Author: Dark Star
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me, everything is the property of creator Joss Whedon
TIMELINE: Buffy’s Season 4
Willow Rosenberg looked up from her book and stared critically at her friend.
“You look awfully tired, Buffy.”
“Yeah,” Buffy Summers agreed, joining her friend on the bed. “I hope I sleep better tonight, it’s been three days since I started having those dreams.”
“I thought you’d have slept well, what with me staying with Oz for a bit. Hope I don’t disturb you tonight.”
“No, I like company. When does Oz get back, anyway?”
“His gig’s tonight, so I expect he’ll be back tomorrow.”
* * *
Willow opened her eyes; it was still dark. She could hear Buffy moaning from the other bed. It wasn’t unusual for Buffy to have dreams, and often they were prophetic, vivid or frightening.
A shadow moved close to her and Willow was instantly awake. Someone was in the room with them!
She looked over at Buffy and saw a dark shape standing over her.
“Hey!” Willow cried, scrambling out of bed. She could see that the dark figure was touching Buffy’s face, and she grabbed the hands to try and pull them away.
The figure turned to face her and suddenly she was very afraid. It wasn’t a man’s face looking back at her but some kind of demon.
The creature raised its arm and hurled Willow across the room. She staggered to her feet, the demon was still touching Buffy, and so she leapt on the demon’s back and tried to pull it away.
“Buffy,” she cried “Wake up! Buffy!”
The demon tossed Willow over its shoulder, with complete ease. She landed heavily against the washbasin.
Willow pulled herself up and turned back to the bed, the demon had gone.
“Buffy,” Willow stumbled over to her friend. “Are you all right?”
Buffy’s eyes opened, but she looked groggy and unfocussed.
Willow’s words all tumbled out in a rush as she tried excitedly to explain what had happened. Buffy blinked from the tirade and shook her head to try and clear it.
“I think I need to speak to Giles.”
Giles looked back at Buffy, concern clearly marked on his face.
“Did Willow get a good look at this demon?”
“Not really, it was dark. She’s going to try and do a sketch later, but she didn’t get much of a look.
“I’ll see what I can find out,” Giles said thoughtfully. “In the meantime we have to think about your safety,”
“How can I fight something when I’m asleep, Giles? What does it want?”
“I’m guessing that it’s after your dreams. That’s where I’m going to start looking. However, I don’t think you should be alone at night. I’ve spoken to Xander, and he’s agreed to let you stay at the basement.”
“Oh, good,” said Buffy uncertainly.
“And he promises to behave himself,” Giles added.
* * *
Five nights later
The stay at the basement hadn’t helped. The demon had still found her, still managed to get to her in spite of Xander’s best efforts. She had tried staying with Giles, and Willow had even tried a Protection Spell. But every time the demon got through.
By now, Buffy was a wreck. She hadn’t slept for over a week. She looked like death and felt guilty for not being able to protect herself.
Buffy arrived at Giles’s apartment and was perturbed to see him looking so grave.
“Buffy, we can’t protect you,” he said bluntly. “You’re getting weaker and we don’t have the physical strength to help you. A weak Slayer can’t do her job.” He paused, wondering how she would react to his next words. “I really don’t like doing this, but I- well, I called Angel.”
“Without asking me first?” she cried angrily. “Great. I can’t protect myself, I can’t protect my friends or do my job. And now you’ve put him in danger as well,”
Giles was completely stunned as she angrily grabbed her backpack and slammed the door after her. He watched her go, deeply troubled.
* * *
The graveyard was quiet. Buffy’s patrol had taken out three vampires, but it had been hard. She felt awful, and was beginning to wonder how much longer she’d be able to do her job properly. She began to get the feeling she was being watched. She didn’t think she was in danger… but?
Scanning the area, she sensed rather than saw the dark shape in the shadows. She couldn’t see the face, but she didn’t really need to.
“Buffy.” He stepped toward her. “How are you?”
“I’ve been better,” she replied, moving closer to him.
Angel was shocked at how ill she looked. Giles had warned him that she wasn’t herself, but he hadn’t expected this. She was exhausted; her movements were stiff and sluggish and it had taken her much longer than usual to sense him.
“Have you checked in with Giles?”
“Yes, he said you were out here.”
“Thought I needed a backup, huh?” she grinned at him.
“Something like that,” he smiled back.
Buffy had an overwhelming urge to go to him, take comfort from him. Instead, she turned abruptly and resumed her patrol. Angel fell in beside her. He didn’t need to ask the route, they’d spent too many hours together, searching Sunnydale’s darkest corners.
“Have you got somewhere to stay?” she asked him.
“I went back to the mansion,” he shrugged. “I didn’t know if it was still empty.”
“No-one wants to live there,” Buffy confirmed. She didn’t add that most people found the place dark and depressing.
“Have you-“ Buffy began, but was interrupted by a vampire leaping at her from the shadows. She half turned, but was too slow and the vampire knocked her to the ground. Angel stepped forward, his stake finding the vampires heart in one smooth movement.
Rather embarrassed by the ease at which she’d gone down, Buffy said, “Uh, I think I’ve had enough patrolling for one night. Let’s finish up here and then you can do the babysitting bit.”
* * *
Buffy was standing in the living room of the mansion, staring at the roaring fire. She could hear Angel in the kitchen, and she felt rather nervous, alone in the large room with her memories. So many memories of this place; she had hoped she would never have to come back here.
Her eyes surveyed the room and were caught by the chains on the wall, where she’d had to restrain Angel when he went mad, and she hadn’t known if he was going to get better. That couch, where she’d crashed after many nights killing monsters and demons. And – she couldn’t avoid looking at it any longer – that place in front of the fire, her last memory of this place. Where she had made Angel feed from her; it had saved his life, but nearly cost her own.
In spite of herself, she shivered.
“Cold?” Came a quiet voice behind her.
“A little,” she lied, and allowed Angel to move her closer to the fire, where she accepted his coffee gratefully.
They talked for a while before moving on to the bedroom. Buffy curled up on top of the covers and went rapidly to sleep.
Angel stood at the side of the bed, looking down at her. Not for the first time he wondered if he’d been right to leave her. He could see the enticing curve of her neck and felt the brief pull of his darker instincts. He sighed. It was going to be a long night.
* * *
Angel became aware of a change in the atmosphere before the demon materialised and started toward the sleeping girl.
“Don’t do that,” he snapped, yanking the creature away from her.
The demon whirled on him but Angel was faster and kicked him away from Buffy.
The creature started toward her again, but Angel, determined not to let it touch her, jumped into its path. The demon hissed at Angel and shoved him out of the way. It carried on toward the bed, but stopped and turned when it heard a low growl.
Angel now in vampire form, and not very happy – grabbed the demon by the shoulders and pushed it against the wall.
“Stay away from her,” he growled.
“The Slayer is mine.” The demon hissed back.
“Wrong, Pal! She’s mine.”
The demon stared at him, clearly confused. It was frightened, too. Angel could smell it. When he finally let the creature go, it hesitated, torn between its desire for Buffy and its fear of Angel. Then it simply faded away.
Angel waited for his features to return to normal before he went back to Buffy. He hoped she hadn’t heard him say that she was his. She wasn’t, not any more.
Buffy stirred, and opened her eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked, sleepily.
“It’s all right, Buffy,” Angel assured her, sitting down on the bed next to her. “The creature’s gone. Go back to sleep.”
She smiled at him, calmed by his voice. Then she curled up against his chest and went back to sleep.
He hesitated for only a moment before putting a protective arm round her.
* * *
Buffy arrived at Giles’s apartment the following evening to find Giles and Willow drawing mystical symbols on the floor. Xander sat in the corner, trying to keep out of the way.
“Hi, guys,” Buffy said, brightly. “What’s up?”
Giles looked up from his chalking and was pleased to see her looking like her old self again. Not for the first time he was amazed by a Slayer’s extraordinary powers of recovery.
“Following your encounter last night, I’ve had some success in tracing your adversary. “Giles informed her. “It’s a Zecca Demon. They don’t prey on dreams as we thought, they prey on Slayers.”
“Why?” asked Buffy, perching herself on the edge of the table.
“To make them weak,” Giles replied. “My research has uncovered at least three Slayers who have been affected like this. There may be more, but I no longer have access to the Watcher’s Files.”
“Okay,” said Buffy thoughtfully. “So why do they want me out of the way?”
“Vampires.” Giles replied. “In every case we’ve come uncovered, there’s a vampire nest close by. As far as we can ascertain, they hire the Zecca to take care of their local problem.”
“Me.” Said Buffy with satisfaction. “So now we have to find the nest?”
“Yes,” Giles agreed. “But I’ve already spoken to Angel about that and he’s gone to get information from Willy.”
“Poor Willy,” Willow muttered with sympathy.
“Quite,” agreed Giles with some feeling. “In the meantime, Willow and I are working on a spell to send the Zecca back home. They shouldn’t give you any more problems.”
“Well, look here!” Xander piped up. “Dead Boys' back.”
“Xander,” Angel replied, mildly.
“Did Willy have anything?” Buffy asked him.
“Yes. There’s been some vampire activity down by the beach. He thinks there’s a nest down there.”
“Then that’s our cue, “said Buffy. “Shall we have a look?”
“Let’s go,” he replied.
* * *
They found the vampire nest without much trouble. It was located in a large underground cavern. Buffy and Angel squeezed themselves onto a narrow ledge to get a better look at it.
“Giles’s magic should take care of the demons.” Buffy whispered. “Think we can take the vamps?”
“Maybe. But it’s a big nest.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “More weapons would be-“
Buffy’s words were cut off as the ledge she was on suddenly crumbled away and she disappeared from sight.
Angel made a frantic grab for her but even his great speed wasn’t enough and he just missed her. Cursing softly, he jumped down after her.
She lay on the floor. Angel didn’t think she was hurt, probably just winded, but he positioned himself between her and the approaching vampires.
“Buffy?” he called back over his shoulder.
“I’m OK.” She croaked back, but her words were drowned by a squeal as Angel dusted his first vampire. He ducked as a second vampire lunged at him, but his stake found the target and he twisted away to avoid the explosion of dust. He heard another explosion behind him. Good – it meant that Buffy was up. Several vampires jumped on him at once and he went down. Buffy saw what happened and went to help
“Angel?” she called, trying not to panic; she couldn’t see him. She’d killed three vampires when she heard him growl. It always unnerved her a little, but tapping into his dark side gave him greater strength and power. They were going to need it.
* * *
Giles led Xander and Willow through the underground tunnels towards the vampires nest. His spell against the Zecca had been successful, but he had become worried when Buffy had failed to return.
The tunnels opened out into a large cavern. They could hear fighting ahead of them, but that was good; it meant someone was still alive.
“Wow,” exclaimed Xander on seeing the cavern. Dozens of vampires swarmed to one place, and the screams of dusted vampires were repeated, over and over.
Horrified, Giles could see Buffy and Angel at the centre of the group, fighting together. But they were hopelessly outnumbered.
“Xander, come with me. We’ll try and clear a path to get them out. Willow, you’d better stay up here, it’ll be safer. Pick them off with the crossbow.”
“And I’ve got holy water,” she said brightly. “I could throw some of that down there.”
“Yes, but be careful.” Giles cautioned as he and Xander headed into the madness.
“Buffy,” Giles yelled above the din, “This way!”
Unfortunately it also drew attention to him from the vampires, some of whom were after easier prey.
Buffy and Angel began to edge their way back toward Giles and Xander. It was slow going and they were tiring, having fought for so long.
Angel glanced up at the balcony, saw Willow sprinkling her holy water, and heard her victims scream as the liquid burnt their skin. He hoped she would remember to stop sprinkling when he reached that spot, when he saw a movement and a vampire hurled himself at her.
“Buffy,” he yelled, knowing he was too far away. She looked up, eyes wide with horror. Renewed with a sudden energy she staked the vampire she was with, somersaulted to a clear space and vaulted onto the balcony.
Willow was only just holding the vampire away, her protective cross knocked to the ground. One bound and Buffy impaled the vampire on a wooden stake; he exploded into nothingness.
By now, Xander and Giles had worked their way back up to the balcony, Angel bringing up the rear.
Giles snatched up the flamethrower he’d left behind on the balcony with Willow.
“No, I’ll do that,” Angel told him. “You get Willow and Xander out.” He turned to Buffy, not wanting her to see what he was about to do. “You go too, I can manage.”
“I’m not leaving you,” she told him firmly, as she turned to usher her friends out.
Angel knew it was pointless arguing with her, so he raised his flamethrower, his expression grim.
* * *
Buffy and Angel walked slowly through the College grounds, both dreading the moment that was soon to come.
Finally, they stopped walking and turned to face each other.
“Buffy,” Angel said, quietly. “I have to go.”
“Couldn’t you stop for coffee or…something?” she asked lamely.
“I can’t. I have to get back to LA before sunrise.”
Buffy looked up into Angel’s dark eyes, willing him to kiss her. She saw the indecision there, knew what he wanted.
Finally he stepped back, his eyes still locked to hers. Then, without a word, he turned and walked away into the darkness.
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