Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do
Part Three of The Damned Series


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PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
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Chapter Thirty One: Angels and Demons

As Buffy sauntered jauntily up behind the two vampires, she wondered what the hell they were doing here and, more importantly, which one of them she should drag onto the dance floor with her.

They were both staring mournfully at where Faith and Troy were dancing up at storm. She could relate, but she knew why the sight made her all mournful; she wasn't so clear on why it had these two looking so miserable.

She cleared her throat to get their attention but they were too caught up in their argument to hear her.

"...but I still care about her, and I'm not gonna let her end up with a jerk like The Immortal. Or you."

"Hey, ours is a forever love."

Were they talking about her? She couldn't help thinking that they'd better be. She might have moved on, but they didn't know that, and the thought of them caring about and being in love forever with some other girl was just a tad painful. And if they really had to do it, couldn't they have picked someone in one of the other most romantic cities in the world and not the one she was currently living in? That was just rubbing her face in it.

"I had a relationship with her, too."

"Okay, sleeping together is not a relationship."

'It is if you do it enough times' Buffy thought, thinking of Faith.

"It is if you do it enough times." Spike said aloud.

Buffy grinned, a little disturbed that they should think alike on this stuff.

"Hi Guys," she announced herself, not wanting to hear any more about their mystery woman.

They didn't hear her. The music was loud even here near the bar, plus a constant chattering was going on all around as people arrived, met friends, ordered drinks and stood in groups around the pillar-tables.

She moved in closer; jostling them slightly as she was jostled in turn by people squeezing past.

"Hello," she sing-songed.

Still nothing. How had these two survived so long if they couldn't even tell when a Slayer was right behind them? And couldn't they like sense her, or smell her... or something? Had they really forgotten her so quickly?

No, she reassured herself, they couldn't have. They were just seriously distracted, which probably meant something serious was going on. She should leave the pity-party at the door and get in on it in case she could be useful. Because if nothing else, going slaying with these two would irk the hell out of Faith a lot more than moping that ex's didn't love her anymore would.

So, all business, she asked loudly, "What are you two doing here?"

"Saving Buffy from The Immortal if this pillock would stop distracting me long enough." Spike spoke agitatedly as he pointed a thumb at Angel.

Buffy smiled; gratified this was all about her after all. Then the sentence sunk in and she frowned. "Huh?"

"She looks like she's having a good time," Angel said, his head moving as he tried to keep Faith and Troy in sight. "I don't think your great plan of storming over there and dragging her away will work."

"'Course it will. Just need to keep a firm grip on her arms and legs until we can get her tied down."

Buffy's expression was working through a spectrum of emotions, but now she grinned wryly. "Kinky."

"It might work," Angel mused.

"Yeah, 'cept I'd kick both your asses before you laid a hand on me."

Spike shook his head. "Not if she didn't see us coming."

She rolled her eyes. "True, you do have the element of surprise."

Angel frowned. "One of us would have to deal with The Immortal."

As Spike nodded thoughtfully, Buffy asked, "Who's The Immortal?"

"The smarmy git Buffy's dancing with." Spike pointed through the crowds to Faith and Troy.

"Apparently her new boyfriend," Angel growled.

Deciding it was time for this wackiness to be over before somebody got hurt - possibly that long-haired blonde dancing just in front of Faith and Troy - she reached up and grabbed an earlobe of each of them.

Angel snapped 'Hey' and Spike snapped 'Ow' as she pulled them around to face her.

"Hi guys!" she said again with an exaggerated wave.

Their wide-eyed double-take made her grin again.

"Oh yeah, that's not me." Buffy pointed behind them. "And I don't have a boyfriend, especially not one with a cheesy name like The Immortal. So now that we've caught up on my life lets move on to yours. What are you doing in Rome? And Spike, bigger question, what the hell are you doing alive?"

"Oh, right, that, yeah." Spike looked as sheepish as he ever did. "I had a bit of what you might call a revival."

"But you were dead."

"I was, for a time, yeah."

Buffy nodded. "Okay, well, don't rush to fill in the details." She turned to Angel. "So why're you both here again?"

"I heard you were in trouble."

"Trouble?"

"We heard the The Immortal was bothering you," Spike clarified.

Angel nodded. "Yeah, so we came to save you."

She shook her head. "I don't even know who The Immortal is so how can be bothering me?"

"Andrew said you're dating him!" Angel blurted, and then looked embarrassed.

Buffy frowned, wondering what her roommate was playing at.

"We were at your apartment earlier." Spike pulled a face. "And the boy let slip the two of you... snuggle."

"What?" Buffy gave a disbelieving chuckle. "Look, I think Andrew's playing you, because I promise you I've never met anyone called the..."

"Then how come he's here with you right now?" Angel crossed his arms, clearly not expecting to believe any explanation she came up with.

"He is? Where?" Buffy looked around the busy club suspiciously; half expecting to see some mysterious Phantom of the Opera type stalking her from the shadows.

Spike pointed across the dance floor. "Right there!"

Buffy followed his finger and realization dawned, sort of. "That's Troy."

Angel shook his head, also pointing. "No. That's The Immortal."

Buffy looked again just to make sure. "Nope, that's definitely Troy."

Spike turned to Angel. "He must have changed his name to fool her. He knew she'd never go for some guy called The Immortal."

"Right, because Spike is really a name you want to gush to your friends."

"Hey, at least it's not a poofy name like Angel."

"Still here, guys, and still confused."

Angel explained. "The Immortal must have changed his name to..."

"Troy," she prompted.

"Yeh, to get in your knickers." Spike finished.

Buffy punched him in the arm. "Troy has never been anywhere near my... knickers!"

"Buffy, my source says you've been seen with him, a lot," Angel spoke with quiet urgency. "And he's just called to confirm that The Immortal is dating a Slayer."

"I thought your source was in hospital."

"They do have telephones in hospitals, Spike."

Buffy pushed Angel backwards, suddenly furious. "Sources? You have spies on me? What the hell makes you think you can keep tabs on me like that?"

"You're in a strange country, Buffy, I was worried."

"We were worried," Spike put in quickly.

"You didn't even know about my guy until I told you about him!"

"That's because I, unlike you, respect her privacy."

"I respected her privacy until she beat up my guy!"

"And yet you're both here to tear me away from Troy!"

"No, we're here to tear you away from The Immortal," said Angel.

"Who just happens to be called Troy as well," Spike added.

"What's it to you who I date?"

"Nothing, I..." Angel said quickly. "...We were just worried."

"Yeah, especially after you beat up his guy," Spike said, before smirking at Angel. "Which doesn't make you sound at all gay by the way, mate."

"Shut up!"

"It's the name that makes you sound gay," Spike added gleefully.

Buffy blushed. "Oh, you... you have something against gay people now?"

"Not as a rule, no." Spike nodded his head towards Angel. "Just this one."

"I am not gay!"

"Well, maybe you should be," Buffy snapped, feeling all ruffled. "Maybe everyone should be. Huh, did you ever think of that?"

Angel eyed her worriedly, clearly not understanding.

Spike shrugged. "Might put a bit of pressure on procreation."

He stepped back when Buffy poked him hard in the chest. "You've got the wrong Slayer!"

She poked Angel just as hard. "Your spy is a moron!"

Her voice rising, she continued. "Faith is dating Troy! Faith put your source in hospital! And Faith is the one dancing over there with him! Not me," she shouted at them. "Faith!"

As they stared wide-eyed at her outburst, her shoulders slumped. "I'm just a guilty bystander."

Suddenly an arm was slung around her neck. "Hey, babe, did I hear my name?"

"Just a few times," Buffy muttered. Normally a body this sweaty pressed tight to her side wouldn't have been pleasant - this one was, but, pulling a face she tried to step away anyway - Faith wouldn't let her. "What's up?"

"Nothin'. Just missed you." Faith pressed a wet kiss to her ear before turning a suspicious smile on the vampires. "What are you two clowns doing here?"

"Hey, Faith, we, uh, came to save... you?" Angel looked lost.

Spike, Buffy noticed, was watching her a little too intently. She pretended not to notice.

Faith's arm slipped away as she turned to face her. "You call in the cavalry for a last minute intervention, B?"

She just shook her head.

"Buffy didn't know we were coming," Spike offered.

"That a fact?"

"Yeh."

"I was asking Buffy."

Buffy nodded. "They thought they were coming to save me from Troy, not you."

Faith frowned, but was obviously trying to keep a smile on her face - it made her look weird... and kind of cute. "Okay, now I don't know whether to feel pissed off, unloved or just plain jealous."

Spike, coolly sizing her up, said, "I thought you usually just went with all three at once."

"Spike!"

"S'okay, B." Faith fixed her eyes hard on Spike; that little smile still flitting around the corners of her mouth. "Guess I'm not the only one, huh?"

Spike smiled, evilly. "No, just the latest one."

Faith's eyes narrowed. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Just think it's cute, is all."

"Am I missing something?" Angel asked.

"No, nothing," Buffy said quickly, her eyes wider than could be healthy. "They're just... I don't know what they're doing."

"Think it'll still be cute when I shove the length of wood in my jeans through your chest," Faith sneered.

Spike sneered back. "Your wood'll never be as good as mine though, will it, pet?"

Buffy stepped in-between them just in time to have Faith slam into her back. "Spike, stop pissing off the Slayer who doesn't have the hang up of being in love with you."

"You're in love with him?" Angel and Faith asked the incredulous question together.

"Past tense! I really should have used past tense!"

"Meant no harm, Slayer." His grin said otherwise. "I'm sure you're very happy with The Immortal. Great catch that he is."

"Ya got something to say about my fiancÚ, just say it."

"Oh, fiancÚ," Spike scoffed. "That's rich."

"Faith, I don't think that's such a wise move." Angel put his hand soothingly on her shoulder but she shrugged it straight back off again.

"And I don't remember asking for your opinion."

Buffy tried the hand on shoulder thing next and although Faith tried to jerk away, she wouldn't be shrugged off so easily. She gripped the shoulder firmly, digging her fingers in just hard enough to make Faith look at her.

"Effie, listen, they wouldn't have come all this way if they didn't know something, something about Troy, they thought was important."

"Shoulda known you'd take their side."

"I'm not. I just don't think it can hurt to hear them out."

"Yeh, Effie, luv, you should listen to my girl here, she..."

Buffy caught Faith around the waist as she lunged forward.

"You don't get to fuckin' call me that! Alright?" Faith stabbed her finger over Buffy's shoulder at Spike.

She wasn't speaking any louder than necessary to be heard over the music, but, being directly in her ear, it was enough to make Buffy wince.

"And while we're on the subject, you don't get to call her that either. She is not your girl, Asshole, she was never your girl, got it?"

"She's not your girl either, is she?" Spike taunted her. "Not if you're marrying Mr Fancy Immortal Pants."

"Angel, a little help?" Buffy grunted as Faith's determination to punch Spike grew stronger, pushing her backwards towards him.

It looked like light was dawning in Angel's eyes, but he stood with his arms folded, a grim smile on his face.

"I'm all for letting her hit Spike."

"Get off of me." Faith finally pushed her away roughly and stepped back, looking around.

Buffy looked around too. The people closest were watching the disturbance but she couldn't see Troy anywhere. Still, she gave Faith a look warning her to be careful. Faith looked back like she didn't understand or just didn't care, but when she turned angrily back to Spike her voice was a little calmer.

"I never said she was, Hot Shot. B's got her own complicated love life going on, don'tcha, B? So why don't ya grill her about that? Why don't you try and save her from that? Isn't that what you came here to do anyway before I got caught in the fuckin' crossfire?"

Buffy looked warily at the three sets of eyes suddenly boring into hers.

"I don't think they really want to hear about my love life, Faith."

"Sure they do. Tell 'em how you met? Tell 'em how in love the two of you are?"

Buffy froze under their triple pinning gaze, feeling perspiration breaking out on her brow despite the air-conditioning. Angel's arms were crossed tighter than ever, almost like the vampire was hugging himself in preparation of bad news. Contrarily Spike's pose screamed slouchy nonchalance, but the longer Buffy's silence went on, the more tense he became until he was standing perfectly straight with a ghost of a disbelieving smile on his lips. Faith was just waiting, and getting more impatient by the second.

"I don't..."

She hesitated, not sure whether she was about to finish with '...know where to start.' or '... know what you're talking about.'

She'd practiced telling Angel, sort of, but not Spike. Spike was supposed to be dead and not a part of the whole 'coming out to her ex's' problem. He wasn't supposed to be standing there looking at her like she'd just squashed his puppy and was about to squash his masculinity as well. Plus, they'd just flown thousands of miles to rescue her from potential evil - true, she was mad about the surveillance thing and them playing at being White Knights together was just weird - but it felt mean to rub their faces in her and Toni right after...

No, she wasn't even buying that excuse herself, and from Faith's expression there was no way she would.

"You can't do it, can you?" Faith sneered at her, shaking her head in disgust. "Can't be honest. Can't just sever that hope once and for all."

Buffy opened her mouth, but Faith threw up her palm and turned to Spike and Angel, still sneering. "And don't think I don't know why you hate Troy. He probably slept with your skanky vamp girlfriends a hundred years ago, am I right?"

The sheepish glance that passed between them was proof enough.

"That's what I thought. You need to get the hell over it. You all just need to get the hell over it."

Her eyes stung Buffy again and then she shoulder-checked Spike hard enough to make him stumble back as she barged between the two Vampires and stormed away.

"Faith!"

"Leave her, Buffy, she'll calm down."

Buffy barely heard Angel's reassuring words, focusing instead on Faith so she wouldn't lose her in the mass of clubbers. Faith unwittingly trapped herself with a brick wall at one end of the long, two-sided bar. Turning to go back the other way, she saw Buffy right behind her and turned instead to lean irritably on the bar.

Buffy stood next to her. "What the hell was that all about?"

"Nothing, just leave me alone."

"That was not nothing."

"Hey, I should be the one yelling here."

"How do you figure?"

"You told Spike about us!" Faith said in a fierce whispered rush. "Of all the cocky, motor mouthed..."

"I haven't told anyone about us."

"Well, then, how the hell did he know?"

Buffy took a guess. "Spike knows me, I mean really knows me. Not just as an ex, but as a friend and a... an enemy as well. He spent years doing the creepy stalker thing - watching me, analyzing me, perving on me. He probably knows me better than anyone."

"Oh what, so he just looked in your eyes and saw it there?"

"Maybe. Or maybe he could hear my heartbeat get faster when you put your arm around me or maybe he could smell the lust pheromones bouncing back and forth between us or maybe, even, he just guessed when you started getting all jealous and confrontational!"

"I wasn't..." Faith began until Buffy really glared at her. "Okay, I was jealous, but maybe I wouldn't have been if you'd had the guts to tell them."

"A minute ago you were pissed off that I did tell them and now you're pissed off that I didn't?" Buffy shook her head. "Make up your mind, Faith."

"I want you to want to tell them. The two of them came running over here to win you back..."

Buffy chuckled. "No they didn't."

"Yeah, you know they did, and you denying everything just makes them think they stand a chance. Makes me think they stand a chance too."

"They don't."

"So prove it." Faith nodded across the bar. "Go tell 'em about Toni."

Buffy looked to where Angel and Spike were standing. She'd expected them to be watching, but instead they were arguing over something. She turned back to Faith again.

"No."

Faith sneered. "Gee, didn't see that coming. Guess the thought of being the fillin' in a vamp sandwich is too good to pass up for you, huh?"

"Watch it!" She was only going to be pushed so far in a fight that was completely not her fault. "You want me to let them know they don't stand a chance with me, I'll do it, but I'm not using Toni to pander to your crazy insecurities."

Faith looked unsure all of a sudden. "What do you mean?"

"You know exactly what I mean. I'll go over there right now and tell them about you and me. They've probably mostly guessed anyway, thanks to your behavior, but I'll happily confirm it for them. I'll tell them I love you. I'll tell them I only want you. I'll tell them when I'm done baking only you'll be getting a taste. I'll tell them anything you want, but only about you."

Faith was standing motionless, even her eyes were fixed on her in a scary scared way.

Buffy gave her a few moments to fully digest everything she had said and then started to turn away. "So I'll go do that, shall I?"

Faith caught her arm. "Don't you fuckin' dare!"

"Wrong thing to say, F!" Buffy pulled her arm away.

Faith caught it again, her fingers digging in hard. "I mean it, B. You do that and we're done."

Buffy turned back to her. "Is that an ultimatum?"

"Yeah, it's a fuckin' ultimatum. I think I'm owed one. I made it clear from the start: you breathe a word about us to anyone and we're over."

"Really? Is that how you think this is going to work? I suggest something that might jeopardize your future of being Mrs Holy-Pain-In-The-Ass and you threaten to dump me? You were right, I'd rather be the filling in a vamp sandwich than be the whipped dog on your short leash."

Faith raised her arm, but rather than get defensive Buffy stepped closer.

"Smart move, hit me, seal the break-up deal."

She'd misread the action though, she realized, as her panties were thrown at her chest. She caught them before they fell to the floor.

"Put those on and piss off."

Buffy looked at them before throwing them back. "No."

She didn't give Faith another look before walking back around the bar. The solace she had been planning on seeking wasn't there. Scanning all around she realized Angel and Spike had gone. Typical; cause her a bunch of emotional trauma and then disappear. They hadn't even waited to say goodbye.

There were other types of solace though. She turned to the bar but it was busy on this side, two to three bodies deep. Through a momentary gap she saw Faith getting served with a line of shots but she wasn't going back to steal one. She watched Faith down the first two in quick succession and then, feeling her eyes get misty, she turned to the only other solace available.

She wanted to dance alone, to lose herself before the waterworks could get a hold on her, but Dawn, Serena, Andrew and a couple of strange women soon weaved through the crowd to join her.

She put on a brave face and did her best to join in the good time they were having. Taking Dawn's offered hand; she let her sister raise it up high as they danced, but she clung on a little too tight in her inner distress and soon Dawn yanked her hand back, grimacing.

"Did I do something wrong?" Dawn shouted jokingly.

"No, I did."

Dawn stopped dancing. "Hey, Buffy, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Seeing Dawn's concerned eyes not going away, she added. "I just... need some air. Stay here, okay?"

She wanted to leave now, just go back to the apartment where she would be alone. She wanted it so bad her feet were taking her to the door automatically. She couldn't leave Dawn though. Even with Andrew here now she wasn't comfortable in leaving them to find their own way home. She had to stay in the club. But that didn't mean she had to stay in the crowd. She did an about face and skirted the dance floor to the restrooms.

It was busier than before but her stall right at the end was thankfully empty. She locked the door, sat down on the lid and took a few deep breaths. The harsh scent of industrial cleaning chemicals hanging in the air didn't really help, but she took a few more anyway, and a few more after that.

The worst was the not understanding what had happened. They'd been so happy before Angel and Spike had suddenly materialized. How had that changed so fast over something so completely ridiculous? Actually the real worst of it was that she was pretty sure that Faith had actually wanted her to tell them, had definitely needed her to, but was just so scared of the fallout that she had lashed out instead.

Buffy didn't feel guilty about retaliating. It might not have been the most sensible move, but the alternative of rolling over and taking Faith's shit just wasn't about to happen. If she had just said a simple 'no, please don't', that would have been okay, but to threaten to break up with her? She wasn't going to live with that noose around her neck forever. Faith may have set her ground rules right at the start, but Buffy had also set hers and one of them had been that they work stuff like that out as a serious couple and not just fall back on old habits of trying to hurt each other to get the upper hand.

She didn't even know if they had broken up. It had sounded like it, and it felt like it now. It really felt like it. Up until then Buffy could have blamed her watering eyes on the chlorine smell of the cleaner, but when noisy sobs started hiccuping out of her she had to admit she was about to embark on a full-blown crying session. At least she'd made it into this tiny locked piece of privacy beforehand. There was no way she could have explained it without giving herself away if Dawn or, God forbid, Troy had asked what was wrong.

She held one wad of toilet paper over her eyes to soak up her tears and another over her mouth to try and hold back the sobs. Neither worked a hundred percent and Buffy leaned low over her knees as her body hitched with the effort of keeping her grief as silent as possible.

A few thumps rattled her door and, alarmed, she stammered out, "There's someone in here."

"Let me in," the thumper said gruffly.

Buffy sniffled. "No."

The door rattled even louder as a shoe used the middle of it for leverage; and then Faith dropped down in front of her.

"Go away."

"No."

"I'm really not in the mood right now so leave me alone."

"No."

Buffy pulled the tissue from her eyes. "Faith, please, I can't argue anymore tonight. Go pick a fight somewhere else."

Faith sat down astride her knees. Buffy tried to push her off, but Faith hooked her wrists behind her neck and refused to be budged.

"Let go. Stop being annoying! Leave me alone!"

"Buffy, shhh."

"I'm not gonna shush. I'll scream if you don't get off and people'll come running."

Faith shrugged. "Then they'll come running."

"And after the running they'll break down the door and see us."

"Then they'll break down the door and see us," Faith said matter-of-factly as she awkwardly wiped the tears from Buffy's cheeks with firm thumbs.

Buffy stopped pushing at her for a second to narrow her eyes. "Why are you not worried about that? Did you kill everyone in the club or something?"

Faith kinda smiled but then bit her lip and for the first time Buffy noticed her eyes looked damp too. As Faith saw her noticing, she turned her head slightly but after a moments pause she enveloped Buffy's neck in her arms and hugged her tightly.

A few errant sobs escaped Buffy as she folded her arms around Faith's waist, but then she was still, only her breathing showing signs of her decelerating distress. When that too eventually calmed she rested limply against Faith with her eyes closed until the other woman sat back enough to rest their brows together.

"I'm sorry," Faith murmured.

Buffy looked deep into her eyes but said nothing.

"Aren't you gonna say sorry?"

"I don't think I have anything to apologize for."

Faith closed her eyes for a moment but when she opened them she smiled slightly. "Okay."

"Really?"

Faith nodded, banging their noses together a little. "I was the jerk, I get that." She paused for a second. "Do you get why though?"

"Uh-huh. But you can't have it both ways. Either everyone knows I'm with you and we deal with the consequences, or they don't and you deal with those consequences."

"I get that too. But, I can deal with Toni even if I don't want to. Angel and Spike though, those two have a piece of you that us two can never hope to have."

"No, they had a piece of me. But that was a long time ago."

"Not Spike."

"I never loved Spike the way I love you. Or the way I love Toni for that matter."

Faith chuckled softly. "Then what was I worrying about?"

"Beats me." Buffy stroked her hands up under the back of Faith's top, just needing to feel her skin. "So are we still together or what?"

Faith gave her a big smile and kissed her gently on the lips.

"Okay, I'm feeling more in the mood now," Buffy whispered with a small grin.

Faith shook her head.

"You don't want to?"

"I always want to, B, but I'm not going to right now."

"Why not?"

"Because we don't have much longer in here and I'd rather do this." Faith hugged her tight again.

"Really?"

"Yeah, you gotta problem with that?"

Buffy smiled. "Not at all... snuggle bunny."

"Zip it."

It felt like the hug that wouldn't end, not that Buffy was complaining, but when it eventually did end ten minutes or so later, Buffy left the stall first. Her eye make-up was a disaster zone, unsurprisingly. After repairing the damage she left the restroom for the noisy dance floor and bumped straight into Troy.

She preempted the question on his lips. "Yes, she's in there. She'll be out in a sec."

"Is everything okay?"

He sounded genuinely curious so she answered him honestly.

"It wasn't, but now it is. I can definitely recommend the power of positive best friends."

When he smiled she decided to capitalize on it and buy Faith a few more minutes at the same time.

"Can I talk to you?" She nodded to the corner nearest the restrooms and he moved over there with her. "This might sound... okay, this probably will sound rude, but I've gotta ask: what is Toni?"

Troy laughed, but then looked surprised. "She has never told you?"

Buffy shook her head. "I always assumed she was human, but something she said tonight made me wonder."

Troy laughed again. "I will not betray her confidence. I am sure she will tell you in her own time."

"I know, but please," she grimaced at the word, but then said it again, "please, just give me a clue."

Troy regarded her thoughtfully. "This is what has been bothering you all night?"

Buffy nodded. "I love her, but I suddenly feel like I don't even know her. So tell me, is she like you?"

"You truly love her?"

"Yes," Buffy said honestly.

"Then I will give you this much. She is nothing like me, but one day soon she shall almost be my equal again."

"What does that mean?"

Troy smiled and there wasn't anything nasty in it at all. "Buffy, if she knew you were fishing for her details with me she would not be happy with either of us, no? She will tell you when she is ready. Please, just be patient until then."

He glanced up over her shoulder then and his eyes lit up; a moment later Faith strolled over.

"You stealing my man, B?"

"Hardly."

Troy kissed her and then gave her a teasing smile, "You were in there a long time, my love, is everything okay?"

"Well, I spent the first ten minutes trying to calm this chick down." Faith poked her in the ribs.

"Hey, I was perfectly happy alone in my misery," Buffy griped.

"And the next ten minutes trying to lose that mutton linguini you insisted I try," Faith finished.

"Okay, too much information," Buffy pulled a face, about to walk off. Something made her halt though and she turned back, amid Faith's laughter, to Troy. "Thank you. I mean, you didn't exactly spill your guts, but thanks for, you know, helping, sort of."

He smiled. "You are welcome."

She nodded and then she did walk away, hearing Faith ask what that had all been about. She felt better now. If anything more confused about Toni, but way better about her and Faith. Tons better, in fact. She hadn't known Faith had it in her to cuddle for an extended period of time without any sex being involved. Not even any kissing. Buffy wouldn't have minded some kissing, but even without it had still been phenomenal.

She met Dawn on the edge of the dance floor. "I was just coming to find you."

"I was just coming to find you too. Sorry if I've seemed distracted all night. Toni stuff. It's all sorted now, at least as much as it can be. Either way, I'm ready for the fun."

"Cool. Did you know Spike and Angel were here?" Dawn dragged her into the middle of the floor.

"Uh, yeah, I saw them for like a second earlier, but they disappeared."

"They had to go and sort out something about a demon head." Dawn shrugged. "They said they'd come back after."

Damn. It would be way better for her love life if they just didn't bother. She focused on Andrew doing the robot just a few feet in front of her. She gave him a wave hello seeing as she hadn't bothered before and he gave her a robotic wave back.

"Dork," Dawn laughed.

"I know," Buffy agreed, "but he's just so good at being one. Willow's had her dorky phases but she's never been as committed as Andrew about it."

They laughed and danced together and soon enough Buffy was as lost in the music as she'd wanted to be all night. Even when Faith and Troy joined them she barely acknowledged it, determined to give at least a portion of the night to Dawn.

It was only when Dawn nudged her arm and pointed to the bar that she saw Angel and Spike standing there, looking out of place.

"I'm gonna go say hi," she shouted in Dawn's ear. "Wanna come?"

"No, I love this song."

Buffy nodded, but before she could go her hand was grabbed from behind.

She turned to find Faith close. "I'm not going to say anything."

"I know. I just wanted to say sorry again."

"All's forgiven."

"And that, you know, I, well, you know," Faith whispered.

"You too." After a lengthy pause, Buffy asked. "Can I have my hand back now?"

"Oh, sure." Faith dropped it.

Buffy grinned at her. "You can come with me if you want. Providing you be good."

Faith grinned back. "Can't guarantee that." She hiked a thumb over her shoulder. "Should probably stay with the fiancÚ anyway."

Buffy leaned in close to her ear. "Want me to put my underwear back on?"

Faith laughed. "Hell no, they're coming with me for the weekend."

Buffy rolled her eyes, smiling as she left the dance floor. She tempered it before greeting her ex's again.

"You're back." She looked Angel up and down and her smile automatically came back broader than before. "And you're wearing a funny coat."

"It's the latest fashion." Angel said tersely. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Only you and the psychotic one seemed to be having a bit of a to-do when we left," Spike added.

Buffy bristled inside but kept her voice calm. "Don't call her that, and why the concern now when you didn't bother sticking around before?"

"We had a head to, uh..." Angel began.

"... To chase," Spike finished. "So are you and her like..."

"We're friends now, yes. So what's the deal with this head? Anything interesting?"

"Only if you find a potential demon gang war ripping LA apart interesting." Spike shrugged.

"Buy me a drink and I will."

The three of them moved over to the bar and Buffy hopped up onto one of the bar stools. Spike and Angel flanked her and she watched, amused, as they fought over buying her a drink.

"Doesn't matter how drunk you get me, I'm still not going home with either of you tonight," she joked.

Spike - the winner - smirked as he put a bottle of beer in front of her. "Pity."

"Spike," Angel growled at him.

"What? No harm in me hoping. I don't have a clueless girlfriend waiting for me at home."

"You have a girlfriend?"

Angel looked uncomfortable. "It's not serious."

"Oh, does Wolvernina know that?"

Angel glared at Spike. "I meant we haven't been together long."

"Uh, Wolvernina, that's a..." Buffy frowned. "Is that her real name?"

"No, it's Nina."

"Granddaddy bagged himself a hot, blonde werewolf," Spike said cheerfully. "Only I've heard she can be a real dog some..."

Buffy lurched forward across the bar as Angel reached behind her to smack the back of Spike's head.

"Okay, if we're going to sit here and have a drink together there can be no more hitting!" She re-seated herself fast before either happened to glance down and notice the way her dress had flared, baring her ass. "Tell me about the head."

They did so, still bickering as they took turns filling in details the other left out. Buffy started off interested, but was soon just incredulous.

"There is no way the two of you got blown up less than an hour ago."

A gentle touch on her shoulder made her turn on the stool. "Hey, you came over after all."

"Just to say goodbye," Faith explained. "We're gonna head out now."

"But it's still early."

"Yeah, but we're leaving first thing in the morning."

"But..." She wasn't ready for Faith to go. She knew their shenanigans were probably over for the night, but she still wanted to dance with her some more. Maybe even steal another kiss before she left. "...How much sleep do you really need?"

Faith slid her arm around Troy's waist as she smiled up at him. "We're not going to sleep yet, B. I still got some welcoming home to do, ya know?"

Faith looked totally in Troy-mode once again. It pinched Buffy's heart, but she had it under control and just shook her head, grinning.

"I bet you have. Well, I hope the dress fitting goes okay. Call me; let me know what it's like, okay?"

"Sure, but you're gonna see it soon enough anyway."

Buffy raised an eyebrow at Troy. "Week to go, huh? Getting cold feet yet?"

"None at all," he said, smiling down at Faith.

"Good to know," she said brightly.

"Where's my head?" Angel suddenly growled at him.

"Yeah, yer bloody bastard, you've been running us on a wild goose chase all night." Spike stood and Angel did the same on the other side of her.

Faith's confused expression was comical, but Troy merely gave them a smug smile.

"I am afraid I have no idea to what you refer."

"I think you do."

"Too bloody right you do."

"I'm sure if you have lost a head, gentlemen, it will turn up... somewhere." He flashed them an even smugger smile and then dismissed them. "Come, Fai, our driver will be waiting."

Faith gave the vampires wary looks before smiling at her. "See ya in a couple of days, B."

Buffy nodded, trying and failing to keep her smile bright. It would be the longest they had been apart since they had been 'together'. Faith held her eyes, the same thing going through both their minds: Do we hug? Can we risk it?

Eventually Faith held her fist out, grinning, and Buffy, her own smile lighting up again, bumped her knuckles against it. The whole exchange lasted five seconds at most and odds were the three men wouldn't have understood its significance, but as Faith slipped her arm through Troy's and left, Buffy felt better.

"Is she really marrying that ass?" Angel asked as he sat down again.

Buffy turned back around on her stool. "Yep."

"Yeah, well if nothing she's done before convinced me she was batshit, then..."

Buffy gave Spike a stern look that shut him up.

"If you knew what he was like, Buffy," Angel began.

"I do know. The guy's a jerk. In fact I can't believe you both thought I was with him!"

"Well, why else would you be hanging out with him in Rome?" Angel asked.

Buffy shrugged. "I'm Faith's Maid of Honor. Hard to do that from the other side of the world."

"No, there's more to it." Spike regarded her intently. "You two weren't close last time I saw you, not at all. There's no way you'd move yourself and the Bit to Europe just for her."

Buffy stared down the neck of her beer bottle for a moment before taking a deep breath and figuring what the hell.

"I'm dating his best friend. Who is nothing like him, incidentally. At least not yet," she added in a mutter. "And who I like a whole lot... love in fact, and they're great and..." she ran out of words and the inside of her beer bottle was even more interesting now.

"He has friends now?" Angel asked. "What's his name?"

"Toni." She kept her head down to fight the blush. "But she's not a he."

A commotion over by the door had them all looking that way and saved her from their response. Troy was in a confrontation with someone she couldn't see and suddenly his demons were coming out of the woodwork and scattering.

Buffy started to jump from her stool, but it was over as fast as it began and Troy walked rapidly out of the club, towing Faith along by her hand. She scanned as much of the club as she could see from here but his demons seemed to have disappeared as well.

"Well, lookie what the cat dragged in."

Buffy had been about to turn back to the bar but Spike's drawl paused her. "What?"

"This place is certainly full of surprises tonight," Angel agreed.

"What?" Buffy asked again.

Realizing they were both standing again, she got even more interested and swiveled around completely to see what they were talking about.

Quantiaro.

That probably explained the commotion.

"You know him?" she asked.

"You could say that," Spike answered.

He came right up to them, a sombre smile on his face, and bowed his head briefly. "Buffy. It is good to see you."

Angel stepped a little in front of her stool. "What are you doing here?"

Quantiaro regarded him for a moment before speaking. "You are protecting a Slayer? Never thought I would exist to see that day."

"Things change," Angel growled.

Quantiaro grinned. "A soul. I heard. We are very interested to see how it works out."

"I bet you are."

"Why so dour? We are on the same side now."

Quantiaro offered his hand. Angel just stared at it.

"Please yourself. William, I hear you are likewise virtuously afflicted. Is it treating you well?"

"Can't complain, but the name's still Spike." He took the proffered hand with no apparent hesitation.

Buffy's eyes went wide as smoke rose from their joined hands.

Spike didn't look in any pain, but when they released each other's grip he held his hand like he was scared it would touch something. She took it carefully and inspected his palm. It was red and blistered; not healthy looking.

"This looks like you just went overboard on the rosary beads and then washed the rest of the guilt off with holy water."

Spike pulled his hand back. "No, trust me; doing that makes it look worse. So what are you doing here?"

Instead of answering, Quantiaro moved around Spike to sit on his stool. He was served immediately and ordered a bottle of red wine and four glasses. Once they were all seated again, Spike now on the other side of him, Quantiaro poured them each an equal measure of the wine.

"I am here to commiserate with Buffy and to drown my sorrows," he eventually said.

"Huh?" Buffy asked.

"It is over. He has won. This time tomorrow the world will be set on a new and unfortunate path."

"Huh?" Buffy said again.

Quantiaro raised his glass. "A toast to the annihilation of all that we know."

"That doesn't really sound like something we should be toasting," Spike said, but drank anyway.

"What's going on here?" Angel demanded.

"Doomy, gloomy prophecies," Buffy said. "The usual."

"This is most certainly not business as usual," Quantiaro corrected her. "Once the son is born, life will change for everyone on this planet. Slowly, at first, but then with gathering momentum as the child learns of his true nature. Humanity will be enslaved, their will the will of the old ones, their lives mere pawns, and they will enter this willingly because they will know no better."

"Old ones? You're talking about blueish Warrior God-King's, right?" Spike asked before turning to Angel. "Had an inkling Illyria turning up like that had a bit more of a story behind it."

Angel leaned forward to see around Buffy. "Drogyn said the rest were still in the Deeper Well."

"Yeh, and that bugger can't lie."

"And as far as I know, he did not. There are many generations of Old Ones, good and evil, and not all were banished or trapped. Some left willingly, some remain on Earth. The Olympians, for example, mostly moved on peacefully."

"Mostly?" Buffy asked.

"Some stayed. Spreading out from Greece after the great dynasty fell and settling in new lands such as Italy. Among them was the Greek's smartest young warrior. Fifth child of Zeus and Hera. Kept a secret from all but a few because Hera had by that time made many enemies. He was overshadowed for most of his childhood by the hero Heracles, his half brother, the apple of his father's eye. The child grew and became a skilled warrior in his own right, but where he surpassed was in the gentler arts. He excelled in learning and took tuition on any subject from every god and goddess who would deign to teach this lesser child."

"This is all very interesting but what does it have to do with..."

"You will see," Quantiaro told her. "Eventually the boy tired of always being in Heracles shadow and went on a quest of his own. A quest for knowledge. The Gods laughed at him. Heracles laughed at him. Everyone knew you quested for treasure, heroic status, or in the case of mortals, because the Gods told you to. Why quest for knowledge? What could there possibly be to know that they didn't know already? He went anyway, because he was like that, and lo and behold, because the world wasn't quite as small as the Olympians believed it to be, he did discover some new knowledge. Or, to be more precise, a series of prophecies."

Quantiaro smiled suddenly. "On his return, amid the jeers, he told his father what he had discovered. To say telling him that their time was soon to end did not go over well, would be an understatement. He was ordered to leave Olympus. When, trying to mollify his father, the boy - with youthful exuberance - explained it was all okay because a few thousand years down the line he was going to usher in brand new Golden age, it was seen as gross impudence and he was ordered to leave faster."

"So his dad kicked him out of the house?" Spike asked.

Quantiaro nodded, giving Angel a cryptic smile. "And like many boys thrown from the hearth because their father doesn't understand them - he rebelled and became a liability to the rest of the world."

"So I'm sensing this boy-child was Troy," Buffy said, trying to get the conversation back to somewhere she could relate to. "And the series of prophecies: did they all come true?"

"Yes, so far. There are five in all. The current one is the fourth."

"Okay, well, tell me exactly what it involves in as few words as possible... please."

"In short, that Troy will conceive a son that will continue the Olympian dynasty and bring them to power once more."

"Well, that sounds..." Buffy frowned. "Not as bad as you've been making out. What's the big deal if there's one more religion in the world?"

Quantiaro looked angry for a moment and she could see him forcing himself to calm down. Sitting quietly was probably the way to go. If he got mad enough to swear at her and zapped out of the picture again she'd be left with a million loose ends and no more answers than she had before.

"Firstly, it will not be one more. Once the path is laid, once they see it can be done, it will only be a matter of time before false deities from every pantheon in history will be challenging my Lord for believers. It will be utter chaos as the world is split between hundreds of faiths - all fighting to be the one true Lord. There is no telling in what ways this uprising will be catastrophic to humanity, only that it will indeed be so."

"But they're Gods, right?" Buffy checked.

She had been after exactly this information for a long time, but suddenly it was turning out to be more than she could wrap her mind around.

She was used to the kill, crush, destroy, take over the world, party in humanity's entrails kind of Big Bads. The ones who just wanted to get more butts in pews was a new one. And she'd had enough trouble trying to destroy Glory; she didn't even know how to go about defeating gods who weren't evil - moral implications aside, Gods didn't die!

Quantiaro nodded his head to the side as he reluctantly conceded that.

"It is true they are not demons, but they are nothing like the Lord you are used to. They rule with a callous fist not a caring hand. Also, many of them will be able to manifest on Earth. My Lord has stayed away for he believes the Earthly Plain should be for humans to walk. Gods you can see do not rule with faith, they rule with fear."

Quantiaro pouted a little and sniffed as he drank more of his wine.

"Also, threats of locusts and boils don't really register when the other guy is pointing a lightening bolt at your head. It is written in the fifth prophecy that the Son will eventually prove victorious. That he will conquer the peoples of the world and unite them under the name of the Olympians."

"Humanity won't put up with that," Angel said. "Not anymore. They'll fight against it. They have faith in themselves now, they don't need to suddenly start believing in a bunch of pagan gods they hadn't heard of last week."

Buffy liked the sound of that but what Quantiaro said next unfortunately ran a little closer to her own views.

"Many people don't have faith in themselves. They want to, but they never really feel secure in it. You should know this for you have felt it many times. Buffy is perhaps the single-most strongest warrior of good in the past century and she has constant lapses of faith in herself."

"I do not!"

As Quantiaro turned to her she felt that rush of love that came off him like happy cologne, knocking down her defensiveness and loosening her tongue like a shot of pure ecstasy.

"Okay, fine, I do; and I know what you're going to say. If I'd had more faith in myself I could have stopped this already. But, newsflash - I am stopping it. So you can give the hard sell a break. I've already done the homework, and the groundwork, and come Faith's wedding night she's not going to be anywhere near Troy. And considering she'll probably never forgive me once she finds out I'm plotting against her, I'd say that's pretty much keeping the big picture in mind too."

"What does their ridiculous wedding have to do with anything? It will be far too late by then."

Buffy frowned. "But that's the night of the prophecy. How can it be too late?"

Quantiaro shook his head. "Buffy, the prophecy is destined to pass on the night of the equinox. Troy needs the perfect alignment of the sun with Mapanos' power in order for his ritual to be significant."

"But the ritual is the wedding," Buffy said, with more hope than certainty.

"No, the ritual is a complex procedure involving the sacred relics of his Father's more powerful brethren, the lost scrolls of Socrates and Noah's dove."

"Then we're okay," Buffy said with relief. "Xander secured the dove a week ago."

Quantiaro nodded. "He did, most impressively, but while I was busy securing Xander a few days later, Troy unsecured it."

"Oh... Damn."

Quantiaro nodded.

"You said the Socrates Scrolls were lost," Buffy tried next. "Any chance they might stay lost?"

Quantiaro looked at her silently for a moment, and she knew the news was bad. She wasn't prepared for quite how bad though.

"There were in Japan. Now they are not."

"Oh. Ohhh. Dammit!" Buffy rubbed her forehead. "I knew she was too good to be true. I mean I actually knew it. She practically said she had ulterior motives but I just did my best to turn a blind eye."

"What have I missed?" Angel asked.

"My girlfriend has the scrolls."

"I knew it," Spike crowed.

"You did?"

"Yeh. Only thing that ties Faith into this mess and explains why you're so upset. I did try and tell you she was no good, how many months ago."

"Faith is not my girlfriend!" Buffy blushed. She hadn't touched her wine yet but she took a long swallow now. "Toni's my girlfriend and she has the scrolls."

"Then maybe her having them is a good thing," Angel said after he'd taken a few moments to digest her revelation. "She'll keep them safe."

"I'm sure she will, but not for me. Troy's best friend, remember? What is my damage that I can only fall in love with evil people?"

Nobody answered her. Angel looked more disconcerted by this comment than her girl-dating news.

Spike didn't seem so bothered. "So the bint's not really marrying The Immortal then? She's just deep undercover?"

"I wish." Not meaning to say that with quite so much emphasis, Buffy hurried on.

"Faith doesn't know about the prophecy. Or, she does, but... We've known sketchy details about the baby for a while, and when I say sketchy, I mean it. There was a theory that..." she paused for another swallow of wine. "...it might be mine and Faith's."

Spike's mouth opened; she gave him a 'shut up' look.

"We had a fling," she explained, not looking at anyone. "A couple actually. One before she met Troy, which didn't end well, and one not long after she started seeing him, which also didn't end well. We decided to just be friends after that and... it works."

She couldn't tell if anyone believed her but she wasn't really concerned with that right now. She just wanted to get to the point.

"It was just after the last fling that we learned about the baby. Giles and Willow - and Wesley for that matter - jumped to the conclusion that it was going to be our kid. Trust me; there was much freak from all sides. It turned out to wrong, but Faith doesn't know that yet."

"The prophecy states that the blood of a Slayer must run through the Son's veins." Quantiaro took up the story again. "The Immortal studied you all intensively without you knowing and I believe he had chosen you - you being the strongest candidate - but somehow he met Faith first and there was an attraction."

"Faith is very attract-y."

"But there's bloody thousands of you now. Why pick an ex-psychopath to be the sprog's mum?"

"Spike!" Angel growled.

"He has a point," Buffy said reluctantly, and then looked behind. Faith wasn't there, so she went on. "Faith's changed... scarily changed but in a good way. But she's still not exactly first choice for great parenting."

"It has to be a Slayer that has touched the Sagaris - what you call the Slayer Scythe. It was forged in Iran many thousand of years ago for the Queen of the Amazons, a Slayer herself. It was hidden in an uninhabited part of the world beneath layers of rock and sand many centuries past by Powers scared that Troy's destiny would manifest. The Universe likes its little jokes though." Quantiaro smiled thinly. "Its discovery and use in your last battle set current events in motion."

"How though?" Buffy asked.

"The population of the world was to be decimated following the First's victory. Only the Slayer wielding the Sagaris would survive the battle itself and Troy would use her to repopulate the world in his name. You see, then, to bring everyone under his religion would have been easy. But you won and changed the fate of the world that day in more ways than you ever imagined. For the prophecy lives on and can, will be, fulfilled tomorrow night, but Troy is no longer reviving humanity but sending it into untold years of torment. Not that you can tell him that," Quantiaro added dryly.

"So the same thing that saved the world is gonna ruin it," Spike said. "Sounds about right."

Buffy smiled ruefully. "Only three of us touched the Scythe during the battle. Me, Faith and Rona. Rona's been ruled out. I'm not pregnant, and Faith's engaged to Troy. Doesn't take a genius - now I'm in possession of all the facts..." she shot Quantiaro a quick glare. "...to figure out who Mommy is going to be."

"So we have to stop this," Angel said.

"Well, obviously," Spike scoffed.

"No. I mean we have to stop Faith from going through this. She's turned her life around - recent romantic decisions aside. We can't let her throw all of that away because The Immortal is getting broody."

"Agreed," Buffy said. "And I thought I'd found the perfect plan, but..."

"It is too late," Quantiaro said unhappily. "It will take more than good intentions to stop it now."

"Why? When is the equinox?"

Spike was counting silently on his fingers. "When did we leave LA?"

Angel was trying to do the same in his head. "Yesterday."

"That's what I thought. Bugger!"

"What?" she asked.

"The equinox is tomorrow night, Buffy," Angel said.

"What? No!"

"'Fraid so, luv. Same night we have to have the head back by. Not that we have the head."

"No, but it means we can't stay and help," Angel said. "We have to go back to LA in the morning."

"You do, you mean," Spike countered. "I can stay."

If he had been smiling at her it might have been a little more reassuring, but he was smiling smugly at Angel.

"Spike, with a demon war imminent I need you there."

"I thought you wanted me out of the way?"

"I do! But now isn't the best time to grant my wish."

Buffy tuned out their bickering and focused on Quantiaro.

"Tomorrow night? I have until tomorrow night! Why the hell couldn't you give me all this information before?"

"It had to come from you. It is written that you would only break the prophecy if the faith in your heart dictated it. She could only let herself love you if she truly believed you loved her, and for that to happen you had to truly believe she could love you."

"Then why didn't you just spell that out for me!"

"I am not permitted to engage in your choices. It had to be free will on your part."

"So what do I do? I have twenty-four hours, right?"

"Less than twenty-four hours now."

"Okay, so they're staying at the palace tonight, but they're gonna be... doing stuff. I won't even get in there at this time of night without Troy's say-so. Do you know of any secret passages?"

Quantiaro looked pained.

"Oh, come on! You want this stopped as much as I do. Help me!"

"I could get you in there, but are you sure you can distract Faith for the next twenty-four hours."

"She has her final dress-fitting tomorrow in Bracciano." Buffy shook her head. "I'm not keeping her from that without an atomic bomb. They're leaving first thing in the morning."

"We can get you to Bracciano tonight before we head home." Angel let her know he was back in the game.

"Yeh, we have a jet," Spike put in.

"I have a jet," Angel corrected. "Do you have somewhere you could stay until it's time to confront Faith?"

"Uh huh, I can stay with Toni's..." she faltered, not knowing if it was wise to stay with Toni's family now. She shook her head, deciding if she was getting used, why not do some using of her own. "I'm sure Toni's grandmother would be happy to see me."

Quantiaro gave a nod. "I am sure that will be fine, but stay on your guard."

"I always do... usually."

Angel and Spike both stood up, ready to leave right away, but Quantiaro had more to say.

"You can break the ritual once it has begun with no danger to Faith, but Troy will no doubt have scores of his demons standing between you. Remember, he has only to plant his seed in her and he is known for his virility. It will be much easier if you can somehow prevent the ritual from beginning. Either by distracting him for long enough or by somehow preventing her from being there."

"Okay." She hopped from her stool. "Are we ready?"

Angel and Spike nodded, both fully focused now.

"Right, let's get out of here. I need to stop by Toni's apartment first to get some underwear and then we'll head to your plane."

"Is clean underwear really of importance, Buffy?" Quantiaro asked and Buffy just knew he was thinking about giving her the 'big picture' speech again.

She cut him off before he could get started. "No, but some underwear would be nice."

Seeing both Angel's and Spike's eyes fall below her waist, she blushed and pulled the hem of her dress down hard.

"Come on!"

She turned and banged into her sister. "Dawn, good, I have to go. The prophecy is happening tomorrow night. I need you to get Andrew and..."

"Buffy!" As Dawn all but yelled her name Buffy noticed how flustered she was. She was red, she was crying and her hair was a mess.

"What happened?"

"They jumped us. Demons. Wrinkly pale guys in suits. They tried to drag us out of the club." Dawn was obviously trying to give the facts calmly, but she was anything but calm right now. "I called for Serena to help... she was standing right there, but... she helped them, Buffy. She was helping them! I only just got away but..."

She looked over her shoulder in a panic, obviously expecting them all to be coming after her.

"Okay." Buffy tried to think sensibly despite her anger. "Okay, well, you're safe now. Let's just get Andrew and..."

"Buffy, you don't understand. They took him. They dragged him away and... and I panicked and I left him. I let them take him!"

Spike stepped up, putting his arm around Dawn's shoulders. "No, you didn't. You came to get big sis, which was the right thing to do."

"They are trying to distract you," Quantiaro said. "You should not let your friend's capture stop you from doing what you must."

"Can you save Andrew?" she asked.

He held his hands up in apology. "I have already interfered too much. I do not wish to appear unhelpful but I can do no more. This always had to come from you if it was to be stopped."

"The Immortal isn't big on killing people," Angel offered. "Andrew could keep until after you've thwarted the prophecy."

"He's not got a lot against torturing them though, if I remember rightly," Spike said.

Angel's pained expression said he was just remembering that too. Dawn's big, wet eyes pleaded with her to make this right.

"Buffy," Quantiaro said. "Andrew fights on the side of right. He will understand that his suffering is for the greater good. The important thing is to prevent the conception of the Son."

Buffy rubbed her fingers over her forehead as everyone's words rushed around her. This was the last thing she needed. She'd known Andrew coming with them would prove to be a mistake. He wasn't a fighter. He wasn't good at magic. His only skill was the diabolical art of demon summoning and even that wasn't going to be any use now. All he was good for was messing everything up at the worst possible moment.

God, she hated him! She never had before. Sure he pissed her off plenty and it wasn't that long ago that he'd been trying to ruin her life in Sunnydale, but mostly she'd just tried to ignore him like she would an annoying puppy.

Now she really hated him, because that annoying puppy had picked a really sucky time to start feeling like part of the family.


Continue to Part Ten

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Part Nine Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen || Chapter Seventeen || Chapter Eighteen || Chapter Nineteen || Chapter Twenty || Chapter Twenty One || Chapter Twenty Two || Chapter Twenty Three || Chapter Twenty Four || Chapter Twenty Five || Chapter Twenty Six || Chapter Twenty Seven || Chapter Twenty Eight || Chapter Twenty Nine || Chapter Thirty || Chapter Thirty One


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