For the first time in days, she was comfortable. She'd been restless and jumpy for almost a week now, constantly moving, pacing, thinking. Her energy level was up higher than it had ever been, and now she knew why. Big Bad was finally here. And she was comfortable with it. She finally had something to pour all that energy into. Okay, so it was with her fists, legs and witty puns. But she was finally getting her energy out, in a useful manner.
Five days ago, Willow had come racing into Giles' apartment, babbling about some big bad dark force that was coming this way. She'd read about it in one of those old books she'd started collecting a year ago, after the break up with Tara. Buffy laughed to herself as she executed a perfect roundhouse, knocking Big Bad down briefly. That relationship had lasted a long time. Almost as long as it took for Oz to get out of town.
"Okay, maybe a little longer than that." Big Bad looked at her in puzzlement. "Sorry, Big Bad, that comment wasn't for you. Here, have this instead." Buffy wailed on him, combining kicks, punches and the odd head butt, which always took demons off guard. Big Bad stumbled back, and Buffy stopped, giving him time to recover. Normally she wouldn't but she was in a good mood. A generous mood. Okay, so maybe she still had some energy left, and wanted to use it up. Big Bad was panting now, leant over.
"You know, you guys need a gym. It's no fun trying to beat the crap out of out-of-shape demons. I mean, how's a girl supposed to stay in shape?"
"Shut up, Slayer." Big Bad stood up, slowly. He was glaring at the blonde slayer, hatred etched into every feature of his all too human face.
"Now why would I want to do that? You all know I spend hours thinking of good one liners and come backs. Don't spoil my fun."
"Spoil it? I'm going to end it, permanently." Buffy sighed. These guys all came from the same school of Cliché.
"One day, I'm going to get this huge surprise. Like someone threatening me in a new, improved way. It may just work. I could be so completely stunned that he gets in a good shot, and kills me....Nah, never happen." Big Bad rushed forward, roaring. Buffy sidestepped at the last minute and shoved him into the concrete wall behind her.
"Then there's the whole, lets fight it out in the cemetery. I mean, there's all these other places we can fight. You know, thinking about it, the only ones who have actually thought of something different from the dark, dreary places are Angelus and Spike. Okay, so Spike had a little bit of help from the Gem of Amara." Buffy booted him in the stomach, and watched as he collapsed. She stepped back, frowning. She didn't kick him that hard. She smiled to herself when Big Bad jumped up, out of his fake injury, and started to wail on her. Blocking his punches, and jumping his kicks was fun, but it got boring quickly.
"Okay, I've had enough. Thanks for the work out, though. Oh, and maybe you're boss will get the message this time, and leave my town alone?" Buffy, when she was serious, was something to be reckoned with. As Big Bad found out. Within moments, he was lying on the ground, dead. His neck had snapped too easily. She shrugged.
"Buffy? What?" She looked up to see Riley coming towards her at a quick jog. "My God!" He gasped, going down on one knee. He put a hand to Big Bad's neck, feeling for a pulse.
"You're not going to find one, Riley." Buffy said, brushing some dirt off her top. "You know, I have to stop wearing white when I go out on patrol. It may be an "oh bite me now" calling card, but it shows up dirt way too easily."
"Buffy, this guy's human." Riley said, shocked.
"No he's not. He just has the appearance of a human being. He's actually a Lald demon, Not very nice, but this one was under compulsion, so he wasn't very smart or very challenging. Name was Big Bad." The slayer smiled. "How contrived! How pretentious. How stupid!.....My English tute was right! Look, two words of over five letters long in a statement!"
"Buffy! This guy is human!" Riley said, stiltedly. Buffy frowned. She'd already told him it was Lald demon.
"Riley, trust me, he's not."
"But-." Riley looked up, then nodded, believingly. Buffy frowned again. For some reason, he was getting on her nerves lately. Maybe it was the unquestioning loyalty. Like a puppy-. Where had that come from?
"Buffy?" She heard from behind her. She turned and saw Willow walking towards her, Xander and Giles in tow.
"Got him. You wanna take him off? I got some more patrolling to do." Buffy stepped forward, and heard steps behind her. She turned to find Riley following, much like the puppy she'd though of before.
"Riley. Why don't you go with the others, help them get rid of Big Bad?" She asked, or rather requested.
"Yessir- I mean Buffy." Riley turned around and trotted back to the Scooby gang. Buffy sighed, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. She walked out of the cemetery onto the pathway, walking towards the centre of town. Her senses tuned for vampire. But while she walked, she thought. For the last few months, Riley had been hounding her. Wanting to make a commitment. Buffy wasn't ready for that. And there was something else. Something missing from their relationship. A little voice far in the back of her head whispered a name. So quiet she couldn't hear it. But she felt it.
"No!" She burst out, then went back to her musings. Tonight, for some unknown reason, Riley had reminded her of a puppy. Blindingly loyal, and stupid. Hell, she thought to herself, I could have told him it was a big tomato with funny looking skin and I think he would have believed me. She crossed a road, almost at the Bronze now. Lately, the vampires had been haunting the night-club. Giles had told Buffy to look out for some sort of organisation. Klin must have something to do with their sudden turn to the Bronze. It had taken her almost three years to make the Bronze a safe place, a place that the vampires feared, but now they were back. Giles had a pet theory that Klin - Willow's Big Bad Dark - had started organising the demons in Sunnydale for all out war. Willow and Xander disagreed. They thought the reason the vampires were back at the Bronze was because Buffy wasn't there every night, protecting the unknowing. Buffy was withholding judgement. Riley hadn't said anything. She had this feint feeling that he was waiting to see which way she went before he followed. She froze abruptly, her "spider-sense" tingling madly.
"Okay, guys. Out you come." She sighed. Another night at the Bronze.
Angel watched from afar. Well, from the roof of the Bronze, anyway. Cordelia had had a mind-numbing, head bashing migraine two days ago. With Buffy in it. Again. He'd taken the next night flight out to Sunnydale. He'd been watching her now for a just over a day. She'd been restless until the fight with the Lald demon. Then pensive. He smiled to himself. She'd had "pensive-face" for a while now. He froze when she froze, just below him. He heard her ask someone to come out, and was briefly afraid that she'd sensed him. He knew she could. Had before. But not this time. Two weasly looking vampires sulked out of the alleyway behind the Bronze. The younger looking vampire had blood dribbling down his chin.
"Hey, Sam. It's the Slayer!" The older vampire drooled. He looked a little out of it.
"Way cool, Nick!" The younger one, Sam sighed. Then he lifted his hand up and muttered a rapt "ooooh" as he stared at it. "You know, Nick, feeding of a skydiver is totally cool. My hand is so moving right now." Angel realised that the skydiver reference was to dope. He'd just fed of someone who was high. He smiled, remembering Angelus when he'd sometimes killed guy's high on Opium. It had put him out of action for a while. He was always too fascinated with the way the light changed, and the way the walls moved. Angel relaxed, knowing that the Slayer could easily take care of two high vampires.
"God, just what I needed. High vampires." She walked forward, pulling a stake from her bag as she did so.
"Um, Sam? She's coming towards us. I think we'd better-." Nick snarled and Sam stood straighter. Without warning, the two jumped the off-guard slayer, knocking her to the ground, her head banging against the curbing heavily. She cried out in pain, loosing consciousness for a second.
"It worked!" Nick crowed in delight. Angel swore and stood up, then jumped off the top of the roof, rolling off a dumpster quietly. He watched as the two vampires debated who was going to taste her blood first, arguing back and forth over her groggy body. She was rolling her head around, trying to regain balance inside. He knew what that was like. He came forward quickly, stopping just behind them.
"I want to be the first to taste her!" Nick growled at Sam.
"Sorry, guys. But that was the Master's privilege. Then mine. You guys aren't even close." They spun around and looked up at him. He backed away, drawing them with him. He debated fighting them for a while, the decided not to waste time. He stepped forward without warning, and was suddenly with arms' distance of the other two vampires. He thrust his arms out, the hidden stakes emerging from their sheaths to pierce the skin and then the hearts of the two in front of him, who disappeared in clouds of dust. He stepped forward and knelt down beside Buffy, who was trying to get up. He pushed her down gently.
"Stay down for a second. Let me check you over first." He reached around behind her head and started to gently examine her skull. She moaned softly when he reached a sore spot, but otherwise stayed silent, her eyes remaining closed.
"You should be okay. But you need to stay awake for a couple of hours, make sure you don't have concussion." He sat back on his haunches in the roadway, waiting for her eyes to open. Which they did eventually, then widened in shock.
"Angel?" She demanded, sitting up quickly. She winced at the sudden movement, but jerked away when he went to help her. "What are you doing here?" She demanded.
"Same as last time. Watching your back." He spoke quietly, hoping to deflect her anger. He really should have known better.
"I don't need my back watching! And if I did, I have a new boyfriend to do that now."
"He does it well, too. Doesn't leave you alone for even five minutes." Angel sounded sour.
"Yes, well. He can actually watch me all night and all day."
"Now you're getting nasty." Angel said calmly. A lot had happened to him in the last year or so.
"You can't hack it? Leave!" Buffy stood up abruptly, then moaned, a hand going to her head. Angel grabbed her hand to steady her, but she jerked away, then almost fell over.
"Look, Slayer." Angel said at his most distant. "You've just been knocked unconscious. Whether you're superwoman or not, it's going to take a little bit of time to get over it. I'm just going to help you to the car. Then you can let go." He walked to un-protesting Slayer over to his convertible t-bird and opened the door, helping her in. As soon as she was seated, he let go and rounded the car and got in. They headed out of the centre of town, headed in the opposite direction of the University Campus.
"Where are we going?" Buffy asked sourly.
"To Giles. You need to be kept an eye on, and I know you won't let me." He pulled up outside Giles' apartment building, then walked quickly around to help Buffy out, only the have her already out, walking unsteadily up the pathway. He sighed in frustration, but followed her closely, ready to catch if she fell.
"Giles!" Angel yelled as she started to waver in front of his door. The door was opened by Oz, who looked worried.
"Angel!" Giles exclaimed from behind the sometimes were-wolf. "What happened?" He demanded when he saw Buffy clinging to the vampire to stay upright.
"She was hit on the head outside the Bronze. I think she's got concussion." He went in and laid her down on the couch, then stood back as the ex-Watcher leant over, checking her pupils for reactions.
"Oz, get me some water. And a compress." Giles demanded. He sat back and looked up at the dark shadow.
"When did you get in?" He asked.
"Day before yesterday. Been following her since just after sunset night before last. Cordelia had a vision-."
"Cordelia? What happened to your other friend. The one who had the last vision." Giles asked.
"He died. Not long after Buffy and I-." Angel stopped, remembering that they didn't live through that day with him.
"What?" Giles demanded.
"Nothing." Angel went over and sat on another chair in the shadows, watching the Slayer silently. She had her eyes closed, but he could tell she'd heard every word. He stayed silent as he watched the ex-Watcher put the compress underneath her hair, on to lump that had formed. Oz sat down and watched in equal silence. Angel still liked Oz. They never seemed to say much to each other, but they always seemed to get on. The front door of the apartment opened and the rest of the Scooby gang came in, followed by Buffy's current boyfriend. Angel rolled his eyes in disbelief. That she was still involved with Riley was almost inconceivable, but there it was.
"Buffy!" Willow, the first to see her, exclaimed. "Oz!" She cried again, when she saw the were-wolf.
"Hey, Will." Oz said quietly. It appeared that he wasn't the only ex to turn up unexpectedly. Riley, who had heard Willow's first exclamation came round the couch quickly and knelt down in front of the Slayer.
"Buffy?" He asked quietly. Angel wasn't sure, but he would swear he saw Buffy scrunch her face slightly in annoyance, then she opened her eyes.
"Riley. I'm okay. Just a bit of a bump to the head. You get Big Bad dumped?' She asked the group at large.
"Yup. Not a problem. He seemed to ...ahh....melt about ten minutes after you'd left." Xander said for the rest of them.
"Lald demons do that." Angel said from the shadows, scaring the hell out of Anya, who was standing right in front of him. She screamed in shock, and dashed over to the other side of the room.
"Angel!" Willow cried in the same voice she'd used when she saw Oz.
"Hello Willow, Xander, Anya..." He paused briefly before acknowledging Riley. "Riley. As I was saying, a Lald demon will melt about ten minutes after death. Makes for easy disposal. If you're prepared." He qualified as he saw the ooze and slime on the other's clothes.
"What are you doing here?" Xander asked.
"Vision. Danger. Buffy. That was about all Cordelia saw. Oh, and whatisface?" He clicked his fingers, trying to remember. "Oh yeah, Klin. The Reshpak demon you guys have got hanging around."
"You know about Klin?" Giles demanded, whipping his head around.
"Well, not presonally. But I've met a few Reshpak demon's in my life. Or not-life. I'll tell you what I know."
"Not now, though." Buffy said. "You can wait until I've got my head screwed back on the right way." Riley was sitting beside her, holding her hand and looking at her faithfully. Angel thought he was going to be sick.
"Whatever the Slayer says." Angel said. He looked at the clock, and noticed that it was almost dawn. He almost grinned in delight. This was going to be fun. Buffy, still highly aware of her ex-lover, noticed his glance.
"Hadn't you better get below ground? Or at least out of sun's way?"
"Soon." Angel said distractedly. He was shaking his head, as if the clear his thoughts. This new ability could get very annoying. He closed his eyes and started chanting softly, trying to get his scattered brain back into order.
"Hey! I know that chant!" Oz exclaimed as he recognised the cadence.
"You should." Angel said as he stopped. The din had gone. His walls were back in place. "It's the same one you use to control the wolf. I learnt it about sixty years ago, from this Tibetan guy who was visiting the town I was hiding out in."
"What were you using it for just then?" Oz asked, coming over to him.
"I've got a few new.....abilities that I didn't have last time I was here. The chant is to focus myself. To control them."
"What abilities?" Willow asked, also coming over. Xander and Anya followed, leaving Riley, Buffy and Giles on the other side of the room.
"Hmm.... I can speak, mind to mind. That's always fun. Got that ability from one of the Shumoz breed of demons. I can also read minds - that's what the control is for. I need to build a wall between myself and everyone else around me. Otherwise I'd end up like Buffy did when she got that aspect of the demon a couple of years ago. Oh, and the PTB gave me this little gift about a month ago. It's still taking a little bit to get used to." As he spoke, the sky outside lightened rapidly, then the sun rose abruptly over the hill, lighting up the valley of Sunnydale.
"Angel!" Buffy cried out, sitting up. "The sun!" She looked at where he was sitting, almost in direct light. He wasn't even cringing. In fact, he stood up and opened the blind further, standing in direct light. The Scooby gang and company gaped at him. They were all doing very good impressions of landed fish. He sat back against the window-sill and smiled at them.
"This was the other gift. The one the PTB gave me. I'm still immortal. But I'm no longer a bloodsucker." Oz was the first to shut his mouth, followed quickly by the others.
"Shit!" Xander breathed in awe. Riley looked confused. Angel smirked at that. This kid really wasn't too bright.
"What's going on?" He asked Buffy, who was staring at Angel with a blank look on her face. "Buffy?" He asked his girlfriend again. She shook her head and looked at him. Then back at Angel.
"He's not a vampire any more. He's....something else."
"A higher being." Anya murmured. "Also known as an Avatar, a chosen one. We called them Cheo's."
"Cheo's?" Xander asked.
"A quick way of saying Chosen One. They're um....pretty rare. And not liked by the other side. They've got some special powers that aren't normal. And not his telepathic abilities, either."
"I haven't had time to explore what I've been gifted along with my Cheo. I'm working on it."
"So why? Why are you here? Why did you get chosen?" Buffy asked softly, disengaging her hand from Riley's.
"To get rid of this Klin. The PTB aren't particularly happy with what he's doing. So they sent me to stop him. Or rather, help you stop him."
"What are the PTB?" Riley asked, frowning.
"Sorry. It's a Cordeliaism for Powers That Be. As for why I got chosen, I have no idea. I don't guess the PTB, I just follow orders." He stood up abruptly. "So, on orders...what do you guys know about Klin?"
"Not much." Giles said, getting down to business. "We didn't even know what kind of demon he was." He gestured tot he dining table, cluttered with open books.
"In that case, let's hit them. I don't know much more than you do - other than they are very hard to kill. I never did get the one I met before. Angelus wanted his head as a trophy. He was most displeased when the Reshpak got away."
"Anything else you know?" Buffy asked, all Slayer.
"Um..." Angel cocked his head slightly to one side, in a listening pose. "He's unaware that I'm here." He frowned, closing his eyes. "Those two vampires tonight were sent by him, to distract you. Hopefully kill you. Shit." He muttered. "He's gone and done it."
"What?" Buffy asked.
"Summoned the Sleeper." He opened his eyes and looked up at the others, who were staring at him again. He sighed briefly. "I told you I can read minds. I just read his. Quietly, of course. He's summoned the Sleeper. It's the last weapon he needs to finally take you on. That's why you haven't actually met Klin yet. He's been waiting to be at full power." Angel grabbed a book and started flipping through the pages. After a few flips, he found what he was looking for.
"Here he is. This isn't Klin, but similar." He held up the book, showing the others what he looked like. Two mouths gaping open, his many teeth sharp and white. His eyes shone, even in the black and white illustration. He had claws at the ends of his arms - all four of them - and his legs looked like they belonged on a big cat - lithe legs, with strength and speed.
"Damn." Willow muttered. Then dove for the books herself. The others followed, going into research mode. Riley stood back, frowning.
"I don't understand. Why don't we just go find it and subdue it?" He asked the others. Angel couldn't believe what he'd heard. Did this guy have just hot air between his ears, or what? He opened his mouth to speak, but saw Buffy open her mouth. He shut his, wanting to listen to what the Slayer would say to her boyfriend.
"Riley. We don't know what this guy can do. We don't know what kind of power he has, what hurts him, more importantly, what kills him. We're not the Initiative. We go in prepared, and we go in to kill him, not to subdue him." She went back to her book, shaking her head.
"Oh." Riley uttered before getting his own book. Angle watched Buffy for a while, tempted beyond thought to read her. But he didn't succumb. He buried his nose in his book, reading for all he was worth. Buffy looked up as he looked down, a soft frown on her face. He can read minds. She thought as quietly as possible. He's not a vampire. He's not cursed anymore. The little voice got louder as it went on. He's still in love with you. She shook her head at that thought, and banished the voice with a snap of internal anger. She noticed that Willow and Oz had sat down next to each other on the couch. Both curled up in mirror to each other. Buffy fervently hoped that after the mess Tara had made of Willow, she would finally see the light and go back.
"Here!" Xander cried, rapidly reading a passage. "This sounds like something. The Reshpak is a prolific survivor. Not much is known about the breeding or living habits of this demon. There is little documentation on how to destroy such a demon. However, one scholar, by the name of Dromin, documented a case where he managed to be rid of a Reshpak demon by." Xander stopped reading.
"Xander?" Buffy asked.
"The page is ripped here. There isn't any more until you get over the page. ..should this be sucessful, the Reshpak will die within minutes. That's it. It goes on to talk about another demon after that." The Scoobies looked a little deflated.
"Can you give me that for a second, Xander?" Angel asked. Xander gave it to him, but not without a non-verbal argument. "Thanks." As Angel grabbed the book, a shudder overtook him, and he thrashed for a second, then went still.
"Angel?" Buffy asked, half standing. Angel shook his head suddenly, like a swimmer coming up for air.
"Okay, that was intense. I think I just found out another power I got. What would you call it when you can talk to someone over time, when he's been dead for 100 years?" Angel asked the room at large.
"An impossibility?" Riley said.
"Nope. Just did it then. Talked to Dromin in person. Well, not quite person. But he was there, and so was I - kind of. Anyway. The missing passage talks about how to kill the Reshpak. It's actually quite easy, once you get to him. It's the getting to him that's the difficult bit. Once you are near enough, all you have to do is punch his highest mouth. It's extremely sensitive and cannot take any sort of punishment. The human hand is strong enough to kill a Reshpak, once you get past the defences. They're the hard part. Especially on Klin. He's had far too long to prepare for this. It's going to take all of us, in concert, to get to him." He looked at Buffy briefly. "Can you work with me without letting our past get in between?"
"I....Can I talk to you for a moment?" She got up and walked into the bathroom, Angel following behind her. They stood for a moment, silent. Each drinking in the sight of each other, but trying not the let the other notice.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Angel asked finally.
"Yes. I wanted to apologise for the way I treated you when I last saw you. You were right. I was being bratty and immature.."
"That's okay, Buffy. I wasn't exactly acting like my age either." He watched as she smiled, that sweet, soft smile that he loved.
"Angel, if you were acting your age, you'd be lying in a coffin somewhere, fertilising the grass."
"Point. We okay now?" Angel asked, reaching out to touch her shoulder. His skin cried out when he touched her bare shoulder, but he suppressed it.
"We're okay now." She smiled.
"Good, let's go kick some Reshpak butt, shall we?" He bowed her out of the bathroom before him, looking for all the world like a courtier from the time he'd grown up as a human. Buffy and Angel entered to find an almost silent group, all waiting for the eruption that normally followed a Buffy Angel exchange. Giles was speaking softly on the phone.
"Matty is going to bring us some supplies. She's shutting up shop now." Giles twirled the ring on his finger as he spoke.
"Matty?" Angel asked.
"Giles' new wife. Mathilda. Married her about three months ago now. They've expanded the Magic Shop and Giles now runs an antique book store with her. With some interesting books in his collection." Willow smiled wickedly.
"So, what's the plan?" Riley asked, coming up to Buffy and grabbing her hand. It almost seemed like a forced gesture.
"We go in, kick some demon butt, punch him in the mouth, leave. That's about it."
"That's it? That's the extent of your plan? What happens if someone gets hurt, or if we're surrounded. Or what if-?" Riley continued talking, but no sound came out of his mouth. Within a few words, he stopped, trying to stare at his mouth. In the end, he just went cross-eyed.
"Ah. Found another gift. The power of silence. Sorry, Buffy, but he was annoying me." Angel smiled ironically. "I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I miss Wesley and Cordelia about now. At least they knew when to shut up." You're not the only one he was annoying. Although he had his walls up, he heard it clear as if it was spoken out loud. He knew that voice. Surprisingly it was Buffy who had thought it. He kept himself from grinning, but just barely. It seemed that the Slayer was not happy with her boyfriend. Damned puppy. He heard again, before strengthening his walls further. Much as he wanted to listen, his moral code denied him that pleasure. Unfortunately.
"So where is Klin hiding out?" Oz asked as the all left the apartment block.
"We figured he's either underground, in the sewer system, or in the old factory. That's a favourite among the evilly inclined." Giles said, getting behind the wheel of his new car. The late model Ford was shining in the morning sun. Oz's van was parked behind it. Half the Scooby gang piled in Giles' Ford, the other half in the van. Buffy waited until Riley was in the car with Giles, then turned around and walked towards Angel who was getting into his car. Riley went to get out, but Willow stopped him. She liked Riley well enough. But this was Angel. She watched as her best friend slowly approached the car then hopped in when Angel gestured for her to do so. Her friend got in slowly, staring at him all the while. The sun on his hair, shining into his dark eyes. Willow smiled, then felt a brief pang of pity for Riley, knowing that he had no hope of winning when Angel was around.
Angel shoved his sunglasses on, protecting his eyes from the UV rays. He drove behind Oz, following the black van out of the town, heading towards the old cannery.
"So." Angel said to break the silence. "How's Duf- I mean, how's Riley working out?"
"Riley's....well he's Riley. Faithful, loyal Riley. It's the best relationship I've ever had. We never misunderstand each other. We always together. We never argue."
"So you really love him huh?" Angel asked, trying to pry the truth out.
"His boring me to tears!" Buffy declared rebelliously. "God! He's just like a...a..."
"Puppy." Angel prompted.
"Exactly! A bloody puppy. Not even a nice, big, savage rotweiler or something. Like a poodle puppy. Or a .....I don't know. He just bugs the hell out of me sometimes."
"But you just said you never argue." He heard the Slayer laugh. He'd missed that sound, even though there was some bitterness to it.
"That's because whatever I do or say, he agrees with me. I could say, Riley look, the sky is green today, and he'd agree with me." She turned to face him. "Do you have any idea how annoying it is? It's like...I don't know. Like I'm his Commanding Officer, now that he's out of the Government. Like he needed someone else to look to so that he doesn't have to think...." She paused for a moment. "That's cruel."
"But how truthful?" Angel asked quietly. He could almost hear her brain clicking back into gear, protesting from disuse all the way.
"Thinking about it. It's pretty truthful. Last night he said 'yessir' to me, then corrected himself quickly. And there are times...."
"What?" Angel prompted, turning onto the main road out of town.
"There are times where I swear he's about to salute me." She banged her hand down on the dash-board, making a dull thump.
"God! What I wouldn't do for a guy to be able to make decisions! To argue with me when he thought differently. To think for himself!"
"You had that." Angel said quietly, reminding her.
"And you walked away!" She rallied herself. "You just left. Didn't even bother to let me know when I was in danger. Then I came to you in LA, and you just let me leave again! Didn't say anything. What was I supposed to do? Go on waiting for someone who doesn't even want to talk to me when I come to LA to see him? I had to move on."
"I can't let you think that." Angel said, stopping the car. He watched the others go on a bit further before stopping. He gestured for them to stay where they were.
"Think what? That you'd decided that you didn't want me anymore? That you didn't care? Well I did think that. What else could I think?"
"God Damn it!" He roared, making Buffy jerk back in her seat in surprise. He jumped out of the car, slamming the door as he did so. Buffy got out and stepped around the front of the car, watching him pace up and down.
"Angel?" She asked tentatively.
"Shut up, Buffy. Just shut up and listen. You only remember seeing me for five minutes when you came to LA that first time. But you were there for more than a day. For just over 24 hours, to be exact." He stopped pacing, and looked at her with hurt and sorrow in his eyes.
"What are you talking about?"
"You remember the Mohra demon that attacked just before you left? Well, the first time it attacked, we both fought it, and it escaped. We chased it through the sewers, then you went above ground, and I followed it underneath. It attacked me, I fought it and killed it, but some of it's blood mixed with mine and made me human." He held out his hand, looking down in rememberence.
"Angel, what are you talking about?" The others had closed in slowly, and were listening in the back ground.
"I was human for a day and night, Buffy." His voice trembled with emotion, but he carried on. "We were together. For 24 hours we were together. But then the demon came back, and told us that we'd be facing the end of days soon. I found out from the Oracles that you would die soon with me being a mortal. So I asked them to turn the clock back a day - so that I could prevent myself becoming mortal. Everyone but I forgot about the day - it never happened. So when you told me that you were going, going to try to forget, I'd just returned from a day spent with you. I couldn't speak. So don't ever tell me that I don't care. That I decided not to-." He groaned in wordless pain and rage and the sky filled with clouds, thick black clouds. He let loose a muted scream, and a fork of lightning struck a tree close by.
"Another gift." Oz said quietly to the group. They nodded in unison. All except Riley. He was staring at his girlfriend in disbelief.
"Angel." Buffy said, moving forward. Her eyes watering with emotion. "Who else knew?"
"No one. Doyle did, but he died pretty much straight after you left. Cordelia never knew. I never told Wesley. Just me and the Oracles." He jaw was clenched. She put a hand up and stroked it gently, soothing the anger out. She'd always had that ability.
"I am so sorry that I don't remember that. That I don't remember us."
"I try not to. It hurts."
"But did we...?" She left the question hanging. He finally let go of the hurt, and grinned down at her.
"We did. On the kitchen table. Then the bedroom. There was some icecream involved. And Peanut Butter and Chocolate. I can appreciate that now. The whole tastebud thing that I couldn't when I was on a liquid-." He stopped when he noticed her expression.
"The kitchen table?" She asked, still shocked.
"I would have had to buy a new one after we'd got done with the old one." He grinned again. She smiled back, softly. But a tear dropped for her eyelash and rolled slowly down her cheek. He reached up with his hand and lifted it off. He reached down to kiss her, gently. Like a brother. A little part of his mind laughed at that notion. They could never be brother and sister.
The others turned away when they realised that this wasn't going to be a short one, dragging Riley along with them. He protested the whole way, but they wouldn't let him go back.. They got to their cars and were piling in when Giles stopped.
"What?" Giles asked abruptly.
"What what?" Xander said, confused. Giles raised a hand to silence them.
"Have we enough time?" He said to the thin air. "Okay. How long?" He waited a few more minutes, then looked at the others.
"That was Angel. He and Buffy have a few things they need to sort out. They said that they were going to meet us out near the Truck stop. They'll be about half an hour behind us."
"But-." Riley protested, but was dragged into the van by Xander.
Half an hour later, the gang, minus one, was sitting eating some breakfast in the truckstop. Angel's convertible pulled up outside, and the two got out and walked inside the café. There was food waiting for them. They sat down to eat, both silent for now. Angel closed his eyes to relish the taste of the bacon. He opened his eyes to see the Scoobies watching him. He flushed with embarrassment.
"Food's still pretty much new to me. I like to take my time and taste everything." Willow and Oz nodded their understanding.
"Where's Riley?" Buffy asked, looking around the table.
"He left. Decided that he'd had enough of trying to compete with soul-boy here." Xander supplied.
"So Dufus can think for himself." Angel froze, realising that he'd used his pet nickname instead of Riley. He heard Buffy gasp, saw Willow freeze in shock, then watched as Giles, mouth full of scrambled eggs, struggled not to laugh. He didn't win the contest, and sprayed egg all over his plate, laughing out loud.
"Ahh....Sorry, Buffy." He watched as Buffy shook her head. He hated to have upset her this way. Her mouth full of toast, she shook he hand at him, telling him to wait until she'd finished. "I'm sorry. I won't say that again. I didn't mean to insult-."
"Yes you did." She said, but without a touch of rancor. "But I can understand why you call him that. Don't worry Angel. After.....I was going to break up with him anyway." She polished off her toast and he finished his bacon. Not hurrying, but relishing quickly.
The Cannery was quiet. There were no visible guards out, no sign of habitation. But Angel told them this was where Klin was. He walked forward and opened the gate, the others following. Buffy brought up the rear. As Angel walked, the others watched him. He seemed to start glowing a bright white.
"What?" Willow asked.
"He is announcing who and what he is. He probably isn't even aware that he's doing it." Anya supplied.
"Thanks." Willow whispered, then jumped back in surprise when a lesser demon jumped out in front of Angel. The light pulsed around the Cheo and the demon disappeared before their eyes.
"Handy." Oz said quietly.
"Very." Angel said. "What happened?"
"Ah.....'nother gift." Giles said, not able to explain. Angel turned and entered into the main building, the others following him like sheep. Xander suppressed an urge to bleat. He looked around to say something to Buffy, only to find her not there.
""Buffy's gone!" He whispered loudly. Angel looked back and then smiled.
"Good. She's sticking to the plan."
"Plan? We have a plan? When did we get a plan?" Willow demanded.
"That's what Buffy and I were talking about while you went ahead. What did you think we where doing?" He watched as the others shifted uncomfortably. "Dirty people." He'd stopped infront of a large cargo door. "Okay, here we go. Just follow my lead." He opened the door and stepped inside. At one end of the large room stood Klin. His grey skin glinting in the sunlight filtering through the roof. His eyes shone red. Angel walked steadily forward until he reached the halfway point, then stopped.
"Hello Klin." Angel said quietly. The Reshpak opened it's lower mouth and spoke.
"Cheo. You're very brave. Or stupid. Is it possible to be stupid and brave at the same time?"
"Don't know. Is it?" Angel tensed, waiting for the first defense. And there it is he thought to himself as he saw the demons rushing through the doors to either side.
"You know, Klin. The PTB aren't happy with you at all. Which is why I'm allowed to do this." He shot out a hand and a dart of lightning shot out from his palm, splitting as it flew, to pierce several demons at once. He turned the other way, and that light pulsed again, with several demons disappearing at once. Within seconds, the demons were halved in number, looking a little less sure of them selves. Angel spoke to the demons.
"I really don't want to have to kill you all. But I will. However, if you go now, and don't come back to Sunnydale...or America then I'll leave you alone. If you don't go now." His looked towards their fallen comrades said it all. They fled. Quickly. The room was silent once more.
"Second defense." Angel muttered to the others. "Good night." He heard them as they dropped to the floor, sound asleep. Then he looked back up at Klin.
"Now that was pointless. You know the Sleeper does not affect the immortal."
"Not pointless. You are now one. Instead of many. And I can take you out with the third defense."
"True. You can. That's what makes this a fair fight. Tell me, though. What are you going to do about the Slayer when you've finally done all that you want to do?"
"The Slayer? I'm not worried about her. She's too busy trying to kill all the decoys I send her way. I can take her when I want. Now, how do you want this to go?" Klin asked politely. Angel knew that the third defense was the horror. It took you're worst nightmare and made it true. For eternity. Not nice. But then, he'd lived in hell for several hundred years. What was eternity?
"How about I come down there, punch you in the mouth - which is sure to make your day, then go home?" The Slayer said from above them both. "Angel? What do you think about that?"
"I like the idea, myself. Seems quick, efficient."
"Okay. Hang on, then." She rappelled down the rope to drop in front of Klin. But she wasn't used to fighting someone with four arms. He caught her by her arms and then started choking her with his free ones. Angel rushed forward, but still had about fifty metres to go when she lifted herself over, running her feet up Klin's legs and torso. On the way over, the shoved her heel into his mouth, his upper mouth. The Reshpak screamed in agony, his hands going over his mouth, which had started bleeding. Okay, so the blood was a bright blue. But it was blood. The demon doubled over, his spare hands reaching out to grab hold of something. His skin on his back started bubbling, and Buffy backed up quickly. She bumped into Angel, who had stopped when she hit him. The backed up together, slowly, and then tumbled over the groggy Scooby gang. Picking them up and helping them out, the looked back to see the entire demon boiling and rolling, blue blood pooling out of his mouth at an alarming rate.
"Ah, guys? I hate to say this, but I just remember something Dromin told me. He said when the demon is killed this way, it make a loud, large explosion. Seen for miles. We may want to get out of here." Angel suggested. They stumbled outside and got in their cars, quickly getting out of the drive-way and down the pitted road. And the turn off, they stopped and got out, just as the cannery went up.
"Wow." Anya breathed.
"What the hell caused that?" Giles asked, looking at Angel.
"A Reshpak is an upper class demon. The Balance is pretty annoyed when a demon of that ilk dies like that. It's kind of a warning to any who would go his way. A "look what happened to him" sign. Not that they pay any attention." He noticed that he had hold of Buffy's hand, and she wasn't pulling away. He looked at the rest of her friends. Anya and Xander were close together, staring at the blazing fire before them. Giles was resting against the hood of his car, polishing his glasses. Oz and Willow were hugging. No, they were kissing. No they were.....doing both.
"Looks like those two are back." Angel said into Buffy's ear.
"Hmm." She paused, then looked up at the immortal. "What about us?" She stepped away and looked around. "We can't just pick up where we left off. We still have some of the problems we had when you were last here. You're still immortal. I'm going to get old, die one of these days. And I can't watch you, knowing that you're watching me get older while you stay the same. I still, will always love you, but I can't."
"Buffy-." Angel whispered hoarsly. He others had heard, and were shifting uncomfortably.
"Angel, I'm sorry but I have to go. I just can't stand the thought of growing old while you stay as you are."
"If it's Riley -." Angel started. The Slayer laughed painfully.
"Riley was only ever a substitute. I realise that now. And he was a poor one. It was unfair to him, and I'll need to apologise. But even though you're it for me, I can't do it. Not again." She turned to walk away but suddenly froze. Her head lifted and she turned around, staring above Angel towards the clouds. Then they all heard it. Angel's heart lifted when he recognised that sound. The PTB. He knew what he'd see when he turned around. He was right. A shining, golden horse was carrying a shimmering figure down from the sky. The horse reached the ground and galloped effortlessly towards them. Stopping metres away, the horse stood silently, allowing the rider to dismount and walk towards the stunned group.
"A gift, little sister." The figure whispered and roared at the same time. It's voice was so that you couldn't identify whether it be male or female. Or even if it was human.
"Huh?" Buffy was dumbstruck. The figure held out his/her hand and repeated itself.
"A gift, little sister. Take my hand." Buffy obeyed, reaching towards the shimmering figure. The glowing hand wrapped around Buffy's for a second and then let go. Buffy glowed briefly, then collapsed. As Angel darted forward, the figure looked at him.
"Esruin." Angel acknowledged the figure. He heard Giles whisper the name in shock.
"Little brother. Help her with her gifts. You are our Cheo's." A hint of a smile crossed the features, then the Esruin got on the golden horse, Marik, and rode back to his place in the sun.
Angel crouched down and placed Buffy's head in his lap, stroking her hair back from her face, waiting for her to wake up. After a few minutes, she did.
"Angel? What happened?" Buffy whispered. He smiled down at her.
"That little problem you mentioned just before? About you growing old while I watch? Guess what? It's not a problem anymore."
"Huh?" Buffy couldn't grasp what he was getting at.
"You're a Cheo, Buffy." Willow exclaimed. Buffy stared at her blankly.
"But ...A Cheo? They're immortal. I'm just the Slayer."
"Not anymore. PTB's Servant, Esruin, gave you the status of Cheo, with me. Our problem isn't a problem anymore." His heart filled with joy and he watched Buffy finally understand what he was saying. Without warning, her hand shot up and grabbed him by the neck, forcing him down for a kiss.
"Well. All's well that ends' well." Giles said in his upper crust English accent. The others nodded. They waited a few minutes, but the two on the ground didn't seem to be finishing any time soon.
"Ah, guys?" Xander called. Buffy and Angel ignored him, continuing to kiss and whisper quietly to each other. They waited a few more minutes. Finally Anya shoved her way forward and kicked Angel in the leg.
"What?" He asked, looking up, then blinked, looking around. He flushed and managed to look a little sheepish. Buffy, looking around from his lap, did the same.
"We're hungry. We'd like to leave you alone, but you're car is blocking the way out. Can you move it?" Anya said in her no nonsense way.
"We're going, we're going." Angel helped Buffy up and the walked to the car. Angel and Buffy sped along the road back to Sunnydale, the others following behind them.
"Angel." Buffy said halfway home.
"I've got this kitchen table at home. And some peanut butter and chocolate......." He grinned.
Buffy & Angel - Their world