Author's Note - I know that this chapter and several others were posted here previously. When I went back to look at it today I found it had been stripped back to Chapter One for some unknown reason so I'm going to have to repost about eight chapters over the next few weeks.

Chapter Two - Fools in Love

"Are you going to be meeting.you know," Willow said, shooting Xander a nervous look.

The dark-haired young man frowned over his vanilla coke at her, letting her know the rotten band stinking up The Bronze hadn't drowned out her words. Xander hated Angel and understandably so. Angelus had turned Cordelia. Buffy didn't know how to make it better. She loved Angel. She couldn't stop loving him. She tried when he was Angelus but failed. Xander wasn't able to understand that. She didn't either but there it was eating into their friendship like a cancer. He seemed to have decided the best way of dealing with it was to not address it at all. That worked for her, too. She only had Willow and Xander in her life. She didn't want to lose another friend. Angel for his part understood and kept his distance from the younger man.

"No, I'm taking a patrol break. Let Faith do it," Buffy said, thinking again these two were the only people in her life that meant anything to her outside of Angel and her mom, of course. But Joyce was burying herself in work and pretending she had a normal daughter. She knew Buffy was the Slayer, but it hadn't really sunk in despite a summer of trying to heal deep wounds. Buffy hadn't helped by being horribly mopey because of Cordelia's and Kendra's deaths, the widening rift between her and Wesley and most painful of all, Angel fleeing Sunnydale after he had been restored. He said he was going away with the statue of Acathla taking it somewhere where it couldn't be used again but Buffy knew he was avoiding her, ashamed of having become Angelus again.

"Did you hear what Faith said to Ms. Calendar?" Willow asked, her eyes so large they swallowed her face.

Buffy shook her head, not really wanting to know. She knew it would only embarrass her next time she saw Jenny. "What now?"

Willow hedged for a moment then said, "Told her to stop helping you because she's not your Watcher."

"Only not so nicely," Xander said bitterly, wagging his head. Sorrow gleamed in his deep brown eyes. He had had a one-night stand with Faith, which led to Cordelia leaving him. He resented Faith ever since because she purposely told Cordy about it just for kicks.

Buffy's lips pulled into a grim line. She was rapidly growing to like and respect Jenny. She trusted her. As far as Buffy was concerned Jenny had far more practical knowledge than her Watcher could dream of. And Jenny wasn't afraid to get down and dirty. She proved that more than once when all Wesley did was issue commands and nearly faint a time or two.

Buffy had been dubious when Willow had stumbled across Jenny's website while researching what had happened to Angel to cost him his soul. Willow and Jenny started corresponding and they learned that Jenny had been sent to America because her Romany tribe's wise woman has seen the curse weakening. But Jenny had arrived too late to stop Angel from losing his soul. The Romany had thought Angel still resided in Los Angeles. They hadn't known he'd followed Buffy to Sunnydale. Jenny had been in the big city looking for him when he reverted to Angelus. She had managed to remain hidden from him up in L.A and together with Willow, she had restored him. Jenny moved to Sunnydale, mostly to tutor Willow whom she felt was on her way to becoming a powerful witch and secondarily to keep an eye on Angel for her people.

"What are you going to do about her?" Xander asked, nearly ending up face down on the table as the throng dancing to the beat surged too close to the table.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. I wish I did. I guess I'll have to be sneakier. Use you two more as go-betweens. I." She hesitated, wondering if she should even voice her thoughts. "She could be my Watcher. I wish it were that simple. I wish I could call the Watchers' Council and ask for another Watcher."

"Based on what though? I mean, isn't Wesley doing what a Watcher's supposed to do. Just because he's mean and stiff doesn't make him evil," Willow said. Her eyes welled up thinking on some of what Wesley had done, half convincing herself he was evil instead of just a petty jerk. "And I can't believe I'm defending him after what he did to my Oz."

Buffy patted her hand. "I know. He really hasn't.I don't know, done anything terrible from a Watcher's point of view. But from a human one, he's not even qualified for that term. If he did, he wouldn't have forced me after the Master like that, or try to have Faith kill Oz or try to prevent me from saving Angel. He would have done more about Acathla. Angel had to destroy it after you saved him, Will. A Watcher's supposed to do more than just tell me about stuff. He's supposed to guide me and train me and Wesley can't do either." Buffy bitterly thought back on Merrick again. If only he hadn't died.

"He may have a point about the Angel thing," Xander said, his voice quiet and his dark eyes accusatory.

"Xander!" Willow snapped, kicking him under the table.

Buffy shook her head tiredly. "Leave it be, Will. I just wish I knew what to do." She ran her hands over her face. Xander had a right to be angry but it still hurt that he wouldn't let her up. She couldn't take the constant grinding into the ground he was subjecting her to. "Wesley keeps talking about me being sent to England for rehabilitation as if I've done something horribly wrong." "Can he do that? I mean, won't your mother have something to say about that?" Willow asked, her eyes wide and horrified.

"He'll make it look like I ran away." Buffy's agate eyes hazed with tears. She took a deep breath. "After all I've done lately it's possible I could run off. At least as far as Mom's concerned."

"I have an idea. Could you maybe suggest two Slayers are too many for Wesley to watch and could they send you another one since he works best with Faith?" Xander asked, trying to ease back on his anger. He knew Buffy was in a tough spot. He wanted to be able to help her. But Angel has cost him a girl he had come to care about and he had never trusted the vampire in the first place. The nagging feeling, if everyone had just listened to him then Cordelia and Harmony would still be alive, crept over Xander. Angelus wouldn't have tortured Wesley and the Watcher wouldn't be treating Buffy like garbage.

"You know, that's a great idea," Buffy said, her whole demeanor brightening.

"It is?" Xander asked, shocked. "Hey, yeah it is."

"But how do I call the Watchers?" Buffy slurped at the last of her soda nosily, frowned at the empty glass and stabbed at the ice with her straw trying to find more liquid. "I can't exactly ask Wesley for their phone number."

"I'll see what I can find on the net," Willow said, cheerily. "Xander, could you maybe get Buffy and I another drink?"

"I'm yours to command," Xander said, sliding off his chair and made an elaborate bow before wading through the crowd.

Buffy leaned closer to Willow. "How's it going with Xander?"

Willow's pale face took on a sad cast. "Not so good. He's blaming himself for Cordy still. It's hard on him."

"I know. I wish.there's nothing Angel and I can do to fix that. It can't be undone, no matter how much Angel wishes it could be. And do I never see Angel again to make Xander feel better? I'm not sure I'd survive that." Buffy couldn't keep her misery inside. "And I'm not sure it would make him feel better."

"He just needs time.I hope." Willow moped even more. "We've been friends for so long, Buffy, and I've never seen him like this. I was just getting ready to tell him how I feel about him then Cordelia died. I never thought I could feel like this again after Oz but I've always." She glanced through the crowd, trying to find Xander. "I think I've always sort of loved Xander and then this happened."

Buffy took a deep breath, still feeling like crying. "Time."

"Yeah. So, are you going to try to see Angel?" Willow asked again since Xander was out of earshot.

"Not tonight. He's doing recon on Spike and his harem." Buffy frowned at the thought. She had yet to locate Spike's new lair. Wesley insisted she wasn't trying hard enough. Maybe it was true. Buffy felt like still owed Spike for helping her stop Angel from raising Acathla. Thank God Jenny's spell had worked before Angelus figured out how to raise the demon. But Spike hadn't kept his promise to leave with Dru. He had settled in somewhere with Dru and took in Cordelia and Harmony. Still, he was so busy with his girls that he hadn't been causing her any trouble. His continued presence just infuriated Wesley. She glanced back up at Willow, looking for comfort. "Angel shouldn't be doing my job."

"He's a vampire, Buffy. He can handle himself. Besides he made Dru and trained Spike. He knows them and how they think," Willow said then frowned at that thought. It made both girls unhappy.

Buffy didn't reply, seeing Xander returning with their drinks. "Thanks."

"You should get out there and dance, Buffy," Xander said and they knew he meant 'find someone and forget Angel.'

"I think I'll pass. I should just finish this coke and go. Mom has probably forgotten she has a daughter," Buffy said, forcing brightness into her voice. "Why don't you and Will dance?"

Xander hesitated, ready to say no then glanced at Willow's hopeful face. A smile touched his lips for the first time in weeks. "Sure."

Buffy watched them head off, wishing for a simple dance to lead to something more. She thought they were cute together. More importantly they were friends first. She'd willingly admit that her dating instincts were lousy. Case in point, Pike, Ford and Angel. A simple dance wasn't going to fix everything but it was a start. Now if only her problems with Wesley could be so easily corrected.

* * *

"Not bad," Concetta said, roaming around the magic shop.

"We're setting up shop?" Ethan asked, looking at a display of silver jewelry for New Age posers.

"Why not? The owner of this place got killed. Mayor Wilkins' men said the shop does a decent legit business and it makes a thumping good cover for us while we help him consolidate his power base," Giles replied, looking at a collection of wands that looked good but were useless except one, a battered piece of carved ebony. Power hummed in it.

"This is bullocks." Ethan jerked a thumb at the jewelry.

"Probably the bread and butter," Concetta said, taking out a tablet. She started an inventory of the herbs in the jars behind the counter.

"Exactly. The shite keeps this place afloat according to the books Wilkins sent me. The Wiccan jewelry, the bullocks magic books, the New Age bumper stickers, tarot decks, gemstones and candles all pay the rent. But there are real books of magic here, real spell components and real mages who come here to shop," Giles said, moving on to examine the rack of relaxation and Native American cds in one corner.

"Sounds like an excellent cover to me," Ethan said. "I'll run over to the mayor's office. You guys get settled in here."

"Will do," Concetta said, not looking up from her stocktaking.

Giles watched him go. "Not sure I like this thing with Wilkins," he said, voicing his concerns about this not for the first time.

"You've never been afraid of a little double-cross before. We buddy up to Wilkins and steal whatever power he's amassing," Concetta said, setting aside her tablet.

Giles frowned. "I just wish we knew more about the power the mayor is gathering before we try to steal it. I don't think Ethan has accounted for everything."

Concetta grinned. "Don't trust him not to double-cross you?"

Giles was more inclined to believe she was likely to be a double-crosser rather than Ethan. His friend could be a total bastard though. "It's not that. It's just we are on a Hellmouth. You can never have too much information about that. Such as the Slayer being in town."

"Which means there's a Watcher who could cause you problems," Concetta said, walking over to him, digging in her purse.

"The Watchers haven't stopped looking for me and Ethan." Bitterness tinged his voice. All he had ever wanted was to have his father's approval and to chose his own path. He ended up with his father's hatred, the Watchers' wrath and the certainty he was going to hell in style.

"You need to relax, Ripper. I have just the thing." The witch waved a studded leather belt that she had fished out of her purse.

Giles looked at the door Ethan had just left by.

"Come on, Ripper. He won't be back for hours." Concetta licked his neck then put the belt around it. This wasn't the first time they had privately cuckolded Ethan and most likely wouldn't be the last. Ethan really wouldn't care much. They practiced sex magic as a threesome, after all. "There's a back room, a lot more clandestine."

Giles let her lead him back there and undress him.

"More relaxed, Ripper?" she asked, as they lay together after the love making

He laughed hoarsely. "Much."

"Good. I need to go email someone." Concetta picked herself up off the floor and dressed.

"That technopagan you've been corresponding with? She's a local, right?" He stretched as he got up.

"European but she's recently moved to Sunnydale. I think Jenny Calendar would like a coupon for our grand opening." Concetta smirked. "You can't have too many contacts in a town like this."

"Not to mention mages sympathetic to your cause." Giles didn't bother to dress. He fished his fags out of his discarded pants, lit up and watched Concetta from the doorway. Maybe they'd have time for another round before Ethan returned.