Splitting of Souls

Author: Kattie Feedback is greatly appreciated!!

Summary: Buffy feels Angel's soul being released and goes to LA to investigate. There, she finds a soulless Angel, eighteen-year-old Connor, and the rest of the AI team. How will things differ for both Angel and Buffy when they decide to renew their relationship? Who will live and who will die during 'Chosen'? And just what is the deal with Connor anyway?


Chapter One: Pulled Apart

Buffy kicked the Turokhan backwards, sending it stumbling a little. It regrouped and threw a right-hook at her face. She was tired, sore, bruised and bloodied, but she was determined to win this fight. She and Willow had set it so that the Slayers-in-Training, or Potential Slayers, would be able to see that even monsters who are difficult to defeat can still be defeated. Of course, that was the theory of it.

She was hit again, sending her crashing to the floor, her ribs aching. Without warning, she felt something tear at her, except the Turokhan wasn't touching her. This was more private, more intimate, more painful than anything she had ever felt, including her jump into the portal a year and a half earlier. This was pure agony and part of her very soul was yanked viciously from her body.

The Turokhan kicked her, and she rolled onto her back. It grabbed her and threw her upwards through a plank of wood. It climbed up to where she lay in a painful heap and grabbed her by the neck, lifting her into the air, choking the life out of her.

And that was when Buffy snapped. She grabbed the crossbow bolt that was poking out of the Turokhan's chest, broke it from his skin and jabbed it violently into it's eye. The vampire dropped her and Buffy recovered quickly, punching and kicking, making the creature back up until it fell from the platform. Buffy jumped down after it, and after a quick fight, the Slayer and Vampire matching each other blow for blow, Buffy grabbed a piece of barbed wire, wrapped it around the Turokhan's neck, and pulled with all her strength.

The vampire's head came off and it crumbled into dust. Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, brushed off her hands and looked up at the awe-filled Potentials who were all grinning and nodding their heads, feeling far safer about being in Sunnydale now that they'd seen their Protector in action.

"See," Buffy said, "dust. Just like the rest of them."

She walked forward, still looking up. She had to make it through these next few moments without collapsing in pain or emotional anguish. She didn't understand what had happened during the fight, but she was going to find out.

"I don't know what's coming next. But I know it's going to be just like this. Hard. Painful. But in the end it's gonna be us. If we all do our parts. Believe it. We'll be the ones left standing." Her voice was strong and clear, the voice of a leader. "Here ends the lesson."

Buffy was packing clothing into an overnight bag, Giles hovering nervously behind her.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" he asked.

"Giles, if I don't go, I'm not gonna be able to concentrate. I don't know what happened, but I know it's bad," she explained. "And knowing our luck, they could probably use a hand."

"But to go now? When things are so up in the air?"

Buffy stopped moving and looked at her Watcher.

"Giles, I felt something happen. I have to find out what it was, and I have to find out today. Besides, with that Turkey-thing dead, the First is probably gonna back off to lick its wounds. I'll be two hours away, that's all. I've got my phone, you can call if you need me, but…I have to do this."

Giles sighed and knew there was to be no arguing with his Slayer, especially when it came down to anything regarding Angel.

"Alright, fine. But please check in when you know what's happening," Giles said, finally relenting.

He looked over his Slayer, almost surprised by the strength that she carried so well. Even bruised, exhausted, bloodied and with stitches on her cheek, she was a warrior through and through, thinking of others before thinking of herself. And, if Buffy was right and Angelus was loose on the streets of LA, then they could use the help of a Vampire Slayer.

"I will," she assured him. "Make sure the girls don't go too close to Spike. He probably hasn't fed in a while, so…just pigs blood. Nothing human."

"If he becomes a threat…" Giles trailed off.

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes. She hated that the First was using Spike as it's lapdog. She hated that things had gone downhill so quickly, and that even though Spike was trying so hard to be a better man, he couldn't whilst the First was holding his strings.

"If he becomes a threat, then…then you'll do what you have to do," Buffy said quietly.

Giles nodded and placed a fatherly hand on Buffy's shoulder.

"I'll try to see that it doesn't come down to that."

"Thank you."


Chapter Two: Cars & Chicks

Angelus stood at the bars to the cage that Angel had locked himself in, Cordelia standing behind the red line so that Angelus couldn't reach her. Her eyes told nothing, and she knew of a way to get Angelus to speak.

"Lemme guess. You want to know about the Beast," Angelus said, his voice lilting and soft, an Irish accent tinging his voice. It was so different to Angel, slightly seductive, powerful.

"Everything you know," Cordelia replied.

"Oh. And in return, I get what? Wouldn't mind a car. I hear the new Mustang is nice," Angelus said.

"Something better."

"What's a better ride than a Mustang?" Angelus asked curiously.

Cordelia paused for a moment, caught in her indecision.


Angelus stared at her, wondering whether or not she was serious. He looked in her eyes and saw that she was. He burst out laughing, unable to contain himself. Cordelia just looked at the vampire, feeling offended by his amusement.

"You? Oh please Cordelia," Angelus taunted. "I don't want you. Soulboy doesn't even really want you."

Cordelia narrowed her eyes, and tried to remember what Wesley had said about Angelus using Angel's knowledge against them. Of course, Angelus was also a lying conniving asshole, but Cordelia had to wonder if Angelus was telling the truth.

"So what do you want Angelus?" Cordelia asked.

Angelus' lips curled into a smile. His hand moved from the bars and stroked his stomach slowly. He looked up at Cordelia who was surprised to see something like joy in the vampire's eyes.

"She's here," Angelus said quietly. "She came."

"She? Fred?" Cordelia asked.

Angelus just grinned. He shook his head and walked away from Cordelia.

"You'll find out soon enough. Leave Cordelia."

Cordelia hesitated, but finally turned around and walked back up the stairs, remembering to turn the camera back on as she passed.

"He's not gonna tell us anything," Cordelia complained.

Wesley sighed tiredly and rubbed his eyes.

"We knew he wasn't going to," Fred commented.

"At least he's stopped singing," Lorne commented, rubbing his tired head. He had been blocking his gift of reading people who sang, and it had given him the mother of all headaches.

Wesley paced the foyer of the Hyperion Hotel, wracking his brains for the answer. He didn't know how to get Angelus to be co-operative. There was no incentive for Angelus to tell them anything. Apart from depriving the vampire of meals, they could do nothing to get him to speak.

"Can't we just threaten to kill him," Connor suggested, very much liking the idea of the vampire being dead and gone.

"He knows we won't kill him," Wesley replied. "Angel is too important to us."

"Not to all of us," Connor mumbled. No one heard him, or if they did, he was ignored.

"So now what do we do?" Fred asked.

Wesley didn't answer and the room fell silent.

"Hey, it's too bad that Darla chick bit the dust. She probably coulda got him to talk," Gunn comented absently.

Wesley's head snapped up and he looked at his former friend as though Gunn had just given him all the answers.

"Of course!"

Gunn just looked confused. "What? She's dead Wesley, she's not gonna be too much help."

Wesley ignored the comment and grabbed his cell phone from his pocket.

"Who are you calling?" Fred asked quietly.

"Buffy Summers," he replied.

The door to the Hyperion Hotel opened, and a small blonde figure walked in. She had a sombre look on her face and her cell phone began to ring. She took it out of her pocket, checked the caller ID and looked towards Wesley.

"I'll assume I don't need to answer this, right?" she asked.

Wesley turned his phone off and replaced it in his pocket, walking towards the Slayer. He looked her over carefully, noticing her damaged appearance.

"How on earth did you know we needed your help?" Wesley asked.

Buffy's hand absently touched her heart, a pensive look on her face.

"I felt it," she replied. She looked questioningly at her former watcher. "Is he Angelus, or is he dead?"

"The first I'm afraid," Wesley replied.

"Well, that's better than dead," Buffy said, a sigh of relief coming from her lips. She unshouldered her bag and placed it at her feet. She walked further into the foyer of the Hyperion Hotel, stopping at the counter where Gunn, Fred, Connor, Lorne and Cordelia were all gathered.

Cordelia gave Buffy a complete look of disgust, which Buffy valiantly ignored.

"Fred right?" Buffy asked, holding her hand out to the skinny brunette woman.

Fred nodded and the two girls shook hands. "It's good to finally meet you Buffy," Fred said kindly. She'd always wanted to meet the girl that Angel had mourned over. She'd never even seen a picture of Buffy, and even with the bruises on her face, Fred knew that Buffy was beautiful.

Gunn stepped forward and shook Buffy's hand. "I'm Gunn," he said.

"I've heard a lot of good things about you Gunn," Buffy said. "Of course Angel never said you were gorgeous."

Gunn flushed and took his hand back. Buffy looked at Fred and winked.

"You've got a keeper with this one," Buffy said. "Make sure you hold onto him."

Fred nodded and tried to work out how Buffy knew about her relationship with Gunn. As far as she, or anyone else in the Hyperion knew, Angel hadn't spoken to Buffy since just after she'd been brought back from the dead.

Connor stepped forward, curious about who this woman was, especially because of the bruising covering her body. She saw his movement and a brilliant smile lit her face.

"Connor," she said quietly.

Connor frowned and tilted his head to the side, wondering how she knew who he was, and why she was smiling at him.

"I've been wanting to meet you for a while," she admitted. "It's good to finally see you."

"I didn't know you knew about Connor," Wesley commented.

Buffy looked at him, a grin on her face. "Please Wes. The child of two vamps? I knew about Connor the day after he was born." She looked back at the young man in question and saw that he was not happy about the topic of his heritage. "Word is that you're quite the fighter. I wouldn't mind sparring against you when this is all over."

"Who are you?" Connor asked curiously. There was something about her, something that tugged in his heart. It wasn't attraction -even though he knew that she was beautiful- he had that towards Cordelia. It was something far more than that. Some bond, a connection that he couldn't explain.

"Oh, sorry," she said. She shook his hand. "Buffy Summers. Vampire Slayer and School Counsellor."

Cordelia snorted in laughter. "You're a counsellor?"

Buffy smirked at her and nodded.

"Wait…what's a Vampire Slayer?" Connor asked.

"Pretty much what it sounds like. I kill vamps and demons," Buffy explained.

"One girl in all the world chosen to protect humanity from the forces of darkness," Wesley intoned.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. She hated that she was jealous of Buffy Summers of all people. Angelus' words suddenly made sense to her. She's here…she came.

"There's not just one though anymore," Cordelia added. "Buffy got replaced."

Buffy refused to allow herself to rise to the bait. After weeks of dealing with a bunch of fifteen year olds and not losing her temper, she wasn't about to let one mean-spirited ex-Scooby member annoy her.

"So, where is he anyway?" Buffy asked, looking at Wesley. "By the looks of it, he's not rampaging around LA even though you've got that whole wacky no-sun thing happening."

"He's locked in a cage downstairs," Wesley explained.

Buffy looked a little shocked by this.

"You managed to capture Angelus?" she asked incredulously. "Wow. Major points to you guys. How'd he lose his soul anyway?"

Cordelia jumped in before anyone else could explain. "Surely you remember about the curse," Cordelia taunted. "Perfect happiness."

Buffy just grinned. "He finally worked out that peanut butter on chocolate was the perfect yum?"

Connor couldn't help but laugh. He was angry with Cordelia for many reasons, and even though he didn't understand who Buffy Summers was to Angel, he knew that Cordelia was trying to make her jealous. And, if Buffy was putting Cordelia down, he was alright with that.

Cordelia seethed, but couldn't say anything about she and Angel sleeping together, purely because it wasn't true.

Wesley cleared his throat and brought the attention back to the matter at hand.

"We uh…needed information from Angelus, so…we removed his soul."

Buffy stared at the Englishman for several seconds, shocked into silence. She couldn't even begin to understand what Wesley had just said. The sentence just didn't make sense at all.

"You removed Angel's soul?" Buffy asked slowly.

Wesley nodded.

"And you couldn't have chosen a better time to do it? I was in the middle of a fight, I felt it go. Nearly got me killed."

"Shame it didn't," Cordelia muttered.

Buffy heard her and glared at the girl.

"So, is Angelus talking or what?" Buffy asked.

Wesley shook his head sadly. "He won't tell us anything at all."

Buffy sighed. She'd thought that would be the answer, but she was still somewhat disappointed by it.

"Perhaps you could talk to him," Wesley suggested tentatively.

In truth, Buffy had been about to suggest the same thing, but she was grateful that it had come from someone else. She sighed heavily and nodded her agreement.


"Downstairs," Connor answered. "I can show you if you'd like."

Buffy smiled at the boy, unsure why he made her feel the way she did when she looked at him. She could sense him, like she could sense Angel, and there was something drawing her to him. Almost like the connection she'd always felt towards Dawn. It was nice. It stirred in her a protectiveness that she usually reserved for close friends and trusted loved ones. And here was an eighteen-year-old boy whom she'd known for five minutes stirring in her the same emotion.


Connor nodded and the two of them moved towards the doors. Connor held it open for her, and she descended the stairs, comforted by the stake that was tucked into the back of her jeans.

Buffy walked down the stairs and saw Angel -Angelus- standing at the bars of the cage, staring intently at her. She couldn't help but smile. It had been too long since she'd seen Angel, and just the sight of him made her heart ache. He was still the most beautiful man she'd ever seen.

Angelus smiled and watched as his Slayer walked down the stairs.

"Hello lover."


(Stuff in brackets and italics is what's happening upstairs with the Fang Gang watching the monitor)

Chapter Three: Conversations

Connor looked between the small blonde girl and the dark vampire, his mouth open in shock. They'd been lovers? Angelus looked at him and smirked.

"Don't look so shocked Connor," Angelus said quietly. "It's not that uncommon for vampires to take human lovers."

"But…you're a Slayer!" Connor exclaimed, looking at Buffy.

Buffy just shrugged and kept her eyes on Angelus. It wasn't fair that he was still so attractive.

"You wanna leave me and the big guy alone for a bit?" Buffy asked softly.

Connor hesitated, desperately curious to see how they interacted with each other. He remembered the monitor upstairs and relented, racing up so he wouldn't miss anything interesting.

"So," Buffy began, stepping closer to the cage, stopping at the red line. "How ya been?"

"Trapped in soulboy for a coupla years. You?"

"Oh, y'know, getting my ass kicked by ancient vamps. Same old, same old."

Angelus looked at her closely, finally noticing the stiches adorning her cheek.

"Now that you mention you do look like someone took you down a peg or two. Who was it?" he asked.

She tilted her head to the side and regarded him curiously. "Someone who didn't know you very well might think that you were concerned."

"Maybe I just wanna shake the guys hand," Angelus replied, smirking sexily at her.

Buffy smiled and took a step back from the line. She sat down cross- legged and looked up at Angelus, leaning back against her palms to keep herself steady.

"That's an interesting position for you Buff. If you were on your knees and I were outta this cage, we could have a whole lotta fun."

"Ah, but neither of that's gonna happen Angie, so I'd suggest either sitting down so I don't strain myself, or shutting up so we can get to the Q&A portion of this little cage-filled fun-fest."

Angelus hesitated for a moment, but sat himself down, his hands touching the bars.

"So, did Wesley the Wimpy Weasel call and ask for help?" Angelus asked.


"So…why did you come?"

"To see you of course," Buffy replied casually. "So…what can you tell me?"

"I can tell you lots of things Buff, but…why would I want to?" he asked.

Buffy hadn't really thought about that. Angelus had no real incentive. She shrugged and just looked at him intently. "What would you want in return for information?"

Angelus just stared at her pointedly. "You."

(Cordelia seethed with jealousy. When she'd offered herself to Angelus he'd just laughed. She scowled at the monitor that the AI team were gathered around, hating that Buffy was being offered what Cordelia had begged to take.)

"Cages don't do much for turning me on," Buffy replied easily, not shocked by his answer. She'd known that Angelus was obsessed with her. She didn't like that he thought about her in that sense, but she knew it to be true. She'd forced it out of Angel even though he hadn't liked telling her about Angelus' sick and twisted plans for Buffy.

"We don't hafta be in the cage," Angelus said. "You could let me out."

"Yeah, that'll happen."

Buffy could have sworn that the Master Vampire was pouting. Angelus paused for a moment and held his arm though the cars of the cage, not stretching, just holding out his hand to her.

"Sit closer to me and I'll tell you."

"What's to stop you from killing me?" Buffy asked. "I don't trust you as far as Cordelia could throw you."


Angelus laughed loudly.

"I swear, my intentions are…well, if not honourable, then they're not fatal to you."

Buffy shifted forwards and touched his hand.

("Is that safe?" Gunn asked, watching incredulously as Buffy slid forward towards the cage.

Wesley looked apprehensive, his breath caught in his throat.

"She knows what she's doing," Wesley replied, praying to whatever Powers on high that Buffy truly did know what she was doing.

"What if he kills her?" Fred asked nervously.

"That'd be a real shame," Cordelia whispered.

Wesley glared at her and turned his attention back to the monitor, stunned to see Vampire and Slayer seated calmly, their hands entwined.)

"Alright…I'm closer," Buffy stated. "So tell me."

"About the Beast?"

"No, about global warming," Buffy retorted sarcastically. "Yes about the Beast."

Angelus hid his smile. He'd forgotten how cute she was when she was mad. He didn't think it would be too wise for him to tell her that though.

"Alright. It was 1789. I was in Prussia, on my way to Vienna. I get this feeling like someone's stalking me," Angelus explained.

"Well at least now you know how it feels," Buffy commented.

Angelus smirked and continued. "There were troops around. I'd run into them every now and then. Not as nice as the girls by the way." Buffy grimaced but didn't interrupt him. "But, the little massacre I ran into…seriously lacking in military precision. Bodies, bodies everywhere, and not a drop to drink. So, I followed the trail, and there was our friend. The one the morons upstairs so cleverly call 'The Beast'. Idiots."

"So, Mr Stalks-a-lot wanted what?" Buffy asked.

"Well, we had a lot in common."

"With the lurking and the stalking and the killing," Buffy finished.

Angelus nodded and shrugged dismissively. "He staged the carnage to impress me."

"Hmm, the demon equivalent to flowers and chocolate hearts. How romantic. But why? He must have wanted something."

The Vampire was vaguely impressed. The Slayer knew nothing about the Beast, but she was asking the right questions. He'd obviously either grossly underestimated her when they'd last fought, or she'd grown up in the last few years. Angelus suspected that it was a combination of both.

"Ever heard of the Svea Priestesses? They're big into the banishing," Angelus replied.

("Vanishing?" Lorne asked.

"Banishing," Fred replied.)

"Let me guess, these Svea Priestess girls could banish Mr Big Bad. He couldn't do anything about it due to some sort of funky mojo. But you could," Buffy surmised.

Angelus nodded. "I'm impressed."

"A favour for a favour, right?"

"Something like that."

Buffy looked at her ex-lover's demon and studied him carefully. Their hands were still touching and he hadn't once tried to hurt her or even pull her any closer. He just seemed to want the contact, and she wasn't protesting it at all. She'd missed him more than she'd realised.

"So…what did you say?" Buffy asked.

"What do you think I said?" Angelus questioned.

Buffy thought about it, thought about what she knew of Angelus and decided on her answer.

"You turned him down."

Angelus nodded. "And he didn't ask twice. I probably could have been more diplomatic with my refusal, but I'm not big with teamwork. Not with demons anyway. I thought that was going to be the end of me, but…those Svea Priestesses showed up."

"They did their mojo and he was banished I take it," Buffy finished.

Angelus nodded.

"Did you see anything else?" Buffy asked.

"Nope. Was a bit too busy with the passing out."

Buffy shuddered. If the Beast was strong enough to be knocking Angelus out with a single blow, then she could only imagine what the demon would be able to do to normal human beings.

"And that's it?" Buffy asked.

"That's everything."

Buffy nodded and stood up, Angelus matching her movements, not letting her hand go. He tugged gently so that she stepped towards the cage, her free hand coming up to the bar. She looked up at him, painfully aware of how close they were. She was just grateful that there was a cage between them or else she didn't know if she could have controlled herself.

"You sure I can't talk you into joining me in here? There's a great view."

"Sorry Angelus. I've got my hands full back in Sunnydale," she replied.

She went to pull away but Angelus kept a grip on her. To anyone else it would have been painful, but to the Slayer, the pressure was almost comforting. She sighed and lent her head against the bars on the cage, her forehead touching his chest as he pressed himself against the bars. He brought his other hand up and ran his fingers gently through her hair.

"You sure I can't…convince you?" Angelus whispered seductively, his chest rumbling as he spoke.

Buffy shivered and knew that if she didn't walk away now, she wouldn't be able to. She pulled back regretfully and yanked her hand away from him. He looked at her sadly before his face shifted back to the inscrutable mask that he'd worn earlier. He watched her walk away from him and Angelus slammed the bars in frustration.


Chapter Four: Girl Talk

Buffy walked into the lobby, tired and aching. It had been far too long since she'd slept properly and it was beginning to take its toll on her. The AI team all looked up as she entered the office that they had migrated to, searching through their books in search of references to the Svea Priestesses. Wesley smiled gently and put his book down.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

Buffy nodded. "Just tired."

"When was the last time you slept properly?" Wesley asked worriedly.

Buffy thought about the answer and laughed as she produced an exact date. "January nineteen 1998. Before my seventeenth birthday."

Wesley didn't quite know how to respond to that answer. "Perhaps you could use some rest," he suggested.

Buffy looked around to see what the others were doing. It didn't look as though they really needed her help, and it wasn't as though they hadn't survived the last three or so years without her help. She nodded thankfully, desperate to lie down and rest her eyes.

"If it's not too much trouble," Buffy said tiredly.

"Not at all. Fred, could you take Buffy up to Angel's room," Wesley said, looking at the brunette girl who had captured his heart. Fred glanced nervously at Gunn but nodded. Gunn glowered but didn't say anything about it. Wesley looked back at the Slayer. "Do you mind staying in Angel's room?"

"I mind!" Cordelia exclaimed.

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes and kept her gaze on Wesley, trying to ignore the seer. "It doesn't matter. Unless you think I shouldn't. I don't want him upset with me."

"He wouldn't want her in there," Cordelia protested.

"It's only for a night," Connor argued, smirking slightly at the put upon look on Cordelia's face. Cordelia glared at the young man, but Connor didn't react. "I'm sure Angel wouldn't mind."

"It's fine, really," Wesley said.

Buffy nodded, too tired to continue the argument.

"Just wake me up if you need any help. Of if Angelus decides to try for a rampage," Buffy said.

"Of course," Wesley replied resolutely before turning his attention back to the ancient tome that he'd been working on translating earlier.

Buffy followed Fred out into the lobby and up the stairs towards Angel's room. Fred opened the door and let Buffy walk into he darkened room that Buffy could just feel was Angel's.

"He doesn't like a lot of light," Fred said quietly.

"Vamps are kinda funny that way," Buffy replied with a tired smile.

Fred laughed a little and regarded the Slayer with open curiosity.

"How did you know that Charles and I are together?" she asked.

"I know a lot more about this place than you'd think," Buffy replied cryptically. "Plus…the way he looks at you…he loves you, more than I think you know. I have the feeling that he's the type of guy who'd do just about anything for you."

Fred nodded, thinking back to the Professor that Gunn had killed so that Fred wouldn't have to live with the guilt of his blood on her hands. Now she just had to live with it on her boyfriends hands.

"He would," Fred replied.

Buffy automatically picked up on Fred's tone of voice. Buffy was good at reading people, and after working with so many adolescents through her counselling sessions, she knew that something was bothering Fred. Something big.

"Wanna tell me what he did that got you so upset?" Buffy asked gently.

Fred looked at her with wide-shocked eyes. "How did you-"

"He did something that you didn't like, didn't he?" Buffy asked. Fred nodded and sat down on Angel's bed. Buffy sat beside her, kicking her shoes to the ground and curling her legs under her body.

"He killed someone."

"Someone who hurt you really badly, I'm guessing," Buffy said.

Fred nodded. "They sent me to a hell dimension."

Buffy winced. She knew what that felt like. Not only from her brief stint in Ken's dimension when she'd run away after killing Angel, but from her entire previous year, thinking that her life was hell because of what she was missing…heaven.

"And you wanted to kill them," Buffy guessed.

Fred nodded, feeling ashamed for her actions. At the time, they'd felt so right, but thinking back, she felt guilt.

"I wanted to send him there. So he knew what I felt."

"That's a pretty natural reaction," Buffy said gently. "It's a pretty human reaction to want justice. Even to want revenge. You're not the first person who's wanted to do something like that."

"Charles killed him so that I wouldn't have to," Fred explained. "So that he wouldn't lose me…who I was."

"But you feel like you've lost yourself anyway," Buffy finished.

Fred sighed and nodded. She hadn't spoken about what had happened with the Professor with anyone, and it was good to finally have the chance to talk, even if it was with someone she barely knew. She guessed that sometimes you needed to have someone who wasn't so close hear what you had to say. There was less fear of their judgement.

"What does Gunn think about all this?" Buffy asked. "Have you spoken to him?"

Fred shook her head. "We've never spoken about it. Not since it happened."

"You might want to think about talking to him then. He seems just as lost as you do," Buffy said. "And if you guys don't deal with what happened…you're gonna lose him."

"Thanks," Fred said quietly. She stood up, feeling slightly better. It was nice to have her need for revenge somewhat condoned. Even though it had been wrong, it wasn't an unnatural reaction, and that was comforting.

Buffy nodded and slipped out of her jacket, folding the covers back. She turned to look at Fred before she could get out the door.


Fred turned and looked at her new friend. "Yeah?"

"About Wesley…"

Fred's eyes went wide. "What about him?"

"I know it's not my place, but…don't do anything to jeopardise what you have with Gunn. I don't know anything about what's going on between you and Wes, but…if it doesn't stop soon, you'll end up hurting someone. And that's never fun."

Fred nodded and walked out the door, closing it behind her. She took a deep cleansing breath and walked down the stairs, her heart lighter than it had been earlier that day.


Chapter Five: Explanations

Fred walked back into the office and smiled gently at Gunn. He grinned back at her, thrilled to see that he had been the first one she had looked at. He missed how things used to be, and he could only hope that after everything with Angelus was fixed, they could work on their relationship.

"Did you get Buffy settled in?" Gunn asked.

Fred nodded. "Did you find anything useful?" she asked.

"Yup," Gunn replied with excitement. "Those Svea Priestess chicks live twenty five minutes from here. Pacoima."

"So…what are we waiting for?" Fred asked.

"Not a thing," Cordelia replied. "You, Gunn and Lorne can stay here while Connor, Wesley and I check out this address."

Fred nodded and the group split in two. Connor, Wesley and Cordelia grabbed weapons and were out the door with barely a goodbye to the remaining people.

Fred sighed tiredly and rubbed her temples. She was starting to think that Buffy's idea of sleep was a very good one.

"You okay?" Gunn asked.

Fred looked up and nodded. "Exhausted, but…okay otherwise. You?"

"About the same actually," Gunn replied.

"We'll just enjoy the semi-silence until they get back I suppose," Lorne added.

Fred and Gunn nodded, thankful for the slight rest they were getting. A soft voice started coming from the television in the lobby. Lorne brought his hands to his ears, not wanting to hear Angelus singing anymore. The things that Angelus had planned for his future were far too disturbing for Lorne to actually want to get a reading on.

The group moved into the lobby and stood around the monitor, watching as Angelus calmly sang while sitting in a corner.

"He's so calm," Fred commented.

"It's like he's not even in a cage," Fred added.

"In his mind, he's not," Lorne explained. He switched the monitor off, not wanting to hear anymore of Angelus' slow and creepy songs. "I don't know how our little Slayer upstairs managed to deal with him for six months straight."

"When was that?" Fred asked curiously.

"Well, Angel-cakes said that he lost his soul the day of Miss Cutie's seventeenth birthday. She must be nearly twenty-two by now, so that was about five years ago," Lorne replied.

Fred looked completely amazed. Even in the cage she was completely petrified of Angelus. She couldn't even imagine trying to deal with a psychotic Angelus on the loose, and having to try and deal with him at the age of seventeen.

"Poor kid. Having to kill your first lover while your friends blamed you for setting him loose in the first place. Not fun," Lorne commented.

"Wait, so what was that whole 'true happiness' thing that Cordy and Buffy were bitching at each other over earlier?" Gunn asked.

Lorne chuckled a little, both at Gunn's unique way of expressing the girls earlier cattiness, and the explanation that was to follow. Lorne knew that Angel had never been really straight with Fred and Gunn over the specifics of the loophole in his curse.

"Well, when Angel-face downstairs has a truly, perfectly happy moment, the soul goes bon voyage, and we say bonjour to Monsieur Angelus downstairs."

"And his moment of happiness was what?" Gunn asked.

Lorne just smiled and looked pointedly at Gunn. "Well, if you can't figure that out, then I'm not gonna be the one to tell you."

Gunn stared blankly at Lorne for a moment before it finally hit him.

"Sex!" He choked out the word as though it was a foreign concept when associated with Angel.

"Got it in one lamb-chop," Lorne said.

Fred blushed a deep shade of red and cast a glance at the ceiling, contemplating the blonde girl that lay upstairs in Angel's bed. They'd been lovers. It wasn't that much of a revelation that they'd been together, Fred had seen Angel's reaction to Buffy's death and resurrection first-hand, and he'd been absolutely devastated. But she'd never thought that Angel's curse could be broken by making love.

"Kinda makes you feel sorry for them though," Fred said quietly. "They could never be together…like that."

Gunn went silent, unable to contemplate the idea of being in a relationship that was as serious as he'd always assumed Buffy and Angel to have, and to not be having sex. It just seemed so surreal.

"How long were they together?" Gunn asked.

"On and off for three years," Lorne replied. "Off when he was Angelus, dead and insane."


Fred switched the monitor back on and was met by an eerie silence. At least Angelus had stopped singing. She saw Angelus still in his darkened corner, sitting with his knees up around his chest, a small smile playing on his face. She couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking about.

The room descended into silence and the group sat in contemplation, hoping against hope that the information that Buffy had wrenched from Angelus would be useful. Until the rest of their group came back, all they could do was sit and wait.

Wesley, Connor and Cordelia came through the front door, bruised, bloodied and generally looking disheartened. Gunn, Fred, and Lorne turned to them anxiously, all holding their breaths in wait.

"What happened?" Gunn asked, looking over their collection of injuries.

"Vamps," Connor replied succinctly.

"You didn't get the Svea?" Fred asked.

"No, the Beast did. Slaughtered the entire family," Wesley explained.

Gunn, Fred and Lorne seemed to completely deflate. Their shot at banishing the Beast forever had been destroyed.

"Guess he found a way to kill them after all," Fred said softly.

"So much for our big priestess rescue," Gunn added.

"Are we sure Angelus doesn't know anything more? I mean, maybe we should talk to-"

"No," Wesley said, cutting Fred off mid-sentence. "I think he's told us everything he's going to."

Wesley didn't want Angelus lose for any longer than was absolutely necessary. With Angel out of commission and the Beast still on the loose, it made everything too risky. They needed their Champion back.

"Which means our last-ditch plan, turning Angel into a soulless monster, it's a bust. If Angelus can't help us-"

"It's time to bring back Angel," Cordelia finished for Gunn.

Connor frowned and walked away, unable to believe that they were serious about restoring Angelus' soul to him after everything he had done. The team from AI watched him walk away, wondering if Connor would ever accept Angel as his father.

"Oh, and he's usually so chatty," Lorne said, sweetly sarcastic.

"Rough night," Cordelia explained, glancing at Connor's retreating back.

Wesley fell easily into the roll of leader. He knew what needed to be done.

"We'll need the shaman."

But first, they needed his soul out of the safe. He left the group and walked into the office that he had long ago vacated.

"Uh, maybe someone should go wake up Blondie," Gunn suggested, following Wesley into the office, the rest of the team walking behind him.

"Good idea," Lorne agreed.

Cordelia scoffed at the idea. They didn't need Buffy for anything.

"We've been doing just fine without her all these years," Cordelia said bitterly.

"Even so," Lorne said. "She did come all this way."

"We didn't ask her to," Cordelia protested.

"But we were going to," Wesley added.

He looked at Fred, who nodded, easily reading what Wesley wanted from her. She spared a glance at Gunn and walked up the stairs quickly, hoping that Slayers weren't horribly violent when woken up.

Fred walked into Angel's room and stopped in shock. Sitting beside Buffy's bed was Connor. Buffy was asleep and Connor was just watching her, with the strangest expression that Fred had ever seen on Connor's face.

"Connor?" Fred whispered.

Connor turned around. He'd heard Fred coming, but he hadn't wanted to relinquish his position beside the sleeping girl.

"What are you doing up here?"

"Watching her," Connor replied.

"I noticed that. What for?"

He shrugged. He honestly couldn't have told her why he was watching her. He didn't understand it himself. He just felt something towards this girl, though he wasn't able to describe what it was.

"I dunno."

Fred sighed. She just hoped that he wasn't planning anything insidious towards Buffy. Fred walked towards the bed and placed a hand gently on the Slayer's shoulder before quickly stepping back. She was grateful that she did as the Slayer's eyes popped open and she shot up in bed, her fist clenched, ready for a fight.

She relaxed when she saw Connor and Fred beside her. She stretched languidly and covered her mouth to hide a tired yawn.

"Hey. What's wrong?"

"We're about to go to the Shaman to get him to put Angel's soul back in," Fred explained. "We thought you'd want to be around for it."

Buffy nodded and pushed the covers of the bed away from her body. She pulled her shoes on and followed Fred and Connor back into the downstairs office of the Hyperion Hotel where the AI team was still gathered.

Wesley nodded his greeting to the Slayer and walked silently to the safe that held Angel's soul. He entered the combination and twisted the handle, the door swinging open. The blood drained from his face and Wesley felt pure panic rush through his veins. Buffy noticed Wesley's hand suddenly go white at the knuckles and she looked at him worriedly.


Wesley turned and looked at the group.

"Angel's soul…it's gone."


(For many many reasons I'm not just gonna re-write the episode 'Calvary'. First, it's too fricken long, second, it's kinda dull. If I skip from place to place, it's not cos I'm idiotic and didn't watch the whole episode, it's cos a lot of the info isn't necessary)

Chapter Six: Just Words

Wesley, Connor and Cordelia had left the hotel to go and visit the Shaman that had removed Angel's soul, while Fred, Gunn and Buffy stayed at the hotel. Lorne was contacting some of his contacts in case the shaman fell through.

Buffy was tempted to go back upstairs and sleep, but she stayed in the lobby watching the monitor, wanting nothing more than to go ad speak with Angel. Except that Angel was Angelus, and she didn't particularly want to speak with him. It hurt too much to see Angel's beautiful face without the soulful eyes.

"Awfully quiet up there," Angelus' voice came clearly through the monitor. "I've had time to think, and I've realized something important. Being evil is wrong. I want to be good. I want to be Angel again. You hear me? I'm ready!"

Buffy rubbed her eyes tiredly. Angelus was making a mockery of everything that Angel was, and she hated it.

"He knows, doesn't he? That his soul's missing," Fred asked.

Buffy just nodded. "He knows. He can probably hear us from down there."

Fred sighed. She very much hoped that when all of this mess with the Beast and Angelus was over, they would be able to have some sort of a break. She was desperate to see the sun again, and she wanted more than anything to take a vacation.

"I hope that shaman can help us," Fred said quietly.

"That shaman should never have been brought here. Now, instead of just worrying about the big bad Rocky, we got Darth Vampire living in the basement," Gunn said bitterly.

"You got the information you needed," Buffy said, rubbing her hands up and down her arms, trying to get some sort of warmth back into her skin. "It just came too late. That's not anyone's fault."

Gunn sighed. He was tired and annoyed, and more than a little pissed off at the entire situation. He'd walked in on Wesley and Fred seemingly after a kiss. It had led to a fistfight between he and Wesley, and Fred had ended up being hit. Things were looking slightly up though. Fred wasn't even glancing in Wesley's direction anymore, and she seemed to be spending more time looking at Gunn, which in his book was always a good thing. He knew that things had been rocky between them after having killed the Professor, but Gunn just wanted things back to how they'd been before.

"We shouldn't have taken his soul out," Gunn commented.

"You were pushing for it too Charles," Fred said quietly.

"Then maybe I did the wrong thing."

"Like smacking your girl around?" Angelus' voice asked from the monitor. "I betcha Wes would never hit her. He's all proper and English. And that accent - Oh, chicks just love a good accent. Makes 'em all buttery in their nether regions. Isn't that right, Fred? You know, I had a bit of an Irish brogue back in the day. If you'd like, I could use it on you when I rape you to death…or-"

Gunn switched the monitor off in disgust. "Son of a bitch."

"He's just…it's just words," Fred reminded him.


"And that's the only way he can hurt us. He knows he's never getting out."

Fred looked towards Buffy, a helpless and hopelessly lost look on her face. Buffy didn't seem to be faring any better. In the silence of the hotel lobby, Buffy's cell phone rang loudly making Gunn, Fred and Buffy all jump at the sound. Buffy sighed and reached into her pocket.



"Giles, what's up?"

"You didn't check in," he reminded her.

Buffy sighed softly. She'd been meaning to call, but she'd got a little side- tracked.

"I'm sorry. I meant to call. Things are a little…well, crazed just doesn't seem to cover how nuts it is around here," Buffy said.

"And Angel?"

"He's Angelus," Buffy explained.

She heard Giles' sharp intake of breath. Buffy closed her eyes, hating that her Watcher was still being affected by what Angelus had done to him so many years ago. She knew that Giles had never dealt with being captured, and she hated that Angelus still held such power over him.

"How bad is it?"

"He's looked in a cage actually," Buffy replied. "They took his soul out on purpose, took all the precautions." Except the one that says to NOT lose the soul while it's out of his body.

"Good, good."

"How're things there?" Buffy asked.

"Quiet," he replied. "The girls were terribly wound up, but they're all sleeping now. And I've received word that another three Potentials will be arriving sometime tomorrow."

"Another three?" Buffy asked. "Where am I supposed to put these girls? The house isn't that big."

"We'll manage," Giles assured her. "We always do."

"You'll call if things get too bad?" Buffy asked.

"Of course. You'll keep me updated?" he asked, a hint of reprimand in his voice.

"I meant to call, honest," Buffy said, pouting slightly.

Giles chuckled and Buffy could picture him shaking his head.

"I'll be in touch," she promised him seriously. She hung up the cell phone and returned it to the back pocket of her jeans.

Gunn and Fred were studying her curiously when she turned to look at them. It was as though they were seeing her for the first time. They hadn't given too much thought as to what she'd left behind her in Sunnydale.

"How bad are things there?" Fred asked quietly.

"Well, we've still got sunlight, which is slightly better than you guys," Buffy replied lightly. "I've somehow managed to become a boarding house for the Potential Slayers. There's about eight other people in my house besides my sister and I. Some big bad evil is trying to kill them all, and I've been elected as their protector."

Fred and Gunn winced sympathetically.

"Talk about pressure," Gunn commented.

Buffy nodded. "It's not entirely fun."

The Slayer sighed and looked at the blank monitor. She looked up at Fred and Gunn and knew that they needed some alone-time in a bad way.

"I'm gonna go downstairs," Buffy said. "Just to watch him."

Neither Fred nor Gunn fought with her, just nodding silently as she left the room. Fred could only hope that they could finally talk about what had been bothering them for the last few weeks. She wanted desperately to crawl into Gunn's arms and stay there.

Buffy walked quietly down the stairs. She knew she couldn't sneak up on Angelus, but the hunter within Buffy instinctively knew to keep quiet. She wasn't wrong. Standing in front of a cage was a woman that Buffy didn't know and hadn't seen before. Angelus looked past the woman towards Buffy on the stairs. He smiled a little, the seductive half-smile of Angel's that had always made Buffy's breath catch in her throat.

Lilah Morgan turned, wanting a glimpse of whatever Angelus was staring at over her shoulder. She looked up at the stairs but saw nothing there. She turned back to Angelus who was still wearing the creepy half-smile.

"Can you do it, or not?" Lilah asked testily.

"Mmm, why is your thong in such a bunch, counsellor? You're a professional," Angelus said, still looking over Lilah's shoulder to where Buffy stood hidden in the shadows, standing perfectly still.

"Working the sewers. Beast took everything. Killed them all."

"It's all the damage. He does have a flair for it," Angelus replied calmly.

"Not just at the office. Everybody. Field ops. Liaisons. People out sick that day. But not me. Not yet. Why is he picking on us? We're the bad guys!" Lilah said, exasperation clear in her voice.

Buffy rolled her eyes. She'd just worked out who this woman was. She'd been hearing of Lilah Morgan from Wolfram & Hart for years. She had feeling that the woman in front of the cage was she.

"Apparently, not bad enough," Angelus taunted. "But there is a bright side - you have a devoted boyfriend who loves and cares - oh, wait. You don't. Your life really is crap."

"And yet, I'm not the monkey in the box. I want that thing destroyed. You're the only one who can do it," Lilah said.

Buffy couldn't stand it anymore. She'd never been one for passivity anyway. She quietly stepped forward so that she was standing beside Lilah. Angelus smirked when Lilah jumped away in fright, startled by the sudden appearance of the silent girl.

"Lilah Morgan," Buffy said softly. "We meet at last."

Angelus chuckled. "You sound like a detective in a C-Grade film, lover."

Buffy just shrugged nonchalantly. "So?"

Angelus leant against the bars casually, enjoying Lilah's frazzled nerves. The Wolfram & Hart lawyer was usually so calm and collected. Seeing her nervous was always a good thing.

"You're the Slayer?" Lilah asked, Buffy's identity coming to her when Angelus called her 'lover'.

Lilah had seen photos of Buffy Summers, but she'd never taken notice of the fine print. Buffy was a good three inches shorter than Lilah, with a sweet and honest face. She didn't seem like a killer, though Lilah knew better than to underestimate Slayers. After her run-in with Faith, she wasn't about to think lightly of the power that these girls yielded.

"That'd be me," Buffy replied.

"A Slayer mated to a vampire," Lilah commented. "I never thought I'd see the day."

"You might wanna be nice to her Lilah," Angelus suggested. "I mean, if you've got demon problems, then Blondie here's probably gonna be a good shot at getting rid of them. Though I doubt she'd do it just because you asked her to. She's more into the 'saving the people' crap that Soulboy does."

"So eloquent," Buffy commented.

There was a sudden pounding down the stairs and Lilah took off quickly, not wanting to be caught. Gunn aimed the tranquilliser gun and shot at Angelus. The Vampire winced before dropping heavily to the ground.

Wesley made it down the stairs just as Angelus fell to the ground.

"Lilah," Gunn said to Wesley, pointing to where she'd run to. "Ran off into the sewers."

Wesley quickly took off in her direction. Connor went to follow.

"Connor, wait! You should wait here, make sure it isn't a setup. Might be others," Gunn warned.

Connor reluctantly stayed. He was itching for a good fight, and he didn't particularly want to be anywhere near Angelus. He walked to where Buffy stood, watching Angelus laying on the floor.

"Check the locks," Gunn instructed, the tranquilliser gun still aimed at the sleeping vampire. Gunn wasn't about to take any risks.

Connor quickly checked the locks and was satisfied that Lilah hadn't damaged them.

"I thought everyone from Wolfram & Hart was dead," Fred commented.

Gunn had thought something similar. Then again, Lilah Morgan did seem to have a knack for getting herself out of sticky situations.

"Maybe she's working with the Beast," Connor suggested. "Doing it's dirty work."

"It would explain how giant lava boy could tiptoe past us to take out Manny," Cordelia commented.

Fred looked towards Cordelia thoughtfully. "Even though Lilah's evil, I don't see her hacking up all those people."

"OK, maybe it's not just her. Maybe…maybe the big bad Beast had minions doing his dirty work," Gunn suggested.

Angelus woke up and shifted his position a little. "Morons." Fred moved back uncomfortably. She really didn't like Angelus. "The big rock doesn't have minions. It is the minion."

"No, it's not. We've seen what it can do," Fred replied resolutely.

After the rain of fire from the other week, and the blackening of the sun, Fred was convinced that the Beast was one of the most powerful beings of evil that they would ever encounter. Of course, after meeting Angelus, she was beginning to rethink that theory.

"You've just seen the warm-up act," Angelus said.

"What are you saying?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy rolled her eyes and answered before Angelus had a chance. "He's saying that the Beast isn't the big bad. He's the little bad working for a bigger bigger bad."

Angelus laughed at the affronted expression on Cordelia's face. Buffy turned to look at him, giving him a small grin. Angelus couldn't understand why, but he genuinely respected the tiny Slayer, and couldn't help but wonder about why she was so open with him. So completely unafraid around him. It was a distinct contrast to their last confrontation five years ago, and Angelus was relishing it.

"That's not possible," Cordelia said quietly.

"How did you survive this long being so retarded?" Angelus asked mockingly.

Buffy stifled a giggle. It sounded so strange coming from Angel's mouth that she couldn't help but laugh.

"How do you know there's something worse than the Beast?" Connor asked forcefully.

"Cos I have a brain, son," Angelus replied snarkily. Connor refused to give in to the instinct to take a step back at Angelus' tone. He wouldn't show fear to this monster. "The Beast I knew was big into smash and slaughter. Had the brawn to be really good at it too, but the big picture - not his strong point. But whoa! Flash forward. Now he's all rain of fire, destroying the Ra-Tet, blotting out the sun. Big moves for a guy whose head is made out of rock. There's something else out there - more powerful, more vicious - pulling all the strings. Ooh, don't know about you, but I'm just dying to find out what it is."


Chapter Seven: Boy Talk

The group moved back upstairs and were sitting around the monitor. Wesley walked in with Lilah at his side, the former lawyer clutching at a wound on her stomach.

"What, no cake?" Lilah asked sarcastically.

"Where is it?" Fred demanded angrily.

"Where's what?" Lilah asked, genuinely perplexed.

"Angel's soul," Cordelia replied.

"Oh, that what."

No one in the room liked the casual way that Lilah dismissed Angel's soul. they didn't like the idea of Lilah being in the hotel at all, but they knew that she probably had some sort of useful information. Wolfram & Hart may have been evil, but they always knew what was going on, and the AI team desperately needed information.

"She didn't take it," Wesley replied.

No one was willing to believe that Lilah had nothing to do with taking Angel's soul. They didn't believe her because they needed to believe something, and also because she just generally lacked credibility.

"How do you know?" Connor asked.

"Because she told me," Wesley replied succinctly.

Buffy looked at Wesley closely, saw the way his hand was near Lilah as she walked awkwardly down the steps into the lobby, saw that he was ready to catch Lilah if she fell. There was something between the two of them, even if the others didn't know. She was reminded of her own relationship with Spike and the absolute wrongness of the entire affair. She guessed that something similar had occurred between Wesley and Lilah.

"Maybe she knows who took it," Cordelia suggested.

"Or who's controlling the Beast," Fred added.

Lilah looked at the skinny Texan woman with confused eyes. That was a word she had never considered in reference to the Beast.


"Angelus thinks rock-boy's just the muscle. Not that I trust him any more than you," Gunn said.

"I think Angelus might have a point," Buffy interjected. "Of all the places in the world that this Beast thing could go, why come here? Why to LA where Angel - or Angelus, for that matter - is. This thing seems smart, and from what Angelus said about it earlier, it didn't have the most strategic of plans. Just your basic crush, kill, destroy."

Wesley considered Buffy's words for a moment. He knew that she was right, knew that Angelus had been speaking the truth earlier. It all fit for the Beast to be working for something a lot larger than himself. Though Wesley shuddered to think what could have the kind of power to control a demon as large and as ferocious as the large creature made out of stone.

"That's what he's been trying to hide. There might be something in the text we-"

"Text?" Cordelia interrupted the ex-Watcher.

"Lilah found a passage in Rhinehardt's Compendium," Wesley explained, holding up the book that Lilah had handed him earlier when he'd caught up with her in the sewers.

"But we searched that already. There's nothing in there," Fred protested.

"Because all references to the Beast have been erased in this dimension," Wesley explained.

"I got my copy of Rhinehardt's…way out of town. I'm surprised you didn't think of that," Lilah commented, looking pointedly at Fred who flushed a little.

"Which is why Angelus remembers the Beast's little Prussian party when Angel doesn't. Angel's memory's been wiped clean like those books," Buffy surmised. "And cos Angelus is never really in control, his mind wasn't the one that was affected by the spell."

Wesley nodded and looked towards Fred, still holding the book that Lilah had handed over earlier.

"We should compare this passage with the information Wolfram and Hart extracted from Lorne. There might be-"

"Yeah you do that," Gunn said, cutting Wesley off as he grabbed the flamethrower and headed downstairs.

"Charles," Fred began to protest.

"Somebody needs to be downstairs, make sure nobody else tries to intel our boy," Gunn explained, not wanting to see Wesley and Fred discussing anything, even if he logically knew that the two brightest people in the room needed to talk if they wanted to defeat the Beast.

Fred went to follow but Cordelia laid a hand on her arm.

"Let him go," Cordelia said. "I know this is hard. I know we're all tired and hurting, but we have to stay focused. We need to figure out what's coming, and how to get Angel back before it does, because if this is as bad as I think it is, we'll need him more than ever."

Fred nodded reluctantly. Buffy stood up and smiled sympathetically at Fred. She walked out of the office, ignoring Cordelia calling her name and asking her where she thought she was going. Without a word, she followed Gunn downstairs to where Angelus was still caged.

Buffy walked down the stairs as Gunn took a seat on some crates at the bottom of the stairs several feet from the cage, the flamethrower aimed at Angelus who just looked at him with interest. Again, as Buffy walked down the stairs, Angelus' face lit up.

"You're back."

"I'm not about to leave you boys down here all alone. Who knows what sorta crap you'd fill his head with," Buffy replied.

Angelus glared at her and tried to put on his most innocent face. "I wouldn't do that."

"You'd do that and a whole lot worse."

"Hmm, good point."

Buffy walked to where Gunn sat and took a seat next to him, purposefully sitting behind him so he couldn't accidentally get her with the flamethrower. It wasn't that she didn't think he couldn't handle the weapon, it's that she didn't want to test that theory.

"You okay?" Buffy asked quietly.

She knew that Angelus could hear them, but asking quietly gave Gunn a feeling of a slight amount of privacy. She just hoped Angelus had enough tact to not say anything. Of course, she knew Angelus far better than that.

Gunn just shrugged.

"She loves you," Buffy whispered.


"She's right you know," Angelus said from his cage. Buffy knew that she wouldn't have had any luck with keeping Angelus quiet. She could only hope that he didn't say anything too horrible. But, again, she knew him better than that. "At least you've got the love of a good woman. 'Til she dumps you for a guy with a bigger horizon."

"You'd know all about that wouldn't you Angelus?" Buffy retorted angrily.

Angelus actually looked slightly impressed. "Meow. Kitten has claws."

"You'd do well to remember that," Buffy warned.

Angelus just scoffed and rolled his eyes. He knew that no one would do anything to hurt him. It was still Angel's body, and they wouldn't kill him or hurt him in any way that would leave permanent damage.

"Like you could ever hurt Angel," Angelus taunted.

Buffy gave him a grin that made Angelus want to take a step back. He resisted that impulse and met her eyes that were eerily calm.

"I guess you kinda repressed that whole, me sticking a sword into my lover's gut and sending him to hell thing," Buffy said. "If I remember correctly that was Angel I did that to. I killed him without a second thought, and if I had to, I'd kill you as well."

Angelus scowled angrily and put his hands to the bars. He didn't like the reminder of what Buffy had done in sending him to hell. The demon had suffered as much as the soul had, and Angelus had been doing his best to repress that experience. Having it laid before him so glibly, by his mate of all people, hurt more than he would ever admit.

"You've finally got the balls to kill me, eh lover? Finally. I mean, I killed a good fifty, sixty people the last time I got out. Jenny, Theresa, and who knows how many others that you were chosen to protect," Angelus said. "I just gotta ask, did he ever forgive you for that? I mean, you unleashed me, you had the chance to kill me, and you didn't. Your Watcher's pretty little girlfriend died cos of you…I wonder if he still thinks about her."

Buffy tensed up but refused to let the tears fall. She had to admit, Angelus definitely knew how to bait her. She had often wondered whether or not Giles had forgiven her for what had happened to Jenny. She still didn't forgive herself.

"I think I can safely say I'm really sick of you Angelus," Buffy said, thanking the Higher Powers that her voice hadn't wavered. "I think I might just get that Shaman to put Angel's soul in permanently so we never hafta see you ever again."

For a second there was a flash of pure panic on the Vampire's face. If either Buffy or Gunn had blinked for that instant, they would have missed it, but they both saw it. Buffy smiled, thankful that she'd gained the upper hand again. She hated losing ground, especially to Angelus.

Before they knew what was happening, the AI team was descending the stairs, Lorne in tow as well, having come back from talking to his various contacts.

"What's the what here?" Buffy asked.

"Cordelia had a vision," Fred explained. "She knows how to put Angel's soul back."

Buffy nodded, swallowing the jealousy that had just risen inside of her. She didn't like that Cordelia was the one to figure out how to Angel's soul back into his body, but she was just thankful that they'd been cut a break.

"I guess the Powers saw how bad you guys suck," Angelus taunted.

"Doing better than you!" Fred snapped.

"Ooh, she really has put on spunk, hasn't she. Not the same, shy, bitchcow we pulled out of Pylea," Angelus said.

Fred glared but didn't say anything further. She hated that Angelus was affecting her so badly.

"So, what's the go?" Buffy asked, wanting to get the attention away from Angelus and back onto the mission at hand.

Cordelia scowled, wanting nothing more than to be rid of the blonde Slayer.

"We need Connor and Gunn for this one."


Chapter Eight: Restoration

"Have you all lost your mind? You're going to use black magic to restore my soul? People, this never goes well. Am I the only one paying attention?" Angelus asked.

Buffy was agreeing with Angelus with this. She'd seen the effects of black magic, and she had no desire to see anything like that ever again. This was dangerous ground that they were walking on.

"He has a point," Buffy said quietly.

Cordelia gave her a look that clearly told Buffy that the half-demon seer didn't value Buffy's opinion at all. Buffy just sighed and hoped that someone from the AI team spoke up about the extreme badness of using the darker arts for this.

"The Powers wouldn't have given me the vision if they didn't want us using the spell," Cordelia rationalised.

Buffy sighed. She couldn't refute that.

The team set about placing the spell in position. Buffy just watched nervously, really not wanting them to do this. She had a gut-wrenchingly bad feeling about this, and she didn't want to see the hotel blown to smithereens because of black magic.

"Let's be realistic. Even if your precious champion makes another guest appearance, you can't stop the apocalypse. Bottom line is you're going to lose. The last thing you smell will be each other's blood," Angelus said.

"That's your opinion," Fred retorted.

"You tell him, honey," Lilah said with sarcastic enthusiasm.

Fred turned and glared at the lawyer who just looked back without a care in the world. Buffy couldn't understand what the lawyer's deal was. She didn't seem to be too worried about anything at all. And Buffy still had yet to work out which team Lilah was truly playing for. Buffy had to wonder if Lilah even knew the answer to that question.

"Hell, even Angel knew you never stood a chance. You want to know why he really let me out?" Angelus asked rhetorically. "Because he finally gave up. He knew you were all too weak and selfish to stop what's coming. He gave up his soul because he gave up on you."

"You're right. Buh-bye," Cordelia said, flicking her wrist in Angelus' direction, sending him flying into the wall at the back of the cage.

Wesley began the spell, chanting in Latin as everyone standing in around the circle they'd set up held their talismans in front of them as protective barriers to keep Angel's soul from trying to inhabit any of them.

"In degera…"

"Don't kid yourselves…" Angelus began, trying to stand up.

"Fortis murus…"

"I'll still be around long after your corpses rot."

"Kesta sartuum…" The building began shaking, causing everyone to look around nervously. Of course, they had to be on the bottom level of a twelve storey building doing black magics. "Mundi ethericon…"

"I promise you. This isn't…"

"Chimera nihilo."

"The end."

Smoke rose from the circle that the AI team were surrounding. They held their talismans in front of them as the smoke tried to come near them. The smoke circled back and crept through the bars of the cage, Angelus looking panicked as it circled around him. He was lifted from the ground, screaming in pain. Inside the magical circle, the skull that Connor and Gunn had earlier fought to retrieve lifted from the ground and fell suddenly, shattering. The smoke disappeared and Angelus fell to the ground.

The group all looked at each other before taking a step towards the cage, careful to stay behind the red line.

"Angel?" Cordelia asked quietly.

The vampire looked up at the group, his eyes pain filled. Buffy looked at him closely, trying to feel Angel in the body lying before them. She couldn't feel him as yet, but she waited for a moment knowing that sometimes spells could take a while before completely settling in.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered.

"It worked!" Lorne exclaimed happily.

"Did it?" Connor asked suspiciously.

Buffy was thankful that there was at least someone in the group sensible enough to ask that question. Of course, what she had seen from Connor and Angel - or Angelus' - interaction over the last day or so, she didn't think they had the kind and loving relationship that Buffy knew Angel wanted with his son.

"Fred," he whispered quietly, looking at the quiet girl who stood closely beside Gunn. "You came down the stairs. You had blood, and I grabbed you."

"I'm fine," Fred assured him.

"The spell, it worked. I feel it," Cordelia said.

Buffy scowled at the girls back. For one blind second of panic, Buffy wondered if Cordelia truly did feel the effects of the spell. What would that mean? Was Cordelia now Angel's soulmate? Buffy didn't know what she would do if that was the truth. She knew that she and Angel could never be together, unless of course Angel was granted his Shanshu, another thing that Buffy had heard by the demonic grapevine. But if Buffy couldn't feel Angel's soul, she didn't know if she'd be able to cope.

She felt empty without that little tingle that had settled in her stomach for the last seven years. She didn't think she'd ever be able to get used to not having that little whispering voice inside the back of her head that let her know that Angel was still alive and well.

"We have to be sure," Wesley said firmly.

"Get Lorne to read him," Gunn suggested.

"Angel, are you aware of what's happened?" Wesley asked.

The vampire stood up, a little shakily. He looked at the AI team, still looking slightly confused.

"I'm back. There's, uh, something else. Something worse - worse than the-"

"The Beast, yes," Wesley interrupted him. "And we need your help to fight it, but first you have to sing for Lorne."

"I, uh…"

"To prove it's really you," Wesley explained.

"Oh, right," he replied. He cleared his throat and thought of a song. "Raindrops keep falling on my head…do do do do…Just…"

"Oh yes. Yes! Sweet fancy B.J. Thomas, it's him. It's Angel!" Lorne exclaimed.

"You sure?" Gunn asked.

Buffy was really starting to panic now. She still couldn't feel him. She'd heard about Lorne being anagogic, and if he was reading Angel's soul, then it must have meant that it truly was Angel. She was still sceptical however.

"Yes, yes! The aura has totally changed, and the vibe screams soul! Ha ha! Oh, bless you and your beautiful land line to the PTB, honey!" Lorne exclaimed with excitement. He swept Cordelia up into a hug.

"He's back," Connor said, his voice soft. He wasn't happy about it.

Buffy stood up. She had to know for certain. And there was only one thing that she could think of to get Angelus to show his true face. She stepped towards the cage and stood a good two inches behind the red line. She met his eyes and had trouble knowing whether or not he was Angel or Angelus.

She took a deep breath and prepared herself to tell him the only thing she could think of to get Angel to show his true colours.



(Lotsa swearing in this chapter. My apologies. Vampires don't censor their language too well…)

Chapter Nine: Revelations

"Buffy," the vampire whispered, her name almost reverent on his lips. Buffy felt a pang in her heart, loving the way that he said her name. He'd always said it so softly, as though it were a prayer.

"Angel," she replied, a small smile on her face. "I missed you."

"I missed you too," he replied softly. He put a hand through the bar, reaching out to touch her, but Buffy made no move to touch his hand. Not with what she was about to say.

"It's really you, right?" Buffy asked.

He nodded, keeping direct eye contact with him.

"Then you should know something," Buffy said. She dropped her voice to a whisper that only the vampire and Connor would have been able to hear. "I fucked Spike last year."

He completely snapped, slamming against the cage in a fit of rage. The entire team from AI took a step backwards, their eyes wide and frightened.

That wasn't Angel.

"You fucking bitch! I'll kill him! I'll fucking kill him! How could you?!"

Gunn swallowed nervously and looked at the tiny blonde who was standing calmly in front of the cage.

"What the hell did you say to him?" he asked incredulously.

Connor looked at the Slayer with open curiousity. He knew that she'd said it quietly so that no one else could hear, and he wasn't about to ask her who Spike was. He definitely wanted to know what it was all about though.

"Okay, that's not Angel," Fred said quietly.

Buffy took a step back and turned to the AI team. Cordelia scowled angrily.

"The spell worked, that is Angel," Cordelia said. "Buffy just pissed him off. As usual."

"You fucking slut!" Angelus yelled angrily. "The second I get outta here I'm gonna show you who you belong to you, whore! How dare he touch you! Who the fuck does he think he is!"

"That's really not Angel," Lorne said.

The green demon couldn't understand what was going on. The vampire had sung for him, but Lorne had read him as Angel instead of as Angelus. And there was no way that the demon raging inside the cage was the normally gentle souled vampire.

"He's not Angel," Buffy confirmed.

Lorne looked at her curiously. "How did you know?"

"I couldn't feel him. We've always been able to feel each other, no matter what. I felt his soul leave when you guys magiced it out, and I didn't feel it go back in," Buffy explained.

Everyone turned to look at each other while Angelus was still screaming loudly. They tuned him out as they discussed what had just happened.

"Why didn't it work?" Fred asked curiously.

Everyone turned to Cordelia who was looking as puzzled as the rest of the group.

"It doesn't make sense," Cordelia said. "I thought that spell was-"

"Divine intervention?" Lilah suggested. "Trust me, you have more chances of winning the lottery six times in a row. I had the numbers done."

The group looked at her curiously before turning back to each other.

"Now what?" Fred asked nervously. Having Angelus screaming at the top of his lungs was doing very little for her frazzled nerves. She didn't understand how Buffy could look so calm.

"We need to find his soul," Wesley replied. "Restore it the proper way."

"Yeah, but how are we meant to find it? It's in some jar that could be anywhere by now," Gunn pointed out.

"Uh…just a suggestion, but…can we move away from the screaming vampire?" Lorne asked. "He's starting to hurt my eardrums."

Even upstairs and with the door closed, they could still hear Angelus, though they couldn't make out the words. Or, most of the AI team couldn't make out the words. The way that Connor and Buffy were flinching every now and then suggested that they could hear him just fine.

Gunn sidled up to the Slayer who was standing a little to the side, her arms wrapped around herself. At least now she knew that Angel really hadn't been keeping tabs on her in Sunnydale. It was strange, she knew more about Angel than Angel knew about her. She hated that he had apparently moved on enough to not even check up on what she was doing.

"How you holding up, girl?" Gunn asked.

Buffy just shrugged. "Alright I suppose. Just glad we didn't let him outta that cage."

Gunn nodded his agreement, mentally shuddering at the thought of Angelus loose on the streets of LA.

"What the hell d'you say to him anyway?"

Buffy just shook her head. "It's private."

Gunn nodded, understanding that whatever had pissed off Angelus so much was obviously bad. He couldn't fault her for not wanting to tell a complete stranger about her personal life.

"So, what happens now?" Fred asked again. "How are we supposed to find the Muo-Ping?"

"The what now?" Buffy asked.

"The Muo-Ping," Wesley repeated. "It's the container that's holding Angel's soul in it. Without finding the container, we effectively have no way of restoring his soul. The soul can't leave it unless the container is opened, so even if we tried using the restoration spell again, it wouldn't work."

Buffy sighed. She couldn't believe that they'd been careless enough to lose Angel's soul. It just seemed inconceivable. She was suddenly hit by a quote that under any other circumstance would have had her laughing. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. She sighed and leant against the table, rubbing a hand over her face, carefully avoiding the nearly healed scar on her cheek.

"What about a locator spell?" Buffy asked. "Wouldn't you be able to find a soul with that?"

Wesley could have hit himself. The simplest answer and he hadn't even thought of it. Obviously they were far tireder than they thought they were.

"A locator spell, of course. Why didn't I think of that?" he asked aloud.

Connor scoffed. "More magic?"

Buffy looked at him, understanding his hesitancy about the use of dark arts. But he obviously didn't understand how powerful something like that could be.

"Don't underestimate the power of magic Connor," Buffy said softly. "We may not understand it, but it's pretty damn useful."

"Nothing good has ever come from magic," Connor insisted.

"You'd be surprised at how helpful it can be," Buffy said. "Without magic, I'd be dead a few times over. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for a really powerful spell."

"Yeah, I'm sure Willow's resurrection spell was really white magic," Cordelia said bitterly.

Buffy looked at her, wondering how Angel could work with someone who was so overtly annoying. Even Anya was better than Cordelia, and that was saying something.

"It may have been dark, but it got me back where I was needed."

"Geez, modest much?"

Buffy wanted nothing more than to remind Cordelia that she wouldn't have survived her junior year if it weren't for her, but she decided not to stoop down to Cordelia's level. She stayed silent and looked back at Wesley.

"Anyone here able to do the bippity-boppity-boo for this spell?" Buffy asked.

Wesley was already scanning through books looking for spells that would work to find a soul when it wasn't exactly inside a body. Within minutes he found what he was after, and upon scanning what needed to be done, he knew he wasn't qualified to perform it.

"A lost soul can't be found by just anyone," Wesley said sadly. "They have to have a connection to it somehow."

"Angel and I have a connection," Cordelia spoke up.

Connor rolled his eyes. He was getting really sick of Cordelia speaking of Angel as though they were together, when Connor knew for a fact that Angel had no intention of starting something with the seer.

"What about me?" Connor asked. "I'm his son, would that be close enough?"

Wesley scanned the spell again. He shook his head sadly. "It's fairly specific. Souls will only present themselves to their soulmates."

"See, there! I can perform it," Cordelia boasted.

Lorne looked at the seer as though he was seeing her for the first time. Had you asked the green demon two days ago whether Cordelia and Angel were meant for each other, he would have unequivocally said 'yes', but after meeting Buffy Summers and seeing her interact with Angelus, he was no longer sure. The blonde Slayer had something in her that Lorne had often seen in Angel.

"I don't think so sweetie," Lorne told her gently. "I think this might be a job for our little Slayer."

Buffy looked at him, panicked. "Me? And 'hey!' for that short comment."

Lorne chuckled a little. He walked over to her and placed a gentle hand on her arm, well away that he could be on the end of a severe ass kicking if he offended her.

"I saw you with Angelus, so I can only guess how you are with Angel. You two are bonded. Soulmates. And if I had to guess by looking at that scar on your neck, I'd say you were his chosen bonded mate as well."

The AI team all strained to see the mark on Buffy's neck, the only scar on Buffy's body that had never completely faded. She touched it softly, having almost forgotten it was there. It was such a part of her now that she hardly ever thought about it anymore.

"He bit you?!" Connor cried. He moved closer to her and moved Buffy's hand from her neck, staring at the scar that marred her otherwise smooth skin.

"Yep," Buffy replied. "Kinda stung."

"It doesn't mean anything," Cordelia insisted. "So he bit her. He left the next day!"

"They're bonded Cordelia," Wesley said. "Soulmates, bloodmates and bonded mates." He looked at the Slayer who had brought her hand back up to her neck, playing absently with her cross as well as with her scar, an almost ironic move. "Will you perform the spell?"

Buffy nodded and moved to stand beside her ex-Watcher, curious as to what she had to do. The only spell she'd ever participated in (besides the one where she'd ended up waking up in a box six feet under the earth) was trying to de-rat Amy so many years ago, and that had failed miserably.

"I'll give it a try, but…don't blame me if it doesn't work."

Cordelia didn't look happy at all. This was definitely not going according to plan. She hadn't been expecting the Slayer to turn up, and it had thrown a spanner into the works completely.

Wesley spoke quietly with the Slayer who read over the spell. It didn't seem all that difficult to do. With a few magical ingredients spread over a map, and a small chant, two dots would appear on the map, one showing where Angel's soul was, and the other showing Buffy's. Wesley wrote down several ingredients as well as the chant, which Buffy quickly memorised.

Ten minutes later, Buffy was seated cross-legged next to a large map of Los Angeles and another smaller map that was the floor plans of the Hyperion Hotel. Wesley handed a small jar of mixed ingredients, which the Slayer carefully poured across the two maps in two separate spirals.

"Soul to soul, Fate to fate, Blood to blood, Mate to mate Reveal to me."

Two bright lights hovered above the maps, separating between the two maps. The four lights were two different colours, two of them bright white, two of them a light blue. Both blue dots divided themselves again and settled easily, two over the hotel on the LA map, one on the fourth floor of the Hyperion Hotel, and one on the first floor where Buffy sat. Connor saw where it settled and raced upstairs, ignoring Cordelia offering to be the one to retrieve it. He was out of sight before Cordelia had even finished her sentence.

The two white dots, however, couldn't seem to settle. One was hovering above the LA map, the other over the Hyperion. Each of the white dots split itself up, separating into four equal parts.

"What the hell is that?" Gunn asked nervously.

Buffy watched the map of the Hyperion. The four white dots settled in four different sections. One was on the first floor and another two on the fourth floor with Angel's soul. The fourth dot hovered uncertainly before settling off the map. Buffy turned to look at the LA map and saw that the white dot had separated as well. Three portions settled over the Hyperion, and the other one floating away from LA. It settled when it was off the map.

"Why is that dot over there?" Fred asked.

Wesley only had one answer. "That's approximately where Sunnydale is," he said quietly.

Buffy looked up at him, genuinely panicked. "Why did my soul split into four parts like that? That can't be natural."

Gunn noticed more movement on the mad of the Hyperion. "Hey, it's splitting again."

Buffy turned to look and saw that one of the two dot's hovering above the fourth floor split itself again, one staying where Angel's soul still hovered, and the other moving to situate itself above the basement where Angelus' cage was.

"That's, uh…rather extraordinary," Wesley commented.

Connor came back down the stairs, carefully carrying the Muo-Ping, taking the stairs slowly so as not to drop the container. Buffy watched as the blue dot and the two white dots situated themselves on the first floor.

"Connor," Buffy said quietly, looking at the young man who was Angel's son.


"Can you do me a favour? Leave Angel's soul down here and just go up one floor."

Connor looked confused, but he didn't see why he couldn't do what she was asking. He handed Angel's soul to Wesley and climbed the stairs again. The group watched as one of the white dots travelled over the map of the Hyperion and settled on the second floor.

"Uh…here's a pretty obvious question," Gunn began. "Why is one of them little white dots on Connor? And is that Buffy's soul Angel's?"

"It's mine," Buffy replied. She didn't understand it. She couldn't understand why her soul was split into five different portions, three of them equal quarters and the other two half a quarter.

Wesley was looking at Buffy in disbelief. The Slayer shifted uncomfortably and stood up, breaking the spell. The dots disappeared and Connor came back down the stairs.

"What was that all about?" Connor asked.

"We're not entirely certain," Wesley admitted. "But we'll find out."

He looked as though he was about to hit research-mode then and there. Buffy wanted to know what was going on, but they needed Angel back before they even embarked on a new mystery.

"Shouldn't we put that little sucker back where it belongs?" Gunn suggested, pointing to the Muo-Ping.

Wesley seemed to realise what he was holding. "Oh. Yes. Sorry. It's all just terribly curious."

"Well, we can get curious later. Let's just get Angel back," Buffy said.


Chapter Ten: Cursed

Much to Cordelia's disappointment, she wasn't part of the team for retrieving the Shaman to reinstate Angel's soul. She wasn't even the person that Wesley handed the keys to Angelus' cage to, much to her extreme disappointment. Her plans were not going at all well. All because of Buffy Summers.

The mortal Cordelia Chase had had the exact same problem. But now, Cordelia had more power than any of them knew. She was the one who was controlling the Beast. She was the one who had sabotaged the ritual for restoring Angel's soul earlier. The spell had been to knock Lorne's sensors out of balance so he would read Angelus and see Angel.

She was no longer Cordelia Chase, ex-Sunnydale High Student, turned half- demon seer for the Powers That Be. She wasn't on the side of light, fighting the good fight. She was darkness personified. She was the Master, and would soon rule over everything that lived and everything that didn't. Evil would rule, and finally triumph over good. And the creature wearing Cordelia Chase's body could not have been happier.

Within the hour, Wesley, Gunn and Connor returned with the Shaman in tow. The AI team, minus Cordelia of course, who was no longer an AI member in reality, was immensely relieved.

Greetings and introductions over, Wesley jumped straight into it.

"Will you need to be in the room with Angelus to restore his soul?"

Wo-Pang, a shaman of the Order of Kun-Sun Dai, shook his head. "If he is in the vicinity, it will work."

A loud shout came from downstairs. He was still yelling at the top of his lungs. The AI team had learned to block it out. The shaman looked vaguely surprised before turning back to Wesley.

"You have the soul?"

Wesley looked to Buffy who stood up and hesitantly handed the soul back to the Shaman. She didn't like just handing her soulmates soul over to someone she'd never met before. She kept her eyes on him at all times.

"Don't suppose you can make his soul permanent?" Buffy asked hopefully.

The shaman turned to her and considered her words. He closed his eyes, his hands on Angel's soul. His eyes opened and he looked at the Slayer and nodded. "I can."

Cordelia stood suddenly and walked past Wesley, Buffy and Wo-Pang, bumping sharply into the shaman, his hands flying out to steady himself. Buffy shot forward and placed her hands around the Muo-Ping, ensuring that it didn't go flying from the shaman's hands.

Buffy was seriously beginning to wonder what was wrong with Cordelia, besides an unhealthy amount of jealousy.

Cordelia seethed. That had been her last hope in getting Angel's soul back. She should have known that hiding the Muo-Ping in the hotel would have been too obvious, but she'd had no time to take it anywhere else with the AI team noticing. She stormed up to her room, and no one moved to follow her.

"Man that girl is getting moody," Gunn commented.

Buffy nodded and finally let go of the Muo-Ping when she was sure that Wo- Pang had a good grip on it. The shaman set up a sacred circle, seating himself in the centre of it, the container at his feet.

"I'm gonna go downstairs, make sure this ritual thingy actually works," Buffy said.

She didn't particularly want to be down there with Angelus, but she wanted to be there when Angel's soul was returned. The group nodded and Buffy moved off, unsurprised when Connor followed her.

"Hey Connor," she greeted quietly as they moved down the steps. They both winced when Angelus' screams suddenly amplified as they opened the door. They were quick to close it so that the shaman was left in peace.

Connor and Buffy walked down the stairs and sat themselves on the crates that Buffy and Gunn had been occupying earlier, both of them ignoring Angelus, even as he yelled and screamed directly at them. Instead, they held their own quiet conversation.

"So…you and Angelus, huh?" he asked, desperate to know who this woman was.

Buffy shook her head. "Me and Angel. I've never been with Angelus."

Connor sighed. Before seeing Angelus for himself he's been convinced that Angel and Angelus were exactly the same beings. But how, having seen Angelus go completely insane, he wasn't so sure. Everything that Holtz had ever taught him whilst he'd been growing up in Quortoth was being questioned, and he wasn't sure how to deal with it.

"And he really fed off you?"

Buffy nodded. "He'd been poisoned. The only cure was the blood of a Slayer," she explained.

Connor was completely baffled. A Slayer, from what he could gather, was a warrior of light, someone who fought against the forces of darkness. Why would she have risked her life to save a vampire?

"You loved him?"

"Still do," she admitted. "We may not have been conventional, but…we love each other."

"What happened?"

Buffy pointed to Angelus. "He was afraid of becoming that," Buffy explained. "You know about the curse? The clause about him being too happy?"

Connor nodded.

"Well, it got kinda broken. Angelus rampaged around town for a bit, and…I couldn't kill him. I should have been able to, but…I couldn't. His soul was restored to him, and…well there's a fair bit missing in the middle, but the end result was that he was frightened of letting Angelus out again. If he ever became truly happy again…he didn't want to let out his demon."

Connor was quickly reconsidering his opinion of Angel. He'd given up the love and loyalty of a beautiful girl to save her from his demon. It didn't sound like the violent and vicious animal that he assumed Angel to be. It contradicted everything that Holtz had ever taught him.

"Connor, I know you're confused about Angel. About where Angelus stops and Angel starts," Buffy said gently. "But Angel's a good man. He helps people. He's saved so many lives, and it won't make up for what his demon did, but it's helping people now. Angelus is a cruel son of a bitch, I'll give you that, but Angel…he's kind, and sweet and thoughtful. A little broody, but…"

Connor chuckled a little. He could see why his father loved this girl. He could see the loyalty that Buffy had for Angel. A warrior of light barracking for a demon cursed with a soul. Connor knew that he would have to have a serious talk with his father about all of this. And after that, he'd need some more time to think over everything that had happened these last few days.

"Do you still wanna be with him?" Connor asked.

Buffy hesitated. She breathed in deeply and eventually nodded. She did want to be with Angel, even after everything that had happened between them. She wouldn't have taken back any of their relationship at all (except possibly the Angelus portion and the him being in hell section of it all).

"Yeah. I do," she finally replied.

Connor thought about the notion of having her around the hotel more often. Surprisingly, he smiled at the thought. He was definitely intrigued by this girl, and he definitely wanted to know more about her and her relationship with his father.

Angelus suddenly stopped screaming and both Connor and Buffy turned to face him, leaping to their feet and approaching the cage. The dark-haired vampire cried out in pain and fell to his knees, his hands reaching out to the bars of the cage to keep himself from collapsing.

Buffy could feel her heart in her throat, nervous and anxious for the shaman's spell to work. Angel cried out again and fell backwards. He gasped suddenly and a familiar orange light flashed in his eyes.

Buffy felt something settle back into her stomach, tingles running up and down her spine. For the first time since her fight with the Turokhan, she relaxed. Part of her very core was back where it belonged and she was able to breath easier.

Connor looked at Buffy and saw the smile that was lighting her face.

"It worked?"

Buffy nodded. "It worked."

Buffy watched as Angel struggled to get to his feet. Buffy stepped forward, ignoring the hand that Connor put on her arm to stop her. She touched one of Angel's hands, and his eyes opened, meeting hers. She smiled at him, thankful that she was looking into Angel's soulful eyes instead of Angelus'. It had been too long since she'd seen him.

"Buffy," he whispered softly. Even though he said it in the same way that Angelus had said it, Buffy could tell the difference. This was the real deal.

"Hey," she said softly, tears coming to her eyes. "Welcome back."

"Good to be back," he replied. His eyes searched her face, his hand coming through the bars to gently touch the cut on her cheek. "You never did tell me who managed to 'kick your ass' as you put it."

"Oh, it was this Turokhan thingy. No big," Buffy said.

Angel's eyes widened. He visually looked her over, searching for other scars. "No big?" he asked. "Buffy, they're the vampires that vampires fear! They're…evil and impossible to kill!"

"Well, he's dust," Buffy assured him. "Trust me, I'm okay."

Angel sighed with relief and suddenly noticed someone else in the room. His unneeded breath caught in his throat when he saw Connor standing there, looking at him curiously. Angel was surprised to not see the animosity that was usually there. He could only wonder what had changed over the last few days.

A sudden thought occurred to him. He'd never told Buffy about Connor. His eyes flew to Buffy's, and she laughed a little.

"Chill Angel. I already knew about Con," Buffy said.

"You knew?" "Con?" father and son asked simultaneously.

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"You didn't really think I wouldn't find out about Connor, did you?" Buffy asked. "Angel, he's pretty big news. Although, your choice in who his mother was coulda been better."

Angel relaxed just a little. He couldn't believe that she wasn't yelling at him for not telling her. That she wasn't telling him off for being complacent and risking his soul to sleep with Darla. He took one of her hands in his and gently brought her fingertips to his lips.

"I wanted it to be you," he whispered.

Buffy smiled and squeezed his hand a little. "Me too."

They stared at each other for a few moments before they heard thunderous footsteps coming down the stairs. Buffy went to let go of Angel's hand, but he kept a grip on it, not tight enough for it to hurt, just enough to let her know that he didn't want to let go.

Gunn, Fred, Wesley, Cordelia, Lorne and the shaman all looked at Angel.

"Did it work?" Wesley asked.

Buffy, Connor and Angel all nodded. "One hundred percent success," Buffy assured them.

The group all smiled joyously. Cordelia bristled with anger.

"How do we know he's not lying again?" she asked. She couldn't believe that they would take Buffy's word for it when half of the team didn't even know her. They hadn't believed her when she'd confirmed that his soul was in place.

The shaman stepped forward. He looked intently at Angel before looking back to Wesley. "It is he. Angel, not Angelus."

Wesley nodded and shook the shamans hand gratefully.

"We can't thank you enough."

The shaman nodded before turning and walking back up the stairs, eagre to get away from the hotel and go back to his meditating. He was drained from the spell and he wanted nothing more than to rest.

"So, are we letting the puppy out of his cage?" Gunn asked playfully.

Angel rolled his eyes, wondering if he would ever live this down.

"I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty much ready to sleep for the next week or so," Angel said.

The group all nodded emphatically, desperately tired. They still had to find a way to destroy the Beast, but until then, they needed to rejuvenate. Buffy took the keys that Wesley had given her earlier and threw them to her ex- Watcher. Wesley caught them deftly and stepped towards the cage.

"Are we sure about this?" Cordelia asked again.

"We're sure," Buffy replied.

"You'll have to excuse me if I don't believe you," Cordelia said snidely. "You couldn't kill Angelus after you were the one to set him loose, even after he killed your Watcher's girlfriend, so if he still is Angelus, then I don't want to take the chance of the Vampire Slayer not being able to take him out."

Angel tightened his grip on Buffy's hand, trying to give her comfort. He was surprised when Buffy didn't retaliate as she would have done so many years ago. It seemed that his Slayer had matured while the seer still had a long way to go.

"I can do that soul spell again if you don't believe me," Buffy offered. "But I'm telling you, it's in there."

"The shaman has never been wrong before," Wesley added. He placed the key in the lock and opened the cage door. Angel stepped out, almost afraid that his soul would disappear. The AI team watched him warily.

Angel stood for a moment, enjoying his new freedom. Without another word, he tugged on Buffy's wrist and pulled her into a tight hug, revelling in the feel of her small body against him. Buffy sighed happily, unable to believe how completely content she felt. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent that was uniquely Angel.

"And it starts," Cordelia commented.

Angel stiffened, but Buffy's small fist flattening to touch his back and rub in soothing circles stopped him from making any comments.

"Alright, so…now what?" Gunn asked.

"Honestly, I think the best thing we can do right now is sleep," Angel said. "We're all wiped, and we won't be able to do anything unless we're at full strength."

The group all nodded, thankful that they would finally get the chance to have some down time. They felt that they needed it after the last few days.

Angel looked down at Buffy. "Do you have to get back to Sunnydale right away?"

"I'll call Giles, see what he says. But…I'm pretty sure I can stay a little longer," she assured him.

He nodded and gave her a small smile. They had a lot of things they needed to talk about.


Chapter Eleven: Confessions

After a conversation with Giles ensuring that everything in Sunnydale was still all right, Buffy found herself lying in Angel's bed for the second time in two days. Except this time, Angel was beside her.

"You really felt it leave?" Angel asked.

Buffy nodded. "Scared me half to death," she admitted. "I didn't know what to think. I was terrified that you were dead. Or worse."

"And you found the 'or worse' scenario," Angel said with a wince.

"At least you were in a cage," Buffy said. "That was a relief. Although when Wes told me that you guys had removed your soul on purpose, I was kinda weirded out."

Angel smiled. He'd forgotten how much he'd missed her. He couldn't believe that it had been over a year since he'd last seen her. He wondered what had happened between them after she'd been resurrected. They hadn't been in contact with each other, even though Angel wanted nothing more than to go down to Sunnydale every day and just make sure he hadn't been dreaming of a miracle.

He'd wanted nothing more than to share Connor's birth with Buffy, but he'd been too much of a coward to do it. He hadn't been able to admit that he'd slept with Darla and produced a beautiful son. He hadn't wanted to hurt Buffy with the news that he'd had a child with someone he didn't love. It hadn't seemed right.

They paused in their conversation, and Angel wondered about the best way to bring up the subject.

"Uh…about Connor…"

Buffy smiled and took hold of Angel's hand. "I get why you didn't tell me," she assured him. "And honestly, if it had come from you, I probably wouldn't have been able to handle it. As it was I handled it pretty badly when I found out."

He winced and looked at her, wanting her to elaborate. She sighed and drew lazy patterns on his hand with her fingertips, enjoying the feel of him again.

"I was…well, kinda nuts last year. Depressed, moody…suicidal," she admitted.

She dared to look into Angel's eyes and found him looking back at her with so much concern and love that it nearly broke her heart. She'd been so tempted to run to Angel for most of last year, but she'd never been able to bring herself to do it. She knew of his tightly knit family at Angel Investigations, and she hadn't wanted to burden him with her problems. Now, seeing him looking at her like that, she wished that she'd run to him and let her make everything better.

"When I found out about Connor…well, let's just say that the vamps in the demon bar that I was in that night never made it home," Buffy explained.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "For sleeping with Darla."

Buffy shook her head and mimicked Angel's earlier action, bringing his hand to her lips and kissing his fingertips gently.

"Never, ever feel you have to apologise for Connor," Buffy said. "He's beautiful. It's safe to say that the brooding thing is genetic though."

Angel gave a half-hearted smile. He really wished he had a better relationship with his son. Another thought struck him and his eyes darkened. He couldn't believe he'd forgotten about it. After Angelus' two hour rant, Angel was surprised that it wasn't the first thing he'd thought of.

"That thing about Spike," Angel began. He grimaced when he saw Buffy wince. "Please tell me you were just trying to annoy my demon."

Buffy sighed and looked away, unable to meet his eyes. She was ashamed of her actions from the previous year. She hated the way that she'd treated Spike, and the way that she'd treated Dawn and her friends. It hadn't been her most shining year.

"You remember when I said I was kinda suicidal?" Buffy asked quietly, her eyes on their clasped hands rather than on Angel's face. She didn't want to see his disappointment.

"Yes," Angel said, equally as quiet, trying to prompt her to continue.

"Spike was part of that."

Angel felt his heart sink. "You…and Spike?"

Buffy nodded and felt a tear drop from her eyes. "I was…well, the words 'fucked-up' come to mind. And they still fall short of where I was at last year."

Angel felt his heart break. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had had no idea how bad thing shad been for Buffy. She'd seemed to be alright when they'd met after she'd been resurrected. She hadn't seemed to be too out of sorts, and he'd still felt their bond firmly in place. Though now that he thought about it, he could feel the difference. He'd just gone for so long without the bond while she was dead that he hadn't noticed that she'd been feeling so badly.

"Was it so bad?" Angel asked. "Being back? Adjusting?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah. The nightmares alone were…" she shuddered and tried to push them aside. Ever since everything with the First had come up, she hadn't dreamt of waking up in her coffin every single night. Most nights it alternated between the coffin dream and watching Potentials get hunted down and killed. The worst nights were when she had both dreams combined. "It was bad."

"I remember," Angel whispered. But he'd had Buffy beside him, caring for him, using every spare waking moment to be with him. Why hadn't he done the same for her?

"It was…different," Buffy said quietly. "I mean…you prefer being back here, right?"

Angel nodded, unsure of where she was going.

"Of course I do. Hell was…"

"Painful. Bright, harsh, violent?" Buffy finished for him.

Angel nodded, tears in his eyes at the thought of Buffy knowing what it was like. His perfect happiness at seeing Buffy had been kept at bay by the knowledge that she'd suffered for an indefinite amount of time. She'd been dead for five months, two months more than Angel had been in hell. Angel had just assumed that she'd adjusted to being back far easier than he had.

"I'm so sorry you had to go through that," Angel said.

Buffy took a deep breath and forced herself to look at him, his face blurry as she looked through her tears.

"I'm still going through that."

Angel froze. He tried to process exactly what she had just said, make the words make sense. Was she trying to imply…

"You weren't in hell."


A tear fell down Angel's cheek. He should have known. He should have known that the second he saw her. She'd been too stable for someone just out of a hell dimension. She'd been a little too calm, though he knew half of it had been façade. But she hadn't seemed too bad.

"You're still…"

"It hurts," she admitted. "A lot less, but…some days it still hurts."

He swallowed hard.

"And where did Spike come into it?"

Buffy sighed. She wasn't sure if she was grateful for the change in topic or not.

"Why did you sleep with Darla?" Buffy asked quietly.

Angel felt his face fall. Suddenly it made sense. The despair he'd felt that had driven him into Darla's arms was probably very similar to what had driven Buffy to Spike. Like with Darla, he knew that she could handle the physicality of his emotions. And he hadn't cared if he'd hurt her, physically or emotionally.

"I get it," he whispered.

"It was never about love," Buffy whispered. "Not on my side."

"Buffy…Spike's not capable of feeling love," Angel said. "Not without a soul."

Buffy sighed. She'd thought long and hard about that. Last year she had argued the same thing over and over again, but now she wasn't so sure.

"Angel…Spike got a soul," she admitted.

Angel's eyes widened. He hadn't been expecting that at all. "What? How? Did he ask Willow to curse him?"

Buffy shook her head. "He went away for a while. To Africa I think. He had to go through a few trials. He wouldn't tell me what they were, just that they made him suffer. And he won his soul back."

Angel couldn't believe what he was hearing. William the Bloody, Spike, the Slayer of Slayers had gone and won himself a soul to prove that he loved Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer. Angel knew without a doubt that Angelus would never have done something like that for Buffy. Obviously Angel had underestimated Spike in a big way.

"He got his soul for you," Angel said, his voice quiet, feeling oddly upset and inadequate. "Are you two…"


Angel nodded, feeling somewhat heartened that she hadn't just fallen into Spike's arms because he'd fought for his soul.

"Did you ask him to do it?"

Buffy shook her head. "You know about his chip right?" she asked.

Angel nodded. He'd heard about his grand-childe being neutered. He'd laughed for a good twenty minutes after hearing it.

"Well, he kinda joined the Scoobies after that," Buffy explained. "He wasn't trusted or anything, but…he was around when we needed him. He uh…fell in love with me before I died and when I came back…"

"He was there to pick up the pieces while you were depressed," Angel finished.

Buffy sighed and nodded. "I know it was wrong. And I was the one that started it, and…after I started it, I couldn't get out of it. It was the only thing that made me feel anything and I couldn't give it up. No matter how wrong it was. But…eventually, I had to. It was killing me. So, I told him it was over, and I meant it."

"Why do I sense a 'but' coming up."

"Well, he was really good about it for a while. Then he started pressuring me about it. Wanting to get back together, wanting to tell my friends. I got hurt on patrol one night…I went home and…he came to me. Tried to…"

Angel felt anger grow within him. He growled a little and Buffy tightened her grip on his hand. He calmed himself down and knew that Buffy needed to tell him this if they wanted to even move past everything that had happened between them. They needed to know the truth about each other and everything that they'd been through.

"Anyway, I pushed him off. He was pretty shocked. I don't think he really knew what he was doing. He left town, and I didn't see him again for a few months. He'd come back with a soul," she finished.

Angel nodded, completely astounded by what he had heard. There was one thing that was bothering him though.

"Why aren't you two together then?" he asked.

She looked at him with serious eyes that were far older than they should have been for a twenty-one year old girl. "Because I don't love him."

Angel felt himself relax. That was the one topic they hadn't discussed. Spike may have been in love with her, but she wasn't in love with him.

"And…are you…with someone?" Angel asked hesitantly. He was toying with a silver chain with two rings dangling from it, twisting them in his hands, waiting for Buffy's response with a nervousness that he hadn't felt since the night of Buffy's seventeenth birthday.

Buffy smiled shyly and felt her pulse quicken.

"I'm with you right now. Does that count?"

"Are you mine though?"

Buffy couldn't help but laugh a little bit. Angel's face dropped and he went to look away. Buffy's other hand touched his cheek and forced him to look at her.

"Angel, I've been yours since I knocked you on your ass in that alley when I was sixteen," she whispered. "I've always been yours."

Angel felt joy spring up within him at her words. He bent forward and closed the distance between them, his lips brushing hers ever so gently. It had been far too long since they'd kissed. The last time he'd felt her lips on his had been on the day that wasn't, except for the desperate kiss born of despair they'd shared at Buffy's mom's funeral. Even after her resurrection they hadn't kissed. Angel had desperately wanted to, but hadn't out of respect for Buffy's feelings. He hadn't wanted to confuse her, and she'd been grateful for it.

Buffy sighed into the kiss and leant closer to him, desperate to be as close as possible to him.

With a deep and un-needed breath, Angel took the chain he'd been playing with and undid the clasp, letting the two rings fall into his palm. He gently took hold of Buffy's hand and took the smaller silver Claddagh ring, positioning it, heart facing in, on the ring finger of her left hand.

Buffy saw his hesitation and moved her hand forward so that Angel had slid the ring onto her finger. She hadn't seen that ring since she'd said goodbye to him just before he'd returned from hell. She'd never asked him about the ring, but obviously he'd found it, kept it and was now returning it to her.

Buffy reached out and took the larger ring from Angel's palm and performed the same thing for him, sliding it onto the ring finger of his left hand. She mimicked the actions from her seventeenth birthday and leant up to kiss his fingers.

Angel delighted in the feel of her, unable to believe that she was so close to him again. It felt complete and absolutely perfect. He pulled back and Buffy's eyes snapped open, looking at him curiously.


"The curse," he whispered, inwardly telling himself that he was a complete moron for not thinking of that earlier.

Buffy smiled and pulled him back in for a kiss. "I asked that shaman guy to make it permanent."

Angel looked at her with wide and wild-eyes. "It's permanent?" She nodded. "Yup. No more Angelus coming out to play if you get too happy."

Angel felt a sheer well of joy rise up in his soul. He pulled Buffy back in for a kiss and decided that the only way to test what the shaman had done the spell accurately would be to test out his soul.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Chapter Twelve: Battle Plans

Thirteen hours later, with everyone rested and well fed, the AI team converged in Angel's office. Buffy had checked in with Giles, and he'd informed her that things in Sunnydale were still quiet. Buffy had told him that she'd be staying a little longer in LA to help them with their Beast problem. Cordelia was shooting even more glares at the Slayer, who was ignoring them. There was no way she was going to let Cordelia Chase ruin her day, not after the absolutely perfect evening she and Angel had spent together the night before.


Lorne walked into the office to complete the team and Angel cleared his throat to begin taking action.


"Guys, I know that the last few days have been stressful, but…we've gotta stick together," Angel said, his voice low, soft and serious. "No more back-biting, fist-fighting, or vengeance. From now on, we focus on one thing: making it out alive. 'Cause I'm only going to say this once: what Angelus told you was a lie. I haven't and will never give up on you. We'll get through this thing. Together."


"I can't believe we didn't crush you people years ago," Lilah commented from the side. She was promptly ignored.


"Wes, you and Fred get back to Lilah's books. We need any new information we can on this new player. Cordy, I want you helping them in any way you can. Lilah, make some coffee. Earn your keep around here. Lorne, I want you out working low-pro real estate. If this thing is bigger than the Beast, it's gonna be laying down roots. And it'll need square footage," Angel instructed.


Wesley, Fred and Lorne all nodded their agreement to the plan. Lilah looked a little put upon, but didn't refuse the orders.


"In the mean time, Connor, Gunn, Buffy and I will work damage control. Sweep the surrounding blocks for civilians and save anyone we can."


Gunn, Connor and Buffy all nodded and the group split up silently. Cordelia walked to Angel's side, touching his arm softly. She didn't miss that he flinched from her touch.


"Angel, I want to go with you and the others," she said softly.


Angel shook his head. "I can't risk it."


She glared at him and tightened her grip. "Angel, I know how to fight."


"You may know how to fight, but this is different. LA's a demon feeding ground now. Odds are it'll be a few thousand of them to about four of us."


"All the more reason I should go with you," Cordelia argued.


Angel looked at her, wondering why she was so desperate to go with him. He just shook his head. He wasn't about to let Cordelia out there with them, not only because she was becoming antagonistic, but because against a group of demons, she wouldn't be able to hold her own.


"Cordy, my answer is no."


She stormed away angrily and joined Wesley and Fred, trying to pretend that she wasn't bothered by Angel not allowing her to join them. On the inside, however, she was seething with anger and jealousy.


Angel joined Gunn, Connor and Buffy by the weapons cabinet and grabbed his favourite items. He looked to the other three.


"We ready?"

They all nodded and as a team, moved quickly and quietly out the door and into the eternal darkness of LA. Fires raged through the streets, cars were burnt out and demons roamed free. As fun as eternal blackness sounded, the demons and vampires were quickly running out of human victims to feed on. So, when there were three humans walking down the streets of LA, the fights quickly broke out.


The foursome worked as a team, staking and decapitating as many vampires as possible. Angel was trying to keep an eye out for all three of his team members, and especially for Buffy and Connor, but they were all holding their own. Buffy was far better than Angel remembered her being.


The Slayer was keeping an eye on Connor and Gunn, not entirely worried about Angel holding his own. He'd always been good, but it was the other two that she was concerned about. At first Buffy couldn't believe how fast Connor was moving. After a moments thought, she realised that it was perfectly natural for Angel's son to be a fast and good fighter.


Gunn also seemed to be incredibly experienced, and Buffy was just grateful that Angel had such a good team supporting him.


Connor was struggling with three vampires simultaneously, and not doing so well. Buffy quickly threw a stake directly into the heart of one of them. Connor looked up, surprised, expecting to see his father behind the attack. He shot Buffy a grateful smile and gave his full attention to the battle.


Ten minutes and over fifteen vampires later, the group stood breathless, but alive.


"Man I hope we get this Beast guy soon. This 24/7 vamp feeding ground thing is getting a little tired," Gunn commented.


The other three nodded their agreement.

"With any luck, that book that Lilah found will give us new information," Angel said optimistically.


Angel hadn't noticed that Buffy had suddenly stiffened, looking at something behind Angel and Connor. "Angel," Buffy said, her voice steady.




"This Beast thing…kinda tall, rocky looking guy, yeah?" Buffy asked.


"That's him," Angel replied.


Buffy pointed over Angel's shoulder. "No, that's him."


Angel turned and felt a moment of blind panic. Connor and Gunn turned as well, tensing themselves ready for battle.


"Why do I have the feeling that this is only gonna end in bruises," Buffy muttered to herself.


The Beast stepped forward and the group burst towards him in a flourish of motion, attacking from all-sides. Angel was the first to strike, but the Beast merely batted him away as though he were nothing more than an insect. Gunn tried to charge him, but was thrown into a wall ten feet away. He landed heavily and struggled to get up.


Buffy moved forward and struck out at the Beast, punching and kicking with no real effect on the Beast. He went to hit her, but she ducked under his hand, thankful she'd done so. When the Beast had thrown Gunn and Angel, he'd just tossed them. He was attacking Buffy with a wicked looking knife that looked as though it had been forged out of part of the Beast himself.


Buffy quickly kicked the Beasts hand, hoping to dislodge the weapon. He held on tightly and tried to kick the Slayer away. She feinted to the side and tried again to kick the knife from him. He seemed to be intent on keeping hold of it.


The Beast hit her with his other hand, sending her flying. She struggled to her feet as Connor went to strike at the Beast.


"Connor, the knife!" she yelled. "Try to get the knife."


Connor nodded and concentrated his efforts on disarming the Beast. The large creature seemed even more intent on keeping the knife now that Buffy had pointed it out to the team.


Angel rejoined the skirmish, helping his son to try and get the Beast to drop the weapon. Distracted by Angel and Connor's efforts, the Beast didn't even see the Slayer attack from behind him. She grabbed the large knife, cutting her hand slightly on the spikes of the blade, but wrestling it from the creature that was trying to fend off three attacks.


The Beast roared, enraged at having lost his weapon. He flung Connor and Angel away, his sights on Buffy alone. Buffy swallowed hard but pushed past the pain that was settling in her body. The Beast lunged towards her, but she ducked and went under his arm. He was strong, but just a little too slow.

Angel approached on the other side and attacked the Beast, trying to distract it so that Buffy could have a good shot. The Beast ignored Angel, even though the vampire was trying his best to damage the rocky outer layer of the creature.


Buffy feinted left and ducked under the Beasts arm, quickly passing the knife to Angel. The Beast completely missed the switch that had been made and continued to go after the Slayer. Angel grinned grimly and quickly plunged the knife into the centre of the Beast's back.


The Beast straightened and screamed in agony. It's arms reached behind it, trying to get the knife out of it's back, but he couldn't reach it. Buffy, Angel and Connor all stepped back, suddenly worrying about what they might have just done to the creature. The Beast glowed a bright yellow colour through the cracks of its skin. A bright light shot out of the Beast, into the sky.


Buffy looked up and realised what was happening.


"Angel, the sun!"


Angel panicked and quickly ducked into an abandoned house, thankful that he could enter, though saddened that its occupants were obviously dead seeing as he could enter. Gunn struggled to his feet, not wanting to be huddled against a wall for their moment of triumph.


After several moments, the sun showed itself, the blackness disappearing. Buffy, Connor and Gunn all smiled widely, looking up at the sky, shielding their eyes from the brightness of the sun. Buffy looked to where Angel was standing in the doorway, out of the sunlight. She'd never seen him looking so completely happy in his life. Except for the previous night of course.


"Score one for the good guys, huh?" Gunn commented.


Buffy grinned and felt completely and utterly happy that they'd won against the creature.


"I think a celebration is in order here," Buffy commented.


The trio walked to where Angel was still grinning in the doorway. Gunn playfully punched Angel's shoulder. "That was some quick thinking there."


Angel looked to Buffy and touched her face gently. "How did you know about the knife?"


Buffy shrugged. "I didn't really. He was just holding onto it a bit too much."


Connor suddenly laughed and Angel felt his heart lift. He'd never heard his son laugh like that. He looked inquisitively at the boy who was smiling widely. "We did it!"


Angel's cell phone suddenly rang, disturbing their moment. He pulled out his phone.


"Angel," he said.

Angel smiled when he heard Wesley on the other end. "What just happened?" was the ex- Watcher's frantically happy question.


"Killed the Beast," Angel replied nonchalantly. Buffy, Connor and Gunn all laughed, their adrenaline slowly down and giving all them the shakes. Buffy leant against the doorframe, half in the sun that had never felt better on her skin than it did right now.


"Way to be casual Angel," Buffy teased.


He shot her a grin and listened to Wesley questioning him. "Wes, calm down!" Angel said. "We'll explain when we get home. As soon as we figure out how to get me back to the Hyperion without the whole bursting into flames factor."


Buffy giggled and even Connor cracked a smile.


"Later Wes. We'll be home soon." Angel hung up the phone and put it back into his pocket. He grinned at the group and looked between them.


"So, any suggestions?"

Gunn and Connor walked back to the Hyperion to get Angel's car so that he could hide in the backseat and make it home without combusting into flames. Buffy stayed with Angel, not wanting to be separated with him when she knew that she was going to have to go back to Sunnydale fairly soon.


When Gunn and Connor returned, they found Buffy seated in Angel's lap, the vampire and Slayer kissing desperately. Gunn and Connor shared a mutual grin. Gunn coughed loudly and watched with amusement as the two of them jumped apart. Buffy flushed red and straightened her shirt as she stood up.


"Hey," she greeted.


Connor laughed at her attempt of being casual. "Car's out front," he explained.


Buffy and Angel nodded. Angel nodded and shrugged out of his leather coat. He walked to the doorway and was thankful that the door to the car was open, the rooftop was up, and they'd driven as close to the front door of the house as they could get. Angel hid under his jacket and raced for the car, thankful to be out of the sun, even though it was what he'd been fighting for the last few days.


Gunn, Connor and Buffy clambered in, Buffy in the back seat beside Angel.


"What did the others say?" Buffy asked curiously.


"We didn't tell them we were back," Connor replied.


"Yeah, we figured we wanted to wait for the heroes welcome when you guys were there as well," Gunn added.


Buffy and Angel grinned, Buffy cuddling up to the vampire, enjoying the feeling of his arms around her. She sighed and closed her eyes, wishing that she could stay in LA with Angel. She wondered if after the battle with the First, he'd mind if she moved to LA and joined the team at AI. Apart from Cordelia, she'd got on extremely well with the other team members.

In the midst of her planning for the future she was now desperately hoping she'd have, her cell phone rang. She sighed, knowing that it would be Giles asking her to come back home.




"Buffy, it's Giles," her Watcher greeted.


"Hey," she replied, crossing her fingers and hoping for news that wasn't too horrible. "What's up?"


"We're just wondering when you'll be home," Giles explained.


Buffy sighed. Never she wanted to reply. "This afternoon, probably," she replied. "Is that cool?"


"Of course. Is everything there…settled?"


"Yep. He's all soulful, all the time," she replied.

"All the time?" Giles repeated. "Does that mean…"


"His soul is all kinds of permanent," Buffy said with excitement. Angel squeezed her hand, loving the happiness in her voice.


"And you're uh…certain?"


Buffy laughed. She could just imagine Giles on the other end of the line blushing red and cleaning his glasses. She really had missed him, and she was hoping to get some quality catching up time with her Watcher when she returned home.


"We're way certain," Buffy replied.


Angel chuckled a little, instinctively knowing the question that Giles had just asked.


"Oh, uh…well…that's…that's good. It is good, yes?"


"Better than good," Buffy replied happily. "So…do you want me home this afternoon, or do you mind if I stay a bit longer?"


Giles could hear the plaintive tone in her voice, and smiled a little. He hadn't heard Buffy so genuinely happy in a while, and honestly things in Sunnydale were very quiet. He had wanted her home to speak to the new Potentials, but one more day wouldn't hurt.


"Just be home tomorrow evening," Giles compromised.


Buffy grinned and resisted the urge to bounce up and down in her seat shouting 'thankyou, thankyou, thankyou'. She took a deep breath and tried to keep herself calm.


"Sure thing. I'll see you tomorrow night. Say hi to everyone for me."

"Of course," Giles replied. "Take care of yourself."

"Will do Giles."

She hung up the phone and turned to Angel, an excited smile on her face.


"You don't mind me staying with you guys for another day, do you?" she asked.


Angel smiled happily, shook his head, and leant forward to kiss Buffy, completely reassuring her that she was always wanted in LA.


"I think I can safely say Angel doesn't mind," Gunn teased.


Buffy smiled and snuggled into Angel's chest. She looked at Gunn and Connor in the front seat, a question in her eyes.


"Yeah, but do you guys mind?" Buffy asked.


Connor turned around with an incredulous look on his face. "Are you kidding?"


Buffy smiled, thankful that Connor didn't completely hate her. She'd always been worried about what Connor's reaction to her would be when and if they ever met. She was just glad that he seemed to accept her already.


"After today and yesterday," Gunn said, "I think you're now an honorary member of Angel Investigations."


(Please remember the note from Chapter One. Robin Wood is NOT the son of a Slayer. He's just the Principal and he DOES NOT know about vamps, demons or anything like that. You'll understand why soon…)

Chapter Thirteen: Soul Separation

They parked the car in the shade and made their way into the hotel to find Wesley, Lorne and Fred all standing in the lobby talking excitedly. Cordelia was nowhere in sight, but the returning warriors didn't notice her absence as they were swept up into the enthusiasm of their celebration.

Hugs and handshakes and back-pats were exchanged, all with smiles and jumbled words of thanks and congratulations. After nearly ten minutes of their exuberance, the group finally settled, the warriors standing whilst the others sat on the circular lounge listening as Gunn, Connor, Angel and Buffy recounted their adventure, interrupting each other and adding things where they needed to be added.

Lorne, Fred and Wesley were swept up in their excitement, and had opened a bottle of wine to celebrate. After about an hour of their impromptu party, Wesley approached Angel and dragged him away from the others, the two former friends going into the office.

"What's up Wesley?" Angel asked, in too good a mood to be annoyed at his former friend.

"About Buffy…"

Angel held up a hand to stop the lecture that he expected to get. "We're being careful. And the shaman said it was permanent, so you don't have to worry."

Wesley shook his head. "It's not about that. It's about Buffy and…well, Connor."

Angel froze. His imagination travelled to the worst of places, and he knew that he wouldn't have even thought something like that if it hadn't been for Cordelia sleeping with Connor the week before.

"What about them?"

"They have…a connection of some sort," Wesley said. "We found your soul by performing a spell that only soulmates can perform. You enchant a map and have one of the mates say an incantation, and the spell will show where the two souls are. We enchanted a map of the Hyperion, and…"

"And?" Angel prompted.

Wesley took out the floor plans of the Hyperion and grabbed a pencil. He marked the five points that Buffy's soul had settled over when Connor had still been upstairs.

"Her soul separated into five portions. One where she sat, one where your soul was upstairs, another with Angelus downstairs in the basement, another in Sunnydale, or so we assumed, and…the other was wherever Connor was. We tested it, and the spell followed Connor," Wesley explained.

Angel felt the need to sit down. "What are you saying?"

Wesley looked at Angel intently, and hoped that he wasn't wrong in his theory. "I think Connor has part of Buffy's soul within him."

"And the other pieces of her soul."

"Well, it's just a theory, but I'm guessing that the section in Sunnydale is Dawn, and that the others were herself obviously, and the other was split between Angel and Angelus."

Angel sat heavily in the chair behind the desk, his thoughts racing. He'd never even considered that Buffy might have anything to do with Connor, but in a way, it made sense. When he'd first seen Connor, his first thoughts had been of Buffy, and how he wished that she'd been there to be the one to hold him.

"I'm not entirely certain, but…I think Buffy may be Connor's mother. Spiritually, rather than physically," Wesley explained.

"How? She and I…we were only together once…"

Wesley looked at Angel, his eyebrows raised. "Cordelia informed me of the day you took back," Wesley said gently.

Angel looked up, alarmed. He saw only sympathy and understanding in Wesley's eyes. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"And I suppose with both of us being completely human, she could have conceived," Angel surmised. "If I'd never erased the day, she could've had a baby."

"No she couldn't," Wesley said softly.


"Buffy's a Slayer…she can never have children. It's not possible."

Angel felt sick to the stomach. That had been one of the many reasons he'd left her, because he could never give her children. As it turned out, he might have been able to reproduce. To hear that Buffy couldn't become pregnant was like a slap to the face, and he ached for the pain that Buffy would feel if she knew that small fact about Slayers.

"Never?" Angel repeated.

Wesley shook his head. "Even if she were with a completely human man, she'd never be able to have children," Wesley explained. "And not just because the Council would kill her, but because her body is literally unable to bear them. Oh, she can conceive, don't get me wrong, but…she couldn't carry it to term. The point is…I really believe that Buffy is connected to Connor."

"He does seem to really like her," Angel commented, looking through the window to see Connor and Buffy talking animatedly. Connor was smiling as he explained something, and Buffy was laughing heartedly.

"I think…maybe having Darla as the vessel was the Powers way for you and Buffy to be able to have a child," Wesley said. "You and Buffy are destined to be together, it was prophesied. I would fathom a guess that if we looked over the true prophecies regarding Connor's birth, Buffy would be mentioned there. Perhaps it would explain how your son has a purely human soul. It's part of Buffy's."

Angel furrowed his brow together, trying to sort through what he'd just been told. He wanted desperately to believe that Wesley was right regarding who Connor's mother really was, but Wesley and prophecies hadn't meshed too well in the past.

"Here's a thought," Angel said, "if Buffy's soul split into five parts…what does that mean for Buffy? Is she wandering around with only a fifth of a soul?"

"A quarter actually," Wesley replied. "It was four equal parts, and then one of the portions split between your soul and Angelus."

"Angelus has an eighth of a soul?"

"In theory," Wesley answered. "And as for Buffy, as a warrior for the Powers That Be, her soul is one of the strongest in existence. You'd probably need to speak to her, but I'd wager that just after Connor was born, she struggled to find a balance between the light and the dark."

Angel looked up at Wesley sharply. I was kinda nuts last year. Depressed, moody, suicidal. Wesley's theory certainly had a lot of backing evidence. He stood and walked to the door.

"Buffy," he called.

Buffy looked up and touched Connor on the arm, apologising for leaving him mid-conversation. She walked to the office and Angel ushered her inside, pulling out a seat for Buffy. She sat down and cast a nervous glance between Wesley and Angel.

"Why do I suddenly feel like I'm back in high school in Principal Snyder's office?" she quipped lightly, trying to hide her nervousness.

"Last year, when did you start sleeping with Spike?" Angel asked bluntly.

Wesley coughed uncomfortably and looked at Buffy in complete shock. Buffy turned bright red and looked at her lover angrily. "Why?"

"It's important," he replied.

Buffy looked away from him and thought back to when things between she and Spike had gone drastically downhill. They'd had a tentative friendship that Buffy had come to rely on until they'd slept together, and after that everything had gone from bad to worse.

"Uh…November I guess," Buffy said.

Connor had been born in November. "November what?"

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't exactly keep records."

"If you had to guess, would you say around November eleventh? That was a Monday," Angel said.

Buffy tried to think back. She knew that it had been a school night that she'd slept with Spike because she'd inadvertently left Dawn alone, except that Tara had volunteered to stay.

"Uh, I think it started on a Tuesday," Buffy said, wondering why it was so important. "So, the twelfth, maybe?"

Angel and Wesley shared a look that Buffy didn't miss.

"What? Why is that so important?" Buffy asked.

Wesley sat down in the seat beside Buffy and leant towards her.

"The day that your uh…relationship with Spike started, did you…were you feeling a little…off- balance? As though you couldn't focus your energies properly?" Wesley asked.

Buffy nodded. She could remember everything she'd been feeling that day because she'd been feeling so badly. That was the day that she'd found out that Spike could hit her. You came back wrong.

"Yeah. I was uh…really out of sorts that day. And then…with the Spike thing…and with his chip not working…"

"His chip doesn't work on you?" Angel asked.

Buffy shook her head. "He could hit me. Said I'd come back wrong. That I was missing part of myself." She felt tears well up in her eyes and she struggled to keep them at bay. She hadn't thought that about herself since everything had happened with Willow trying to destroy the world. She'd thought she was past the doubts that Spike had planted inside her already fragile mind.

"Buffy, we think that there may be a reason for what happened that day," Angel explained. "Why you were feeling so badly. It may even explain why Spike could hit you."

Buffy nodded and waited for Angel to continue.

"Buffy, Connor was born on the eleventh. The day before you and Spike started…" Angel trailed off, unable to even think about what had happened between his childe and his mate. "Buffy, that soul spell you performed, you noticed that Connor was carrying a part of your soul, yes?"

Buffy nodded. She'd thought it odd as well, but she had no way of explaining it.

"Well, what if we told you that part of your soul was in Connor? That you lost maybe half of what you had left and it went into Connor," Wesley said gently.

"Wait…two things. First, why would Connor have part of my soul, and second…what do you mean 'what I had left'?"

Wesley knew that the answer to the first question wasn't his place. The second answer however, whilst painful, was something he could field.

"Buffy, that spell indicated that you were sharing your soul with three other beings besides yourself. I'd guess that one is with Dawn, another with Connor and another with Angel. And the portion with Angel is split further between Angel and Angelus," Wesley explained.

"So…what? I've got like a quarter of a soul or something?"

Wesley nodded.

Buffy swallowed hard. It certainly explained why she'd never felt quite right after everything that had happened the year before. It also made a certain sort of sense about sharing her soul with Dawn and with Angel. "But why with Connor?"

Wesley looked to the Vampire. Angel knelt in front of Buffy and put his hands around hers, noticing that his mate was trembling.

"Buffy, Wesley thinks that you are Connor's mother," Angel said softly.

Buffy felt everything inside of her freeze. That wasn't possible. For one thing, Connor wasn't hers. For another, the only time that she'd been with Angel had been five years ago. She also knew for a fact that Slayer couldn't have children. She'd managed to get that bit of information out of Giles after about half an hour of pestering him about why no Slayers had ever had children.

"Uh huh…"

"Buffy, I know it sounds insane, but…I think he may be right," Angel whispered. "I've always wanted you to be Connor's mother. I look into his eyes, and I see your eyes staring back at me. The connection I feel to Connor always felt so familiar to me, because it was the connection that you and I share. And I know that this is a lot to take in, but…you need to know."

Buffy couldn't think, could barely even remember to keep breathing. She shook her head to try and clear away her thoughts.

"Is…can we find out…somehow?" she asked quietly.

Angel looked to Wesley who was already heading towards the bookcase.

"Buffy, there's something else you need to know," Angel whispered so that Wesley wouldn't hear. "About that day you visited me after Thanksgiving."

He had her full attention now. It seemed so random, and it gave her something else to focus on.

"What about it?"

"Did you ever…dream that we'd spent more than five minutes together? Maybe an entire day together? With me meeting you at the pier-"

"At Santa Monica, out in the sunlight," Buffy finished.

Angel nodded and felt tears in his eyes. He'd never really considered the possibility of Buffy remembering their Day-That-Wasn't.

"And we came back to the office and-"

"Drank tea and tried to make a mature plan, but…we ended up making love," Buffy whispered, tears streaming down her face. "All of that…it really happened?"

Angel nodded and gently wiped the tears from her face. He hated seeing her cry. It seemed that all her had ever done was make his true love cry.

"You turned back the day…gave up your humanity so that I wouldn't die," Buffy said. "You think Connor has something to do with that?"

Angel nodded. "I'm almost sure of it."

Buffy leant forward in her chair and dropped to her knees in front of Angel, hugging him fiercely. He returned the hug just as tightly, rocking her as she cried against his shirt. Wesley looked at them, not wanting to disturb their moment, but he knew that they needed to know the truth about Connor's parentage.

Without a word, Wesley handed an open book to Angel who took it and read through the spell. Angel gently pulled back and helped Buffy to her feet. He offered her a tissue from a box on his desk and waited patiently until Buffy had dried her face.

"Now what?" she asked quietly.

"We find out for sure."

Strangely enough the episode 'Smashed' actually DOES line up with 'Lullaby' when Connor is born. My theory does work. Trust me, I spent a looooong time working out dates and stuff (though I may have been wrong on some stuff…)


Chapter Fourteen: Family

Wesley set up the ritual, which was the magical equivalent of a paternity test. Ten minutes later, Buffy was having problems trying to breathe. She knew more than enough about magic to know that mistakes could often happen, but after Wesley performed the test once more, she was certain that the ritual had been right. She was Connor's mother.

"Oh god," she whispered.

Angel held her to his chest tightly, gently stroking her chair as she went through the panic that came with extremely shocking news. When she'd finished hyperventilating, she looked up at Angel.

"I'm a mom!"

Angel smiled and kissed her gently, loving the happiness that had won out over the fear in the play of emotions running across her face.

"This is gonna be majorly weird," Buffy murmured into Angle's shirt. "My son's like four years younger than me!"

Angel chuckled and Wesley couldn't help but smirk. Watching the Vampire and Slayer now that he understood what family and friendship truly meant, he could finally appreciate how powerful the connection between Buffy and Angel truly was. When he'd first seen the two of them together, he'd thought it to be the strangest thing he'd ever heard of. He couldn't understand how Giles had allowed it to happen, but seeing them as they were now, he could see what he'd never been able to see before. They truly were kindred.

"Do you want to tell him now?" Angel whispered.

Buffy pulled back, her eyes going wide once more. "Oh god…I don't know. What if…what if he hates me? What if he doesn't believe us? What if-"

Her rambling was cut off as Angel pressed his lips against hers. The tenseness in Buffy's shoulders melted and Buffy sunk into him, sighing happily. They pulled apart and she took a deep breath.

"Do you think he'll be okay with it?" she asked seriously. "I mean, he only just met me. He's been raised his entire life thinking that Darla was his mother. He might not appreciate being told otherwise."

"He has a right to know," Angel said softly. "Just as you did."

Buffy sighed, but finally nodded her agreement. Angel pressed a kiss to her forehead and pulled away from her, exiting the office and walking to where Connor and Gunn were talking excitedly about weapons and different fighting moves. Obviously destroying the Beast had been something of a bonding moment for the two men as they'd never really been all that close before.

Angel asked Connor to come into the office, and he willingly followed, grinning at Buffy as he took a seat beside her.

"What's wrong?" Connor asked. "You're not about to tell me that the Beast isn't really dead, right?"

"No, nothing like that," Angel assured him. "It's…well, about your mother."

Connor's eyes darkened. "Darla." He'd heard the tale of his birth many times over. Angel had explained to him about why Angel and Darla had slept together, and Connor had always had it in the back of his mind that, whilst he may have been a miracle child, he'd been conceived through grief, despair and hatred. It wasn't the most comforting thought.

"She's not your mother," Angel said.

Connor looked genuinely surprised by the admittance. "But…you told me that…"

"I know what we told you," Angel said. "And we all thought it to be true. And, yes, she was the person who physically gave birth to you, but…you aren't hers."

"Your blood, your soul and half of your strength came from another," Wesley continued. "That is why it's possible for you to have a human soul."

Connor looked to Buffy who was staring at him in the strangest of ways. As their eyes met, it all clicked for Connor. This was what the connected feeling between them meant. This was why he'd been able to sense her, why he'd been drawn to watch her while she'd been asleep several days before. This was why she'd been able to make him smile and why he felt so comfortable with her.

His lips curled into a smile and he reached over to take her hand. Angel smiled, unable to help himself from feeling happy that the two most important people in the world to him truly were connected.

"You're my mother," Connor whispered.

Buffy nodded, and before anyone really knew what had happened, they were both on their feet, hugging each other tightly. Connor felt tears roll down his cheeks and a feeling of contentment filled his stomach. He breathed in deeply, savouring the feeling, unable to believe something this good had finally happened to him.

"How is this possible?" Connor asked, not bothering to pull out of the hug as he looked over his shoulder at Angel.

"As best as we can tell, it began the first time Buffy and made love. We pretty much proved that we were soulmates, and then it continued when I uh…fed on Buffy. That was in May of 1999. Then, six months later, I was turned human. I erased the day, but we think that Buffy might have conceived."

"But, me being the Slayer, I couldn't have given birth anyway," Buffy added bitterly. "One of the many perks of being the Chosen One."

Connor hugged her even tighter and felt a responding pressure.

"Then, in March of 2001, I slept with Darla. The next morning, I realised that I was an idiot-"

"I could have told you that without you sleeping with her," Buffy interjected with a grin.

Angel mock-glared at her, but couldn't help smiling back.

"And then I heard that Buffy's mom had died, so I went to Sunnydale. We, uh…realised we were still in love with each other but that it wasn't the right time for me to be in Sunnydale. I came back to LA, and then…two months later, and exactly two years to the day after I bit Buffy, she died."

Connor finally pulled back in shock. Buffy grinned at him sheepishly.


"I died. It was a choice between my sister and me, and…I couldn't let her die. My friends brought me back, using magic."

"That's what Cordelia was talking about," Connor said, the words finally registering with him. "The resurrection spell."

Buffy nodded.

"Anyway, my soul left this plane, but it was still here in parts, with Angel and with Dawn, and quite possibly already with you, but not as strong. Enough for you to be alive, and enough of a conscience for Darla to feed off, and have actual human emotions, but not an entire soul. Then, I came back in October, and you were born a month later. At that point in time, you got the full quarter of my soul that I could give you," she explained.

"But why Darla?" Connor asked.

Angel and Buffy both looked stumped by the question. It was Wesley who stepped forward with a possible answer.

"In theory, any woman that Angel slept with would have conceived during that evening," Wesley replied. "Your birth was prophesied, so, no matter what happened, you were to be born. In fact, I'm fairly certain that even if Angel hadn't have turned back the day he was human, Buffy would have given birth."

Angel and Buffy turned to look at him in shock and dismay. Hearing that they could have been the ones to see Connor through his birth was excruciating. Angel was feeling even guiltier about turning back the day than before. No a day went by that he didn't still have doubts about whether or not he'd done the right thing.

"Of course, Buffy wouldn't have survived the birthing process," Wesley continued, not having noticed the identical looks of horror. Angel and Buffy both sighed, realising that perhaps it had been for the best. Whilst it wasn't easy to hear that someone else had had to sacrifice their life to let Connor live, it was easier to swallow knowing that Darla had over 400 year of experience to her name, and that she had been a soulless creature.

"Wow," Connor finally said. "This is…a lot."

Buffy took a hold of his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, believed when Connor squeezed back and didn't let go of her. "We know this is a bit of a shock for you, Con," Buffy said.

He nodded but managed to smile at her. "I think I've made you the youngest mother alive," Connor said with a grin. "Four years age difference…that's gotta be a record."

Buffy grinned and Angel couldn't help but laugh as well. It was nice to see that his son did have a sense of humour after all. This was what they'd been missing all along. He'd known that he should have called Buffy the second Connor was born, but he'd been too stubborn, and too worried that she would decide that she hated both himself and Connor because of Darla.

"Seriously though," Connor continued, sobering up, "I think it's good. Knowing that Buffy's really my mom…well, it means that I was…well, wanted. I was made through love. I wasn't an accident."

Buffy felt her heart break for him, and she pulled him into another hug. Angel couldn't resist either, never having realised how badly his son hurt over his parentage. He'd always thought that Connor just hated having vampiric parents. Obviously it went a lot deeper than that. He stepped forward and engulfed both Connor and Buffy in a tight hug. He knew in that moment of perfect contentment that Buffy's idea of having his soul attached permanently had definitely been good thinking. Holding his mate and son in his arms was more than perfect happiness. It was bliss. To him, this was heaven.

And of course, perfect moments always need to be ruined. Buffy's cell phone rang and she pulled away reluctantly.

"Yeah?" she answered, more than slightly annoyed.

"Buffy? It's Giles. I think you should be heading back about now," he said.

"Why?" she asked, beginning to panic, envisioning images of her friends, her sister, the Potentials lying bloodied in her home. "Did something happen? Is everyone okay?"

"We're all fine, but…we need you back here," he s explained. Buffy could hear the apologetic tone of his voice and knew that her Watcher would gladly have let her stay if they hadn't been in the middle of an apocalypse. "Another five Potentials just arrived. It would be best if you were here."

"Alright. I'll be there in about two hours."

"I'm sorry Buffy," Giles said quietly.

"I know."

She hung up the phone and looked to her two men. They were both looking at her with identical looks of sorrow on their faces. She was pulled back into the hug, and tears welled in her eyes.

"I have to go," she whispered miserably.

Angel pulled back and allowed his son a moment with Buffy. Connor gave her a shaky smile and kissed her forehead, marvelling at her petite stature.

"Be safe," he whispered.

She nodded and stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. "You too. Behave," she said with a grin.

He just nodded and gave her another hug. He pulled away and pushed Buffy towards Angel, watching with interest as the two lovers embraced fiercely, kissing passionately and wanting to never let go.

"You'll be careful, right?" Angel asked.

Buffy nodded and kissed him once more with great gentleness. "I'll be fine. Take care of yourself okay?"

v He nodded and hugged her tightly, pain gripping in his chest. He couldn't believe that he had to watch her walk away again after they'd only just found each other again. It was far too painful.

"After this apocalypse, what would you say to getting a new member for AI?" she asked.

He grinned at her, his eyebrows raised, eyes dancing with delight. "You'd want to move to LA?"

She rolled her eyes and hit his chest. "No, I was thinking Xander might be interested in joining you," she said sarcastically. "Yes I want to move here. After everything that's happened, what did you expect? I don't want to let either you out of my sight!"

He smiled happily and kissed her once more. "I think we could definitely use a Slayer on the team. Connor would probably love to have you around a lot more. I think I could be convinced that your presence here would be a good thing."

She chuckled despite herself, loving the newer, more playful Angel.

"Good. Make sure you don't fill my position before I can get away from Sunnydale," she said.

He smiled sweetly at her and stroked her hair. "I don't think anyone would ever be able to fill your position."

Connor smiled, unable to believe the difference in his father. He'd never seen this side of his dad, ever, and it was a nice change. It was strange how one person could affect their lives so much when she'd only been in LA for three days.

It was with great reluctance that Buffy finally pulled away, and quickly packed her bags. After a long farewell to the other members of AI, except Cordelia who had barely waved goodbye, Buffy was finally on her way back to Sunnydale.


(Ahhh, in a perfect world, this is what would have happened in Angel. Six or seven episodes in ten or so paragraphs…No evil Connor, no weird ass Connor doesn't exist anymore thing…)

NOTE: You really NEED to have seen the last six or so eps of each season, or at least know what's happened. I skip a lot of stuff, and will assume that you guys know what I'm on about, so…know your episodes! Cool?

Chapter Fifteen: Resolutions And Betrayal

It took the Angel Investigations crew another week to work out whom the Beast had been working for. To their great and utter shock, it had been Cordelia all along. After some interrogation of the demon Skip, who had posed as Cordelia's guide, it was revealed that Cordelia wasn't Cordelia at all. Her body had been possessed, and Cordelia Chase was buried deep within the body, and something else had control.

Cordelia's one-night with Connor had resulted in a pregnancy, something which had rocked the AI team to the core. No one had been expecting it at all, and the fact that it was not Cordelia but the Beastmaster that was to give birth after only three weeks, instead of the standard nine months had everyone in a panic.

Cordelia had tried manipulating Connor to try and turn him into a dark Champion, but Connor had resolutely refused to do its bidding, knowing that he couldn't betray his family or his friends like that. Enraged, Cordelia had fled, leaving no sign of where she had gone.

When Angel and Connor had finally tracked her, they'd found her lying unconscious in an abandoned factory, with candles from a ritual around her, and the dead body of a woman in the next room. Before they could check on Cordelia though, a woman had stepped out of the shadows, and both father and son had fallen to their knees.

"Oh my god," Angel cried. "You're beautiful."

The woman, who later named herself Jasmine, brought about feelings of love and peace to everyone. Of course, it came with a price that was too high to pay. The death of several humans everyday to keep herself energised. The enchantment spell that made people feel these false feelings was broken when people touched Jasmine's blood. Fred was the first to be pulled out of the spell, followed by Angel, Connor and the rest of the AI team.

After several more days, Jasmine was revealed for who and what she truly was. It was with sadness that world peace, although it was only technically in LA, ended. Wolfram and Hart, as a congratulations for ending world peace, gave over its office to the AI team if they chose to work there.

The team knew that even though Wolfram and Hart had the best resources in the world, they couldn't take anything from an evil law firm. Though they were all tempted with the things they wanted most in the world, each of them declined the invitation, and returned to the Hyperion, taking only a single folder and an amulet from the evil law firm.

They'd done the right thing, but they still felt as though they hadn't really won at all. With their fight against the Beastmaster finally finished, Fred and Gunn, still together, organised some time off to fully work out where they stood with each other. Wesley volunteered to stay in LA, with Cordelia, still unconscious, and try to work out how to bring her back. Lorne too opted to stay in the City of Angels.

Connor and Angel though had only one thought. To be where Buffy was.

The last few days had been excruciating for the last remaining citizens of Sunnydale. Whilst the other citizens were fleeing in terror, forty or so people were cramped into one house, trying to stop the end of the world from occurring. And such a task is never easy. People get hurt, people die, and people feel the need to lay blame.

It was with great sadness that after a planned attack on the newest locale for the Big Bad, the Potentials had lost two of its members while five or six others had been badly injured. An arm broken, bruises, scrapes, concussions, and of course, the most tragic was the loss of Xander Harris's left eye.

Blaming the person who had led them into battle was the easiest way to feel somewhat justified. With fear in their hearts and nightmares in their minds, every single person in the house, besides Buffy herself, resolutely refused to consider returning to the vineyard, the place of their most costly battle.

"The bad guys always go where the power is…they're protecting the vineyard, or something at the vineyard. I say it's their power. And I say it's time we go in there and take it away from them."

"Or, in the alternative…how about we don't," Faith replied.

For the first time in their lives, the Scoobies found themselves the victims of the general Sunnydale disease of denial. They let their fear lead them, and rather than listen to what the Slayer had to say, they quickly turned against her. The Potentials decided that Faith, now out of prison and helping the fight in Sunnydale, should be their new leader. The Scoobies, surprisingly, had agreed.

But the final blow for Buffy was when her own sister, whom she had died for, worked a humiliating job for, and had refrained from leaving Sunnydale altogether for, turned her back as well.

"I can't stay here and watch her lead you in to some disaster."

"Then you can't stay here," Dawn said quietly, tears in her eyes. "You were right Buffy. We have to be together on this. So I need you to leave."

Without another word, Buffy had grabbed her jacket and left the house. Faith had followed after her, not prepared to step into the position of leader. But Buffy would not reconsider going back into the house to watch the Potentials fall one-by-one. If they were going to go down, then she couldn't watch it happen.

"Don't be afraid to lead them," Buffy told Faith, the only real advice that she could tell the other Slayer. "Whether you wanted it or not, their lives are yours. Lead them."

And with that, Buffy was gone.

Stuff from Angel obviously re-written to work with the whole Buffy/Angel/Connor story. Stuff from Buffy not really re-written. I finally got in my little rant at the Scoobies for being blind about what happened. I was really annoyed with the Scoobies and their reactions to the whole vineyard thing. Yeah it was hasty, but she was damn well right. And they never apologised for it either…sheesh. Good on Buffy for not saying 'I told you so' when she got back to the house.

Ooo, in this fic, cos Robin Wood isn't a Slayer's son, he's obviously not joining in on the fight. So, that then means that Giles never conspired with anyone to kill Spike He wasn't happy about Spike being in the house, but he's never tried to kill him. Cool?


Chapter Sixteen: Touched

Angel and Connor drove in silence, both of them worried about Buffy. She hadn't been answering her cell phone, and when they pulled into Sunnydale, they were surprised to see it completely blacked out.

"This looks bad," Connor said quietly.

Angel couldn't help but agree. He hadn't realised how bad it was getting in Sunnydale. He and Buffy had spoken on the phone a few days ago, but she hadn't mentioned anything about there being no people, no lights and barely any sound. Unless this was a new thing.

Angel sighed and began driving the familiar path to Buffy's house. Three blocks away, he saw a very familiar figure walking with their arms around themselves, either for comfort or warmth, and seeing as how it wasn't all that cold, Angel figured it was the former. He stopped beside Buffy, who didn't even notice his presence.

"Hey there stranger," he greeted, hopping out of the car and walking to the sidewalk.

Buffy's head snapped up at the familiar sound of Angel's voice. She launched herself at him, never more grateful to see him as she was in that moment. After the last hour of her life, she was fairly certain that Angel had never had better timing.

Connor got out of the car and joined his parents in their embrace. Buffy wiggled away from Angel to hug Connor fully.

"You have no idea how glad I am to see you guys," Buffy said.

Connor reached his hand up and touched Buffy's cheek, wiping away tears that had fallen.

"You're crying."

Buffy hastily wiped her eyes and breathed in deeply. "It's no biggie. Just some stuff back home. It's kinda…not too great back there at the moment," she said.

Angel could see that Buffy was downplaying whatever had happened there. He couldn't even begin to imagine what had happened, and he knew Buffy well enough to see that she didn't want to talk about it at that moment.

"Where are you headed to?" he asked.

Buffy shrugged. "I dunno," she replied honestly. "I was just looking for a place to crash. I was thinking of heading down to your old apartment or something."

"Why can't you just go home?" Connor asked innocently.

Buffy's shoulders tensed and both Angel and Connor noticed it. "I don't want to be there right now," she replied vaguely.

The two men shared a glance and Angel put an arm around Buffy's shoulders, directing her towards the car. "C'mon, I'll take you over to the mansion. It'd be too dark in my old apartment."

Buffy nodded and got into the car, Connor jumping over the door and clambering into the backseat, leaving Buffy beside Angel in the front. She closed her eyes tiredly, wondering how long it had been since she'd slept properly. She hadn't been able to sleep too well ever since her visit to LA. She could only hope that with Angel close by she'd be able to sleep properly for the first time in several weeks.

She didn't even notice when they'd pulled up in front of the darkened mansion, and she let Angel carry her inside. There was still furniture from the last time Angel had lived there, and seeing as he still owned the building, he wasn't surprised.

Angel settled Buffy into the large double bed in his old room, smiling as he watched her curl up into a small ball. Connor came to stand beside him.

"What do you think was so bad at home that she couldn't go back?" he asked softly, not wanting to wake her.

Angel shook his head. "It was bad whatever it was. Buffy doesn't just take time outs during apocalypses. Especially not ones these bad."

Connor sighed and ran a hand through his already messy hair.

"I guess we'll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happened."

Angel nodded and quietly left the room with Connor. Together, they quickly put sheets on one of the couches for Connor to sleep on, and lit a fire in the fireplace to warm the cold building as well as give it some light. After a few more minutes of conversation, Angel retired to his old room, watching Buffy sleep once more.

He kicked off his boots and shrugged out of his jacket, crawling carefully up the bed to lay beside Buffy. He was hesitant to pull her into an embrace, not entirely certain that she would appreciate it. His decision was made for him when Buffy shifted closer to him, burrowing her head into his chest and draping an arm across his stomach. He smiled and kissed her forehead, and allowed himself the luxury of sleep.

Buffy and Angel were awoken half an hour later by loud stomping boots coming into their room.

"Shoulda known you'd come here Slayer," a familiar British voice said.

Angel tensed, but Buffy made no reaction. She opened her eyes and saw Spike standing in the doorway. He stepped closer and did a quick double take when he saw that Buffy was not alone.

"I hafta admit, I wasn't expecting him to be here," Spike said.

"What are you doing here?" Angel asked angrily.

Spike ignored him and looked to Buffy. "I heard. I was over there. That bitch. She's all about smiles and reformation when you're on your feet…moment you're down, she's all about the kicking, isn't that right?"

Angel looked at his grand-childe with confusion.

"Spike, what the hell are you talking about? And, again, why are you here?"

Buffy sighed. She'd forgotten that Spike hadn't been there for the mutiny.

"It wasn't just Faith," she said, her voice monotone and devoid of emotion. "It was all of them. And it's not like they were wrong."

Angel wisely stayed silent. He didn't know what had happened, but Spike obviously did. He'd heard from Buffy about Faith being back with the Scoobies, and while he'd been worried about Buffy trying to kill her, he'd been pleasantly surprised to hear that she'd let Faith stay in her already overcrowded house.

"Well, this'll change your tune. I came here cos I got something to tell you. You were right. Caleb is trying to protect something from you. And I think you were spot on all the way; I think it's at the vineyard. So? You were right," Spike said, looking at her expectantly.

"I don't feel very right."

"You're not fooling me."

"What do you even mean?" Buffy asked.

"Well, you're not a quitter."

"Watch me."

"You were their leader. You still are," Spike said, unable to believe that he strongest woman he'd ever met was going to take the Scoobies betrayal lying down. "This isn't something you gave up, it's something they took."

Angel was beginning to piece it together. Something had happened, and Buffy had been asked to leave. His brows furrowed angrily. He couldn't understand what would be so bad that the Scoobies would choose Faith, of all people, over Buffy. And whilst Angel knew that Faith was well on the road to redemption, Buffy was the person that had led the Scooies for seven years, and had very rarely been wrong about anything when it came to anything Slayer related. And Spike sounded incredibly sure that Buffy had been right about whatever it was.

"And the difference is?" Buffy asked, her voice still flat, tired and passionless. Angel had never heard her this way, and it was painful to listen to.

"We can take it back."

"Take what back?" a new voice asked from the doorway. Spike spun around and looked at the newcomer with narrowed eyes.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

Connor looked back at the man -vampire, his senses told him- and raised an eyebrow. "Connor. Who are you?"


Connor's eyes flew to Angel's. "As in…"

Angel nodded. He had told Connor all about Spike, and the rest of his history after they had finally reconciled their relationship. After Buffy's visit, things had never been better between Angel and Connor. They were actually getting along instead of fighting one another, and when Connor had asked to hear his father's life story, Angel had obliged.

"Who is this bloke?" Spike asked, looking at Buffy and Angel.

Buffy couldn't help but smile, as she produced the answer. "Our son," she said softly. "Angel's and mine."

Spike looked between them, wondering whether Buffy had taken a hard hit to the head in the last twenty-four hours.

"Uh, Buffy…he's eighteen bloody years old. Not to mention that Slayers can't have kids," Spike said.

Buffy rolled her eyes and finally sat up. "I know that. It's a long story, but the gist of it is, he's got my blood, part of my soul, and the bond between Angel and I, which makes him mine."

Spike looked at her sceptically, then stepped towards Connor. He inhaled the boy's scent and his eyes opened in shock. "Bloody hell! You weren't joking."

Buffy grinned for the first time in a long while. "Nope. He's definitely ours."

"Well…congratulations Slayer. It's a boy," Spike said.

Buffy laughed and shook her head. Her friendship with Spike had been growing ever since she'd rescued him from the Turokhan. She'd explained what had happened between herself and Angel in LA (even though he'd told her he could smell Angel all over her anyway) and he'd respected the fact that they could never be more than friends. He'd found that being her friend was easy enough, and he'd been more than happy to fall into that position.

"Now that we've all meeted and greeted," Connor began. "What are we taking back?"

"Oh…the bloody Scoobies kicked the Slayer out and voted for Miss Psycho as their new leader," Spike explained.

"Once more in English," Connor said, completely confused.

"He means that Buffy's friends told her to leave, and chose Faith, the other Slayer, to act as their new leader," Angel translated.

"Oh. Why?" Connor asked.

"Good question," Angel replied. He looked to Buffy who had tears in her eyes. "Beloved?"

She sniffled and buried her face in his shirt. "They're dead cos of me."

Angel looked to Spike for the answer, knowing that Buffy was in no state to coherently give a full account of what had happened.

"There's a new big bad in town, goes by the name of Caleb. He's the First's right hand man. Strong bloke. Nearly knocked the Slayer unconscious after one hit. We organised an ambush on his lair at the vineyard, and…two of the Potentials got killed. Few of 'em got hurt. Harris lost an eye."

Angel's eyes widened in surprise. He hadn't been expecting that. He could understand now why Buffy was so upset. And then to be told to leave was as good as being blamed for what had happened. The problem was that accidents happened. Death happened, especially during the apocalypse. And whilst it sounded harsh, it was the brutal and honest truth.

"So, what's this Caleb guy protecting?" Connor asked.

Spike shrugged and shook his head. "I dunno. Whatever it is, I'm damn sure it's at the vineyard. I'm guessing that Buffy suggested going back in, eh, luv?"

Buffy nodded miserably, her face still buried against Angel. The dark haired vampire just rubbed soothing circles on her back. He knew what it was like to be right about something and not have anyone believe you. None of his friends had believed that he'd seen Darla when she'd first been brought back. They'd been proven wrong.

"I checked out the mission that Giles told us about," Spike continued. "Spoke to a priest there. He showed me an engraving. It said 'It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield'. With the way that this Caleb bloke's protecting it, I'd say it's a weapon of some kind."

Buffy finally rolled away from Angel. She rubbed her eyes and sat up on the bed.

"Then I say we mount up," Connor said eagerly. "We go in and get it."

"No!" Buffy cried. Connor looked taken aback by the force of Buffy's protest. "No. We've tried that. It didn't work. And besides that, I haven't slept in days, and there is no way that I'm trying to take him out on no sleep."

"So, tomorrow night we go in," Angel said. "We'll plan, we'll research, have plans A through H. We'll be prepared."

Buffy sighed and knew that she wouldn't be able to win the fight against two determined vampires and her equally determined son.

"Alright, fine. Tomorrow night. After the sun goes down," she agreed. "But for now, I have major plans to stay in this bed."

Spike smirked and Connor lifted his hand to his mouth to cover his grin. Buffy rolled her eyes and sank back into the covers.

"You're both as bad as each other, you do realise this?" she complained, closing her eyes tiredly.

Spike just shrugged. "I'll leave you guys to it. I'll check back in at sundown. Oh, and here's your cell phone back, luv. Peaches there tried calling a few times, but there was no way in hell that I was gonna chit-chat with him." He threw the phone to her, which she caught, not even bothering to open her eyes as she caught it. She tucked it into her pocket, hoping that she wouldn't roll onto it during the night.

Angel could tell by the tone in Spike's voice that he didn't want to leave. He knew from Buffy that they were friends and that she'd forgiven him for the previous year and everything that had happened. And Angel knew better than anyone the difference between the demon and the soul. He couldn't hate Spike for something that had happened pre-soul. Not giving Spike another chance was plain hypocritical, and even though he still disliked Spike intensely, he had to admit that Spike had been a tremendous help to Buffy.

"Maybe you should just stay," Angel said. "It'd be easier."

Spike looked at his grand-sire, completely shocked by the offer. He accepted it, however, and was led by Connor to another couch, forgoing sheets and just pulling his jacket over the top of his, his boots on the floor next to him.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel had curled up next to each other, the Slayer and the Vampire fast asleep, safe in each other's arms.


Chapter Seventeen: Plans and Preparations

Buffy awoke feeling completely and utterly content. It was the first time in many weeks that she'd been able to drift into consciousness rather than being awoken by what sounded like a stampede of elephants in her house. She sighed happily and stretched, lifting herself onto one elbow and gazing down at Angel.

She leant forward and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. He looked as though he'd needed the sleep as much as she had. She ran her hand through his hair and smiled softly, letting her feelings of love for the handsome vampire fill her senses. If it hadn't been for him arriving when he had the night before, chances were she would have had a complete breakdown. Connor and Spike had helped her tremendously as well.

Carefully, she rolled off the bed, stilling when she stood up, ensuring that Angel hadn't woken up. He shifted in his sleep, but didn't stir. She moved to the desk and found a piece of paper and pencil, jotting down a note for her sleeping lover.

She then quickly pulled on her boots and her discarded coat and crept out of the bedroom, past the still sleeping figures of Connor and Spike and out into the rising sunlight.

She'd faced Caleb, and there was no way that she was going to allow Angel, and especially not Connor, to go up against him. He was stronger than the Beast even, and Buffy wasn't about to risk her family for that. The Gang may have had their heads buried in the sand in regards to a return attack on the vineyard, but they were right in saying that it was risky. And Buffy didn't want to risk anyone else. Not when she had only just discovered Connor, and not when things with Angel were finally as she wanted them.

With one last glance at the mansion, Buffy began the ten-mile jog to the vineyard, wanting nothing more than to get the fight with Caleb over with.

"So, it turned out that all the stone tablets basically said the same thing," Andrew explained to the group of Potentials that sat scattered around the Summers' house. Faith leant against the doorframe nonchalantly, listening to what Andrew had to say. "The First and Caleb are protecting something and we don't know exactly what it is, but it's something powerful and they don't want the Slayers to get it. I'm thinking it could be a weapon and if we're looking for an arsenal-"

"You're not coming," Faith interjected.

Andrew didn't know whether to be relieved or upset. "If one is looking for an arsenal, what better place to find a-"

"Weapon," Faith finished.

The dark Slayer and Giles had collaborated on the plans the evening before. They'd found the most likely place for the Bringer's to be holding their weapons. It was close to the school, but in an open area that wouldn't be easily found. Xander had found the closest entrance to the arsenal, and the plan was to go in and discover what Caleb was hiding.

"Those of you who are coming with me to the arsenal, you know who you are. Everybody ready? Let's do this thing."

It was nearly half an hour after Buffy had that anyone else in the mansion stirred. Angel woke and rolled onto his side, instinctively reaching out for Buffy. His eyes opened when he didn't feel her there, and for a moment he thought he'd maybe dreamed the entire thing and that he was still in LA. Her scent and the fact that he was in the mansion in Sunnydale told him otherwise. He wiped at his eyes and sat up, spotting a white piece of folded paper on Buffy's pillow. He reached across to grab hold of it and felt his unbeating heart begin to sink.

Dear Angel,

I'm sorry for not waking you up this morning, but this is what has to be done. You, and Connor, and probably even Spike are too important to me to risk any of you going up against Caleb. This is the work that I have to do. There was a reason that the Slayer was supposed to work alone. I don't know if I can defeat Caleb, but I will do everything I can to take him down with me. Know that I love you, and tell Connor that he is one of the very best gifts I could have ever received. Make sure your cell phone is switched on, and be ready to back me up. If I sense you within ten feet of the vineyard though, I'll make the Beast look like an amateur compared to me. I love you.



Angel swore loudly, and moments later, Connor and Spike were at the door.

"Where's Buffy?" Connor asked, his senses reaching out, trying to feel his real mother within the mansion. Angel just held up the note with a hopeless look in his eyes.

"She's gone."

"Heard you've got something g of mine."

"Well, if it ain't the prodigal Slayer."

"Where's it at? I'm gonna find it sooner or later."

"No you're not. I lay a hand on you and you're just a dead little girl," Caleb retorted.

Buffy held her hands out, an open invitation for him to attack her. "Then lay a hand on me. If you can," she taunted.

He lunged at her, going to backhand her across the face, but Buffy quickly leant backwards. Caleb went to follow through with his other hand, but Buffy jumped over him. She looked back, saw him lunge towards her, and she quickly ducked into a roll, running and leaping onto the barrels of wine as Caleb chased after her, only to be confused by the First Evil posing as Buffy.

She continued to duck, dodge and weave away from him, further enraging Caleb. He struck out at her again, only to have his fist caught up in the shelves full of wine. Buffy ducked beneath his arm and ran to the other side of the room only to be stopped by Caleb's voice.

"You whore!"

"You know, you really should watch your language. Someone who didn't know you might think you were a woman-hating jerk."

Caleb angrily pushed a barrel to the side, and Buffy's eyes lit with a newfound discovery. Behind Caleb was a trap door, and Buffy instinctively knew that this was where she needed to be. Caleb advanced towards her, and Buffy ducked beneath his arm once more, sliding to the ground and pushing herself through the trapdoor, which closed behind her, a barrel falling on top of it.

Meanwhile, done in the arsenal, Faith and twelve Potentials were in a battle against six Bringers, fighting in nearly total darkness except for the few flashlights they'd brought with them. Almost too easily, the battle ended, the Potentials and the dark Slayer coming out on top with no fatalities and barely any injuries.

"Is that it?" Vi asked. "I mean, not that that wasn't fun, but…"

"Yo Faith," Kennedy called, her flashlight pointing down a flight of stairs. "Check this out."

The group descended to a lower level within the sewers, Faith stealing one of the girl's flashlights as she crossed a small metal bridge to a locked box. She felt a smile about to erupt on her face. This was what they'd come for! She'd been right all along!

She smashed her boot onto the lock, effectively breaking it. She flicked the catch up and opened the box, only to have her heart plummet with fear. Inside the box was a stick of what Faith knew to be dynamite, attached to a clock that was counting down backwards.


"Everybody get down!"


Chapter Eighteen: Scythe Matters

Buffy stared at the red metallic scythe in wonder. She'd never seen a weapon like it. Oh, she'd seen scythes and axes before, but never anything like this. She heard Caleb approach her, taunting her, threatening to kill her before she could pry the scythe out of solid rock. With a casual nonchalance, Buffy reached towards it and gently pulled it from the stone, revelling in the sudden rush of power that flowed through her veins. This was hers! She was sure of it. She ran her fingers across it reverently and turned to face Caleb.

"Now, before you go hurting yourself with that thing, why don't you do yourself a courtesy and hand it over now?" Caleb said, keeping his distance from her and holding out his hand.

Buffy just looked at him, feeling far calmer than she'd ever felt in her life. The tables had just been turned, and she knew she was at an advantage.

"Yeah, you want it?" She shifted it into one hand, mentally preparing herself for a fight whilst staying calm and collected.

Caleb backed away several paces. "You don't know what you got there," he cautioned.

"I know you're backing away," Buffy retorted.

"You think wielding some two-sided do-dad's gonna make a difference?" he asked.

Buffy just continued to watch him, slightly worried for his health when he began talking to thin air. She then worked out that the First was there, speaking to him. She edged closer to the stairs that she needed to get to in order to make her escape.

After several moments, she heard a disembodied voice that sounded suspiciously like her own. "Faith go boom."

Buffy knew that Caleb wasn't happy about letting her go, but she wasn't about to just stay and fight when Faith had obviously found trouble. With great speed, she raced out of the vineyard, trying to trust her senses to tell her where to go. And when that failed, a quick call to Willow's cell phone was just as effective.

(Did anyone else wonder how Buffy knew where Faith and the other Potentials had gone?)

Connor caught up to Buffy just before she reached the place that Willow had directed her towards.

"What are you doing here?" Buffy demanded angrily.

"We're a team, remember," he replied, his voice rising as high as hers. "I can't just sit around while you're here fighting for your life!"

Buffy rolled her eyes, but she knew that if Connor had inherited the stubbornness of both herself and Angel, then there was no point in fighting.

"Alright fine. But we have to hurry."

She grabbed hold of a manhole and ripped it from the ground. Connor just looked at her in confusion.

"I thought you were going to the vineyard," he said.

Buffy held up her scythe for Connor to see properly. "Been there, conquered that. Faith's in trouble."

Connor didn't quite understand, but he was willing to trust Buffy's judgement. They jumped down into the sewer tunnel, and Buffy let her senses guide her. She could hear screaming coming from below her as well.

"You hear that?" Connor asked quietly.

Buffy nodded and stomped her foot on the ground below her, feeling and hearing that it wasn't as sturdy as it could have been. She stepped back and took a swing at the ground with her newest weapon, sending pieces of the floor crashing to the level below. She quickly jumped into the newly made hole, Connor following after her.

Buffy scanned the space quickly, taking in the frightened faces of the eight Potentials. Three Turokhans turned their attacks on Buffy, and within five seconds, two of them were already dust. She took a moment to wish that they'd found the scythe far earlier, when the first Turokhan had nearly beaten her to a pulpy death weeks ago.

The third Turokhan grabbed her from behind, throwing her into a pile of rubble. She dropped her scythe and moved to regroup quickly.

Not quickly enough however. Connor raced into the fray, kicking the scythe and catching it in his hands and quickly decapitating the primordial vampire. He walked over to Buffy and gave her a hand up.

"Nice work," she complimented.

He grinned at her. "You too."

He handed the scythe back to her, and Buffy turned to face the now-awed group of Potentials.

"Get the wounded, we're leaving."

The Scoobies and the remaining Potentials all looked surprised to see the wounded entourage being led by Buffy, an injured Faith cradled in an unknown teenage boy's arms. They were quick to act though, clearing spaces on the living room floor, and attempting to stop the bleeding on the injured girls.

The questions that were all on their lips about Buffy's unknown companion were lost in the haze of trying to help as many people as they could, and Connor was just trying to take in the hectic scene around him without being in the way.

"I think we got punished," Amanda said bluntly.

Buffy just looked at the former Sunnydale High student blankly.


"We um…we followed her. And it was…" Kennedy trailed off.

"It didn't work out," Vi finished, holding her arm closely to her body, trying to ignore the stabbing pain that ran through it.

"You guys it was a trap," Buffy replied. "It's not her fault. It could have just as easily happened to me."

It was the truth. Buffy didn't blame Faith for what happened. Granted, they should have at least considered Buffy's theory of going back to the vineyard, especially when Buffy was right, but the First had lured then to the arsenal, and things had gone badly.

"So are you…are you, like, back?" Caridad asked.

Buffy sighed, picked up her scythe and the first-aid kit, nodded at Connor to follow her and began leaving the room. "I don't know. I guess I'm not leaving."

"So have we got a plan or anything?" Kennedy asked.

"Yeah there's a plan. Get ready. Time's up."

Giles, Willow, Buffy and a hovering Connor stepped into Willow's empty room, an unconscious Faith settled in Buffy's room with three Potentials, Xander and Dawn looking after her.

"I think it's maybe some kind of scythe. The only thing I know is that it made Caleb back of in a hurry."

"So it's true. Scythe matters," Willow quipped.

Giles gave her a 'you're not funny' look, Buffy smirked, and Connor just looked at the redheaded witch curiously.

"What's that mean?" Connor asked.

Buffy and Willow looked at him incredulously. Buffy went bright red, and knew that she wasn't going to have that conversation with him in front of her best friend and her father figure.

"Buffy, you still haven't explained who this, uh…young man is," Giles said.

"Oh! God, sorry guys. This is Connor. Con, this is Giles and Wilow," she introduced.

"Yes, but…who is he?" Giles asked.

"Oh, uh…there's kind of a long story there," Buffy admitted. She hadn't told anyone in Sunnyale about Connor and who he was to her. It had been something that she needed to think about before revealing it to any of the Sunnydale Gang. "He's Angel's son. And mine too."

Willow and Giles both gave her identical looks of shock.


"Yeah, I know, he's eighteen, he can't be mine, Slayers can't have kids," Buffy filled in for them. "It's long and complicated, but he is mine. Blood, soul and bond. He was prophesied as well."

"Good lord," Giles said quietly, cleaning his glasses furiously. He hadn't been expecting to hear that.

"He's a helluva fighter too," Buffy said proudly.

Connor grinned at her and threw an arm around her shoulder, giving her a arm-armed hug.

"Okay…so…he's your son. Congrats, by the way," Willow said, still dumbfounded by the idea. "But…why's he in Sunnydale?"

"He is still in the room thank you," Connor said, not liking being talked about as though he weren't there.

Willow flushed guiltily. "Sorry Connor. What brings you to Sunnydale?"

"Dad came. We got here last night."

"Angel's in Sunnydale?" Giles asked.

Buffy nodded.

"He'll be here tonight."

("You're my strength Xander. You're the reason I made it this far. I trust you with my life. That's why I need you to do this for me."


"Also you can't shoot a bow and arrow anymore. And every time you pick up a sword, I worry that you're gonna break one of the good lamps."


"Don't look at me. You're the one who said I'm gonna die."

"I never said you were gonna die. I implied that you were gonna die, it's totally different."

"Yeah. Okay. Sure."

"Besides if you die, I'll just bring you back to life. That's what I do.")


Chapter 19: Homecoming

Connor was fending off curious glances from most, if not all (minus Kennedy of course) the Potentials. None of them had approached him, but he could feel their gazes on him, and it was making him uncomfortable. He approached Buffy about it.

"Why are they staring at me?" he asked quietly.

Buffy looked around and saw a group of Potentials sitting in the corner, whispering and giggling quietly. She rolled her eyes and wondered if she'd ever been that bad as a teenager.

"You're pretty much the only boy their own age that they've been in close contact with," Buffy explained. "Minus Spike of course."

One of the Potentials raced down the stairs, yelling for Buffy, announcing that Faith was awake. Buffy grinned at Connor, grabbed the scythe that had been in her line of sight the entire time and took Connor by the hand.

"Come on, let's go see Faith."

"Hey B," Faith greeted steadily, still sore from the blast earlier. "Who's the kid? He's a bit younger than you usually go for."

Connor and Buffy both wrinkled their noses, and Faith automatically noticed how similar the gestures were.

"You know, if I didn't know that Dawn was your only sibling, I'da guessed that junior here was your brother," Faith said.

Buffy smirked. "Close. My son actually. Faith, this is Connor, Con, meet Faith."

Faith looked between Buffy and Connor, noticing the resemblances. She pieced together everything else that she knew about Buffy and could immediately tell who the father was.

"So, when's Angel coming to SunnyD?" Faith asked.

"How'd you know Angel was my father?" Connor asked.

"Brooding gene," Faith replied simply.

Buffy just rolled her eyes. She held out the scythe for Faith, who took it sceptically, unsure why Buffy was handing her a weapon. She felt a sudden jolt of power rush through her.

"Damn. And…damn that's something. It's old. Strong. And it feels like…it feels like it's mine," Faith gushed. She considered her words, and laid the scythe down, not wanting to part with it, but knowing that it wasn't hers. "I guess that makes it yours."


The sun went down, and Buffy felt herself growing nervous. She knew that Spike and Angel would track her back to the house, and she knew that she was in for an argument when they got back. She could only imagine how frustrated they both were, but getting the scythe was something that she'd just felt had to be done by herself.

After her conversation with Faith and Connor, she was called into Willow's room, the Watcher and the Witch having information on where she'd be able to find out more about the scythe. A tomb on un-consecrated ground. She had a vague idea of where that could be.

"Be my back-up?" Buffy asked Connor.

He wasn't about to say no.

They made their way down the stairs, only to halt just before they reached the bottom as two incredibly angry vampires burst through the door, startling most of the Potentials.

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Angel asked angrily.

Buffy sighed and held up the scythe for him to see. "Completing the mission."

His anger deflated and he knew that yelling at her wasn't going to do them any good. He took the scythe from her and marvelled at the design. He'd never held a weapon that he'd thought would be so effective. Spike took a step backwards, not quite trusting his grand-sire with a weapon that held an incredibly sharp and solid stake at one end. Angel handed the weapon back to Buffy, and she and Connor walked to the bottom of the stairs.

"You still shouldn't have taken off alone," Angel said.

"Angel, don't go there okay. I can handle myself. And I wasn't going to risk you or Con or anyone else by dragging you all in with me," Buffy explained.

"Buffy, you're my mate," Angel continued. "My soulmate, my blood mate, my bond mate. And technically, if we were in Ireland, that ring on your finger would make you my wife as well!"

Buffy completely froze. She looked up at him with wide, shocked eyes.

A few of the Potentials perked up at Angel's statement as well. They'd never seen this (absolutely stunningly gorgeous hunk of a) man before, and hearing him proclaim that Buffy was his mate and wife of all things was incredibly intriguing to them.

"Uh…you wanna run that last bit by me again," Buffy said quietly.

Angel stepped forward and took Buffy's hand in his, gently brining her hand to his lips, kissing the silver ring adorning Buffy's finger.

"I never really got the chance to explain what the rings meant to my people. They're exchanged as a sign of eternal devotion to each other."

"So, you're telling me that you and I have been married since I was seventeen?" Buffy asked.

Angel just nodded. Buffy swallowed hard and took a deep cleansing breath. "Okay," she said, her voice oddly calm.

"Can you see why I was so worried about you?" he asked.

"I get it Angel, trust me I do, but…I wasn't about to lead anyone else into that godforsaken place. I may have been right about the scythe, but it was too much to ask of anyone else," Buffy said.

Angel sighed. He put himself in her place and wondered whether he too would have snuck out so that she couldn't follow. He knew that he would have done the same thing. In fact, he was fairly certain that he had done so in the past, especially on a day that hadn't really happened.

"I get it," Angel whispered. "But…I worry."

"He's not the only one," Connor added.

Buffy nodded and willingly accepted having Angel and Connor smother her in a tight hug. She had to admit that being held in the arms of the two men she loved more than life itself was something that she definitely wanted more of in her life, and she knew that she had to make sure she, Angel and Connor made it through this fight. That was why she'd sent Dawn away with Xander. Her family needed to make it.

Buffy finally pulled away and flushed when she saw the Potentials watching them with undisguised interest.

"Don't you guys have anything better to be doing?" Buffy asked.

Kennedy shrugged nonchalantly. "No. So, who're the new boys?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Everyone, this is Angel, my uh…husband," she said, looking to Angel for confirmation. The way his eyes lit up, and the smile on his face more than answered her unspoken question. "And our son (long story), Connor. Angel, Con, meet…the girls."

"Angel?" Amanda repeated. "As in the vampire Angel that Spike was complaining about the other day?"

Angel, Buffy and Connor all swung their gazes to look at the platinum blonde vampire. He shifted and shrugged sheepishly. "What?"

"Yes, Angel is a vampire. He also has a soul," Buffy explained.

"Geez, how many vamps have you slept with?" Kennedy asked.

"Just two. And I wouldn't recommend it with any soulless vamps," Buffy cautioned. She knew that it was hypocritical to say that, considering her relationship with Spike, but it had started, middled and ended badly.

Connor checked his watch and looked pointedly at Buffy. "We were leaving, unless I'm mistaken."

"What? Oh. Right. Sorry guys," Buffy said, looking between Angel and the Potentials. "Me and Con here gotta get going."

"Where?" Angel demanded.

"To get info on the scythe," Buffy replied.

"Let me come with you."

Buffy hesitated a moment before nodding. It wouldn't hurt to have him be with her. Who knew what they would be facing. Also, she didn't particularly want to leave Angel alone with a household full of nearly forty or so Potentials who were too curious for their own goods.

"Alright. Let's move."


(If you HAVE NOT seen Chosen, and DO NOT want to be spoiled, please DO NOT read from here on in. If you read, it's of your own accord. Don't flame me and blame me [hehe, I can rhyme] for not giving you warning. Consider yourself warned.)

Chapter 20: Winning

Buffy regarded the Guardian closely. The ancient woman had explained about the forging of the scythe, the hiding of it, and the new era that had come after the last pure demons had been driven off the earth. Hearing that it was the weapon that Buffy had found that had destroyed all the pure demons lifted Buffy's spirits.

"Does this mean I can win?"

"That is really up to you," the Guardian said, handing the scythe back to Buffy. "This is a powerful weapon."


"But you already have weapons," the Guardian said cryptically. "Use it wisely. And perhaps you can beat back the rising dark. One way or another it can only mean, and end is truly near."

The Guardian dropped to the floor, her neck snapped by Caleb who now stood in her place.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that last part on account of her neck snapping an all. Did she say the end is near or here?" he taunted.

Connor and Angel stood outside the crypt, both of them listening closely to what was happening inside. The conversation between Buffy and whoever she was talking to was slightly too quiet for them to hear, but they knew that Buffy was in no danger.

They did, however, hear the beginnings of what sounded like a vicious fight. They spared a fraction of a second to look at each other, before racing into the crypt, Angel in the lead, Connor following behind him. They were startled to see a man dressed as a preacher fighting Buffy. What was even more shocking than the man's attire was the fact that he and Buffy seemed to be evenly matched. And if they were really honest with themselves, they would admit that Buffy seemed to be at a slight disadvantage.

Buffy ducked a punch and Caleb's hand went through the stone pillar behind her. She ducked under his arm and quickly raced to the other side of the small crypt, seeing Angel and Connor now inside as well.

"You're not slipping out of this fight girl," Caleb goaded her. He blew on his knuckles, completely irritating the three warriors for the Powers That Be. "You see, you can't stop me."

"Everyone who's ever told us that's always been stopped," Buffy replied, her eyes meeting Angel's.

Caleb turned to see who else had intruded on their fight. He sneered as he took in the two newcomers. "Two more measly men. Maybe I can take the eyes outta the youngen there. Make him like Xander. You can have a matched pair."

Buffy lunged forward, scythe swinging precisely, but still unable to get in any hits. Caleb managed to get her airborne with a hit to the stomach, throwing her against the wall. She crashed to the ground, losing her scythe. Angel and Connor jumped into the fray.

Connor was thrown off almost immediately, tossed to the other side of the room. Angel, now completely enraged, vamped out and attacked with fury. With a fierce upper-cut he sent the preacher sprawling to the floor, and a newly regrouped Buffy was quick to try and thrust the staked end of the scythe into Caleb's throat. Caleb caught the scythe with barely half-an-inch to spare.

He kicked out quickly, sending Angel spinning away. Another kick had Buffy on the ground, and Caleb flipped himself into a standing position. He viciously kicked Buffy's face, and followed it with two fierce punches, sending her sprawling across the dirt.

Buffy stood, only to be attacked once more. She felt as though she was fighting Glory all over again, the attacks leaving her stunned and defenceless. He threw her to the ground and walked away, his back turned.

"Now I gave you ample warning. Told you not to interfere," he said calmly. Buffy slowly got to her feet, her entire body bruised and incredibly sore. "But you chose not to heed."

Connor crept behind him and lunged for the preacher, only for Caleb to spin, grab Connor by the shirt and throw him onto a large pile of stacked bricks, winding him. He caught his breath and kicked Caleb quickly. Caleb regained his balance, grabbed Connor by the arms and swung him into one of the pillars with so much force that several of the large cylindrical stones moved outwards.

Caleb picked up the forgotten scythe and moved to the fallen Slayer who was still struggling to catch her breath. He sent a stunning roundhouse kick to her face, sending her once more to the floor. She rolled onto her back and saw Caleb spin the scythe expertly.

"I was kinda hoping it would go this way."

He went to swing the scythe down, but was distracted by Angel's voice behind him, and a solid punch to the jaw when he spun around at the distraction. Angel helped Buffy to her feet as Caleb was thrown to the side.

"You okay?"

"Peachy," she replied quietly. She moved to where Connor lay and helped him to his feet. "I wanna end this."

Buffy moved to grab the scythe and Angel and Connor hung back, remembering the plans they had discussed on the way to the crypt. Buffy had first shot at the preacher, and if she looked like she needed a hand, then they were to step in and help.

With a renewed force, Buffy continued the fight. Kicking, punching, dodging and weaving her way across the room. They fought for the scythe, Caleb and Buffy both gaining and losing it so many times that Connor and Angel lost count.

"He is so gonna lose," Angel commented quietly.

Connor grinned, just watching the way Buffy fought. "She's definitely good."

"Good? That's almost an insult," Angel replied. "God I missed watching this."

Buffy swung the scythe forcefully across Caleb's mid-section and watched, almost as surprised as Caleb was, to see that she'd made a fatal hit. Caleb laughed, obviously thinking that she couldn't have defeated him so easily. He grabbed the burlap cloth curtains and fell as they came undone, the preacher going completely still.

Connor and Angel approached Buffy carefully, knowing that it could be fatal to approach a wound up Slayer after battle.

"See…under control," Buffy said breathlessly.

Angel grinned and moved past her to check on Caleb. He bent down, about t check for a pulse, when he was suddenly thrown headfirst into a pillar. Buffy and Connor jerked backwards, surprised by the sudden attack.

Caleb stood, his eyes leaking black fluid, the insane agent of the First holding up an old, but very solid relic that he was using as a weapon.

"Are you ready to finish this? Bitch."

He moved forward quickly, not giving either Connor or Buffy enough time to work out what had just happened. Buffy swung towards him with her scythe, but Caleb got his hit in first, sending Buffy tumbling backwards. Caleb turned the attack on Connor, who struck at him with his bare-fists, but the weapon of Caleb's was strong and hard, and Connor was hit to the side of the head. He fell backwards and hit the wall, slumping down as his world went black.

Buffy stood up, angered. Caleb threw his weapon towards her, but Buffy expertly ducked.

"Okay…how many times do I have to kill you? Ball-park figure," she said with exasperation.

"You understand nothing," Caleb replied angrily. "You think you have power over me."

She sent a spinning kick at his head, and Caleb fell to the ground.

"Stupid girl," he said quietly, struggling to get to his feet. "You won't ever stop me. You don't have the-"

Buffy swung the scythe upwards between his legs, and Caleb's world exploded in a fiery furnace of pain.

"Who does nowadays?" she replied coldly, completely the upswing. Caleb fell to the ground in two separate parts just as Angel jumped to his feet and Connor began to stir.

"Okay, now I'm pissed," Angel proclaimed. He looked at Buffy, who was panting heavily, her scythe raised and bloody. "Where is he?"

Buffy looked down at the dead body on the ground. Angel followed her gaze and then looked back up at Buffy.

"He had to split."

Connor groaned, both from the pain in his head and from Buffy's joke.

"You're not funny mom."

Buffy, Angel and Connor returned to the Summer's house, their spirits considerably brighter. One of their biggest threats in the fight against the First had been eliminated, and they couldn't have been happier about it.

Buffy opened the door to her house and entered, stopping short in the doorway when she saw her stony-eyed sister glaring at her. Dawn's foot shot out, connecting with Buffy's ankle.



Buffy looked into the dining room to see Xander sitting in front of Anya, who was playing with his hair.

"Don't look at me, this is a Summers thing. It's all very violent," Xander explained.

Buffy looked back at her sister and remembered that Dawn had been made out of her. Stubbornness and determination were practically the Summers' girls middle names.

"If you get killed I'm telling," Buffy said.

Dawn just rolled her eyes, and her gaze fell on Angel and Connor. "Angel!" she cried, flinging herself into the vampire's arms. She hadn't seen him since Buffy's funeral, and that hadn't been the best of times. Angel hugged her back tightly, still startled by the fact that he'd only ever truly met Dawn once.

"Hey Dawnie. God you're getting tall," he commented as they all moved into the dining room where Xander, Anya, Willow and Giles were gathered.

Dawn grinned happily. "I'm two inches taller than Buffy now," she said proudly.

Buffy folded her arms across her chest unhappily. "Do you have to keep telling that to everyone?"

"Yes," Dawn replied unrepentantly.

"You are on the short side mom," Connor commented, moving to stand beside her. He was nearly a full head taller than her.

"You're meant to be on my side Con," she complained.

"Wait, wait…mom?" Dawn asked, looking at Connor as though he'd gone insane.

Buffy smiled, and Connor wrapped an arm around the shorter woman.

"For those of you who missed the introductions earlier. Everyone, this is Connor. You all remember Angel, Connor's dad," Buffy said. "My sister Dawn, you already met Wills and Giles, and that's Xander and Anya."

"Yeah, nice to meet you," Xander said quickly, his one eye still focussed on the young man next to Buffy. "I think we're all still stuck on the whole 'mom' concept."

"Buff, he's older than I am!" Dawn commented.

"Prophecy, hellmouth, Powers That Be," Buffy replied succinctly. "Oh, and about 18 years of Con growing up in a hell dimension. He's technically about a year old."

Dawn looked at him appraisingly. Apparently she wasn't the only one with a screwed up birth. It was strange that both of their births were so out of the ordinary and centred around the same woman.

"Cool. I'm an aunt!" Dawn exclaimed.

Willow grinned at the young girls excitement, but knew that they needed to know whatever information they could about the scythe.

"Did you find out anything about the scythe?" Willow asked.

"It slices, dices and makes julienne preacher," Buffy replied, setting the scythe down on the table.

Giles straightened and looked at his Slayer with excitement. "Caleb?"

"I cut him in half."

"Literally," Connor added. He wrinkled his nose. "It was really gross."

Buffy grinned, and Willow looked around the table with excitement.

"Well alright!"

"He had that coming," Anya added.

"Hey, party in my eye socket and everyone's invited," Xander said.

His statement was followed by silence and looks bordering on worry and sympathy. Angel looked at the young man sympathetically. He'd never liked Xander, but he had to admire the young man for standing beside Buffy so steadfastly for so many years, even in the face of a horrible and permanent injury.

"Sometimes I shouldn't say words."

Angel, Buffy and Connor were camped out in the living room amongst the Potentials, Faith needed Buffy's bed more to help her recovery. Angel had somehow managed to fall asleep amidst the snoring and light whispers, and rustling of sleeping bags, though Buffy would never know how.

Buffy sighed, carefully shifted out of the sleeping bag and quietly let herself out the front door, sitting on the front porch step. She heard the door open and close and felt Connor sit beside her.

"You okay?" Connor asked, taking a seat beside her.

Buffy nodded. She was tired, exhausted to tell the truth, but she couldn't sleep. Things were still so up in the air, and Buffy just wanted this fight over with so she could truly be with her family.

"Just tired," she admitted.

"You can't sleep though," he finished for her. "I can't blame you. Thirty girls, with half of them snoring…it's like listening to screeching bats."

"They're not that bad," Buffy defended half-heartedly.

She leant her head against Connor's shoulder, her eyes closing tiredly. "I'm voting we go grab out sleeping bags and stay out here," Buffy said.

"I'm all for that," Connor agreed.

He stood before Buffy could tell him it had been a joke, but honestly, she was tired enough to be able to sleep on the front lawn with him. And it would be the first chance that she had alone with him. He returned holding two sleeping bags and their pillows, and they threw them across the lawn.

"Thank god winter's over," Buffy commented as she wriggled into the sleeping bag. She lay her head on the pillow, and Connor lay down close beside her. She sighed contentedly, wishing Angel could join them, but the sun was due to rise in less than two hours. It would be dangerous for him to be out there with them.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Connor was asleep. Buffy smiled down at him, enjoying the innocence that he still had left in him, despite all he had been through. She touched his cheek gently, her love for the son she barely knew swelling inside of her. She moved her hand away before she woke him up, knowing that he, like herself and Angel, would be an incredibly light sleeper.

She silently rolled out of her sleeping bag and stood up, stretching out her incredibly sore muscles. She made a mental note to go and have a professional massage done when this was all over. Unless she could convince Angel to give her one…she smiled at the thought.

She moved up onto the porch and sat down on the swinging chair that she and her mom had used to sit on and drink coffee together on in the mornings.

From out of the shadows came Caleb. But Buffy wasn't fooled. It wasn't Caleb it was the First. It stayed and taunted her, but Buffy refused to be down heartened by it. That was what it wanted, and she wasn't about to give in now that they were so close to winning. The First morphed into her own image, and recited the prophecy regarding Slayers. "Into every generation a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world. She alone will have the strength and skill to…" it stopped. "There's that word again. What you are. How you'll die. Alone. Where's your snappy comeback?"

"You're right," Buffy replied after a few moments.

"Not you're best."

Connor awoke with a snort and looked around for Buffy. He spotted her up on the porch, a strange look in her eyes.

"Bu - Mom? Is something wrong?"

"Yeah. I just realised something. We're gonna win."


Chapter 21: Choices

"This isn't about wishes. This is about choices. I believe we can beat this evil. Not when it comes, not when it's army is ready. Now. Tomorrow morning, I'm opening the seal. I'm going down into the hellmouth and I am finishing this once and for all. Right now you're asking yourself what makes this different. What makes us anything more than a bunch of girls being picked off one-by- one? It's true. None of you have the power that Faith and I do. So here's the part where you make a choice."

Evening fell, and Buffy found herself once again on the front porch. Instead of Connor joining her this time though, it was Angel. He sat himself down beside her and gently took a hold of her hand.

"That was a pretty big leap of faith you took today," he commented quietly.

She gave him a shaky smile. "You know me, jumping into things with both feet."

"It's a good thing Buffy," he assured her. "Your idea…for what it's worth, I agree with Giles. It's bloody brilliant."

Buffy laughed a little at the British expletive coming from Angel's mouth. S he sighed and leant her head against his shoulder, grateful that the most important person in her world agreed with her idea. She'd stewed over it for hours after the First's visit with her early that morning, and announcing it to the group at large had been one of the scariest things she'd ever done, especially considering how they'd taken her extreme suggestions before.

"Do you think Willow can pull it off?" she asked.

"From what you told me about how far she's come, then yeah. You're right, you know. She is more powerful than the men who made up the rules however many eons ago," he said.

The front door opened, and the lovers turned to see who had intruded on their solitude. Dawn flushed red and gave them an apologetic smile.

"Sorry to interrupt, but Giles needs to talk to Buffy for a minute," Dawn said.

Buffy sighed and reluctantly stood up. She bent down and quickly kissed Angel, momentarily feeling as though all was right in the world. She ruffled his hair as she walked back up the stairs, despite his protests.

When the door closed, Connor stepped out of the shadows and sat beside Angel.

"You still haven't told her," Connor accused him.

Angel reached into his jacket pocket and took hold of the amulet that he'd taken from Wolfram and Hart. He didn't know exactly what it did. Something to do with it having a 'purifying power' or a 'cleansing power' (or something to do with 'scrubbing bubbles'…it didn't translate well.) He turned it over in his hands, wondering what it truly did.

"I don't plan to either," he admitted.

"Dad," Connor began, a note of warning in his voice. "You know she'd want to know."

"And you know she wouldn't let me risk it," Angel replied calmly. "She understands risk and sacrifice better than anyone I know, she's done it herself, but…when it comes to people she loves trying to do it, she tends to not understand it so well."

"Why don't you let me wear it?" Connor asked, holding out his hand for the amulet even though he knew that Angel would never relinquish it to him. "I fit the criteria for it, right?"

"There is no way that I'm letting you wear it," Angel said, growling slightly.

Connor smirked. Angel really needed to practice what he preached.

"She won't be happy about it," Connor cautioned him.

Angel sighed and replaced the amulet in his duster.

"I know. But maybe she'll be able to understand. And if anything happens…" he trailed off, not really certain how to finish his sentence.

"I'll take care of her," Connor promised.

"Potentials in the basement, follow Faith and Spike," Buffy instructed.

"If you have to go to the bathroom, it's to your left," Xander said. "If you don't have to go to the bathroom, picture what you're about to face. Better to go now."

The Potentials marched off, leaving Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Anya, Spike, Angel, Connor, Andrew and Kennedy.

"Willow, the principal's office is down that way, it's right over the seal," Buffy explained.

Willow nodded and handed her bag of supplies to Kennedy. "I'll go set up," the last remaining Potential said, moving down the hallway.

"Alright, that leaves us," Buffy said, looking at the Scoobies. "If the vamps get upstairs, there's three places that they're likely to go. Down the hall in the atrium, through the north hall here, and the primary target, through the lounge, straight to the science building."

"Teams of two then," Giles said. He looked over the remaining fighters. "I suggest that Anya and I take the lounge."

Anya looked startled, not having expected to be teamed up with Giles. She nodded her agreement, and grabbed some weapons, moving towards the lounge to check out what sort of space they would have to fight in.

"Xander, I want you with Dawn," Buffy said.

Xander nodded. "Sure thing Buff."

"I'll go check out the atrium," Dawn said, moving away from the group.

Connor looked at Andrew, dismayed by his fighting partner.

"That leaves me and the hostage in the north hall," Connor said.

"We will defend it with our very lives," Andrew said.

Connor rolled his eyes.

"I just want to say, how proud I am to-"

Connor cut Andrew off before he could get anywhere into the speech. He grabbed the other boy by the arm and pushed him towards the north hall. He hesitated and grabbed Buffy into a tight hug.

"Stay safe," he whispered.

"I love you," she replied, her voice quite and full of tears. She hated that the son she barely knew was going to be fighting for his life in just a few moments, but she had faith in him. She knew he was more than capable in a fight, and she had every confidence in him.

Connor pulled back, quickly gave Angel a manly hug and moved down to the north hall.

Dawn approached Buffy, a bag of weapons slung over her shoulder. "I'm going to check out our field of engagement."

She turned before Buffy could even reply. Buffy hurried after her, calling her sister's name. Dawn turned back and shook her head.

"No. Anything you say is gonna sound like goodbye," Dawn explained, before turning once more and heading towards the atrium. Buffy watched until her sister disappeared around the corner.

She turned back to her friends, Giles, Willow, Xander and Angel. The original Scoobies.

They stood in reflective silence for a moment, each of them realising the weight of what they were about to do. They'd never done anything as daring as this. Like Buffy had said earlier in the year, they'd always waited for the fight to be brought to them. This time, it was different, and they knew that there was a chance that they wouldn't walk out of the building alive.

"So…what do you guys wanna do tomorrow?"

Buffy, Spike, Angel and the Potentials looked down over the edge of the cliff that they stood atop of, staring down at the hundreds of thousands of Turokhans that were below.

"I'm not worried." The casual phrase might have held more power if Buffy's voice hadn't been wavering with fear.

"Really?" Rona asked sarcastically. "Cos I'm flashing back to Xander's whole bathroom speech."

"Buffy?" Amanda asked quietly.

"I'm not worried. As long as Willow can work her spell before they-" almost as one, the entire fleet of Turokhans all twisted their heads to look up at the group of trespassers "see us."

The army of Turokhans began racing up the walls, clambering over each other to get a taste of human flesh.

"C'mon Willow," Buffy whispered frantically.

Directly above where Buffy was frantically praying to the Higher Powers, Willow was doing much the same thing. A rush of power burst through her, and she felt something akin to orgasmic bliss at the heat that raced through her veins.

"Oh. My. Goddess."

"So here's the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power? Now? In every generation, one Slayer is born because a bunch of man who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined." Willow whimpered a little at the force of Buffy's proclamation. "So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers. Every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"

"You are a goddess."

"And you're a Slayer."


Chapter 22: Slayers

The battle raged, and the Slayers fought with all their might, the scythe back in Buffy's hands, making a maximum amount of damage. Turokhans burst to dust, and the sounds of fighting echoed around the cavern. The Turokhans broke through the defences of the Slayers and made their way into the school where the Scoobies waited, swords and axes ready.

Anya twisted the sword in her hands, her heart pounding rapidly.

"Oh god…I'm terrified," Anya said.

"Anya, you'll be fine," Giles assured her. "You've lived for a thousand years, you know how to defend yourself."

Anya wasn't mollified at all by his words.

"That doesn't help," she complained.

Giles sighed and readied his sword as he heard footsteps running in their direction.

"Just pretend that they're bunnies trying to steal your money," he suggested.

Anya glared at him, but the moment of levity calmed her down. The Turokhans burst into the lounge area, and the battle began.

Connor stood in his position in the north hall, Andrew pacing nervously behind him.

"Stand still will you," Connor snapped. "You're breaking my concentration."

"I'm just nervous," Andrew complained.

"Well…picture the things that you want to fight for," Connor suggested. "Your friends, your family."

Andrew's brow furrowed. "I killed my best friend. And my brother hates me."

"Then picture all the friends you're gonna make when you make it outta here alive. Picture some pretty girl that you wanna marry someday," he suggested.

"But I'm gay!" Andrew cried unhappily.

"Then picture your future boyfriend!" Connor cried, becoming exasperated.

A dozen or so Turokhans burst into the hallway and Connor flew into motion. Andrew watched in awe, before finally swinging his own sword at a Turokhan, injuring it slightly. Purely by accident, he swung again and decapitated another of the primordial vampires. He looked at Connor once more.

"I don't suppose you'd be interested…"

Angel killed another two Turokhans, understanding why Buffy had looked so battered when she'd come to visit him in LA several weeks earlier. He suddenly felt a searing pain rush through his chest, and he brought up his hand to touch the amulet that was beneath his shirt. Even through the fabric, he could feel it burning him. He suddenly had a very bad feeling about whatever it was that he'd put around his neck.

"Buffy!" he called out.

But Buffy was too busy in her own fight.

"Whatever this thing does, I think it's starting…" he trailed off as the pain became unbearable, and he was unable to help but cry out.

Buffy heard him yell for help, but she was too busy defending one of the newbie Slayers who had been attacked by five Turokhans at once. She spared a moment to glance over at him, unsure of why he had yelled out. He wasn't even fighting any of the vampires.

"Keep the line together!" Buffy called out to the other. "Drive them to the edge, we can't let them-"

Her sentence was cut off by a searing pain in her abdomen. She looked down, startled by the point of a sword protruding from the right side of her stomach. Her mind went blank, except for the pain. The sword was pulled slightly up and out, and Buffy swayed unsteadily on her feet for several moments before collapsing into the dirt.

"Buffy!" It was Faith who noticed her fallen sister-Slayer first. The darker Slayer raced to the blonde's side, and Buffy lifted her head, looking at her second-in-command, her eyes wide and afraid. Faith knelt beside her, unsure of what to do.

Buffy pushed the scythe into Faith's hands. "Hold the line."

Dawn and Xander were holding their own in the atrium. Dawn had worked out a system of a rope to open the sunroof, which allowed streams of sunlight to enter the room. It was an incredibly effective method.

"Call it the greenhouse effect," Xander quipped. "Very dangerous."

One of the Bringers trying to escape crept up on Anya, but the Watcher quickly called out to her. "Anya!"

Anya turned panicked, and quickly jumped back, the knife nicking her skin, trailing small dots of blood across her front. Had she not moved back in time, it would have split her open. Angered, she swung her sword and decapitated the Bringer, and the battle continued.

Buffy lay face down in the dirt, her entire body aching, the life literally dripping away from her from the fatal stab wound to her gut. Was this what Faith had felt when Buffy had stabbed her on that rooftop so many years ago? What Angel had felt when she'd thrust the sword through his chest? Buffy looked up weakly, taking in the sights and sounds of the battle. One of the Slayers fell to a bite from the Turokhan, Amanda fell, blood on her face, her neck snapped. She looked around for Angel, but couldn't see him in her line of sight. Just as Buffy was about to lay down her head and let herself finally rest, a familiar voice began to mock her. Buffy looked up and saw the spitting image of herself, scars, bruises and the stab wound all showing on the image of herself, the form the First had taken.

"You pulled a nice trick. You came pretty close to smacking me down. What more did you want?" it taunted.

Buffy grit her teeth angrily. She wasn't going to be defeated this easily. "I want you…" she struggled to get to her feet "To get out of my face."

In that moment of renewed faith and strength, the battle began to change. With a second wind, the Slayers seemed to be more determined to win this fight. And when it looked as though they might just make it out alive, Angel stumbled backwards clutching his chest. His back hit the wall just next to the stairs leading up to the surface.

"This can't be good," he commented quietly, and a burst of light shot straight upwards, through the very centre of the hellmouth and up into the sky outside, as though draining the light from the sun. Beams of sunlight burst from Angel's chest, decimating every single Turokhan that the Slayers had been battling.

Buffy turned to look at what had just happened, complete panic taking over her when she saw what was causing it.


The cavern that they were in began shaking, rocks beginning to fall as the entire place began to fall in on itself. Faith was quick to give the command. "Everybody out, now!"

The Slayers weren't about to argue, and began fleeing in a panic, ducking beneath the beam of light emanating from Angel's chest. Buffy ran to Angel's side, her eyes flicking across his features wildly.

"What's doing this?!" she demanded.

His shirt fell open and Buffy saw the amulet that Angel had refused to tell her about. She reached out to touch it, but could feel the extreme heat coming from it. She pulled her hand back and looked Angel in the eyes.


"I can feel it Buffy," he whispered.

"What?" she asked, still not comprehending what was happening.

"My soul."

The Slayers continued to flee, even as Buffy hung back, her mind trying desperately to catch up with what was happening.

"Angel…Angel please, we have to go," she said, beginning to fully panic.

He looked at her and gave her the soft smile that had won her heart so many years ago.

"You of all people should understand," he whispered sadly.

She shook her head frantically. "No! NO! Angel, please! I can't lose you!"

"It has to be done," he explained, looking at the Turokhans that were still trying to escape even in the collapsing cavern.

"C'mon B, c'mon!" Faith yelled.

Buffy looked at Faith, torn between survival and staying with Angel. Faith saw that Buffy wasn't going to move, and quickly fled the building, following the other Scoobies and Slayers onto the yellow school bus that was parked outside.

"I'm not leaving you down here," Buffy said forcefully.

"You have to go!" Angel yelled, beginning to panic, not for himself, but for Buffy. He hadn't done this for them to die together, like some fairytale. He'd done this so that Buffy wouldn't have to die. "You have to survive! You have to take care of Connor!"

Buffy felt as though she'd just received a kick to the gut. Her eyes clouded with emotion. "Connor."

"Yeah, baby, Connor remember. Our son! You have to look after him. He can't lose both of us!" he yelled.

It was in that moment that Buffy knew that she would be leaving him in that cavern to die. She stood completely still and looked at him, her eyes trying to convey what words could not. She took his outstretched hand, ignoring the searing pain it caused when their hands burst alight, flames dancing around their entwined hands.

"I love you," she whispered.

"I love you," he replied.

A very similar time flashed through Buffy's mind, and she echoed the words spoken so long ago.

"Close your eyes."

He choked back a sob, remembering the last time she'd asked him to do that. He did as he was told, and as before, he felt her lips on his. Except this time he knew that it would be the last time they ever spoke, ever touched again.

The ground shook violently, and Buffy fell away. She felt a sob threatening to choke her.


She hesitated another second, before physically and mentally forcing herself to run up the stairs, mindless of the tears that fell from her eyes.

Angel closed his eyes, memorising his beloved's face, her eyes, her smile. He opened his eyes again to watch as the cavern collapsed around him. A searing pain burned throughout him, and he felt his entire being begin to be ripped apart. Inch by agonising inch, he felt his body give way, his very insides beginning to burn and crumble.

The amulet gave a final burst of light, and with that, Angel was dust.


Chapter Twenty-Three: Losing

Faith ran out of the school, which had given off a mighty explosion, the front entrance collapsing on itself just as she tore madly from the building. She jumped onto the bus and yelled "Go!" to Giles, who pulled away as fast as the large vehicle could move.

Connor and Dawn sat on the back seats of the bus, their faces pressed against the window, searching for their mother and sister to emerge from the building, but they could see nothing. They began panicking, unsure of what was happening. Connor had a slight inkling that his father's amulet had been the cause of the sudden destruction that seemed to be occurring, and with wide fearful eyes, Connor, Dawn, the Scoobies and the Slayers watched in horror as Sunnydale began sinking in on itself.

"Oh god," Dawn whispered quietly.

Connor, though he'd spoken to Dawn for barely five seconds, reached across and took hold of her hand. She squeezed back tightly, and had Connor not been as strong as he was, his bones would have been crushed by the pressure that Dawn was using, her fear beginning to turn into panic. She'd lost Buffy too many times to do so again now.

For Connor though, the heartache was twice as bad. If Buffy didn't emerge from the town that was beginning to sink, he would lose not only the mother that he barely knew, but the father that he'd only just found as well.

Both teens were about ready to give up on Buffy when they heard a sudden and very loud thud on the roof of the bus. The dent was small, but they dared not get their hopes up, even though both of them now had their fingers crossed.

The bus drove out of Sunnydale limits. "Ease off, we're clear," Faith instructed.

Giles slowed the bus down, bringing it to a halt.

Buffy jumped down from the rooftop, swallowing down the pain and anguish that she was feeling. She looked into the crater that was now Sunnydale, and felt tears well in her eyes.

The back doors of the bus burst open, and Connor and Dawn were the first to engulf Buffy into a tight hug, only to pull away when Buffy yelped in pain from the still aching wound on her side. The others began jumping off the bus as well. Buffy spied Spike huddling under one of the seats, his jacket over the top of him, trying to not be fried from the sun.

"I don't understand," Giles said, looking at the ruins of the town. "What did this?"

Buffy pulled away from the group and walked towards the crater, almost as though she wanted to be closer to where Angel had last been.

"Angel," she replied succinctly.

Connor felt tears well in his eyes. He moved forward and laid a gentle hand on Buffy's shoulder.

"He loved you," Connor whispered.

Buffy turned and hugged Connor tightly. She felt as though she was about o break down, but she kept herself together for Connor's sake. Now was not the time for tears.

"He loved you too," she whispered back.

"Looks like the hellmouth's officially closed for business," Faith said, swaggering towards the group now overlooking the crater.

Buffy pulled away from Connor and wrapped her arms around her waist, wishing that it were Angel's arms around her.

"There is another one in Cleveland," Giles said absently. He noticed the incredulous looks of the others. "To spoil the moment."

"We saved the world," Xander said in awe, wrapping an arm around Anya, the two of them not even concerned that they were meant to be over. There was something between them, and they were going to find out what.

"We changed the world," Willow corrected him. "I can feel them Buffy. All over. Slayers are awakening everywhere."

"We'll have to find them," Dawn said.

"We will."

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Giles said.

The group looked at him once more. Faith shoved the Watcher playfully.

"Can I push him in?" the dark Slayer asked.

"You've got my vote," Willow said.

"I just wanna sleep, yo, for like a week," Faith said.

Buffy was leaning heavily towards that suggestion herself. She'd been frightened of losing this battle, but she'd never really thought of what she would do afterwards. It seemed almost anti-climatic. They'd saved the world, but effectively lost their home.

"I guess we could. If we wanted to," Dawn said.

"Yeah. The First is scrunched so…what do you think we should do Buffy?" Willow asked.

"Yeah, you're not the one and only chosen any more," Faith commented. "Just gotta live like a person, how's that feel?"

"Yeah Buffy…what are we gonna do now?" Dawn asked.

Buffy could hear the words, but they made no real sense. She closed her eyes tiredly, trying to remember the reasons she'd run from the collapsing cavern when the only man she'd ever loved had died down there. Connor. Dawn. Her friends. The Slayers. She had a destiny. She may not have wanted it, but it was hers.

"I think the more relevant question here is, where are we gonna go?" Anya asked. "I don't know about everyone else, but I'm starving."

Anya's question brought forth a burst of noise from the Scoobies. It was a good question. There were thirty of them left that needed somewhere to go. Somewhere big enough to house them all. Somewhere like -

"The Hyperion," Buffy whispered.

"The what?" Xander asked.

Buffy turned to face her friends. "LA. We can go to LA."


Chapter Twenty-Four: Warriors and Champions

The Scoobies and the Slayer's trudged into the Hyperion, startling Wesley and Lorne who were sitting together in the office, discussing what their plans were now going to be. They both quickly went into the foyer area; eagre to see what the sudden flux of people was about.

Wesley's eyes lit first on Buffy, and he rushed over to greet her.

To both their surprise, he pulled her into a hug, and finally pulled back. "Where's Angel?"

Buffy looked away, and in that moment, Wesley had his answer. He took a step back in shock, his eyes flying to meet Connor's, and when he saw the tears in Angel's son's eyes, he knew that Buffy wasn't lying. Angel was dead.

"Dear god."

Lorne looked at the original Slayer, reading her almost screaming aura that spoke of pain, heartache and desperation. He stepped forward and engulfed her in a hug, stroking her hair gently. He'd grown attached to Angel's girl during her visit to LA so many weeks ago, and seeing her in so much pain was heart breaking.

"He died a champion," Lorne whispered.

Buffy nodded weakly and took a step back, wiping at her eyes.

"We uh…Sunnydale was kinda…destroyed," Buffy explained. "We were looking for a place to stay."

"Of course," Wesley replied immediately. He wasn't about to turn them away, especially not when so many of them were injured.

"It's a good thing we'd set up so many rooms after that whole Jasmine fiasco," Lorne commented.

Wesley nodded, and the Slayers began separating into groups and walking up the stairs of the hotel, claiming separate rooms, and rejoicing the fact that they no longer had to share floor space.

"Thanks for this," Buffy said quietly as they watched the assorted chaos of girls rushing up and down stairs.

"Angel would have done no different," Wesley said softly.

Buffy just nodded, still unable to really talk or think about what had happened to Angel. She was still in a state of denial, and she knew that as soon as there was a moment of quiet, it would catch up to her fully.

Nearly an hour later, Buffy finally worked up the courage to venture into Angel's room, shutting the door behind her, not wanting her privacy to be ruined by curious Slayers who wanted to know more about her relationship with Angel. With a heavy heart, she wandered aimlessly through his room, her hand absently touching the soft silk sheets of his bed.

She sat down, kicked her boots off and curled into a ball, and lay down, trying to keep her breathing even as she took in Angel's oh so familiar scent. Her heart was slowly breaking, and she knew that any second now, she was going to be a sobbing mess.

Her hand slid under the pillow and hit a leather bound journal. Curious, she pulled it out and opened the front page, an envelope falling onto the sheets. It was addressed to her. Unconsciously holding her breath, she opened the envelope and pulled out a letter, written in Angel's familiar cursive handwriting.


I know there is a good chance that I won't be coming back from the battle with the First. If the amulet truly does what I think it will do, and end the battle, then I know it is worth any risk that I have to take. I would gladly die a million times over to protect you, and I hope and pray that you are alive and well.

I knew that you would come to LA after the battle, and if you are reading this in my bedroom, which I only ever wanted to share with you, then I was right. In the bottom drawer of the dresser is a folder that settles my accounts. I have left everything to you and Connor, and have set up bank accounts for both of you. I know that it is not what you wanted, but it is all that I can offer you.

Be brave, my love, and continue on as I know you will try to do. Give my love to Connor and to Dawn, as well as to your friends. Never forget that you are the only woman I have ever loved in all of my years, and I am, now and forever, yours.



Seeing his name written so finally was her undoing. She clutched the letter to her chest and let the weight of what had happened overwhelm her.

Wesley sat at the desk in the office, still completely baffled by how everything had turned out. He hadn't even considered the thought of Angel not coming home, and now that it was reality, he was somewhat flabbergasted. He heard a soft knock at the door to the office, and he looked up to see Giles lingering in the doorway.

"Rupert," he greeted.


"Can I get you anything?" Wesley asked. "Tea?"

Giles looked extremely grateful, nodding his approval as he entered the office and settled into one of the large leather chairs. Wesley handed him a cup of tea and sat back down in his own chair.

"How's Buffy doing?" Wesley asked.

Giles just shook his head sadly.

"Devastated. She hasn't come out of Angel's room yet. Connor's in there with her. Dawn had a peek in there earlier, and she said that they were just lying curled up together," Giles explained.

Wesley sighed and nodded, not having expected to hear anything better than that.

"How are you doing?" Giles asked, looking intently at the former Watcher.

"It's…it's hard to believe really," Wesley admitted. "For so long, we haven't spoken, and we were only now just beginning to become friends again. I suppose not being able to see a body and have actual proof of it is just making it that much harder."

Giles nodded understandingly. He couldn't believe how much Wesley had changed. In place of the bookish, stuffy snob who had tried to take over his position as Watcher four years ago was a confident and capable young man who finally understood what he was getting himself into. It was definitely a change for the better.

"If you don't mind my asking, where are the rest of your group?" Giles asked.

"Fred and Gunn are away at the moment," he explained. "Attempting to sort our their relationship woes. Cordelia is…comatose. And Lorne and I are the last of us."

"Comatose?" Giles repeated.

Wesley gave Giles a quick rundown of what had happened to Cordelia, beginning with the inheritance of the visions, becoming a half-demon to help the pain of the visions, and her being appointed as a 'Higher Being', which had all ultimately been the plan of an evil power. It had used Cordelia to infiltrate Angel Investigations, and had resulted in devastation for all of them when it had been revealed that Cordelia wasn't the girl that they all knew and cared for.

Giles was completely shocked by it all. Hearing that they'd been manipulated was surprising, and to hear that it had been Cordelia, one of the original Scoobies who he had considered as 'his own' was devastating.

"Will she ever wake up?" Giles asked.

Wesley shrugged helplessly. "I wish we knew. And now with Angel gone, there's no real way of finding out. Our link to the Powers was Cordelia, and the Oracles are dead."

"Dead? The Oracles? You can't just kill the Oracles," Giles said.

Wesley looked at the older man thoughtfully. "But they were killed. Nearly three years ago, by a demon by the name of Voca."

Giles was still sceptical about it though.

"Just because a demon killed the bodies of the Oracles doesn't mean they are dead. The Powers would either appoint new Oracles or restore the old ones," Giles said.

Wesley couldn't believe they'd never considered that possibility themselves. The Oracles were some of the most powerful beings on all of the realms. For them to be destroyed did seem somewhat ridiculous, and giving it even more thought, he was fairly certain that Giles was right.

"Perhaps we should try to pay them another visit then," Wesley suggested.


Wesley's eyes widened. "Oh no. We can't go in there. We are not Warriors. We are Teachers, Guardians, but we are not Warriors."

"Perhaps Faith, or one of the other Slayers would be up to it," Giles suggested.

Wesley sighed. He hated what he was about to suggest, but he knew that it would be Buffy who would need to speak to the Oracles. Out of all the Slayers, it was she whose destiny seemed to almost matter more. As the oldest Slayer, and possibly the greatest Slayer in centuries, it made more sense for Buffy to go before the Oracles.

"I think that Buffy should be the one to do it," Wesley said. "Not today of course, but soon. When she is feeling up to it."

"Feeling up to what?" came a familiar voice from the doorway.

Both ex-Watchers looked up, surprised to see Buffy out of Angel's room already. Her eyes were blood-shot, her cheeks stained with tears, but she looked awake and alert.

"Are you alright?" Wesley and Giles asked simultaneously.

Any other day and Buffy would have found Giles and Wesley speaking in sync incredibly funny. Today, she could barely conjure a fake half-smile.

"I'm fine. What am I meant to be feeling up to?"

"Speaking to the Oracles," Wesley explained. There was no point in hiding it from her.

"The green guys in togas, right?" Buffy asked. Angel had explained about the Oracles when they'd spoken about the events of the Day-That-Wasn't. He'd described who the Oracles were and how they had helped him.

Wesley nodded. "That would be them. We were thinking that perhaps you could go and speak with them. To discuss what will happen now. Where destiny should be leading you."

Buffy breathed in deeply. Destiny…she hated that word.

"Right now?" she asked.

"When you feel up to it," Giles said quickly.

She shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. She knew that if she stayed in Angel's room much longer, she wouldn't have been able to stay strong. And that was what a Slayer needed to be. She couldn't afford to have a breakdown now when so many other people were counting on her to lead them.

"Let's go."

"We beseech access to the knowing ones."

There was a bursting flash of light in the archway, and Buffy took a deep breath before stepping into a large white marbled room. She swallowed nervously and stepped forward.

"Come before us Warrior," a silky male voice commanded.

Buffy stared at the two mystical beings in front of her. They were as Angel had described them, dressed in togas with their arms tattooed or painted with gold.

"Usually we would ask for an offering," the woman said, staring at Buffy intently. "But after what we have witnessed you do, both today and for the last seven years, it is we who owe are in debt to you. What is it that you wish to ask?"

"I've come for…guidance I suppose," Buffy replied.

It was the truth. The Shadowmen she'd spoken to weeks ago had told her she would be the hellmouth's last guardian, and it looked as though they were correct. What she now needed to know was what she was supposed to do with no hellmouth to watch over.

"That is natural," the woman replied. "You feel lost. You're heart is aching for it's mate."

Buffy nodded and blinked away her tears. Maybe Giles and Wesley had been right. It was too soon to be doing anything.

"His sacrifice was truly noble," the man said, a touch of sympathy in his voice. "After only just reuniting with his mate, he was able to surrender his own life."

"It as is it was written," the woman agreed.

Buffy felt anger flare within her. She'd never been fond of prophecies. They'd rarely gone well.

"Written?" she asked coldly.

"Do not be angered, Little Warrior," the woman said calmly. "Your life has never been your own. We had thought that you'd accepted this by now."

"Doesn't mean I have to like it," Buffy grumbled, fighting to keep her arms at her side and not fold them across her chest petulantly.

The woman laughed lightly and stepped towards Buffy. She placed a cool hand against Buffy's cheek and the Slayer felt something peaceful sliding through her veins. The knot in her chest loosened, and the pain from her injuries vanished. She could breath easier and focus her energies. Ever since she'd seen Angel with light pouring from his chest, she hadn't been able to think straight, and now she could finally keep her thoughts separate. "You feel it, don't you?" the woman asked kindly.

Buffy nodded, not entirely certain what she was meant to be feeling, but knowing that whatever it was, she could feel it.

The female Oracles hand drifted from Buffy's face, down her shoulders and settled on Buffy's stomach.

"Can you feel him still?" she asked.

Buffy looked at her incredulously. "Who? I'm not…I can't be…"

"No, Warrior, you are not pregnant," the male informed her, his voice neither cold nor unsympathetic. "Can you feel your mate?"

Buffy felt everything freeze. She'd never thought of that. The despair, panic and devastation had stopped her from focussing her energies and trying to feel Angel within her very soul. She could still feel him! But that didn't make any sense. No one could have survived what Angel had gone through. The light would have burnt him, the collapsing school would have crushed him, and the complete destruction of the town would have finished him off for sure.

"Oh god…I can feel him," she whispered, her eyes filling with teas. "Why can I still feel him?"

The female smiled at her sympathetically. "It is not until you truly let got that your questions will be answered."

Buffy had no idea what was going on. Even with the new focus in her mind, she couldn't seem to grasp what they were telling her. The Oracles sensed her confusion and distress.

"Say your goodbyes to him Warrior," the woman said gently. "If you love him, let him go."

Buffy looked at them, and the two Oracles couldn't help but feel touched by the anguish in this young Warrior's heart. They knew what was to come, and could only hope that the Warrior would be strong enough to survive the coming months.

"You must train them, your sister-slayers," the male Oracle said. "Teach them about love and life, and what it truly means to be a Slayer. Whether you wanted it or not, their lives are in your hands."

"That's what I…"

"Said to Faith," the woman finished for Buffy. "Good advice it was as well, Little Warrior. They are your next mission. Teach them, train them, and allow nature to take its course."


"Death happens, Warrior," the male explained. "Especially in war. You will not be able to prevent them all from passing. Protect them, mourn for them, but do not feel guilt for their deaths."

"But they're Slayers because of me," Buffy protested.

"They chose this course," the Oracles corrected her simultaneously. It was the woman who continued. "If they choose not to fight, to protect their fellow mortals, that is the choice that they will have to live with, but you are not to blame if any or all of them are to perish in battle."

"If your idea had not been approved by the Powers, the spell would have killed your witch-friend," the male said.

Buffy felt a chill of fear run down her spine at the thought of Willow being killed because of the spell that Buffy had suggested. She just thanked the Powers that the idea of sharing the burden of Slayerness had been approved.

"That is all we can tell you at this time, Little Warrior," the woman said kindly. "And remember…let him go."


Chapter Twenty-Five: Letting Go

For a week, the energy levels at the Hyperion had been chaotic. With twenty- two Slayers, as well as Buffy and Faith, five Scoobies and Andrew, plus Wesley and Lorne, there was never a quiet moment within the hotel.

Buffy and Faith had taken to training the new Slayers, who, even though they had more than proven themselves in battle, needed to learn how to focus, hone and move instinctually.

Even after a week, Buffy had refused to talk to anyone about Angel. The only person who saw even the slightest bit of emotion regarding her dead lover was Connor, and even he was unable to see everything that the blonde Slayer went through.

As for Buffy, she found herself meditating as often as the chaotic noise level would allow it. She would centre herself and cling onto the tingling sensation in her stomach, trying to understand what it meant. It was nine days after the destruction of Sunnydale that Buffy approached

Connor and Dawn, who had grown rather close over the last week and a half.

"Mom?" Connor asked quietly. "You okay?"

Buffy just shook her head sadly. She was close to tears, but she knew what she had to do. And she knew where she needed to go in order to do it.

"Really not," she whispered sadly.

Dawn stood up and hugged her older sister tightly. It was killing Dawn to see Buffy so devastated. Even when Buffy had been so depressed the year before, it had never been this bad. Although, Dawn supposed, it was probably because Buffy was actually showing some sort of emotion rather than the stoic wall Buffy had made herself into the previous year.

"What can we do Buff?" Dawn whispered.

Buffy pulled back and took hold of Dawn's hand. She reached out to Connor who took hold of her other hand.

"Come with me," she said quietly.

"Where?" Connor asked.


Connor, Buffy and Dawn stood at the edge of the massive crater. It seemed strange. All that remained of Sunnydale was a large hole in the ground. There didn't even seem to be debris from the swallowed town. Obviously the catch phrase that had annoyed them all year, 'from beneath you, it devours' hadn't been a joke. The town had been well and truly devoured.

Buffy took a deep breath and carefully took the first step of her descent into the crater. Connor and Dawn shared sceptical looks, but they knew that they would follow Buffy to the end of the earth and back. Lightening cracked in the sky, followed by a roll of thunder, and Dawn could only hope that the heavens waited until they were done before they opened and drenched the three of them.

It took nearly forty minutes to safely make their way down the steep incline to the centre of Sunnydale, where the school had once stood proudly. It struck Buffy that this was the third school that she'd decimated because of the slaying. At least she wasn't straying from tradition.

The Slayer looked around the wreckage, a hopelessly lost look on her face. Tears welled in her eyes as she remembered her last moments with Angel. They'd had too many 'last moments' in this town.

Buffy maybe we shouldn't.

Shhh…just kiss me.

I love you.

I love you.

Close your eyes.

I want my life to be with you.

I don't.

We don't live in each other's world anymore.

I can handle the neediness.

You better go. But it means a lot that you came.

I love you.

I love you.

Close your eyes.

They'd said goodbye to each other too many times, and now this last and final time was almost too much of the Powers to ask. But they'd told her to let him go.

Buffy looked down at the ground, lowering her head so that Dawn and Connor wouldn't see the beginnings of her tears. Her eyes lit on something sparkling in the dirt, and she took three steps towards it, before crouching down to get a better look.

She carefully brushed back the fine layer of dust coating whatever it was and felt her heart break even further when she recognised the item. The amulet. The amulet that had killed Angel, but had ultimately saved the world.

She picked it up and closed her eyes, holding it to her heart tightly. She knelt down and felt something sharp prick her knees. She moved, thinking it to be only a rock, but when she looked again, she saw another piece of silver sticking out of the ground.

With shaking hands, she picked up the small silver ring.

If we were in Ireland, that ring on your finger would make you my wife.

Her hands trembling terribly, she slowly slid off her own ring, clutching the two matching rings in her right hand, while the amulet was held in her left. After several seconds, she pried her hand open and stared down at the rings that lay tangled next to each other. A stray tear dropped from her chin onto the now- dusty rings, followed by another and another, cleansing the silver metal.

Without really knowing why, Buffy brought her palm up to her lips and laid a gentle kiss on the top of the rings. She knew that if she wanted to let Angel go completely, the rings could not come back to Los Angeles with her. With her heart aching, she set the ring back in the dust (she wondered if it was Angel's dust), her finger drawing a circle around them, a symbol of eternity.

She stared at them a moment longer before pushing herself to her feet and turning back to Connor and Dawn who were clutching hands, tears in their own eyes. The sky had darkened and Buffy had barely noticed it. It was only midday, and the black storm clouds were beginning to look incredibly threatening.

"You came to say goodbye," Dawn whispered, suddenly understanding her sister's incredibly bizarre behaviour.

Buffy just nodded and walked towards them, looking up at the incline that they would now have to face. But it had been important for her to be where Angel had died. Another bolt of lightening flashed through the darkening sky, followed by the loudest crack of thunder that they'd heard yet. Rain began to pour from the clouds, and Buffy wondered if she'd ever be in the Fates favour.

The trio, now thoroughly drenched gave each other miserable looks. Climbing to the top of the crater now looked to be horribly harder, the mud making their trek nearly impossible. They'd made it nearly five feet before another bolt of lightening struck, though this time it hit the ground directly behind them, where Buffy had knelt only moments ago.

Connor, Dawn and Buffy were thrown forwards by the tremor that hit the ground, Dawn clutching at Buffy in fear. Logically she knew there was nothing Buffy could actually do about this natural threat, but her older sister had always made her feel safe.

The thunder finally caught up with the lightening, the loud rumble lasting for nearly half a minute. When it finished, it was followed immediately by small lightening crackles, a brilliant flash of light, and then pure darkness and silence, the rain still pelting down on them.

A loud groan sounded, and the three of them looked at each other, squinting through the darkness and rain to try and see if one of them was hurt.

"Con? Dawn? Are you guys okay?" Buffy asked.

"I'm cool," Dawn said, shivering badly, her teeth chattering.

"I'm fine mom," Connor assured her.

"Okay…so…who groaned?" Buffy asked.

The groan came again, and another flash of lightening lit the sky, this time coming nowhere near them. It looked as though the storm was moving away. The rain lightened, and eventual became a slight drizzle, and the thunder lasted barely a second.

Buffy shakily got to her feet and approached the pitiful sound. Her heart was beating frantically in her chest, and she knew that something profound had just happened. She dared not get her hopes up.

The rain slowed to a stop, and the black clouds gave way to soft white formations in the sky, the darkness lessening and allowing the group to see.

Buffy's heart caught in her throat, and her mind went blank as she took in the wet, naked and shaking body of the figure lying in the dirt where the rings lay. She raced to his side, dropping to her knees. She would have recognised his form anywhere.

"Angel?" she whispered quietly, tears streaming down her cheeks as she let herself begin to hope.

She gently turned him onto his back and looked at his beautiful face, finally allowing herself to smile brilliantly at him. He looked at her through soulful chocolate brown eyes that lit up as he looked at her.

"Buffy," he whispered quietly.

Buffy didn't need anymore proof of who this was. She flung her arms around him and buried her face in his neck, unable to believe that she'd just been given back the only man that she'd ever truly loved. Perhaps miracles did happen after all.

The clouds in the sky parted to show a clear blue sky, the sun shining down on the reunited lovers. Connor was just taking in the sight of his parents, while Dawn watched, tears in her eyes, a smile on her face, knowing that with Angel back, her sister would be alright after all.

Connor's eyes suddenly furrowed.

"How is he in the sunlight?"

Buffy seemed to come out of her stupor at hearing her son's question. She pulled back from Angel, leaving her hand touching his, not willing to relinquish her hold on him in case he suddenly disappeared.

She looked down at her lover, a million questions forming in her mind. But Connor's question was certainly valid. How was Angel in sunlight?

Looking down on him though, she'd never seen him look as beautiful as he did in that moment. She knew that she'd seen him in the sunlight on the Day- That-Wasn't, but that day only existed to her in dreams. Seeing him now, smiling, happy, alive and in the sunlight was the greatest thing she'd ever seen.

"Who cares!" Dawn exclaimed, racing to where Angel and Buffy were wrapped around each other. "He's alive!"

Connor thought about that for a moment before deciding that Dawn was right. Questions would come later. His father was alive, his mother was happy. In that moment, nothing else really mattered.

"Holy shit," Buffy suddenly whispered. She looked up at Connor and Dawn before looking back down at Angel. "You're really alive!"

Angel froze and slowly lifted a still shaking hand, bringing it to his chest. For the second time in four years, he felt his heart beating.


Chapter Twenty-Six: Prophecy

The Scoobies, Faith, Andrew and what remained of Angel Investigations were getting worried. Buffy had taken Connor and Dawn and had said that they would be back within six hours. That had been nearly ten hours ago. For whatever reason, none of them were answering their cell phones either. No one would admit it, but they were all beginning to fear the worst.

"Maybe she finally cracked," Anya said tactlessly.

Everyone shot her unhappy looks. Whilst they all may have been thinking the same thing, they didn't want to hear that possibility about their friend.

"Maybe she just needed to be alone for awhile. Y'know, with D and C," Faith suggested.

Andrew suddenly giggled. Most everyone ignored him, but Anya, who had had a strange bonding moment with the nerd at the hospital in Sunnydale was intrigued.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

"Well, it's just…Faith called Angel 'A', and Buffy 'B', and Connor 'C' and Dawn 'D', right. Well…who's E, F, G and H?" he asked with a grin.

Everyone just rolled their eyes. Xander looked to Giles, who already held up a warning hand with a 'don't even think about saying it' look that he'd perfected over the years.

"And Connor protected this guy, why?" Faith asked.

The Scoobies all shrugged and continued their worrying.

Twenty minutes later, Wesley came out of the office, a worried and slightly tremulous look on his face. Giles was the first to notice it, the two Brits having bonded over the last few days.


Wesley looked at Giles and handed over a notebook.

"It's from the Aberjan Scrolls," Wesley explained.

Giles looked over the notes and felt his eyes widen.

"Good lord," he whispered quietly.

Xander couldn't help himself. "G? What's wrong?"

Giles spared a moment to glare at the young man before turning his attention back to the notebook, reading through Wesley's translation of the text once again.

"Well…if Wesley's translation is correct, it would indicate-"

"Angel's alive!! Hey everybody!" Dawn's voice suddenly yelled out, ringing clear through the hotel. "Angel's alive! He's human!"

Three hours later, Buffy and Angel lay in each other's arms, basking in the afterglow of their reunion. Buffy was lying with her head on Angel's chest, contentedly listening to Angel's heart beating.

"It's a good sound. Thump-thump. Thump-thump."

Angel smiled, remembering Buffy's words from their day spent together so many years ago. The day that had created Connor. He smiled happily and pressed a gentle and loving kiss to Buffy's forehead.

"I love you," he whispered shakily.

He'd come so close to losing her. He was still a little unsure of what had happened. He knew that it had been Buffy who had fulfilled the final parts of the prophecy of his shanshu. He still needed to speak to Wesley about it, but he was certain that the key to it all had been the girl that owned his heart.

"Angel?" she whispered quietly, pulling herself up a little to look at him eye-to- eye. "I missed you."

"I missed you too Beloved."

"Don't leave me."

He shook his head and bent forward to kiss her. "Never. Not willingly."

Many, many, many hours later, Buffy and Angel were seated in the office, the Scoobies, Connor, Lorne, Wesley and Andrew surrounding them. Wesley was struggling to keep the grin from his face. He was incredibly happy to have his friend back, and even happier to see Angel looking so incredibly joyful, both with his reunion with Buffy, and that he was human.

"So, what exactly did the prophecy about not-so-deadboy say?" Xander asked tactlessly.

Angel glared at the boy, but couldn't help but grin afterwards. Nothing could have ruined this day for him at all. He was back where he belonged with his mate at his side.

"Well, we knew there was a possibility of Angel becoming human," Wesley explained. "We just never really understood when, where or how."

"Yes but what did it say?" Anya asked impatiently. She didn't really care one way or another, but the faster it was explained, the quicker she and Xander could go back to their room.

"The vampire with a soul Once he fulfils his destiny And the sun bursts forth from within His atonement is reached and He will die to live. When his soul is bound, The mates will be reunited Father, Son, Mother, Sister Bound by blood, love, destiny and souls, When there is full acceptance The ensouled one shall live And walk as a warrior in the sun." Wesley recited.

Silence followed Wesley's recitation.

"I'm still a warrior?" Angel asked.

Wesley looked at his friend, trying to work out whether Angel was upset by this revelation. He nodded. "I'm afraid so."

Another wide grin broke out on Angel's face, and he swept Buffy up into a hug.

"Thank god!"

"Wait…why is this a good thing?" Andrew asked.

"It means I can still protect people," Angel explained. "I can still protect Buffy. And it means we get the best of both worlds. Sunlight and picnics and…"

"Many hours of orgasms," Anya finished.

"He was giving me that before he turned human," Buffy replied easily.

Angel flushed bright red, a new experience for him. Buffy saw and couldn't help but smile. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his bright cheek softly.

"You're cute when you blush," she whispered.

"That was an over-share," Xander complained. He was happy for his best friend, he honestly was. He knew that Buffy had only ever wanted Angel, and he had to admit that Angel was better for Buffy than Spike was, so he was willing to accept that they were together once more. It had been too long since he'd seen Buffy smiling properly.

"So, now what?" Dawn asked curiously.

It was a question that everyone had been asking themselves and each other over the last few days. What would happen now, or in the horribly annoying lyrical version 'where do we go from here'?

No one had any real ideas, beyond finding the other Slayers and teaching them the ways of the 'good fight'. Apart from that, everyone was at a great loss.

"Now," Angel began, "now, I ask the one question that's been on my mind for the last seven years."

If someone had dropped a pin it would have been heard.

Angel dropped onto one knee and produced a small box from somewhere in his coat. Buffy felt her heart begin to race. Her mouth went dry and she felt herself about to faint from shock.

"Buffy, in two-hundred and fifty years, I've only ever loved one woman. If it weren't for you, I would never have found my friends, my family or who I really am. You've given me so many things over the years, and…if you'll have me, I want to spend the rest of my life showing you how much I love you. Will you marry me?"

True to form, Buffy couldn't resist making some sort of smart-ass comment in even the most serious of situations.

"I thought we already were married," she whispered, emotion clogging her voice.

Angel couldn't help but smile.

"I want to give you a proper wedding, with a real wedding dress, surrounded by our friends and family. What do you say?"

"As if I could ever say no to you."

Angel grinned widely and swept Buffy into a tight hug, tears streaming down both their faces. With some tricky manoeuvring, and without letting go of the hug, Angel slid a white-gold claddagh ring onto Buffy's finger. He'd bought it just after Buffy had left LA and before they'd discovered the truth about the Beastmaster. He'd been planning on asking her to marry him on their return from Sunnydale, if he made it out alive.

Now that he was alive, whole, human and happy, he wasn't about to waste a single second of his life.


Awwww….mush. NO SEQUEL!!

please feed Kattie

Kattie's fics