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Blessing or Curse

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Ronnie looked at her invitation for the hundredth time to make sure they had the right address; she couldn't believe that Drusilla and Spike were staying in a run-down warehouse, maybe it was just for the party. Oh well, time to go see her best friend and Sire who she hadn't seen in at least 20 years.
She burst through the door and saw a nerdy looking minion sitting in the lobby of the factory.
"Ooh, look, we have minions now. You, where's Spike and Drusilla?" She asked with an air of authority.
"Um…in there." The mousy looking vamp pointed.
"Good, bring this into them, so I can make an entrance." She handed the minion her package with the arm in it, she had no idea why Spike had said to bring it, but he swore that it was exactly the present Dru wanted. She followed the minion until he reached the room where Spike and Dru were, then stayed at the doorway to make her presence known at just the right time.
"I have your package." She heard the minion tell Spike.
"Just put it on the table…near the other gifts. Are you dead set on this, pet? Wouldn't you rather have your party in Vienna?" Spike whined from his chair.
"But the invitations are sent." Dru argued.
"Damn right they are!" Ronnie said as she strutted into the room. Spike was sitting off in a corner in his chair and she didn't see him at first.
"It's Mummy's little girl." Drusilla ran to embrace her.
"Hey, Dru, I've missed you. And Will, where is he?"
"Over here, luv, how have you been?" He rolled into sight and stopped right in front of her.
"Will! Why are you in a wheelchair? What happened?" She rushed over to him and crouched down to examine his injured body.
"Well, it's a long story, pet. We were in Prague, yeah, big mob decides they'll kill our Sire."
"How dare they!" She exclaimed.
"My sentiments exactly, but I got her out just in the knick. But she was still extremely sick, had to get her better yeah?"
"Of course." Ronnie nodded.
"Found this ritual in a book, called for her Sire's blood." He began to explain.
"Angel…us, yeah, but how did you get him to give her blood? We haven't seen him in ages."
"Turns out he lives here in good ol' Sunnyhell." Spike sneered.
"He does?"
"Yep, got himself a soul, too."
"Really? Interesting." She tried to hide her lack of surprise at this knowledge.
"Playing the bloody Slayer's lapdog he is." He said, clearly disgusted.
"Slayer?" Ronnie quirked an eyebrow.
"Yep, she lives here. They're a couple, it's so sick and twisted I can't even get my head around it. And he doesn't go by Angelus anymore, nope, it's Angel." Spike kept talking not noticing the suspicious looks Ronnie was shooting his way.
"Really? But um, how'd you get in the wheelchair, William?" She crossed her arms in a scolding manner. She always called him Will. Refused to call him Spike, dishonored his mother, she said. But it was always Will; if she said William, she was usually angry with him.
"Oi, I didn't do anything!" He defended.
"Really, there's a Slayer in the story and you didn't do anything to deserve being in a wheelchair?" She said in disbelief.
"Deserve?! Excuse me! I was trying to restore our Sire to health after she nearly bloody died!" He practically yelled.
"Right, and I'm guessing this little ritual required Angel dying," Ronnie mused aloud.
"Since when do you care about sodden Angelus more than Drusilla?" Spike asked angrily, now he was yelling.
"I didn't say I cared about Angel more, look, we've talked about this. You know something happened to me with those gypsies, I've changed somehow. I just…he's with the Slayer, right? So whatever you did to him obviously upset her, is that why you're in this wheelchair?"
"Oh, so you're still defending the Slayer. The killer of our kind, you're no better than Angel." He scoffed as he made to turn the chair and wheel away.
"I'm not gonna team up with her or anything! I just can't actively help you kill her. But I'm not joining her like he did, my loyalty is to you and Dru." She defended her point.
"Bloody well doesn't feel like it." He mumbled sulkily, as he stopped trying to roll away and started to pout.
"Look, I'm sorry I snapped at you. You just did what you had to do to save Dru. Now how did you end up in the wheelchair?" She tried to drive the attention away from her stance on the Slayer.
He straightened up in his chair to continue the story. He couldn't stay mad at her, it wasn't in him. "So there was this ritual, right? And…I may have…taken Angel against his will to perform it, and it got her all pissy."
"Well, it required him to die right?" She leaded.
"Well, yeah." He nodded.
"Fine, ok, she got all pissy, then what?" Ronnie said rolling her eyes.
"Well, she came to the rescue. Lucky it was enough to restore Dru, but she knocked me into a bloody organ while I carried Dru out. Left me there for dead, she did, we could've caught fire!" He said throwing his arms in the air in defeat.
"Ok, like I said, I'm not gonna join her, I'm loyal to you. But I can't actively fight her." She laid out her terms. They had to be clear on why she was here. She loved them, but killing the Slayer was not on her priority list.
Spike sighed. "Fine, pet, it's just good to see you, yeah?"
"Yeah." She smiled.
"Just stay outta the Slayer's way, yeah? Don't know how she'll react to you being so different and all; couldn't stand if something happened to you."
"I know, Will." She bent over to give him a hug.
"Probably haven't eaten in a while, go find yourself something. Bloody Hellmouth, people don't even notice the demon activity around here."
"Okay." She didn't tell him that she filled up before she got there, or that she was going to see another vampire…a certain souled vampire.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Veronica?" Angel was shocked at the girl he saw as he opened the door.
"It's Ronnie now." She smiled.
"Oh my god, how have you been?" He motioned for her to come in and shut the door behind her.
"Do you really care?" She angrily plopped down on a chair in his apartment.
"So you've seen Spike already." He guessed.
"Yes, I came because they're throwing a party for Drusilla. I didn't even know that you would be here. And I come back, and he's in a wheelchair, Angel? A wheelchair?" She was yelling at him now trying to get her point across.
"I didn't do it, I was almost dead myself." He threw his hands up in a surrendering gesture. "Because of Spike!" He pointed at her for emphasis.
She scoffed, it was ridiculous how Spike and Angel both reverted to children when she was scolding either of them, but especially whenever the other was involved in the situation. "Enough of your blood healed her without you having to die, if you'd have just done that in the first place this whole mess could have been avoided."
"I can't voluntarily help them anymore, Ronnie. I don't know how you can. It doesn't sit with my soul the way it sits with whatever conscience you have." He said angrily as he sat in the chair next to her.
"Alright, that's enough." She quickly changed the topic before they got into another argument over the differences between their Gypsy curses. "So, Will says you're with the Slayer now?"
"Yeah, what's it to you?"
"That's why I separated from Spike and Dru. Whatever weird conscience I have, the soft spot is Slayers. I can't stand for anything to happen to them. So after Will killed his second one, that's when Lawson and I left."
"You know Lawson?" Angel was shocked.
She smirked. "Yeah, he travelled with us. Me and him had a casual arrangement. He travelled with me after I left Will and Dru. He left me about a decade ago."
"Ronnie, I'm so sorry, you could have come and found me."
"And what, Angel? Sulk because we're ruthless killers?" She was yelling again. She had a feeling she'd be doing a lot of that throughout this conversation.
"You've never been that kind of killer, Ronnie." Angel tried to console her.
"It doesn't matter!" She screamed frustrated.
"Ronnie, you've been clean longer than I have. You were playing catch and release long before I was bagging it. I still ate the bad guys."
"Like I said, it doesn't matter. I wasn't gonna sit around and sulk. And what about you Mr. High-and-Mighty? You sired Lawson after you had a soul?! Do you have any idea what that did to him? What it could have done to him? He should be a lot more bitter than he is, he still had a part of his humanity, like me, but his was worse. Mine was a result of Drusilla's insanity, his was because you were good, Angel. How can a souled vampire sire someone? What were you thinking?"
"I wasn't, and I'm sorry." He looked down ashamed.
"Yeah, everybody's always sorry. Especially you, huh?"
"Look, Ronnie, I can't undo what was done to you…"
"Do you even know what was done to me, Angel? The last time I saw you was when we found out we were both different. Do you know what Darla did to me after you left us?" She was looking him right in the eye now. She knew his soul tormented him for the last century, but she was finally going to make him own up to the things that that soul had caused.
"Darla? Why would she care about you? She hated you." His brow furrowed in confusion.
"Yeah, that hate, it escalated. After you left, she beat me. We finally left her because Will got tired of putting me back together after she broke every bone in my body while he was out hunting."
"Why wouldn't you go hunt with him?"
"I couldn't let him know I wasn't killing! They'd probably dump me too, and I couldn't handle being on my own, I wasn't you." She tried to explain.
"You could have come and found me." He offered once again.
"Angel, no, I wasn't gonna travel with you. I'm sorry, and I'm over it now, but there was a time after you left that I blamed you for what Darla did to me, because that's why she was so angry. She hated that you had that damn soul. And now, you're with a Slayer, and Will hates you even more." She explained to him.
"So, now what?" He asked.
"I can't help you. You and her, I know you're dating her, but I just can't help you." She had set her terms with Will and now it was time to lay them with Angel.
"Why not? You're not one of them." He motioned to the door indicating Spike and Drusilla.
"No, but I'm not one of you either." She pointed at him. "I'm somewhere in between and I hate it. Do you have any idea how hard that is?"
"Yeah, I think I do." He looked at her pointedly.
"No, it's different. They called it a blessing, but this is more of a curse than you'll ever know." She wiped the tears that had started to stream down her face since she had let that long bottled up anger out at last. "I'm gonna stay with Will and Dru, but they know I'm not going to help them fight you."
"Wow." He breathed, but since they were both vampires she still heard him.
"What?" Her face twisted in question.
"After everything, after all you know, you still love him." Angel shook his head in disbelief.
"Yeah." She conceded.
"He's never gonna stop loving Dru."
"I know that! I love her, too. I'm never going to ask him to stop loving her. I just need to be around them. They're the only family I've ever had, Angel." She practically sobbed.
"You could be a family with the Scoobies. They'd love you." He entreated.
"Who the hell are the Scoobies?" She asked completely confused.
"The Slayer and her friends, that's what they call themselves." He explained.
"Whoa, wait, Slayer and friends? I've read the Slayer brochure, Angel, there's nothing about friends."
"Yeah, well, Buffy's different." He smiled sweetly.
"Buffy? Her name is Buffy? And you're in love with her? God does have a sense of humor. A vampire with a soul in love with a Slayer. Oh, the poetic injustice. It's captivating. Look, I'm not joining your Scoobies, I'm staying with Will and Dru. I'm not gonna hurt you, so please don't hurt me. And please, please, please, I know it's a lot to ask, I know. But have a little mercy, huh? He's in a wheelchair, Angel, a wheelchair. That's not my Will, it's not your Willie, it's definitely not Spike." She saw that her argument wasn't going anywhere with him. "Fine, at least a truce between me and you, maybe me and the Slayer I don't know."
"Do you want to meet her?" He asked almost pleadingly.
"Not today. But I will tell you, Will's putting something together for Dru's party. It's called the Judge, and I don't know a lot, but I've heard about the Judge here and there, it's bad, Angel, real bad." And with that, she left.

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Angel walked into the library where all the Scoobies were already sitting around the table. "I have information from a source that Spike is putting together the Judge."
"The Judge? Good Lord!" Giles immediately started looking for books regarding the subject.
"How'd you find out about this, Deadboy?" Xander wondered.
"Oh, I have my ways." He said shrugging nonchalantly.
"Did you go to the factory?" Buffy asked.
"No." He shook his head.
"Angel, no more secrets, okay?" She pleaded, she was still stinging a little that he had never told her about Drusilla until she'd come to town.
"Fine. Five years after Spike was turned, Dru made him a toy. He didn't use her for what she was meant for, so they were just friends. Her name is Veronica, but I guess she's going by Ronnie now." He said as if he was still getting used to the taste of the name on his tongue.
"Veronica? There's no mention of a Veronica with the Scourge of Europe." Giles interrupted without bringing his head up from his research.
"I know, she was our best kept secret. Darla hated her, so whenever Darla was around Ronnie stayed locked up in her room." Angel explained.
"Well, that's just less people that your band of murderers killed, right?" Xander tried to look at the bright side.
"Yeah, but Ronnie never killed that much anyway."
"What do you mean?" Willow asked curiously.
"I was cursed with the soul. After that, Darla made them go after the gypsies who cursed me trying to dig up information. While they were there, Ronnie was about to make her first kill of the night when they gave her a blessing. She would someday be used for good because she was different. When I turned Drusilla she was already insane. So when she made Ronnie she still had a lot of her humanity, not her soul, just her humanity. It didn't bother her as much to kill as it does for me, but she understood it's what we needed to survive, so she just pictured it as killing a deer or something for food."
"That's gross." Cordelia scoffed.
"Look, I'm trying to paint her in a good light, okay?" Angel defended.
"Why?" Xander wondered.
"The gypsies, they saw that humanity in her and saw that one day she would use it for something good. They gave her what they called a 'blessing' and she might see it that way, too, one day. But for the last century it's just been a curse, almost as bad as mine."
"What did they do to her?" Buffy asked.
"You know that Drusilla can see the future?" He offered. "Ronnie can see the past. She touches something at a museum, she sees its history. She goes to the Coliseum, she can see the gladiator fights in her head."
"Good Lord." Giles marveled at the rare ability.
"Yeah, but also if she feeds and she kills, she sees their entire life flash before her eyes. It sits with her sort of like the way a soul would make you feel guilty."
"Incredible." Giles remarked, still in awe.
"She doesn't think so." Angel argued.
"What did she do about it? That was almost a hundred years ago." Buffy knew that Angel had beaten himself up for a century for all of his sins, but Veronica hadn't even been a vampire for 20 years when the gypsies gave her that "blessing".
"She stopped killing, but she didn't want the others to find out, so she fed just enough to not kill them. But apparently, Darla's hate for her still shone through. When she started treating Ronnie too bad, Spike finally took them away from Darla. The way I hear it from Ronnie, she split up with them in the 70s because Spike killing Slayers was too much for her. She doesn't mind when they kill humans, but something about killing Slayers gets to her. As much as Spike wants to kill them, she wants to protect them. This party they're planning for Drusilla, he invited Ronnie. When she found out about me and Buffy, she came and talked to me. She told me about the Judge, where she's been; she's not going to kill, she bags it now, too." He tried to explain to them so as to assure them that Ronnie wasn't a threat in any way.
"So, what? We're supposed to give her a free pass because she doesn't like killing?" Cordelia asked.
"Is she gonna be a Scooby now?" Willow questioned perkily.
"No, she's not gonna be a Scooby. She still cares about Dru and Spike; they never wronged her like Darla did. She came to visit them. She doesn't want anyone to get hurt. I told her I can't promise her anything about Spike and Dru, but she's granted immunity, clear? And if something does happen to Spike and Dru and she wants to stay, she's welcome with me. Anyone does anything to hurt her, they answer to me." There was no room for argument in his tone.
"Angel, do you love this girl?" Buffy asked.
"No, but since Dru sired her, and her situation is similar to mine, I feel responsible for her. Does that make sense?"
"I guess." She shrugged.
"Alright, don't touch her." He reiterated just to make sure he had made his point. "Okay, let's beat this Judge guy."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angel and Buffy had barely escaped when they were caught in the raptors at the factory, they probably wouldn't have at all if it wasn't for Ronnie dropping those monitors. She didn't mean to help the Slayer, but she couldn't watch the Judge kill her or Angel the way he did Dalton earlier. Luckily, Spike hadn't seen it happen or he'd be furious. She wondered if Angel and Buffy were okay now.

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Angel woke with a start and gasped for air as he sat up. He got up and ran outside to the alley. He fell to the ground in the rain and cried out.
"Buffy!"
"Ronnie!"

Chapter Text

Ronnie and Dru were sitting in the main room of the factory watching the Judge huddled in a corner when Spike wheeled out. "I'm not happy ladies. Angel and the Slayer are still alive. They know where we are, they know about the Judge. We should be vacating."

Dru walked over to him, "Nonsense. They'll not disturb us here. My Angel's too smart to face the Judge again."

Ronnie nodded, "She's right, Will. He's really not big on the risk taking these days, and he knows the Judge is more than they can handle."

Spike finally conceded their point. "What's Big Blue up to anyway? He just sits there."

"I am preparing." The Judge said without even gracing Spike with a look in his direction.

"Yeah? It's interesting to me that 'preparing' looks a great bit like sitting on your ass. When do we destroy the world already?" Spike asked impatiently.

Still the Judge remained in his meditative position as he spoke to Spike. "My strength grows, and with every life I take it will increase further."

Spike nodded in encouragement. "So let's take some. I'm bored."

"You're always bored," Ronnie teased.

Behind them Drusilla started moaning and Ronnie ran to her side. "Will!"

Spike looked back at them, "Dru?"

Drusilla fell to the floor crying and Ronnie kneeled beside her and cradled her head in her lap. Drusilla cried, "Angel…"

Spike wheeled over them concerned. "Darling…do you see something?"

Drusilla smiled evilly.

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In the alley of Angel's apartment building Angelus reveled in the hooker he just killed. He stole the carton of smokes and lighter from her pocket before he headed to the factory. It was time to see his family again.

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Back at the factory Drusilla was lying flat on a table as Ronnie lay beside her stroking her hair. Spike wheeled up to them. "Are we feeling better then?"

Dru smiled up at the ceiling. "I'm naming all the stars."

Spike frowned. "You can't see the stars, love. That's the ceiling." She gave no reaction so he deadpanned, "Also, it's day."

"William!" Ronnie rebuffed.

"I can see them." Drusilla continued, "But I've named them all the same name."

Ronnie turned back to face Dru and smiled at her lovingly, "I bet there's terrible confusion."

Spike didn't feel like indulging Dru's hallucinations if she'd actually seen something valuable earlier. "Did you see any further? Do you know what happens to Angel?"

"Well," they all turned at the sound of Angel's voice and saw him walking into the main room, "he moves to New York and tries to fulfill that Broadway dream. It's tough sledding, but one day he's working in the chorus when the big star twists her ankle."

"You don't give up, do you?" Spike was clearly annoyed that the girls' reassurances of Angel not returning couldn't be more wrong.

Angel walked over to Spike. "As long as there's injustice in the world, as long as scum like you is walking," he pauses and smirks at Spike's wheelchair, "well, rolling the streets…I'll be around. Look over your shoulder. I'll be there."

As he got closer to them Ronnie could now sense him, and what she felt shocked her. His soul was gone.

The Judge had walked up behind Angelus. "Uh, yeah, Angel, um…" Spike sneered. "Look over your shoulder." The Judge put his hand on Angelus as he turned to face him. "Hurts, doesn't it?"

"Will," Ronnie tried to get his attention.

Angelus shrugged at Spike, "Well, you know, it kinda itches a little."

Spike peered over Angel's shoulder to yell at the Judge, "Don't just stand there. Burn him."

"He can't," Ronnie got Spike's attention that time.

"Gee, maybe he's broken," Angelus quipped.

"What the hell is going on?" Spike yelled at Ronnie since she seemed to know what was happening.

"This one…cannot be burnt. He is clean." The Judge said as he released Angelus.

"Clean?" Spike marveled. "You mean, he's…"

"There is no humanity in him." The Judge said before he finally turned and walked away.

"Couldn't have said it better myself," Angelus faced Spike.

"Angel?" Dru asked in awe.

"Angelus," Ronnie corrected.

"Yeah, babies, Daddy's back."

"How did this happen?" Ronnie asked, if Angel's curse could be broken, did that mean that maybe hers...

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." Angel said as he lit up his cigarette.

"Oh, who cares?" Spike cheered. "What matters is now he's back! Now it's five against one, which are the kind of odds I like to play."

Drusilla leaned into Angelus, "Psst. We're going to destroy the world. Want to come?"

"Yeah. Destroying the world. Great. I'm really more interested in the Slayer." Angelus said.

Ronnie tensed up and Spike noticed, he knew how she felt about going out for the Slayer, but Angelus was back now, he was in charge, not Spike.

"Well," he tried casually, "She's in the world, so that should work out."

"Give me tonight. Hmm?" Angelus offered.

"What do you mean?" Spike asked puzzled.

"Lay low for a night. I guarantee you by the time you go public she won't be anything resembling a threat."

Spike smiled despite himself. He was thrilled to finally have someone hate the Slayer as much as he did. "You've really got a yen to hurt this girl haven't you?"

"She made me feel like a human being." Angelus shook his head in disgust. "That's not the kind of thing you just forgive." His eyes flicked to Ronnie, she stiffened and he looked back to Spike. "But you seem real keen on forgiving 'Ronnie' here of all her indiscretions."

"What are you talking about?" Spike's face twisted in confusion. What had Ronnie done that needed forgiving?

"She's a snitch. That's how me and the Slayer found out about his Honor over there." Angelus said pointing to the Judge.

Spike turned to face Ronnie with hurt written all over his face. "You said you weren't going to take sides! Said your loyalty was to us!"

"It is, Will!" Ronnie pleaded.

"Then how could you out us?" He yelled.

"I said I didn't want her dead!" Ronnie's explanation was becoming hysterical very quickly and Drusilla rushed in front of her.

"Shh…" she reprimanded the men, "you're upsetting Mummy's precious girl." Ronnie huddled into Drusilla's side as a scared child would their mother.

"Dru!" Spike tried to make her see reason. "She bloody well betrayed us!"

"But it brought us Daddy back." Dru pointed out as she continued to stroke Ronnie's hair.

"Damn." Angelus whistled. "Dru's got a point there. If we wouldn't have went after the Judge we wouldn't have got in the situation that freed me from that damn soul." Angelus walked over to the girls and made sure he had Ronnie's full attention. "But if you double cross me the way you did Spike, you'll learn that Darla was going easy on you. Clear?"

Spike flinched at the mention of Darla's treatment of Ronnie. Though he was still furious with her, it helped settle the rage when he remembered seeing how broken she was back then.

Ronnie pulled her head back to full height to address Angelus.

"Crystal clear, Sire."

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Ronnie snuck into the school building to talk to Buffy. She knew this was the biggest risk of her unlife, coming to talk to the Slayer, against Angelus' commands. But she couldn't help it. Knowing that Spike had killed Slayers was enough, but standing by as Angelus tortured one to death, she wouldn't be able to live with herself. She followed the scent of the Slayer into a classroom; she stood in the hallway as she heard the Slayer have a conversation with her Watcher and a woman. She gasped in surprise when she realized she was from the gypsy tribe.

"I'm sorry, Rupert. Angel was supposed to pay for what he did to my people." She had heard enough, she barged into the room.

"And me? What was I supposed to be paying for?" Ronnie now had the attention of everyone in the room. Jenny gasped when she saw her.

"You're the blessed one." Jenny said in awe of Ronnie's presence.

"And you're part of that gypsy tribe that cursed Angel. And blessing my ass, might as well have cursed me, too!" Ronnie said accusingly.

"Ronnie?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, that's me, you're Buffy right?" Ronnie focused her attention on the Slayer.

"Yeah, but why are you here? I thought you weren't taking sides?" Buffy asked, clearly confused.

"I'm not. It's a very fine line. I love Will and Dru, they're my family. But ever since Romania," she gave Jenny a pointed look before returning her attention back to Buffy. "I haven't been able to deal with a lot of what they do, especially killing Slayers. But Angelus is a whole other ballgame. You have no idea what you're up against."

Buffy took all this in, "So if you're so torn on who you should be rooting for than why should I even trust you?" She wanted to be able to take Ronnie at face value, but her world had literally been turned upside down in the last few hours. The one person who she trusted above all being the cause of her turmoil, how was she supposed to trust this girl she'd never met before?

"Fine," Ronnie backed up in defense. "Don't trust me. But remember, I'm the reason you knew about the Judge in the first place. Not to mention I'm risking my entire existence just to be here at all. Do you have any idea what Angelus will do to me if he finds out I'm helping you, again?"

Buffy still looked wearily at her.

"Fine," Ronnie began to walk for the door. "Don't say I didn't warn you."

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Later that night, Ronnie was sitting in her room in the factory. Angelus and Drusilla had taken the Judge to the mall to start their destruction of the world. Since Angelus was back in charge she figured she might as well get back into the habit of old routines of being holed up in her room, especially since she was already not in his good graces for outing the whole Judge thing in the first place. Suddenly Spike entered her room.

"We need to talk." It wasn't a question; he stated it plain and simple.

Ronnie had been dreading this; she knew that once she didn't have Dru to hide behind that one of the men of the group was going to tear into her about her betrayal. She only hoped they didn't find out about her visit this afternoon.

"Why?" Just one word, but it spoke such volumes.

"Destroying the world? Really? I happen to like this world. Once upon a time, Will, you did, too. What made you hate it so much? Is it really all because of this one Slayer?" Ronnie asked, she really was surprised that the ultimate goal of world destruction was in fact Spike's plan.

"This one Slayer broke my bloody back, Ronnie! She's tried repeatedly to kill me and our sire. Not to mention she's probably really gonna come after us now that her boyfriend plays for our side again." Spike was yelling now, and he didn't want to. That's not what he had come here to do. He wanted a rational conversation with his best friend for her to explain to him why she had betrayed his trust.

"So that's all it takes then?" He continued. "Threaten the world and you start wearing a white hat? Forget a century of being a family just to save the people who want us all dead." He looked at her disgusted.

"I'm different, ok? I can't explain, don't really want to. You wouldn't understand it anyway, but it's fact just the same. I'm different from other vampires and if that's a problem for you, then stay out of my room." She nearly choked the last of the words from her throat. She didn't want to keep justifying herself to him when he'd just become more disappointed in her as she continued to explain.

The look of hurt on his face at being dismissed from her room was surprisingly more intense than the one he had when he was informed of her betrayal. But she stayed strong, because it would just be easier in the long run.

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When Drusilla and Angelus returned from the mall he was furious. He had to commend Spike on his ingenuity at bringing forth the Judge, but the fact that the Slayer and her band of misfits actually defeated him just upset him more. He decided he needed something to take his frustrations out on.

Just then he noticed Ronnie's door cracked open…maybe this time around he would use her for her intended purpose, along with whatever else he could think of to let out his anger…

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Spike stirred from his sleep when he heard what he thought was a woman's scream. Then he heard it again, assuming it was just one of the others playing with their food he brushed it off and returned to his slumber.

Chapter Text

"Do you fancy it, pet?" Spike asked Dru as he handed her the necklace he bought her.

Her reaction to it would help him to gauge what Ronnie's would be to the matching bracelet he'd gotten her as a peace offering. He really couldn't stay angry at her, and couldn't stand for her to be angry at him.

"It's beautiful." Dru cooed.

Just then Angelus walked in and plopped a human heart on the table, and Dru's attention was gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike left the room in anger at Angelus' interruption. He was just about to put the necklace for Dru around her neck, when Tall, Dark, and Forehead decided to waltz in with a still warm human heart. The git. So he decided to go give Ronnie her gift. He found her just about to settle in for bed.

"Hey, pet."

She smiled tiredly at him. "Hi, Will."

Her smile reassured him. "I know we haven't been on the best of terms lately, but I got you a little prezzie anyway."

She looked at him confused.

"Present? For what?"

"It's Valentine's Day, luv." He squinted his eyes in disbelief that she'd forgotten one of her favorite holidays.

"Wow, already? I guess I just lost track of the days."

This started to worry him. She usually had a great grasp on time. Her losing track of days, especially forgetting a holiday, was the equivalent of her being deathly ill. However, he couldn't sense anything physically wrong with her, so he decided to brush it off as a coincidence this one time.

"Well, here." He rolled closer to her and handed her the box. She gasped when she saw the bracelet lined with rubies. She looked at it with complete awe.

"It's gorgeous, Will. Thank you so much. But I didn't get you anything." She looked at him concerned.

A smile lit up his face at how much she loved it. Angelus couldn't come in and ruin this moment. He and Ronnie hated each other. Ronnie was all Spike's to impress.

"No, worries, pet, just wanted my girls to have jewelry as pretty as they are." He said to calm her.

"What did you get Dru?" She asked curiously.

"A necklace; it and that bracelet of yours are a matching set, figured you like to go out one night matching and all that."

Ronnie absolutely loved that idea. She idolized her sire and the fact that they had jewelry from Spike for the specific purpose of them matching put her on cloud nine. "That's wonderful, Will. I really can't tell you how much this means to me."

"Here, let me put it on you." Spike said as he rolled closer to her bedside.

"No, that's ok. I'll save it for special occasions." She shut the box and hurriedly made to put it away in a dresser.

"Nonsense, you should wear it all the time." He went to grab for her wrist and she winced back in pain. He grabbed her higher on her forearm and pulled up her shirtsleeve to reveal a large gash across her wrist. He reached for the front of her shirt and found her stomach completely bruised.

"What the bloody hell happened to you, Ronnie?" He screamed, anger and concern rivaling in his voice.

"It's no big deal." She shook her head in dismissal.

"No big deal? You look like a sodden punching bag. Who did this to you?" He hadn't seen her this injured since they left Darla. But she was dust now, so who would…oh no.

"Was this bloody Angelus? I'll kill him!" Spike turned his chair around to go confront Angelus. Ronnie jumped in front of him to stop his progress.

"No, it wasn't Angelus." She rushed to assure him.

"Then who? Say the word and whoever it is, is a footnote in history." He was steaming now. He hated the idea of anyone touching Ronnie. True, they'd never actually been romantically involved, but Drusilla's purpose for siring her was so she would be Spike's. He never treated her like a possession per say, but she was his best friend. His. And anyone who touched something of his had to face the wrath of the devil himself.

"I haven't been feeding right lately, so I'm not up to full strength. I went after this guy last night at the Bronze and he had a knife. He cut my wrist, kicked me in the stomach, and took off. I just haven't fed since then, so I haven't had time to heal properly."

"So he got away? What does he look like?" This explanation wasn't good enough. If the tosser who hurt Ronnie was still out there they deserved to have their throat ripped out.

"Will, don't worry about it." She continued trying to brush off his concern.

"I do worry. I can't bloody stand seeing you hurt like this. Brings back too many bad memories, it does." He said ruefully. He had never forgiven himself for allowing Darla's abuse of Ronnie to go on for as long as it did.

She knelt down in front of his chair to be at eye level with him and placed her hands on his knees. "Will, you saved me from Darla."

"It should never have gone on as long as it did. I should have gotten us out of there the first time she raised a hand to you. You and Dru, kitten, you're my world. I can't stand when someone tries to hurt you." He explained as he touched her cheek.

"I know." She reached up to give him a hug. "Now, I'm gonna catch some sleep. The rest should help me heal. Thanks again for the present; I'll put it on as soon as the cut closes." She kissed him on the cheek and stood to go to bed.

"Right, sleep well, pet." He wheeled out of the room.

Ronnie lay in bed torn up about what just happened. She hated lying to Spike, but she had no other choice. She knew he was serious when he said he'd dust Angelus for hurting her. She was flattered, but she couldn't let him stand up to Angelus while he was still vulnerable in that chair. What Angelus had done to her last night had hurt, but it would be nothing in comparison to if he did something to Spike.

Ronnie had never complained when Darla had beaten her. She understood the vampire hierarchy with perfect clarity and never refused Darla a single wish. She was no stranger to the treatment Angelus was giving her. She could take it then, she could take it now. She just had to make sure she kept it a secret so that Spike wouldn't do something stupid to try to protect her. Maybe once he was completely healed himself, she would confide in him, but until then she'd be the perfect grandchilde and take whatever Angelus dished up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night Ronnie couldn't explain it, but she woke up with an urge to see the man she loved. She had never even really met him, but she knew in her heart that he was the one for her. She jumped out of bed and rushed to the main room in time to see Dru getting ready to leave as well. They looked at each other in understanding and in unison said their hearts' desire. "Xander."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They found Xander, but he was in Angelus' clutches. They rushed to them.

"If it's any consolation, I feel very close to you right now." Angelus sneered at Xander's comment.

At this, Drusilla grabbed Angelus' shoulder and threw him into a tree.

"Don't fret, kitten." Dru cooed at him as she helped him up. "Mummy's here." Ronnie rushed to their side and started stroking Xander's cheek.

"I don't know what you're up to, ladies, but it doesn't amuse!" Angelus roared. They all started growling at each other.

"If you harm one hair on this boy's head…" Dru warned as she stroked Xander's hair.

Angelus gawked at them in shock. "You've gotta be kidding. Him?"

"Just because we finally found a real man…" Ronnie yelled at Angelus.

"I know I drove her insane, but did it carry into you when she sired you?" Angelus was dumbfounded. What had caused the women in his family to suddenly fall for this moron?

Drusilla ran her finger across Xander's lips. "Your face is a poem. I can read it."

"Really?" Xander squeaked. "It doesn't say 'spare me' by any chance?" He asked trembling in fear of the two vampiresses in front of him.

"Shh." Dru silenced him with a finger over his mouth.

"How do you feel about eternal life?" Ronnie asked. Nothing would make her happier than to have the man of her dreams to forever belong to her and her sire.

"We couldn't just start with a coffee? A movie, maybe?" Xander suggested, still quaking with fear.

Dru went to expose his neck so that she could give him an eternal kiss when they were all distracted by the screams of a mob of women running towards them. They each had weapons and Dru was quickly reminded of Prague.

"There he is! Get them!" One girl shouted.

"He's mine! Get off!" The gypsy woman screamed.

Dru and Ronnie let go of Xander as all the other women grabbed and pawed at him. After the mass confusion Xander and a girl made it into a house. When Drusilla and Ronnie tried to follow them they were met with the invisible barrier.

"Ahh! Sorry, girls." They turned to face Angelus at the sound of his voice. "I guess you're not invited."

He then walked them dejectedly back to the factory.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night Ronnie was woken by being roughly yanked from her bed onto the floor. When she opened her eyes she saw Angelus above her. He hauled her up against him and covered her mouth with his hand to cover any screams she might have. He whispered in her ear.

"How dare you fall head over heels for that stupid kid." He sneered at her in disgust.

"Sire, I'm sorry, it was a spell." She pleaded with him, she didn't even remember what she had done while under the spell. The only reason she even knew what he was talking about was because Spike had told her about it as soon as the effects had worn off of her and Dru.

She always addressed him by 'Sire', it gave him the sense of respect he felt entitled to. He never asked it of her, she just naturally did it, and he loved the sound of it.

"I was fine with you admitting that you had a thing with Lawson, he is at least family. But to go after that idiot, and offer him eternal life?"

"I didn't mean to. I had no control over what I was doing. Please, Sire, I would never betray you like that."

"I think it's time we go down to the basement for another session, what do you say?"

She nodded quickly so as to let him know she wasn't resisting at all. He pulled her by the hand nearly pulling her arm out of the socket with his harshness, but she didn't flinch, she knew it wasn't even close to what else he had planned for tonight.

Chapter Text

Passion…

Angelus let Ronnie down from the chains that had been holding her up. She was bleeding, bruised, and she was pretty sure that her leg was broken.

"That will teach you to go chasing after moronic humans again, won't it?" He sneered at her as she fell from trying to put pressure on her leg.

"Yes, Sire. I'll never do it again." She choked back a sob.

"Good girl." He went and brought out a weak human, already passed out. He shoved it in front of her. "There, eat. I want you nice and healed for our next session."

She looked up at him pleadingly. "You know I don't eat humans anymore!"

"Yeah, well, I'm back." He crouched down in front of her. "And as long as you stay with us, you'll eat like you're meant to, or I'll chain you outside and you can watch the sunrise. Clear?"

She nodded and grabbed the man. She began to drink and quit after about a pint.

"No," Angelus shook his head. "Drain him."

She did as he said and began to cry as she saw the man's life. He had a wife and son still expecting him to come home. She finished draining him and threw him away from her.

It lies in all of us…

"Good girl." Angelus patted her on the head. "Now go to bed. I'm going for a real hunt now."

Sleeping…

At that, he left her in the room alone and she had to hobble herself to bed, where she cried herself to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later, Ronnie had come into the main room. She hadn't been able to sleep because every time she closed her eyes she saw that man's life. He was the typical Good Samaritan, never was mean to anyone. She finally escaped the haunting silence of her bedroom to go find Spike. He was sulking, as per usual for him now that he was in that chair. She went to sit beside him. She was still limping slightly from breaking her leg earlier.

"You're hurt again, luv?" Spike asked worriedly.

"It's nothing I just tripped earlier. That spell must have affected my coordination. You know how weird I am when magic's involved." She lied quickly.

He snorted. "Still can't believe you and Dru went all gah gah for the Slayer's whelp like that."

"Hey, spell! We had no choice!" She defended.

"Right." He nodded. "Well, better not happen again, made me sick seeing you two like that."

Ronnie flinched as she remembered Angelus say the same thing all day as he whipped and beat her. Just then Drusilla came in behind them holding something behind her back.

"Hi, Dru." Ronnie greeted her.

"I brought something for my Spike." She pulled out a whining puppy from behind her back.

"Aww, how cute." Ronnie cooed.

"Poor thing, she's an orphan." Dru said as she walked up to Spike. "Her owner died," She winked at Ronnie who was now standing behind Spike's chair looking at the puppy. "Without a fight. Do you like her? Hmm? I brought her especially for you…to cheer you up. And I've named her…Sunshine!" She tried to hand Spike the puppy. "Open wide." But he turned his head in rejection. "Come on, love. You need to eat something to keep your strength up. Now, rrrr, open up for mummy." Dru said as she waved the puppy in front of his face.

"Come on, Will." Ronnie tried to persuade him. "You have to eat."

Spike wheeled around the table. "I won't have you feeding me like a child, girls."

"Why not?" Angelus asked as he announced his presence.

As soon as she saw him Ronnie made her way to stand behind Spike again.

Angelus continued. "They already bathe you, carry you around and change you like a child."

"It's ok." Ronnie rushed to defend him. "We don't mind." She said as she placed her hand on Spike's shoulder comfortingly.

"Why, Angel." Dru said as she went to stand by him, and he smiled at her. "Where have you been? The sun is almost up, and it can be so hurtful." She looked at her childer. "We were worried."

"No, we weren't." Spike scoffed.

Ronnie smacked his shoulder in a scolding manner. "He didn't mean that." She rushed to assure Angelus.

"You must forgive, Spike. He's just a bit testy tonight. Doesn't get out much anymore." Dru stepped in.

"Well," Angelus spoke to Spike as he approached him. "Maybe next time I'll bring you with me, Spike. Might be handy to have you around if I ever need a really good parking space." He mocked.

Spike got angry and shouted. "Have you forgotten that you're a bloody guest in my bloody home?"

Angelus bent down in his face. "Have you forgotten I'm the head of this family? And as the head," he leaned in closer, "if there's anything I can do for you…"

Waiting…

"Any…responsibility I can assume while you're spinning your wheels…"

He looked over his shoulder at Drusilla then looked back at Spike.

And though unwanted…

"Anything I'm not already doing, that is." At that he walked around Spike's chair behind Ronnie and wrapped his arms around her as Spike turned around to face them.

Unbidden…

"That's enough!" Spike yelled.

Angelus smiled and chuckled at him.

"Aww…" Drusilla cooed as she leaned down to give Spike a kiss on the cheek and put the puppy on his lap before she walked around the table. "You two boys…fightin' over us and all. Makes a girl feel…"

Suddenly she looked up and moaned in pain. "Dru?" Ronnie pulled out of Angelus' arms and ran to comfort her sire. "What is it?" She asked as she stroked her hair soothingly.

"The air." Dru explained. "It worries. Someone…an old enemy is seeking help…" Ronnie looked back at the men worriedly. "Help to destroy our happy home. Ohhh…"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later, Ronnie was sitting in her room after Dru had recovered from her episode. Suddenly, Spike crashed the door open, wheeled in, and slammed it behind him. He wheeled to sit directly in front of her and fixed his worst glare on her.

It will stir…

"Will, what's wrong?" She asked confused.

"Don't you 'Will' me. What the bloody hell was that earlier?" He was steaming now.

"What are you talking about?" Ronnie asked, still clearly perplexed.

"Angelus hinting that he was not only replacing me in Dru's bed, but yours as well!" Spike fought not to scream loud enough to cause a scene and have the minions come in to see what was going on.

"No, Will, it's not like that." She rushed to explain.

Open its jaws and howl.

"Well, you better tell me what it is like. I can deal with Dru running to the ponce, but last I checked you hated him. When in God's name did you start sleeping with him?" He crossed his arms in an impatient gesture.

"I've never slept with him. He just said that to get you upset. Which clearly worked." Now it was her turn to cross her arms.

"How do I know you're telling the truth?" He asked haughtily.

She looked hurt for a moment before she snapped back angrily. "Think about it. Who's more likely to lie to you? Me or Angelus?"

"Fair point." He nodded and his anger deflated. "I'm sorry, kitten. I just hated the idea that you were with him. I know how much you hate him so I just assumed if something was going on, then you were being forced. And I saw red." He explained.

"It's alright. He wanted you mad. Mission accomplished. Now if you don't mind, I had trouble sleeping before so I'm gonna try to catch up now." She said as she kissed him on the cheek then headed to bed.

"Of course, luv. Sleep well." He said as he rolled out of her room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She wasn't asleep for long when Angelus pulled her out of bed again.

"I'm not completely healed, yet, Sire. It would be no fun for you." She tried to deter him.
"Oh, that's not what I want just yet." He chuckled.

Just then, she noticed Dru in the background. She came up to Ronnie and started to speak soothingly. "Look into my eyes. Be in me." And that was the last thing Ronnie remembered for the next few hours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenny Calendar was in her classroom still working at her computer. She tapped a few keys, then looked up at the screen. The percent bar loaded completely and she scrolled up to see the translation along with the original text.

"That's it!" She smiled. "It's gonna work!" She said as she saved it. She set the floppy disk to the side near some books on the edge of her desk. In the meantime a hardcopy has started to print out. She wheeled her chair over to the printer and looked it over. She looked up to see Ronnie sitting in a desk at the back of the class. Jenny gasped and jumped out of her seat.
"Veronica…How did you get in here?" She asked curiously. "You scared me."

"Sorry, gypsy girl." Ronnie smirked evilly at her. "I was invited. The sign in front of the school… 'Formatia trans sicere educatorum.'"

"'Enter all ye who seek knowledge'." Jenny translated.

Ronnie giggled and stood up. "What can I say? I'm a knowledge seeker." She moved closer to Jenny.

Jenny couldn't figure out why Veronica was looking at her like that. Sure, she wasn't a Scooby, but she didn't like Angelus either. "Veronica, I've got good news." Ronnie got closer to Jenny, and she became very uneasy.

"I heard. You went shopping at the local boogedy-boogedy store." Ronnie noticed the Orb on Jenny's desk and picked it up. "The Orb of Thesulah. If memory serves," she tilted her head, "which it always does, this is supposed to summon a person's soul…from the ether…store it until it can be transferred." The Orb began to glow and Jenny started to move away from Veronica.

"You know what I hate most about these things?" Ronnie chucked the Orb across the room, and Jenny screamed as it shattered. Ronnie smiled. "They're so damn fragile." Suddenly, she lost the smile. "Must be that shoddy gypsy craftsmanship, huh?"

Jenny had backed into the wall and trembled with fear. She started to inch her way toward the door. Ronnie reached over to the PC and turned the monitor so she could see it.

"I never cease to be amazed how much the world has changed in just a century."

Jenny had reached the door and tried to open it. It was locked. Ronnie turned the monitor back around. "It's a miracle to me. You, you put the secrets to restoring Angel's soul in here…"
She shoved the computer off of the desk and onto the floor. It broke, and the monitor shattered and sparked and started to burn.

Ronnie tore the printout from the printer. "It comes out here." She looked at the paper. "'The Ritual of Restoration.' Wow. This, this brings back memories. It's so similar to the ritual they used on me." She started ripping the paper in half.

"Wait," Jenny yelled. "That's Angel's…"

"Oh, his cure?" She said as she finished tearing the paper. "No, thanks. Been there, done that, and Angelus isn't that crazy about déjà vu, says it's outdated. My… Isn't this my lucky day." She said as she looked around the ruined room. "The computer, and the pages," She dropped the papers in the fire of the computer. "Looks like I get to kill two birds with one stone."
She crouched down in front of the fire to warm herself. Jenny started toward the back door. Ronnie looked back up at her sporting her game face. "And teacher makes three." Jenny started to run for it, but Ronnie roared and quickly jumped and grabbed hold of her.

"No!" Jenny screamed.

Ronnie threw her back into the locked door, and it broke open. Jenny looked back at her, scrambled to her feet and began to run. "Oh, good. I need to work up an appetite first."
Jenny ran through the halls. She opened the door to the lounge area and ran to another set of doors to outside, but they were locked. She ran back into the lounge, saw Ronnie coming and ran further down the hall. Ronnie pulled open the doors and followed her at a fast walk.
Jenny burst through another hall door and ran along the colonnade. Ronnie wasn't far behind, and continued after her at a quick pace. Soon Ronnie started to run as well. Jenny kept running, checking behind her every so often. She reached the next building and struggled with the door. She looked back and saw Ronnie running toward her with an evil grin on her face. Jenny yanked hard at the door several more times before it opened, and she ran inside.
Jenny pulled the door closed behind her and Ronnie slammed into it. She started to run down the hall. Ronnie had to yank at the door a couple of times before it opened for her, too, and she ran in after her. A cleaning cart was in the hall by the stairs, and Jenny grabbed it and pushed it into Ronnie. She slammed into it and flew over it and onto the floor while Jenny ran up the steps.

Jenny ran up onto a large arched window and right into a waiting Ronnie. Jenny screamed when Ronnie grabbed hold of her. Ronnie chuckled and looked into her face. She put one hand around behind her head and touched her lips with the fingers of her other. "Sorry, gypsy, this is where you get off."

She took her fingers from her lips and put her hand under her chin. In one swift movement, she twisted Jenny's head and snapped her neck. Her body collapsed to the floor. Ronnie looked up and around, breathing heavily from the running and the excitement.

She walked outside and found Dru and Angelus waiting for her.

"Well?" Angelus asked.

Ronnie smirked at him. "Mission accomplished." And she fainted and collapsed.

Drusilla picked her up and cuddled her to her like a baby.

"Dru, take her home and lay her in her bed. I'll take care of the teacher and see you later."

"Yes, Daddy." Drusilla nodded and walked away obediently carrying her childe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that day, they were all sitting in the main room while Spike was screaming at Angelus. Apparently, he had killed the gypsy girl and left her in the Watcher's house, and the Slayer was none too pleased.

"Are you insane?! We're supposed to kill the bitch, not leave gag gifts in the friends' beds." Spike yelled.

Drusilla was holding the puppy cuddling it, as Ronnie sat beside her petting it. "But, Spike, the bad teacher was going to restore Angel's soul." Dru tried to defend her sire.

"What if she did?" Spike scoffed. "If you ask me, I find myself preferring the old Buffy-whipped Angelus. This new, improved one is not playing with a full sack. I love a good slaughter as much as the next bloke, but his little pranks will only leave us with one incredibly brassed-off Slayer!"

Ronnie couldn't agree more with Spike, but she kept her mouth shut in a sense of self-preservation.

"Don't worry, roller boy." Angelus said. "I've got everything under control."

Just then, a Molotov cocktail swooshed in and burst on the table, setting it ablaze. Drusilla ran away and Ronnie pushed Spike running right behind her. They stopped out of reach of the flames. Angelus was about to follow them when the Watcher appeared with a baseball bat standing over him.

Dru went to help, "Uh-uh." Spike held her back. "No fair, going into the ring unless he tags you first."

They sat back and watched the fight proceed. Eventually it was another draw between Angelus and the Slayer and they all took off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They had found a place to stay temporarily for the night until Angelus would go out and find them another home. That day while Ronnie slept she didn't understand why she dreamt of the gypsy's life. She wasn't the one to kill her. That had been Angelus. Right?

But this place still had an extra room for Angelus to get all of his frustrations out from the Slayer's attack. So once again, Ronnie was pulled from her sleep to have a session with Angelus.

It hurts sometimes more than we can bear.

Angelus whipped her relentlessly, until she was sure that her back was in ribbons.

If we could live without Passion maybe we'd know some kind of peace.

Next, he had a bowl of holy water. He filled the ladle and walked up to Ronnie and poured it across her breasts.

But we would be hollow…

He got a sword to stab her in the stomach.

Empty rooms, shuttered and dank…

She had to keep all of the pain inside. She knew that if she cried or screamed to the point of waking one of the others that the torture would just become worse.

Without passion…

Angelus gently stroked her face. "That's a good night, darling. See you tomorrow."

And he left her there, silently sobbing on the floor.

We'd be truly dead.

Chapter Text

Angelus was showing them around the new mansion that he found them. It really was a nice place in Ronnie's opinion.

"And this…" he said as they walked outside, "this is the garden."

"Wow," Dru said as she walked around. She stopped to admire a certain plant. "Look."

Ronnie came up behind her and smiled. "Jasmine."

"Night blooming." Angelus said behind them.

"Like us." Ronnie's eyes lit up.

"Oh, Angel. It's fairyland." Dru said excitedly.

"It's paradise." Spike observed. "Big windows, lovely gardens. It'll be perfect when we want the sunlight to kill us." He snarked.

"Oh, lighten up, Will. There is an inside." Ronnie pointed out.

"If you don't like it, Spike, hit the stairs and go. Take a stand, man." Angelus mocked as he came to stand behind Drusilla.

"Well, our old place was just fine, till you went and had it burned down." Spike shot back.

"William!" Ronnie yelled. Spike threw his arms up in a 'what did I do' gesture.

Angelus started walking around. "Things change, Spikey. You gotta roll with the punches." He smirked. "Well, actually, you pretty much got that part down, haven't you?"

"Very funny, mate."

Angelus peeked from behind Dru. "What can I say?" He peeked over the other shoulder. "I just love to see you smile, buddy." Angelus brushed a sprig of jasmine across Dru's cheek and they growled at each other.

"Yeah, you're a giver." Spike said as he rolled his eyes.

"What about you, Ronnie?" Angelus asked as he walked over to her. "Like our new digs?"

"Yes, Sire," she assured him and smiled nervously. "Very lovely. I'm just gonna go find a room and get settled." Before she made her way back inside Angelus called after her.

"And the basement," she turned to look at him and he sneered, "it's to die for." She flinched, but no one but Angelus noticed.

"Good thing we're already dead, then." Spike commented.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later, they were all sitting in the atrium of the mansion. Drusilla and Ronnie were sifting through the dirt in one of the large planters while Angelus sat on a bench behind them, and Spike was in his wheelchair; the girls had their full attention.

"Maybe we'll sleep underground," Dru suggested to Ronnie. "Dig ourselves a little burrow," Ronnie nodded.

"What about your pretty dresses, sweets? They'll get all dirty." Spike pointed out.

"Then we'll sleep naked," Dru reasoned. "Like the animals do," Ronnie giggled at the silliness of the idea.

Angelus perked up. "You know, I'm suddenly liking this plan."

Drusilla lay down on the ground in front of the planter; Ronnie sat beside her and stroked her hair. Angelus leered at the girls, and Ronnie shifted uncomfortably. This time Spike took notice.

"Fortunately, nobody cares what you like, mate." Spike snarked.

"Will," Ronnie said softly in an effort to calm him down.

"Oh, yeah? Sounds like the girls do." Angelus slid off the bench and crouched to look at the girls.

Drusilla began laughing. "There's a gate. It's opening." She rose to her knees.

"Incoming! I love when she does this." Angelus grinned widely.

"What gate, pet?" Spike asked.

"What do you see, Dru?" Ronnie asked attentively.

Dru began bouncing. "It wants her."

Angelus crawled up behind them. "Wants who?"

"The Slayer. It's time, Angel." Dru stood up. "She's ready for you, now. She's dancing." Dru started swaying, "dancing with death."

"Big deal," Spike scoffed. "He won't do anything. Our man, Angel here, likes to talk, but he's not much for action. All hat and no action."

Ronnie glared at him, and he raised an eyebrow in challenge.

Angel grabbed Dru's waist, "I don't know about that." He turned toward Dru. "I think this whole Slayer thing has run its course." He crouched in front of Dru so he was eye level with her waist. "I'm ready to focus my energy elsewhere."

"Really?" Spike humored him.

Angelus stood back up and walked to Ronnie. He stood behind her and rested his hands on her hips. "Oh, yeah! What with you being Special Needs Boy, I figure I should stick close to home." He nuzzled Ronnie's neck; she stood completely tense. "You guys can always use another pair of hands," he said as he ran his hands up Ronnie's sides.

Drusilla cooed while Angelus chuckled evilly. Spike just glared at them all, but kept in mind how uncomfortable Ronnie was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, Spike and Ronnie were sitting in her room, and he decided to bring up her behavior lately.

"Would you please explain to me why you keep reprimanding me for snarking at Angelus?"

She sighed. "I just don't think it's a good idea."

"You used to laugh when I did that. What's changed?" He squinted at her.

"I just don't think you should make him angry while you're still in that chair, ok?" she reasoned.

"Fine," he nodded. "Now why does he keep trying to be intimate with you in front of us, and then you tense up like you expect him to dust you?"

"Well, he's the head, I can't refuse whatever he wants." She shrugged.

Spike's eyebrows reached his hairline at what she was implying. "Are you telling me he is forcing you?"

She shook her head. "It doesn't count as force if I don't say no." She hung her head.

"Well why the bleeding hell don't you?" he barked.

"Because I don't want to piss him off! We're not discussing this now. I'm going to sleep." She said with no room for argument, as she started to get under the covers.

He turned and started rolling out. "But we will finish this conversation later."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After Ronnie woke up, she went back to the atrium where she found Angelus scrubbing himself furiously in some running water. Spike was behind him mocking.

"You might want to let up. They say when you've drawn blood, you've exfoliated."

Angelus turned to him. "What do you know about it? I'm the one who was friggin' violated. You didn't have this thing in you." He walked away from the fountain in disgust.

"What was it?" Ronnie asked concerned.

"A demon?" Dru guessed.

"Love!" Angelus cried as he grabbed a clean shirt and threw it on.

"Poor, Angel." Ronnie said sarcastically without thinking.

Spike chuckled.

Angelus growled at her, which caused her to automatically straighten up.

He walked over to Dru. "Let's get outta here. I need a real vile kill before sunup to wipe this crap out of my system." He pulled on his jacket over his still unbuttoned shirt. Dru leaned closer to him and growled, he snarled back.

"Of course," she replied. "We'll find you a nice toddler."

Angelus started to walk up the stairs when he heard Dru. "Want to come, pets?"

Angelus came back in. "No can do, Dru. I'm sure Spike would be hell on wheels, but we don't have much time." He faced Spike. "Gotta travel light. Ronnie can stay and babysit." He put his hand on Spike's shoulders. "Sorry. Try to have fun without me." He stood up and whispered to Ronnie on his way out. "I'll deal with you when we get back."

She nodded, almost imperceptibly, and they were gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that day, while everyone was sleeping, Spike decided to test how his legs were working and went about exploring the mansion. It really was a posh place, and if Angelus wasn't around he might not mind staying in a place like this permanently.

He decided to go look in on Ronnie and see if she was sleeping any better. Not to tip her off of his new health, yet. Just look in on her to make sure she was sleeping peacefully. He made it to her room and was surprised to see she wasn't there. It was daylight outside, where was she? He was almost certain she had come in this morning. She wouldn't have gone out again, would she?

He decided not to make a big deal about it unless she still wasn't home later. So, he continued to explore. Hadn't Angelus said something about the basement being special? Might as well go see what the great fuss was. He walked over to the door and opened it.

The first thing he noticed was the smell of blood in the air. But not just any blood…oh bollocks. He raced down the stairs and was struck with the worse sense of déjà vu ever.

Ronnie, his sweet best friend Veronica, was lying on the cold cement floor. She was passed out and naked as her blood continued to flow. Her arm was bent in an odd way, and he knew it was covered in whip marks. There wasn't an inch of the front of her body that wasn't marred with bruises. And Angelus' scent was all over her.

He went to sit beside her and cradled her head in his lap. He stripped off the button up shirt he had and wrapped it around her. He quickly set her arm correctly, and she groaned without waking up. He placed it gently on her abdomen. He went into gameface and sliced his wrist on one of his fangs and placed his bleeding wrist to her mouth hoping his blood would heal her quicker.

"Oh, Duchess," he whispered dejectedly. "What did that bastard do to you?"

Ronnie was slowly coming back to consciousness as she felt the flow of blood in her mouth. She tried to resist at first assuming it was one of Angelus' victims he was forcing on her. But as the source was pressed more firmly against her, she noticed it was family blood. She again assumed it was Angelus, just wanting to heal her faster so he could have another session with her. She clutched the arm in front of her and drank vigorously as she felt her body begin to heal. She flexed the muscles in her legs, testing them out.

"Shh…that's it, kitten. Drink up." Spike said soothingly, as he stroked her hair.

Her eyes flew open, and she saw Spike over her pressing his wrist to her mouth. She shoved his arm away and jumped up.

"Will, what are you doing?" She turned from him and began buttoning up the shirt that was now on her.

"I'm making you better!" He defended. "Why did you lie to me? Why didn't you tell me Angelus was doing this to you?"

She turned back to face him once she had the shirt sorted. "What difference would it make? You'd go after him, and he'd hurt you because you can't defend yourself in that chair." She gestured to him to indicate the chair and finally noticed he wasn't in it, but sitting on the ground.

"Where's your chair?" She automatically thought the worst. "Did Angelus bring you down here?"

"Calm down, pet." He put up his hands calmingly as he slowly stood up.

"Oh my god! You can walk! Since when?" She asked shocked, as she rushed to hug him.

It was the first proper hug they had had in decades. He had been in that chair since she got to Sunnydale, and before that she hadn't seen him since the 70s. She missed the feel of being in her best friend's strong arms. He always made her feel safe. She started to silently cry at how at peace she finally felt.

"It's new." He said as he also relished in the feel of having her in his arms again. He had truly missed her. "Decided I'd have a look around the mansion." He finally pulled her back at shoulder length to look into her eyes. "Which is when I found you. How long has this been going on, Duchess?"

She laughed as tears started to fall down her face. "Haven't called me that in a while."

"Special circumstances. Answer the question." He narrowed his eyes on her.

"Since Angel lost his soul and came back to us." She broke eye contact as she admitted that she had lied about it before.

"Christ, luv, you should have told me." He shook his head in aggravation.

"I didn't want you to get hurt." She sobbed.

He pulled her back into another hug and started rubbing her back comfortingly. "I'm gonna kill Angelus." He pulled away and made to walk up the stairs.

She grabbed his arm to stop him. "You can't take him out by yourself. You just got healed."

"What do you suggest we do, then? Let you just continue to get beaten and raped? Well you can forget that right now!"

She looked up at him pleadingly. "Will, do you trust me?"

"Of course I do!" He looked at her incredulously for asking such an insane question.

"I think we need the Slayer's help."

Chapter Text

Spike and Ronnie were sitting in the mansion atrium a few nights later. They hadn't talked much since the night Spike found Ronnie in the basement. Every day while the others were sleeping, Spike would go to the basement, pick her unconscious body up, carry her to her room, and clean her wounds. She would wake up hours later, completely healed.

They were silent right now because Angelus was sleeping in his room, and they didn't want to risk being caught plotting against him. Drusilla walked in and immediately had their attention.

"Nice walk, pet?" Spike asked. She grabbed her stomach like a sick child.

"I met an old man; didn't like him. He got stuck in my teeth. But then the moon whispered to me, all sorts of dreadful things."

Just as she leaned her head back, Angelus walked in. "Well, what did it say?"

"Oh," Spike looked Angelus' way. "Look who's awake." Angelus bumped Spike on the head with his fist as he walked past him. Spike winced a bit, and Ronnie rushed to his side and started rubbing his head soothingly. She always tried to protect Spike, but it just intensified since he began taking care of her after Angelus' "sessions".

"What did the moon tell you?" Angelus asked as he walked up to Dru. "Did you have a vision? Is something coming?"

"Oh, yeah." She smiled. "Something terrible. Psst, psst, psst, psst, psst, psst…"

"Where?" He asked.

"At the museum, a tomb…with a surprise inside."

"Museum?" Ronnie asked curiously. Whatever this plot was, Angelus knew about her gift and she knew she'd be involved.

"You can see all that in your head?" Angelus asked delighted.

"No, you ninny. She read it in the morning paper." Spike said as he handed Angelus the newspaper. Ronnie gently pinched his shoulder to remind him to keep his anger in check.

Angelus read the headline aloud. "'Mysterious Obelisk Unearthed: Excavators Discover Ancient Artifact' Well, Ronnie," he said facing her. "Looks like we're gonna go get you a new toy."

"That's what's been whispering to me. Sh." Dru said.

"Oh, yeah." Angelus faced Dru. "Don't worry, though. Soon it will stop." He turned back to Ronnie and Spike and smiled evilly. "Soon it will scream."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later in the mansion, Angelus and two of the minions had brought the obelisk in and set it in front of the fireplace. Upon first glance, Spike snickered.

"It's a big rock. I can't wait to tell my friends. They don't have a rock this big."

"Spike, my boy," Angelus answered, ignoring Spike's sarcasm. "You never did learn your history. Ronnie, dear, why don't you enlighten him?" He said gesturing with his arm towards the statue, "Do your thing."

Spike tilted his head confused at her, how would she know? "Let's have a lesson then."

Ronnie walked up to the huge obelisk and gently laid her hand on it. She gasped as the history of it flashed before her eyes.

"Acathla, the demon, came forth to swallow the world." Angelus smiled at Spike, and Spike was trying to figure out where all of this information was suddenly coming from. "He was killed by a virtuous knight, who pierced the demon's heart before he could draw a breath to perform the act. Acathla turned to stone, as demons sometimes do, and was buried." She turned to face the men, "Where neither man nor demon would want to look."

"Unless of course they're putting up low rent housing." Angelus quipped, and then turned to the minions. "Boys."

Two of the minions pried the tomb open to reveal Acathla with the sword in his abdomen. Drusilla began to sway.

"He fills my head. I can't hear anything else." Dru said.

"Let me guess," Spike began. "Someone pulls out the sword."

"Someone worthy," Ronnie interjected.

"Mm," he continued. "The demon wakes up and wackiness ensues."

"He will swallow the world." Drusilla predicted.

"And every creature living on this planet will go to Hell." Angelus said as he walked up to Acathla. Suddenly, he turned to face the others. "My friends, we're about to make history…end." He smiled manically.

Ronnie and Spike faced each other and shared a look. They knew it was time to see the Slayer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, Spike was pacing in Ronnie's room as she sat on the bed.

"We've got to warn her!" Ronnie entreated.

"She won't trust us." Spike reasoned.

"She trusted me before, with the Judge." She threw back.

"What if Angelus catches us? He'll go after you even worse. He said so."

"I'm not worth the world, Will."

He turned to face her about to argue that statement. "Ronnie…"

"Ronnie? Spike?" Dru called from the other side of the door. Spike rushed to his chair and just made it as Dru opened the door and stopped in.

"My sweets, the fun's about to begin."

Spike wheeled himself out, and Ronnie followed. The minions were dragging in a young man, shirtless with his hands tied behind his back. They dropped him to the floor in front of Spike, Ronnie, Dru, and Angelus. Angelus started walking towards the man.

"I will drink…" Angelus began the incantation. "The blood will wash in me, over me, and I will be cleansed. I will be worthy to free Acathla." He looked at Spike and Ronnie. "Bear witness…"

He looked at Dru, "as I ascend…" Then he faced Acathla, as he went to game face, "as I become."

He grabbed the man by the hair and lifted him up, holding his head at an angle to expose his neck. He roared and bit the young man hard and fast on the neck. He drank deeply, brought up his hand to brush it against the man's wound, and then let him fall to the floor dead. He looked at the blood on his hand. He lowered it and started to walk slowly toward Acathla.

"Everything that I am, everything that I have done, has led me here."

As he said that, Ronnie flashed back to the gypsy village in Romania.

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1898, Romania

She was lying on the ground out of breath and confused. One minute they were tearing the village apart trying to figure out why after visiting this village last month, Angelus suddenly disappeared. Veronica was about to make her first kill of the night. Then, the woman had started mumbling something in Romani or Latin, Veronica wasn't quite sure. Suddenly, some force of magic crashed down on her, and she was kneeling before the gypsy.

"What did you do to me?" She asked frightened.

"I have bestowed a blessing to you." The gypsy woman told her calmly.

"Is this what you did to Angelus? Is this why he left us?" She asked frantically.

"No, child. You have a great future in front of you. We cursed your elder for killing our most loved daughter, but you, we have blessed."

"Why? What's so special about me?" Ronnie asked clearly confused.

"You retain your humanity even after being turned, as does the other made by your Sire."

"William? Are you going to do this to him, too?" Ronnie stood up and walked over to the woman.

"No, he will get his gift on his own and play a different part. But you shall fight the odds with our blessing."

"So, what is this blessing exactly?" She squinted curiously.

"Your sire has the gift of future sight. We have given you the gift of past sight. At first you'll think it's the same as your elder's curse, but it will help achieve your purpose."

Over the next several months, she learned all the stipulations of the "blessing". How she would be consumed with guilt when she killed, and how her sight made a museum tour no longer require the use of a tour guide.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, she stood behind Angelus and tried not to cower in fear of the fate she knew would happen if Acathla was released.

Angelus approached Acathla, still vamped out. "I have strayed, I have been lost." Ronnie suddenly missed Angel. "But Acathla redeems me. With this act, we will be free."

He grabbed the hilt of the sword with both hands. A blinding bright light emanated from it. Angelus held the sword tightly and tried to draw it out of Acathla. It wouldn't budge, and a moment later, a bright red flame burst from the sword, throwing Angelus back and forth onto the floor.

"Someone wasn't worthy." Spike sing-songed.

Angelus scrambled to his feet and screamed in frustration. "Damn it!"

"This is so…disappointing!" Dru moaned.

Angelus started pacing. "There must be something I missed. The incantations, the blood…" he turned to face Ronnie. "Ronnie? What did I miss?"

"No idea. I don't see the rituals, Sire, that was the minions' job to research." She shrugged.
Spike tried hard to suppress a snicker, hiding his mouth with his hand.

"What are we going to do?" Dru whined.

"What we always do in a time of trouble," Angelus told her. "Turn to an old friend."

Hope flickered in Dru's eyes as Ronnie turned to Spike with fear filled in her eyes.

"We'll have our Armageddon. I swear!" Angelus promised as he grabbed a vase from a shelf. He heaved it at the far wall, smashing it into hundreds of tiny pieces making Ronnie flinch in fear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After Angelus kidnapped Buffy's watcher, Giles, Ronnie and Spike had finally decided it was time to go find the Slayer. They were walking around the town when they noticed a cop approaching the Slayer. They rushed to her and just as Buffy was raising her hands in surrender, Ronnie jumped in kicked the officer in the face and then the shin. Spike grabbed him and threw him onto the hood of his car, where he laid unconscious.

Spike stepped into Buffy's line of view. "Hello, cutie."

Buffy instantly went into attack mode and punched him twice in the face. He grabbed her by the shoulders to restrain her, but she brought her knee up into his gut.

"Now, you hold on a second." He shoved her away from himself. She reached in her coat and pulled out a stake.

Ronnie jumped in front of him just as he raised his arms in surrender. Spike peered over Ronnie's shoulder just to address Buffy. "Hey! White flag here. I quit."

"Let me clear this up for you. We're mortal enemies. We don't get time outs." Buffy said condescendingly. Just then, she noticed it was Ronnie standing in front of Spike. She dropped her defensive stance and relaxed. "Where the hell have you been? I haven't seen you since Angelus showed up!"

"She's been getting pulverized by your boytoy." Spike tossed out, not liking the already seeming easy camaraderie among the girls.

"William!" Ronnie slapped his arm. She hadn't wanted Buffy to know about that.

"What?" Buffy asked surprised.

"It's nothing." Ronnie insisted.

"Bollocks, it's nothing. Angelus has been beating her since he got here. It's why we came to you. We can't take him on by ourselves, and neither can you." He said accusingly.

"Alright," Buffy nodded. "Let's go to my place, get out of the open."

"Right, let me just kill this guy." Spike began. Buffy cleared her throat, and he looked back at both women giving him reproaching looks. He bowed his head in defeat, and they headed to Buffy's house.

They were walking down Revello Drive, when Buffy's mom pulled up in a Jeep screaming her name. They all turned their attention to her as she got out of the car.

"Where have you been? Are you okay? The police were here, I've been looking for you."

"Mom, let's, let's go inside, and I can explain." Buffy urged.

"Who are these people?" She turned to Spike and Ronnie. "Who are you?" Her head spun back around to Buffy. "Are you okay?"

"Mom!" Buffy tried to calm down her mother. "I'm-I'm okay."

"Buffy, terrible things have happened. What were you doing?"

Spike cut in. "What, your mum doesn't know?"

Buffy shot Spike a look as Joyce asked Spike, "Know what?"

Buffy faced her mom, "That I'm, uh, in a band. A-a rock band with Spike and Ronnie here."

"R-right." Spike jumped in again. "She plays the, the triangle." He stumbled.

"Drums." Buffy corrected.

"Drums, yeah." Ronnie rushed in, "She's hell on the old skins, you know."

"And what do you do?" She asked Spike.

"Well…I sing," he said unconvincingly.

So, she turned to Ronnie with an arched eyebrow. "Keyboard." Ronnie said without missing a beat.

"Mom, let's go inside to talk about this." Buffy tried again.

Just then, a vamp attacked from Buffy's porch. The three worked in perfect sync to dust him. Joyce just stared in astonishment as they acted completely casual about it.

"Buffy…what's going on?"

The three shared a look and Buffy walked up to her mom. "Mom…I'm a Vampire Slayer."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They had all come to sit in Buffy's living room while she was on the phone with Willow. It was a very awkward silence until Joyce finally asked.

"Have we met?"

Ronnie shook her head and began to answer "no" when Spike jumped in.

"Um…you hit me with an ax one time. Remember? Uh, 'get the hell away from my daughter'?"
Ronnie wondered what that was about, but had to commend Joyce for standing up to a Master Vampire like that.

"Oh. So do you live here in town?" Again, Ronnie went to answer, but Buffy walked in and the three formed a huddle as Joyce looked on. "Is Willow all right?" Joyce asked.

"Yeah, she's fine." Then she turned to the two vampires she'd invited into her home. "All right, talk…What's the deal?"

"Simple." Spike said. "You let the three of us skip town, we help you kill Angel."

"Angel? Your boyfriend?" Joyce asked confused.

"Forget about Drusilla. She doesn't walk." Buffy said curtly.

"Buffy, come on, she's our Sire. We need her." Ronnie pleaded.

"She killed Kendra." Buffy informed them.

"Who's Kendra?" Ronnie asked confused.

"Dru bagged a Slayer? She didn't tell me!" Spike croaked excitedly.

"Slayer?" Ronnie turned to Buffy, "But you…"

"Long story, later." Buffy waved her off.

"So you didn't kill that girl?" Joyce said relieved.

"Of course not!" Buffy said offended.

"Did she explode like that man out there?" Joyce wondered.

"She was a Slayer, Mom." Buffy explained.

"Like what you are?" Buffy nodded.

"Look," Spike pulled the girls aside. "This deal works for us one way. Full stop. Me, Ronnie and Dru for Angel."

"Honey, are you sure you're a Vampire Slayer." Joyce tried to reason with her.

"I'll take us out of the country. You'll never hear from us again. I bloody well hope." Spike explained his plan.

"Fine. Get back to the mansion. Make sure Giles is all right." Buffy nodded.

"I…I mean have you tired not being a Slayer?" Joyce tried again.

"Mom!" They all sighed. Buffy looked back at her allies. "Be ready to back me when I make my move." Spike headed to the door, Ronnie on his heels. Buffy called to them. "If Giles dies…" they looked back at her, "Dru dies."

Spike nodded and stepped out. Ronnie was ready to follow when she heard Joyce.

"It's because you didn't have a strong father figure isn't it?" Joyce asked worriedly.

"Will, go on. I'll catch up." Ronnie shooed him away.

"Duchess…" He tried to get her to come with her.

"Go!" She insisted.

"Mom this happened before you and Dad split you just didn't listen." Buffy yelled.

Ronnie came back in. "Ms. Summers, your daughter is an amazing girl, that has saved the world hundreds of times."

"Against people like you?" Joyce spat at her.

A huge fight ensued, resulting in Joyce kicking Buffy out of the house. Ronnie assured her that it was shock and would pass, and if not that she had tons of friends to lean on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy was in Giles' apartment later, talking to Whistler about how to defeat Angelus when he mentioned Ronnie.

"Yeah, the Powers got it wrong with Angel. But that Veronica, she's gonna be a big help. She'll be around for a long time." Whistler told her.

"What if she turns? Just like Angel?" Buffy voiced her fears concerning the female vampire.

"Impossible. Angel was cursed. Ronnie was blessed, totally different magic. She's safe." Whistler assured her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The battle at the mansion began. Ronnie fought off a few minions, and then helped Xander carry Giles out to safety. She got them all the way to the door, but couldn't go out in the sunlight. Just as she was coming back, Spike was in front of her with an unconscious Dru in his arms.

"Ronnie, come on." He called.

She looked at Angelus and Buffy fighting. "God, he's gonna kill her!"

Spike shrugged. "Not our problem, let's go!"

She shook her head. "No, sorry, Will. I'm staying, but you promised you'd take Dru and go. I'll see you guys later."

"Come on, Duchess, this isn't our fight!" He pleaded with her.

"Wrong, this is my fight." She kissed Spike on the cheek and ran to Buffy and Angelus. She overheard him taunting her as she approached.

"Now that's everything. No weapons…no friends…no hope. Take all that away, and what's left?"

"Me!" Ronnie screamed as she roundhouse kicked Angelus' head.

The battle ensued, and the girls quickly gained the upper hand. Just as Buffy was about to deliver the final blow, Ronnie saw the light flash in his eyes.

"Buffy!" Ronnie grabbed her shoulder to stop her.

Angel had his soul back. He was confused and didn't have his memories at first. The girls tried to have a happy reunion with him, but they noticed the opening behind him. Buffy told him to close his eyes, that she loved him, kissed him, and then plunged the sword through him.

"I'm sorry, Buffy." Ronnie tried to console her.

"It's okay. Where are Spike and Dru?" Buffy asked suddenly remembering.

"They left. But I couldn't leave you to Angelus alone." She smiled sadly. "I know what that's like."

"Thanks. Well, I'm gonna get outta town for a while." Buffy told her.

"I could come with you?" Ronnie suggested.

Buffy shook her head. "Actually, could you stay here? I'll be back, I promise. But I need someone I trust to watch the Hellmouth for me while I'm gone." She explained.

"You trust me? Why?" Ronnie asked surprised.

"Little birdie told me you're on our side." Buffy smiled.

"I don't have a soul." Ronnie said, as if Buffy forgot.

"I trust you."

"Thanks." Ronnie smiled. "You did the right thing, Buffy. Angelus was a bastard, but Angel was my friend. I'll miss him too." Ronnie explained.

Buffy smiled sadly, gave Ronnie a hug, and smiled. She knew the Hellmouth was in good hands. She just hoped her friends would trust Ronnie, too.

Chapter Text

"Bye, Giles! I'm going patrolling."

"Yes, yes, don't have too much fun." Giles called back.

"I'll try." Ronnie smiled as she grabbed her coat and walked out the door.

Giles shook his head at her antics. He'd invited the female vampire to live in his home just three short months ago. After the battle with Angelus, Buffy had sent him a letter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Giles,
By the time you get this letter, I should already be settled. The battle with Angelus, you probably guessed, was really difficult on me. I had to look at the face of the man I love and kill him to save the world. I think it would just be easier on me to take a little vacation for a while, no Hellmouth, no vampires, just rest. I'm tired, Giles, but this is just for the summer.
I'm not leaving the Hellmouth unprotected, I asked Ronnie to watch over it. She's different, Giles. I know that's what I said about Angel, and we know how that worked out. But I've actually had an agent from the Powers that Be talk to me about her. She's not cursed; she's blessed. I'm not really sure about all the details; maybe you can research that. I know that what it does mean is that she can't turn on us.

Talk to her, Giles. She was hurt by Angelus, too. He tortured her the entire time he was loose on Sunnydale. He had you that last day, maybe you two can relate to each other or something. In fact, I don't know if you remember, but she saved you by helping Xander carry you away from the battle. Then, she saved me. Angelus had the upper hand, he was about to kill me. Ronnie ran in and helped me fight him off.

She's all alone now, Giles. The others were the closest thing she's had to a family in the last century. Now, Darla and Angelus are dead, and Dru and Spike left town. Ronnie stayed behind, and now she has no one. When I get back, I'll be sure to be a good friend to her, but she needs someone to help her cope through the summer. Please be that person, Giles.
I'll miss you. See you in a few months.

Love, Buffy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After Giles read the letter, he went out to find Ronnie. He found her in Restfield cemetery fighting off a group of vampires. Just like Buffy said, she was protecting the Hellmouth, but why? She didn't have a soul, but the Powers said she was important. He would have to keep a close eye on her, then, he remembered Buffy's words. In the course of a few months, this girl had lost her family, or the vampire equivalent of it.

"I can smell you, Watcher." Ronnie suddenly called. She had apparently beat the whole group while he was lost in his thoughts, and now she was facing him. "Can I help you?"

"Y-yes. No." He stumbled. "Buffy, she wrote me a letter." He offered, as if that explained everything.

"She did? Is she okay?"

"Yes, she is actually." Giles was impressed with her genuine concern for Buffy. "She did mention how you helped with defeating Angelus."

"Angelus? Really." Ronnie noticed how he didn't say Angel. Apparently, Buffy didn't mention how he got his soul back before they had to kill him.

"She also mentioned how you're keeping watch over the Hellmouth while she's on holiday." Giles continued.

"Yeah," Ronnie nodded. "I wanted to go with her, but she insisted, so here I am." She smiled sadly.

"I-if you don't mind my asking, where are you staying?"

"Oh, um…" She thought about lying, but then decided on the truth. "Honestly, I've been patrolling all through the night, and I either crash in a crypt or warehouse, depending on where I am when the sun comes up."

"Really?" That surprised him. He would have thought a vampire as old as her would be better at finding living arrangements. "Why aren't you staying somewhere more permanent? The mansion, perhaps?"

"No way. Too many bad memories in that place," she shuddered.

"Y-yes, Buffy also mentioned how Angelus…uh…treated you." He tried to put it delicately.

"Great." She rolled her eyes. "Look, why don't you just tell me what Buffy didn't mention and I'll fill in the blanks." She said angrily.

"Actually, that's it, I'm afraid. Any other information I learn about you, I'll have to obtain directly from the source."

She smiled at that. "You're a proper Englishman aren't you, Watcher?"

"Well, I like to think so." He ducked his head bashfully. "And do please call me, Giles."

"I like you, Giles. Will assures me he used to be a proper gentleman, but I've never seen proof." She joked.

"Will?" He asked curiously.

"William." She saw he was still confused. "Oh, um, Spike. I never call him that." She made a disgusted look.

"Why, may I ask?"

"Do you know how he got that nickname?" Giles nodded his head. "His mother gave him a beautiful name like William, and he goes by 'Spike' because of his new killing method. That was disrespectful in our time, so I won't call him anything but his Christian name."

Giles smiled at her slip back into the speech of her original time period. "You are different, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Would you like to explain to me how?"

"Look," she sighed, "it's a long story."

"I've got time."

"I don't." She motioned to the horizon and the first shades of sunlight. "I gotta find somewhere to crash."

Giles thought quickly about Buffy telling him to be there for Ronnie. "Come to my flat."

"What?"

"You need more permanent accommodations than staying in crypts every night. I have a spare room, you could just stay with me." He suggested.

"You'd invite a vampire that you don't know to come live with you?" She asked disbelievingly.

"I know that you helped to save mine and Buffy's lives, along with the world." He replied matter-of-factly.

She shrugged. "Why not?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the next several months, Giles and Ronnie had developed an easy friendship. She had shared with him her story of becoming a vampire, how she was also a little less viscous, but still was loyal to her family, even the elder ones who didn't treat her well. She told him the stipulations of her "blessing" the gypsies gave her, and he further researched it to no avail. She truly was an anomaly. Angel's soul had made him further detached, but Ronnie's "conscience" for lack of a better term made her more accessible than Angel had ever been.

"No way!" Ronnie exclaimed in complete shock.

"Um, yes, quite." Giles sputtered over his discomfort of the topic. He had just informed Ronnie of the way in which Angel lost his soul and reverted to Angelus.

"Well I can promise you, that does not happen to me under those circumstances." Ronnie laughed.

Giles had only brought it up as a means of seeing if she had the same consequences to her blessing as Angel did with his curse.

He tested her other abilities, first, by taking her to a museum, then presenting her with some artifacts he had acquired during his "Ripper" days. He further wanted to test how her own memory worked. Her memory concerning dates was impeccable, even when she was disorientated from first waking up she knew the precise date. But he learned after testing a spell on her that she retained no memory of events that occur while she's under a spell.

"How similar is that with thrall?" She asked curiously after the experiment.

"Quite similar, I would imagine." Giles replied. "Why do you ask?"

"We ran into a few vamps that use thrall and I was always a bit fuzzy about what was going on when they were around." She explained.

"Like who?" He wondered.

Ronnie smirked. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie hadn't directly approached any of the Scoobies out of fear for how they'd react. One night after living with Giles for about a month, she came to the door about to walk in when she heard Xander inside yelling at Giles.

"Come on, G-man. We just had this problem with Angel. She'll turn on us and kill us as soon as she earns our trust." He implored Giles.

"She's quite different, Xander." Giles defended.

"That's what Buffy said about Angel." Xander shot back.

"She helped you save me from Angelus. She's been living in this flat with me for over a month, Xander. Don't you think if she wanted me dead, she would have done it by now?" Giles reasoned.

"Whatever, I'm out of here."

Xander stormed out, when he swung open the door he saw Ronnie. He made a disgusted look at her and left.

"They'll all come around." Giles assured her as she walked in and closed the door.

"Sure." She replied sarcastically.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next week she was out patrolling when she saw Willow and a boy she assumed was Oz, she decided from the many conversations she had with Giles concerning the group. She was going to stay out of their way when she noticed a vamp jump from behind a tombstone and grab Willow. Oz went to help her, but the vamp quickly shoved him away. Ronnie ran up to them, pulled Willow from the vamp, and pushed her out of the way. Oz rushed to Willow's side, and they watched as Ronnie staked the vampire. She turned back to them.

"Come on, guys. You know better than to walk around a cemetery at night." She scolded them.

"Who are you?" Oz asked as he and Willow stood up.

"Oh yeah, we haven't actually met." Ronnie motioned to offer her hand for a shake. "I'm..."

"A vampire," Willow spat. Ronnie dropped her hand dejectedly.

"And that's my cue to leave." She turned to do just that, when Oz called back at her.

"Woah, hold on." He grabbed her arm to turn her. "Why'd you save Willow, not that I'm complaining?"

"It's a long story that you don't want to hear." Ronnie shook her head.

"I got time."

"Oz?" Willow asked worried.

"Wills, she just saved your life, which makes her cool with me." Oz explained.

"But…vampire." Willow attempted a final time weakly.

"I'm living at Giles apartment." Ronnie supplied.

"And Giles is still alive?" Willow asked surprised.

"Of course." Ronnie replied.

"And further I trust you, if Giles does." Oz said.

"Okay…" Willow agreed slowly. "I'll trust you, because Oz and Giles do. A-and also cause you, you know, saved me, which I'm a huge supporter of. But don't try to kill me okay?"

"Got it."" Ronnie smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The summer was almost over and Ronnie couldn't wait for Buffy to be back. She and Giles had fallen into a good routine, and she sort of saw him as a father figure, despite the fact that she was in fact a older than him. Willow and Oz became really good friends with her ever since the incident in the cemetery.

Willow was excited to have another girl around to talk girl stuff about while Buffy was away. Willow was studying magic and Ronnie was supportive, but quick to warn her to be careful of the consequences. She also told Willow about her condition, making her unable to be around when Willow tested out her spells.

Oz was easy going, and Ronnie really like having him as a friend. She wasn't lying when she told Joyce she played keyboard, so sometimes she and Oz would jam and even song-write together. It was easiest to get along with him since he was also a supernatural creature.

Xander was still reluctant to accept her, but was semi-civil when she was around for the sake of the others.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was the first day of school and everyone was starting to wonder why Buffy wasn't back yet. They knew she wouldn't be in school since Snyder expelled her, but maybe they'd see her at the Bronze tonight. Halfway through the day, there was already a dead body found, much to Larry's chagrin since he'd been promoting a lower mortality rate for this year.

Giles had called Ronnie in and she took the sewers into the library to find Giles, Willow, Oz, Xander, and a brunette she assumed was Cordelia.

"Come on, Giles, I was asleep. Why am I in school?" She whined.

"I'm sorry, dear, but there's been a death," he informed her.

"On the first day of school?" She asked exasperated.

"Welcome to Hellmouth High." Cordy punned. "By the way, I love your shoes!"

"Thanks," Ronnie smiled.

"I thought vampires were all tragic fashion victims?" Cordy asked.

"I appreciate history, but don't wish to repeat it. I actually like to move with the times. Will used to be the same way, but he apparently got stuck in the 80s." Ronnie explained.

"You mean Billy Idol knock off?" Cordy asked.

"He says it's the other way around. But when he goes off on stuff like that I just smile and nod." Ronnie teased.

"Like I do when Giles is talking." Xander offered.

"Thank you, Xander." Giles glared at him.

They found the demon responsible and quickly dealt with him. Xander was even friendlier around Ronnie, now that she and Cordy were friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They were all out patrolling when they were ambushed. The others were easily overpowered, and there were more than Ronnie could fight on her own. Just as one was going to grab her from behind, the vamp was grabbed by the shoulder and staked. As he turned to ash, Buffy was visible as being the attacker to the vamp, savior to the Scoobies. Smiles broke out on everyone's faces.

"Hey, guys." Buffy greeted. "Miss me?"

Chapter Text

"Miss me?" Buffy asked after the dust cleared and they could see her as their savior.

"Of course we did, Buff!" Xander said as the rest of the group came up to her and made a group hug.

"Did ya have a good vacation, Buffy?" Willow asked.

"Yeah, just what I needed." She was happy to see Ronnie. "So you've worked your way into the group nicely."

"Oh, totally," Willow answered for her. "She's a normal Scooby now. Except, for the normal, ‘cause hey, not a lot of us are normal, and Oz you're supposed to stop me." She looked at him desperately.

He smiled softly at her and kissed her on the forehead and she smiled happily at him.

"Have you seen your mom, yet?" Ronnie asked Buffy.

She shook her head. "Nah, I'm being avoido-Buffy with that whole situation; thought I'd see you guys and Giles, first."

"Well then," Xander stepped in. "Let's go see the G-man so that those of us who actually have school tomorrow can hit the hay."

Everyone stared at him in utter shock.

"Are you feeling ok?" Cordelia worriedly asked her boyfriend. "You're worried about school?"

Xander shrugged. "School has already messed up my summer sleep schedule, I'm just trying to readjust to the insanity of having to be up before lunch."

Everyone nodded at acceptance of this answer. So they all started off for Giles' flat. They were all about to just walk in when Buffy stopped them.

"Um, guys, shouldn't we knock?"

Ronnie smiled at her. "I'm living with Giles, Buffy. See, got the key and everything."

Buffy nodded and they all walked into the house.

"Giles, I got a surprise for you." Ronnie called up the stairs.

"Did you find something on patrol?" His voice preceded him as he walked down the stairs.

"You could say that." Ronnie smirked as Giles came down the stairs and stopped in his tracks as he saw Buffy.

"Hi, Giles," she waved shyly. He ran down the rest of the stairs and wrapped her in a tight hug.

"Buffy, it is so good to have you home." He said with a smile taking up his whole face.

"Well," Oz uncharacteristically spoke up, "I think Xan was right. Let's let the rest of us head home and get some rest."

"Bye, Buffy, glad you're home." Willow said before hugging her friend goodbye. The others all said their goodbyes to her and left the other three to themselves.

"Does your mother know you're home?" Giles asked once they were settled on the couch.

"No, she kind of kicked me out the night I left so I've been avoiding her." Buffy said sadly.

Giles nodded. "Yes, she did mention that. But I know for certain that she wishes you'd come home."

At Buffy's confused look Ronnie jumped in. "Your mom felt really bad for how things went down that night. She's been coming over here a lot trying to get Giles to help her understand what being the Slayer means for you. She's even been nicer to me since Giles explained everything I've been doing for the group."

"Wow, we are talking about my mother, right?" Buffy asked amazed.

Giles nodded. "It's true, she has been very inquisitive and open minded about all the information I've told her."

"Well, then I guess I don't have any more excuses to not go home." Buffy decided.

"Would it make you feel better if I came with you?" Ronnie asked, sensing that Buffy was still reluctant about seeing her mother again.

Buffy sighed in relief. "God, yes. Giles, I'll see you later." She said as she hugged him goodbye.

"Good to have you back, Buffy. Ronnie, I'll see you when you get home." Ronnie nodded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy knocked on the door waiting for her mother to answer it. When she did, she hugged Buffy and fought back tears.

"Oh, Buffy, I've missed you so much."

"I know, Mom. You remember Ronnie?" Buffy indicated Ronnie, not wanting to go in the house without her yet.

Joyce nodded. "Of course, please, both of you come in." Joyce motioned for them both hurriedly to come in.

They all sat in the living room as Buffy explained what she had to go through killing Angel, and how she just needed to get away. She told them that she had lived in a small apartment and worked as a diner waitress. It had been a quiet summer with no problems, until two days ago.

A girl who recognized her from when Ford had come to town asked for her help when her boyfriend went missing. Buffy had found the problem and saved the people, finally deciding it was time to come home. Then Joyce apologized for how she reacted to the news of Buffy being the Slayer, blaming it on shock. She told her that thanks to Giles and Ronnie, she now understood the responsibilities that Buffy had and that she would be more lenient on her in that respect. They had decided to talk to Snyder the next day about getting Buffy back in school.

After they were done talking, Joyce wanted to show the girls the mask she got out of a new shipment from Nigeria she had hung in her room.

"It cheers up the room, don't you think, girls?" Joyce asked excitedly.

"It's angry at the room, Mom. It wants the room to suffer." Buffy stated with her nose scrunched up.

Ronnie got very weird vibes from the mask. She couldn't decide if she wanted to touch it to discover its memories, or run from the discomfort it caused her. She decided she'd go for the latter.

"Well, I think I'm gonna go home now. Buffy, Ms. Summers, I'll see you guys later." Ronnie said quickly trying to leave.

"Okay, dear, but tell the others, I want to have a welcome back dinner for Buffy tomorrow." Joyce told Ronnie.

Ronnie nodded. "Yes, ma'am, I'll see you tomorrow."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Giles, again, I'm not a student, why do I have to be at this school when I'm supposed to catching my beauty rest?" Ronnie whined as she appeared from the stacks. "And what is that God awful smell?"

"Buffy's cat came back to life." Oz piped up.

"I didn't know Buffy had a cat." Ronnie said.

"She doesn't," Giles interjected. "She found a cat that had died in her basement, they buried it and it crawled out of the grave in this form." Giles said motioning to the zombie cat on the table.

"Weird." Ronnie remarked, Oz nodded. "Do you even like cats? What with the wolfie thing?"

Oz shook his head. "Nope, it's putting me off quite a bit, though I have the strange urge to name it Patches. But Giles wants us in research mode to see why it's alive."

"Like what?" Ronnie asked Giles.

"A ritual that is coming up causing the Hellmouth to react violently, or a relic causing it to happen," Giles explained.

"Wait, relic, like an African mask?" Ronnie asked as she remembered the odd feelings she had last night.

"I suppose, why do you ask?" Giles wondered.

"Ms. Summers got a shipment from Nigeria and brought this mask home last night. It gave me very weird feelings, like I was afraid to touch it to even see what the big deal was." Ronnie explained.

Giles went to his office and came back with a book and handed it to Ronnie. "Here, see if you can find the mask in this tome."

"Aw, man, I was hoping that would be the end of me helping." Ronnie pouted. "By the way, Ms. Summers wants us all to come over for a welcome back dinner for Buffy."

"We should figure out what kinda deal this is. I mean, is it a-a gathering, a shindig or a hootenanny?" Oz piped up again. He was more talkative whenever Ronnie was around.

"What's the difference?" Cordelia wondered.

"Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny." Oz explained.

"Let's call it a shindig with a dash of nanny." Ronnie smirked. The group all agreed and started in on the research once again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They had found the mask in the book before dinner and effectively destroyed it as soon as they arrived at Buffy's for dinner, but not before Giles griped about Americans and their pretty masks that bring back the dead. Dinner had went well and everyone was glad that Buffy was back to play leader, especially Ronnie. She liked being a part of the group, but as the person with the most experience, she had been deemed the leader, per se, in Buffy's absence. Now that Buffy was back Ronnie could go back to just being an occasional informant and fight back up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next night Willow, Ronnie, and Buffy were all out patrolling together.

"I can't believe Snyder actually let me back in school. When me and Mom went he totally was against it." Buffy told the girls.

Ronnie started looking away belying her innocence, but Buffy caught on. "Ronnie, what do you know?"

She smiled innocently, "Giles and I…might have…went to office to…persuade him it was in his troll-y best interest to let you back in school."

"Really?" Buffy asked surprised.

"Well, yeah, if you're in the school every day than I don't have to keep getting woken up and maybe I can get a full day's sleep." She smiled.

"Well, thanks." Buffy said.

They started catching up on the real details of the summer. Ronnie telling the girls how much Giles had learned about her gift, Willow sharing her magic studies with Buffy, and Buffy telling them how she really missed being with the group instead of in the terribly small apartment.

She finally felt whole again when she fought off that organization and was slaying again. It had finally made her see how normal was overrated, at least in this point of her life.

Things were good for the group; they had no idea that a few new players were about to enter their game for this year's apocalypse.

Chapter Text

Buffy and Ronnie had just gotten drinks for the group when they made their way back to the loveseat that Oz and Willow were currently making out on. Buffy sat on the chair next to them and Ronnie decided to sit on the floor in front of them, back against their knees, arms on their laps. They sprang apart in surprise of the contact.

"Don't let us interrupt." Buffy said smiling.

"Why are you all glowy-Buffy?" Willow asked.

"I passed my English make up. Hello, life, Buffy is back." She said as she handed Willow and Oz their drinks.

"Ooh, well, Buffy," Ronnie stated, "life welcomed you back and is now throwing you a hottie at 10 o'clock."

Buffy looked over to see Scott Hope coming towards them. There was a little awkward conversation that ended with Scott telling Buffy to "mosey" over if she wanted to hang out with him.

"What was that about?" Ronnie asked the group of teenagers.

"That was Scott," Willow explained. "He goes to school with us and he's totally into Buffy, but she won't give him a chance."

Ronnie looked at Buffy's crestfallen look. She knew that it was hard on the Slayer since Angel had left. She wasn't even sure if the rest of the group knew that Willow's re-ensoulment of Angel had worked and that Buffy had sent her real boyfriend to Hell, not just a demon with his face. She also knew that her friends had a point; the best way for Buffy to get over Angel would be to start dating again, maybe even a human. Ronnie realized that they had been carrying on the conversation while she was lost in her thoughts.

"Plus," Oz piped in, "bonus points for use of the word mosey." Ronnie nodded in agreement.

"Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave." Cordelia snarked as she and Xander came to occupy the other couch.

The group watched as the odd couple danced and started to leave the club. Just as they reached the door Ronnie turned to Buffy.

"Um, that guy is a vampire." She stated as she stood up.

"To help we go then." Buffy sighed as she stood.

They all went outside and followed the sound of the struggling girl and stopped once they saw that she was actually holding her own in the fight. She acknowledged the group and called Buffy by name. Then she took the stake from Buffy's ankle strap and slayed the vamp on her own.

The whole group stood staring at the new girl, Faith she said her name was, in total shock. Except for Oz and Ronnie who shared a look and Oz spoke.

"I'm gonna go on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town." Ronnie nodded and Faith told them she'd tell them all about it back inside.

She'd told all sorts of different slayings that she'd already accomplished and how her Watcher was out of town so she decided to come meet Buffy. Xander was clearly infatuated with her, much to Cordy's annoyance. Buffy and Willow weren't really sure what to think, this girl was so different than either Buffy or Kendra. Ronnie and Oz just wanted to make sure that they'd be safe around this new wild card.

"Now, you kill vamps, and who could blame you," Oz shot an apologetic glance at Ronnie as she glared at him, "but I'm wondering about your position on werewolves?"

"Oz is a werewolf." Willow explained.

"It's a long story." Buffy smiled.

"I got bit." Oz informed.

"Apparently not that long," Buffy mumbled.

"Hey, as long as you don't go scratchin' at me or humpin' my leg, we're five-by-five, you know?" Faith shrugged.

"Fair enough," Oz nodded.

"And swinging back to vamps," Ronnie stepped into the conversation.

"Now that is a long story." Buffy interrupted hurriedly, feeling guilty for not thinking of the danger her friend was in. "Ronnie is a vamp, but she's not bad."

"T-there were gypsies, and spells, a-and powers," Willow tried to explain.

"What do you eat?" Faith asked Ronnie.

"I drink pig's blood I get from a butcher." Ronnie answered automatically.

"Where do you live?"

"With Buffy's Watcher, Giles," Ronnie said nodding to Buffy.

"Well, damn, Ron, if Watcher trusts you, you must be five by five. We're cool." Faith decided.
The whole group sighed in relief.

"So you got the house to yourself with Watcher away?" Faith asked.

"Away?" Ronnie and Buffy said in unison.

"Didn't yours go to England, too?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They went to Ronnie's flat to talk to Giles' about why Faith's Watcher was away and Giles was not. He moaned and complained about all the fun things he was missing out by not even being invited to the retreat. He was astounded to discover the new Slayer who had decided she was done for the night and would go crash in her hotel and meet them all tomorrow.

"Yeah, can someone explain that to me?" Ronnie asked. "It sort of got brushed over before, but how are there two Slayers?"

"Well, um," Buffy stumbled for the right words, "I sort of…died. For a like a second."

"When did that happen?" Ronnie asked incredulously.

"The Master, he drank from me and then left me to drown." Buffy explained.

"And I saved her with CPR." Xander raised his hand and smiled in delight.

"Wait, a minute, the Master as in Darla's sire?" Ronnie asked. The topic of the head of her line being in Sunnydale had somehow never been brought up in Ronnie's presence and she was curious to see what had transpired. The last she heard he was stuck in some hellhole after an earthquake…that was in California. Hellhole equals Hellmouth, got it.

"Yes, quite." Giles nodded as he took of his glasses.

"So you killed him after for payback, right?" Ronnie snickered. "Darla must have loved that, oh, if I could have seen the look on her face." Ronnie rubbed her hands together sinisterly.

"Um…she wasn't exactly there to see it." Buffy said cautiously.

"Her precious Master died and she wasn't even there to see it, aww, poor Grandmummy Bitch." Ronnie practically spat the false endearment.

"Actually," Giles said tentatively. "Darla was dust long before the Master."

Ronnie's head shot up in shock. "What? Dust? When?"

"A few months after I moved here," Buffy offered. "She was going to kill me, so Angel staked her."

It took a few minutes for Ronnie to process what they had just told her, she leaned over with her face in her hands. When she finally looked up there were tears in her eyes. "She's really gone." She said awestruck.

The others mistook her tears for sadness and moved to comfort her. Then, she started laughing and they looked at her worriedly. "I never have to see her stupid face again!" She shouted and shot a fist in the air.

"Um, Angel took Darla's death kind of hard." Buffy said. "We thought you would, too. You know, same family and all."

"Angel took it hard because she was his Sire, and they were together for so long. I hated the bitch, and she hated me. After Angelus left us Darla took all of her anger out on me. She would beat me every night just for the fun of it." Ronnie explained.

"Good lord." Giles gasped. Ronnie had glided over that little detail during their discussions this summer.

"Yeah, so sorry," Ronnie stood again. "But these are tears of joy, I'm glad that she's dead."

After the emotions of that, they all decided to call it a night and regroup in the morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So what can I do you for, Miss Winters?" The Mayor asked Ronnie as he sat behind his desk the night after Faith had shown up.

"I was hoping I could apply for the night clerk position." Ronnie smiled, the Mayor seemed like a nice enough guy, and she didn't feel comfortable without paying Giles some sort of rent now that Buffy was back, and now Faith showing up, they could handle patrol. The position at the Mayor's office to run the office after hours seemed like the perfect position.

"Well, do you have any experience?" The Mayor asked.

"Not necessarily, but I did help the high school librarian with a fair amount of organizing and paperwork over the summer, so I'm very skilled." Ronnie exaggerated the truth.

"Oh, you know Mr. Giles?" The Mayor remembered that that was the Slayer's Watcher.

"Yes, I'm actually staying in the spare room in his flat."

The Mayor smiled. This could be a great opportunity to keep tabs on the Slayer to make sure she didn't interfere with his plans for graduation. "Well, that seems like enough experience to me. You've got the job." He stood to shake her hand.

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor, you won't regret it."

"I'm positive of that."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles later discovered that Faith's Watcher was in fact killed, not at the retreat. When they went to discover why she had been lying, they found out about a vampire called Kakistos. Ronnie recognized the name and immediately informed them all of the danger that had followed this ancient vampire. Buffy and Ronnie went to confront Faith about the vampire and ended up helping her face her fear of Kakistos and dust him. Then, it was approved by the Council for Faith to stay in Sunnydale and Giles be her new Watcher.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night, Buffy finally told the others that Angel had his soul when she sent him to Hell. They all looked on at her in sympathy. Then, she and Ronnie decided to visit the mansion one more time.

Buffy laid the Claddagh ring Angel had given her on the ground and said goodbye.

"I'm gonna stay for a little bit longer," Ronnie explained. "You go ahead, all your problems were in this room, I have different areas to face." Buffy nodded and left Ronnie alone.

Ronnie walked around the house. She walked to the basement and looked in disgust at the chains that she had hung from more than once. Then, she moved to the room that Angel and Dru slept in every night.

"Did you know, mummy?" Ronnie spoke for the first time in her existence with disdain about her Sire. "Did he come to you every night and laugh about the things he did to me, and you just laugh with him? Did you care at all what he was doing to me?"

She left and went to Spike's room. She laid down on his bed and finally succumbed to the tears that had yet to fall all summer. "You did it again, Will. You took care of me when he beat me. We saved the world, we saved our Sire. But then you left me."

She sat there for what felt like hours when she heard a noise come from the living room. She got up to go see what had caused the noise and stopped in her tracks when she found it.

"Angel?"

There lay Angel, naked and trembling.

He looked up at her for a moment, "Ronnie." He whispered before he passed out.

Chapter Text

Ronnie was in shock. She couldn't move. There lying on the ground was her Grandsire, the one she had just spent hours coping with the torture he put her through last spring. He had promptly passed out when she discovered him. She wasn't sure why he was here, how long it had been for him, or if he even had his soul.

She wouldn't be able to handle if it was Angelus who woke up from his state of shock. She would stake him on the spot. But she couldn't risk it if he was Angel.

She quickly went to him and lifted his limp body, noticing his burnt silhouette that stained the floor, and carried him down to the basement. She felt him start to stir and hurriedly hung him from the chains that he had hung her from so many times before.

He woke with a start once she got the last manacle around his wrist and she backed off a good distance from him. He noticed the state he was in and snarled once his eyes settled back on Ronnie. She was shocked at the lack of recognition in his eyes.

"Angel?" She asked. He just continued to snarl at her. She changed into gameface and growled at him, trying for a baser form of recognition. "Sire?" It worked, he stopped snarling.

"Childe," he said questioning.

"Grandchilde," she explained. "You sired Drusilla and she sired me, Veronica. Do you remember?"

His brow furrowed in concentration as he focused on her. Realization finally hit and it was as if the floodgates of his memories had unlocked.

"Ronnie," he almost choked her name out.

"Angel, oh my god," she quickly shifted back to her human face, "what happened to you?" She asked as she moved to remove him from the chains. He flinched back in fear at her movement and she stopped. "Angel?"

"I hurt you," he whimpered. He looked around the room. "Here, I hurt you here."

"It's ok, Angel," she said soothingly. "It wasn't you, it was Angelus. I'm just going to get you out of the chains now, okay?"

He nodded once, but otherwise wouldn't look at her. She got him out of the chains and he quickly huddled himself into a corner.

"Angel, how long were you gone?" She asked, realizing that time could move differently in some dimensions.

"A hundred years."

She winced, and then asked her next question, even though she feared she knew the answer. "Where?"

"Hell, I spent a century in Hell." He whispered and started trembling again.

"What happened?" She asked. She knew it had to be horrible based on his current demeanor, but he had to talk about it to get over it.

"Torture, so much torture, then I had to fight to survive. The only thing that kept me fighting was Bu…" his eyes widened. "Is she okay?" He asked frantically.

"Buffy? She's fine, she's home, sleeping." Ronnie rushed to assure him.

Suddenly something occurred to him. "But how? It's been so long."

"Angel, time moved differently there, where you were, it's only been 3 months since Acathla here." She explained to him gently.

"Buffy's okay?" He asked in awe.

"Yes, everyone's okay."

"Spike and Dru?"

"Gone, he helped us in the fight and then he took Dru and they left."

He nodded in understanding, "And you're here?"

"Yeah," she laughed. "I'm a Scooby now."

"You live here in the mansion?"

"No, I can't do that. I'm living with Giles. Oh my god, Giles! We have to tell him you're back!"

"No, don't tell anyone I'm back yet. I can't…I can't be around humans yet. It's been too long, it would be too tempting."

"Okay, Angel, I won't tell anyone yet. But the sun's coming up so I've got to head home. Will you be okay here?" She asked carefully.

He nodded.

"Okay, I'll come back tonight before I go to work with some blood."

He made no acknowledgement of her saying this, and she left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few nights later it was the full moon and Ronnie came into the library to take the last wolf watch after she got off work at midnight. She had kept her promise to Angel and not told anyone that he was back yet, but she hated keeping secrets from the group. He told her how Hell had been for him, and she kept him supplied in blood so he wouldn't have to deal with humans until he was absolutely ready.

When she walked in she saw Xander dozing off at the table and Oz in his cage. She went to the cage and saw Oz sleeping peacefully, then walked back over to Xander. She leaned down as close to Xander's ear as she could, then she yelled.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris!"

He jumped up two feet in the air and looked all over the room until he found Ronnie.

"Geez, Ron, you gave me a heart attack." He said clutching said heart.

"Xan, you fell asleep on wolf watch, more than your heart is on the line if you don't take this seriously." She said arms crossed to show her seriousness.

He had the decency to look ashamed. "You're right, I'm sorry."

She nodded. "It's ok, I won't tell Giles, but you should go get some rest."

"Right, good idea," Xander nodded as he left. "Night, Ronster."

"Night, XanMan."

She looked back at the cage to see her yell had woken Oz. She stuck her hand in the cage to pet his head. "Sorry I woke you up, Oz, but you know how dumb Xan can be."

Oz turned from her and curled back up to return to sleep while Ronnie yet again wondered what she was going to about Angel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day Ronnie came to the Library during the gang's free period to make sure nothing was up at Hellmouth High.

"It appears Oz might have gotten out last night when Xander was asleep." Giles said.

"Willow is going to the morgue tonight to examine the body to be sure."

"Wills, make sure to look at the report for confirmed time of death." Ronnie instructed.
Willow nodded and looked worriedly at Oz.

"We'll get to the bottom of this Oz." Ronnie assured.

He nodded and smiled sadly at her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night the watches were only divided in two shifts: Buffy taking the first with Ronnie coming directly after work.

Ronnie stayed until everyone else showed up in the morning.

"What did you find, Willow?" Ronnie asked as soon as the witch walked in.

"It doesn't look good; it's definitely not a vampy kill. It looks a lot like a wolfie one." She said sadly.

"What about the report? What was the time of death?"

"2 am."

Ronnie breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, there you go. It wasn't Oz, I got here at midnight that night and I kept my eye on him the whole time. If it is a wolf, then there's a new one in Sunnydale, Oz couldn't have done it."

"Are you absolutely certain?" Giles asked.

"Swear on my grave." She nodded.

Everyone was immediately relieved. "Well, nevertheless, we still need to find what it was that did killed that boy. Tonight is the last night of the full moon, how shall we divide the shifts?" Giles asked.

"I have to work tonight and Buffy and Faith should be out patrolling trying to find the real killer." Ronnie insisted. "And since we know it's not Oz, Giles, you, Willow and Xander can handle the wolf watch."

Giles nodded. "Quite right, excellent plan dear."

"Good, now I'm gonna go catch some sleep." Just then she noticed the doughnuts that were on the counter. "Ooh, jellies?" Oz nodded and she snatched one before she left.

Ronnie didn't mention how she didn't want a shift tonight or to patrol because she was so worried about Oz last night that she had forgot to check on Angel. She would go to the mansion right after work tonight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Angel?" She called when she walked into the mansion. She knew he probably sensed her as soon as she entered the gates outside, but she didn't want to risk surprising him; he'd been so uneasy ever since he'd gotten back.

"In here," he called from the living room. He was sitting on the couch, brooding. Not that she could blame him these days. It was actually quite comforting, seeing him act normal.

"I brought you some more blood." She said smiling "I'm sorry I didn't come over last night."

"It's fine. What happened?"

"We were worried that Oz was getting out and killing people, we cleared his name, but we don't know who the real killer is yet." She said and yawned, between work, wolf watch, and worrying about Angel she really hadn't gotten much sleep lately.

"Thanks for the blood. Why don't you go home and get some sleep, you look exhausted."

She nodded reluctantly. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine."

"Okay, goodnight, Angel." She gave him a hug before she left.

"Night, Veronica." He still called her by her proper name now and then. She was fine with it from him; Angelus had used her nickname in disdain. Angel calling her Veronica helped him separate the two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At about 10 the next morning Ronnie woke up to a knock on the door. She went to go see who would be at the door at this time of day, all the Scoobies would be at school, Giles too. Joyce would be at the gallery, and anyone else she knew from Sunnydale would all be at work at the Mayor's office.

When Ronnie opened the door it was Buffy.

"Buffy, shouldn't you be in school?" She asked surprised.

"I'm skipping today." She shrugged and walked in the flat to sit on the couch.

"Did you guys find the killer?" Ronnie asked coming to sit on the chair by the couch.

"Yeah, he was a student. He started taking this Jekyll and Hyde potion that turned him all creepy monster and was using it to kill people that got him mad. He was all jealous boyfriend and was trying to kill anyone that spoke to his girlfriend." Buffy explained.

"Well, now I believe Cordelia. Once you live on a Hellmouth, nothing surprises you anymore." Ronnie laughed.

Buffy smiled sadly and nodded.

"What's wrong, Buff?" Ronnie asked.

"The guy, he was mad at me for telling his girlfriend to leave him. He was gonna go after me. But someone else stopped him." She looked at Ronnie, a little lost.

"Who?" Ronnie asked, worried she already knew the answer.

"Angel," Buffy whispered. "He saved me, and then he ran away."

"Buffy, I'm so sorry, he told me not to tell." Ronnie said frantically.

"You knew?" Buffy asked hurt. "You knew he was back and you didn't tell me?"

"He's been in Hell, Buffy. Time moved differently there. For him he spent a hundred years in constant torture. He didn't think he could be around humans, yet, so he made me keep it a secret." Ronnie explained.

"A hundred years?" Buffy asked in shock.

Ronnie nodded. "He just needs time, Buffy."

"Okay, I can give him that. Are we gonna tell Giles and the others?"

"Not yet. He wants to get better around humans before we tell anyone. That's probably why he left as soon as he saved you, didn't want to risk you."

"But it's definitely him? Not Angelus?" Buffy asked pointedly.

"Trust me, if it was Angelus he would already be dust." Ronnie assured her.

"You're right. Sorry. Okay, I guess I really should head back to school, I just needed to tell someone about Angel, and I knew you'd understand."

Ronnie nodded. "Bye, Buffy."

"Bye." Buffy said as she walked out the door.

Well, there it was, someone else knew Angel was back. But that still didn't answer the most important question. What were they going to do about it?

Chapter Text

"So…Buffy saw you." Ronnie finally brought up the topic that had been on her mind all night. She had come to Angel's, as she did every night, to bring him more blood and check to see how his progress with coping was going. He had been his usual broody, non-talky self, until she mentioned Buffy.

"Yeah, she…he was gonna kill her." And suddenly Angel's mood didn't bother her anymore. She realized that he had been beating himself up because he knew that the person he had killed was just that-a person.

"Angel, it's okay." She rushed to reassure him. "He wasn't human anymore, and you're right, he was gonna kill her. You did the right thing."

He chuckled humorlessly. "Maybe if I keep telling myself that I'll actually believe it."

"I'm sorry you had to make that decision." She said sadly. Then she decided it was time to confront him. "But what were you doing out anyway? You said that you weren't ready to be around humans yet."

He shook his head. "I'm not, it's just…she's Buffy. I just had to see her, just to know she was okay. I know you said she was, but I had to see it myself. I didn't plan on interfering, but then he…" Angel trailed off, once again becoming grief stricken over his actions.

"I know," Ronnie placed a comforting hand on his arm. "It's okay. And I've already talked to her; she knows not to tell anyone you're back."

He nodded absently. Ronnie sighed and stood up from the couch.

"Okay, well I've got to get to work."

"What is it you do exactly?" Angel asked sounding genuinely curious for the first time since his return.

"I'm the Mayor's night clerk. I basically just manage the office after hours and run whatever paperwork doesn't get done in the day." She explained.

"The Mayor…you know he knows about what really happens with Sunnydale's nightlife." Angel informed her.

"Really?" Ronnie asked shocked.

"Yeah, usually arranges the cover-ups when it's something that affects the whole town. When Spike first showed up, he had everyone convinced they were all just gang members on PCP." He explained.

"And everyone bought that?"

"People around here tend to rationalize whatever they can't explain, no matter how ridiculous the rationalization actually is." He smiled-an honest to God smile-and for a second Ronnie thought that it was all gonna be okay, her friend was going to be back. Then as quickly as it had appeared, the smile was gone and the brood was back. "Well, you should be off, then."

She nodded and went to hug him goodbye. "Goodnight, Angel."

For the first time he actually hugged her back and held on to her for a few seconds.

"Goodnight, Veronica."

She smiled and was off to work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie went to the library with a spring in her step during the gang's free period.

"Woohoo! This working girl got her first official paycheck!"

"Great! Buy some chocolate, working girl." Buffy said as Ronnie came down to sit with them all.

"Why are you selling chocolate?" Ronnie asked the group.

"Marching band uniforms," Oz informed.

"Those tall fuzzy hats must be worth a fortune." Ronnie quipped.

"Yeah," Oz nodded, "but they go with everything."

"Ah, that makes it all worth it then. Alright, I'll buy a box from each of you." Ronnie decided.

"Oh no you won't!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Screw the band geeks and their uniforms. Your first paycheck will be spent at the mall! I need to go shopping and it's more fun when I have other people to spend money with."

"Can I get at least one box?" Ronnie asked entertained at the prospect of asking a teenager's permission on how to spend her own paycheck.

"Fine, one, but that's it!" Cordy said firmly.

All the others of the group were looking at Ronnie expectantly to see who she would pick to buy her precious box from.

"Willow, chocolatize me," Ronnie announced.

"Yes," Willow clapped in victory.

"Hey!" Buffy exclaimed. "You were my friend first."

"Yes, but I'm pretty sure Willow's the only one here who has actually ever been to band camp." Ronnie reasoned.

Willow nodded excitedly, "Yeah, this one time at band camp…"

"No!" Xander yelled. "No more band camp stories. Ever!"

Willow pouted.

"Fine," Buffy shrugged. "I've already got Giles to buy half my boxes, so I'll just have Mom buy the other half."

"Regular entrepreneur there, Buff," Ronnie teased.

"I don't have time to worry about chocolate sales. I have to study for my SATs." Buffy defended.

The rest of the time was spent discussing how Oz would help Buffy study for her test, while Cordelia planned her and Ronnie's afternoon of shopping. All in all, it was a pretty normal day; of course, that couldn't last.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie woke up from the nap she attempted to get in before she had to go to work that night. She and Cordy had been at the mall until 6 and had successfully spent all of Ronnie's paycheck. Ronnie had snacked on her box of chocolate on and off all afternoon. As soon as she got home she decided she could grab a few hours of rest before her shift started at 11:30. Apparently Giles didn't see it that way as he was currently blasting music to her vampire hearing at 9:45.

"Giles, can you turn that music down?" She whined as she came down the hall. She stopped short when she saw Buffy's mom was with him in the living room. "Oh, hi, Joyce."

"Hey…" Joyce said light-heartedly, then cleared her throat, "Veronica."

"I'm sorry we woke you, dear." Giles said apologetically as Ronnie's nose twitched at a familiar smell. "We'll be quieter…"

"Don't worry; I have to get up for work anyway." Again, she sniffed the air. "Is that cigarette smoke?"

"Uh…yes," Giles stuttered. "I had a rough day at work." He said sheepishly.

"Okay…whatever." She shrugged as she went to get dressed for work.

"Do you think she noticed?" Joyce asked worriedly when Ronnie left the room.

"Not a bloody clue," Ripper smirked and grabbed the woman in front of him for a proper snog.

That they were still engaged in when Ronnie came back through, she smiled knowingly at them and said teasingly as she walked out the door, "Don't you kids have too much fun!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Veronica, what are you doing here?" The Mayor's assistant asked her as soon as she walked in the office.

"I'm here for my shift, Alan." She said patronizingly. "Why are you still here?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I must have read the schedule wrong and forgot you were coming in tonight." He said hurriedly. "You know, there's not much of anything to do and I've already got it covered, why don't you just take the night off?" He smiled.

"Are you sure?" She asked doubtful.

"Absolutely, don't worry about it."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie had gone to the Bronze in hopes of seeing the gang. What she didn't expect was being met with all the adults in town acting like there was some weird 80's band reunion concert. She was torn between excitement that it might be a band she had enjoyed, and possibly seen before, or being majorly wigged that the adults were acting this way. At least she still looked as good as she did when the songs the guys were singing karaoke to were actually new songs, these people were well out of their prime.

"Hel-lo," purred the rat-face of a principal from Hellmouth High.

"What do you want, troll?" Ronnie asked disdainfully.

"Oh, come on, Winters, no need to be mean." He almost whined.

"Whatever," Ronnie shook her head. "Why are you here?"

"It's the cool scene, man." He said with a completely straight face.

"Until you walked in," she snarked as Oz walked up to them. "Oz, what's going on?"

"The adults in town are all teenagers." He told her and looked around the room. "It's kinda sobering."

Buffy had rushed to them, "We gotta find Giles!"

And just like that, they were off.

They were all standing out in the alley outside the Bronze when they realized that the cause of the odd behavior was the chocolate that they had all been selling.

"I don't get it," Xander said as he nibbled on another chocolate bar. "The chocolate's supposed to make you immature, but I don't feel any…I'm gonna shut up now." He said as everyone looked at him knowingly.

"It's not immaturity," Ronnie explained. "It just regresses adults to being teenagers."

"Why didn't it do anything to you?" Xander asked. "You bought a whole box."

"Can't regress if I'm still there, Xan." Ronnie smiled sadly.

For the first time the group actually addressed the fact that Ronnie looked amazingly close to them in age, despite the fact that she had been turned over a century ago.

"How old were you when you were turned?" Willow asked the question everyone else was afraid to.

"I'm eternally 18, every girl's dream, right?" She said bitterly. They were all silent for a while, not knowing what to say. "Whatever, I've dealt. Let's fix the current problem. Last time I saw Giles was at home with Joyce."

"Still?" Buffy asked.

"Um…yeah. Actually, I think they might be affected by the chocolate a little bit." Ronnie said suddenly shy.

"Why?" Buffy asked worriedly.

"They were kind of…um…in a compromising position." Ronnie said with guilt in her voice, not making eye contact with Buffy.

"My mom and Giles! We have to find them!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie and Buffy went to find them, with Snyder still hanging about, while the rest of the gang went to the library to research. Then, they found Giles and Joyce outside the chocolate factory…again making out. Buffy was horrified, Ronnie kept smirking, and Snyder was disappointed that the cute babe was already taken by the dumb British librarian.

They finally all made it inside the factory only to hear a man talking on the phone that Buffy apparently recognized.

"Ethan Rayne," she called him out, and he hurriedly ended his phone call. Recognition flashed in Giles’ eyes and he looked ready to strike.

"Ethan," he spat.

"Ripper," Ethan said with fear clear in his voice, and then took off at a full sprint.

Ronnie, Buffy, and Giles all took off after him. Ronnie was surprised that Giles could keep up so well and actually made some impressive leaps on the way, though he was out of breath when they did stop.

"Bloody hell."

"That's what smoking does to you," Buffy reprimanded. Giles looked to Ronnie for support, but she only shrugged.

When they found Ethan, Buffy had him pinned.

"Hit him!" Giles yelled over and over again. Buffy refused, which only irritated him. "You're my Slayer, now do as I say and hit him!"

Still, she refused until Ethan refused to give them the information they needed. When she finally did hit him, Giles jumped up in glee. Ronnie was amused by the whole display.

"Trick, the man who hired me, his name is Trick." Ethan said frantically, trying to avoid another blow to the face.

Ronnie furrowed her brow in concentration. That name sounded slightly familiar, but she couldn't remember why.

Finally, it was discovered what the demon was after and they were off to the hospital.

"Wait," Joyce said. "What about that man?" She asked referring to Ethan.

"Find something to tie him up with." Buffy instructed.

"Um…" Joyce said shyly as she pulled a pair of handcuffs out of her coat.

Buffy again looked horrified, Ripper leered at Joyce in memory of what they had used the cuffs for, and Ronnie burst out laughing at the whole scenario.

"NEVER tell me!" Buffy demanded.

"Here, I'll stay with Trouble, Buffy, you go save the babies." Ronnie said taking the cuffs from Joyce after she finally stopped laughing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After school the next day, Ronnie and Giles were in their living room before she went off to work.

"So who's Ethan Rayne?" Ronnie asked.

"An old…friend of mine," Giles stated. "We were school mates. We explored the dark arts together as teenagers, then I grew out of it and he didn't."

Ronnie nodded. "How did Buffy know him?"

"He's been here before." Giles offered. "Last year, more than once, but the first time he actually ran a Halloween shop and turned everyone into their costumes."

Ronnie snickered. "What were you dressed as?"

"Nothing thankfully."

"So did we get to you and Joyce before you did anything you'd regret?" She changed the subject.

"No." He stated simply.

"No?"

"That coat she was wearing, I stole it." Giles said.

Ronnie smiled. "That's not exactly what I meant, Ripper. Ooh, I actually like that, can I call you that?"

"I wish you didn't, but I suppose you can." He sighed in defeat. "And yes, I am aware of what you were referring to, but we don't regret that. Joyce and I have been seeing each other for a few weeks now." He admitted.

"Wow," Ronnie said, truly shocked by that realization.

"We just haven't gotten around to telling Buffy, yet." He said sadly.

"Hey, you're consenting adults, secret's safe with me." She shrugged.

"Thank you, Veronica. I sometimes forget that you are in fact older than you look." He said smiling.

"No problem," she said sadly remembering the revelation she shared with the gang during the whole Band Candy incident. "I'm gonna go off to work."

He nodded and kissed her on the cheek. "Have a good night, dear."

"Thanks, Ripper." She said evilly and he groaned in protest as she walked out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie was at work later that night going through the payroll checks. She got down to the bottom of the list and finally realized why the name Ethan mentioned earlier sounded familiar. Trick was on the Mayor's payroll. She quickly read the job reference number on the pay stub to look up the services he was being compensated for.

'Lurconis Tribute' was the only description she had found. But that was enough, because that was the demon that had been after the babies.

Suddenly, she remembered Angel's warning. He had only been half right. The Mayor didn't just know about the things that happened on the Hellmouth…he caused some of them.

She went to Trick's file to find some of the other things that had happened this year--i.e. the vampire that killed Faith's watcher-were also work that he had performed for the Mayor.

Ronnie needed to talk to Giles…Fast.

Chapter Text

"Yes, can I help you?" Giles asked the young man at his door.

"Yea, I heard this is where my friend Ronnie lived." The young man responded politely. He was light complected and had dark brown hair that stood up in places almost reminiscent of Angel's.

"Oh, yes, of course. Do come in," Giles said allowing the man passage to the flat.

"Thanks," he said smiling and nodding his head as he walked in.

"Ronnie, you have a guest," Giles called down the hallway.

"Who is it?" Ronnie called as she walked down the hallway, when she saw who it was her face lit up in a smile and she shouted. "Sam! Oh my god!"

"Hey you!" He smiled at her and held his arms open, which she jumped into gladly.

When she pulled back, she looked condescendingly at Giles. "Ripper, for a watcher you certainly invite a lot of vamps into your home."

"V-vampire?" Giles stuttered, he'd never suspected the man to be undead, he simply assumed that he knew Ronnie from work.

"Don't worry, Sam won't hurt you. Will you?" She looked at Sam and he shook his head.

"'Course not, babe."

"So what are you doing here?" She asked.

"Oh, just helping an old friend that decided to swing through town. Heard you were in town, so I thought I'd come see you." He explained.

"Sorry," Giles interrupted. "How do you two know each other?"

"Sam used to run with Will, Dru and me. Haven't seen him in ten years," Ronnie said never taking her eyes off Sam.

"Ah, I see."

"Kinda need to make up for lost time," Ronnie said shooting Giles a look that left no need to discuss how they would spend such time.

"Right, I think I need to go rearrange the card index in the library." Giles said as he hurriedly grabbed his coat and headed to the door.

"Thanks, Ripper!" Ronnie called, then she turned back to Sam, "Now, where were we?" She smiled evilly.

"I think," he whispered as he lowered his head to hers, "right about here." He finally kissed her and she was, not for the first time, grateful for vampires not having to breathe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What friend?" Ronnie asked several hours later as she lay on Sam's chest.

"Hmm?" He asked, trying to listen to her despite his exhaustion.

"You said you were helping a friend, who?"

"Oh, Spike," he said and turned his head to again attempt the elusive sleep.

"He's in town?" Ronnie asked shooting up from the bed.

"Yeah, look babe," he said sitting up and putting his hands on her arms. "We just went 5 hours straight and I drove 12 before that. I'm gonna catch some sleep now." He said as he kissed her forehead.

"Of course, sorry," she said as they laid back down in their previous position. She wondered why Spike came back to Sunnydale and hoped he wouldn't get himself in trouble after promising Buffy he wouldn't be back here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike was sitting outside the mansion watching Angelus enter the living room and get ready to go to bed. At first he was shocked that he was still alive, sure that Buffy and Ronnie would have destroyed him once they teamed up against him. After the shock wore off it was pure anger that took up his emotions. Angelus had done so much damage to Spike's girls it made him sick. He hid in the shadows observing Angelus and then started cursing him in his drunken stupor.

"What the bloody hell are you doing still walking the earth? You waste of space! She would love me if it wasn't for you, my princess. You screwed her up royally you did, driving her insane like that. But does she see that, no. She still loves her precious “Daddy”. And my Duchess wouldn't be so broken if it wasn't for you doing all those horrible things to her while I couldn't protect her. You soiled both my girls you bloody poof."

With that he turned away from Angelus in disgust and started to walk, only he was so far from sober he ended up tripping over his own boots and fell over. He didn't bother to get up, deciding this is where he would sleep for the night-or pass out rather.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Giles!" Buffy yelled as a final attempt to wake her watcher. She had arrived in the library this morning only to find him snoozing in the stacks.

"Ponce," Giles said as he was shocked out of his rather satisfying dream of a confrontation with Snyder for eyeing Joyce while they were under the influence of the chocolate last week. He was confused by his surroundings and finally noticed he was in the library with Buffy. "Oh, Buffy, what did you need?"

"You were sleeping." She stated confused. "Why are you sleeping in the library? Do we have a demon we should be researching?" No sooner did she ask did the whole gang, including Faith walk into the library.

"No, nothing so drastic," he rushed to calm her. "Veronica simply had a visitor last night and I decided to give them some privacy." He said shyly.

"What kind of visitor?" Willow asked.

"Well…um…" Giles stumbled as he took off his glasses and started cleaning them.

"The word you're looking for is fuck buddy." Faith said nonchalantly.

"Ronnie wouldn't do that," Willow said defensively.

"Why not? She's a grown woman, been around awhile, can take care of herself. Let her do what she wants." Faith reasoned.

Willow looked to Oz for support who only nodded in agreement with Faith.

Just then, Ronnie walked into the library looking extremely pleased with herself.

"So, the Ronster got some action last night," Xander teased.

"Yeah, V," Faith saddled up next to Ronnie to get the details, "tell us all about your new squeeze."

Ronnie chuckled at their antics. "Not new, I've known him for over 50 years."

"How'd you meet?" Willow asked meekly.

"He and Will met in World War II when he got sired and he joined up with us. He stayed with me when I left them in the 70s, but we split up about 10 years ago. Then, last night he just showed up." She explained, leaving out the details of Sam's siring.

"Aww, he missed you," Willow said dreamily.

"Did he scratch your 10 year itch, V?" Faith asked saucily.

"Oh, yeah," Ronnie nodded enthusiastically. She finally looked around and noticed the other girls’ discomfort with the discussion and quickly changed the topic. "So did you guys get your test scores back?"

"Yep, Buffy, Cordy, and Willow are brainiacs, while I get to be flipper of burgers at Doublemeat for the rest of my life." Xander said light-heartedly.

"My mom saw my scores and her head exploded," Buffy joked. Giles shot up rapidly, then calming slightly.

"I've been on the Hellmouth too long, you were speaking metaphorically, yes?" Giles asked.

"Yes, Giles, she was happy."

Giles physically sighed of relief. Ronnie smiled at him, he wouldn't be able to keep his relationship with Joyce a secret for long if he kept those reactions up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night, Spike had decided he would kidnap the Slayer's little witchy friend and have her put a love spell on Dru so she'd fall in love with him again; maybe do a locating spell on Ronnie while he was at it. With Lawson back with him, the four of them could be back to how they were in the middle of the century.

Willow jumped when he came into the lab, then breathed a sigh of relief when she saw it was him; now that was a puzzling reaction.

"Spike, you scared me." She chided.

"Yeah, well, evil," was his only excuse.

"Are you visiting too?" She asked excitedly.

"Not long, just thought I'd request your services…well demand, same thing, right?" He explained. Then, the Slayer's whelp was in the lab and he swung a microscope at Spike's head. Spike reacted accordingly and decided to kidnap them both.

After Spike explained what he wanted from Willow, she had comforted him for losing Dru and told him the ingredients she would need from the magic shop.

It was while he was out that he was walking by the Slayer's house and decided to pop by for a sit down with her mum. She welcomed him with open arms and let him cry over some hot chocolate.

"Have you got any of those little marshmallows?" He asked with a child's innocence.

She smiled at him. "Of course." She got them from the cabinet and handed them to him.

"Have you seen Veronica, yet?"

"She's still in town?" He asked with hope written all over his face-wouldn't need Red to do that locating spell after all.

"Yes, she's staying with Rupert." Joyce nodded.

"The Watcher?" He asked confused.

Just then Angelus ran up to the door, but was hindered by the barrier. Joyce jumped back in fear. While the whole gang found out recently of Angel's return, Joyce had remained outside the loop.

"Get away from here!" Joyce yelled at him as he was obstructed by the barrier.

Spike was entertained by the fact that he had an invite and his Grandsire did not. "Yea, you're not invited." He taunted.

"He'll kill us," Joyce told Spike frantically.

"Not while I breathe…well actually I don't breathe." Spike added after consideration.

"Get out of this house or I'll stake you myself," Joyce told Angel.

"You're a very bad man," Spike continued to taunt, thoroughly enjoying himself.

"You touch her and I'll cut your head off." Angel yelled through the doorway.

"Yeah, you and what army?" Spike asked.

"That would be us," Buffy said as she pinned Spike to the counter. "Angel, why don't you come in." And just like that Angel and Ronnie were standing behind her, but they were out of Spike's line of vision.

"I have your friends, kill me and you'll never see the witch and the whelp again." Spike argued for his unlife. Buffy let him up at this and he finally saw Ronnie, he rushed to her and enveloped her in a hug. "Ronnie, I've been so worried about you."

She pushed him away and glared at him. "You kidnapped Willow and Xander?"

"Oh you've got to be kidding me! You're a bloody Slayerette now?" He yelled exasperated.

"Where are they, William?" She demanded.

"First, the witch is gonna perform a little spell for me. Was just out on my way to the magic shop to get her what she needed to do it."

"Fine," Ronnie conceded, and they went to the shop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They were at the shop when Spike decided to start lecturing the Slayer and Angelus.

"You'll never be friends," then he turned to Ronnie. "And how can you be his friend after what he did to you?"

"Will…"

Just then, they fell under attack by a bunch of vamps. They fought until all of them were dust, then they noticed that at some point Sam had joined into the fight. Angel froze upon seeing him.

"Lawson," he said.

"Hello, Angel, long time no see." Sam sneered.

"Sam, not now," Ronnie said as she touched his arm.

"You knew he was back in town?" Spike said. "But that's great, Duchess, don't you see, you can come with us and we can get Dru and it will be just like old times again." Spike practically pleaded with her.

"You mean after you have Willow put a love spell on her?" Ronnie scolded. "When are you ever gonna learn, Will? Me and you, we're different than other vampires. Sam and I don't love each other, and Dru is never gonna love you the way that you love her. So get over it!"

Spike stared at her in shock, and then shook it off. "I'll show you. This fight really put things in perspective. I've been going about it all wrong. I'm gonna find Dru, tie her up, and torture her until she loves me again."

Ronnie rolled her eyes as he apparently hadn't heard anything she had said. "Yeah, that'll work." She scoffed at him.

"Oh," he said, "your friends are in the factory. Ta, now." He said and turned on his heel.

"Wait up, chief." Lawson called after him. He turned back to Ronnie. "I better stick with him for a while to make sure he doesn't get himself staked." He kissed her and left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They got to the factory only to discover that Cordelia had been stabbed with a rebar and had to be rushed to the hospital. The reason she had fallen on it was that she was running away from finding Xander and Willow kissing while they were being held captive.

Ronnie couldn't even find it in her to feel sorry for Willow and Xander that Cordy and Oz wouldn't talk to them. Yes, they were her friends, but they had crossed a major line in having this affair. She was definitely siding with Oz on this.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What's wrong with me, Buffy?" Ronnie asked as she sat in Buffy's room later the next night.

"Nothing more than what's wrong with me." Buffy replied. "I fell in love with a vampire with a soul."

"I fell in love with a soulless vampire." Ronnie countered.

"Then mine lost his soul."

"Mine is in love with our insane Sire."

"I had to kill mine."

"I left mine to join the other side."

"I can't even get over him to have a normal, human boyfriend." Buffy said referencing her currently failing relationship with Scott Hope.

"I have casual sex with another soulless vampire that's best friends with the one I love." Ronnie finally defined her relationship with Lawson.

"I call draw," Buffy finally said. "Now let's go drown our mutual sorrows in some Ben and Jerry's."

"Deal," Ronnie nodded.

Chapter Text

Ronnie let go of the man she had been feeding from just before he reached unconsciousness and he ran away as quickly as his weakened state allowed.

"What the bloody hell did you do that for?" Spike asked her as he walked up behind her.

"He tasted funny," Ronnie lied easily, "Wasn't worth draining."

She had never told Spike what had happened to her when they went to those gypsies in Romania after Angelus left them. She had separated from him for a little while in the 70s when she couldn't stand to see him hurting the Slayer, but she had just told him she needed some space. Then, last year Dru had gotten sick and he thought the Hellmouth would help restore her. He was half right, for on the Hellmouth was their Grandsire and a ritual in which his blood could restore Dru to her full potential. Once she was herself again, there was a party in her honor and Ronnie was invited. She decided she would stick around when she saw the Order in this current state of power on the Hellmouth. The Master's plan of simply bottling all of the blood supply in Sunnydale was about to be realized and then Ronnie wouldn't have to worry about her pesky pseudo-conscience interrupting her feeding anymore.

"Well, then why didn't you just kill him?" Spike asked.

"I don't waste food, just because I didn't like him doesn't mean somebody else won't." She defended. He accepted this answer and nodded. "Where are the others?"

"The girls are all playing with the puppy, that truly is a sight to behold," Spike said smiling.

"What about your precious Childe?" Ronnie teased.

"Right here," said the only person in this century Spike had ever bothered turning. He finally decided that Angelus wasn't exaggerating when he said it would benefit to have another rooster in the hen house, and with Lawson off God knows where, Spike found himself just the bloke. "And I ain't nobody's precious anything."

"Aw, Xander, did I hurt your feelings?" Ronnie joked as she walked up to him and hugged him to try to console his 'hurt feelings'.

"Yeah, yeah," he brushed her off, but still hugged her back. "It's dead tonight, no pun intended. All the good little boys and girls are actually following their curfews." Xander said shaking his head.

"Disgusting, isn't it?" Spike said.

"Bored now," They all turned to see the other newest member of their family, she never could stay entertained. She walked over to Xander and cuddled into the side of her that wasn't currently occupied by Ronnie.

"Thought you were playing with your puppy, Red?" Spike asked as if he was speaking to child, even though she was Dru's get and not his.

"Hungry," she pouted.

"There's nothing good to eat tonight, Wills," Xander said as he kissed the top of her head.

"Ronnie threw her dinner away," Spike scolded.

"I so did not, Willow, he tasted bad you wouldn't have liked him." Ronnie defended.

"I don't know," Spike mused. "Xan tasted pretty peculiar himself, and he turned out okay."

"Ha ha, Bleach Boy," Xander rolled his eyes.

"Oi, respect your elders," Spike replied smiling not really offended. He and Xander had always had an easy relationship, better than he and Angelus ever did. Maybe because they never fought over Dru, Xander only had eyes for Willow, and occasionally Ronnie, but no matter.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" A voice exclaimed out of nowhere. They were all eager to realize that she in fact did have a heartbeat and would be the perfect thing to help Willow's appetite. But also, some recognition flashed in Willow and Xander's eyes. "I wished us into Bizarro Land and you guys are still together! And Ronnie what are you doing with them?"

Ronnie looked at the girl with wide eyes. "I'm sorry, have we met?"

"Yeah, we just went shopping together last week." The brunette said as if Ronnie was the dumb one in the conversation.

"Um…vampire? I don't shop, I steal." Ronnie spoke very slowly.

"That's Cordelia Chase," Xander announced. "She probably has fantasized about shopping with everyone on the planet, just saw you one day and you slipped into one of her dreams."

"Play now?" Willow asked the men.

"I was honestly gonna let you have her, Red," Spike told her. "But since Ronnie's dinner went sour and this girl thinks she knows her, it's up to her."

Willow looked at Ronnie expectantly. Ronnie nodded to Willow and smirked at the girl, "Hey Clueless, run."

The chase was on and Willow actually got her without much effort. "Aw, that was almost no fun," she whined right before she sank her teeth into the girl's neck. She didn't have time to have more than a sip before a large white van pulled up and a group of misfits holding crosses charged them.

"Great, the white hats are here," Xander grimaced.

"Red, get back here," Spike demanded her. She came quickly.

Ronnie shared a look with one of the boys who had come out of the van, he was short with red, spikey hair; but luckily no one else noticed the look.

"Let's go home," Ronnie said to her group.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They all walked into the main room of the Bronze and went straight to the room that the Master was seated in.

"Ah, my prides and joys," the Master welcomed them happily. "Hungry? I've lost my appetite for this one," he said offering a girl to the group.

"Willow's had an awful night and she's starving," Ronnie informed him.

"Here you go, dear," the Master said as he threw the girl to Willow, she happily vamped out and drained the girl. "Why did she have such a rough night?" He said addressing Spike, as he was the oldest.

"Bloody wankers are actually following their curfews so we all had a rough of it," Spike offered. "She had a prime kill earlier…"

"One of my old crushes actually," Xander interrupted.

"You used to have a crush on Cordelia!" Willow complained as she threw the body down when she was finished with it. Xander shrugged at her.

"Well at least he's got better taste now," Ronnie said as she went to throw an arm across Willow's shoulder.

"Absolutely," Xander leered at them.

"Anyway," Spike returned to his report, "Wanna-slay librarian came and interrupted us once Red had the girl cornered."

"He will be dealt with, the plant is almost complete," the Master assured them.

A door slammed and two fits of giggles could be heard as two vampiresses entered the room, one sidling up to Spike, the other staying by the Master's side.

"Did we have fun, then?" Spike asked Dru indulgently.

"Had to punish the bad dog…grr," Dru informed him.

"That was definitely one of my favorite sessions," Darla cooed.

Ronnie loved it when she got to this town and realized they had this pet. It meant that she and Darla could happily cohabitate since she had another way to let out her frustrations. Darla hadn't laid a finger on Ronnie since she got here, they were actually strangely getting along with them both officially part of the Order.

"He bled pretty colors," Dru whispered to her Childer.

"Well, with that happy thought," Xander said smiling as he got between Ronnie and Willow and threw an arm around each of them. "I'm gonna head off to bed."

"Tired already, Xander?" Spike asked.

"Didn't say I was tired," he smirked evilly and nibbled on Willow's ear.

Spike nodded and laughed then turned to Dru, "What do you say, Princess, follow the kids' example?"

She only smiled in reply as he led her to the room they shared.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night, Ronnie snuck out of bed making sure Xander and Willow didn't notice her. She went to see what the werewolf had to say tonight. She met him at a crypt in Restfield cemetery.

"You are extremely daring to live in this town and be out in a cemetery at this hour." Ronnie scolded him.

"Yeah, well tomorrow's a full moon so I'm pretty sure I could defend myself if the need presented itself." Oz defended. He was turned a little less than a year ago and his first order of business had been to learn how to control it. He still had to be caged up on the actual night of the full moon, but the rest of the month he could control when he turned or not if he needed to defend himself, or hold back his anger.

"So what happened with Pretty in Pink?" Ronnie asked.

"She was kinda delirious, kept talking about how the Slayer was supposed to be here." Oz told her.

"The Slayer? Why?" She asked.

"Don't know," he shrugged. "But she was convinced that the Slayer could make things better for us here."

"For the humans maybe, but the Master's plant would be the best thing that ever happened to me." She said bitterly.

"True, but then you know, me and all my friends will eventually end up dead and in your cup." Oz reasoned.

"I don't even understand you, you're a werewolf, you're supposed to be on our side," Ronnie shook her head.

"I've always been a little strange."

"That's for sure," Ronnie snickered. "Look, the sun's coming up, I gotta get back home."

They both nodded to each other and left.

She hadn't meant to befriend him, but she had been out hunting one night and it just happened. It was about a week before the full moon and she had found him and was about to feed from him, but when he saw her vamp out he quickly morphed between his human and wolf face and back again. She had acknowledged that he was a wolf and would leave him alone. Then, the first time he jumped out of the White Hats van she about had a heart attack-if her heart beat that is. He had explained to her that he was still on the side of good and could control his wolf. She didn't understand it, but agreed to not kill him or outright chase any of the White Hats; and he agreed to leave her and her direct family alone. She was always the one to suggest to her group to leave as soon as Oz's would show up and they listened to her because they agreed it wasn't worth it to fight when they had things as easy as they did. Every now and then they would meet up to discuss things on both sides and she would even come and watch him when he was wolfed out on the full moon since none of his friends knew about his condition.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Boss, I think we got a problem," Ronnie said the next night as the main vamps sat in the Master's 'throne room'. He sat on his throne with Darla perched on an arm, Spike sat on one end of the couch with Dru in his lap, Ronnie in the middle, and Xander on the other end with Willow similarly in his lap.

"What is it, darling?" The Master asked her.

"That girl that got away from us last night, I overheard her trying to convince them to call the Slayer here," She informed him, not telling them she had an informant more or less within the White Hat group.

"The Slayer?" He asked in shock. "Well that just won't do with all of our plans so close to being complete."

"Oh, come on, Boss," Xander said as he reached behind Ronnie to slap Spike on the shoulder. "We've got the Slayer of Slayers right here."

Spike nodded. "He's right, I can take care of her as soon as she gets to town, no problem."

The Master calmed down and sat back. "Thank you, William, I'm so glad I can count on you."

Spike nodded his agreement. He actually didn't mind being a part of the Order. Angelus fancied himself a top dog and refused having to answer to anyone, but Spike had suffered having to answer to Angelus and Darla during his first decade of being turned. Then, he was in charge for the better part of the century and it did get tiring. Once he arrived in Sunnydale, the Master, impressed by his accomplishments, had set him up to the same status as Darla herself within the Order. He liked having the perks of the power without having to make all the decisions. They all seemed to live more peaceably this way, there was never even an argument between the higher ranked Aurelians.

He pretty much had free reign to do whatever he wanted as long as he gave the Master a full report. And now his first official command was just to terminate another Slayer? He was ecstatic. The only thing he didn't like about the Master's plant was that he knew he would miss the thrill of the kill. But now a Slayer was coming to town, and there was always another called when the present one died. This gave Spike the perspective he'd needed. If he ever did get too bored, he would just go take a vacation to wherever the Slayer was staying and have himself one good day.

Oh yeah, things were about to get a lot more interesting around here.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fighting, fighting everywhere. Ronnie couldn't stand it. Everything that she cared about was crashing down around her. She couldn't understand where everything had gone wrong.

Spike was about to kill the Slayer in an almost gladiator show as they all just watched when Angel came out of nowhere and knocked him unconscious. Then, the fighting had broken out among everybody. The Order stood up in rage and then the White Hats descended upon them.

Xander impaled Angel with a crossbow bolt and he was dust.

Then the Slayer staked Xander.

Willow was grabbed by Oz and another White Hat and shoved into a broken piece of wood.

The Master twisted the Slayer's neck and she fell lifeless to the floor.

Ronnie looked around to see as Spike, Dru, and Darla were all cornered by White Hats, then she felt something in her chest and looked down to see a stake was in her heart.

"I'm sorry," Oz said as he watched her burst to ash.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie bolted up in her bed. She had never had a nightmare that bad and she didn't know what had caused it. All she knew was that she was glad it was over. She couldn't imagine a world where everyone she loved was dead, it was just too much. And she had never been more thankful that Buffy Summers had come to Sunnydale when she did.

Chapter Text

"I thought I had you broke of this being in graveyards at night thing?" Ronnie asked as she came to sit on the ground next to Oz.

 

"Yeah, well, it's quiet. I like to think." Oz shrugged.

 

"How are you doing, Oz? Since the whole Willow thing I mean?" Ronnie asked seriously.

 

"That's what I've been thinking about. I ache, like I'm missing parts of me, important parts-Willow parts." He said while holding his hand over his chest.

 

"She hurt you, I get that, but maybe since she's so important to you, you could try to forgive her? I know it would make things easier on both of you."

 

Oz nodded. "Yeah, I think you're right. Everybody deserves a second chance."

 

"Preachin' to the choir, Wolfie," Ronnie chuckled. "Alright, I'm going to call it a night, I had so much paperwork tonight, I'm beat."

 

"How's that going anyway?" Oz asked.

 

"It's ok, but the involvement of the mayor in the supernatural around here is starting to increase. I'm starting to think he's got a plan building up." Ronnie confided.

 

"Okay, well, I'll see you at the meeting tomorrow then. Goodnight." Oz nodded at the new information.

 

"Night, Oz."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Angel?" Ronnie called as she walked into the mansion. She hadn't been by every night anymore since Angel could get his own blood now that everybody knew he was back. She was only coming to visit him now because she wanted to ask him his opinion on her theory about the mayor.

 

"Veronica?" Angel asked as he came into the living room, looking worse for wear.

 

"Are you okay?" Ronnie asked concerned. "You look awful."

 

"I haven't been sleeping well. Nightmares." He shrugged.

 

"That's weird. Anything important?" She inquired.

 

"No, just some nightmares of things I did in my past." He informed her, looking grief stricken.

 

"I'm sorry, Angel." She said as she hugged him comfortingly.

 

"It's okay. Did you need anything?" He finally asked.

 

"I was just wondering your opinion on this theory I had." She offered.

 

"Shoot."

 

"I looked into the city records to check out what you said about the Mayor's involvement in the town's nightlife. He's been getting involved a lot more lately. I'm not sure what it is, but I think that there is a plan that is being worked that could be really bad for the whole town."

 

Angel nodded in consideration. "It's possible. I think you should tell Giles and the others and get everybody looking into it."

 

"Okay, thanks, Angel. Hope you get to sleeping better." Ronnie said as she gave him a goodbye hug and left.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"So, Ronnie, how have you spent your Christmases in the past?" Joyce asked. They were having a Christmas Eve dinner at the Summers' house. Joyce had invited Ronnie, Giles, and Faith. Earlier in the night, the older couple had finally revealed their relationship to a reluctantly accepting Buffy.

 

"Oh, the usual, just exchange of gifts and a big meal." She shrugged, hoping not to mention how the big feast was, in fact, a massacre. Although, she did always enjoy her gifts from Will.

 

"Where are you from? Originally, I mean, I really don't know anything about you." Joyce asked in honest curiosity.

 

"Alabama, actually. I was born during the Reconstruction and grew up on a plantation. My mother was the cook for the household. I was the same age as the daughter of the family and we were playmates when we were kids. Then, when we grew up she decided to go travel Europe and I got to go as her traveling companion. That's when I was turned." Ronnie told the abridged version of her human life.

 

"That's amazing, dear." Joyce was truly captivated with the story and spent the rest of the evening asking her about what it was like living in that period.

 

After dinner, Buffy and Ronnie decided to pay Angel a visit to see how he was doing. Ronnie had mentioned that Angel had had trouble sleeping and they wanted to see if it had gotten any better. But they were horrified with what they found.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Angel's nightmares weren't just in his dreams anymore. While he was awake the ghosts of his victims, whether he had killed them or somebody they loved, tortured his every moment. He was on the brink of giving up. Then, the meaningless faces stopped, and ones that he knew intimately started speaking to him.

 

Angelus stared at Angel in disgust.

 

"Look at you, boyo. This is disgraceful, this is. You finally got to unleash your true potential when you became a vampire. Showed that worthless father of yours what you could really do. Then, you had the world at your feet, to maim, torture and fuck as you like. Then, what do you do? You get this blasted curse and go all soft, not even the original soul because not sure the human bugger you were would have gave a toss. You eat out of the sewers for a century for Chris'sakes. Then, you go and start fightin' for 'good' 'cause of some girl-a Slayer no less. And then you commit the biggest affront to vampires everywhere. You kill…"

 

Angelus' form morphed into Darla as she completed the sentence as she looked condescendingly at him as if she were a mother scolding her child.

 

"Me. Do you know why I picked you, my darling boy? You were such a rotten human; I just knew you had what it took to be so much more locked away inside you. So I let you free, and you were more than I could have ever hoped for. We had the world at our fingertips. Then, you started making us a little family. Your masterpiece makes a little toy. Then, you get that disgusting thing put in you and I'm left with nothing but to play with the stupid toy to let my anger out. I thought maybe a century would make you come to your senses, so I was delighted to see you again. Then, you stake me, for a little girl. Oh well, guess little girls were always your thing. I mean, you wouldn't be in this mess otherwise, right?"

 

The ghost changed once again, this time it appeared as Drusilla, but not his childe. The girl before she was turned, the human.

 

"Little girls and nuns; so imagine your delight when you met me. I was a nun in training, who also had a gift. The gift of prophecy, I could have been sainted if I were given the chance. But no, you saw that that would never happen, didn't you? You killed every single person in my family. Then, you made me watch you lie with your whore. Then when I was finally good and crazy, you made me your whore. You made it where I never even saw heaven. There was nothing left of my soul to ascend. You ripped it apart piece by piece, and made me a monster. But at least I was yours."

 

Spike chuckled sadly as he took over Drusilla's form.

 

"Quite right, too. Thought she was mine, didn't I? Told you more than once that she was my 'destiny'. But you just laughed in my face and went behind my back to have her yourself. Left me with a bleedin' chambermaid who wasn't even worth a decent fuck just so you and Drusilla could go off gallivantin' wherever you please without havin' to worry 'bout ol' Spikey. Then, when you came back I was out of commission in that soddin' chair so you tried to break my toy. Not very nice of you, mate."

 

Spike shook his head in disappointment and his face changed to Ronnie's.

 

"You never gave me a second thought when Dru first sired me, other than I could keep Spike busy for you. Then, when you found out what the gypsies did to me you tried to be all noble and take care of me, but I wouldn't let you. Then, you lost your soul and beat and raped me every single night. You made what Darla used to do to me look like child's play. You had Dru thrall me into killing that Gypsy for you, knowing I wouldn't remember anything. You know, I never understood one thing about you, 'Angel'. If the first thing most vampires do, according to you, is kill their family, then why after getting the flashy new soul didn't you kill your vampire family? I mean, since every death or bad deed that we commit is just more blood on your hands, why let us keep existing? Why not just off yourself? It's not like you'll ever make a real difference anyway."

 

Then the youngest member of his family was staring at him. One he hoped he'd never have to see again--Lawson.

 

"But killing your vampire family wouldn't help that much if you just keep making new ones, now does it, chief? Some vampire with a soul you are. You can't kill to eat, but hey, let's keep turning people. Make as many people as miserable as you are. The only real way to keep anybody safe from you, Angelus, isn't to remain celibate; it's just to dust yourself once and for all."

 

Finally, Lawson changed and Buffy was speaking to him.

 

"You had a hundred years to find out all the details about your curse, but no, you couldn't be troubled from all your time crying in the sewers. Then a demon comes along and shows you a little 15 year old girl sucking a lolly and you 'fall in love with her heart'. I mean really, where do you come up with this crap? Then you're sent to protect her, but you don't really do that. She dies on your watch while you do what you do best, brood. Then, you can't even save her with CPR because you can't breathe. How the hell do you inhale smoke from your cigarettes, moron? You don't deserve the light of day. Actually, on second thought, that's exactly what you deserve. There's a beautiful sunrise coming up soon, Angel. Why don't you go meet it?"

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Come on, Angel. Don't do this. This is the coward's way out." Buffy pleaded with him. They arrived to see him just standing outside telling them he was waiting for the sun. "Strong is fighting every day."

 

"Angel, I don't know what's been going on with you, but listen to me." Ronnie entreated. She knew she didn't have long to get her point across since she had to stay out of the sun herself. "Think about it, who have you caused the most pain recently? Me, right? Well, here I am telling you that you can't do this to yourself. If I can forgive you for everything you've done to me and tell you that you should keep fighting, don't you think that whatever nightmares are haunting you are just your conscience working overtime?"

 

Finally, she was yelling from the shade of a tree hoping to not get hit by the rays of the sun, but unwilling to leave Angel still in harm's way, they all stood in awe as it started to snow. The girls quickly went to hug Angel as his knees buckled in resignation.

Chapter Text

Ronnie chuckled as she watched the sparring match between Buffy and Angel that she was supposed to be refereeing. But honestly, there was nothing to referee, Buffy had this fight in the bag. And even though Angel was her friend, it still didn't hurt her feelings to see him get his butt kicked all in good fun.

 

"Gotcha!" Buffy cried as she straddled Angel and had a piece of bread to his chest acting as a stake.

 

"Uh, right in the heart," Angel cried.

 

"Well that satisfies this ref into saying that the Slayer won this one fair and square." Ronnie smirked.

 

Buffy got up from her position, "Want to play the winner?" She directed the question to Ronnie. Spike had been wrong when he said that Buffy and Angel could never be friends. No doubt him saying such was a wake-up call that they needed. However, with Ronnie's constant presence preventing the two from ever being alone, it kept them all in a nice friendship.

 

"Would love to Buff, but I'm gonna head out here in a few minutes, I have to go to work." Ronnie declined regretfully.

 

"I'll go out with you," Buffy nodded.

 

"Will I see you this weekend?" Angel asked, then shook his head. "You probably have plans…"

 

"Yeah, I kinda do have a thing." Buffy offered.

 

"A date?" Angel asked worriedly.

 

"Nice attempt at casual," Ronnie murmured. Then chuckled, Buffy had told her all about her birthday plans, oh yes, date indeed.

 

Buffy nodded. "Older man, very handsome, likes when I call him 'Daddy'."

 

"Your father," Angel sighed in relief, then looked at her in horror. "It is your father, right?"
She nodded grinning at him.

 

"Alright, guys, it's time to call it a night," Ronnie said as she looked at her watch and realized it was time to turn in for the night if she wanted to make it home by sunrise.

 

"Alright," Buffy nodded. "Maybe the three of us can get together after I get back from my thing with my dad. We can have a Buffy-birthday-dinner."

 

They all agreed and separated for the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"She turns eighteen in two days, Giles. The damn Council are probably already on their way here. Don't even try lying about it." Ronnie walked into the apartment she shared with Giles to see Faith talking very harshly with him about some matter.

 

"What does the Council want?" She asked, making her presence known.

 

"Buffy's turning eighteen." Faith explained. "When a Slayer turns eighteen they have to go through with a test without their strength to make sure they're smart enough to actually be a Slayer in the first place."

 

"I still don't understand how you are even aware of the test, Faith," Giles said exasperated.

 

"I turned eighteen about two months after I was called, Watcher-man. Already been through the test." Faith glared daggers at him.

 

"Don't look at me like that. It's not as if I actually intend to participate or even put Buffy through the test." Giles spat at her.

 

Faith looked at him in surprise, "You're not?"

 

"Of course not! I'm in a relationship with her mother, not to mention that Buffy was already like a daughter to me before the matter. Do you honestly think I would do anything to jeopardize either of those relationships?" Giles yelled frustrated at the idea.

 

"Sorry, guess I just thought all watchers were the same." Faith looked down ashamedly. "I'll just go now."

 

Giles nodded, "I think that's best, before either of us say anything we regret."

 

After she left the apartment, Ronnie turned to look at Giles. "Ripper, I believe you, I do, but is it possible that the Council could try to perform this test with or without your cooperation?"

 

He looked at her in concentration for a moment considering the possibility, then shook his head. "No, they have to drug her with muscle relaxers and adrenaline suppressants. It's her personal watcher who is to administer the drugs. They wouldn't have another way to dose her."

 

Ronnie nodded. "Alright, as long as you're sure, I'm gonna go get some rest now." She went to give him a hug.

 

"Yes, of course, dear, sleep well," Giles said absently as he kissed her on the head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy walked into her kitchen to talk to her mother. She was in a good mood after her friends reassured her that her tradition of going out with her father to see the ice show wasn't too girly.

 

"Hey, Mom, what time is Dad going to get here?" She asked noticing the cupcake her mother held in her hand and took it with a smile and a healthy bite of appreciation, "thanks".

 

"It's from your father," Joyce grimaced as she handed Buffy the tickets she was to use that night. "He says he's sorry, but something came up at work."

 

Buffy nodded in false understanding and called Ronnie to meet her at Angel's for her birthday dinner early.

 

They had a nice little dinner and they comforted her about her dad not being there for her.

 

"Alright, it is now officially Buffy-presents-time," Buffy announced when they finished eating.

 

"Me first!" Ronnie shrieked as she pulled out a long, narrow box.

 

Buffy opened it to notice a custom shaped stake that spiraled down and had a 'B' embedded into the flat end. "Oh my god, thank you so much! I'll only use it for really end-of-the-worldy apocalypse-type missions, I swear."

 

Ronnie preened at her success and motioned for Angel to take his turn. He ducked his head shyly as he gave Buffy a beautifully wrapped present. It was a book of poetry by Emily Browning.

 

"Thank you. It's beautiful." She smiled tentatively.

 

"You really like it?" He asked eagerly.

 

"Of course I do. It's sweet and thoughtful and...full of neat words to learn and say like 'wilt' and 'henceforth'." She attempted, though they could both tell she had lost her lackluster for the night.

 

"Then why'd you seem more excited last year when you got a severed arm in a box?" He challenged.

 

"Also, my gift," Ronnie coughed subtly and smirked at Angel's look.

 

"Sorry, guys, it's this whole 'dad bailing thing', it just makes me want to hit something," she said in frustration. Then she formed a fist and punched Ronnie in the arm, who didn't flinch. "Gee, Ron, you know, you could at least pretend I did some damage."

 

Ronnie looked at Buffy worriedly, "I think we need to go see Giles."

 

"Why?" Buffy asked confused.

 

"Because that hit? I didn't feel it. At all."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Giles?" Buffy called as she and Ronnie walked into the library. "Oh my god, Giles!"

 

"Ripper!" Ronnie cried as she rushed to his side. They had found him in his office knocked out.

 

"Joyce?" Giles asked.

 

"My mom was here?" Buffy asked worriedly. "What happened?"

 

"The council, they were going to do the test anyway. I was warning Joyce to tell you when you got home. Then, the vampire, Kralik, he took her."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie walked into the house that they were holding Joyce captive in and quickly found the room where they were. She saw Joyce tied to a chair and gagged. A vampire with his back to Ronnie was talking to Joyce about Buffy. Ronnie noticed Joyce's eyes widen when she saw her, but Ronnie shushed her with a finger to her mouth.

 

"Well, I could be wrong, but I think that's the Slayer's mom you've got there." Ronnie spoke to announce her presence.

 

Kralik quickly spun and coiled to attack. Ronnie threw her hands up in surrender and switched to gameface. "Hey, chill, I'm one of you."

 

He immediately calmed and turned back to face Joyce. "Yes, she is the Slayer's mother. I'm using her for bait, to lure the Slayer here."

 

"You're not worried you're just gonna piss her off and she'll stake you?" Ronnie asked with a quirked eyebrow. He turned towards Ronnie again and walked over to her.

 

"Of course not, the Slayer is nothing for me to fear. The council drugged her in the guise of a gift from her father, she is not to her full strength. She's just a little girl. I'm not afraid of little girls." While he was talking he didn't notice that Buffy had come in through the back entrance and had already untied and led Joyce outside to safety.

 

"Well, that's smart. But there is someone you should fear." Ronnie smiled smugly.

 

"And who would that be?" Kralik asked baffled.

 

"Me," Giles said just as Kralik turned to face him as the stake penetrated his heart.

 

"And that's why I call you 'Ripper'," Ronnie smiled at him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So what did the council have to say?" Ronnie asked when Giles came home from meeting with the head of the council, Quentin Travers. They had all agreed it would be safer for Ronnie to remain a secret.

 

"Let's just say that neither Buffy nor I answer to the Council anymore," Giles said tiredly as he fell into his comfy chair in exhaustion.

 

Ronnie nodded. "Well good riddance to bad rubbish, as Will used to say. How are Joyce and Buffy?"

 

"They're both rather shaken up, they need the night to recover, and the effects of the drugs should wear off by morning."

 

"But they both know that you had nothing to do with the test, right?"

 

He nodded. "Yes, I had already told Joyce about the test before we were attacked so my innocence in the matter was never an issue, thankfully."

 

"Good, I wouldn't want any tension there." Ronnie sighed in relief.

 

"Quite. The Council is, however, sending a new watcher to oversee things here." He explained the rest of the outcome of tonight's events.

 

"Oh, this should be fun."

Chapter Text

"What were they talking about?" Angel asked Ronnie. She had showed up to the mansion and seemed scared. Angel knew that Ronnie had seen a lot of bad things in her time, some of them he had even done to her. So if something scared her, it was bad.

"They were talking about this ritual, 'the Dedication'," she said.

"Dedication of what," he asked.

"Angel, he's gonna ascend." Ronnie said as she looked up at him in horror. "This dedication will mark 100 days until he ascends into a full demon."

"We've got to warn the others," he said as he moved to comfort her. They had seen a demon ascend once. It was horrid. The thing that came out of that ascension ritual was like nothing they had ever seen before. Yes, they were demons, but when they were honest, they had to admit that they were half-breeds. They were originally humans with a demon inside them. They were the mutts of the demon world. But when something, or someone, ascended it was bad. Very bad.

"I know, but I'm scared to go home tonight, I left work early and ran straight here because it's closer. Can I stay until they're all at school so I can just take the sewers there?" She asked, and he could feel the anxiety falling off her.

"Yeah, Veronica, of course you can. Do you want me to go with you in the morning?" Angel said when she finally looked up at him from his shoulder.

"No, that's ok, I can go on my own," she smiled up at him. "Thanks, Angel, good night."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The class bound Scoobies were walking down the hallway when they saw Ronnie in front of the double door entrance of the library waving her hands wildly to get their attention.

"What's up?" Buffy asked once they reached her.

"The Watcher's Council sent the new guy, he's in there talking to Giles. I haven't met him, yet. I came in through the basement to try something new and saw him in there."

"So what's the big?" Faith asked.

"He's hot! Also, I'm a vamp, I didn't want to go in alone in case he staked now, asked questions later." She said with every ounce of teenager still left inside her.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Fine, let's go."

They walked in to see a young man talking to Giles, from what they could see of his back Ronnie wasn't wrong. He was built nice and dressed almost exactly how Giles was when he was under the influence of the band candy, except where Ripper's jacket was denim, this man's was leather. He was showing Giles that he had retractable stakes attached to an armband he wore on each arm under his sleeves.

"It's not all about bookwork anymore, I assure you." They heard him say. Giles looked up and noticed the others walked in and motioned them farther in the room.

"Everyone, this is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, he's my cousin's son, and he's the watcher the Council has sent over."

"The name's Xander," the brunette said offering his hand to the slightly older man. "Aren't you a little too young to be a watcher?"

"Call me Wes," he said as he shook the boy's hand. "Yes, I'm younger than the average field watcher, but I excelled in a few areas that made me a good choice for this particular case."

"What would that be?" Buffy asked tentatively.

"Well, for one, my being related to Ripper made the Council assume I would be more easily accepted into your little fold here." He said as straightforwardly as possible. He had no intention to keep any of the group in the dark about anything.

"Well, yeah," Willow said. "I mean, we trust Giles, so if Giles trusts you, we trust you, that makes sense."

"Precisely," Wes nodded. "And I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?"

"Oh, gosh, we're all so rude! I'm Willow, this is my boyfriend, Oz. He's a werewolf," Oz nodded at Wes who didn't flinch at this knowledge. "And Buffy and Faith, you probably already know they're the Slayers, I mean, that's why you're here, right? And this is…" Willow was just about to introduce Ronnie when she and Wes finally made eye contact and he interrupted Willow.

"Veronica Winters," he grabbed her hand and placed a gentle kiss on it. "I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance."

Everyone including Ronnie froze at this. Not only had his accent changed to a more refined one, but he knew who she was on sight, and wasn't staking her…yet. Ronnie responded to the gesture by reverting to her original style of speech from when she was human, even with a slight Southern drawl.

"Why, thank you, sir. But you seem to have me at a disadvantage, have we met?"

"No, we haven't but I studied of your life while I was in the Academy. In fact, I wrote my thesis on you," he said with a wide grin.

"I thought there was no documented evidence of Veronica in the Watcher Diaries?" Giles asked eagerly.

"There were offhanded mentions of a fifth vampire accompanying the Whirlwind," Wes explained. "I simply found all the mentions and found pictures coinciding with her appearances and made the connection with women that went missing around her first appearance."

"How perseverant," Ronnie practically swooned.

"Well, we are to make the topic of our thesis the top priority our entire senior year." Wes smirked as he stepped closer to her.

"How did I miss that?" Giles asked frustrated. "I subscribe to the publication of theses every year."

Wes rolled his eyes at having to take his attention off of Ronnie once again.

"Ripper, don't ask me why you ignored your own relative's thesis in last January's edition I wasn't here, was I?"

"No, but Angelus was," Oz rationalized, speaking for the first time.

"Ah, yes," Giles said. "I must have overlooked it in all the chaos. I do apologize, Wesley."

"Don't worry about it, you can read it later."

"So is that your expertise?" Buffy asked. "You know all about Ronnie?"

Wes nodded, "The wetworks team noticed her during the Cruciamentum and Travers thought it would be better to send in someone who knew what they were dealing with."

"So where are you staying Watcher Junior?" Faith asked, she didn't like dwelling on the Cruciamentum topic, at all.

"Ah, yes," Giles answered for Wes, "a new flat has opened up in my complex. Wesley and I were just discussing the practicality of him living there with you staying in his spare room so you won't have to keep staying in that dreadful motel downtown."

"I have no problem with the arrangement," Wes simply stated, then nodded to Faith. "What do you say, fancy a flatmate?"

"Share the rent, with nicer digs? Sounds like a deal to me." Faith said excitedly.

Wes smirked snidely. "You misunderstand, Faith, neither of us will have to spend a penny of our own money. It's entirely on the Council's tab."

"How in sweet mercy did you manage that?" Xander asked awed.

"Let's just say, I can be very…persuasive when it comes to getting those posh suits to give me what I need." Wes said truly amused with all the teenagers' looks of appreciation. He was glad he would be so easily accepted.

Ronnie was still staring doe eyed at him, and he noticed that, too. He knew he'd meet her in Sunnydale, was the reason he was selected, but seeing her, well her pictures did her absolutely no justice at all. He couldn't wait to get to know her. And living in the same general area as her would help that tremendously.

"Oh," Giles finally snapped back to attention to more urgent matters. "Children, I forgot who even had patrol last night. Did any of you encounter anything strange?"

Buffy and Faith then told of their adventure the night before when they had apparently encountered a group of vamps that wore what Ronnie could only visualize as garb that closely resembled the Knights of Templar. They told the Watchers of two swords that apparently held some significance, as Wes knew what they were talking about almost immediately. They belonged to a religious sect of sorts that worshipped the demon Balthazar.

"Now wait a minute," Xander interrupted Wes's detailed explanation of the sect. "All you knew was that it was two swords and that one was longer than the other. How could you possibly know exactly which ones they were talking about?"

"Well, true I was selected for my specific insight on Miss Winters," at the once again mention Ronnie blushed. "But on the 16 or so hour flight over here, I decided to fill the utter boredom with reading everything I could on the history of this town, which happens to be where this sect was last active." Wes explained.

"Alright then, carry on," Xander motioned with his arms in easy acceptance and to indicate for the Watcher to continue.

Right as the Slayers were about to leave to follow their new assignment after school to go hunt down the amulet that accompanied whatever ritual the swords went with, Ronnie remembered why she was in fact at the school.

"Ripper, I almost forgot," Ronnie quickly gained the attention of the entire group. "Those swords, I don't know why, but the Mayor has them. Trick gave them to him. As a present."

"Presents usually mean a special occasion." Willow offered half-heartedly.

"Yeah," Ronnie continued. "Unfortunately, I know what the occasion is: a Dedication."

"Dedication of what?" Oz asked, Ronnie was quite possibly his best friend, if you didn't count Willow. He could tell when something was off about her-like now.

"Of himself." She then looked at the Watchers. "He's going to ascend...to a full demon."
Dread set over the entire library as Ronnie and the Watchers explained to the younger members of the group exactly what that would mean.

"Alright," Wesley finally set back into action. "We can only handle one issue at a time. Faith, Buffy, you will continue with the given assignment and go to retrieve the amulet. Ronnie, do you have to work tonight?"

She shook her head. "Nope, I have the next two nights off."

"Alright, you might want to accompany the girls just to make sure they don't run into any trouble." Wes gave orders like a seasoned veteran. "Tomorrow we'll start worrying about the Dedication of the Mayor and seeing if we can in any way prevent it. If not, we must see if we can at least prevent the Ascension itself. We'll have 100 days."

Everyone took their missions and left the library.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Getting the amulet ended up being a piece of cake. Faith kept it so that when she finally went home that night she could just give it to Wes since they had used the afternoon to go ahead and get her and Wes's stuff settled in. They did have a little fight with the knight looking guys, but it just got all the girls' engines revving to have some more fun. They were all creatures of the night and the mission's entirety didn't even last an hour.

They decided to go Bronzing. They were all dancing when they noticed Angel show up. Buffy immediately went to jump in his arms, which caught everyone off guard. No one, not even Ronnie, realized they were that intimate anymore. Faith stayed to dance while Buffy and Ronnie sat on the couch and talked to Angel.

No rest for the weary. He informed them that the demon was in fact, not dead. Just as he finished that dreadful news, Wesley showed up at the Bronze.

"Ah, Buffy, Veronica, fancy seeing you here. I trust the mission went well?" He asked good-naturedly. The girls simply nodded, though Ronnie was also slightly fawning over the Watcher.

"Who are you?" Angel asked when he noticed the easy conversation between the three.

Wesley offered his hand. "Wes, new Watcher, and you must be Angel."

Angel shook the offered hand and looked wearily at the man.

Wesley barely gave him a second thought, however, and returned his attention back to the girls, Ronnie specifically. "Where is the amulet, then?"

Just then Faith ran up and stopped as she intentionally collided with Wes's back. "Here you go, roomie, got you a house warming gift," she said as she handed him the amulet.

"Ah, just what I wanted." He smiled, pleased with the girls' success of the evening. "Veronica, care to dance?"

Before Ronnie could answer affirmatively Buffy interrupted. "Actually, Angel just told me, dead demon? Not so dead. Should we do something about it?" She asked nervously, she didn't want to do anymore Slayer duty tonight. All three girls turned identical puppy dog pouts on Wes, who smiled knowingly at them all.

"The Illuminati don't have the swords or the amulet. While Balthazar is powerful, he is useless without them for now. You can all have the rest of the evening off and go defeat him tomorrow night." All three girls beamed at him.

Faith kissed his cheek, "Thanks, roomie," before returning to the dance floor.

Buffy kissed the other cheek and led Angel to the dance floor.

Wesley looked smugly at Ronnie. "It seems I am out of cheeks."

Ronnie simply rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. "I'll have that dance now."

He shrugged as they went to the dance floor. "That'll work, too."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ronnie laid in bed two days later thinking about the night before. The night had started great. They had all learned the location of Balthazar thanks to Angel. Wesley and Giles had gotten kidnapped by the Illuminati-mostly on purpose so that they would be there for the fight.

Buffy, Faith, and Ronnie were all on their way to the fight. They were in a steady pattern for the last block or so of switching off killing vamps every couple of feet. It was Faith's turn. A second before the stake connected, Ronnie recognized the person being staked—Alan Finch, the deputy Mayor.

But Ronnie's cry to tell Faith was a half second too late. Buffy was standing there talking about calling the police, while Faith was panicking about what the consequences would be for her. Buffy was condemning Faith for a simple mistake that either of them could have made in the heat of the moment. So Ronnie stepped in to stop the argument.

"Stop it! Look, he's already dead. I'll just drain him and get rid of the body. No one will ever have to know that it was anything other than an 'animal attack'."

"What about the hole in his heart?" Buffy asked.

Ronnie simply told her she'd take care of it and sent both girls battle the Illuminati.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She had taken care of the heart issue. She'd simply stuck her hand in his chest cavity and took his heart out. She'd been working in the Mayor's office long enough to know that even the police knew about the Hellmouth's nightlife. The fact that he had his heart taken out and bite marks on his neck would simply make the police think it was some crazy cult ritual sacrifice or something. Of course, they'd publicize exactly what Ronnie said, an animal attack.

So the next day, before Giles went off to work, Ronnie told him and Wes, while Faith was also in the room so that the story would definitely match. She had gotten into an argument with Finch who found out she was feeding information to the Slayer and threatened to out her to the Mayor. She told them she had no choice but to kill him. There might have been another way, but her amoral vampire state of being simply couldn't think of one in the heat of the moment.

Wes and Giles knew her personality better than what she was giving herself credit for and quickly reassured her that in the given situation they might have done the same thing.
As the three humans were leaving the complex to go to the school, Faith stayed behind to talk to Ronnie.

"Why did you cover for me?" Faith asked. "I didn't ask you to, you just did."

Ronnie looked up at her, for the first time since Faith had known her, Ronnie's eyes showed her full age, not the care-free young adult she appeared. "Because sweetie, I know what it means to be a killer. In fact, you all accept that I am one, and you don't look down on me for it. But when a human takes another human life, some people tend to get a little self-righteous. Honestly, we've got enough to be worried about with the Mayor's Ascension coming up. We don't need any type of division of the troops right now."

And just like that, she looked like an 18 year old again. "Now, I'm gonna go get some beauty sleep, while you go do whatever it is you do at that school, since you're not even enrolled." Ronnie giggled. Faith understood what the sudden attitude change meant. This would not be discussed again.

"Thanks, V." Faith said as she headed out the door.

Ronnie smiled as Faith closed the door behind her. She knew that later that afternoon she would have to have a conversation with Buffy. She didn't want the blonde Slayer to treat the brunette harshly. She would just have to make sure that what she just told Faith was true; no self-righteousness would divide their team while they were focusing on this battle.
Then she started worrying about a new set of problems…what was she going to tell the Mayor about Alan? Oh well, she'd sleep on it.

Chapter Text

The next night Ronnie went to work as usual, she still hadn't thought what she was going to tell the Mayor about Alan yet, so she just hoped she could avoid it. Unfortunately, things don't always go as hoped.

"Veronica," the Mayor started as he was leaving the office for the night and passed Ronnie's desk. "Have you heard from Alan today? He was supposed to meet me for something last night and he was a no show. Then he just didn't come into work today."

She really had no idea what to say, so she told the most vague half-truth she could think of.

"No, sir. I haven't spoken to him since the other day when I left work."

The Mayor made a look of confusion. "Hmm, I wonder what he could be up to. Oh, well, have a good night, I'll see you in the morning."

"Good night, sir." That had been a close one, now how long could she keep it up?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mayor Wilkins, I have some bad news." The medical examiner at the county morgue said over the phone. The Mayor had barely made it inside his house before the phone rang.

"What is it, Dr. Saunders?" the Mayor asked interested.

"We found Deputy Mayor Alan Finch this morning. He was the victim of a vampire attack." The doctor informed him.

"Well, that's just too bad, I was hoping Alan would actually make it a year without meeting an unfortunate fate. Do we know who it was?"

One of Alan's main duties was keeping a database for the morgue and police departments. Mr. Trick would very discreetly collect DNA samples from vamps around town that were in Sunnydale for indefinite amounts of time. Then Alan would file it and make sure that the privileged members of the city had access. This was a safety precaution on the Mayor's part to make sure that no one vampire ended up causing too much trouble for the Mayor's plans.

"Your night clerk, sir, Veronica Winters." Dr. Saunders said carefully, he didn't want to upset the Mayor with knowledge of betrayal in his own office.

"Well then," the Mayor said as he remembered Ronnie deflecting the topic of Alan earlier. "We'll have to do something about that. Thank you, Dr. Saunders."

"You're welcome, sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Faith, we have to talk about this," Buffy urged as she and the other Slayer patrolled.

"No, B, we really don't." Faith tried to brush her off. Buffy had wanted to further discuss the murder of Deputy Mayor the previous night and Faith just didn't want to talk about it anymore now that she and Ronnie had resolved the issue. But Buffy obviously wasn't going to let it go anytime soon.

Ronnie had talked to Buffy about how she shouldn't be too hard on Faith because of not wanting to cause a group division over a mistake that honestly in the moment any of the three of them could have made. However, Buffy was concerned that Faith would need help accepting the issue of what it meant for her conscience.

"Faith, you killed a man." Buffy tried one more time to breach the topic.

"B, me and Ronnie already discussed the whole thing. I'm fine, really. I don't need any therapy or anything. I'm five by five." Faith tried to make the blonde Slayer see her point.
Buffy finally nodded in surrender. "Okay, if you say so. Just know that if you ever do need to talk, I'm here for you."

"Thanks, B," Faith smiled.

"You're welcome, F," Buffy said as she hugged her sister Slayer. Ronnie was right, she shouldn't let this drive them apart, they needed each other.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Miss Winters," the Mayor greeted the clerk as he entered the office the next morning. "Did you have an easy night of work?" He asked in his usual chipper attitude.

"Yes, sir." She said with a smile. "Thank you for asking."

"Funny thing happened last night," he stated.

"What would that be, sir?" She asked nervously, the Mayor never talked to her this much. She worried if he knew something was wrong.

"Dr. Saunders called me last night when I got home. He said that Alan's body was found."

Ronnie feigned shock. "Oh my god, that's awful. Do they know what happened?"

The Mayor nodded. "Yes, a vampire killed him."

"V-vampire, sir?" Yes, Ronnie knew the Mayor knew about the supernatural, but all because of her own snooping when she was alone in the office. Not as a result of direct conversations with the Mayor.

"Yes, vampire," he said, still calm. "You specifically."

Ronnie absolutely froze. She had no idea what to do now.

"You understand that I simply can't tolerate violence in the workplace. Now, you've done excellent work here, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go." He said it as though she had simply had a little confrontation with Alan in front of the entire office, not as if she had actually killed the man.

"O-of course, sir. I completely understand." The Mayor simply nodded and entered his office as Ronnie packed her things and left the building. "That was way too easy."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wesley walked to the door to answer the knock that he had just heard. He opened it and was not surprised to see Ronnie standing there. Since she was nocturnal by nature he had asked her over to his place for breakfast as opposed to a dinner date. He smiled at her, he thought she looked gorgeous, if a little distressed.

"Hello, Veronica" he greeted. She smiled at him, but it didn't reach her eyes.

"Hey, Wes."

"Please, come in." He stepped aside and motioned for her to come in.

"Letting a vamp into your home, that's dangerous territory there, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce." She smirked as she entered the flat.

"I like to live dangerously," He teased as he closed the door behind her. "Please, have a seat." He said as pulled out a chair for her. He had already set the table and placed the food so that could just dive into the meal.

"So," she started, "I've got some bad news."

"What would that be?" He treaded lightly, not knowing where this could end up going. She had came home the previous morning from patrol and told him and Ripper that she had killed a man, what other bad news could she possibly have?

"The Mayor found out that I killed Alan," she admitted. She saw his eyebrows raise in question. "I have no idea how he figured out it was me, I didn't even know he knew I was a vamp. But he found out, and he fired me this morning."

"That is disturbing, now we no longer have an inside person on the Mayor's operations." Wesley said with a pensive look on his face.

"I'm so sorry," she practically pleaded.

Wes shook his head. "Nonsense, this isn't your fault. We'll figure something out." He said as he grabbed her hand and rubbed his thumb across her knuckles. "Now, let's enjoy our breakfast, well figure the rest of this out later."

She smiled, "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hello," Faith called as she walked into the mansion.

"Faith," Angel said as he entered the lounge and saw her. "What are you doing here?"

"I needed someone to talk to, I was kinda hoping that could be you," she said simply.

He nodded. "Of course," he accepted quickly, though he was a little confused. He and Faith had never had an actual conversation before, and now she was seeking him out to talk to him specifically? Something was up.

"Something happened the other night on patrol," she tentatively broached the topic.

He nodded. "Veronica told me, she stopped by on her way to work last night." Faith's head whipped up in surprise. "Was it difficult for you to see her kill someone?" He asked.

Faith looked down in disappointment, Ronnie had told him the story, not the truth. "See, that's the thing, Ron didn't kill that guy," she tried to gauge his reaction and noticed he was simply confused. "I did."

"I see. She covered for you." It wasn't a question. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ronnie had covered for Faith, in fact, he probably even knew why.

"Yeah, it's the weirdest thing, I didn't even ask her to. I couldn't. Me and B were just standing there arguing about what we should do about it, both still sort of in shock. I mean, we were all moving in a rhythm. Punch, punch, stake. They both punched him, and it was my turn to stake, I just did it without thinking. Then Ron just stepped in. Said she'd drain him and make it look like a regular vamp attack." Faith explained.

Angel stood there and listened until he was sure she was done speaking. "She didn't want you to have to deal with the consequences of taking a human life. It was an honest mistake and if you were moving in a rhythm like you say, then it could have happened to any of you. Veronica has killed before and in her eyes Alan was just as guilty as the Mayor. One more life on her conscience in the fight for evil just isn't that big of a deal to her."

"Would it be to you?" She asked him carefully.

"Yes," he answered immediately. "But that's just one of the differences between her and me. She can handle things like that better. Her conscience was a blessing so she can be more logical about things like that. Mine was a curse. They wanted me to suffer. So sometimes I experience guilt even when the guilt isn't mine to bear."

"I get that," Faith nodded. "Even though Ron is taking the blame for me, I still feel bad about it. And yeah, like you said, she did this so I wouldn't have to face the consequences, but that doesn't mean she hasn't."

"What do you mean?" Angel asked slightly worried. "Is Veronica in some kind of trouble?"

"Nah, not really." Faith waved in dismissal trying to calm him down. "But somehow the Mayor found out that she was the vamp that drained Finch and she got fired. Now we have no in with the Mayor's office." She explained.

"That's not your fault. Veronica knew what she was doing when she sunk her teeth into that guy's neck. There are plenty of other ways she could have handled that situation, but that's the one she chose. Every action…"

"Equal and opposite reaction, yeah I know." Angel looked at her in surprise. She shrugged, "I was listening to the others study a few weeks ago."

"Right, but just remember, you can't blame yourself. Veronica and Buffy know your secret and they're keeping it. They're your friends, let them help you." Angel told her.

"Thanks, man, you're the vamp." She lightly punched his shoulder.

"Anytime." He smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night when Faith got home from patrol she had news for Wes.

"Anything interesting happen tonight?" He asked when she entered the door.

"Actually, yeah," she said as she noticed that Giles and Ronnie were there too. "Me and B got swamped by this group of vamps. We fought them off pretty well. Then Trick showed up."

"The vampire who works for the Mayor?" Wes asked, looking to Ronnie for confirmation.

"That would be the one," she nodded in answer to his question.

"What happened?" Giles asked.

"Well, he overpowered B and I had to come at him from behind. I staked him." She told them.

Wesley smirked. "That works entirely in our favor."

"How do you figure?" Ronnie asked curiously. She could tell Wes was planning something by the look on his face.

"Faith, I have a plan, and it all rides on you." He stated. "How well can you act?"

Faith raised an eyebrow in question to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Mayor was putting on his coat to leave for the night. He'd have to start interviewing tomorrow to replace both Alan and Veronica. He needed a good night's rest.

Faith burst into the office before he had a chance to open the door.

"You sent your vamp after me and Buffy." She simply stated.

"Yes, it would be beneficial to me if the Slayers were out of the picture." He explained.

"He's dust."

"I figured that what with you standing here and all." He deadpanned.

"Looks like you've got a job opening." Faith said crossing her arms and cocking a hip.

"Why would I hire you? You're on the other side." He asked perplexed.

"Here's the thing, they all like to play nice." She started to explain. "And playing nice for too long just seems to make my skin crawl. I need some real fun." She smiled evilly at him.

"Step into my office," he said as he made a sweeping gesture for her to enter.