Summary: The Immortal makes a suggestion to Buffy--with drastic consequences.

Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their owners/creators. . .I'm just borrowing them for a spell. . .

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Fifth season Angel, just after the events in "The Girl In Question." (spoilers!)

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesqhotmail.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

DEAL BREAKER

Buffy looked across the drawing room at her lover, and directed a glare at him that would have sent battle-hardened vampires running for their lives. The Immortal raised an eyebrow at her and waited for the storm to pass. After a few moments, the Slayer sighed in irritation and spoke in a soft, dangerous voice: "Please tell me that you did not just suggest that."

The Immortal smirked at her, then shrugged. "Buffy--I have lived a long life, and have discovered that many things can be enjoyable. Is it so wrong that I would want to share one of those things with you? You are a woman of intense passions--I seek to stoke those fires until they threaten to rage out of control."

Buffy shivered. This guy makes Dracula look like an amateur She shook her head inwardly and wondered how she had ended up with yet another man with a ridiculously long lifespan. I need to have Willow cast a spell on me, so that all these guys actually -look- hundreds of years old. I may have issues, but even I wouldn't go out with someone who looked like that Professor guy on Farscape, would I? She shuddered. No, I really -don't- want to know the answer to that question. She looked over at The Immortal and muttered, "I don't like sharing--I've had bad experiences with people trying to steal my boyfriends." Just because I've forgiven Faith doesn't mean I've forgotten.

"Ah yes, your relationship with Angelus." Buffy bristled, and The Immortal smoothly amended his comment. "Of course--you think of him as Angel. Very sensible--it keeps you from dwelling on the unpleasant things he did without a soul. In any event, Buffy--I told you when we began this that I would suggest things to you, and that it was up to you whether to explore them. I wish to give you the benefit of my experience. The choice, of course, is yours."

Buffy scowled, but was intrigued at the expression on the man's face. What is he thinking about--what is he imagining doing to me and the other woman he's suggesting we have join us in bed? The Immortal's expression was the perfect poker face, revealing nothing. She felt a tingle of curiosity, and smiled at him as she commented, "I suppose I should thank you--Angel and Spike needed to be taken down a peg, the way they were fighting over me as if I was some sort of prize."

The Immortal walked forward and gently took her hand, kissing it softly as he murmured, "You are a prize, my dear--but only you decide who you will reward with your presence. Those two may have had a change in ethics since I last encountered them, but they are still arrogant fools. It was my pleasure to teach them a lesson they will not soon forget--again."

Buffy forced down a brief feeling of guilt over the humiliation of two men she still cared about--as annoying as they could be at times--and frowned at The Immortal. "Why am I here again? You could have anyone--these days you could even have another Slayer with any look you wanted--or several. What's the big appeal from your end?"

The Immortal's expression changed slightly--Buffy saw a moment of wistful amusement on his face before he shook his head and replied, "I have lived my life for my own purposes for centuries, and have seldom felt moved to tamper with the interaction between good and evil in any meaningful way. Not long ago, I was moved by the actions of a Champion of Good, and decided to act in accordance with that emotion. It was for that reason that I sought you out, Buffy--and why I have acted as I have since that day."

Buffy felt a moment of warmth. I'm going to regret this, but. . . She shook her head and muttered, "All right, all right--enough with the sweet talk." The Immortal chuckled, and Buffy added, "I'm not saying yes, but I'd like to meet her--you've got me wondering."

The Immortal nodded, and turned back to a slightly ajar door across the large drawing room. "You may come in now, my dear."

The door opened, and Buffy's jaw dropped two inches as she stared at the dark-haired woman walking towards her. She remained frozen for two seconds, as The Immortal watched her quietly. This impasse was broken when Buffy snarled and threw a hard uppercut that smashed into her lover's jaw, sending him crashing through the finely carved mahogany paneling of the nearest wall. The Slayer turned to the oncoming woman and was reaching for a stake when she heard the sound of running footsteps from the hallway outside. She glared at the woman and muttered, "Another time," before reaching for her handbag and exiting the room.

The dark-haired woman looked after the departed Slayer, then moved over to the hole in the wall, where The Immortal was sitting, holding his jaw with an amused expression. "A remarkable young woman--with a legendary temper." The woman silently held out a hand and helped The Immortal to his feet, just as two burly men in dark suits burst through the doorway where Buffy had just departed. The Immortal raised an eyebrow and commented, "Ah--the cavalry has arrived."

"Sir--we heard the noise and came immediately. Are you all right?" The bodyguard was oblivious to the amusement of his boss, and spoke rapidly. "Is your attacker still on the grounds?"

"Undoubtedly--but I suggest that you let her leave in peace: I hate breaking in new bodyguards." The Immortal replied, feeling a moment of amusement at the offended expression on his guards' faces. Ah, professional pride--very gratifying to see, but I'm going to have to disappoint them this time "Miss Summers has decided to part ways with me, and I respect her decision. Don't let her back in, though--the consequences would be most unfortunate for all involved. You may leave us now."

The guards nodded and departed, and The Immortal rubbed his jaw thoughtfully for a moment before the woman took his arm and called out in a voice tinged with madness: "You provoked the Slayer's anger on purpose-- that is a thing that is not done by those who would choose to continue to walk this Earth in safety."

The Immortal turned to the woman and chuckled before replying, "Yet you still endure, Drusilla. Clearly, her wrath is not necessarily fatal." The insane vampire giggled and nodded, and The Immortal added, "Besides-- what good is immortality if it is not seriously tested on occasion?"

"You lured her in, then drove her away--she may not be your enemy, but she will never be your friend again." Drusilla blinked, and sounded more lucid than usual as she stared at the man next to her in fascination. "What game are you playing with her?"

The Immortal sighed. "It is a complicated tale." Drusilla leaned forward to hear, and The Immortal's breath shortened as he witnessed the spectacular view that the thin dress revealed. He reached for her, whispering, "But I will save it for later." He seized her, and thought not at all about Buffy for several hours.

X X X

Buffy stormed out of the villa and out onto the street, avoiding the obvious bodyguards and taking the only open route away from The Immortal's residence. Bastard--I should have known he was into playing sick games. If it wasn't for his stupid army of bodyguards, I would have killed both of them. 'Moved by a Champion of Good' my ass! She harbored no illusions about her ability to storm the villa alone, and she saw no point in risking multiple Slayers to accomplish the purpose. We know the crazy bitch is here--I'll call Giles and we can try to track her when she leaves

Buffy was not paying attention to her surroundings, other than the minimal effort required to avoid collisions with people and objects; consequently, she was shocked into stumbling when a familiar voice called out, "Buffy?"

Buffy turned, and saw Xander sitting at a patio table at a small café. It was late afternoon, and he was the only person sitting outside the establishment. He was nicely dressed in a sweater and light slacks, and was watching her with an obvious expression of surprise. Buffy was equally surprised, but decided that she really needed a friendly face right now. She walked over as Xander stood up, and gave him a firm hug as she replied, "Hey, stranger--what are you doing here? Did Andrew tell you where to find me?"

Xander shook his head--still looking confused--as Buffy released him and they sat down. A waiter appeared as if by magic, and they both ordered coffee. Buffy looked at Xander, waiting for an explanation for his presence. Xander shook his head again and said, "I knew you had been in this area, Buffy--but I've been out of touch for a while in Kenya: I wasn't sure where you were now. I'm here because someone told me to wait for him here."

Buffy was about to ask "Who?", but decided that it wasn't urgent. "Well, you can wait with me. I haven't seen you in six months, and I've got a lot to tell you--including about the biggest jerk I've ever gone out with."

"Spike's back from the dead?" Xander's eyebrow went up and his voice was sardonic.

"Well, yeah--but this guy is even worse." Xander began to open his mouth at Buffy's reply, then closed it and decided to listen.

Buffy spoke for an hour, interrupted only by the waiter returning and taking their orders for an early dinner. Xander didn't interrupt her: he watched her speak and marveled at the play of emotions on her face as she told the entire involved tale. God, I've missed her.

For her part, Buffy noticed Xander's rapt attention to her story--and the transformation that his six months of finding and training Slayers in Africa had wrought on him. His skin was bronzed from the long, hot days, and he had dropped thirty pounds--and replaced a lot of what remained with hard muscle that was visible under the sweater and slacks. Her eyes widened a little as she continued to speak. Who is this hottie and what has he done with -my- Xander? She ended her story--feeling considerably less outraged than she had been before she spotted Xander--and commented in a hesitant voice, "Well--there's my sad story. I'm sure your love life has been far less embarrassing these days."

Xander laughed--though he was still looking at Buffy with a slightly dazed look in his eye--and replied, "Only in that I haven't had one. Vi is into the 'big brother' routine with me, Rona is busy chasing the local guys, and dating fourteen to sixteen year old Slayers is a bit too much Woody Allen for me, thank you very much. Nope--no Xander lovin' lately. I have got some interesting stories, if you'd like to hear them."

"Absolutely--please tell me." Buffy replied, trying not to sound too interested. Xander didn't notice and began to spin a story of travel to remote villages and into deep jungles, where Slayers were either living with their confused neighbors, or had fled in terror after their Calling. Their meal had arrived, and they paused to eat--with each of them sneaking looks at the other when they thought they weren't looking. When the dishes were cleared away, Xander finished the story, commenting, "So we've found thirty Slayers so far, and Willow says there are still fifteen we haven't found yet. We could be at it for another year."

"You'll find them, Xander--you've been doing a great job." Buffy felt a tingle of pride in her friend--she had given him a difficult job to do, and he had been doing it well. The fact that the process had apparently turned him into a cover model for "Modern Pirate" was just a really nifty bonus. A thought occurred to her, and she frowned and asked, "But you still haven't told me why you're here."

Xander frowned in response, and replied, "That's a weird story. I was out in the outlying areas of Nairobi about two months ago, talking to a source about a lead on a Slayer, when I ran across a bunch of people being carved up by a pack of Naganis demons. Six or seven of them--big ones."

Buffy paled. "Xander--please tell me you didn't. . ."

Xander blushed, and replied, "Well, if I had just had an assault rifle--or a few Slayers--with me, I would have hesitated, or at least tried to draw them off rather than attacking directly. Naganis demons are nasty. Even with a pocket full of iron pyrite dust, I'd only be able to take out a couple before they got me." He grinned ferally and added, "Fortunately, the locals are used to dealing with these guys, and have come up with a countermeasure--which I happened to be carrying." He pulled a small object out of his pocket and tossed it to Buffy.

Buffy caught the small object and looked at it. "It's a shotgun round: so?"

Xander smiled. "It's full of rock salt and iron pyrite dust. Put a bunch of those in a pump shotgun and start shooting at a crowd of Naganis demons and humans, and you wind up with a bunch of goo on the ground and a lot of humans with minor wounds--other than what the demons managed to do first."

Buffy sighed in relief. "OK--I won't yell at you for trying to kill yourself this time. What happened next?"

"I checked the victims out--there were three dead men on the ground, two more wounded but standing, and one more guy who didn't have a mark on him, though I had seen him fighting. Weird." Xander shook his head at the memory, then continued: "He was apparently the boss, and thanked me for coming to the rescue. He didn't tell me his name, but he asked for contact information, so that he could thank me properly when he was more able. I didn't think anything more of it until I got to my room one night and found a plane ticket and some cash, along with a note asking me to be at this table at this café at this time, and saying that it was his 'thank you' for saving his life. I figured that the guy might make a good contact, and that if he wanted me dead that he had enough resources to do it without the cloak and dagger stuff, so I went along with it." He looked at his watch and commented, "Good thing you showed up--it looks like he stood me up. Must be his weird idea of a joke." He looked over at Buffy, and immediately noticed the suspicious--yet ambivalent--expression on Buffy's face. "What's wrong?"

"Xander--what did this guy look like?" Buffy asked calmly. Xander quickly described the man he had saved, and Buffy nodded and said, "Yep--I thought so." Xander stared in mild confusion as Buffy considered what The Immortal had said to her. He wasn't lying--he just wasn't specific as to -who- the Champion of Good was.

Xander saw Buffy looking back towards the alley she had emerged from with an irritated expression on her face, and reached out to touch her arm-- feeling a tingle as he did so. "Buffy--are you OK?"

Buffy looked back at Xander, and sighed inwardly in relief at the expression she saw. "Yeah--though I really don't like having to thank jerks." Xander winked in confusion, and Buffy smiled and reached out to take Xander's hand and squeeze it softly as she said simply, "We need to talk."

X X X

The Immortal read the intelligence reports in front of him and sighed. Angelus has been busy lately--he's using his pent-up fury at me to good effect He grinned and took another sip of his morning coffee.

"Sir--a letter has arrived for you." The servant walked in and dropped the letter in front of The Immortal--who knew without asking that it had already been examined for signs of tampering, including spells and explosives. He opened it and found a picture of Buffy Summers with her arms draped around Xander Harris in a way that would have shocked both of them if they had seen it but a year before. The Immortal raised an eyebrow and opened the note attached to the photo:

Dear Manipulative Bastard,

If you ever try to jerk me around like that again, you're going to be experiencing the rest of your immortal existence in several pieces.

Oh, and thank you.

Regards,

Buffy Summers

P.S.-- You can tell that crazy bitch that I'm still coming after her.

The Immortal raised an eyebrow and looked at the picture again. Somehow, I think that Drusilla will be able to get a substantial head start. He smiled and went back to his coffee.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.