"No, no, no, no, no," Buffy mumbled, burying her face in her hands and trying to curl into a ball on her chair.
Willow jumped to her feet, yelling, "Go away."
"Willow, Willow." Angel tsked and shook his head. "That never works." He pushed off from the bookcase and started down the stairs.
"S--stay back," Giles stammered, holding up the cross. "Xander, get the crossbow."
Angel rolled his eyes and continued down the stairs as Xander shoved his chair back and ran for the cage. He returned brandishing a loaded crossbow, his hand shaking, his face pale. "Oooh, scary." Grinning devilishly, Angel stepped off the bottom step.
The bolt flew from the crossbow only to be plucked out of the air before it could impact with Angel's chest.
Spike rose from the crouch he'd landed in after jumping over the railing to catch the crossbow bolt. He scowled at his sire and broke the bolt between his fingers.
Everyone else in the room froze, various looks of shock on their faces.
"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, what am I going to do with you? I *forced* myself upon you?" Angel gave her a look of mock shock and she burst into tears.
Willow jumped to her feet and charged Angel, only to be grabbed around the waist and lifted off her feet by Spike.
"Are you insane?" Spike hissed, swinging her around and dumping her back in her chair. "She brought this on herself."
Ignoring Willow and Spike, Angel stepped closer to Buffy. "Why I seem to remember a time you knocked *me* out and chained *me* down..." he continued in his silky yet deadly voice.
Buffy's shocked, muffled gasp and Willow's inarticulate cry of anger interrupted his recitation. Willow wrapped her arms around Buffy's shaking body, and glared up at Angel's smug face.
"I'm tired of the big secret, lover. Tell them the truth so we can go home."
All Buffy could do was moan and shake, nearly hysterical. Willow's frightened eyes flew to Spike and he sighed and dropped to one knee before the two girls. "Slayer," He cupped Buffy's cheeks, raising her tear streaked face. "All you're doing is giving him his jollies."
"Both of you, get out," Giles furiously choked out.
"Can't do that, Rupert. See, your little Slayer has been keeping secrets from you for far too long. Though...you're a smart guy, Rupert. You never figured out why I never attacked?" Angel grinned. "Why kill her when I can fuck the slayer out of her?"
With a growl of fury, Willow shoved the limp and sobbing slayer into Spike's arms and flung herself at Angel, hitting him as hard as she could. His head snapped back from the blow, but he continued to grin.
"Willow," Xander yelled in panic as Angel caught her shoulders, preventing her from launching a second shot. As Xander raised the loaded crossbow, Angel used the struggling girl as a shield. He spun her around, pulling her back against him with one arm around her waist, while with his free hand he brushed the hair away from her neck. Willow raised her foot to stomp on his instep, but his next words froze her in place.
"I had planned to wait a year or two, but perhaps now would be a good time..."
Willow turned white and dropped her foot heavily to the floor.
Setting aside Buffy, Spike rose slowly and carefully to face Angel. He tried to control his panic as he softly pled. "Sire, please, not now."
Angel looked amused. "Do you deny my claim on the spitfire?"
"No, never. We," and he stressed the plural, "are yours to do with as you please." Spike bowed before his sire and Buffy dashed past him to slam a stake into Angel's shoulder.
He gaped at her in shock, then staggered slightly. Willow pulled free and grabbed Spike, dragging him away. They clung together as the slayer faced her wounded lover.
"Leave them alone," Buffy hissed. "You're mad at me; take it out on me."
Growling at her, Angel yanked the stake from his shoulder and dropped it. They glowered at each other for a long moment, then Angel grinned wickedly. "Knew I could knock the pathetic wuss out of you." He snaked his arm around her waist and swooped down to kiss her passionately. "Tell them the truth, all of it, then come home." He set her free and called for Spike to join him.
"Don't go with him," Willow begged, clutching at Spike's shirt front.
He gave her a tender look and touched his lips to her forehead. "I'll be fine, luv. I'll pick you up at nine tonight, just as we planned." Spike turned to Angel. "Can we go now? Are you done wreaking havoc on everyones' lives?"
Angel grinned. "Wait till I get you home."
Spike rolled his eyes and took the stairs two at a time.
"It's been really fun. Must do it again sometime," Angel tossed out, throwing everyone a jaunty salute before he followed his childe.
Xander raised the loaded crossbow again, aiming for Angel's back, but Cordelia caught his wrist.
"Just let him go."
"I can end all of our problems with one shot," he hissed, shaking free of her.
"And, you'll destroy Buffy. She loves him," Cordelia continued passionately.
Xander stared down at his girlfriend, accusation growing in his eyes. "You knew about them. First Willow and Spike, now Buffy and Angel?" he spat.
Cordelia flushed, but stood her ground before his anger. "Yeah, I knew, but it wasn't my secret to tell."
All eyes slowly swung to Buffy. More composed, she looked from one person to the next, flinching slightly at the disgust and fury on Xander's face, before she hesitantly turned to Giles.
He sat at the end of the table looking more devastated than she had ever seen him, even during the final days of the Master's reign. His face was shockingly grey and his expression was bleak, his eyes empty.
Slowly Buffy approached him, but he didn't look at her, not even when she sat next to him.
Jenny slipped up next to Willow and murmured, "They need to be alone." Willow nodded and together with Cordelia she managed to coax Xander out of the library. Jenny followed them, glancing sadly back over her shoulder as she left the room.
Silence fell until Buffy found the courage to whisper Giles' name.
It was several minutes before Giles looked at her and the pain in his eyes made her whimper.
"I'm so sorry, Giles," she whispered, heartsick.
Giles swallowed hard and fought to straighten his slumped shoulders. "I...I failed you."
"No, oh God, no, Giles. You did nothing wrong."
His eyes snapped to hers and she shrank back from the empty coldness in his. "I let you continue to see Angel after you discovered he was a vampire. I welcomed him into our group. I considered him a friend. None of that should ever have been allowed to happen," he concluded savagely.
Buffy paled and shook her head weakly. "I loved him. Even if you had forbidden me to see him, I would have ignored you. Maybe we can blame the Watcher's Council which failed to find me and raise me as a proper slayer, but, in the end, Angel and I are to blame."
"He's not Angel," Giles spat.
"I know that," she replied quietly. "It's a truth he's drummed into me...beaten into me." Buffy dropped her eyes to the table top.
"Do you love him?" Giles finally asked, his voice a bit more gentle.
"No." Her eyes flickered up briefly. "I love Angel still. I always will, but...he's never coming back. I've learned to make do with less."
Giles shook his head sadly. "I don't understand how you can..." He broke off his train of thought and finished weakly. "He's evil and cruel, a killer."
"For the first couple of weeks after my birthday he spent a lot of time tormenting me. We'd fight and he'd slip into the darkness, throwing cruel words at me, mocking me. I'd wake up the next morning to find dead birds on my windowsill. Then on Valentine's Day..." Her voice trailed off and she took several deep breaths.
"I was so lonely. I missed my Angel so much. When he found me and offered a night of..." She dropped her voice, "sex, well, I took him up on the offer. It...was nasty and glorious." She lowered her eyes again. "After that I just couldn't stay away from him. When I found out that Spike had fallen in love with Willow, I started to hope..." She sighed softly and clasped her hands together.
For several minutes Giles digested what she had told him. When he spoke his voice was flat and empty. "So, you're having a purely sexual relationship with a demon who bears the face and body of the man you love."
Buffy winced at his cold assessment, but knew she deserved no better. "I know it sounds well, horrible, but...He's very seductive and sex is...addictive. I never knew that some of the things he's taught me existed." Her face reddened and she stared at her fingernails.
Removing his glasses, Giles rubbed his eyes tiredly and sighed heavily. "You're so young, Buffy."
"And I could die tomorrow. I *will* die not too many tomorrows from now. Several months ago I made the decision to form some kind of relationship with Angelus so that I could have even a tiny bit of Angel, and..." She straightened her back and raised her chin, continuing baldly. "I like sex. I like it a lot. And he's very good at it. I want to enjoy it until something big and evil comes out of the night and ends my life."
Giles protested. "Buffy, don't talk like that."
"We never talk like this, Giles, but it's a fact. No one is safe on the Hellmouth. My friends are at more risk than most because they help me, and I'm in the most danger, despite my strength and healing ability. We're all going to die young, so we're all going to enjoy life to its fullest."
"So Willow falls in love with a vampire and Cordelia becomes an amateur dominatrix," Giles said softly.
Buffy reddened in surprise. "You know about that?"
"I'm only half blind," he replied ruefully."
Giles sighed and replaced his glasses, pushing them up his nose. "How can I help you, Buffy?"
She was very touched by his concern. "You can't. Just... please don't hate me."
"I don't hate you, Buffy. I...I am disappointed and frightened for you, but...I remember my own youthful indiscretions too well to condemn your decisions." He took a deep breath and reached for one of her hands, patting it gently. "I know I can't stop you. I just pray that..." His voice died away and he shook his head, finally continuing gruffly, "I'll always be here for you."
Tears filled Buffy's eyes and she squeezed his hand. "Thank you. I'm so sorry that I disappointed you. I never planned this, and once it began, I didn't know how to tell you."
"You can always tell me anything. I may lose my temper but I will always..." Giles choked up and pulled Buffy onto his lap, rocking her like a child. "I will always love you."
Buffy burst into relieved tears and clung to him.
End Chapter 4