Perchance to Dream | Part Two

Whistler closed the door of the Watcher's apartment with a frustrated bang. He knew where they all lived, where Buffy patrolled, but none of them were home, nor were they at the library. He'd have to start on the patrol areas, but where to first? A moment later he pushed his hat back and slapped his forehead.

"Stupid!" he berated himself and sprinted back to Giles' car.

The Shady Hill cemetery was remarkably peaceful when he arrived, though the further into it he got the more signs there were that the kids had been there. When he got to the writhing mess of burnt demon on the access road he knew they'd been there. And when he saw the signs beneath the old tree and realised that all four demons had risen, he knew he had almost no chance of getting back in time to save the librarian's life.

It was now a matter of finding the other demons. Wherever they were, the Slayer would be too. He shook his head. Hadn't any of these Humans ever heard of cell phones...?

*******

"Buffy, look out!"

She leaped to one side at full stretch, landing with a jar on the sealed surface of the car park and felt the wake of the giant foreleg that swiped past her, claws splayed.

"They learn too fast," she muttered and looked at the hand-grenade still in her right hand...without a pin. They had to be able to communicate with each other the way this one knew instantly that the grenade was a threat.

It screeched and wheeled, its wings billowing again, but didn't open its mouth to Buffy until it was almost on her, and even then it kept its head right down. She was leading it away from the shopping centre, over cars and around them, the others in hot pursuit.

Then, just as it was about to snap her in two, it threw its head up in rage and let out a screech that should have broken windows.

"Yes!" Xander celebrated, twirling his crossbow as the others took their hands from their ears, or hand, in Buffy's case.

She pitched the grenade, now so sweaty and slippery from her palm that she was lucky not to lose it. Despite the plaster cast, the overarm pitch was sure and powerful, hitting the back of its throat and lodging there so that it couldn't spit it out before it exploded.

Xander dove behind a blue sedan. "Ick, incoming!" he yelled to Willow who only just rolled under a truck before the explosion sent more flesh and teeth raining down.

Buffy worked her way back to them as the creature reeled from its wounds.

"What did you do to it?" she demanded as Xander stood up

He grinned smugly. "Shot it in the ass," he boasted. Willow joined them, brushing herself off. "The SPCA would put us in jail," she pointed out as the creature stumbled over a row of cars and fell on its back.

Buffy's face lit up and grew intense with concentration. "I've got an idea. Quick, Xander, where's that wire?"

He dragged it out. "It's just a glorified tow cable—" he began, but Buffy snatched it and ran with to the thrashing creature's head. "Xander, with me!"

When he got there she gave one end back to him. Then, when the creature raised the mess of flesh off the ground and tried to screech, she flipped the cable under it, threw her end over it and back to Xander and gestured for him to throw his to her.

"Pull!" she ordered.

The crossed cable became a garrotte, pulled ever tighter by the super strength of the Slayer and the best Xander could offer.

"Why...are...we...doing this?" he puffed. "You...can't…kill it."

"How do you kill a demon?" Buffy yelled back.

Willow had joined Xander on his end of the cable. "Cut off its head?"

"That's what we're trying to do, but it's a tough turkey, and my arm...."

"A sword would be good," Willow observed.

Xander looked at the cowls of flesh around the thick neck as the creature bucked and struggled. "I thought it...was...supposed to be invincible. How...about an industrial strength...chainsaw?" he muttered.

"How about this?" demanded a familiar voice.

Whistler pitched the axe, still with its price tag on, to Buffy.

"Whistler!" Buffy yelled, startled, caught it, and started making two-handed strikes at the creature's throat while the others were thrown about like a sheet in the wind on their end of the cable.

"This is so gross," Whistler complained.

"Well pardon us while we draw the curtain," Xander yelled as he tried valiantly to dig his heels in and hold the cable down, Willow still picking herself up off the ground.

Buffy struck one more time, an arc of purple blood shooting into the air as the mangled head rolled backward and the thing trembled and bucked for the last time.

"Does that mean they all die now?" Xander asked happily.

Buffy shook her head. "Don't count on it. That's what the sword is for—why it's so important."

Whistler helped Willow to her feet. "You gotta help me," he was saying.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Buffy demanded.

"Giles is dying," he said without preamble. "Demon toxin." He tilted his head toward Willow. "Angel says she can help, but it has to be fast."

"Me?" Willow squeaked.

A stunned Buffy sucked in a less than steady breath. They all looked in the same direction. There was a suffuse glow of pre-dawn light on the horizon.

"Dawn," she whispered. "Where are they?"

Whistler paled. "Still up on Rogue's Ridge. I hope they found that cave."

"We have to go," she said, ignoring the last death throes of the creature behind her. "Willow—Demon poisons—Internet or books?"

"Both, at the library."

A car started behind them. Whistler withdrew from the driver's side door of the Citroen. "Who's driving? This thing is out of the ark."

Before anyone else could volunteer Xander was in the driver's seat. The others scrambled in behind him and he slammed it into reverse, backed out and screeched away, willing the tired veteran to its best speed.

The library was locked. Buffy used her side-exit key, the only one besides Giles' and Snyder's master key, which was more than Snyder needed to know...

"Whistler, what kind of demon?" Willow demanded, booting up the computer then hot-footing it to the card index.

"Sorry to say I don't exactly have a name, but they kind of looked like military guys— ones that had been drowned and not dragged up for a couple of weeks, you know what I mean? There were five of them, and they had claws, maybe with poison on them. Here, I brought one."

He gave it to Willow, who opened a drawer. "Okay, I'll take this to the lab, after. Right now: demon toxins." She pulled a half a dozen cards from three different drawers and handed them to each of the other three. "Find these. They're in the library somewhere. Xander, check Giles' filing cabinet if you have to. I'm going on line as soon as I can. I can find out what the poison is from the claw, but the books are the best chance for a cure or an antidote, if only we can find out which demon."

Within ten minutes all three had dumped all the volumes on the reading table and were choosing the most promising to start with and Willow had disappeared to the science lab.

A half an hour passed in relative silence, only the rustle of pages turning and the click of Willow's keyboard when she returned, disturbing the intense stillness.

Then the silence was shattered by the sound of fists smashing down on keys.

Everyone jumped, Xander turning in his chair, Buffy jumping out of hers like a startled rabbit and Whistler shielding his face with his forearm.

Willow hit her keyboard again and made an angry, frustrated noise. "Nothing," she growled. "There's nothing. Giles is going to die."

Buffy's eyes widened and her colour waned again. She sat down hard. Hearing Willow say it so bluntly was like being hit between the eyes by a sledge-hammer. He couldn't die...

Xander sat up, his eyes bleak. "Oh yeah, then you'd best get your cute little tush over here and help us with these books. You know nobody does a cross index like you do."

Whistler chuckled. It broke the tension and they all plunged back into the books, each painfully aware of the consequences of failure for Giles, of the immediate danger to Angel and the presence, somewhere out there, of one fully operational Herrata.

A short time later Whistler threw his latest book on the table. "That was the first book that mentions the poison, the claws and the 'come drag the river for me' look, and the clothes are all wrong," he grumbled.

Willow looked up, her eyes narrowing. "Show me," she demanded.

He pushed the book towards her. "Page a hundred and fourteen. I wouldn't be seen dead...well, anyway, I wouldn't be seen with these guys..."

"It's the right kind of poison. These military uniforms are all eighteenth century American. They might have just upgraded the clothes. Do demons get bored?" she asked, checking another book mentioned in a footnote of Whistler's article.

"Or have fashion sense?" Xander offered, looked at Whistler's clothes, slid down in his chair and cleared his throat.

Whistler shrugged. "Who knows? Depends on your demon, really. So you think these may be the same guys?

"People, Angel could be dead already, and Giles…could die," Buffy pointed out in a tight voice. "Can we do this any faster?"

Willow turned to her. "I think this might be it. I'm going to call Oz to bring his van—he should be back now—for Angel—then I'm going to check the tests on the claw. They should at least confirm the type of poison, and that should let us confirm or rule out these, what did they call them?" She looked down at the second book. "'Kovhai Foot Soldiers.'"

Whistler sat up. "Hey I know them, but they didn't look like this the last time I saw one. Back then they were human-looking, mostly, but with ritual paint masks on their faces to show who they were working for."

"Oh yeah, and when was that?" Xander drawled.

"About fourteen-ninety or so. If it was a Kovhai the cure is easy."

Buffy jumped up, on edge, her eyes glittering, and grabbed him by the shirt front.

"How easy?" she demanded.

Whistler extracted himself. "Cool it, Slay-girl. Angel is my friend too, and I like your Watcher a whole lot, so don't be taking your worry out on me. The Khovai were bred purely to be foot-soldiers for demon lords or kings in the war to reclaim the mortal realm. I thought they were all wiped out until now. Their poison is strictly for mortals. Undead blood neutralises it on contact. All you need to do is get a demon or a vampire to bleed a lot for you. Hey, what are you all looking at me like that for?"


*******

Angel took the librarian's pulse again and cursed. He didn't know how Giles was hanging on. He'd never felt so relentlessly helpless, at least in the mortal realm. Or frustrated. Not much more than a week earlier the man had stepped in when he'd been knocked out and saved them all by killling the demon and closing the Hellmouth…

The Englishman was bathed in sweat, and periodically seemed to lapse into some kind of delirium. Angel could hear him mutter but not what he was muttering. From their shadowed vantage point he could see the daylight through the hole, a rare lingering view of another lifetime, another life... But now the view almost suffocated him with his claustrophobic limitations.

He got up and prowled around the cave, stumbling over rocks and kicking shale and bones out of the way in temper. He was going to lose Giles, had probably already lost Whistler...

He closed his eyes.

And God only knew if the others...

He tripped on a boulder and came out of the stumble in hunting mode, snarling with rage, slammed the fist of his bad arm into the wall and snarled again. A moment later he reverted to his human face, his eyes closed again. She could be dead…

And if she were alive she would never forgive him for losing Giles.

The big librarian was delirious again, and the sweating had stopped. Angel felt his brow. It was cold and clammy. Carefully, he eased the sweater off and turned him gently onto his side.

"Jenny…" he groaned.

Angel winced and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he looked at the wounds, hopes of any improvement dashed when he saw the raw, oozing welts. Lint from the woollen sweater was stuck to most of them. He'd removed most of the fibres from one when something happened to the slash above it. He watched in amazement as it bubbled, a white cleansing sort of effervescence, then withdrew into itself until it was gone.

He took his hand away, swallowed, dumbstruck, then stared at it for several more seconds before the urgency of it took hold of him.

"What?" he whispered and repeated what he was doing at the exact moment it happened.

His knuckles were brushing against it as his fingers picked lint from the wound below…

He stared at the smashed, bloodied knuckles, the deepest gashes still oozing, then, as though in a dream, he reached out and touched another wound with them. The process repeated itself.

Angel blinked. The sword…

He un-wrapped his arm very gingerly. The wound was half-closed, the healing process well under way. There was dried blood encrusting the area and the butterfly dressings, which he removed. Then, calmly and deliberately, he picked up the sword and opened the wound again, his agonised cry echoing through the cavern and bouncing back again.

Giles called Jenny Calendar's name again as he smeared all the slashes with his blood. Then the Watcher began to tremble and shiver, his breathing laboured.

When he began to struggle Angel lifted him and held him in his arms to keep his back out of the filth on the cave floor, terrified that he'd killed him after all. For several minutes the older man seemed to be in terrible pain, hanging between life and death.

And then at once he was still. Angel panicked and picked up a limp arm. For long, terrifying seconds he couldn't find a pulse, and then Giles took a long, rattling breath.

"Jenny!" he called ecstatically and opened his eyes.

Angel had never seen such absolute joy transmute so quickly to grief. The green eyes stared silently at him for so long, and with such deep shock that he had to fight to keep from looking away. Then they filled and overflowed silently, Giles' body shaking with the uncontrolled intensity of his despair.

It was more unbearable than any torture Angel had ever suffered. He sat silently, his head bowed, holding the librarian, and grieving for the terrible cost of his own existence.


*******


"I can't take it any further in," Oz announced. He'd brought his van at least a half mile off the road, into the forest, everyone helping to spot hazards, move logs, rocks, overhanging branches before they could become a problem.

They were all out before he'd finished the sentence. He'd taken a considerable amount of time off their journey on foot and no one wanted to waste a moment. It was already after eight.

The biggest surprise was Whistler, who, for all his average physique and unassuming looks, seemed to be able to run endlessly without flagging. The others followed him without faltering, all the way up the slopes to the edge of the tree line, where they paused, breathing heavily, Xander and Oz bent, their hands on their knees, sucking in air.

"Take five," Buffy told them, sweating and breathing hard, but with wind to spare. "I'm going ahead." She turned to Whistler. "Which way?"

Buffy found the site of the explosion without much difficulty. The signs of Angel and Giles' presence were plentiful, not least Giles' backpack and sword. It was open and half- pulled out, bits of wiring and other components scattered in the dirt with weapons and rations. But the one thing her eyes zeroed in on was a piece of rolled up clothing.

The white t-shirt could only have been Giles', meaning the stains all over the back of it were almost certainly his blood too. She threw it away with a trembling hand and continued her search, stopping at a pile of rubble and shivering at the sight of the ashes protruding from it.

"No…" she said softly, then screamed: "Angel!"

And almost passed out with relief when she heard the muffled reply.

It took her eyes some time to adjust after she'd scrambled through the smallish opening, but she didn't wait, stumbling toward the silhouette that had to be Angel on the ground at the back of the cavern. By the time she reached him her pupils had dilated enough to see his face and the figure in his arms.

"Is he…?" she asked, still trying to assimilate Angel's survival…that they weren't his ashes lying out there in the dirt.

Angel shook his head slowly. "I found something to heal the wounds, but he's still sick, maybe dying…"

"The cure is the blood of any non-mortal," Buffy told him. "Something Whistler remembered." She registered his bloodied, damaged arm and hand for the first time, and swallowed. "I see how you could maybe stumble on that yourself."

He nodded. "I touched the slashes and they healed by themselves. But it wasn't
enough—"

"Obviously," Buffy interrupted, "but it kept him alive," she said softly, her eyes drinking their fill of Giles' ravaged, but living face. "The others are coming. Oz brought the van, and Willow has your heavy cloak and stuff. We left so fast Whistler didn't say how the blood cures, only that it was easy."

"I can't ask him to drink me," Angel said wretchedly. "I mean, I want him to if it will cure him. I can open an artery…and it won't make him a vampire, but after everything I've done—"

Buffy knelt beside them. "Worse even than you drinking me?" she asked, remembering what he'd said about the First Evil.

Angel blanched. "Not worse," he corrected, "but just as bad. He shouldn't have to suffer like this for getting hurt helping…" He swallowed, silently cursing his mouth. "…Me."

She looked up from her vigil over Giles, a limp hand clutched in one of hers. "Helping you? I thought you were helping him?" she demanded, her inner senses pricking. "What aren't you telling me? He was hiding something when I talked to him before about coming up here. Give," she ordered.

Angel reached to his left and picked up the sword, gave it to Buffy. As a distraction it worked perfectly.

"The sword of Ielorid," she said, gently placing Giles' hand on his chest again. "And the Eye…? What's that noise?"

Angel pulled the necklace from his pocket. "You can hear—feel that?"

Buffy nodded. "Irritating."

"It's the stone. When it's near the sword they kinda energise each other."

"We have to destroy it now. There are two monsters doing a lot of suffering and a healthy one probably causing a lot of suffering because we're not there to stop it…not to mention the ones—"

"No!" Angel cried. "We don't know how it works…I wanted—"

Buffy was staring at him. "You wanted…what? Angel, people are very probably getting munched from here to St. Petersburg as we speak."

He shook his head. "Never mind," he said, looking down at the unconscious Watcher, and clenching the stone hard to keep from screaming his frustration. There was no way to get to the remaining Herrata, regardless of how much he wanted to…

A new hum started up, pulsing almost in rhythm with the waves of rage and frustration washing over him. He could feel the stone vibrating in his hand, getting hotter and hotter.

Buffy heard it, extended her hand, reaching for it, sword poised. Outside the sounds of the others approaching could be heard in the distance.

Angel swallowed, his eyes beseeching. "Buffy—"

But Giles was stirring in his arms. His gaze shifted from her searching blue eyes, to the now lucid green ones looking up at him in confusion. He held them for a long moment before closing his own in infinite pain, then slowly, almost reluctantly, looked up again.

As she reached for the stone, Buffy saw the hand at Angel's side become almost x-ray transparent for a moment.

A strange look passed over his face, and his eyes closed again. Moments later they looked down at the Watcher again and softened, then the glow was gone and the hum was back to its original irritating pitch.

He looked up again, his expression one of profound sadness.

"I'm sorry," he said as she reached out and took the pendant.

"Buffy?" Giles croaked disorientedly. "Angel…what…?"

Angel helped him to a sitting position.

The others were coming through the hole into the cave. Whistler and Willow were already through and Oz was climbing in.

Buffy sat the Eye on the nearest rock, raised the sword above her head, which was throbbing violently from the intensity of the whining hum, and used both hands to bring it down with a bone shattering crash.

The cave lit up with searing white light which seemed at once to be all colours and no colours, writhing violently and yet still at the same time and there was a terrible, prolonged, bone-splitting screech, as though all the Herrata were screaming at once.

A moment later the sword and the shattered gem were gone.

Everyone converged on Giles, except Buffy. She was shaking her arm and watching Angel, who'd moved away from everyone and was sitting against the cave wall, his head bowed, weeping silently.

Willow and Xander dropped to their knees either side of the Watcher.

"You're not dead," Xander observed redundantly.

"Obviously," Giles agreed, his voice still shaky at best.

Willow, who was checking his back, leaned back, confused. "There are no wounds on your back."

Giles, who was even more confused, swayed, then frowned. "Why? Should there be?"

Xander instantly shifted so that Giles' right shoulder blade rested against his chest, allowing the librarian to lean against him, rather than continue to exert himself to stay upright.

"Easy there old man, don't have a relapse on us," he teased.

Giles made a noise in his throat, but he could hear the worry in Xander's voice.

Willow frowned. "Whistler, the scratches are gone, but Giles is still sick."

But Whistler was watching Buffy and Angel. He turned slowly, distractedly. "Gone?" he said slowly, then looked at Angel again, at the open wound on his arm. "Yeah, well looks like Angel might have worked out part of it himself…which is why Rupert here is still with us. Now all he has to do is taste the blood."

"Angel's blood?" Oz asked quietly.

Whistler shrugged. "Yeah, well, he's already on tap and I'm not big on pain."

Oz's eyes widened. "You mean drink him?"

"Jeez, Giles, a vampire librarian, I bet that'd be a first."

"Shut up, Xander," Willow hissed. "Giles, you were scratched by a demon with poisoned claws…do you remember?"

Giles nodded stiffly. "My back…"

"Is healed. The poison is only meant for mortals. It's neutralised on contact by any demon or non-mortal blood. A—Angel must have used his blood to heal your back, but the toxin has gotten into your system."

Giles closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember. "I remember fighting…and then the pain. The bomb…and medieval vampires…then nothing…" He stopped to concentrate again, memories, both real and nightmare, blurring together.

His eyes sprang open suddenly. "Jenny," he whispered, unaware of anyone or anything. "Oh, Jenny…"

Xander put a hand on his shoulder without even realising he'd done it and Willow clamped teeth on her bottom lip to keep it still.

Xander looked up at Whistler. "Get Angel, now!" he ordered angrily.

Buffy knelt next to Angel, not knowing what to say, or why he was so distraught. She put a hand on his nape.

"Talk to me," she said gently.

"I can't," he said very softly. "Not now. Maybe…maybe later." He lifted his head and looked at her with a ravaged face, touched her cheek, trailing trembling fingers across her lips. "I'm sorry," he said again.

"I don't—"

"Ah, excuse me for interrupting, but the team over there needs Angel now. I think the kid is going to hurt me if you don't come," Whistler said, about as self-conscious as he was ever likely to get.

Angel looked up. "What do I have to do?"

"Not you: him. He has to taste the blood to neutralise the poison that's still in his system. That's all. Not drinking, just tasting."

Angel nodded. "Tell everyone to leave us alone." His gaze moved to Buffy, asking her the silent question.

She got up, confused and worried but determined. "I'm staying," she announced, and went to Giles.

Xander was still supporting the semi-conscious Watcher, Buffy kneeling next to them, when Angel reached them. The boy looked at him with smouldering eyes.

"If you hurt him, Dead Boy—" he said between clenched teeth.

Angel's eyes flashed. "Get out!" he growled.

Xander left reluctantly, Buffy taking Giles' shoulders as he slipped away.

He stirred, disturbed by the movement. "Xander?" he muttered, his eyes fluttering open again.

"It's Angel."

"We're here," Buffy said softly, brushing rivulets of sweat from his brow with the backs of her fingers.

Giles jolted a little and opened his eyes fully. "Buffy…? Where?" He squinted. "The others? Another dream?"

"I'm here," Buffy said near his ear, and when he raised a hand as if to confirm the reality of her, took it in hers and held it tight.

Angel shook his head. "They're outside. Do you remember what Willow said about the poison?"

"My back…healed. No pain…"

"My blood—it neutralises the poison," he said, holding up his ravaged arm.

"Good show," Giles said quietly then paused. "Bit bloody slow though," he added, grimacing at another bout of nausea.

"It's slow because it's not finished yet." Angel looked tortured. "You…you have to—"

Giles' un-focused eyes narrowed. "Oh, no. Not for all the bloody tea in China."

Before Buffy could speak Angel dropped his head. "If I have to, I'll cut Whistler for you, but it won't be by his choice," he said quietly.

"Whistler? Cut?"

Angel looked up. "You don't have to drink me, Giles. You only have to taste it."

Giles exhaled loudly. "Is that all? Christ, man, did you have to make such a bloody drama out of it?"

Angel looked puzzled.

"Arm," Giles demanded.

Angel extended his damaged arm. The librarian wiped an unsteady thumb across a small trickle of blood, closed his eyes distastefully and touched the thumb to his tongue.

"Done," he said, screwing up his face. "No wonder vampires are so foul tempered," he muttered, and promptly passed out again.

Buffy let go of his other hand and shifted to hold him close while the struggle raged between the toxin and Angel's blood.

It took much longer this time. When it passed the librarian stopped struggling and went limp. Angel searched for a pulse for long seconds. Buffy looked at him beseechingly. He couldn't find one. Minutes ticked away until both were close to frantic. Then, at last, Giles drew a long, rasping breath again.

Buffy sobbed and clutched him even tighter.

Angel exhaled loudly and swore softly with relief. For a long moment he just stared at the ravaged face, then touched Buffy's hand.

"It's time to go," he said gently, and lifted the Watcher from her arms.

Xander and Oz were near the entrance, keeping vigil. Within seconds of his call they were back inside, taking Giles from him.

Angel looked down at the heavy cloak Oz handed him and through the opening at the bright sunlight, then turned to Buffy.

"I'll wait for sundown and make my own way back. The cloak is all right for short distances but…"

Whistler moved to his side.

Buffy stared at them for a long moment. She knew he was right, and she didn't want to leave him, but… Her eyes slid to the Watcher's pale face.

"Go," Angel said softly. "I'll see you at sunset."

Xander, holding Giles by the shoulders while Oz eased his legs through the small exit, stared at him for a long moment.

"He is going to be all right, isn't he?" he asked quietly.

Angel nodded. "Before, when I touched his wounds with the blood, it was hard on him for a little bit. It was the same this time, only worse, but he should be fine when he comes around."


*******

Buffy cradled a still unconscious Giles tightly as the van bumped and trundled over the rough ground for the half mile or so back to the road, until Oz managed to find the one rock they'd missed on the way in. She was thrown against the side of the van, landing on her back.

Giles woke to find himself lying on top of Buffy, his nose at the base of her throat.

He lifted his head just enough to find himself eye to eye with her.

"Hi," she squeaked. "Feeling better?"

"Much."

"No pain?"

"No…no…I'm fine—I think. Exhausted, but fine."

She grinned with relief. "Good. Then do you think you could get off me?"

Giles turned beet-red. "Oh…yes, of course."

There were some snickers behind them then Xander offered an arm. Oz had finally made it back onto the highway so there were no more unexpected jolts. Xander settled the librarian against the side of the van and sat back down on the other side as Buffy scrambled to a sitting position herself.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"Foolish," he answered, holding his brow.

"Giles…"

"My head hurts, and my mouth…as a matter of fact, pretty much all of me. I'm extraordinarily tired, but essentially I am…well. The…er, antidote seems to have done its job and my system appears to be free of the poison," he said wearily.

"We thought we were going to lose both of you," Xander told him, his voice for once devoid of humorous inflection.

  1. daresay it was a near thing. Did Angel find the sword? The Eye?"

"Check and check," Buffy confirmed. "We won't know for sure until we get back to town, but the light show when I smashed the Eye kind of indicated that I probably did something right."

Giles sat up very straight. "You've destroyed it already? Where is Angel?" he asked urgently.

"Waiting up in the cave for sunset," Xander told him. "He didn't want to get pot-roasted in that stupid cloak. It was a long way down to the van, and boy, were you heavy…"

Buffy watched Giles close his eyes in something very like anguish. She shifted along until she was at his side, touched his hand.

"Giles, what's wrong?"

He looked down at her. "I can't break a confidence, but if he hasn't left the cave then I daresay he has failed, for which I am truly sorry."

"But the Herrata are gone, permanently… which has to be a 'good' right?" Xander asked edgily.

Buffy scowled and rested a cheek against the point of Giles' shoulder. "I hate it when you get cryptic and I hate even more when the cryptic sounds distinctly like something I won't like at all."

He looked down at her affectionately. "I'm sorry, but I promised," he said softly, looked up and straight into Xander's dark eyes, and saw that the boy had worked at least part of it out by himself.

Xander shrugged and threw him his sweater. "My glass is half full," he said harshly, then looked away from the disappointment in the green eyes.


*******


Giles' apartment was Oz' next to last stop. They'd all wanted him to be checked out at the local ER but he was determined to go home, certain that he was okay, if totally exhausted. Buffy had insisted on remaining until he was safely there, so that only Oz, in the driver's seat, and Buffy and Giles in the back, remained when they reached the apartment.

The van slid to a noisy halt.

"Oz, you need a new rear suspension," Giles announced, uncoiling his long frame from its extremely uncomfortable resting-place and getting gingerly to his feet.

"So noted," Oz replied philosophically, pulling open the rear doors and helping the older man down. Buffy threw out the backpack and jumped out after him.

"I'm going to take a swing by Shady Hill with Oz, just to be certain the Herrata really are all gone," she told him. "Are you sure you're well enough to be on your own?"

"I have coped with far worse before now," he said quietly. "I'm fine, Buffy. Go home, and get some sleep."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I don't do naps," she muttered. "And I have to make sure Angel is okay, but I promise I'll get an early night."

He picked up the pack and started to turn.

"Giles…"

He turned back, saw the look in her eyes.

She reached out and touched his arm. "Don't ever try dying on me again."

Their gazes held for a long moment, then he smiled gently and nodded. A moment later the smile was gone.

"Later, if you should need me…I'll be here."

Buffy's head tilted to one side. "Again with the cryptic. Well it works both ways. If you need anything...if you get sick again— "

He touched the soft mouth momentarily with a long forefinger. "I'm fine. Stop worrying."

Her eyes filled unexpectedly. "Once was bad enough," she said softly. "Three times is pushing it." She started to turn, then whirled unexpectedly and threw her arms around him in an uncharacteristic show of emotion. "Don't do it again or I'll hurt you," she warned the front of his sweater.

He put his arms around her for a moment and returned the hug, his eyes glistening with both warmth and moisture. Then he bent his head. "I promise," he said near her ear. "Now away with you."

He watched her turn and climb into the passenger side of the van, half-smiled as she waved and Oz blew the horn, then headed for his apartment, profound sadness in his eyes. He'd had never felt so tired or dispirited as he unlocked the door, despite their victory over the Herrata. Angelus had won…and Buffy had lost, yet again…


*******

Something was wrong. Even as he opened the door he could sense it. Once inside he knew something was different. It was almost subliminal, but the hairs on his neck were standing up. He dropped the bag and went to his weapons chest, ever watchful, and took out his crossbow. It had been constantly loaded since…

He checked every nook and cranny downstairs, wondering if he was just over-reacting to a rotten couple of days, or if he was hallucinating again, but found nothing. There was still something though…and it was driving him crazy.

He'd climbed only four steps on the stairs when he froze. The déjà vu almost overwhelmed him. Why? He wondered wretchedly. Am I relapsing? And then: I'm not going to the bloody hospital and that's that!

He took another two steps and stopped again.

It was the air…

There was the faintest scent of roses. His mind was playing tricks. He said something unprintable and clutched the crossbow tightly, his hands shaking, and continued up the steps.

On the landing at the top of the stairs he stopped again, trembling. He hated himself for the terror, the dread, when he knew there was nothing there. For God's sake, he thought. The front door was locked, the windows untried…

After several deep breaths and another heartfelt expletive he pushed open his bedroom door with the end of the crossbow…then promptly dropped it, the trigger firing and sending the bolt whizzing under the bed.

"No…" he keened, tears choking him, shock almost taking his legs from under him. "No…"

A hundred nightmares replayed themselves before him as he forced himself to the bedside, his trembling increasing with each step, until he was close enough to reach out a shaking hand and touch a soft cheek.

Oh God…it was warm

He trailed his fingers along her jaw, feeling its warmth with disbelief, shaking so much he could barely control their movement.

Her eyes opened and his heart almost stopped. "Rupert?" she said sleepily. "What are you doing here?"

A strangled sob escaped his throat. "Jenny…? It can't be."

"Why?" She blinked and sat up very slowly, looked around, startled. "Wait…What? Is this a joke?"

Giles shook his head and swayed slightly.

She drew a sharp breath, slid out of the bed. "Rupert, what is it? What happened to your face…your neck?"

He stepped back. "Y…You can't be here. I…It's not possible…don't you remember?"

She frowned. "I remember working late. It worked—"

"The translation," he whispered, closing his eyes.

She nodded. "How could you know? I haven't told anyone…"

He opened them again, half afraid she might be gone when he did. She was still there. Beyond rational speech, he reached out instead and touched her hair. Everything about her was exactly the same, every detail, except it was a year too late.

"Can you be real?" he finally whispered, aching to take her in his arms, to hold her again.

"Real? Rupert, you're scaring me."

"Try," he said with difficulty. "Try to remember…did you see Angelus at the school?"

Her brow furrowed and a moment later her face crumpled. "Oh God. He was chasing me. The b…bastard was going to kill me," she said tremulously. "Why didn't I remember that? He said he was going to. I was running, and then he was there…I was sure he was going to…Then there was this incredibly intense, weird light. It was so bright it blotted everything else out. And now I'm here…in your bed…was in your bed. Rupert—"

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "It's just—"

"Oh, God, you're crying," she exclaimed and took a step toward him.

He shook his head. "I lost you…you can't be here."

"Lost me?" Her eyes narrowed. "As in 'died' lost? I'm not dead, Rupert, and this isn't funny."

"You…you died, a year ago yesterday. And now you're here, where I found you…where he put you…after…"

Her eyes narrowed again. She was frightened and he was talking in riddles. "Yeah, right, I died. So…so what? Someone made a wish and now I'm a real, live girl?" she demanded sarcastically and was shocked to see all of the remaining colour drain from his face, leaving it almost blue.

"Oh my God…Angel…" His heart hammered against his chest. "Oh God, Jenny, it is you."

She forgot to be annoyed. He looked so bad she was worried he might pass out. She came to him, touched his damp, battered face with gentle fingers. "It's all right, Rupert. Whatever is happening to you, we'll find a way to stop it…"

He covered her fingers briefly with his own, shook his head and drew reluctantly away. She watched him pick up a crisp, unread copy of the London Times from his bedside table and hand it to her, his finger pointing to the date.

"Oh God," she said. "This isn't real. Oh, God…Rupert you didn't raise me, did you? Tell me you didn't—"

Giles shook his head. "You're warm, and real…and alive."

"But…how?"

Giles closed his eyes. "I'm not entirely certain. There…there was a chance for Angel and Buffy…for him to be mortal—alive again—using powerful, ancient magic. Angel failed, but I think…I think, somehow, it…brought you back to me."

She paled and stepped back. "Angel?" She held up her hands. "This…this is all too much," she said and turned away.

It hurt more than he believed possible.

"Jenny…"

The word was filled with despair, longing, need.

"I thought I would never see you again. I…" he swallowed the tremor in his voice, ignored the moisture crowding his eyes again. "…I buried you."

She turned back slowly, her dark eyes glistening with unshed tears, her hands trembling, her heart breaking for him.

"I'm scared, Rupert," she whispered.

Giles stepped towards her, moved to open his arms, and sobbed with exultation when she came to him. He crushed her to him, buried his face in her hair and wept. "Not anywhere near as terrified as I," he whispered as her arms tightened around him. "My God, I've missed you so much…"

Jenny trembled and pressed herself harder against him, holding him even tighter. She'd waited so long for him to forgive, to feel his arms around her again…but at what cost?

Giles groaned and reluctantly separated himself from her, his hands shifting to gently cup her face instead, his fingers in her hair.

Jenny looked up at him and smiled gently, reassuringly. She knew exactly why he'd moved.

"Hello, fuddy-duddy," she said softly, stroked his brow with unsteady fingers. "You've changed."

"I…I have?" he asked huskily, bringing his breathing back to a normal rhythm.

"A lot less 'fuddy' and way less 'duddy,'" she told him tenderly, her fingers playing with his hair. "It suits you."

Giles smiled, despite the jumbled tumult within. "I'm just older," he said self-consciously. "And rather battered at this juncture."

Jenny shook her head slightly within his hands. "You're different. The way you talk, the way you look…even the way you hold me."

His head tilted to one side.

"You're stronger, more solid…and more sure of your self," she told him, letting her hands trail across his chest and slide around him again.

He chuckled wryly, if not dryly. "I'm a jibbering, emotional wreck right now…how could you possibly…?"

Her dark eyes looked deep into his and revealed themselves honestly, openly for the first time.

"I know, because I love you more than I ever believed possible, so I remember everything about you, from the cute way you blush when you're teased, to the way you taste when you kiss me, even to how tiny your butt…used to be."

Giles immediately flushed crimson to the roots of his hair, then groaned again as her hands slid down his back and came to rest briefly on that portion of his anatomy. Then he was drawing her face to his, bending his head and covering her soft mouth with his, feeling her tremble in his hands as his lips told her what words could not.

And then she was kissing him back, matching fire with fire, need with need, and his arms were sliding around her, crushing her close again. Jenny arched against him, her fingers back in his hair, her lips playing games now with his.

Then, as though they both needed a moment of reassurance, they drew just far enough away for their eyes to find each other.

Jenny smiled, her face rosy, her eyes glowing. "I love you," she said softly, and watched his green eyes light up, their corners crinkling and his mouth turning up tenderly. She sighed. "I've wanted to do that all day…Rupert!"

The colour had drained from his face. The light in his eyes flickered and died and he was stepping back. "I can't," he said wretchedly. "I can't do this now…"

Confused and hurt, Jenny deliberately stepped toward him again and was slightly reassured to see he held his ground.

"Buffy?" she asked.

He shook his head. "No…oh, no. That will come, when she discovers the reason Angel was trying to find the Eye. It's just…" He dragged a hand over his face. "There is no 'all day' Jenny. It's mid-afternoon and I spent the greater part of last night and this morning in a cave in a rather bad way, whereas you—"

"Whereas I was supposedly dead," she filled in flatly. "Would you prefer it if I went back to being dead?" she snapped exasperatedly, then instantly regretted it when she saw his face crease in pain, the moisture that instantly blurred the gentle green eyes again.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I w—wouldn't hurt you for anything…and I do want you…more than I can say." He closed his eyes for a moment. "But there's so much you don't know…s—so much has happened…it's just not fair to you…"

"Damn it, Rupert," she cried, "taking this away from me now—after everything—is what's unfair. I never...for me at least, I never left. I don't give a damn about the rest of it. This scares me enough. Tell me tomorrow." She stepped up to him again, drew his head down to hers, the fingers of her other hand deliberately trailing from his jaw, down his torso to his thigh.

She felt the tremor that went through him then, felt his body respond to hers as the embers of their previous kiss rekindled, then burst into flame, their mouths merging, seeking, demanding, exulting in each other's desire. Until, bruises forgotten, he swept her off her feet, without lifting his head from hers, and carried her to his bed…


*******


Angel knocked on the door and waited.

Joyce Summers blinked when she opened it and stepped back unconsciously. "Angel," she said quietly. "I haven't seen you since—"

"Spike," he filled in. "Is Buffy home yet?"

She nodded and shot him a speaking glance. "She's very tired. She said she was up all last night…"

Angel shifted uncomfortably, aware of what she was thinking and annoyed by the triviality of it after everything that had happened.

"Well, yeah. With the Herrata Rising and everything, and trying to get the sword and the Eye from Rogue's Ridge, she was pretty busy, fighting invincible monster demons, helping save Giles from dying a painful death, smashing the Herrata's curse forever… just another routine night, really…"

Joyce made a 'not funny' face at him. "You're in no position to be a smart ass," she told him pointedly. "She's in the kitchen."

Buffy looked up from the vegetables she was chopping.

Angel was watching her, a wistful kind of hurt in his eyes.

"Angel…I was coming over after dinner to see if you were back—"

He shrugged, held up the cloak in his right hand. "We started back as soon as the sun actually started to set. It wasn't too bad, and only until I got right into the forest. A little smoke, a little singeing, nothing I can't live with." He smiled a little. "And Whistler was on hand to put me out."

She nodded. "The Herrata are definitely gone. The three we made a mess of: history. The fourth hasn't been seen since it cleared the local Starbucks in two minutes flat and ate several of the customers. Not a peep, so I guess we did it."

Angel looked away, swallowed the lump that rose in his throat. "Yeah, we did it. Saved the world again. Made everything right again," he said bitterly. "How's Giles?"

Buffy frowned but didn't pursue it. "He came around in the van. He seems to be fine. Really tired, but fine. We dropped him at home, then Oz and I did the reconnoitre thing. Why? Should I be worried?"

He shook his head. "No, I…he just went through a lot…I'm glad he's okay."

Buffy exhaled. "Then I guess the question is: are you okay? You look like somebody ate your grandmother."

"I'm fine," he said too quickly. "I should go. You're mother isn't too thrilled with me being here. I'll check in with Giles, make sure he's okay and maybe patrol a bit for you. Get a good night's sleep. You need it."

Buffy watched him go, all her senses pricking once again. If someone didn't tell her what was going on soon she was going to start breaking heads…two in particular.


*******


Angel tapped on the door and waited.

It opened a few moments later, revealing a smiling, if very bruised and battered, Giles in an open-necked, casual shirt and slacks, a loaf of French bread in one hand, bread-knife in the other. The smile vanished.

"Angel."

"Giles. I just wanted to make sure…to see if—to see if you were okay…"

"Yes…I'm fine," he said uncomfortably, slipped out the door and closed it behind him, met the other man's gaze again.

"I'm sorry about the Eye," he said softly. "Truly sorry. But there's something you have to know—"

The door opened behind them. "Rupert what are you doing out—?"

Jenny, dressed in an oversized Razorbacks shirt Cordelia had given Giles for Christmas, and which had never been out of the drawer, paled to the point of passing out, backed up and slammed the door.

Giles turned back to Angel, who was staring wonderingly at it.

"It worked…" he whispered.

Giles' eyes widened in surprise. "Angel?"

Angel swung back to him. "What? Oh…nothing."

"But you do know what happened?" the librarian prompted.

Angel shifted uncomfortably. "I—I didn't know how it worked. I thought I had to find the beast…to be there…And Buffy had to destroy the Eye. People were dying…" he offered reluctantly. "Giles, I really don't want—"

"Then you're saying it was an accident?" Giles interrupted, looking back at the door. "We have to work out what happened, but I have to make sure she's all right first. Come in, but stay back until I can explain."

The vampire followed even more reluctantly. Jenny wasn't downstairs when they went in. Angel went and stood by the fireplace while Giles left the bread on his desk and went upstairs.

She was in the farthest corner of his room, trembling. He went to her and drew her into his arms, held her as he spoke.

"I'm sorry," he soothed, and kissed her hair.

"He's pure evil," she managed. "I remember…he smashed my computer, burned his cure…he taunted me like a cat with a mouse. He chased me through the school like an animal. I was so terrified…and then I ran straight into him…" She seemed to stare into a nightmare for a moment. "He grabbed my head, as though he was going to…"

Giles closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. "I know." He'd read the police reports and the results of the autopsy. "But he's not Angelus any more. Willow and Buffy found the diskette. The curse worked."

Her trembling subsided. "Why is he here?"

"To check on me, I suspect. I almost died this morning…demon toxin…extremely nasty. He saved my life, in fact."

Jenny pushed herself away, her hands still shaking. "I don't understand you. He—You said he killed me…" She paused to recall all he'd said. "You said he brought me here…after. How can you calmly defend him? How can you let him near your home?"

"There is nothing 'calm' about it," Giles retorted. "However much I might have wanted to tear him apart, he is not Angelus…even though he might look like him…And one cannot make a man suffer the sins of another for the sake of his face. He lost his only chance—and Buffy's—to be free today, I suspect because he stayed with me, instead. I have to talk to him, Jenny…I have to find out what happened…how you came back to me."

"He's still here?"

Giles nodded silently then reached out and took her in his arms again, wrapped them around her. "He can't hurt you any more…and I'd kill him before he could, anyway. Nothing on this earth is ever going to take you away from me again, my love."

Jenny closed her eyes. "Nothing," she agreed, squeezed him hard, then stepped away. "But I'm still not going downstairs."

Giles looked past her to their mussed bed, his sombre face creasing into a half smile. Her eyes followed his gaze then came back to his, searching them curiously.

"Then I'll just have to come back upstairs when he's gone, so we can…discuss it," he told her wickedly, and was pleased to see the reluctantly amused smile he finally managed to draw from her.

"Try not to be too long," she drawled as he left, and made him laugh softly, despite the fragility in her voice.

Angel turned as Giles came downstairs again, his expression once again sombre.

"Is she—?"

"As well as could be expected, considering…"

Angel closed his eyes. "She remembers?"

"Up to a point," Giles said quietly. "Tell me what happened in the cave."

He sat down on the couch and told the whole story meticulously, ignoring Giles' periodic unease, to the moment Buffy demanded the stone. After that his account became stilted and sketchy.

"…And your hand grew very hot?"

"Very. I was angry, crazed with frustration. It seemed to pick that up and amplify it. Then Buffy took it and smashed it. People were dying…she had to."

The Watcher nodded. "Yes, I know," he said. "But I'm more interested in what happened before it was destroyed. What did you say—or think—directly before the gem was destroyed?"

Angel moved uneasily. "Mostly I was enraged, because I'd let her down again. Even if I hadn't let her destroy it, if I'd just taken it and gone, I couldn't have made it to town, to find the Herrata. It was daylight."

"And that's all? You thought of nothing else?"

Angel didn't answer. After a beat he looked away and sighed. Giles wasn't going to let it go. "The last thing I remember thinking before I gave it to Buffy was about..." He looked up at the stairs. "…About her. That I would have traded my life for it to have never happened…You'd been calling for her on and off for hours…"

Giles looked away, moved, and annoyed that he was. "And the stone?"

"It burned my hand." Angel opened his palm and showed Giles the circular scar still visible there, staring at it himself, as though trying to make a decision. Eventually his face reflected his resignation.

"At first I thought it was only the sword energising it…Buffy was waiting for me to give it to her. It burned like fire, then it went through me…like a wave of warm water… right through my body…and I knew—"

Giles got up and turned a restless circle. "Knew what?"

"That it was my chance…my only chance," Angel's gaze slid to the floor. "It spoke to me. Asked me what I wanted…Giles, I really don't want to have this conversation right now. I just wanted—"

But Giles had stopped moving and was staring at the younger man. "Then you had to make a choice...?"

But Angel didn't answer. The dark head remained bowed.

"Look at me, damn it!"

Angel looked up slowly, reluctantly, his dark eyes meeting the intent green ones almost fearfully, but he said nothing.

Giles searched the face that had haunted his nightmares for so long, until his eyes widened and he took a half step back.

"No…" he whispered hoarsely.

Angel stood up. "I have to go," he muttered, and turned for the door, but was stopped by a hand on his arm.

"Wait—"

He didn't turn.

Giles let go. "For God's sake why, man? Buffy—"

"Will be fine. Eventually. Let it go, Giles."

"But you could have been free. It isn't fair…not to Buffy; not to you—"

"No it's not," said an unexpected voice from the stairs.

Both men looked up.

Jenny descended the last few steps and stopped at the bottom, pale and trembling still.

"Things in this life rarely are. Look at the bright side. You're not exactly in any danger of any kind of contentment right now."

Giles took a step forward. "Jenny!"

She shrugged. "The bastard killed me. I was trying to give him back his soul and he killed me. I've lost a year of my life…we've lost a year," she told him, her dark eyes glittering with unshed tears.

Angel turned, and faced her. "I'm not asking for your forgiveness." His eyes flicked to Giles. "I've never asked for his. Giles, I have to go. Buffy's going to have to know… before she sees…" his glance flicked briefly to the computer teacher again.

Giles exhaled. "Yes, I know," he said quietly, "but I should be the one to tell her."

"No." There was no compromise in Angel's tone.

The librarian's head snapped up. "Why?"

"Because…" He looked up slowly at the frightened woman on the stairs. "Because I finally, in my screwed up existence, did something wholly and completely right. But there's a price…and I have to take responsibility for that. Your place is here. Buffy will handle it. She'll be okay. I'll make certain of it. I promise."

Giles stared at the door as it closed, then went and sat quietly on the sofa, his head in his hands.

Jenny came silently to his side, laid a hand on his hair, and closed her eyes when he turned, circled her waist with his arms and rested his head silently against her for several moments. Then he was standing and drawing her into his arms, kissing her hard.

When he lifted his head her cheeks were flushed, her eyes glowing and her lips parted as though waiting for him to do it again. Then she blinked and shook her head.

"I love you too," she said wryly. "What's wrong, Rupert?"

He let her go. "Everything. How…how much did you hear?"

She tilted her head to one side, still thinking about that last kiss. "Enough. Who'd have thought he had it in him…?"

"Don't…" Giles whispered.

Jenny's eyes grew deadly serious. "I don't want it to be him. I don't want to owe this to him…" She traced his jaw with loving fingers. "I don't want you to regret—"

He took the fingers in his hand, pulled her close again. "Never, never think that. Whatever happens, know that I can never regret us…Never."

His kiss this time was different: long and searching, his lips almost gentle in their caressing, their need of hers. And when, at length, he lifted his head she could see the truth burning in his eyes.

"Wasn't there something you wanted to say to me upstairs?" she reminded him playfully, watched him grin tenderly, then squealed when he swept her off her feet and carried her back up the stairs.


*******


Buffy looked up from her homework at the muffled sounds of movement outside her window, which was closed. She put down her pencil, opened her drawer and took Mister Pointy from its place of honour next to the old diary she'd never got around to finishing, the one she'd once thought Angel had read, in her room.

She was almost at the window itself when Angel loomed into view frightening three bells out of her. She threw the window up angrily causing it to rattle violently and leaned out.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing sneaking around like that when the place has a perfectly good door?"

Angel looked at her through hooded eyes. "Can I come in, or should I go away until you're in a better mood?"

"In," Buffy decided, and watched him climb through.

"I came over the roof to stay out of your mother's way. I don't think she likes me."

"No? You worked that out all by yourself?" she drawled, her eyes dancing. "But since you're here anyway, you can tell me what the hell is going on with you and Giles. All this cryptic crap is driving me nuts. If there are going to be secrets, the operative word should be 'secret'. Weird non-hints only make for a cranky Slayer," she muttered, fingering Mister Pointy a little too menacingly.

Angel stepped back. "Are you going to use that thing or put it away?"

Buffy looked down at her hand. "Oh." She dropped it back in the drawer and closed it.
"Well, give."

"Actually, that's what I came to talk to you about. Sit down."

"Please."

Angel made an exasperated face. "Sit down PLEASE."

Buffy sat on the bed and looked up expectantly.

He ran a hand through his hair mussing its spikiness even more. "I'm not sure how to begin…but you do understand the power of the Eye, right?"

"Right," she confirmed. "Super powerful. Powerful enough to win the mortal world back for the ookies if they got hold of it."

"The 'ookies'?"

Buffy shrugged. "The powers of darkness," she aped in her best Bela Lugosi voice.

Angel sighed. "Right. It gives the holder the power of the Herrata. They were both blessed and cursed with the most powerful magic ever. Cursed, because they could only exist for ten days every few hundred years and blessed because there was nothing they couldn't make happen, no request they couldn't grant…"

"Oh, like Aladdin's lamp for demons—" Buffy began facetiously, then stopped dead, all colour draining from her face. "And you wanted to get to it first why?"

But Angel could see that she'd worked it out long before she finished the question. He nodded. "I thought…" He took a deep breath, finding it difficult to contain the surge of disappointment and pain that re-living it had prompted. "I wanted us to have a real life…" He lifted his dark eyes to Buffy again, saw the hurt in hers.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why did you let me destroy it?"

"I tried…" He shook his head. "At first I didn't know how it worked. I thought I'd lost any chance because I couldn't get to the beast in broad daylight. And then when I was giving it to you, it spoke to me. It asked me what I wanted." He held out his burnt palm. "You don't wear it to use it, you hold it."

"So you told it you wanted to be with me…?" she prompted.

Angel looked away. "I…" he swallowed and shook his head.

"Then what did you ask it?" she asked, her voice trembling. "What was more important than a real future…a life for us?"

He drew a deep breath and looked up, met her distressed, demanding gaze with his steadfast brown one, held it.

"You tell me," he said softly.

Buffy frowned. "More of Giles' cryptic…." She went very still, her eyes widening and her colour draining away. She stood up and faced him. "Giles…? Then you…?"

He nodded.

"Is he…did you see him?"

Angel nodded again. "He—they're fine." He couldn't meet her gaze any longer, and dropped his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

She turned away for several moments, then she faced him again, her eyes very large and very bright. "You think I could be angry about what you did? God, of course it hurts knowing what we could have had, but what you did…" She closed her eyes for a moment, a drop of moisture escaping and sliding down a pale cheek. "He's been hurt so much…and now you've given him back the one thing…" She looked up at him again then, her face crumbling, joy and heartache colliding and tumbling around in the maelstrom of her thoughts.

He came to her then, drew her into his arms, held her while she wept. In his heart he knew that his choice had hurt her…more than she would ever admit, even to herself. He tightened the circle of his arms, as though they might protect her from the pain and when she eventually quieted, lowered his head so that his lips were near her ear.

"I will always love you," he whispered, "wherever you are, whatever happens to us, know that I will love you, forever." He kissed the top of her ear. "Literally…" he added, trying to make her laugh, because he didn't know what else to do. "Ow!"

"And I'll always love you," she retorted, sniffing, turned his arm behind his back and pushed him onto his face on the floor. "Even when you're annoying."

Angel half turned his face so that he could see hers, and was pleased to see the tenderness and amusement in it, despite the moisture and the blotchiness. Then he was cocking an ear.

"Ah, Buffy…"

"What?" she demanded and tightened her grip.

"Your mother's…"

There were two raps and the door flew open.

"…Coming."

*******


"…I spent the greater part of my life as Janna of the Kalderash people, Rupert. There's nothing to stop me from becoming Janna again. Jenny Calendar didn't exist until I came here, anyway. She can stay dead."

Giles sighed heavily and looked down at the fingers playing with the hair on his chest. "She'll never be dead to me, but if it's the only way… "

Jenny pushed herself up on one elbow and looked at him. "It is. I can't go back to teaching here, or use any of my—her connections. It would be just too complicated, whereas the world is full of look-a-likes. Janna can look like whomever she wants. I'll contact my people as soon as possible. They'll be able to help with the details…and they won't ask questions."

Giles turned on his side and ran his fingers up her thigh, beneath the covers. "Because they will assume you didn't die?"

She shook her head. "Because they don't ask questions," she replied, trying not to groan, and slid her own hand beneath the quilt.

A moment later he groaned and quivered, then pulled her into his arms and kissed her passionately.

Jenny raised a tousled head a few minutes later and grinned lop-sidedly. "This isn't going to get you breakfast in bed…" she pointed out, her hands once again conspicuously absent from view.

He kissed her again and rolled her on top of him. "This is breakfast in bed," he said with satisfaction and proceeded to demonstrate.


*******


"You wanna run that by me again?" Xander sat down hard on Willow's bed.

Oz stood up.

Willow blinked, then stared, her mouth hanging open.

"You heard me," Buffy said shortly. "Angel brought Jenny Calendar back. It had to do with the power of the Herrata and the Eye, which, turns out, was a kind of super wish thingy for demons. He did it for Giles."

"This…this doesn't happen…" Willow said disconnectedly. "It's not real."

"Will, you're a senior at Hellmouth High, remember?"

"She's alive, right? We're not talkin' zombies, here, right?" Xander was very pale and his hands not quite steady.

"No zombies. Angel says she's alive, and she's with Giles."

Willow finally smiled, though her eyes were glistening. "Good for Giles," she said softly.

Buffy looked at her sharply, then relaxed and nodded. "He deserves some happiness… hell, he deserves a ship-load of it…And now he's finally got a chance."

"This is so weird," Oz said, almost to himself, "but so cool."

Xander stood up suddenly. "I've gotta go…homework…forgot," he muttered and darted out of the room.

Buffy blinked. "Well, that went well, not."

Willow turned from watching him go. "He'll be okay, Buffy. Give him time. Xander doesn't do, well, y'know… especially not in front of other people, when he can possibly avoid it. It's like it's kinda frowned on in his family. The only time they get emotional is when they fight…which is probably why they fight…"

"Then…other than Xander you guys aren't too wigged by this whole thing?"

"Hellmouth Central, remember?" Oz said quietly. "Besides this is a 'good'. We don't get that many 'goods'."

"Good," Buffy said. "Because I'm wigged enough for all of us, Xander included."


*******


School never seemed more boring or pointless. The first free period Buffy had she went straight to the library to do some training. Willow had an advanced math class and Oz and Xander were foraging for food, Xander having missed breakfast entirely after waking up late for the second morning running.

Giles wasn't in sight when she burst through the double doors but she could hear the murmur of someone singing somewhere.

"Whoever that is, walk don't run!" His voice bellowed from the depths of the stacks.

Buffy smiled to herself and went to the weapons locker to choose an exercise for the day.

She returned with quarter-staffs, which they hadn't practised with in an age, because she was too good at it. Well, she'd take it easy on him today, bruises and all, but she needed to burn energy and quarter staffs seemed like a not-too-boring way to do it.

"Giles! Are you ever coming out of there?"

A few seconds later he emerged, a book in each hand, glasses hanging off his left thumb. "I should have known it was you," he said, then smiled. "Training? I thought you'd forgotten the meaning of the word."

But Buffy was too busy absorbing the smile to laugh at his joke. It wasn't just one of Giles' usual self-conscious half-smiles, it was a relaxed, beaming grin. It lit up his whole battered face, made his soft green eyes glow.

"Buffy?"

"Uh? Oh…yeah, training. I don't know why but these last couple of days…classes have been a total drag. Even the ones I like…"

He nodded, put down the books and his glasses. "Everything will seem like an anticlimax after our recent…er…adventure. I'll just find my pads—"

Buffy raised a hand. "Don't bother. I'm not going to hit you this time, I promise. I just want to practise. It's more fun sparring with you when you're vertical."

"Fair enough." He grinned again and removed his jacket and tie. The shirt was new, and so was the tie. And the pants, Buffy realised soon after. Giles' wardrobe was so limited that any change stood out. He looked good. Blue silk shirt, two-tone blue and grey tie, dark, expensively cut pants and belt. She was surprised how much younger it made him look, than the perennial tweed.

They sparred intensely for about thirty minutes. Buffy was surprised at how well he moved compared to the last time they fought with quarter-staffs. They were both enjoying themselves immensely when Buffy accidentally made contact with his ribs. She had incorrectly guessed his next move and now Giles' was paying for it, doubled up and breathing hard.

She was at his side in seconds, her hand on his arm. "Giles, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Did I break anything?"

He shook his head, still trying to get his breath. "Be…all right…in…minute."

She helped him to his feet, then looked up. He was laughing. Laughing and grimacing in turn, because it hurt. But laughing nevertheless.

"What?" she asked, grinning in spite of herself. It was a full-bodied laugh and it was infectious.

"I'm not entirely sure," he said, sobering slightly, but still smiling. "Something to do with remembering the last time we did this and how ridiculous I must have looked."

Buffy smiled back. "You're buzzing today. You didn't happen to go a few rounds with a 'happy' demon did you?" He coloured adorably, Buffy thought.

He took her staff and put it together with his, and started toward the weapons locker.
"Happy, yes. Demon, no," he said easily. "When is your next class?"

Buffy's eyes, which had been giving him a 'wise guy' look, widened. "Time?" she demanded.

"Eleven forty."

"Ten minutes ago," she wailed, raced through the library and crashed through the swinging doors.

Giles watched, bemused, closed his eyes as his doors swung wildly, then grinned and shook his head, and went back to work.


* * *


Part Three