Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.

Part 4

Buffy stood in front of her mirror staring at herself. She smoothed the light blue dress she had finally decided on and pulled on her boots. She moved closer to the mirror and checked her make-up. Her body turned back and forth in front of the mirror, the dress swaying slightly against her legs. Finally she tore herself away from the almost hypnotizing image in the mirror. She grabbed the jacket Angel had given her, slipped two stakes into her wrist sheaths, and put on her cross. She tucked the cross into her dress, locked her door in case her mom came looking for her and slipped out the window.

The night air lightly kissed her face, and the moon shone like a beacon. The world was unreal, empty. For a moment Buffy felt utterly alone. But only for a moment. She jumped down from the roof and walked along the sidewalk. She was meeting Angel in the park which sat quietly about a block from her house. The park was peaceful, deserted; there was no sign of Angel yet, so Buffy sat on one of the benches drinking in the velvet darkness of night. The branches whispered softly above her head, and through the dark strode a figure who could only be Angel. Every time she saw him it sent a thrill through her heart and a shiver up her spine. He was so gorgeous, so smart; she could barely believe that he would love someone like her. Someone who was so immature compared to him. Someone so inexperienced.

She rose from her seat and walked to meet him. As soon as she was within reach, he grabbed her around the waist and drew her to him. She traced the line of his cheekbone as he pulled her in for a kiss. Every time their lips met, it was like an electric shock. Every time their eyes met, the world disappeared. Buffy sighed a little and put her arms around his powerful chest. He held her close, as if he was afraid she would be ripped from his arms. She relaxed against his chest, resting her head over his heart. Safety, comfort, love; inside the circle of his arms she had it all. He bowed his head, lightly kissing her hair. Her love warmed him, and he would have given anything to keep her safe; to protect her from the threats the vampires had brought him, the threats he had to tell her about. If only time would stop, if only they could spend eternity wrapped in each others arms. Buffy stared up at Angel's face, her eyes glittering with unshed tears and was surprised to see a single tear roll down his cheek. She caught the tear on her finger, entranced for a moment by the bead of salty blood tinged water. Then she absently shook it away.

"What's wrong?" she asked. Angel looked down at her innocent eyes. She had seen so much horror, yet she retained an innocence that he wanted to protect. An innocence he knew would disappear slowly, a little piece vanishing with each terror she faced.

"Let's sit down for a second," he said. The pair walked back to the bench Buffy had vacated. Buffy sat, holding Angel's hand in hers, and rested her head on his shoulder. "Last night I had a little visit." Angel started.

"What kind of visit?" asked Buffy.

"The blood-sucking kind."

"So you met up with some of the fang gang. What else is new?"

"You don't understand." Angel said, shaking his head. "This is different. They came into my apartment, and they gave me a warning."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, turning to look at Angel's face as he finished the story.

"I mean, the Anointed One sent a couple of baddies to tell me that I have to deliver your dead body to him in three days."

"Or what?"

"Or they'll hunt me down and kill me."

"We can handle it. We've fought together before."

"And we barely survived," interrupted Angel. "That was three vamps; we're talking about every vampire in the city hunting me until I am dead. It's a totally different story. And there's something else, one of the vampires who brought the message, she was incredibly powerful. I'm talking about power that could rival the Master's."

"Yeah well, I killed the Master remember?  I can take care of her too." Angel would've chuckled at her bravado if he wasn't so worried.

"You don't understand what I'm saying yet.  She's as strong as the Master was and yet she serves the Anointed One. Don't you see what that means? He must be incredibly powerful."

"He's just a kid though." Angel shook his head at Buffy's comment.

"No, he looks like a kid. But he's not; he is pure evil. Powerful evil."

"Okay, I get your point," Buffy agreed. "Come on." She stood up and pulled on Angel's hand.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"We need some advice, and I know the expert on advice."

The insistent knocking on his front door woke Giles from his couch where he lay, glasses askew, an ancient tome knocked carelessly to the floor.

"I'm bloody coming already!" he yelled as he staggered to the door. He peered out the peephole and cursed under his breath when he saw Buffy with Angel. He opened the door, and Buffy breezed past him with Angel in tow. "Buffy, do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Way past your bedtime, Giles, I know." Buffy said. "But you're going to have to give up your sleepy-time. This is WAY more important."

"Is the Hellmouth reopening?" asked Giles, as panic chased the last edges of slumber away.

"Sit down, Giles," Buffy ordered. Obediently Giles sat down on the couch. "Tell Giles what you told me," said Buffy to Angel. Giles turned his attention to Angel as the vampire began his story again.

"Last night two vampires came to my apartment with a warning from the Anointed One. They said I have three days to deliver Buffy's dead body to him or else all the vampire's in the city will hunt me down and kill me." Giles opened his mouth to interrupt but silenced himself at a glance from Angel. "One of the vampires is as powerful as the Master was but serves Colin."

"Good God!" Giles exclaimed. "That boy must have immense power."

"He's not a boy," interjected Buffy. Giles stared at her. "Well he's not. He's pure evil." Angel smiled silently to himself.

"Right, Buffy," said Giles. "You mustn't lose sight of that. It may be hard for you to kill s..something that looks like a little boy. But he's a monster like all the other vampires." Giles glanced over at Angel. "Pr..present company excepted of course." Angel just nodded in response.

"Giles, focus!" said Buffy. "What can we do about this?"

"First we find out more about this powerful vampire. We need to find out who he is," answered Giles.

"She," corrected Angel.

"I beg your pardon?" said Giles.

"It was a woman, kind of short. Close cropped hair, pretty face." Buffy turned at his description, jealous in spite of herself.

"You thought she was pretty?" she asked. Giles rolled his eyes and left the room to collect the Watcher diaries.

"Buffy, she had a pretty face. You on the other hand are beautiful." Angel grimaced, trying to explain himself and diffuse the situation while Buffy glared. "When I close my eyes I picture the most beautiful thing in the world, and it's your face. You have nothing to be jealous about." A wide grin settled onto Buffy's face, and she leapt into Angel's arms, showering him with tiny kisses.

"You are impossible," she said as her lips met his. Giles re-entered the room, softly clearing his throat.

"In case you've forgotten, we do actually have a serious problem here," he said impatiently.

"Right, big problem," said Buffy as she reluctantly pulled away. "Very important." Giles pulled out several large leather-bound books and handed one to Buffy. Then he gave Angel a stack of five large books.

"Look for any descriptions that fit the woman you saw. Pictures are even better." Giles commanded the vampire. The group slowly worked their way through book after book until finally Giles found one of the older Watcher diaries. As he read, an awful suspicion entered his mind. "Is this her?" he asked, showing Angel an old portrait. A growl built up in Angel's throat when he recognized the woman from his apartment.

"That's her."

"Let me see." Buffy commanded. Angel handed her the book, and she peered at the picture. "She's not so pretty." Angel laughed and kissed her hand gently.

"That isn't really important right now," said Giles. "Did you look at what it says?"

"No, what's so special about her?" asked Buffy.

"She was a Slayer," answered Giles. Buffy felt a chill run down her spine, and she shivered in her seat. "That explains the power."

"But how, how did she become a vampire?" asked Buffy.

"It says that she fought the Master at that time. It was a different Master, one of the most powerful vampires in history. She had no chance. He decided to make her a vampire as a joke. But his blood, combined with her powers as the Slayer, created something beyond his wildest dreams. She killed him and became the new Master. Then the record stops."

"But if she's this powerful, why would she obey the Anointed One?" asked Angel.

"The only thing I can think of is that he has something she wants. Or he has offered her something. If this book is correct. She could kill him easily." The trio stared at the picture. The portrait had been done before she became a vampire. She was smiling, eyes twinkling with swallowed laughter. It was a picture of a young woman filled with life. It was a beautiful portrait, but looking at the smiling woman struck dread into each of their hearts.

* * * * * * *

Part 5

Buffy shivered as she walked next to Angel on her way home. This was really creeping her out. The fact that this vampire was a former Slayer changed everything. She had know it was possible, she had even had nightmares about it. But this made it all too real. She could feel herself starting to pity the vampire, and she quickly banished the thought. *Giles had said her name was Lily. It was a pretty name. No!* She stopped herself. *She's not a Slayer anymore, she's one of the monsters.* Buffy was scared. How could she possibly defeat something that had double her power? If Lily had been a Slayer gone bad, then the fight would have been equal. But she had the power of a Slayer and a Master vampire combined.

Buffy held tightly to Angel's hand, glad he was here with her. But the sense of safety she had felt just a few hours before was gone. Her confidence was gone with it. A normal vamp she knew she could handle. But she had a feeling Lily would kick her ass from here to LA  Their only hope was that Giles could find some way out of this, some slight edge, anything at all.

"Angel?" she said quietly. "What are we going to do?" He thought for a moment about lying, saying he had a plan, or telling her that it would all be okay. But it was too late for lies, there was too much at stake.

"I don't know," he finally answered.

"I don't understand why this is happening now.  If Colin wants me dead, why do you have to be the one to kill me?"

"I didn't tell you this before," Angel said. "I wanted to protect you. The other vampires say it's an abomination, me being with you. I have to kill you as a penance." He looked down at the sidewalk as it passed beneath their slowly moving feet.

"It's my fault." Buffy's heartbroken comment made Angel stare at her in shock.

"No, it's not. How could it be your fault?"

"If we weren't dating then they wouldn't be trying to kill you." Angel laughed.

"I kill them, so they try to kill me. I think you are just a convenient excuse. Or one last effort to draw me back into that world." He glared into the night. "I would rather die than go back." They turned the corner onto Buffy's street.

"You have to stay back," said Buffy. "Just in case. I mean I'll get in trouble if my mom sees me 'cause I'm grounded, but if she sees me with you then we're talking ax murder." She kissed Angel lightly on the lips and turned to go, but he grabbed her arm stopping her retreat.

"If Giles doesn't find anything to help us.." he started. Buffy raised a hand to his mouth to silence him, but he removed it gently. "I won't let them kill you, they'll take me first."

"And I won't let them take you. We die together, if we die at all. Like Romeo and Juliet."

"Death isn't romantic, Buffy. I don't want you to give up your life for me. I may not be a full vampire anymore, but I still have the monster in me. I've done so many evil deeds. I deserve to die." He reached out a finger and entwined a lock of hair on it. "You don't."

"Don't talk like that. At least wait until we know if Giles finds something." Buffy covered his finger with her hand. "Please don't give up yet. I'd much rather have you alive than throwing your life away."


"Promise me something."


"Promise you won't decide to do it alone. Whatever happens, we'll go through it together." The night was suddenly filled with silence as Angel thought about what she was asking. It meant he couldn't keep her safe, away from all the dangers. It meant he couldn't run off into the night to give his life alone. But being her protector was an illusion anyway, they were almost equal in power. And much as he knew he deserved death, he no longer craved it. She had given him reason to live.

"I promise." She flashed him one of her beautiful smiles and dashed home. He watched her go with a heavy heart. If she was killed because of him, he would stake himself. If she died his life was over. He didn't have a clue about how to get out of this mess, but for her he would try anything, he would come up with something. Because the alternative was unthinkable.

Buffy staggered into the library. She felt like she had been beaten with a very large stick. She had fallen asleep in math, and in science. Just enough sleep to make her body crave more. Just enough so that she felt every nerve screaming for rest. She slumped at one of the tables and put her head down on her arms. Within a few seconds she had drifted off again. Giles emerged from his office, looking about as awful as he felt. He ran his hand through already rumpled hair. He had spent the entire night looking for something, anything that could give them an edge. All he had to show for it was a pounding headache and a weariness that felt imbedded in his bones. He saw Buffy sleeping in her seat and decided not to wake her until he had
something good to tell her.

The doors to the library burst open to reveal Xander and Willow talking and laughing as they entered the dim room. They immediately lowered their voices when they saw Buffy's exhausted state.

"Another late night?" Willow asked Giles. He nodded distantly.

"A little more than that. We have a serious problem."

"What is it this time? Werewolves? Mummies? I don't think we've had any of those yet," said Xander. Giles' serious expression didn't change and a touch of worry began to worm it's way through Xander's mind.

"I wish it were just that." As Giles explained the situation, Xander and Willow could feel fear creeping up their spines.

"So what you're saying is that this thing has more than double Buffy's power?" asked Willow.

"Buffy is the strongest Slayer I have ever heard of, but this Lily creature is at least twice as strong, yes." Willow shook her head in confusion.

"Why would she obey the Anointed One? He can't possibly have that kind of power. If he did he would have killed the Master and taken over," she asked.

"Not necessarily." Giles contradicted. "He may have decided to let Buffy do the dirty work for him. However, I think that the key to this puzzle lies in exactly the question you've raised. If we can figure out why Lily is following Colin we may be able to do something to break the alliance."

"C'mon, Willow," said Xander. "I feel the urge to do some reading." He tossed her a book and grabbed one for himself. He threw himself into the research willingly for once. Guilt was tearing him apart for what he had said to Buffy the other day. He had hurt her, he had deliberately hurt her. He had let petty jealousy get the better of him, and if he could have make it up to her in any way he would've done it. He didn't know how to stop loving her, but for the sake of their friendship he would try. He would step aside and let her have her happiness. She loved Angel. He could see that. Nothing he did would change that. He sighed dragging his attention to the book in his hands. Here he was, actually fighting to save his rival. Here he was, actually reading.

Willow watched Xander out of the corner of her eyes as he slowly flipped the page. From the set of his jaw she had the feeling that he was thinking. Probably about Buffy. She watched him as he chewed on his lip in concentration. Deep longing filled her being, and she wished with all her heart that she could just shout out his name. That he would turn and see her love for him. That she could declare it to his face, that she could look into his eyes and see love for her echo out of them. She brought herself back to the task at hand: carefully looking for any reference to Lily. This wasn't the time to indulge her fantasies, Buffy needed them.

Buffy woke to see her friends skimming over page after page with their eyes. She felt a wash of affection roll over her. Her buds. Her glance faltered when it fell on Xander. She hoped he wasn't still mad. She had said some pretty bad things. He had deserved it, but she felt a little guilty because she knew that it was jealousy which led him to be hurtful. Jealousy that was her fault. Xander looked up from his book to see Buffy staring at him.

"Hey look who's up," he retorted. "Maybe now you'll stop slacking, and give us a hand here." Buffy almost sighed with relief, this sounded like normal Xander.

"Wow, Xander, reading. Is that voluntary, or have you been threatened into it?"

"No threats. I've been meaning to read," he turned the book over to look at the title," The Blood Rituals. It's a real heart stopper." He grinned at Buffy. He seemed to have been forgiven. Buffy grinned back. Maybe they would talk about the fight later, but for now things were back to normal. She grabbed a book and sat down to read.