continued from

Disclaimer: I own nothing, I know nothing. Buffy and her world belong to Joss Whedon, the WB and Fox.

Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.

The Morning After
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part 2
Monday Madness

Willow waited impatiently at the front entrance to school, bouncing slightly up and down on the balls of her feet. Finally, she saw the familiar blonde head of her best friend as Buffy climbed out of her mom's jeep, sunglasses perched on her nose. The red head ran down the steps to meet Buffy as she trudged towards another school day.

"Buffy!" she exclaimed. "You'll never guess what happened this weekend."

"Oh, you mean after I got my blood drained and Angel killed Lily?" Buffy asked sarcastically. "Anything would seem exciting after that boredom." Willow only stared at her for a moment.

"So anyway," she said a little subdued. "Xander called me yesterday." Excitement crept slowly back into her voice as she said the words.

"Is that something new?" Buffy asked. "I mean doesn't he call you all the time, you guys are friends right?"

"No, you don't understand. We talk on the phone all the time, but I'm always the one who calls him; and anyway we've never talked like this before."

"Like what?"

"You know, we talked for hours and hours about life and love and happiness."

"Sounds major," Buffy answered. "Oh...that's why both your phones were busy yesterday when I called, I thought you were on the net."

"That's another thing, I didn't go online at all yesterday."

"Where's Giles?" Buffy asked distractedly.

"Hmmm, let me guess. I would say the library but that's too far-fetched 'cause he's there everyday, you know? Buffy," Willow said, "I'm getting the feeling that you're on another planet."

"Sorry," Buffy said, dragging herself out of the thoughts that filled her brain. "It's just that I had a really bad weekend, or well not exactly bad but confusing. Look, can we go inside? I'm not liking the sun at the moment."

"Oh yeah, is it that whole skin cancer thing?" Willow asked. The two girls entered the school, and Buffy let a small sigh of relief escape her lips.

"Not exactly," she answered cryptically. "It's just a thing Giles needs to check."

"Demon?" asked Willow.

"No," Buffy answered curtly.


"Warmer," said Buffy with a smile. "Look we'll talk about it later when we have the expert on everything to tell us what's going on. Let's rewind. You were saying about Xander..."

"Oh yeah," Willow was all too happy to be distracted by Xander talk. "So we were talking about everything, you know usually it's like 'hey what's up' and then we just joke around. And I'm not saying that we didn't joke or whatever, because I mean can you imagine Xander without joking? But my point is that we were talking about real stuff, you know? Deep stuff."

"Doesn't sound like Xander, he's not the deep type."

"But he is, he just doesn't show it that often. That doesn't matter, what I've been trying to tell you is that I think he's actually starting to be interested in me as more than just good old buddy Willow."

"Oh, Willow that's so great," Buffy said giving her friend a quick hug. "I knew he would eventually get a clue."

"Who's getting a clue?" asked Xander as he walked up and put his arm around Willow’s shoulders. Buffy smiled at Willow's rapturous look.

"Oh nobody," Buffy said. The bell jangled loudly, and they all jumped a little. "I'll meet you guys in the library," Buffy yelled over her shoulder as she rushed to her first class. She sat quietly in history, taking notes when she remembered to, but mostly just thinking. About her friends. She smiled to herself, they made such a cute couple. It looked like Willow's dream was finally coming true. Her secret smile faltered for a moment as jealousy wormed its way into her heart. It just wasn't fair that she had to be in love with a vampire. Of all people, or of all things that weren't quite people. But she did love him, she didn't want to leave him or anything. It would just be nice to be able to walk down the street, holding hands in the middle of the afternoon, without worrying about where the newest evil monster was going to come from. God, wouldn't it be nice.

"Buffy?" her teacher called her name.

"Huh?" she grunted, startled.

"I asked you if you can give us the reasons that the Renaissance started in Italy?"

Silently Buffy cursed at herself for not paying attention. "Because of the Italians?" she answered vaguely.

"What about the Italians?" her teacher asked impatiently.

"Well, they were all into the whole art thing right?" *Dammit,* she thought, *Where is Willow when I need her?* She smiled grimly at her teacher, waiting as the woman opened her mouth to crush her into the floor like a cockroach for not knowing the answer. Just then the bell rang. Buffy scooped up her books and was out the door before the tone faded away. She got her science book out of her locker and hurried to her class. Willow was already there, sitting at her usual lab table. *How does she get here so fast?* Buffy wondered. Shaking her head she took the seat across the aisle and resisted the urge to hit her head on the table.

"Buffy?" she heard Willow call her name.

"That's me."

"Did something happen last night? With Angel and your mom or whatever?"

"Oh they got along great; he lulled her with talk of art. It was amazing."

"So then why're you acting all weird, and mopey?"

"We'll talk about it later," Buffy said as the teacher came in. Xander rushed to his seat seconds before the bell and sat for a moment panting. The lecture began, and Buffy's attention wandered again. She studied her friends, trying to see if there was some change in the way they treated each other.

"So what'd I miss?" Xander asked when he had his breath back.

"Nothing, Buffy's acting wiggy today but she said she'd tell us about it later."

"We're always the last to know."

"I don't think she's told Giles yet either."

"There you go, we should definitely know our friend's problems before the school librarian does."

"Xander, you shouldn't joke. I'm worried." Xander gave Willow a quick hug before she had time to react.

"I'm sorry, Will, but if you worry about every weird thing that happens around here you'll end up a nutcase. Not that you aren't one’re my nutty buddy." He grinned, and Willow couldn't help but smile back. "You smiled!" Xander exulted. "That means I win!"

"Oh really, what do you win?"

"Well, what'll you give me?"

"A shiny nickel."

"Sold. So are you going to the Bronze tonight?" he asked in what he hoped was a casual tone.


"'Cause I thought that if you were then maybe we could go together." Willow felt her heart stop beating, and she forced herself to breathe.

"Okay," she said, testing out her voice. *He probably didn't mean it the way it came out,* she thought *He probably wants to go to the Bronze just like we do almost every day of the week.*

"Good, so when should I pick you up?"

"Are you going to drive?" she asked incredulously.

"No, all I have is a learner's permit, silly person. Unless you'd like to break the law with me, or perhaps you want my parents to come along. That's it isn't it? You have a crush on my dad, the secret's out."

"I thought no one would ever know," Willow said in mock horror.

"Mr. Harris, Ms. Rosenburg. Either quiet down or share with the whole class," the teacher interrupted threateningly. Willow and Xander snapped their mouths shut. This wasn't something they wanted to share. Buffy turned her attention back to the notes she wasn't taking. There was definitely something there. She hoped they would be happy, that they would have the normal relationship she could never have. Buffy passed the rest of the class in a stupor, not quite forming a coherent thought about anything. Finally the bell released them from their boredom.

"We'll catch up with you at the library," Willow shouted to Buffy as they were swept out into the hallway.

"Right," she yelled back. For once she almost wished that math class wouldn't end. As soon as it did, she would have to face the things that were happening. She would have to face all the crap that filled her life, all the complications and problems. She would have to talk to Giles about sex for God's sake. She sat down in math class and attempted to pay attention. The notes filled her page, but nervousness was all that filled her mind. What would Giles say when he found out she wanted to have sex with a vampire? *Oh God,* she stifled a groan. Not that the thought of sex was all that appealing at the moment. Not when she was afraid of what Angel might do. For the first time, she realized she was afraid of Angel. She had always trusted him implicitly, but now there was something between them. Maybe it was because he had bitten her; he had almost killed her. Or maybe it was because she had felt the bloodlust herself; she knew how strong it was, how hard to resist. But she had to admit that those reasons didn't seem real. The real reason was that she knew he was tempted by the offer the Anointed One had made. She knew the demon was strong in him, stronger than it had been before he drank her blood. And as much as she loved and still trusted him, she wasn't sure that he wouldn't accept the offer. She wasn't sure he wouldn't make her a vampire.

"There will be a test on Chapter 7 two days from now," Buffy heard the teacher say. There was just too much going on at once. She didn't know if she could handle it. *Life is so unfair,* she thought while reminding herself to ask Willow for tutoring. The bell rang, and Buffy trudged to the library.

"I hate my life," she said conversationally to the empty room as she entered it.

"So what else is new?" Giles asked from behind a bookshelf.

"Oh nothing," Buffy answered. "The Anointed One's involved in nothing and so is Angel."

"What?" Giles asked, coming out of the stacks.

"Let's just wait until the little ones get here, so I don't have to tell it twice," Buffy said.

"Who are you calling little?" Xander asked as he and Willow walked towards the Slayer. "What have you heard?" He grinned at Buffy, who smiled despite herself.

"So now you can tell us about what's happened," Giles prodded.

"Right, well Angel came to meet my mom last night," Buffy began.

"How'd it go?" Xander asked.

"He charmed her like...a charm," Buffy said. She frowned a little at her own words. "Whatever, we don't have to worry about that. What we have to worry about is that there is definite brat activity going down."

"You mean the Anointed One?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, apparently he came up to Angel and told him he wanted him to come back to the fold and rule with him. And then he said that Angel could bring me along if he would just make me into a vampire."

"I would've thought he'd have had enough of Slayers turned vampire with Lily," Giles said thoughtfully.

"Maybe the kid likes to be dominated," Xander interjected. "Okay, it wasn't funny," he said as the faces turned to him in disdain. "It was a good try?"

"Well," Buffy continued, "that's what Angel asked him, and he said it wouldn't be like that this time. I have no idea why, but that's what he said."

"But, Buffy you don't think that Angel would..." Willow trailed off, unwilling to say it out loud.

"I'm not sure anymore," Buffy said quietly. "He was tempted, I could feel it." She turned toward Giles. "Which brings up our other little problem."

"Which is?" Giles prompted.

"Ever since Angel put the bite on me, I've been feeling things.   Like I've been feeling what he feels; I've been feeling like a vampire."

"What do you mean?" Giles asked.

"I mean that the sun makes me way uncomfortable. And we're not talking about just having a dislike of hot weather or bright light. I'm talking about feeling like I'm burning under my skin, only I'm not. I mean that I get hungry for blood."

"But you didn't drink his blood, you can't be a vampire, " said Xander.

"I'm not a vampire," Buffy said. "I just feel like one."

"Oh, my mistake. There's such a huge difference," Xander answered sarcastically.

"It's entirely possible that you could have formed some kind of bond with Angel," Giles interjected. "He took a measure of your power, that bond may have connected you in some way that allows you to feel what he feels. It should fade with time though, just as his power will lessen."

"Well until it does, what am I supposed to do?" Buffy asked, trying to keep the whine out of her voice.

"You deal with it, I'll study my books and see if there are any previous cases. Don't expect too much though because there aren't very many vampires that won't just kill you or turn you into a vampire. There aren't many vampires with souls. Angel is in fact the only one I've heard of."

"He's special that way," said Buffy. "Okay, so we're also looking for what the brat's up to right?"

"Right," Giles answered. "Is there anything else I can research for you while I'm at it?"

"Now that you mention it," Buffy began. She looked at Willow and Xander. "Ummm, I think we need to talk about it in private though."

"Awww, keeping secrets is not allowed," Xander exclaimed.

"Yeah, there's a rule," Willow added.

"I'm changing the rule," Buffy said. "You guys don't want to know." She led Giles firmly into his office.

"But," Xander said. "We do so."

"Later," Buffy yelled as she shut the door. This was not something she wanted to talk about at all, except maybe with Willow. It was just so embarrassing. She looked at Giles' questioning face and took a deep breath. *Just get it over with,* she thought to herself. "I think you'd better take a seat, Giles." Giles simply continued to question her with his eyes and folded his arms across his chest. "I need to know about sex," she blurted out. Giles blinked slowly twice and sat down in his chair.

"Ah, I ah, shouldn't you ask your mother about this?" Giles asked nervously.

"I mean sex with a vampire."

"Oh, oh yes I see. W-w-well, I don't know um, I don't," Giles stammered to a stop. Buffy felt a giggle building up in the back of her throat. She was uncomfortable about the whole thing, but Giles was positively wigged out. *Must be a British thing,* she thought.

"I need to know if it's safe, Giles," she prodded.

"Buffy, as your Watcher I cannot condone you having sex with a vampire, even if it is Angel."

"Thanks Giles, but please just give me the facts, not the editorial. Is a condom enough protection?" Buffy felt her face turning red and saw Giles' face turn an even deeper shade of crimson. Giles could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead as he fumbled for a handkerchief. "Giles?" Buffy asked. "Giles, this is important."

"Buffy, this type of, ah, discussion makes me extremely uncomfortable," Giles said.

"No kidding."

"I, I don't know much about the, um, se-sexual habits of vampires. You might do better to, ah, talk about this with Angel."

"I will, but I need you to tell me what you know. Look I just don't want to go into something like this with no idea of what I'm getting into."

"Right. Well, you can't become a vampire from um, doing that."

"But could I get pregnant?"

"I don't know. I wouldn't think so, but I can't be sure. It would, um, I mean Angel's sp-sp-sperm would be over 200 years old. At least I think that's how it works."

"Yikes, can he even have sex then?"

"I, well, I mean he should. B-but that's really something for you to, ah, for you to ask him."

"So what would you recommend then?"

"Recommend as far as what?"

"Condom? Sponge? What?"

"Why are you so glib about this?" Giles' asked helplessly.

"Years of sex ed. But don't worry this is way embarrassing for me too."

"I, I think you should use as much protection as possible. But Buffy, there's less danger of getting p-pregnant or what have you than there is of Angel killing you."


"When you kissed the first time he almost lost control. What do you think will happen if you two have, if you, you know?"

"That's a cheerful thought."

"Well, forgive me if I'm not overly enthusiastic about the Slayer having s-s-sex, with a bloody vampire!" Giles answered heatedly. "I know you won't listen to anything I say, but this is an extremely fool hardy course of action."

"Thanks, Giles. If I have any more questions about this I'll...well, I'll write them down, and then you can write the answers and give them to me." She left the office, breathing a sigh of relief. She was going to have to talk to Angel about it. Giles apparently had no idea what he was talking about, or else he was too rattled by the whole topic to tell her anything. Giles watched Buffy leave the room and rested his head tiredly on his desk. He closed his eyes and tried for a moment to understand American teenagers. *It's quite impossible,* he finally decided.

Willow watched Buffy through Giles' office window. Her friend looked embarrassed and relieved, like she had just gotten through with some horrible confession or something. Curiosity crawled up her spine. What could Buffy have possibly been saying that she couldn't say in front of her two best friends? She frowned; she knew Buffy would tell her when she was ready, but she hated being out of the loop.

"So how'd it go?" Willow asked Buffy as she sat down at the table next to them.

"Oh, as well as could be expected," Buffy answered vaguely. "You know how Giles is."

"Oh yeah, that Giles is quite a guy," said Willow pretending she had a clue what was going on.

"So are you going to tell us what that was about?" Xander asked.

"Um, not right now. Later," Buffy said as she pretended to look for something in her backpack.

"That's what you said before, when then was longer ago and now was later." Xander reminded. Buffy just stared at him for a moment, then shared a glance with Willow. "Okay, I know. I win the award for Most Incoherent right?"

"Grand champion," said Buffy.

"Well, fine if you don't want to tell us don't. Cause we didn't want to know anyway." Xander turned away and opened one of the many ancient leather bound tomes that rested near him on the table. Buffy rolled her eyes in Willow's direction.

"I have homework," she said and pulled out her English book. "Which reminds me, Willow can you help me in math? We have a test in a couple days, and I am beyond unprepared."

"Oh sure," Willow answered. "What do you need help on?"

"Um, Chapter seven."

"Well tonight I'm supposed to go to the Bronze with Xander, but I can..." Willow began. Xander perked up at the mention of his name.

"No," Buffy said. "You go, we'll do the study thing tomorrow. The test isn't until the day after."

"Are you sure?" Willow asked, secretly glad that her first date with Xander wasn't threatened. *Not really a date,* she reminded herself. *We're just going out together.*

"400 percent sure," Buffy said smiling at her friend. She wouldn't get in the way of this date for anything. She had been rooting for it to happen for too long.

"No wonder you need help in math," Xander interjected. "400 percent?" He grinned as the girls groaned at his lame joke. His heart had sunk for a moment when he thought Willow was going to cancel, but now they seemed to be home-free. He was really looking forward to this, a lot more than he would've expected. But for some reason he was getting really nervous too. *It's Willow,* he told himself. *Nothing to be nervous about.* But this time things were different. The jangling bell broke the stillness and sent them scrambling for their backpacks.

"Don't forget to look up that stuff Giles," Buffy shouted. "About the Anointed One I mean."

"I'll see you tonight," Xander told Willow as he walked toward the door. "And you, slay happy," he told Buffy.

"I'll call you tonight," Buffy told Willow, "about 'the thing.' okay?"

"The thing?" Willow asked. "Oh, THAT thing. Okay, and I'll tell you how it all went with Xander and everything."

'I can't wait to hear it." Buffy breezed through the doors, and Willow walked towards her next class. The library was once again wrapped in silence. Giles popped his head up from his desk. They were gone. He heaved a shuddering sigh of relief. It would be an absolute pleasure to research the Anointed One. Anything to keep himself from thinking about that talk. Anything to keep from thinking about what further embarrassing and inappropriate questions she could come up with. *Why can't she be repressed, like a normal person?* he thought, as he slowly got up from his desk to grab one of the Watcher Chronicles. "I bet none of the other Watchers had to deal with a Slayer like this," he muttered as he settled down to read.

The final bell rang and Sunnydale High became an ant hill crawling with life as the students hurried towards the outside world. Buffy waited in front of the school for her mom to pick her up. She stood beneath the thick foliage of a tree, squinting at the sunlight. She resisted the urge to run back into the school to escape the blinding rays and put on her sunglasses instead. This aversion to sunlight was a real pain in the ass and Giles was no help at all. She twisted a strand of hair absently around her finger and tried to ignore her growing hunger. *Deal with it, Giles says. Well let him try.* She glared down the road, looking for the white jeep. Where was her mother? *If she's not here in five minutes I'm walking,* she decided.

Five minutes passed slowly, with Buffy growing angrier every moment. *Forget it,* she told herself and began the trek home. With each step she grew angrier. She knew her mom had things to do, but her own daughter should merit some importance. She kicked at a rock that lay on the side walk and sent it spinning off into the distance, narrowly missing a parked car's windshield. *Ooops,* she thought unrepentantly. Distracted by her thoughts she bumped into someone coming the other way. A deep growl escaped her throat. Seeing fear and confusion in their eyes, she suddenly realized what she had done and clapped her hand over her mouth. *Growling was not a good thing, definitely not normal. The best thing to do would be to hurry up and get home, close all the windows, turn out the lights and take a nice long nap,* she decided firmly. Then she could go visit Angel when the sun had set. She began to walk with a purpose towards home. A good plan always made things look better.

Angel looked up from the book he was reading. There were still quite a few hours to wait before the sun would set. He sighed; he was really in no mood to read. But he didn't think he could sleep either. He was too agitated. There was too much running through his mind. As hard as he had tried, the Anointed One's offer refused to leave his mind. It intrigued him despite the protests of his rational mind, despite the protests of his soul. To have Buffy be immortal, to live with her throughout the centuries. To never be alone again. It was tempting, too tempting. *It wouldn't really be Buffy,* he reminded himself for the thousandth time. But he wasn't sure, because what if the Anointed One had found a way to restore her soul as well. *Imagine it, the two of us immortal. Sure it would mean she would have to give up her old life. She would have to drink blood and live in the night. But we would be together forever.* No, even he could not say that it would be enough. He could not ask her to give up her whole life to be with him. Even love didn't ask for that kind of sacrifice. Especially love.

He glanced up as his ears picked up a slight noise, foot steps He jumped to his feet and threw the book aside. He was getting tired of these intrusions into his home. "Show yourself," he said annoyed. The Anointed One stepped out of the shadows and smiled.

"Angelus," he said smoothing the sleeves of his black turtleneck.

"You got some new clothes," Angel observed. "Was GAP Kids having a sale?" Colin only smiled again.

"Aaah, banter. It's a wonderful thing, but I came here with a purpose."

"What would that be?"

"I came to talk to you about my offer ."

"But you see, I already turned down your offer."

"I know, but I thought maybe now that you've had a chance to think about it a while longer...I thought you might've changed your mind."

"Maybe if you had given me some details about your whole secret plan on how to keep Buffy from killing everyone I would've."

"You want details?"

"Oh no, I just brought them up because I like vague temptations better," Angel said sarcastically. Why was he pursuing this? He should have thrown Colin out, refused to listen. He should have done anything but ask for more information, anything but show interest. But the words came out of his mouth, and he could not stop himself.

"I'll explain it then," Colin said. "You want to know why the Slayer wouldn't become as powerful as Lily? Because you would be the one making her, and you are a vampire with a soul." He looked at Angel for a sign of understanding. "Your blood is weak, do you understand? She would not get as much of the demon. She would get a tiny piece of your soul." Angel's mind was racing, *Is it possible?* He didn't know, he hadn't made a vampire since the curse had been laid.

"How could that serve your ends?" He asked finally. "Then you'd have two vampires with souls. Two vampires that would continue to fight you."

"I said she'd get a little of your soul," Colin said. "I never said it would be enough to combat the demon." He laughed and the sound made Angel's flesh crawl. "She wouldn't retain enough of your soul to stay good. It's just enough to dilute her power."

"I think you should go," Angel said firmly.

"But things were just starting to get interesting." Angel only glared at the boy who stood before him. "So I'll go, but I want an answer. Think of it, Angelus, power, anything you want could be yours, and you would get to stay with the girl forever." With that he entered the sewer and disappeared.

Angel shut his eyes and sank down on his bed covering his eyes with his hands. How had he gotten himself into this? And how was he going to get out of it? He picked up his book but knew he would be unable to concentrate. He threw the book down impatiently and began to pace, growling like a caged animal as he tried to force the doubts out of his mind. *God help me,* he thought. *But I'm actually considering this.*

Giles sat in the library, reading as the light of day dimmed toward twilight. What he had to discover was why the Anointed One needed Angel. Why would the boy decide to share the power that would naturally fall to him? If he could rule the other vampires by himself why would he choose to rule with someone else? It wasn't out of the goodness of his heart, Giles was sure of that. The boy was desperate, why else would he bring Buffy into the mix? Unless he saw this as a way to get rid of the Slayer and Angel's conscience all in one fell swoop. But there was something Giles wasn't seeing. There was something about the boy he didn't understand. Silently he cursed his lack of knowledge. He glanced at the stack of books perched on his desk and grimaced. *It might be nice to spend a weekend or two without having to read hundreds of occult reference books. Buffy isn't the only one who had a sacred duty.* He sighed and turned his thoughts back to vampires.

Willow sat on her bed surrounded by mounds of clothes. Discouraged, she flopped backwards on the bad and stared at the ceiling. She had no idea what to wear. After pouting for a while she rolled over and began to look through the stack of clothes for what seemed like the thousandth time. She didn't want to look like she was trying too hard; that would be a big mistake. Xander would get nervous and freak out, and that would ruin everything. On the other hand, she did want to look special. This was her first date , or not date, but date-type thing with Xander. She had been waiting for this for years. She grabbed a skirt off the bed and went to the mirror. As she looked at herself her face fell. She saw her body, too thin; and she saw her dull, straight hair. Her face seemed colorless to her and plain. She stared at herself and wondered why she even bothered to try. Compared with other girls she was chopped liver, compared with Buffy she was nothing but a mousy nerd. She swiped at the tear that threatened to spill over onto her cheek and grabbed a shirt to match the skirt. *Well,* she told herself. *I may not stand a chance but I sure as hell am going to try.*

*He asked ME to go,* she reminded herself. *And he didn't want her along.* She repeated it to herself. *He wants ME.* But she could not reassure herself. She had heard him talk about other girls for too long. She had been his confidante through all his crushes and obsessions. She knew him too well to truly believe he could love her. Why would he suddenly love her when for years he had chased every girl but her? She put on her make-up and braided her hair into pigtails. As much as she wanted to believe this sudden change of heart and immerse herself in her dream come true, she could not let go of the doubt or the fear that this would be the final rejection. Deep in her heart she was afraid he would take her out on this date and realize he had been right all along; she was nothing more than his bud, Willow.

She drew in a shuddering breath and looked at the time. Xander should be here any minute, that is he would be if he were on time. But there was really little chance of that. Willow glanced at the moon shining in the dark night sky, surrounded by stars. She picked a star, closed her eyes and wished with all her might. "Please let it be like the fairy tales. Please let him think I'm a princess and not a toad."

Xander checked his hair in the mirror one more time. He straightened his collar and his jacket sleeve; then he checked his hair again. *Okay,* he told himself. *You're ready, it's time to go.* He started for the door, stopping only to check the mirror one last time. He walked down the street towards Willow's house, desperately trying to keep the nausea that was rising in his stomach from overwhelming him. *Throwing up on her is a bad idea,* he told himself. *Girls don't like it when you throw up on them.* He took a deep breath of the cool night air and tried to remind himself that this was Willow. He wasn't taking out some exotic foreign exchange student, or a hot chick he didn't know. This was a girl he could talk to without becoming any more incoherent than usual. Willow was a friend. He should be comfortable with this, but he wasn't. Something had changed.

For a moment he wished with all his soul that he hadn't asked her out. One date could change everything, ruin everything. What if he lost his best friend? But he had to try it. Even if he hadn't asked her out things would still be different, because when he looked at her now he felt a desire he had never felt for her before. When he looked at her now, he didn't just think about what a good friend she was. He thought about what it would feel like to kiss her little lips and run his fingers through her beautiful, soft hair.

He turned down her street and walked up the driveway to her door. He took a deep breath, summoned his courage and knocked on the door. *Please God,* he thought. *Please don't let me mess this up.*

Buffy woke slowly, and lay still for a moment in her bed. The clock said it was eight. She untangled the sheets from her legs and looked out the window. The night had fallen while she slept. She looked for a moment at the moon, shining, silvery, beautiful. Then she turned away from the window and pulled her thoughts together. She had to go see Angel. Quickly she yanked a dress out of her closet and changed into it. She slipped on her boots, and strapped a stake to her arm; then she pulled on the leather jacket he had given her and stuffed another stake into her pocket.

In the kitchen she fixed herself a sandwich and ate it quickly. The hunger still raged in her blood. She stared for a moment at the steak lying in the refrigerator, at the blood on the raw meat. Then she turned away with a shiver. Her mom wasn't home yet, so she scribbled a note saying she was out. As she closed the front door behind her, she touched the cross she wore absentmindedly. It was chaffing her neck. She shook her head as her hand moved to remove the chain. No way in hell she would go to meet Angel with no cross.

She reached his apartment quickly and knocked on the door. She carefully turned the knob in answer to his call. Once inside, she located him sitting on the bed. He nodded to her, and she stretched out her hand. "Come on, " she said. "We're going out." Unquestioningly he took her hand and let her lead him out into the night.

"So where are we going?" he finally asked.

"Nowhere." Angel tried for a moment to figure out what she meant by that comment.

"Now who's going all Cryptic Girl?" he asked.

"We're just walking," Buffy said quietly.

"Buffy, is something wrong?" he asked uncertainly.

"Yes, but we can talk about that later." She stopped walking for a moment and turned to look at him. "Right now we need to talk about sex."

"How romantic," he answered wryly.

"Look, there's a lot of stuff I need to know."

"I know that, I'm sorry." Angel sighed. "I guess I was just a little surprised."

"First of all, can vampires have sex?"

"Yes." Buffy waited a moment but saw that Angel would say no more. *Fine,* she thought. *We'll move on.*

"Can I get pregnant?"

"I don't know." Angel paused. "I've never heard of it happening, but if we were to have sex..." he swallowed. "If we had sex I would definitely use a condom to be sure nothing would happen." Buffy only nodded. They walked along the street for a moment in silence. Then Buffy stopped again.

"Angel?" she asked. "Do you want to have sex with me?"

"Right now?" he asked jokingly. She waited. He looked away for a moment then turned his gaze back to her. "If you're asking if I want you, the answer is yes. But if you're asking if I think we should have sex, then I don't know."

"Why not?" she asked. He stood for a moment, thinking, then tried to frame his thoughts into words.

"Buffy," he began, brushing his hand lightly across her cheek. "I want you so much, I love you more than anything, and I do want to have sex with you. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid that if I let myself go far enough to have sex with you then I will lose control. Our first kiss let the demon out. If I make love to you, what might happen?" He shook his head. "I don't trust myself, and I am not going to put you in any danger if I can help it.

"I understand," she said quietly.

"And I'll understand if you want to leave me for a man who can give you everything you need. I know that this isn't part of every girl's dream romance." Buffy took his hand and cradled it to her chest.

"I'm not leaving you," she started. "Don't even start to talk like that." Angel pulled her close to him and she leaned her head against his chest, feeling his solid strength. She felt a wave of desire rush over her, and she grabbed the back of his head to bring his face down to hers. Their lips crushed together, and as they kissed she bit his lip, hard enough to draw blood. He staggered back, licking at the blood, the ridges of his vampire face standing out in the moonlight. He turned away with a growl. Buffy stood for a moment, tasting his blood on her lips, on her tongue.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said as sense returned to her. "I don't know what came over me." She touched his back, but he shied away. When he finally turned to her, he looked human again.

"Are you crazy?" he asked quietly.

"Maybe," she answered. "I swear I didn't mean to." She hid the lie deep within her soul. She didn't know why she had done it, but it was no accident.

"Buffy, what's going on?" Angel asked.


"You said before that you're not ok. What did you mean?"

"I'm fine." He took a sudden step and grabbed her arms tightly, lifting her off the ground.

"Tell me," he whispered. "You are not fine, and I want to know what's going on."

"Let go of me," she hissed. He stared challengingly into her eyes. She saw the challenge angrily and kneed him hard in the groin. He staggered back, letting go of her as he fell to his knees. She smiled. "You don't stand chance, vampire boy." He stared up at her, pain in his eyes. And she felt sudden remorse. She took a step towards him, but he scrambled back. "I'm sorry," she said.

"You seem to be saying that a lot lately."

"It's just.." she felt tears well up in her eyes and she hated herself for them. He was immediately by her side, enfolding her in a hug.

"It's okay," he murmured. "It'll be okay." She let the tears slide down her cheeks, and held on to him for dear life.

"I don't understand what's happening to me," she finally said when she was calmer. She began to talk, her narration interrupted by a catch in her throat every now and again, a left over from her crying. "I'm having these feelings, and I don't understand them, and I can't deal with them."

"I'll help you deal with them," Angel promised, kissing the top of her tousled head.

"But that's the other thing," she said as she began to cry again. "I can't trust you. I need you to help me through this, damn you! But I'm afraid of you."

"I don't understand," Angel began.

"I know you were tempted. I know that a part of you wants to make me a vampire." She lifted her tear-streaked face to look at him. "A part of me is afraid of you. Don't you see?" Her voice raised to a raw, pain-filled scream. "That's what's wrong. I need you. I want you. I love you. But in the back of my mind are thoughts of betrayal. You would consider turning me into the thing I hate most in this world. You would consider turning me into a thing like you."

"So you hate me too?" he asked.

"No, you stupid prick. I love YOU, I hate your other side. And don't even try to give me a guilt trip about it. You hate yourself more than anyone else could, and as much as you won't admit it to me or to yourself...if you DO change me into what you are, you'll hate me too."

"I could never hate you," he claimed, shaking his head in denial.

"Just think about it when you're considering how great it would be if we both had eternal life. Just think about the fact that it wouldn't be ME anymore. You may not be able to hate me, but it wouldn't be me. You of all people should realize that."

"I do!" he exclaimed. "And yes I am tempted by his offer. I'm not going to stand here and deny that. But Buffy I wouldn't do that. I would never betray you. You have to believe me. I would never hurt you. Never!" He held her tightly in her arms and she wrapped her arms around him.

"I believe you," she said, kissing his hand lightly. He pulled her hand to him and leaned his forehead against hers. They stood for a moment in the moonlight and thought their own thoughts. Thoughts that held love, deep love. But that also held pain and a kernel of doubt. A little fear and a doubt that pervaded their future.

Willow sighed happily, feeling Xander's hand encircle hers as they walked slowly towards her house. She glanced over at him, wondering what he was thinking. As far as she was concerned the night had been perfect, filled with dancing and more dancing. Not just any dancing either, there had been slow dancing. She sighed happily, remembering the feel of his arms around her waist. They turned the corner to walk down her street, and she was suddenly filled with sadness that the night had to end. The magic that brought them together would disappear as the sun came up. She shook the thought away. Things had changed, the magic wouldn't fade; she had to believe that. She felt the urge to talk, and keep talking. As if by talking she could drive the doubts away.

"Who would've thought you'd be such a good dancer?" she teased lightly.

"Well, apparently you've never seen me dance before," Xander began. "Doing that swaying back and forth move really takes it out of a guy."

"Oh yeah, I'm surprised you have the strength to walk me home."

"Well, I don't really. But I couldn't bear to think of you walking home alone. Exposed to the elements and all. Besides, how could I neglect my gentlemanly duty."

"How chivalrous," Willow said, swallowing a giggle.

"Hey," Xander said, offended. "You don't have to be insulting."

"It means knightly, and gentlemanly, and wonderful." Willow explained.

"Well, in that case. Carry on!" Xander said with a lofty wave of his hand. They had almost reached Willow's house, and Xander wished it were miles away. But he continued to walk until they had reached the front step.

"I had a really good time," Willow said awkwardly. She wished she knew what to do here, leaning in for a kiss would be too forward, but running into the house would seem like she couldn't wait to get away from him.

"Me too," Xander answered. He hesitated, wanting to kiss her goodnight but unsure of how to show her that. "We should do it again this time...I mean some time." Inwardly he groaned and hit himself several times in the head with a baseball bat. "I am an idiot."

"What?" Willow asked.

"Ooops, didn't mean to say that out loud." He said groaning again.

"Well, I guess I should go," Willow began, wishing with all her might that he would ask her to stay, that he would sweep her into his arms and kiss her. "..Inside I mean." *She hates me,* Xander thought. *She thinks I'm a complete fool; I AM a complete fool.*

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow at school."

"Yeah," Willow opened the door disappointedly. *This is it,* Xander thought. *She's leaving and I didn't kiss her and she thinks I'm a jerk and she'll never want to see me again.*

"Wait!!" He blurted out. She turned with a glint of hope in her eyes. He took a step forward, mustered his courage and leaned his head toward hers with the general intention of a kiss. By the time Willow realized what he was doing, they had already bumped their heads together with a resounding *THUNK* that left them both reeling. Willow began to laugh as she held her head in her hand. *Of course our first kiss wouldn't go well, that would be too much to ask,* she thought.  Xander was completely mortified, he had screwed up and she was laughing at him. But her laugh was infectious and the more he thought about it, the funnier it seemed. Soon they were laughing so hard they had to support each other in order to stay upright. Slowly their laughter faded as they each realized how close they were to each other. Willow looked into Xander's eyes and moved her mouth toward him. This time their lips met successfully. A little frightened, she drew back but immediately regretted it. She leaned into him again, and their lips met. Xander responded to her kiss, drawing her closer to him as she ran her fingers through his hair.

Without warning he fell forward slumped in her arms. *I've killed him,* was her first thought. But she realized soon enough what had happened, as she herself was knocked out from behind. The two vampires grabbed their respective victims and carried them off into the night. The moon witnessed the attack silently, staring down at the Earth with cold, uncaring eyes.

Angel opened his apartment door tiredly. He understood why Buffy didn't trust him. After all he didn't really trust himself. But it still stung. It hurt to have the one person who had been able to love him despite his flaws, turn against him. But he couldn't blame her, he didn't blame her. He collapsed onto his bed and curled in on himself, as if somehow he could protect his heart and keep it from bleeding.

He blamed himself. He was the one who had considered the Anointed One's offer. It was because of his selfishness. He had actually thought about killing his one true love and making her into a monster. No wonder she didn't trust him. It didn't matter that he could no longer imagine doing it. It didn't matter that he never would have actually gone through with it. The doubt was there and it would always be between them. He could only hope that in time she would forgive him. But he wouldn't be surprised if this was a wake-up call for her, if this would cause her to realize she didn't love him after all. She would understand her mistake, and find someone who could see her in the day...someone who came with less baggage, about two hundred years less.

Angel's dark thoughts were interrupted by the tinkling of broken glass as a rock crashed though his window to land on the floor. It had a note tied to it. He stooped to pick it up and read the note, dread pounding against his skull. *If anyone hurt Buffy...* He turned his eyes to the note. It was short and to the point, as notes attached to rocks usually were. Saying only: WE HAVE XANDER AND WILLOW. COME TO THE CAVERNS. 8:00.

Anger filled him and wracked his body like a fever. He shook with the effort as he struggled to contain himself. *They don't deserve this. They aren't part of this.* He frowned.  *Someone is going to pay.*

Giles sat alone in his bedroom, reading. As his eyes passed over yet another passage he was hit with sudden clarity. "Of course," he muttered. This was it, the key to everything. Why hadn't he thought of it before? The very nature of the Anointed One's power was the key to his defeat. He picked up the phone to call Buffy, then hesitated a moment. It was late, he would tell her first thing tomorrow. There was still plenty of time, and he knew she needed her rest.

Buffy lay in her bed, with her eyes closed. But sleep eluded her. Her mind raced as she went over the events of the day. Or rather, as she went over and over the fight in her mind. She wished she could take it all back, though every word was true. Her hand tightened around the cross she wore on her neck, and she drifted into sleep as she thought about him.