He lay on the bed, shrouded in darkness. Staring up at the ceiling, he listened to the clock on the wall ticking the seconds away until sunset. The room was small, dark and dusty. The one window was boarded up and a thick black cloth covered the boards, preventing even a glimpse of sun from entering into the room. He had slept most of the day, the night before wearing him out completely. He glanced at his arm, his keen eyesight detecting only a slight scar where last night there had been a gash from elbow to wrist. He thought of his partners and was grateful he was the only one hurt in the fight. That last demon was almost too much for him. He shut his eyes, remembering the events that had taken place the night before. Going into that basement had almost killed him. He had no choice, though. The demon Petechis was pretty damn intent on killing Cordelia and Sasha. Some thing about wanting eternal domination over the world. The usual story. After four years of trying to close the L.A. Hellmouth, he no longer cared about the reasons the demons killed. He just tried to stop them. Petechis almost stopped him this time. Going under that ...things...spell completely surprised him. It was only Cordelia's quick thinking that had pulled him out. The smell of blood, even if it was his own, brought his own demon into the forefront of his mind, expelling Petechis. Which gave him enough time to push Petechis back through the mirror he had escaped from and then crash it to the floor, breaking both the mirror and Petechis. He opened his eyes and looked again at his arm. She didn't need to get quite so knife happy, he thought. I almost lost half my blood from that wound. Thank God for the anaemia registry. The blood bank came through for me once again. He smiled at how commercialised that thought sounded
The door to the rest of the unit was open, letting in some artificial light, enough to illuminate the old white clock on the far wall. He glanced at the time, groaned and rolled over, placing his feet on the floor. The cool floorboards felt warm against his bare feet. Pushing himself up off the bed, he walked into the kitchenette. He leaned over the rusty sink, turned on the cold water and listened for a moment to the groaning pipes. Cupping his hands under the spray, he let the icy cold water fill them, then splashed the water over his face. Reaching for a towel, he started slightly when he heard the phone buzz on the wall next to him.
He patted his face dry with the towel and reached for the ringing phone at the same time.
"Yeah?" He barked into it. There was no way it was Cordelia or Sasha. Both his partners knew not to ring him until at least half an hour after sunset. As it was only just past, he was a little wary.
"Oh....um..." The person on the other end of the line cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "Is Angel there, please?"
"Speaking." Angel felt dread pool up in his chest, where his heart would be if he still possessed one. He recognised the voice, one that he had tried, with little success, to forget over the past four years.
"Oh! I've got him, Willow." He heard Rupert Giles say in a muffled voice. "Angel, it's Rupert Giles here, from Sunnydale."
"I know." Angel said. He wasn't being very friendly, but he couldn't help it. Even after four years the guilt and regret he felt towards this man was as harsh as ever.
"Oh...of course you'd remember. I'm terribly sorry to bother you after so long but...."
"What is it, Watcher?" Angel said, hearing the fear and despair in the man's voice, and feeling his dead heart turn over in his chest at the sound.
"It's Buffy, Angel." Giles said simply and sadly.
"What's happened?" Angel said with fear lacing his voice. Buffy, he thought desperately.
"She's in hospital. She...she." Buffy's watcher broke down, unable to continue. Angel heard some scuffling, then Willow spoke to him.
"Angel, it's Willow. Buffy was hurt about a week ago. Really badly hurt. She...she came as close to death as any of us ever want to see her get. But....she's not recovering. I don't ......we don't think she wants to. She's had a hard couple of years since you left. We-"
"I'll be there as soon as possible. Give me your number." He reached over and wrote the number on a piece of paper that was stuck to the small bar fridge on the other side of the sink. Hanging up, he went and sat down in one of the two chairs in the unit. After four years of trying to get away, and forget as much as possible, one phone call and the whole thing came rushing back, like a dam bursting its seams. He swore under his breath, then felt fear ripple through his long dead heart. His eyes shut, trying to deny the tears of worry and fear that were welling up in his eyes. He hadn't cried in 4 years. Not since that Christmas in 1999. When he had tried, abortively, to end his un-dead life. He saw, before his closed lids, a picture of Buffy as she'd been on that night. Crying and fighting with him. Desperately trying to get him inside before the sun rose. Then her awe when the sun rose but Sunnydale was protected. By a snow storm that had never been seen in that area of California before, nor ever again. He remembered seeing her face in the soft light caused by the lights reflecting off snow. He groaned in pain, hunching over his own body as his heart, or the cavity where it had been, twisted and wrenched. He stayed hunched over for a long time, remembering.
The door to his unit opened, and Sasha walked in, followed by Cordelia. Cordelia took one look at him hunched over and came across to place a hand on his shoulder. Cordelia has changed over the past four years, Angel thought to himself reaching up to place his own cold palm on hers and smile in thanks.
"What is it?" Sasha asked, feeling the tension in the room.
"I've got to get to Sunnydale as soon as possible." He looked at Cordelia. "Buffy's been hurt." She gasped, worried for him.
"Sunnydale?" He heard Sasha ask. "Where on earth is that? Oh...Buffy. She's your..." Sasha drifted off, realising who Buffy was.
"Yes, that's her. And she's been injured. I just got off the phone with Willow, who said basically that Buffy's lost the will to live." He looked at Cordelia long and hard. "I have to go to her. I have to help her."
"Great. And just let me guess who's going to be helping you get to good old Sunnydale, Heart of the Hellmouth. It couldn't be us, could it?" Cordelia said, with just a glimpse of her old bitchiness. Something about that word, Buffy, just brought it out in her.
"All I need you to do is package me up." Angel said cryptically. "You guys can fly economy, I'll fly cargo."
"Economy? I never fly economy. Especially not into Sunnydale!" Cordelia cried. "Cargo?"
The room was light, though the source of that light was not easily identified. The room was old. The stone work on the walls, once pristine white, were now faded to a dull grey. The gargoyles that stood at the door out to the courtyard garden were green with moss and algae. It was a cold room, the occupant having left many years before. Four, if people counted. The fireplace was long unused, and the bed to one side was covered in dust, the old bedspread almost brown instead of the once rich red satin.
Sasha and Cordelia stood in the middle of the room, ripping open the pine box marked "S-Dale, CA". Opening the lid, Sasha ripped open the black material lining it. Angel rose from the box and nimbly jumped out. Rolling his neck, he stretched cramped muscles briefly, then looked at the two mortals.
"Have you contacted anyone yet?" He asked, suppressing his hunger. He had taken some blood inside the box with him, but after almost two days of being trapped inside the cargo shipping box it was not enough, and the demon was rising, demanding food. Cordelia, who had developed a knack of reading him over the past few years, reached into a blue box and pulled out a blood pack from the Sunnydale bloodbank.
"Here, my man, have a drink. It's on the house!" She said. Angel grabbed the bag, gave Cordelia a wordless look of thanks, and turned his back on his two partners. He still did not like having to feed on blood, and preferred that no one watch as he did so. He listened to Sasha as he pierced the thick plastic with his canines, the rush of blood filling his senses.
"We contacted Rupert Giles and Alexander Harris this afternoon when we retrieved you from Cargo pick-up. They were at the Sunnydale High School Library. Mr Giles said that he thought it was best to see you before you went in to Buffy. I told them to come here about half an hour after sunset." He paused, and Angel suspected he was checking his watch. His next sentence proved Angel correct. "They're due in about 5 minutes." Angel heard the door to the mansion creak open, his acute hearing picking up the sound from the back of the mansion. He turned, tossing the now empty blood bag into the box he had emerged from.
"They're here." He turned and looked at Cordelia. "You going to be okay with this, Cord? With Xander, I mean." Angel asked, remembering that things between Xander and Cordelia had never really been settled.
"Please! That was four years ago, Angel. I think I can handle seeing him again. Besides, I was the one who broke it up, remember?" Despite the bravado, she inched closer to Sasha, who in response placed an arm around her shoulders. Giving her a short hug, he turned when he heard footsteps.
"Angel?" A voice queried hesitantly.
"In here, Giles." Angel said, moving forward. He watched as Giles peered into the dim corner, make out Angels' shadow, then move forward confidently. Xander, behind him, moved at the same time. Xander, relieved to see Angel here, fell back upon his old facetiousness to hide his relief.
"Heya, Dead-man. Back to your old haunts, I see."
"Hello, Alexander. I still own this place, so it's only fair that I, as you so eloquently put it, haunt this place." Angel returned, determined not to let the boy, man he reminded himself, get to him. He heard Cordelia smother a snort of laughter behind her hand, and almost smiled in response. At least she was feeling surer of herself. He turned to Giles, and all of a sudden, things turned serious.
"What's happened since you rang me?" He asked.
"No change in her condition. She's been diagnosed as catatonic. You're our last hope, Angel. She won't respond to any one or anything else." Angel could hear the desperation in Giles' tone, but he ignored it for the moment.
"How did she get hurt." He asked.
"Saving the world again. What she's been doing for the past four years, while you've been living it up in LA, Mosquito." Xander said harshly.
"Mosquito?' He heard Sasha ask Cordelia.
"They drink blood." She explained. "He's obviously been thinking hard these last four years. The insults might actually get a little more varied. Poor Xander, four years to think up one insult. It wasn't even that good."
"How?" Angel asked, glaring at Xander to shut him up.
"She...Buffy had found out that the local Vampire population was conducting a ritual to create a new Master. Even though six years have passed since she killed the last Master, the memory made her nervous. She went down to the sewers and interrupted their ritual. Willow, Xander and I followed and tried to slay as many minor vampires as possible, while she faced the master-elect. She managed to kill him, but only after he had drunk enough from her to severely weaken her and then he ripped open her stomach. I remember he said something like 'I want you to die a long hard death.' Then he leant down and whispered something in her ear. She screamed, reached behind him with her last stake and slew him. From that moment on, she hasn't said anything, hasn't moved. Nothing." Angel realised that Giles was unaware of the tears pouring down his face, and for the Brit Watchers' dignity, refrained from mentioning it. Angel felt his soul cry out with pain, and a need to see her.
"What ward?" Was all he said. Giles nodded, and gestured for Angel to follow him. It was as Cordelia and Sasha were following him out that Xander first noticed their presence. He gaped for a moment, then recovered quickly.
"Hello, Cordelia. And you are?" He asked, looking at Sasha.
"Sasha Retzick. We spoke on the phone earlier today. I work with Cordelia and Angel." He held out his hand for Xander to shake. Xander glanced at it, then at his other arm still around Cordelia's shoulders and reluctantly shook the offered hand.
"Come on, you'll need to come with us." He followed Giles out of the mansion, Sasha and Cordelia leaving last.
The smell of antiseptic assaulted Angel's nose violently. Hospitals had always been a painful place for Angel to visit. The pain and lingering death called to the demon inside, enticing it to take over. Angel suppressed the demon and entered the lift, followed by Giles and the others and leant his head against the back wall. Giles selected the floor, and then looked closely at Angel. He could see the effort this was taking Angel and understood, slightly, what the vampire was going through.
"Concentrate on Buffy, Angel." He said gently, letting the last of the anger he felt towards this tortured man disappear. The vampire nodded and Giles watched the tension leak out of his body. The elevator door opened with a soft bell tone, and Giles led them out onto the Intensive Care ward. Heading down a pristine white hallway, Giles nodded to some of the nurses on duty that he had come to know over the past week. He stopped just outside of Buffy's room and turned to Angel.
"She's in there. Do you want us to come in with you?" He asked, giving Angel his support.
"No." Angel said softly, and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.
He stood there, the door shut behind his back, and stared at the woman in the bed before him. The machines connected to her chest and head created background noise that he was unaware of. Her hair was pale, waxy and held no life. His dead heart cried out at the changes to her that had happened in the past four years. He stepped forward slowly, hating to make any sudden noise to break the silence, and approached the bed. Taking the seat placed next to the bed, he looked for the first time directly at her face. Had he still had breath in his body, he would have gasped. As it was, he started in shock. Her eyes were open, staring at the wall behind his head. For a moment, he thought she was awake, then recognised that she was, as Giles had said, catatonic. Her eyes were open, but she wasn't seeing anything. He leaned forward and gently took hold of her hand. He shuddered to find it as cold as his. Rubbing it between his two palms, he tried to create warmth by friction.
"Buffy?" He whispered, his voice soft and melodic. "Buffy, it's Angel. Can you hear me?" He leant forward and brushed her limp hair off her forehead, whispering her name constantly. "Buffy, It's me, Angel. Please, Buffy, wake up. Were all here for you. Buffy." He leant forward, and for the first time in four years his lips made contact with her skin. He shuddered at how cold she was, withdrawing to look back at her face. With no animation, he could see how hard his Slayer had worked and fought over the past four years. At twenty-two, Buffy Summers should be in love, planning marriage, children or holidays in the sun. Yet here she was, in a Hospital in Sunnydale, fighting for her life. With a history of slaying and death behind her that no one should endure. He bowed his head, grieving for Buffy's lost life.
His head jerked around when the door opened and a hand closed around the edge. Bright red hair and an inquisitive face peered around the edge. Angel relaxed, realising it was Willow.
"A...Angel?" She said, inching into the room.
"Hello, Willow." He said softly, understanding that here, still, was an ally. He saw that she was crying softly, and stood up, attempting to go to her. But when he stepped forward he realised that to do so he would have to let go of Buffy's hand. He stood there, looking from Buffy to Willow, torn. Willow helped him out by coming to him and grabbing hold of him around the waist. She cried into his leather jacket for a few minutes, then let go and dried her eyes.
"It's so good to see you...I mean, it's not because of Buffy, but it is because we haven't seen you in so long." Angel smiled wryly, listening to Willow. In the four years since he last spoke to her, Willow had not changed.
"I understand. What can I do to help Buffy?" He asked, looking back at the woman on the bed.
"First, you need to get back to the mansion." Willow said. Angel looked at her curiously.
"It's almost dawn, Angel. You've been here for more that 10 hours. You'll need sleep and some food." Willow blushed, realising that Angel was in the perfect place to get that food. "If you want we'll visit the blood-bank and then I'll drive you back. Xander will be in at six this morning. Buffy hasn't been left alone since she got here. Oz will watch over her until Xander arrives." She took his arm and gently took him out of the room. Oz nodded at Willow as she left, and quickly ducked in so that Buffy would not be alone for any period of time.
Angel was sitting in the back of Willow's little hatch back, hidden from prying eyes. He was hungry again. The emotional strain he had been under had zapped all his strength, and his need to feed had been overwhelming when they had reached the car. He had already emptied two bags and was now finishing his third. Willow pulled into the driveway of the Mansion and slowly stopped the car. She got out and looked around, frowning at the gardens that had overgrown in the years since she had visited the place. She knew that Buffy still came here when she was especially lonely or upset, but Willow herself had not visited this house since she was 18, just after she had finished school. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm going in, Willow. The sun will be up in a few moments. You go on back to the hospital." Angel spoke quietly.
"No." She squeaked, then cleared her voice. "No, it's okay. Giles said that I should check for any problems with the roof or windows and things. To see if any sun would get to you today. No one has been here since you left. Besides Buffy that is." She finished with a rush.
"Cord and Sasha will be able to help me."
"Well, actually they've gone exploring. Cordelia said that while you were with Buffy, it was good to get some...down-time?" She asked, wondering if that was the correct term.
"Oh, of course. They haven't had a holiday in close on three years now. It'll be good for them." He looked broodingly at the mansion, then shrugged and walked inside, Willow following behind him. The inside of the mansion was just as he remembered. He hadn't taken much notice of his surroundings last night when he had emerged from the cargo box. He walked through the familiar hallway into the centre of the mansion and felt his whole body shudder when he saw the statue of Alcathla still standing there with the sword embedded in it's torso. The night he was banished into the Demon dimension flashed through his mind. He closed his eyes and snarled softly, the noise not reaching Willow, who was looking around the roof, checking for damage. Abruptly the memories vanished, to be replaced with the memories of Buffy when he had been returned from hell. Those were always calming, soothing memories. It was during those few months before he left that he felt closest to Buffy. He walked toward the statue of Alcathla and stared hard at the face of the demon. Without warning he roared in rage and shoved the demon statue hard, pushing it to the floor and shattering it into pieces. He heard a yelp behind him and turned, his game face still in place. Seeing Willow blanch and step back, he calmed himself and stepped forward slightly, his face smoothing rapidly.
"What?" He heard her ask, staring at the shattered statue. "Isn't that dangerous?"
"No." He said softly. "Because I was the one who trapped him in the statue the second time, I can shatter and disperse the pieces without releasing him."
"Why?" She asked even more softly. He knew without asking that she meant why now and not how could he destroy the statue.
"Because if it wasn't for that thing," he spat, "I would never have gone to that dimension, Buffy would never have had to kill me. She wouldn't be where she is today." He turned around, searching for something else to vent his rage on. Finding nothing in the sparsely furnished room, he sat down on the steps before the fireplace and dropped his head into his hands. Willow watched him for a moment then approached slowly, reminding herself that this was Angel, not Angelus. She saw the unconscious movement of his hands, slowly pulling hair out handfuls at a time and moved to place her hands over his, stopping his instinctive self-abuse. Willow felt a brief stab of painful understanding and knelt in front of him.
"Angel, stop." She ordered. "This is not your fault, not all of it. It's a culmination of the past ten years. First her father and mother split up, then finding out that she was the Slayer. That's enough in my book, but falling in love with you can't have been easy for anyone, then having to kill you when you were you, not Angelus had to be one of the hardest things I have ever heard any one do. But that isn't all. Less than 2 months ago Joyce Summers died." She sat down and pulled his hands away from his head and stared into his hazel eyes. "She was killed by the master-elect, Orsun. We didn't know he was the Master-elect then, but when we found out, Buffy blamed herself, of course. Her father didn't even make it to the funeral. Said he had some important trade negotiation to deal with. She's had a hard time over the past four years. But it's not your fault. You can't protect her from every hurt. You're not God, Angel. Though you're name might suggest differently." She smiled wryly.
"But I should have been here-." He protested.
"You didn't know, Angel. You did what you thought was best. I think, deep down, she understands that. But...." She faded off, and stared at the blank fireplace, then checked her watch.
"You need to get some sleep. I'll pick you up half an hour after sunset tonight and take you back to the hospital. Giles has special dispensation to allow us all in 24 hours a day." She stood up, reaching down to help him up.
"We've changed the bedding on your bed and dusted as well as we could while you were with Buffy last night. I'll see you this evening." She reached up and hugged Angel and quickly left, leaving him alone in the big house. He walked over to the bed and sat down, feeling the familiar comforts of his home. He had only lived in the Mansion for a few months, but in that time it had become home to him. He thought that perhaps it was because Buffy had found the place that it seemed so. He lay down slowly, letting his body relax into sleep. The last thing he saw before sleep took him was Buffy's blue eyes and smiling face, looking down on him.
The next few days seemed to blur together. Angel got up just after sunset, went to the hospital to watch over Buffy, then just before dawn he would go back to the mansion and sleep the day away. He saw little of the others. Cordelia and Sasha were busy exploring the area. Giles took the afternoon shift on watching Buffy, his classes at the local high school permitting that. Xander, taking the morning shift was always just on the awake side of sleeping when he entered to relieve Angel. Between times, Willow, Oz and some friends Buffy had made in the last few years kept her company. A week to the day after Willow and Giles had phoned to tell him of Buffy's situation, he entered the hospital room to find Giles with his head bowed, his shoulders heaving with suppressed emotion.
"Giles?" Angel asked softly. He saw the Watcher jerk up in surprise, then turn toward him.
"Angel." He said flatly. "What are you doing here so early?"
"It's after 6 o'clock, Giles. It's time you went home. I'll be here until Xander gets here in the morning."
"Why bother?" He heard the librarian say.
"What?" He asked in confusion.
"Why bother. It's obvious your presence here is doing no good. She hasn't recovered. Why are we wasting our time watching her around the clock?"
"Come with me." Angel said softly, his voice grating. He reached down and hauled the stunned watcher up by his arm and shoved him through the door into the attached bathroom. He heaved the still stunned man against the opposite wall and leant over him.
"You keep thinking like that and you can leave. Get out." He growled.
"What right do you have-" Giles stammered.
"Don't you dare tell me I don't have a right to be here." He snarled the sentence, his anger mounting with every word. "I love Buffy with every fibre of my being, every thought I have. That is why I belong here. You, of all people, should know that every negative thought provokes negative energy in the ethereal world. Your negativity may well be what is preventing Buffy from healing. If you don't have faith, we don't need you here. She doesn't need you here. I'll not have that sort of negative emotion around Buffy."
"I'm sorry." The watcher said, bowing his head. "You're right, of course. I should have remembered that." He looked up at the vampire. "How do you stay so..."
"Positive?" Angel guessed, his anger cooling as suddenly as it had erupted. Giles nodded. "I have to. I have no choice. To lose faith is something that I can not afford. She will wake up. Just give her time."
"Sometimes it almost seems as if you're older than I am." Giles said with wonder.
"I am, Giles. Remember? I'm almost two hundred and fifty years old. Believe me, I have learnt a lot in that time. Most importantly, I've learned that healing takes time." He saw Giles flush with embarrassment.
"I forget sometimes that you've lived that long. You seem so ....well adjusted to the 21st Century." The librarian took a deep breath. "I'll head home now and get myself back on track. I'll see you tomorrow evening." Angel nodded and they both exited the small bathroom.
Outside, Giles met Willow who was on her way in.
"Giles, you okay?" She asked, seeing his red, puffy eyes.
"I'm fine, I'm just about to head home."
"Hang on a sec, and I'll take you. Xander just turned up. Said he had something to pick up that he forgot this morning. I'll just go in and tell Angel I'm taking you home." She saw Giles frown in confusion. "I normally have tea here with them both. We're hoping that the smell of food may attract Buffy. Hang on a sec." She dashed into the room, shutting the door behind her.
"Angel?" She said softly, looking at her friend who was sitting on the edge of the bed, gently brushing out Buffy's hair. He was talking softly to her, constantly.
"Angel, I'm going to take Giles home. He looks pretty upset about something."
"That was my fault." He said, never pausing in his brushing.
"I got angry at him a few seconds ago. He had given up on Buffy." He looked up, determination set in his features. "I will not let anyone give up on Buffy. Ever." Willow nodded.
"I'll...um, be back in about half an hour." She went back to the door and opened it. Then turned back. "Oh, and Xander will be up in a second. Seems he forgot something this morning. Xander would forget his head if it wasn't screwed on." Willow sounded very similar to Giles in that moment, and Angel cocked his head to the side, trying to figure out what had changed. Willow smiled and ducked out of the room. Angel stared after her for a moment, then looked back down at Buffy, and continued to stroke her hair with the brush, holding her cold hand with his free one.
"Buffy, it's Angel. I want you to come back to me. I'm back with you in Sunnydale. Buffy, you can't let go. I can't let you." Angel leaned closer, talking right into her ear. "Buffy." He said brokenly. "You're the only reason that I'm here. If you go, what good am I?" He stopped, bowed his head in pain. He stayed there for a while, trying to recover himself, when he felt the hand he held twitch slightly, and start to imperceptibly warm up. His head shot up, and he stared at Buffy's face, hoping flaring inside his chest and flooding around his body, more potent than blood would ever be. Her eyes moved slightly, and a light appeared in the very back of her pupils, getting stronger and brighter as the seconds passed. Angel perched on the edge of the bed, staring down at her.
"Buffy?" He asked, hoarsely. "Buffy, can you hear me? Buffy, it's Angel. Please, wake up." Without warning, Buffy's eyelids closed and opened rapidly, and her eyes started to focus on objects in the room. Her eyes focused for a moment on Angel, then she made a noise in her throat that sounded like a whimper, and closed them again. Angel cried out, reaching towards her.
"Heya, Giles. Wassup?" Xander asked, striding down the hallway. He saw Willow leaving Buffy's room and shot up an eyebrow. Normally Willow would be back at the school preparing for her classes the next day.
"Heya, Will. Whatcha doin?"
"Taking Giles home." She said, reaching into her bag to rummage for her keys.
"Why? Can't he drive himself anymore?" Xander asked, as usual missing the emotion and mood of the people he spoke to.
"You know, Xander, sometimes you just make me wonder why." Willow said, slowly shaking her head. She approached Giles, who was still sitting on one of the chairs in the hallway when they all heard an anguished yell come from inside the room. Giles leapt up and crashed through the door. The sound he had heard came from a soul in pain. He feared greatly for what he would see in the room.
Angel was resting his head against their joined hands. Buffy had her eyes closed and was using her free hand to trace her long absent vampire's face. Her cheeks were tear stained. Giles stopped abruptly, the others crashing into him in a parody of a comic cartoon. Giles whispered Buffy's name in prayer, and then moved forward again. The others did something similar. Reaching the bed, Giles cleared his throat to interrupt the two lovers. Buffy stopped tracing Angels' face and opened her eyes. The crystal blue of them pierced Giles through his soul.
"Hi, Giles." She whispered, her voice hoarse from emotion and lack of use. Angel heard and reached for a glass of water. She sipped from the straw and rested her head back on the pillow.
"Buffy." He said, in his usual British un-emotional way. Then he ruined it by leaning forward and pulling her into a fierce embrace. Buffy briefly let go of Angel's hand to wrap her arms around her watcher, holding on as he muttered her name in thanks. Then she lay back down again and reached for his cool but familiar hand.
"Heya, Buffster!" Xander said cheerfully. He leant over and gave her a brotherly hug.
"Hey, Buffy." Willow said in her quiet way. She, too, leant over and gave Buffy a hug. "How do you feel?"
"Sore, tired. How long have I been out of it for?"
"Just over a week now." Xander told her, standing by the end of the bed.
"A week?" She said hoarsely, stunned. They all nodded at her.
"Buffy, you've been catatonic." Angel told her, holding her hand gently.
"But you're awake now. And look who we brought!" Willow said brightly, then looked at Giles, who nodded. "Buffy, I've got to go and get something. It's sort of a present for you. And Angel too!" She said, looking at the man seated next to her friend. Then she ducked out of the room. Giles sat down on the other side of the bed to Angel and looked at his Slayer.
"Buffy, I don't want to, but I have to ask. What did the master-elect say to you?" He hated to ask, but he needed to know why she had reacted as she did. He watched as his slayer closed her eyes in obvious mental pain. Angel leaned close and whispered in her ear. She nodded slightly, and brought his hand up to kiss the back of it. Opening her eyes, she looked at her watcher. The man who in the past six years had become more like a father to her than her own absentee sire.
"When we went in to crash the ceremony, I knew that Orsun had killed Mum. All I could think about was stopping him before he killed anyone else I loved. I went straight for him, ignoring the other, lesser, vampires. We fought. Somehow, at some point, Orsun fed from me. I don't remember that too well. I know that he fed deeply, because I do remember feeling very faint and light-headed. Then Orsun ripped my stomach open and said that he wanted to watch me die slowly. Then he leant forward so that he could see my eyes and ...." She breathed deeply, looked at Angel for strength then continued. "He said that Angelus had returned, that he had killed Angel's soul completely and utterly, and Angelus was now his first deciple. He said that Angel would feed from me again. Until the end, this time. It destroyed me. All I could think was that it was too late, that he had already won." She looked at Angel with tortured eyes. "I'd killed you once. I couldn't face killing you again. Not and survive myself. I thought the easiest way to protect you all was to let myself die. Angelus wouldn't have anyone to obsess about then." She looked back to her watcher, her eyes tearing up. "I had the strength to kill Angel once. That kind of strength doesn't come easily. I couldn't face that hurt again. I-" She broke off, sobbing softly. Angel sat up on the bed and pulled her gently into his arms and sat there rocking slowly back and forth, stroking a hand down her blond hair. He pressed soft kisses onto the crown of her hair, murmuring in Gaelic to her. He looked around and saw Xander about to speak. He snarled softly, letting the demon free for just a moment. Xander recoiled and shut his mouth quickly. Within moments she had recovered, and pushed away from Angel's chest. A part of her mind noticed that in four years he had not changed. Not the smell, nor the feel of him.
"I'm okay now, Angel." She looked back at her watcher. "I killed him, didn't I?" She asked, unable to remember past that horrible point.
"You did. When Orsun leant down to whisper in your ear, you screamed and staked him through the heart. Then you just ....froze." Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them with a cloth he retrieved from his pants pocket. Angel recognised the gesture as a nervous habit that the Watcher had developed early in his career of watching Buffy. He almost smiled to see it again. Then he felt Buffy's eyes on him, and he looked to her.
"Why?" She asked in an agonised voice. Giles reached out to grab Xander and backed out of the room quietly as Angel stared at Buffy in silence.
"Why did you go? Do you know what I've been through in the past four years? You told me that you would always love me, then you left." Her breathing hitched, and she brought it under control. "You haven't even contacted me in the last four years. My mother died and Dad didn't come and there was no one. Why?" Her eyes were filled with tears, and Angel's soul twisted in pained sympathy.
"I thought I had to, Buffy. We can't be together, not in the way that counts. You know that as well as I. I thought it'd be easier on both of us if I just left. Then you could find someone else to love, to devote yourself to." He paused, and covered her mouth with his fingers when she went to deny his statement. "No, you asked, so please just listen. I'm immortal, Buffy. You're not. There is no way that we could be together, not as you would have wanted. I thought you deserved better than someone like me, someone like Angelus. I've been in L.A. for the last four years, fighting to keep the Hellmouth there closed. Cordelia and Sasha have been helping me. It no-where near redeems my, Angelus', actions from the past, but at least I am preventing anyone else from repeating my actions." He bowed his head, waiting for the condemnation and reprimands that he knew were coming.
"Angel, you have nothing to redeem yourself for. I told you that Christmas that I loved you, and nothing would change that. Angelus is a soul-less creature. What he did, and what you do are two different things." She put a hand under his chin and lifted his face up to hers. "I may only live for 80 more years, but don't deny me your presence for those years." She pulled him close, and buried her head in his neck. "We are soul-mates, Angel. Don't separate us again. I love you too much for that." She stopped, unable to speak any longer, overcome by emotion. The held each other close for a long time, each relishing the others' presence.
"I've got the stuff, Giles!" Willow called from the other end of the hallway. Giles looked up, his face brightening as she moved closer.
"You remembered the Tallow root?" He asked.
"Of course. We've practiced this spell long enough that I know the ingredients backwards and inside out. Oz is parking the car. Oh, hi! I'm Willow, you must be Sasha! We haven't met yet." She said, walking forward to greet the startled Russian.
"Um, yeah. How did you know?" He asked, shaking the redheads' hand.
"Well, I had to find out where Angel was, and I did some study and research, and found out you and Cordelia where working for Angel. That's really cool!" She turned to Cordelia.
"Hi." She said a little hesitantly. She hadn't spoken to Cordelia in person for several years, and was a little apprehensive about the reception she would get.
"Hi, yourself, Witch." Cordelia said, not unkindly.
"Cord!" Sasha reprimanded.
"No, that's okay, Sasha. I really am one! When did you guys arrive?" She asked.
"About ten minutes ago. We went to the mansion, and realised that Angel would be here, so we came here. We've got to get back to L.A. pretty soon. Reports have it that the Hellmouth is getting pretty damned active."
"Cool. Giles can get the council to send the new Slayer there. We've got three now. Buffy had to be revived on the way here after Orsun.....well, you know how that goes."
"Willow," Giles objected. "You know-."
"That's okay. I'll ask myself. I'm a watcher now too. Well almost." She corrected when she heard Giles clear his throat. She turned to Xander.
"Xander, can you play scout, make sure no one get in to the room while we're in there?"
Xander nodded. "Righto, Capitano! You go and Vegetarianise the Dead-man. I'll make sure no one gets in." He waved his hand about in front of his face, in parody of a "Rimmer Salute".
"You have been watching way too much Red Dwarf, Xander." Giles said, surprising them all with his knowledge of cult television. "What, I'm not allowed to appreciate any humour? Besides, it is a British program!" He jerked his head toward the door.
"Let's get this done, Willow." He knocked softly on the door, and opened it slowly. Giles saw Angel draw back from Buffy and glance at the door. Giles walked in slowly, followed by Willow. Angel saw the bag she was carrying, bulging out at the seams.
"What have you got there, Willow?" Angel asked, gesturing to the bag.
"That present I mentioned." She put the bag on the end of the bed and started pulling out candles and bottles and other items that Angel vaguely recognised.
"What on earth is all that?" Buffy asked, then figured out it was some sort of spell Willow had prepared. "Will, I'm fine now, really. I'm not going to go into a coma again or anything. You don't need to do any kind of spell to make me better. Honest!" She flexed an arm to demonstrate. Willow just looked up and nodded, then went back to work. She and Giles drew a circle on the floor with some sort of paint, then placed candles at regular intervals around the circle. Angel could hear them chanting softly under their breath. He frowned, recognising the Binding spell. After living for almost quarter of a millennia, he knew a little more about the mystics than most. They finished setting up the circle and Giles turned to Angel and Buffy.
"Angel, I want you to sit inside the circle for us, please. Buffy, stay where you are." Angel frowned, a little unsure of what was going on. He looked at Willow, who was smiling at him. He sensed no danger in the room, rather anticipation and a little apprehension. From Buffy all he sensed was love and bewilderment. He stood up, walked around the bed and stepped over the candles into the middle of the circle, where he sat down, facing Buffy.
"Okay! Ready, Giles!" Willow said, excitement clear in her voice. The two began to chant in ancient Celtic, their voices echoing hollowly in the hospital room. The light from the candles was making Angels' eyes water and he squinted against them. Without warning, the candle's flared up and surrounded the circle, encasing Angel in a ring of flame. He tried to cower away from the flame, but there was nowhere to go. The circle was complete. He felt a sudden thud in his chest, heavy and throbbing. He glanced down in surprise, expecting to see a stake or something similar imbedded in his chest. He was surprised when he saw nothing. Yet, his chest continued to throb, to....beat! Angel drew in a breath in shock, then froze. He opened his mouth and drew in another breath, unable to comprehend what was happening. He was breathing. The lungs that had been dormant for over 200 years were taking in air, breathing out air. He stared in wonder and fear as his chest rose and fell with every breath he took. Then his eyes went blank with shock as he realised that the throbbing in his chest was his heart. His heart, long dead, was beating again. Beating blood around his body, into his arms, legs, through his lungs, into his skull. He called out, Buffy's name on his lips, and heard, through the flames surrounding him, her answer. As suddenly as the flames rose, they fell, extinguishing with a hiss. He could see Buffy standing beside the bed, peering at him. He whispered her name, using his vocal chords for the first time since the 18th Century. They were harsh with disuse. He cleared his throat, and looked at Willow and Giles.
"How?" He asked, hoarsely. Buffy fell into the circle and wrapped her arms around him. She pulled back in shock when she felt his warm skin. She stared at him in awe, unable to believe what her own senses where telling her.
"It was an old Druid spell." Giles said quietly. "It was the origin of the Binding spell we use today. To use layman terms, we bound your soul to your body. When we did that, the demon was repulsed and escaped, back into it's dimension of Hell. So you are fully human again. We think. Willow believes there is a possibility you will still have Vampiric strength and senses, but we won't know until you tell us." He squatted down, facing the two in the middle of the circle. Willow started clearing away the circle, chanting under her breath to remove it. "Angel, there is no spell, no action and no emotion that will separate your soul from your body again. The only thing that will is death." He looked at Buffy. "Somehow, right now I don't think that's an option." He looked at Willow, raised an eyebrow, then stood up and exited the room with her. Angel felt his heartbeat increase, thumping madly in his chest. He savoured the feeling for a moment, then turned to the woman beside him. She was crying silently, staring at his face.
"Buffy." He whispered, and pulled her close to his beating heart. She came willingly, and then turned her head up for his kiss. The two lovers closed their eyes and forgot about the world.
"So, what was the crack about Vegitarianising Angel?" Sasha asked Giles when the emerged from the room.
"We've just de-vamped Angel, Sasha!" Willow said, still on a high. She jumped at Oz, who looked surprised, but willingly submitted to being kissed. When she pulled back, he looked at her, and said in his usual compact way, "It worked, then." Willow nodded excitedly and hugged him hard.
"What?" Cordelia asked, completely confused.
"Angel is human again, Cordelia." Giles said. "We just completed a spell that bound his soul." He sat down, suddenly very weary. His Slayer was finally happy again, the wrong that had been committed so many years ago had been righted, and frankly, he needed a holiday.
The door opened several minutes later, and Angel and Buffy emerged. Buffy had dressed in jeans and T-shirt. She clung to Angels' arm. Giles realised that it was not from weakness, but from want to touch him.
"Willow, I need a favour." She said, not looking at her best friend.
"Name it!" Willow said brightly. This high isn't going to end for at least another three weeks she thought.
"I need a maid of honour." Buffy said, still staring at Angel.
"Make that 3 years!" Willow cried out, mystifying her friends. "Of course I will!" She hugged her friend and Angel.
"Cord?" Angel said softly, staring at his friend. "I know this is irregular, but you are one of my closest friends. I need a best man." He cocked his head to the side.
"Why not. It's not like I'm ever going to get married!" She said, scowling at Sasha.
"Hey, don't blame me. Just because I stole your last boyfriend. How was I to know he played for both sides?" He asked, holding up his hands in defence.
"You found out!" She said, then grinned and gave him a hard hug. Over his shoulder, she saw Xander with a puzzled expression on his face, then it quickly changed into one of disgust. Before she even realised it, she had pushed Sasha out of the way and was face to face with her old boyfriend.
"You got a problem?" She demanded. "You think Sasha is strange, do you?" She asked, waspishly. "I've got a suggestion for you, Alexander Harris. Grow up, get into the 21st Century and smell the coffee. Sasha has more commitment, more compassion and more understanding in his little finger than you have in your whole body. I can't believe I ever considered marrying a little-." She cut herself off, her eyes going wide with dismay.
"Pardon!?" She heard several people ask.
"Nothing." She snapped, looking horrified. Sasha burst out laughing, much to her annoyance. She looked at him, trying to shut him up with her expression alone.
"Not on your life, Cord." He looked at the others, gathered around. "It seems that just before a certain incident that caused their separation," his glance at Willow told them all that he knew what the incident was, "the two love-birds also known as Xander and Cordy were planning to .....elope? I think that is the English for it. Something about Daddy not liking her chosen match." He grinned evilly at Cordelia, who was looking on in horrified silence. Then he looked at Xander. "Mind you, I have to agree with Cord on one thing. If he thinks that someone of my ...sexual orientation is repellent, he really does need to grow up."
"It wasn't that." Xander objected. He heard the snort of disbelief from Cordelia. "It wasn't! I came back here for something that I had left behind this morning. It was a letter. To you." He said, coming to stand in front of Cordelia. "I had written this long, involved letter telling you what I thought of your relationship with Sasha. I'll be the first to admit that the letter is on the immature side of adult." He shrugged, looking at Sasha. "I was in pain. I wanted to lash back." He turned back to Cordelia who was, against her will, softening towards him. "The disgust, the repulsion you saw was for me, for my stupidity and ....insecurities. Not for Sasha, or homosexuality." He laughed, scornfully. "Heck, right now, being homosexual would be a hell of a lot easier on me." He looked at Cordelia once more, saying nothing, then turned and walked away. Cordelia stared after him for a moment, then looked hesitantly at Sasha, then at Angel. He growled in frustration and made a shooing gesture.
"Go on! Get after him, you stupid woman." She smiled and ran after him. The others watched as she caught up with him just before the corner in the corridor. She grabbed his arm and swung him round. They stood there, talking quietly for a few minutes, the group watching silently, all holding their breath. They saw Xander reach up and brush Cordelia's cheek, drying tears that were obviously falling. When the two fell into a passionate embrace, the six people at the other end of the hallway broke into spontaneous applause.
Angel and Buffy walked outside the hospital, unable to let go of each other. Cordelia and Xander walked at the back of the group, still stunned and a little shocked.
"I'm still trying to figure out the crack about Vegitarianisation!" Sasha said. Angel puzzled over his statement, then laughed out loud when he realised what it meant. He leant forward and whispered into Sasha's ear.
"Oh!" Sasha said, finally understanding. He looked back at his partners. Both seemed to have found their missing hearts. He sighed. Angel was human again, or so Willow had said. Cordelia had been given another chance with her high-school love. He looked down at his fingers, noting that the white tan mark around his ring finger was fading. He still felt Mikhail's loss deep inside his heart. He wondered how long it would take to stop feeling this gut wrenching hurt whenever he thought of Mikhail. Behind him he heard someone murmur to themself, and turned to see who it was. Angel was staring hard at him, his eyes shining with tears of compassion and empathy. He frowned, silently asking Angel what was wrong. Angel let go of Buffy and grabbed his arm, gently leading him away from the group.
"What is it, Angel?" He asked, starting to worry.
"Mikhail." Angel said. Sasha froze with shock. In the three years he had been working for Angel he had not mentioned his dead lover. Ever. He hadn't even said the name out loud since Mikhail had died, just on four years ago.
"How?" He whispered.
"I don't know. I think that the spell Willow performed might have some side effects none of us imagined. We might want to go and take a look at this spell they performed. Find out what it was." Angel went to go back to the group, paused and turned back to Sasha. "I'm sorry. I know the pain you're going through right now. All I can say is that it does, eventually ease. You will always miss him and love him, but soon it won't hurt as much when you think of him. It does get easier." He looked at Buffy, who was staring at them in puzzlement from across the street. "If anyone should know, it's me." He reached out and put an arm around his partner and led him back to the group.
"We have a little problem." Angel started, looking from Giles to Willow and back. "It seems that I ....Sasha was just...."
"It's okay Angel." Sasha looked at the two spell casters gravely. "Angel has somehow just understood what I was thinking. I was remembering my...partner in Russia and he somehow heard me, Angel that is."
"I've never done that before. I haven't been able to tap into emotion and understand it before. Could this be a side-effect of the spell you two performed?" Angel said, staring off behind the group with intensity.
"I haven't heard of it before." Giles said hesitantly. "Mind you, the spell hasn't been performed all that much, and not on a vampire. Can you give us more details?"
"We'll go to the library. I'll tell you there, where we have a little more...privacy." Angel looked over at the group of vampires that had been slowly emerging from the alley just down from the hospital. Buffy, though conscious and able to walk and function, was not in any way ready to confront vampires.
"Sasha, Cordelia, I need you to guard. I'll meet you at the library." Angel strode off.
"Angel, wait! You don't know if you still have your strength!" Willow cried after him. Sasha had grabbed hold of Buffy and was pulling her away from the group of vampires. It was testament to her condition that she couldn't break free of his hold. Angel turned back and smiled cheerfully.
"We're about to find out. Cordelia?" He looked at his partner who smiled back at him, reached inside her jacket and pulled out a long jagged wooden stake. Tossing it to him, she pulled out two more, handing one to Sasha and keeping one herself. The group, disobeying Angels' order, watched as Angel jogged up to the group of three vampires, stopping a few steps away from them. He braced his legs apart, slightly bending them and began tossing the stake from hand to hand, taunting the three in front of him. The female snarled, her game face twisting her features cruelly.
"C'mon then." He told them. As he suspected, his verbal challenge enraged them and they came on all at once. His four years fighting in LA had taught him much, and the idea of fighting three vampires at once did not scare him. However, he sighed with relief when he threw one of the vampires over his head and smashed it into a dumpster just inside the alley. It seemed that Willow was correct. He still had his vampire strength.
The other two were attacking him, one on his back, the other on his front. They both were trying to reach his jugular to rip it out with their teeth. He relaxed for a moment, allowing them to get a purchase grip on his neck then he simply dropped his legs out from under him and fell to the ground making the two vampires fall with him. He rolled, pulling the female under him and reached back with the stake and thrust it into her heart cavity, withdrawing quickly to keep the stake from turning to dust with the vampire. He rolled onto his back and flipped up onto his feet to see the second vampire backing towards the dumpster. He moved towards him quickly and shoved the stake in the second vampire, striking his heart. The stake turned to dust with the vampire when it became stuck. He cursed and looked around quickly. Before he had time to pick up another object to act as a weapon, the last vampire was on him, forcing him to the ground. It snarled fiercely and bared its canines in an effort to scare Angel. He almost laughed. This vampire was only young. Less than 40 years a vampire. He pulled his legs up under him, pushing the vampires' face away from his throat at the same time and thrust savagely with his legs. The vampire flew backwards, impaling itself on a broken fire escape step. He stared at the wood protruding from his chest in amazement then looked at Angel and turned to dust.
Angel smiled as he dusted off his clothing. That was the only problem with vampires. The dust clung to any surface. He had retreated into the alley during the fight, but he could see Cordelia just outside the alley, staring in. She had her hand up, her stake held ready.
"Cord, it's okay. They've been dusted. I thought I told you to go back to the library?" He asked, walking out into the street light.
"Well, we thought you might need some help, cleaning up." She looked at the dust covering his clothes. "Obviously we were wrong. The others are waiting." She turned around and walked toward the group. Buffy was in front, held back only by Sasha's restraining arm around her waist. Angel gestured for Sasha to let her go, and he did so. Buffy ran towards him and he held his arms out in welcome. She surprised him, however, when she ran up and slapped him. He stared wide-eyed at her.
"Why the hell did you just do that? Do you know the danger you were in?" She demanded, furious with him.
"Buffy,-" He started.
"Don't you Buffy me! You were in a lot of danger. You should have let me help you. You could never manage to take on more than a few vampires at a time! Let alone when you were human! You could have been killed, Angel! You can die now, you know! I'm the slayer, not you-." Angel put his hand over her mouth and wrapped his arm around her waist. She wriggled and writhed, trying to get free of his hold. Her efforts became serious and she scowled at him. Finally, out of breath, she surrendered. He let her go and stood back. She glared at him.
"That's why I didn't let you help me, Buffy. You're weak. I still have my strength, my senses. And I've learnt a hell of a lot in the last four years. We all have. Buffy," He said, coming up close and placing a gentle hand on her cheek. "You need to recover fully. I have dealt with worse than that gang of leeches, believe me." He put the hand on her cheek around her neck and walked toward the group. "Now come on, we got some research to do on this spell that was performed. You can grouch at me later."
"Have fun, Angel?" Sasha asked, putting his stake in his jeans pocket.
"Always! At least I didn't have knife-happy Cord around to complicate things!" He grinned at Cord.
"Hey, that's not fair! I helped! Besides, if it wasn't for me you'd still be possessed by Petechis!" Cordelia objected loudly, causing both Sasha and Angel to grin even wider.
"What?!" Giles and Buffy asked at the same time.
"Long story." Angel said, trying to get them to hurry up and reach the library. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere with this lot.
"You can tell us when we get to the library." Buffy said, determined to find out what had happened.
Walking into the library, Angel chuckled quietly to himself. Buffy heard, though, and asked why he was laughing.
"Because in the four years since I've been in this place it hasn't changed a bit. It's even got the same smell it's always had." He looked at Sasha, who was still pale.
"Willow, can I get a look at that spell you used, please?" He asked moving forward into the library.
"Sure, I'll just go and get the book from my desk." Willow walked through the door into the back office. Angel watched with a bemused expression on his face. Giles saw and smiled slightly.
"I've taken over the city library, Angel. Willow here has the uh...." Giles stopped, looking for words.
"The high school library and computer facilities." Willow said, coming back out with an old book in her hands. She placed it in front of Angel, who sat down on one of the chairs immediately and opened the book to the marked page. It was written in Gaelic, the scribes had taken some time to make this book. He read the description of the spell and frowned.
"What?" Buffy asked.
"I'll translate it for you. Once bound, the world will hold no secrets, nor fear. Forever after, love will reveal and conceal. There's a warning down the bottom." He squinted at the writing. "To achieve success, the soul must-." Angel broke off suddenly and looked at Buffy. He shook his head, horror straining his features.
"Angel?" Giles asked for all of them. "What is it?"
"To achieve success," Angel said quietly, "the soul must destroy its' firstborn." Angels' tortured eyes turned to Buffy and he shook his head in denial.
"What?!" Buffy cried. She put her hands to her mouth, feeling suddenly nauseous. Angel put an arm around her shoulder, comforting her.
"It's not going to happen, Buffy." He looked up at Giles, his eyes hard as rock. "Didn't you ever learn to check the fine print, watcher?"
"I...I didn't think we needed to. It said that there was no way to un-do the spell, so I....I." Giles stopped talking, appalled at the criteria to complete the spell.
"Yes, well your assumption that all was okay was about as correct as Russia was about their Y2K readiness!" Angel said harshly.
"Angel!" Sasha said, softly. Angel glared briefly at him, then subsided. "Angel, you know that spells are always twin bladed. This could very well be something good, rather than bad. And I'll have you know Russia wasn't that bad!" He defended.
"Sasha, it says that I have to destroy my firstborn! How can that not be bad?" He thrust back from the table angrily and started pacing. He had a sudden urge to do immense damage to something. He wished he hadn't gotten rid of those vampires quite so quickly. He needed the stress relief of a damn good fight.
"First things first." Willow said breathlessly, trying to calm to mood. "We need to understand why Angel knew about what Sasha was thinking. Giles, did you understand about that bit "love will reveal and conceal?"
"I think so. It said before that the world would hold no secrets or fear, yet it goes on to say that love will reveal and conceal." He frowned, pulling out his white hanky to clean his glasses. Putting them back on he walked around and up the stairs to the back of the library. After many years of watching the English Librarian at work, the group knew to stay silent until he had finished thinking things through. Within moments, Giles came back down the stairs, flicking through a large black volume. He lay it on the desk and flipped through the pages rapidly. He stopped suddenly, his fingers on a passage in the middle of the page.
"Here it is." He looked up at Angel, still pacing silently, letting his frustration ease in exercise.
"The secrets are known to no mortal, nor demon. It is only Himself and His re-born that will know." Giles quoted softly.
"Huh?" Xander asked. "That sounded like something from the Bible, Giles."
"That's because it is. Not from the Christian Bible. From the Druids'."
"Okay, any one else confused, or is it just me?" Xander looked around.
"What does that mean Giles?" Buffy asked, ignoring Xander. She noticed that Angel had stopped pacing and was standing still as a statue.
"I'm afraid to think." Her watcher said slowly. "There is a reference here to the spell we used. This book comes from an original copy that was made in the early 8th Century." He looked up at Angel. "In the 8th Century, sacrifice was a commonplace part of religion. Perhaps ...no, that sort of demand would not be purely cosmetic." He muttered, half to himself.
"Cosmetic? You call sacrificing your first born cosmetic?" Angel resumed pacing, his anger mounting. It was unbelievable. He had just found Buffy again, found a way to live with her, love her, marry her, and then this.
"It still doesn't explain about Sasha." Cordelia said, looking at her friend.
"It does, in a way, Cord." Sasha said. "It says that no secrets are known to mortal. Angel is, or rather was immortal. He wasn't a demon, though. And if you look at the spell from a certain point of view, he has been re-born. From what I can figure out, that's how he knew about....Mikhail. Because the spell said that love would reveal and conceal. It revealed to him Mikhail."
"But, is it your love for Mikhail, your love for Angel, or his for you?" Cordelia asked, surprising both Giles and Angel with her insight.
"What? I though Angel loved Buffy?" Xander showed his usual lack of understanding.
"Well, there's one easy way to find out." Buffy said quietly. Then she shut her eyes. Within moments, Angel had come to Buffy's side and was staring at her, his eyes wide with pain. Buffy opened her eyes again and looked at him.
"I'm so sorry for that time, Buffy. I-."
"It's okay, Angel. I've forgiven you for that, even though it wasn't your fault." She looked at Giles. "I'd say it was his love for me. I concentrated all my hate and anger on him, and he felt it."
"What?" Oz asked, speaking for the first time since entering the library.
"Well, even though I love Angel, I never loved Angelus. But when he was Angelus, I couldn't separate the two. So I just thought of him as Angelus and bingo, instant hate." She looked at Angel, who was still staring at her. She put a hand up and cupped his jaw.
"I love you, Angel. That was not real." She traced his jaw gently with her thumb. He smiled sadly, leaning into the caress.
"Okay then," Giles said heavily. "Let's see if we can find the other side to this warning. It can't be as obvious as the spell makes out.
"Willow, you take the 'net and check out what you can. Xander, Oz, Cordelia and Mr Retzeik, you take the books. I'll go over and bring back some of my books from the City Library."
"And us, Giles?" Buffy asked for herself and Angel.
"I think you two are past due some time alone together." He leant down and whispered into Buffy's ear. Angel grinned slightly when she blushed furiously. Giles looked up at Angel, nodded sagely at him, then left the library.
They were sitting in her apartment, the sun streaming in through the open window. Angel was sitting with his back against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him. Buffy was sitting on a chair in front of him, her legs folded up beneath her. The music was playing softly in the background. Angel was talking softly.
"Then, the day before I came here, I was battling a demon known as Petechis. Lovely one there. Used the images we see in our mirrors to distort and warp people. The increase in eating disorders over the past two decades can mostly be attributed to him. Oh, and the schizophrenia sufferers. It turns out that they really do have more than one personality. They see their other selves for the first time in a mirror. Anyway, Petechis was intent on capturing me inside his mirror. He possessed me momentarily, then Cord slashed open my arm, and the blood returned me to my senses and I killed Petechis."
"How?" Buffy asked. She had moved her feet, and now had them resting on his knees, and he was gently stroking them while he told her what had happened to him in the last four years.
"I thrust him back into the mirror and then smashed it into pieces before he could protect it."
"You mean, there'll be no more anorexia or bullemia or anything like that?"
"Not necessarily. Only normal in relation to the population. Nothing like the waif fad that hit the late 90's. Petechis was very strong in the late 20th Century. The next evening I got a phone call from Giles." He looked up at her, his eyes sombre. "I will never forget his voice when he tried to tell me. He loves you very much Buffy. I don't think anyone realises how much."
"I know. He's more like a father to me than my own father." She laughed. "Hell, he's around more than my father. Not that that would be difficult." She stayed silent for a while, thinking. She looked up when Angel gripped her foot tightly to get her attention.
"What about you?" He raised an eyebrow in query.
"What about me?"
"What have you been doing over the past four years?" Angel was relishing the feel of the sun on his skin and had no intention of moving for quite a while. They had been sitting in this position for a long time. They had entered Buffy's apartment just on midnight and the first thing Angel wanted was to get Buffy into bed. Buffy agreed readily until she realised that he wanted her to rest. She had sulked until she lay down on the bed and within moments, she had fallen asleep. Angel had smiled then lay down beside her and followed her into slumber. They woke up together at dawn, both a little hesitant with each other. Angel had risen from the bed and looked out at the rising sun. Buffy had joined him at the window and held his hand lightly as he waiting for the sun. His skin had crawled instinctively when the sun hit him, two hundred years of allergy to the sun did not just disappear, but he sighed with relief when his skin did not blister. He had looked at Buffy and told her that they had some things they needed to talk about. Two hours later, they were still sitting down, talking.
"I've been doing basically the same stuff I always do. The same kind of stuff that you've been doing for the past four years. Protecting Sunnydale from almost weekly destruction, killing vampires and demons. That sort of stuff. At least...."
"Just under a year ago I came across a vampire that.....well, lets just say that she wasn't very nice." She looked at Angel, her eyes deep blue. "Her name was Addecia. She was very good at what she...enjoyed." Buffy glanced away from Angel, looking out the window.
"She had this...crystal. Similar to the one that Giles used on my 18 birthday. Then she used a muscle-relaxing agent, again, similar to the one that was used on my eighteenth. Then she...had fun with me. I was held for close to a week. Plenty of time for Addecia to have her fun, let me recover and do it all over again." Buffy was no longer seeing the apartment. Angel could tell she was back with the vampire again. He moved her feet away and got up onto his knees in front of her.
"Buffy?" He whispered, placing his warm palm along her cheek. She moved her eyes and looked blankly at him.
"Buffy, it's okay. She's not here. It's just you and me."
"That's not it." She whispered, suddenly very afraid.
"What is it then?" Angel asked, hearing the fear in her voice.
"Her...enjoyment. It was so like what Giles described when Angelus tor-questioned him." She suddenly came back to him, and stared into his eyes.
"Angel. Did you, I mean did Angelus ever sire-?"
"I don't know, Buffy. Angelus was not always....responsible for his actions. He may have. There's no real way of telling. I think."
"But you sired Dru-."
"Yes, but that was later. Before that, who knows what I did. The only way to know would be to meet her." He paused for a moment, thinking. "Then again, I may not be able to tell, now that I am human again." They both stayed silent for a while.
"I think I'm hungry." Angel said hesitantly after a few minutes.
"Because my stomach is....churning." He looked up at her. "It feels like my stomach is curling around my spine and twisting. I haven't felt that sort of....thing for a long time now."
"Well, that's one thing that's easily fixed. Munch time." Buffy cried, brushing off the depression that had come over her. She walked Angel into the kitchen and stood with the fridge door held open.
"What?" Angel asked, standing behind her.
"Well, what do you feed to someone who hasn't really eaten in over two centuries? Go for some lasagne, or something simple?" She looked back over her shoulder at him, consideringly.
"I think we'll start with something nice and simple. Toast and butter, with a little orange juice." She got out the ingredients and popped the bread in the toaster.
"I've eaten before, Buffy." Angel reminded her.
"Yes, but you weren't taking any nutrition out of the food. Your body would need to readjust to the fact it's taking in a different kind of sustenance. I would think, any way."
"Pretty good thinking, Buffy." Angel congratulated her, an eyebrow raised in surprise.
"Why, thankie, sir." Buffy said in an English accent, imitating servants she had seen on television. The toast popped up and Buffy buttered the steaming pieces of bread and put them on the plate while Angel poured himself a glass of the orange juice. Sitting down to eat, Buffy sat across the table from him and placed her chin in her hands, staring raptly as he chewed.
"What?" Angel asked, swallowing the last bit of toast.
"Just appreciating the view." Buffy said, with a shy smile. Angel smiled back and took a gulp of the orange juice. Without warning his eyes dilated and he sprayed the orange juice over Buffy. She recoiled in disgust and wiped her face of, complaining all the while.
"What the hell was that for?" She asked.
"What was the vampires name again, Buffy?" Angel asked in a whisper.
"Addecia, why?" Buffy said, suddenly still.
"Jesus Mary and Joseph." Angel swore quietly. "What happened to her?" He demanded of her.
"I got free of the chains just as the drug wore off the second time and trapped her in a cell with a lovely view of the sky, why?"
"Was she dead?"
"Not when I left, but there was no way out and the sun hit full on the cell. She's dead now. Angel, what's the matter, do you know her?" Buffy leant forward, grasping hold of his forearm.
"Yes, I do. I didn't realise who she was until a moment ago. She's.....Addecia is a very old vampire. The name is an adaptation of her Celtic name, Addecil." He pronounced the name Athechil. "Buffy, unless you saw her dust, or dusted her yourself, chances are Addecil is not dead."
"Huh, reality check, Angel. Sun plus vampire equals lots of dusting."
"No. Not with Addecil. She was a Druid who was turned just after the start of the third century. The Druids' had a lot of power back then, and she performed some sort of ritual that allowed her to go out in full sunlight." He looked up at her, his eyes filled with pain. "After Darla turned me, Addecil got hold of me. Before I became vampire, I was a fool, yes, but I had no real desire to inflict pain or find joy in it. Addecil taught me that. She warped Angelus from what he was, a spoiled vampire who expected all to be handed to him, into the one you and Giles knew. If you did not kill her, and left her to the sun, she will still be alive." He stood up suddenly. "We must see Giles."
"Yeah, okay. I can see why you'd want to see him, but don't you think we should check out the cell first? You never know, we may just need the feather duster."
"I hope you're right, Buffy, but I very much doubt it." Angel said, following Buffy out of the kitchen.
The cell was an old prison cell. It had solid iron bars on the front, and as Buffy had said earlier, a lovely view of the morning sun. The cell was full with sunshine and Angel saw there was no way a vampire would be able to avoid that kind of saturation. Seeing no dust, he sighed. Addecil had escaped, somehow. He heard a noise behind him and spun around. Buffy was standing just outside the cell, looking small and fragile.
"You shouldn't be here, Buffy." Angel said quietly.
"I know. But how does that saying go? If you fall of a horse, get straight back on? Well, hi ho Silver, away." She pantomimed riding a horse briefly, then sobered. "No dust?"
"None. Somehow Addecil escaped this cell. For all her powers, she cannot walk through iron, nor brick. There are no trap doors. She wouldn't hold anyone in a place that had escape tunnels. Which means she had help. Question is, from whom?" He walked slowly around the cell as he spoke, and didn't notice Buffy's face. Her eyes hardened into sapphire stones, glinty in the sunlight. Her smooth face slowly frowned, memories causing her forehead to wrinkle. She started breathing heavily, terror and fright wrapping around her. Without warning she screamed in anger and wrenched at the iron bars that formed the cell wall. Angel whipped around to see Buffy tear the bars from the ground and fling them away, screaming all the while. She then turned and started in on the wooden slat bed that was in one corner of the cell. Kicking and screaming, she shattered the bed, it's hard wood not able to stand up to Slayer fury. Within moments, only splinters were left, scattering the floor. Breathing hard from exertion, Buffy looked up at Angel through her fringe and smiled, weakly.
"Feel better?" He asked, knowing what was behind the tantrum.
"Beyond recognition, my dear man!" Buffy said cheerfully. Then she looked around at the carnage she had made. She looked sheepishly back at Angel.
"I think I've got my strength back." She smiled, and Angel saw his old Buffy in her face. He grinned back.
"Now, let's go and talk to Giles, shall we?" She asked, holding out her hand.
Giles was sitting in his old office, Willow beside him. They both looked up in surprise when Angel and Buffy walked through the library doors.
"Buffy, Angel. What are you doing here?" Giles asked.
"Good morning to you, too Giles." Buffy said, jumping up onto the counter.
"Buffy, Angel." Willow said in her breathless manner. "It's so weird to see you!" She exclaimed to Angel.
"Willow, I've been back in Sunnydale for a few weeks now. I'd have thought you'd be used to me."
"No, not that. I mean, during the day." She gestured absently to the sunshine beaming in through the library windows.
"Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention. Willow, not only did you change Angel's eating habits, but you have cured him of his little allergy problem. No more fake tan cream for Angel." Buffy grinned at her boyfriend.
"Cool!" Willow said, happy to find out that the spell had worked to the best of everyone's imagination. "Um, not being Mrs Rude, guys, but we didn't think we'd see you guys for awhile. Like about a week? Whatcha doing here?"
"Mmm, well. My bad." Buffy took a deep breath. "You remember when I took that holiday a couple months back? Went to this nice room, views of, well, not much really. But the room service was....well, pretty damn horrible, actually."
"Yes, Buffy, we do remember that." Giles said, to stop her. "What about it."
"Well, the lovely hotel manager, Addecia, whom I donated the room to.....well, lets just say she didn't like the view. So she left to find other accommodation."
"Yes, with her friends in hell. Get on with the point." Giles sighed.
"Well, not actually. It looks like she kind of......rung one of her friends and they picked her up and left. No cleaning crews required."
"Huh? But that cell was open to full sunlight. How did she-." Giles was completely puzzled.
"Ahh, that's Angels part of the lovely story."
"Addecia was a very old vampire. She was once a high priestess of the Druids. I knew her as Addecil." Once again, Angel pronounced it Athechil.
"You knew her?" Giles asked, astounded.
"Yes. She was my....teacher. Of sorts. Anyway, during her time with the Druids, she found a spell that could let a vampire walk under sunlight. When she was turned, she performed the spell, and so the cell Buffy left her in would not have harmed her in any way."
"Your teacher?" Willow asked.
"Yes. Buffy commented on how....alike Giles' description of my torture and her experience with Addecil was. That's how I realised who it was. Addecil taught me. By torturing me for days on end, letting me heal, then starting again. For almost ten years, I was ...with Addecil." He looked grimly at Giles. "I suffered more than you could imagine, for all I was a vampire. Vampires cannot die from injury. As you know. I won't go into details, but let's say she went......the full monty with me."
"The full monty? Why would she want to get naked- Oh, I get it." Willow said before she thought about it.
"Any way," Buffy said, regaining control of the conversation. "The reason why we are here is because even though she could not die in that cell from a little too much sun-baking, she had to have had help getting out. We need to find out who, and how."
"And where she is. She is a very dangerous vampire. The Masters' you have dealt with before pale into comparison with her power. Remember that she's over a thousand years old. She's had quite a while to research and gain power."
"Quite true." Giles agreed. "I think we should do something about this quite quickly. Willow, can you get the others here as soon as possible. I'll get some books, and we can start researching this Addecil. Find out what we can." He looked at Angel. "I forgave you a long time ago for what Angelus did to me. It wasn't you, and I realised that several years ago. However, I think that I could almost forgive Angelus. I think I have a fair idea of what you went through. As much as any of us could."
"It doesn't excuse it." Angel said softly. Still unable to forgive himself.
"No, but it does explain it." Giles looked at him for a while longer, then turned and trotted up the stairs. Angel turned and saw Buffy with tears gathering in her eyes. She smiled mistily at him, then hopped down and headed after her watcher. Angel watched her go, then sighed hugely, feeling a great weight lift from his shoulders.
"Ohh, look here!" Willow exclaimed, pointing at a picture in one of her books. "A family photo. Very nice." The picture showed Addecil standing in full sunlight, her features contorted into the classic "gameface". Beside her stood a young man. He was standing, staring up at her, his face shining in the sun.
"When was that drawn?" Giles asked, leaning over Willow's shoulder.
"Around the turn of the century. It says below it: Adecia, the eternal, and her warrior, Bechque."
"Who the hell is Bechque?" Xander asked, sitting down heavily in a chair opposite his oldest friend. Cordelia stood a behind him.
"When did you guys get here?" Buffy asked, hopping down the stairs.
"About ten minutes ago." Xander craned his neck back to look at Cordelia. "Sasha said he would come in when?"
"He said that he'd come around on lunch time, and bring some food for us." She checked her watch. "Due anytime now, in fact."
"And now, back to the original question! Who or what is Bechque?"
"Bechque is an old warrior. He was first heard of during the dark ages, around the 6th Century. Of course, most of that is just myth. The first documentation of his existence is in the Toruil Books. They were written by a-"
"Yes, thank you Giles. Can we cut the history lecture? I'll get the tapes instead. Bechque?"
"Right! Well. He's, essentially, a warrior. He's immortal, can withstand most weapons. He's devoted and loyal to only one lord at a time, until that lord dies." He glanced back at the picture in Willow's book. "By the look of that, he's devoted himself to Addecil. Which is not good."
"How so?' Cordelia asked, retrieving a nail file from her bag and starting in on her left thumbnail.
"Well, if he's loyal to Addecil until death, then he'll be her henchman until someone manages to kill her, which isn't easy. It also means that we've got twice the problem, because to get to Addecil, we'll have to go through Bechque."
"Joy." Buffy summed it up. Oz walked in from where he was researching on the school computer in Willow's office. "We have joy!" Buffy said with false cheer.
"Good, I like joy. Nothing found." He said briefly to Giles, then sat down next to Xander.
"No problem, we have enough info for an encyclopedia on this lovely woman. The A to Z of Addecil. Look through her history, from the Amazon women through to the Zebra feast of Africa. Your children-"
"Yes, thank you Xander." Giles interrupted. "From what Angel has told me, and what Buffy knows about her now, we know this: She can move through the day, has no fear of either a the sun, nor holy water. She has a henchman named Bechque and she is not governed by normal vampire.....for want of a better word, etiquette. Which means what?"
"That she can move about and blend in wherever she chooses." Sasha spoke softly from the hallway. Angel whipped around to see Sasha standing still as a statue, with a tall brunette woman behind him, her arm around his throat. He straightened slowly and felt Buffy straighten with him. The woman moved slowly forward, propelling Sasha with her. Behind her, a figure hidden beneath a large cloak followed her every footstep. Angel stepped forward, then stopped when the woman tightened her hold on Sasha.
"Stop!" She commanded, tightening again in warning. Then the woman took another look at Angel. She smiled in surprise. "Angelus!" She whispered in very real, but horrid delight. "Angelus, my dear, dear boy! I had no idea! Fancy, meeting you here, of all places. I thought you would have given up long ago, and let some pithy little slayer" She spat this word out like a foul cuss-word, "get the better of you. I'm pleased to see you so...alive!"
"Addecil." Angel muttered. "Let him go, Addecil. He's of no use to you now."
"On the contrary, he's to be my new....project!" She smiled cruelly down at Sasha, who had remained calm and passive.
"That won't happen, Bitch." Buffy spat, coming up to stand beside Angel.
"Oh, it's the little slayer, come back to play?" Addecil turned her head to the side. "I thought you would have had enough last time you and I met. Obviously I was wrong. Want some more?" She gloated when she saw the slayer tense in anger. Without warning Sasha dropped from the ancient vampire's grasp. His knees buckled and he fell through her hold, surprising her. When he hit the ground, he rolled as fast as humanly possible toward his friends. He heard the vampire shriek in fury and tensed, waiting for her hands to grab hold of him again. He relaxed only when he felt Angel's hands pull him up and thrust him out of the way.
"Now we're even, Addecil. You have your Bechque, I have my Angel." Buffy stepped forward slightly, in her chin lifting.
"Fine, slayer. You want another round, you got one. Bechque, stay out of this. This is between me and the Slayer." She snarled and leapt forward, straight at Buffy. Buffy tensed and at the last second slipped to the right and slammed an elbow down on the vampire's back as she flew past, then spun around to face Addecil again.
"I've got strength, now, Addecil. And faith. What have you got? A little warrior dog boy? Does he fetch as well as he heels?" The slayer smiled and then attacked. She let fly with a high kick, following with a punch to the side of the vampire's head, whipping the brunette over and around. She pulled back and looked up at Angel. He nodded in silent understanding and went for the weapons chest. Buffy looked back in time to see a hand coming towards her, then saw stars as the fist connected with her jaw. She shook her head and backed up and regrouped. She saw Angel hold up the stake and nodded, then pounced on Addecil, kicking her repeatedly with her left foot, propelling her backwards. She reached out with her right hand and grabbed hold of the stake, then bounced back on the souls of her feet, letting Addecil recover slightly. Addecil, humiliated at being beaten so easily, was in a fury. She screamed in rage and charged forward, her long teeth spitting saliva as she rushed. Buffy, after a quick start, simply held her right hand forward, stake extended and waited. Addecil vanished with a puff of dust and a dull roaring sound that echoed through the library.
"Not so tuff now, are ya?" Buffy asked the empty air before her. "In fact, I'd say you were about as hard as, oh, jelly on a plate."
"Wibble wobble, wibble wobble, jelly on a plate." Buffy heard her slayerettes chant behind her. She turned and grinned back at them, then her smiled faded. She stared at the figure of Bechque standing in the entry to the hallway, his shoulders shaking. She started forward, but stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Let me." Sasha said quietly. After raising her eyebrow in query, she nodded. He approached the warrior slowly, his hands in front of him.
"Sir?" He said softly, drawing the man's attention. The figure looked up, Buffy heard a muffled gasp, then two hands slowly rose to his hood and then pushed it back. The warrior had a young face. Buffy saw that it was a gipsy face, his roman nose and blue eyes clashing nicely with his black hair and olive skin. She was shocked, then, when she saw Sasha gasp and fall gracefully to the floor.
"Mother of God!" She heard Angel breathe.
"What?" She asked as Cordelia rushed to help the warrior pick up Sasha.
"Okay, does someone want to tell me what in hell's going on?" Xander asked, looking from one spaced out Sasha to a white-faced Angel. "Dead-boy, when you said Mikhail, did you mean-?"
"Mikhail . I was born Mikhail Du Cerblick." Xander jerked his head around when the, until now, silent Bechque spoke softly. "I was dubbed Bechque during my second century. It sort of stuck." He smiled softly, still gently brushing Sasha's hair from his forehead. Sasha was staring at his thought to be dead lover in a mixture of wonder and horror. Buffy, looking at him, couldn't blame him. It took some time to realise that the man you were in love with was immortal. Hell, it took her three years, and not even then.
"Okay, so Bechque is really Mikhail Du Cerblick." Giles walked around the library, his hand massaging his forehead as he thought. "Why is he immortal? How did he come to be with Addecil? Why-"
"Ah, Giles. I don't mean to interrupt your, no doubt, stimulating self involved conversation, but, couldn't you just ask?" Cordelia said, stating the obvious. For once, it was a good solution.
"Not right now." Bechque said without looking up. "I have some things I need to say to Sasha. Is there a place to talk in private?" He asked, looking at Angel.
"Follow me. I'll take you to the sick room. That way you have a bed handy."
"Angel!" Willow said, blushing.
"I meant, I'm sure that what he has to tell Sasha is going to be a shock to his system, and he may need a flat surface!" Shaking his head, he lead Bechque, who had picked up Sasha out into the corridor.
"Well." Xander sat down in one of the chairs, releasing a pent up breath.
"Yes, well." Giles echoed him. "I need to do some research." He swung around and headed up the stairs towards the books.
"Now, why doesn't that surprise me?" Buffy muttered to herself. Angel came back in and walked straight to Buffy.
"You alright?" He asked, checking her over.
"Fine. She wasn't that tough to beat after all."
"Good. Where's Giles?" Angel looked around, noticing the absent librarian.
"Research" The Slayeretts chorused, with indulgent smiles.
"Of course. I think I may help him. I'm just as curious....Nope, not anymore."
"Huh?" Xander asked.
"I can still read Sasha's mind. Giles!" He called, and gestured for the librarian to come down when he appeared from behind a shelf.
"Never mind, I can tell you what you need to know." Giles hesitated a moment, then shrugged and walked slowly down the stairs.
"Okay, Mikhail was born Mikhail Du Cerblick. He was born around the year 156 AD. He was born of a human mother and a demonic father. He is unusual in that he can create other immortals merely by wishing them so within a binding circle. He was first called Bechque during the second century. It meant, in ancient Roman, Forever Warrior. Kind of poetic, don't you think? For the past 1500 years, he's been devoting himself to lord after lord. He says he did this because of what his father was. Left un-sworn, Bechque, Mikhail, would become a monster."
"But, what about now?" Buffy asked.
"I have a feeling that Willow is going to need to make a binding circle pretty shortly." Angel looked at Willow and smiled. "If you don't mind." Willow jumped up, eager to help the two lovers.
"Oz, come on, lets get to it!" She dragged the slow moving Oz out the door.
Mikhail and Sasha walked slowly into the library. Sasha led him forward, looking first at Angel, then at Cordelia.
"This is Mikhail Du Cerblick. He was -"
"Angel has already filled us in, Sasha. On everything." Cordelia said, walking up to shake Mikhail's hand. The old warrior was looking with horror and fascination at Angel.
"What?" Giles asked, noticing the fixed stare.
"What what?" Cordelia asked, looking at the Watcher.
"Mikhail? What is it?" Sasha asked, nudging him.
"It's just that man. He's human but he has an air of antiquity about him. He reminds me of.......but that's impossible. I was told that Angelus was sent to hell." Mikhail walked slowly towards Angel, staring intently and the ex-vampire.
"Hello? It is entirely possible. If said vampire was brought back, re-souled and then cursed as a human. God! Don't you immortal types keep up with the times?" Cordelia thumped over to a seat and collapsed in it.
"Is this true?" Mikhail asked, searching Angel's eyes.
"Yes. Yesterday Willow, a Watcher, cursed me and I became human again. You knew of Angelus?"
"I know all to well about you." Mikhail said bitterly. Buffy stepped forward, placing herself between the two.
"No, not him, Angelus. They are two different people. You will either remember it, or I will make you." Mikhail looked absently at the slayer, nodded slightly, then continued to stare into Angel's eyes.
"He looks like you. An older version, but I can see the resemblance."
"Who, Angelus? Of course he looks like Angel. They're the same body. Doesn't anyone know anything these days?" Cordelia muttered out loud.
"No, not Angelus. Adrian." Mikhail glanced quickly at the annoying brunette, frowning in irritation.
"Who, or should I ask, what is Adrian?" Xander asked for all of them.
"Adrian is Angelus' son."
"What?" They all chorused. Buffy whipped around to look at Angel, her face asking a multitude of questions.
"My son?" Angel asked, thinking he had mis-heard the ancient warrior.
"Your son. He is a full vampire, created in the early 1800's."
"I cannot recall creating a vampire named Adrian in that time." Angel frowned, trying to remember.
"That's because you didn't create him, not in the usual way."
"Okay, I am now officially the what? guy. Can someone translate him for me." Xander, as always, was taking his time catching on.
"This time, I'm with Xander. What?" Buffy said.
"Adrian is the progeny of two vampires. Angelus and his lover. He is unique in that he can walk in the sun, and holy water and crosses do not burn him. He is immortal, like all vampires, and is now close to two hundred years old."
"Okay, first of all, how is that possible, and secondly, how is that possible?" Giles stepped forward, removing his glasses and cleaning them.
"Yeah. How can a vampire have a child? Aren't they supposedly frozen, aging wise?" Buffy moved next to Giles and faced Sasha and Mikhail.
"In some circumstances, with the right vampires, at the right time, it can happen. Angel and his-"
"Angelus, please." Buffy insisted, defining the two separate identities.
"Angelus and his creation, and particularly vile creature called Drusilla-"
"Dru!?" Buffy and Angel said at once.
"Yes, well. Angelus and Drusilla were lovers at a particular point. The getting of a full vampire child can only happen between a vampire and his or her maker, and only at a certain time of their creation. The maker must be in his natural span of years, so under 70, and the new vampire must also be younger than when he or she would have died naturally. Drusilla and Angelus were together during that margin of time, and hence, Adrian was born."
"Hold on just one moment. How can an immortal grow up and become an adult if he doesn't age?" Giles started pacing.
"The progeny. I do not call it a child, for Adrian was never child like or innocent. The progeny is, upon birth, mature of mind. It chooses the age it wishes to appear to the outside world. Adrian chose that of a mature man, approximately your age." He nodded toward Giles.
"Oh, great, so we've got a vampire to deal with who likes to sun bake, goes to church, and oh, is also Angel's son?" Xander summed the situation up.
"That's about it."
"Shit." Xander cursed, then sat back, thoughtful.
"Angel? You okay?" Sasha asked, noticing that he was having difficulty breathing.
"Uh....no, I don't think so. I think I'm going to need a chair." Angel spoke slowly, carefully pronouncing each word. Buffy jumped, grabbed a chair, and lowered the shaking Angel into it.
"Angel?" She asked, hunkering down before him. He smiled at her gently.
"I'll be okay in a minute. It's not every day you learn you're a father, let alone that you've fathered a monster." He looked down at his legs in wonder. "I can't seem to feel my legs." He sounded almost blaze.
"I've got the binding sand!" Willow cried, exploding into the library. She froze when she felt the tension in the room, making Oz come to an abrupt halt beside her.
"What happened?" She asked, coming forwards a little slower.
"Angel's a daddy!" Xander said. "Let's bring out the cigars and have a celebration!" Xander managed to sound so convincing that Willow gasped in delight and went to hug Buffy.
"No, Willow, not me." Buffy said, extricating herself.
"Dru is the mother, and the boy's around 200 years old."
"Whoa." Oz muttered.
"Yeah." Angel agreed with him.
"Okay, now. I have one question. It's a really simple one, see. It goes like this. What?" Willow looked from Giles to Buffy and back again.
"I'll explain." Giles took the two newcomers away from the rest of the group and started filling them in on what they missed.
"Angel?" Buffy asked again.
"Getting there. I think I can feel my toes now." Angel looked up at Mikhail. "Where is he?"
"Adrian was last seen heading out of Pueto Rico, going north. I have reason to believe that he was heading for the 'new world'."
"Why would he do that?" Cordelia asked from beside Xander
"To find his father." He looked gravely at Angel. "My last.....mistress was a great fan of ......pain. Adrian was very good at it. He excelled at it. He had heard that his father was in America, suffering the torments of the damned, and intended to help him along. My mistress believed to get here first and show Adrian what she was capable of. She loved him, in her perverted sort of way. I last saw Adrian almost two years ago now. He'll have tracked you down by now." Angel jumped when the library telephone rang just as Mikhail finished his story, then laughed at himself. Giles picked up.
"Sunnydale High Library........Oh, hello, Sally. No, I'm working with a colleague on some..history projects...........That would be nice.......Yes, Buffy is awake and quite recovered........yes, I am free.......Okay, then. I'll pick you up around 8." He hung up and looked around at the profound silence.
"Giles and Sally sitting in a tree, KISSING." Xander started to sing, but quickly shut his mouth when the Watcher glared at him.
"That was....um, that was.....Sally."
"Yes, we got that Giles." Buffy said, humour lacing her voice.
"We.....um.....Museum opening tonight......I have to pick her up."
"Sally who?" Cordelia asked, intrigued.
"Sally McCore." Giles answered automatically.
"They mayor?" Buffy, Willow and Xander asked, incredulously.
"Cool." Oz said.
"Yes, well." Giles checked his watch. "I'd better go."
"Giles, it's like 4 in the afternoon-" Xander stopped abruptly, then looked horrified.
"Oh God! He's....he's going out on a date. I think I feel ill." Xander buried his head in Cordelia's shoulder, taking the opportunity to nibble on her neck.
"Xander!" She pushed him off. Giles had escaped, and the door to the library swung closed.
"Mikhail, I need to know about my son. Anything you can tell me. I also need to find a way to talk to Dru." Angel stood up, suddenly infused with energy.
"Okay, that's were I step in and say, how?" Cordelia stood up and approached her boss.
"Last I heard, she was with a Chaos demon in Paris. I'll look up some friends of mine in France, and get them to find her for me." He got up and headed over to the phone.
"Right, well you do that, and we'll see if we can't find your little boy for you." Xander bounded out of his chair, eager to start.
"Not the brightest idea you've had, Xander." Buffy stopped him
"Think. If this guy is full vampire, and can walk in daylight, he's got to be pretty damned powerful. And I have a feeling that Angel will want to be the one to talk to his son-" Buffy stopped abruptly, her eyes widening and her breath catching.
"What?" Xander asked.
"Angel's son! Angel's first born son!" She put her hands to her mouth, let out a little yell and leapt over to Angel, who was busy on the phone. Wrenching the handpiece out of his hand, she wrapped both arms around him and kissed him breathless.
The others watched, bemused. Angel hesitated, then wrapped his arms around Buffy and heartily enjoyed the kiss. Buffy pulled back slowly.
"Not that I mind the kissing, but what was that about?" Angel asked, looking at her.
"Huh?" She said, a little dazed. "Oh! Angel, Adrian is your son!" She cried as if that explained everything.
"Yes, Buffy, I think we've-" Now he stopped speaking, and his now flushed face paled rapidly. "Oh, God. I never." He breathed out rapidly, and groped for the recently vacated chair. "God, Buffy. My son. This makes sense now. I need to." His voice broke slightly, and he took a deep breath.
"Does anyone understand their form of communication?" Cordelia asked, completely lost.
"I don't know. Something about Angel's son-" It was Willow's turn for the wide eyed stare of realisation.
"Oh! OH! Oh dear!"'
"What?!" Xander and Cordelia demanded.
"Adrian is Angel's first born son."
"You remember the fine print on that curse? Angel needs to kill his first born to make the curse complete. Adrian is his first born."
"Oh!" They both chorused.
"That's easy then. We just rock up, Angel does the whole Hi, I am your father pleased to meet you now you can die thing, and then everything's alright again." Xander jumped backwards as Angel whirled around, roaring in rage.
"You think it's that easy? I've just.......he's my..." Angel was almost speechless with rage, fear and disgust. Buffy placed a hand on his arm, and the contact soothed him almost immediately. He turned away from the pale gym teacher and walked quietly up the stairs, sitting down with his back against a shelf of books. Buffy followed and sat beside him.
"I know he's full vampire. I can understand that. I can even understand how Mikhail can get the wrong impression of me from my actions when I was Angelus." Angel was silent for a moment, then turned to look at Buffy with pain filled eyes. "Can you understand that I don't want to kill Adrian?" Buffy nodded, her eyes filling with sympathetic tears.
"I know I'll have to. From what I gathered between the lines back there, Adrian is not the nicest son I could wish for. By the sound of it, he's a chip off the old Angelus' block. But I need to talk to him." His eyes pleaded with Buffy to understand.
"I know." She placed her warm palm up against his cheek. "Angel, I do understand. We'll find him, and you can talk to him. We'll even see if he'll listen to us and change." She hesitated. "But, Angel, I don't think he will. He's 200 years old, and as you said, a chip of the Angelus block. Angelus wouldn't have changed, so I doubt that he will." She put her hand across his mouth when he went to talk. "But we will talk to him, and try to understand him, give him a chance. I owe it to you, if to no-one else."
Angel shut his eyes and whispered his thanks and love into the hand still covering his mouth.
Mikhail turned from watching the Slayer and her lover talk quietly and looked back at Sasha and Cordelia. He saw the two laughing together, Sasha's arm around Cordelia's shoulder and felt something shift inside him. He glared at Sasha, unable to believe that after finding him so recently, he was already ignoring him and paying attention to the slut. Mikhail jerked his head up in horror.
"Sasha!" He exclaimed. The young Russian looked over. "We need to bind me, now!" He backed away from the slut- no, he thought, from Cordelia, and ended up hard against the office wall. "Bind me!"
"Hey, you two can leave that for the bedroom, thank you!" Xander said.
"Xander!" Willow said. "Oh, Blessed Mother!" Willow cursed, realising what Mikhail was saying. She leapt out of her chair, dived into her bag of goodies and brought out some white dust and candles. She looked up at the sweat soaked warrior.
"Hold on. Give me a few minutes to set up the binding circle. If you want Sasha to be-"
"I do." He panted, looking at his lover. Sasha frowned, but nodded, and walked over to hold onto the panting, pale immortal.
"Okay." Willow went to work, quickly setting up the binding circle, chanting quietly. Within a few minutes, the circle was set up, and she gestured for Mikhail to step in. He did, but the effort looked almost too much for him.
"What's the matter with him?" Cordelia asked Sasha as he helped the pale Mikhail into the circle.
"Leave him alone, bitch!" Mikhail whirled to snarl, hatred and violence staining his voice red. Cordelia backed up rapidly, seeing death in the black eyes.
"He's being released from his vows, and now he's....becoming a little more demonic that we like around here. The book didn't say it would happen this quickly." Willow explained. "Sasha, get in the circle with him. Hold onto his hands, and whatever happens, don't let go." Sasha frowned, but did what he was told. Buffy and Angel, hearing the chanting going on behind them, now stood at the railing, watching silently. Sasha looked up in doubt, but Angel smiled reassuringly. Mikhail noticed.
"I'll kill you, vampire!" He lunged forward, snarling madly. Sasha, although completely out-gunned in the strength department, held on, calling to get Mikhail's attention.
"Mik. Mikhail." He turned the enraged face towards him with his hand, looking deep into the steaming black eyes. "It's alright. I'm with you. Deep down, you know that." Sasha put a hand behind Mikhail's back, and gestured for Willow to start. He then placed both hands on top of Mikhails. "I won't leave you. We belong together. Now, I want you to concentrate on my eyes, don't look anywhere else." He watched at Mikhail started breathing slower, his eyes turning from black, endless pits, into the deep brown that Sasha knew so well. Without warning, Mikhail was on the ground, staring blankly at the ceiling. Sasha, in his worry to keep in contact, ended up half sprawled over the catatonic Mikhail.
"Mik?" Sasha shifted himself up, looking into his face. The eyes blinked rapidly, then turned to look at Sasha. He smiled slightly, then sat up, stretching his neck.
"That was a little too close for my comfort." Sasha started to get up and release his hands, but Mikhail tightened his around Sasha's.
"Not yet. One more thing." He frowned. "This shouldn't hurt. I hope. I haven't actually done this for anyone before, so you're kind of an experiment."
"Huh?" Sasha asked.
"He's going to make you immortal." Angel said softly. Sasha stared blankly up at him. Before he could actually register Angel's comment, Mikhail's eyes went pure black. Sasha stared in amazement as even the white disappeared from the eyes. They started shining blackly, and in the distance of his eyes, Sasha saw white points appear. The white points brightened and shot out from Mikhail's eyes straight into Sasha's. Sasha gasped, his body flung backward. Only Mikhail's hold on his hands prevented him from falling. Within moments, the light had disappeared, and Mikhail's eyes were back to normal. Silence reigned in the library.
"Okay, wow." Xander breathed. Cordelia, standing close beside him nodded in silent agreement. Sasha was sitting quietly, his eyes shut. To everyone's relief, the Russian had a quiet smile on his lips. Mikhail was looking tensely at his lover. Sasha opened his eyes.
"You were right, lover. It didn't hurt." The smile broadened. "Not at all." He looked at Angel. "I figured it out."
"What?" Angel asked, completely confused.
"Your little telepathy thing." Angel frowned, trying to figure out why Sasha was talking about his telepathy now.
"It said in that spell that love will reveal and conceal. It's much simpler than we all thought. Love revealed your telepathy, and now that you know you have it, only those who you love can conceal their thoughts from you. If you so wish, you may find out any being's thoughts. And emotions. This was given to you to help you and Buffy try to rid this place of evil. Just thought you'd want to know."
"Um....yeah. I suppose." Angel stuttered, frowning.
"We need to find Adrian. Now, before he realises that you are here again. I don't know what he'll do if he finds out you're here in Sunnydale again." Mikhail stood up, waiting impatiently for Willow to disband the binding circle. The moment it was broken, Mikhail stepped outside and headed for the books. He seemed to know exactly where he was going.
"Hey, Mik!" Xander called. The ancient warrior turned around. "Where you off to, Mr Impatience?'
"To find out what I can about this.....town." He pulled down several books, looking inside briefly, keeping a few, placing the others back.
"Why?' Oz asked, speaking for the first time in a while.
"So that I can figure out where Adrian is going to gravitate to. He has an.....affinity for very strongly evil places." Mikhail answered absently, looking through one of the books in his arms as he made his way back to the desk.
"In what way?" Buffy asked, following him.
"He feels the ......power of evil. He's always been drawn to it. Which is why he was fascinated with my ex-lady. If nothing else, she had a passion for evil." He flipped a page, frowning as he read the English on the page.
"Considering that I've been fighting said evil for, oh, about six years now, why don't you go directly to the source? That being.....the Scooby gang, and myself."
"Scooby gang?" Sasha asked for both himself and Mikhail. "What is this Scooby gang, Cord?" He looked at his work mate.
"Some silly little thing they made up when they were 16. Xander was Shaggy, Willow was Wilma, and Buffy was-"
"Not helping, Cord." Sasha said, cutting her off.
"Oh, sorry. American pop reference. Cartoon that was on when we were kids. Cartoon dog called Scooby-do, and his friends-"
"Thanks. I understand." Sasha hoped to shut her up quickly.
"Wow, Cord. You sounded like the G-man then." The library phone rang, and Xander, being the closest, answered.
"Heya, G-man. Talk of the devil-.........How?......Where?........" Xander looked up at Buffy, his eyes deeply serious. "I'll send her over right now." He hung up, still staring at Buffy.
"Problem?" She asked, already knowing the answer.
"Sally McCore has just been kidnapped." She and Angel swore and swiftly left the room. The Scooby gang, plus their new recruits, quickly followed.
Giles was pacing in his apartment, wiping his glasses continuously. He looked up when Buffy and Angel entered.
"What happened, Giles?" Buffy asked her watcher.
"I got this phone call from this man. He said that since this was the last phone number Sally rang before leaving the office, I must be pretty important. Then he told me that Sally was with him. And then he said that if I wanted the mayor back in one piece, that I would hand over that "little blonde slayer-slut, and the current screw." His words, not mine. I got the feeling that he knew who I was, and who your were." He looked at Angel. "He said that you were to meet him at 12 tonight in the graveyard, where the Master was buried the first time." Giles' worried eyes met Buffy's. "Buffy, he knows way too much about us all. He then let me talk to Sally briefly. God! She sounded so scared and hurt." He shook his head. "She said that he told her to tell me that not even the Angel's could save her if I didn't do as he asked.. I have a feeling that that wasn't a reference to God." Giles sat down abruptly, his head in his hands. Buffy came up and sat beside him. He looked at her through bleak eyes.
"Buffy, I haven't felt this way about anyone since...."
"Since Jenny." Buffy said quietly.
"And it's my fault you're feeling this again." Angel muttered, anger brewing deep in his chest.
"Huh?" They both asked, looking up at the ex-vampire.
"I killed Jenny. No." This was to Buffy's quick denial. "Whether you like it or not, these hands kill Jenny Calendar. These hands also helped to create Adrian. Who has your Sally now."
"You don't know-" Buffy protested.
"Who else?" He shot back. "Who else would know about you and me, and be interested enough to find the Masters' first grave, and torment Giles. And what was that reference about Angel's about, if not about me. No, Buffy, as much as you or I may want to deny it, it's Adrian." His face hardened, became like granite. "And whether he knows it or not, he's just stepped over the boundary from prodigal son to something that must be extinguished." He looked gravely at Giles, who was mouthing the word son in shock. "I will not let my......foolishness and carelessness cause you any more pain. I vow this, Rupert Giles." His voice had a formal, ancient ring to it. Giles bowed his head in acceptance, still a little stunned..
Buffy looked at Angel. "You know, if this son of yours is almost 200 years old, you think he'd have more imagination. I mean, 12 midnight is so........ corny."
Angel was sitting in Buffy's apartment, cleaning weaponry. He had a set, grim look on his face. He pulled the barrel from the rifle, and quickly dismantled the weapon, then started to grease it quickly and expertly. Across the table from his sat the love of his life, copying his movements just as expertly. The room was silent, save for the sound of cloth on metal. Every few minutes, one of them would look up at the clock on the wall, checking the time. Half an hour passed in silence, in which many weapons were stripped, cleaned and put back together again. When Buffy found herself about to re-clean the first rifle, she stopped abruptly and shook her head. Then looked across the table at Angel, who was now re-cleaning a huge broadsword. She sighed, worried about him. He looked up suddenly.
"I'm alright Buffy. This is just something I have to do. I've accepted it. We'll get this over and done with, and then we can get on with out lives."
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked, still worried about his state of mind.
"I'm okay." He repeated, and if he said it a little too forcefully, they both chose to ignore that. Within moments, a staccato rap sounded on Buffy's apartment door. Buffy quickly got up and opened the door, her hidden hand holding a small gun. She quickly put it in the waistband of her jeans and stepped back, shocked.
"Angel!" She called, stunned. Angel stood, and came up behind her.
"Dru!" He gasped, as stunned as Buffy.
"Hello, my sire!" Dru whispered. "You asked to speak to me?" She said.
"Yes, but how did you get here so quickly from France?" Angel asked, staring at the mad vampire.
"My Chaos master. He's got all these pretty colours. They come and take you away, and then you're where you want to be." Dru walked straight into the apartment and sat down on one of the couches in the lounge room. A speechless and stunned Buffy and Angel followed.
"How did you enter without me inviting you in?" Buffy demanded.
"The pretty colours. They let me anywhere." She twirled a strand of hair around her forefinger. She snarled and vamped out when Buffy pulled a stake out of her blouse, and went to snatch it away from the slayer, but her hand passed completely through the slayers.
"Huh?" Buffy asked. Dru tutted to herself.
"Silly Dru. I forgot that I'm not really here. The pretty colours, they're very good at making you forget. They kind of .......swirl all around the place...oooh!" She squealed, looking at something that neither mortal could see.
"Dru." Angel said, impatient. "Drusilla! Why are you here?"
"Our son, my Angel! Our pretty little boy. I never told you about our little Adrian. Someone told me not to." She giggled, still staring at what Angel suspected was the Chaos demon's compaction of time and space.
"Who?" Angel demanded, when he processed her last statement.
"A pretty pretty lady. She was old. Older than you, My Angel. Older than my Chaos master, even. She said that later, she would have a big surprise for you, and Adrian was part of it." She giggled again, and finally looked her sire in the eye. "Addecil said that you would be so pleased with the present, that you would come back to me, and we would always be together. Has she given you her present yet?" She demanded, suddenly very serious.
"Almost. Tonight. But she's dead now, Dru. Buffy killed her. You can go back to your chaos master now, Dru. It's about time in France for rush hour, and I know how much Chaos Demon's love rush hour." He watched Dru sigh and nod.
"Yes, my chaos master gets very friendly after a good rush hour. Bye, my Angel. Have a good birthday." With that, Dru became merely a silhouette filled with swirling colours and lights, and then disappeared. Buffy and Angel let out breaths they'd been unconsciously holding when the final colour disappeared.
"Addecil, huh? Seems' she's been interested in both of us for a while." Buffy said, walking slowly to the couch so recently vacated by Dru's shadow.
"Hmm." Angel muttered.
"What was that about birthday?" Buffy sat back, a frown on her face.
"What? Oh, I was born on the 28 day of the month of March, 248 years ago. I think she must have gotten the days mixed up, I've got weeks til my birthday." He sat back beside Buffy, deep in thought.
"Ah, Angel. I hate to tell you this, so I won't. Just pick up today's paper for me, will you?" Angel did so, absently. "Okay, now read me the little writing in the top right hand corner. That's it."
"The Sunnydale Times, 28 March 2004." He put the paper down and looked at his fiance. "Buffy, what does-" His head snapped back to look at the paper again. He read the date several times, then swore softly. "I thought it was the start of the month. What the hell happened to March?" He demanded.
"I have a feeling most of it went by in hospital, trying to wake me up." Buffy said softly. Angel swore again. Buffy smiled softly.
"Happy birthday, my love." She put a hand on his cheek, and turned him towards her. Softly, she kissed his lips. Well, at first it was soft. Then things got a little more heated. A knock at the door brought another, harsher swear word from Angel, and a chuckle from Buffy. Straightening her top, she opened the door to Xander, Cordelia and Giles, who quickly stepped inside. Buffy cocked an eyebrow, but said nothing.
"Mikhail has told us all he knows about what will harm Adrian. There's not a hell of a lot to go on. Like he said, holy water and sun does nothing to him. And, because of his immortality, a stake won't do it either. He did say that there was a possibility that a ......thing wielded by his sire - this time, in the genetic sense of the word - would do the trick."
"A thing Giles? Can you get a little more specific? Like maybe, a magical thing, or a mechanic thing, or even a big pointy thing. Cause I have lots of them in my spare room. " Buffy sat down, relying on old patterns to help them through this crisis.
"I wish I could, Buffy. But that's all the information I have, and that's second, if not third hand."
"It's okay. I know how to kill Adrian." Angel said, quietly.
"HOW?" They all chorused.
"Not with a weapon. Nothing forged will kill him. I must kill him with my own hands. Take life from that which I gave it." Angel stared, trance like, at the table top. "Those who seek to take the life of an immortal must take it in such that he who gave it must willingly seek to take it. With no more to him than when he gave it." He seemed to be quoting from something.
"Does anyone want to translate to the guy in the black shirt, sitting up the back. That guy, being me?" Xander asked.
"I have a feeling this is more of that love will reveal and conceal thing." Giles answered. "He has to go and take the life of Adrian with nothing but what he had when Adrian was conceived."
"You mean he's got to fight Adrian naked?" Xander demanded, a horrified expression on his face. "Remind me that I want to read the book, and not see the movie of that particular fight. That way I can just skip to the end, where ex-deadboy here's all nice and not-naked again." Xander shuddered dramatically.
"I have to say, I agree. I've seen Angel naked, and I really don't want to repeat the process. Mind you, he does have some really nice-" Xander covered Cordelia's mouth rapidly, noticing the narrowing of his friend the slayer's eyes.
"When did you see Angel naked?" Buffy demanded.
"Oh, he was in the shower, and I got out of bed and went in and there he was, in all his naked glory, and boy, what-" Once again, Xander gagged his girlfriend.
"What were you doing in his bed?" Buffy voice would now freeze an Eskimo.
"I lived with Angel for a few months-"
"Cordelia, shut up." Angel said, coming back to the land of the living. "I had camped out on the lounge, and she took my bed, while we looked for an apartment for her. It was about three weeks. That was all I could stand." Angel hastily explained to a silently furious slayer.
'And you'll all be pleased to know that I will be dressed for the confrontation tonight." He pushed his chair back, ready to leave.
"How do you get around that I must kill him with what I had when I made him clause?" Xander asked for all of them. Angel hesitated briefly.
"Let's just say that that time was a bit of a rush job." He looked uncomfortably at Buffy.
"Huh? Oh, I get it, they didn't bother to take of their-" Xander once more put his hand over his girlfriend's mouth.
"I think I should invest in a gag. It'd be a lot easier." Xander said in an aside to Giles. The watcher nodded in agreement
"I hate to ask this, but how do you know which time was what?" Giles asked, a little hesitantly.
"Huh? Oh." Cordelia looked at Angel. "Yeah. How can you tell one time from another. I mean you and Dru must have done it, what? At least a thousand times-"
"I really need a gag." Xander shoved his hand over his girlfriends mouth one last time. Xander glanced worriedly at Buffy, who was quietly tapping the sofa arm with her fingers. He noticed that there was a warn patch underneath her hand. One that hadn't been there only moments before.
Angel cleared his throat, also glancing at the furious slayer. He opened his mouth to explain several times to speak, closing it in a snap each time, unable to explain. Buffy turned to look at the sheepish Angel, one eyebrow raised in silent query.
"Ah, can I have a moment here guys?" Angel asked the others, gesturing with his head for them to leave. Giles nodded and dragged the other two with him into the kitchen.
"Well?" Buffy asked quietly.
"Umm. Well. Can I use the excuse of love will reveal and conceal?" He asked, hoping.
"Nope. Guess you'll have to go for door number two."
"Can I just say that Dru and I really......didn't bother with the whole ...... how do I put this delicately......flesh thing. We kind of just.....did the .....deed and went on with things. So really, most times, there was clothes involved." Angel was flushed with embarrassment, looking guiltily at Buffy.
"Okay. Thanks for that mental image." Buffy shook her head to get rid of it.
"You okay?" Angel asked, reaching towards her. Buffy put up a hand to ward him off.
"Just...give me a moment." She looked up at him and smiled crookedly. "The mental image is still strong. Just give me a minute?" She repeated. Angel retreated slightly, nodding in understanding.
The library was quiet when Angel and Buffy walked in. Giles was seated in one of the leather-cushioned chairs, reading as always. For once, his face did not look peaceful and calm. He looked stressed. Stressed and scared.
"Giles?" Buffy asked, coming up and placing a hand on his shoulder.
"Buffy." Giles stood up quickly, closing his book.
"It's almost time for us to leave." Buffy said quietly. She glanced up automatically at the clock on the wall above the office. With half an hour to go, they had some time to reassure Giles.
"Good, let's go then." Giles started forward.
"Ah, Giles. This is just a trip for me and Buffy. I don't want you there." Angel placed a hand on the Englishman's arm. Giles stared at the hand for a moment, then looked into Angel's eyes. What was there made the two hundred and fifty-year-old ex-vampire step back then nod in understanding. The three of them walked silently out of the library.
Buffy's car was parked outside the library, it's boot loaded down with weapons. Giles looked at the car riding low on its rear axle and asked a silent question.
"Weapons." Angel said shortly.
"But, don't you have to kill Adrian with you bare hands?" Giles asked, hoping into the back of the car. Angel nodded and he pushed the seat back and sat in the drivers seat.
"Yes, but he's bound to bring some friends along. The weapons are my presents to my to be step-son's friends. I thought it would be a nice way to break the ice, you know, to show what a kind and thoughtful person I am, and how well I'll treat his father." Buffy joked as she got into the passenger seat.
"That makes sense, I suppose." Giles said, not sounding convinced.
"That's what we thought." Angel started the car, the purr of the engine making him smile in pure male satisfaction. Buffy did have good taste in modes of transport, Angel thought as he roared out of the school car park.
As always, the cemetery was deserted. Not that the three in the car expected any different. Angel popped open the boot, reaching in to grab some nicely sharpened stakes and some very clean rifles. Giles grabbed a few wooden stakes himself, then picked up a pump-action shot gun and some shells. He loaded the gun rapidly, causing his two companions to stare in surprised fascination. He looked up and saw them watching.
"So I know how to use a pump-action. I did study all types of weaponry, not just Robin Hood methods, you know." Giles walked towards the entry into the cemetery. The other two scrambled to catch up.
Adrian was standing underneath the tree on top of where the Master had originally been buried. With him, tied up like a calf in a rodeo, was Sally. From close to 200 metres away, Angel could see the state that Sally was in. He stopped abruptly, and quickly pulled up Buffy and Giles. They both turned, surprised.
"Giles, I want you to stay here, and watch for any friends. Buffy come a little closer with me, but not too close." They both immediately objected, loudly.
"Do as I say." Angel didn't raise his voice, didn't change his tone, but behind his order was a weight of over two centuries of willpower and experience. The other, much younger humans, obeyed without another word. Angel and Buffy moved closer.
"Buffy, I want you to watch Giles. Sally's been pretty badly hurt. If Giles sees what's happened to her, he may go a little haywire on us. I just need you to watch my back, and take care of Adrian's Plan B for me."
"Are you going to be okay?" Buffy asked softly, one more time. Angel took a deep breath and took his eyes from his son. The first time since Adrian had come into sight.
"I'll live. Just ask me that question tomorrow, will you?" He went to put a hand on her shoulder, but remembering what she had asked earlier in the day, dropped it again. Buffy saw and understood. She reached up with her own hand and placed it along his jaw. Then went on tiptoe and softly kissed his mouth.
"I'll be here for whenever you're ready to answer it." She said, and followed him a step behind up to his son.
Adrian stood underneath the tree, leaning idly against it's trunk. Sally was lying on the ground, blood staining her clothes and clotting her hair. To Angel's experienced eye, she had been worked over very thoroughly. He stopped Buffy from following with a hand gesture. Then walked to within ten meters of the immortal full vampire.
"I see you've taught your bitch to heal as well as lay down." Adrian sneered.
"Hello Adrian." Angel responded softly.
"Ah! So you know my name. Do you know who I am?" He asked, still sneering.
"Ha! Well done, Daddy dearest. It's me! Your long lost son. Did you miss me?"
"I didn't even know you existed until a few days ago. I'm sorry for that." Angel sounded truly regretful. His truthfulness seemed to enrage Adrian.
"Sorry! You're sorry! I don't need your regrets, daddy dearest. I'm my own man." He stood up from the trunk of the tree and moved into the soft moonlight. He appeared to be around early fourties. One would think, when looking at him, that he was a successful businessman. An executive. His hair was black, smoothed down into a perfect part, down the right hand side, as fashion dictated. His shoes looked to be imported from Italy, and his hands were smooth and soft. He raised his eyes to meet his fathers, and Angel saw his own looking back at him. He stood amazed as he felt his heart lurch inside his chest, then he ruthlessly squashed any romantic thoughts about converting his son. All he had to do was look down on the poor woman in front of him to remember what this person was. Adrian noticed him looking at the silently crying mayor.
"You like my bait, daddy?" He absently kicked Sally, who winced slightly, shutting her eyes in defeat. She had gone past the point of hope, and was waiting for death to release her. Angel looked away from the defeated Sally, knowing that he had put many victims into the same state.
"All you had to do was ask, Adrian. I would have come to you." Angel still spoke quietly, without any emotion in his voice.
"Ah, but where would the fun be in that? You see, this way I get to finally meet my most absent father, kill him, his most pretty bitch and have some fun with her friends at the same time." He smiled in satisfaction when he saw the women twitch at the plural.
"Ah! So the slayer-bitch has finally caught on. When was the last time you spoke to your witch friend, or that piece of animal shit, the were-wolf? Ah, there look! She's trying to remember." He turned back to see if Angel had reacted. Angel saw a feint twitch of annoyance pass across the man's face. He almost smiled in reaction. He knew that emotion at a time like this could loose you the battle. He reached out with his heart, and found Willow and Oz, alive and well. Okay, so maybe they were a little bit kidnapped, and trapped somewhere with no natural light. Or any light at all, for that matter, but Adrian hadn't had any fun with them. Yet. Angel planned to keep it that way.
"They're okay, Buffy." He said tonelessly to the slayer and felt her immediately relax. Adrian frowned, puzzled.
"How do you know that?" He asked, abandoning his theatrics for a moment. Angel half smiled, and didn't answer. "Doesn't matter. I've got you here for a reason, daddy dearest. I suppose you've already worked that out. But do you know what it is?" He looked expectantly at his father. Angel shook his head silently. Adrian frowned again, looking annoyed.
"You should! She told me you would!" He pulled on his jacket bottom hard.
"If you mean Addecil, I'm afraid she didn't have time to brief me before Buffy killed her." Angel waited breathlessly for his reaction.
"You killed her!" Adrian roared, whipping to face the slayer.
"Hey, I didn't like her sense of style. She had this horrible idea the purple and lime green went together. I mean, what person would put a purple and lime green together?" Buffy decided to take the opposite tack to Angel, and answered flippantly. With a scream of rage and pain, Adrian went flying forward, then with an oath stopped abruptly. Teetered on the edge of a black circle that Angel hadn't noticed before, one that he had entered. He swore softly himself.
"That's right, old man. You're now in a binding circle. We can't get out, and your whore over there can't get in. Seeing as Athy didn't get to tell you what this is all about, I suppose I'll have to fill you in. It goes something like this. I kill you, and I become completely indestructible. Nothing and no one can harm me. So you see, daddy dearest, it looks like we're both here for the same reason. To kill each other. Isn't that nice? Family getting together around a common interest."
Adrian watched as Buffy started forward, smiling cheerfully at her when she saw the circle. He waved at her, taunting her from inside. She snarled softly, then retreated. Giles had walked slowly forward while Adrian and Angel were talking, and finally got a look at Sally. He stared, horrified, for a moment, then on a groan of pain, darted forward. Buffy grabbed him around the waist, and stopped him.
"Let me go!" The watcher demanded, snarling at his slayer.
"It won't do any good. They're all in a binding circle. You'll have to wait." Buffy looked up at a noise, and noticed several vampires stalking the two of them. "To keep you busy, how about helping me?" Buffy walked forward, startling the vampires. "Out of towners. At least the local's know when to run." She watched as one particularly stupid vampire started smiling, thinking that he would have an easy meal. She smiled back, and without changing stride, staked him and moved forward. As he disappeared into dust, she saw the others hesitate.
"That's right, fella's. What you got before you is a regular Sunnydale Slayer. Who's next?" Buffy tossed the stake negligently, waiting for some brave stupid vampire to convince itself it could take her on. One did. And couldn't. Two more decided to team up, coming at her from both sides. Buffy ducked down, sweeping her leg out to off-balance one of the vampires, while punching up with her other arm, sending the second vampire flying. She jumped back up again, facing the first vampire. She finally got a look at him, and noticed that he looked familiar.
"John?" She asked, recognising one of her old school friends. She felt a pang of dismay at his death, then set about finalising it. Attacking John with both her hands and feet, she juggled the stake into thrusting position, getting it's weight. Without warning, she was pulled backwards, pinned up against the second vampire, who was gloating at John.
"Got her! You want to bite this sweet little neck, or shall I?" The second hissed at her ear. She froze for a moment, waiting for the opening she knew would come.
"I want to, Samuel. She totally ignored me at high school. I think it's time she took notice." John grinned, his teeth flashing in the moonlight. Buffy held her breath, waiting. John leaned forward, opening his mouth over her neck. She smiled as she broke free of Samuel's grasp, thrusting forwards with the stake at the ready. She pushed harder as she felt it penetrate the dead flesh, then watched as John's face crumpled to dust before her. She rolled forward, flipped over and stood up facing a stunned Samuel.
"One thing you need to remember, Samuel." She advised the soon to be dead vampire. "I may be a lot of things, but sweet I ain't!" She did a cartwheel, ending up just in front of the vampire and didn't give him time to react, thrusting the stake into his chest and bouncing back to look at what remained of Adrian's Plan B.
"I'll tell you guys something, free of charge. One, I have this strange not-vampire on my turf. Two, I've learnt that my fiance has to kill him with his bare hands. Three, I have this whole group of vampires who have decided that they want to invade my territory and cause some grief. Now, how do you think this Slayer is going to feel about all this? That's right. Go to the top of the class, Mr I-so-need-to-update-my-hair-do! She's mighty pissed off. How do you think you guys are going to go against an angry slayer?" She saw the others hesitate, looking from the fuming Slayer to their boss, in the binding circle, and scattered, rapidly.
She turned back to see Giles crouched by the circle, as near to Sally as he could get. He was whispering to her quietly, trying to get her attention. Sally continued to stare straight ahead, out into the darkened cemetery. Buffy pulled her attention from Giles, to look at Angel and Adrian. Adrian was looked excited, eager. Angel was expressionless. As Adrian continued to talk, he started frowning as Angel's expression remained calm. She walked forward and listened. Then wished she hadn't.
"Then, Athy told me about how you'd gotten those two twins. How you worked with them both, trying pain on one, and seeing if the other felt it. She told me that's where the Nazi's got the idea in World War Two. Athy said that you would rip out the eyes of one girl, in front of her sister, then ask the other girl questions. Then break all of that twins fingers and twist some off, and ask the other twin if she felt it. Then Athy-" Buffy realised that Athy was Adrian's name for Addecil.
"Did Athy raise you?" Buffy asked, trying to stem the stories about Angelus. Adrian looked over to Buffy, frowning.
"Why aren't you dead yet?" He asked, puzzled. He looked around the cemetery.
"If you're looking for your Plan B, I kinda convinced them to go play elsewhere."
"Huh?" Adrian was not used to Buffy's flippancy.
"She means she killed most of them, and the others ran like rats." Angel explained, smiling briefly at his slayer.
"But....but, they're not supposed to. I'd planned it so that they would kill you!"
"Ever hear the saying the best layed plans of mice and men?" Buffy asked. "Well, guess what." She paused. "I'm still trying to figure out if you count in the former or the latter description. I'll get back to you." She smiled when she saw him trying to figure it out. When he did, he leapt for her, and bounced back off the binding circle walls. Angel raised an eyebrow at his son lying on the ground in front of him.
"It seems that while you keep me from escaping, and anyone from helping, you also can't get anyone." Angel said softly. "Pity about that, isn't it son?"
"You're wrong, you know." Adrian said, snarling. He rolled quickly, and yanked Sally up to stand in front of him. He placed his hands on her neck, in position to break it. Angel cocked a brow, outwardly looking calm. Inside, his heart was beating too fast to count and he was sweating buckets.
"I can still kill the bitch here." He moved his face into her neck, nuzzling softly. "She was such a good girl. Held out longer than most. I remember the first time I took her. Screamed the place down." He looked up and grinned at the picture of the slayer holding a raging watcher back. His grin widened when he saw the tears running down the slayers face, and heard the threats running out of the watchers mouth. He looked to his father, who was still standing, unmoved, on the edge of the circle. Adrian frowned again, briefly. He moved the almost catatonic woman's hair out of the way, sniffing at her neck like a dog. Then he licked her.
"She tastes good. Like copper and strawberries. You remember that taste, daddy dearest?" He pulled away the ropes that bound Sally. Pulled on a hand and lifted it. The fingers were black with bruising and all three saw the lack of fingernails. The beds were still oozing blood. Adrian lifted the fingers and sucked the blood off them, one by one. He heard Buffy snarl and Giles rave some more. He grinned again, pleased with their reactions. But still, Angel did not show anything.
"You want some, old man?" He asked, lifting her other hand.
"I'm human now, Adrian. I don't have to drink blood to survive." Angel paused to appraise his son. He was looking a little frayed around the edges of his eyes. As if nothing was going quite right. Angel judged a few more minutes, and he would be completely off balance.
"Human? You actually became human again?" Adrian smiled, looking pleased. "Well, that makes everything so much easier! I had anticipated an all out, rip roaring fight, but if you're human, it'll be easy." He paused, cocked his head to the side, staring at his father. "You know, I'm kind of disappointed, in a way. I was looking forward to a good, all out fight with you. Ah, well." He shrugged, not looking at all upset at the news.
"Well, actually. I may be human, but I've still got the ...powers that I had as a vampire, so it looks like we're going to get to that fight you wanted after all." Angel walked slowly around to the other side of the circle, watching as Adrian turned with him. He stopped when Adrian was facing away from Giles and Buffy. Then moved forward suddenly. Adrian, briefly startled, stepped back a step, and ended up at the edge of the binding circle, in front of Giles and Buffy.
"Shall we?" Angel asked, as if they were merely going for a walk. Then he lunged forward, grabbing Sally from his son, and throwing himself up into the tree limb above him. Adrian looked up, confused. Angel left Sally lying gently in the arms of two tree limbs, then jumped back to the ground.
"I thought that it would be better, just the two of us. Buffy, can you get The Mayor down, please? Stay out of this, though." He warned.
"Uh, hello, Old Man? There's this whole binding circle thing. Your whore can't get in to get her precious mayor out, or did you forget that in your dotage?"
"I hate to point this out, Adrian, but the tree dissects the binding circle. It starts within the circle, but the branches reach out beyond it. Buffy will travel a branch into the circle and retrieve Sally. She will not interfere." He saw Buffy nod her head in understanding and leap up to grab the nearest limb, swing up and stand on the thick branch. They all watched her reach the now comatose mayor and lift her up, slowly dragging her along the branch, out of the binding circle. Angel heard a brief whisper of noise, and turned to his son a fraction too late. He saw the roundhouse kick approaching his head, and ducked quickly. The kick glanced of the top of his head, but still sent his ears ringing slightly. Adrian followed the kick up with a sweep of his other leg, trying to get his father of balance. Angel jumped up, and the leg went underneath him without touching.
"We've started, have we? I didn't hear the bell, sorry." Angel quickly went into defensive mode, watching Adrian stalk him round the circle. He needed to get Adrian angry, so that he would forget about fighting techniques and fight with emotion. He rushed his son, hitting him across the face with a closed fist, whipping the black haired head around. He followed the punch with another to the stomach, putting his considerable weight and strength behind it. Adrian staggered backwards.
"So, this is the great plan, is it, boy? Get your father in a circle, with no one else to help you, and try to kill him? Great plan. Must have taken a hell of a long time to figure out the details. What, about a day? Gee, and it took all this time to actually get me here?" Angel punctuated each statement with another punch, walking his son around the circle. Adrian growled low in his throat.
"Athy wouldn't let-."
"You let Addecil tell you what to do? I thought you were stronger than that?"
"I am! I'm stronger than everyone!" Adrian seemed to tire of talking for the moment, and attacked Angel quickly. Even Buffy, with her unnatural ability, had difficulty seeing most of the punches being laid on her fiance. But Adrian was definitely making contact. Blood would suddenly start pouring from a lesion that was previously un-touched skin. During Adrian's attack, Angel stood, merely defending off the blows he could, moving with those he couldn't.
"Angel, please!" Buffy begged, desperate to help him.
"No!" He roared, turned toward her. Adrian took the opportunity and leapt up, kicking him in the head, sending his father tumbling towards the edge of the circle. Angel briefly saw stars, then bounced off the edge of the circle, and turned towards the fuming, slightly out of breath man in the circle with him. He felt a pang of regret, seeing the triumph and glee in the unnatural eyes.
"I'm sorry, Adrian." Angel said softly, understanding what had corrupted the full vampire.
"For what, Daddy dearest? The fact that I can fight better than you? That I can fight and win? That I'm a better man than you are?" Adrian was gloating. Angel shook his head sadly.
"Not for that. You aren't a man, Adrian. You are an abomination that should never have been conceived. For all that you are my son, you should not be. You should never have been. And for that, for my part in that, I ask your forgiveness." Adrian snapped. Angel didn't even see the blow coming, but he felt it. His stomach felt like it had just been hit by a bus, and he blew his breath out, stunned. His son then slammed his fist into Angel's face, drawing more blood from the lip. Then Adrian went for his knee with his heel, hoping to break the kneecap. Angel decided he'd had enough. He stepped in, Adrian's foot going around the back of his leg, almost hugging him. Angel jerked his own knee up, making contact with his groin. Adrian doubled over, wheezing and groaning. Bringing his hands together, he brought them down rapidly towards Adrian's neck, aiming for that most fragile of area's. His eyes shut in pain as he completed the blow, hearing the neck snap as he connected. Adrian dropped without a sound, his heart stopping in mid beat. Angel dropped to his knees beside his son, head bowed in extreme pain. He felt the circle go down around him, but did not care. He reached out and rolled his son over, smoothing the hair off his face.
"Adrian?" He asked, without hope. As he expected, he got no answer from the vacant eyes. He lifted his son up and held him for the first time cradled to his chest. "I'm sorry." He was whispering. "I'm sorry." Again and again he repeated it, unconsciously rocking.
Buffy looked up from Sally McCore, who was laying in Giles' lap. Her heart cried out when she saw Angel crouched on the ground, hugging his now-dead son close to him, weeping silently. It was not often that she had seen him cry. No more than three times in the years that they knew each other. She went to go to him, but changed her mind and stayed back. Hearing a faint noise from the ground, Buffy turned back to Giles and Sally, and saw her eyes open, staring up at Giles in horror.
"NO! Get away from me!" They both watched the Mayor of Sunnydale cower into a foetal ball, her hands covering her head, whimpering. "Don't hurt me. Please, don't hurt me." Giles reached out to her, but Buffy put her hand on his, stopping him. He looked up, his eyes flashing savagely.
"She can't deal with you right now, Giles. She won't recognise you, just see you as male. And from what Adrian said to Angel, she really can't handle men right now. Leave her to me. Go and see to Angel and Adrian." She squeezed his hand in reassurance, then turned her back on him, leaning over Sally.
"Sally. Sally, it's Buffy. Sally, can you hear me? Sally?" Buffy repeated her name constantly, trying to get her to emerge out her shocked state. She gently, slowly turned Sally over, easing her out of her ball of fear. The terrified woman looked up and saw Buffy leaning over her, and in her petrified mind, recognised safety. She lurched up and clasped her arms around Buffy's waist, holding on tightly. Feeling the warmth of another body, someone who was not there to hurt her, the mayor let out an agonised whimper, and started sobbing softly. Buffy could hear some healing in that sobbing. She placed her arms around the distraut woman and comforted silently.
"Angel." Giles tread softly towards him. "Angel, we need to get Sally to a hospital. And your.....son." He knelt before the grieving man. "We need to get explain how this happened."
"No need." Angel spoke just above a whisper.
"What do you mean?" Giles asked just as softly.
"He's aging." Angel pulled his son away from him, and Giles saw what he meant. As he watched, the skin was shrivelling and flaking, the hair turning grey. The skin was shrinking onto the bones, aging as they watched.
"Buffy!" Angel called softly. "Bring Sally here." He heard his slayer get up, pulling the still weeping woman with her. "Look." He said softly to her and laid his son gently on the ground, stepping back. Sally turned and looked down. Adrian was barely recognisable, but the bone structure rang true, and Sally could see her tormentor in the aged man before her. As she watched, the skin turned to dust, and all that was left was bones and clothing. She heard the tall dark man muttering under his breath, and watched wide-eyed as he knelt down again, tracing a cross on the skull bone.
"Who is that?" She asked, her voice was hoarse from screaming.
"His name is Angel. He was Adrian's father." Buffy said softly, leading her away, giving Angel time alone. Giles followed the slayer, staying a small distance, watching Sally like a hawk.
"We'll explain it later. Right now, you need a hospital." She led Sally off in the direction of Rupert's old car. Helping Sally in, she remembered Oz and Willow.
"Angel!" She yelled at the top of her voice. Angel appeared within minutes.
"What about Willow and Oz?" She asked him. He paused for a minute, then smiled.
"I think they'll be fine until morning. I let Oz know earlier that they would be okay, so now they're enjoying their forced....company."
"Oh.. Well, we've got to take Sally to the Hospital...Did you...?"
"No. I think I may take a walk." Angel looked briefly back at the tree looming over almost half of the cemetery and then turned his back and walked away. Buffy watched for a moment, her being crying out to go to him, but she knew that he needed time. She turned back and got in the car. Giles started it, and headed for Sunnydale Hospital.
"She's been standing there for the last-." Xander checked his watch. "Two hours. When is dead-boy going to show up?"
"Xander!" Cordelia said sharply. "Don't call him that."
"He'll come when he's ready." Willow said, as usual sticking up for the downtrodden. "He had a very not-good experience yesterday. He'll be here."
"Besides, he turned up this morning the let us out of that basement. So it's not like he skipped on us." Oz came into the lounge room of Buffy's apartment carrying a tray of coffee mugs.
Buffy let her friends drone on behind her, knowing that their conversation centred around her and Angel. They were worried about her. There was no need. He was coming. She could feel it in her bones. She had known since the night before, when Angel walked slowly away from her, never looking back, that he would return. She just had to wait for him.
She and Giles had taken Sally directly to the hospital, where she had been treated for rape and severe body tissue damage. They had waited with Sally until late morning, when Giles had sent Buffy home to rest. Sally had nodded her head in agreement. Now that she was awake and in somewhat familiar surroundings, she was feeling much safer. Giles stayed in her room, sitting next to her in one of the uncomfortable chairs that all hospitals seemed to purchase. He never touched her. She wasn't ready for that yet, he was just there as silent support. Buffy returned to her apartment close to midday and slept for six hours straight, her nose buried in the pillow that somehow still held Angel's scent. The Scooby Gang had turned up close on sunset, loaded down with pizza, pasta and beer. That was two hours ago, now. Buffy's heart leapt when she heard the elevator chime, announcing it's arrival. She straightened, and got everyone's attention immediately.
"Buff?" Xander asked for all of them. Buffy raised her hand to silence him.
They saw her peer out the front window and frown in confusion.
"What?" Willow asked, getting up to go to her.
"It's a...guy in a tux. But it's not Angel." The doorbell rang, and Buffy looked at the others, then went to answer it.
"Miss Summers?" The guy asked when she opened the door. Buffy nodded in reply. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope, handed it to the silent Buffy, and left.
"Buffy?" Willow urged.
"It's a note from Angel. He wants me to come down to the car park." She looked up at her friends. "Why does he want me to come down to the car park?"
"Only one way to find out, Buffy." Oz suggested. They left the apartment, closing the solid door behind the last one, and all piled into one of the little elevators that serviced the building. Reaching ground floor, the elevator chimed, and the doors slowly opened.
"What the-?" Cordelia muttered, being the first out. The others followed, looking around in amazement. It seemed the entire population of the building was on the ground floor, all staring out into the car park. The group made their way through the crowd, eventually getting to the front doors. There, they all paused save Buffy, who kept walking forward, through the glass doors and into the evening air. Angel was at the other side of the carpark, waiting silently. Between them was a lawn of the greenest grass, covered with small pink and white flowers. On the grass seats were arranged in several rows, all facing Angel at the other end of the grass. Buffy stared in wide-eyed amazement. Beyond the grass, flowering rose bushes were set to block out the traffic from the road. Just in front of Angel stood an enormous archway, covered in green leaves. Buffy noticed that just beyond Angel stood a man dressed all in black. With a little white collar around his neck. Buffy froze.
"Willow!" She whispered, turning around to look at her best friend. Willow and the others were grinning widely and she noticed that Sasha and Mikhail had joined them. "What-?" Willow took pity on her dumbfounded friend and walked towards her.
"Buffy, you're getting married." She drew Buffy aside, and into a small tent that had been set up to the side. In the tent, dresses were hanging up, and there were shoes and a....veil placed near them. Cordelia had followed them inside, and was smiling slightly.
"Angel didn't want to wait any longer. We only knew about this about three hours ago. We hid it well, didn't we?" Cordelia was stripping as she spoke, looking towards the deep green dress in longing. If there was one thing she'd taught Angel in the last four years, it was how to recognise fashion when he saw it. He was a good student.
"Buffy?" Willow asked, noticing that Buffy was just standing there, motionless. "Buffy, you need to get changed now. He's waiting for you." Buffy jerked, then sped into motion. She ripped off the light summer dress she had on, then turned to look at her dress. She gasped in delight. It had to be one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. The ivory satin skirt was straight and without adornment. The bodice, separate to the skirt, had silver stitching and around the bottom of the bodice, pearls had been embroidered into it. She looked closer and noticed that they were, in fact, real pearls. She pulled on the skirt, noticing that there was a large train at the back that skirted the grass floor. The bodice fit like a glove. She pulled her hair out of it's no nonsense pony, letting it fall naturally around her bare shoulders. Her shoes, strappy white heals came last, finishing the look. Or so she thought.
"Buffy?" Willow said again. She was now dressed in a copy of the same dress as Cordelia, both imitations of her dress, but in bottle green. "You forgot something." Willow held up the veil.
"Oh." Buffy said distractedly.
"Squat down." Cordelia suggested. Buffy complied, and Cordelia rapidly ran a hairbrush through her hair, neatening it slightly, but leaving it loose and free. Willow reached forward and placed the small, very light veil on top of her head, adjusting it slightly. Buffy stood up straight again and turned to a mirror that was placed in the far corner. Her eyes teared up, but then she took a deep breath and settled herself.
"Where are the guys?" She asked them both.
"Getting changed, too. C'mon, we've kept them all waiting long enough." Cordelia stepped outside, holding up the tent flap for the other two to follow. Willow exited, then Buffy, with another deep breath, left the tent.
Giles stood there with his hand out to her. He was suited up, his cumber-bund and neck tie the same colour as Cordelia and Willows' dresses. She looked around, noticed Sally in the front row, a wheel chair at the end of the row. Xander and Mikhail were seated with her, leaving one chair in between them. She felt Giles take hold of her hand and tuck it into his arm. She looked up at him again.
"Hello, Giles." She said softly.
"Buffy." She could hear the Brittish accent very clearly. "You look....stunning." He spoke softly, then leant down and kissed her forehead gently. She inhaled his aftershave, and sneezed. He grinned suddenly.
"Sorry, I forgot that you don't like this one. Sally does, though."
"No problem. How is she?"
"Getting better. We'll talk later. Right now I have to walk you down the isle."
"Oh. Okay then." She turned with him, Cordelia and Willow in front of them both. From somewhere came some soft music. She now noticed that the rest of the seats had been filled up with friends of hers, as well as the rest of the people in her building, who were all smiling at her. After several moments, Giles stepped forward, dragging Buffy for the first half step. Then she caught up and the walked slowly up towards....Angel. She finally saw Angel again, next to him was Oz and Sasha. Giles finally reached the end of the isle and handed her gently over to the tall groom. The moment she touched his hand, things blurred.
Neither Buffy nor Angel remembered much of the ceremony, but witnesses assured them that they were indeed married, and conducted themselves beautifully. They supposed that they had to be married, for their signatures were on the certificate, along with Cordelia's and Willow's.
The reception was held in the gardens of Angel's mansion. Food and drink were plenty, and The Dingoes played in one of the marquees. It looked like the Bronze away from home in that particular marquee. Willow, as usual, was sitting down watching Oz play. In the six years since they had first gone out, she still hadn't tired of the past time. Angel and Buffy watched her from another marquee.
"You think they'll ever do what we did?" Angel asked his wife.
"What? Get married?" Angel nodded. "No, I don't. They're happy how they are, and they don't need anything more in their lives. Except maybe little Willow and Oz's running around. That would be nice." She was distracted by loud voices coming from the other side of the garden. Cordelia and Xander were having an all out screaming match.
"Now them, on the other hand. If they can just stop fighting and bickering with each other for more than an hour, they will. And I think it'll be a good marriage, too. But please God! No little Cordelia's running around. One in the world is enough."
"I love you." Angel said it softly. He had been saying it regularly now since the wedding, just injecting it into the conversation, no matter what the topic. Buffy had yet to complain.
"I love you too..... Hey Giles, Sally." Buffy stood up to greet them. Sally was looking much better than she had the night before. While her injuries were many, they were not too severe, just painful.
"Buffy. Sit down, please." Sally waved them down with her hand. Giles squatted down beside the wheelchair. Sally looked at Buffy for a moment, then turned to Angel.
"Mr....What is you last name again? I didn't hear it at the ceremony." They all paused for a moment.
"Summers. We decided that I'd take Buffy's name. I....we thought, given my history, that Buffy's name would be more appropriate. But call me Angel."
"Angel. I wanted to thank you for what you did for me last night. Rupert has told me some of it, how that m-man was insane. I just wanted to thank you for what you did for me. I-."
"Ms McCore. You don't need to thank me. Jut concentrate on getting better." She nodded her head. Giles stood up and stepped to the back of the wheelchair, ready to take Sally home.
"Buffy, we need to talk about your....job. There is a....special task that I think you need to take care of before the end of the week. I'll talk to you about it tomorrow, though." He smiled at them both, and turning the wheelchair around, walked away, talking softly to Sally.
"What do you think?" Buffy asked Angel softly.
"Them two? Oh, definitely. Before the end of the year. Oh, before I forget. Sasha and Mikhail said to say goodbye. They've gone away for a few weeks, until Sasha gets used to being a little bit impervious to harm. They'll be back, though. Sasha promised me that." He paused for a minute, looking over at where Xander and Cordelia were now engaged in what was sometimes referred to as tonsil hockey. They seemed to have sorted out their disagreement. He looked over to where Will and Oz were and noticed that The Dingoes had finished their set and Will and Oz were talking quietly, their hands resting together on top of the table. Angel came to a decision.
"Let's get out of here, shall we? I've had enough of this." He took Buffy's hand, pressing a kiss into the palm. Buffy nodded in silent, but wholehearted agreement. They both stood up and disappeared inside without their guests even realising it.
FOUR YEARS LATER
"Jeremy! Give that back to your sister!" Buffy commanded from her seat in the courtyard. The three year old glanced at his mother, recognised that she was serious and reluctantly handed back the bucket to his twin sister. Deciding that he didn't want to play sandcastles anyway, the little boy jumped up and ran on sturdy legs to the swing set just beyond the sandpit. He struggled with the slippery dip ladder but grinned hugely when he finally got up the four steps. He sat down, ready to push himself off when he saw his daddy walk in from the doorway to his office.
"Daddy!" He cried, pushing himself off the top of the slide, gravity doing the rest. As Jeremy knew he would, his father caught him soundly as he flew off the end, causing him to giggle ecstatically.
"Daddy!" Angel turned his head to see his daughter running towards him, arms flung up.
"Hi, sweetheart." He pulled Sarah up into his arms as well, giving both children noisy kisses on their necks, making them squeal with laughter. He put them both down on the ground, patting their bums. "Go play in the sand pit, kids. I've got to talk to your Mother." Momentarily surprised by their immediate obedience, he didn't hesitate and walked over to where Buffy was lounging in one of the outdoor lounge chairs. He leaned over and kissed her gently, then sat down on the other lounge.
"Got a letter from Willow and Oz just now."
"Oh?" Buffy asked, sitting up straighter.
"Yup. They say that Paris is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, and that they're both having a blast."
"Good." She chuckled. "Funny how we got that wrong, isn't it?"
"What, Will and Oz?"
"Yes. They got married within a year of us, and we're still waiting for Xander to ask Cord." She shook her head. "I have a feeling he won't. He doesn't want to push his luck."
"Well, you were right about Giles and Sally." Angel grinned, moving from his lounge to the floor infront of Buffy, his back to the lounge. Buffy lay back down again, putting her hand in his deep brown hair, gently stroking his head. They both watched the children playing. Jeremy with his toy jeep, Sarah with her favourite toy Mr Pointy II. Giles and Willow had both confirmed that Sarah had the Slayer ability from the moment she was born. Buffy wasn't going to let anyone tell her that Sarah couldn't have a normal life and be a Slayer. All they had to do was look at Buffy herself. Two kids and a husband during the day, at night she was the demon's worst nightmare.
"Sasha and Mikhail dropped by while you were out." She informed Angel
"Yup. They wanted to tell you that you were right."
"Oh.....Good." Angel remained quiet until Buffy hit him over the head.
"Tell me!" She demanded, then heard him chuckle.
"Okay, seeing as how you asked so nicely. You remember that love will reveal and conceal thing that was part of my cure?"
"I think so, considering you're now psychic because of it."
"Well, it's not just telepathic abilities that I've got. Have you noticed a decline in demonic population recently? Once bound, the world will hold no secrets, nor fear. Forever after, love will reveal and conceal. That's what the cure said. Okay, so we got the no secrets part worked out. It's the no fear that I'm right about." He looked at Sarah, happily flinging Mr Pointy II around. "By the time Sarah becomes Slayer, there will be little to no need for it. The demons are slowly being killed off. By the time Sarah and Jeremy have children, the world as we know it will hold no fear." He turned to look at Buffy.
"That is one hell of a legacy to give to our children." He said, then turned back to watch their children play in the autumn sun.
Buffy & Angel - Their world