FIRST NIGHT By D. M. Evans Disclaimer - I own nothing, none of the characters, none of the songs. The characters belong to Joss, the lyrics to Sarah McLachlan and Auld Lang Syne belongs to Robert Burns. Rating - PG-13 Spoilers - None, set third season Buffy after Amends Author's Note #1- Thanks to Kreipke for the lyrics, Fallen. I do love this song. I had another challenge I'm doing and I totally forgot this was due so I sat and wrote this in under two hours. Thanks to SJ for editing it after the fact. The lyrics are at the end and I bolded the ones I used. Oh and the California Conservation Corps referenced in here is a real group. Check them out - Author's Not #2 - Thanks to everyone who's read my work and gave me feedback this past year. I truly appreciate it. Here's to a bright new year.just don't expect my New Year's Resolution to be to update my stories faster. (

"You are coming to the Bronze tonight, right?" Willow bubbled, shifting on Buffy's bed where she was sitting, getting a jump on the classes for after the holiday break.

Buffy was far more interested in putting her Christmas goodies away, especially the clothes, trying to sort over the ones that would come clean and what would hold onto those nasty blood stains. She grunted something non-committal to Willow.

"Buffy." Willow shot her a perturbed look over the edge of her chemistry book.

"Sorry, Will." She flopped down on the bed with her friend. "I'm not sure if I can make it."

Willow's face fell. "Buffy, it's New Year's Eve. The Dingoes are playing. And have I mentioned that half the night's proceeds go to a great cause."

Buffy grinned. "About every ten minutes. I think that it's great that the Dingoes are putting on a concert for save California furries."

"The California Conservation Corps," Willow corrected. "And they do more than save the cute furry creatures. They save all sorts of life. Why, the shifting sands of the Coachella Valley alone..."

"Willow!" Buffy broke in, rolling her eyes. "It's of the good and I'm all for that but it could be a busy vamp night."

"Xander could use a little moral support," Willow said, cautiously.

Buffy understood Willow's concern. It wasn't even a week since Oz agreed to give Willow another chance after catching her with Xander. Willow was going overboard to keep Oz happy. "I know. I'm just not into the Cordelia bashing, which you know, I never thought I'd be saying. But she did get impaled and all."

Willow bobbed her head, her hair swinging. "I'm okay with Cordy's wrath being justified. Still, Xander needs a little extra friendly.stuff. Okay, you know what I mean," she said and Buffy nodded, tightening her ponytail, keeping thoughts to herself about how Xander was so not supportive of her where Angel was concerned and it made it hard to be supportive of what he had done to Cordelia. "Ooo, Faith's going to be there," Willow added.

"Yeah, I figured that much, what with the hot male bodies jiggling around and a chance to score alcohol."

"So you'll come." Willow reached over and gave Buffy's hand a shake.

Buffy's eyes clouded. "I.I don't know. After the whole 'I'm going to greet the sun' drama with Angel, things have been weird. I mean, the sun getting blotted out by a freak snowstorm is one heck of a sign from above screaming, 'Hey I'm here for a purpose.' Which is obviously to brood over it until it turns you nuts." Buffy sighed. "I know, I should just give him space but what if he tries it again?" She tugged at her hair again and Willow seemed unusually sympathetic. "I know I'm obsessing but that doesn't mean we're back together or anything," she added, hastily. Buffy knew how her friends felt about her being with Angel.

"You have 'but' face," Willow observed.

Buffy collapsed back against the pillows. "I know. It's just that I don't think anyone believes me when I say that. And then there was something Spike said when he was here."

"I wouldn't listen to anything Spike says." Willow pouted, knowing the vampire was the reason she and Xander were in trouble with their significant others.

"He said Angel and I would never just be friends," Buffy barreled on as if she hadn't heard her friend. "That we could never be just friends."

"You're afraid he's right," Willow said, her pretty eyes filled with compassion for Buffy.

Buffy covered her face with her hands. "I don't know. I know how everyone feels, Willow, and they have every right to."

"Sometimes the heart doesn't care, Buffy. It's not a reasonable organ." Willow managed a smile.

Buffy sighed. "You don't have to tell me that. I mean, a Slayer and a vampire."

"Or even more unlikely, Xander and Cordelia." Willow grinned wryly. "Which I know I shouldn't joke about given that she's dumped him but still."

Buffy snorted. "No kidding. It's just.I don't know, I wish the past could be undone."

"We all feel that way sometimes Buffy but it can't be," Willow said.

"And no one knows it more than Angel. I just don't think he should be alone on a night when everyone else is out having fun and he knows he's not welcome."

"Then bring him," Willow suggested. Buffy's mouth dropped in surprise. "I know that Xander and Faith don't want him around. Cordelia won't even be looking at us and Oz.well, werewolf and all. He knows what it's like to have a killer inside. I think he'd support you, Buffy. Your life is so hard, so bleak, sometimes I don't know how you survive it. You deserve to be happy."

Buffy sat up and hugged Willow hard. "I survive because of friends like you."

"Then you'll come? I worked extra hard to find the right dress. I bet even Cordelia won't be able to find anything snarky to say," Willow said.

Buffy smiled. "I'll try to get him there. Besides, Mom is adamant I'm not in the house tonight. I think she thinks I have no fun. I half expect her to toss me out if I try to stay here and watch the festivities in Times Square."

"It'll be fun," Willow promised for the hundredth time.

Buffy could only hope she was right.

* * *

"Is everything set, Mr. Trick?" the Mayor asked, leaning back in his desk chair, surveying the assortment of blow-ticklers and noisemakers on his desk.

"Couldn't ask for better." The vampire wrinkled his nose. "The Ama.whatever."

"Amsusaung demon," the Mayor offered.

"Yeah, him, wants your tithe to be in emotions, the happier the better right?" Trick made an expansive wave of his hands.

"Nothing puts a bigger smile on his face, so to speak, than to have a gaggle of happy people to drain." Mayor Wilson spun a noisemaker, ignoring Trick's eye roll. "Of course, it will leave a lot of dead bodies to account for."

"Fire," Trick said. "The place will burn to the ground. The Bronze will be filled with happy teenagers and college kids partying like it was 1999." He grinned at his little joke then scowled seeing the pop reference was lost on the Mayor. "Besides, they're planning on doing good works, saving the spotted owl or some damn thing so there's that bonus good emotion of self- satisfaction."

"Excellent, Mr. Trick. That tithe brings me one step closer to the ascension. Happy New Year's." The Mayor blew a horn in the vampire's ear and Trick just smiled, knowing this was the price he had to pay for his lucrative position.

* * *

Buffy had pooled her Christmas money with the cash Joyce was willing to pony up to get her daughter out on Night Year's eve and she headed for the mall. There wasn't much selection left but what was there was seventy-five percent off. She got a plain, straight dress that flared at her knees in a rose silk that complimented her coloring and had money left to get a passable string of fake pearls to go with it.

She headed to Giles' place just in case he had other plans for her. She was walking on eggshells around him over the whole Angel thing. She knew he was warranted in his hatred of Angel but Giles had tried his best to help him defeat The First Evil. Buffy knew it was more because Giles knew first hand the dangers of Angelus if Angel lost the fight for his sanity and soul, but she liked to think it was because of her that he helped as well.

He was more than a Watcher. She should tell Giles that, tell him that he meant as much to her as her own father, maybe even more. He was the one there to lead me through the fire, she thought as she knocked, shifting her overnight bag and department store bags into one hand. Giles looked shocked to see her when he opened the door. Smells of cooking wafted out, making her mouth water.

"Oh, Buffy, I wasn't expecting you." Giles shoved his glasses up.

"So I can see." Buffy grinned at him. "Got a date tonight."

"As a matter of fact, yes." He ducked his head, blushing a bit.

Buffy couldn't have been more stunned if he announced he was actually from Pluto. "Anyone I know?"

"Uh, no, no I d-d-don't think so," he stammered, looking acutely uncomfortable. Buffy wondered why. "Is there something you wanted, Buffy?"

"Sounds like you want to get rid of me, too. You and Mom, I'm starting to feel unwanted," she joked, noticing his eyes widen a bit at the mention of her mom.

"It's n-n-not that."

"I'm kidding, Giles. I came by to see if you wanted me to patrol. If not." She shook her department store bags. "I'm going to the dance at the Bronze."

"Go to the Bronze. Have fun.and if vampires are out tonight, I can't imagine a more attractive meal than a club full of young kids," Giles said reasonably, going back into his kitchen to tend to the dinner.

"Thanks, Giles. Can I change in your bathroom? I'll just go from here."

"By all means," he said, distractedly, pouring a little more whiskey into a saucepan.

The phone rang while she was changing. Giles answered. "Hello? Oh, yes." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "She's here getting ready to go out with her friends. Give it a half hour.I'll see you then, Joyce."

Buffy reemerged from the bathroom twenty minutes later and pirouetted for him. "How do I look, Giles?" She caught his expression. "Why do men always get that look on their faces when we ask that question?"

"Because no man knows why you're asking it since there is only one answer we can give that won't get us in trouble. You look lovely," he assured her, his blue eyes twinkling.

Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Thanks, I think. Have a nice date, Giles," she said, heading for the door, high heels in hand, tennis shoes on her feet. "And happy New Years."

* * *

When Buffy arrived, the mansion was quiet and dark except for a solitary light in what she knew was Angel's bedroom. She entered, calling his name so he wouldn't mistake her for an intruder. She knew it was unnecessary. They always knew when the other was around. It was one of the things that made her think Spike was right. She and Angel were more than just friends and always would be.

He didn't answer her and she found him on his bed. He was sitting up, obviously waiting for her, a book that looked handmade in his lap. His eyes opened wider, seeing her in her dress. She had paused outside to change her shoes so he could see the full effect. "You look.that's a beautiful dress."

"Thanks. Last minute thing," she said, coming over to him. She sat on the edge of the bed, far enough away so not to be too much of a threat intimacy- wise. "What are you reading?" She snatched the book before he could stop her. The pages were covered with prim, hand-written poetry. He grabbed it back before she could see more of the name besides 'William.'

"Just some English poet dead a hundred years. You wouldn't have heard of him." Angel shoved the book into his nightstand. "What are you doing here, Buffy?"

"I came to see you and drag you out of here for the night." She tried to smile but felt it trembling.

He seemed somewhere between amused and annoyed. "Why?"

She gave him an exasperated look. "You know what night this is."

"First night," he said. "What? You expect me to go out partying, sing a little auld lang syne?"

Buffy recoiled from the bitterness and pain in his voice. "I thought you liked Irish stuff."

"Scottish, auld lang syne is Scottish," he corrected more gently. "Old times are not going to be forgotten where I'm concerned, Buffy, as much as I might want them to be." He propelled himself to his feet, heading out of his room.

Buffy followed him into the other room. It was cold. She wished he had built a fire in the marble fireplace to banish the chill. He probably didn't even notice it. "No, Angel, they're not and we're not having this argument again." She grabbed his hand, yanking him to a halt.

"Then maybe it's better that you don't come round here and tell me I told you so," he said bitterly, pulling free.

"Is this where you tell me what a righteous man you are again, Angel? We've been having this talk all week. You're exhausting me," she said, feeling tears already beginning to build. She should have known better. It was probably just as well for her to go away, pretend she never loved him and spare herself the agony.

He looked at her sadly, stroking her cheek. "Why can't I make you understand that I have messed up? I have sunk so low."

Buffy caught his hand, wiping away her tears with it. Angel pulled it back, putting his hand to his lips. "I understand that, Angel. We all mess up."

"You aren't the one who has left people with the bitter taste of losing everything," he argued.

"No, I was the one thinking, 'this is all my fault. I'm the one who brought the wolf to the sheep. I'm lost to those I thought were friends.' And there's nothing I can do to change it." She sniffed, getting herself back under control. "All we can do is go on and try to do better."

"If only I knew why." Angel turned from her, leaning against the mantelpiece.

Buffy put her arms around him, laying her face against his back. His shirt smelled like he hadn't changed in a few days and now that she thought about it, it did look like the shirt he had on the last time she saw him. "You may never know, Angel. Hell spat you out and some power darkened the skies so you wouldn't die. You have to just trust that there was a reason and you're the one who has to make sure it's a good one, not an evil one. Sitting around here, brooding all day and night will just depress you. Once hope is gone, what's to stop Angelus from looking like a good thing to be?"

Angel turned in her arms, looking down into her eyes. She saw he wanted to kiss her. She wanted him to so badly it made her shake. Willow was right. The heart was an unreasonable organ. Love was raw and young just like she was.

"Angel, when we just held hands in the snow and walked, it felt so good. I knew it was probably the wrong thing to do but it didn't feel wrong. The more I think about what Spike said to us, the more I think he might be right, whether or not we want him to be," she said.

Angel grinned. "Well, there's always a first time for everything."

She laughed. "It's nice to see you smiling. Come on, get cleaned up and changed and let's go to the Bronze."

He shook his head. "I don't think your friends will like that."

"Well, Xander won't but Faith will have so many hot bodies around, I doubt she'll even notice. Besides, it was Willow's idea to ask you," she told him.

Angel's eyes went wide. "Willow? Really?"

"Really. Please, I want you to come. Giles told me I have to keep the club safe. Faith and I could use a third strong body. We can just tell everyone that, we're expecting trouble and we aren't going to let it ruin the evening."

He smiled and brushed a hand over her hair lightly. "Okay, but just because we're expecting trouble," he said in way that told her he knew exactly what it was; a date.

She waited for him to wash and dress. She snuck back into his bedroom and tried to read the poems he had hidden away by William but the words were all big and old-fashioned and reminded her of the time she had to read Dickens in school so she put it back and waited for him in the living room. He came out dressed in black leather pants that made her melt and what looked like a deep blue silk shirt. It was most definitely not his usual but it made her want to skip the Bronze altogether and stay in. That, she knew, was the true danger of being around him.

"I'm going to be peeling girls off you all night," she said.

He snorted. "I doubt there's a worry."

"Trust me, there's a worry." Buffy took his hand and led the way out.

* * *

"Are you sure about this?" Angel asked, all but screaming over the Dingoes' music and the noise of the crowd.

"Getting less so," Buffy said, as someone jostled into her. She saw it was Harmony and another Cordette she could never remember the name of. They both shot her a jealous look and she wasn't sure if it was for her dress, her date or both. "Do you see Willow?" Buffy hopped up and down on her heels, too short to see over the crowd easily.

"This way." Angel caught her hand and pulled her closer to the stage. Willow had a front row table, doubtless reserved just for her and her friends. The redhead was looking out into the crowd. For a moment Buffy thought she was looking for her then saw that Willow was watching Xander dance with Faith. Buffy didn't doubt that it was a pity dance since Faith looked bored or maybe it was embarrassed. Xander did have a tendency to dance like a frog in a blender.

"Hey, Will," Buffy shouted.

Willow whirled and Buffy saw her friend was right. She had found the perfect dress. It was strapless, emerald green, which brought out her eyes and hair, dotted with a spray of pearls. "You made it. Oh, hi, Angel."

"You look gorgeous, Willow," Buffy said.

"You do," Angel added.

"Thanks. You two look good. Sit," Willow insisted, pulling out some chairs. "We've already raised over a thousand dollars."

"That's great." Buffy leaned against Angel's shoulder. "Did I mention this party is raising money for the California Conservation Corps?"

"No, that's good," he said, distractedly watching Xander and Faith approach. Both of them stopped short of the table, looking defensive.

Buffy popped up and went to Faith. "Hey guys, looking good. Faith, Giles thinks there could be trouble here tonight, a prime target and all that. He wanted us to be on alert. Angel's here to help if trouble shows up."

"Helping? Trying something different tonight?" Xander asked, his lip curling.

"Xander!" Willow snapped.

Angel held out a hand to her. "It's okay, Willow."

"Look, I'm all for back up," Faith said. "If you need me, I'll be out there." She nodded her head toward the dance floor then disappeared back into the crowd.

"Want something to drink, Buffy?" Angel asked. "Willow?"

"They have raspberry hot chocolate with whipped cream tonight," Willow said, trying extra hard to be perky.

"Sounds yummy," Buffy said.

Angel just nodded and went to get the drinks.

Willow caught Xander's hand. "I know what you're going to say, Xander so just keep it to yourself. It's a party. We're here to have fun. We all need some so just be nice."

Xander held up both hands. "No need to say what everyone already knows." He shot Buffy a meaningful look then sat down stiffly. "Have you seen Cordelia?" He nodded towards the back where Cordelia looked like a reigning queen in deep amethyst velvet.

"Guess she survived skiing in Aspen," Buffy said. "And right back on her throne as Queen C."

"And then some." Xander sighed.

Angel returned with drinks in hand. They listened to music, talked a bit about the thrill and fun of the freak snowstorm and did their best not to give in to the tension of having Angel there. Buffy felt obliged to dance with Xander at least once that night, Angel looking jealous even though he said he wasn't. She danced in groups with Willow and Faith. Once even Cordy and the Cordettes had joined in. She was beginning to think that her night was going to go just right and problem free. She headed back for the table for a breather and to collect her reluctant date. Even Faith headed for a pit stop, having snagged - as predicted - a beer from somewhere.

"You have to dance with me, Angel," Buffy insisted, trying to haul him off his seat. He was rooted like a Sequoia.

Angel cocked a head toward the stage, listening to the driving beat the Dingoes were offering up. "I don't think so."

Buffy pouted. "Why not?"

"I don't dance."

"We've danced before," she argued.

"Slow danced. I can do that.sort of. I don't fast dance," he said, strongly. "Ever."

"Oh, come on. What's the worst that can happen?" Buffy asked and Angel's eyes went thoughtful then turned quickly to dread.

"Even Xander's out there," Faith said.

"Hey, what does that mean?" Xander huffed, shooting her a hurt look.

"Xander dances better than me," Angel admitted, looking embarrassed.

"What?" Buffy, Faith and Willow chorused.

"And what does that mean?" Xander asked, turning red around the ears.

"It means that no one wants to see you shaking your booty," Cordelia said, sailing past their table. Her eyes flashed to his backside. "And that's a whole lot of booty to shake."

"You liked it well enough when I was in that Speed-o," Xander zinged back.

Angel leaned in close to Buffy and whispered, "There's an image I didn't need."

She slapped him playfully. "You're sure you don't dance?"

"Don't dance, don't sing. My talents lie elsewhere," he assured her.

Buffy settled back with a disappointed huff. The Dingoes only played a few more songs before taking a break. While Devon worked the room, Oz came and sat with the group. Willow gave him a quick kiss.

"You guys are rocking," she told him.

"Thanks."

"Has to suck," Faith said, "working while everyone else is having fun. B and I know a little about that."

Oz just shrugged. "Could be worse."

"Hey, there's something wrong with some people in the alley!" someone screamed.

"Speak of the devil," Buffy said, getting up. She and Faith hustled for the side door. Their friends went with them along with a few other curious souls.

"Is that a couple of mannequins?" one on-looker was asking.

Buffy pushed past him and saw a couple lying on trash bags. Their skin had been shriveled like a mummy's. She touched one and it crumpled into dust. The air was ripe with the smell of raspberries. "This looks familiar."

"I know this," Angel said.

"Incan Mummy Girl?" Xander asked.

"What?" Angel looked at him. "No, Amsusaung demon. The scent is a dead giveaway."

"How do we kick its ass?" Faith asked.

"It's an emotion eater. It likes good, happy emotions, unlike the Thesulac demon," Angel said. "A party like this is like a banquet. It'll leave a hundred corpses, drained dry, mummified."

"That doesn't tell us how to kill it," Buffy observed. "I can't call Giles. He has a date. I mean, think of what I might interrupt."

They all shuddered as Xander said, "A date? You're kidding."

Buffy held up her hands as if to banish the mental images. "I wish."

"You can't kill it, not in its current form. It's a wraith. We need to make it solidify then you Faith and I can pull it apart. It hates sad emotions so we have to sour the milk." Angel clamped a hand on Oz's shoulder. "Oz, we need to bring the party down. Get your band together and play the saddest stuff you know. Willow, Xander, see if you can convince the management to change the TV's from the festival telecasts to the news, any news, that's depressing enough for anyone. Buffy, you and Faith be ready to attack as soon as it takes form."

"What are you going to do?" Buffy asked.

Angel's lips pulled into a grim line. "I keep it busy until then. It can't kill me."

They all raced back in to do their respective tasks. Angel pointed to the ceiling where a bluish ghost-like thing danced in and out of the lights, dipping down into the crowd and back up again.

"It's just sampling. As soon as it goes into full eating mode, people are going to die," Angel said darkly.

"Do your thing then," Faith said.

As the Dingoes started up singing, Zero by the Smashing Pumpkins, Angel leapt to the second floor, managing to get in the path of the Amsusaung demon. It pulled up short, its face more or less a mass of blue fog. Still, Angel could tell it was perturbed. It swiped at him and Angel felt the chill of its touch. It recoiled from him and he followed it.

"Come on. Have another taste," he taunted. "What's it like nibbling on the world's saddest man?"

He could have sworn the thing said 'rancid,' as it flitted away. He followed it, moving fast, all but clinging to the walls and support struts as he kept pace. Every time the Amsusaung demon swooped down on someone, he bounced into the way. People were yelling at him. Others seemed to think the demon was a special effect the band was putting on while others were shouting at the Dingoes to quit with the funeral music as they drifted into another mournful tune.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Buffy following him. Faith was across the room, keeping the demon in sight. It was beginning to go darker blue, becoming corporeal. Angel jumped it and almost had something to hang on to. It howled, slipping from his grip, enveloped in his dark emotions. It hit ground completely solid.

Faith was closer, swarming over it. The Amsusaung demon swatted her across the room. Buffy tried not to laugh as she landed on the Cordettes' table, dousing them with a potpourri of drinks. Buffy executed a spin kick, catching the thing in its newly formed jaw. It lashed out and she felt like years had been drained away from her in an instant.

Angel dragged it away from her, bending it back in a bow. She and Faith, now wet and furious, gut kicked it at the same time. The sound of its spine snapping was audible even over the Dingoes. The Amsusaung demon slithered out of Angel's hands and turned into a puddle that resembled nothing more than thick raspberry snow cone syrup. Angel's hands were streaked with it.

"Eewww," Buffy said, giving the thumbs up to Oz.

He said something to Devon who in turn said into the microphone, "And now to kick it up a notch, something new, a Dingoes original."

The music took an upbeat turn as Willow and Xander filtered through the crowd. Everyone stared at the blue puddle.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, demons are pretty much gross," Xander said.

"No argument," Buffy said. "Angel, go wash your hands."

"Hey you!" Harmony shrilled, grabbing Faith's arm. "You owe me a new dress. Just look at what you did to this one!"

"Whatever." Faith turned her back to the girl. "That was fun."

"You have a strange sense of fun," Willow said as Harmony fumed at being ignored.

"This isn't over," Harmony said, stomping away. "Cordy!"

Faith watched her go. "Which one is her boyfriend again?"

"I don't think anyone's foolish enough to admit to it," Xander said.

"She has her eye on Mark Cotter," Buffy said.

Faith's lips peeled back in a wicked grin. "Who?"

Buffy and Willow pointed him out and Faith made a beeline for him.

"Maybe someone should clean this up," Willow said, looking back at the puddle.

"I'll tell management there's a spill," Xander said, cutting through the crowd.

"Another disaster narrowly averted," Willow said.

Buffy bobbed her head. "I'm glad I took your advice and invited Angel."

Willow nodded frantically. "Otherwise we all might be dead."

"I think I'll wait until tomorrow to call Giles about this."

"Still worried about what you might interrupt?" Willow smiled.

Wide-eyed, Buffy replied, "Oh yeah."

A staff member came out with a mop and Buffy and Willow went back to their table. Angel, freshly washed, and Xander were both already there but luckily both men were absorbed in watching Faith make short work of any loyalty Mark Cotter might have to Harmony.

"We should get Faith back over here. It's almost time for our complimentary champale," Willow said, opening the bag that was on the table. She started handing out party hats, blow-ticklers, horns and noisemakers.

Xander donned a gold crown and grabbed two blow-ticklers. "I'll fetch her."

"I'm not wearing a silly paper hat," Angel said.

Buffy picked up a purple glittery top hat and placed it on his head. She snapped him with the elastic band. "Oh yes you are and at least you can't see how stupid you look in it." She kissed him quickly, taking him by surprise.

"I see." Angel picked up a rainbow colored cone hat with matching tassels and put it on her head. "Perfect."

"He picked the gaudiest one in the bunch." Buffy sighed.

"Yep." Willow grinned, putting on a blue one with silver stars.

To their surprise, Xander was successful in rounding up Faith. Devon came out to the apron of the stage. "Quiet everyone. Quiet!" he demanded then pointed to the clocks. "Everyone ready?" he asked as Oz helped Willow onto the stage.

"Ten!" Devon shouted.

"Nine," the crowd roared back.

By six, Faith was giving Xander and Angel kisses. By three, Buffy had the champale poured.

"Two! One! Happy New Years!"

The Bronze echoed with the happy sounds of the crowd. Confetti fell like snow from the rafters. Buffy grabbed Angel in a tight hug.

"Happy New Year's," she whispered.

Angel kissed her, deep and long, unheeding of who might be watching and be angry with her. Buffy melted into him. They broke the kiss as Auld Lang Syne kicked off, the Dingoes doing a passable version of it.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot...."

"I should be so lucky," he said softly.

"Someday you'll be remembered for the good you've done. If not for you tonight, all these people would be dead. There's good in this world yet for you to do," she assured him.

"And I'm glad I have someone like you to keep reminding me of that." Angel wrapped her up in his strong arms.

Buffy cuddled against him, kissing him, drinking him in. She knew she was choosing a hard path but she didn't care. It simply felt right. Confetti hit her on the nose and she laughed then reached up and pushed his purple top hat to a more jaunty angle. Life was hard. It was the people in it that made it worthwhile. She'd worry about the troubles she'd face tomorrow. Tonight it was confetti and champale, friends and warmth. And damn it, she was going to get at least one dance out of Angel tonight if it was the last thing she did. Fallen Sarah McLachlan Heaven bent to take my hand

And lead me through the fire

Be the long awaited answer

To a long and painful fight

Truth be told I've tried my best

But somewhere along the way

I got caught up in all there was to offer

And the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried, I've fallen...

I have sunk so low

I have messed up

Better I should know

So don't come round here

And tell me I told you so...

We all begin with good intent

Love was raw and young

We believed that we could change ourselves

THe past could be undone

But we carry on our backs the burden

Time always reveals

The lonely light of morning

The wound that would not heal

It's the bitter taste of losing everything

That I have held so dear.

I've fallen...

I have sunk so low

I have messed up

Better I should know

So don't come round here

And tell me I told you so...

Heaven bent to take my hand

Nowhere left to turn

I'm lost to those I thought were friends

To everyone I know

Oh they turned their heads embarassed

Pretend that they don't see

But it's one missed step

You'll slip before you know it

And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

Though I've tried, I've fallen...

I have sunk so low

I have messed up

Better I should know

So don't come round here

And tell me I told you so...