THE COLOR OF TIME

D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - Joss owns all. I own very very little.

Spoilers - None, set S2 between Halloween and Surprise

Rating - PG-13 bordering on R for sexual situations

Summary - A big spell equals trouble for Buffy and her friends

Feedback- yes please, connorswhip@Yahoo.com

Author’s Note #1 - written for Leni’s B/A Ficathon, I’m writing for Sorcha

Pairing: Buffy/Angel

Requests (1 or 2): Mr. Gordo, pizza.

Restrictions (1 or 2): No angst, no fluff.

Author’s Note #2 - I didn’t get as much polish on this as I wanted to. But thanks to SJ for editing it.

 

Chapter  One

“‘Never have a pizza and a stuffed toy caused so much havoc’,” Buffy read out loud to Willow. She pouted then jumped as a hand descended and snatched away the book. Buffy made “I’ve been a bad puppy” eyes at Giles as he cradled the book to his chest, his patented ‘I’m cross with you’ look on his lined face.

 

“Where did you find this?” His tone layered stern with irritation.

 

“Uh, lying around.” Willow flashed her widest, most innocent grin.

 

“Yep.” Buffy tried to look bright, perky, like anything but a book thief.

 

“I see. It was just lying in my desk drawer under a big box of Typhoo and a box of Jelly Babies,” Giles countered.

 

“Yeah about those Jelly Babies...we kinda ate them all,” Buffy said sheepishly.

 

“But not the purple ones.” Willow made a face, shuddering. “They’re nasty.”

 

“Bloody hell,” Giles said under his breath. “My diary is off limits, Buffy.”

 

“Why?” She brushed back her hair. She couldn’t figure out why Giles was making a major case out of this. “Shouldn’t I be learning stuff about all the demons and everything?”

 

“You’re surrounded with books for that very purpose, Buffy.” Giles took a claming breath then added almost apologetically, “I can’t be free to write accurately in my diary if I know you’ll be reading it.”

 

“Wait!” Buffy’s lips pulled into a frown. “Do you write bad things about me in there?”

 

“I record things accurately,” he replied, running an irritated hand through his thinning hair, heading into his office. He added in a mumble, “And I wonder why my hair is falling out.”

 

“Don’t blame me for that. You’re bald because you keep doing this.” Buffy shoved her hands through her hair in a perfect imitation of his gesture.

 

Giles whipped around, his eyes matching an acetylene torch in color and heat.

 

“Time to go study at home.” Willow grabbed Buffy’s arm, hauling her up. She hustled Buffy out of the school.

 

“He’s writing bad things about me.” Buffy pouted.

 

“You know Giles wouldn’t do that,” Willow said, lightly.

 

Buffy’s shoulders slumped. “I know, but it’s not like him to be keeping secrets.”

 

“Who’s keeping secrets?” Angel melted out of the shadows, startling the girls.

 

“Xander’s right. We should put a bell on you.” Buffy grinned at him, wanting to give him a warmer welcome but Willow always got embarrassed when she saw any PDA’s. “And Giles is keeping secrets in his Watcher’s Diaries.”

 

“He couldn’t keep them accurately if you’re going through them feeling all defensive,” Angel said. Moving closer to her, he stopped, seeing the look in her eyes. He realized he had just put his foot in it.

 

Buffy smiled sweetly and Angel knew it was the smile of someone thinking how her boyfriend was going to have to make that last statement up in gifts and kisses. “You sound just like Giles.”

 

“Must be a guy thing,” Willow said.

 

“We patrolling tonight?” Angel seemed desperate for a subject change.

 

Buffy nodded. “We need to walk Willow home first.” Buffy wondered if they were boring Angel with all their school talk as they walked to Willow’s. He was quiet, even for him. Once Willow was safely home and they were somewhere more or less private, he kissed her gently, designed to make her forget the faux pas of siding with Giles.

 

“Sweet,” he murmured as they broke apart.

 

“Probably because I ate most of Giles’ Jelly Babies,” Buffy said.

 

“You stole his candy, too?” Angel smiled. “Poor man.”

 

“I didn’t even get the chance to see what he wrote about the whole pizza thing.” She put her pout back on, knowing its ability to melt Angel.

 

“I wouldn’t think you’d want to read about that. It was just...uncomfortable.” Angel stuffed his hands in his pockets.

 

“That’s putting it nicely.” Buffy frowned, thinking back on the incident wondering what Giles would have to say about it.

 

*                                                                      *                                              *

 

“Buffy, the pizza man was here.” Joyce walked into the kitchen where her daughter sat with Willow, Xander and Cordy. “I’ll be in L.A. the whole weekend if you...”

“I have the number, Mom. You’ve told me a dozen times,” Buffy interrupted, developing the typical teen frustrations over being babied. “You have fun.”

 

“I don’t want you eating pizza every night though, Buffy.” Joyce put the boxes of pizza on the table then swooped in to plant a kiss on Buffy’s cheek before her child could protest ‘not in front of my friends.’

 

“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be good,” Buffy promised.

 

“I trust you, Buffy.” Joyce’s eyes warned that the trust had best not be abused. “You kids have a good weekend.”

 

“You, too,” Buffy replied.

 

“I will.” Joyce’s shoulders slumped. “I just feel guilty about leaving you alone again.”

 

“I’m not alone.” Buffy gestured at her friends.

 

“Buffy’s going to spend the night with me and my folks,” Willow put in. “So she doesn’t have to sleep here by herself.”

 

Joyce’s face smoothed out into a mask of relief. “Thanks, Willow. That makes me feel so much better.” Joyce went into the living room, took her pull-along luggage and headed out.

 

“Nice of your mom to spring for three boxes of pizza,” Xander said, getting dishes down.

 

“Mom’s cool,” Buffy said as the phone rang. She picked it up, her lip pushing into a pout as she listened. “Right now, Giles? Okay, we’ll be there with pizza.” She hung up.

 

“Problems?” Willow asked, her hand hovering above the pizza box.

 

“Giles is at the library, says Jenny’s been forwarded something weird from one of her magical contacts. He thinks I should come have a look, do the book thing.” Buffy shrugged.

 

“And you volunteered us.” Cordy gave her the evil eye.

 

“Since you’re here, I didn’t think you had a hot Friday night planned,” Buffy said, pulling down a mass of paper plates. She didn’t know why exactly Cordy was sitting in her kitchen. The cheerleader had taken to hanging around more. While she was grateful for the extra help, Buffy wished she had a gag for Cordelia.

 

“Gotcha there, Cordy,” Xander said.

 

“An anomaly, trust me.” Cordelia tossed her perfect hair back. “Harmony’s parents took away her car keys and grounded her.”

 

“Well, she did crash three times this month,” Willow said as Xander picked up the pizza boxes.

 

“Xander, do you have that rust bucket station wagon of your mom’s?” Cordy asked. “We won’t all fit in my car.”

 

“Got it. Ladies, your chariot awaits.” He scooped up the pizza boxes.

 

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Buffy said and placed a call to Angel. He was still weak from what Spike and Dru had done to him in that church. She hated him being alone and he was a help with all his extra knowledge about the demons. She just didn’t want Xander to know and complain. Let him think Angel just showed up.

 

The vampire arrived in the library just as they were shoveling cool pizza onto plates. Buffy had been a little amused and horrified to find Jenny was with Giles. Buffy was getting scary ideas as to what the couple had been up to prior to finding something bad in Jenny’s email. Buffy had no idea why the idea of them surfing for online porn to set the mood was stuck in her head but it was and it was probably due to something Xander had said at some point in the week. Boys!

 

“Hey, Angel, want a slice?” Cordy asked before Buffy could. The Slayer joined Xander in glaring daggers at the cheerleader.

 

Angel smiled faintly. “Thanks, no.”

 

Buffy moved closer to him. “How are you doing?” Her voice barely audible over the rustling of pizza boxes and paper plates.

 

“Stronger,” he promised her.

 

Buffy nodded then muscled past Xander to get a slice of cardiac arrest special; every meat and cheese that could be on a pizza was there. “Okay, Giles, the cavalry is here, so what’s the big?”

 

Giles exchanged glances over pizza slices with Jenny at Buffy’s mangling of the English language. “Would you like to explain, Jenny?”

 

“Someone’s been emailing me about someone who’s been looking for a dark mage to do a big spell here in Sunnydale,” Jenny said, then took a nibble of plain cheese pizza.

 

“That’s it?” Buffy’s eyes popped in disbelief at having been dragged here for something so lacking in details.

 

“I’m afraid so.” Jenny’s nearly black eyes held disappointment.

 

“Vague much?” Buffy moaned.

 

“We do know the spell she’s looking to have cast.” Jenny tried to look helpful.

 

“A she? What is it with wicked women on the Hellmouth?” Willow snagged a streamer of cheese off of Xander’s pizza.

 

“We do have our share of them,” Xander said then grinned, his eyes shifting to Cordelia. “Some even in the room with us.”

 

“Aw, that was almost witty, Xander,” Cordy said, picking a piece of broccoli off her slice and giving it a burial in a napkin.

 

“What’s the spell?” Buffy broke in before the bickering got under way.

 

“It’s called the Odawiy Reversal. It’s a lot like the spell Spike used on Angel to transfer his strength to Drusilla,” Giles replied with his usual enthusiasm for a thorny new problem. “It requires both a personal item of the person the power is to be taken from to set up the first part of the spell then the intended victim must be present for the second part. It’s rather intricate.”

 

“So, I guess the next question is who wants to take whose power,” Buffy said, giving Angel a supportive look but he seemed unaffected by the referral to his recent troubles.

 

“That is the question,” Giles said. “I don’t know enough about the spell to make any guesses. That’s what I was hoping you’d help with.” Giles gestured to the books in and among the pizza boxes. “If we get a better idea of what the spell entails, we might have a clue as to who and for what purpose.”

 

“And we might be able to track the caster if they’re using local magic shops to buy the components,” Jenny added and Giles bobbed his head in agreement.

 

“In other words, tons of reading. Yuck.” Buffy sighed.

 

“At least you have pizza.” Angel smirked at her.

 

She rolled her eyes and they all delved into the books. The pizza and nearly three hours were gone when Buffy announced it was time for patrol. She simply couldn’t read another word. She didn’t know how Angel, Giles, Jenny and Willow did it without complaint. Xander took that opportunity to round up Willow and Cordy and flee, though Willow sounded disappointed to call it an early night. Angel followed Buffy, leaving Giles and Jenny alone to carry on.

 

“We didn’t get far on the research,” Angel said.

 

Buffy stretched as they headed for the cemetery. “I’m just not the book girl but you’re sweet to help out.” Buffy kissed him quickly.

 

“I don’t mind. It feels good to have something important to do. When you get this old, everything gets a little routine,” he admitted, kissing her back.

 

“Fine, I’ll bring you my homework.” She grinned. “You can wile away the hours doing it for me.”

 

He snorted. “I don’t think so.”

 

“A good boyfriend would.” She bestowed another quick kiss.

 

“Hmmm, I know I’m a little out of it as far as how things are done, nowadays. I’ll have to verify that with Giles.” His grin was utterly goofy.

 

She slapped his chest. “Party pooper.”

 

Angel smirked again and they fell into a comfortable silence. As much as they might want to talk, share ideas, kiss some more, it got in the way of the patrolling. They might as well dance through the park with bells on. Granted, they had mixed making out and patrol many a times but right now, with Angel at less than full strength, Buffy didn’t want to risk it.

 

She felt strange as they walked, stopping for occasional kisses in lieu of their more torrid make out sessions. Her body was warm, tingling all over, much more so than usual, even with Angel around. There was an odd, spinning sensation like she hadn’t felt since back in Hemery when the cheerleading squad had gotten tanked on Mad Dog with the football players after the game. She felt decidedly drunk and oddly enough, wasn’t worried about it.

 

She caught Angel and pressed him back against the nearest crypt. The grape leaf wrought iron gate rattled under the vampire’s weight. She devoured his mouth hungrily, stopping only when he gently pried her away. She mewed in protest.

 

“Um, Buffy, are you okay?” he asked dubiously.

 

“Of course.” She nipped Angel’s neck as she shoved his shirt up. She licked his pale nipple, feeling the soft, cool skin hardening against the heat of her mouth.

 

Angel grabbed her by the shoulders but instead of pulling her closer like she so desperately needed him to do, he eased her off him, his nipple stretching, caught in her teeth. He grunted then rubbed the injured part once he got her away. “What’s gotten into you, Buffy?”

 

“Not as much as I want in me,” she purred and off his startled expression added, “Come on, Angel, do you think I’ve never gotten to second base before. I was a blonde cheerleader for God’s sake.” She reached down and grabbed him roughly through the soft cotton of his pants. His member twitched under her fingers even as he tried to hop back only managing to rattle the crypt door again.

 

She went for his zipper and he caught her fingers. “Okay, this is going a little far, Buffy, We’re not doing this here.”

 

“Fine. Let’s go home.” She spun away from him and headed off between the tombstones. “Ooo, look, Angel, The headstones are dancing. It’s like a funeral party. Come on.” She held out a hand to him. “Let’s dance with them.”

 

“We’re going back to see Giles. There is something definitely wrong with you.”

 

“Most men would be happy to have me hot and ready to go.” Buffy took off her shirt and wrapped it around a stone angel, dancing back and forth in front of it.

 

Thoroughly puzzled, Angel grabbed her and took the shirt from her hands. Buffy pouted as he yanked the shirt over her head and down over her flowered bra. She moaned as he dragged her back towards the school.

 

“The trees are dancing with the headstones,” she said, looking over her shoulder trying to keep the cemetery in sight. “We should join them.”

 

She slipped Angel’s grasp and started dancing. Angel corralled her and dragged her off. Buffy had to trot just to keep up with his ground-eating pace. She wasn’t surprised to see Giles and Jenny’s cars still at the school. “Those two need a life,” she muttered.

 

Angel pulled her inside, calling for Giles. No one answered and the library was empty.

 

“Where could they be?” Buffy asked.

 

“Shh,” Angel said, cocking his head. “This way.”

 

Angel pulled her along to the pool. Buffy was shocked to see Giles in the shallow end of the pool looking like he had extra limbs. It slowly sank in that he had Jenny pressed against the side of the pool and they were both naked.

 

“Giles! Ms. Calender!” Buffy squealed.

 

Giles pushed off Jenny, launching himself halfway across the pool, startled. “Bloody hell!”

 

“Ohmigod! You’re naked!” Buffy clamped a hand over her mouth. “First dancing tombstones and now naked Giles. I’m going to go blind.”

 

“What are you two doing here?” Giles rumbled.

 

“Quit looking at me, Angel,” Jenny snapped, swimming for the ladder.

 

“Yeah, Angel.” Buffy belted him one. “Especially when you wouldn’t look at me.”

 

“I’m not looking.” Angel rubbed his stinging chest, growing more annoyed very quickly.

 

Buffy screamed, pointing at the far wall. “It’s bleeding.”

 

Angel and Giles both looked where she was pointing, seeing nothing but the Razorback mural.

 

“It’s not blood,” Jenny said, wrapping a towel around her lithe body. “It’s raining flowers.”

 

“It’s what?” Angel’s thick brow beetled as Giles sloshed out of the pool. “Jenny, Buffy, there’s nothing there, no blood, no flowers. You’re hallucinating.”

 

“Umm, this is familiar.” Giles showed no signs of going for a towel or clothes as he stood dripping wet.

 

“Giles, you have grey hair all over.” Buffy giggled.

 

His lip curled. “Oh, piss off.”

 

“Rupert.” Jenny tossed Giles a towel and he wrapped it around his waist.

 

Buffy whirled on Angel. “Did you hear what Giles said to me?”

 

Angel sighed, knowing that this wasn’t going to be easy as everyone seemed to be affected but him.

 

“What are you and Buffy doing back here?” Giles asked, irritated.

 

“Isn’t it obvious? Buffy’s hallucinating and is...um...” Angel made a face. “Shall we say more amorous than is normal even for a teenager.”

 

Giles pulled at his chin. “I know this…hallucinations…lust…feeling too good to be true.”

 

“It doesn’t seem like it’s limited to Buffy.” Angel eyed Jenny and Giles meaningfully. “What is it?”

 

“A spell.”

 

“Are you sure? What sort of spell?” Angel demanded.

 

“Of course, I’m soddin’ sure. It’s cast on food and ingested. Ethan and I unearthed it in the 70's,” Giles said. “It made for fun parties. You get your end away with the stars are dancing or whatever else your mind makes up, trippy.”

 

“Giles, you’re such a perv.” Buffy crowed and her Watcher glared.

 

“Isn’t he though?” Jenny rubbed her hands over Giles’ chest. “I think I hear a little incense and peppermints.”

 

“Huh?” The psychedelia reference zoomed over Buffy’s head.

 

“I’m definitely seeing the color of time.” Jenny licked Giles neck. “Look, it’s purple and midnight blue and gold. You can weave it.” Her brow furrowed. “Why are my threads so short?”

 

“How do we break the spell, Giles?” Angel asked, hoping to keep Giles focused. The man’s attention was wandering back to Jenny’s lush damp body. Angel wasn’t sure he blamed Giles but he needed to help Buffy. A hallucinating Slayer was a dangerous thing and Angel didn’t like seeing her like this.

 

Giles waved him off, annoyed. “It wears off in a few hours. It won’t hurt anyone.”

 

Angel’s eyes slotted. Obviously Giles wasn’t thinking correctly if he didn’t see the danger of Buffy being affected. “Buffy’s hallucinating.”

 

“Enjoy the trip.” Giles took Jenny back in his arms.

 

Angel knew that was all he was going to get from Giles’ spell-addled mind. “I’ll take her home, then.”

 

“Yes, do.” Giles muttered, obviously not paying attention to anything Angel was saying. Both Giles’ and Jenny’s towels were on the floor.

 

Angel took Buffy’s arm and pulled her out of the pool area. “Let’s get you home.”

 

“Good. Mom’s gone. We’ll be all alone.” Buffy squeezed his butt.

 

Angel didn’t answer. It was just as convenient that Joyce was gone. At least he wouldn’t have to explain to her why Buffy was on an acid trip and ready to hump anything that moved. As he kept a tight rein on Buffy, walking her home, Angel mulled over the problem. It had to be the pizza. He was unaffected and of course, he hadn’t eaten anything. “Buffy, give Willow and Cordy and Xander a call.”

 

“Why? I don’t want them getting in our way,” Buffy whined, stomping her feet.

 

“Let’s make sure where they are so they won’t just wander in,” he replied, hating playing her but it had to be done. He needed to know that Willow and the others were safe. He would have to run them down and bring them home, too, if they weren’t.

 

“Okay, okay,” Buffy grumbled and placed the calls and received no answer from Willow or Cordy’s cellulars. Xander answered long enough to grunt a ‘not now, Buffy,’ and Angel could hear Cordy in the background yelling at him to hang up. Angel decided he didn’t need to picture what might be going on there.

“Give Willow’s mom a call. See if she knows where Willow is,” Angel instructed. “Tell her you’re going to be late coming over to stay the night.”

 

Buffy scowled but obeyed. “Oh, hi Mrs. Rosenberg, is Willow in? In her room? Okay, I wanted to let you know I’ll be late getting there tonight. Don’t worry about me. Willow will let me in. You don’t have to wait up for me. What? No, I have no idea what Willow could be doing in her room that she’s locked herself in and doesn’t want to tell you. I’ll be there later. Bye.” She rang off and turned to Angel. “Happy now?”

 

Not particularly, he thought, having a good idea what Willow might be doing behind closed doors. At least it meant she wasn’t out walking the streets picking up strangers. “Yes, thank you, Buffy.”

 

Angel no longer had to steer Buffy towards home. Her hormones had her dragging him along. She would be hard to put off once they got here. There wasn’t even any temptation to take advantage of the spell. Buffy wasn’t a willing participant. At least when Giles and his friends had been casting the spell for whatever sex parties they seemed to have once favored, everyone was a consenting adult, or so Angel assumed. Buffy was a spell-addled girl who was just as likely to hallucinate tentacles coming out of his back as anything else if he were to sleep with her at this point. He wanted making love to her to have meaning, not just be about the sex.

 

He didn’t even know if she had experience. Angelus sniffed around in the cave of Angel’s mind, hoping she was a virgin, wanting sex now, wanting to make it hurt. Angel visualized a cave-in trapping his inner demon as Buffy opened the door to her home. He locked it behind them and Buffy was on him like she was part of his skin. It took effort and nearly a bit of his lip as she latched on, to peel her off of him.

 

“Not here,” he said, simply.

 

Her pout reappeared then vanished as she decided what he must mean. “Oh, right.”

 

Buffy bounced up the stairs, naked by the time she got to the top. Angel tried to ignore the sight of her creamy skin, the tautness of her buttocks, the rose of her small nipples and the inviting triangle of curls. She grabbed at him, his body now slave to something other than his logical mind. His testicles hung heavy and his cock pressed against the zipper of his trousers. The scent of her desire was nearly enough to overwhelm him.

 

Angel took her in his arms then stuffed his knuckles into her jugular, quick and short. He knew the sudden stop and start of blood flow to her brain would knock her out. Buffy’s eyes rolled up as he caught her around the waist. Angel yanked the covers down and gently put her into bed. Angel tore through the hidden compartment Buffy used as a weapon’s cache. He found two sets of handcuffs and he used one apiece to handcuff her arms to the bed post. He used belts from her closet to tie her legs down. She looked so innocent, so inviting, chained to the bed as she was. Desire turned his brain into mush. Angel shoved the covers over her but it didn’t help. He climbed out the window and onto the tree branches, just trying to get some fresh air to clear his senses of Buffy before he did something in his pants he hadn’t done in a very long time.

 

Buffy was coming around when he slithered back in the window. He saw fear and fury in her eyes and he hoped that she wouldn’t be willing to ruin her bed because she might just be strong enough to break it and free herself. “I’m not into kinky stuff.” She frowned. “Why did you hit me?”

 

“Because you’re under a spell. You heard Giles,” he said, softly. “What you’re feeling isn’t real, Buffy.”

 

Fire flared in her kaleidoscope eyes. “Yes, it is.”

 

“And you’re hallucinating so you should just try to relax and let the spell wear off.” Angel settled back, braced for the barrage of protests. Finally Buffy tired out, hallucinated cute little fairies dancing on the ceiling and eventually drifted off to sleep.


CHAPTER TWO

 

Angel waited nearly until dawn. By then, the spell had dissipated. He could tell Buffy was no longer under its influence by the humiliated look on her face, the verge of tears, the trembling in her limbs. He released her, rubbing her skin to help the circulation.

 

“I’m so embarrassed.” She curled up, cocooning in the blanket.

 

“It’s not your fault, Buffy.” Angel stroked her hair. “I’m just glad that you weren’t hurt. If I hadn’t been there, you could have been killed or you could have hurt an innocent during a hallucination. I’ll take you being embarrassed any day over those scenarios.”

 

“Willow, Xander and Cordy, they were affected, too.” Buffy sat up, clutching the blanket to her.

 

“I think so. Giles said it was a spell he used to enchant food. That would explain why I wasn’t affected. Willow was at home, at least when you called. Xander and Cordy were together. I think they all should be safe.”

 

“Xander and Cordy? If they were like me, like Giles and Jenny...ewwww, poor Xander.” Buffy shuddered.

 

“I was thinking, ‘poor Cordy’,” Angel blurted out, and, seeing her glare, instantly regretted it.

 

“I have to talk to Giles,” Buffy squirmed. “But what if he and Jenny are still...you know.”

 

“Buffy, given the hour it was when we walked in on them and the time it is now, if Giles is still capable of that, he has earned my respect.” Angel’s lips twisted into a goofy grin.

 

Buffy shot him an incredulous look. “That’s almost as disturbing as seeing Giles in that pool.”

 

Angel shrugged. “You’d understand if you were a man. I’ll let you dress and do whatever else you need to.” Angel cast a glance out the window seeing the hints of pink. “I better get underground.”

 

“Angel, you were the only one not affected. You probably have the clearest mind about all of this. We should meet at your place. I don’t want Giles and everyone here, in case a nosey neighbor tells Mom.”

 

“Can’t we just meet at the school like normal?” he asked, envisioning the invasion of his privacy and hating it.

 

Buffy shook her head. “Fumigating it this weekend.”

 

“All right then. I’ll head home and wait.” He stroked her hair again. “Are you okay?”

 

“Dying of embarrassment and feeling hung over.” Her eyes widened. “Not that I know how that feels.”

 

“I’m not your mom, Buffy. I sort of assumed most teenagers know that feeling.” He smirked.

 

“Mom probably assumes that, too.” Buffy glanced around. “Angel, where’d you put Mr. Gordo?”

 

“Gordo?” His brow wrinkled. “Isn’t that your stuffed pig?”

 

“Yep. He waits for me on the pillows.” Buffy looked under them. “Where’d he go?”

 

“He wasn’t on the bed. I’m sure he’s somewhere.” Angel looked out the window again. “I need to go.”

 

“Go on, I’ll see you there.”

 

*                                              *                                  *

 

Buffy still felt horribly embarrassed over what had happened to her. The expressions on her friends’ faces as they positioned themselves in Angel’s place told her she wasn’t alone in the feeling. She glanced at Angel who had the air of a mom who foolishly allowed her kids to have a pool party and invited half the class. He was hovering near Xander as the boy poked around the apartment. He grabbed a knick knack out of Xander’s hand as if the teen had picked up a priceless museum item. Buffy knew that look. Mom had given it to her enough whenever she’d drop by the gallery.

 

“Don’t move stuff,” Angel snapped, setting it down gingerly.

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t mess up the ultra-tidy you’ve got going on.” Xander eyed him sourly.

 

“I think Angel has some feng shui going on, Xander. It relies on the flow of the room,” Jenny said, soothingly.

 

Buffy thought the teacher seemed as uncomfortable as the rest of them. Willow thumped on Buffy’s arm. Buffy started paying attention again to the conversation of what Willow was doing behind closed doors last night sans details but with extra blushing.

 

“What do I tell Mom?”  Willow’s pretty eyes were bigger than golf balls.

 

“Tell her you kept telling her to go away because you were working on a special gift for her birthday,” Buffy offered.

 

Willow brightened. “That could work...but now I’ll have to do that. It was so terrible.”

 

“You think that’s terrible?” Cordy didn’t look up from filing her nails. “I was stuck with Xander.”

 

“Stuck?” he whimpered.

 

“And he looked like a giant Steif teddy bear. He even had the silver ear stud.” Cordy shivered.

 

“You promised not to tell!” Xander looked crushed.

 

“It’s not so bad, Xander. Steif’s are very expensive teddies,” Jenny said with a hint of a smile.

 

Xander perked up. “Only the best for our Cordy.”

 

“Trust me, I have you all beat. I saw Giles and Jenny naked in the pool and that was no hallucination,” Buffy blurted out to the horror of her elders.

 

“Ewww.” Willow’s face puckered up.

 

“Way to go, Giles!” Xander crowed, going to chuck the older man’s shoulder. Giles’ glare stopped him.

“I swim in that pool.” Cordy shot the older couple a hot look.

 

“Are you sure it wasn’t a hallucination?” Willow had a hopeful expression on her face.

 

“She’s sure,” Angel dead-panned.

 

“And I learned that grey hair doesn’t just happen on your head. How horrifying is that?” Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and Willow patted her back.

 

Giles turned on his best annoyed expression. Buffy wondered how he was managing not to blush. “Perhaps we should get to what we’re here for.”

 

“Yes, let’s.” Jenny had her hands over her flushed face.

 

“Okay, Giles, you said you and your band of miscreants used to cast that spell way back in the dark ages,” Buffy said and Giles’ lips pinched.

 

“Why?” Willow sounded somehow disappointed in Giles. Buffy shot her a curious look.

 

“It livened up the parties.” Giles ducked his head. “And why is not important.”

 

“No, but who did this is,” Buffy said. “And since I’m assuming that you wouldn’t involve all of us just to do...ugh...that with Jenny.” Buffy glared a dagger or two at her Watcher. His chin tipped up defiantly and Jenny just covered up her expresison by plugging in her lap top. “So that leaves your little group of friends, all of which are dead but Ethan.”

 

“He gets my vote,” Xander said.

 

Angel nodded. “That would make sense. He’s already proved he’s not in any hurry to get out of town despite the imminent danger to himself if any of us catch him.”

 

“It’s not a hard spell to find and use,” Giles said. “But Ethan would probably enjoy using it as a weapon. We’re assuming it came with the pizza.”

 

“Which is just wrong,” Xander interjected.

 

“The question is, why would Ethan do this?” Angel asked.

 

Giles ran a hand through his thinning hair. “That spell would have been a cover for something he wanted to do without the interference from the Slayer.”

 

“I get that. The pizza was delivered to me. You and Jenny and all my friends were just bonuses,” Buffy said. “So what do you think Ethan, if it is him, wanted?”

 

Giles pushed up his glasses. “I’m not sure. It could be that Ethan was hired to cast the Odawiy Reversal spell by the woman referred in Jenny’s emails.”

 

“That makes sense, too, but if he wanted Buffy out of the way for that, then we’re already too late,” Angel said, his eyes meeting Buffy’s but she couldn’t look at him without blushing.

 

“It’s not an irreversible spell,” Giles said. “We still need to identify the victim.”

“This might help.” Jenny pointed at the screen. “I’ve got another email saying the woman looking for the spell was once a Potential. Does that mean anything to you, Rupert? My contact said it would.”

 

Giles’ eyes slotted. “Is your contact in the Watcher’s Council?”

 

Jenny pursed her lips. “I don’t know but I suspect so.”

 

“So, what’s a Potential?” Buffy asked.

 

Giles sat back, settling in. “Kendra is a good example of a former Potential. The Council has spells that locate girls who have the potential to be a Slayer. When possible, these girls are brought to a Watchers’ Complex and extensively trained. Most often, when another Slayer is called, she comes from the known Potentials and she’s prepared for her new life. Unfortunately, the system is far from foolproof and sometimes the new Slayer is a wild card, like you, Buffy, and she is totally unprepared. You are incredibly lucky and talented not to have been killed before Merrick had time to find you. Kendra, on the other hand, was discovered as an infant.”

 

“Yeah, and she got a rule book,” Buffy said in a tone that indicated she was still smarting over being left out. “And the Watchers took away her ability to function in a normal society, you know one where there are boys, and removed her ability to think creatively in a fight. You might as well send in a robot.”

 

“I’m the first to admit there are problems with the process. If I didn’t see some value in allowing you to have your friends, despite the risks, they wouldn’t be here,” Giles said, and her friends looked a little offended that they could have been banished from Buffy’s side and yet pleased that they had been deemed worthy.

 

“Giles, training someone to hunt and kill from early childhood, that has to have lasting effects.” Angel’s face went dark and thoughtful. “And not very good ones. If this is a highly trained, one-time Potential, can she function in normal society?”

 

“We do our best to help them reintegrate into society but we’re not always successful. More often than not, they become Watchers.” Giles seemed suddenly embarrassed. “Others...well, we do maintain large psychiatric facilities. Watchers do have a high rate of mental...um, difficulties, shall we say, from the stress?”

 

“So, you’re telling me a wannabe Slayer is out to steal someone’s power?” Buffy grumbled.

 

“She’s not technically a wannabe. She had the potential to be, but in the end she wasn’t called. It never seems to happen past a certain age. It has a preference for teenagers, probably because you’re still in top physical shape and of a more open mind.” Giles ran a hand through his hair. “She could very well be one of the ones who didn’t transition well back into society.”

 

“But she’s a normal woman, right?” Willow asked.

 

“Yes, unless she already has the power she sought to steal,” Giles replied.

 

“Is it too much to ask that the email contained a name or location for this ex-Potential?” Buffy put her head on the tbale. She still had a thumping headache from the spell and this wasn’t helping.

 

“I’m afraid so.” Jenny offered an apologetic look.

 

“I’ll contact the Watchers Council and see if they have any clues. We do keep tabs on the ex-Potentials. Perhaps, once again, the memo got lost,” Giles said wryly.

 

“Could you be any more out of the loop?” Cordelia asked.

 

“She has a point, Giles. Why don’t they ever tell you anything important?” Buffy knew hoe Giles felt about the way the Cuoncil jerked him aaround.

 

“Because Travers and I don’t get along and never have.” Giles wilted. “It’s a long story, Buffy, having to do with generations of animosity between the Gileses and the Traverses.”

 

“Guess we should have guessed that since you weren’t first choice for Buffy’s Watcher,” Cordy said, ignoring Xander’s attempt to shush her.

 

“I actually was. Merrick’s arrival in L.A. wasn’t planned. Generally, once your Slayer has been killed, you are retired from that sort of field work. It can be too....hard emotionally. Just leave it as like any organization the Watchers have their fair share of bureaucracy and in fighting and sometimes Buffy and I get caught in it,” Giles said, not seeming particularly offended.

 

“Dangerous occupation to have that kind of stuff going on,” Angel said.

 

“I’m not arguing.” Giles pushed up his glasses yet again. “Angel, could you see if you can hear anything from the underground about someone’s power being stolen?”

 

Angel cracked his knuckles. “Already planning on it.”

 

“Good. Jenny and I will see if we can come up with more on this Potential. The rest of you can go home and get some rest. You’re not used to the...aftereffects of that spell,” Giles said.

 

“What? Really?” Buffy had never expected to get a break.

 

“Yes, really.” Giles smiled faintly.

 

“Thanks. Oh, before we go, were any of you up in my bedroom last night? Mr. Gordo has gone missing. I couldn’t find him anywhere.” She shot a look at Angel who made a palms-up ‘I have no clue’ motion.

 

“What’s a Mr. Gordo and what would I even be doing in your room?” Cordelia lifted an eyebrow.

 

Buffy curled the corner of her lip. “My stuffed pig and I would have no idea.”

 

“Well, I didn’t take it and if it was Xander in your room you’d be missing panties, not a pig,” Cordy said, casting a wilting look at Xander who just shrugged.

 

“Guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do,” he said then caught the fire in Buffy’s eyes. “But it’s a big no to the pig and the panties.”

 

“Sorry, Buffy. I haven’t seen Gordo,” Willow put in.

 

Buffy pouted. “I wish I knew where he went.”

 

“I thought I heard a parole from this...mess,” Cordy said. “Xander, my car’s still at Buffy’s.”

“I’ll drive you there. Ladies, want a ride?” Xander asked.

 

Willow shook her head. “I’d rather walk, thanks. I need to do some thinking. Buffy, want to help?”

 

“Think?” Buffy’s eyes widened slightly then she realized Willow wanted to continue talking about last night. Even though she didn’t really want in on Willow’s darkest secrets she nodded. “Sure.”

 

She gave Angel one last embarrassed look. He came toward her but she shook her head. She wasn’t ready to really face him. Buffy followed Willow out into the sunlight.

 

“Can we pretend last night didn’t happen?” Willow asked as they strolled under the warm, yolky sun.

 

“Don’t I wish. I mean, for you it’s not so bad. They say...you know, touching yourself, is good for you.” Buffy offered up a wry smile. “At least you don’t have naked Giles burned into your memory.”

 

“And that’s of the good,” Willow agreed. “I just didn’t like...feeling out of control. It was kinda scary and then my fish started talking to me, giving me pointers.”

 

“At least you didn’t imagine you were somewhere with a giant teddy bear,” Buffy said with a giggle at Xander and Cordy’s expense. “And you won’t have to keep apologizing to Angel forever and a day.”

 

Willow’s eyes took on their usual curious gleam. “What did you do to Angel?”

 

“I bit his nipple then grabbed his...you know, and did I mention the taking off of all my clothes?” Buffy covered her face with one hand.

 

“You were naked?” Willow’s eyes swallowed her face.

 

Buffy’s face crumpled. “He had to tie me to the bed just to keep me off him.”

 

“Look on the bright side, Buffy,” Willow said.

 

Buffy’s eyes snapped over, staring at her friend. “There’s a bright side?”

 

“Sure. Angel treated you like a gentleman. He could have taken advantage of you and the fact you wanted to jump his bones,” Willow said with the little head bob she did when she was earnest about something. “Most guys would have.”

 

Buffy smiled. “I guess you have a point. Still, it’s embarrassing.”

 

“Well, duh.”

 

Buffy watched something sail over her and Willow’s heads from behind them, landing a few inches from their toes. She peered down at it. It looked like a crystalline blue glowing orb. “What is that?”

 

“I don’t know.” Willow leaned over for a closer look.

 

The orb exploded. Buffy was aware of bright light that felt like it had form, a form that was slamming into her with the force of a tank, then everything went black.

 


CHAPTER THREE

 

“Isn’t this dangerous to do in the daylight?

 

Ethan looked at his companion. Long, thick hair, bright hazel eyes, body to kill for, he wished she was a little more amenable to seducing. “It’s better than at night when her pet vampire is at her side.”

 

The tall, thirty-something woman looked down at the two unconscious girls. “What do we do about the other one?”

 

Ethan grabbed Willow’s shoulder and dragged her behind some decorative hedging. “She didn’t see us. She’ll wake up eventually. Give me a hand with the Slayer, Ruby.”

 

Ruby helped him stand Buffy upright and they lugged her to the car. They propped her up in the back seat. “This is going to work?”

 

“The hardest part will be trussing up this little bird good enough that she doesn’t get free in the middle of the spell. She’s a tricky one, likes to hit,” Ethan replied, ruefully, remembering his encounters with Ripper’s little girl.

 

“She’s a Slayer. She’s got my power, this unworthy chit of a girl.” Ruby slapped Buffy’s face.

 

 “But not for much longer.” Ethan eyed his Canadian companion warily, wondering if he’d have time to get away from her before her cork blew. He knew Ruby wasn’t playing with a full deck. Anyone who actually wanted to be a Slayer had to be half way around the bend. To go about stealing the power meant she was all the way there. Ethan didn’t really care about that. He cared about the money this was putting in his pocket and he had a few scores to settle with the Slayer. Besides, this would hit Ripper where he lived. Ethan was all for that. The whole process should be over by the time Ripper even knew his Slayer was missing.

 

*                                              *                                              *

 

Willow woke, feeling horribly sick. Her head thumped as her belly made like a wash machine on the spin cycle. A branch was jabbing her in the kidney. It slowly percolated into her stunned brain that she had been taken out by some kind of magical percussion grenade.

 

Willow shook her head, trying to clear it. “Buffy?” she muttered then realized Buffy was nowhere in sight. Willow got up, her body shaking, and saw she had been moved off the sidewalk. Buffy was gone.

 

She fumbled for her phone. “Giles! Buffy’s gone. Someone knocked us out with magic. I just woke up and she’s gone...yeah, I’m okay...No, I didn’t see who...okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can...No, you don’t have to come get me. I’m not too far away. I can walk.”

 

Willow didn’t walk. She ignored her pain and ran.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Buffy didn’t know which hurt more, her head or her hands. Her hands quickly became her big concerned as the fog lifted and Buffy realized she was chained up in a warehouse. She could hear the surf not far away so she had to be in the docks area. She glanced around the room. It was very empty and very big. The only things in it were the table she was chained to and an altar with blue candles on it, a bowl and Mr. Gordo. At the back of the warehouse was a sectioned off office area.

 

Buffy gritted her teeth. How dare they drag her beloved pig into this? “Ethan!” she screamed then realized that had been dumb to do before at least attempting to escape. She squirmed under the heavy chains and could barely budge.

 

Ethan and a lady Buffy didn’t know came out of the office. The woman had the same batty look in her eyes Dru had. Buffy assumed this was the ex-Potential and she most definitely didn’t have the appearance of someone who made the transition back into society. Buffy half expected white-suited men with butterfly nets to come after this woman.

 

“Sod it! I was hoping you’d stay out until after the spell. It would have been easier all the way around,” Ethan groaned.

 

“Just knock her back out,” the lady said, with a dismissive wave.

 

“I’m saving my magical energy for the big show, Ruby. You can beat on her if you’d like, knock her out the old fashioned way.” Ethan smirked. “It’s more fun anyhow.”

 

“Always the gentleman, Ethan,” Buffy sneered, tugging on her bonds.

 

He smiled. “It’s all part of my charm. Since you’re awake, you can just lie there and be good until it’s all over.”

 

“What are you going to do to me? That Odin Reversal spell thingie?” Buffy rattled her chains but they didn’t move.

 

“Odawiy Reversal.” Ethan scowled. “Damn, if you know that, that means Ripper’s already got more clues than I wanted him to.”

 

“This won’t take us long, right?” Ruby frowned. “We don’t need a Watcher gumming up the works.”

 

Ethan’s lips thinned. “About an hour. The first part of the spell isn’t done yet.”

 

“Why are you doing this?” Buffy asked as Ethan went to the altar and dipped his hands into the bowl in front of Mr. Gordo.

 

“Because your powers should have been mine,” Ruby said, not looking at her as if Buffy were beneath her. “And now it will be. I was supposed to be the Slayer. It may have taken me years, but I’m putting things right.”

 

“Let me get this straight. You want to be isolated from the rest of humanity, forced to fight until you die, have no life, nothing but pain and fear? Are you insane?” Buffy stared at the woman, unable to fathom why anyone would chose this life but in the back of her head she thought about Kendra. If given a choice, Kendra would have said yes.

 

“That’s the general assumption,” Ethan muttered.

 

Ruby glowered at him, shoving back her grey-flecked brunette hair. “It’s a calling. It’s the reason I was born.” She turned to face Buffy. “You want pain and loneliness, try being barred from your one true purpose in life.”

 

“Did it ever occur to you that you were skipped over because you’re bonkers?” Buffy strained again the metal pinning her down. “You’re going to kill me just so you can be the Slayer.”

 

“Ah, luv, this won’t kill you. In fact, you should thank us. You’ll be that normal girl you’re so longing to be,” Ethan said.

 

Ethan sprinkled fluid from the bowl onto Gordo. Her toy glowed hot pink and Buffy felt something tug inside her, pulling like taffy. She knew she should combat them, fight for her life but Ethan’s words echoed in her head. She could be a normal girl again. It was what she had wanted since Merrick first crossed her path. For a moment, she stopped struggling with her chains.

*                                                                      *                                                          *

 

“Why aren’t we just looking for Buffy instead of being here wasting time?” Xander raged, pacing around Giles’ apartment.

 

“Because we could waste more time running around clueless,” Giles snapped back. “The Council gave me six names of possible Potentials that they feel likely to try something like this. Willow’s running them down to see if she can find any credit card activity in the area that might tell us where to look.”

 

“In the mean time, Rupert and I are going to try a locator spell,” Jenny said, a bit more soothingly. “They’re far from fool proof but it’s worth the effort.”

 

“Shouldn’t we get Angel here?” Cordelia asked.

 

“Why?” Xander shot her a surly look. “It’s not like he’s magic-proof. Ethan could turn him against us or something or make him into a toad.” Xander’s face brightened. “You know...”

 

“Xander!” Willow glared. “Giles called Angel’s home already.”

 

“You have his number?” Xander’s dark eyes widened in surprise.

 

“When we were working together on the Codex, he gave it to me,” Giles replied. “He’s not home. He’s probably out doing what I asked him to do. If he has a cellular phone, I don’t know the number.”

 

“I don’t think he does.” Willow shrugged. “Buffy said he’s not good with modern stuff.”

 

“Common enough for older vampires,” Giles muttered, putting a few things into a small cauldron.

 

“Nothing on the computer search,” Willow said, a hint of panic creeping into her voice. “Ms Calender, do you want to give it a try? I can help Giles.

 

Jenny nodded and they traded jobs.

 

“I can not believe I was so blind. When Buffy mentioned her missing stuffed animal, I should have realized that was the first part of the spell, the personal item needed,” Giles said, shoving his glasses up, frustration in his blue eyes.

 

“You couldn’t have known, Rupert,” Jenny said, tapping keys on her laptop.

 

“I should have. Obviously, Ethan knew where Buffy lived. He sent the pizza. He took advantage of her compromised mental state and stole inside and took a personal item. I should have known,” Giles argued.

 

“Should have but didn’t. Nothing you can do about it now,” Cordelia said and Giles let it drop, knowing she was right.

 

In the end, the computer work offered nothing and they headed into town following the locator lodestone’s trail. Giles only hoped they would be fast enough.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

“No need for violence,” Willie said, backing away from the vampire.

 

Angel’s hand shot out, catching Willie by the arm. Angel slammed him against the bar. “I beg to differ. Talk about town is that the Slayer is the target of a big spell and that you were the one who put things in motion.” Angel wanted to tear Willie’s head off. He had called Buffy’s home phone and cellular with no answer. He didn’t take the time to call Giles, not until he knew more. Buffy could handle herself. Just became she wasn’t answering didn’t mean she was in trouble. Still, he had a bad feeling about it. He didn’t know what he’d do if the one thing he was living for was gone.

 

“I wouldn’t say set in motion,” Willie whined, trying to put up his arms protectively.

 

Angel slammed him into the bar once more. “Try again, Willie.”

 

Willie rubbed his battered forehead. “Okay, okay, Look, all I did was tell Ms. ‘ I Need a Xanax’ where to find some wizards who could help her and told her about a warehouse at the docks that suited her privacy concerns.”

 

“Where, Willie?” Angel took a step back, but kept his grip on the bartender and Willie eagerly gave up the location. “Good boy. Now what’s the woman’s name?”

 

“Ruby, no last name. Saw her talking to that Rayne fellow.” He shrugged his skinny shoulders. “Might be they hooked up.”

 

Angel let Willie go and started for the underground.

 

“Next time, Angel, not so rough.”

 

Angel’s face morphed, his fangs showing. “You haven’t seen rough, Willie, but if anything happens to the Slayer you will.”

 

Willie managed to look even more weasely as he cowered against the bar at the idea.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Buffy watched as Ethan swirled his hands in the pink glow surrounding Gordo. Ruby placed her hands on Buffy’s chest and head. All thoughts of just letting go, letting them make her normal fled. No one was going to violate her. She strained against the metal feeling it give but only a little. Her arms and legs bled where the metal chewed into her. She wasn’t going to get free in time.

 

Ethan put his hands over Ruby’s and the hot pink light smothered them all. Buffy’s body bucked as fire flooded through her. She felt like she was being turned inside out, like her life was flowing out of her and into Ruby. She wondered if Ethan had lied and she was going to die after all. Then she felt something else, familiar, comforting. She knew the feeling and it made her fight against the magic that was trying to drain her.

 

“No, Angel!”

 

Buffy, Ethan and Ruby all looked to the sound of a man’s voice. Buffy wasn’t prepared to see Giles and her friends. She had felt Angel coming up from below, that comforting twinge she had experienced. She knew he was going to save her. Why had Giles given Ethan warning? She looked through the arms of her attackers and saw Angel in his game face, just fingers breaths away from making Ethan into a snack pack.

 

“If you break them apart, you could kill them all,” Giles said. “Get Mr. Gordo out of there.”

 

Ethan let fly with a string of curse words, several of which Buffy hadn’t ever heard used in quite that way. Angel howled as he reached into the magical glow, his hair standing on end, more so than usual. Still, he managed to grab Mr. Gordo and yank the toy off the altar. Buffy’s eyes rolled up in her head as the power snapped back into her. She thought she might have gotten sick on Ethan and Ruby as a feeling like she had been stuck on a tilt-a-whirl for about two hours washed over her.

 

She barely registered the pandemonium as her friends charged Ethan and Ruby.  She heard Ethan chanting and saw one of the blue glittering things that had waylaid her and Willow. She tried to shout a warning. Giles was already ducking and covering. He must have recognized the spell. Cordy and Xander were taken out by the magic, however, and Ethan ran for the door.

 

Buffy never felt more helpless, chained down as she was, watching Giles go after him while Angel tried to fend off Ruby who had a stake in either hand. Angel batted her away. The ex-Potential slammed into a wall and slid down it, not moving. Giles had Ethan down. Buffy hadn’t realized her Watcher had that much pent-up fury. In that moment he looked nearly as dangerous as Angel. Buffy thought Giles would beat Ethan to death. Angel was on his way to help Giles while Jenny and Willow were trying to figure out how to get her free.

 

Lux!” Ethan bellowed and the warehouse filled with a blinding light. Both Giles and Angel grunted with pain, trying to shield their eyes. When the spots stopped dancing in everyone’s eyes, Ethan was gone.

“Oh, sod all,” Giles grumbled.

 

“Angel, I think we could use your help here,” Jenny said, rattling one of Buffy’s chains. “Willow and I can take care of Xander and Cordy.”

 

Angel nodded and started twisting the chains until they broke. In the meantime, Giles took his belt and Xander’s to truss up Ruby.

 

“This is so embarrassing. Everyone had to ride to my rescue,” Buffy said.

 

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Buffy. You are no more immune to magic than any of us,” Giles said.

 

“How did you all find me?” she asked, helping Angel break the chains now that her hands were free.

 

“Locator spell,” Willow said.

 

“I beat it out of Willie,” Angel said, breaking the last of the chains. He helped Buffy sit up. “Are you okay?”

 

She shook her head, leaning against him. “I feel terrible. She was trying to steal my Slayer power. She actually wanted to be a Slayer.” Buffy pointed at Ruby.  “Ethan said I’d be a normal girl once the transfer was complete.”

 

“Did we screw up?” Willow asked. “I mean, if you could have been normal...”

 

“I am what I am, Willow. Being normal might have been nice but not at this cost,” Buffy said, pressing into Angel’s shoulder as he helped her to stand. “What happens to her now?”

 

“Someone will have to stay here and make sure she doesn’t get away,” Giles said. “I need to go call for a Special Ops extraction team. They’ll take her to the nearest Council psych ward where she can get help.”

 

“Which means she might get a chance to try this again,” Willow said, her lips pulling into a grimace.

 

“Perhaps but we can’t just kill her,” Giles said, sounding unexpectedly sympathetic.

 

“I’ll stay and watch her,” Jenny said.

 

“I’ll help,” Angel added.

 

“You go with Giles and Buffy. Buffy needs you more,” Willow said. “I’ll stay with Jenny. If that percussion bomb Ethan used in here is anything like the one he hit me and Buffy with, Xander and  Cordelia will be out for a while.”

“You go with Buffy and take care of Ruby, Willow,” Angel said, smoothing Buffy’s hair. He gave her an apologetic look. “It’s still daylight out. I can’t go in the car with them. I’ll stay with Jenny and make sure if this woman wakes up, she’ll be no trouble.”

 

“It’s okay, Angel. It’s better you stay here. Ruby is so not playing with a full deck,” Buffy said.

 

Angel nodded then pulled Mr. Gordo out of his coat pocket and surrendered it to Buffy. She held it tight and let Willow steer her out of the warehouse on shaky legs. She looked back at Angel and saw his regret at not being able to go with her. She smiled at him to let him know it was okay. When she got into Xander’s beat up car, she curled up and was asleep from the strain before Giles Jenny and Willow could even lug Cordy and Xander out to the vehicle.    

 

Willow stayed with her at the house, even tried to make her chicken soup to help her feel better. Buffy was thankful to have such great friends. Willow stayed until sun down when Angel appeared like magic. He was more than content to just snuggle with her on the couch, no real making out, just the gentle touch of bodies to reassure her she was okay and that her magic-induced loss of control was forgiven. She wanted to put in a chick flick and eat ice cream out of the container just to feel better. They compromised. Angel held her as she ate the dulce con leche with a table spoon as they watched Star Wars, from Xander’s collection that currently lived in Buffy’s living room to spare if from his mom’s house cleaning spree, which usually entailed tossing out Xander’s prized possessions to make room for more of her knick knacks. Shielded by Angel’s arms, Buffy felt all was right with her world.

 

*                                                                      *                                              *

 

“Penny for your thoughts?” Angel said, squeezing Buffy’s hand.

 

“Just thinking about the pizza thing.” Buffy shrugged, getting dragged out of her reverie. “I guess I kinda felt sorry for Ruby. I can’t imagine living a life thinking you’re useless because you didn’t get picked for something.”

 

“Some people’s lives never get started, Buffy. Usually they’re the ones throwing up the road blocks, even if they can’t admit it. Ruby could have gone on to be a Watcher, fought demons that way,” Angel replied.

 

“Well, at least she’s getting help. I just wish I could have punched Ethan once or twice. That would have felt good.” Buffy grinned.

 

“I think Giles would agree with you,” Angel said, wryly.

 

Buffy laughed. “Yeah, that was pretty scary, actually. I didn’t know Giles could fight like that.”

 

“Giles cares about you, Buffy. He’d do anything to protect you.”

 

“Yeah, but he still won’t let me read his diary.” She pouted.

 

“Do you really want to see what he had to say about you catching him in that pool?” Angel smirked.

 

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “No. Definitely don’t want to know what he had to say about me and you. God, I’m still so embarrassed about that.”

 

Angel took her in his arms. “You don’t have to be.”

 

“Willow said it was a good thing in it’s own way. You could have taken advantage of me and you didn’t. I always knew I could trust you and now they all know it.” Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. The kiss lasted until her belly rumbled. Buffy broke the kiss, taking a step back, a flush on her cheeks. “Sorry. I haven’t had dinner yet.”

 

“My treat, anything you want to eat,” he said, rest his cheek on the top of her head.

 

“Anything but pizza.”

 


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