***This part contains graphic violence and gore.***
Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.
The Morning After
by: Rebecca Carefoot
Buffy squinted at the light shining through her window onto her bed. She shifted herself out of the patch of sunlight and lay still for a moment. She was early, the alarm hadn't even gone off yet. But she couldn't force herself to sleep, so with a sigh she staggered to the shower. She dressed herself and ate breakfast on autopilot. Finished getting ready for school, she sat in the living room until her mom was ready to drive her.
"Buffy, I didn't get to see you at all yesterday," her mom said, rushing through the room to grab her briefcase.
"That's because you forgot to pick me up," Buffy answered flatly.
"Oh, I know honey, I'm so sorry." Her mom's voice floated out to her from the kitchen. Buffy only sat, her mind as vacant as her gaze, which rested on the patterned wallpaper. She couldn't seem to muster the effort to care. About anything. Finally her mom's frantic rushing stopped, and they climbed into the car. Silence filled the space between them oppressively, but Buffy couldn't seem to think of a single thing to say.
"Is something wrong, honey?" Joyce Summers asked her daughter for the millionth time in her life. She wished there was some way she could just force her daughter to tell her what was going on. But she had learned that it was her lot in life to be completely oblivious to her daughter's feelings and desires. She sighed.
"I'm fine, mom," Buffy said emotionlessly.
"Of course you are."
"This is my stop." Buffy climbed out of the car and walked to her first class without straying from her designated path. She sat down and studied the chalkboard with an intensity that would've frightened her teacher had she arrived yet. Normally Buffy would've waited with Xander and Willow until the last possible moment, but today she couldn't stand it. Their happiness was something she just wasn't in the mood to deal with. Yeah, she was happy for them. But the fact was her life was sucking and sometimes you have to wallow in your own misery. *This is one of those times,* she decided.
Class started, but she didn't bother to get out her notebook. It would require moving, and she couldn't bring herself to pretend to listen today. She stared straight ahead, lost in her own thoughts.
She loved Angel. She was sure of that, more sure than she was of anything else in her life. It had never been an easy love, and for a while she had tried to deny it. But this was a love she could not deny. *How schmaltzy am I?* she wondered briefly. It was pretty sad when your life read like a cheesy soap opera. But this was her life, and these were her feelings.
She had known the risks of their love from the beginning, and she had accepted them. She probably hadn't totally understood what she was getting into. No one could understand unless they had experienced it. But now she had felt what he felt. She knew what it was to be a vampire. She had to admit that it made her respect him even more, that he could resist the incredible pull of these urges was a testament to his strength. But at the same time, she couldn't help but fear him a little more. The demon was nothing to be trifled with; it was so strong. That was the problem, now that she knew what he was facing, the back of her mind screamed that he couldn't hold out forever. Eventually he would have to give in to the demon, and she didn't want to be around when he did.
Angel was a vampire, there was no getting around it. It was something they both had to deal with. And yes, she now understood more than ever the danger she faced just by being with him. But the truth was she loved him too much to leave. She couldn't give up. She could never have the blind faith she had before. But she would trust him; she would believe in him. She would love him no matter what.
Having thought it through and come to a decision, she felt a little of her depression lift. She felt the familiar impatience to leave class. She needed to get out of there and talk to Giles. She wondered if he had found anything yet. She wondered how Xander and Willow's date had gone. She smiled to herself. *It must've gone pretty well. They stayed out late enough that Willow didn't call.* The bell finally rang, and Buffy almost skipped to the library; she couldn't wait to find out all the juicy details.
Willow blinked her eyes slowly. She wasn't dead, which she decided was a good thing. She turned her head and felt a bolt of pain which eventually subsided into a dull ache. *Pain, that's bad,* was her first thought. The sight that met her eyes changed her mind. A headache would be okay; but she was chained to the wall of a giant cavern which was filled with vampires. *Now that's bad,* she decided. Ignoring her throbbing head, she tried to get her bearings. She was lying next to something, someone she determined to be Xander. Their arms and legs were attached to the wall on short fetters that allowed them to lie down but not move freely. She had a splitting headache but the rest of her body seemed okay, a few bruises, nothing broken as far as she could tell. She poked Xander with her toe. He lay motionless, so she prodded him harder.
He groaned as consciousness returned. Slowly he opened his eyes, then shut them tightly in an attempt to deny the sight that met his vision. He opened them again, hoping against hope that this was a dream or an optical illusion. No such luck. He recognized these caverns, he had been here once before. That time Buffy had died ,and he had brought her back to life. He wondered who would bring him back to life. His gaze settled on Willow who was looking at him worriedly. He smiled weakly, in an utterly unsuccessful attempt to reassure her.
"This is pretty bad," he whispered.
"Understatement," Willow answered. "Major understatement."
"Yeah," he agreed glumly. "Not the best first date I've ever been on."
"Are you saying this isn't the worst first date you've been on?"
"Well, so far there are no praying mantis women trying to bite my head off so this is only the second worst date."
"Don't make that decision yet," Willow told him. "You came out of that one alive, remember?"
"True, but any date with you couldn't possibly be all bad," Xander blurted out, almost shocked by his own cheesiness. Willow's mouth dropped open.
"That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me." She crawled as far as her chains would let her and reached out her hand. He reached out his own and laced his fingers through hers.
"How cute," came a childish voice. The pair looked around for the source of the snide comment. Their searching eyes were met by the small figure of the Anointed One as he approached them slowly.
"Glad we could amuse you," Xander said in a voice that barely wavered at all.
"Quite. You'll be part of the main amusement later tonight," the child said with a cheerful smile.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Willow asked angrily.
"You'll find out soon enough."
"What is it with vampires and being cryptic?" Xander asked. "I mean are you physically incapable of stating something clearly and concisely." The Anointed One walked slowly to Xander and raised his hand. He slapped Xander's face with the back of his curled fist.
"A little less chatter from the bait please," he said casually. Xander opened and closed his mouth carefully. He didn't think his jaw was broken.
"Pretty strong, for a little kid," he said flippantly. *The thing here is to show no fear. They can smell fear on you, or is that dogs? Still, it seems like a good policy.* "So we're bait for Buffy?" he asked.
"No," was Colin's answer.
"Well, she's the one who's going to come for us so I think you should prepare to get your butt kicked," Willow said rashly. She didn't usually make it a policy to aggravate her captors, but things really couldn't be any worse than they already were. And she seemed to be infected with Xander's bravado.
"The Slayer won't be a problem," said the Anointed One. He knelt down on the ground, and threw a knuckle bone he found lying there into the depths of the cave. "She'll come, but that's okay. She's part of the trap as well."
"And this trap is for?" Xander asked.
"Angel," Willow whispered. "Who else could it be? Giles? Please."
"You're right," Xander said. "Oh, this all must be part of your little attempt to get Angel to join you."
"And he will join me," Colin hissed angrily. "If I can't get to him through his demon, I'll trap him through his soul." Xander and Willow exchanged a worried glance. They still didn't know exactly what the boy was talking about, but they had a feeling it did not bode well for them, or for Angel.
Buffy pushed open the library doors, pausing a moment to read the sign in front of the door which said, CLOSED FOR FILING. She wondered what had happened that would cause Giles to feel the need for extra privacy.
"Giles, I think you need to get yourself a new reason to close the library," she called. "I mean how many times can you conceivably file things before it all becomes just a little pointless."
"Buffy, thank God you're here," Giles said, hurrying out of his study.
"Where are Xander and Willow?" Buffy asked. "Not here yet?"
"They've been kidnapped." Giles said bluntly.
"What?" Buffy her voice calm with shock.
"By the Anointed One," said Angel, coming out of the stacks to join them. Buffy noticed absently that the library was even darker than usual. All the windows were closed. "I got a note yesterday, it was tied to a rock." *How unoriginal,* Buffy thought, oddly calm.
"Buffy?" asked Giles. "Do you understand what's happened?"
"I'll rip his throat out," she answered without emotion. As she said the words, she felt the shell of shock that had surrounded her fall away. A riptide of anger washed over her, and she succumbed to it's strength. Looking at Angel, she saw an answering anger light his eyes. She growled deep within her throat. They had picked a really bad time to mess with her. And she would send them all to hell as painfully as possible. She ripped open the door to the weapons cabinet and pulled out the crossbow. Then she grabbed a handful of stakes and a mace. She turned back to the two men to see their faces transformed by confusion and fear.
"What?" she snarled.
"Your face," Giles began.
"What the hell are you talking about?" she snapped, pulling a mirror out of her purse. "Wha..." she trailed off. She couldn't see herself in the mirror; she had no reflection. "I don't have a reflection," she said uncertainly. "Giles, why don't I have a reflection?"
"That's what I was trying to tell you," Giles began. "Your face has turned vampire."
"How could this happen?" Buffy asked. "I don't understand. It can't happen. I never drank Angel's blood." She looked to him for confirmation.
"Right," he began. "Oh no," he muttered. "Oh no."
"What?" she asked. She thought back and realized what had caused his doubt. "Oh no," she whispered.
"What is it?" Giles asked. "Could one of you please share?"
"I bit him," Buffy said. "When we kissed."
"Are you saying that you drew blood?"
"Yes, that's what I'm saying. I bit him hard enough to draw blood. His blood was in my mouth," her voice rose in panic.
"Dear God," Giles said, stunned. Buffy looked to Angel helplessly. She could not believe this was happening. "Wait," Giles said. "That couldn't possibly be enough blood to change you." His eyes contained a terrible, desperate hope as he turned them to Angel. "You've made a vampire before."
"Yes," Angel confirmed. "It always took more than a taste of blood. It's more like a complete transfusion. I had to drain them to the point of death, then let them feed off me. They filled themselves with our mixed blood."
"But Buffy only had a few drops of your blood, and it was two days after you drank from her."
"I know, but look at her. Something has happened, and that's the only explanation."
"I've read extensively on the creation of vampires," Giles said. "I think it is very possible that this has only strengthened the bond between you two. Buffy has been feeling like a vampire. The taste of your blood may have extended the bond and caused her to manifest the vampire tendencies as well as feel them."
"So you're saying it's temporary. It'll go away, right?" Buffy pleaded.
"I think so, but I can't be sure."
"Okay," she said drawing in a deep breath. "We'll go on that assumption and deal with this later. Right now we have to figure out how to save Xander and WiIlow." Inspired by her purposefulness, the two men roused themselves. "First of all I need you to help me, Angel," she said firmly.
"How can I make the vamp face go away for now? You know, how can I control it?" Her eyes pleaded with him for help, and he felt a bolt of pity strike him. She didn't deserve this.
"You need to become calm," he said. "Repress the anger and the confusion and any other strong emotion you might be feeling." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying with all her might to force the ridges back beneath her skin. "You're trying too hard," Angel explained. "Don't force it, just let the emotions wash away and the anger receded like the tide." Buffy took deep breaths and let the emotions slip away. She cleared her mind slowly, then cautiously brought up a hand up to feel her face. Her skin was smooth, her face human. She breathed a sigh of relief.
"Let's get moving," she said commandingly.
"Right," Giles answered. "They were taken by the Anointed One, and last night I discovered something very important." He paused dramatically. "I have discovered the nature of the Anointed One's power." Buffy and Angel waited.
"And?" Buffy finally said. "Enough with the theatrics, Giles, we don't have time for this."
"Quite so," Giles conceded. "The reason why the Anointed One is so desperate to have Angel join him is that without another vampire he has no power." He looked into two pairs of uncomprehending eyes and tried again. "The Anointed One has the power to join with another vampire and rule through them. He can control them. He has the power to manipulate them. But without a vessel for his power he can do nothing. He had joined with the Master, and now he wants to join with you, Angel."
"But why Angel, the one vampire with a soul?"
"Angel is the strongest vampire around at the present time, and the Anointed One wants someone with power. The greater the power of the vampire he joins with, the greater the Anointed One's power will be."
"It makes sense," said Angel. "And he knew I wouldn't join with him unless I reverted to my former self."
"That's why he wanted you to turn me into a vampire," Buffy declared. "Or to try to turn me into a vampire. Maybe he thought that you would just lose control and kill me."
"Either way, he wins. If I killed you, no Slayer. If I made you a vamp you wouldn't be very inclined to kill any of your own kind. And either way, the demon would regain control of my body."
"But wouldn't he be afraid of another Lily?" Giles asked.
"He explained it to me," Angel replied. "It's because I have a soul. Buffy would get a little piece of that, and it would dilute her power."
"Of course," Giles exclaimed. "It's brilliant."
"But I refused his offer. I would never willingly make Buffy a vampire." Buffy smiled at him.
"I know," she said, conveying with those two words her trust in him.
"That must be why he abducted Willow and Xander," Giles began. "He realized that his temptations weren't working, that he couldn't get to you through your evil side. So he will try to force you to join him by playing to the good in you. He knows you won't be able to desert Xander and Willow ."
"Wow, it all makes so much sense now!" Buffy said. "I love it when that happens. If only we could figure out a way to keep them un-dead." She thought a moment. "You know what I mean."
"There has to be a way," Angel said through clenched teeth. "It's my fault they're in this, I'll have to find a way to help them."
"You can't blame yourself," Buffy told him over the jangling of the bell. "Blame the brat. Its his fault not yours."
"Buffy, don't you have a class to go to?" Giles asked.
"Giles, priorities?" She raised her hands to form a scale. "Boring math lecture or saving the lives of my two best friends as well as keeping evil from dominating the world." Her hands wavered then she dropped the hand that held her friends' fate. "Gee, that's a toughie."
"I see your point." Giles said dryly.
"Ok then boys, we need a plan and fast. Any ideas?"
Angel looked at Buffy as the sun went down outside. She smiled at him, and
he managed a smile in return. But he was more worried than he wanted to admit.
The fact was, they didn't have enough information. They didn't know where
the Anointed One was keeping their friends. They didn't know exactly what
he would want from Angel once they got there. Angel chewed his lip nervously.
He didn't want Buffy going into this situation. But she wouldn't let him
go alone. And he couldn't really argue with her point that he couldn't win
on his own. He knew he could kill the Anointed One in the blink of an eye,
but the boy would have a lot of vampires down there. And there were only
so many minions one person could kill before sheer numbers overwhelmed them.
Besides, he couldn't tell Buffy that she would have to stay above ground
while her friends possibly got killed. He stifled a grin. Actually he couldn't
tell Buffy anything about what to do; the girl was as stubborn as an ass.
His kind of woman.
He only hoped things went as planned. Not that they had a concrete plan. All they had a were a series of possible scenarios. He had the feeling they were going to be flying by the seat of their pants down there, and he didn't like flying personally. But there weren't any other options. They would just have to try because there was no way he was going to leave two of his very limited supply of friends down there. He looked at Buffy, and her face was set into a mask of determination. Struck by her beauty, he grabbed her hand and raised it to his lips.
"I love you," he said. "No matter what happens tonight, you have to believe that." She raised her eyes to look at him and they glittered with tears. She crossed to him and buried her head in his chest letting his strong arms enfold her. She basked in the comfort of his touch for a moment, then raised her head for a kiss. His eyes were suspiciously bright as he ducked his head and brought his lips to meet hers. Giles interrupted by clearing his throat uncomfortably.
"I'm sorry, but we really have to get moving." Buffy nodded grimly.
"I'll be ready in a second," she said. "I just have to go get undressed."
"What?" Giles gasped.
"I knew that would get a reaction," Buffy said with a grin. "I'll be right back." She slipped into the weapons closet and quickly stripped off her clothes. Then she retrieved her stake sheaths from her book bag. With quiet efficiency, she buckled a complex network of straps to her body. Then she quickly slipped stakes into the numerous sheaths. One above and one below each forearm, one in the small of her back, one on her stomach and one on each hip. Then she strapped one stake on the outside of each thigh. *It isn't comfortable,* she thought with a wince, *but it ups my chances enough that I can stand a little chaffing.* Pulling on her shirt covered the torso and arm stakes with flowing fabric. A skirt hid the thigh stakes nicely. *Ready,* Buffy thought, opening the closet door.
"What exactly were you doing in there?" Giles asked.
"I was stocking up on ammo," she said cryptically. "I made a sort of device thing that lets me hold a bunch of extra stakes."
"Well, have you eh..ever tried this before?" Giles asked uncertainly.
"Sure," Buffy said. "I've practiced with it. I've never been in an actual fight with it before. So this is like a maiden voyage." She grabbed two long slender, highly sharpened stakes and used them to twist her hair up into a bun. "Ready?"
"Uh, Buffy...Im not entirely sure about this..uh, device, as you call it," Giles began.
"Giles, we don't have time for this," Buffy said impatiently.
"But how does it work, exactly?" Giles persisted. Buffy rolled her eyes and turned to Angel.
"We're moving." She grabbed Giles' hand and used the appendage to drag him after Angel who was heading out. "The sheaths are like little loops of leather, Giles," she said, speaking as if to a small child while they hurried out the door. "When I pull on the bottom of the stake or the top of the stake it comes out of the sheath and then I kill whatever it is that I had to pull the stake out for. K?"
"Right," Giles muttered.
Angel led the trio through the darkness until they reached an entrance to the sewers. Moving with a purpose, he removed the man hole cover and slid inside. He caught Giles as the man fell through the hole into the damp. Buffy brought up the rear, landing solidly in ankle deep water.
"Eeeew," she said, as the smell hit her. The two men glared at her. "Well it smells," whispered Buffy.
Angel began to trek through the sludge, heading toward the central cavern. He led them out of the sewer into an obscure offshoot. The walls of the passages drifted from metal to rock as they trudged onward. As they neared their destination, Angel held up a cautioning hand, stopping them short in the middle of a passage. "You need to stay here," he whispered to Giles. Giles shook his head firmly, negatively. "Once we free Xander and Willow, they're going to need someone who can get them out of here," Angel explained. Reluctantly, Giles agreed. "I'll go in first," Angel told Buffy. "You try not to be seen, figure out where Xander and Willow are, and try to free them." Buffy nodded. "I'll try to distract him for as long as I can." With that, Angel began to walk once more. Buffy hurried to keep up. Giles stared after them for a long moment, then turned and stepped into a small alcove type opening in the rock. He settled down to wait, wishing he could be there when it happened...whatever happened.
Buffy trailed after Angel, trying to keep up with his long stride. She was getting more and more nervous as they approached the cavern. This was the place where she had died, if only for a few minutes, yet here she was willingly walking into the mouth of hell again. *I need a new job,* she thought to herself wryly. But along with the fear, her sense of anticipation grew. Her adrenaline was flowing through her veins, giving her a keen desire slay something. Behind the fear, there was always a little bit of joy in the fight; and today there seemed to be a lot more of that hunger for combat in her. Angel stopped suddenly, and she tripped over herself to keep from ramming into his back. She shot him a questioning glance.
"I'm going left," he breathed quietly into her ear. "You go right." She nodded. "The passage will come out on the opposite side of the cavern, which will hopefully be the opposite side from where the Anointed One will be." She nodded again. She was walking blind into a location she did not know, into a situation that could get out of control very quickly. Angel was hoping that the Anointed One would be on the other side of the cave, but for all they knew he could be waiting right in front of the passage entrance. *In which case,* Buffy thought. *I'll be a crispy critter.* She hid her fear behind the adrenaline and took off down the passage. There would be time for fear later, right now they had people to save and evil plots to foil.
Angel watched her disappear down the tunnel filled with the sudden fear that he would never see her again. He shook his head sharply and ducked to enter the left passage. He moved as quickly as possible and soon came to the entrance to the central cavern. Golden candle light spilled out into the dark passage. Angel waited a moment, gathering his wits about him before entering. He couldn't see the Anointed One anywhere, but there were vampires gathered throughout the room. He counted about twenty, better than he had expected. He stepped out of the dark and felt their eyes on him. He willed himself to show no fear and stepped into the center of the cavern. The circular, semi-smooth area of beaten dirt was ringed by candles. He blinked in the warm yellow light and stood nonchalantly waiting. He wouldn't give the brat the satisfaction of seeing him sweat. Inside his unflappable exterior, his heart was pounding. Every muscle was tense, coiled tight like a cobra before it strikes. He was a human shaped bundle of dangerous potential energy.
He waited, and finally heard the child's voice. "Angelus," it said, high and clear. "I knew you'd come." The voice had a curious quality of seeming to come from everywhere at one.
"So I'm here," Angel yelled. He slowly turned in a circle, looking for the source of the voice. "Where are my friends?" he asked.
"All in good time," the child said as he entered Angel's sight. He walked slowly, unhurried and confident. A small smile played about his lips, and Angel knew that he was enjoying this, toying with them. Angel suppressed a surge of hatred which threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn't let emotions cloud his judgment; this was too important. He grinned at the boy, and slowly began to crack his knuckles. The dull popping echoed throughout the cave.
"So?" Angel said teasingly. "How've you been?" The Anointed One only watched him, his eyes dark and completely without soul. Angel shrugged. "Not into small talk? Than let's cut to the heart of the matter." He took a step closer to the boy. "What do you want?"
"I want you," the strange child answered. "I want you to help me rule over them all."
"Why do you want me?" Angel asked. "I'm sure there are lots of people who would love to rule with you." Colin moved closer to Angel and placed his tiny hand confidently in Angel's larger one. He pulled on it, and Angel knelt to look him in the eyes.
"You're strong," Colin whispered, with the air of someone sharing a great secret. "Stronger than the Master even, or you could be...if you would let your true self out. Aren't you tired of fighting yourself?" Angel refused to answer. "You don't have to anymore," Colin promised. "Besides, I want you because I like you." He grinned childishly, revealing a faint dimple in one of his cheeks. "Why won't you join me Angelus? Together we can make the blood flow like a mighty river. We will make the Earth burn." His eyes grew bright with a religious fervor that forced Angel to look away. He felt a shiver crawl up his spine, seeing that evil light in such young eyes.
"You don't know what you ask," he said.
"I know you want to join me; stop fighting it. We belong together." His grip on Angel's hand grew tighter, and when Angel met his eyes he felt as though he was falling. They were pitch black, yet they were lit by that eerie light. *Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to join the boy,* Angel thought. *It would be so much easier than living on the surface.* With a snarl Angel jerked his hand away. The boy had tried to entrap his mind. He turned his head away, refusing to meet Colin's eyes.
"Where are my friends?" he asked.
"I don't think I want to tell you," Colin whined. "You're not playing fair."
"Where are my friends?" he asked again stubbornly. He hoped Buffy had found them and escaped by now because he couldn't stall any longer. *If I play along,* he thought, *I might get sucked into the role I'm playing.*
"Your friends," Colin said with a giggle. "I thought you might be stubborn about this. I thought you might try to resist me. That's what they're for. You have to join me. Or else, I'll kill them." He giggled again. "Or maybe I'll make them one of us." He looked at Angel piercingly. "Maybe I'll make you choose whether they die or start a life after death." Angel's jaw clenched tightly, the only sign that he had heard the taunting words. "Or you could save them," offered Colin softly. "You could join me, and I'll set them free."
"I don't think you have them," Angel accused. "Or if you do, they're probably already dead." He had to know if they were still here or if Buffy had gotten them out. He only hoped that he wasn't sending the vampires straight to Buffy.
"You want to see them?" asked Colin. "They're kind of cute. I thought I might keep them. I need a pet." He raised his hand and gestured imperiously with it. An unseen vampire scurried off into the depths of the cave. A minute later he returned with a companion. The vampires pushed Willow and Xander into the circle where they fell in a heap at Angel's feet, chained to each other.
"Angel!" Willow exclaimed. He hurried to help her stand and untangled Xander from his chains. They stood bedraggled and confused before him, and his heart sank. Buffy hadn't been able to get them out of here. His heart pounded a little faster; where was Buffy? He scanned the cave with his eyes secretively. But there were too many nooks and crannies, side passages and rock formations. He couldn't see her. "Angel?" Willow asked. "What's going on?"
"We're bargaining for your life, little one," Colin said patronizingly. "Right now I believe the price is his soul."
"Don't give him anything," Willow said bravely, though her heart quailed. "We're not afraid to die, right Xander?" Xander hesitated a moment, until she elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
"Uhhhh, right." He confirmed.
"I'm not going to leave you here," Angel said. He scanned the cave once more, but no sign of Buffy. Silently, he prepared himself for a hopeless fight. Moving with cat-like speed, he easily snapped the chains binding Willow and Xander together. "Stay behind me," he ordered them.
"What about your girlfriend?" The Anointed One asked calmly. Angel stared at him blankly. "I saw you looking for her earlier." He smiled. "You should've said something. She's right here." Two vampires entered the circle dragging Buffy's unconscious form, by each of her chained arms.
Angel leapt at the Anointed One with a snarl, game face on, mouth agape. The Anointed One fell to the ground under Angel, screaming in a high thin child voice. Angel pinned him to the ground, then felt heavy hands on his shoulders pulling him backwards. When he regained some of his control, he noticed that the circular part of the cavern they fought in was suddenly filled with vampires and that Buffy's two vampire captors were holding her head, ready to snap her neck. Slowly he released the child and stood up. Warily, he watched the vampires quickly move to enclose the Anointed One in a protective ring of bodies.
"Don't do that again," the boy hissed. "Or I WILL have her killed." Angel nodded once, his fangs still bared.
"So does this tip the scale?" Colin asked. "You join me or all three of your friends will be killed, including your true love." Buffy had begun to revive during his wrestling match with the Anointed One, and she now struggled against her captors' grips on her arms. Angel hung his head. There had to be a way out of this. There had to be; he just needed to figure it out. He had to make the Anointed One think he would join him. That would give them a little more freedom to breathe and maybe give them a chance to get out of here.
"I join you," he said resignedly. The beginnings of a plan were sprouting in his mind.
"Excellent," said Colin happily.
"But I want your original offer," Angel added quickly. "You have to let me make Buffy a vampire."
"No!" she screamed, and redoubled her efforts to escape. Willow gasped in horror, while Xander glared at Angel darkly.
"I knew we couldn't trust him," Xander whispered to Willow.
"Of course," Colin said. "You may do with the girl as you like. By all means, bring her to our side." Angel nodded at the child and walked toward Buffy, who kicked out with her legs at him.
"Stay away," she hissed. "I'd rather die." Angel blocked her kick and stepped in close to her.
"Trust me," he whispered. "Tell them to let her go," he said to the Anointed One.
"Can you control her?" the boy asked.
"My life forfeit if I cannot." Colin nodded at the two vampires, who released her and quickly stepped away. Buffy stood still, and allowed Angel to approach her. He bent his head to her neck and hesitated over the smooth flesh. "I have a plan," he breathed into her ear as he hesitated. "I'll pretend to drink from you; you pretend to latch on to my neck at the same time." He did this as he spoke, placing his lips on her neck, his teeth barely grazing her skin, opening a small wound. The smell of blood reached both of them, and a shudder ran through their bodies. She placed her lips to his neck, though her heart quailed with fear. She would trust him.
"When I tell you, you need to change your face to appear a vampire," she heard his voice whisper to her. She understood his plan now, but she wasn't sure if she could do it. When her face had changed earlier it had been an accident. She had no idea how to make it happen, or even if it could happen again. Fighting panic, she tried to remember what had happened when she had vamped out the first time. She had heard that Willow and Xander were captured. Then anger and hate had overwhelmed her.
"Now," Angel breathed. She heard him and thought as hard as she could about the fact that Xander and Willow were standing in chains, about the people these vampires had killed, about the fact that she would never have a normal life because she had to deal with them. She thought about all the things that filled her nightmares, all the things that she tried to repress. Her anger grew, and she fed it until she thought she was ready to tear each of their throats out and wallow in their destruction. She sprung away from Angel with a deep growl, and he heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the vampire ridges. She had been able to do it. Willow screamed in horror when she saw Buffy's face and turned to Xander, who held her hand tightly, a grim expression on his face.
"Welcome, my child," the Anointed One said graciously. Everything seemed to be completely under his control. Buffy looked at Angel for a cue. What was she supposed to do now? He knelt and bowed his head, and she followed suit. The Anointed One smiled. When they rose to their feet again, Angel grabbed her hand and pulled her close to him.
"Do you have any stakes left?" he whispered. She nodded almost imperceptibly in response. The vampires had done a cursory search, but only found the stakes strapped to her forearms.
"Come, Angelus," the Anointed One called. "Now that we are partners we have things to plan, people to kill. We must commence with the joining ritual."
"What about the girl and boy?" Angel asked.
"Do you want them?" the Anointed One asked.
"One for me, and one for Buffy?" Angel asked.
"Whatever you wish," Colin said, nonchalantly dismissing the issue with his hand. Angel grabbed Xander's arm, while he fought vainly to keep Willows hand in his own. Buffy snarled at him and pulled Willow away.
"Must we feed in the presence of so many others?" Angel asked.
"Squeamish?" Colin responded. He waved a hand, and the vampires melted away into other parts of the vast cavern, leaving only his two bodyguards within the circle. Angel bent his head to Xander's neck while Colin watched. Xander tried vainly to punch him in the face. His efforts were rewarded by Angel twisting his arm tightly behind his back.
"Pretend to die," the vampire whispered to him as he lowered bared fangs to Xander's neck. Suddenly understanding that they were not betrayed, while not understanding much else, Xander obeyed. He sagged bonelessly in Angel's grasp, and when Angel threw him casually down he let himself fall to the floor with a thump. He hoped Angel and Buffy knew what they were doing. *Apparently they have a plan. And how the hell was Buffy able to vamp out like that?* he wondered to himself.
Willow saw him fall to the ground and shrieked in pain. *He's dead,* she thought hysterically. Her jaw tightened, and she turned tearless eyes to Buffy, who still held her tightly. She would be dead too, soon. There was no time for tears. She did not fight as the Slayer bared her fangs and lowered them to her neck. Hearing Buffy whisper that she needed to pretend to die as well, Willow felt a wild hope fill her chest. She kept her emotion from showing on her face as she sank to the ground to lie still next to Xander.
The Anointed One looked on approvingly as Buffy and Angel stood before him. Joining with the old one would increase his power at least three times over, and the Slayer was no longer a threat to him.
"Could you have those two remove _these_" Angel asked, bobbing his head towards the two bodyguards and then looking with disgust at the bodies of Xander and Willow. The Anointed One nodded to the vampires that guarded him, and they approached the bodies. As they knelt down to pick up the two humans, Buffy reached up into her hair and pulled out the two stakes, tossing one to Angel. With swift plunging motions, they buried the stakes into the backs of the two guards, who glanced in shock at the Anointed One before exploding into a clouds of dust simultaneously.
The Anointed One stared for a moment in shock at the dirt that had once been his bodyguards. While he hesitated, Xander and Willow jumped to their feet and looked to Buffy and Angel for directions.
"Follow us," Angel said quickly. He ran towards the Anointed One. If he could kill the boy, the other vampires' confusion would give them a real chance. But before he could reach the child, Colin was screaming at the top of his lungs for help. The vampires in the cavern began to converge, determined to protect their master. A huge vampire stepped between Angel and the Anointed One, muscles bulging. *All right,* Angel thought. *Plan B, we'll just run as fast as we can and try to get the hell out of here in one piece.* "This way," he shouted over the confusion. He glanced back to see Xander and Willow following him closely with frightened faces. Buffy came a few steps behind them, a stake in each hand. Her eyes were filled with a wild hunger and she licked her lips eagerly, ready for action.
"Stop them at the exit!" he heard the Anointed One scream. *Shit,* he thought, as he casually poked an attacking vampire in the eyes and sent him stumbling back. He continued towards the exit, pausing only to sweep the legs out from under a female vampire. From the floor she looked at him in surprise as he herded the humans past her. She saw no more once Buffy reached her with a stake that sent her spiraling into oblivion on a cloud of dust. They were almost to the exit, but the vampires had them almost completely surrounded.
There were three vampires defending the exit to the network of caverns, while more than twenty enclosed them from behind. Not bothering to stop and think, Angel attacked. He grabbed one of the three that guarded the exit and smashed his head against the wall. While preoccupied with knocking that vampire out, his legs were swept out from under him. He snarled angrily at the vampire that bent over him. Lying on his back, he used both legs to kick upward with all his strength. The splintering sound of jawbone breaking greeted his ears as the vampire fell back unconscious. Once he leapt to his feet, his eyes fell on Xander struggling with a vampire who was trying to drag Willow away. Buffy was occupied with another vampire, which tenaciously refused to be staked. Her fists darted out as she rained blows down on her opponent's face and upper body. She seemed to have the upper hand, so he turned to Xander and Willow. Willow was vainly battering the vampire with her fists, while Xander clung to its back like a leech. Angel quickly reached them, shouted for Xander to get away and punched the vampire in the face. The vampire lost its hold on Willow and was driven farther back as Angel continued to pummel its face.
Snapping the vampire's neck, Angel turned back to Xander and Willow. He grabbed Willow's arm and pulled her through the mayhem that surrounded them. The entrance to the tunnel was unguarded for the moment, while the vampires were occupied with trying to capture them. Angel pushed Willow into the tunnel.
"Run," he ordered. "Giles is there. He'll get you out." Xander nodded, and the two ran as fast as they could down the dark tunnel. Angel was brought back into the fray by a vampire that attacked him from behind, shoving him up against the wall. He grunted as he drove his elbow back and connected solidly with the vampire's ribs. The blow sent a shock all the way up his arm but it drove the vampire away.
"Buffy," Angel shouted, looking for her amidst the milling bodies. He stayed in front of the exit, determined not to let any vampires follow the two humans. The bodies began to move, and he could see Buffy fighting her way towards him. She had a long scratch down the length of her face and neck, but seemed otherwise unharmed. She grabbed the kicking foot of a large male vampire that tried to block her path to Angel, lifted upward with all her strength, and sent his body flying back into the masses. The Slayer managed to reach Angel and pressed her back up against his. They couldn't run down the tunnel, that way was completely blocked with snarling, slobbering vampires. Buffy glanced around, her hands curled tightly into fists. Angel hadn't been able to keep them away from the tunnel entrance, their sheer numbers were overwhelming. Fortunately for Xander and Willow, the vampires had apparently decided that they weren't worth chasing, instead concentrating all their energy on the couple before them.
"There's too many of them," Buffy said, breaking one vampire's arm as he
tried to punch her.
"How many stakes do you have left?" Angel asked as he staggered back under a heavy kick to his chest.
"Three," Buffy said grimly. With a smooth motion, she removed a large stake from the small of her back and handed it to Angel. She ducked as a vampire threw a punch at her head and caught his chin with a well-placed toe. She took advantage of the moment it took him to recover and pulled down on the two thigh stakes, removing them from their sheaths. He came at her again with a grunt, and the Slayer knocked him down with a round-house, blocked a kick from another vampire that attacked at the same time, and sent him spinning by flipping him over with an upswing from her elbow. "Three stakes, and at least twenty vampires," she said to Angel, who was trying to remove a vampire from his back. "My math isn't great, but that definitely doesn't work." Angel finally managed to flip the vampire over his head and thrust the stake into its chest as it lay stunned on the ground, then he pulled the stake out before it turned to dust with the vampire..
"No kidding," Angel replied.
"If they ever figure out that they should all attack at once, we're toast," she continued while breaking a vampire's nose with her fist. Blood sprayed out in tiny droplets all over her clothes.
"Then do something to distract them," Angel yelled, bringing one vampire's head down to meet his knee with a solid crunch. *Easy for you to say,* Buffy thought. *But he's right, we have to do something that'll take the vampires' minds off us.*
Her thoughts were interrupted as she was tackled by an evilly greasy vampire. His eyes glowed yellow as he used the weight of his body to trap her against the ground. Buffy tried to angle the stake she held in her hand to reach his heart but he was too close to her. She stared at his gleaming eyes in disgust as he laughed at her helplessness. With a wicked grin she brought the stake up in front of her face and drove it two-handed into his eye, through the eye-socket to the brain. As he jerked away with a scream, she held on to the stake and was horrified to see his eye pop free from his head to remain impaled on the shaft of wood. She used her right hand to pick up her other stake and drive it into his heart while he was distracted by the pain. Using her left hand, she held the stake with it's lump of cargo. She rose to her feet as quickly as possible; Angel was trying to fight off three vampire's at once; but it was clear that he couldn't hold out forever. Buffy looked around the cavern quickly, then made a snap decision. She sent one vampire flying with a sweeping round-house, and quickly leapt past two others to reach a candelabra nearby. With a grimace she stuck the tip of the stake and the remains of the eye into the flame. The eye quickly caught fire and began to burn merrily.
"What this party needs," she muttered as she hefted the stake behind her ear, took aim and threw, "is a little heat." The flaming stake landed in the middle of a giant pile of ancient books which immediately began to burn. As the fire caught and spread unbelievably fast, the vampires were distracted from the fight.
"Put out the fire, you fools!" the Anointed One screamed angrily. The vampires hurried to obey, leaving Buffy and Angel to their own devices. Buffy ran to Angel, who grabbed her arm and led her out of the smoke-filled cavern into the tunnels. They continued to run until Angel felt they had put enough distance between themselves and the vampires. They slowed to a walk, Buffy's chest heaving with exertion.
"That was pretty impressive back there," Angel said with a grin.
"It was wasn't it?" Buffy grinned back. "You weren't too bad yourself." Angel shrugged.
"It was nothing." They joined hands and continued to walk the dark passageway. They drew closer to the alcove where they had left Giles. *The three humans have probably gotten out of the caverns by now,* Buffy thought. *I just called them humans,* she told herself. *That seems very wrong somehow.* She giggled suddenly out of relief or tension or something else, she was not sure which. Angel looked at her questioningly. She shook her head.
"It's too stupid to repeat," she said sheepishly. He squeezed her hand tighter and pulled her to him, enfolding her in his arms. She laughed into his jacket which she could tell by the smell was soaked in blood. "That's the second outfit ruined by blood this week," she said giggling again. Everything seemed hilarious for some reason. She heard her stomach growl and began to laugh, sticking out her tongue involuntarily to taste the blood on his shirt. She felt like she was losing control of her emotions as she continued to laugh uncontrollably. She clung to Angel as tightly as she could, letting herself laugh and then cry. He stroked her hair and let her cry as her shoulders shook with sobs. When the tears had run their course, he gently lifted her face to look at him and kissed her cheekbones, wet with tears. She reached up to wrap his face in her hands, and he lifted her up to kiss her lips gently. She responded to his kisses passionately, playing with the hair at the back of his neck with one hand while hanging onto his neck with the other arm. When they broke the kiss she leaned her head against his chest and breathed in his scent, his warm smell mixed with the scent of blood.
"I'm hungry," she whispered into his ear.
"Me too," he whispered.
"Would it be very bad, if I drank some blood?" she asked quietly.
"It would be very bad," Angel said kissing her nose lightly.
"But I want to," she pouted. He lowered her gently to the floor with a sigh. She wasn't the only one being tempted by the smell of blood that surrounded them. It was all he could do to keep himself from licking the cut that ran down her face.
"You can't," he said simply.
"I know," she answered softly. She stood still a moment, holding his hand. All of a sudden Buffy jumped back with a snarl. Someone had crept up to them without their realizing it, and was shoving a cross toward them. Angrily Angel knocked the wooden object out of the mysterious figure's hand. Buffy sighed with relief and stepped belligerently up to her attacker.
"Buffy?" the man exclaimed.
"Giles!" she shouted. Impulsively she threw herself into his arms and gave him a big hug. He fell back under her exuberance, but a grin lit his face from ear to ear. "We thought you guys would've gone back up to the surface by now," she said releasing him from the hug.
"We were afraid you wouldn't make it," he said. "Xander and Willow told me how many vampires you were facing." At the mention of their names, Buffy looked up to see them running towards the group.
"You're all right," Willow said with relief, as she enfolded her blonde friend in a huge hug. "We thought you were, well, you know...again."
"I was all set to go back there and give you CPR again," Xander said with a grin as he wrapped his arms around both the girls. "And by the way, why is your face like that?"
"I think we should get out of here," Angel said. "The vampires may be coming this way, especially if the fire spreads."
"What fire?" Xander asked.
"How DID you get out of there?" Giles asked. Buffy laughed.
"Let's just say it involved an eyeball, and a flaming stake," she answered cryptically.
"Um, could you elaborate?" Xander asked as they walked along.
"Wait," Willow said doubtfully as Buffy began to tell the story. "Is this going to be one of those things that makes you go, eeeewww, and then feel like you're going to throw up?"
"Pretty much," said Buffy after thinking about it for a second.
"How did I guess?" Willow wondered out loud.
"Before you get into that whole eyeball thing," Xander interrupted. "The face? What's up with that?" Buffy looked up at Angel; she had forgotten that she was still vamped out. He had gone human when the others arrived.
"Well, that's a long story. But no, I'm not a vampire. At least we hope not. Right, Giles?" she called. "It's just temporary. But it sure came in handy tonight."
"Well, you could've warned us," Xander pouted.
"We were totally wigged," Willow finished. Buffy laughed, relaxed. She was safe in the company of the people she cared about. She felt something slip as her face reverted to it's natural human state.
"Better?" she asked, turning to look at Xander.
"I don't know," he teased. "I kind like that vampy, wild, *I'm gonna rip your heart out and eat it* look on you." Willow poked him in the ribs, and Buffy laughed.
"So anyway," she said. "Returning to the story...There we were surrounded by vampires. One of them threw me to the ground, and I was totally trapped...." Their talking and laughing echoed throughout the tunnels as they made their way towards the outside world, happily anticipating the night time breezes that would caress them. Xander walked next to Willow, following Buffy and Angel closely as they led the way out, holding hands. Buffy turned her head periodically as she explained their adventure, and Giles brought up the rear.
The Anointed One stood surrounded by smoke and ash in the ruins of the central cavern. His face betrayed no emotion, perhaps he felt none. In a voice as dead as his soul he spoke to the vampires who had survived the fire.
"We move to the surface." He had already located an old abandoned warehouse which they could use as a home in the event of something like this happening. He walked slowly out of the cave, his followers close behind him and did not look back. *Oh well,* he thought, *with all those candles lying around it was bound to happen sooner or later.*
"So are we Bronzing?" Xander asked as they climbed out of the sewer. "And by the way, that smell is never going to come out of our clothes. I just hope you all realize that."
"Can't," Buffy said tiredly. "Let's not even go into the fact that I look like I was juggling with somebody's body parts, I have a test tomorrow in math...and guess what? I haven't studied."
"I'll come over and help," Willow said.
"Thanks ,Will," Buffy said. "You'd think that I could take a day off school for this or something."
"Perhaps you should," Giles interjected. "You could stay in bed all day and rest."
"I'll be okay," Buffy assured him. She rose up on her tiptoes and lifted her face for a kiss from Angel, which he gladly gave her. "I'll meet you at your place tomorrow night," she promised. He touched her face lightly and was gone.
"How does he do that?" Xander asked. "You close your eyes for one second..." Willow stopped his mouth with a quick kiss, then stepped back blushingly appalled at what she had done. When his shock wore off, Xander pulled her close to him and returned her kiss. Giles and Buffy smiled at each other. The Slayerettes finally broke their kiss and Willow pulled on Buffy's hand, dragging her away. Xander threw Giles a grin and headed for home. The librarian stood in the middle of the street a bemused expression on his face. Everyone was pairing off. And he was going home to...his books. His mind turned to Miss Calendar without his permission, but he smiled. Perhaps there was a someone out there for him too.
Buffy stared dejectedly at her math textbook. She would never learn this stuff in one night. At least her mom had been asleep so they didn't have to explain the fact that she was covered in gore and Willow was wearing shackles. Buffy had managed to break the chain off her friend's arm, but they would need a file to get the rest off. They had both taken showers, but Xander was more right than he knew about that sewer smell sticking with them.
"So the cosign of a 90 degree angle is what?" Willow asked.
"2.4," Buffy guessed wildly.
"No, its zero," Willow answered patiently. "Look at the example."
"Remember yesterday when I was talking to Giles in his office?" Buffy asked suddenly.
"Yeah," answered Willow.
"I was talking to him about sex," Buffy explained.
"You want to have sex with Giles?" Willow squeaked. Buffy laughed.
"No I was asking him about it because I want to sleep with Angel," she answered.
"Oh, right," Willow said knowingly. "You do?"
"Well yeah," Buffy defended. "I mean I know you think that maybe I'm too young. But I can't afford to wait. We both could've died tonight. My lifestyle isn't really the kind of thing that promotes longevity." She paused thoughtfully. "With Angel I feel like I've found someone who understands me, who loves me, and who I am totally attracted to. This seems like it's the next logical step, and I know that it would be unbelievable because it's him," She twisted a strand of hair tightly around her finger. "We have this wonderful relationship, I just don't know how long it can last before something awful happens. And I am in love with him, completely. So he's the one I want to lose my virginity to." She looked at Willow for understanding. "Don't you feel that way about Xander?" Buffy asked.
"Well," Willow hesitated. "I mean we've only been on one date." She looked into her friend's face, then looked at the floor blushing. "But based on that kiss, I guess he's the one I would want to...I mean eventually, I don't want to anytime soon." Buffy smiled at her.
"You guys are so cute together," she said. Willow laughed.
"Yeah with our matching wrist shackles, maybe we'll start a new fad."
"So will you help me?" Buffy asked when they had calmed down.
"Of course," said Willow simply. "Now what's the tangent of a 45 degree angle?" Buffy bent her head over the book and tried to put thoughts of Angel out of her head. There would be time enough for them tomorrow.