By D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - Mr. Whedon owns all except Ainsley. She's all mine and I don't make any money off of her either.

Rating - PG-13

Summary - Buffy tries to solve the series of murders on campus before it touches her friends. But is her new boyfriend a help or a hindrance?

Feedback - yes please,

Spoilers - zip. Set S 4 of Buffy.

Author's Note # 1 - this was written for Specks for Fickledame's Buffy/Lindsey ficathon. (Requirements at the end of the story)

Author's Note #2 - Thanks to SJ for editing this and to Imzadi for her input.

When I consider life, 't is all a cheat.
Yet fool'd with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay.
To-morrow 's falser than the former day

John Dryden - Aurengzebe. Act iv. Sc.1.


August 1999

"Can I borrow your notebook?"

Buffy and Willow turned, hearing someone addressing them breathlessly. A petite, almost elfin girl, with warm brown hair raced up to them. She pointed to Buffy's lab notebook for anatomy, a class Giles assured her would help her find weak spots on vampires.

"I missed Monday's class because there was a water pipe break in my dorm and I had to spend all day drying everything out," the girl babbled on, her accent screaming she was from anywhere but southern California.

"Oh, you so don't want my notebook." Buffy grimaced then patted Willow's shoulder. "She's the go-to girl in science."

Willow nodded. "I don't have to meet Oz for another hour, so if you can come with us now to the copy center, you're more than welcome to make a copy."

The girl sighed, her whole body relaxing. "Thank you."

Willow started for the copy center, cutting across the wooded quad. "I'm Willow, and this is Buffy."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Ainsley."

"Hi, Ainsley. So, you're not from here, are you?" Buffy hoped that didn't sound lame or judgmental. It was hard making new friends at college, at least for her because of the Slaying thing. She wanted friends, something normal and hoped not to chase anyone away three lines into a conversation.

Ainsley smiled sheepishly. "Pretty obvious, huh? This is my first semester."

"Ours, too," Willow said enthusiastically. "Don't you love it so far?"

Buffy eyed Willow, amused. They had only been in college a week. It was hard to form an opinion one way or the other but Willow was totally in love with the idea of just being in college.

"I'm excited." Ainsley brushed back her long hair. "You're from around here?"

Buffy nodded. "I'm from L.A. originally and Willow's a Sunnydale native. Where are you from?"

"Near Broken Arrow, Oklahoma." Ainsley hunched up shyly, as if expecting ridicule.

"Wow, you're a long way from home. That has to be a little scary." Willow looked very sympathetic for that normal kind of trauma. Buffy knew Willow had never actually experiences it, having lived in sunnydale her whole life. Buffy remembered how it felt moving to SUnnydale and it had been a tad frightening even before she knew about the Hellmouth.

Ainsley shrugged. "A little but I'm excited."

"How did you end up here?" Buffy wondered what would possess anyone not local to come to Sunnydale University. It was small and she couldn't imagine it was well known.

"That's a weird story. I have a full ride scholarship. One of my teachers entered me in the competition for it and I won but Wolfram and Hart would only pay for a pre-veterinary spot here at this university. I guess they have bought a spot in the program here. My family wasn't happy about me moving so far from home but it's the only way I could afford school that didn't involve me starting in community college and working."

"So you want to be a vet?" Buffy's mind churned over the name Wolfram and Hart. Hadn't Angel mentioned them the one and only time he had called her since he moved to L.A? It wasn't that he missed her - damn him - so much as he felt obliged to tell her that Cordelia of all people was working with him and he didn't want Buffy to hear it from someone else. She could have sworn she heard the name from him but she couldn't remember in what context. All she remembered was the sound of his voice and the words; 'Cordelia is working with me.'

"I love working with animals and I love science."

"I love science, too," Willow bubbled. "Only I'm more on the computer side of it."

"How about you, Buffy?" Ainsley's eyes fixed on her. "What's your major?"

"Um...undecided." Buffy grimaced, knowing she sounded as embarrassed as if she were admitting to being an idiot or having an advanced case of v.d.

Ainsley seemed to notice. "It's not so bad. They say most of us will change our majors at least twice."

Buffy shot a look at Willow for support. Buffy knew that there as little chance of her finishing a degree. Her selfish hope of someone taking her place as Slayer was lying in a coma in the Sunnydale convalescence home. Without Faith, Buffy was the only Slayer and the fact she was being allowed to go to school was a miracle in and of itself. "You seem pretty confident where your future is going."

Ainsley shrugged. "Grew up around farms. I love animals, especially horses. I want to be able to take care of them."

"Horses, aren't you afraid of them? They're so big." Willow shivered.

"Oh, no I love horses. I barrel race in the rodeo and I trick ride," Ainsley said as they entered the copy shop. "I used to have local businesses that sponsored me. It was the only way I could afford it. Rodeos and horses are expensive."

"That has to be cool," Buffy said to be polite. She hadn't ever seen either of those things and didn't know much about them but she glommed onto the word 'rodeo' and all sorts of silly pictures were in her mind.

"It's fun." Ainsley went into the copy shop and Willow surrendered her notebook.

"There's going to be a dorm party in our hall tomorrow night. Nothing says you can't come with us," Willow said, eyes bright at the prospect of making a new friend.

Ainsley's blue eyes glowed. "Really? Oh, thank you. I don't know anyone here yet. That would be fun."

"Well, you know us now," Willow said.

Buffy watched the girl perk up even more. Willow was really into it. She was out to wring the most out of their college experience, bound and determined to do it all before the first month was out.

Her warm, freshly copied papers in hand, Ainsley left them with the promise of seeing them at the dorm party.

"Well, she seemed nice," Willow said as they headed back across campus.

"Yeah. It has to be tough to leave everything you know behind and go halfway across the country." Buffy favored Willow with a guilty look. She knew Willow could have gone anywhere and she had squandered her future in order to stay with Buffy. Buffy had wanted to do what her mother wished for her, leave Sunnydale. She should have gone to an east coast school, far away from the Hellmouth but she felt duty bound to stay. More importantly, she wasn't about to leave her mom on the Hellmouth without her there to protect her. "I guess it could be liberating, too."

"Too liberating," Willow said. "A lot of kids drop out because they have too much freedom."

"You're gonna make someone a good mom someday, Willow." Buffy grinned.

"Ha, ha." Willow chucked Buffy's shoulder.

Buffy grinned more broadly, content that she had stayed behind with all her friends. This could be a good thing.

September 1999

Lindsey took a dislike to Sunnydale. It was small, maybe not as little a town as where he was from but smaller than he ever wanted to spend time in. His original home had ruined him for liking anything small and quiet.

He hadn't any plans of ever going to Sunnydale, Hellmouth or not. Wolfram and Hart followed the going-ons in the town, even before Angel became a blip on their radar. A Hellmouth warranted close observation. They had known about the two Slayers, a variety of demons and mages. Lindsey's involvement had been minor at best. He had started looking into it when it came to Wolfram and Hart's notice that Angel was keeping tabs on the place and the Slayer. They had been working on a way to use the Slayer against Angel. She was such an obvious Achilles heel.

As Lindsey did his research, he discovered one girl a week had been picked off by someone or something on the Sunnydale campus. Deaths in Sunnydale rarely warranted mention because they were so frequent. However, these had serial killer hallmarks instead of the usual vamp stuff. The words "Exodus 22:18" was written on the victims. He wondered if the Sunnydale police had twigged on yet that all of the victims belonged to the Sunnydale Pagan club and that the signature of the killer was the biblical passage that read 'You shall not suffer a sorceress to live.' Lindsey suspected the Slayer appeared to have picked up on it, not a surprise since she had a witch for a friend.

He got in touch with his contact in the Initiative. Lindsey didn't know much about them yet but the soldier was willing to sell out for a hefty fee. He didn't know yet what to make of the organization, only that if the government was into demon hunting, it was a bad thing for all involved.

The thing that caught Lindsey's attention, the thing forcing him to Sunnydale, was the full ride scholarship that Wolfram and Hart sponsored in Sunnydale. He hadn't been memoed about it and he was supposed to be kept appraised of all things going on in Sunnydale. Only Lilah's name was on the paperwork and after he did a little digging he saw why. It was his baby sister's name on the scholarship.

Lindsey said nothing about his discovery. He simply told Holland he was going to Sunnydale to check on the Slayer. He was given instructions to try and turn her to their side or, at the very least, set her against Angel. He'd certainly check into it but his private agenda came first, namely getting Ainsley the hell out of Sunnydale and away from Wolfram and Hart.

It didn't take long to locate Buffy on campus when he got there. He had to do that first just to satisfy his bosses. She was easy to spot. She had an air of someone older than her years. She wasn't beautiful but he saw the resemblance to Darla from the old pictures that Wolfram and Hart had in their Angel file; petite, blond, willowy, a hint of arrogance in her eyes. Lindsey knew some men had a type and stuck to it even without realizing it. He and Angel shared a type.

Buffy appealed to Lindsey. The little red head with her was adorable as well. Lindsey wondered if the short, odd-looking young man with the blue lightning bolts dyed into his hair knew just how lucky he was to have such a pretty girl on his arm.

Lindsey trailed them, easy to do with all the kids on campus. No one gave him a second look. He was surprised when they didn't go to Buffy's dorm but instead to the one he knew his sister was staying at. It didn't register that it might be Ainsley they were going to see until they knocked on the door and his sister opened it. They disappeared into Ainsley's room, leaving him standing stunned in the hallway. Lindsey didn't try to approach them. He needed to talk to Ainsley alone. He wanted to talk to Buffy, too, but this wasn't the time. He'd wait for a better chance.