Wish Upon a Star

By: jlhtbs

Rating: R

Disclaimer: Not mine but Joss'

___

 

Buffy felt safe in his arms and secure, like nothing could ever hurt her. Angelís arms felt warm, even though Buffy knew there was no warmth in them. Sitting there on her couch, she could almost forget that she was the slayer and that he was a vampire. Although they were supposed to be dire enemies, there was no one she loved more in the world than Angel, with the exception of her mother, maybe. Tonight with her mother out of town and sitting next to Angel, she felt like a normal teenager on a date with her boyfriend. Finally no one was trying to destroy the world or reeking havoc in Sunnydale. Buffy was actually getting a vacation from slaying and with school out for the week and her mother gone, she could not think of a better time for the vacation.

The peace and quiet was unheard of in Sunnydale. Buffy knew when to take advantage of it every time a moment appeared. She had managed to convince Giles to give her the night off and declined an evening with friends at the Bronze. Needing serious quality time with Angel was all that matter to her now.

She curled up on the couch closer to Angel as the romantic comedy on the television came to a climax. Everything was perfect. Angel could sense how relaxed Buffy was. So far, it had been a perfect night, and it was only just beginning. He moved closer to Buffy, bringing his face to hers, gently kissing her. Soon, the movie had been forgotten, as Buffy and Angel became enthralled in each other and being alone together.

They knew their involvement was wrong and extremely unnatural. Even after Angel reeked havoc on Sunnydale and her friends, a part of her still loved him. His appearance from the depths of hell confused her even more. They both knew their relationship could never go any further then their actions on the couch. Neither could risk Angel loosing his soul again. They had learned to come to terms with it. As much as they tried, they could not stay a part though. Eventually, they stopped trying to stay apart and began to feel their love again, within limits.

A sudden noise startled Buffy and caused her to break away from Angelís grasp. It took her a second to realize that someone was knocking at the door. "Hold on a second," Buffy stood up to answer the door. Willow knew she was spending time with Angel tonight. Besides which, everyone was having fun at the Bronze. She couldnít imagine who it could be. Carefully, she checked to see who was outside before opening it. She found Giles standing on her porch. "Giles, what are you doing here?"

Giles walked in, unaware of Angelís presence. He was preoccupied by something else. "I have to talk to you. Itís a matter of great urgency. It couldnít wait until tomorrow morning. Besides with your mother away, I knew we could speak freely." Walking passed Buffy and into the living room, he finally noticed Angel sitting on the couch. The television was on, but Giles immediately guess that he had not interrupted the movie, but something else. "Oh, am I interrupting? Iím sorry, but this is extremely urgent."

Buffy closed the door and walked back into the living room. "Giles, whatís got you so wigged? No oneís trying to take over the world or open a door to hell, or any other bad type things. Take a hint and a vacation. "

"Thatís what has me so worried. The lack of activity in the last few days would lead to the speculation that something great is about to rise up and I donít know what it is." Giles looked genuinely sincere and concerned. He was positive that something was about to erupt in Sunnydale, he just did not know what it was or who was involved. Still the sudden silence seemed unusual and unnerving. "I donít like it one bit."

Buffy stared in disbelief. "Giles, take a chill pill and relax. Nothing terrible is on the verge of happening. I am the slayer right? I usually can sense these things and right now all I can sense is that it has been too long since youíve had some serious qt time and you donít know what to do with it. Can I suggest relaxing, going out, maybe getting a life and letting me have one too." It was harsh, but Buffy was not going to go looking for trouble on her vacation, especially on perfect nights like this one. She meant to enjoy Angelís presence and her momís absence.

Giles looked at her in disbelief and then with compassion. He understood the kind of life she had to lead because she was the chosen one. The things she had to give up and do without, were lists that grew longer each day. He did not want to ruin what little time she did have where she could lead a semi-normal life, but something had been nagging him for the last few days. Tonight the feeling had grown stronger than ever. As he stood in the library going over the collection of watcher journals, waves of dread and desperation flooded his mind. He could not explain it, but something horrible was coming and he wanted Buffy to be prepared. After one more look into her pleading eyes, he reconsidered. "I suppose youíre right. There isnít any evidence to indicate otherwise. I guess we can wait until tomorrow. Iíll continue my research tonight and tomorrow we will begin sharpening your skills." Without knowing what was going to happen, there was nothing he could do tonight, except more research. Maybe he could try to figure out what was bothering him.

Angel knew Giles was backing down for Buffyís sake. "What do you think is going to happen?" He sat on the couch, curious and concerned about Gilesí fear.

"I really canít say. Itís just a feeling, a horrible feeling. Like I said, I have no proof that something is going to happen. However, we need to be prepared if weíre going to succeed." Although complying with Buffyís request, the anxiety continued to build. What ever was going to happen would challenge them all to the fullest extent. He could only hope that they were prepared and would survive.

Angel walked over and stood next to Buffy. "Itís still early. You know, we could go check things out around town and finish the movie when we get back. It shouldnít take too long." Buffy looked at him shocked by his willingness to leave what she thought was a perfect time together to go looking for trouble.

"Hey, donít I get a say in this. No slaying tonight. Iím on vacation, remember." She sent a meaningful look toward Angel. Giles just stood there and waited for the situation to resolve between them.

"Weíll take a nice moonlight walk around town and check things out. Then we can have the rest of the night to ourselves." Talking moonlight walks through the cemetery would be anything but romantic for any typical teenager. For Buffy, it was a reasonable compromise. She would still be with Angel, and Giles would have piece of mind.

"Alright, just to prove that nothing is going on and no one is taking over the world tonight, Iíll go. But then, the rest of the night is mine. Capieshe! The vampires can wait one night while I have a day off."

Giles felt relieved while driving home in his old, beat up car, but still something plagued him. Something horrible was coming to Sunnydale and he was not sure if Buffy could fight it. He could only hope he learned what it was soon enough to prepare her.

The cemetery was quiet. Buffy thought too quiet, but shook the feeling off. "I canít believe Giles has me so jumpy over nothing. I mean there is no one around. Letís get out of here and back to the movie." Normally hunting did not bother her, actually she enjoyed it most of the time. Tonight though, she rather had been lounging around the house with Angel instead. She looked around non-chalantly stake in one hand and Angel holding her other. He made no movement to leave and almost appeared to have missed her suggestion. "You really know how to romance a girl."

Still there was no answer. She watched his face. His jaw was taunt and tight, his teeth clenched together. His dark, black eyes stared out into what Buffy thought was oblivion. "Earth to Angel." His gaze grew stronger and his body stiffened. He stood ready to attack or be attacked. "Angel, what is it?" She moved her hand up to his jaw and slowly turned his face toward hers. The face she knew and loved was not there. Instead it morphed into the blood-craving vampire that scared Buffy and served as a constant reminder that they would never be happy. She was taken back by his change. "What is it? Is someone here?" She stepped back and away from him, dropping his hand only to find it tightly wrapped around her wrist. As she tried to pull away, he came closer. Something wasnít right. Angel would never hurt her, right? She asked herself, hoping she knew the answer. Her life depended on it. Still he came closer yet to her. She tried to struggle and break free to no prevail. His grip was too strong and she was too unprepared. It seemed the more she fought, the tighter his grip became. As he moved closer, she tried to step back again, but she felt the bark of a tree behind her. His breath fell on her face and there was no life in his eyes. Only hate and thirst remained. In one swift move, he moved her head to the side and began to drink her life away.

She tried to scream, to yell, but her voice was gone. Her body began to go limp and she made one last attempt for her life. She opened her eyes again. His face was in front of hers. In one last desperate attempt, she pushed him away with every ounce of her being and stumbled. The ground felt soft under her hands. She couldnít see very well; everything was so dark. Filled with disorientation, she felt his hand on her arm. She knew it was over. The love of her life would take her life. Ironic.

"Buffy, whatís wrong?" He watched as Buffy recoiled with fear and tried to run from him. Getting up to fast, she tripped over the table and landed on the carpet. "Hey, what is it?" Seeing the fear in her eyes, he backed away slightly uncertain of what to do. "It was just a nightmare, calm down."

Buffyís sight started to come back. She realized she was laying on the floor in her living room. Angel stood over her, his face filled with concern and bewilderment. She shook her head and tried to understand what had happened. Her hands instinctively went to her neck. First she check for marks, then for a pulse. Finding the second and not the first, she calmed down a little. Still she hesitated to take Angelís hand and sit next to him on the couch.

It had all been a nightmare, a horrible nightmare. Her mind began to clear. She realized she must have fallen asleep while watching a movie with Angel. It was just a nightmare and one she would not soon forget. She sat back and tried to relax, pulling her knees to her chest to feel secure.

Angel watched her as she recoiled at his touch. His pale face and black eyes gazed at her, wondering what went on in her head. Sometimes he could understand. Others, he barely knew her. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Iím fine." Her voice was still shaky and she tried to conceal it. She pretended to yawn and lift her hands over her head to stretch. She glanced at the clock and prayed silently to herself. "Itís getting kind of late and Iím really tired. I think we better call it a night." She stood up and went to the front door to let Angel out.

Angel hesitated slightly. He wanted to say something. He wanted to calm her fears. To reassure her that he wouldnít let anything happen to her. But he knew it wasnít true. She was the slayer, and he was a vampire. He couldnít always be there and the evil would always find Buffy. No matter what, the evil found her. He followed her to the door and leaned in to kiss her good-bye. She recoiled again, hiding behind the door. "Iíll see you tomorrow night? I love you." He walked out the door, looking back to catch a glimpse of her before the door was locked, keeping him out and her inside. Silently he wished there werenít so many doors in the world.

He watched from the edge of the lawn. Finding her window, he stayed there until the lights finally went out. He didnít know if there was a god, but if there was, he only hoped that god would look after her. Especially if he couldnít do it himself. It was a long walk back to his place that night. Long and quiet, too quiet.

The sun shone brightly through the window as Buffy rolled over and turned off her alarm. Another fine day of school, she just couldnít wait. She rolled over and hid under the covers, hoping the world would go away, just for one day. It wasnít much. All she wanted was one day, one day to be normal and have a normal life and do normal teenage girl things. She rolled over again and laid on her back, staring at the white ceiling. Even her dreams were filled with monsters and demons. She picked up her teddy bear and smoothed over the rough and missing patches of fur. It was one constant in her life. "This is sad, very sad." She put Mr. Bear back and threw the covers off. "Alright Buffy, enough moping. Time to get ready for school." The thought was not the best incentive to get out of bed. The picture on her nightstand gave her one. Willow and Xander were sitting with her. It was taken last summer after she came back from L.A. She had needed a vacation after killing the Master. "I could use another one," she thought to herself. Her friends were a constant source of strength and good times. It was one of the only reasons she had managed to survive being the slayer. "Hey, another happy thought. Soon youíll be flying." Walking around the room, she looked in her mirror. "You have to stop talking to yourself, Summers. Itís a bad habit."

She looked back at the picture though. They all looked so carefree and normal. No one would ever suspect they spent their time killing vampires and chasing demons with stakes. Softly she whispered, "I wish it could be like that." She took one look at the clock and realized she better get moving if she was going to make it to class on time.

The bell had rung five minutes ago, Buffy thought as she walked in the door. Late again. She scanned the halls quickly for the principal, not wanting to deal with his remarks so early in the day. Figuring she was already late, she thought she might go straight to the library and see Giles. He would give her a pass to class.

The library was quiet, as always. Dust collected on most of the books. Rarely did anyone come in to do research. The only books that were even opened were usually Buffyís favorite subjects, demons and vampires. What pleasant thoughts first thing in the morning! "Giles," Buffy called out for her watcher. "Anyone here?"

"Yes, Iím here. What can I do for you Buffy?" Giles appeared out of his office. As usual, his clothes were as outdated as his car. He was one of Buffyís best allies. She knew she could count on him for everything. After all, they had been through so much together. Buffy had grown comfortable with Giles. He was one constant in her world. He would always be pushing to her do better, defending her back, and criticizing her behavior. She couldnít imagine life without him.

"Really Giles, why so formal?" Before he had a chance to answer she jumped in again. "I wanted to see whatís up. Have you seen Willow this morning?" She dropped her books on the counter and stared back at him.

"I imagine sheís in class. Where you should be I may add. As for what is occurring, Iím doing some research. If there is nothing else I can do for you, than you better be on your way." Giles pushed his glasses back onto his face and returned to his office. Stacks of books held his attention.

"Wow. Does someone need coffee!" Buffy shrugged off Giles rude and unusual behavior. Grabbing her books, she decided she better give class a try after all. With her mom away, she needed to be on her best behavior. That meant no notes from teachers or phone calls when she got home. Class might be nice for a change. She quickly shuddered at the thought. "I must be coming down with something. Huh. Class fun, what a novelty."

"Okay class, I have your tests back from Friday. You all did fairly well, most of you at least." Buffy froze in the doorway as she heard the word test. She sat down and waited at her desk for the infamous F to appear. Well, she could hope for a D, but she knew better. Instead of studying, she had been out patrolling and she meant to come home early, but she met up with Angel. She remembered the feels of his hands on her body. She shuddered as her nightmare came into her thoughts. Mrs. Waters stood in front of her, holding a test paper.

"Great job, as always Buffy." Then she turned and walked away.

First she thought it was a sarcastic remark and she failed miserably, like usual. It was possible that Mrs. Waters finally found a sense of humor. With a sigh, turned the paper over and looked for the big, red F. There was none. Her eyes opened wide in shock. She looked trying to read the letter. An A, that was impossible. She checked the name on the paper to make sure it was hers. Buffy Summers, it read. It was her paper, but how did she get an A. Every answer was right. It was in her handwriting. She remembered taking the test. No matter how bad she thought she might do, she never cheated. The slayer sat in her seat in utter disbelief. The rest of the class went by as Buffy stared at her first A test.

The bell rang ending the class. Slowly she got up to leave, still in shock, when she ran into Willow in the hallway. "Hey Buffy, so how did you do? I couldnít wait to see if all our studying paid off for you." Willow stood there, a smile on her face, hoping her friend did well. All those hours of studying had to pay off. They spent hours after school and all night Thursday studying and preparing for the test. Willow knew Buffy was ready for it. Buffy just stood there, shocked. Willow couldnít wait any longer; she grabbed the paper out of Buffyís hands.

"An A, that great. I donít know what you were so worried about. I told you that you would ace this test with all the studying we did Thursday. Youíll be helping me with my homework soon if all these Aís keep on coming." Willow was so proud of how Buffy was able to turn her grades around that year. "This deserves a celebration. I mean ten straight Aís deserves double mocha fudge chocolate ice cream. Right?" Willow was all set for a girls' night out. As she watched Buffyís face, she figured it would have to be another time. "Oh, I guess you and Scott have plans. Well, tomorrow than definitely."

"What are you talking about? I went out with Angel Thursday night. What straight Aís and who is Scott?" Buffy was more puzzled than ever.

"Whose Angel?" Willow had never heard the name and didnít know whom Buffy was talking about.

"What do you mean," before she had a chance to finish, Buffy felt someoneís arms around her shoulders. She turned to see who it was.

Scott reached around and kissed Buffy. It felt like ages since he had been with her. Actually it was last night, but who wanted details. "Hey beautiful." He glanced down at the paper she held in her hands. "Wow, another A. You are on a role. At least I wonít be lying now when I tell my parents that youíre tutoring me. With grades like this, I could use you."

Buffy shook her head slightly and tried to remember ever seeing the guy who had kissed her before. Cute, very cute. She stood motionless, not knowing how to react for once. She didnít know him. Yet, he seemed to know her fairly well. Willow seemed to know him too. In fact, Willow didnít find it strange that he was kissing her at all. Buffy knew she wasnít a genius, but this didnít add up. According to these tests, she was pretty smart though. "Who," she didnít get a chance to finish again.

"Listen Iíve go to run. If Iím not at practice early, the coach is going to kill me. A dead boyfriend wouldnít be much fun, so I better get going. I see you after school." With one last passionate kiss, the whirlwind that called himself her boyfriend was gone. He disappeared down the hallway and became enveloped by the racing packs of students scurrying to class.

Buffy didnít have time to think before Xander showed up. "Hey, my two favorite girls. Make any killings lately Buffy?"

Finally, she thought, someone was making sense.

"Yeah she did, check it out another A. Oh, Iím sorry Buffy. Did you want to tell him? Iím just so happy for you." Willow showed Xander the paper, but winced in embarrassment, having talked before Buffy had a turn.

Xander handed her back the paper as something else caught his eye. "Well, if it isnít the ice queen herself. Come down to say hello to your humble servants, Queen Cordy." He lowered in a half bow.

The style was unmistakable and so was the company. Cordelia walked down the hall, dressed in the latest fashion off the runway and surrounded by whom she deemed was popular. Her hair and make-up were given attention until perfection, and it showed. "Thatís about the only thing you could be. As if!" She turned back to her friends and walked away. Leaving Xander speechless and amazed. One of these days, he was going to think of a remark that Cordelia could not have a comeback for. One of these days. Her heels clicked on the floor as she walked away, hardly missing a beat in the conversation with this weekís friends.

"You should ignore her. Too many boys, too little time. I wish I knew what that felt like." Willow tried to comfort her friend and hint at her own feelings, but as usual, it fell on deaf ears.

"Donít worry Xander, you and Cordy were made for each other. I just donít understand why she treats you like that in public. You think she would have gotten over it by now." Buffy knew Cordelia had a hard time admitting her feelings for Xander. But that had been long over with.

"Ice queen and me? What alternate universe are you coming from Buffy?" With that, Xander walked away and headed to his next class.

"What gave you that idea? Besides, I thought you were going to try to get Xander and me together. Why are you rooting for Cordelia? Sheís never even been nice to you." Willow looked at Buffy with hurt eyes filled with confusion.

"What did I just miss here?" Buffy walked to her locker and opened it. At first she thought she had opened someone elseís locker. She double-checked the number. It was hers. The jacket hanging inside was hers too. But, something was wrong. Instead of a bag of stakes and crosses, there were books inside. There was even a picture of her with the guy who claimed to be her boyfriend. "All right, this is really weirding me out?" She grabbed Willow and looked her straight in the eyes. "Now tell me the truth, whatís going on here? Who was that guy? When did we study together? Why donít you know Angel? Since when are Cordy and Xander no longer seeing each other?"

Now Willow was concerned. Buffy was talking gibberish. Cordy and Xander. Not studying. This was getting to weird. "Are you feeling okay? Did you hit your head or something?"

"Yeah, Iím fine. I think. I just donít understand whatís going on. When did I become an A student?" Confusion race through her mind. Something was wrong, very wrong. "Giles, we have to go see Giles. Heíll know whatís going on."

Willow grabbed Buffyís arm and objected. "You know Mr. Giles doesnít want us disturbing him during school hours. Especially when heís working. Heíll be really mad. Besides, what makes you think heíll know whatís going on? And exactly what are you talking about?"

"Did you just say Mr. Giles?" She saw Willowís head nod in response. Now she knew something was really wrong. They never called Giles that. "Iíll explain later. We better find Xander too. Something big must be going on." Buffy pulled a confused Willow along as they went to hunt down Xander and Giles.

"Giles," she called as she burst through the library doors with Willow and Xander in tow. The conservative librarian stepped out from his office, a book still in his hand. "Something really weird is going on. Tell him." She looked to Willow, waiting for her to explain. Willow said nothing.

"I donít know what sheís talking about Mr. Giles."

"Willow, stop calling him that. This is Giles, my watcher, and our friend. Okay amigo is not the right word, but come on mister." She turned back to Giles, knowing he would have the answer to her confusion. "You see, so what demon monster slash magician is causing all this confusion?" Buffy stood next to the counter, waiting for her answer.

Gilesí eyes widened. Buffy was right; there was something wrong. Granted he had not spent much time with Buffy lately, but she did not sound coherent. "Really Buffy, are you feeling all right?"

She stared back in shock. "Why is everyone asking me that? Iím fine. So what monster is causing this? I mean look. I got an A on a test, Giles. Isnít that proof enough!" Buffy didnít understand why no one else found today strange.

"Itís not the first time youíve gotten an A. I heard from your teachers that you have been applying yourself. Actually, youíre the pride of many. You are a wonderful source of encouragement to many teachers here. You are allowing them to teach and make a difference in your life. But I donít understand why you are so concerned over receiving this A?" Giles curiosity and concern began to heighten.

"Buffy, you better sit down. You must have a fever or something." Xander was coddling her now. "Do you feel warm?" He reached to put his hand against her head.

Buffy took a step back, confused and bewildered. "What is going on here? Iím the slayer, not a good student. And Giles, youíve never been so rude to me as this morning. Youíre my watcher, and you acted like you didnít know me this morning. Willow, I donít know why you think that I spent Thursday with you, when I was with Angel patrolling for vamps. And Xander, why arenít you and Cordy all lovey-dovey, like usual?"

Giles took a step closer. "Buffy, I think Xanderís right. You should sit down. I think we should discuss this." He guided her over to the table. His eyes were full of concern and his mind haunted by memories. "I donít know why you would think such things, Buffy."

"Me and Cordy, I donít think so!"

"Whose Angel?" Willow was still confused.

"Hold up a minute." Giles tried to calm the wave of confusion that was quickly engulfing the room. "Buffy, letís go over this step by step. Now, youíre right, I was your watcher, but."

"What do you mean was? You are my watcher and Iím the slayer! Thatís the way it works."

"Buffy, you havenít been slaying since you defeated the Master. There has been no reason for me to be your watcher."

Buffy shook her head in disbelief. "What do you mean? I just killed two vamps the other night. Remember, you were with me."

"Buffy, I have no idea what you are talking about. We have not spent time with each other since you were able to defeat the master. You wanted your space. I respected that and Iíve valued the opportunity to enhance my research. There has been no slaying in the last five months."

"Buffy, whatís this?" Xander reached over and gently placed his hand on Buffyís head.

"Ow, that hurts. What are you doing?"

Giles came over and took a look. "Thatís a nasty bruise on your head. Did you fall?"

"I, uh, I donít remember. I donít know where I got it from."

Willowís eyes widened. "Thatís is. Thatís why youíre so confused. You must have hit your head. She has amnesia, right Giles?"

Giles thought for a moment. "Actually, a strong blow to the head is often accompanied by memory loss or other traumas." He repeated his comments after seeing Buffyís eyes. "Itís quite possible that when you hit your head, certain parts of your memory became blocked. That would explain why you believe that vampires are still in Sunnydale."

Buffy shook her head in disbelief. This was ludicrous. "What are you trying to tell me? That Sunnydale isnít built over the hell mouth, that vampires no longer exist, and that there is no need for me to be a slayer anymore?"

"Actually, that is a very precise summary." Giles would not have phrased it that way, but that essentially the point.

Buffy backed away from her only friends. Something wasnít right. Deep within her soul, every inch of her being told her that this wasnít real. "Youíre all wrong and Iím going to prove it." She turned on her heel and headed out the door, knowing there was only one person she could count on now.

The walk to Angelís was long and lonely. Gilesí words rang repeatedly in her head. "No longer the slayer." She had always imagined having a normal life. A life like she used to before she became the chosen one. She reached the door to his room and pounded hard realizing she was waking him up from his sleep. After a few seconds, she pounded on the door again. Finally, she placed her hand on the door and forced it open slowly. She stepped in slowly and looked around for Angel. Unable to find him, she walked in and closed the door behind her. Quietly she crept over to the bed. She could see him lying quietly asleep. His bare back turned against her revealing his strong shoulders. She hesitated in waking him, but she needed his help. What ever was going on in Sunnydale, she did not want to face it alone with no watcher and friends to watch her back.

 

"Giles, what do you think is wrong with Buffy? Why does she think that there is still all this evil in Sunnydale?" Willow was concerned over her friendís sudden change in behavior. "I mean weíre all happy about the fact that there isnít a hell mouth anymore. And she was fine yesterday." Buffy had the life she and Willow used to talk about. Why would she go looking for trouble all of the sudden.

"I really donít know. Personally, I havenít talked to her much lately. I guess I should have. In theory I am still her watcher." Giles stood in thought for a moment. His close relationship with the slayer had dissolved after her fight with the Master. At first, Buffy pulled away from him. Finally, he let her go and never questioned it. "If she did hit her head, itís quite possible that she may have a concussion. Along with memory loss, she may truly believe that there is still a need for her to be the slayer." Giles picked up a book that lay next to him. "Have you noticed any changes in her behavior lately?"

"I think today would count as a change." Xander piped in with this sarcastic remark.

"I mean besides today. Willow, has she mentioned feeling left out or not having a purpose lately?" The wheels in the watcherís head began to turn.

"No, I donít understand."

"Well, maybe in her subconscious she has been feeling that her life lacks meaning."

"Giles, in English for some of us please."

"Xander, in other words, she feels like she no longer has a purpose or a meaning for her life. There had been no need for her to be slayer here. After the traumatic experiences she has had, a part of her may be missing the excitement and purpose it gave to her life." Giles thought it might be possible. However unlikely, anything was possible with Buffy. Then again, he wasnít in the position to say anymore. He vowed that after this was cleared up, he would resume his role as her watcher and mentor.

"So Buffy is bored and inventing demons to kill. That sounds good. Now who is this Angel guy?" Xander understood what Giles was saying, even if he couldnít imagine it. Who would go looking for demons and trouble? Then again, this was Buffy they were talking about. Silence fell over the group momentarily. "Did she ever mention an Angel before? Is she seeing things too? I mean are we talking angel as in trumpet and heaven?"

"I donít think so. She seems to be talking about a real person. Someone she thinks she knows really well. Why else would she think she spent Thursday night with him. Giles, I never remember her mentioning him ever. Not even while the master was alive. It is possible that there is some kind of demon or monster in Sunnydale. Could Angel be it?" Willow was concerned. What if something was in Sunnydale and after Buffy? Either way, she knew they had to do something about it.

"It is possible. With the masterís death, the hell mouth itself did not disappear. It merely became inactive. It is plausible that there is some force at work here. Although, I believe it to be more likely that Buffy took a small blow to the head. She may have been feeling inadequate. This whole notion of still slaying may all be a figure of her imagination." Giles was trying to rationalize her behavior. A small part of him would love for Buffy to be right. He would love to experience the thrill and rush of fighting evil, researching and discovering ways to conquer the evil that exists in the world. The violence, the worrying, these were not things he missed. He had learned to grow accustomed to the everyday life of a true librarian.

"Is it safe for her to be walking about town thinking there are demons after her? I know she can take care of herself, but what about everyone else in town?" Xander had a good point for once.

Giles thought for a moment and stared at the door that Buffy just walked out of. "That is true. If she is suffering from a head trauma, she should seek medical assistance. She should not be walking the streets in her condition. She has too great of a head start. We wonít be able to follow her. Do you know where she might go?" Buffy was extremely skilled in the martial arts. She could seriously hurt or injury someone without realizing her power. Walking around town alone, under duress was not an intelligent situation or a safe one.

"Scottís at practice, besides she didnít even seem to know him. I donít think she would go home."

"Well, anyone else still curious to the identity of Angel?"

"Hum, that may be a good place to start. Good thinking Xander. Just in case, why donít you call her house in about 10 minutes to check. Willow, I need you help to find something in one of my books." Giles walked over to one of the old, dusty stacks in the back of the library. All of his private collection was kept back there now.

"This is almost like old times. Buffy fighting evil and us looking through books for solutions. What are we looking for anyway?" Willow smiled slightly to cover the concern on her face.

Giles was already lost in thought. "Iím not sure. Iíll know when we find it. Look for anything about or related to Angels." Giles started scanning through titles and pages, hoping to quickly find the answer to their mystery.

 

Buffy watched him for a minute. He looked so peaceful, almost dead. Then Buffy remembered that he was dead. There was no time to wait for him to awake with the sunset. She needed to talk to him now. Slowly she walked closer to the bed. Tentatively, she held out her hand and reached to touch his shoulder. He moved for a second and Buffy jerked back her hand suddenly. "This is Angel. I have nothing to worry about." Again, she placed her hand out to awake him.

She stepped back suddenly this time as fangs appeared from the face that was so peaceful a second ago. Fear ran though Buffy. What if Angel didnít know her? What if she was wrong and they werenít in love? Even worse, if he attacked, was she prepared to fight back for her life? As she stood there prepared for anything, the seconds slowly passed by to reveal her answer.

Something startled Angel out of his sleep. His body told him it was early, too early for him to be up. Yet, he could feel the presence of someone in his home. He could smell the fresh, young blood of someone nearby. Pure animal instinct flowed from him and his deep hunger revealed his fangs. Quickly he turned around to see his next meal. He flew out of the bed and grabbed his surprised victim in his arms. He saw the fear in her eyes. He moved his teeth closer to her delicate neck. Suddenly he stopped. Those eyes, there was something familiar with her eyes. The expression behind them, he knew it from somewhere. Suddenly his face softened and his mind filled with a cloud of confusion. His face was cringed as if he was feeling pain. "Buffy?"

Her body relaxed and her heart tried to stop pounding so hard. For a moment, she almost thought that Angel would bite her. There was no recognition in his eyes at first, but now something was there. "Angel, you know me?" Tentatively, she took a step away from him and attempted to free herself from his arms.

He quickly released her and sat back down on the bed. Holding his head in his hands, he tried to shake the fog away from his memory. Everything was a blur. Nothing was making sense. Slowly he stood up and looked into her eyes. He knew that face, soft hair, firm, but gentle touch. He knew her and knew she meant a lot to him. For a minute, he couldnít understand why. As is the floodgate had been opened suddenly, all of his memory came back to him. The fog that surrounded his memory had been lifted and everything made sense again. Buffy stood in front of him looking frightened and concerned.

"Oh my god." Angel realized that he almost took her life. He could not believe he did it. "Are you okay?"

She nodded her head yes. She tried to act confident, but she was shaken up and frightened. Her heart still raced. She could almost feel his teeth on her bare neck. "Iím fine." The fear in her eyes told him that she wasnít.

"I donít know what just happened. I canít believe I did that." He moved closer to her, slowly at first. He watched her eyes for alarm or more fear. When he saw that she was beginning to calm down he took her in his arms and held her.

She was the slayer; she could handle anything. But sometimes it felt nice to lean on someone else. Buffy had to be independent and in control. In Angelís arms, she could let go. Her problems melted away and nothing seemed to matter. "Youíre not the only one acting strange. The latest news flash is that Iím not the slayer anymore." Her own voice sounded strange as she heard the words. No longer the slayer. She would wish for it sometimes, seeing it as a pain and complication. Now hearing it from others, she wasnít sure how to feel.

Now it was Angelís turn to look shocked and surprised. "What do you mean youíre not the slayer anymore? Is there another slayer in town?" Angel hadnít heard about any such thing on the street lately, but he had been kind of distracted with Buffy lately.

"Before we go into that, just answer one question for me. What did you do last night?" She waited expectantly. Her entire sanity hinged on his answer. Was she loosing her mind? Did she hit her head? But Angel knew her; she had to be right.

"What do you mean?" Angel had no idea what Buffy was trying to find out. "After I left your house, I walked around town a bit, just to check on things. Then I came back here around dawn and went to sleep. That is until you woke me up." Something was wrong. Buffy was acting strange. He knew her too well, and although she had calmed down from his initial reaction to her appearance, he could still see fear in her eyes.

She breathed a small sigh of relief. "What about Thursday? Were we together Thursday night?"

"Yeah, I went out with you on patrol. It was really quiet in the cemetery. Donít you remember? What has you so spooked?" Angel was beginning to grow aggravated. Nothing was making any sense. "Tell me whatís going on."

"Well, youíre never going to believe this one." Buffy sat down in a chair in the room while Angel went to get her a drink of water. "I went to school this morning and I got back my test from Friday. I got an A on it."

Angel tried to hide his smile and amusement. "I can see why youíre so upset."

"Very funny. Thatís not the whole. After class, Willow said weíd studied Thursday night for the test together. Supposedly, Iíve been some kind of A student lately. Giles is acting really strange. Some weird guy came up and kissed me. I have books in my locker, and Cordelia and Xander arenít going out." As she talked, her words became more rapid. She was unable to hold back the fear she felt inside. Every inch of her being cried out that this was wrong.

"Who kissed you?"

"Thatís not important. Everything has changed overnight. We have to find out whatís going on?" She rose up from the chair and started to walk about the room to expel her nervous energy.

"How can that not be important?" Angel didnít mean to dwell on the issue, but it was important to him. A part of him knew he and Buffy would never have a future together, but he still felt jealous and protective of her.

"There are worse problems than that okay. Did you know that the hell mouth no longer exists under Sunnydale? And if it does, it been inactive since the Master was destroyed." She stopped for a moment and looked down at the floor. "Giles acted like he didnít even know me, or care about my life." She turned around. The hurt showed through her eyes and could be heard in her voice. "He was so cold. Iíve never seen him like that before. He said he hasnít had to act as my watcher since the Master. They havenít been any vampires left in Sunnydale and there hasnít been any slaying."

He walked closer to her and took her hand. "Hey, we both know thatís not true. We were just out the other night. What did we get, two? Besides, Iím a vampire and Iím in Sunnydale. Giles is wrong." He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. "Why donít you stay here until the sun sets. After that, weíll go find out whatís going on. Weíll get to the bottom of this. I promise."

"You know something. When I told Willow I was with you on Thursday, she didnít even know who you were. Neither did Giles or Xander." She paused for a moment again, finding the courage to let her fears go. "For a second when I came in here and you looked like you were, well, you know. I thought you didnít know me either. For a minute, I thought I had lost it completely."

"Hey, everythingís going to be okay. Weíll find out whatís going on. I promise Iíll be there for you."

It seemed like forever until the sunset, allowing Buffy and Angel to go out and find the source of confusing overturning Sunnydale.

"Giles, is this anything? Itís a vampire named Angelus. It says here that he was sometimes called Angel for short. Could this be whom Buffy was talking about? Could there be a vampire back in Sunnydale?" Willow hoped with all her heart that she was wrong. The vampires had caused enough problems. After they had left, life appeared to be normal in Sunnydale. Well, as normal as it could be.

"Angelus, the vampire, I hope not. If I remember correctly, he was one of the most vicious killers in all of Europe. He would torture his victims before finally killing them. The watcherís journals even say that he caused some vampires to become insane when created." Giles walked over and looked at the book that Willow had been reading from. "I donít remember ever hearing about his being in America, let alone in Sunnydale. Come to think of it, I donít remember his name ever being mentioned within the last couple of centuries. It was as if he mysteriously disappeared. According to this book, the watcherís society assumed that he had been killed some how." Giles held his glasses from him mouth for a moment, deep in thought. This vampire was destroyed, he was sure of it. "Keep looking, I donít think this has any relevance to Buffyís Angel. Xander, have you found anything?"

"Besides a bunch of old dusty books, No. How do we know if we found something when we donít even know what weíre looking for? Weíve been searching through these books all day. If I donít take a break, Iím going to go blind." Xander stood up and stretched out his long, lean arms. He didnít do this much reading for his classes. He couldnít believe he was doing all this reading and researching for a non-school related activity. "What do you say Will, cola or orange?" Xander started to walk out the door when someone walked in. It was Buffy with a tall older guy next to her.

"Hey Buffy, where ya been? And whoís the pale guy?" Xander was never one for small talk. Direct and to the point was the best way to go.

"Hey Xander. I guess thatís better than undead boy."

"Undead boy?"

"Yeah, undead boy. Like as in vampire. Donít you remember that youíre always calling me that, not that I like it." Angel was starting to understand what Buffy meant.

"Angel, as in Angelus the vampire. Buffy get away from him." Giles ran into to his office and brought a cross back out. Holding the cross out in front of him, he went over and grabbed Buffy by the arm.

Buffy shrugged him off. Knowing the discomfort the cross would cause Angel, she put it down on the counter. "Relax Giles, heís a good vampire. Heís on our side."

"Buffy, I donít think you understand. Do you know what kind of death and damage he caused years ago in Europe? The amount of pain and suffering was imaginable. How can he be on our side?" Giles was reluctant to relax his guard. From his experience and readings, vampires were not a friend of the family. At least a family that lived long. His belief in Buffy was the only thing stopping him from taking out the holy water and a stake.

"I think we need to all sit down and talk about this." Buffy sat around the table with her closest friends. Yet, she realized that her friends didnít know her as well as she thought. "Something is very wrong here."

"Besides the fact that weíre sitting in the same room with a vampire having a nice cozy chat? What could be wrong?" Xander tried to keep quiet. With a sharp look from Giles and Buffy, he realized his comments were unwelcomed.

"Iím serious. Everything is wrong here. You said there is no need for a slayer anymore, but I know I went out hunting the other night. Angel was with me. And Willow, we didnít study for that test together. I was out slaying that night with Angel. I mean me studying and getting Aís. Doesnít that sound weird?" Not that she didnít want to do well in school, but there was always a vampire or demon inhibiting her from devoting time to studying.

"And you believe the same thing Angelus, yes?" Giles was extremely uncomfortable with his presence, but tried to suppress his feelings. If Buffy was right, something serious was going on. If she wasnít, he had to find a way to help her understand reality. At least reality as he saw it.

"Angel, yeah.

"Well, this does cause an interesting situation. I hope you understand though. Although Buffy may trust you, I do not. I have no proof that you are telling the truth."

"Giles!" Buffy stared at him in disbelief. She didnít understand how he could be so rude.

"Iím sorry Buffy, but how do we know that maybe Angel has led you to believe that you are still needed as the slayer. How do we know this isnít his doing?" Giles was extremely adamant about his distrust of Angel. He was too uncertain about the circumstances around him. Everything he was ever taught, everything he ever learned told him having a conversation with a "friendly" vampire was impossible.

"Giles, just trust me on this one. I know something is wrong. Canít you feel it?" Buffy thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to convince Giles that she was right. "Hey Will, were is Oz?"

"At the end of the yellow-brick road?"

"Very funny, Iím serious. Where is he?"

Willow was still bewildered. "Who is Oz?"

Angel decided to give it a try now. "Oz, small guy, the love of your life. He plays is a band, turns into a werewolf during the full moons."

"Me, dating a werewolf! Who told you such a thing? Buffy, you know who I like. As far as we both know, he doesnít turn into a werewolf and howl at the moon." Willow never knew Xander to turn into a werewolf. Howl at the moon, maybe, but not because he was a wolf.

"Thatís enough. This is not getting us anywhere." Giles stood up and walked around the table trying to collect his thoughts. "All right. Now Buffy, when did this all start? When did you first notice that something was different than you believe it should be?"

"This morning. I guess if I had to pinpoint the moment of weirdness, Iíd say when I walked in here and talked to you this morning." Buffy didnít know where Giles was going with his question, but she tried to follow.

"Very good. Now, starting with, uh, letís say, last night. Tell us everything that happened to you between then and now." Giles knew there had to be an answer for all this confusion, whether it be supernatural or logical. Either way, they had to resolve the situation.

"Okay, last night Angel was over. We watched a movie. He went home. I went to bed. I got up this morning. Showered, changed, and came to school. Then you come in." Buffy started to become impatient. The problem was not with her, but with everyone else.

Giles stood and stared at her. He held the glasses by his mouth. "Is it possible that youíre leaving out details? For instance, where did you obtain that bruise on your forehead?"

"I donít know."

"It happened last night." All eyes focused on Angel. Some were suspicious, others merely curious. "Last night, while we were watching the movie. You fell asleep. You had a nightmare or something. When I tried to wake you, you fell on the floor. Not before you hit your head on the coffee table though."

"Buffy, do you remember this nightmare?" Giles was slightly suspicious of the vampire sitting across the table from him. "Do you remember what happened?"

"Whatever it was, it had you pretty shaken up. You practically threw me out the door."

Xander couldnít keep his mouth closed any longer. "That seems to be the only sensible thing weíve heard so far. She obviously didnít throw you out hard enough."

Buffy snapped out of her momentary trance. She couldnít help but remember the horrible nightmare she had the night before and how it almost came true. "Xander, lay off. You donít even know him anymore." She turned her attention back to Giles. "I remember the dream Giles. It really freaked me out. I was really startled when Angel woke me. I pulled away instinctively and fell on the floor. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was all a dream."

Giles had not spent much time with Buffy, but he could still sense when she was avoiding a direct question. "Buffy, the dream. What happened?"

"Well, I donít remember everything." She watched as Giles stood there, trying to prod her on. "Angel and I were watching this movie and you knocked on the door. You said you had this horrible feeling that something was about to happen."

"Did I give you any reason?"

"No, you said it was just a feeling. That it had been too quiet lately. I told you to learn to take a vacation. Finally, you decided we would talk about it in the morning and you wanted to start doing some serious training again. Before you left, Angel suggested that we go take a quick look around to make sure everything was all right. You seemed happy with that and you left."

"Was that the end?"

"No." Hesitantly, she continued explaining her dream. "Angel and I went out. We were in the cemetery. We had been out for over an hour. I wanted to go home. When I asked him if he wanted to leave, he didnít answer me. I grabbed his arm." Buffy found it hard to say. Angel sat now at her side trying to find the same answers as she was.

Giles didnít like the hesitation he was seeing. "Go on. What happened?"

Buffy started to squirm and twist in her seat. She suddenly felt very uncomfortable in a room with people who all seemed to be strangers. "Well," she turned to Angel. "When you turned around, you were in full vamp mode. It was like you didnít know me anymore. You grabbed me and pushed me against a tree. You started to bite my neck. Thatís when you woke me up." Buffy startled momentarily as Angel jumped up from his seat.

Angel had never felt so sick in his life. Quickly he stood up and ran into Gilesí office, pulling the garbage pail out from under the desk in just enough time.

"Okay, does anyone else find this weird? We have a vampire puking into a garbage pail?" Xander couldnít help but sit in the chair utterly confused.

"Do vampires get sick?" Willow chimed in.

"Very interesting question. This one does." Giles watched as Buffy went into his office to check on Angel. He followed her, still looking for answers to only more questions.

"Angel?" Buffy walked up slowly next to him. He stood next to Gilesí desk and the pail was placed on top. He head hung low and his arms rested on the sides of the pail. Slowly he lifted his head. "Here, sit down for a minute." She pulled out Gilesí chair for him. "Are you okay?"

Her face was filled with such concern for him. Yet, her dreams about him were nightmares. "Buffy," he didnít know what to say to complete the sentence. "I havenít been sick since I became a vampire. I forgot what it felt like." His stomach turned. Even the thought of feeding brought back waves of nausea.

Giles took a small bottle out of his desk and emptied its contents into a cup. "Here you go. Why donít you rise you mouth out with this?" He watched in amazement as Angel did as he was told. "Angel, why donít you come out here and try to sit down for a moment." As they left his office, he grabbed a book from his shelf. When they were back sitting around the table, Giles started to try and put the pieces back together. "You say youíre a vampire. Yet, by everything we have ever known about vampire tells us that they donít get sick. Who are you?"

"Giles, something is going on here. Angel is definitely a vampire. Trust me on this one."

Giles cut Buffy off before she finished. "That glass I gave you, it was full of holy water."

"Giles, how could you?"

"Wait, Buffy." He placed a hand on her shoulder as she stood up to start yelling at Giles. "Thatís not possible. If that was holy water."

"Your mouth should be bursting with flames. Simple solution. Youíre not a vampire. Vampires do not get sick and do not react kindly to holy water. My guess is, the pale face and nausea are your common flu symptoms. So, that leaves just one question, who are you?"

"Thatís not possible. I went to bed this morning as a vampire. These things donít change while you sleep. Iíve been a vampire for over two hundred years. Iíve seen more rulers, slayers, and people come and go, then I care to admit. Some of them at my own hand." Angel didnít understand. He began to doubt everything. He tried to reason out what was happening. Both he and Buffy knew things were different. Yet, Giles and the others had no idea. He started to think that maybe something didnít happened to he and Buffy. Maybe something happened to everyone else.

Giles took out the watcherís journal on Angelus. He randomly started asking Angel different questions. To his surprise, Angel answered everyone right and even told Giles about a few mistakes that were made in the book. Finally, Giles had enough. "There is one way to settle this. Angelus had a very distinct tattoo on his back." Before he could finish. Angel stood up in front of him and took his shirt off. There across his back was the very same tattoo that Angelus had. "Well, itís very nice that youíve studied up on history and events. How do I know you didnít just steal the journal from my office? You could have had any number of people duplicate the tattoo in the book."

Angel could no longer take the frustration any longer. He stood up from his chair, throwing it against the wall. It smashed into small pieces. He turned around to face Giles. "What can I give you for proof?"

"Thatíll do it."

"What?" Angel stood still, unable to realize why everyone was staring at him. Xander and Willow began to slide their chairs slightly further away. He looked at Buffy. She motioned slightly at her face. Finally he realized the anger had caused his face to morph. He stood before them with his fangs displayed unmistakably. He had never been so relieved to feel the fangs that replaced his teeth. Quickly he tried to relax his face and allow his face to morph back. After a few seconds, Angel once again stood in front of them.

"Well, we have an interesting situation here. A vampire that is no longer affected by holy water." Giles walked across the room and picked up the cross. "May I." He approached Angel with the cross in his hand, and watched, as Angel didnít even so much as flinch. He pressed the cross into the vampireís hand. Yet, nothing happened. "Buffy, do you have a mirror in your purse?" Quickly Buffy pulled out the compact and handed it to Giles. He handed it to Angel.

Angel hesitated as he opened the compact. It had been a couple of centuries since he was able to see his reflection in the mirror. He looked into the mirror and stayed frozen for a minute.

Buffy was too curious to wait for his response. She walked around behind him and looked into the mirror. A gorgeous image looked back out of the mirror. It was not hers, it was Angelís. "Okay, he has a reflection. Giles, you have a completely reasonable explanation for this, right?"

"Buffy, Iíve never heard of anything that could give a vampire human qualities again. I donít think the subject has ever been considered. Once youíre a vampire, you stay a vampire. Until youíre killed that is." Giles was baffled by the present situation. He had never read anything remotely similar to what he was experiencing.

"Ow!"

They all turned around to see Angel standing at the counter. A knife lay next to him. He tried to hold his hand closed, but the blood continued to drip out. "Angel, what are you doing?" Buffy walked over and looked at his hand. There was a fairly nice size gash that was bleeding profusely.

Angel ignored her nursing and waited. As time passed by, his hand didnít heal. "This should have healed by now. It was only a shallow wound." As he stared at his hand, not only did it not heal, it had yet to stop bleeding. He clasped his hand down harder on the wound, hoping to finally stop the bleeding. "Okay, itís not the smartest thing Iíve done, but not the dumbest. I think its safe to say that the immortal quality is gone." Allowing Buffy to wrap the wound, he stood speechless. "I have a reflection. Holy water or a cross does not affect me, and I no longer heal. There has to be something about this in one of your books."

"Yet you have the face of a vampire and not the disposition. The fact that you have a soul is amazing enough. Exactly how did this come about?"

"Giles, can we focus here? That isnít the problem. You should have known how Angel got his soul back. Willow, I wasnít at your house studying. And I am not an A student." She tried to calm down, but the facts did not make sense. "How come weíre the only ones who remember what is right?" She looked up at Angelís face, only to see it as confused as her own.

"Hey Buffy, I hate to do this, but can this discussion continue without me. I think Iím going to be sick again."

Buffy raised her hand to his cheek in sympathy. She felt warmth beneath her hand. "Angel, youíre really warm." Quickly, she felt his forehead. "Youíre really warm. I think you have a fever. Thatís impossible."

"Giles was right about something. He probably does have the flu. Everyone else does. Why not the town vampire?" Xander felt it was time to state the obvious again.

Suddenly, as if on cue, Angel began coughing violently. He tried to stop, but it was as if he lost control over his own body. Finding himself gasping for air and unable to breathe, he began to feel dizzy. "Buffy, I donít know whatís going on, but I might need to lay down for a while," he told her in between coughs.

Giles found himself very confused and uncertain about all he was hearing. "I think the first thing we need to do is get you home. There may be some clue as to your identity and the truth as you see it at your home. Assuming you live in Sunnydale and telling the truth."

"Giles, you have to help him. You have to figure out whatís going on." Buffy knew she was beginning to sound like a pleading child, but right now, Angel was sick. Nothing else mattered. "Come on, Giles is right about one thing, we need to get you in bed."

Buffy helped Angel walk out to Gilesí car. He became weaker with each passing moment. Hardly able to walk, he allowed Buffy to head him out. For the first time in two centuries, he felt his chest tighten and restrict his breathing as he coughed constantly. But, he was a vampire. Vampires werenít supposed to have to breathe. Sitting in the back of Gilesí run down car with Buffy on one side and Xander on the other, he tried to understand what was happening. Yet, he found himself quickly falling asleep, too exhausted to fight the on coming darkness.

Giles glanced into the rear view mirror. The man who claimed to be a vampire was now asleep and extremely ill. He could not fathom how any demon, especially a vampire, could appear so mortal as to not be affected by holy water and a cross, and yet, still bare fangs. He glanced at Willow, who sat in front with him. The girl was tense and nervous. She was concerned about Buffyís behavior, like all of them. Could something be wrong and only Buffy and Angel are aware of the changes? As he followed Buffyís directions to Angelís place, he only hoped that answers and not further danger awaited them there.

The drive seemed to take forever and was lengthened by the lack of conversation. Except for Buffyís occasional Ďmake a rightí, no one spoke a word. Yet, looks were being exchanged. Each wondered what kind of trouble lay ahead. Willow sighed quietly. Buffy was her best friend, but Buffy almost sounded insane the way she spoke. Willow dismissed the thought and quickly chided herself for not trusting her friend.

"Angel," Buffy shook him softly to wake him. As he opened his eyes, she could see how groggy and disorientated he was. Carefully, she helped him out of the car and into the apartment. Everything appeared to be the same as when they had left earlier that evening. Buffy was quietly relieved that at least one thing remained the same. After helping him to bed and covering him with an old, brown blanket he kept at the foot of the bed, she walked out into the living room to speak to Giles.

After entering the apartment, no one dare follow Buffy into the bedroom. Giles curiously, yet cautiously, looked around. The room was mostly empty, except for a few chairs. Very little furniture or trinkets adorned any of the rooms. What was there, appeared to be very old. One thing Giles did notice was the abundance of books. It was hard to miss them laying everywhere, especially when the empty rooms only increased the appearance of the number of books. Looking at a few titles, he found them to be classics. A few were written in other languages, like French and Italian from the looks.

"Giles, I donít understand. How is all of this happening?"

"Buffy, Iím not certain I know what is going on right now, let alone what you say should be happening. What Iíd like to know is who that is laying in the bed. How can he possibly be a vampire and immune to a cross and holy water? We wonít even bring up the fact that no one has seen Angelus for the past hundred years or so and suddenly heís in Sunnydale sick with the flu." Giles took off his glasses and attempted to clean them. "How do expect us to believe any of this?" He could see how flustered and angry she was becoming. "Now wait, Iím not saying that youíre crazy."

"No, but you donít believe me?"

"Buffy, I believe that you believe something is wrong. However, you must understand, if he is indeed Angelus, this could all be part of a master plan of his. Buffy, he specialized in driving his prey mad. What is the possibility that he put these notions in your head?" Giles had to wonder if it was some sort of trick. Angelus could have come to town looking for the slayer. He could have used some type of spell on Buffy, as well as himself to make him immune and almost mortal. "He may not be sick at all. You need to calm down and think this clearly though."

She could not believe what she was hearing. "Giles, I know this sounds crazy, but he didnít put these ideas into my mind. I came looking for him. I knew there was something wrong before seeing him. Besides heís not like that anymore. Heís a good vampire. He has his soul back. He would never do anything to hurt me."

"Is that why you dreamt he took your life?" Before she could answer and try to make him understand, a scream can from the bedroom.

"Buffy! Buffy!"

"Angel," she ran into the bedroom and froze in her tracks. She was unable to move. Her mouth hung open and her heart stopped for a moment.

Angel looked over at Buffy and her reaction. "Then Iím not hallucinating. Sheís there."

He began shaking his head. "No, no. I killed you. Youíre dead. How can this be?"

By now Giles and the others had entered the room behind Buffy to witness an extremely distraught Angel backing away from an unfamiliar woman. "Who has he killed? Buffy, what is going on here?" Giles caught a glimpse of Buffyís face and realized it was as ashen as Angelís. Determined to find answers, he turned to the unknown woman. "Iím sorry to be so blunt, but who are you and why are you here?"

"Angel, please calm down. Youíre sick. You should be in bed. Where have you been? Iíve been so worried." Janna Calender turned to the new comers in the room. "Thank you for helping him. Heís been extremely sick recently. When I returned earlier, he was gone. With his fever, he canít think clearly. Thank you, Mr.?"

"Giles, Rupert Giles."

Janna extended her hand to the gentleman. "Janna Calender. Most people call me Jenny."

Buffy was too shocked to even begin to understand what was happening. Quietly she helped Angel back into bed, extremely concerned over his health and their current confusion. She talked to him, hoping to sooth his fears. "Hey, take it easy. You need to lie down and rest. Please!"

"Buffy, I donít understand whatís going on?" See Jenny standing in front of him was too much of a shock. Images of her dead body flooded his mind. He couldnít fathom how she could be standing in front of him now.

Buffy tried to hide her own fears and comfort Angel. "Relax, weíll figure it out." She managed to place Angel under the covers and noticed that he was suddenly having a hard time staying awake.

"Are you going to leave?"

His voice sounded small and pulled at her heart. "No, Iíll just be in the other room. Iím going to try and get some answers. Rest, Iíll come back and check on you in a few minutes."

Angel started to drift off, slightly contented by Buffyís reassurances. "Thank you. Buffy, I love you."

"I love you too Angel. Now close your eyes and sleep." She waited a moment for him to obey her orders before returning to the living room. While she was talking to Angel, everyone had retreated to the other room.

"How is he?" Giles asked.

Buffy stared at her watcher for a moment. Was this the same Giles that she always knew? What was going on? "Resting now. Heís confused and heís not the only one."

Giles instantly switched into watcher mode. He had to admit it was somewhat comforting to have a mystery to solve again. It had been so long since he was really useful and fulfilling his role as a watcher. "Okay, letís try to understand whatís going on here. Buffy, why donít you explain what appears to be different or out of place here."

"Okay, first in my Ďrealityí I guess, Angel is a vampire, but he has a soul and helps us fight all the demons and vamps here. I am still the slayer and there is still a huge need for it. Trust me. Umm, Angel and I are kind of involved." Buffy hesitated before continuing. She was curious to see the reactions to her statements. "Ms. Calendar died a few months ago. Some things happened and Angel lost his soul. While he was Angelus, he killed her. Later we found a curse that she had been working on and were able to restore his soul. There are a ton of other things that happened, but theyíre probably not that important right now."

The other remained silent. Giles was shocked. His slayer involved with a vampire with a soul. ĎWhere did I go wrong?í "True, now I can understand your confusion. These are extreme differences to what we perceive as Ďrealityí. When did this start?"

"I guess this morning when I walked into school and spoke with you."

"Right, Ms. Calendar, you seem to know Angel. Can you perhaps tell us what you know about him?" Giles hoped the attractive woman could assist in revealing Angelís secrets. She obviously cared about him and knew him to some extent.

She smiled softly and nodded. "Jenny, please. Well, itís not really my place, but since heís also confused, Iíll tell you. Sheís right. Angel was a vampire. My clan cursed him with a soul about a hundred years ago. Since, my people have watched his suffering and genuine remorse. Last year, we had felt that Angel had suffered enough for his crimes. My people managed to make him human again. Since then, Iíve been helping him adjust to his new life. Unfortunately, his immunity to most diseases is very low. Right now, he is struggling against a strong flu-like virus."

The explanation helped to some extent, but Giles still did not understand how Angel still possessed some vampire traits. "Well, that does explain why Angel is indeed human. Itís fascinating that your clan was able to make him human again. I had no knowledge that such a spell existed or was possible. Iíd love to hear more about it."

Buffy watched in awe, as it seemed that Giles was flirting with Ms. Calendar. ĎSome things will never change,í she thought to herself. "Giles, can we focus here?"

"Yes, sorry."

Buffy tried to focus the conversation again, determined to obtain more answers. "Okay, so Angel is human and sick with the flu?"

"Yes," Jenny answered.

"So there is no happiness clause anymore? Does Angel have a girlfriend or anyone that he should know about?" She tried to hide her possessive curiosity, but failed miserably. After all, some guy had recently presented himself as her boyfriend. What if Angel had a girlfriend here?

Jenny smiled again. She could see the apprehension in the young blond girl. She could also see that Buffy was truly concerned about Angel. She found herself trusting the people around her and openly telling them about the former vampire. "Oh, well youíre right. There is no clause anymore. He is completely human now. As for a girlfriend or anything, heís never mentioned anyone to me. He has had a difficult time adjusting to modern society again for the most part." Jenny did not miss the signs of relief that fell over Buffyís face.

"Oh, thatís good."

Xander couldnít remain silent anymore. "Wait a second, you knew Angel was a vampire and you were the slayer. Yet, you were involved. How?"

Buffy immediately felt threatened by Xanderís statement. "Am, I am the slayer!"

"Whatever, you were involved with each other?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. She was right earlier when she realized that some things werenít all that different. This was still the same Xander. "Xander, we have this fight all the time. Let it go for now."

Willow was next to object to her friendís sudden interest in the handsome stranger. "But Buffy, youíre with Scott. Youíre really happy with him. What are you going to tell him? You guys have been together for months."

"Willow, I donít even know who he is! Besides, Iíve been with Angel for over 2 years and now there is no curse or anything to stand in our way." The consequences of her statement finally hit her. "No curse. Human, oh wow." Quickly she stood up and headed toward the bedroom. "Excuse me."

Giles watched as his slayer suddenly left the room. "Buffy, where are you going?" However, he never received an answer as she walked back into the bedroom. Giles wasnít sure if she even heard the question.

Buffy entered the bedroom and stood in the doorway for a moment. She watched him lying peacefully, eyes closed, sound asleep. She couldnít resist the urge to go to him. She had to touch him and make sure he was real. Sitting on the bed next to him, Buffy reached over and kissed his cheek.

"Buffy?"

"Sorry, I didnít mean to wake you. How are you feeling?"

He rolled over to face her. His face was groggy and his eyes only half opened. He felt weak, but managed a half smile. "Actually, Iím glad you did. Everything has felt like a dream so far. Seeing you, at least I know Iím not going insane. Iíve felt better before. Whatís going on? Does Giles have any answers?"

She continued to stare at him. Buffy understood Angelís doubts. A dream. Could this all be a dream? Would she wake up to find that all of this never happened, that Angel was no longer human and they couldnít be together? She prayed that it wasnít true. "No, heís not sure what has happened, but Iíve found out a few things. Some good things and some not so good."

"Buffy, please, tell me."

"Okay, well, according to Jenny, last year the gypsies took pity on you and turned you human. There is no clause left. She says sheís been helping you adjust to life again. According to her, youíve been sick a lot. Right now you have the flu.í

"Human?" Angel couldnít believe his ears, but it made sense. He had no reaction to a cross and holy water. Breathing was a necessity again and he could hear his heart pounding as he waited for Buffy to tell him the bad news. "That explains a lot, but there is more isnít there?"

She hesitated again before continuing, wondering whether her words had fully sunk in. "Well, according to them, we have never met. There hasnít been any need for a slayer either since the master was killed." ĎAnd Iím an A student with a different boyfriend.í Buffy left the last part off. That was the last thing she wanted to point out to Angel at the moment.

"Is that it?" Angel prepared to hear more. From the look on her face, he was sure that something horrible had yet to be revealed.

With a nonchalant attitude, she shrugged her shoulders and reached out to grab his hands. They felt strange. He was so warm to touch now. "Pretty much. Angel, youíre human." She still wondered if he realized how this little fact could change everything. "We can be together. No clauses, no excuses. You are 100% alive, except for having the flu."

"Oh, god!" The truth finally hit him. "Thatís, thatís incredible. You realize that if I didnít feel so bad, you would be right here beside me in this bed." A genuine smile now covered his face. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. Human, it was amazing.

"I know, trust me." Buffy smiled and laughed softly. "Once youíre feeling better, nothing is going to keep me out of your bed, except maybe my mother." Buffy joked. She couldnít believe that her dream had finally come true. She could finally be with Angel.

At the mention of her mother, Angel frowned. "Buffy, itís late. Sheís going to be worried about you."

Buffy placed a finger over his lips and stopped him from talking. "Let me worry about that. Right now, you need to focus on getting better. As I see it, there are a few things you owe me, like a date on the beach, or maybe one of the famous picnics in the park that youíre always talking about." There was no way to contain her joy.

Angelís face mirrored her happiness. "Sounds good to me. God, I canít wait to see how wonderful and beautiful you look in the sunshine." He released her hand as he began coughing again. His throat was dry and scratchy and had a slight burn when he swallowed. He forgot how it felt to be sick. After all, it had been over 200 years since his last illness. Suddenly feeling very thirsty, he threw back the covers and attempted to rise from the bed.

Buffy immediately grabbed him and forced him back down. "Where do you think you are going?" She stared at him in shock and surprise.

"I just need to get something to drink. My throatís dry." Angel smiled sheepishly at Buffy. She was so beautiful when she was aggressive.

"I donít think so mister. If you want or need something, you ask. I donít want to see you out of that bed until youíre better. No arguments. Jenny says she has been taking care of you. So if Iím not around, I want you to ask her for whatever you need. Okay?" She waited as Angel reluctantly nodded in agreement. "Rest, Iíll get something for you to drink and be right back." Buffy left the bedroom and headed to the kitchen. She stopped as she heard Giles calling her name.

"Buffy, how is he doing?"

"Okay, heís resting. I just came to get him something to drink. His throat is bothering him. I told him a little of what you said Ms. Calendar, but it doesnít sound familiar to either one of us. Should he be going to the doctor?" The realities of her surrounding were slowly sinking in.

"No, donít worry. When he was changed, he kept his strength and some of his healing abilities. Itís just taking time for his body to build up an immunity to all the new viruses and bacteria that didnít exist when he was born. Iíve discussed this with my uncle. He believes that in another month or so, Angelís body will have finished adjusting and heíll be healthier than most people. Mind you, he may be sick from time to time, but he should recover quickly." Jenny didnít understand what was occurring, but she saw from the look in Buffyís eyes that she cared for Angel deeply. She smiled softly and prayed that Angel had finally found someone to love and care for him despite his past. She had known that Angelís past would always be lingering and knew that he would be unhappy if he had to hid that past from anyone he loved. From what she had heard, Jenny had a feeling that Buffy fully understood his past and had experienced Angelus first-hand.

"Well, itís getting late. I suggest that we discuss this further tomorrow after your classes are finished. Please stop by the library before you go home. Iíd like to explore the events of your reality." Giles stood up and graciously said good night to Ms. Calendar and the teenagers. "Good night. It was a pleasure to meet you Jenny. I look forward to speaking further with you. Iíd love to hear more about your clan."

"It would be my pleasure. Good night Rupert."

Willow, Xander and Buffy stood within the apartment and watched Giles leave. "Well, we should go Buffy. We have a lot of homework to do and itís really late. Do you want to work on it together?" Willow hesitantly asked. She could see Buffyís attachment to Angel.

"You guyís go ahead. I want to check on Angel once more and have a chat with Ms. Calendar."

Willow was shocked, but not completely surprised. Buffy was a smart and outgoing person, but she always managed to get her homework done. "What about your homework?"

"Yeah, what are you going to tell your parents? And what would Scott say to you being here." Xander tried to be the voice of reason. While his friendship with Buffy came first, he still considered Scott to be a good friend and didnít want to see him hurt.

Buffy stared at Xander for a moment. Shock and bewilderment spread across her face. Hearing Xander refer to the cute guy who made his presence known with a kiss, she lost her euphoric feelings. She had almost forgotten about the slightly different circumstances in this new reality. "I know this must be hard for you to understand, but Angel and I are meant to be. We can finally be together now. Iíll talk to Scott tomorrow. Right now, I want to check on Angel. Weíll talk at school in the morning." Buffy turned from Xander to Willow. "Will, can you do me a favor and cover for me tonight? I donít want to leave Angel until we can talk about whatís happened. Can you tell my mom Iím spending the night at your place and weíre working on homework or something? Please?"

"Sure, just be careful." Willow reluctantly agreed to Buffyís request. If her best friend needed to speak to the handsome stranger again, who was also an ex-vampire, who was she to argue. Silently, Willow prayed that Buffy knew what she was doing.

After her friends left, only she and Ms. Calendar remained in the basement apartment. Buffy took the opportunity to survey the main room. Nothing was different. It was the same sparsely decorated room. The same painting hung on the walls and familiar books lay on the tables and floor. It was exactly how she remembered it. Quietly she pondered how things had changed. She was no longer needed to be the slayer, she had a different boyfriend according to everyone, and most importantly, Angel was human. The love of her life was human and currently sick with the flu. The thought finally snapped Buffy out of her musings. Angel was sick. It was a new experience. She would now have to care for him for a change.

Jenny watched as the blonde was lost deep in thought. She seemed to sincerely love Angel. Maybe the tortured soul would finally have someone to love and care for him and help him find his way again. "Well, things seem to be okay here. I went food shopping earlier so the fridge is stocked. There is some medicine for Angel on his nightstand. If you need anything, my number is by the phone. Tell Angel Iíll call tomorrow. Have a good night Buffy. Treat him well." Without waiting for any reply, Jenny left her alone in the apartment. A smile spread across her face as she walked to her car. ĎThis girl may be exactly what Angel needs.í

Buffy heard the door close and realized that she was alone, except for Angel who lay sleeping in the next room. ĎAlone, with Angel, whoís human. Wow, down girl.í Buffy chided herself for having such thoughts. She smiled knowing there would be plenty of time for such activities once Angel was healthy. Technically, she had a boyfriend to dump too. She allowed her mind to wander, thinking of all the possibilities the future now held. She found herself standing in the bedroom doorway. A voice shattered the silence.

"Hey."

"Hey, yourself. How are you feeling?í

"A lot better. I thought everyone had left. Donít you need to go home?"

"Trying to get rid of me already?í

"No, of course not. I love that youíre here, but wonít you get in trouble?"

"Nay, Willís going to cover for me. Besides, I want to keep an eye on you. Itís not every day that youíre human and sick. You need someone to care for you."

"Buffy, donít take this the wrong way. I do want you here, but you donít need to stay and take care of me. Iíll be fine. You should go home, especially if youíll get in trouble. If I remember correctly, donít you have class tomorrow?"

"Angel, Iím not leaving!" The words came out stronger and extremely harsh. She didnít mean to be so short with him or to start a fight.

"Buffy, whatís wrong?"

"Nothing.í

"Buffy, come here." He called her over to the bed and pulled her down next to him. "Whatís wrong? I know that face." Hearing only silence in return, Angel gave up. "Fine, if you want to stay tonight, letís get some sleep."

She kicked off her shoes and snuggled deep into Angelís chest. She suddenly dreaded the notion of sleep. "Angel, what if we wake up and this is all a dream?"

He sat up slightly and placed a hand under her chin. He forced her to look at his face. "Is that what youíre worried about? I donít know, but no matter what, weíll figure all this out. I love you. Get some sleep beloved."

"I love you too."

They slept peacefully all night, surrounded in each others arms, safe and protected. A bubble of tranquility surrounded them and blocked out all the problems and evils of the world.

Angel rolled over as the sunlight fell on his face. A warm body and soft breath fell across his chest. Slowly opening his eyes, a petite blonde figure lay next to him. For a moment he held his breath. Was it true? Was he human? Was it just a dream? If it was just a dream, why was Buffy lying in his arms now? His mind began reeling with questions and possibilities. Should he wake her up? Seeing her sleeping so peacefully, he decided to let her sleep and quietly slipped from the bed. Grabbing a pair of sweats and shirt, he headed towards the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he was shocked to see real food and no blood present. A wave of joy passed over him. Quickly, he realized his heart was beating and he was breathing. It was true. Everything that happened was true. He was human and Jenny was still alive. As giddy as a child at Christmas, he ran back into the bedroom. Seeing the blonde beauty lying before him, he couldnít resist the temptation to wake her. Remembering how grumpy she could be in the morning, a smirk spread across his face as he made a decision.

Gently he laid down on the bed, careful not to disturb Buffy. He stared at her for a moment, watching her chest rise and fall with each breath. A small smile played on her lips as she remained in her dream world. Angel couldnít get over how beautiful she was and finally the major barriers preventing them from being together were gone. There were no more excuses or reasons. He placed a soft kiss on her cheek. Then he moved to her forehead. Next came her nose and the other cheek. He paused for a moment as she started to stir. After she quieted again, he began his slow seduction down her chin and neck. His smile disappeared momentarily as he thought of her dream the other night. However, the feeling of her skin against his instantly chased the thoughts from his mind. Unconsciously he scraped his blunt teeth against her throat and nipped her slightly, careful not to break the skin.

Buffy was deep in slumber, having wonderful dreams. Angel was human and together they were extremely happy. In her dream, he was placing soft kisses all over her face and neck, almost treating her as if she was to be worshipped. She sighed and allowed her body to relax as she reveled in the dream. The feeling of teeth against her neck woke her with a start. She sat up quickly in the bed and looked for a weapon.

"Easy love, its only me." Angel whispered softly into her ear until she began to relax again with his murmurs and reassurances. Once she laid down, he began to resume his worshipping of her body. Knowing she was safe, Buffy allowed her guard to relax. The feeling of Angelís lips against her skin was heavenly. With a small sigh of contentment, she sunk deeper into the pillows. "Good morning." His lips descended on her for a demanding kiss. Buffyís eyes flew open again as she remembered the events from the last 24 hours.

"What, whatís wrong?" Angel noticed the sudden change in her posture.

"Youíre human. Itís true. It wasnít just some dream." She pressed her hand against his chest and felt his heart beating.

"Itís true. Weíre not dreaming."

"This is wonderful. This is amazing. Youíre human!!!"

"Too much talking." Angel moved closer to her to continue their celebration.

"Wait!! Youíre sick. You should be resting." Before he could complain, she placed her hand to his forehead. "Youíre still warm. What have you been doing out of bed? Stay here. Iíll be right back."

Angel sighed and tried to pull her back into his embrace. "Buffy, Iím fine. I feel a lot better than I did yesterday. Come back to bed."

"No way mister." She headed off to the kitchen to fix him some breakfast and juice. On the way back to his bedroom, she found the thermometer in the bathroom. A few minutes later, she crept into the bedroom, shocked and delighted that he had followed her orders. Placing the tray down on the bed next to him, she grabbed the thermometer. "Open up. Now, no talking while weíre taking your temperature."

"Yes maíam."

"Hey, I said no talking. I fixed us some breakfast. If you have the flu, I suggest just toast and juice. But if youíre feeling hungry, we have cereal and." The beeper of the thermometer stopped her from listing the menu. She looked at it briefly, surprised by what it said.

"Come on, it canít be that bad. I feel better, I swear."

She chuckled softly. "No, youíre right. Itís 99. Thatís really just a slight fever. You look a lot better this morning too. Itís just, you have a body temperature. You breathe, youíre sitting in the sunlight. Itís all kind of a shock to the system, you know."

"You should feel it from this side. Kind of ironic that Iím finally human and Iím sick." Angel couldnít suppress the laughter any longer.

Buffy stared in awe. Angel was human, lying in bed, the sunlight streaming in through the blinds and falling on his face as he laughed with a carefree attitude that she had never seen before. It would be a moment she would always remember.

Unfortunately, the moment had to end with Buffy leaving for school and promising to return later to check on him. With a final kiss good-bye and instructions that he should remain in bed, she left for school, hoping to talk to Giles before the bell rang. Walking into school, she tried to remember that things were a little different here. For example, she was a good student. That in itself was a major change.

Quickly she made her way to the library and called out for Giles. She watched as her father figure emerged from his office.

"Good morning Buffy. I trust Angel is well this morning?"

"Yeah, heís feeling a lot better, but I told him to stay in bed and rest any way. Any thoughts or ideas on how all this happened? I mean, how do I wake up one morning in a different world?" Buffy was curious to find out how it all happened, but wasnít too anxious to change anything. She liked this world the way it was. There were just a few changes to be made, and then all would be well.

"No, Iím sorry. I havenít come up with anything yet. Why donít you head to class and stop by this afternoon. Iíll keep researching and possibly find an explanation for you. Donít worry. If there is anything to be found, weíll discover it. Go to class." Giles watched his charge leave then returned to his search. He smiled while he scanned volumes and texts, looking for an answer and feeling useful again.

Buffy managed to make it through her morning classes without any complications or problems. Her teachers didnít seem to notice a difference in her and surprisingly she knew the answers whenever she was questioned. For once, Buffy enjoyed her classes. However, the joy was short lived as she ran into the boy that was supposedly her boyfriend. She had tried to avoid him all morning, but her luck had finally run out.

Scott scanned the halls for Buffy. He was anxious to see her. She never returned his phone calls last night and he was concerned. Finally he spotted her near her locker. He walked up behind her and placed his arms around her waist. "Hey beautiful. How come you never called me back last night?"

Buffyís body tensed slightly as he kissed her on the cheek. "Um, I was at Willowís all night. You know, studying and stuff. Sorry, I havenít even been home yet." Quickly she untangled herself from his embrace. "Uh, I have to run. Donít want to be late for class. Bye." Buffy didnít even bother to look back. She knew it was probably cruel to be so distant without an explanation to Scott, but what was she going to tell him. ĎOh sorry. Iím from a different time line where Iím not your girlfriend so please leave me alone.í Yeah, that would really work, not. Dismissing the thought from her mind, she hurried to the next class.

Scott watched in confusion as she fled. She didnít walk, she literally fled and retreated from his touch and embrace. Suddenly he was baffled. What could he have done for Buffy to change so drastically towards him? Something was going on and he was determined to find out what. Making a note to speak to Willow and Xander, he left and headed to his own class.

 

The day was finally over. It seemed to last forever, although Buffy couldnít remember ever enjoying school more. Maybe this reality really was better in every way. Dodging Scott had been harder that she expected, especially at lunch. He seemed to corner her and began questioning her about her behavior. She tried to act nonchalant and evasive with her answers. She didnít quite have the heart to break up with him yet.

Walking into the library, her thoughts turned to her phone call earlier. In between classes, Buffy had managed to call Angel and check up on him. Just hearing his voice was calming and reassuring. He swore he felt better and was resting. She promised to stop by after school before heading home. Now she just needed Giles to give her an explanation and she could be off to see him.

Giles looked up as Buffy entered. A moment later, Xander and Willow also entered the library. He waited as the teenagers all took seats around the table. "Well, I hate to disappoint you, but I have not discovered anything. I canít find any hint of prophecy that could have lead to these events. For all I know Buffy, you could have wished yourself into this reality somehow. The best I can tell you is to go about your life for right now and I will continue researching. I advice you to try and not make too many changes to your life. It would be best not to draw attention to yourself until we know more. Also, be on your guard for a while."

"Thatís it. Okay, I can do that." Realizing that there was little she could do other than enjoy her good fortune, she promised to be on guard and headed off to Angelís. "Iíll watch out. Iím going to leave then. I want to check in on Angel before I go home. Iíll see you guys tomorrow. Night and thanks Giles."

Buffy ran from the library to Angelís apartment. She was so excited to see her now human boyfriend. Walking up to the door, she knocked before entering. "Angel, are you awake?" She entered and closed the door behind her. "Angel?"

"Hey. I missed you." Angel heard Buffy knock and went to let her in. See her already inside, he pulled her into a hug before finding her mouth and giving her a long and passionate kiss. Slowly, his tongue urged her mouth opened and began searching for hers. He was suddenly aware of so many things. He could feel his heart pounding and his body temperature rising. Kissing Buffy was an amazing experience, especially since he didnít have to worry about Angelus roaming free.

After what seemed like hours, Buffy pulled back slightly and tried to catch her breath. "Hello to you to. Um, I could get used to being greeted like that. I take it youíre feeling better?"

He walked her over to the couch and pulled her onto his lap, hesitant to loose contact with her for even a moment. "Yes. I feel great. Jenny came by. We talked for a while. She explained a few things to me. My fever is gone completely and I almost feel back to 100% again." It was hard to contain his smile as he pressed his face against her neck and kissed her shoulders and neck. He still remembered all his crimes, but for some reason the guilt that always haunted him was gone. He still felt horrible, but he was able to differentiate between himself and the demon now. It made a world of difference in his attitude and behavior.

Buffy seemed to turn to putty and his skillful hands and mouth. She turned around and straddled his lap, facing him and catching his mouth in a sensuous kiss. "Thatís great." She meant to say more, but her mouth was preoccupied with his. She was lost in his mouth and the feel on his hands as the needed her breasts softly through her shirt. After a few moments, it wasnít enough. Buffy needed to feel his skin under hers. She slowly began to unbutton his shirt. Placing her hands on his sculptured chest, she pushed the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms. She was lost in his arms until they both had to pull away for a much-needed breath. "Oh god, I hate to say this, but I canít stay."

Angel was astonished. That was the last thing he was expecting her to say. "Why? Whatís going on?"

Buffy smiled and laughed at his sudden concern. "Donít worry silly, nothingís wrong. But in case you forgot, I havenít been home since early yesterday morning. I kind of need to let mom know Iím still alive. I wonder if anything is different at home?" Other than Angel, most of the changes in this world would be simple to fix or set back to her normal. However, she never wanted to change Angelís new human status. That was the best news yet. "You know, Iím really enjoying this world. Youíre human. There is no major need for a slayer. I donít get into all kinds of trouble and I even do well in school. Other than a boyfriend I have yet to ditch, things couldnít get better!"

Angel kept Buffy within his arms, unwilling to let her go. "I know. It almost seems to good to be true." Pulling her close, he placed his lips on hers and started another breath taking kiss. "Although Iím definitely going to have to get used to breathing again." Angel was panting heavily after their kiss, but it was a small price to pay. "I know you canít stay, but how about we make some plans for that real date we never got. Maybe spend the day together Saturday. You can show me what this town looks like during the day and maybe dinner and dancing to follow. What do you say?"

Buffy smiled widely. "You have yourself a date. This is going to be so much fun. You and me on a real date with no hell mouth interference. It will be an absolute first!" She was giddy with excitement and expectation. Her first real date with Angel and there was nothing to stand in their way.

"It will be perfect, just wait. So, go home, see you mom, dump the old boyfriend, and make sure your schedule is cleared for Saturday. You are mine for the entire day, okay?" He picked her up and walked over to the door with her legs still wrapped around him. Placing her on the ground, he leaned in for one more sweet kiss. "You better go before I never let you leave."

Buffy couldnít help but laugh at his mischievous smile and the glint in his eyes. She had never seen him so relaxed and playful before. It was even more devastatingly handsome when he smiled, if that was even possible. "Okay, I canít wait. Iíll talk to you later. I love you."

With one last kiss, he let her go. "I love you. Call me later." He watched patiently as she disappeared from his view. After closing the door, he walked over to the desk and pulled out his phone book. Today was Thursday. He only had two days to create the perfect evening for his first real date with Buffy. With a broad smile on his face, he began searching for the perfect place to take her to dinner.

Note: * denotes thought

Buffy walked home with her head in the clouds. She could still smell a tinge Angelís cologne on her shirt. For the first time in so long, she felt like a normal girl and was amazingly happy. Actually, she never remembered being this happy before, except for possible the first time she and Angel ever made love. *Oh wow. Itíll be my first time with him again. I wonder if itís still going to be my first time. I have to find a way to figure out what kind of life this me lead. Maybe Willow would know.* As she approached her house, she noticed a strange car in the driveway. As she moved closer, she realized it was her dadís car. *I wonder what heís doing here?*

As she walked up the steps, the front door to the house opened. Her father stood there looking extremely upset. Actually, Buffy had never seen him looking so angry before. Taking a second glance, she noticed her mother standing further in the house. There was a frown on her face and was looking every where but at Buffy.

Hank Summers was beyond mad. He had been mad the night before when his daughter never came home and had the nerve to let a friend call for her. He was enraged by the time he arrived home from work and she still had not come home. As the clock approached five, he waited by the door and finally he saw her walking down the street. Her carefree expression and nonchalant attitude did nothing to alleviate his rage. He opened the door and grabbed her arm as she entered the house. Quickly he pulled her into the living room and sat her down on the couch.

Buffy was extremely confused and slightly scared by her fatherís behavior. She had never seen him so angry before. She was still wondering what he was doing in Sunnydale when he started yelling at her and she dismissed the thoughts for now, deciding it was in her best interests to pay attention.

"Where the hell have you been? You know the rules! You are to come home right after school each day unless I give you express permission otherwise. Where were you?" Hank screamed. His face was bright red as he laid into his daughter. He refused to let her disobey his rules in anyway. "Answer me!"

"Dad, Iím sorry. I talked to Mr. Giles for a little bit about an assignment and then went to see a friend for a few minutes. I didnít realize you would be this upset." Buffy was franticly trying to piece together her fatherís behavior in this reality. Taking a small glance at the walls, she noticed all the pictures contained the three of them. *They never got divorced. Thatís the difference in this world.* She tried to hide her smile knowing it was completely inappropriate for her fatherís lecture. "Iím so sorry dad. I didnít mean to worry you. It will never happen again." She quickly tried to appease him.

Hank was further disturbed from her answers. She had willingly disobeyed the rules. He had to stop this now before things spun out of control. "Go to your room. Iíll be up later to discuss this. For now, you have no phone or stereo privileges. You are to go upstairs and begin your homework until you are called for. Is that understood?"

"Yes dad." Buffy quickly stood up, grabbed her backpack and ran up the stairs. As she entered her room, she realized it looked no different that before, with the exception that pictures that once contained just her mother and herself, now had her father present as well. Everything was in its rightful place. Sitting down at her desk, she pulled out her books and began to wonder why her father was so angry. Sure, she didnít come home like expected, but he had never been this strict before. Could things be that different, she wondered. Curiosity overcame her and she walked over to her closet. She always hid her dairies in the bottom on the closet. *Hopefully, it would be the same in this world and maybe they will give me some clue as to what happened.* Luck was with her and she found her diaries just were she thought. Quickly she began to search for the one that had any entries around the time her parents had divorced and moved to Sunnydale. She hoped to find some answers before her father came up to speak with her.

Hank shook his head and took another sip of his scotch. "What has gotten into that girl? Can you believe her? I donít understand. I thought we finally had things settled in this house." He poured himself another scotch and quickly drank the contents.

"Hank, she is just a teenager. She really didnít do anything wrong. Why donít you just ground her for a week and youíll see that things will go back to normal. Iím sure she didnít mean to disobey you. Why donít you just take a seat and Iíll finish making dinner." Joyce Summers tried to calm her husband down before he spoke to their daughter. She hated to see him so angry. She didnít know what had happened. Things had been going so well lately. Buffyís behavior had been perfect, her grades exemplary, and even Hankís business was going well.

Hank smashed the glass against the wall. "Is that what you think I should do, huh? Leniency is what caused us to move here in the first place. Do you want a repeat of Hemery all over again? This is how it started last time. A lie here and there. Then she stopped coming home at nights. Next thing you know, weíll be picking her up at the police station and trying to keep her out of jail. That is totally unacceptable. We will not have a repeat of events from two years ago. This little rebellion of hers ends tonight." Hank stormed out of the room and into his study where he slammed the door behind him.

Joyce shook her head and prayed that her husband would calm down before talking to Buffy. Then she grabbed a dustpan and proceeded to clean up the broken glass before returning to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner. At five thirty exactly, she heard Hank emerge from the study and head up to Buffyís room. All she could do was pray he would remain calm.

As soon as dinner time approached, Hank went upstairs to retrieve Buffy. He figured he would speak to her at dinner first before discussing her punishment. Maybe he was over reacting. He would watch her behavior at dinner and decide what to do later. Quietly he opened the door, not bothering to knock before entering. He sight before him, shocked him. "Buffy, what are you doing?"

"Daddy, I was just looking for something in my diary."

"If I remember correctly, I sent you up here to do homework, not write in that foolish book. Its dinner time, letís go now!" Hank was not pleased. She had disobeyed him again and blatantly. Maybe it was time she remembered who made the rules in the house and exactly what they were.

Buffy quickly made her way downstairs to the dinning room. Her mother already had the table set and the food out. *Wow. Formal dining. Guess things are kind of different here.* Her diaries were not the wealth of information she hoped for. Instead the entries were few and far between around the time that her family had supposedly moved to Sunnydale. She hoped she would pick up on any changes quickly.

As dinner progressed, Hank carefully watched Buffyís behavior. He started lightly questioning her about school and friends. So far nothing had been out of the normal for her. "What about Scott? How is he doing?"

Buffy hesitated before answering. *Here goes nothing.* "Actually, I donít know how much longer Iím going to be seeing Scott. Things just arenít working out."

Joyce looked up from her dinner and spoke for the first time. "Have you talked to Scott about this? Iím sure you can work out whatever differences you are having?" Joyce was hoping to convince Buffy to change her mind. Scott had been handpicked by Hank as Buffyís boyfriend. The idea that Buffy was going to break up with him was not going to make Hank happy. "You and Scott make a wonderful couple."

"I know, but Iím not in love with him. Heís nice, but heís not what I want. I donít think talking about it is going to help. I was planning on speaking to him tomorrow during lunch. Oh, is it okay if I spend the day with a friend on Saturday?" Buffy hoped to change the subject and divert attention from her relationship with Scott.

Hank tossed his napkin on the table. This news was the final straw. "You will do no such thing. You will continue to see Scott and that is final. As for Saturday, unless you have plans with Scott or having a tutoring session with you teacher, you are not leaving this house. Is that understood?"

"But dad, I donít want to be with Scott. I donít love him."

Hank was shocked that his daughter had the nerve to talk back to him. He stood up from his chair and slapped her across the face. "You will continue to see Scott and that is final. Up to your room now!"

Buffy was shocked. Her father hit her. Her father had never hit her before in her entire life. She didnít understand what was going on. With her hand still covering her face, she quickly left that table and sought out the sanctuary of her room. Dazed and confused, she sat on her bed and tried to understand what was happening. She didnít have long before her father stormed into her room. She immediately stood up and began to apologize. "Iím sorry."

Hank grabbed her and pushed her against the wall. A hand rested on her neck with her head to the side. Her back was facing him and he could see the fear in her eyes. "How dare you talk back to me! First you donít come home. You have nerve to get one of your friends to call for you. Then you donít come home on time. Now youíre contradicting me. I think its time you learned your place in this house again."

Buffy tensed with fear. She had never heard such a vicious tone from her father nor had she felt this much fear since facing Angelus. She could hear him release his belt from his waist. Fearing what following, she tried to release his grip. His hand tightened around her throat and his entire body pressed hers into the wall. She felt him back away slightly and tried again to free herself, but found her father quickly over powered her. He started raining blows across her back, butt, and thighs, constantly yelling at his and demeaning her.

Hank felt her struggle and became further enraged. He couldnít believe she had the audacity to try and run from him now. It was obvious that she had forgotten her past lessons. He began to bring the belt down across her back without mercy. He put the full power of his rage and anger across each blow.

Hit after hit came down on her and he showed no signs of slowing or tiring. The pain was quickly becoming unbearable for Buffy. She felt the tears freely run down her face. She noticed that any sound she made only fueled his anger. Biting her lips, she tried to silence the cries and desperately wanted to escape. She lost count of the number of times he hit her. Her back started to feel numb and her legs were giving out. As she slumped down to her knees, she begged for him to stop. Her actions only caused him to change the means of her punishment. After half an hour, the blows began to slow. Believing that the worst was over, she tried to gain control of her breathing and the pain, but she quickly realized how wrong she was. The torture was just starting.

Joyce heard the cries coming from upstairs. She wished there was a way to protect her daughter, but she tried to tell herself that this was for Buffyís own good. She needed to be disciplined and had to understand the consequences for disobeying the rules. When the dinner dishes were done, and the house immaculate, she looked at the time. It had been over an hour and Hank had yet to leave Buffyís room. Joyce was worried, extremely worried. Leaving the kitchen, she decided to check on them. She needed to know Buffy was okay, even if it meant turning Hankís temper on her. As she reached the top of the stairs, Hank emerged from Buffyís bedroom.

Hank gave her one final kick before leaving her lying on the floor. Fixing his clothes, he opened her door and left the room. Upon seeing Joyce standing at the stairs, he began barking out orders. "You are to leave her alone until I tell you. You are not to go into her room for anything. She is not getting meals or phone calls until I say otherwise. Is that understood?"

Angel woke with a start. Something was wrong. He had been taking a nap, waiting for Buffy to call when the feeling of fear and pain overcame him. He took a quick look around the apartment. Everything was in order. He tried to figure out where the feelings came from, but he couldnít pin point it. Angel wanted to phone Buffy and make sure she was fine, but was worried about her mother answering the phone. In their world, Joyce hated him. He couldnít imagine Joyce feeling any differently. He also didnít want to put Buffy on the spot and explain his sudden existence in her life. Dismissing the feelings as a simple nightmare, he fixed himself a snack and watched a little television. After 11 p.m., he assumed Buffy had simply forgotten to call and it was too late to call the Summerís house now. He resolved to talk to her tomorrow and went to bed.

 

 

 

Angel said good-bye to Jenny and began cleaning up the mess from dinner. As the clock chimed 10 p.m., Angel remembered that he still hadnít heard from Buffy. *Itís not like her to go this long without calling me.* Angel was worried that she might have run into trouble. Finally, he broke down and decided to call her at home. He didnít care if her mother was angry. He needed reassurance that she was okay.

"Hello."

"Hi, can I speak to Buffy please?"

"Iím sorry, sheís not here."

Before Angel had an opportunity to ask anything else, Mrs. Summers hung up. Angel tried to reason that maybe Buffy was just at the Bronze or hanging out with her friends. However, his gut told him differently. He picked up the phone and called Giles, hoping the watcher would have some clue as to Buffyís whereabouts.

"Hello." Giles answered the phone. His voice still retained a heavy English accent.

"Giles, its Angel. Iím sorry to call you so late, but I was wondering if youíve seen Buffy today?"

"Oh, Angel, yes, hello. Ms. Calender explained you were feeling better. Uh, no. I havenít seen Buffy today. I had hoped that she would stop by the library and we could discuss a few of the differences and similarities of the two dimensions, but she never arrived. I believe Willow said she didnít come into school. I spoke to the attendance office and her father called her in sick."

Angel was confused. "That doesnít make any sense. If sheís sick, why did her mother say she wasnít home? Why hasnít she called me?" Angelís concern now escalated to pure fear. Something wasnít right. His bond with Buffy was weaker today than yesterday. He had long ago learned to follow his instincts too. Right now, his gut told screamed trouble. "Giles, something is wrong. I know it is. I can feel it. Besides, she would have called me and she would have found a way to speak to you today if it was something as simple as not feeling well."

Giles contemplated for a moment. This Buffy was so different that the one he was used to. She still had that air of confidence around her. Quickly he realized that the old Buffy would have checked in with him, not matter what the circumstances. Also, Giles saw the devotion in Buffyís eyes as she cared for Angel. She wouldnít have let so much time pass without contacting him. "Youíre right. This does seem worthy of asking a few questions, maybe checking a few locations. Let me call Willow first and make sure she hasnít heard from Buffy." Thirty minutes later, Giles arrived at Angelís and together they headed out in search of their slayer.

Giles thought they should stop by the Summerís residence first and see if Buffy had returned home. Although it was almost 11 p.m., lights were still on throughout the house. Angel stood on the front porch and rang the doorbell.

Joyce had been watching some television and relaxing. Hank was still out, probably at a bar somewhere. He still refused to allow her to see Buffy. She had watched him bring some food and water to her once, but nothing else. Her thoughts were halted by the doorbell and Joyce was surprised to see two men standing on her porch at such an hour. Cautiously she opened the front door, but kept the screen door closed and locked. "Can I help you?"

"Mrs. Summers, do you remember me? Iím Rupert Giles. I work at the high school. This is Angel, a friend of Buffyís."

"Yes, of course. What can I do for you?"

Angel responded quickly. "We need to speak with Buffy. I know itís late, but itís extremely important that I talk to her." Angel was nervous. His feelings of concern had only grown as they neared the home. Through the bond, Angel knew Buffy was inside, but something was wrong. His soul screamed for him to find her immediately.

"Iím sorry, but thatís not possible. She has been forbidden to see anyone."

"What do you mean forbidden?" Giles was curious to say the least. Unfortunately, Angel didnít allow Joyce to respond.

"I know sheís here. Iím not leaving until we see that sheís alright and we speak to her." Angelís voice conveyed more threats than his words.

"Iím sorry, but."

Angel didnít allow her to finish. He had to find Buffy now. He opened the door and pushed passed Joyce. He told Giles to check the main floor and basement. As he climbed the stairs, he called out her name and prayed that she would respond, but nothing came. As he reached her room, he found the door locked. Sensing Buffy inside, he used his shoulder to break through the lock. He was never prepared for the sight before him. In complete shock, he moved closer.

Buffy lay curled up on the floor. Her body was bruised and severely beaten. Angel could see blood everywhere. Running to her side, he called for Giles. "Giles, get up here now!"

Giles heard Angelís estranged yell and quickly bounded up the stairs with Joyce following closely behind. He stopped suddenly in his tracks as he saw Angel bend over the crippled form of his slayer. "Dear lord."

"Call 911! Sheís hardly breathing. Her pulse feels like its getting weaker. GO!" He watched Giles run back out of the room before returning his full attention to Buffy. Her body was in a weird position and he figured that moving her would only cause her more harm. He brushed some hair, now matted with her own blood, from her face and called her. "Buffy, honey, its Angel. Buffy, I need you to open your eyes. Come on Buffy. I need you to know you can hear me. Squeeze my hand." Angel desperately tried to get a response, but felt nothing from his belovedís battered form. "Where is all the blood from?!"

Giles reentered the room and stood in horror. He than turned and demanded answers from Joyce. "Who did this to her? Why didnít you take her to the hospital?"

Joyce stood still, afraid to accept the devastating reality before her. Her own husband had beaten their only daughter within an inch of her life. Quietly she responded to Giles request. "Hank."

Gilesí outrage increased ten fold. How could a father hurt his child? Dismissing the thought, he turned his focus on getting Buffy medical attention. "Go downstairs and wait for the ambulance. Send them up with a stretcher." Five minutes later, Giles and Angel followed the ambulance to the hospital, quietly saying prayers for their bloody and broken slayer.

Angel paced inside the hospital waiting room. He couldnít remember ever being so scared before. *How did this happen? Why Buffy? Why didnít she fight back?* He felt guilty as the last thought crossed his mind. His rational side knew it was only Hankís fault, but he just couldnít understand. Angel stopped dead in his tracks as the doctor entered the waiting room. "How is she?"

"Her injuries were quite severe. She had a few broken ribs, one of which had punctured her lung, along with bruises, cuts, and abrasions. However, nothing that shouldnít heal physically with time. Mentally, she may never be the same."

"What do you mean?"

"Most rape and abuse victims suffer long terms affects and consequences. The sooner she begins counseling, the better?"

"Rape! She was raped?"

"Iím sorry. I thought you knew. It appears after she was beaten, he sexually assaulted her. She did wake up briefly, but was in shock and unable to respond. Weíve repaired the lung and have her something for the pain. She was also given something to prevent pregnancy. Right now, sheís resting as comfortably as possible."

Angel could no longer stand and collapsed into a nearby chair. He prayed this was all an extravagant nightmare, but his senses told him differently. "Oh god, oh god. This canít be happening."

Giles too had collapsed into a chair. Upon hearing Angelís reaction, he pushed aside all of his feelings and clung to rational thoughts. "Angel, look at me. We have to keep calm to help Buffy. Anything weíre feeling is nothing compared to what she is feeling. Sheíll need our love and support now more than ever before. We need to remain strong for her."

Angel shook his head in disbelief before allowing Gilesí words to sink in. He had to keep himself under control. "Will she be okay?"

"She should be fine with treatment and your support. Iíve already spoken with the police. They will need a statement, but Iíve asked them to wait a few days. We need to see how quickly sheíll wake and if the shock has wore off. In the mean time, would you like to see her?" The doctor knew the two men werenít family, but their concern for her and the fact that they had brought her in made him disregard the rules. "You can sit with her for a while. I have some rounds to make. If you need anything, have the nurses page me." Doctor Ross left the men at the door to Buffyís room.

Giles watched Angel stare at the door, but make no attempt to open it. He nudged Angelís back gently. "Come on. Sheís going to need all our love and support now. Iím as angry and upset as you are, but Buffy comes first right now."

"Okay." Angel knew Giles was right. Even though he had found her unconscious in her room, the sight of her lying in a hospital bed looking small and fragile broke his heart. How could anyone hurt his beloved like this? How could a parent cause their child so much pain? Angel walked over to her bed and gently caressed her face. If anything, her bruises had become more prominent instead of fading. "Giles, why hasnít her healing kicked in? Some of these bruises should have been healed by now."

Giles had been thinking the same thing. Her bruises had grown worse. Even with a punctured lung, the slayer healing should have had her awake and semi-mobile. "Iím not sure. Iíll contact the council and do some research. In the mean time, Iím going to speak with the police. I want to make sure that Hank Summers is not allowed any where near her. Hopefully they put him in jail already. Stay with her. Iíll return shortly." Giles left, allowing Angel some privacy.

Angel found a chair across the small room and pulled it next to her bed. He held her hand, careful not to disturb the IV. There were ugly, purple bruises surrounding both her wrists. *If she tried to fight him, why did this happen? She should have been able to defeat him easily.* "Oh baby, Iím so sorry. I knew something was wrong. I should have been there." His feelings of guilt had increased while waiting to hear about her condition. "Beloved, I need you to get better. You have to wake up and get better. We can finally have everything weíve dreamed of. I can give you all the things in life that you deserve. You just have to get better. I need you. I canít do this alone." Angel rested his head on the bed, his large hands gripping her smaller one.

Giles was beyond outraged. How could the council betray their own slayer? How was he going to tell Angel? He couldnít believe that the organization he dedicated his life to defending and preserving would purposely put the slayer in such danger. Again he shook his head and rubbed his temples. His years as a watcher had trained him for many things, but not for this. He quietly walked into the hospital room. At first glance, he thought Angel was sleeping, but a longer look told him differently. The ex-vampire was quietly saying prayers in Latin. Although Giles had only known him a few days, he was beginning to like and trust him immensely. He waited patiently for Angel to finish reciting his prayer. "Angel."

"Amen." Angel opened his eyes and turned to see Giles. "Giles, she hasnít even moved yet."

"Thatís probably for the best. It would only cause her more pain. She needs the rest to regain her strength." Giles paused for a moment, unsure how to explain the councilís betrayal. "I have some news and youíre not going to like it."

Angel was extremely worried. He had remained at Buffyís side while Giles made a few inquiries. While Giles was gone, a nurse had stopped in and told him there was no change. *What if itís Hank?* "What?! Tell me Giles!"

"Well, the reason sheís not healing is because of a drug in her system. In a few days, sheíll regain her accelerated healing again. In a week or so, she should be fully healed."

"How can that be? There is only one drug that can do that and Buffyís not 18 yet. Sheís still has time before the test."

"You know about that?" Giles was shocked at Angelís knowledge of the barbaric ritual. "Never mind. I spoke with the council. It seems that after the hellmouth was closed, Hank petitioned the council, claiming Buffy was uncontrollable. Due to her unique style, the council complied providing Hank with the drug. He must have been using it on her recently. They only provided him with a small supply. Those idiots! Didnít they realize what could happen?!"

Angel was quiet for a moment. To an observer, it looked like he was thinking. However, Angel was attempting to regain some semblance of control before speaking again. He knew Giles had been unaware and not involved. He didn't want to release his temper on an innocent man. "Giles, I want you to call the council back. Let them know that Buffy no longer takes orders from them. If they ever come near her or even try to contact her, tell Travers I will declare war on them all."" With that, Angel turned his attention back to the pale body hidden beneath the sheets.

Giles retreated from the room. There was nothing he could do for her, except for one thing. Giles would guarantee that Hank Summers never lay a hand on his daughter again.

Angel was woken from his light sleep. He looked around the room expecting to see one of the many nurses milling around and checking Buffyís vitals. However, he didnít see anyone. He was trying to image what could have woken him when he was pulled from his revere. He could feel the increasing pressure on his hand. "Buffy, can you hear me?" Angel waited expectantly, hoping she would finally wake up for a few moments. "Beloved, wake up. Open you eyes for me."

"Angel." Her voice was barely above a whisper. Her whole body hurt. Her mind was foggy and disorientated.

Angel saw her trying to move and gently stopped her, being careful not to hit the many bruises cascading down her arms. "Hey, you need to stay still, okay? Youíve been badly hurt. Youíre in the hospital."

Buffy was trying to remember why she was hurt when the memories hit her full force. Her father, her own father had caused this. She didnít understand why or how. All she knew was she needed to get some where safe. "I have to go."

Angel watched in horror as the emotions crossed her face. He knew she remembered. As he reached out to touch her face, he saw her flinch away. "Hey, youíre okay. No one is going to hurt you. I promise. As soon as the doctor gives you the okay, Iíll take you home." His last statement seemed to scare her even more. "Buffy, I know what happened. Iím not going to make you go back there. Iím going to take you home with me. Is that okay?"

Buffy couldnít respond. Ashamed, she turned her head away from Angel. She could feel the tears flowing down her face. How could Angel even look at her after what happened? How could he stand to be in the same room with her?

As if reading her mind, he reached out and brought her face back to his. "It wasnít your fault." He tried to reassure her that her fears were unfounded. "Buffy, I love you more than anything. Nothing is ever going to chance that. I love you. I want to help you through this. None of this was your fault. You are not to blame."

"I couldnít stop him." She choked out the words between sobs. With each breath, the pain in her lungs increased. She tried to move her hand to clench her side, but her arm was in a cast.

Angel saw her anguish and pain. He quickly hit the call button, signally for a nurse. "Take it easy. You had a punctured lung. Theyíve repaired it, but it will take some time to heal."

The tears continued to flow. "I tried , but I couldnít."

"Shush, itís going to be okay. Itís not your fault." Angel tried to console her. Between the physical pain and emotional, he feared for her. Hoping the nurses could help with the physical pain, he pressed the call button and asked for more pain medication. He watched as a doctor entered and tried to speak with Buffy. However, she wanted no part of the man. Angel had to physically hold her down for the doctor to give her a shot. "Buffy, look at me. Itís just some pain medication. No one is going to hurt you here. I promise."

"Donít leave me."

"Never, baby, never. Go to sleep. Iíll be here when you open your eyes. Iíll keep you safe."

 

The days slowly passed by for Angel as he kept his promise and never left his belovedís side for long. After seeing how his presence kept Buffy calm and sedated, the doctors stopped objecting to his 24 hour presence. Giles and Jenny stopped by often to bring fresh clothes and food. Most of the time, Buffy was sleep when the came. She did little other than sleep as her body attempted to heal itself. Without more of the serum from the council, her healing ability returned and the bruises began to heal rapidly. Although her physical health improved, Angel knew her mind was far from healed. She refused to see her friends or her mother. She tolerated Gilesí presence, but hadnít spoken to him. Most times, she refused to allow a male doctor in her room without Angel there with her. Whenever she slept, nightmares plagued her. She would wake up screaming and crying for help. Each time Angel tried to comfort her and eventually she would drift back to sleep in his arms. The doctors were constantly given her something to help her sleep.

As Wednesday rolled around, Giles finally heard a response from the council. It wasnít exactly what he hoped for, but it would help. The last 5 days had been dreadful and taxing on everyone, especially Angel. If Giles every had any doubts about Angelís affections for Buffy, his behavior through the entire ordeal proved his love for small slayer. Angel remained constantly at her side. Jenny had finally managed to convince Angel to leave for a short period of time to get some exercise, while she kept Buffy company.

Jenny was an amazing woman. Giles has spent many hours talking with her since Angel called to tell her Buffy was in the hospital. She had helped make many of the inquiries and arrangements for Buffyís release. Jenny had also explained the ritual that changed Angel from a vampire into a human. He had found their conversations stimulating and comforting. Now with classes finished for the day, he waited for her arrival to head to the hospital.

"Mr. Giles?"

Giles poked his head out of his office. Giles immediately recognized the teens before him. Willow and Xander had been coming to the library each day for updates on Buffyís condition. That had tried going to the hospital, but Buffy refused to see them. "Hello, Willow, Alexander. How are you doing?"

"Okay. Howís Buffy?"

"Actually, Iím going to the hospital in a few minutes. They will be releasing her today." Giles had finalized the arrangements. Now he just had to explain them to Buffy and Angel. "I wouldnít expect her back to school for a while, but once sheís settled in, you can come visit her."

Willow had been deeply hurt when Buffy refused to talk to her. She didnít understand why her best friend refused to rely on her for help. "Thatís good, right? Is she going home?"

"No, she wonít be returning home." Giles was about to continue when Jenny walked into the library.

"Hello Rupert, kids. Are you ready to go?" Jenny Calander smiled brightly. She enjoyed spending time with Rupert Giles, she just wished it didnít focus around just a horrible event. She hated to see Angel so distressed. She knew Buffyís love and affection would be good for him, but this horrible turn of events couldnít have happened to nicer people. Her mind was constantly thinking up curses to place on the horrible man who called himself Buffyís father.

"Yes, if youíll excuse me. Iíll explain everything to you tomorrow Willow. If Buffy feels up to it, Iíll have her call you, okay?" Giles grabbed his things and headed toward the exit.

"Giles, tell Buffy we love her and miss her." Xander shouted before Giles walked out the door.

"I will."

Angel walked back into the hospital room to a familiar sight. Buffy was curled up in the bed and staring blankly out the window. He walked over and grabbed her hand, trying to pull her out of her reverie. "Hey, you ready to go home today?"

Buffy paniced at the words. "Home?" She didnít want to go home every again. She couldnít stand the thought of ever returning to that house again.

Angel got a reaction all right, but not the one he was hoping for. "Hey relax, Giles is making the arrangements. You wonít be going back home. And if you donít like those arrangements, then weíll figure something else out. Weíll do whatever makes you comfortable, okay?" He squeezed her hand reassuringly and gave her a small kiss on the forehead. He had been making a conscious effort to remain extremely affectionate with her, while not putting any pressure on her. He kept to light touches and small kisses, letting her know she was loved, but given her time to heal.

"Canít I go home with you?"

Angel smiled down at her. He had thought about taking back to his apartment. His instincts told him to take her home and never let her out of his sight again. However, it wasnít possible. "I would love nothing better, but we canít. You still need a legal guardian until you turn 18. Donít worry though, Iím sure Giles has something figured out. Iím not going to leave you."

Giles and Jenny took that moment to walk into the room. "I do. Hello Buffy, Angel. How are you feeling?"

"Okay. Angel says I get to leave today. Where will I be staying?" Buffy voice was soft and withdrawn. She sounded more like a frightened child than a slayer who had survived more than her share of demons.

Jenny walked over to the side of the bed opposite Angel and pushed the hair from Buffyís eyes. She had taken an immediately liking to the girl and now found herself becoming extremely protective of her. "Well, Rupert and I have make some arrangements, but if you donít like them, we can do something else."

"Yes, I have spoken with the council. They have helped cut some of the red tape so to speak with the police and social services here. If you agree Buffy, both Jenny and I will be appointed your guardians. We thought it might make things easier on you to have both of us to turn to. The council has arranged for a house to stay in. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, a gym and a pool. Until youíre ready to go back to school, Jenny and myself can arrange for all your tests and assignments to be done at home. The council is also prepared to send out a councilor if you would like. They understand that it would be hard to speak to someone here who doesnít know of your calling." Giles waited patiently, watching to see her reaction to the arrangements.

Buffyís mind had yet to clear of the constant fog that seemed to plague her. It took a few seconds for Gilesí words to sink in. "So I would be living with you and Jenny. Can I still see Angel?"

Jenny couldnít help but smile. Buffy needed Angel in her life right now as much as he needed her. "Of course Buffy. We would never dream of keeping you apart. Buffy, you are a beautiful and intelligent girl. You donít need us to tell you want to do most of the time. Rupert and I will be there to help you whenever you need it. On occasion, we may set a curfew, but other than that, you are free to make your own decisions still. We will always be here for advice, but we wonít set mandates on you. Okay?"

Buffy found Jennyís soft voice very comforting. She glanced briefly at Angel and could see that he approved of the plan. As long as she could see Angel and didnít have to return to her house, she didnít care. "Okay, when can we leave?"

"As soon as the doctor signs your release papers. I spoke to him briefly, and you are going to have to take it easy for another week though." Giles wanted to add that the police wouldnít wait that long before speaking to her. While she remained in the hospital, they had managed to keep them at bay, but with her release nothing would stop them. Giles knew she couldnít face that yet. A small glance at Angel told him the ex-vampire knew the same thing.

"What about my clothes and stuff?"

"I saw your mother yesterday. She packed some things for you. We told her you would be staying with us. She understands. She sends her love and she would like you to call her as soon as you feel up to it." Jenny remembered when Angel first told her that Buffy refused to see her mother. She could understand the girlís feelings of betrayal. However, she saw Joyceís genuine concern and regret. She only hoped Buffy was able to salvage some sort of relationship with her mother. She promised Joyce she would encourage Buffy to call, but she wouldnít pressure her or directly interfere.

"Yes, we can arrange for any of your things to be sent over to the house. Also, there is some money, courtesy of the council. You can go shopping for new furniture for the room and some clothes and things. Willow brought me your books from your locker. Oh, she and Xander send their love. When you feel up to it, they would love to see you." Giles could tell from her expression that she had no intentions of calling them yet. He prayed that she would take the councilís offer to send a councilor over from England for her to speak to. She needed someone to help guide her and deal with her emotions. He would help any way he could, but he hardly knew the right things to mention half the time. He didnít know how to help her deal with this reality. "Well, why donít Angel and I see if we can find that doctor. Jenny can help you get dressed and weíll get you back to the house and settled in."

Angel was furious as he left the room. "Are they trying to buy her off? What is the council up to Giles?"

"