Someone ran quickly down a row of headstones, heading for a mausoleum. Behind them, a rather large, dark-blue creature was following. Although humanoid in form, the creature's piercing purple eyes, and the fact that it had long, sharp silver spikes seeping out from every orifice on its body, quickly proved to anyone who saw it, that it was far from human.
When it reached the entrance to the mausoleum, it growled a warning to whoever had gone inside. Suddenly appearing inside the doorway, Buffy Summers' form stood motionless, looking in the creature's direction. Wasting no time, it swiped its arm, which sliced right through the Slayer.
However, she just vanished into thin air, going up in a whisk of smoke. Obviously perplexed, the creature's confusion turned to anger and it howled in rage. Coming up from behind, Buffy grabbed it by the neck, and threw it down to the ground.
"D'you like that? I can saw myself in half too." It got up and stood in front of her. She pulled a knife blade from her back pocket. "Hurts like hell in the morning, but it's great at parties."
The creature started to shake violently, screaming. It then exploded outward, its flesh and insides splattering Buffy's outfit, face, and hair. She was blinded so much by it, that for a second, she almost missed dodging a spike that came directly at her head.
She slipped off her jacket, turned it inside out, and wiped her face.
"Coast is clear," Buffy said.
Willow emerged wearily from the mausoleum, stumbling down the steps. Fearing she might fall, Buffy rushed and caught her.
"Did it work?"
"Like a charm. Took a lot out of you, didn't it?"
"No, I'm fine…" Willow's body was completely relaxed, and her eyelids were drooping.
"I told you that you were pushing the witch stuff too fast. That must have been a heavy spell."
"It was, but if it can fool the bad guys into thinking you're someplace you're not…" She yawned.
"It can be a big help. I know. Come on let's get to the apartment before you collapse."
"I'm glad they let us move our stuff in a day early."
"Yeah, it's time to really test the shower. What was that thing again?"
"A noccoti. Instead of letting the thing they're hunting get the better of them…"
"They get their prey all icky, and leave them with permanent stains on their new outfits. Do I want to know what's all over me?"
"Nothing really. Just demon goop. Well…"
"If they fed recently, you'll have…um…dead flesh on you."
Buffy sniffed her arm. The flesh was rotted, and unmistakably human. She got a revolted; 'I'm going to vomit' look on her face, and said the first thing that came to her lips.
They reached the door to their room, and a piece of paper was tacked to it. Willow tore it off, and turned the knob so they could enter the room. Buffy immediately ran into the shower, and Willow fell down on the bed. They had moved the two beds together, so they had a lot of room inside.
Willow had a brand new desktop computer that her parents had purchased for her, set up on the desk in the room. Pictures of the two of them, some alone, some with Xander and Oz, which were taken over the summer, were on the desk as well. Buffy's Mr. Gordo, was on top of the monitor, and her supplies were in the chest under the bed.
Willow started to read the paper.
" 'Attention all on-campus freshmen, if you have not yet registered for your classes, the registration office will accept people starting at six o'clock but no later than 9:30 tomorrow morning. The lines will be long, so it is advised that you get there as early as possible.
" 'Also the campus store will be open for text purchases starting at 6:30. Have a good year.' See?"
"See what? That the Hellmouth is getting more inventive? " Buffy asked over the noise of the water.
"That too, but aren't you glad we registered months ago for the courses?"
"Is this your way of saying I told you so?"
A few minutes later, Buffy stepped out of the bathroom, putting on flannel pants and a nightshirt. She flopped down next to Willow.
"You wanna use the shower?"
"Just wanna sleep."
"I'm gonna have a hell of a time taking my clothes down to the washroom tomorrow. I can picture the stares already."
Willow yawned. "Cordelia would have a panic attack."
"When's the last time she wrote?"
"Two weeks ago. She said her place was better, but she was still looking for work."
"I hope she makes it."
"Me too." Buffy pulled back the covers, and picked up Willow's feet, helping her underneath. "And Oz should be here tomorrow. He got that place with the band off campus."
"What about Xander? He's been going from job to job lately."
"He could've gotten in if he had just tried a little harder. Not all the classes are as difficult or advanced as the ones we took." She sighed, sad that Xander didn't seem to want to do anything with his life. "But…we have English together, right?"
"Yep, first thing. So we should," Willow had fallen asleep on her shoulder, "get some sleep."
Buffy smiled, and followed her soon after. Tomorrow, college began.
As she moved through her day, Buffy realized something about college teachers. Unlike high school teachers who pretended to care about you but you knew they really didn't, college ones made it a point to make it perfectly clear that they didn't give a damn.
'Whoever said honesty is the best policy must have been one hell of a liar.'
English wasn't so bad. Willow had found it interesting, and so that carried over to Buffy. As long as Willow was there to help her out, she could stay headache free. And that was hard to do considering each class was filled with what seemed like a million people. How was she supposed to learn with that many people clamoring for the attention of one professor?
What really stunk was that Willow was not in any of her other classes. She could've dealt with that if she found someone else from Sunnydale High. By the end of the year, she had been on friendly terms with most everybody, but here she felt lost in a sea of strangers.
Her criminology class was going to be challenging. Of course, she had to get the oldest guy in the world as a teacher, but it was neat. Sure it had a lot to do with theories, memorization, and abstract ideas, but trying to understand why criminals and killers did the things they did, would definitely be an experience. Probably a frightening one too. Sometimes she forgot that there were people who could be just as bad as demons. Or worse.
Her classes were over for the day, but Willow's weren't. If she remembered correctly, Willow had about an hour before her next class, so she was trying to find her so they could have lunch. On her way to the food court, she met up with Oz.
"Hi, Buffy. Higher education. Bizarre."
"You too, huh?"
"Seems like most of the staff here are high school teacher rejects, and they look at college as a punishment. It's one thing to come here with the band and play, but getting involved in this place…"
"I'm right there with ya, but at least you know people."
"Yeah, but after voluntarily not graduating for five years, while the guys you knew left on time, there tends to be distance. Looking for Will?"
"You seen her?"
"She should just be coming out of the computer lab."
"Thanks, Willow. I'll see you tomorrow, right?" A girl asked in the computer lab.
"Sure. It's really simple once you get past that command. You'll see." Willow gathered her stuff and made her way out of the lab.
College was, well, great. Challenging was the word that kept popping into her mind. And that's what she needed. She never really felt challenged in high school. Not that she didn't enjoy it, but she never felt, academic wise, that she had learned much.
College was different. At the start, she was a little unnerved at the fact that the professors didn't seem to think of you as an individual, and instead just another part of the mass. She had always tried to get to know her teachers. It was in her nature to be friendly towards people. She just looked at her professors as another challenge.
If she wanted to be recognized, she'd have to earn it, have to work for it, and prove herself. And she was more than willing.
People didn't look down on her either. The word nerd or geek was not coming out of anybody's mouth when they saw her. Everybody was the same, struggling to get through their classes, and they looked to fellow students for help. Willow was appreciated here, and she felt good.
She hoped Buffy was doing okay. As they were leaving English, Buffy had seemed lost. She knew it was all a new and somewhat overwhelming experience, and it wasn't like she hadn't felt it. But she looked on the positive side of it, whereas Buffy always tended to go negative.
College made you feel so small, so insignificant, and she guessed that was why people joined sororities and fraternities. Beyond the partying and drinking, they were places where people could go so they didn't feel so small anymore. That's what it was really. About people sticking together, and helping each other get through the four years that was higher education.
On that thought, she sped up her pace, and went to find Buffy.
Underground, in a cave-like structure, the Noccoti tribe was huddled around a primitively made fire. Lining the walls were deceased human bodies, all in various stages of decay. Some were partially eaten; some were not. The leader sat and watched as one of the lesser slaves threw a body onto the fire.
This meal was one in memory of a fallen member. The one who had died honorably in battle with the Slayer. They may have been primitive, but they took death of warriors very hard. The leader grabbed a slick, blue object up into his hand, and held it above his head.
The others bowed in respect to the heart of the fallen warrior. As he dropped it into the fire, growls of anger and pain echoed through the cave.
They both decided after trying to search for each other, that if they just went to the food court, they'd eventually see one another. Sure enough, they walked in at the same time. They headed over to a table.
"I feel like a moron. I've been looking for you everywhere." Willow said.
"Then consider me Moron Number Two." Buffy said.
"So how was your guys days?" Willow asked Buffy and Oz.
"I pretty much blanked it out." Oz said.
"It was okay, I guess. It's gonna take some getting used to."
"I know what you mean, but it'll get better. I met all these cool people though…"
Buffy listened as Willow talked excitedly about her classes, and how great the people were.
'I still haven't learned from her. Here she is happy, and I can't be. What's wrong with me?'
Willow looked at her and frowned. Oz had been around them enough to know what was going on, so he excused himself from the table.
"Nothing's wrong with you. I'm too happy. It's a flaw."
"That's not a flaw, it's a gift."
"Maybe you can't be super happy all the time, but don't let it get you down. We both have a chance to start over here. Nobody's judging you, Buffy. They don't know who you are."
"Isn't that the problem?"
"No way. You can make friends easily. You're a very likeable person, Buffy. All you have to do is make an effort. You're not known as a delinquent here. You don't have a reputation. You're just Buffy Summers, college freshman."
"Okay, when did we switch roles?"
Willow smiled. "I'm just as unknown as you are. We'll both make friends and do well. Together."
"I like the sound of that."
Willow looked at her watch. "Got one more class."
"Then I'll meet you later?"
"We going grave hopping again?"
"Unless you didn't want to."
"You kidding? I love graveyards. Later Buffy."
Buffy sat in the apartment, reading through some of the different clubs and her course texts. She was going to do well. She was. She was going to get involved. The cordless phone rang, on the dresser, and she picked it up.
(Hello, Buffy. How are things?)
(Hey Giles! Things are okay. I really wish you could've come up here with us)
(I tried, honestly. They weren't hiring, unfortunately)
(Don't let bachelor life go to your head, okay? It would gross me out)
He chuckled into the phone. (I found out more about the Noccoti)
(I killed him. Not to worry)
(Yes, well the one you killed was part of a tribe)
(How come I don't like where this is going?)
(Most likely, they'll come after you out of revenge for their fallen comrade)
(Well that's just great)
(Do you want me to come up?)
(No I can handle -)
A scream came from the ground floor of the building.
(Buffy, what was that? Is everything all right?)
She ignored him, and ran down the stairs to the crowd that had gathered at the guard station. The door was smashed, and Buffy pushed her way through. On the ground, the mangled body of a security guard was huddled next to his head.
"I came in…and I saw this thing…he looked at me…oh My God!" A girl frantically said.
Buffy looked up from the body, to the girl, and then to Willow who had just gotten in.
(Giles, I think you better get up here)
Later, the whole gang was back together, following the trail of bodies the creatures had left for them.
"Why don't they just come attack me? They killed four people and I couldn't stop it."
"They're calling you out." Xander said who had come along with Giles.
"These are creatures of honor. This was their way of challenging you openly." Giles said.
"The body count that seems to be leading somewhere, could also mean trap." Oz said.
"That's what I'm thinking." Willow agreed.
"What else have we got to go on? I just wanna stop these things before they do anymore…" Buffy trailed off, and stopped. They were a few blocks off campus now, and they had just entered Breakers Woods. In front of them was a large bloodstained rock, and above that, hanging from a tree, was a skinned buck carcass.
"At least they stopped with people." Xander said.
They looked around, and saw nothing. Oz started to smell the air.
"Under us." He put his hand to his nose, trying to stop smelling. "Human flesh. Cooked."
They went to move the rock.
"Everybody take weapons. Swords. Take them out before they…" Buffy looked at Willow.
"It's not pretty."
A thick mist began to fill the cave. The creatures had heard them coming, but became disoriented. One climbed out of the large hole, and stuck his head above ground. A second later, his head and body fell back down.
The creatures, enraged, jumped out in twos, and knocked Buffy down. There were eight of them total.
"At least they're out in the open now." Buffy said.
While they still were all huddled together, Xander and Oz took advantage and came at a creature from behind, and stuck both their swords through its back. It fell. The remaining six split up, three went after Buffy and Willow, the others after the guys.
"Their leader's still underground!" Giles said, grabbing his one of his assailant's spikes on the head, and twisting. The thing growled in pain and shoved him down.
"So?!" Buffy called, trying to kick one, but instead cutting her leg.
"Kill the leader, stop the rest." Willow said, swinging her sword and just clanging it against a chest spike.
"Go! We'll hold them off!" Xander yelled.
Buffy grabbed Willow and tossed her as gently as possible, out of harm's way.
'Don't mess up.' Willow told herself.
She started to chant. "You are blinded. She does not appear. Vocus! Torili! She vanishes!"
Buffy stood in place for a minute, and looked at her three confused attackers. She sprinted quickly, and dropped into the hole.
In the cave, the only thing Buffy could see was the fire. As she got closer, she saw the bodies. Dozens piled up on top of one another. Before she could think too much, she heard a growl.
She spun around, but couldn't see anything. She picked up a piece of wood, and lit it on the flames. The leader rushed her, but she jumped to the side. She held the flaming piece of wood out in front of her, warning off the snarling leader.
He stood there, and they were eyeing each other. He took a step closer, and so did Buffy. After a few moments they ran at each other. The leader was quicker, and he grabbed her by the throat, lifting her off the ground.
He opened his mouth, and his jaws were sharp and gleaming off the firelight created by the makeshift torch Buffy still held in her hand. She shoved it into his throat, and he dropped her. She backed up, and watched.
The leader was choking. As he clamped down with his jaws and snapped the wood that was gagging him, the flame spread, destroying him. With one final roar, flame shot through his head, bursting it. His lifeless body dropped to the ground.
Above, Buffy heard silence, and then a collective roar. Rushing out of the cave, she went to help her friends.
When she got up top, she saw an extremely disgusting scene. Demon innards were all over the place. Not to mention on her friends. She didn't see Willow though, who came up behind her. She was clean.
"I tried to warn them." Willow said.
Buffy smirked as the three, goop covered, and most likely flesh covered, people stood in front of them.
"Thanks for the help."
Several hours later, after everyone insisted on using their shower, Buffy and Willow were alone once more. Oz had returned to the band's place, and Giles and Xander had gone home.
"So, did Xander say anything to you about -" Buffy started.
"Nope. I'm scared for him. Life wise. Eventually, he won't be able to coast anymore, and his parents will kick him out…"
"He'll be okay. We'll force him to let us help."
"He does need to be forced."
"Then we're just the gals to do it. You really came through tonight. Two spells almost in a row. You okay?"
"I'm fine. Those were nothing like the one last night. Making another you is hard work. Pretty darn good duplicate if I do say so myself."
"You better be happy with the original." Buffy said kissing her.
"How could I not be?" Willow kissed back.
"What a way to start off the year, huh?"
"Is it any different then any other year?"
"No, and you know what? For once that might not be bad. Might not be as different as I thought."
"Positive energy. See? It's a good thing."
Little did they know that positive energy wasn't going to cut it. It only got you so far, and they'd need a lot more than that to face the challenges ahead. In an abandoned mansion, a blood red flash tore into the air, and an old enemy emerged.
"Buffy…hope she didn't miss me too much." Angelus said with an evil glint in his eyes. With a walk all his own, he went out in search of dinner. He was starving.
Right before he had been returned, he was only told how much time elapsed, and nothing else. Hell was interesting; lots of opportunities. Especially for a guy like him. Rivers of blood filled with hate, anger, despair, fed him. He was given free reign over minions lesser than him, and that was all fine, but one thing plagued him.
Buffy. She hadn't been punished. He had never gotten to see the fear in her eyes before he drank from her. She was an obsession to him, and he was in no way done obsessing. Last time, he had barely gotten started on her before Acathla popped up. And being the fool that he was, he had to take the opportunity to end the world when it presented itself.
But he wouldn't deviate from the plan this time. No, Buffy had his undivided attention, whether she wanted it or not. She was his, whether she wanted to be or not. After he had had his fun, then he would make time to destroy the world.
He assumed that Buffy was now in college. Enough time had gone by. Immediately after leaving the mansion he headed for the all night auto body shop in town. The fat, middle aged owner was fixing up a Cadillac. He thought about expending energy on the man, but it wasn't what he had in mind.
Quietly, and swiftly, he hopped into the car, and the man underneath didn't even notice. He hit the glove box, and the keys rolled out into his hand. He turned the ignition, and backed up out of the open garage. The man was able to roll out of the way just in time, and stood up, cursing at him.
Angelus gunned the car forward, smashing the man into the wall, blood splattering everywhere. He backed up again, and drove off towards UC Sunnydale.
"Today was, wait for it, actually fun." Buffy said in their apartment.
She had actually taken notes. And she had actually talked to someone who helped her understand the material. Her professors might have been jerks, but once she paid attention, she realized they were very passionate about what they taught. It made learning easier, despite the class size.
"I knew you'd have a good time here."
Willow had known Buffy had a good day before she said anything. She could hear her thoughts clearer, and from farther away than before. She was startled at first, but then happy, because they both were thinking about being alone all day. She was going to do something a little less her in another minute or two.
"There's this cool sorority that I've been looking at, and the best part is they don't have any weird type of initiation process."
"Really? What do they do?"
"Parties, study groups, parties, book club, did I mention parties?"
"No, I don't think you did."
"I must be getting forgetful. I don't know why though. I'm not old, and I'm not drunk."
Buffy had heard Willow all day too. It had been normal today. Giles hadn't called with any new demons to slay, and vampire activity had been quiet for awhile, so she could skip patrol tonight. It would be nice to be alone together for awhile. They both needed it.
"You wanna hear about this other sorority?" Willow asked, stepping closer to her.
"It's called the Willow Club."
Buffy giggled. "Oh yeah? What do I need to become a member?"
"Be blond, a little over five feet tall, greenish-brown eyes, an ability to fight the forces of darkness wouldn't hurt…" Willow wrapped her arms around Buffy's neck, and started to kiss her.
"Do I meet the requirements so far?"
"Oh, yeah. Just one more thing."
"You have to have a thing for redheaded hackers."
"I'm your girl then."
"Yeah, you are."
Willow pushed her down on the bed.
'Wow. What's gotten in to you?'
'Are you complaining?'
Willow started slipping off Buffy's shoes.
'Am I speaking?'
Willow grinned, and continued.
Angelus' brand new Cadillac crashed through the closed entrance gates that led onto the campus. He sped up the driveway, but before he was within enough distance to be seen, he stopped the car, and walked in the shadows further towards the main buildings.
He made his way along the side of the lighted walkway, glancing at his surroundings. Eventually, he saw a girl carrying a few books walk in his direction. He stepped in front of her on the walk, and smiled.
The girl stopped abruptly, and dropped her books.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
"No, I'm just…" She got a better look at him, and started to blush.
"It's late. You sure you should be out here?"
"I was just coming from the library…they're open twenty-four hours. It's a pretty safe place."
"It had better be. Shame if something happened…" He leaned down to pick up her books. "Law?"
"Oh yeah. I tried getting into Harvard, but apparently I wasn't perfect enough. Sunnydale…well it wasn't my first choice. Lot a weird stuff and all."
He handed her the books. "Yeah, I've heard stories. Hey, you wouldn't happen to know where the freshman building…"
"It's over past Fletcher Hall. You visiting someone?"
"Kind of. Haven't seen her in awhile, and she wasn't at home so…"
"Well, you've got about fifteen minutes before outside visitors aren't admitted anymore tonight. You could come back tomorrow, and I could take you there myself." She said coyly.
"Thanks for the offer, but…" He grabbed her neck, his demonic features now apparent, and sank his teeth in. After a few seconds, he dropped the girl off to the side. "It's kind of urgent, and I'm not a patient man."
He grabbed a white rose off of a nearby bush, and ran it along the dead girl's blood trail, gathering up as much as possible, tainting the rose's pure white color.
Walking past Fletcher Hall, he looked to his right and saw the freshman apartments. He glided over to the large oak tree that had grown almost to the top of the building, and was a convenient place to be able to look in without being seen. He scaled the tree quickly, looking in the windows on his way up.
On the third level of the building, or the second floor of apartments, he saw her. She was not as he expected. Far from it. Who was that other…Willow? She was making love to Willow? He must have been seeing things.
As he continued to watch, it realized his eyes weren't deceiving him. Slowly, tenderly, Buffy was moving over every inch of Willow's body, and she was smiling. She looked happy. And as Willow pulled her down for a kiss, he could make out three words.
'I love you.'
He dropped down from the tree, and landed on his feet. He growled angrily, his true face showing once more. This wasn't right. This wasn't right at all. Things were going to have to go a little faster than he'd planned.
He burst into the front door of the building, and was met by a guard.
"Sir, you can't be -" The man got a look of horror on his face before Angelus snapped his neck.
"I won't be long. Just want to give her something."
Willow was lying comfortably, snuggled up against Buffy.
"We're getting stronger, aren't we?"
"Yeah, we haven't…for awhile…you were thinking about it all day."
"So were you."
"Point taken. You know, if we're not careful, we'll end up becoming one person." Buffy quipped.
Willow grinned. "I've never been telepathic before. It's neat. It's like I'm with you twenty-four hours a day."
"Hey, well don't blame me if I start becoming annoying."
"I'll let you know. You think we should tell Giles?"
"Nah. It's between you and me. I wanna keep it that way."
"Me too, but I'm no telepathy expert…neither are you and…we might need to know…things…"
"You're right. As always. From aggressive Willow to concerned Willow to babbling Willow. You're definitely unpredictable."
"Just like keeping you on your toes, Summers."
There was a knock at the door. Buffy looked at Willow questioningly, and Willow shook her head. "I'll…get it."
Buffy got up, and wrapped a sheet around her body. When she opened the door, and looked out, nobody was there.
"Hello?" She looked down at the ground, and saw a rose. She picked it up, and blood dripped onto her hand.
She walked back inside, and threw the rose out the window, looking from side to side. Seeing nothing, she shut the window.
"Buffy? What's going on? Was that what I think it was?"
Buffy nodded quickly, and started slipping her clothes on. "I'll be back. Shut and lock the door."
"What is it, Buffy?" Buffy's thoughts were focused on one name. "No, he can't be…" Willow went wide-eyed and speechless.
She faced Willow, a clearly frightened expression on her face. "He's back."
Willow focused again and grabbed Buffy's arm. "Don't go."
"I have to know."
Buffy ran downstairs to the guard's body. She didn't even bother to check if he was still alive. She knew he was dead. Her world had been turned upside down. By him. Again. He seemed more vicious somehow.
'Where is he? What am I going to do?'
She felt Willow's voice enter her head.
'Just come back. He could be anywhere.'
Buffy wanted to, she did, but she had to be sure. She got rid of him, what was he doing back here?
She ran outside and looked around. Seeing no sign of him, she sprinted along the walkway, and saw the body. He had drained her completely. She was in her and Willow's English class.
Stepping out from behind a tree, Angelus smirked at her. Buffy just stood motionless.
'Run, Buffy!' Willow yelled in her head.
But she couldn't.
"Not normally my type, but she was purer then I've had in awhile. There's only one person that will really satisfy me, though, and I speak from personal experience. Can you guess?" He said.
Buffy opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She became almost as pale as he was.
"What's a matter, lover? You've looked better."
"What are you doing here?"
"What? No hello?" He laughed. "Oh my dear Buffy, I have to say, I'm disappointed."
He moved closer to her.
"You've found a new playmate. Sweet Willow, she was always so cute. I'll forgive you just this once." He backhanded her to the ground. "But I'm back, baby, and you and I are just getting started."
He ran off into the shadows. A few seconds later, Willow ran up behind her. She turned around sharply, knowing instinctively it was Willow, but was still shaken.
"Come on, Buffy. Let's get out of here." Willow pulled her off the ground. "Go ahead. It's okay."
Having permission, Buffy broke down into tears. "Why? Damn it! He should be gone!"
"We'll get him before he does anything."
"Will we? He's already started, and I know what you're thinking."
"He won't stop until -" Willow said, vocalizing her thoughts.
"He kills us."
They were confused, but most of all they were scared. No, terrified and frightened was more accurate. What good was positive energy now?
Angelus was driving back into town. He had surprised Buffy, and that had improved his mood somewhat, but it wasn't enough. He wanted to, no he would, tear her apart. Willow! That lousy 'bright and happy' bitch. He'd make them both feel pain again; he swore it.
He'd work his way up, though. He may have thrown Buffy off, but she'd be on guard soon enough, and it would be foolish to go after her, and especially Willow, directly. No, he'd start at the bottom, destroy her slowly. And he'd start with the other thorn in his side.
Buffy walked into Giles' house at a little past nine a.m. She couldn't concentrate on anything. Sitting in her classes would have been pointless. She just kept seeing his face. The evil, the hatred, and passion toward her that was in his eyes. She just wanted to wake up, and then he'd be gone. She wasn't expecting this. When she had said goodbye to Angel, she thought that was the end. Angelus was trapped, and Angel was free.
Angel, the true Angel, was at rest now. Wherever souls went once they passed on. But why would Hell spit out Angelus? He was so evil, so homicidal; she pictured him revered in Hell, kind of like a demon's paradise. She just didn't understand why everything was always against her.
As soon as things started to settle down, she was punished again. But for what? She had always done what she was supposed to. Well, except quit the Council. That didn't matter though, did it? She was still fighting after all. And Willow. She didn't deserve this either, but Angelus would do whatever it took to take her out, and if he ever got Willow she…well, she probably would die.
Willow had wanted to come with her, but she told her to stay and be the responsible student. There was no reason for both of them to put a blemish on their college careers. Plus, she had a feeling that by the time she stopped him, if she stopped him, there'd be a whole lot of blemishes to try and clear up.
She walked over to the couch, where Giles had fallen asleep. She shook him.
"Wake up, Giles. You can't be sleeping at a time like this!"
He opened his eyes, and when his vision cleared, he jumped a little.
"If you didn't want me to barge in, you shouldn't have given me a key. Now, please tell me you found something. I left early, got on a bus, and I'm missing classes because I'm completely freaked."
Giles pulled himself out of his early morning drowsiness, and became concerned. "Are you all right? Willow? Oz?"
"Yeah, he hasn't…nothing serious. Will and I couldn't sleep last night, and I've been having Oz call every hour. He hasn't come after you or Xander has he?"
"No, not yet. I can tell you some theories I have, but beyond that…resources on Hell, and most everything else, are severely limited now."
"You're not angry with me for quitting are you?"
"No, of course not. The Council has lost sight of the reasons it was founded to begin with. But that really is not the issue at the moment." Giles said, clearly agitated at his former employer. "I'm surprised Willow didn't come along."
"She wanted to, but in case we found anything really bad, I didn't want to…what am I saying? I can't stop her from hearing the bad stuff anymore." Buffy frowned. Giles was staring at her. "Sorry. She just can't pay much attention to her professor right now. This is really getting to her too."
"This is truly amazing. I've read about telepathy, mainly between demon species, and I've actually gone into heavier research ever since Willow told me, and it's…"
"Right…I'm sorry. Well, Angel's soul is…"
"At rest. Peaceful. I knew this."
"My point is, that unlike the last…incident with Angelus, where Angel's soul was trapped in between worlds, awaiting the outcome of whatever was going to happen to his body, he is not trapped anymore. He is fully in what is commonly called the afterlife."
"So Angel's soul won't be a factor in stopping Angelus."
"Okay…" Buffy took a breath, and 'let' Willow know. "So why is he here? He should be trapped forever."
"I don't know exactly. For people with goodness and purity Hell is damnation, but for demons, especially one as vile as Angelus, Hell is a haven. However, given his track record and his obsession with you," he paused, "it's obvious that it would be more beneficial to the darker forces to have him on Earth."
"To hunt down me and my friends. The last people who stand in their way of making Earth their mega evil playground." Giles nodded. She could see that even he was worried.
"Just be on guard. Don't let him disrupt your life."
"How can I not? I have to stay here and watch out for you guys. I'll get Willow, cause she wants to be here and Oz…"
"Listen to me. I've told Xander, and he has protection. As do I. The last thing you should let him see is that his arrival has affected you, because that's what he wants most. To see you suffering."
Buffy hesitated before responding. "Okay, but you have to promise to watch out for mom."
"You have my word." Buffy started to walk to the door, and he stopped her. "In regards to the telepathy, you can block your thoughts from one another, if necessary."
"The last thing we wanna do is hide from one another. Especially now."
"Just be aware of that. I'm just beginning to research this, and as I've found out too many times before, as much as something may be a benefit, there are downsides as well."
Wiping up the broken pieces of a wineglass, Xander was done for the night. He didn't realize fancy restaurants were open this late. Well really, the last diners had left at around 10:30, but he wasn't let off work until the place was spotless, and it was just coming up on half past eleven. If he looked on the bright side, at least he wasn't cleaning up at McDonald's. Plus, this was the longest he'd held down a job so far.
But if he kept breaking expensive dining materials, he'd be fired pretty soon. He went back into the kitchen area and dumped the broken pieces in the trash. He looked up and saw the manager giving him an angry stare.
"Sorry. You can take it out of my paycheck."
"Thanks for the permission, Harris. One more time. One more time and you're gone. Hear me?"
Checking to make sure his cross was still firmly in his back pocket, he walked out the kitchen entrance/exit, and into an alley.
That was the other downside to working late. Vampire attacks. And now that Angelus was back, he wished he had pushed just a little harder for the dayshift. As soon as he had heard the news, he wasn't so much scared as he was angry.
They had been rid of him. Finally. And Xander felt especially pleased at that. The guy was a vampire, a killer, and a bastard. He had never seen the difference between demon and soul, even though Angel had saved his life. He always hated him.
Jealousy for Buffy was what started it, and in the back of his mind he knew that he was being idiotic. But when Angel became Angelus once again, his hatred was finally justified. It had taken awhile for everybody to realize what needed to be done, and there had been loss, but Buffy had eventually sent Angelus packing.
This time everyone was on his side. They all wanted Angelus dead, and nobody was considering any other options. Of course, if they had listened to him the first time…no, forget the past. This time, Angelus would be dust, and he'd see it. It gave him a sense of purpose again, because ever since the school blew up, he had been wandering.
Job after job after job. While everyone moved on and changed with their new circumstances, he still tried to hang on to the days at the library. Researching, contributing. When the Scooby Gang was together every second. Now, he had just become another useless, faceless member of the American working class. What else was he going to do? He had never set any expectations for himself, although maybe he should have. But nobody really expected him to do much of anything, so why should he?
Well, that wasn't entirely true. Buffy and Willow tried to push him into going to college, and on rare occasions, Cordelia had also. But he would get crushed in college. He knew that. And the people who were supposed to encourage him to do something were his parents, but…well, they weren't too concerned with him at all.
"Here's an idea. The Xander Harris Self-pity Tour. Come see the loser." He muttered as he reached the end of the alley.
Right before he reached the sidewalk, a figure jumped down from the fire escape that was above him on the building.
"I'd pay to see that. Seeing people pity themselves, especially you, gives me such a happy feeling." Angelus said.
Xander stood frozen for a moment, and then pulled out the cross he had responsibly brought, and held it out in front of him. Angelus winced a little, but didn't move.
"A cross, Xander? I thought we were past that."
"I like distance. I've been hurt."
"No you haven't. But you will be." Angelus kicked the cross out of Xander's hands. "Don't tell me that's all you brought. Although," He had an amused look in his dark eyes, "I guess I shouldn't have expected any more of a challenge from you."
Xander snapped out of it. He was impatient, and wasn't in the mood. "So, let's go. What are you going to do?"
"I like to think myself as a guy who's open to ideas. What would you like me to do?"
"Die." Xander said, coldly.
"We talked about this before didn't we?" As Angelus moved forward, Xander moved further back into the alley. "As I remember, there was a threat. 'You're going to die and I'm going to be there when you do.'
"So typical of you. Only brave and macho when you were sure nothing could hurt you. In a crowded hospital, surrounded by people. But now there's no one here.
"Buffy's white knight. Well," He chuckled, "not anymore. Now you're just a peasant."
Xander just stood, unmoving.
"What? No words of bravery? So what happened, Xander? Nobody care about you anymore? Lose your girl? Cordelia would have been a pleasure to taste. I'm guessing you never got that chance."
Xander punched him in the face, full of rage. Angelus wasn't even fazed, but didn't retaliate. When he didn't, Xander got a little braver.
"You lost yours," he spat, angrily.
"Buffy. She's good for about five minutes, and then the attraction wears off. Loving her was his mistake."
Xander grinned. "Sorry, I never made the distinction between good you and evil you. You love her. And it kills you. The evilest demon on the planet loves the Slayer. She'll never be yours; she'll never be evil. So you want to kill her instead."
"You never did know when to keep your mouth shut. Eventually, it's going to get you into trouble."
Xander didn't listen. "It must really get to you that she's not all in pieces and weeping. That she totally pushed you out of her mind and moved on. To a female. That must really sting.
"Your reputation as a torturer and killer demon took a blow, and," Xander said, and in a moment of foolishness walked up to him, "your 'performance' as a man was so bad that she switched sides. Buffy and Willow will have a connection that you never had with her, and never will. Talk about taking a major ego shot.
"I shouldn't be feeling sorry for myself, I should be feeling sorry for you."
Angelus' face changed to its vampiric form, and he picked Xander up.
"I warned you."
He threw him against the chain link fence at the far end of the alley. Xander wasn't unconscious, but he was badly bruised, and guessed he had a few broken bones. Before he could focus, Angelus was already over him.
"You know, maybe soul boy and I weren't so different after all."
"He hated you just as much as I do. He didn't maim you because he respected your loyalty to her, but I, however, could care less about that."
On the other side of the fence, more vampires reached through, and started to pull Xander up and over to their side.
"What are you doing?"
"Gathering recruits. And they need to eat." Xander looked horrified. Angelus faked a look of sympathy. "You won't feel a thing." He punched Xander hard in the face, and knocked him out. "Well, except maybe that."
Satisfied, he scaled the fence and walked to his car, and began to think. Was there something deeper to Buffy and Willow's relationship? What did Xander mean by 'connection?' He looked at the kid's body being pulled into the car by his men, and smiled. He knew only one person who would be able to tell him what he needed to know.
Willow watched Buffy's reflection through the glare on her computer screen. Buffy was lying on the bed studying. She had missed the entire day and was really trying to catch up. Not that she wasn't happy that Buffy was focusing on doing well, but she knew that was only part of the reason she was burying herself in the books.
They had gone on a patrol for at least six hours around the campus, and the graveyard closest to it. There had been no sign of Angelus, or any other vampires for that matter, and Buffy was worried. And so was she.
She and Buffy both had the feeling, despite Giles' reassurances, that something was wrong. They had called his house several times, and he was fine. And Xander said he was working late, and he said he'd check in once he got home. Still, Xander should have called by now, and there was still a lot of night left to get through.
Finishing the last line on her paper, Willow hit the print button, and turned around.
"How's it coming?" Willow asked.
"I'm tired." Buffy closed her book, and sat up.
"I know. We both are."
"It's just…Giles is telling me to go on and pretend like he isn't messing up my life, but I can't. He is, he frightens me, and I hate him for it. I feel like any second he could just pop up and…"
"All we can do is wait." Willow said sitting next to her.
She hated that they had no other choice, but they had no idea what he was up to, and beyond wandering around hoping to get lucky, or fall into a trap, they couldn't do anything else. All the patrols were wearing them both down, and they couldn't afford to not be at full strength. That's what he would want.
"You're not the only one who hates it. How come the good guys are always the ones with the disadvantage?"
The phone rang, and somebody knocked on the door.
'I'll get the door, you get the phone.'
Willow nodded, and picked up the phone. There were definitely advantages to telepathy.
"Giles…hi. One second." She whispered.
Buffy walked over to the door, grabbing a stake. She stood to the right of the knob, and slowly turned it. Then, she flung the door open, ready to drive the stake into…Oz.
"Not how I usually answer the door, but your way definitely has its place. Good way to scare off girl scouts." He said.
"And vampires. Sorry, Oz. Just a little on edge."
"Understandable. Just thought I'd stop by. See how things were going."
"Still don't have anything to go on. If you wanna join the tension fest, feel free."
Willow, seeing it was Oz, smiled in greeting, and held out the phone to Buffy.
"Giles found out some more stuff on telepathy, he thought you might want to know."
"Any extra benefits?" Buffy grinned, happy to get her mind off evil, and onto her and Willow for a change.
"He didn't say." Willow grinned in return.
Buffy picked up the phone, and Willow walked over to Oz.
"How you holding up?" He asked.
"I think waiting is the worst part. We're both…stressed, but she knows she's going to have to fight him and face him, and she's…barely holding on. Before this telepathy thing, and our being together, I never realized how hard it was for her to keep from breaking down.
"Every second she's trying to stay cool and calm…"
"Makes you have more respect for what she does. How hard she works."
Willow smiled. "Yeah, it does. It also makes me want to hold her and make this all go away. I don't know how she keeps going when she's so bogged down inside. I couldn't do that."
"She has you, that's how. And yes you could keep going, because you're doing it right now. With her. She doesn't have to struggle alone anymore."
She thought for a second. "No, she doesn't."
Buffy, still talking to Giles, looked up and smiled at her.
(You want us to come over?)
(I really should talk to you two about this in person.)
(Sure, but what is it?)
(It…Excuse me, Buffy. There's someone at the door)
Buffy heard Giles put the phone down, and she waited. A few seconds later, she heard a voice in the background.
It was Angelus. She slammed the phone down, grabbed her already made bag of supplies, and turned to Willow and Oz. He didn't need to be telepathic to know what was going on.
"Van's right outside."
They ran out the door.
"It's always a pleasure to see you." Angelus started to walk forward, but ran into the invisible barrier that blocked his entrance.
"I hope you didn't believe that I’d be foolish enough to not reverse the invitation."
"A guy can hope, can't he?"
Giles walked to a side room, and quickly came back with a crossbow, loaded and pointed at Angelus' chest.
"I will fire."
"Even after all that quality time we spent together. That hurts me, really." Giles started to push his finger back on the trigger. "You are better armed then some people, though. I'll give you that."
He pulled Xander into view, and held him by the back of the shirt. Xander was bruised all over his face, his left eye was cut and half open, there were two sets of teeth marks on both sides of his neck, and his left leg was broken.
Giles took one look at him, and was stunned. There was no way Xander could still be alive. But then, he groaned. "Dear God…"
"Oh come on, Rupert. You didn't think I'd come to your doorstep without an insurance policy, did you?"
"It. Was. Fun. He was out for awhile, but the best part was when his leg snapped. I've heard lots of screams over the years, but…wow. I would've killed him, but it's better to have him alive for now. Well if you can call that alive." He grinned. "I figured a dead body wouldn't really help me."
Giles didn't budge.
"Let me make this clear. If you don't let me in, I'll drain the little blood that's left, out of him, and then crush his skull just to see if there's anything inside. I've always been curious about that. You don't want to test my patience. He did, and well, you can see what the result was."
Giles sighed, about the biggest mistake of his life.
"He's counting on you."
Angelus stepped in, and threw Xander down on the floor. He grabbed the crossbow, and smashed it with his bare hands. He then started to walk around, while Giles leaned over Xander.
"I'll tell ya, you had to be the most resilient person I ever tortured. Got to give you credit there. Hope you're still as tough."
"What do you want?"
"Information." He walked over to Giles' weapons chest, and pulled out a mace. He started swinging it slowly. "It's been a long time since I've used one of these. They say the weapons today are more efficient, but nothing beats the classics."
Still holding the mace, he walked over to the desk where a lamp was shining down on a couple open books. A few notes were written on a piece of paper, and Buffy and Willow's names were included in them. The paper was stuck in between two pages, being used as a bookmark.
He closed one book, and looked at the title. It said, 'THE ABILITY OF TELEPATHY AND METHODS OF CONTROLLING IT'
"Well, isn't this interesting. See? I knew you'd be useful. I'm gonna borrow these."
"I suppose any objection I have to that would mean nothing to you." They stared at one another. "Thought not."
Angelus walked and stood over Giles and Xander.
"I'm finished with you."
"Then go. You've done enough."
"I'll decide when I've done enough."
He raised the mace.
"No, I will." Buffy said, rushing in and kicking the mace out of his hand.
Rather than risk losing the books, he kicked her in the face and she fell backward. Seeing Willow, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that she seemed in pain as well. She seemed to stumble some.
This night was full of surprises. As he made his way past Willow, he looked her right in the eyes.
"Probably, but not before you do."
She surprised him, her pain from before over, and splashed a bottle of holywater that she had hidden, on his face. He growled fiercely, flung his arm at her, and bolted. She landed on top of Buffy, who broke her fall.
Later, in the hospital Buffy and Willow were talking to Giles.
"He was lucky." Willow said.
"Yes, he'll need extensive transfusions, and he'll have to wear a cast for a few weeks, but the first treatment went well, according to the doctor. He should be released in a few days." Giles said.
"He almost died." Buffy said, angry with Angelus and herself.
"But he didn't. You saved him, and me as well."
"Yeah, after he got pummeled, and after you were forced to invite Angelus in."
"Buffy, tonight was bad, I know that. Xander was hurt, but he'll be okay. It isn't your fault. You may or may not have been able to stop him, but I know Xander doesn't blame you for what happened. The only one who should be blamed, and killed, is Angelus."
"He will be, Will. I swear."
"As much as I agree with that, you must be careful. He took my books on telepathy and," Giles had an apologetic look on his face, "he knows about your connection now. He is obviously targeting the both of you, and eventually, he may learn how to use your telepathic, and from what you've told me from what happened tonight, possibly empathic, abilities to his advantage."
"How?" They asked simultaneously.
A woman watched from a distance as Angelus sat in the mansion, reading over his newly obtained information. She'd have to interfere more than she had planned on originally. She could see that a plan was most certainly forming in Angelus' mind.