disclaimer in part 1

Relief
by Rebecca Carefoot
-
PART FOUR


Cordelia paced the length of her living room. She shot an angry look at Wesley, sitting on the sofa, but he paid it no mind. He knew he wasn't the one she was angry with. She exhaled sharply, and turned a pointed glare to the phone.

"What is she DOING over there?" she finally snapped. "It's been HOURS."

Gunn emerged from the kitchen, a slapped together roast beef sandwich in his hand. He talked through a mouthful. "Hey, you were the one who-"

"Whatever," Cordelia said, cutting him off. He rolled his eyes and took a large bite. "She should have called by now." The anger in her eyes softened briefly to worry. "What if something happened?" she said. "Dru and Darla are still out there. What if-"

Wesley met Cordelia's eyes. "Perhaps in this case we should assume no news is good news. Surely she would have called if there was a problem."

"Maybe," Cordelia said doubtfully.

"We have no reason to believe they would attack Angel openly in the hotel," Wesley said, raising a calming hand. "And even if they knew Buffy was here, which they couldn't," he quickly added, "they wouldn't go after her without some sort of plan or help." He shook his head. "They haven't had time to make any plans yet."

Cordelia snorted. "Is this supposed to be comforting? The fact that they're going to attack as soon as they figure out a plan?" She curled her lip. "You need some serious work in the comforting speech department."

Wesley bowed his head, and rubbed at his forehead where his pulse was beginning to pound painfully. "My point was, I'm sure that neither Buffy nor Angel is in any immediate danger. The hotel is probably the safest place they could be right now."

"Yeah, unless you count the danger they are to each other," Cordelia put in. "That girl is a menace."

"What is it with you and her?" Gunn asked, his sandwich finished. He leaned against the wall, one knee bent, one foot flat against the surface.

"Foot," Cordelia said. He sighed but dropped the foot. She shrugged. "There is no *it* with me and her," she said. "She's just not my favorite person in the world. It's always," she pitched her voice higher, "I'm the Chosen One, all others are here to serve me." Her voice lowered. "And that attitude doesn't work for me. I'm not here to serve anyone." She looked up briefly. "Except The Powers. Kinda."

Gunn shrugged. "She seemed okay to me. Maybe a little quiet. A little grumpy even. But it was four o'clock in the morning. And I think pretty much anyone would be a little grumpy at that hour."

Cordelia shook her head. "No. Look at what she's doing right now," she said. "I mean, it's just as bad as how Angel's been treating us. She tells us she's going to call. But then she completely leaves us in the dark. It's like, herself, or her mission, or whatever, is all she thinks about. And the little people, like us, can just go screw themselves." Cordelia pursed her lips. "Well, I'm not little people. And I don't like being left in the dark." She glanced over at Wesley. "You know the Scooby Gang is all well and good when she needs help, but in the end, it's always about her."

Wesley looked up, and spoke softly. "There are some things she must do alone."

Cordelia frowned. "Don't tell me you're making excuses for her. She treated you worse than anyone."

Wesley grimaced. "Yes, well, she did have some cause."

"Right," Cordelia snorted. "Because it's your fault you had no experience and didn't know exactly how to deal with-"

"Cordelia," Wesley said with a sigh. "I'd really rather not dredge up the past."

"Fine," Cordelia said. "All I'm saying is that just because she has a sacred destiny, doesn't mean she should blow us off." She sighed, her glance flying to the phone again. "Are you sure the ringer's on?"

"I checked it twice," Gunn said. "The phone is fine."

"Maybe we should go back to the hotel," Cordelia said. "Just to check on them. "

"Maybe we should get some sleep," Wesley suggested. "I'm sure all of us could use it."

"That gets my vote," Gunn said.

"You can take my bed," Cordelia offered. "I'm gonna stay up a little while longer." Wesley gave her a concerned look. "Don't even worry," she said. "I just had too much coffee earlier. I couldn't sleep if I wanted to." He nodded, but she could see the knowing glint in his eyes. She sneered at him. "Oh, shut up and go to sleep. I'll wake you if the Chosen One chooses to clue us in."

*

Buffy sank down into a crouch, her back against the cool concrete of another junction point. The sword dropped from her hand, and she squeezed the sides of her forehead with her fingers. She closed her eyes, then jerked them open them as weariness took hold all too easily, leading her toward sleep. She sighed and turned her head from one side to the other, taking in the five tunnels that converged on this point. She'd made it this far on luck and intuition, but there was no way to judge which of these paths Angel had taken. She could eliminate all but two of the tunnels based on the general direction he'd been heading. But the remaining two seemed to head off the same way, nearly parallel to each other. She stood up, her body protesting the movement of sore muscles, the sword hanging listless from a loose grip.

She should have caught up to him by now. The better part of the day was gone, and the closest she'd gotten was a dead lizard looking demon with a humpback. Just another corpse in the trail of destruction Angel was leaving. She shook her head. No use thinking about it. She was going to have to turn back. He'd return to the hotel eventually.

She heard a faint splashing noise, and her ears perked, her head turning quickly toward the sound. She stepped into the tunnel on the right, and the splashing noise echoed through the tube. It sounded close, but she knew that could be a trick of the acoustics. Either way, it didn't matter. She knew which way to go. She hurried toward the noise with a sense of renewed purpose.

*

It was farther than it sounded, but eventually she reached the source of the noise. A nasty looking green-skinned, red-eyed demon dressed in clothes that screamed sleazy was hanging upside down. His feet were secured to a piece of rope hitched over a large pipe. His hands were tied. And his head dangled close to a pool of rancid water. Her nose wrinkled at the smell.

"Hey," he said. "Hey girl, could you give me a hand here?"

Her eyes narrowed. She brought the bloodstained sword up, her hands tight around the hilt. The thing's eyes widened, and it started to stammer, jerking around frantically on its rope like a fish on a hook.

"Whoa! Hey, hey. None of that," he said. "No weapons. We don't need weapons. I ain't gonna hurt nothing. Everybody knows Merl's not a bad guy. I get along with everybody. You just ask anyone." She looked at him doubtfully. "Hey," he said, changing his tack, his voice fast, desperate. "You want information?" he said. "I got it. I can tell you whatever you need to know. You name it. No charge. No-"

Buffy's eyebrow quirked as his groveling convinced her he was no danger. "Okay," she said impatiently. "I'm not going to hurt you." The thing that called itself Merl visibly relaxed. "As long as you tell me two things."

"Right," he said. "Yeah, whatever you want."

"Who did this to you?" she asked. "And what did you tell him?"

"Oh," Merl said. "Oh, I don't know if I can say. He might kill me, you know. He's not like he used to be, with those humans of his paying me good money. He just--" Buffy raised the sword, a sharp glint in her eye. "Or on the other hand, he probably won't mind," he said quickly. "So maybe you know the guy; his name's Angel. Vampire with a-"

"-a soul," Buffy finished. "Yeah I know."

"I was gonna say bad attitude," Merl said, "but that soul thing works too."

"And what did you tell him?" Buffy asked. "Where is he going?" Merl twitched, conflicted. He glanced at Buffy's sword. She smiled, a hard flash of teeth. "Look, Angel and I go way back. He won't mind if you tell me. And besides, how long do you think it'll be before anyone else hears you. I can cut you down right now." Her eyes narrowed. "Or I can just cut you."

"Ahhh, geez," Merl said. "He's been looking for these vampires. Darsilla? Druella? They're planning something big. Getting some demons together. I just told him an address."

"And?" Buffy said.

"Demon fight club," he said reluctantly. "La Cienega and Washington. That's all I said. That's all I know..." Buffy's arm swung and the sword slashed through the air toward him, shiny, sharp. Merl half-squealed in fright. "Honest!" he said, and the sword cut through the rope tying his hands. Buffy swung again, and the blade bit through the rope from which he hung. He tumbled into the water, sputtering and splashing. Buffy headed down the tunnel, looking for a ladder out of the sewer. For the first time since she'd left Sunnydale, she knew exactly where she was going.

*

A cab would have been easier. Especially since she wasn't highly excited about walking after trudging through the sewers for hours. But explaining the bloody sword was something she was even less excited about. She'd stopped to wipe it clean on a rare patch of grass, but that barely dented the caked on rust of now dried blood. When she'd emerged from the sewer, it had only taken a few seconds to orient herself. She'd been about ten blocks from the address, so she made her way to the club on foot.

Of course, the way her luck was going, it was only fitting that when she got there the place was closed. It was a shabby neighborhood, the building set on a glorified alley. She jerked at the doors, but they seemed to be padlocked several times on the inside. She could have broken in, but what would have been the point if there was no one inside. Her stomach growled angrily, and after a moment's thought she headed toward a hamburger place she'd seen a few blocks back. Sunset was still an hour away, and dinner sounded like the best way to kill the time.

Eyes turned to her as she walked into the restaurant, and she glanced down at the sword with a grimace. Someone was going to call the cops on her. She should have just left it in the sewers. But for some reason it had felt right to bring it. She rolled her eyes, and ordered her hamburger to go. Sitting in an alley was just as good as at a table in an air conditioned- Oh who was she kidding? While she waited for her order, she took a quick trip to the bathroom, cleaned the blood from the sword as best she could with a wet paper towel, and stared at herself in the mirror. Her hair hung limp. Her eyes were tired, dark circles bruising the skin underneath, her face pale. She wondered what she'd look like to him. Quickly, she banished the thought, and splashed some water on her face, the cold bracing her. She wiped her face with her sleeve before exiting the bathroom.

She grabbed her food on the way out, and headed for an empty bus bench. The sword, she stashed under the bench where it wasn't quite so noticeable. The food was greasy, slightly cold, but it seemed delicious, and it stopped her stomach's rumblings. Which was the important thing.

When she was done with her dinner, she tossed the wrappers into a nearby trashcan. Her eyes closed briefly, and she drifted for a few minutes before she jerked awake again. She noticed a pay phone a block down, and exhaled sharply. She dragged herself up, considering leaving the heavy weight of the sword behind, before bending down to pull it off the ground.

At the phone, she put in her change and dialed Cordelia's number.

*

Cordelia jerked violently as the phone jangled. She looked around in sleep-addled confusion. She was sitting in an armchair. Her neck sore. Her eyes heavy. She'd drifted off. Wesley looked up blearily from his place on the couch.

The ringing had stopped. Cordelia clutched at her hair, still trying to figure out what was going on, only certain that she had needed to take that call. She frowned.

Her bedroom door opened, and Gunn stepped out, yawning, a phone in hand. He extended it to her, and she sprang up. Dennis took it from Gunn's hand, and zipped it over to hers. She smiled her thanks and spoke into the phone.

"Hello?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "It's me."

"Finally!" Cordelia said. "What happened with Angel? It took you long enough!

There was a heavy sigh from Buffy's end. "I've been chasing him all day," she said. "He went down into the sewers while we were talking before, and I haven't seen him since."

"There's miles of those things, how could you possibly ever find-" Cordelia asked.

"Well," Buffy said. "I'm pretty sure I have. I know where he's going, and I'm two blocks away."

"Do you want us to come there?" Cordelia said. "Back you up? Or even give you a ride back?"

There was a pause in which Cordelia could almost see the Slayer shaking her head. "No," she said. "I still don't know how this is going to turn out. And there's nothing you can do."

"Of course not," Cordelia said, her voice resigned and slightly sarcastic.

"I'll check back with you later," Buffy said. "Just didn't want you to worry."

"Right," Cordelia said, her voice dry. "Why would we?"

"Anyway," Buffy said. "Bye."

"Bye," Cordelia said to the dial tone. She looked over at Wesley and shook the receiver at him. "You just wait. As soon as she needs us she'll be calling for help. Pick me up, research this, get me that. And she'll forget all about us again the minute we finish running her errands."

Wesley smiled tightly. "At least she hasn't cut us out of the loop entirely," he pointed out.

"Yeah, cause we're oh so grateful for the scraps." She met Gunn's eyes, and sighed. "I guess we *are* grateful. Pity the patheticness that is us."

*

The sun was setting, and Buffy paced outside the club. Where was everyone? Why hadn't they opened yet? She looked down suddenly at her sword and snorted. Here she was patrolling the door like a demented sentry and wondering why no one was trying to get past her.

"Okay," she muttered. "Maybe I should find a hiding place instead of standing underneath the neon sign that says, Here's the Slayer." But she needed to keep an eye on the door. She looked up. The building on the other side of the dingy alley had a flat roof. She tossed the sword up, and it landed on the roof with a heavy clunk. She rolled her head from side to side, then jumped up, grabbing hold of the exposed pipe that ran the length of the club. She swung, placed her feet briefly on the edge of the club's roof, and launched herself up to the roof of the other building. She landed lightly next to the sword and took in her surroundings. This would work. She could see anyone coming or going.

She settled in for more waiting, the sword resting lengthwise on her bent knees. Sure enough, the first dark shape sidled toward the building with wary steps. It slipped inside with a backwards look. After the first, there was a fairly steady stream of demons that approached the club. Some driving up, most walking. No Angel. Her shoulders sagged, and she scrubbed her face with her hand. Wishing, not for the first time, that she was in her nice soft bed.

She heard a metallic scrape, and saw the lid come off a sewer entrance about a block or so down from her vantage point. She stood up, grabbed the sword in a tighter grip, and took a running start at the edge of the building. She leapt to the next rooftop, crossed it and jumped once more, now level with the figure that had crept from the sewer. He wore a grey hooded sweatshirt. She couldn't see his face, but she launched herself from the rooftop and tackled him. The sword spun off into the dark.

They tumbled to the ground, a tangle of limbs behind the edge of a warehouse. A deep growl rumbled from his throat. She raised her head when the dust settled, and looked up into Angel's golden eyes. His lips pulled back from fangs, his true face exposed. He met her gaze for a moment, and she felt herself flush with heat. She was suddenly very aware of the length of her body pressed tight against the length of his. His lips were close, and her eyes settled on them. She bit her own lip without realizing what she did, shifting slightly against him.

Then he pushed her away, and scooted backwards in the dirt. He stood up, and she scrambled up with him. "Angel," she said. He started to walk away, and she grabbed his arm in a painfully tight grip. "I'm not going to let you do this."

He didn't respond, although he reached for her fingers with his free hand and tried to pry them away. She held on, grabbing for his other hand. He evaded her grab, and jerked at his arm, nearly breaking her hold. "Stop it!" she said. "I just want to talk to you."

He was starting to look frustrated now, which she supposed was an improvement on the utter blankness of earlier. "Why won't you-" she started.

"You're in my way," he growled. Her eyes narrowed, although she was relieved he'd even spoken. Argument, anger she could handle. It was the numb nothingness that left her confused and frozen.

"I know," she answered flippantly. "That's kind of the point."

He finally succeeded in yanking his arm free, and turned away, heading toward the club at a quick run. Buffy caught up, and grabbed his arm, spinning him around to face her. She stood in his way. "I don't think so," she said. "Unless you want to go into that club with me." She smiled without joy. "And believe me when I say, I'm not afraid to make a scene."

He took a quick step to the left, trying to pass her, and her fist shot out, laying him flat with a crushing blow to the temple. He fell, sprawled against the ground. "You're letting them get away," he said, rising painfully to a crouch. "Don't you see-" His shoulders sagged, defeated. "Don't you see how important this is?" he asked.

"I see you losing your way," she answered.

"And you came to set me back on the true path?" Angel said, his voice icy. "You don't know anything about this, about me, about-"

"Who's fault is that?" Buffy said, her voice trembling slightly with the force of her anger. "You didn't even tell me you'd moved your offices. You didn't tell me about Darla. About Dru. You've cut me out of your life as completely as you possibly-"

"You haven't exactly kept in touch either," Angel said, with a snort of disbelief. He shook his head. "I'm sorry if I didn't want to hear about how wonderful everything is with your boyfriend, and your family, and your perfect-"

"My mother almost died!" Buffy said, her voice almost a scream. "Riley's gone!" She gritted her teeth against the tears that started behind her eyes. "There's a God, a real, live GOD, after my sister. I'm exhausted. Every day is like another weight on my shoulders. My life is so far from perfect, it's not even funny."

His eyes softened briefly, his hand reaching slightly toward her, his anger and frustration stripped away for a moment to reveal the pang of shocked sympathy her words called up in him. His fingers brushed her knee, then curled in on themselves. He drew back, the mask settling over his features again. "Not my problem," he said, his voice harsh. He rose to his feet.

Buffy's mouth hardened, and she dashed at the tears gathering in her eyes. "I know what you're doing," she said. "And it's not going to work."

"What am I doing?" Angel asked.

"You're trying to drive me away," she said. "So you can continue your self-destructive crusade or your vendetta or whatever this is."

"What does it matter to you?" Angel said. "It's not your concern."

"You concern me," Buffy said.

"I'm not doing anything wrong," Angel argued. "Unless all of sudden you think taking out the bad guys is wrong."

She frowned at him, and took a step closer. He backed away from her, hiding them behind the side of another building. "It's not the taking out bad guys that has everyone worried," she said. "It's how you're doing it." She took another step, and this time he held his ground. "I heard what you did to the lawyers."

"I'll do worse the next chance I have," Angel said. "They deserved to die." He turned his head in the direction of the fight club.

"But that's the point," Buffy said. "You don't get to decide."

He turned his gaze on her, his eyes meeting hers, sending a shiver up her spine at the empty hatred she saw there. "You don't know what you're talking about," he said. "You haven't seen what they've done."

"They're still human," Buffy started.

"Who cares!" Angel spat. "Wolfram and Hart has done more evil in this city than all the demons combined. They-"

"That doesn't give you the right-" Buffy started.

Angel grabbed her by the arms, his grip bruising. "You. Don't. Know," he spit the words into her face, but she refused to flinch. "You can't know," he said. "And I won't let you stop me." He shook her once. "This is what I have to do. I have to destroy them, and nothing is going to get in my way."

"Let. Go. Of. Me," she said, her eyes narrowed. He let her go with a shove. She stumbled, but regained her footing and placed her hand on his chest to keep him from moving. "You're here to help the helpless," she said. "Save souls. Not judge them. Not destroy all evil."

He turned away from her. "I won't let you stop me."

"And I won't let you do this to yourself," Buffy said. "If you want to kill Darla and Drusilla? More power to you. I'll help you do it. If you want to fight Wolfram and Hart? Fine. Again, I'm on your side. But if you're going to turn your back on your mission-"

"I'm fighting a war," Angel said. "I'm-"

"Then you're going to have to fight it with me," Buffy said. He turned to look at her, his head cocked. "I'm not leaving." She met his eyes with cold blue ice. "You may be able to shut out your friends. But I won't let you do that to me." She stepped forward and pushed his chest, hard. "If you try to lose me, I'll tail you. And everywhere you go, I'll find you. I'll be there."

His face twisted for a moment, his eyes darkening, his mouth crumpling. He took an unneeded breath and restored the hard surface. "I can't let you do that," he said. "I can't let you get in my-"

"You're not going to LET me do anything," Buffy said. "You can't tell me what to do. And you can't make me leave."

"What about your own mission?" he asked, his tongue flicking against fangs. "What about Sunnydale and your family? Are you just going to abandon them?"

"I'm not giving up on you," Buffy said. "Not this time."

"Why can't you understand," he said. "I don't want you here. I don't need you."

She spoke through clenched teeth. "I'm not leaving."

*

Spike stood in the crushing mob as it surged around the demon and vampire fighting in its center. He was distracted, not concentrating on the fight. His eyes flicked to the door. The crowd stumbled forward, and he moved with it, his concentration briefly on the fight as yells of triumph surrounded him. His eyes darted back to the door, and he stopped moving, unaware of the demon that banged into him from behind.

Darla strutted into the room, her chin high, her eyebrow lifted into familiar arches of slightly snooty amusement. Dru strolled in her wake. Her dark hair hung loose, spilling over her shoulders. Her blue eyes were distant like they so often were, seeing things that existed for no one else. Her slender fingers drooped on her wrists. A pink turtleneck hugged her torso, and Spike would have smiled if he weren't frozen by the sight of her, a hundred points of fire crawling under his skin. The rest of the crowd had yet to notice them, as the fight ended with the vampire tapping the ground in defeat. Darla began to clap sarcastically, moving with Dru through the crowd. Spike shifted with it, lost in the mob as it parted around them. Darla spoke in her soft baby-doll voice, and Spike shuddered once, remembering a time long past.

"Wow. That was something," she said, her voice mocking. "But violence without victims... See, that's where you lose me."

"Who the hell are you?" the demon who'd just won the fight asked, still standing in the cleared space in the middle of the crowd.

Darla barely spared him a glance. "My name's Darla and this is Drusilla. We're new in town though some of you know us by reputation." She smiled cheerfully.

"I never heard of you before," the demon spat, his voice rough.

Drusilla stood behind him, her hands on his ears. With a quick jerk and the wet rip of skin, his ears came off in her hands. He screamed, dropping like a stone, his claws raised to cover the bloody wounds on his head. Dru dropped the ears absently and they fell to the floor with a gentle plop, landing near his head.

"Now you never will," Darla said. Spike swallowed a chuckle. She turned her gaze on the demons surrounding her, eyes sweeping the crowd. "I trust we have everyone's attention?" Her pretty mouth turned up in a thin smile. "Good. We've come with a little proposition." She was on a roll now, strolling in the middle of the crowd, her voice casual, her golden hair almost glowing in the dank room. "Me and my girl, we're not just the new thing in town, we're the only thing in town. And we're in the market for some..." She paused theatrically. "Well, one doesn't really want to use the term muscular slaves..." She smiled flirtatiously. "Actually, one does." Her tone grew serious again. "Unfortunately for most, we're only looking for the best. Those creatures who not only excel at devastation, but revel in it. Our crusade is one of malevolent joy."

A tall, slimy demon moved in front of Spike, blocking his view. Spike slipped through the crowd, staying out of sight, finding a place directly behind Dru. He saw her shoulders hitch, a soft gasp hissing from her throat.

"Eyes like needles," she said, her voice high, trembling. Spike inhaled sharply, his fists clenching at his sides.

"Dru?" Darla said, turning briefly to the other vampire. "I'm working here?"

"He sees me," Dru said, her eyes wide, her hands weaving a graceful pattern in the air. She spun, her eyes fluttering shut, then open. "Sees inside me." She shivered suddenly, hunching in on herself. "It's cold. Cold metal inside."

"Stop it!" Darla said, annoyed.

"He's watching me." Dru shivered again, this time in pleasure, stretching, her back arching. "He's watching right now." Her eyes swept the crowd, searching. Spike slipped behind a larger demon, peering at her, drinking her in.

Darla frowned at Dru, her jaw clenching in impatience. "I don't suppose this could wait until we finish what we came for."

Dru giggled, low, deep. "He's angry with me. He remembers-"

Darla spun around, her voice high, embarrassed by the other vampire's ranting, angry that she'd lost control. "Shut up, Drusilla!"

Dru curled in on herself, humming very softly under her breath. Darla shook away the distraction and hurriedly finished her spiel, her concentration broken. "Now, as I was saying, if you think you have what it takes to join us, auditions are tonight. Here." She pulled a small white business card from her cleavage and held it up. "At this address. Winners will have the opportunity to foment mass-destruction, losers will be gutted and left for dead." She dropped the card on the floor and turned away. She grabbed Drusilla's arm and pulled her toward the door. Dru moaned softly, turning back toward the crowd. "Come on," Darla said, hustling her out of the room.

Spike broke away from the crowd and followed. He stood in the door, watching them walk down the alley toward the street. He hesitated, suddenly unsure. Dru shifted again in Darla's grasp, her face turned toward him for a moment. So pale. Her eyes two pools of darkness in the white. He hurried toward them.

Darla stopped when she heard footsteps behind her. "No tryouts until later tonight," she snapped, flipping a look over her shoulder. Her eyes widened as she recognized his face despite the change in hair, clothes. Her eyebrows contracted and he knew she trusted him about as little as he trusted her.

"You girls need a lift?" Spike asked, carefully keeping his voice light.

"My Spike," Drusilla breathed, her eyes glittering fever-bright.

"That's right, love," he said with a grin. "I'm back."

*

Angel turned his head toward the club, then looked at Buffy again. "I can't waste any more time," he said. "This is my best lead." He pushed past her and hurried toward the club, pulling the sweatshirt's hood up over his head. A black DeSoto roared out of the parking lot, and he paused, an odd feeling of déjà vu washing over him. He dismissed it, and entered the club, Buffy catching up to him at the door. He ignored her, and approached the bartender.

"Have you seen a pair of vampires?" he asked. "Women. Darla and Drusilla?"

"Just missed 'em," the demon said, scraping some of the empty cups and bottles into a large trash bag. "Took a lot of the crowd with 'em too. Some kind of tryouts tonight."

"Do you know where?" Buffy asked. The bartender gave the small blonde girl a suspicious look, and Angel shot her an annoyed glare. She shook off Angel's stare, and raised her eyebrows at the bartender. "Just answer the question," she said. He took another look at the hard set of her jaw, then noticed the sword she'd retrieved from the alley.

"Don't know," he answered. "The ones that was interested took the address with 'em. I didn't get a look at it."

Angel grabbed Buffy's shoulder and hustled her out of the bar. Outside, he turned on her. "You couldn't just let me do what I had to do," he said. "You-"

"If you hadn't refused to tell me what was going on back at the hotel-" she started.

"Stop it," Angel interrupted. "Just stop it. They're gone. It's too late."

"Maybe there's another way," Buffy said.

"No," Angel said flatly.

"God, could you have a little faith?" Buffy asked. He started for the sewer entrance. "Let me help you find them," she said. She touched his back as he bent to lift the manhole cover. "I know we can find them." His back twitched, trembling under her hand, then he flipped the cover up and dropped down into the tunnels. With a sigh, she dropped down after him.

continue