finished, staking the vamp, who obligingly turned into ashes, falling to the ground.

Faith leapt on top of her opponent, knocking him to the ground, before staking him through the back. "All this sweating nightly, side by side action and you never put in for a little after hours," she stopped talking to emphasise the motion with a thrust and grunt.

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Thanks for the poetry. And no. Angel," she blushed thinking of it, "pretty much ruined me for other guys. I think if I had, even during those months he lost his soul, I would felt like I was betraying him."

"You think too much," Faith returned before walking away, ready to patrol the next graveyard.

Buffy grabbed her arm before she could take another step. "Hey. There's one more."

"How do you know?" Faith asked.

Her companion pointed to the tracks in the wet grass. "I think too much," she replied, before setting off on the trail.

Quietly they trod through the cemetery, following the escape route of the third until the footsteps abruptly petered out before a gravestone.

"Okay," Buffy whispered. "Count of three. One..."

Faith ignored her, jumping into the air over the granite monument. She failed to find their quarry crouching behind it, and rose to her feet only to discover the vampire running towards her.

"Three," Buffy finished in annoyance as she watched the fight unfold. Ah, well, at least this gave her a chance to evaluate her sister slayer, as per Pryce's instructions. She wondered if this was how Giles felt in the early days of their relationship, irritated by her refusal to follow guidelines or strict orders of battle plan. Forced into admiration at the skill and strength displayed in spite of himself. By the time she finished the fight, his mild admonishments made little impact, though privately Buffy always if they were more for his benefit that for hers. Compared to him, Pryce's style of Watcher conveyed all the annoyance caused by a fly buzzing at a window pane in his futile efforts to get outside.

Faith cried out as her opponent caught her mid leg spin, taking control of the manoeuvre before throwing her against a nearby tall gravestone. She was right, Buffy mused to herself. She did think too much. Returning the scene at hand, she ran into the melee, trying to take the vamp from behind.

But the vampire heard her coming and turned, swinging the larger of the weapons he carried in time to decapitate her stake. Caught by surprise, Buffy fell back on her instincts in time to drop the useless wooden implement and block the second swing of the sword, grabbing his arms and bringing them down hard, until he was forced to lose his weapons also. Punching him in the head, she tried to spin kick him too, but the vampire blocked both attempts and clutched hold of her, by the shoulders, pulling her close to him, his fangs aiming for a bite.

Buffy resisted for as long as she could, until suddenly there was no longer any need for her to struggle, as their attacker turned into ashes thanks to Faith's timely intervention. She turned to her as Buffy leant on a gravestone to catch her breath, with raised hand in gesture of a high five. "Nicely diverted, B!"

"Diverted?" Buffy echoed, panting. "That was me fighting for my life, Miss Attention Span."

Faith sighed, her patience worn out for the night. "This isn't a Tupperware Party. It's a little hard to plan."

"The count of three isn't a plan," Buffy replied. "It's Sesame Street."

"Hey, they're toast and we're here, so it couldn't have been too bad, right?" Faith returned. "Who were those guys, anyway?"

"I don't know," Buffy replied. "They didn't seem local. "Look, why don't we grab the weapons. Maybe Giles..." She trailed off as she noticed the sudden lack of swords in the graveyard.


"Check these out," Trick remarked to his boss as he placed the swords swiped straight under the slayers' noses before him.

Richard Wilkins III, Mayor of Sunnydale, ignored him for a moment, chuckling over the newspaper before him. "I just love the Family Circus! That P.J., he's getting to be quite a handful." He lowered the broadsheet to inspect the weapons. "Well... I haven't seen anything like this in, uh... Well, a good long while. Where's the owner of these fine implements?"

"The common term is slain," Trick replied. "But I've been seeing this breed around. Are we expecting any trouble?"

The Mayor smiled. "Do you like Family Circus?"

"I like Marmaduke," Trick replied.

"Eww!" Wilkins remarked with a shiver of disgust. "He's always on the furniture. Unsanitary."

"Nobody can tell Marmaduke what to do," Trick continued with a grin. "That's my kinda dog."

"I like to read Cathy," Allan, the deputy mayor revealed, causing both the vampire and his boss to give him a look. "So, uh, what about these swords?" he asked nervously. "What should we do about that?"

The Mayor considered. "Well, let's just keep an eye out. We've got the dedication coming up in a few days. We certainly can't have anything interfering with that."

"Well, maybe we should postpone the dedication," Allan offered.

Wilkins glanced at him incredulously. "I believe the Honourable Mayor hates that idea," Trick answered.

The Mayor rose from his chair to walk to his cabinet at the other end of the office. "The dedication is the final step before my Ascension. I have waited longer than you can imagine for this." He opened the cabinet to retrieve a moist towel with which he wiped his hands carefully free of newspaper ink. "After the Hundred Days, I'll be on a higher plane. And I'll have no more need for... Well, let's just say I won't be concerned... with the little things." He folded the cloth tightly and handed it to his deputy to dispose of. "Mr. Trick, watch these people. Anything you find out about them, well, let's just see that that information reaches the Slayers. Who knows? With any luck, they'll kill each other. Then everyone's a winner. Everyone, of course, meaning me."


"Willow, what are these?" Xander asked as he and Cordelia joined her, Buffy and Oz in the student lounge the next morning.

"They're early admission packets," Willow replied, slightly both proud and embarrassed at the large pile of brochures before her.

"Harvard, Yale, Wesleyan....." Xander trailed off as he struggled to find a word which made sense in the fourth. "Some German Polytechnical Institute whose name I can't pronounce." He dropped the packets and leaned back against the sofa. "Is anyone else intimidated? 'Cause I'm just expecting thin slips of paper with the words 'No Way' written in crayon."

"They're typing those now," Oz informed him.

"I'm so overwhelmed!" Willow uttered softly as she surveyed them. "I got in! To actual colleges! And, they're wooing me! They're pitching woo!"

Buffy smiled. "The wooing stage is always fun."

"But it's weird," Willow added. "Now, rejection I can handle 'cause of the years of training, but this..."

"I feel your pain, Will," Xander returned. "Like right now, I'm torn between the fast-growing fields of appliance repair and motel management. Of course, I'm still waiting to hear back from the, uh, Corndog Emporium, so..." he crossed his fingers in a sarcastic gesture of prayer.

Buffy chuckled. "Well, I think it's great. Early admission. Now there's nothing standing between you and a brilliant future."

"Well, if I may suggest, graduate," Oz reminded them. "Getting left back: not the thrill ride you'd expect."

"So, life beyond high school," Cordelia commented.

"I hear it's nice," Buffy replied. "And a place I'll never go if I don't pass Mrs. Taggart's chemistry test tomorrow."

"Oh! I can help," Willow offered as her best friend hoped she would. "Chemistry's easy. It's a lot like witchcraft, only less newt. So whadaya say? Study jam, my house, tonight?"

"I'm there," Buffy replied as she rose from her seat. "I have to go see Giles, report on last night's patrol."

"How's the joint slayerage going?" Xander asked her.

"Awkwardly," Buffy replied. "We've yet to work a system where we slay together as a duo." she sighed. "It's odd. With Angel, it was almost instant. With Faith, it's a lot of work."


"Why don't you tell me everything about last night's patrol," Wesley asked her as he opened a notebook and sat down in one of the library chairs.

Buffy met Giles' bemused gaze with one of her own. "Vampires," she replied.

"Yes?" Wesley persisted.

"Killed them," Buffy finished, causing Giles to smile.

"Anything else you'd care to tell me?" Wesley asked.

"One of them had swords," Buffy informed them. "He was forced to drop them during the fight, then someone nicked them whilst we were dusting him."

"Swords?" Wesley mused before rising to grab a nearby book. "Swords. One long, one short?" He asked.

Buffy nodded. "Both pointy. With, like, jewels and things."

"Sounds familiar," Giles remarked, thinking aloud.

"It should," Wesley returned as he handed him the book he was previously studying.

Giles studied the entry. "El Eliminati. Fifteenth Century..."

"Fifteenth Century duellist cult, deadly in their day," Wesley interrupted, causing Giles and his slayer to frown. "Their numbers dwindled in later centuries due to an increase in anti-vampire activity and a lot of pointless duelling. They eventually became the acolytes of a demon called Balthazar, who brought them to the New World, specifically here."

Giles closed the book with a loud slap. "You seem to know a lot about them."

"I didn't get this job because of my looks," Wesley replied.

Buffy grinned. "I really, really believe that," she remarked, causing Giles to smile once more at her sarcasm.

Wesley appeared oblivious or ignorant, she could not decide which. "I've researched this town's history extensively."

"So why have we not seen them before this?" Giles asked.

"They were driven out a hundred years ago," Wesley answered. "Happily, Balthazar was killed. I don't know by whom."

"And they're back because?" Buffy prompted.

"Balthazar had an amulet purported to give him strength," Wesley replied. "When he was killed, it was taken by a wealthy landowner named... I don't want to bore you with the details."

"A little bit late," Buffy murmured, but Giles caught it, smiling.

Wesley ignored her. "Named Gleaves. It was buried with him, and I believe the few remaining Eliminati are probably looking for it. For sentimental value."

"And you don't think that this, amulet poses any threat?" Giles asked.

"Oh, no, not at all," Wesley replied confidently, but it came across as pathetic arrogance. "Nonetheless, we may as well keep it from them. Buffy, you and Faith will go to the Gleaves family crypt tonight and fetch the amulet."

"I will?" Buffy queried, looking to Giles.

"Are you not used to being given orders?" Wesley inquired.

"Whenever Giles sends me on a mission, he always says 'please'" Buffy replied in a soft, childlike voice. "And afterwards I get a cookie."

Wesley frowned as his colleague smiled again. "Yes, well, I know my style may be different from Mr Giles, but he and I are both watchers, Miss Summers, and from time to time you will be expected to obey me as well as him."

Buffy inwardly frowned at the idea of this, but nodded. The bell rang, signalling classes, and she turned to Giles. "We'll talk later?" she sought to confirm.

Giles nodded, leaving Wesley to frown she exited the room.

"Hey, B," Faith remarked as she ran into her when she reached the courtyard.

"Hey," Buffy replied. "Listen, Pryce, wants us to ransack a tomb for an amulet tonight."

"You're actually gonna take orders from him?" Faith queried.

"That's the job," Buffy pointed out. "What else can we do?"

"Whatever we want," Faith replied, putting an arm around her. "We're Slayers, girlfriend, the Chosen Two. Why should we let him take all the fun out of it?"

"Oh, that would be tragic, taking the fun out of slaying, stabbing, beheading," Buffy returned sarcastically.

"Oh, like you don't dig it," Faith remarked knowingly.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't."

"You're a liar," Faith continued. "I've seen you. Tell me staking a vamp doesn't get you a little bit juiced. You can't fool me. The look in your eyes right after a kill? You just get hungry for more."

"You're way off base."

"Tell me that if you don't get in a good slaying, after a while, you just start itching for some vamp to show up so you can give him a good...." she grunted as she mined a punch.

"Again with the grunting," Buffy commented. "You realise I'm not comfortable with this."

"Hey, slaying's what we were built for," Faith pointed out. "If you're not enjoying it, you're doing something wrong."

"What about the assignment?" Buffy queried.

Faith left her side. "Tell you what: you do the homework, and I'll copy yours." She grinned before walking off.


"So Pryce wants you to retrieve this amulet," Wilkins mused as he listened to Faith's report of the events which he had not been party to.

Faith nodded. "Do you think their return for this gem is important?" she asked.

"I think it might be," the Mayor replied. "Go, join Buffy on her patrol. These knights are going to be a problem I fear, and with my dedication coming soon, I want all problems solved before the ceremony."

Faith inclined her head in compliance, then exited the office. The expression on her face turned into a grimace as she walked out of City Hall. Her talk to Buffy about being the Chosen Two may have been just big words, but she wanted to believe in them so desperately. She hated the alliance with the Mayor, which she found unable to wriggle out of. His attitude with her wavered between indulgent parent and draconian boss; the latter with a chilling calm tone, which always terrified her. She also felt that sooner or later she would outlive her usefulness, and she knew all too well what happened when he decided to tie up loose ends. She wanted out, and she wished she could tell Buffy, but it was difficult enough getting B to like her, let alone admitting another failure on her part as a slayer. Kakistos was her first, even though B took that news pretty well, Faith was not inclined to witness her reaction when it came to the Mayor, especially as she had no idea what the Mayor was planning, or when his deadline might be.

No, she would just have to bide her time, wait for him to reveal what he was going to do, and then tell B and the watchers. At least then she could claim that she had found herself presented with the opportunity and decided to make what use of it she could until she had discovered the big dark secret the Mayor was hiding. Her only concern was what the Mayor might ask her to do during that time.


Later, as the sun dropped beneath the horizon of the town, Buffy left her home on Revello Drive in quest of the graveyard which contained the Gleaves family crypt. It felt a little odd to be alone after a session of dual slayer duty patrols. Even before then she was rarely alone in her nightly checks of the nocturnal hellmouth, as usually one of her friends, watcher or Angel would accompany her. But the Scoobies were studying for the chem test, and Angel was trying to clear his paperwork caused by his professorship at the University. She shivered a little as the night closed around her with a deadly quiet, and quickened her pace to the cemetery, anxious to get this seek and find job over with.

She found the crypt seemingly deserted as she stepped inside and turned on the heavy duty flashlight she had brought for the occasion. The interior was typical of the Sunnydale crypts which she had become used to whilst patrolling the hellmouth; a collection of drawers on one wall, a selection of stone and ceramic urns on the shelves, and two large stone coffins in the centre of the floor. She checked those out first, walking to one and lifting the lid aside, before shining the flashlight upon the skeleton within.

"Strike one," She murmured, encountering only hairs and fibres. "No amulet there."

Buffy turned to the next coffin, pushing the lid aside once more, then shining the flashlight inside. This yielded more success, as around the neck of the mummified body, lay the amulet.

"Game over," she remarked, reaching inside for the item of jewelry. Her hand froze in mid grab as her senses caught noises emanating from outside. She turned in time to see circles of light from torches as well. Hurriedly she pushed the lid closed on the second coffin, then leapt into the first, switching her flashlight off just as the door to the crypt was pushed open. Stealthily, Buffy slid the coffin lid over her, waiting for the vamps to find their booty, grab it and go.

Eventually she heard the door close, causing her push the coffin lid aside and jump out of the stone clad container. A hand clasped her shoulder, making her freeze, only to turn round in relief as she discerned friend from foe.

"Faith!"

The dark haired slayer gave her an appraising stare. "What are you doing, hiding in there?"

"Looking for the amulet," Buffy reminded her. "Wasn't counting on the Special Guest Stars. Six against one. Hence the hiding."

Faith shrugged. "Well, it's six against two now, so come on."

She turned round and ran out of the crypt, causing Buffy to follow. They arrived outside in the graveyard in time to see the last two of the El Eliminati jump down into the sewer network, via a handy manhole.

Faith prepared to follow, only for her companion to grab her. "Wait. Stop. Think!"

"No, no, no!" Faith replied.

Buffy's grip and cause for caution remained firm. "It's a manhole. Tight space, no escape, six against two, not unlike three against one."

"And there might be more," Faith replied, "so come on."

"You're just gonna go down there," Buffy remarked. "That's your plan."

"Who said I had a plan?" Faith returned. "I don't know how many are down there, but I wanna find out. And I'll know when I land. If you don't come in after me, I might die!"

She jumped in, leaving Buffy in incredulous. But as much as she hated to admit it, Faith had a point, and they had an amulet to retrieve. She followed her into the dark hole.


"These are all the diaries, then?" Wesley asked as he studied the pile of books, smaller than he was expecting. "Yours included?"

Giles paused mid pacing, an occupation since the slayer, whom he loved like a daughter, had gone out. "That's everything," he replied. "Knock yourself out," he added, before lowering his voice to a murmured plea. "Please."

Wesley opened one of the volumes. "Oh, yes! Here's your first entry. 'Slayer is wilful and insolent.'" He read aloud smirking. "That would be our girl, wouldn't it?"

Giles continued to pace. "Well, you have to get to know her."

"Mm. 'Her abuse of the English language is such that I understand only every other sentence.'" Wesley continued. "Oh, this is going to make fascinating reading."

Rupert checked his wristwatch. "She should be back by now," he murmured worriedly.

"Not to fret," Wesley replied as he reached for a mint. "My mission scenario has her back in one minute. Shouldn't be any trouble."

Giles glared at his back, contemplating a new concept, not entirely unfamiliar to him, especially since Travers' visit; Watchercide. Who knows, the Council might even be relieved that they were rid of him.


In the sewer, Buffy and Faith were hard at work, trying to eliminate the El Eliminati. After pursuing them through the tunnels, they had reached a junction area which widened into a space suitable for their combat purposes.

Buffy dealt a roundhouse kick on one of the vamps, sending him to the floor. "We're surrounded!" She cried to Faith.

Her dark haired companion did not seem discomposed by that fact. "You noticed that, too?!"

Faith back hand punched one of the vampires, while Buffy ducked the swing of another, before sending him to the floor with a kick aimed at the back of his knee. Faith sidestepped her prey, snatched his arm, then swung him round into a wall. Buffy spun kick another in the midsection, following it up with a kick to his head. Another vamp tried to bring the blade of his sword down on her from above, but she dodged the attempt timely, causing the weapon to clang against the floor.

Faith threw her vampire against the wall once more, causing him to collapse. She performed a half spinning hook kick to another behind her, causing him to fall dazed on to a raised platform within the junction. Another vamp jumped on the floor space to grab her, but she side stepped the attempt, taking his arm and pulling him down on the second.

Buffy elbowed a vampire's face, causing him to step backwards and stumble over one of his fallen mates. Another jumped into the battlefield and tried to punch her, but she blocked him, grabbing his arm to send him into the wall. Not satisfied, he attempted to come at her again, but she aimed a kick into his gut, forcing back against the rocks.

Faith found herself caught by her attacker, who slammed her against the concrete wall. Buffy glanced in time to witness the event, and threw a stake, turning the vamp into dust. Her assistance caused Faith to send her a smile, but also for a beast to launch at her from behind, pointing a sword at her chest.

"Let's settle this honourably," the vampire offered.

Buffy jumped against him, dealing him an out to in low crescent kick, knocking the weapon out of his hand, sending it flying into a nearby pool of water. She jabbed the one trying to hold her, sending him to the floor. The vampire in front of her tried to stab her with his dagger, but she dodged the attempt and clutched his arm. Using the grip to his advantage, the vampire grabbed her by the waist with his other arm, pinning her against the edge of the pool.

"Well, then, let's just settle it," he decided, before pushing her head into the water. Instinctively, Buffy struggled against him, but she couldn't find anything to set herself free.

"Buffy!" Faith cried as she struggled with her assailant. "You son of a bitch!"

The vampire continued to hold the slayer's head under water. Buffy struggled for as long as she could, then surrendered to her fate, waiting for him to believe her drowned. He let go and turned to Faith, who was fast losing the upper hand as well.

Suddenly the dark haired slayer's eyes widened in surprise, as she saw her cause sibling leap up, sword in hand, swinging the blade at the vamp's head.

"I hate it when they drown me," Buffy remarked, before swinging again at the vampire, who turned, trying to even the odds. Fortunately, thanks to Angelus last year, her opponent was no match, as she deprived him of his weapon with one swing.

Faith finally wrestled her way out of hold, and turned to her comrade. "B! Gotta go!"

"We came for the amulet," Buffy reminded her, lunging the sword straight at the vampire wearing the item in question, drawing the chain out from under his belt, letting the metal loop slide down to the hilt. Buffy pulled the amulet from the sword as the vampires hightailed it out of the battlefield.

"Tell me you don't get off on this!" Faith cried with a grin.

"It didn't suck," Buffy agreed, smiling.


"Well... Looks authentic enough." Wesley decided as he studied the amulet under a magnifying glass the next morning. "Of course, there are tests to be made before actual verification."

"How about verifying that your 'nearly extinct' cult was out in magnum force last night?" Buffy countered. "Faith and I got into a serious party situation."

Giles glanced at her in concern. "Are you alright?"

"I had to lather, rinse, and repeat about five million times to get the sewer out of my hair," Buffy replied, "but otherwise, I'm of the good. Thank you for asking," she added pointedly, glaring at the other watcher.

"Perhaps there were a few more than we'd anticipated, but I'd expect you to be ready for anything," Wesley replied, unperturbed. "Remember the three key words for any Slayer: preparation... preparation... preparation."

"That's one word three times," Buffy pointed out, just before the bell rang. "I have a chem test," she remarked brightly, before sobering. "So sad that I'm actually happy about that. Giles, we need to talk," she added before walking out.

Thanks to the non-existent cramming session which due to the run in with the El Eliminati Buffy was unable to make, she studied the exam paper with steadily increasing reluctance, until a rapping on the window pan caught her attention.

Faith lifted the sash and leaned in. "Hey, girlfriend. Bad time?" She asked, before blowing her breath on the next pane of glass, and drawing the outline of a heart with a stake through it. The entire move conveyed a dark sensuality to it, powerfully alluring. She turned to Buffy with a smile, and for once, the blond decided to rebel, sliding down from her lab stool and climbing out the window.

Willow glanced at her shocked. "No, sh-she can't! Y-you can't! Can you?"

Buffy ignored her best friend and joined her comrade slayer outside. "What's up?"

"Vampires," Faith replied.

"Uh, Faith, unless there's a total eclipse in the next five minutes, it's daylight," Buffy pointed out.

"Good for us, bad for them," Faith replied. "Found a nest."

Buffy's face emitted a slow grin. "Has potential."


The nest was surrounded in darkness, the squatters having boarded up everywhere they could to protect themselves from the harsh rays of the sun. Their one weakness was the locked the door, but even they had not counted on two slayers kicking it in this morning, causing sunlight to drift in, landing on one of the beasts, turning him into flames.

"Rise and shine, people," Faith remarked.

"It's your wake-up call," added Buffy before they launched into the fight. Somehow between the two nights before and now they had worked up a team of slaying, which now worked effortlessly on the vamps with nowhere to go in their suddenly dangerous nest. The girls fell into combat joyfully, fighting with undisguised glee, as they staked or pulled away blinds and boards, causing others to follow the first victim to a fiery grave.

Buffy was enjoying herself. She had forgotten how good it felt to fight without an endgame or apocalypse in sight; to pursue for the sheer rush of the kill. The blood of the primitive, the first slayer of their line, sang in her veins, allowing her to toy with her prey, to decide where in the fight to dust him, rather than the first available clear shot at the heart. Beside her Faith was in her element, the wildness and wiliness unleashed from deep within her. Together the two of them were more than a match for the sleepy vampires before them, and those they eliminated the night before.


Evening found the slayers in the Bronze, surrounded before boys, who seemed in awe and hoping for more than just a dance with the blonde and brunette that reigned the floor, luring them like sirens.

Angel felt the call as deeply as the rest, though his expression changed to concern as he saw the boys trying to claim his mate. He frowned, remembering last year when she 'mated with' Xander, just as she caught sight of him.

Buffy deftly left the group to surround Faith, joining her beloved on the side lines. She leapt upon him, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips, grinding her pelvis into his crotch. "Hey! You're not leaving, are you?" She asked him seductively.

"I saw you making friends," Angel remarked.

Buffy glanced at them dismissively. "Them? Boys!" She replied. "I like you," she added, grinding herself into him once more. His hands which were supporting her slipped of their own volition under her top, stroking small circles on the small of her back. She smiled at him before capturing his lips in hers. Her hands left his neck to travel their own southward journey, causing him to growl as her questing fingers dipped beneath his belt line. He moved them carefully over to one of the alcoves behind the stairs. As he sat down Buffy's lips left his to blow hot air on his Adam's apple, making him snap her bra clasp in surprise.

Reluctantly, he remembered his purpose for coming. "Balthazar," he uttered.

Buffy stroked his chest. "Dead demon," she uttered against his neck.

"Not as dead as you think," Angel replied, causing her to pause in her caresses. "Word on the street has him in the packing warehouse on Devereau. He's looking for..."

"His amulet," Buffy finished, serious at last. "It's supposed to restore his strength."

"From what I'm hearing, that's not something we'd like to see happen." Angel continued.

"No problem," Buffy informed him. "We got the amulet."

"I know," Angel replied. "I spoke to Giles, but he said you gave it to Pryce."

"Ah. There you are," the watcher in question remarked.

"Speak of the really annoying person," Buffy murmured.

"You're certainly giving me a run for my money. I think we ought to establish that if you're going to go out slaying, you leave me a number where I can contact you."

"Where's the amulet?" Angel asked him.

"It's somewhere safe," Wesley returned smugly.

Buffy studied him, then reached inside his jacket and drew out the talisman.

"How did you know?" Wesley asked, surprised.

"It pooches your jacket," Buffy replied, before slipping into her boyfriend's jacket, her hands lingering in the motion.

"Now, hang on a minute..." Wesley protested.

"Walking around with this thing is like wearing a target," Angel remarked.

"You're gonna put it somewhere that's actually safe?" Buffy asked him.

"Yeah. I'll do it now," Angel replied.

Buffy reluctantly parted from him. "I'll do some recon on Balthazar."

"If I may... Balthazar is dead. Am I the only one that remembers that?" Wesley asked them incredulously.

Angel ignored him, catching Buffy in his arms and kissing her soundly. "Be careful," he advised.

"You know me," Buffy replied.

"I mean it," Angel reiterated.

Buffy nodded, and turned from him, returning to the dance floor, where she grabbed Faith from the circle of boys surrounding her.

Faith shot them looks of apology. "Call me!" She cried out before turning to her sister slayer. "What's up?"

"Angel got word that Balthazar is alive," Buffy replied. "We need to recon on a packing warehouse in Devereau."

"Then let's go," Faith agreed as they headed out of the club.


"Let me tell you what I see," Balthazar intoned to his minions. "I see fear... and remorse... and the pitiful look of faces that cry out for mercy! But what I don't see is what I want to see, AND THAT'S... MY... AMULET!"

A minion grovelled before his cooling bath. "Lord Balthazar, we found it! We had it! But the Slayers..."

"Already I'm bored," Balthazar decided, and held out his hands, causing the vampire to glide towards him. He grabbed him by the throat, squeezing until his neck snapped. "Vincent... Come here."

The head minion advanced cautiously.

"Closer," his boss urged. "Closer. Let me tell you... what I want to see."

Outside, Buffy surveyed the situation grimly. "Okay, we got ten, maybe twelve bad guys and one big demon in desperate need of a Stair master."

"I say we take 'em all, hard and fast and now," Faith proposed.

"We need a little more firepower than none," Buffy pointed out. "We should head back to the library."

"Well, I guess Jacuzzi Boy isn't going anywhere," Faith agreed reluctantly. "I just... wish we had..." she paused as she caught sight of the answer to her prayers. "Ah. That is too good," she added, gesturing to Buffy.

The blonde slayer followed her cautiously into the store, concerned as Faith discovered the archery counter.

"Ah. Score," the brunette murmured, spying a small crossbow with sights, displayed beneath a glass counter. Smashing the glass, she reached inside and grabbed the weapon.

"Think they're insured?" Buffy asked dubiously.

"Strangely, not my priority," Faith replied as she checked the mechanism. "When are ya gonna get this, B? Life for a Slayer is very simple: want..." she paused to smash another display case. "Take..." she grabbed the new weapon, "have."

Buffy looked around and spotted some hunting knives. "Want... take... have," she agreed, selecting a smart looking dagger. "I'm getting it."

Faith grinned, before espying a compound hunting bow in another display case. She kicked in the glass, then pulled out the bow.

A gunshot fired, causing them turn round, and Buffy to wake up, as she caught sight of the officers before them.

"Drop the weapons and get down on the ground! Now!" One ordered. "I said drop the weapons, or I fire."

Buffy complied, and Faith followed, but not as gently.

"Now spread them," the officer added, causing Faith to appear insulted.

"You wish," she countered.

"Hands in the air where I can see them. Slow!" the officer order. Buffy raised hers, and Faith followed, but casually.

"Good. Now cuff them," the officer ordered his partner.

Faith checked him out. "I like him. He's butch."

They were herded into the back of the police car, and driven in the direction of the station. Buffy glanced at Faith, amazed at her causal attitude, wondering how on the hellmouth they were going to get out of this one.

"That's some artillery you two were putting together," one of the officers commented. "You with one of them girl gangs?"

"Yeah. We're the Slayers," Faith replied sarcastically, causing the officer to laugh. She turned to Buffy. "You wanna get outta here?" She asked her, sliding down low on the seat, legs ready to kick the metal barrier before them. "We can't save the world in jail."

Buffy hesitated, but then put herself in the same position.

"One, two..." Faith commanded, and together they kicked the steel mesh hard, causing it to hit the officers in the back of the head. The driver lost control of the patrol vehicle, crashing it into a parked a car.

Faith grabbed the keys for the cuffs, then followed Buffy out of the car. Her companion glanced at the officers worryingly. "We should call an ambulance."

"Five people already have, the racket we made, and they're fine," Faith decided. "Come on. Let's get outta here."

Buffy took a last look at the officers, and saw they were coming to. Rapidly she joined Faith in running.


In City Hall, the Mayor posed with a group of Boy Scouts.

"There we go," he announced after the camera flash. "Thanks a lot, fellas. Thanks a heap," he said in farewell, waiting for them to disappear before closing the blinds. "Hey, have fun on that camping trip, now. Don't forget to roast a wiener for me." He nodded to his deputy, who closed the door. "Here we go. Alright, you can come out now."

Mr Trick emerged from his hiding place.

The Mayor grinned. "Backbone of America, those little guys. Seeing the hope and courage on their bright little faces, I swear I could just, I... I could just eat them up. So any news about the Eliminati?" he asked as he headed for the cabinet.

He opened the doors, only to be confronted with one of the vampires in that very cult. "In the name of Lord Balthazar, DIE!" He growled, before reeling back from the punch Mr Trick dealt him in the forehead, causing him to pass out as he fell to the floor.

Richard Wilkins III stepped back and straightened his tie. "Thank you, Mr. Trick. That was very thoughtful of you."

"Why do they always gotta be using swords?" Trick bemoaned as he picked up the weapon and tossed it to Allan. "It's called an Uzi, ya chump! Could have saved your ass right about now."

Wilkins folded his arms. "You know, it's curious how he could've gotten all the way into my liquor cabinet. Allan, don't we have, security working in this building?"

"Sir, I... I had no idea. I-I..."

The Mayor sighed at his stuttering. "There's no need to swoon, Allan. But try to keep things secure. Lock him up."

"He wakes up, he's just gonna try and kill you again," Trick pointed out.

"Yes. Yes, I expect he will," the Mayor remarked, unconcerned.

 



As they returned to the warehouse, Faith glanced at her companion thoughtfully. "You're quiet tonight."

"I just wanna get this done," Buffy replied, her disgust of this situation rising steadily. Ever since the cops briefly arrested them, she had reverted to her more cautious serious side.

Faith ignored the under currents of tension in her comrade. "Yeah. I'm dying to test out the longbow. I think it might be my new thing."

"I can't believe you went back for that stuff," Buffy remarked.

"Hey, how do you feel about getting some ribs?" Faith asked her. "You know, after we're done?"

Buffy was saved the trouble of replying as a group of El Eliminati jumped down to the asphalt before them from above.

>>>>>>>>

"I didn't say you had emotional problems," Wesley remarked, "I said you had an emotional problem. It's quite different."

Giles refrained from hiding his glare this time. "My attachment to the Slayer is not a problem. In point of fact, it's been a very..."

Pryce interrupted him dismissively. "The way you've handled this assignment is something of an embarrassment to the council."

"If you want to criticise my methods, fine," Giles remarked. "But you can keep your snide remarks to yourself. And while you're at it, don't criticise my methods."

"The fact is, you're no longer qualified to act as Watcher," Wesley commented condescendingly. "It's not your fault. You've done well. It's simply time for somebody else to take the field."

Giles looked past him as he caught sight of something lurking behind them, waiting to pounce. "Now is a good time to start," he remarked.

Wesley turned, and blanched as he caught sight of the El Eliminati.


After struggling with the long bow for a good five minutes, Faith abandoned the weapon with only two words. "Screw it!" She uttered to herself before launching a kick at the nearest demon, joining Buffy who was already deeply involved in the fray. They staked two, before she cried, "I think we've got more coming!"

"We're never gonna make it to the warehouse," Buffy foresaw.

"If they keep coming one at a time, we got a shot," Faith decided, as another El Eliminati rushed at them, causing Faith to grab him and restrain him whilst Buffy dusted him.

As they reached the corner of one building in the alleyway, a arm reached out and grabbed Buffy by the shoulder. She returned the grip and pulled, sending him into a nearby dumpster. Faith rushed forward, stake at the ready and plunged it deep into his chest.

It was only when Buffy caught sight of the blood seeping from the wound that they realised something was deeply wrong with this kill.

"FAITH, NO!" She cried too late. She crouched down to study the wound, knowing immediately that it was mortal. "Don't move!" she cautioned the man as he slipped a piece of paper into her hand.

The dark haired slayer was shocked. "I didn't... I didn't know. I didn't know."

"We need to call 911, NOW!" Buffy urged, but Faith was paralysed with fear. "Don't move, it's okay..." she added to the man. "I-I need, I need something to stop the..."

The man began to convulse. His pupils dilated, causing a wide-eyed gaze, as blood trickled out of his mouth. He mumbled something intelligible before his head slumped against his chest, as his soul left his body.

Shock transformed into panic. "We gotta go!" Faith cried, grabbing Buffy and pulling her to her feet. "Come on, we gotta go!"

Running from the sight, they reached a wall, where Faith mounted the nearby crates before jumping over and away.

Buffy continued down the alley until she reached a fence, then jumped over too. She brushed the dust away her before turning round and finding Angel before her.

"Buffy, I've been looking for you," he uttered, catching sight of the tension within her, the worry within her. He reached out to take her hands in his, and his senses caught the smell of fresh blood. His night vision soon clapped on the red stain which littered her hands. "Your hand," he murmured, about to check for a wound, before she jerked it back.

"It's okay," Buffy uttered. "What's up?"

"I've just been to the warehouse," Angel replied. "I was waiting for you. They got Giles and Pryce."

Faith watched them run to the warehouse, then she turned and headed back to the dead body in the alley. She recognised him now the deputy Mayor, and she wondered silently what business he had here. It could not something for his boss, because Wilkins made sure Trick and herself handled the bad side of town, keeping Allan away from it as much as possible.

She kneeled down before the body, her hand tentatively reaching out towards the wound she made. Barely had her fingers come in contact with the blood before she jerked away in fear. She stared into the eyes, their blind gaze of fear consuming her. What had she done? It could not be murder, not like this. She was barely aware of her actions. Murder had intent, motive, cause. The only thing she possessed right now was the numbing feeling of guilt, threatening to choke her. Did ordinary humans feel this much pain after taking a life, she wondered.

But she was no ordinary being. She was a slayer. Who had just committed the gravest sin one of her kind could.

The slaughter of a human.


"The front! The front! Moisten the front!" Balthazar ordered the lackey who was wetting his muscles.

"Oh, God!" Wesley cried as he surveyed their predicament. "Oh, God!"

Giles was calm. "It doesn't seem too promising, does it?" He remarked.

"Stay calm, Mr. Giles," Wesley uttered. "We have to stay calm."

"Well, thank God you're here," Giles returned. "I was planning to panic."

Wesley stared at the demon in the vat. "What is that thing?"

"That would be your demon," Giles informed him. "You know, the dead one?"

Pryce glared at him. "There's no need to get snippy."

"Bring them closer," Balthazar ordered, causing two of his minions to grab the watchers and bring them to him. "You know what I want."

"If it's for me to scrub those hard-to-reach areas, I'd like to request you kill me now," Giles replied calmly, receiving a punch to his spine for his pains.

Wesley meanwhile had reverted to panic once more. "Are you out of your mind? This is hardly the time for games!"

Giles turned to him. "Why not? They're going to torture us to death anyway."

Balthazar growled in glee. "You're not wrong about that."

"Now, hold on," Pryce urged. "We-we-we can deal with this rationally. We have something you want. You have something we want."

"Hmm... A trade. Intriguing," Balthazar murmured. "No. Wait. Boring. Pull off his kneecaps!"

"NOOO! No, no, no! The Slayer gave it to someone. A tall man, a friend... a friend of hers. I can tell you everything."

"Quiet, you twerp! They'll kill us both," Giles murmured.

"But I'd like to have my kneecaps," Wesley pleaded.

"You will tell us everything!" Balthazar asked.

"Yes! Sir."

"What is this friend's name?"

Giles butted in. "Look, um, tell you what, let Captain Courageous here go, and I'll tell you what you need to know. How's that deal?

Balthazar lost his patience. "THERE IS ONE DEAL! YOU WILL DIE QUICKLY, OR YOU WILL DIE SLOWLY! THE MAN WHO HAS MY AMULET! WHAT IS HIS NAAAME?!"

"His name is Angel," remarked the vampire in question, as he strolled into the warehouse, in full game face. He grabbed the two Eliminati restraining the watchers, pulling them away, sending one slamming into a wall, the other towards some metal shelving. Another moved in to replace them, but Giles head butted him to the floor.

Buffy entered the warehouse now from the other direction, dealing a backhand punch to one vampire, before punching another in the face. The first lifted his sword, trying to attack, only to be blocked as she grabbed his arm, bringing it down before shoving her knee into his gut, causing him to drop the weapon. She caught it, then turned and cut through the rope encircling Giles' hands. Her watcher manhandled Wesley out of harms way, while she swung the sword back at the vampire.

He caught her hand, causing the blade to hit the container of Balthazar's pool, forcing her to drop the weapon. He dealt a backhand swing to her face, forcing her to trip forward, but she used her legs to aim a back kick at him, then rolled on to a nearby crate to dodge another's sword swing.

"Unacceptable!" Balthazar cried.

Angel ducked a swing from one vamp, then dealt a right hook to his face, before dealing another to his gut. He turned round to deliver a backhand punch to the one behind him, then blocked the return swing before punching him again.

To say Balthazar was displeased would be putting it mildly. "UNACCEPTABLE!"

Giles untied Wesley's hands, freeing him just as a vampire roared behind him. He turned and ducked the sword coming at him, causing the weapon to hit a shelf. Giles grabbed the blade and jerked the metal back into the vampire's face, before deftly taking the sword from him. He swung the weapon round, hitting the beast with the hilt as well, before taking hold of it to attack another one.

The vampire swung his sword at Giles, who parried the lunge easily. To the amazement of Wesley, Giles blocked every move the vampire made, before forcing the beast's weapon to the floor, and kneeing him in the face. Then it was his turn to scream as the one whose weapon Giles was now wielding, grabbed him from behind.

"Giles!" Wesley cried.

"DOWN!" Giles ordered and swung his sword, decapitating the vampire. Wesley straightened in shock as the ashes fell around him.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel were making dust with the rest of the vampires. Their constant slaying had Balthazar raising his arms, causing Angel to slide towards him. He landed on his back beside the pool as the demon seized his head, trying to yank it off his neck. Angel tried in vain to resist.

Buffy caught sight of the situation, and glanced around, finding an electrical cable from a lamp which hung suspended above the demon. She yanked hard, making the lamp fall into the pool, electrocuting the demon.

She rushed to Angel and helped him up. Suddenly the demon opened his eyes and spoke to them.

"Slayer! You think you've won. When he rises... you'll wish I'd killed you all."


"What do you think he meant?" Buffy asked her beloved as they undressed in his bedroom at the mansion barely an hour later.

"I don't know," Angel replied, "but I have a feeling we'll find out soon enough. Now," he paused to catch her clean hands in his. "Where did that blood come from?"

Buffy looked away, ashamed to face him as she told him of her crime.

Angel was shocked, but not horrified. He caught her chin in his free hand and raised it until she met his dark gaze with her own. "Beloved, it wasn't your fault. Faith struck the blow. You did not."

"I still stood by and let it happen," Buffy protested.

"No you didn't," he replied. "You told her to stop. It was her fault she didn't listen."

"And now we have a killer slayer on our hands," Buffy finished in despair. "What do we do, Angel?"

"We tell Giles,," Angel replied.

Buffy frowned. "You're taking this pretty calmly."

"I'm sure it's not uncommon. I know the idea of killing a human is repellent, but I wouldn't be surprise if something like this has happened before." He drew her close to him, kissing her hair. "Beloved, whatever happens, we will deal. We always do."

"There's something else," she added, withdrawing from him to retrieve the note from her pocket which the deputy had given her as he died. "I think he was trying to help us. He gave me this."

Angel too the note and read it. "What do you think it means?" He asked her.

"I don't know, but it makes sense, considering he mentioned slayers during a demon stake burning thing."

"This we have to tell Giles about," Angel decided. "And soon."


"Potestatem matris nostrae in tenebris invoco. Maledictum filium tuum abomni periculo custodias nunc et in saecula!"

City Hall shook as the hellmouth took in the impact of the Mayor's words. As for Wilkins himself, he just glanced at his watch in concern. "I don't understand why Allan would miss this. He's usually so punctual."

"Did it work?" Trick asked.

"Let's find out. Open the cage," the Mayor commanded.

"You sure?" Trick asked him.

"Oh! Hold on." The Mayor took the sword from him and set the point on the floor, letting the hilt fall into the captive vampire's hands, before taking several steps back. "Okay. Now we're ready."

Trick opened the cage. The vampire rushed out towards the Mayor, bringing his sword high and slicing his head apart. There was a moment of shock as he realised that his opponent was still alive, before he froze in terror as the head healed itself. He had no time to realise his own end before Trick staked him in the back.

"Well!" The Mayor smiled as he retrieved his daily planner. "Let's see; Greet Scouts, done. Lumber Union Reschedule, done; Call Temp Agency, done, Become Invincible, done, Meeting With PTA, done Haircut, done. This officially commences the Hundred Days. Nothing can harm me until the Ascension. Gosh, I'm feeling chipper! Who's for a root beer?!"

The End
To Be Continued In...
Consequences.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue taken from the original episode, along with plot, but with changes to adjust to my canon. Enjoy.

Consequences.

In the morning Buffy and Angel agreed that she would speak to Faith first, in an effort to gauge her reaction before they went to Giles. So Angel dropped his beloved off at the motel, waiting in the parking lot while she went to Faith's room.

Faith was hand washing a shirt in the sink when Buffy called through the cheep wood veneer of her door. "Faith, it's me."

The dark haired slayer dropped the item of clothing back in the water and went to answer the door. "Hey."

"Hey," Buffy replied, entering the room while Faith returned to the bathroom. She watched her scrubbing at the shirt, recalling her own efforts to clean the blood from her hands and clothes. "So, I, uh... How are ya doing?" She asked nervously.

"I'm alright," Faith replied at a pathetic attempt casual, which ended up sounding cold and distant instead. "You know me."

Buffy sighed and reluctantly began to reveal her motive for coming, less certain now that she would succeed. "Faith, we need to talk about what we're gonna do."

For the first time the dark haired slayer looked up from her washing. "There's nothing to talk about. I was doing my job."

The blonde slayer frowned at that remark. "Being a Slayer is not the same as being a killer," she pointed out.

Faith continued to scrub at the stains on her shirt.

Buffy watched her reactions, and realised how frightened the girl appeared to be, her efforts at hiding such fear in vain. She remembered when Kakistos caused her to run, and knew that if she didn't handle this carefully, the same could occur again. Slayers were taught self-reliance, but that isolation often came at a terrible price. She had to convince her that she was not alone in this dark matter. "Faith, please don't shut me out here. Look, sooner or later, we're both gonna have to deal."

Faith rinsed the shirt out. "Wrong," she declared as she surveyed the article of clothing.

"We can help each other," Buffy protested.

"I don't need it," Faith replied, before pulling the plug out from the sink and draining the water. She walked into the room and took out a drawer, on which she lay the shirt to dry.

"Yeah?" Buffy queried, sceptical. "Who's wrong now? Faith, you can shut off all the emotions that you want. But eventually, they're gonna find a body."

Finally the dark haired slayer turned and faced her. "Okay, this is the last time we're gonna have this conversation, and we're not even having it now, you understand me?" She replied angrily. "There is no body. I took it, weighted it, and dumped it. The body doesn't exist." She turned away from Buffy's shocked expression.

"Getting rid of the evidence doesn't make the problem go away," Buffy remarked.

Faith met her gaze once more. "It does for me."

The more she talked, the more Buffy became concerned at how her sibling in arms was dealing with this. "Faith, you don't get it. You killed a man."

"No, you don't get it," Faith replied with a smile. "I don't care!"

She walked away and jumped on to the bed, where she grabbed the remote and turned on the television, a clear signal of dismissal. Buffy stared at her in disbelief for a moment, then turned and exited the hotel room.

Angel was waiting for her beside his car, leaning on the passenger side door. The top was down on the convertible Belvedere GTX, in keeping with the sunny weather which had broken this morning in the dale, a comparison, and an ironic one at that to the dark days ahead of them. His pose was seemingly casual, almost carefree, nearly normal. From the view outside Faith's hotel room, he appeared to be nothing more than a guy waiting for his girl. But Buffy knew differently. For within him a demon, the most sadistic and deadly she had ever met, was contained by a soul so disparate in nature, so kind, so gentle in his temperament, in his manner, in his whole being, that one would never have guessed at the conflict within him. For centuries he had fought his demons daily and not only had he won, he had emerged a better person due to such a battle. Upon his hands, his conscience, were the murders his demon committed, countless sins which his memories strove almost daily to remind him of the guilt he should be feeling, yet to the most rational way of thinking, he was not responsible for even the notion of these mortal acts. As Buffy stared at him, she was struck by the stark comparison between him and Faith, now rendered to having something in common due the blood on both their hands. Except while one claimed responsibility for acts which his demon committed, the other washed their hands of their deed altogether.

He straightened up as she came to a halt before him, her bleak expression far more eloquent than words ever could be. Without saying anything he wrapped her in his arms, pressing a tender kiss to her blonde tresses.

Buffy relished the comforting embrace for a moment, then raised her head and gazed into his dark soulful eyes. "She dumped the body. She doesn't even care, Angel. Or rather she says she doesn't, when everything in her body language screams fear. How can we tell Giles when Faith won't even face the truth of what she did?"

"We can't," Angel agreed solemnly, his hands weaving themselves in her blonde locks, one slightly cupping her face.

"She's ready to run," Buffy continued, barely acknowledging his agreement for silence. "If we don't handle this the right way, we could damage her forever."


Some days later.................

Buffy was drowning. Blue clear water was bubbling all around her, caused by her mouth and her body's desperate need for oxygen. She was struggling against the currents, against the drag from the floor, trying to reach the surface, but something was holding her steady and still, preventing her from swimming back up. She felt the water filling her lungs, the intense battle to breathe nearing defeat, and knew she could not hold on for much longer. she turned, trying to see who was the owner of the hand that held her ankle. Opened sightless gaze stared back her, one which haunted her ever since she first caught sight of them within a mortally wounded being, done to death with a wooden stake. It was Alan Finch, the Deputy Mayor. Buffy turned and resumed her struggling towards the roof of the ocean, desperate to survive, to free herself from this dark deed. Suddenly, she broke free, and frantically swam to the surface. Clearing the water, coughing what remained of the liquid from her lungs, Buffy looked about herself for land. She glanced up, and saw Faith, standing over her by the water's edge, a hateful expression of indifference upon her face. Before she knew, the dark haired slayer's hands were pressing on her face, and Faith was pushing her back down into the watery depths of the ocean.

"Buffy!"

She opened her eyes. Angel was beside her, his hands gently clasping her arms, looking at her with concerned eyes. "You were having a nightmare," he uttered gently, calming her panicked mind and senses.

Buffy came back to herself. Taking deep breaths, she slowly came back to the present, and with it reality. She was at home. Revello Drive. It was night as evidenced by the closed curtains and darkened light within her bedroom, and Angel was holding her carefully in his arms, looking her with those big, brown, gorgeous and currently concerned, eyes of his.

"I was drowning," she told him. "Finch was grabbing hold of me. Somehow I got to the surface. But Faith pushed me back down."

Without another word Angel pulled her into his arms, his hands drawing soothing circles on the bare skin of her back. "You have to tell Giles, Buffy," he whispered tenderly urgent. "You can't put this off any longer."

"I have to talk to Faith first," Buffy protested. "At least give her some warning."

"Buffy," Angel pulled back to look into her eyes. "She told you that she didn't care. And despite her need for denial, her fear, the desire to run and rid herself of this terrible deed, you don't know what she will do next as well as you think might. She may be a slayer, but she's now a killer as well." He paused, as he recalled his own feelings of guilt over such mortal sins. "I know what that feels like. To kill without conscience, without remorse. The more you commit it, even just on demons and vampires, the more you develop a taste for it. We need to talk to Giles. As I've said before, this can't be the first time this has happened."

"As much as it scares me, you're right," Buffy admitted. "I'll tell him tomorrow. I promise." She paused, concentrating suddenly, her slayer instincts telling her that they were no longer the only ones awake at this hour. Then she looked up. "I hear voices."

"Rest," he gently commanded her, "I'll go and check."

Angel let go of her arms, and pressed her down under the covers, securing them around her body for warmth. Then he got up, dressed himself in a shirt and trousers and made his way downstairs.

When he neared the living room, he discovered the source of the noise. The television was on, and Mrs Summers was up. "Joyce?" He began, still uncertain at using the name, even though she had given him permission to address her thus a few days ago.

She turned round at the sound of his voice. "Angel, what are you doing up? Is Buffy okay?" She asked worriedly.

"She's not sleeping well," he replied, moving further into the room, his eyes fixing on the television screen, in which news coverage was blazing away. "She's been having a lot of nightmares lately." He turned briefly to her and added, "part of the slayer thing."

"Giles told me," Joyce replied, remembering. "What's coming?"

"I'm honestly not sure," Angel replied, rather absently, the news network on the television holding his attention. "What are you watching?"

"They found a body at the docks today. It was the Deputy Mayor." Joyce looked at him, puzzling at his grave expression. "What's wrong, Angel?"

He looked at her with a sad smile. "Something big is coming. When we rescued Giles and Pryce from Balthazar, the demon hinted that something will rise. What we don't know. During that night a friend committed a terrible mistake. He paused. "And we are worried what she will decide to do next."


Morning. Buffy entered the library quietly, even though she knew that it was unlikely to contain anybody but the scoobies or the watchers at this early hour. It appeared deserted, but she knew Giles. Despite he and Jenny living together, deeply committed to each other, with the recent hint of big, dark evil brewing, he would be here way before school started. She walked past the counter and up to his office. "Giles?"

The watcher came out of his office. "Buffy," he greeted quietly.

She stopped, relieved at finding him, but suddenly uncertain as to how to begin. "Uh, I don't really know how to say this, so I'm just gonna say it. I know I've kept things from you before, but..."

Abruptly Giles turned his head slightly, as Faith came out of his office. Buffy stared at her, uncomprehending. Then she decided that discretion was the better part of valour. "But, um, but I-I've been blowing off my classes. You know, in-in the sense of not attending. And, uh..."

"It's okay, Buffy," Faith said suddenly, "I told him."

"You told him?" Buffy repeated, surprised. It was the last thing she had expected after their last conversation.

"I had to," Faith continued. "He had to know what you did."

"What I did?" Buffy uttered, confused. Then she realised what Faith meant, and the girl scared her even more. "Giles, no. Tha-That's just not what happened," she began.

"I don't want to hear it, Buffy," Giles said, his voice sounding upset. Betrayed. Disappointed.

Buffy knew the feeling. "No! It..." She protested.

Giles shook his head, silently commanding her to stop speaking. "I don't want to hear any more lies," he uttered.

Buffy knew from his tone that it further protest would be useless until they were alone. Outraged, she turned to Faith. "You can't be serious! You're setting me up?"

"Get in my office, now," Giles commanded. "Faith," he added, turning to her, "I'll talk to you later."

"Giles, please," Buffy tried once more. "You have to..."

It was in vain. "Now!"

Faith watched her enter the room, then turned to Giles. "Um... Sorry," she said, not knowing what to say. Instead she turned round and left the library.

Once outside within the school corridors, Faith felt herself breathe somewhat easier. Telling Giles had been tough. Scrub that, the past few days had been tough. But there was nothing she could do about that. The body had been found and the autopsy report which Mr Trick had 'retrieved' from the mortuary revealed the cause of death. Wooden fragments in the heart. Strangely the Mayor had not been too surprised at the discovery, nor at her confession. Indeed, Faith recalled with a shiver, he had seemed proud of her. And then he had ordered her to heap the entire thing on Buffy. To use this to wreck the team of do-gooders from the inside out. And Faith had no problem with that.

Anything to stop this sick feeling within her, threatening to drown her in the full evil of her mortal sin. She felt in limbo, suspended in waiting for this deed to fade from her memory, along with all the feelings which accompanied and resulted from it. But the days continued to pass and still deed haunted her soul. The sight of Allen's bleak fear of death, prayed on her mind, speaking to her with penetrating eloquence on what she did, what she had become. Every night she had dreamed different outcomes; he lived, she stopped herself in time. It was so easy to believe it was Buffy's error in judgement, to lay all the blame, all the guilt and responsibility at her door. To render her less than perfect in everyone's eyes. From the moment she came to Sunnydale Faith had felt the pressure of living by her perfect example, her faultless record. Nothing she did could make her an equal of the first slayer in this generation, she would always be second. Until now. For this was an opportunity to become the perfect slayer, to be first in everyone's eyes. To be respected. Faith raised her head, and walked down the corridors into the sunshine, pushing the darkness further into the recesses of her mind.

Praying for them to disappear forever.


"Giles," Buffy began desperately once he was inside his office. "I didn't do this. I swear. Look, I know that I messed up badly, but the murder, i-it... it was..".

Giles interrupted her. "Faith. I know." He smiled sadly at the girl he loved like a daughter. "She may have many talents, Buffy, but fortunately, lying is not one of them."

"Oh. Oh, God." Buffy breathed a sigh of relief and sat down. "I thought..."

"I'm sorry," Giles apologised, sitting down as well and taking her hands gently in his soothing her with tender strokes. "I needed her to think that I was on her side. I don't know how far she'll take this charade."

"Try far." Buffy stated sadly. "Like, all the way."

Giles shook his head in the same emotion. "You should have come to me immediately, Buffy. We could have dealt with this better, perhaps."

"I know," Buffy said. "Angel told me to. But I wanted to talk to Faith first. It was a mistake, Giles. His arm grabbed me, and even I thought he was just another vamp from Balthazar's gang, ready to kill us. I barely realised he was human, and by then it was too late. And Faith was terrified. She still is."

"You wanted to save her," Giles stated quietly.

"It's not all her fault, Giles. Afterwards, I saw her hesitate. I don't think she knew what she had done until she had actually done it, if you know what I mean."

"I know. And be easy, this is not the first time something like this has happened."

Buffy looked up, surprised, even though Angel had suspected as much. "It's not?"

Her watcher nodded. "The Slayer is on the front line of a nightly war. Now, it's tragic, but accidents have happened."

"What do you do?"

"Well, the Council investigates, metes out punishment if punishment is due. But I have no plans to involve them. I mean, it's the last thing Faith needs at the moment. She's unstable, Buffy. I mean, she's utterly unable to accept responsibility."

"She's freaking," Buffy agreed, glancing through the door, where Faith had exited some moments before. "So then we just have to help her deal, right?"

Giles shook his head. "She's in denial. There is no help for her until she admits the full truth her mistake."

"What do you suggest?"

"We should talk, all of us," he proposed. "We need to tread very carefully in this matter. The others need to be fully aware of what is the truth and what we will pretend is truth around Faith for now."

Buffy nodded. "Okay."

"In the meantime, no one else is to know," Giles added. "Understood?"

Buffy nodded, knowing who he meant. "Of course."

"This is extremely delicate, too delicate for the likes of him and the Council. If we scare her off now, we may lose her forever."

Outside the office, Wesley stood, his arms folded across his chest, a grim expression upon his face. What he had just heard was unbelievable. Conceal from their superiors that a slayer was a murderer! This dark matter could only have even darker ramifications, and secrecy was the last thing which was required just now. But then Rupert Giles had defied the Council before, trusting his own judgement above his betters. Clearly the man had no idea what he was doing. He should never have given the responsibility of a slayer.

It was up to wiser minds than he to sort this out.


"Well, maybe we should all talk to her together," Willow proposed.

It was after school. In the deserted Cafeteria, a meeting place which all of them had agreed was different enough from any of their usual haunts for them to escape unwelcome intrusion from a certain person, the Scooby gang sat. They had all assembled at the end of classes, the watcher of the group having arranged the time and location during lunch. Buffy was sitting on one of the tables, Angel's long legs either side of her, the rest of him behind her body, providing welcome support, both mental and physical. Giles sat on the next table, with Jenny beside him on a chair, her face level with his knees. Doyle sat next to her, followed by Cordelia and Xander, then Willow and Oz, then Joyce, whom Buffy confided in during morning recess, anxious for another compassionate viewpoint.

Giles now gently shook his head at Willow's suggestion. "I don't think she'll react well to that."

"I agree," Joyce added. "She might think we were ganging up on her. Her instinct will be to run away, or lash out."

"I could talk to her," Angel volunteered, making everyone turn to look at him. "I know what it's like to have murdered someone only too well. I think I have enough knowledge of what she's dealing with to get her to talk." He looked to the watcher, who seemed prepared to object. "This is gonna take more than counselling, Giles. Faith needs someone whose been down that road before, and knows what is at the end of both tunnel exits."

Giles nodded, silently agreeing. "You're right. The question is; how do we get her to come to you?"

"If she won't come to us," Angel replied, "then we go and get her."


Faith sighed and stretched out on the bed, bending her leather clad legs. She had gone for a darker ensemble since her crimes, suiting her mood and her past deeds. The television attempted to hold her attention, the horror film on having a stellar cast, insightful plot and enough special effects to tempt any ordinary would-be watcher. But Faith was a lost cause. Her mind was on other things.

She could not get his face out of her head. Finch, the last look he held as he died. Surprise, with some pleading mixed in. That expression would remain ever present as the sounds of the rest of the recent events repeated themselves over and over again in her mind. At times, she almost saw Buffy actually perform the killing blow. Then, just when she thought if she imagined that time and time again, she would believe it, the reality would return. She had killed a man. She was no longer just a slayer. She was now a killer. A murderer. What had she done? She tried to remember the beginnings of her alliance with the Mayor, from the moment Trick brought him to her hotel room, and the revelation that he let Kakistos come to his town in search of her. From that moment on, Faith realised now, she had lost the power to choose, even before when she pleaded with the cloven vampire to spare her life while the lifeless body of her watcher lay beside her, mortally wounded by the mark of his fangs in her neck. To control her actions, but not to take responsibility for them. At first she felt pleased with the choice, the position of power and influence which it gave her over B and the slayerettes. The price of loyalty seemingly a small one to pay. But when had the price become too high? When had she started to doubt her choice? And why? Almost from the beginning, she knew, remembering the chill she felt when the Mayor proposed they killed her 'little friend.' The real question was when had she learned to ignore that sensation, to pretend it never existed.

A knock on the door caused Faith to come out of her dark thoughts, and she welcomed the escape. She left the television on, got off the bed and moved to her hotel room door. Opening it, she looked round, puzzled to find no one there.

Then everything went black.


Faith opened her eyes to see that she was chained to a fireplace mantle. Rubbing her wrists, she glanced round and saw Angel sitting on a coffee table nearby. She was obviously in the mansion. Idly she wondered how much he knew. And what she had to her advantage. "Finally decided to tie me up, huh?" She said at last to him, turning on the charm. "I always knew you weren't really a one-Slayer guy."

Angel swung the baseball bat- the device which had knocked her out, she realised -between his arms from one side to the other. "I'm sorry about the chains," He said, looking up at her. "It's not that I don't trust you... Actually, it is that I don't trust you." He set the bat aside, rose up and made his way over to her, crouching before her. "I bet you're not big on trust games, now, are you, Faith?"

"You gonna shrink me now? Is that it?" Faith queried, slightly incredulous.

The souled vampire shook his head. "No, I just wanna talk to you."

"That's what they all say," she said next, trying to turn the words round again, into another innuendo. "And then it's just, 'Let me stay the night. Won't try anything.'"

"You wanna go the long way around, hey, I can do that." Angel stood up. "I'm not getting any older." He turned and walked out into the midnight garden.

Buffy was standing outside, and stepped forward when she saw him emerge. "How's she doing?"

Angel sighed. "It's like talking to a wall. Only you get more from a wall."

His beloved's face turned graver. "But you'll keep trying, right?"

"Sure," he promised. "We're just getting started."

"So, what do I do?" She asked.

He looked at her sadly, wishing he could take away the bleak disappointment conveyed through her eyes, the conviction that she had failed one of her friends. "Right now, there's nothing that you can do."

Buffy nodded, trying to think of something anyway. "Well, this could take awhile, right?" she sought to confirm. "So, I'll just go to Faith's and I'll get some of her stuff. That way she might see that we're on her side."

"That's a good idea." It would not be wise of them to let Faith go back to her hotel room, not even after she confessed. Angel paused, then took her hands tenderly in his. "Buffy I don't want you to get your hopes up," he uttered softly. "She may not want us to help her."

"She does. She just doesn't know how to say it." Angel started to shake his head, making Buffy add, "Angel, I know, I remember what you said this morning. But I can't lose hope, not yet."

"I'll keep trying," Angel promised, before leaning down to kiss her. Only allowing themselves to get swept away for a moment, then he parted from her and walked back inside the mansion. "I know what's going on with you," he remarked to his houseguest.

Faith shrugged indifferently. "Join the club. Everybody seems to have a theory."

Angel ignored her response. "But I know what it's like to take a life. To feel a future, a world of possibilities, snuffed out by your own hand. I know the power in it. The exhilaration. The rush." He dropped his voice low, letting her think that he was confessing something to her that no one else knew. "It was like a drug for me."

"Yeah?" Faith queried sarcastically. "Sounds like you need some help. A professional maybe."

Angel resumed his seat on the coffee table. "A professional couldn't have helped me. It stopped when I got my soul back. My human heart."

"Goody for you. Now if we're gonna party, let's get on with it." Faith held out her shackled wrists. "Otherwise, could you let me out of these things?"

"Faith, you have a choice," Angel persisted. "You've tasted something few ever do. I mean, to kill without remorse is to feel like a god."

"Right now," Faith remarked, struggling angrily with the chains, "all I feel is a cramp in my wrists, so let me go!" She wanted to get away from him. Be alone again, in the misery of her own thoughts. Not to have them thrown back at her with such calm acceptance. Why wasn't he horrified like the rest of them? His demon did the deeds he claimed guilt and responsibility for. How did that make him like her?

Angel rose and crouched before her again. "But you're not a god," he continued, almost tenderly, as though a father. "You're not much more than a child. Going down this path will ruin you. You cannot imagine the price for true evil."

Faith lost patience with his attitude, with his empathy, with his condescension and sneered. "Yeah? I hope evil takes Mastercard."

The souled vampire sighed, but continued to try and reach her. "You and me, Faith, we're a lot alike. Time was, I thought humans existed just to hurt each other." Angel got up and sat next to her. "But then I came here. And I found out that there are other types of people. People who genuinely wanted to do right. And they make mistakes. And they fall down. But they keep caring. Keep trying. Which is what makes them human. Like you, Faith. Buffy told me that it was an accident. Something which you have to accept before you can learn to recover from this." He took one of her hands in his, and for the first time, Faith felt the power emanating from deep within him, the same thing which drew Buffy towards him just two years ago. "If you can trust us, Faith, this can all change. You don't have to disappear into the darkness."

Suddenly there was a loud pounding on the door, causing him to release her hand. Angel only had time to look up before it collapsed to the floor. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce strode in, straight towards them, holding a large cross. He was flanked by three other men, clothed in black combat clothes, strangers, outsiders.

Angel rapidly stood up and rushed towards the intruders, stopping short when Wesley shoved the cross in front of his face. The trio acted then, setting upon him, with a rope netting, restraining him, rendering him powerless.

Wesley walked over to Faith and removed the shackles from her wrists. Then he pulled out a set of heavy cuffs and chains, and before she knew it her wrists were bound once more. "What the...."

"By the order of the Watcher's Council of Britain..." Wesley intoned, lifting her up from the floor, "I am exercising my authority and removing you to England, where you will accept the judgement of the disciplinary committee."

He hauled her out of the mansion, the henchmen following them, leaving Angel behind in a mass of rope net and frustration.


"I'm sorry for the extreme measures," Wesley uttered a little time later, from his position across from her. "Unfortunately, this is a rather extreme circumstance."

Faith shrugged, trying to appear indifferent. They were inside a van, and she was trussed up like a prize exhibit. Murdering Vampire Slayer, coming soon to a town near you. Already she loathed the condescending, so superior judgement the watcher was heaping on to her, expecting her to comply. "Whatever."

"Please believe nobody is rushing to judgement," Wesley remarked, conveying entirely the opposite supposition. "The first priority of both myself and the Council is to help you," he claimed.

Faith pulled at the ring holding her to the bench, wondering if she could loosen it and thereby free her hands, possibly resulting in her escape.

"Ah, now, none of that," Wesley turned to the man beside him. "Tighten her restraints," he ordered. "Faith, there's no point in fighting this."

Faith saw her chance and silently begged to disagree. She kicked the man in the knee, and he fell to the floor. She pressed down on his face with her boot. "Have to disagree with you on that one. Now unlock these or I'll pop this guy's head like a grape."

Wesley hesitated, then spotted a wrench on the floor.

Faith saw the movement and knew she had won. She shook her head at him. "Don't even think about it." She held up her cuffed wrists for him to unlock.

Wesley surrendered, fitting the key to the locks. "You can't keep running, Faith," he tried one final time as she freed her hands.

Faith punched him hard in the jaw, knocking him unconscious on the floor of the truck. "Wrong again, Wes."

She went to the doors, kicking them open and jumped out onto the street. Rolling until she was free from injury caused by jumping from a moving vehicle, Faith stood up and watched the van continue to drive on. Then she turned round and started looking for another means of leaving this town.


It was strangely quiet when Buffy returned to the Mansion. Slayer danger senses on full alert, she dropped the stuff collected from Faith's motel room outside the door. Slipping a stake out from her sleeve, Buffy cautiously advanced inside. The situation was instantly recognisable. Buffy put her stake back in her jacket and rushed to the struggling mess of rope netting, and set about freeing her boyfriend from his prison.

"What happened?" She asked when he was free.

"I had some uninvited guests," Angel replied. "Just as I was starting to get somewhere with her," he added regretfully.

Buffy sighed in frustration. "We better get to the library and confer. Before things get any worse than they already are."

She helped him rise to his feet, and they headed for the garage where the car was stored. Climbing inside, Angel turned the key in the ignition and drove them to the High School campus.


"It was Pryce. He had a couple of guys helping him," Angel explained to the gang in the library a few minutes later.

"Which means that Faith will be soon on her way back to England to face the wrath of the Watcher's Council." Giles realised.

"And then what?" Buffy asked.

Her watcher's expression was grim and disappointed. "Most likely they'll lock her away for a good long while."

"So we head them off at the airport and stop them," Buffy decided.

"Why?" Willow asked. "She murdered someone and accused Buffy. I hate to say it, but maybe she belongs behind bars."

"She's out of control, I know," Buffy admitted. "But Angel was getting somewhere with her. She was opening up. If we could just stop Wesley."

"That's no longer an issue," Wesley began as he walked into the library.

"You let her get away?" Giles queried.

Wesley stopped before them, ashamed at the recollection. "Let wouldn't be the way I'd phrase it, but... Yes, she escaped."

Giles rolled his eyes and took off his glasses. Angel chose to air their mutual thoughts on the news they had just received. "That's good work. First, you terrorise her, then you put her back in the streets." He moved to the table and sat down.

"That was hardly my plan. I was trying to save her," Wesley protested.

"But you didn't!" Buffy cried. "You probably destroyed her."

"Buffy," Giles decided, putting his glasses back on, "that's enough."

"I better find her before she does any more damage." The slayer stood up. "I'll check the docks. Giles, Jenny, why don't you go to her motel? Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Doyle, her usual haunts. Once you've found her, just keep her talking. And call for us."

"I'll try the airport," Angel volunteered. "Joyce, why don't you stay here and see if she tries here."

"What can I do?" Wesley asked. "I want to help."

"You still got your ticket back to the mother country?" Buffy asked, before heading out with the rest of the gang. "I suggest you use it."

 


All was quiet at the docks. Buffy walked along one of the gangplanks, casting her eyes everywhere as she searched. A part of her felt responsible. Perhaps if she had offered full trust to Faith when the slayer first arrived, none of this would have happened. And then again, maybe it would have, only worse. But she could not give up. Faith was a killer, but she was also a slayer, just like herself. It was a slayer's job to save people. And if Faith was unable to save herself, it was up to her to try instead.

"You don't give up, do you?" Someone asked suddenly.

Buffy turned round and saw Faith at the top of the gangplank. "Not on my friends, no."

The dark haired slayer eyed her sceptically. "Yeah, because you and me are such solid buds, right?" She scoffed.

Buffy ignored the charge. "We could be. It's not too late."

"For me to change and be more like you, you mean?" Faith countered. "Little Miss Goody Two Shoes? It ain't gonna happen, B."

The blonde slayer shook her head. "Faith, nobody is asking you to be like me, but you can't go on like this."

"Scares you, doesn't it?" Faith guessed, jumping down on to the docks.

Buffy joined her there on the wooden jetty. "Yeah, it scares me. Faith, you're hurting people. You're hurting yourself."

"But that's not it," Faith replied. "That's not what bothers you so much. What bugs you is, you know I'm right. You know in your gut we don't need the law. We are the law."

Buffy turned and began to walk away, sure that Faith would follow her, but determined not to rise to the bait. "No."

"Yes." Faith insisted, wondering if she was beginning to convince her. "You know exactly what I'm about. 'Cause you have it in you too."

Buffy shook her head. "No, Faith, you're sick."

"I've seen it, B," Faith protested. "You've got the lust. And I'm not just talking about screwing vampires."

That hit a nerve, as Faith knew it would. Buffy halted in her tracks, outraged that Faith would sink this low. Angel was right. Perhaps she didn't know her as well as she once thought she did. "Don't you dare bring him into this."

"It's good, isn't it?" Faith continued. "The sex? The danger? Bet a part of you even dug him when he went psycho."

Buffy was horrified and the mere thought of that. "No!" She protested truthfully, before continuing to walk back to the road, knowing Faith would follow.

And the dark haired slayer did. "See, you need me to toe the line because you're afraid you'll go over it, aren't you, B? You can't handle watching me living my own way, having a blast, because it tempts you! You know it could be you!"

Buffy had had enough. She stopped, turned round, and dealt a backhanded punch to Faith's jaw. Faith let the blow turn her head, then faced her with a wicked, seductive grin. "There's my girl," she almost crooned.

Buffy shook her head, realising too late that she had risen to Faith's bait. "No. I'm not gonna do this."

"Why not?" Faith asked her. "It feels good. Blood rising. The strain of the primitive flowing through our veins. Because, B, we are killers, both of us. You see demons as equal as us, else you would never have fallen for Angel like you did. And that makes you the same as me. A murderer. Explain that away, if you can."

Buffy never got a chance to explain. She heard a noise above her, and looked up, to see a pile of crates coming down, heading for Faith. Hurriedly she pushed her away, not giving a thought for herself. The crates came down, knocking her out.

Faith jumped up, shocked at the sudden change of pace. Automatically she went to help Buffy. But then all hell broke loose; starting with four vampires surrounding her. One of them was Mr Trick. Surprised, Faith had no time to prepare for the punch he dealt to her face, turning her body to the side. He grabbed her jacket and threw her to the ground.

Slayer reflexes back in control, Faith managed to block the next strikes showered on her by Trick's three buddies. She got up, and started to fight back. The three vampires circled her, trying to find vulnerabilities. Faith dealt each one a punch, using her legs to kick them to the floor, or on top of another. Eventually she managed to send one flying over the edge of the dockside into the water.

Buffy came out of her daze. She tried to get up, and then realised her legs were trapped under the piles of crates. Breathing in deep to gather all her energy reserves, she ignored the pain and pulled herself out from under them. Dusting herself off, she turned round, only to come face to face with a vampire. She had no time to prepare for his punch. She fell back into the crates. Ignoring the pain, Buffy jumped back up and tried to hit the beast who was looming over her. But the vampire was easily a match. He punched her hard, sending her into another pile of crates.

Faith, now with only two vampires to slay, raised up her leg and kicked the first into a barrel that was near the edge of the dockside. This time it did not fall into the water, but it gave her time to stake the second. Faith turned round to locate Mr Trick. She saw him take out a cord from his suit and wrap it around Buffy's neck. Before Faith had time see any more, the other remaining vamp came at her. Quickly she turned round and staked him.

Turning back towards Buffy, Faith saw Mr Trick yank her up by the cord around her neck, and push her upon some more crates, pulling the cord tighter. Buffy was powerless, unable to free herself. Faith hesitated only a second. Rushing over, she stealthily came up behind Mr Trick.

"I hear once you've tasted a Slayer, you never wanna go back," Trick remarked before opening his mouth and advancing his fangs on Buffy's neck. Then suddenly, he straightened up in surprise. "Oh, no. No, this is no good at all." He turned into dust.

Buffy looked up, to see Faith behind the dust with a stake in her hand. The slayers stared uncertainly back at each other for a moment. Faith realised how she could salvage her situation, and slowly lowered the stake.


"So she saved you."

It was several hours later. Buffy had seen Faith to her motel room, then contacted the others and called off the search. Now she took a sip of the hot tea from the thermos which Giles had kindly offered her when she returned to the library. Angel sat beside her, waiting to take her home. "She could have left me there to die, Giles, but she didn't."

"She opted to come back to town with you. That bodes well." Giles sat down. "She still has a lot to face before she can put this behind her."

Angel nodded silently in agreement.

"I'm not gonna give up on her," Buffy assured him determinedly. Tonight she had seen a glimmer of goodness in Faith, a willingness to fight the good fight, and she was now bent on turning her back from the darkness and into the light.

Giles poured himself a cup of and tea, and took a sip. "Then I think she stands a chance," he remarked. "Now, go home and get some sleep. We'll deal with the rest of this tomorrow morning."

Buffy drained her tea, then allowed Angel to take her hand and lead her outside to his car. He drove her to Revello Drive, where he saw her safely into bed, wrapping her in his arms, his comforting presence sending her straight to sleep.


A few miles away, Mayor Richard Wilkins the third was having an uncomfortable conversation in his office.

"You sent your boy to kill me," Faith accused him. She stood with her arms crossed before his desk, draggers in her eyes.

"Actually I didn't," he replied. "That was Trick's idea. he thought they were getting to you, turning you around from the advantages this gave us. He thought you would betray us, use this opportunity to change sides."

Faith was only half convinced in the truth of that. "He's dust."

"I thought he might be. What with you standing here and all." Mayor Wilkins adjusted one of his pens in its holder, making it look the mirror image of the other. "I'm glad you knew where your loyalties lie. Now, for your next task."

Faith relaxed her pose, and listened. With an evil smile on her face.

The End.
To Be Continued In.
Refugees.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Some dialogue has been borrowed from the episode Hero, to which I have altered the plot considerably in order to work within this series. Enjoy.


Refugees.

It felt like Kristallnacht. That was the only name he could assign to the vision to describe what he saw and heard. Boots pounding on pavements to a military beat, black and invisible in the night, punctuated by the sound of broken glass and screams of pure terror as the soldiers swooped to grab and herd the Jews into death marches and ghettos. Only Doyle wasn't seeing Jews in his vision, nor affluent neighbourhoods, but the slums of downtown Los Angeles, inhabited by the half demons who needed be invisible around American society.

And he was not witnessing Nazi soldiers, but troops of demons, purebreds, sworn into a crusade for the master race, who swooped on the half-breeds, mothers, fathers, children, killing them where they huddled for safety and warmth. He saw one girl, her red coat a startling hark back to the footage of the allege Jewish resettlement, drop her box in her haste to escape pursuit, almost falling to the ground to recover her things, before the hand of a youth in the same mire as her, clamped himself on her mouth and swept her into the darkness of an alley, out of sight.

Doyle woke up sweating heavily, his heart pounding in his mouth, his hand reaching instinctively for the bottle of whiskey which rested on the floor by his bed, the frequent source of comfort against the onslaught and after effects of painful visions such as this. The first time he had seen such horrors in his mind he had been violently ill from the memory of them, but he was so inured to the visions now that his mind blanked out the wretchedness he felt from witnessing the possible future in his mind. Knocking back a skinful, he considered the word his mind chose, and withdrew it. No, he was not inured. Jaded, perhaps, after exposure to sights the oracles would have him help to change. Each vision still conveyed the full horror of their events upon him, no matter how many times his mind foresaw them.

For he had seen this particular vision before. When he was living in Los Angeles, after finalising his divorce and quitting his teaching post. It persisted in residing within his brain for a full sevennight before he moved to Sunnydale, whereupon the horrifying nightmare left him. He had believed that was the end of it, but he had forgot then that such a pack of demons as this would naturally be attracted to the hellmouth as a suitable base from which to draw power from for their dark crusade. Unlike that time however, he could not just relocate to another town or city. He had ties here; a well paid position and friends, actual allies, do-gooders and warriors, who would want try and stop this army if they may.

But he knew their reputation. He had heard of their breed before, and their unholy creed. Such soldiers could not be stopped, or easily vanquished. Their strength lay in their numbers and recruitment, their alliances with those in power. It would take more than two vampire slayers, two witches, one werewolf, one half Bracken, two watchers, two ordinary mortals and one souled vampire to scupper their plans for supremacy.


The vision was still preying on his mind as Doyle arrived at Sunnydale High school later that morning. A few students were entering the campus, some considerate enough to pay him a polite, even genuine greeting as he passed them by in the quadrangle enroute to the Library. He pushed apart the double doors to see Giles already established in his domain, studying a collection of newspapers on the reception counter. His girlfriend, Jenny Calendar was before the computer, her eyes scanning the view screen somewhat anxiously to Doyle's mind. Evidently he was not the only one to receive a message from the Powers That Be regarding something evil on the horizon.

"What's up?" He asked them, causing both to turn their heads from their studies towards him.

"We're not sure," Giles replied. "There's been reports of riots and deaths raids in the slums of certain west coast downtown districts. Violence against the homeless and such like, though what I'm reading here concerns those of the demonic rather that human variety."

"I've had those confirmed by my contacts," Jenny added, her hands rapidly tapping a few keys before reading again. "And one of them has been missing for over twenty-four hours, along with the rest of his family."

"I had a vision last night," Doyle revealed, causing both of them to stop reading immediately, giving him their full attention. "Of demonic troops marching down streets, and half-breeds running for the hills."

"Demons going after demons?" Giles queried, thoughtful and frowning. "It's not uncommon, especially near the hellmouth." He lapsed into silence for a minute, pondering. "Troops, you say? Uniformed?"

"Resembling Nazis," Doyle replied, nodding. "And pure bred demons, every one of them." He paused to lean on the counter. "You've heard of them, haven't you?"

"The Council would be extremely lax in their duties if I hadn't," Giles returned. "But the last I heard, were reports of them in Europe, not these shores."

"That's obviously changed," Doyle finished grimly. "Buffy in yet?" He asked.

Giles shook his head. "Angel's driving her here before he heads to the university, but he has the first hour free. Let's get the rest of them out of study hall and call a meeting," he decided, grabbing permission slips. "We're going to need all the help we can get."


"They're known as The Scourge," the Watcher reported later to the slayerettes after they gathered round the large reading table which stood over the hellmouth. "An army of pure-bred demons, sworn into a crusade against half-breeds. They will kill any they encounter, children, women, men, anyone who has the faintest demonic blood in their veins, no matter how ancient the pedigree."

"Anyone fought back?" Faith asked.

"Sure they do," Doyle replied. "All the time. You can kill them, but these guys believe in what they're doing. They're ready to die for the cause."

"Hard to fight fanatics," Angel murmured.

"More like impossible," Doyle corrected.

"Well, if we can't fight them," Buffy began, "we can at least help those they're hunting to escape."

"What about vampires and werewolves?" Willow asked. "Do they hunt them?"

"Vampires aren't pure, certainly," Wesley answered. "They have been diluted for well over a millennia. I think werewolves would fall into the hunted category too."

"Well the vamps, present company excepted, can take care of themselves," Faith remarked. "Come to that, so can demons."

Buffy shook her head. "Not all of them." She turned to her watcher. "We need to check the slum areas of town. Make sure there's nothing for the Scourge to find."

"Agreed," Giles replied. "Do that after school. I will check the bus depot, docks and airport, see when the army arrives, if it hasn't already."

"Hang on," Xander uttered as they rose from their chairs, "Mission check. I'm with Faith on this one. Why are we helping demons of all people?"

"They're not demons," Buffy replied. "They're half human, and trying to earn a living in this world. A life for themselves and their family. I say they need our help."

"In the past, we regarded races of people as demons," Willow remarked with feeling, recalling her own family's struggles to escape war torn Germany in the forties. "Jews, Blacks, Indians. Some time in the future, people may come to accept half-demons, even harmless ones. And how will history regard us then if we ignore their cry for help now?"

"Will's right," Cordelia agreed. "They need our help."

 


"The Scourge you say?" Richard Wilkins the third, Mayor of Sunnydale, sought to confirm from his deputy later that day.

Faith nodded. "That's what Giles called them. Had the entire Scooby club up in arms about them this morning, ready to help all the little half-demons in need."

"Well, I hope they keep to shipping the lot of them out of town rather than going to the trouble of raising funds for them." The Mayor grimaced. "The last thing I need is another charity clogging up the phone lines."

"Did you want me to help them out?" Faith asked, the question driven from her reluctantly.

"Not in agreement with Miss Summers and her band on this then?" the Mayor remarked, watching his deputy squirm as though she felt ordered by him to be so.

Faith shrugged. "I'm a slayer. I..... kill," the word was dragged out of her, apparently she still had issues regarding her part in the unlawful demise of his deputy, "demons, not rescue them."

"As much as I agree with you there," the Mayor remarked. "I'm going to need some of those vampires come the end of my hundred days. And an army determined in massacring them for the sake of the master race is not the answer to my prayers. So go help them, please," he finished, his voice suddenly cruel and hard.

Faith flinched from the chill she felt in his tone. "Yes sir," she answered quietly before quitting his office as fast as she could walk. Her alliance with the Mayor had become all the more precarious recently, thanks to her staking when she should have looked first, into the chest of his deputy. With that act her cause had only furthered her ties with the dark underworld of the hellmouth, as she crossed the line from slayer to murderer. Her staunch denial coupled with efforts to hide the body had caused her to lose all the temporary friendship she had initially gained with Buffy and friends, and thrust her into an even deeper quagmire when the Mayor decided to send Trick on a tidying of loose ends mission. To kill one ally of his might be considered careless, but to kill two was definitely pushing the limits of his loyalty.

Now he reduced her to a mere hired rescuer of demons in distress. Faith sighed. Even before she became a murderer she held foul with helping out demons, even those who chose to mate with humans. She had to question the sanity of mortals who decided a demon was a good partner for life. Yet Buffy seemed almost the better for her coupling with a souled vampire, and Willow wasn't concerned when her monosyllabic boyfriend suffered his time of the month. Still, these had to be flukes. Faith certainly had yet to find anyone in the demonic race who could satisfy her.

Not that she was even looking in the first place. No way was that life style choice an option for her, she had enough dubious alliances as it was without throwing her love life or lack there of into the mix. She had no time for men, boys the lot of them, with the naive desire to control her and the arrogant belief that they knew far more about the world than she ever could hope to do so. She had never been the submissive type.

Shrugging away subjects which required moments of introspection, a dark place of her mind she was not prepared to visit for too long nowadays, for fear of developing an inability to return without enduring emotional and psychological scars, Faith quickened her pace down the corridors of city hall, suddenly anxious to join the Scooby gang on a demon in distress mission.


Angel surveyed the drab buildings with all the critical eye of a vampire who had been used to the luxury way of living. "Pretty low rent, even by demon standards."

"Willy said they were hiding," Buffy pointed out. They had been to the snitch's bar barely half an hour ago for information. "It's a good place for it."

They pushed open the door of the latest seemingly deserted dwelling place, walking through the narrow hall into a small, rickety dining room clearly set ready for people to break their fast within.

"Signs of life." Buffy judged correctly, seeing the steam still rising from the meals, the cutlery slightly stained from use.

"I smell something," Angel murmured.

"Food's still warm," Buffy reasoned, though she had a feeling her boyfriend did not mean the meal. "They left in a hurry."

"Not food," Angel replied as they turned a corner into a seemingly empty room. With the deft grace of a vampire he knelt down to remove a rug from the floor, revealing a trap door. "Fear."

He grabbed hold of the handle and tugged, opening the door to reveal a dark and cavernous opening. Buffy shone her flashlight within and they gasped as the beam of light revealed a huddle mass of half humans, of varying ages and sex, but all experiencing the same level of terror at the sight of them.

"Don't be afraid," Angel uttered. "It's okay. We're here to help."

Buffy switched off her flashlight and secured it within a jacket pocket before reaching out her hands to help them out of their hiding hole.

Eventually the entire group were sitting at the dining table, the young ones eating with the innocent concern of youth, the old ones picking with reluctant appetites.

"We gave all out money to a man who promised to get us passports and safe passage on a ship," one of the half demon men explained. "We didn't know. It was stupid of us. He disappeared with our money and the ship never came."

"Where were you going?" Angel asked.

"Briole. Small island off the coast of Ecuador. Others of our kind have found sanctuary there."

"Sanctuary from the Scourge?" Buffy sought to confirm and the man nodded just as two more kids came rushing in.

"They're close," the boy and elder of the two uttered. "They almost got us. We lost half of our supplies."

The man put a hand on the youth's shoulder, stilling teenage impetuousness. "Rieff, we have a guest. It's the promised one."

Rieff grimaced. "Terrific."

Buffy looked at them confused. "I think there's been some kind of misunderstanding. I may be a chosen one as far as vampires are concerned, but...."

The man shook his head at her, turning to her companion, stunning both of them into silence. "Oh, I don't think so. Many of our prophecies are cryptic, but on one thing they are all clear: In the final days of this century the promised one will appear and save us from the Scourge."

Rieff was less enthused. "He doesn't even know where they are. How's he supposed to protect us from them?"

The elder sighed. Clearly this was a frequent debate. "Rieff..."

"They're coming and no matter how many promised guys you throw at them, they're not going to stop until every last one of us is dead. - You're going to get us all killed."

He walked out.

The Elder smiled at Angel and Buffy, sympathetic, understanding and a little embarrassed. "He's young. I'm sorry. Excuse me." He left the table to fetch his retrictlent youngster back.

Angel rose from his seat to look out a window, scanning the empty streets for an army he could not yet hear.

Buffy followed him. "We better get them out of here and someplace safe. If there's anywhere that's safe." She stared at him, her hazel eyes taking in the dark brooding stare of his own, directed at the nothingness of his reflection. "What is it?"

"We need to deal with this," Angel murmured. "They think I'm some promised saviour," he added, before catching the truth of it in her gaze. "What?"

"Angel, when Acathla brought Whistler to Giles' apartment, he told me that the demon was meant to be your fight, not mine. Maybe you are a promised one; a warrior whose coming was foretold." Buffy smiled at here. "Whether you believe it or not, what matters is that they believe it. And that belief will help us rescue them."

He nodded slowly, unable to disagree with her logic. "You better call Giles and alert him. Where shall we hide them until we can get them out of here?"

"The mansion," Buffy replied. "It has the most space." She turned to survey the group, her gaze conveying deep concern. "I don't like this, Angel. I never run from fights. I face them head on, no matter what the odds. It's the slayer's way."

"We've never had to face an army before," he reminded her. "They're a different set of demons altogether."


"So how many are we talking about?" Giles asked the couple when he met them at the mansion where the living room was accommodating the refugees while they sorted the travel arrangements.

"About twenty," Buffy replied. "More if word gets around that the slayer's offering free escape routes from the Scourge."

"Can we get them passage out of here?" Angel asked.

The watcher nodded. "I've sent Jenny to the docks for the Quintessa. The captain owes me a favour or two, he'll agree to this. I also need to talk to the harbour master so he will give the ship clearance." His gaze drifted to the collection of half demons huddling together in the large double height living room of the mansion on Crawford Street. "What are we going to do if the Scourge get wind of their location?"

"Provide a rearguard," Buffy replied. "And hope ten people can stand up to an army."


"I could get into a hell of a lot over trouble over this," the Harbour master remarked to Giles as they walked along the dock side.

"Not as much as if you don't," Giles remarked.

"Big Randy is my brother," the master replied, referring to the captain of the Quintessa. "If I look the other way once in a while on some of his shipments, it's because he's family. It's not because of the money."

Giles nodded in understanding. "Family is important."

The Harbour master looked at him. "You're not going to pay, are you?"

"I'm not going to pay." Giles confirmed bluntly.

The official sighed. "So this is just extortion."

"Big Randy told you about my friend Angelus, right?" Giles remarked. "You know what he is."

"He said Angelus bit him?" the Harbour master sought to confirm.

Giles shook his head. "No, he never bit him."

His companion was relieved. "So he don't.."

But for barely five seconds after Giles shrugged. "He wasn't hungry."

"So, what do you want the documents to say?" the Harbour master asked.

"Certify that the ship is carrying an inspected cargo of medical waste. No one looks inside that ship or stops it from leaving harbour," Giles replied. "If they do, - I'm going to feel that it's your fault. Then look for Angelus to get a little bit peckish."

The Harbour master rapidly filled out the form, while Giles hid his smile, retaining the Ripper like front in his expression which conveyed a deadly chill to all who encountered it. A little bit of bluff went a long way on the shores of the hellmouth.

"Have a nice trip," the official replied, handing him the form before hurrying away as fast as his legs could carry him.


"We don't have time for this," the leader of the demon refugees was heard to remark as Buffy came upon them. "What's wrong with that boy?"

"What is it?" the slayer asked.

"Rieff," the leader replied. "He took off. He does this every time. He'll be back."

The youth's companion shook her head in disagreement. "No he won't. He says there isn't any promised one. He wasn't going to stay here and get killed with the rest of us." She turned worried eyes on the slayer. "We're not going to get killed, are we?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, no one's going to get killed." she retrieved a spare cell phone from her pocket, which she handed to the leader. "Jenny is going to call. When she does, clear out and go to the ship. If you're not here when I get back, I'll bring the boy to you there." She turned to the girl. "Hey, - do you know where he went?"

The girl nodded. "Back to our old neighbourhood. He's reckless."

"Or stupid," Buffy murmured before walking away to join the other slayerettes who were gathered around the stairs leading to the first floor. "I'm going to find Rieff. When the call comes, just herd them out to the docks as quick as you can."

"Buffy!" Doyle called, catching her just as she stepped outside. "I'm coming with you, just in case you need a half demon to convince him."

"Okay," Buffy replied, falling into pace with him as they cleared the driveway.


"Rieff! Wait. Wait." Doyle and Buffy ran towards him, the former out of breath as they reached him. "You're fast."

"I'm walking," Rieff replied. "You're just old."

"Yeah, okay," Doyle shrugged away the insult. "You know what, we ought to go. We got a way out, a ship."

"Great," Rieff replied. "Have fun. Take some Dramamine."

"You're not coming with?" Buffy queried.

Rieff replied with all the classic comeback of a teenager. "You can't make me."

"He's right," Doyle remarked to Buffy. "You're old enough. It's your choice."

Rieff snorted. "Right. A choice. Where do I want to be hated? You wouldn't get it. You're passing," he continued, referring the seemingly human appearance of the half Bracken. "My mother was the same way. You can walk down the street. She took me out with her one day. I was so excited. Just out in the neighbourhood with all the other kids. Guess what day it was? What day was it?"

Doyle sighed. "It was Halloween."

Rieff nodded. "So that's my choice: I can be hated by humans because they're scared of me, or by pure-bloods who want to kill me. It's so easy, it's not much of a choice."

"Seems to me your family is one place where you know you belong," Buffy remarked as the youth resumed his fast pace. "Hey, I bet you that little girl is going to miss you."

"Yeah, well, she's dead by now," Rieff replied, "Or might as well be. They're coming again. I can feel it."

"It's going to be different this time," Buffy replied.

"Why?" Rieff asked. "Because your friend is the promised one?" His face hardened as they sighed. "So you know it's not true."

"No, I don't," Buffy replied. "I don't know anything about your people's myths and legends. But I do know Angel, and he's the genuine article."

"My hero," Rieff offered sarcastically.

"Yeah, that's exactly what he is," Doyle remarked. "And your people can call him 'the promised one', what does it matter?"

"It matters because it's a lie!" Rieff yelled.

"They put their faith in something, Rieff," Buffy argued. "You don't have to if you don't want to. Maybe we don't know what we're doing. It's possible. But the other option: losing yourself somewhere, hoping it all goes away, I know that never works. How about we go find your family?"


The Captain of the Quintessa grimaced at the expression on his lovely companion's face. "I know it's not the Queen Mary, but it's still good ship."

"Well, it's not exactly the Love Boat, either," Jenny returned as she surveyed the drab surroundings of the containment hold.

"Sorry," the captain uttered, not looking or sounding at all apologetic. "We don't haul people. We haul cargo. It's never complained."

"We could bring in some blankets or something," one of the crew volunteered. "How many are we talking?"

"Oh, - about 20?" Jenny replied. "Some are short people, you know, children?"

"It won't be the most comfortable thing in the world," the captain allowed. "But we'll get them where they're going."

"We'll take it," Jenny replied before pulling out her phone. She walked away before dialling the number and pressing the cell to her ear. "It's me. Who is this? Oh, well, your transport sorted, it's time to get out of here."


Back in the neighbourhood, Buffy, Doyle and Rieff halted as they caught the sound boots marching to a military beat.

"They're here," Rieff murmured worriedly.

"Come on, let's go!" Doyle urged and they began to run, until they found a building suitable to hide in.

"In here." Buffy ordered, pulling them down below the window line. "Sit tight."

"Destroy it all!" An officer could be heard to order outside, causing the infantry to smash windows, trip trash cans, scattering rubbish everywhere, torching vehicles.

"Buffy, Doyle," Rieff uttered as one of the soldiers marched to their building.

The slayer rose to go, but Doyle stayed her move, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Stay here."

He rose up, revealed his Bracken heritage, and ran from the building, knocking the infantryman out of his way, causing his comrades to give chase away from the building. Half way down the street a hand reached out and pulled him into another building.

"They're coming," Doyle informed his companion.

"Good," Angel replied, thankful he was near when Buffy called him on her cell, scouring the neighbourhood for any more refugees needing free passage.


"They were here, Sir, recently," a soldier said to his officer as they entered the building where Angel and Doyle had hidden themselves in.

"And when the lights go out, where do the vermin go?" the officer countered. "Keep looking."

"For what?" A vampire growled as he pulled the quarry out from a dark corner of the room. "For this?" A soldier hurried towards him, causing another growl. "Back off! It's my kill."

The officer was understandably suspicious. "Vampires don't feed on demon blood."

Angel scoffed. "Oh please! I wouldn't eat this. He reeks of humanity."

"You're one to talk, vampire," the officer returned. "Yours is the lowest of all the half-breeds," he added disdainfully.

"You think I don't know that?" Angel countered. "You think I don't smell the humanity inside me day and night - polluting me?"

Doyle thought it was the time to start pleading for his life. "Please, please don't!"

Angel calmly broke his neck, dropping him to the floor. "Shut up!"

"A half-breed who murders other half-breeds," a soldier murmured. "Always charming."

"I know who you are," Angel remarked. "I want to join you."

"Join us?" The officer scoffed. "You wish to die?"

"I need to be cleansed and only you can show me the way," Angel replied. "You can kill me if you want, but you'd only be freeing me. But I can kill half-breeds for you and believe me I can do it faster and better then anyone you got. I know their minds, where they hide, how they think. I can help you."

The officer stared at him considering. "Maybe you can."

He gestured to his men, who grabbed Angel and hauled him from the building. None of them noticed his hand shifting inside his pocket, clicking a couple of buttons on his cell to alert his soulmate that all was going to plan.


Buffy and Rieff reached Doyle's seemingly dead body as the army cleared out of the street with their latest recruit. Fascinated, they watched as he shifted his dislocated neck back into place.

"I think I hated that plan," Doyle remarked as they helped him up.

"Can all Bracken demons do that?" Rieff asked.

Doyle shook off his demon heritage before replying. "We're stronger in demon form. But I generally prefer to pass as human."

"Where is everyone?" Rieff asked.

"Right where they're supposed to be, I hope," Buffy replied. "On their way to the docks, to board the Quintessa. Jenny said it's not the Queen Mary, but it will do. Come on," she turned to head for the exit. "We need to get going."


At the dockside, the Captain of the Quintessa watched anxiously as the demons boarded his ship, surrounded by the protective layer of the slayerettes.

"Look, I've got my clearance from the Harbour Master," he uttered to Giles, who told him there was going to be a delay. "We have to go now. I have a schedule to keep."

"I'm sure they'll be here, Captain," Giles replied. "Just a few more minutes."

He wandered over to his girlfriend, who was watching the warehouses worriedly. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure," Jenny replied. "I think it's just going a little too smoothly. And shouldn't there be security guards on those warehouses?"

"They're union's on strike," Giles replied. "The mayor's been debating with their managers for weeks now. It helps us to get them out of here unseen."

"But it also doesn't alert us to anything coming," Jenny pointed out.

"Can't have everything," Giles replied, just his phone beeped. He retrieved the device from his pocket to read the text message. "That was Buffy. They're on their way."


Meanwhile, dressed in a uniform, Angel was listening to a rousing speech by the leader of the Scourge, designed to gear his troops up for battle, inwardly wondering how he could warn the others of the weapon which was coming.

"The other day I was asked: 'Why hunt the mongrel? Doesn't its very inferiority guarantee that it poses no threat? Won't it die of it's own innate mortal stupidity?" The leader smiled benevolently, as though he was dealing with a naive child. "Let me tell you, even the smallest of vermin need be addressed. Half-breeds. Worse. They keep crossbreeding. Forever diluting our precious demon blood with their weak simpering humanity."

"Yeah!" The troops cheered.

"If we allow this to happen, it's as good as giving up the call to evil altogether," the officer continued. "It's as good as becoming human ourselves. Well, I say NEVER! I say we will not stop until each and every half-breed is erased and our purity rules this planet! We will not stop because the Higher Order demands it! Now, - this very evening we take a giant step towards our goal. Tonight the half-breeds that have eluded us will be destroyed. And we know just where to find them, thanks to this good man," he gestured to a human who came forward, Angel silently gasping as he recognised him for one of the crew of the Quintessa. "First mate on the ship they think means salvation, not annihilation. He comes to us for money, but he is a brother to our cause, and we invite him - to witness the power of the beacon."

Two soldiers rolled a crystal suspended in a cage to the front of the platform, lighting the device up with the click of a few switches.

"Tonight the Listers of half-breeds will..." the officer continued, but Angel blanked the demon's ranting out in disgust, as he glanced around the room for a way out so he could alert the others that they had been betrayed.

"Incredible, isn't it?" A soldier standing next to him murmured in awe. "He makes it all so clear."

"Yes, things are very clear," Angel replied softly.

"The Listers, along with any creature contaminated by human blood, will perish the moment the cleansing light touches them," the officer continued to explain his master weapon. "When the beacon reaches critical mass and detonates its reach will extend a quarter mile in every direction." He turned to the crew member of the Quintessa. "Want to see how it works?" he pushed the man into the beam, killing him. "A fitting end for a sorry mutation. Go now and deliver this, our message! Our victory depends on it!"

The soldiers cheered before turning to run down the hallway. Angel followed until he passed a side room, whereupon he slipped from the ranks and secured himself faster transport out of the military base.

 


"Someone's coming," Giles declared as the sound of running feet pounding on deck caused the slayerettes, crew and refugees to look up.

Buffy, Doyle and Rieff entered the containment area minutes later.

"Do you have any idea what you put us through?" the leader of the demons asked the teenager. "We got to get out of here!"

"I'm sorry," Rieff replied.

The elder put an armed around him. "Let's get you down with the others."

Rieff, turned to Doyle. "Thanks."

Buffy turned as the sound of a motorcycle reached them, seeing Angel driving the vehicle on to the deck.

"We have to shove off now," he remarked to his girlfriend.

"What's going on?" Buffy asked.

"I can't find my first mate!" The captain revealed.

"You won't" Angel replied. "He betrayed us. "We're going. Get to the bridge."

"Angel," Doyle called out, his gaze on the once deserted dockside, "they're here."

"Get below," Buffy uttered. "Lock the doors."

"What?" Doyle asked.

"Move!" Angel yelled. "Now! Stay with the others."

Doyle took off down to the hold, while the warriors waited for the officer to mount the deck.

"You lied to us, half-breed." The officer remarked.

"You catch on quick, football-head," Angel returned.

The officer turned his troops. "Kill him, painfully."

The soldiers tackled Angel and Buffy, but they were no match for the chosen warriors, who quickly took out as many as they could until the officer was forced to take charge of the fight himself. He rushed at the two of them, herding them back towards the hold, sheer force of will pushing them down to join the refugees on the floor below.

Behind him the troops lowered the beacon into the room via a chain.

"It's going to detonate," Angel cried. "Get out! Everybody out!"

The officer grabbed him by the neck. "Welcome to a cleaner world. Soon only the pure bloods will be left standing."

"Actually, pure boy," Angel returned as he broke his grip. "You'll be on your ass."

Above the slayerettes struggled with the door. "Ahh! They're locked from the outside. We're trapped!"

"What does that thing do?" Willow asked Angel as he joined them.

"It's light kills anything with human blood," Angel replied.

"It's fully armed, isn't it?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"Almost," Angel replied. "If I pull the cable, I think I can still shut it off."

"How are you gonna do that without touching the light?" Buffy asked him.

"Angel, that's suicide," Giles remarked. "There's got to be another way."

"It's all right." Angel looked at his beloved.

"No!" Buffy yelled determinedly. She grabbed hold of him and look to Willow. "Think magic can stop it?"

"Possibly," Willow remarked as she looked at it. "I need something to enchant to pierce the light."

Buffy retrieved a dagger from her weapons' pocket. "How about this?"

Her best friend nodded. "It will suffice." She closed her eyes as she held the weapon, murmuring an indistinct series of words. A bright light surrounded the blade, then disappeared. Willow opened her eyes and returned the dagger to her friend.

Buffy advanced to the edge of the platform. Slowly she raised her hand. "Here goes nothing," she uttered before tossing the weapon like a javelin.

As the blade hit the beacon the light became brighter than the sun for a moment, before sending the room into sudden darkness. Silence was broken as the crystal smashed into shards upon the floor.

The slayer grinned. "Very cool." She turned to her friends. "Come on, let's disembark and let these demons sail away."


"So the Scourge are all take care of?" The Mayor sought to confirm when Faith reported to his office a few hours later.

"Yep," the dark haired slayer replied. "All the troops went scurrying back to their base after the officer was killed. I don't think they'll be bothering us again."

"Good," Richard Wilkins rose from his chair. "Now, I received a call from a contact of mine who I was told could help us in destabilising Miss Summers and little group of friends," he remarked.

"How?" Faith asked.

"By removing someone's soul," the Mayor revealed.

The End.
To Be Continued In...
If You Can't Be Good.....

Chapter Text

Author's Note: With this episode I wanted to keep the original story in its essentials, but change the perspective somewhat. I decided to write the scene where they came up with the bluff concerning Angel's soul, and take it from there. Naturally, because of what has gone before, certain things- like the state of Buffy and Angel's relationship -differs entirely from the original. Some of the dialogue was taken from the actual episode seventeen of season three; Enemies.

If You Can't Be Good....

If you can't be good, be careful.

Early 20th Proverb, from the Latin;
Si non caste tamen caute.

Soft light. Wine. Music, turned down low. A white table cloth. Folded napkins. China plates. Silver cutlery. A long stemmed red rose. Encased in vase and water. The perfect three course meal. A delicate starter. A exotic sounding, yet simple main dish. A light, sweet desert. Cultured, meaningful conversation. No shop talk.

Giles mulled over these items in his head, while he rested gingerly on the sofa. Reviewing them, making sure each one met his requirement for how the evening was meant to be tonight. The mood he was hoping for could be summed up in one word. Romance. Everything needed to be just so, in order for him to feel able to proceed with what he wanted to do tonight.

Opposite him, resting more comfortably on the sofa, sat his dinner partner. Jenny. Giles smiled as he reflected over their relationship. Since her, 'resurrection,' they had been virtually inseparable. Spending every night together in his apartment. Admittedly that was because she had no place to live at first, but even when she had got her old job back and started earning enough for some place of her own, she had not chosen to leave. Their relationship was far better now than when they had been together before her death. They knew everything about each other. No more skeletons in either of their closets. Secrets had driven them apart before, they were determined that they would never do so again.

Jenny finished her wine, looking up at him as she set her glass down. A voice in the back of Giles mind murmured to the rest of his conscious that it was time. He put down his own glass. His hand felt in his pocket for the small object he had been carrying the entire day, and started to take it out.

"Jenny," he began, his voice suddenly very English, despite living in the country for almost three years. "There's something I wanted to talk to you about."

"I know," Jenny remarked, much to his surprise. An expression of panic rose on Giles face. Had he been too obvious? "You know?" He queried.

"Well, I gathered there was something on your mind," she elaborated. "What is it?"

Good. She hadn't guessed. Giles took the object out of his pocket and clasped it between his hands. "Actually, it was something I wanted to ask you," he continued. "I know we have been together for a while now, and I was wondering if," he got down on one knee. Slowly his hands opened to reveal the small velvet box they were concealing.

The doorbell rang. A short pause followed, before the uninvited guest decided to add a knock upon the wooden barrier to the apartment as well. Giles inwardly groaned, and slipped the box back into his pocket. He got up from the floor and made his way to the door. Jenny briefly brushed his hand, making him turn back to look down at her. They exchanged a mutual feeling of frustration at the interruption, then Giles went to get the door.

He was more than surprised at the identity of the visitor. Stepping back instantly, he inclined his head in acknowledgement. "This is an honour. I had no idea you were back in the country."

The visitor stepped inside, allowing Jenny to get a good look at him. He was tall, covered in a cloak and cowl. He had an aura around him, which seemed to command respect and authority. He surveyed the room, the cowl moving only slightly, refusing to reveal his features, noticing her. He bowed. "Forgive me, Rupert Giles. I had no idea you had a guest."

"Its quite all right," Giles replied, leading him into the living area. "Would you care for anything?"

"No, thank you. My reasons for coming here are urgent. In view of my debt to you, I felt I could not act otherwise."

"Of course." Giles sat down next to Jenny. "What has happened?"

"I was summoned a day ago, by a powerful force for evil in this town. He was in the company of a slayer. He asked me if I was able to take away souls."

Giles paled. "Oh god." He looked at the visitor. "Can you stay for a while?"

"I am at your disposal for as long as is required."

"Thank you." Giles rose up from his seat and grabbed the phone which was lying on his desk. Silently he pressed a number on speed dial, then held the receiver to his ear. "Its me. I need both of you at my place, right away."

 


Fifteen minutes later, Giles opened the door again, this time to admit Buffy and Angel. The couple took one look at his grim expression, and instantly their faces changed to match. Quietly they entered the apartment and took up the remaining space in the living room.

"So, what's the situation?" Buffy asked when Giles had joined them.

Giles indicated the cowled figure with them. "A friend of mine called this evening. He told me something which you two need to hear."

They turned to the Mage, who began his story. "I am, what you would say, an expert in my vocation. People call for me when they require a difficult spell to be cast, or a powerful ritual to be performed. A day ago, an evil force and another slayer called for me, and asked me to take away a soul."

The couple paled. "But you can't, can you?" Angel asked him, his voice desperately trying to contain the fear which had rose up within him.

The Mage turned to face him. "You are the vampire in question."

It was more of a statement than a question but Angel answered anyway. "Yes," he replied, his fear still refusing to disappear. "And I was reliably informed that my soul was permanent."

"As was I," the Mage remarked, "which is why I came to Rupert Giles before I decided whether or not to accept."

"And we are grateful that you did," Giles assured him. "Buffy, Angel, this can only mean that the mayor has stepped up his campaign for his Ascension."

After Buffy and Angel had told him about the note that the deputy Mayor had given her as he died, Giles had researched the Mayor and what he found horrified him. It appeared that the Mayor had lived for a hundred years, the length of time usually required for someone who wished to evolve into a demon. And not just any demon, but a pure demonic form, more powerful than anything they had ever faced before. They had no idea what type he could ascend into, how they were going to defeat it, or when this ascension would take place. The deputy Mayor's note also revealed that Faith had defected to the Mayor's office since the Kakistos incident, further adding to their troubles.

"We are lucky that I have a connection with who he called to try and take Angel from us. I think this a perfect opportunity."

"A perfect opportunity for what?" Buffy asked worriedly.

"To find out as much as we can about the Mayor's plan. Such as when its all going to happen."

There was silence for a moment as the slayer ingested that information. Then she raised her eyes in pure panic to her watcher. "Giles, you can't be serious!" She gripped Angel's hand tightly, for fear that he would suddenly be ripped out of his seat and his soul wrenched from him before her. Images of the last time she had encountered Angelus began to flash through her mind. "You're suggesting we go along with this?"

"Buffy, this could be the opportunity to find out everything the mayor knows."

"And lose Angel's soul in the process? No thank you!"

"He won't lose his soul." Giles leaned forward in his seat to explain his plan. "I'm talking about a bluff. We play along and see where it takes us."

"No way," Buffy reaffirmed. "Its too dangerous."

"Buffy." Angel turned to face her, taking the hand that tightly gripped his between that and his other, and gently rubbing the skin in an attempt to comfort her. "I think Giles is right. This is too good a chance to ignore."

"Angel," Buffy began, horrified that he was agreeing to this. "You can't be serious!"

"I don't like some parts of it either," he admitted, "but I think this could work. There's too much at stake for us not to try."

Buffy stared at him, her hazel eyes digesting his own dark brown ones, judging his expression. Everything within her was still screaming at the very notion of the idea, but her rational mind was managing to push the panic behind it at the moment, in an effort to put its point across. "You're right," she accepted, her voice oddly calm. Taking a deep breath, she turned to her watcher. "What's the plan?"

 


It was close on midnight by the time they had returned to Mansion on Crawford Street. Buffy had been silent the entire drive home, but now as she followed her soulmate inside his home, she let her thoughts speak. "I don't like this, Angel."

He turned to her, his gaze equally thoughtful and grim. "I know," he said. "I don't like it either."

"Then why did you agree?" She asked him incredulously.

"Because I also see Giles' point. This is the chance we have been waiting for. If we do this, we could find out all the Mayor's plans. It could give us the knowledge to defeat him."

"Could! Only could!" She protested. "None of this is certain." She sank into the sofas by the slowly dying fire which had been lit when they had first returned to his home. "Angel, when you lost your soul, I lost all sense of this world. I had to watch him rampage Sunnydale in your body, knowing that I couldn't stake him because that would mean there would be no way to bring you back. And Faith is involved in this. We tried to get through to her, both me and you, and it didn't work. I dread to think what she might do. The idea of her touching you, of you having to respond, scares the hell out of me. I'm worried she'll see through it all and kill you."

"She won't," Angel assured her. "I can play him well enough to convince them both."

"That's neither helpful nor reassuring!"

"Buffy," Angel joined her on the sofa and took her hands, stilling them from their nervous motions. "I feel nothing for Faith. I've never felt anything for her." He gently took hold of her left hand, and rubbed his finger on her claddagh. "I still mean what I said when I gave you this." He turned his own hand over, showing his, placed in the same position as hers, with the heart pointing towards him. Solemnly, he outlined the meanings of each symbol. "Friendship, loyalty and love. I mean them in every single sense. From the first moment I set eyes on you, I was lost. When you told me that you loved me, I realised that I belonged here for the first time in over two hundred years. I've never even felt tempted to be unfaithful to you." He dropped to one knee before her. "I swear to you that I will always to be true to you alone, for the rest of my existence." He kissed her ring. "One day, I want to place two more rings next to this one. One of them blessed by a priest."

She only had time to gasp at his words and their implications, before he stood up and pulled her into his arms. "But if you don't want to do this, then we won't. I won't agree without your consent."

Tears clouded her eyes. Not because of her fears, but because of what he had said to her. She softly touched his face. "Angel...." she trailed off, too touched for words. "All, right. I'll tell Giles tomorrow that we'll do it."

"I love you," Angel uttered softly, before kissing her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back, determined to lose herself within the motion. He obliged her, sweeping her up into his arms. Resting her head against his shoulders, their lips still touching, Angel led her to his bedroom.

He hesitated when they reached his bed, suddenly uncertain as to whether this was the right thing to do at this moment, in light of what was to come. But she was certain. She pulled him down to the bed, her hands slipping underneath the jumper he had put on before they left for Giles' apartment. Her fingers crept up his bare chest, and Angel forgot his hesitation. Gently he ran his hands through her hair, then felt underneath for the zip to her dress. Slowly he slid it down.

When they broke apart in the need for one of them to breathe, their actions became less frantic. There was no longer a need for urgency. One kiss was all it took for them to realise that this bluff would not set them apart. Not if they had anything to do with it. So their second kiss was more gentle than the first. Buffy sat up and helped Angel take off her dress, parting from his lips when the garment reached her head. He threw it aside, his eyes never leaving her form for a moment. Buffy slipped off his shirt. Angel rose on to his knees, then helped her take off his trousers.

For a moment they stilled, their bodies level with each other, kneeling upon the satin sheets of his bed, disrobed of the attire they had flung on when Giles had called hours ago. Their evening had begun with something ordinary, a contrast to what took place afterwards. He had taken her to the cinema, thinking how nice it would be to do something normal. But the film had turned out to be rated, and they had ended up returning to mansion rather rapidly, to satisfy the desires watching it had created. So they had indulged, until the phone call disturbed them from the afterglow. Now they were here again, but with different reasons. Angel raked his eyes over her body, remembering how lucky he was to have her love, after all that he had done. And now he was asking her to keep faith in the love he had declared to her, while they played a dangerous game.

"I don't deserve you," he uttered.

"Yes you do," Buffy assured him. She let herself fall back against the pillows, slipping her legs out from under her, placing her feet on the mattress sheet. Her eyes gazed deeply into his, wanting. Angel obeyed their siren's call, moving up between her legs to put his face level with hers. He cupped her cheeks with his hands, and kissed her again. Their bodies came together. Skin touching skin. His erection pressed against her stomach. Her hands slipped between them and stroked the tip. A purr escaped from him in reply. She smiled under his lips, then moved her hands to his back, her fingers seeking out his tattoo, tracing its lines. He moved his mouth downwards, pressing sweet, small kisses to her neck, then her chest. She arched her back when he reached her hard nipples and closed his mouth over one of them.

Guilt washed over her as she watched him suckle. He felt her still, and looked up. "I sorry," she whispered. "I never should have doubted you."

"You were frightened of losing me," he divined, knowing her fears even better than her, as well as his own. "You couldn't be rational when feeling that. There's no need to apologise. I felt the same way."

He turned back to her breasts. His mouth closed over the untouched one, teasing her by dragging his tongue and teeth over the nipple until she lost herself to the passion again. When he had worshipped the both of them he continued his downward pilgrimage, dipping his tongue into her belly button, stroking her between her legs with his hands. Feeling her ready for him, he moved back up and caught her lips again as he slid inside her. She arched her back, and uttered a purr of her own. Gently he withdrew his mouth from hers, and fixed his eyes upon her hazel ones. This last motion was a tradition, for they loved to watch each other's reaction as they reached their ultimate pleasure. Silence encased them as he shifted in and out of her, his gaze never leaving hers as they began the journey towards ecstasy.

 


Buffy entered the library the next morning feeling a little better. She still was unhappy with the plan, but that could not be helped. Giles was right. There was too much at stake for them not to try. She just had to get through it. Then she would have time to deal. She sat down at the table, greeting Jenny, Doyle, Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Xander with a small smile. "Where's Giles?"

"A demon came in this morning, and asked to see him," Willow replied. "They've been closeted in his office ever since."

Before Buffy had a chance to ask what the demon looked like, the office door opened, and the demon walked out. Giles followed, watching his exit in silence.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce came in just after the demon exited. "What did that want?" He asked them.

"Plane delayed, Wesley?" Buffy queried dangerously, still not happy with his efforts to 'help' Faith. Even if it had not changed anything after all.

"Er, yes," he replied before turning back to Giles.

"Don't worry Buffy, he's actually useful. In his own way." Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning the lenses. "That demon claimed to have the Books of Ascension."

"Books of the Ascension?" Wesley repeated. "I didn't even know there was a book, let alone books. What was he asking?"

"Five thousand dollars."

"Cash? That's very unusual," Wesley commented, while the rest of the Scooby gang gasped in shock at the amount.

"Demons after money," Giles mused, shaking his head. "Whatever happened to the still beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore."

"Can't the Watchers Council pay for them?" Oz asked.

"The Council doesn't like to lower itself to the demands of the demons who operate barter and trade alliances," Giles replied. "Buffy, meet with him tonight. Maybe you can persuade him to give us them free of charge."

"But what about...." Buffy trailed off, looking at Wesley. "Does everyone know, yet?" She asked instead.

"I was saving it till lunch," Giles replied, while the ignorant exchanged looks of confusion. "And with regards to that, these books could prove useful anyway. And we don't know what the Mayor will do with this information. And until the Mage contacts me, we don't know when its going to take place."

"Okay. Should I take Faith along?"

"No, she has yet to return from last night's patrol."

"Er, Giles?" Xander broke in at this moment. "Needing some background information here."

"Right," Giles sat down and began to explain.

 


"And what exactly did this demon look like?" The Mayor asked.

"Demonic," Faith replied. She had come into the library that morning, but chose to hide under the long desk and had listened against the window of the office while the 'negotiations' for the books on the Ascension had been going on. As soon as she had realised what the meeting was about, she had hightailed it out of there and to City Hall.

"Ah. And you say he has the Books of Ascension, or will soon, and he was, what, willing to sell them?"

"That's what I said."

"Hmm. You know what I wish? I wish you'd pull your hair back. I know, I know, fashion's not exactly my thing, but, gosh darn it, you know, you've got such a nice face. I can't understand why you hide it."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever," Faith hurriedly said, wanting to get back to the subject at hand. "It's just a matter of time before this demon guy is gonna spill. Then Buffy and the superfriends are gonna..."

"You know, you worry too much for a girl for your age. That's unnecessary stress. Luckily, I've got just the thing." The Mayor poured Faith a glass of milk. "There you go. Now, first you load up on calcium. Then find this demon, kill the heck out of him, and bring the books to me."

Faith looked at the milk then set the glass down, untouched. "And if Buffy gets to him first?" She asked.

"Oh, well. Frankly I don't like to think about that. I like good, positive, thoughts. If you fail me in that way...." he tailed off, then chuckled dangerously. "Oh, come on, don't worry. Drink up. There's nothing uncool about healthy teeth and bones."

Faith surrendered, drinking the milk. Mayor Wilkins leaned back in his chair. "And then when you have the books, you might as well arrange that other assignment. My contact will meet you there."

 


Angel heard the door and instantly stood up. He slipped his hand into his pocket and pressed the send button on Buffy's pager. She had leant it to him during the lunch hour, after the Scooby gang had been informed and the timing for their bluff had been arranged. The message had been pre-set as a code to let her and the rest know when the first act was about to begin. "Faith," he greeted, when the intruder came into view.

"Hey. Sorry to bust in uninvited."

"What do you want?"

"Oh nothing much. I'm five by five. Him however," she gestured behind him, "he's more expensive." She stepped forward and splashed a vial of blood on his chest. As planned the Mage stepped out from behind the shadows and began to chant.

Angel stepped into his role. "Faith!"

"I wanted to do this the old-fashioned way, but hey, your loss. Lucky I've got some tricks Buffy don't know yet."

"You don't have to do this."

"I know, but it's fun. Now relax, it'll be over soon."

The Mage continued to chant. Lights emanated from his hand and congealed around Angel's body. Angel waited for a moment, then stopped resisting. This was all part of the magic tricks prearranged from the night before. The lights faded away and the Mage disappeared into the shadows. Angel allowed himself to fall to the floor. When he rose up, his demonic visage was in place. He pulled Faith to him and kissed her.

It did not last long. "Thanks, so much," were his first words as Angelus before slapping Faith away. "It's good to have the taste of a Slayer back in my mouth. It's like cigarettes, you know, just when I thought I'd quit." He kicked her in the side. At least a part of him was enjoying this bit of the bluff. "No, don't get up. It's good to be back in Sunnydale. Nice climate, plenty to eat, no tortured humanity to hold me down. But you know what bothers me?" Angel grabbed her by the neck. "You don't seem to be getting the big picture here, Faith. Now I don't know why you turned me, but I'm just glad you did."

Faith struggled, and he allowed her to break free and kick him away. She pulled out a stake. "I've got my reasons."

"Let me guess. You summoned back the true Angelus because you need a new boy toy. Doesn't work that way." He punched her. Hard. Then grabbed hold of the arm holding the stake.

Faith was unperturbed. "You wanna be smart? You listen to me."

"Funny thing about vampires, Faith. We don't establish meaningful dialogue with Slayers."

"Not how Buffy tells it." Faith kicked him in the knee. Angel allowed the strike to impact, falling to the ground, whereupon she jumped astride him, threatening him with the stake. "I should have known you'd like it on top," he lewdly joked. He had no personal desire to make anything happen between them, but he had to keep up the role. And hope she was not in the mood.

"You want to listen or you want to die?"

"As long as you're there, I mostly want you to wriggle. But I'm listening."

"Last time you got like this, Buffy kicked your ass all the way back to hell. You want to do better this time?"

Angel inwardly smiled, ingesting that information. Only a few knew that it was actually him and not Angelus that went to hell. Another thing they could use to their advantage. His face went human. "Still listening."

"Good boy. Now all you got to do is play nice and call truce and I'll hook you up with the real power in this town. Interested?"

"Very."

"Then get ready to meet the new boss." Faith bent and kissed his lips. Angel laid back and bore it.

 


"So, can I keep him?" Faith asked.

They were in the Mayor's office at City Hall. Angel had changed into Angelus' usual wardrobe of choice; black and blood red, emphasis on the leather. Thankfully, he had manage to persuade Faith to hold off on having sex, citing that he preferred slayers turned before savouring their delights. She had brought it, and walked outside while he changed. He also took the opportunity to replace the bag which carried the books with a fake one they had prepared. Then they had left for Crawford Street for City Hall.

"Let's just take things step by step for the moment," said the Mayor. "Now then, Angelus, may I call you Angel?"

"Well, actually, I'm thinking more along the lines of you calling me Master," Angel replied, letting the cocky side of his alter demon show, testing the Mayor's limits of temper.

Richard Wilkins the third was unfazed. "Ah. You know, Angelus, attitude may get you attention, but courtesy wins respect. I am the one responsible for your new attitude."

Angel glanced at the desk between them, looking for a weapon. Finding a letter knife he picked it up and dragged it across the surface of the desk. Then he started prowling around the office. "That's why I'm here."

"No problems with the transition? No side effects?"

"Had a soul, now I'm free."

"That's terrific! Poetic too. Not that I read much poetry except for those little ones in the Reader's Digest. You know, some of those are quite catchy." He chuckled.

Angel added some impatience. "Hey, I don't mean to rush things here but are you trying to get to some kind of point?"

"Kids today. Rush rush rush. Well the point, Angel, is you're a very powerful young man, good for Faith, and there just may be future for you in Sunnydale." the Mayor paused and changed tack. "I see you're admiring my letter opener."

"Well, actually, I was thinking of stabbing you through the heart with it," Angel said aloud, truthfully, just to see how they would react. Provided they had all brought his show, there should be nothing to worry about.

To his surprise, the Mayor turned his chair to face him, spreading his hands wide. "Please do."

Angel threw the knife in a direct route to the heart. Mayor Wilkins brought his right hand in front of the target and the blade embedded itself though his palm. "Nice shot," he commented, before pulling the blade out. The wound healed itself in seconds. "You see, I'm what you might call impervious. Can't be killed, or harmed in any way. And that's just a cornerstone in my plans for this great town of ours."

That was a new piece of information. Angel stored it away, keeping his outward appearance unfazed by the potentially hazardous implications. "Can't be killed, but you don't like germs?"

"Uck, eew, awful things, unsanitary. But my question is, now that Faith has brought you back, what are your intentions?"

To go back to the gang and find away of killing you. Slowly. Angel ignored the voice inside his head and continued the bluff. "Well, gee, sir, I thought I'd find that Slayer that's given you so much trouble and torture, maim, and kill her."

"Fine! You know it's nice to see you're not one of those slacker types running around town today. Torture Buffy. Killing her's fine, just make it a slow one."

Angel copied his alter demon evil smile. "My favourite kind."

"Wonderful, wonderful. We don't want a replacement Slayer anytime soon. They can't all turn out like my girl Faith. Have fun."

"Let's do it." Faith agreed, leading the way. Angel allowed himself to follow, glad it was all going to plan. Now for the third act.

 


It was almost too easy capturing Buffy. In Faith's opinion. Later she would come to realise why. For the moment however she put it down to the girl's love for the once souled vampire and stood watching events play themselves out.

Angel put the chains around her, one corner of an eye keeping watch on Faith. Discreetly, he smiled reassuringly at Buffy, then went back into his role, letting his vampire visage show. "I haven't felt this good in a long time."

Buffy played along, hands holding the chains behind her back. She pasted a look of confusion on her face. "Angel?"

"You know, I never properly thanked you for sending me to hell."

That was not right, but Buffy knew why. She let comprehension dawn. "No."

"Yeah, and I'm just wondering where do I start? Card? Fruit basket? Evisceration?"

Time to let a little horror into her voice. "No," she repeated.

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Maybe there's still some good deep down inside of me that remembers and loves you. If only you could reach me. Then again, we have reality." He titled his head and leaned forward to kiss her. Normally Buffy would have gladly responded. But they had to play their parts. She spat at him. "I will kill you before I let you touch me." She turned to Faith, and added the next part of her role. "Faith, we need to get out of here, now."

"Speak for yourself, B. Me, I like it here."

Angel growled and Buffy turned to him. "You know what I just can't believe? All of our time together and we never tried chains. Well, can't dwell on the past, especially with the future we have ahead."

"Bondage looks good on you, B. The outfit's all wrong, but, hey!"

Buffy turned her attention to Faith. "You don't know what you're doing." "Really? Weird, because something about all this just feels so right. Maybe it's one of those unhappy childhood things. See, when I was a kid I used to beg my mom for a dog. Didn't matter what kind. I just wanted, you know, something to love." She came up close to Angel and kissed him. Angel let her, while Buffy turned away, waiting. "A dog's all I wanted. Well, that and toys." Faith stepped back and lifted up a blanket which was covering something nearby, revealing torture instruments. "But mom was so busy, you know, enjoying the drinking and passing out parts of life, that I never really got what I wanted, until now."

"Faith, listen to me very closely. Angelus is a killer. When he's done with me, he'll turn on you."

"She's right. I probably will," Angel agreed.

"Yeah? Hunh. Guess we'll just have to keep you around for a while then. Before we get started, I just want you to know, if you're a screamer, feel free."

"Why, Faith? What's in it for you?"

"What isn't? You know, I come to Sunnydale. I'm the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who does everybody thank? Buffy. Everybody always asks, why can't you be more like Buffy? But did anyone ever ask if you could be more like me?"

"I know I didn't," Angel answered, a small smile directed at Buffy. Discreetly she passed him one back.

"You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat. This is supposed to be my town!"

Buffy heard the frustration and turned up the game. "Faith, listen to me!"

"Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you're better than me? Do you? Say it, you think you're better than me?"

Now for the arrogance. "I am. Always have been."

"Um, maybe you didn't notice. Angel's with me."

"And how did you get him, Faith? Magic? Cast some sort of spell? Cause in the real world, Angel would never touch you and we both know it." Faith came up to her and slapped her. Buffy turned her head with the blow, then turned back. "You had to tie me up to beat me. There's a word for people like you, Faith. Loser."

"Uh huh. You're just trying to make me mad so I'll kill you. I'm too smart for that. Stick around."

"For what? Your boss's lame Ascension? Like I couldn't stop it."

"You can't."

"I will."

"Keep dreaming. No one can stop the Ascension. Mayor's got it wired, B. He built this town for demons to feed on and come graduation day, he's getting paid. And I'll be sitting at his right hand. Assuming he has hands after the transformation. I'm not too clear on that part. And all your little lame ass friends are going to be kibbles 'n' bits. Think about that when your boyfriend's cutting into you."

"I never knew you had so much rage in you."

"What can I say? I'm the world's best actor."

There it was. They had the books and now they had the date. It was time to stop this charade. Time to reveal all. Buffy turned to Angel, who obliged. "Third best."

Faith turned to Angel in surprise.

"Graduation day. You think we missed anything?" Buffy wondered aloud.

"I think we know everything she knows," Angel decided.

"May I say something?" Buffy let go of the chains, and Angel stepped back, ready to fight should the need arise. "Psyched!"

"You played me," Faith slowly realised. "You played me!"

Just then, as planned, the Scooby gang burst in. Buffy moved on Faith, taking out the knife she had secreted in the back of her jeans. They ended up in a stand-off, each holding a knife to the other's throat.

"What are you gonna do, B, kill me? You'd become me. You're not ready for that, yet." She grabbed Buffy's neck and kissed her on the forehead, before running away. The Scooby gang let her go. They had more important things to deal with first.

"Are you two okay?" Willow asked.

Buffy looked at Angel, who smiled back at her, letting his love for her show. "We're fine, just fine."

 


"The task is finished."

They were back in the Library. The books on the Ascension were safely stored away, and Angel had changed out of his alter demon clothes. Now Giles was thanking his friend who had begun the whole thing. "Yes. Thank you for coming to me and for that rather effective light show you put on."

"This restores the balance between us, Rupert Giles. My debt to you is now repaid in full. Do not call upon me."

"I shan't. Peace with you."

"And with you."

The Mage walked a pace backwards, the faded into thin air. Giles walked back to the main table, where he sat down next to Jenny.

"His debt to you is repaid?" Willow queried. "What did you do?"

"I introduced him to his wife."

"Well, I for one, protest," said Wesley. "You pitted Slayer against Slayer in a dangerous charade that could've gotten them both killed! I'm telling the Council!"

"I think you should," Giles remarked, much to Wesley's surprise. "We have a rogue Slayer on our hands. I can't think of anything more dangerous."

"But there are some silver linings," Buffy reminded him.

"Yes," Giles agreed, smiling at Jenny. "We know a little bit more about the Ascension."

"Graduation day. There's a big scary un-fun," Xander commented.

"Well, if we get through that, there's a wedding for you all to attend," Giles remarked, taking Jenny into his arms.

The Scooby gang turned to face him, and Buffy spotted the ring resting on the ex-gypsy's third finger, left hand. During the bluff, Giles had managed to find a private moment for them both and finished his proposal.

The slayer grinned happily at the couple. "Congratulations."

The rest of the Scooby gang caught on, and cheers broke out. They swamped the couple with hugs.

Buffy and Angel hung back alittle, the souled vampire moving closer to her. "How are you doing?" He asked her.

She sighed. "So, so. I'll be better when this day's over."

He looked at her nervously. "You still my girl?"

Buffy smiled. She leaned forward and took his left hand in hers. She raised it to her lips and kissed the claddagh, which had remained in the same position all the while, still proving who he really belonged to, no matter what game they played. "Always."

Angel smiled. He rose up and pulled her into his arms. His lips found hers. Silently they reaffirmed their relationship, in the best way they knew.

The End.
To Be Continued In...

Earshot.

Chapter Text

Author's note: Some of the dialogue was taken from the actual episode in Season Three. Very little of the original plot has changed, minus a few details due to the relationship of Buffy and Angel being a lot more secure. Enjoy.

Earshot.

She was running. Something was chasing her. Something bad. She could not get away. Rushing into the deserted children's playground, she turned behind her to check how far away the monster was. But she misplaced her footing, and fell to the floor.

The demon took the bait. He rushed forward.

Buffy turned over with a smile. She leapt up from the ground and kicked out, striking the demon on the upper thigh. As she made her ready stance, a part of her wondered why the demon did not talk. "You demons can't resist a run and stumble, can you?" She taunted. She took out her knife and threw it at the demon.

The demon caught it. Another one grabbed her from behind. The first demon threw the knife. Buffy caught it and kicked out. She pushed it towards the swing set. Another punch and she was in control. She picked it up and threw it over her back on to one of the picnic tables. Leaping up on the wooden table, Buffy pounced on the demon and pushed the knife through his heart.

With one demon dead, Buffy turned round to look for the other one. "One down, one... gone. "
She turned back to the demon, and wiped the blood off her hand. Her skin itched a little, but she thought it was nothing.

 


"So scabby demon got away?" Willow asked her friend the next morning.

"Scabby demon number two got away. Scabby demon number one, big check in the slay column."

"I don't like this whole no mouth thing. Its disquieting."

"Well, no mouth means no teeth. Unless they have them somewhere else. Hey Giles. How are things going?"

"Good morning," her watcher said, as the girls took their places around the large table in the Library. "Well, we've been researching the mayor's forthcoming ascension."

"It's pretty riveting stuff," Oz added.

"So, what do we know?" Buffy asked.

"What don't we know," Xander replied. "Tell her Giles."

"Based upon the supposed date, graduation day, and the mayor being impervious to harm, I've cross referenced..."

"He's a cross-referencing fool," Xander cut in.

"And I've eliminated several possibilities. It's not the ritual flaying of the demon Azarath nor the, uh ..." He trailed off in surrender. "I don't know what's going to happen."

"That was kind of an anticlimax," Oz remarked.

"We don't know anything?" Buffy cried incredulously. "The whole fake Angel thing was for nothing?"

"No, no, no. If nothing else Angel's charade has brought Faith's treachery into the open and this information on the ascension will prove useful eventually, I just need to put it together."

At this moment, the other Watcher entered the library, looking rather pleased with himself. "Terribly sorry, I was detained. Official council business. Mr. Giles, you were speaking?"

"I was just filling Buffy in on my progress regarding the research on the ascension."

"Oh, and what took up the rest of the minute?"

"Touche. Of course, my work has so far, not benefited from the Council's assistance. I'm sure, however, with the resources of the council at your disposal, you will have something to add."

"Well, I am pleased to state, with certainty, that the demon Azarath will not in any way be involved...."

Buffy glanced at her friends. After all exchanging mutual looks, they got up and walked out of the Library to the lockers.

"I'm sure we'll find out more soon," Wesley ended.

"Demon Azarath?" Giles queried mockingly, before disappearing into his office. Wesley followed him. "Look, I could not get anything out of them. They are just as angry with me as they are with you."

"And why would you suppose that to be?" Giles queried.

Wesley sighed and sat down. "All right, I'll admit that I handled Faith wrongly. But I'm a little out of my depth here. Its all very well for you, you've been the guardian of a slayer for nearly three years now..."

"Guide, not guardian," Giles corrected. "At the end of the day, Buffy is just a young woman, much like any other young woman. She has to be able to fight her own way, else she will never be half the slayer she is to become. You have to respect their instincts and their independence. Its what keeps them alive."

"I'll try," Wesley complied. "Anything else?"

"The Council is not made up of visionary geniuses. They can get things wrong."

"I'll remember that."

 


"So," Willow began, while she opened her locker, "how are things with Angel?"

"We're fine," Buffy replied, with a smile. "I can't believe how fine we are." She leaned against the adjoining locker. "Oh, Will, its.... He's just amazing. He understands me so well, and he doesn't get angry about any of my fears. He just wipes them away."

"So he doesn't feel anything for Faith?"

"He never has. And I know he's not just saying that. I can't explain how. I just know. Its like I can read his mind, and he can read mine."

"Wow."

"Hogan!" a voice called nearby. The slayer and her best friend turned round, noticing that the newest god in the eyes of Sunnydale High's populous was walking down the corridor. "Great game, man."

"Hogan Martin thinks he's sooooo hot," Xander mocked as he joined them. "Like we should all be awed by him cuz he can put a ball in the net."

"Hey Xander," Hogan said as he passed them.

Xander turned back to the girls in joy. "He said my name! He knows my name!"

"Hey Will," one of the other guys said.

"Hi, Percy," Willow greeted him. She had been tutoring the guy so he could make the grade and keep in the team.

"Um, look, I can't make the study session after school. Ummmm, can we do it 5th period?" Percy asked.

"Ok. Did you finish the reading?"

"Most of it."

"Percy."

"I'll finish it at lunch."

"That's my little trooper."

"I don't know what you're doing to him," Hogan joked. "I actually heard him complete a sentence. It had a clause and everything."

"You're watching the game, right?" Percy asked her.

"Wouldn't miss it!" Willow assured.

"See ya Hogan," Xander added as the guys left. He smiled at his best friends, then also made his way to class.

"You're going to the game? I didn't know you liked basketball." Buffy remarked to Willow as they made their way to class.

"I didn't either. But I really started getting into it. Especially now that we're in the championship. It's so exciting. Too bad you're patrolling, we're all going. Oz, Xander, Cordy, Ms Calendar. Even Giles and Wesley."

"I wonder if Giles would mind me blowing it off," Buffy mused.

"You could bring Angel," Willow added. "Its been a long time since we all did something normal as a group."

"I'll ask him after school," Buffy promised, scratching her hand. "I'm gonna go see Giles, and get this thing checked out. Its really starting to itch."

 


"You touched one of the demons?" Giles asked her, concerned.

Buffy peered at under a magnifying glass worriedly. "A good touch, not a bad touch. Anyway, it's been itching like crazy."

"Was this the demon in question?" Giles asked, showing her a picture from the ancient volume he had been holding.

"In the disgusting flesh."

"Hmm."

"What?"

"It says they can infect the host."

"Infect? Infect?" She grabbed Giles' shoulders. "Giles! Infect?!"

"Oh um, infect the host with an aspect of the demon. That's all it says."

"An aspect of the demon? You mean like a part of it?"

"There could be any number of explanations for your hand. A new fabric softener can cause irritation. In any case, I would advise not to attempt to track the one that got away. Let's minimise your exposure."

"Part of the demon? I hope it's not the outside part."

"Well, we'll know soon enough. For now, I know its hard, but just try to ignore it."

"I'll try."

 


"H. O. G. A. N. It's Hogan. Goooo, Hogan."

"Is it me or is this really lame?" Buffy asked, pointing at the cheer leading prep rally for the basket ball team.

"I don't know," Oz said. "I usually enjoy lameness, and this is leaving me kinda cold."

"Well, according to Freddy's latest editorial," Willow remarked as she read the Sunnydale High Sentinel, "'the pep rally is a place for psuedo-prostitutes to provoke men into a sexual frenzy which, when thwarted, results in pointless athletic competition.'"

"And the downside being?" Xander asked.

"The school paper is edging on depressing lately," Willow added, folding the thing away. "You guys notice that?"

"I always go straight to the obits," her boyfriend replied.

Willow turned to her best friend. "What are you doing, Buffy?"

"Nothing..." Buffy trailed off, looking innocent. Seeing her friend's look however, she continued. "Checking for horns."

"Ah, you know, Buffy, I don't even think Giles is right about you becoming like a demon. I mean he's totally burnt. You know, dealing with Faith and this ascension thing. Between you and me, he's not doing his best work."

"But what if he is right? I'm suddenly going to grow this demon part and we don't even know what it is. It could be claws or scales..." she trailed off as her friend adopted a worried expression. "What?"

"Was it a boy demon?"

The Cheerleaders spelt out another player. "T. O. M. Its Tom. Goooo Tom."

"They really are very good!" Xander commented.

"Their spelling's improved," was all Oz could say in support.

"Its just I'm scared Will," Buffy continued. "There's this thing in me and I can't find it. I can't stop it. What if it changes me? Not just the way I look. All of a sudden I could be something that's not me anymore."

"7. 8. P. E. R. C. Y. Its Percy. Gooo Percy."

Willow added her hands to the applause and then turned back to Buffy. "I would be frightened too, but I'm sure you're gonna be okay."

 


When Angel dismissed his last class for the day at the university, he saw Buffy waiting form him at the doors of his lecture room. "Hey," he greeted her when he neared her, pulling her into his arms. "You okay?" He asked, noting her concerned expression.

"Not really. Last night's patrol. I killed this demon, and some of its blood got on to my hand. And apparently, its infected me."

"An aspect of the demon," he commented.

"You know the drill," Buffy stated, even more concerned.

"By rumour. That doesn't mean anything. I mean, sometimes demons, they just exaggerate their power," Angel tried to reassure her, putting his arm around her as they walked down the corridors to his car.

"Demon hype," Buffy mused, gripping his waist with her arm. "Or maybe not. "I'm scared Angel."

"Hey," he began comfortingly, pulling her closer against him. "I won't let anything happen to you if I can help it. No matter what, I'll always be with you. I'll love you even if you're covered with slime."

She looked up at him with a smile. "Thanks, I needed that."

"So, patrolling tonight?"

"No, Giles warned me not to go after the second one, just in case of overexposure. There's this basket ball game on at school. The whole gang's going. Wanna come?"

"Sure," Angel smiled at her, and kissed her hair. Buffy smiled back, suddenly feeling a little better.

 


"Could you believe it? Right at the buzzer. Three points for the win," Willow commented the next morning as the entire group, minus those who were teachers, congregated in the student lounge.

"It was intense," Oz agreed.

"Yeah, for a minute there I thought you were gonna make an expression," Xander joked.

"Well, I felt one coming on. I won't lie," Oz said.

"Man, I've never seen anyone jump like Hogan Martin," Willow continued. "They should call him the jumper."

"Or a name that isn't an article of women's clothing."

"What did you and Angel think, Buffy?" Willow asked.

"It was surprisingly captivating," Buffy replied. "I think I even saw Angel cheer once, though he'll deny it if asked."

"That was an incredible game!" Cordelia commented. "I've never cheered so hard in my life. I still have knee marks on my back." They all looked at her. "From the pyramid."

"So, any aspect of the demon yet?" Willow asked her friend.

The slayer shook her head. "Not yet, but I'll keep you posted." She leaned back and let the rest of the them talk, thinking. Suddenly, she heard a voice.

"Students. If we could just get rid of all the students."

Startled, she looked to the gang, but they were still talking, as if nothing had happened. Then she heard another one.

"When I'm a sophomore jillionaire and you're all flipping burgers. Who's the loser then..."

"Maybe I'll take French, I said. How hard can it be, French babies learn it. Idiot," another said.

Suddenly she could hear even more. But no one was speaking to her. Silently, she put down her bag and turned to her friends. "I've gotta ask Giles something. I'll be back in a minute."

 


"Is this the thing? The aspect thing?"

"Buffy, slow down. I'm not even convinced that this is genuine mind reading. You're most likely projecting your...."

"When I walked in a few minutes ago, you thought 'look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she'd wear cats strapped to her feet.'"

"I...um.." Giles began to speak, while his thoughts replied, "Of course, the demons are telepathic. I should have known. That's why they didn't need mouths.." "The demons are telepathic."

"I know, you just told me. That's why they don't need mouths. And you should have known."

"This is astounding," Giles remarked, amazed.

"It was happening out in the hallway. Principal Snyder has 'Walk Like an Egyptian' stuck in his head. And the boys at this school are seriously disturbed. Its weird, but Giles, think about it. Think about what I could do."

"It could be very useful. You could anticipate your opponent's every move. Turn his plans against him."

"Oh, way better than that." Buffy smiled.

 


"Jealousy!" Buffy called out, reading someone's answer and speaking it before they could. Already she liked this gift.

"Buffy. Right. Very good," the teacher said.

"I knew that." One student nearby thought.

"Jealousy clearly is the tool that Iago uses to undo Othello. But what's his motivation? What reason does Iago give for destroying his superior officer?"

"Cassio has my place. Twix my sheets, he's done my office."

"Well, he was passed over for promotion," Buffy began, "Cassio was picked instead and people were saying that Othello slept with his wife."

"I was gonna say Cassio. Uh, I hate her."

"Any other reason?" The teacher asked.

"Race!" the student whom Buffy had been reading the most got out in a rush.

"Uh... good Nancy. Can't overlook that," the teacher replied.

"Look at them, scrambling for the teacher's praise like pigeons for thrown bread crust," another person thought. Buffy turned to locate him. "Will, who's that guy?"

"That's Freddy Iverson. He writes those editorials for the school paper."

"Bread crusts. That's deep. I should write that down."

"There's something else at work here," the teacher continued.

"Well, he, um," Buffy began, trying to read her as she went, "he sort of admits himself that his motive are... spurious! He, um, he does things because he, he enjoys them. It's like he's not, he's not really a person. He's, the dark half of Othello himself."

The class gasped, while the teacher looked impressed. "Buffy. Really. Very astute. I said something quite like that in my dissertation. Yes, and doesn't that also explain Othello's readiness to believe Iago? Within seconds he turns on Desdomona. He believes that she's been unfaithful. And we're all like that. We all have our little internal Iagos, that tell us our husbands or our girlfriends or whatever, don't really love us. But you never really see what's in someone's heart."

Buffy was silent as the teacher continued. For once she ignored the voices of the other students' thoughts and turned to her own, as they suddenly proved to be illuminating.

 


Angel looked up to the doors at the end of his class, and confirmed what his senses had been suspecting, much to his surprise. He walked to the entrance. "Buffy, what's wrong?"

"I wanted to apologise," Buffy began, walking into the lecture room and sitting on his desk. "English class got me thinking, and I realised I was wrong."

"What about?" Angel asked, mystified. He came to stand in front of her.

"Thinking that if Faith offered herself to you, you would jump at it."

"Buffy," Angel joined her on the desk. "You were worried about losing me. You didn't want to lose me. I understood. Its fine. I'm not angry at you."

"I shouldn't have been worried though," Buffy continued. "I should trust you."

"You were worried about losing someone you love," Angel replied. "Trust is sort of ignored when it comes to that."

Buffy turned to him, shaking her head. "How did you get so wise?"

"Years of practice," he smiled at her. "What got you thinking about this?"

"We're reading Othello."

"Ahh," Angel mused in understanding.

"And I got my aspect of the demon."

"What is it?"

"I could show you, but I can't hear yours," Buffy replied cryptically, looking at him in puzzlement.

"Telepathy," Angel guessed. She nodded. "Its like the mirror. My thoughts are there, but they can't create a reflection in you." He paused, looking at her. "Do you mind?"

"No, its fun. Its nice though, not to read yours. Its peaceful."

"Be careful with this gift. A lot of things that seem strong and good and powerful, they can be painful."

"Like say, immortality?"

"Exactly, I'm dying to get rid of that."

"Funny."

"I'm a funny guy." Angel took her hand in his. "Seriously, take care. It could get dangerous pretty quickly."

 


"She can read our minds? Our every impulse and fantasy?" Xander queried.

"Every one," Buffy replied.

"Oh god."

"Well, I think its great," Willow remarked. "Right? I mean, you enjoy your other slayer powers."

"Yeah, and it'll be fun. Did you see Nancy Coyle's face in English Class today?"

"Yeah, she's super competitive, and you really showed her." "She's hardly even human anymore. How can I be her friend now? She doesn't need me."

"No! I do need you," Buffy assured her. "I was talking to Angel, and he warned me that this could get out of control. So I need you guys to find out if this has happened before."

"Of course," Giles replied. "How far has it extended?"

"Not far. I can't hear through walls. Yet."

"What's it like?" Willow asked.

"It's a little weird. But... Look, please, don't for a second think that I don't need you, because I do. I want to share this with you. It's like all these doors are opening to all these little worlds, and I can just walk right inside." She paused. "I am concerned though. Angel pointed out something I hadn't thought of. But until we find out what has happened to others with this, I'm just gonna try and enjoy it."

 


"Here. It's happened before. A man in Ecuador. Quite recently," Giles continued to read the information before him.

"Can we contact him?" Wesley asked.

"I'd say not," Giles replied, his eyes scanning the words on the open pages, suddenly very concerned. "He can't communicate with anyone."

"Dead?" Wesley asked.

"No, he's in complete isolation. The power, he can't shut it off." He started speed reading the page. "We have to find an antidote."

 


Buffy was standing in the cafeteria, trying to carry on as normal. The voices inside her mind however, were getting worse.

"It's gotta get better. Please tell me it gets better. I hate school."

"Am I normal? Look at everybody, none of this matters."

"Come on! Come on! She's a loser. She has the sweetest face I've ever seen. Oh my god, quiet down."

Suddenly the voices rapidly increased until they were all rendered utterly unrecognisable in the din they had created. Buffy came to a stop and tried to turn them off. Suddenly, one came forward to stand out from the rest.

"This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all!"

 


"I think she's waking up now."

"She's ok."

"Oh thank god!"

"Her eyes are opening."

"I'm cold."

"You alright?" Giles asked her as she opened her eyes.

"I'm ok. Listen, there's a killer in the cafeteria."

"See, I've been saying for years that the lunch lady's gonna do us all in with that Mulligan Stew."

"Xander," his girlfriend hit his arm.

"I mean, what the hell's a Mulligan?"

"Someone was thinking about it. They thought 'This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all.' I have to find them."

"Well, did you, uh, recognise the voice?" Giles asked.

"No. I don't know. I mean, it was hardly human. It was full of so much anger and pain. I have to find them."

"But do you really think they meant it?" Xander asked. "I mean, who hasn't just idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semiautomatic?" They all looked at him. "I said idly."

"I know the difference. He... she... whoever, they meant it. They're gonna do it."

"She looks so tired."

"How horrible."

"I'm not getting any warmer."

"I bet it was Hogan."

"Who could it be?"

"Shut up!" Buffy cried, holding her hands to her head. "I'm sorry. Its just, can you guys not think so loud? Or, so much?"

"Buffy, you should go home," Giles said, holding her. "I'll take you home."

His slayer looked at him for a moment, thinking of resisting, but then conceded that she needed to rest. "All right. I need you guys to go back to the cafeteria. Make a list of everyone who's there. We have to find the killer before lunch tomorrow."

"We'll do it Buffy," Willow assured her. "A list of all the students."

"And, uh, oh teachers too. Mr. Beech, he thought something about getting rid of all the students."

"Come on." Giles guided her to car.

"I can't shut it out, Giles. Its like this invasion of my head. Its like there's these strangers are walking around in there."

"Wesley and I are looking for a way to help."

"I'll be okay right? I mean, even if you can't get rid of it?"

"You'll be fine. I promise." "If it doesn't go away she'll go insane."

 


"I think we have everyone that was in the cafeteria. I'll do some computer work. Match it against the FBI mass-murderer profiles. See if maybe we can rule some people out," Willow said.

"I'm still having trouble with the fact that one of us is just gonna gun everybody down for no reason," Xander remarked.

"Yeah, because that never happens in American High Schools," Cordelia remarked.

"It's bordering on trendy at this point." Oz added

"Besides which, Sunnydale High, centre of evil and all that. Let's get to work. We have till lunch time tomorrow. We hope." Willow looked up to see Giles returning, followed by Wesley. "How's Buffy?"

"Resting at home with Joyce. Are you guys set?"

"Yeah, we just have to get a battle plan. What are you doing?"

"Trying to find the antidote."

"What about Angel? Does he know?"

"Yes, I called him. He's finding the other demon, we need its heart for the antidote."

 


"He's the only one we couldn't find?"

It was hours later The scooby gang had all questioned every student that had been in the cafeteria, while Doyle and Jenny had questioned the teachers. So far, there had only been one person that they were unable to find.

"Yeah. Freddy Iverson," Oz replied.

"The newspaper guy? But we can't figure out if it's him without the worksheet, right?" Cordelia queried.

"We do have this people," Xander pointed out, holding the high school newspaper. "Today's editorial titled 'Big Game Draws Mindless Brain Dead Mob.'"

"Let's get him," Willow announced.

 


Some time later, back at Revello Drive, Giles and Joyce were monitoring Buffy's increasingly serious condition, as they stood in the door way of her room, watching her toss and turn in her sleep.

"I can't stand this," Joyce said in a worried whisper. "I keep wondering if I'm hurting her with my thoughts."

"You're not," Giles said sadly, taking off his glasses and resting his hand against his head as he closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Not anymore. She can't pick one thought out of the din."

Just before Joyce could ask her worst fear; of how long her daughter had left, a pounding on the front door suddenly began.

The two ran downstairs. Wesley beat them to the door, opening it. Angel entered, holding a glass vial of blue liquid. "I got it."

Giles and Joyce stood aside, allowing Angel to rush up the stairs. He walked into Buffy's room and sat on the bed, settling down the vial on the table beside it. Gently he gathered his soulmate up into his arms, and then reached for the antidote. Slowly, he tipped the contents into her mouth. Setting the vial back down on the table, Angel laid her head back down on the pillows. Tenderly he kissed her forehead as he watched for her reaction to the antidote.
Suddenly, she began to thrash in the bed, delirious as the potion did its work. Angel restrained her for as long as his vampire strength could hold out against slayer. Then he called down for assistance.

"Giles!"

 


Some time later, and the fit had ended. Angel sat down in a chair beside the bed, his hands clasping one of her own. Tenderly he pressed a kiss to it.

Like sleeping beauty, the slayer felt her true love's touch and awoke. "Angel."

He smiled at her in relief, while her mother and the watchers came closer.

"Thank god!" Joyce uttered. "Are you all right? Do you hear thoughts?"

"No. Did you find the killer?"

 


Miles away, the editor of Sunnydale High Sentinel was sitting at his desk in the newspaper office. Suddenly, the Scooby gang burst through the doors.

"Ok Oz, you got me. What are your friends gonna do? Hold me down?"

"You better believe it buster!" Willow replied. "You can't threaten a big murder without getting us pretty darn ticked!"

"Murder? What murder? You're not here about the review?"

"The review?" Oz queried.

"Yeah. Last Thursday." Freddy handed the article in question to Oz.

"Dingoes Ate My Baby play their instruments as if they have plump polish sausages taped to their fingers," the band member read.

"Sorry man."

Oz shrugged as he put the paper down. "No, it's fair."

"I just get a lot of hate mail and I thought you were gonna come and deliver some personally."

"We have nothing," Cordelia said despaired. "The killer could be anyone. We lose."

"We still have a few minutes," a new voice uttered.

"Buffy!" Willow cried in relief.

"You're okay. Can you hear thoughts?" Xander asked. She shook her head, making him sigh. "Just when I wasn't thinking about sex."

"Okay, here's the new plan," the slayer began. "We're going to get Snyder to evacuate the school. I just hope the killer's not waiting outside."

"By this time tomorrow, you'll all know what I've done," Cordelia read from a paper on the desk. "I'm sure you understand that I had to do it, and that although death is never easy, it's the only way. Jonathan!"

"Split up. Find him," Buffy commanded.

 


While the others checked the school rooms, Buffy walked outside into the quadrangle, scanning the crowd of students for Jonathon. She looked up and suddenly spotted someone in the clock tower holding a rifle. She ran forward, running up the wall stair rail. She leapt up toward the roof, grabbing onto the edge. Swinging herself forward in a ball, she performed a back flip forward to land on her feet on the roof tiles.

Inside, Jonathon prepared the rifle.

Buffy ran across the roof. Smashing through a boarded window, she landed behind him.

"Get away from me!" Jonathon cried, aiming the gun at her.

"Ok Jonathan, you wanna point that somewhere else?"

"Don't you try and stop me!"

"No stopping. Just here for view. Hey, look, City Hall."

"Go away!"

Buffy dropped her normal voice for seriousness. "Never gonna happen."

"You think I won't use this?"

"I don't know, Jonathan. I just...."

"Stop doing that!"

"Doing what?"

"Stop saying my name like we're friends! We're not friends! You all think I'm an idiot! A short idiot!"

"I don't. I don't think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you, doesn't it? You have all this pain, and all these feelings, and nobody's really paying attention."

"You think I just want attention?"

"No. I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain."

"Oh right. Cuz the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler."

"You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own."

Jonathan lowered the rifle. Buffy stepped toward the window. She looked down at the Quad below.
"The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. Its not. Its deafening." She turned to face him. "You know, I could've taken that by now."

"I know," Jonathon uttered sadly.

"I'd rather do it this way," she said, holding out her hands. Jonathon hesitated for a moment, then handed her the rifle. Calmly, she disarmed it.

"I just wanted it to stop."

"Yeah, well, mass-murder, not really what the doctor recommends for that type of pain. Besides, prison, you know, its a lot like high school, only instead of noogies...."

Jonathon looked at her in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"Actions having consequences. You know, stuff like that."

"I, I, I wouldn't ever hurt anybody. I came up here to kill myself."

"Then who?" Buffy trailed off, thinking. Suddenly her pager beeped. She picked it up from her belt and looked at the message. "Oh, god. I gotta get to Xander."

She turned and ran towards the clock tower exit, Jonathon following her. They dashed into the cafeteria, just in time to witness the dinner lady descend on Xander with a meat chopper.

Buffy grabbed her arm, restraining the weapon. "Okay, let's calm down."

"Vermin! You're all vermin. You come in here and you eat, and you eat. Filth!"

"Okay, I don't see this being settled with logic." Buffy opted for punching the dinner lady unconscious instead.

 


"How are you?" Giles asked his slayer the next morning as they walked into the school building.

"Loving the quiet. Nobody in here but me."

"Jonathon? How's he?"

"Pretty crappy. His parents are freaking. He got suspended. And toting a piece to school, not exactly winning him a place with the in-crowd. But, I think he's dealing."

"Well, its good of you to check on him."

"Well, its nice to be able to help someone in a non-slaying capacity. Except, he's starting to get that look, you know, like he's gonna ask me to Prom."

"Well, it would probably be good for his self-esteem, if you..."

"Oh come on! What am I, Saint Buffy? Angel's taking me."

"I'm glad to see you've recovered from your psychic encounter more or less intact. Feel up to some training?"

"Sure," Buffy agreed, glad that life was getting back to normal.

The End.
To Be Continued In...

Through A Glass, Darkly.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Most of the dialogue has been taken from the actual 19th episode of Season Three; Choices. The main plot has not been changed, but the rest of the subplots have. Enjoy.


Through A Glass, Darkly.

"Alright, you can open them up now."

Faith obeyed her master and opened her eyes. She smiled up at him after seeing the bright red wrapped box with a white bow in front of her. "Fab. What's the occasion?"

"Faith! As if I need a reason to show you my affection. Or appreciation for running a small errand at the airport."

"Airport? What's next? Gonna want me to help a buddy of yours move a sofa?"

"This isn't a free ride, young lady. You know, I'm beginning to think that somebody's getting a little spoiled. Maybe I should take this back."

Faith clutched her present, remembering that she could only push him so far now. "Sorry... Sir."

"That's my girl. Another cookie?" He paused to allow her to take one, then continued. "Now. A package is arriving tomorrow night from Central America. Something, and I can't stress this enough, something crucially important to my Ascension. Without it ... Well! What would Toll House cookies be without the chocolate chips? A pretty darn big disappointment, I can tell you. Open your present. There. That look on your face is my reward."

"This is a thing of beauty, boss," Faith replied in an awed tone, as she held up the elaborately stylised, almost Klingon like knife.

"Well, it cost a pretty penny. So, you just take good care of it. And you be careful not to put somebody's eye out with that thing, until I tell you to."

"Any particular eyes in mind?"

 


In a graveyard not too far from City Hall, another slayer was hard at work; fighting a couple of hard-ass vamps with her boyfriend. As usual they were on fire, their movements synchronously tuned to each other.

If only the demons they were fighting were the same. "Sorry, honey!" Buffy said as one of them rolled on to Angel's feet, tripping him up.

"That's okay," Angel replied before returning to the fight.

Soon they gained the upper hand, and managed to finish them off; Angel with a traditional stake through the heart, Buffy sending hers on to an outstretched branch on a nearby tree.

"That was bracing. Want to do another sweep?" Angel asked as they got their breath back.

"Yeah, in a moment." Buffy took a deep breath and looked at him. "I miss this."

"Miss what?"

"This. Us slaying in the night. We've haven't had a lot of it lately, what with you and your job."

"I know what you mean. It feels nice not having to mark any papers."

A growl was suddenly heard, making Buffy turn round to face the other side of the cemetery. "Ready for round two?" She asked her boyfriend.

"Always," Angel replied.

 


"Here you go."

"Thanks."

"Okay, what's in the bag?"

The two students jumped and looked up at their principal in surprise. "My lunch."

"Is that the new drug lingo?" Principal Snyder asked as he took a look in the nondescript brown paper bag.

"No, it's my lunch."

Snyder, seeing that this was one situation where he could not be proved right, turned to the other student to try and keep some control. "Sit up straight."

On another table far away, a couple looked up from their lunches and paper as another two soulmates joined them.

"So, Will, whose begging for you?" Buffy asked.

"Quite a lot," Willow replied with a blush, gesturing at the papers near her friend. Buffy took them up as she sat down, Angel following suit. "Woah, Oxford."

"That's some deep academia there," Oz remarked.

"That's where they make Gileses," Buffy added.

"I know! I could learn and, and have scones. Although I-I don't know how I feel about going to school in a foreign country."

"Everything in life is foreign territory," intoned Xander from his spot against the trunk of a tree. He held up the book he was reading. "Kerouac. He's my teacher. The open road is my school."

"Making the open dumpster your cafeteria?" Buffy asked teasingly.

"Go ahead, mock me."

"I think she just did," Oz pointed out.

"We Bohemian antiestablishment types have always been persecuted," Xander continued.

"Well, sure. You're all so weird," Oz countered.

"I think it's neat," Willow replied, "you doing the backpack, trail mix, happy wanderer thing."

"I'm aware it scores kinda high on the hokey-meter, but I think it will be good for me. You know, help me to find myself."

"So, who got you, Buffy?" Oz asked.

"Apart from UC Sunnydale?" Buffy said, seeking clarification.

"Northwestern," Angel answered with a beaming smile.

"No way!" Willow cried out. "Buffy, that's amazing!"

"Angel persuaded me to try for others anyway, even if I can't actually go to them."

"A self-confidence booster," Angel explained.

"Hey Cor," Xander remarked suddenly. The gang looked up and their expressions all changed on taking in hers. Her boyfriend dropped his book and stood up. "Cordelia, what's wrong?"

The once fashion queen of the school slumped down by the tree he had previously leaning against. "Daddy's got a little money problem. The IRS aren't too happy with him."

"Oh god," Buffy began, all joviality gone. "How are you holding up?"

"Not well. I can't even afford UC Sunnydale."

"Where else did you get?" Xander asked. Cordelia thrust the papers at him as he sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. "Duke, Columbia, Colorado State, and USC. That's fantastic!"

"Yeah, if I could afford them, which I can't," Cordelia replied, leaning into his chest. Xander clasped her close and kissed her hair. "Don't worry, we'll figure something out."

 


"Hello, are you all crazy!?!"

"Relax, Wes," Buffy remarked, "we're only funning you. We know these are purely hypothetical. But they also do other good things."

"What things do good?" Giles asked as he came out of his office.

Buffy turned to him with a smile. "I got into Northwestern."

"That's wonderful news. Good for you," Giles replied.

"Alright, everyone. Monsters, demons, world in peril?"

"I bet you they have all that stuff in Illinois."

"You cannot leave Sunnydale. By the power invested in me by the Council of Watchers, I forbid it."

"Ah yes, that should settle it," Giles mildly commented, knowing full well what Buffy was doing and playing along.

"Faith gone bad, and the Mayor's Ascension coming up, .."

"Wes, relax. For the last time, we are joking. These other choices are confidence boosters, that's all. It shows what we could be capable of, if we weren't spending our whole lives saving the world. Speaking of which, I'm tired of waiting for Mayor McSleaze to make his move while we sit on our hands counting down to Ascension Day. I mean, let's take the fight to him."

Wesley looked like he was about to have another heart attack. "No. No! Much too reckless. We're at a distinct disadvantage. We don't know anything about the Mayor's Ascension..."

"She's right," Giles remarked. "Time's running out. We need to take the offensive. What's your plan?"

"First, we find out what they're up to," Buffy replied, "then we decide on how to turn it to our advantage."

 


At Sunnydale Airport, a private plane landed in the dead of the night. The door opened and the stairs came down. A man carrying a large box made his way to the black limo and vampire driver who were waiting for him.

"Is he in the car?" He asked.

"No, I'll take you to him," the vamp replied.

"The Mayor was supposed to be here in person with the money. Well, the price just went up. I don't like surprises."

A whistling noise sounded around them, before striking a target. The man gasped as he saw an arrow point appear in his chest as if from nowhere.

"Surprise," Faith remarked from above, before making her way down..

"You killed him," the vamp observed.

"What are you, the narrator? Keys to the cuffs?"

The vampire searched through the clothes in vain. "Nothing." Faith pulled out her knife. "That won't cut through steel."

"No, but it will cut through bone."

 


The limo drew up outside City Hall. Buffy crouched lower in the bushes, silently watching Faith as she carried the box inside.

"Hey ho! There it is!" The Mayor said as Faith kicked open the door and placed the box on the desk. "Hahahaha! Ah, what happened to the courier? I was supposed to pay him."

"Hunh. Made him an offer he couldn't survive," Faith replied as she took the fee instead.

The Mayor laughed. "You are one heck of a girl, you know that? I mean geez, the initiative, the - the skill."

"Go on, go on."

"I will. You know, I'll tell you, if Buffy Summers walked in here and said she wanted to switch to our side, I'd say no thanks, sister, I've got all the Slayer one man could ever need." Faith sighed. "What?"

"Nothing."

"Oh, it's cause I used the B-word, huh? Don't tell me you're still sore about that whole Angel-Buffy thing."

"No, I'm over it. She can have him."

"Better believe she can. She deserves that poor excuse for a creature of the night. You, on the other hand, can do better."

Faith nodded absently, too busy fiddling with the catch on the box to listen. The Mayor slammed his hands down on the box, making her jump away. "Don't do that."

Outside meanwhile, the limo drove into the parking lot for City Hall. Buffy calmly punched through the window and pulled out the vamp driver. "So, what's in the box?"

 


"The Box of Gavrock. It houses some great demonic energy or something which His Honour needs to chow down on come A-Day."

Wesley nodded as Giles and Willow came in. "What's that?"

"Maps. And stuff," Giles replied.

"Plans for City Hall. They were in the Water and Power mainframe," Willow revealed.

"The box is being kept under guard in a conference room on the top floor," Buffy continued, pointing to the room location. "There. Unfortunately, that's all I could get out of my informant before his aggressive tendencies forced me to introduce him to Mr. Pointy."

"Well, now, here's what I think we should do..." Wesley began.

"I figure we can enter through the skylight," Buffy interrupted.

"I'll come with you," Angel replied.

"Agreed," Giles uttered, looking at the map.

"And there's a fire ladder on the east side of the building," Xander pointed to the blueprints.

Wesley tried again. "Yes, yes, fine, but we still need to consider whether the Mayor.."

"It won't be enough to simply have possession of the box," Giles observed.

"Right, we have to destroy it. Not just physically - ritually, with some down and dirty black magic," Willow continued.

"Hang on. We don't know what such a ritual would require," Wesley pointed out.

Giles flicked open the book he had been holding. "I think the Breath of the Atropyx is standard for this sort of thing. Fairly simple recipe. Xander?" He handed it to him.

"I know. I'm ingredient getting guy."

"Alright, stop! I demand everyone STOP this instant! We need time to fully analyse the situation and devise a proper and strategic stratagem."

"Wes, hop on the train or get off the tracks," Buffy replied.

"The Mayor will most assuredly have supernatural safeguards protecting the box. Oh, we all forgot about that, did we?"

The slayer looked to her best friend. "Looks like a job for Wiccan girl. What do you say, Will? Big time danger."

"Hey, I eat danger for breakfast."

"But oddly enough, she panics in the face of breakfast foods," Xander joked.

"Let's get to work."

 


On his way to the Magic shop, Xander walked by a clothes shop and saw Cordelia inside, looking at a dress with mournful eyes. He stopped and walked inside.

"Hey, where have you been? There's a situation going down."

"I have more important things to worry about now," Cordelia replied in a defensive voice. "Like how I'm gonna afford the rest of my education."

"Cordy, hey, come here," Xander pulled his crying girlfriend into his arms. "I told you before, we will sort something out. I will sort something out. You'll be able to go to UC Sunnydale, I promise."

"How?" She asked him. He smiled at her as he smoothed the tears away from her face. "I'll show you all later. For now, fellow scoobies need you to help save the world."

 


Night fell on the day for action. A dark van drew up into the parking lot nearby City Hall. Buffy, Angel and Willow got out of the back. The slayer turned to face the driver.

"Now remember, if anything should go awry, Wesley and I will create a diversion."

"Let's synchronise our watches. I have twenty-one..... four." Wesley fell into silence as he saw none of them were wearing watches. "Typical."

"Be careful, all of you," Giles reminded them.

Angel led them to the fire escape and pulled down the ladder. He stepped back, holding it steady as Willow went up first, followed by Buffy.

 


Back in Sunnydale High Library, Oz placed a small ceramic cauldron on a tripod and looked up as Xander and Cordelia came in, hand in hand. "You got the goods?"

"Yep," Xander replied as his girlfriend emptied the bag. "Essence of toad, twice-blessed sage, the works."

"Do we have a destroy plan?" Cordelia asked.

"Willow laid it out for us pretty well."

"Wow! She even drew helpful diagrams. That's the pedestal."

"And the ingredients. And us. See, there's you, there's Cordelia, and there's me."

"Well, how can you tell which is which? I mean, aside from yours Cor, they both look kinda stick-figurey to me."

"Well, this one's me. See the little guitar."

"Oh, gotcha."

"Nobody like my Willow."

"No sir, there is not."

Oz moved to the pot and dropped the first ingredients in. "Okay, toad me."

 


Back on the roof of City Hall, the trio came to a halt before the skylight, and stood patiently as one of them read out the appropriate incantation. Below them, the box lay on the table, became fuzzy to the vision as the spell revealed the magical barrier over it, then cleared once more as it was eliminated.

"Oh yeah, I'm bad."

"Four stars, Will. Now get going."

"I'm gone."

Willow moved to the ladder. Angel turned to his girlfriend and tied the safety gear around her before fixing up the pulley system. Slowly he lowered her down into the room.

"Got it!" Buffy announced a moment later, picking up the box.

And that was when all hell broke loose. A alarm began to ring, vampires burst into the room, and the winch for the rope jammed.

"Don't suppose you want to help me get down?" Buffy asked the vamps. The vampires merely growled in response. "Didn't think so."

Angel gave up trying to shift the rope and jumped down into the room, launching into a fight with the nearest vamp.

Buffy undid the safety harness around her and turned on the second one. Throwing the box back and forth between them, they fought off the guards, trapping them beneath the conference table before exiting the room.

The vampires dashed outside and tried to chase the getaway van. As soon as they were out of sight, Buffy and Angel rose up from their place in the bushes and made their way back to the school.

 


Inside the conference room, the Mayor surveyed the damage. "Well, this is very unfortunate. I just had this conference room redecorated, for Pete's sake. At taxpayers' expense. And, oh yeah they've got my box."

"Yeah they do, but looky what we got," Faith said as she walked into the room.

The Mayor turned round to see Willow trapped at knife point beside his slayer. He smiled.

 


"How did you guys let ... How did this happen?" Buffy asked them.

"We thought she stayed with you," Giles began.

"They must have grabbed her when she hit the ground," Angel realised. "Buffy, I'm sorry."

"Look, it's nobody's fault, okay. We just need to focus and deal. Oz, I swear I won't let them hurt her."

"We go back. Full-on assault," Xander suggested.

"They'll kill her," Giles replied. "Before we even get close."

"We're assuming they haven't already," Wesley pointed out.

"No. No, they know what she means to us. She's too valuable as long as we still have the box." Buffy paused as the solution came to her. "We trade."

"We can't," Wesley instantly argued.

"No, it's the safest plan. It's the only way, right?"

"It might well be," Giles allowed.

"We call the Mayor and arrange a meeting."

"This box must be destroyed," Wesley continued.

"I need a volunteer to hit Wesley," was Xander's response.

"Giles, you know I'm right about this," Wesley persisted.

"Still got that plane ticket, Wes?" Angel asked dangerously. "I suggest you go and use it while you still can."

"Damn it, you listen to me! This box is the key to the Mayor's Ascension. Thousands of lives depend on our getting rid of it. Now I want to help Willow as much as the rest of you, but we will find another way."

"There is no other way," Buffy said sadly.

"You're the one who said take the fight to the Mayor. You were right. This is the town's best hope of survival."

"Are you made of human parts?"

"You'd sacrifice thousands of lives? Your families, your friends? It can all end right here. We have the means to destroy this box."

Abruptly Oz moved his hand, sending the cauldron smashing into the wall, destroying the ingredients.

"Giles, make the phone call," Buffy decided.

 


In a storeroom of City Hall, Willow pulled at the iron bars on the only window in vain. Frustrated, she turned round and pulled a drawer to the floor, making a crash noisy enough to attract the guard.

"What are you doing?"

"Oh, uh, I'm looking for a sucking candy, cause my mouth gets dry when I'm nervous, or held prisoner against my will."
The vampire guard growled in response and advanced towards her.

"And suddenly I'm thinking sucking isn't a good word to use around vampires. Hey! Did you get permission to eat the hostage? I don't think so. You're going to be in some trouble when the Mayor ...Ow!"

"Just a little taste."

The vamp leaned forward, then disintegrated into ash, courtesy of the pencil Willow had floated from behind into his heart. She took a deep breath to recover, then made her way out of the storeroom.

She walked passed the Mayor's office, coming to a sudden halt when she realised it was opened. Silently she stepped inside, and stood before the large cupboard inside. She opened, and looked in. Finding a secret compartment, all thoughts of escape disappeared as she found the books of Ascension.

 


"Check out the bookworm."

Willow jumped and turned round to see Faith at the office door. Inwardly she sighed, but realised that she had got enough for now. "Faith!"

"Anyone with brains, anyone who knew what was going to happen to her, would try to claw her way out of this place. But you, you just can't stop Nancy Drew-ing, can you? Guess now you know too much and that kinda just naturally leads to killing."

"Faith, wait. I want to talk to you."

"Oh yeah? Give me the speech again, please. Faith, we're still your friends. We can help you. It's not too late."

"It's way too late," Willow replied to her captor's surprise. "You know, it didn't have to be this way. But you made your choice. I know you had a tough life. I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well, boo hoo! Poor you. You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean, you had friends in your life like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a Slayer and now you're nothing. You're just a big selfish, worthless waste."

Faith punched her to the floor. "You hurt me, I hurt you. I'm just a little more efficient."

Willow got back up. "Aw, here I just thought you didn't have a come-back."

"You're begging for some deep pain."

"I'm not afraid of you."

Faith pulled out her knife. "Let's see what we can do about that."

"Girls, I hope I don't have to separate you two," the Mayor remarked at that moment as he came into the room. "Faith, you can play with your new toy later. Something's come up." Faith continued to hold the knife threatening at Willow. "Faith! You know I don't like repeating myself."

"I got someone. I got him," Faith pointed out to her as she put her knife away.

"I just received a heck of an interesting phone call," the Mayor informed them.

 


Night. Sunnydale High Cafeteria. The Scooby gang gathered in the centre of the room.

"The whole place is locked down, except for the front," Oz informed them.

"Yeah, it gives me that comforting trapped feeling," Xander remarked.

"One way out means one way in. I want to see them coming."

It was at that moment that the lights went out.

"Guess they're shy," Cordelia remarked.

"I can see alright.," Angel uttered dangerously.

The double door entrance swung open at that moment. Two vampire guards, followed by the Mayor, and Faith holding Willow with her new knife pointed at her neck, entered the room.

Buffy advanced towards them.

"Well, this is exciting, isn't it?" The Mayor remarked with a chuckle. "Clandestine meetings by dark of night. Exchange of prisoners. I just, I, I feel like we should all be wearing trench coats."

"Let her go," Buffy commanded.

"No. Not until the box is in my hands. So you're the little girl that's been causing me all this trouble. She's pretty, Angel. A little skinny. Still don't understand why it couldn't work out with you and my Faith. Guess you kind of just have strange taste in women."

"Well, what can I say? I like them sane," Angel replied dangerously.

Faith tightened her grip on Willow in reply. "Angel," Oz said, in a desperate tone. Angel took in the underlying message and stepped back.

"Well, I wish you kids the best, I really do. But if you don't mind a bit of fatherly advice, I, uh, I-I just don't see much of a future for you two. I don't sense a lasting relationship. And not just because I plan to kill you. You two have a bumpy road ahead."

"I don't think we need to talk about this," Buffy remarked tiredly.

"God, you kids, you know. You don't like to think about the future. You don't like to make plans. Unless you want Faith to gut your friend like a sea bass, show a little respect for your elders."

"You're not my elder. I've got a lotta years on you," Angel pointed out.

"Yeah, and that's just one of the things you're going to have to deal with. You're immortal, she's not. I married my Edna May in 'o three and I was with her right until the end. Not a pretty picture. Wrinkled and senile and cursing me for my youth. Wasn't our happiest time. And let's not forget the fact that any moment of true happiness will turn you evil. I mean, come on. What kind of a life can you offer her? I don't see a lot of Sunday picnics in the offing. I see skulking in the shadows, hiding from the sun. She's a blossoming young girl and you want to keep her from the life she should have until it has passed her by. My God! I think that's a little selfish. Is that what you came back from Hell for? Is that your greater purpose?" He shook his head in disgust. "Make the trade."

Angel moved forward with the Box. Faith let go of Willow who rushed to Oz's arms while the dark haired slayer took the box.

"One thing, Mr Mayor." Buffy began when Angel had returned to her side. "I don't believe you have all the facts about us. For example, you and Angel haven't been properly introduced."

"What?" The Mayor began, surprised.

"Professor Angel O'Connor, meet Mayor Wilkins the third," Buffy continued, a small smile on her face. Angel smirked as he nodded in greeting to the Mayor. "See that charm around his neck? It allows him to come out into the sunshine. And take up his position as lecturer of Art History at UC Sunnydale. And as for that little moment of happiness? Over to you, honey."

"I experience it every night," Angel replied, the smirk still on his face. "My soul has been permanent ever since I came back from hell."

"So, to sum up, you've got nothing that will split us. Not even immortality, because his redemption is in the works."

"Well, that went smooth," the Mayor muttered sarcastically.

"Nobody moves!" Someone suddenly cried out. The Scooby gang turned to see Snyder and two policemen enter the room. "I knew you kids were up to something."

"Snyder, get out of here," Buffy commanded rapidly.

"You're not giving orders, young lady. I suppose you're going to tell me I won't find drugs in this box."

Faith pulled out her knife as Snyder took the box. "Wait!" Buffy cried out.

"Principal Snyder," the Mayor began, coming out of the shadows. "I think we have a problem."

"Mr. Mayor, I had no idea you ... I'm terribly sorry."

"No, it's I who should apologise. Coming down here at night. What must you be thinking? But you see, I just needed to ..." he trailed off as his eyes caught the policeman behind opening the box. "No! Don't do that!"

A large spider of sorts leapt out and fastened itself on the face of the police. The rest of the cafeteria's occupants stood speechless and stunned as the spider digest the man's face before scuttling away.

"Oh god," Wesley gasped.

"Where did it go?" Xander asked.

Snyder turned to the other policeman. "Get that door open!" He yelled.

"No! You can't let that thing out of here!" Giles shouted back.

"I still want to know where it went," Xander remarked, looking around nervously.

"Listen." Buffy commanded. They obeyed to hear a high pitched whine. The spider jumped down on the Mayor.

"Boss!" Faith cried as she rushed to his aid, grabbing hold of the spider and flinging it against the wall. It scuttled off again as the Mayor's face healed. He gestured with a nod to the still opened box. "Wouldn't leave that open."

Buffy slammed down the lid, just as the spider jumped on her. Angel rushed to her and pulled it off, throwing it away.

Faith turned to the wall where Wesley was crouched. Silently she held up her knife and threw it at the wall, stabbing the spider which had just crawled up behind him.

"Is that all of them?" Cordelia asked.

"Ah, not really," the Mayor replied, holding the box. "You see, there's about fifty... billion of these happy little critters in here. Would you like to see? Raise your hand if you're invulnerable. Faith, let's go."

Faith stared at her knife, until the Mayor prompted her again. Then she reluctantly followed him.

"Snyder, you alive in there?" Buffy asked her principal when they had gone.

"You. All of you. Why couldn't you be dealing drugs like normal people?" He shook his head and walked out.

"Well, that went swimmingly," Wesley observed sarcastically.

 


"All right, you can open your eyes."

Cordelia obeyed her boyfriend's request and opened her eyes. A confused expression crossed her face. "The Bronze?" She queried.

"Yeah. Not a lot of people know, but its been up for sale recently." Xander smiled at her. "I put down a deposit this morning."

Cordelia gasped. "You didn't? Xander, how can you afford this?"

He shrugged in reply. "It wasn't too much."

"But what about your road trip?"

"Cancelled. I don't want to go without you. and this; giving you a chance of a university education, is far more important." He stepped closer to her. "I've started taking classes in Nightclub management. Now I don't want you to feel beholden to me or anything like that. I'm not expecting anything in return. I wanted to do this for you, no one else."

Cordelia smiled at him wondrously. "I don't know what to say. No one has ever done anything like this for me before."

"You don't have to say anything. Just attend University of wherever you want in September."

She chuckled as he took her into his arms. "Sunnydale. University of Sunnydale. I'm staying with all of you."

Xander smiled back at hearing that, then kissed her.

 


"We did alright," Buffy mused.

"We did more than alright," Willow replied, smiling. She reached into her pocket and drew out some papers, handing them to Giles. "Some interesting pages from the Books of Ascension, volumes one through five, I thought you might want to see."

"This is your night for suave, Will. You should get captured more often," Buffy commented as the watched Giles rushing off to his office, clutching the pagers excitedly.

"No, thank you."

"Well, let's hope there is something useful in those pages," Wesley commented. "The Mayor has the Box of Gavrock. As of now, we are right back where we started. Wouldn't you say?"

"No," Angel replied, laying his hands on the shoulders of his girlfriend. "We have those pages, and we got the Mayor rattled concerning his sources of information. I'd said we're doing slightly better than we were before."

"'When I was a child,'" Giles softly began to intone, as he emerged from his office, "'I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I now even as also I am known.'"

The gang looked at him blankly. He sighed at their lack of learning, took off his glasses for a moment, then continued. "Its from the Bible; Corinthians; Chapter 13, Verse 12. Basically, we're staring into the dark glass of the future, from which sometimes we see no way out of. But, what we must realise, is that, no matter what, there is always another way. A light at the end of the tunnel." He paused and put his glasses back on. "We're not defeated yet."

The End.
To Be Continued In...

The Prom.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Some of the dialogue has been taken from the actual 20th episode of Season Three. While some of the plot stays the same, this does not feature the hell beasts,- which have been moved to another season -as I wanted this episode to be happy for all concerned. Enjoy.

The Prom.

Night faded away, and the pale light of the dawn began to clothe Sunnydale in its ethereal brilliancy. Pushing the shadows away and blowing apart the last cobwebs of sleep in the mind of the guardian of the hellmouth. Buffy opened her eyes, to find that she was not in her bedroom at Revello Drive; a place which had become a common nightly sanctuary recently; but in Angel's at Crawford Street.

Not only that, but she had also been under the owner's close scrutiny for sometime now. He was looking at her with the familiar small smile of contentment, his usually dark brooding eyes brightened by the happiness within, which, to her constant astonishment, he always found in her presence. Buffy was not used to this sort of by product of her existence, afterall, she was the vampire slayer, the beasts were rarely happy when she showed herself.

But with Angel, everything was different. She could sleep in his arms without the fear of not waking the next morning. Trust him to help her fight the demons she needed help with. Certain in the knowledge that he would never betray her, nor anyone else she entrusted into his care, that he would die for her, just as she would for him, no matter what the cause.

He smiled as she opened her eyes to see him; or rather his existent smile grew wider. "Good morning."

"Definitely good," she replied, smiling back at him; or to put it more accurately, grinning inanely. She had been doing a lot of that lately around him. Not that she minded, it was just the most used way to show how happy she was. Well that and, this; she kissed him.

Regrettably- to both parties -it was short, but then the morning was well advanced already, and if neither of them were careful, they would miss college and school first classes of the day. Angel pulled back to his original position with a contemplative look upon his face. "I was wondering if you would like a drawer."

"A drawer?" She questioned instantly, surprised by the inquiry.

His features turned to confusion. "That is the expression, isn't it?" He queried, still unsure of many of the idioms when it came to relationship protocol.

"It is," she quickly assured him, touched once again by the romance of her creature of the night- although he was fast becoming one of the day as well -boyfriend. "I just never thought you'd ask. Of course, I'd love one. Thank you," she kissed him again.

He seemed even more pleased that she had said yes; obviously he had put a great deal of thought into it. Then he rolled her underneath him, and the world faded away as she gave herself up to the wonder that was Angel's kissing. Buffy arched her back, letting his hands slip in-between the sheet which covered the mattress and her, so he could touch her skin. His tongue begged and received permission to slip into her mouth, where it duelled playfully with hers. Buffy parted her legs to rest either side of his, rubbing her hips against his, and her hands went to rest upon his back, tracing his tattoo.

Angel withdrew his tongue and moved his lips down to her neck. Worshipping her skin with his mouth, he wove a leisurely path of kisses down the valley between her breasts. Then he tilted his head and peppered kisses across the left until he reached her hardened nipple. Tenderly he twirled his tongue around it, then closed his mouth and suckled. He dealt the same to her right, then moved to her honed stomach and beyond. He adored these mornings; those spent waking up beside her. The ones without her had become so rare that their effects were torturous when they occurred. Angel rose back up to her lips, kissing as he entered her. Inside her he found happiness and acceptance of all that he was. And he reciprocated in kind; loving the slayer, and the young woman who had to carry the mantel of a chosen warrior.

They both reached ecstasy at the same moment, their eyes giving and receiving eternal gratitude. Content to remain inside her forever, Angel continued to kiss her as they worked themselves down from their emotional highs. Silently they exchanged smiles, before kissing again. Both would be content to spend the rest of the day like this, and let the world and its troubles rumble along without them.

But the world could not do the same for them. The alarm rang, bringing their sated bodies and minds back into the present. Buffy reached out with one hand to turn it off, while Angel made move to withdraw from her. He was halted however, by her hands closing around his manhood, making him look up at her.

"Don't," she commanded softly.

"I have to," he replied, but with obvious reluctance. "We both have early classes, remember?"

"I know, but we won't see each other until this evening when you have to pick me up for the Prom."

"Why won't I see you until the Prom?" Angel asked as he withdrew from her completely, hands and all.

"Because my dress isn't at home, its at Mom's," Buffy replied as she got up from the bed as well.

Angel stilled, watching her as she grabbed one of his shirts and proceeded to hide her nakedness. "What did you say?" He asked softly.

Buffy recalled what she had said and slowed down the speed of which she was doing the buttons as nerves overtook her. And she thought he was the only one unsure of the relationship protocol. "I said my dress was at Revello Drive," she eventually replied, reluctant to say the word again; even if it was in a different context.

Angel smiled, a small, secretive smile and disappeared for a moment. When he returned, he was carrying a small cubed box. He handed it to her with a hopeful expression, silently waiting for her to open it and become reassured.

Buffy lifted the top off and looked inside. Its content puzzled her. The object was an old-fashioned key. Silently Buffy picked it up, her eyes moving from the item to him curiously.

"Read the note," Angel commanded nervously.

She obeyed, turning to it. "If found, please return to Buffy Anne Summers, 1902 Crawford Street," she got no further. Delighted beyond words, she stared at Angel.

"Buffy, will you move in with me?" He asked her.

"Yes!!" She cried immediately, jumping into his arms, wrapping herself around his body and grabbing his lips for a kiss. Only thanks to his vampire reflexes, did Angel manage to stay standing. The kiss almost had the same effect too.

"Are you sure its okay?" She asked when she had returned to ground. "With UC Sunnydale, I mean."

"I checked that. As long as you don't take my classes its fine."

"What made you ask?"

"When I open my eyes in the morning, and all I see are empty pillows, an ache grows in my heart. Although I don't remember the last time that happened."

Buffy felt herself nearly grinning again. "That's beautiful."

"And I figured it was too soon to ask the question which requires a ring."

Buffy chuckled as he intended. She had told him some time ago that she did not want marriage before college. Still smiling she pulled herself close to him again. "You know, for an 18th century Irish Catholic, you're not adverse to 20th century values."

"Its why I've managed to exist for so long," he replied wryly, kissing her hair. "And now we really ought to get dressed."

 


" 'When I open my eyes in the morning and all I see are empty pillows, an ache grows in my heart.'" Willow mined a swoon and fanned herself for a second. "Wow."

"I second that wow," Cordelia said. "Why can't we bottle it?"

"Because the universe would be more screwed than it already is," Buffy said. "Besides Xander can be romantic, can't he? Look at his sacrifice of a road trip to buy the Bronze so you can go to college."

"True," Cordelia mused, recalling the time he had told her about it.

"Speak of him and he shall appear," Buffy said, looking up.

"Hi girls," Xander greeted as he and Oz joined them in the monastic style walkways of Sunnydale High's inner courtyard. "All set for the Prom? Partners invited?"

"Check," the slayer replied. "Some of us are going with demons- all right, just me -but I think that's a valid lifestyle choice."

"Actually, I think you can count werewolves in the demon category," Oz offered in friendly support.

"More importantly," Buffy continued, "I have the kick-ass dress."

Willow's eyes lit up. "Ooh, the pink one?"

Buffy nodded. "Angel's gonna lose the ability;- to speak or stand, that is."

They walked into the corridors within the building of the high school.

"What about yours, Will?" The slayer asked her best friend.

"I haven't got mine yet," Willow explained as they neared the library. She went on to describe one of the possibilities.

"So it was blue and sorta short," Buffy was heard to recap as they entered the headquarters of Scooby gang.

"Not short, medium," Willow clarified. "And it had this weird, sorta fringy stuff on its arms."

"What's that?" Giles asked as he walked in from his office. "A demon?"

"A Prom dress that Will was thinking of getting," his slayer explained. "Can't you ever get your mind out of the hellmouth?"

"I'd be delighted to," Giles answered. "However, the day of the Mayor's Ascension is fast approaching, and we don't know what to expect."

"Well, what about the pages that Will stole from the Mayor's books? Look, she put her life on the line there, pal. Don't tell me they're useless." Xander was incredulous.

"On the contrary, no," Giles assured. "We know the Ascension refers to a human transforming into a demon, the living embodiment of an immortal. And on Graduation day, our Mayor Wilkins is scheduled to do just that."

"Trouble is," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce began as he entered, "we don't know which demon he is going to become."

"Haven't you left yet?" Xander asked him.

Wesley frowned at him. "My flight doesn't leave until after the Mayor's Ascension. Providing anything survives, that is."

"Nice to know your level of faith in us," Giles remarked dryly. "As I was saying, there are thousands of demonic species."

"So, its safe to say we shouldn't waste any time on such trifling matters as a school dance," Wesley finished.

"Well, that's too bad, because I bet you would look way 007 in a tux," Cordelia mused in a slight mocking tone.

Which Wesley failed to pick up. "Except of course, on the actual night, when I shall be aiding Mr Giles in his chaperoning duties."

"What?" Giles queried, looking at him. "Excuse me?" Wesley stared back at him pleadingly, until he tired of the expression. "Fine, fine, fine."

Buffy turned to Willow. "We'll get you a dress," she proposed. "Why don't we check out April Fools?"

"If you do, don't let anyone else know," Cordelia asked. "I'm working there to pay for mine."

"I am dipping into my nightclub manager fund to procure a shiny new tux, so look for me to dazzle," Xander said.

"And I myself will be wearing pink taffeta, as chenille would not go with my complexion," Giles commented with heavy sarcasm. "Can we please talk about the mayor's Ascension?"

"Giles," Buffy began, "we get it. Miles to go before we sleep. But especially if we're all gonna vaporise or something on Graduation day, we deserve a little prommy fun. One night of glory, not too much to ask."

"It reminds us what we're fighting for," Jenny agreed.

Giles sighed, staring at the engagement ring on her finger and conceded that they were right. They had things to be fighting for, himself included, and he and Jenny had yet to properly celebrate their engagement, the question being asked during the middle of a demon crisis which forced Angel to pretend to be his demon in order to trick the Mayor and Faith into revealing all they could about the Ascension.

A bell rang, causing all to make their way to class, save Buffy, who hung back from the rest, looking at her Watcher with a sudden nervousness, as though she had done something he might not be pleased about.

"What's wrong?" He asked her.

She eyed Wesley, who was looking at the two of them curiously. "Could you give us a minute, Wes?" She asked.

"Sure," he replied, disappearing into Giles' office and closing the door.

"Buffy, what is it?" Giles asked her as she drew him away to an area near the door.

"Angel asked me to move in with him," Buffy revealed. "And I said yes."

"He did?" Giles queried. "That's wonderful news. I'm pleased for you."

"You are?" Buffy sought to confirm. "You're not worried about me moving in with a vampire, albeit a souled one, or me being too young?"

"Not at all," he assured her, surprising her by pulling her into his arms for a brief hug. "I'm glad he found the courage to ask you. You've done wonders for each other, Buffy," he added, withdrawing from the embrace. "He's returned to the world because of you, and in a way, you have too. You've learned to balance your home life and the slaying, a feat which few slayers before you managed to accomplish. I'm really pleased for you."

"Thank you," Buffy replied.


"All right, chapters thirteen and fourteen to be read in time for next class. Dismissed."

Angel stood behind his desk in his role as Professor O'Connor of Art History, collecting returned assignments as the pupils of his first class after lunch left his lecture hall.

"Angel," a voice called out, causing him to look up and meet the gaze of Mrs Summers, who was standing by the double entrance doors.

"Joyce," he greeted her, "come in."

The students parted, heading out the other door, and she made her way to the desk. Angel came round and leant on the outside edge.

"Buffy told me that she's moving in with you," Joyce remarked when the hall was devoid of students.

"Yes, I asked her this morning," Angel replied. "I hope you don't mind?"

"No. In fact I wondered how long it would take for you to screw up the courage and ask." Joyce smiled. "You two are spending a lot of time together lately."

"She's the love of my life," Angel readily replied, letting all of the love for her shine through his voice and face. Joyce had difficulty restraining a gasp. Over the past year she had begun to see why her daughter had fallen for Angel. First it had been his manner; the way he would look at Buffy, how he would hold her or speak to her, like she was the centre of his universe. Second was how well he knew her daughter, every facet of her manner and face. He was able to tell when she was well and able to comfort her when she was not. The third thing was what she had learned just now. When Angel smiled and thought of Buffy, his whole face lit up. His tone became lighter, the brooding look disappeared, revealing him to be even more attractive than he already was. Not that she was remotely attracted to her daughter's boyfriend, but she could see now what had drawn her daughter towards him, and how much Buffy had improved him because of her courage to love him as a human being, rather than fearing him as a vampire.

"And I'm lucky enough to be hers, as she tells me," Angel added.

"You are," Joyce agreed. "You make her happy. Before you, even before she was called, I'd rarely seen her happy. We- her father and me -did not help matters, we went through a messy divorce, aggravated by her troubles at school, as much as we tried to not let it affect the way we loved her and cared for her. But when she met you, I saw the difference between before you and after you. You make her happy, Angel. That's why you not only have no objection from me, you also have my blessing."

"Thank you," Angel replied to that, his voice laid with emotion.

Joyce smiled. "I'll see you this evening."

Angel smiled. "I can't wait." He closed his eyes and pictured them dancing, wondering what her prom dress would be like, other than possessing the ability to enhance her beauty even more. The image was satisfying enough to keep him focused for the rest of the day.


"Are you sure?"

"Willow, you look gorgeous!"

"Yeah, Oz will be speechless! Well, even more than he usually is," Cordelia amended.

The three girls had assembled at Revello Drive to dress for the Prom and were now waiting for the boys to pick them up.

"Xander is here," Joyce called up. Cordelia took one final look at the mirror, then went downstairs.

The boy was the first reduced to what the slayer had once termed as salivating boy talk. Xander beheld the vision that was his girlfriend, wondering once more how lucky he was to be her choice over popularity at High school, to be her love, rather than any others whom she could have the pick of.

Oz arrived a few minutes after they left, his silence a testimony to how beautiful Willow looked. They exchanged a brief kiss full of sweetness in the hall which Joyce had to capture on film as the moment was too sweet to be left behind in the past without any evidence of it's once existence.

Then it was Angel's turn.

Joyce answered the door, and held back a gasp at the sight of Angel in a tux. He was wearing a long styled jacket and a white cravat, which made him look more sophisticated than the usual black tie, while also not conveying the look of a time traveller. "Angel, Buffy will be down in a minute." She gestured him inside.

Buffy appeared at the top of the stairs. Angel looked up and gasped. She was a vision in pink silk, which seemed to have wrapped around her body, save for two thin straps of material caressing her shoulders, with deliberate creases around the bust and waist line, highlighting every inch of her curves before reaching down to the floor. The pale yet dusky shade was perfect for her skin colour, bringing out her beautiful brown eyes, which glowed brightly as she smiled at him. Her just past shoulder length blond hair was pulled into a half pony tail, fastened gently half way down her tresses.

Angel's mouth was still open in awe when Buffy descended the stairs. She herself had difficulty trying to act nonchalant at his appearance, knowing the magnificent body which the clothes hung to ever so well was concealed beneath them. She came to a halt before him, and wrapped her bare arms around his neck to give him a brief kiss. "Hi," she said. "Nice threads."

Angel gazed at her in awe for another moment. Then he clasped her hand, raised it to his lips and bowed, his ancient manners in full force.

The flash of a camera a few minutes later, ended the Kodak moment. Buffy blushed, while Angel merely straightened up and, with a deft flick of his wrist, pulled her closer to him. Then he pressed his lips to hers, kissing her as if she were a marble model of a saint he had just undertaken a pilgrimage to, but at the same time, making sure that saint knew her pilgrim loved her well. Joyce continued to take pictures of the occasion, during the kiss and when Angel backed away a little to talk.

"You look beautiful," he said to Buffy, his eyes, his eyes still running over her fine figure. "A goddess," he added, his tone still containing flecks of awe.
Joyce had almost used a complete roll of film by the time Angel had led Buffy out to the black limo which he had rented for the night. The driver held the door open for them as they climbed in.

"Sit next to me," Buffy softly requested as Angel went to the seat opposite her.

He smiled in reply. "If I did I wouldn't be able to stop myself from ravishing you."

"What's stopping you opposite me?" She queried flirtatiously.

"Good point," Angel replied, as he made to move from his seat for a second, then sat back. "Don't want to wreck your dress," he confessed.

Buffy checked to see that the opaque window was up between them and the driver. Then she stood up, and lifted up her dress. Moving to sit on him, she smiled. "We can work around that."

Angel hands wandered up her thighs. "So we can." He caught her lips in a kiss. His hands deftly examined the pants beneath her dress, silently noting in surprise that they were from a bikini, being held upon her body by two bows either side.

Buffy grinned as she broke from him. "I chose them precisely for this situation," she confessed, before unbuttoning his shirt, running her hands leisurely down his chest, until she reached his trousers, whereupon she slid down the zip to let her fingers delve inside.

Angel groaned as they closed around his manhood, already stiff from seeing her, even more so now she sat on his thighs, looking at him with a small wicked smile, the kind he rarely saw any place but their bedroom or the mansion when they were alone. He growled as she drew him out from his dark confinement, stroking him almost to the point of no return. In revenge and wish for to please her, he loosed free the bows before slipping his hands into her own sex, pinching and caressing until she bucked towards him, her breathing fast as her pulse throbbed with passion.

She let him lift her so he could enter her, looking in his eyes as he thrust in and out, letting him see the joy their union caused her, the happiness she felt every time they made love. He smiled too as his hands clasped her butt, holding her steady until they both reached the height of their passion and beyond, letting her wind down upon him in the heady after glow.

They remained joined to each other for as long as they could, until the slow speed of the vehicle indicated they were nearing the high school, whereupon Angel retied the bows, and Buffy confined him once more, making themselves look decent by the time the limo drew to a halt.


"Well," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce began, munching some hors-d'oeuvres fresh from the buffet table, "I must say this is all rather odd to me."

"Oh yes," Giles commented remembering the watcher's background. "At an all male preparatory they didn't go in for this sort of thing."

"No of course not," Wesley agreed. "Unless you count the nights you made the lower class men get up as girls and watched them..." he trailed off as Giles looked at him. "Dip is tasty isn't it?" He asked, rapidly changing the subject.

Cordelia and Xander entered, her dress cut causing Wes to splutter. "Sauce is hot. Very hot," he lied, meaning sauce as code for female student.

Willow and Oz followed their friends in. The former smoothed her dress down and breathed a small sigh of relief. "We got in. Maybe we should dance before we get bedevilled, or beheaded or something."

"Yeah it's strange," Cordelia agreed. "This is the first time the hellmouth has not stepped in and messed up a grand occasion."

"Lets dance before we jinx it," Oz decided.

After a couple of dances Buffy and Angel arrived, smoothing out their clothes and trying for all the world not to look like they had just had sex in the limo.

"Hey you two," Willow called out.

"How's the prom?" Buffy asked.

"Strangely affecting," Oz replied. "I got all teared up when they played 'We Are Family.'"

"What kept you guys?" Will asked.

Buffy blushed and looked around for a distraction.

Angel provided one. "May I have this dance?" Buffy smiled and gratefully led him out on to the floor.

The music was slow, allowing for Buffy and Angel to indulge in more closeness. Buffy closed her eyes and rested her head against him, content to let the world fade away while she resided in his arms.


"And the award for Sunnydale High's class clown for 1999 goes to Xander Harris."

Surprised, Xander swung Cordelia around in his arms, then leapt up to the stage and took place before the microphone.

"This was so unexpected," he began before taking out a piece of paper he had prepared just in case. "In fact I'm," he held up the card. SPEECHLESS, it read.

The watching classmates groaned as he jumped back down to Cordelia, Willow and Oz, clutching his award.

"We have one more award to give out," Jonathon continued. "Is Buffy Summers here tonight?"

The crowd clustered around the stage turned round to locate her. Soon they found the reason for her failure to answer to the call. Music may have ended awhile ago, but there was still one couple out on the dance floor. Until now, they had remained unnoticed by the rest of prom attendants. Now though, with everyone's eyes upon them, and slayer/vampires senses alive, they parted and looked around them embarrassedly.

"This is actually a new category," Jonathon now continued. "First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write in ballots and um, the prom committee asked me to read this;" he opened a piece of paper and began to read. "'We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but its no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.'"

"Zombies," someone shouted.

"Hyena people," shouted another.

"Snyder!" Shouted someone else, causing everyone to laugh.

"'But,'" Jonathon continued, "'whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of these people here have been saved by you, or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history.'"

The crowd broke into applause.

"'And we know at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class, offers its thanks, and gives you, this.'"

Jonathon produced a multicoloured glittery miniature umbrella with a small plaque attached. "Its from all of us, and it has written here, 'Buffy Summers, Class Protector.'"

The entire crowd broke into applause. Buffy turned to Angel, to see a smile on his face. He leant forward and kissed her in congratulations. Reality set in, and she walked up to the stage to collect her award.

Jonathon smiled at her as he shyly handed her the trophy, the golden glitter sparkling from the lights above. He leaned in to kiss her cheek, and uttered his own thanks for her saving him from himself when he was ready to take his own life in the bell tower.

"I'm not only grateful for myself," he whispered, "but for the opportunity of giving this to you. Until afterwards, I had no idea how many students felt the same way."

"Neither did I, until tonight," Buffy replied. "Thank them for me, Jonathon, and yourself. Tell them that they have made everything worthwhile."

"I will," he replied, before stepping back to let her take centre stage and show her appreciation to all who were gathered.

Giles was there to greet her when she returned to the floor. "A perfect prom. Loads of slow numbers with my boyfriend, soon to be live in partner, and I got a little toy surprise."

"I had no idea that children en masse could be so gracious," the librarian murmured.

"Every now and then people surprise you," Buffy replied.

"Perfect night?" Angel asked her as he came up behind her with Jenny, who went over to her fiancee. The music had started up again.

"It couldn't be more perfect," Buffy replied, turning to him, while Giles was led off for a dance.

"Dance with me?" Angel asked.

Buffy put her award down somewhere safe, then wrapped her arms around his neck. "I was wrong," she remarked softly, "it just got even better."

The End.
To Be Continued In

Graduation Day; Part I.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: I swapped continuity around for some of this episode, cut some scenes, and changed conversation between Buffy and Angel, and Buffy and Joyce where necessary, due to my alterations through the season. Other than that, nothing much has changed. Most of the dialogue has been taken from the actual episode. And if anyone is wondering where I got addresses from; Willow's, along with all the others are in The Watcher's Guide, Volume 2, and Angel's is my own creation, which is a reference to the year Arthur Conan Doyle published Sherlock Holmes Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. Enjoy.


Graduation Day: Part I.

It was said that after the first time, it was easy. That the second time was better than the first.

Trouble was, Faith could barely remember the first time. She could remember the force of her thrust, the blood on her hands. She could recall the look of surprise upon his face. The rest of that moment however was clouded by what happened when Buffy and her friends decided to teach her what was right and wrong about what she had just done. She had no time to savour the moment, to look at the corpse before her and let the revelation run through her mind.

She could remember the first time she had staked a vampire. Boston, a week after she had been called. There was no hellmouth there, vampires and demons were few and far between. Still, that first stake was imprinted upon her memory. She could remember being fascinated by the dust it had left behind; how quickly the body transformed into ashes, as though it had self-combusted right before her eyes, which, in a sense, it had. How quickly that dust fell upon the ground and disappeared. Leaving no trace.

Perhaps that had been the first sign. Her fascination back then had been a key to how her future would turn out. This hindsighted view would have been useful back then, but it was not useful now. For she had already moved on to the next stage. And nothing, not even hindsight, could have prepared her for the difference.

Humans left a trace. They did not turn into ash. Humans bled. Humans looked up at you with a mixture of surprise, grief, shock and betrayal.

"Just a moment!"

Faith blinked at the sudden sound, and came out of her introspection. This was no time for deep thoughts, she remembered.

She had a job to do.

The door opened and she put on her best acting face, trying not to laugh at the man who stood before her, balding, tweed suit, glasses and a bow tie. "Hi, I'm looking for Professor Worth."

"Oh, well, that's me, but I should ask you to come back during office hours. Students generally make an appointment."

"Uh, I'm not from the college. I work for Mayor Wilkins. I'm Faith."

"Oh, well, come in, please. I was so surprised when he called. Didn't expect a politician to be interested in my research."

Faith stepped inside the apartment. "He's a big fan, professor."

"Oh, Lester's fine."

Faith looked about the front room. "We alone here, Lester?"

"Well, yes. Lifelong bachelor. I like my space."

"I hear that." All deep thoughts were behind a locked door in her mind now. She was following orders. Slowly she produced a knife from her jacket. "You want to turn and face the wall, Lester."

"What are you doing?"

There was the surprise. "I'll make it quick."

"Put that away. I'll scream."

Next, disbelief, shock. "Who wouldn't?"

"Please."

Now the betrayal and grief. "Sorry, friend, boss wants you dead."

"Why?"

"You know, I never thought to ask."

She stabbed him. He fell on the floor, eyes glassy and still. Faith looked at the corpse for a moment, then bent down and removed the knife. She wiped the blood off it with a piece of cloth from her pocket, then put both away.

Faith walked to the door. Before she opened it, she stopped, turned, and looked back. The corpse was still there, blood pouring out from the wound. She opened the door and walked away.

They were right. The second time was easy.

 


"And everything went smoothly with Mr. Worth?" Mayor Richard Wilkins the third asked her when he arrived at her apartment later.

"Not if you're Mr. Worth."

Wilkins laughed. "Well, that's swell. You know how I feel about loose ends. And the big day is so close, you can smell the excitement in the air. Say, are you ever coming out of there?"

Faith looked down at herself, wondering why she had agreed to this. "I don't know."

"Aw, come on."

He was her boss, that was why. She entered the room, feeling suddenly uncertain in the white and pink pattern dress he had insisted on getting for her.

"Wow, aren't you a vision?" Was the Mayor's reaction.

"I feel I look stupid in this."

"You look lovely. Perfect for the Ascension. Any boys that manage to survive will be lining up to ask you out."

"It just isn't me, though," Faith argued. Both to her boss and the voice in her head.

"Not you? Let me tell you something. Nobody knows what you are. Not even you, little Miss Seen-it-all. The Ascension isn't just my day. It's yours too. Your day to blossom, to show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you've done, what I know you will do," He caressed her face, "no father could be prouder."

Faith shivered. "I hope I don't let you down."

"Impossible. Now come on, change back into your street clothes. I'll buy you an icee."

The Mayor smiled and Faith smiled back. But her thoughts were in turmoil.

And she had no idea that it was about to get even harder.

 


"Kids are here. Parents off to the side there. We'll go up, they'll play the processional, and then you'll give the address."

Mayor Wilkins finished surveying the arrangements for the ceremony, and smiled at Principal Snyder. "It all looks wonderful."

The Headmaster of Sunnydale High was grim. "As long as nobody makes any trouble."

"Oh, stop worrying. You just make sure the kids show up. Anybody who doesn't feel like coming to graduation, well, they'll just have to live without a diploma."

"They'll be here, sir."

"Call me Richard. You've done a great job here. I know things are, well, different here in Sunnydale. We've both seen all sorts of things. What's important is that we keep it under control, and that's what you've done."

"I believe in order," Snyder replied almost devoutly.

"Sunnydale owes you a debt. It will be repaid. Yes sir, we'll mark that invoice paid in full."

 


"Faith."

Giles briefly halted in his fencing practice. "You sure?"

Buffy looked up from the front page of the newspaper she had been examining, with a large picture and a grim headline to match. PROFESSOR FOUND MURDERED. "Its one of her pieces. I recognise the brush work."

Giles took the paper from her, holding up to his face to read while he parried Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's thrusts. "Brutally stabbed. Mr. Worth, visiting professor of geology. There's nothing in here that bellows motive."

"Random killing, perhaps?" Willow suggested.

Buffy shook her head. "Doesn't read. I think it's homework."

Giles stopped sparring. "The Mayor wanted the good professor out of the way," he remarked with sudden, deadly certainty.

"Which begs why?" His slayer continued. "I'm gonna destroy the entire city, but I take the time to kill harmless Lester first?"

"Tying up loose ends? Lester had something or knew something?" Willow suggested.

"I say we go seek," Buffy replied.

"Ah," Wesley remarked. "By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it," he finished with a sword flourish.

Buffy shook her head. "What page are you on, Wes? 'Cause we already got there." She took the paper from Giles and laid it on the reception desk where she was sitting. "I'll go tonight."

"Be careful," Giles warned her. "If Faith should show up..."

"I don't think she'll show. Been there, killed that. She's not much for follow-up."

"Nonetheless, keep watch. Faith has you at a disadvantage, Buffy."

"'Cause I'm not crazy or cause I don't kill people?"

"Both, actually."

"I'll go with her," Angel replied from his position beside his girlfriend, leaning his arms on the reception desk.

"Agreed," Giles replied before returning to fencing, catching Wesley off-guard.

The library doors swung open at that moment, and Cordelia and Xander entered the Scooby headquarters, carrying graduation gowns in their arms.

"I can't believe this loser look," Cordelia moaned. "I lobbied so hard for the teal. No one ever listens to me. A lone fashionable wolf."

"I like the maroon," her boyfriend remarked. "Has more dignity."

Cordelia looked at him perplexed. "Dignity? You? In relation to clothes? I am awash in a sea of confusion."

Xander shrugged as he explained. "I just want to look respectable in this, considering I'm probably gonna die in it."

"Excuse me?" Buffy queried.

"I'm telling you. I woke up the other day with this feeling in my gut. I just know there's no way I'm getting out of this school alive."

"Wow, you've really mastered the power of positive giving-up," was his girlfriend's response in agreement with Buffy.

"I've been lucky too many times. My number's coming. Especially when I heard who our commencement speaker is."

Buffy saw her friend's grim face and groaned as she realised. "I don't believe this."

"Lends credence to my whole 'I'm gonna die' theorem, doesn't it?" Xander replied

"The Mayor at graduation," Buffy concluded, looking up towards the sky to the fickle Powers That Be. "A hundred helpless kids to feed on. Got any other surprises for us?"

The Powers decided to be generous and instantly provided one, in the form of the Mayor entering. Giles and Wesley stopped fencing, the former holding his sword at rest, but ready for action. Willow and Oz stood up, joining Cordelia and Xander. Buffy remained seated, hiding the newspaper she had been reading behind her and out of the Mayor's sight. Angel adopted the same casualness with his own posture.

The Mayor was just as casual. "So, this is the inner sanctum. Faith tells me this is where you folks like to hang out, concoct your little schemes. I tell you, it's just nice to see that some young people are still interested in reading in this modern era. So, what are kids reading nowadays?"

He walked to the table and picked up a book. The Scoobies let him proceed, watching and biding their time.

"'The beast will walk upon the earth and darkness will follow. The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction.' Aw, that's kind of sweet. Different races coming together."

"You never get even a little tired of hearing yourself speak, do you?" Buffy remarked.

The Mayor chuckled. "That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her."

Giles whipped up his sword and put it through the Mayor's chest. The move was so fast that Mayor stumbled. But he quickly recovered.

"Whoa! Well now, that was a little thoughtless," he remarked as he pulled out the sword. Like the time Angel had stabbed his hand with the letter knife, the wound sealed immediately. "Violent outbursts like that, in front of the children? You know, Mr. Giles, they look to you to see how to behave."

"Get out," Angel commanded, with a deadly tone.

The Mayor turned to him. "No classes today, Mr Professor?"

"Not until this afternoon."

"You know, I am very good friends with the Dean. I don't think she will be pleased to hear what I have to say about the conduct of one of her teachers. I could even ask her to check her records."

"And I could ask her to check yours," Angel replied.

"She won't need to when she discovers yours are fake."

"Who says she will?" Angel countered.

"I smell fear," Wilkins remarked, changing the subject. "That's smart. Some of your deaths will be quick, if that's worth anything. Well, see you all at graduation." He tossed the sword back to Giles, who caught it cleanly. "You don't want to miss my commencement address. It's going to be one heck of a speech."

There was silence for only a second after the Mayor had closed the door.

"He sounds rattled," Doyle commented mildly in his soft, Irish brogue.

Buffy nodded. "Its not over yet."

 


"Buffy, I'm home. Do you wanna go to, uh, ..." Joyce entered her bedroom to find her daughter packing her clothes. "What are you doing?"

Buffy stopped and looked up at her solemnly. "Mom, I need you to leave town. Tonight."

"Buffy, I'll miss your graduation."

Her daughter turned back to the packing. "Yeah, that's sort of the idea."

Joyce shook her head. "There's no way. I wouldn't dream..."

"Mom, graduation is a pointless ceremony where you sit around and listen to a bunch of boring speeches until someone hands you a piece of paper that says you graduated which you already know and maroon does nothing for my complexion, so don't argue, okay?"

Joyce said nothing. She just reached out and gently took her daughter's shaking hands in her own, and sat down on the bed. "That's when its going to happen isn't it? When the Mayor makes his speech at Graduation. Well, I'm not going. Not unless you and your friends, and everyone else comes with me."

"Mom, you know that we can't."

"Well then I can't either."

Buffy sighed and joined her on the bed. "Mom, I know that sometimes you wish I were different," she commented sadly.

Joyce rapidly put an arm around her. "Buffy, no. I'll admit, when I first learned about you being the slayer, I was scared. Not for myself, but for you. You're my daughter. I wanted to protect from all the horrible things in the world. But after you left and I went to Rupert to find answers, that fear went away. Not because I was disappointed in you and what you had become, but because I was proud. Proud of who you are and what you could do. I watch you at what you do, and I know that you've never been happier. Even when an Armageddon is on the horizon. I see you with your friends and with Angel, and I realise moving to Sunnydale was the best thing I could have done for you."

"Mom, I don't know...." Buffy trailed off, tears choking the rest. She opted for a hug instead. "You realise I still want you to get out of here, don't you?" She remarked when she had drawn back.

"Yes. But I want to stay."

"Why?"

"Because I want to help, Buffy. Its time you let me join the Scoobies."

Buffy smiled. "All right. We'll go to the Library and tell Giles. Then I have to go and investigate a crime scene."

 


"Oh, this is so frustrating."

Oz looked up from the book he was flicking through to where his girlfriend was sitting, her open laptop in front of her. "Nothing useful?"

"No, it's great. If we want to make ferns invisible, or communicate with shrimp, I've got the goods right here."

"Our lives are different than other peoples.'"

Willow pressed one last key on the keyboard, then pushed away. "Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not going to find a spell to stop the Ascension. I'm no witch. I can't even change poor Amy back to a person."

"But you managed to give Angel the chance to go into the sunlight. And you got the swinging Habitrail going. I think Amy is in a good place emotionally."

"Oz, could you just pretend to care about what's happening? Please?"

"You think I don't care?"

"I think we could be dead in two days time and you're being ironic detachment guy."

Oz closed his book and closed her laptop. "Would it help if I panic?"

Willow suddenly felt nervous. "Yes, it would be swell. Panic is a thing people can share in times of crisis. And everything's really scary now, you know, and I don't know what's gonna happen. And there's all sorts of things that you're supposed to get to do after High school, and I was really looking forward to doing them, and now we're probably just gonna die and I would like to feel that maybe you would ... " she had to stop speaking.

Mainly because Oz was leaning forward and kissing her. Slowly.

"What are you doing?" She asked him when he pulled back.

"Panicking," Oz replied before kissing her again.

 


"Ow."

Buffy looked up from the papers she was gathering, to see her boyfriend return from his first trip to the car with papers, stumbling as he entered. "Stealthy."

"Not my best entrance. I think they were mopping in the halls," he paused and took in the file she was studying. "What's that?"

"A report. Excavation of some old lava bed. Guy was a volcanologist or something."

"Anything in there that connects him to the Mayor?"

"I looked through it, but the only thing I understood were the commas."

"Another thing to go to Giles." Angel held out his hands. "Let me give you a hand."

Buffy handed him the box and they walked out of Professor Worth's apartment and into the night.

Suddenly there was a whistling sound as something flew through the air. Buffy and Angel instantly went into attack mode, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrowhead which suddenly appeared through the latter's chest.

"Angel!"

Behind a neon sign atop a nearby building, Faith and a vampire looked down at the couple, as the blond slayer caught the souled vampire, cradling him in her arms.

"Missed the heart," the vampire next to Faith commented with distaste.

"Meant to," Faith replied.

 


"There," Giles commented as he cut the end of the arrow off from behind.

Buffy grasped the arrowhead. "Okay, ready?"

"Yeah," Angel answered.

"On three. One." She pulled the arrow out.

Angel held back a groan. "I knew you were going to do that."

"Not too much blood here," Giles commented.

"I heal pretty fast. I should be alright," Angel tried to assure them all.

"I'm just glad Faith's such a suck shot," Buffy replied, wiping the exit wound.

"You sure it was her?" Giles queried.

"Well, I've narrowed down my list of one suspect."

"Fascinating," a voice noted at that moment.

"What?" Giles asked, looking towards his fellow watcher. The entire group, including Joyce, but minus Willow and Oz, were gathered in the Library.

"It seems our Mr. Worth headed an expedition in Hawaii, digging in old lava beds near a dormant volcano. He found something underneath. A carcass, buried by an eruption."

"A carcass?" Jenny queried.

"A very large one. Mr. Worth posits that it might be some heretofore undiscovered dinosaur."

"A demon?" Joyce wondered.

"Yes, that would be something that the Mayor would want to keep a secret. If it's the same kind of demon he's turning into and it's dead, it means that...."

His conclusion was suddenly cut off by Angel muttering 'Damn,' before falling upon the floor for the second time in one hour.

Buffy dropped to his side while Giles picked up the arrowhead and sniffed it. Angel answered his suspicions. "It's poison. I can feel it."

"Call the others," Giles ordered, meaning Willow and Oz, who had yet to arrive. "Get them here. We need to get to the mansion."

"Will you be able to find out what this is?" Buffy asked him.

"The Council has all the known toxins on file, mystical or otherwise," Wesley said, getting up. "I'll contact them immediately."

Buffy looked up at him gratefully for the first time. "Thanks." She turned back to Angel. "You're going to be okay.," she assured him softly.

Little did she know what she would have to do before he was.

 


At 6305 Westminster Place, a couple lay snuggled in bed, their minds not even on the Ascension or anything connected to it.

"I feel different, you know," Willow commented. "I-I guess that makes sense. Do you feel different? Oh, no, you've already, probably, no big change for you. It was nice. Was it nice? Should this be a quiet moment?"

"I know exactly what you mean," Oz remarked, seeming unable to cease stroking her red hair.

"Which part?" Willow asked him.

"Everything from 'it's different.'"

They kissed just as the phone rang. Willow picked it up. "Hello." She listened to the voice on the other end, then put down the phone, all thoughts but one gone. "We've gotta go," she told Oz.

Oz took one look at his girlfriend's face and decided not to ask what was up.

They would find out soon enough.

 


"He's dropped, boss."

The Mayor looked up to see his girl return from her mission. "Applause, applause."

"Right in the back. He pitches over and Buffy's freaking, looking around, all panicked. It's a good time."

"Well, that should keep her occupied for a spell."

"What next?"

"The Ritual of Gavrock. I have to ingest several of the inhabitants of this box."

"Ingest?"

"Eat."

Faith shuddered, remembering how the creatures looked that night she had seen them. "You're wicked gross."

"Well, you don't have to watch. Just, you know, go home, take it easy. It's a big day tomorrow."

"You gotta give me something to do. There's no way I'm sleeping. Don't you need anyone dead? Or maimed? I can settle for maimed."

The Mayor smiled at her. "You little firecracker."

Faith looked away, suddenly feeling distant. "My mom used to call me that when I was little. I was always running around." She paused and shook off the nostalgia. "Tomorrow, at the Ascension and all that, am I going to get to fight?"

"If everything goes smoothly, you won't have to. But how often do things go smoothly?"

"So you'll still need me in there."

"Always."

"Good luck with your spiders there," Faith replied before leaving.

 


At 1902 Crawford Street, Angel was wrapped under the silk sheets of his bed, sweating.

Buffy wiped his forehead with a wet cloth. "You'll be okay," she uttered softly, more for herself than for him, for he was too delirious to notice her presence.

The sound of the front door opening reached her, and she reluctantly moved to the living room where the others were.

Wesley had arrived, his face grim. "Did you reach the council?" Giles asked him.

"Yes. They, couldn't help."

"Couldn't?" Buffy repeated.

"Wouldn't," Wesley corrected truthfully. "It's not Council policy to cure vampires."

"Did you explain that these were special circumstances?"

"Not under any circumstances, and yes, I did try to convince them."

"Try again," Buffy asked him desperately.

"Buffy, they were very firm. We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilisation."

"And I'm talking about watching my lover die."

"Buffy, we'll find a cure," Giles assured her.

"The Council's orders are to concentrate on,"

Buffy cut Wesley off. "Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you, not from them."

"You can't turn your back on the Council," Wesley replied horrified. "Don't you see what's happening? Faith poisoned Angel to distract you, to keep you out of the Mayor's way, and it's working. You need a strategy."

"You don't think I know that!?! I know exactly what the Mayor's weakness is come Graduation day."

"What?" Wesley asked.

"Once he's a demon, he's no longer invulnerable." Buffy turned to Giles. "Giles I can't stay here doing nothing. I can't sit and watch him...." she paused to fight back the tears which had formed in her throat. "I'm going to see what the others have found out."

 


"Finding the poison wasn't that hard," Willow reported to her best friend she had arrived at the chemistry lab the Scoobies had taken over. "It's a mystical compound. The Latin name translates roughly to Killer of the Dead. Used on vampires."

"And the cure?" Buffy asked her.

"There aren't a lot of instances of it being cured," Willow replied sadly. "One or two, pretty vague accounts. How is he?"

"Hold it," Oz said, looking up from the book he was studying.

"You got something?" Xander asked.

"There's a vamp that walked away from it. Damn."

"Nothing?" Cordelia asked.

Willow had a look. "Wait, it completely reversed the effects. Oh."

"What?" Xander asked.

"The only way to cure this thing is to drain the blood of a Slayer," Oz answered.

"Good," Buffy remarked.

"Good? Cordelia queried. "What did I miss?"

"No, it's perfect. Angel needs to drain a Slayer, then I'll bring him one."

"Buffy," Willow began, realising what her friend had in mind, "if Angel drains Faith's blood, it'll kill her."

"Not if she's already dead."

Her four friends looked at her. Xander was the first to speak. "I don't mean to play devil's advocate here, but are you sure you're up to this?"

"It's time," Buffy replied.

"We're talking to the death."

"I can't play kid games anymore. This is how she wants it."

"We just don't want to lose you."

"I won't get hurt."

Xander shook his head "That's not what I mean."

"Just get me an address."

There was another long silence. Then Willow brought out her computer and began to type.

 


Faith was reading a comic book and listening to some music when the other chosen one opened the door and entered her domain, turning off the stereo.

"Thought I'd stop by," Buffy said in greeting.

"Is he dead yet?" Faith asked.

"He's not gonna die. It was a good try, though. Your plan?"

Faith shook her head. "Uh-huh. The Mayor got me the poison. Said it was wicked painful."

"There's a cure."

"Damn. What is it?"

Buffy held up the knife. "Your blood. As justice goes, it's not unpoetic, don't you think?"

Its owner was incredulous. "Come to get me? You gonna feed me to Angel? You know you're not going to take me alive."

"Not a problem."

Faith slid off her bed, and advanced towards Buffy. She took a knife out of her coat. The same one she had used to kill Lester Worth. She looked into Buffy's eyes.

Buffy stared back. She knew what Faith could see. That for all her bravo, she was bluffing. She was not ready to kill.

And she did not intend to. Just unconsciousness. That would be enough.

The two slayers began the fight. Thunder sounded around them, and lightning crackled across the sky. Rain pounded down upon them.

And in the distance, in the bedroom of the house on Crawford Street a voice cried out in grief at what was about to occur.

"Buffy."

 


"Right. Right," Giles put down the report from Worth and walked to the bookshelves.

"Something about the demon?" Doyle asked from his seat at the table.

"The local villagers near the volcano site made reference to the legend of Ollokai. Might be a bastardisation of Olvikan." Giles laid down the volume and began flicking the pages open.

Doyle put his hand to his head and shuddered as a vision swamped his mind. "Giles, I think there's something you ought to know."

Giles looked up. "What did you see?"

"Buffy. She's...."

Xander meanwhile had been looking at the centerfold which the watcher had laid open. He gasped, shocked at the to scale math.

"We're going to need a bigger boat."

 


"Mmm. My god, what a feeling. The power of these creatures. It suffuses my being. I can feel the changes begin. My organs are shifting, changing, making ready for the Ascension. Plus these babies are high in fibre. And what's the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you're not regular, am I right?"

The vampire with the Mayor said nothing. He was just glad he could drain humans, not the spiders he had watched his boss eat for this ritual.

Another vampire burst into the room.

The Mayor looked up. "What, we don't knock during dark rituals?"

"Sir, there may be trouble. At Faith's."

 


"What's the matter? All that killing, you afraid to die?"

Faith shook her head, coming out of her slight stun, to find Buffy had handcuffed their hands together. She jumped up, using her slayer strength to snap the metal apart.

Buffy was in slayer mode now. Refusing to think about her actions, only concentrating on the kill.

Not what species the prey happened to be.

She struck, stabbing her enemy in the abdomen.

Faith, stunned once more, backed away, a smile upon her face. "You did it. You killed me." She reached the edge of the building and took a look behind her. Then she turned back to Buffy. "Still won't help your boy, though. Shoulda been there, B, quite a ride."

Faith fell off the roof. Buffy dropped the knife and rushed to the edge. She looked down and saw Faith lying in garbage truck, which was driving away.....

To Be Continued In
Graduation Day: Part II.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Again, the majority of the dialogue was taken from the original episode. Due to my alternations of the plot, a lot of scenes were removed or rewritten. The last scene I wrote a little of some time ago, before I had even reached this episode. Enjoy. And Season Four will be coming soon.


Graduation Day: Part Two.

Faith fell off the roof. Buffy dropped the knife and rushed to the edge. She looked down and saw Faith lying in a garbage truck, which was driving away.

Buffy laid down the knife, then walked over to the fire escape and climbed down the outside of the building.

Meanwhile the Mayor looking out through the broken window of the apartment above. He turned round as a vampire came up to him. "There is no one here, Sir."

"No. No, she took the fight outside. My Faith doesn't like to be cooped up." He paused to gather himself. "We have to find them. Put everyone on it. Do it now." He turned back to gazing out of the broken panes of glass before him.

"But Sir, the Ascension…"

"Find them!"

The vampire jumped at that tone and wisely left. Richard Wilkins began to pace the room, trying to convince himself. "Faith's a good girl. She can take anything they'll throw at her. She's going to be all right. She'll be all right. She'll be all right."

 


Back at the Library of Sunnydale High, Giles walked out of his office to meet Xander carrying a Styrofoam cup. "Any word from Buffy?" He asked.

Giles shook his head as he sat at the table. "Not yet."

Xander handed him the cup. "Here is your cup of coffee. Brewed from the finest Colombian lighter fluid."

"Thank you," Giles acknowledged before taking a sip. "Horrible," he commented before taking another.

"Aren't you supposed to be drinking tea anyway?" Xander queried.

"Tea is soothing," the Englishman commented. "I wish to be tense."

"Okay. But you are destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here."

"Just keep looking through the Kepler volumes. Any reference to the demon Olvukan. Powers, weaknesses, hat size, anything. There's got to be something."

 


Back at 1902 Crawford Street, a souled vampire tossed and turned in his bed. Willow dabbed a cold cloth at his forehead, whereupon he opened his eyes.

"You're awake," the redhead commented.

"Willow?" Angel queried, as if not too sure of that identification. "Where's Buffy?" He asked, rising from the pillows.

Willow pushed him back down. "She'll be back soon. Just rest." She watched him close his eyes, then walked out into the hallway and downstairs.

Just as the slayer returned. "How is he?" She asked.

"Delirious," Willow replied grimly.

"Did you find Faith?" Oz asked.

Buffy shook her head. "I succeeded, but she fell into a truck and it drove away. So I thought of something else."

"Something else?" Her best friend repeated.

"Yeah. Could you get the gang here? This is going to need witnesses."

 


"Buffy. Is that you?"

The slayer sat down upon the bed, and reached out to cup his face with her hand. "It's me," she replied softly.

"I didn't want to go, without seeing you."

Buffy put her finger to his lips. "Angel, I can cure you."

"It's okay. I'm ready."

"Angel listen to me. Sit up. You're gonna live. You have to live."

"How?"

"Drink me."

Delirium suddenly left him. Angel looked at her in shock. "No."

"It's the only way."

"No. No way."

"It'll save you."

"It'll kill you."

"Maybe not. Not if you don't take it all."

Angel looked at her horrified. "You can't ask me to do this."

"I won't let you die. I can't. The blood of a Slayer is the only cure."

"Faith," Angel muttered.

"I tried. She got away."

"Then it's over," Angel remarked, getting up and walking into the main room, where the rest of the Scooby gang was waiting. He halted, almost falling, looking at them. "You agree with this idea?"

"We trust you," Giles replied.

Angel turned his head to find Buffy looking at him. Her jacket was gone, revealing her bare neck. "Please," he begged, not wanting to do this to her.

Buffy answered with a punch to his face. Angel staggered back, looking at her in surprise. She punched him again.

This time, he responded. His soul strength depleted, he could no longer resist the demon within. The forehead ridges appeared, the fangs came out of his mouth.

Buffy came towards him. She grabbed his head, and shoved him down to her neck. She closed her eyes as she felt the fangs penetrate.

The couple collapsed to the floor. The Scooby gang sat and watched.

 


A few hours later, the entire gang was running into the Emergency department of Sunnydale General. Angel carried his beloved, not focusing on anything but the need for her to healed. "I need some help! She lost a lot of blood."

"What happened?" A nurse asked, coming up to him.

"She needs blood. Something bit her. She needs a transfusion."

"You found her?" A doctor asked.

"Yes."

"Was she conscious?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Okay. I need a type, I need a cross-match. Get her on two lines of Wringer's lactate, and watch for hyper-bulimic shock. Any allergies?"

"None."

The doctor nodded and pushed the gurney away. Angel stood still watching them take Buffy into trauma, just as the rest of the Scooby gang caught up with him. Joyce silently herded him to the nearest chair.

Angel looked at her in surprise. "You should be hating me right now. All of you."

Giles sat opposite him. "Buffy told us what she was going to do before she woke you up," he said. "There were a few objections but she shot all of them down. She knew what she was doing. And she was right."

"The bones are set, and the damage to the kidneys is repairable," another voice remarked at that moment, becoming audible to the gang, who turned round to see the Mayor standing beside another doctor.

The physician continued. "But the head trauma, its… well its simply too severe. You know, it's a wonder she's alive at all, with the blood loss. I'm sorry Sir, there is almost no chance at all that she is ever going to regain consciousness."

The Mayor said nothing as he walked into the room, where the pale unconscious form of Faith lay in the bed. He reached out to stroke her cheek. "It's your day," he uttered softly.

"We have another girl with severe blood loss. Doctor Pal wants you to prep this on an anti cubal cut down," a nurse said at this moment.

"I'll be right there," the doctor replied.

The Mayor turned and saw the girl. Silently he walked over and put a hand on her face, covering her nose and mouth.

"Call security!" A nurse cried, while a pair of hands pulled the Mayor away.

"Don't do that!" Angel practically growled.

The Mayor turned to him. "I will do that and worse. Murderous little fiend! Did you see what she did to my Faith?"

"Hadn't any plans to weep over that one."

"Well, I'd get set for some weeping if I were you. I'd get set for a world of pain! Misery loves company, young man, and I'm looking to share that with you and your whore!"

This time Angel did growl. Then he picked the Mayor up and threw him across the room. Wilkins picked himself up and chuckled. "Looks like somebody has been eating his spinach. No, its okay, folks. It's all right. The show's not over, but there will be a short intermission. Don't want to miss the second act. All kinds of excitement!" He walked out.

Angel watched him go, then turned back to Buffy. Slowly he sank into a chair beside her bed. Silently he reached for her hand, and pressed it to his lips. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Giles laid a hand on his shoulder. "You did nothing she didn't want you to do," he reminded the vampire. "We just have to wait for her to wake up."

 


While her body was asleep, Buffy's mind was active. She found herself in Faith's apartment, watching a kitten jump up on the bed. "Who's going to look after him?" she asked.

"It's a she," Faith corrected. "And aren't these things supposed to take care of themselves?"

"A higher power guiding us?" Buffy questioned.

"I'm pretty sure that's not what I meant."

"There's something I'm supposed to be doing."

"Oh yeah. Miles to go. Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0."

"Great. Riddles," the first chosen one muttered.

"Sorry, it's my head. A lot of new stuff." Faith stared at the broken window. "They are not ever going to fix this, are they?"

"What about you?" Buffy asked her, concerned.

"Scar tissue. It fades. It all fades. You want to know the deal? Human weakness, never goes away. Not even his."

"Is this your mind or mine?"

"Beats me," Faith chuckled. "Getting towards that time. You ready?"

The rogue slayer touched her cheek and Buffy opened her eyes in the hospital bed. Silently she met Angel's eyes with a small smile. "I'm ready," she remarked.

"For what?" He asked her.

"War."

 



"So, am I crazy?"

It was a few minutes later. The Scooby gang were back in their main headquarters. Buffy had just finished explaining her main plan of attack.

"Well, 'crazy' is such a strong word," her best friend said.

"Let's not rule it out though," her watcher commented.

"You don't think it can be done?" Buffy asked him.

"I didn't say that. I might, but not yet."

"I personally don't think it's impossible to come up with a crazier plan," Cordelia commented.

"We attack the Mayor with humus," Oz remarked.

Cordelia looked at him. "I stand corrected."

"Just trying to keep things in perspective."

"Thank you. My point however is, crazy or not, it's pretty much the only plan."

"Well, I'm going to need every single one of you on board. Especially you Xander. You're sort of the key figure here."

"Key? Me? Okay, pride, humility, and here is the mind numbing fear. What do I have to do?"

"Do you remember any of your military training from when you became soldier guy?"

"Uh, rocket launcher?"

"Rocket launcher not going to get it done. I mean, it took a volcano to kill one of these things last time."

"All of this is rather dependent on your being able to control the Mayor," Giles pointed out.

"Faith told me to play on his human weakness."

"Faith told you? Was that before or after you put her into a coma?" Cordelia queried.

"After."

"His weakness. Which is?" Giles asked.

"Well, he's not crazy about germs," Angel remarked.

"I'm starting to lean towards the humus offensive," Xander commented.

Oz nodded, equally deadpanned. "He'll never see it coming."

"Faith," Angel realised. "At the hospital he was grieving. Seriously crazed, and not just in a homicidal I want to be a demon way. She is his weak link."

Buffy nodded. "I can work that."

"You haven't an enormous amount of time," a new voice remarked.

Xander turned. "Hey, it's Mr. States-the-Obvious," he observed.

"I want to help. To hell with the Council for now. What can I do?"

Buffy placed her hands on the table; the classic pose of all heroes in films, as they explained the master plan. "There is plenty. There are chores for everyone. Okay, this is…"

 


".....how it's going to lay out," The Mayor remarked to his vampires. "The transformation should begin at exactly 3:28. I'll just be finishing my speech - you know, it's too bad you fellows have to miss that, because I think it speaks to everyone of us. I mean, heck, I've been working on it for a hundred years. It better be good. They'll try to run, of course, and this is when I'll need you boys in flanking position."

"But Sir, the sun!" One of them pointed out.

"Not a problem."

 


"'Darkness will follow and day becomes night.'" Wesley read.

"An eclipse," Buffy concluded.

"Standard procedure for an ascension," Giles acknowledged.

 


"You come up through the sewers here," The Mayor continued, point to the map. "The important thing is containment. I'll need to feed. It's crucial in the first few minutes to sustain the change. What does that mean? No snacking. I see blood on your lips, it's a visit to the wood shed for you boys. Kill. Don't feed."

 


"So, how are we coming on the volcano detail?" The slayer asked her friends.

"I think we can work it out," Oz answered.

"Fun with chemistry," Willow agreed.

"Xander said he should be able to get the materials," Buffy informed.

"Who's going to stoke it up?" Oz asked.

Buffy turned to her watcher. "You feel up to it?"

Giles took off his glasses. "Ah, I suppose it should be I. It's strangely fitting in a grotesque fashion."

"Okay guys, start reaching out. Giles; weapons, weapons, weapons."

"What about you?"

"There is something I have to get," she replied, walking out.

 


The Mayor wrapped up his prep talk. "Remember: fast and brutal. It's going to be a whole new world come nightfall, don't want to weaken now. And boys? Let's watch the swearing."

 


"Did you get what you needed?" Angel asked his soulmate as she came back into the Library.

"Yeah, I did," she replied, before turning to the weapons. "This isn't going to be enough."

"Giles is on it." He paused uncertain if he still had a right to ask. "How are you?"

Buffy put down the covered weapon she had been carrying, to look up at him with a small smile. "I'm fine. I heal fast, remember. Like you. And we're going to be fine."

"Are we?"

She took his hands in her own. "Yes, we are. But we don't have time to talk about this now. We have a war to fight."

 


"Congratulations to the class of 1999," Principal Snyder began, standing at the podium in front of students, parents and teachers, an hour or so later. "You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so: sit still and be quiet. Spit out that gum. Please welcome our distinguished guest speaker: Richard Wilkins the 3rd. I saw that gesture. You see me after graduation."

The Mayor took the podium as the few applause died out. "Well. What a day this is! Special day. Today is our centennial; the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids: not a darn thing. Because today something much more important happens: today you all graduate from high school. Today all the pain, all the work, all the excitement is finally over. And what's a hundred years of history compared to that? You know what kids?"

"Oh my God," the slayer quietly murmured. "He's going to do the entire speech."

"Man, just ascend already," Willow, sitting next to her, begged.

"Evolve!" Buffy added.

The Mayor continued. "For all of you it may be that there is a place in Sunnydale's history, whether you like it or not. It's been a long road getting here. For you, for Sunnydale. There has been achievement, joy, good times, and there has been grief. There's been loss. Some people who should be here today, aren't. But we are. Journey's end. And what is a journey? Is it just distance travelled? Time spent? No. It's what happens on the way, it the things that happen to you. At the end of the journey you're not the same. Today is about change. Graduation doesn't just mean your circumstances change, it means you do. You ascend to a higher level. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing."

A shadow fell across the podium. Everyone glanced up to see the eclipse arriving, right on schedule. All tensed, waiting.

The Mayor continued. "And so as we look back on…" he trailed off, suddenly groaning in pain, "on the events that brought us to this day," another wave of pain.

The slayer took her hat off. "Come on."

"We… we must all…" he suddenly screamed. Then he smiled. "It has begun. My destiny. It's a little sooner then I expected I had this whole section on civic pride… But I guess we'll just skip to the big finish!"

He groaned again, and the change began. Slowly his new shape emerged; a long, large, snake like creature.

Vampires began to form up behind the pupils, barring escape.

The slayer stood up. "Now!"

All present suddenly rose up, students casting off the maroon graduation gowns, revealing a large collection of stakes and crosses tied about them.

"Flame units," Buffy ordered. Several students, carrying blow torches, stepped forward and began spraying at the Mayor. Buffy turned and nodded at Xander. "First wave!" He remarked, and a contingent of students and adults came up, carrying crossbolts. "Fire!"

The Mayor lunged forward, grabbed a student and swallowed.

Snyder stood, shocked at the scene. "This… this is simply unacceptable!"

"Arm bow men," Xander continued. The contingent lit their arrows. "Fire!"

The contingent fired. Some vampires fell back, others turned into dust. The Mayor threw student towards the attack.

"Fall back!" Buffy ordered.

"Fire!" Xander ordered to those who had reloaded.

The vampires turned round, only to find another contingent of citizens; this time mostly adults, headed by Angel, Doyle, Jenny and Joyce.

Snyder walked up the snake that was previously the Mayor. "This is not orderly. This is not discipline! You're on my campus buddy! And when I say I want quiet, I want...."

He stopped speaking. Mainly because the snake that was the Mayor had swallowed him. Buffy, witnessing the event, stood shocked for a moment, then turned back to the students. "Xander take 'em down."

Xander pulled a stake out of his back pocket. "Everyone: hand to hand! Everyone! Lets go! Move! Move!"

The slayer turned back to the Mayor. She held a knife up before him. Faith's. The weapon she had retrieved earlier. "Hey! You remember this? I took it from Faith. Stuck it in her gut. Just slid in her like she was butter. You want to get it back from me?"

The Mayor screamed. Buffy turned and ran. He followed.

She led him through the corridors of Sunnydale High. Through to the library. She dropped the knife on the floor, then jumped through the window.

The Mayor only had time to look around and see the piles of fuel before realising that he had fallen into a trap.

Outside Buffy crouched next to her watcher, and nodded. Giles pushed down the dynamite plunger he had been holding.

Seconds later the school erupted with the explosion.

 


"We got off pretty cheap… considering," Jenny remarked.

"Seems like we did," Buffy agreed, looking around.

Giles placed a hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right?"

"I'm tired," Buffy confessed.

"I should imagine so. It's been quite a couple of days."

"I haven't processed everything yet. My brain isn't really functioning on the higher levels. It's pretty much: fire bad; tree pretty."

"Understandable. Well, when it's working again congratulate it on a good campaign. You did very well."

Buffy smiled at him. "Thank you. I will."

Her watcher took off his glasses. "There is a certain dramatic irony that's attached to all this. A Synchronicity that borders on… on predestination, one might say."

"Fire bad; tree pretty."

"Yes."

They reached the bench which seemed to have become the unofficial gathering point for the Scooby gang. Even Wesley was there, sitting on the back, his bent legs between Cordelia and Willow. Apart from varying degrees of cuts and bruises, no one was hurt.

The former cheerleader spoke. "Well, that's the most fun you can have without having any fun."

"How about the part where we kicked some demon ass?" Willow pointed out. "I didn't hate that."

"Hear, hear!" Xander agreed.

Buffy sat down below where Angel was leaning, quietly reaching out and taking his hand in hers. "If someone could just wake me when it's time to go to college, that'd be great."

"Guys take a moment to deal with this," Oz remarked. "We survived."

"It was a hell of a battle." The slayer agreed.

"Not the battle. High school. We're taking a moment...." he paused for just a second before adding, "and we're done."

Doyle came up towards them, his arms full of scrolls. "Here, I managed to rescue your diplomas." He walked up to Angel. "Also, I have a message from the Powers That Be. Thanks."

He pressed a hand to Angel's heart. The souled vampire suddenly shuddered. Then a light seemed to pass through him. He gasped when it gone, staring at the seer in shock. "What is this?" He asked, barely able to believe it.

"Half your reward. You're half human now."

Buffy stood up. "Half?" She queried.

"No immortality," Doyle explained. "And I would start supplementing your blood diet with food. You still have the face and fangs, but they're only slight. You still need your sunlight charm, but only if you want to game face during daylight hours."

Angel nodded. Then he turned to the group. "Excuse me."

Buffy waited until he was out of sight, then stood up. "I have some place I need to be."


At 1902 Crawford Street, Angel climbed the stairs to his bedroom, not really feeling as alive as he expected to feel, having been granted a half of his redemption. His mind was still focusing on what had occurred before it. Which was probably why he felt wretched and numb at his good fortune.

Like he did not really deserve it.

He entered his bedroom and halted in the doorway, his eyes staring at the bed in disbelief and shame. "You shouldn't be here." I deserve nothing but your deepest hatred for the rest of my unlife.

"Yes I should." The slayer sat up carefully, wrapping the silk sheets under her bare arms. Silently she beckoned him forward.

Angel obeyed, gingerly coming to rest on the edge of the bed.

"Would you die for me?" Buffy asked him bluntly then.

"Yes," Angel answered instantly.

"Then why will you not accept that I would do the same for you?" She asked him.

Angel turned away from her, studying the folds of sheets between them. "That's different," he protested.

"No it isn't," she insisted. "You were dying. I had the means to cure you. So I did." She paused to reach out and grab his hand, turning him back towards her. The silk sheet slipped a little. "And the Powers gave you part of your reward. Therefore, you were meant to live. So stop beating yourself up over this." She dropped the sheet. "And live."

He stared at her, powerless in the face of her beauty. She pulled him down for a long, long, kiss.

Before he knew it, he was returning it, moving on to the bed, letting his clothes be eased off him, and pressing his body against hers.

When breath became necessary, Buffy pulled him down to the pillows, whimpering in pleasure as his lips started a path down her body.

Angel moved his lips to her neck, and saw the scar. He stopped, unable to move past it, without thinking of what he had done. "I almost killed you."

"No you didn't," Buffy corrected. "Angelus, the demon you keep trapped, did. But you were there, and you stopped it from going too far. The whole Scooby gang witnessed and approved of my actions. And the Powers rewarded you. Forget it. Or, if you can't, the next apocalypse is yours to handle. Deal?"

He smiled at her, realising her point. "Deal." He kissed her again. Buffy wrapped her arms around him, and they fell back amongst the pillows and sheets. He dealt a kiss to her scar, then moved on to the rest of her body. Willingness and acceptance met him every step of the way, and Angel embraced them, as he began to take his soulmate's advice.

And learned to live.

The End.
Of Season Three.
Continued In:
Season Four.