Summary: "Whisper a dangerous secret to someone you
care about. Now they have the power to destroy you, but they won't. This is
what love is."
Author's note: Summary
quote is from Welcome to Night Vale, which I've never seen, but is quoted on
tumblr frequently. Credit goes to Kairos for letting me bounce ideas off of
her, despite the outstanding fangirl ramble I owe her; to DS for doing such a
spectacular hosting job and being so accommodating of my drastic lateness; and
to my inspirations this year which include The X-Files, The West Wing, Sara
Bareilles, The Maccabeats and the Pitch Perfect soundtrack.
the middle of a sunny morning in Kuala Lumpur, an abnormally successful slayer
stopped a minor apocalypse, receiving grievous wounds in the process. She
smiled dazedly as her knees betrayed her, her body collapsing onto the ground.
She managed to turn her head to look toward where her Watcher’s body lay feet
away from her, before her life and her power slipped away from her.
the world, the power attempted to enter the body of Buffy Summers. At that
moment, however, Buffy Summers was lying on the floor of Sam’s Seafood Hut,
inconveniently dead. The power shrugged as much as a bodiless form of energy
and magic could shrug, and went off to Jamaica.
years later, Buffy Summers wakes in the middle of the night, gasps a little,
unconsciously dents her bedframe, rolls over and goes back to sleep. The next
morning, she breaks the knob to the bathroom, then her coffee mug, and only
succeeds in not ripping the paper by holding it with deliberate gentleness.
you been taking steroids?” her roommate, Cordelia, demands, holding up the
broken doorknob as she comes into the kitchen.
Buffy growls, ruining her non-paper-ripping streak as she violently turns the
page on the want ads.
sure? Because there’s the rage,” Cordelia notes in irritation. She pours a cup
of coffee, although Buffy knows it won’t transform her into a sweet-tempered
and Cordelia have been friends since Buffy’s first day of school at Sunnydale
High. When her father had saved her from choking on a piece of shrimp during a
dinner out, her mother had been grateful enough to stay around for a few extra
months, but eventually she remembered how much the marriage had worn on her. In
some ways, Buffy was glad. Moving to Sunnydale had meant that she could start
over without the social stigma of being known as Shrimp Girl, and coming from
LA meant that she had some movie star caliber in the small town. For two years
she and Cordelia had ruled the school, although in quiet moments Buffy could
tell that Cordelia too was a little weary of their eager, unthinking devotees.
Harmony, Aura and the rest were not exactly stimulating company, but Buffy
managed to refrain as much as possible from rolling her eyes until graduation.
Thinking about changing herself so totally made her uncomfortable.
and Cordelia had managed to make it into UC Sunnydale, a sure way to escape the
herd. As the uncontested rulers of the school, they had assumed that it would
continue in college. There had been an image in Buffy’s mind of somehow jumping
to the top of the social ladder in college too. But after a first semester of
struggling through her classes and discovering that she had been mistaken in
thinking that college had any one hierarchy which she and Cordelia could insert
themselves atop, she was relieved when her friend had suggested that college
was not for them and that the two of them should try acting instead.
was just up late packing,” Buffy says, still grumpy. Their boxes are scattered
around, ready to be loaded onto the truck and brought to LA.
I can see. Although I’m not sure why you couldn’t just wait for the big strong
moving guys to get that done for you. That’s literally their jobs.”
literally not. They don’t make sure that my cheerleading trophies get packed in
bubble wrap, and they’re definitely not going to put all of your shoes safely
into the right order. They’re just the muscle.” Buffy stretches. She must have
really overdone it the night before because her muscles feel odd. “Although
clearly I’m the actual muscle in this arrangement.”
snorts and snatches the paper from Buffy’s hands as her friend rises. “Are you
going to do some more lifting, Butch Cassidy?”
to run some errands, Miss Mixed Metaphor.” Buffy rolls her eyes. “Can’t close
up the boxes without our friend packing tape.” She grabs her bag and walks out
into the sunshine.
blocks from the apartment, she notices that someone is pacing her slightly behind.
She tries to act casual as she pulls a compact mirror from her bag. She peers
into it, letting it reflect the image so she can see without turning. The man
is middle-aged and looks bookish and slightly near-sighted. If he weren’t
following her, Buffy wouldn’t have been frightened of him, or even noticed him
at all. She tries to remember the self-defense unit from gym class, but so much
of high school is just a blur of painted nails and Cordelia’s denigration of
the gym uniform.
she whispers. “Okay. There’s a building. Nice bright building.” She turns into
the lobby and waits for a few moments, hiding herself against a wall as she
glances through the large front window until he has passed. Then,
congratulating herself, she walks back out to do her shopping. A minute later,
the man begins walking beside her. Close up, he looks very vaguely familiar,
like he is an actor in a TV show she had watched as a child. He touches her arm
realize this situation is culturally unorthodox,” he says casually, peering at
her kindly. His accent is Englishy, his voice slightly sad. “But I have
something I must tell you.”
looks straight ahead and keeps walking. “If this is a Jesus thing, I have to
tell you that I’m pretty firmly Buddhist this week.”
admirable,” he says, and it doesn’t sound condescending. “Unfortunately, what I
have to tell you is more serious than that. May we sit down?”
looks over at him, gauging, and it clicked. “Hey, aren’t you the librarian? The
Sunnydale High librarian? I saw you one time…”
He seems surprised, and Buffy guesses that it’s because she’s not that Willow
Rosenbork or the dangerous girl who used to hang around the library. Being a
librarian isn’t exactly the road to recognition and popularity.
a busy street, a sunny day, with a man who she’s pretty sure got her books on
her first day of school. She shrugs. “Well, if this is more serious than Jesus,
I guess we have to sit.”
He takes a seat on a nearby bench, sounding relieved. “Miss Summers, have you
ever noticed anything strange around Sunnydale?”
that creepy guy at the bus station. He’s beyond even LA levels of weirdness.”
gives a fluttery laugh and takes off his glasses. “N-No. I suppose I mean something
more…endemic than an odd character.”
are getting sick?”
stabs forward with his glasses. “No! Something supernatural. I’m speaking of
that weird occult group last year? I was away at a cheerleading competition,
but my mom left me like nine thousand messages about how she threw out all my
candles and was chopping down the tree in the backyard because it’s an oak and
she said that they can have magical significance.”
Actually, yes. Not those children they nearly burned to death, they were
innocent, but there was a force at work on the people of the town.” He turns
forcefully toward her. “This is what I have been trying to say. That there are
forces at work, supernatural forces, and now you are a part of that.”
is already forming the way she will tell the story to Cordelia when she gets
home, the tale of the insane librarian. “Yeah, okay. You probably fell asleep
in the crazy plots section of the library. Or-or-or you were sniffing some of
the book glue. Can you get wacky from book glue? Anyway, you probably need a
nap or something, so I’m just going to go and you’ll stay here.”
Summers!” He stands, fumbling. His voice comes out forcefully. “Have you felt
different today? A peculiar feeling in your muscles, sudden- sudden bursts of
strength without reason…?”
She laughs a little, not a true laugh, looking down. “Now we’re getting into
too personal territory.”
seems like her childhood puppy Teddy that time that her dad had accidentally
poured coffee into his bowl. “You can’t deny it. Your physical self has changed
and you can’t explain why.” She is silent, arms crossed as she looked away.
Voice weighty he says, “Miss Summers, I’m terribly sorry to have to tell you
are the vampire slayer, the one girl in all the world chosen to battle the
vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness.”
bag is over her shoulder and she is walking away before she begins to respond.
“I mean, I wasn’t great at math in high school, but one girl versus however
many secret vampires who’ve been hanging out without anyone noticing? Seems
like a little too divide and not enough conquer. Have fun reading or whatever.
Don’t go talking to any more random girls, okay?”
gets to the store and back home to finish up her packing, and then a little of
Cordelia’s. She leaves out a couple of cute outfits, which is lucky because
when Cordelia has finished polishing her nails, she suggests a trip to the
Bronze as a farewell gesture.
they get there, the club already seems too high school, but she and Cordelia
dance and there’s something very low pressure about it all. But there’s
something all grown up about it, too, when her roommate leaves with a guy and
tells her not to wait up. She walks back to their apartment alone, wondering if
they still have Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer or if they finished it all. But
as she passes one of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries, ice cream or the lack of it
becomes the least of her concerns. A man comes rushing over and for a minute
she thinks that maybe he’s sick and she’s supposed to call 911 or stab him with
one of those allergy pens. But then he’s grabbing her tightly, yanking her
toward himself, hissing, and she doesn’t think that rabies makes people do
she yells, pushing at him, and he falls, moaning. She starts to run, trying to
find somewhere with people while also digging through her bag for her cell
phone. But there’s too much stuff to rummage through and the creeper has gotten
up and he’s coming after her with his horrible face and a large grinning mouth.
my luck,” he says, shaking himself as he stands, and she’s jolted because his
voice sounds normal, even coming from a face that’s distinctly not. “A new
slayer, shrinking like a little baby bird.”
looks around for something to hit him with. Tomorrow’s garbage day, so there’s
a full trash can on the curb beside her, but it seems too heavy to swing.
Still, she spots a broken broom on top, and manages to pick it out as carefully
as possible when a crazed man has almost caught up with her. She holds it like
a baseball bat, and as he gets close, she swings. But her dad gave up trying to
teach her baseball because she always swung too early, and this is no
exception. Instead of getting bruised, the guy seems to impale himself on the
broom, but she can barely see exactly what happened because the next second
can tell her eyes are enormous in her face. She drops the piece of wood and looks
down, seeing no signs of the man who had been there. The street is quiet. When
she looks up there’s a new man standing there, shadowed. He’s hunched over. She
can barely see him. She scrabbles for the broom again, but he holds up his
hands. He has a piece of wood as well, drops it when, obviously focused, her
head swivels toward his hand.
was going to get him for you,” he blurts softly. “But you had it under
control.” He shuffles away before she can say anything.
early as possible the next morning, Buffy strides into Sunnydale High. She
doesn’t even bother reveling in the admiring, confused stares and whispers of
the students. For the first time since she started school, she heads for the
library. It has great double doors that swing dramatically shut behind her. She
looks around for the librarian, but when she doesn’t see him around, she calls
fine, I want to believe!”
emerges from his office looking vaguely surprised. “Ah, Miss Summers. Perhaps
we must review appropriate library behavior?” he says mildly.
tomorrow we can have a seminar with flow charts and pie charts and whatever
different kinds of graphs, but first I’d really love to understand why last
night I had to stab a guy with a deformed face who called me a slayer.”
deformed face?” He stands more alertly. “And- and you were able to stab him?”
she snaps, “Yes, I stabbed him, and he disappeared. And I’m going to make a
really good looking witness if I find out that you sent some kind of stalker to
course not!” For the first time, he looks…not angry, but deflated. “I am a
representative of the Watchers’ Council. We are tasked with assisting the
Slayer through training and education to help her complete her duties, and
through attentiveness to supernatural phenomena throughout the world.”
you guys have a business card? Gotta know how I can reach you so we can have
the great experience of a shared court date.”
he doesn’t seem fazed. He looks at her calmly, eyes focused. “Miss Summers,
there is no cause for legal action. I understand that there is a certain
element of uncertainty here, but if you would simply sit down, I will do my
best to explain the situation to you.”
because a man disappeared in front of her last night, because she tried to fix
the bathroom doorknob that morning and only managed to further crack the door,
she sits and lets him explain. And then she makes her way back through the
chatter of students and spends a day mindlessly packing while she thinks about
what he said. That night she arrives at the cemetery intentionally, meeting the
librarian. She stands over a fresh grave and kills her second vampire. For a
few moments afterward, she just stares about, a little stricken. The other
things that have changed her life- her parents’ divorce, the move to Sunnydale,
the time she failed ninth grade geometry and was grounded and wasn’t allowed to
go to the spring formal- have been foreshadowed. This is an abrupt overturning
of everything she’s ever assumed about truth and fiction.
she says, looking down as the ground where her wedge of wood has dropped onto a
pile of ash, “If you’re going to be watching me from now on, I should probably
know your name.”
indeed. I’m Rupert Giles.” He holds out a hand and she takes it gingerly. “A
Buffy tells Cordelia that she’s going to try to make it in Sunnydale for a
little longer, her best friend flips. It’s like Buffy stole her stylist from
Genevieve’s. Walking into their apartment is like stumbling through a wormhole
to Alaska. Buffy says “Good morning,” and Cordelia tells her that Sunnydale is
pathetic and nothing can be really good there. Buffy tries to explain without
really explaining and Cordelia stops talking to her. Buffy does notice that the
collection of packed boxes has started growing smaller rather than larger,
though, and for now she’s glad that they forgot to give their landlord notice.
it’s uncomfortable to be in the apartment, so Buffy starts staying out of the
house. She gets a job teaching classes at a local gym. They like her peppy
attitude and that she can spin forever without getting tired. She starts
experimenting with her own stamina; she hasn’t found a limit to it yet, and
even her old cheerleading moves are easier than they were before.
the evenings, after they have both ended work, she trains with Giles. He has a
setup in his apartment, but she finds that she can charm her boss into letting
her use one of the back rooms after hours, which is bigger and better equipped.
time she is surprised by how quickly she picks up each new weapon or trick,
Giles seems to have anticipated it. She quickly begins to be curious if she is
his first slayer, and eventually gets up the courage to ask about the
dark-haired, aggressive girl who she used to see disappearing behind the
swinging doors of the library.
removes his padding so he can take off his glasses and rub at his eyes. “Her
name was Faith,” he answers eventually. “I was her Watcher for just over two
Buffy! I’ve told you the only way a new slayer can rise.” It’s the first time
he has yelled at her in anger. She moves back a bit. He softens his voice. “She
died, or rather, was killed, a few weeks ago.”
before you came to find me.” A chill goes through her and they both pause
before Giles replaces his pads and tells her firmly, “Let’s try that again.”
wants to steer clear of what might be sensitive topics for Giles- she’s not
Cordelia, after all- but she has questions. When she starts to patrol by
herself, she can sense a presence in the cemetery with her. Once, when she’s
distracted fighting a vampire, another rises behind her but by the time she
turns to stake it, dust is sifting through the air nearby. In the dark, she
sees a hunched figure stealing away. It doesn’t make her frightened, but she
does remember that first night, that first vampire, the first strange man.
after a session which leaves Giles sweating and even Buffy leaning against the
wall sipping water, she asks. Taking a drink, she stabs forward. “When you
worked with Faith, did you also work with anyone else?”
his throat, Giles replies flatly, “No. It was always- always just the two of
think it’s a guy. Anyway, I’ve seen it, I mean, I’ve seen him in the cemetery a
malevolent presence? A demon, perhaps?” Giles asks around deep breaths.
He helps me, so unless he’s like a double agent demon or really confused, I
think he’s on Team Buffy.”
you like me to rejoin you on nightly patrols? Perhaps I can act as a second set
of eyes, gain more information on this character?” Giles looks overly worried.
Buffy feels both affection and worry of her own. Giles is always very gentle
with her, and their interactions have an underlying tender fear that cushions
him from a closer relationship.
she assures him that it will be fine. And the next time she sees the figure in the
shadows, she follows him. He heads toward the Bronze. She thinks that she’s
lost him in an alley nearby and is about to turn back, but as she spins, he
comes from the shadows.
has hands in his pockets, shoulders up, and face looking toward the ground.
Somehow even as he stands in front of her he looks like he’s disappearing.
worry.” She puts out a hand but retracts it when he actually moves away from
her. She tries to speak gently, but there’s a vaguely bitter undertone. “Hey, I
looks pained and swings his head away from her. His hair is long enough to move
as he does it.
Buffy,” she tries.
stares and waits before sighing. “This is the part where you tell me your name,
why you’ve decided to become the second Ghostbuster and why you keep turning up
when I’m patrolling.”
splitting, he says, “My name is Angel.” He seems to get even smaller, which is
surprising because he’s clearly not a small guy. What really surprises her,
though, is that he picks his eyes up to look at her from a face still pointed
toward the ground and blurts, “I’m a vampire.” He stands up straighter, almost
military in his posture.
twirls her stake. “Is this a suicide by cop thing?” She tilts her head. “Am I a
cop? Like a demon cop?” When he doesn’t answer, doesn’t even look amused, she
rolls her eyes and tucks her stake away. “Look, I’m going to assume that you’re
either a liar with a motive for following me, or you’re experiencing some kind
of psychosis. Either way, you’re going to have a story to tell and it’s been a
pretty big couple of weeks in my life for stories.”
he starts, “Maybe we’d better go see your Watcher.”
we’d better,” she agrees wryly, and lets him walk ahead of her toward Giles’s
not a pleasant sight when they arrive. There’s an excessive fumbling of glasses
as Giles attempts not to seem flustered that there’s a robe involved and little
else. Eventually he suggests, “Why don’t you-” but Buffy cuts him off.
is Angel,” she says, moving over so Angel is revealed, squinting, in the light
from the open door. “He says he’s a vampire.”
glasses come off again. Buffy wonders if he cleans as much with everyone else,
or if it’s just her. “Buffy, you do remember the object of your calling?” She
purses her lips, grumpy at the accusation.
been sitting through the War and Peace version of the Slayer manual, Giles. I
think I know rule one. Or, you know, rule pre-one. But this is the guy who’s been
playing backup on my patrols. Figured we’d let him do the explanation thing-
outside, obviously- before we decide to go for the traditional vampire death
eyes evaluate her, and she looks back confidently. Angel shuffles beside her.
Giles steps out beside them, holding his robe tightly around his body. “Yes,
well. Let’s hear it then.”
a long story, but Angel tries to keep it short. He can’t really feel it the way
that they can, but he can tell that it’s chilly outside. He sketches out the
bare details: his rampage around the world, the curse, his wandering after. And
then Whistler approaching him a month ago, starting him on a brand new path.
And you’ve managed to sustain yourself without feeding on humans for the past
century?” The Watcher sounds impressed. If he were cynical or doubtful in any
way, Angel isn’t sure that he would say anything, but in the face of that
unearned awe, he can’t lie.
were…There were criminals, early on, right after I was cursed. And then three
years ago,” he looks past Giles, noting a book that looks like an Arabic
demonic encyclopedia from the twelfth century. “Three years ago, there was a
man. He was…drunk and I was lying in an alley. He fell on me and I-” His voice
breaks. “I gave into it.” He looks toward Buffy, rocking a bit on his feet. His
arms are at his sides, palms open. He doesn’t sound sad, he sounds shattered
and self-loathsome. Buffy removes her hand from the stake at her side.
Giles says swiftly. “Well, Angel, you’ve certainly given us much to consider.
Buffy, if you would come inside, I would like to speak with you.”
nods and quickly retreats. He seems to Buffy like a man who has lost his last
death row appeal. Watching him leave, she is oppressed by great power.
gets home late that night. Giles has looked through his books. There’s an old
picture of Angel surrounded by horrible details. She tries to think rationally
about who he is. Giles doesn’t trust him; she does, hesitantly. But she trusts
Giles more. This is his domain and she’s barely begun guest-starring in it.
They agree not to kill Angel, but to monitor him. “Angelus was reputed to be
not only remarkably cruel, but fairly clever as well,” Giles says, still
looking down, apparently speed-reading through the entry. “He frequently had
wide aspirations for wealth, fame. Gaining the trust of a slayer and then
betraying her could be quite a coup.”
gets up and puts on her jacket. “I guess we’re both going to be watchers now,”
she remarks unhappily. “I hope you have an extra t-shirt from the annual
Council wiener roast.”
is asleep when Buffy gets home, but she stumbles out of her room when she hears
Buffy set her keys down. Cordy has given up on the venting and the pointed
silence, but now she just looks confused and irritated when she sees her
stands in the kitchen doorway and looks directly as Buffy. “This is an
intervention,” she says. “A ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ intervention.” She
puts a hand on her hip. Buffy is sure that Cordelia could rule Sunnydale High
in her nightgown. “I mean, I understood the cold feet about LA…well I didn’t
understand, but I accepted. But now there’s all of this going out in the middle
of the night, and just really poor sneaking around. I mean, really, Buffy.
After those three days during Spring Break senior year when we managed to round
robin your mom into not realizing you weren’t home, you’d think you would have
better technique. If this is a cry for help, stop your whining and just tell me
what’s going on.”
looks at her. She wants to go to bed. “I can’t tell you. I don’t really want to
spend the best years of my life in Sunnydale’s snazziest psych ward,” she
stares sharply. “At least there you’d have other people to fly over the
cuckoo’s nest with,” she snaps, and she turns and goes to bed.
takes a night off from training and goes to dinner at her mom’s house. They
talk about the gallery and the latest twist in the soap opera they both watch,
make uncomfortable conversation around Buffy’s current lack of concrete
direction and hug quickly before Buffy goes back to her apartment.
it’s because there’s no one else, but when she goes to patrol later that night
and sees Angel’s shadow skate the edge of the graveyard, she calls out in
irritation, “Switch off the stalky vibe, Angel. Let’s activate our wonder twin
He is very suddenly beside her.
said stalky vibe off.” She feels irritated and invulnerable, probably not
the best way for a newish slayer to act during patrol with a possible enemy.
of the irritation fades as he drops from standing directly beside her, seeming
only to guard her back. She brings a hand quickly to her forehead. “Sorry.
Sorry, Angel. I can’t really seem to get into Jesus mode right now.”
know, be nice to everyone, spread your joy to all the plants and animals.”
laughs a little, the chuckling exhalation that seems to be his version anyway.
“In my day, we focused more on the ‘he died for your sins, remove yourself from
offenses of the flesh or face eternal damnation’ parts of Jesus. But I like
your version better.”
she finds the grave that Giles had told her would be one to watch and leans
against the headstone. “What exactly was your day? Who were you before you were
doesn’t seem to get the reference- there’s a beat of quiet that’s just a touch
too long- but he infers and just tells her. “I was not a good person.”
you gave me and Giles the interview with the evil vampire. But I’ve been
studying my slayer info pretty hard. I know that no one was born as a vampire.”
shakes his head and tucks his shoulders in a little. “No, I mean I wasn’t a
good person. I lied, disrespected people who deserved it, mistreated
girls who didn’t.” He looks at her, so directly that she’s startled. “I’ve met
thousands of people and thousands of vampires, and I have to think that the way
I was as a human affected the way I became after I was turned.”
if there are good people and bad people, shouldn’t there be good vampires and
bad vampires? From what I’ve seen, vampires have pretty one suck minds. Except
might not show it with you, but I struggle with the…sucking influence.” Buffy
almost wants to laugh at the hesitation before he pronounces the words, but she
holds it in. Angel obviously has trouble expressing himself so she keeps quiet
while he tries. “But that struggle is the difference. Some people struggle as
humans. I didn’t do that. Getting my soul gave me back the desire to control my
actions, but it didn’t take away the temptation to escape that control.”
way that he is looking at her is overwhelming, and she’s glad when a
zombie-like arm rips through the earth. She grasps the hand and pulls a figure
up through the dirt. It still freaks her out a little that supporting a whole
former human being is as easy as flossing…well, without the blood and the
dentist scolding anyway. But she puts on a smile and says, “Hey there! Welcome
back. It’s too bad you won’t be hanging around for too long.” And looking into
the vampire’s still-confused eyes, she stakes her.
is hanging back, looking admiring. “You’re a natural,” he tells her as she
falls back into step with him.
snorts. “Nothing about this feels natural, actually.”
He looks sidelong at her. “I guess I understand that, but from all I’ve seen,
the inheritance of the Slayer power is one of the most natural things in the
world. It doesn’t matter where the girl is in the world or in her life, one day
she wakes up and the ability is there, distinguishable only in its
partly right: by this point, her power is as integrated into her as her skin.
She doesn’t even think about it until she absently kicks a rock and it
disappears down the street, until Cordelia yells at her for crushing all the
cereal when she was trying to open the bag, until she goes out at night and
kills vampires. Then the ways in which she’s become different make her feel
that there are two people coexisting within her. “Maybe it’s natural, but it’s
not fair. This one girl in all the world stuff should be in the worst ideas
ever hall of fame. I mean, I was supposed to be spending my nights hanging out
in mansions with the rich and famous! Instead I get....”
meant the graveyards and vampires bent on killing me. You’re probably the best
part of all of this.” It comes out without her meaning it to. He’s very quiet
and sad, really not her usual crowd, and she’s still not even sure she trusts
him. For a second she wonders why an instant rewind power isn’t part of the
Slayer package. But the look on his face- awe and happiness which seems so
sharp because she’s used to him looking so sad- is one she wants to bottle up
and keep for the rest of her life. She’s dated, and even done plenty of running
of the bases, but no one has ever looked at her in this way.
starts patrolling with her nearly every night. Giles is not convinced the way
that she is and reminds her to pay attention to his behavior, so she watches
his face when he stakes vampires. There’s no hesitation, no recognition at all.
do you think about when you dust them?”
pauses, considering. He’s cut his hair. When he tilts his head, it no longer
swings. “I wonder who they once might have been. I imagine them being at
peace.” Then, lower. “I think about how I might have known that peace.”
grown more forthright with him; he never seems to mind her curiosity. Hearing
private things about his life makes it easier, too, to share hers with him. He
rarely asks about it, but he’s a good listener and she finds more and more that
he’s the only one who she can talk with. Her Watcher tells her that anything
that she lets slip to Angel could be arming a potential enemy with a long eye
for the future. Her instincts tell her that she’s confiding in someone worthy
of her trust. So she tells him about how she feels totally cut off from
Cordelia and her mother, people who she has to insulate from her new secret
life. She talks about the ways she feels divided even from Giles, with whom she
is supposed to trust her life.
really nice and he knows all about dealing with this slayer stuff, but that’s
because he learned it with someone else.” They have finished patrol and are
walking toward Giles’s place. Buffy patrols without him, but typically gives
him a brief report afterward while Angel stands shadowed behind her. “It’s like
getting your dad’s old car and he keeps telling you just to press the gas a
certain way and how the glove compartment gets stuck. I’m like ‘Giles, I don’t
need you to tell me that my period might start lining up with the full moon.’”
Her voice has gotten very high. She looks over at Angel. “Too much?” and she’s
surprised that she can tell just by the slight angle of his head that it is.
She continues in a calmer tone. “And he still misses her. Not even that he
wants to tell me about how great she was all the time, just that sometimes he
realizes why I’m there and it makes him sad all over again.”
reach Giles’s door and Buffy knocks. He opens the door with a large smile.
Angel looks at Buffy, one eyebrow raised.
Giles steps outside, pulling the door closed behind him. The music playing
inside is hidden behind it. He clearly tries to temper his smile, although it
still fiddles with the corners of his mouth. “And Angel. You’re done with
patrol? I hadn’t realized it was so late.”
time flies when you’re having fun,” Buffy says, a little flatly, peering at the
did you make out?” Giles continues, blinking himself into a semblance of his
got a couple,” she says casually.
Situation normal. Total Mayberry patrol.” She looks over her shoulder and says,
overly politely, “Angel, do you concur?”
corner of his mouth pinches up, but his voice remains even. “I do. Everything
was normal.” He pauses for a moment and then says, almost shyly, “I did hear a
rumor from some of Sunnydale’s demon citizens.”
both look at him. Giles’s gaze is sharp. “I didn’t know you were getting chummy
with the locals,” Buffy says, her voice almost hurt.
recognized me, and I figured that it would be easy to gain information that
way.” His voice is calm, but there’s something panicked about his eyes.
Giles retracts himself. “Yes, well, clever thinking. And you have something to
a story going around about the rise of a demonic power, something foretold. I
can’t confirm anything, but the minor demons are leaving town. They’re
definitely scared of something.”
completely gone, Giles shifts, sets his shoulders. “Well, I’ll begin to
research this. Thank you, Angel, for the information.” He turns, but before he
can open the door, a woman opens it for him.
Are you doing naughty things out here?” She shakes back short, glossy hair and
looks at Buffy and Angel curiously. “Well, you’re a lot less repressed than I
and Giles freeze in place. She shoots him a look of betrayal and annoyance. He
looks back at her, wide-eyed. Angel steps forward. “I’m Angel. This is Buffy.
We’re…former students from the high school. We just wanted to say hello.”
huh,” the woman replies, lifting an eyebrow. “Well, I’m Jenny. I just started as
the new computer teacher at the school.” Laughter running beneath her words,
she says, “I can’t wait until I have my own fan club that will come for random
turns toward the door, starting to wedge his way back inside. “Er, Jenny, the
sauce is still on, I believe.”
yes. Let’s get saucy.” She glances back at the two still standing in the dark.
“Nice to meet you two. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
will I,” Giles puts in hastily. “Buffy, perhaps we can meet tomorrow…for
do meet for coffee the next day during Buffy’s lunch break, although it’s in
the library, Giles drinks tea and Buffy decides that she doesn’t like coffee that
much and just stirs the liquid around her mug. Giles sits back indulgently, and
she stirs a little harder, slightly irritated that he knows teenage girls well
enough not to be frustrated by her.
drains his mug and spins his chair toward a precarious pile of books on his
desk. “I have been investigating any supernatural events that have been
prophesized to occur in the area. This woman,” he hefts a large volume. Buffy
wrinkles her nose at the smell coming from it. The paper looks thick and textured,
like it might have once belonged to something named Bessie. “The twelfth
century mystic Arielle of Lyon, has a rather ambiguous message regarding a
‘creature of darkness and destabilization’ which would rise in a ‘distant land
of sun,’ but she provides few details.” He removes his glasses and rubs his
eyes. “To be quite honest, this is a piece so cryptic that although it is
preceded by visions that have already come to pass in sequence, I can’t even
say for sure that it applies to this time or place, or even what this creature
of darkness might be.”
for those of us playing at home, we have something bad that may or may not be
happening in Sunnydale soon or possibly later. Let me get you a Scooby Snak,
Giles, maybe that will help us solve a mystery without any clues.”
recognize how thin it is, Buffy. I’ll continue to research what I can, and I
have put in a request with the Council’s librarians in England.” He pauses,
weightily. “Perhaps you can see if Angel has come across anything further.”
I’ll ask him on patrol tonight.” Although she knows that he lives near the
Bronze, the only time she can guarantee that she’ll see him is as she goes
through the cemetery. She clenches her jaw at the thought. She can find
Cordelia at nearly any hour of the day, but their conversation would be
superficial at best. Impulsively, she tells Giles, “I trust him, you know.”
of course,” Giles mumbles, looking down as a text.
it? After weeks and weeks of ‘be careful, Buffy. Always be on your guard,
Buffy. He might be the world’s most patient villain, Buffy,’ you’re going to be
the master of the casual turnaround?” She crosses her arms. “Are you sure
you’re not secretly a parent or a politician?”
looks into her face. “I suspected that your trust in him had grown. A slayer’s
instincts are one of her most potent weapons, and I have learned to trust them.
If you would like to begin bringing him to meetings such as these, I believe
that he could add valuable insight. And beyond that, there is little that we
can do to keep him out of the school. It’s a public building, after all, and in
their eminent wisdom, the builders saw fit to include an invitation for those
who were unsure.” Seeing her confusion, he explains, “The Latin over the gate.
‘Enter all ye who seek knowledge.’”
rolls her eyes. “Great work, Sunnydale High. Vampires welcome as long as
they’re pretentious.” She laughs a little, checks her watch and, stretching,
stands. “I have to get back to work, but I’ll chat with my own pretentious
rest of the day is a blur of loud music, pumping pedals, and her echoing,
encouraging shouts. That night, still wearing a large t-shirt and leggings (an
outfit that Cordelia dryly classifies as her delayed eighties phase) she goes
out to the cemetery. She bounces a little, unconsciously, to the music still
booming in her head. When Angel slides up to her, he is smiling, and she can’t
help but smile back.
was your day?” she asks, looking up at him.
normal. I slept. Walked around for a while after it got dark. Read a little.”
She keeps quiet, gestures a little, asking for more, and he continues. “I like
poetry. I read a lot of that. I have favorite books that I like to read again
every so often. I’m a big fan of Russian literature, and Victor Hugo. Sometimes
I go to the library- it’s open late enough on Wednesday nights- and I see what
people are writing these days. People feel that modern books have to try so
much harder to be good than those that are considered classics just because
they’re old, but I’m always impressed with the creativity that people can
exhibit, that after thousands of years of written language they can keep
combining it in new ways to make people feel new things, or old things in new
ways.” He falls quiet and laughs a little, uncomfortable.
think that’s the longest I’ve ever heard you talk,” Buffy tells him. She looks
luminous in the dark, exquisitely special.
I…I haven’t really had many people to talk to.” He looks away, almost shy, before
gathering himself and asking politely, “How was your day?”
at people to keep pedaling. Met with Giles. Yelled some more. Not the life I
ever imagined for myself, but it’s working for now.” The graveyard is wide and quiet.
They walk through, relaxed, headed toward a couple of fresh graves that Buffy
found in the newspaper, but open to any
other monsters that they might notice on the way. Trusting Angel to keep
looking around, Buffy looks over at him. “Giles wants to know if you’ve heard
shrugs. “The underworld of Sunnydale is becoming the underworld of elsewhere.
But I did get a name from one of the demons heading out of town. Whatever it
is, whatever is does, it’s called Amunshad.”
I’ll go see Giles tonight.” After a second, she amends. “I’ll call Giles
was a little bit of an…encounter last night. But Jenny seems nice.”
snorts. “I’m sure she is. But I wouldn’t really know because he’s never
mentioned her to me.”
sure he had a good reason.”
his good reason was that he didn’t think that it was important for me to know.”
Buffy crosses her arms. “With him, it’s Watcher and Slayer, not friends. It’s
not like us.”
the first time since she’s known him, his faked breathing stops. It’s usually
comforting to hear the pattern beside her, but the pause is its own type of
comfort. He’s a puzzle to her, and this is as clear a sign of emotion as he
ever gives. “You think that we’re more than Slayer and…?”
assistant? Sure. I mean, we see each other every night. You let me get venty
about whatever’s on my mind. I’m not saying that we have a diary relationship,
but I will bet you one million American dollars that if Giles knows my birthday
or my mom’s name or what I think about yogurt, it’s only because the Council is
better at detective work than we are.” She pretends to see something moving in
the distance, moves her gaze away. Her words are powerfully vulnerable but she
says them anyway. “At this point, you’re kind of my best friend.”
is so often silent that she was afraid that he would be the same now, but he
doesn’t even seem to ponder. “You are mine,” he tells her, and then, laughing
softly, “Although it’s not really a contest.”
nice to hear anyway,” Buffy tells him, and, indicating a vampire behind him,
begins to do her night job.
walks Buffy home, which he's started doing more and more in the last few days.
is very gentlemanly of you,” she says, smiling a little. Although it would
bring questions, she half hopes that Cordelia will look out the window at this
moment. “Old habits die hard, I guess. Especially really really old habits.”
I wasn’t much of a gentleman when I was alive, but I did have a little sister,
and I would never have wanted her to walk home alone the way the streets are
today.” He pauses for half a beat and then says, “Not that I think of you like
a little sister. If anything, you should be my protection detail.”
in her stomach sighs, but she looks over at him and says, “I’ll remember that
for next time.” They have reached her building. She pauses, hand on the door.
“By the way, Giles is starting to get into the welcome business. If you want to
come, we’ll probably meet tomorrow to do the whole real life research montage
thing. I think the school has sewer access.”
I’d be glad….that’s good.” He takes a piece of paper from his pocket, scribbles
something and hands it to her. “Here’s my phone number.”
wiggles the scrap through the air inanely. “Great. Good move, getting with the
modern and everything.” She goes through the door, calling a ‘good night’ to
him over her shoulder as it swings shut. When she gets upstairs, Cordelia is
still out. She turns on a couple of lights, sits at her desk and adds Angel’s
name and number to her address book, trying to make it all businessy. She turns
to throw the paper away, but can’t quite seem to make herself. Considering, she
carefully tucks it inside as well before turning, falling down on her bed and
pressing her face into the pillow. She’s never gotten sentimental over a phone
number before. She was the girl who ate guys for breakfast in high school.
Within a few months, her life has become something she doesn’t recognize at
bites of toast the next morning, she calls Giles. They decide to meet at the
library late that afternoon. She manages to gather herself to briefly relay the
message to Angel. He answers the phone sounding tired, but confirms that he’ll
be there. Somehow, though, she’s still surprised to see him, already waiting in
a chair and speaking with Giles when she enters.
like one minute late,” she says, taking a seat herself. “Did you guys decide to
pull an American Revolution 2: Revenge of the Brits?”
were just deciding who would be George Washington,” Angel mutters.
looks chastisingly toward the two of them. “Angel and I were discussing a
fascinating recent acquisition of mine, a ledger from sixteenth century Spain
apparently detailing a society which was paid to rid certain properties of
vampires.” Buffy realizes with an uncomfortable jolt that Giles and Angel
actually probably have a lot to talk about. Giles seems to see something in her
face because he says hastily, “Putting that aside. Now that you have arrived,
Buffy, we should proceed. Angel, you had some information?”
a name. Amunshad.”
glasses come off so quickly, Buffy worries about his face. “Amunshad? Are
you…are you sure?”
the name I got. No confirmation of the veracity, but the guy who told me is
pretty reliable. Partner and three kids all piled into their minivan getting as
far from Sunnydale as possible.”
opens her mouth, chooses not to comment, closes it, and then reopens it to ask,
“Giles, if you keep rubbing you’re just going to have to explain to your
glasses dealer why the glassy parts are all gone. Could you just use your words
and explain what’s happening? Who is Amunshad, and why do I get the definite
feeling that he’s going to ruin my life?”
is….we speak of it as a joke in the Watcher’s Academy. ‘Whatever comes up, at
least it’s not Amunshad.’ That’s what we tell each other. Amunshad is a power
from another dimension, but it passes over into ours every so often. It effects
trust, undermines the bonds between people. The Inquisition, Hitler’s Germany,
those periods in history where large numbers of people would turn in their
neighbors or parents or children as a sacrifice for their own safety, where
they would give in to their paranoia at the cost of lives, are thought to be
particularly under its influence, but we have never been able to be sure.
Amunshad has no physical form, and it takes advantage of natural human
weakness, making it particularly difficult to pin down. If it is truly
preparing to enter our dimension again, this is truly a disadvantageous
disadvantageous position?’” Buffy tilts her head and tries to contain her
panic. Giles has mentioned dealing with demons like this in the past, but so
far being a slayer for her has meant dealing with vampires. Beating up Giles,
even practicing with Angel around the graveyard when they have downtime, has
not trained her for this. “I feel like you’re being Hyperbole Man’s lesser
known cousin, Hypobole Man.” Giles looks over at her, and she wrinkles her face
back at him. “What? I took Methods of Writing last semester.”
got an eighty-five on the final.” Angel stands, serious, and rests his hands on
the back of a chair. “How has Amunshad been dealt with in the past?”
far back as our records show, each time we suspect its presence, it has left on
its own after a random period. It is unknown whether positive human emotion
manages to overcome it, if it needs some other energy source only found in its
home dimension, or if there’s another reason we cannot imagine, but thus far
there have been no successful attempts even to block its entrance, much less to
keep it out permanently.”
because they’ve been attempting it wrong.” They all turn. Jenny stands just
inside the library doors. She looks around at them, tries to smile a little.
“Self-compliment moment, but that was some excellent dramatic timing.”
peers toward her. “Jenny? Did we have plans?”
that you knew about.” She comes over and pats his cheek. “But I’d been reading
the signs myself, and figured you could use some help. I was going to see how
long you could keep up this whole charade, but if Amunshad is truly coming then
you need me helping, not standing playing dumb on the sidelines.” She holds her
hand out to Buffy. “My name is Jana Kalderash. I come from a family of Romani,
what you would know as gypsies. My ancestors cursed Angel. Three years ago, we
tracked him down, and I was sent to watch him, to make sure that the curse was
still in effect. I’ve come to believe that it was not a fair or humane action,
but that’s an issue for another day. For now, I have to tell you that there is
a way to stop Amunshad from making its way here again.”
and Buffy look to be in total shock. “What can we do?” Angel asks, arms folded.
know something about distrust. We have been discriminated against and suspected
for centuries; most of the time we live on the fringes, which has been both a
consequence and a method of perpetuating our treatment. We have had to come up
with ways, even magical ones, to try to ward off persecution.” She takes a
folder out of her bag, opens it to reveal a set of computer printouts. “I have
been corresponding with one of the elder women from home and I think I’ve
managed to amplify one of those spells to dispel not only localized distrust of
one group, but a creature of focused paranoia.”
takes one of the sheets, stares at it for a moment before he seems to gather
himself to be able to read. “A trust ritual to balance the effects. This is
try,” Jenny shrugs. “Should we meet here tonight? We should get this done as
soon as possible.”
afraid that the proximity to the Hellmouth will have an adverse effect-”
can do it at my place,” Buffy offers before she has really considered it.
“Should I get anything, or practice?”
not a quiz, Buffy,” Jenny tells her gently. “I’ll see you tonight.”
they all drift out awkwardly, leaving Giles behind to look through some of his
books (“The scholarship on Amunshad is disappointingly deficient, but I shall
endeavor to turn over anything new that I can.”). Buffy wanders a little when
she gets home, picking up and putting down random things in her apartment. She
dumps some chips into a bowl and chills a bottle of soda, feeling that it’s
something her mother would do. She changes outfits three times and hangs the
discarded clothing back up with care. She settles on dark pants and a tight,
red top. She feels like it’s something Faith would have worn based on the few
times she spotted her in high school, and the few pictures Giles keeps on his
desk at home. She takes out makeup and stares at her face in the mirror for a
few minutes before putting it all away and starting to go through some katas in
the living room. She’s working on deep breathing when the buzzer rings. It’s
Jenny, who immediately puts down plastic sheeting and starts setting up a
circle on the floor out of what looks like sand and weeds. Giles joins her
moments afterward, observing. It’s just before full darkness when the buzzer
rings for the third time.
Angel,” Buffy says. “Come on up.” She had asked him before if inviting him over
the intercom would make a difference. He wasn’t sure because he had never done
it before, but apparently the answer is no because he knocks a moment later.
When Buffy opens the door, he is standing in the hall looking like the nervous,
shrunken version of himself that she first knew. “Come in,” she says again,
trying to get him to smile. He thanks her and steps inside, still looking grim.
Watching, her smile slips and her eyes get big, remembering what is going to
gathers himself, tries to smile. “Hey, it’s going to be alright.” He lifts his
chin, a defiant gesture. “I’ve never seen you lose your cool, no matter how
many vampires it was. It’s not going to happen tonight.”
never had to-”
Giles interrupts. They look over to where he is sitting on his heels beside
Jenny. “We’re ready to begin.”
and Buffy take seats beside them. Uncomfortably, Buffy asks, “So, do we get
naked under the moonlight?”
laughs. “Only if you want to, but it’s not part of the ceremony. There are four
roles. I’ll be the channel. I’ll need an anchor, someone to make sure that my
mind doesn’t become fully immersed in the ritual. And the other two will need
to be the Trusting. During the ceremony, they will be able to communicate
mentally. In that state, they will each have to share a great secret and that
trust will be the power that I transmit to block Amunshad.” Giles opens his
mouth and Buffy is sure that he is volunteering the two of them to be the Trusting,
that she will have to make excuses and let him down gently. She knows that he
is wiser than she is, lets him guide her through her Slayer origin story, but
she cannot make the leap to trusting him with herself, not when he can’t seem
to do that with her. Something might have shown on her face, because Jenny
smoothly adds, “Rupert, why don’t you be my anchor?” She looks over at Angel.
“I know you can do it and I would trust you- I’ve been keeping tabs on you for
three years- but it’s easier when there’s a personal connection, and we’ve only
got half of that.” Angel nods and positions himself so he is facing Buffy.
lights are bright in the room, but they seem to dim as Jenny begins speaking.
Her voice is deeper than usual. Buffy just has time to shiver before she is
caught in Angel’s eyes and the physical aspects of the room no longer matter.
she is conscious in the back of her mind that it is not real, the details of
the world around her make it seem so. It seems to be miles of green space in
one direction, ocean in the other. Everything smells fresh. “Where are we?”
Angel says, voice surprised, somehow from behind her. She turns to face him.
“This is close to where I grew up.” He gestures vaguely. “My family lived in
the city, but I came out here as often as I could. It felt like the real
Ireland to me, the only place I liked to be, until the pub became that place.”
shifts, looking around. She wouldn’t say no to a mall, but she can understand
why Angel would think being here was peaceful. “What do you think? Your
scenery, your turn?”
guess.” He paces a bit, clenching his hands. Buffy suddenly feels
inconsiderate. All she had thought about was not being ready to do this with
Giles; it hadn’t even occurred to her that Angel might want to be out there
anchoring Jenny instead of in here baring his soul to her.
didn’t really get a say in this. If you want to switch with Giles, I’m sure we
can figure out how to find the dream panic button and we’ll just-”
trust you, Buffy.” He says it quickly, but not as if to gloss over something
painful. It’s more that he wants to get past the obvious and get on to new
information. “But I have a lot of secrets and none of them are easy.”
I’m not an easy girl! I mean, no, I’m not easy either, but my life
hasn’t exactly been a clambake with the Kennedys. Or maybe it has been lately.
I mean, death, mayhem, surprise affairs, checks all around.” She looks at him
dead on. “I can deal with what you have to tell me.”
not sure I can.” He glances around a little, then settles. “My family’s house
was large for its time, especially considering that my family was Catholic, and
that wasn’t an easy thing to be in eighteenth century Ireland. I don’t know if
any of it survives today. I haven’t been back since I was turned. There were
whole worlds to see once I was a vampire that were far more interesting than
Ireland, and after I got my soul back I…I couldn’t come back.” His face blank,
he meets her eyes. “I killed my family there, Buffy. I have the absolutely
perfect memories of what they smelled like, how they tasted, exactly how they
felt in my arms as I took their lives from them.”
speaks almost eagerly. After talking with Angel and listening to Giles, it’s
like this is the exact test question she’s been waiting for. “That’s what
vampires do. They take the things you loved and they turn on them.”
have those memories,” he continues, voice low. Something selfish in her feels
cheated that he paid no attention to what she said. “Because those were my
first. But after that…for a hundred years…” His voice pitches, anguished. “I
don’t remember them, Buffy. I’m worse than a serial killer. They take stalk,
they take trophies, they have a twisted kind of caring. And I did that too, but
for most of them, I just used those people to keep going, and…I can’t picture
their faces. Of all the things in the world, I should remember them, and I
can’t even remember what they looked like.” He moves his hand, almost
instinctively. Buffy’s eyes widen as he touches his forehead, not to cover his
face, but to try to cross himself. He holds his fingers to his head for a
moment before sniffing and looking to her for judgment.
nothing you could have done to stop it. You were gone, Angel. The words almost
come out, but she thinks about him trying to pray, and knows that words won’t
help. Clearly, she says, “There’s nothing for me to forgive you for, Angel, and
it would be a pretty long distance call to try to ask them. But I think that
what you’re doing now- helping me, trying to think about them- I think that
they would appreciate it.” She touches his arm, very briefly, so he will look
at her as a person rather than a prosecutor. She waits while he focuses. “Thank
you for telling me.”
swipes at his eyes a bit, but then clears his throat and says shufflingly, “I
would have told you anyway. Even without all of this, eventually I think I
would have told you.” As he says it, they are no longer in their dream version
of Ireland. The scene does not dissolve. It simply becomes something else. It
is a place they both recognize.
favorite graveyard,” Angel notes, glancing around. She wants some of his dry
humor to reassure her that baring yourself makes you feel relieved and
comforted rather than exposed and anxious, but his voice is flat. She begins to
walk. The habit is hard to break. Angel moves alongside in their traditional
guess it’s my turn,” Buffy says, just because something should be and she’s not
ready to do her big reveal just yet. Angel is quiet, his usual graveyard quiet,
and she breathes deeply and begins. “I wasn’t a nice person in high school. I
was the mean girl who most girls go home and cry over in their diaries. I
focused on things and people that weren’t important. And I was definitely
oblivious girl on the whole secret life of Sunnydale thing. So I should be
really grateful that I got slapped with a nice ‘That was then, this is now’
reality check.” She stops, turns, stares at Angel, and her voice is defiantly
weak. “But I’m not. I hate that my life changed like this. Staying in Sunnydale
to fight vampires, having to keep it a secret, telling someone my secrets to
save the world- I hate it! And I would even give the good parts away if
everything could go back to the way it was.”
really hate everything about being a slayer that much?”
looks around, almost as if she’s afraid that someone will overhear. “No,” she
says softly. “Being the one girl in the world who can do this, that rush I get
from killing vampires, how natural it feels…I love it. And I want to hate it so
much, but I can’t.” She looks up at him. “Why do I only like the worst parts,
the dirty parts? How much of a freak does that make me?”
is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.’”
philosopher named Camus said that. What you’re struggling with now is not
freakish, it’s the most deeply human part of you.” He reaches to touch her arm,
but then retracts his hand. His voice is at once compassionate and fierce. “You’re
the Slayer, Buffy. It’s not because of anything you did, but it means that you
walk with death, in every sense, on a nightly basis. You can’t help but feel
that changing you. I understand that it might be hard, but you need to accept
it, to embrace it if you can, because the only other option is your death, and
I refuse to accept that.”
vivid, she leans toward him. “Are you sure that you weren’t a gym teacher in a
former life? Because with pep talks like that…” She swallows her quips and
sobers for him. “I believe that you will do whatever you can to keep it from
happening. I think that until I can do it on my own, you’ll do whatever you can
to help me.”
on it,” Angel replies, voice fading in and out, like a badly tuned radio,
volume ranging between syllables. Buffy blinks and he is sitting before her on
the floor of her apartment. “Count on it,” he repeats solidly, catching her
looks like she has just given birth: worn and satisfied. Giles reaches for the
snacks that Buffy had laid out, passes them around.
assume that it worked?” Angel finally broaches, the only one of them not
speaking around handfuls of chips.
did. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s easier to relax now. There’s less of an
urge to be upset with those around you.” Jenny stretches a little, grinning.
She shifts herself to rest on Giles. “Or maybe that’s just me and the
aftereffects of a really satisfying spell.”
apartment door opens, and before Buffy can even stand, Cordelia is looking down
on them, hands on her hips. “Hi, Buffy,” she says cuttingly. “Did you decide to
stay in Scummydale to be close to your orgy club?”
Cordelia,” Buffy says, tiredly, biting her lip against a smile. “We’ve just been
saving the world. Just regular Tuesday night stuff.”
still smiling as she starts thinking about going to bed, so she puts on a pair
of yoga pants and goes to patrol even though it’s late and Giles told her that
she didn’t have to (“After a job so well done, you deserve a night off,” he had
said, peering kindly at her through his glasses). Angel is waiting at the
entrance when she gets to the cemetery.
grin turns on full blast, although she tries to mask it. “Hey.” She bumps his
shoulder a little. “So, go team tonight, am I right?”
if her smile has leaked from her face onto his, the corner of his mouth begins
to turn up. “We definitely did something right.” He glances toward her. “You
know that what you told me…you know I won’t ever use that against you, right?”
That was the whole trust thing. Which we aced, by the way. Jenny told me it was
really powerful, really energizing for her.”
she told me the same thing. ‘A pleasure to work with,’ she said.” His voice is
quiet as usual, but with a deep undercurrent of satisfaction. She makes a note
to compliment him more often; he needs it.
vampire has been following them, apparently thinking itself stealthy, but Buffy
has had enough of it. She engages a little, dodging and laughing, until finally
deciding to stake it. When she is done, Angel is peering at his watch.
you have somewhere to be?” she asks, bouncing beside him. He makes the slight
ducking motion that passes for the blush that he can’t actually manage.
it’s just…it’s midnight. Happy birthday.”
freezes for a moment, her reaction a blank, before her grin redevelops. “Hey,
got you something.”
Buffy’s night vision has been
improved by her slayer powers, but she still needs to move closer to a street
lamp while she opens Angel’s gift. A simple silver cross glints at her. “It’s
beautiful. Thank you.” she says sincerely, holding it in front of her eyes by
the chain. It dazzles her eyes and she imagines Angel going into a jewelry
store and picking it out for her. She imagines him avoiding touching the cross,
although he wants to. He has given her a mirror of herself: a pretty weapon
that can turn against him instinctively, no matter how much he values it. She
places it gently back into the box and fixes her eyes on him. “I won’t use this
against you, either.”
know.” And his smile this time comes all on its own, trying to coax one onto
her face. “We aced the trust thing, after all.”
his shoulder she sees a group of vampires. It’s more than they usually deal
with, but she fastens on her necklace, tucks the box into her pocket and feels
invincible. She turns and looks up at Angel. “Let’s ace this too,” and she
watches him stand straight, set his shoulders and take her with his eyes.
be right here, but you definitely have this under control.”
grins at him, predatory and joyful, and throws herself into the battle.