Title: Just a Girl

Summary: What if Buffy hadn't gotten her powers back in Helpless? B/A

Rating: PG-13

Feedback: I'd love some

I'm lying in bed totally not sleeping. I can't. I'm exhausted. I guess it's the absence of slayer powers. I need more then three hours of sleep at night. I can't used to the idea that maybe my calling is wrong number. And you know what is really going through my mind? If I'm not the slayer how can Angel still love me?

Yeah he and I had this discussion earlier today at the mansion and he says he saw me before I was the slayer. He loved me before I was the slayer. I don't know how he could, how he can. If I'm not the slayer then I'm just that shallow, ditzy, cheerleader. Angel's type isn't exactly cheerleaders.

A week later:

I hold the slender, silver throwing knife the way Giles taught me. I glance apprehensively at the target on the wall and then at Giles.

"Go ahead, Buffy. You should have your slayer skills back by now. That includes your aim" he says.

I sigh and shrug. If he's not opposed to me putting more holes in the library paneling I'm not opposed to doing it. I toss the knife. I know how it feels when I throw a knife as the slayer, like an extension of my fingers, an extension of my arm, myself. This doesn't feel like that. I cringe as the knife goes through the window, about three feet from the target.

Giles clears his throat.

"I told you I still hadn't gotten my strength back. Mom had to open the OJ this morning" I say.

Giles takes his glasses off and cleans them with a handkerchief. It's good he seems to have an endless supply of those 'cause he uses them like all the time.

"I'll call the Council, see what they have to say about it. In the meantime, Faith is handling patrols quite well" Giles says.

"Yeah 'cause it's good to have a backup slayer for those times when you're feeling not so fresh. Gee I'm glad I died that time" I snap.

No reason for me to get my powers back. Faith has it all under control. She's wanted my life from the moment she stepped in Sunnydale. Gosh lets give her my friends, my mom, my house and my Angel, she can just have it all.

"Look, I'm sorry, Giles. I just-I'm not sleeping and I seem to need to sleep all the time now" I apologize for snapping at him. Although this is all his fault. I mean I know he was just doing his job but his job sort of involved ruining my life. I'm thinkin' it would have been good for him to take a stand before all the drugs, not after. Remember kids, drugs are bad.

"No, it's quite alright. One would surmise that without your slayer powers you would require the same amount of sleep a normal person would. You obviously still have the drugs in your system. Your body will require more sleep until it has been purged. I'd suggest eight hours a night" Giles says.

I stare at him, mouth agape. Eight hours? That's like half my life. I mean I may not be the slayer but I do have things to do, like Bronzing and my boyfr-Angel, whatever he is plus you know I should do homework on occasion and study. I'd like to not fail high school, not a requirement but one of those perks of life.

"Kay, you're kidding, right?" I say.

Giles chuckles. "No, I'm not kidding. Get some rest. You'll feel better. I'll see what I can get out of the council."

I nod and gather up my bag and jacket. It's not the red one Psycho Vamp stole. I burned the red one. "Night, Giles. If Faith needs some help in the slaying department in a very non slaying capacity, let me know" I say.

I walk home slowly, taking the chance to think about everything. I know when I get home Mom will be all fluttery and hovering. Sometimes I think she's really hoping this not-a-slayer thing sticks. I mean in her eyes I'd be a normal girl again, right? Only I'm not normal, not anymore. I just might not be the slayer anymore. It's like, Willow and Xander, not exactly normal and I don't mean in the Gee I'm a great big geek not normal way. I mean not normal in that they know about the monsters and they can't just shut their eyes and hope they go away.

"You really shouldn't be out walking at night like this, little lady" a voice behind me says. A smile spreads across my lips and I stop.

"Yeah? Maybe I need a big strong man to walk me home, or for coffee because I could use the caffeine" I say.

Angel steps in front of me. He's got that half smile on his face that's mine alone.

"I'm available" he says.

I thread my arm through his and smile up at him. "Good, so Espresso Pump?" I say.

He gets our drinks for us and I grin as he walks over to our tiny corner table. He got the same thing I did, a frappachino with tons of whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a cherry on top. I love that he does that because I know, when he's not drinking coffee with me, Angel drinks straight black cup o' Joe. I take my cup from him greedily and wrap my hands around it. I lick the whipped cream from around the edge of the mug and Angel grins at me.

"Yummy frappachinos," I say.

He chuckles and shakes his head. "I just like to watch you drink them" he says.

I arch an eyebrow in askance.

"You're like a little kid with candy" he says as if that explains anything.

"Well, it is kind of like candy I mean with the sugar and the caffeine. I even got a cherry on top" I say, picking the cherry up and popping it in my mouth.

I eat the cherry and then stick the stem in my mouth. I know I'm not supposed to do things like this. It falls under the Buffy and Angel no touching no teasing rule but for once in my whole entire life I feel semi normal. I mean I don't have to be careful how hard I smack the alarm clock in the morning and I don't have to be careful that I don't fling the heavy Espresso Pump door open easier then Xander. I'm not supernatural, I'm just Buffy.

Angel is looking at me like I've lost my mind. I grin, which makes what I'm trying to do even harder. Finally I reach into my mouth and produce one cherry stem tied into a neat knot. I hold it aloft like a prize. Angel quirks an eyebrow at me and I giggle.

"If you can tie a cherry stem into a knot with your tongue, it means you're a good French kisser" I tease.

I swear to God he gulps and pales. His entire body gets this tense "ohmigod" posture and half of me feels really guilty for doing this to him. Because it's not like I can follow through on all the things a cherry stem tied into a knot promises. The other half of me is squealing in delight that I can get this kind of reaction out of him with just a cherry stem tied into a knot.

"Come on, you try. You can probably do double knots" I say.

I bet he'd be blushing right now if vampires could blush. He grins and shakes his head.

"Oh, Angel, it's a cherry stem, not world in peril stuff. Try it" I say. I pluck the cherry out of his coffee and neatly remove the stem. The cherry goes into my mouth and I tickle his lips with the stem.

Mr. Dour and Brooding has to make an appearance. He reaches up and takes the cherry stem from me. He lays it on the table.

"Buffy, I'm not eighteen. I don't try and tie cherry stems into knots with my tongue" he says

. I pout and slump back in my chair. I stir at my frappachino with the tiny little straw they give you.

"Come on. Let's go back to the mansion and train. It'll do us both good. We can take out our frustrations" Angel says.

I shrug and stand up leaving the frappachino I don't want anymore on the table. Angel holds his hand out for mine and I take it gratefully, twining my fingers with his. Oh yeah, we've got plenty of frustrations. Angel, one big frustration fest of want, need, can't have. It's not fair. I have this incredibly sexy, beautiful, sweet, although broody, boyfriend and Fate, whom I hate by the way, imposes this big fat no touch, no taste rule on us. Not fair.

We walk back to the mansion in silence, just kind of enjoying each other. It's a luxury we don't get to indulge in very often, usually if Angel and I are together it's world in peril stuff with demons and goo and dying and the whole horror movie package but with me being no-slay girl, we seem to have more time.

Once we're in the mansion I slip off my jacket and Angel unbuttons his shirt. He has one of those funny tank tops he calls wife beaters on. I used to think only old men wore those and then I saw Angel in one. Old man is not what comes to mind when I see him in them. And here we go with the frustrations again. Oh yeah, training is a good thing.

"I'm not up to full slayer power. I threw a knife through the library window" I say, feeling the need to warn Angel about my klutziness before we begin.

He grins at me and my stomach flip flops. "No problem. I wasn't intending to give you any knives" he says.

I nod and drop into an offensive stance that doesn't feel right or graceful or anything of things it should. Angel smiles and settles into his own defensive stance and my breath is taken away by how beautiful and graceful he is. He's waiting for me to attack and I know it's because he's afraid he'll hurt me somehow. Ok so I just gotta get back up on the slayer horse, right? I mean maybe if I use them I won't lose them? I don't know it makes sense in my convoluted mind. Oooo I said convoluted, that's like a Giles word. Of course maybe I didn't use it right...

"Buffy," Angel says.

I snap to attention. "Oh sorry, I was doing the tangent girl thing-did you want something?"

Angel grins at me. "Were you going to attack me or just stand there and look at me?"

Well the standing here looking at him plan isn't such a bad one. Have I mentioned how he looks in those tank tops?

I shake my head to clear it of tangent girl thoughts. I throw a pretty sloppy right hook at Angel which he easily ducks. He grabs my wrist and pulls me into him. I throw an elbow back into his ribs. He throws a really slow roundhouse punch giving me plenty of time to duck and roll. I kick up a few feet from him and nearly stumble and fall back on my ass.

"You okay?" He asks.

"Yeah, just not graceful today and I know I hit like a girl. I don't like it but I know it" I say

. "You're doing fine, Buffy. Let's try again" he says.

He's being sweet. I'm not doing fine at least not in the kicking ass department. If he were Angelus, I don't even want to contemplate how fast he'd take me down if he were Angelus or you know any creature of the night that wanted me dead, because hey not such a challenge right now.

Angel charges me and I make him back up with a shaky roundhouse kick. He grabs my ankle and twists. It's a move we've used on each other a thousand times. It's a move I'm really good at recovering from, light on my feet and all.

I fall to the concrete floor hard enough to knock the wind out of me. My head bounces on the floor and the room swims. It starts to get all fadey and black around the edges. When it goes back to normal, Angel is on the floor with me in his arms. His fingers stroke over my face, my lips, my hair. I consider just closing my eyes and lying there as long as he doesn't stop touching me.

"Buffy, I'm so sorry-you always recover from that. You're like a cat. You always land on your feet. God, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" Angel says.

I shake my head very slightly. "I'm okay. I just-I guess I should have told you that not only am I not at full slayer power. I'm kind of at no slayer power."

It's not his fault. I just didn't want him to know how bad it is. I'm still kind of stuck on how someone like Angel can love someone like the me that's not a slayer.

Angel picks me up and carries me over the couch. He lays me down gently and runs his fingers over the bump on my temple that feels like its grapefruit sized.

"That's gonna be pretty in the morning I'm sure" I say.

Angel winces slightly. "It could bruise a little."

"Yay! I'll look like a mugging victim" I mutter.

"Buffy, I really am sorry" he says.

"It's okay, really" I say. I sit up and rub my temple. There's still a little bit of dizziness but mostly my shoulder and my hip hurt from landing on them.

"I'm just gonna go home. Homework is calling and Giles thinks I need more sleep" I say.

"Do you want me to walk you?" He asks.

I want to say no. I want to be the slayer or at least some oblivious school girl who doesn't realize what can happen on the short, yet ever so long walk home. The truth is, I'm not those things, not tonight.

I nod so slightly that I know if it weren't Angel and if he didn't have that habit of watching me so intently that it appears he's counting my breaths, he wouldn't have seen it. But it is Angel and he does watch me that closely, all the time.

He takes my hand in his and pulls me to my feet. We start to walk out the front door and I stop and look up at him.

"Do you mind terribly?" I ask.

He smiles at me, that little sexy fallen angel (forgive the pun) smile and I hope he's counting my breaths because I just forgot to breathe.

"I never mind one moment I spend with you" he says.

He stays with me until I fall asleep. I love that but it always leaves this bittersweet feeling behind because I know when I wake up he's going to be gone and for one terrifying moment I'll realize what it would be like without him in my life. My life sucks without Angel even with the no touching, no tasting and the frustrations and the dour and broody and the whole vampire thing. I told Angel once that he was the one freaky thing in my freaky world that made sense. He still does. He always will.
"Have I mentioned I hate needles? That's one of the major drawbacks of hospitals. They stick you with needles" I ramble to Giles.

"Yes, Buffy but I have to draw some blood if Willow is going to analyze it. We need to ascertain why the drugs are still in your system" Giles says.

"You know maybe Angel could just smell my blood 'cause he can do that" I suggest.

"I'm sure he could but Willow's tests and spells will ascertain things even a vampire can not smell" Giles says.

Willow is holding the hand that Giles isn't sticking a needle into. I squeeze my eyes shut and Will squeezes my hand. I feel the needle prick and I chastise myself for being such a baby. I just really hate needles.

"Buffy, don't hold your breath" Giles says.

I didn't even realize I was. Giles gets the blood sample and stoppers the little glass vial with a rubber top. Willow takes it into Giles' office where she's set up a little mini lab that will test my blood for all drugs, mystical or otherwise.

"Okay so I'm going to class and I'll be back to check on all the nifty things Wills finds out about my blood" I say standing up.

"It shouldn't take very long" Willow says.

I nod.

I can't even think about class the rest of the afternoon. I'm too busy wondering what Willow is finding out about my blood in the library and if she finds something what does it mean and how do I get it out. I dart into the library between math and science.

Giles is behind the desk actually checking in some books that some one returned, probably borrowed sometime in 1978.

"Hey, Giles. How's Willow coming with the blood work?" I ask.

Giles takes his glasses off and cleans them with his handkerchief.

"She's still got a few tests to run. I'm sure she'll be done by the end of the day" he says.

I arch an eyebrow at him. "Kay, did she find something?" I ask. He sounds odd to me

. "No, but I want her to run a few more tests to make sure" Giles says.

I shrug and jump as the bell rings. "Back to the coal mines I go" I grumble and shuffle off to science class.

It's not until last period that I'm able to get back to the library. Willow is sitting at the table with books piled all around her and Giles is in his office on the phone. He's pacing back and forth and making very British sounds.

I toss my bag on the floor and slump into a chair next to Willow.

"Giles doesn't look happy" I remark.

Willow looks at me wide eyed. "No, uhm he's sort of probably as mad as I've ever seen him. I heard him say bloody Hell and soddin earlier" she says.

"What's up, Will?" I ask. She looks nervous and Giles is using English curse words and pacing. His hair is also standing on end from running his fingers through it. It's a great look on Angel, on Giles not so much.

"No-nothing" Willow stutters.

"Come on, Will. You couldn't lie to save your life. What's up?" I say.

"I could so! Lie to save my life I mean, if I had too. I wouldn't like it because I'm really, horrible at lying and keeping secrets-I mean..." she trails off, giving up the ghost.

Giles slams the phone down and says some very colorful, British curses not quite under his breath. He takes a deep breath and walks over to the table where we're sitting. Ok now I'm getting worried.

"What's going on guys? And if either of you says nothing when I get my slayer strength back I'll beat you" I say.

Giles sits down in the chair beside me. "That's rather the problem. Willow found nothing."

"Giles I know you're expecting me to be all intuitive and get what you mean but I think half of my brain got sapped along with the slayer powers so you're gonna have to explain" I say.

"Willow didn't find any evidence of any drugs in your system" Giles says.

I take a moment to turn that over in my mind and when the conclusion comes to me I almost gasp. "Then I should have my slayer powers back, right?" I ask and my voice sounds all tremblely

. Giles nods slowly. "Yes, you should."

"But I don't." I say.

The silence over the table is thick enough to taste. When I speak it shatters all 'round like glass.

"Why don't I have my slayer powers back? When am I going to get them back?" I ask and my voice pitches higher then I intend for it to.

"I've been on the phone to the Council for a good portion of the afternoon, Buffy. We sent the results of Willow's tests via fax. I sent a sample of your blood over night to the Council, so that they could double check her findings" Giles says.

"Giles, it's chemistry. You and I both know that if Willow didn't find anything, there's nothing to be found. She's Willow. She doesn't make mistakes like that," I say.

"Yes. I explained such to the Council," Giles says. He looks at his feet and removes his glasses for yet more polishing.

"So what's the unofficial theory?" I ask.

Giles clears his throat. He stands up and walks over to the window I broke yesterday. He fixes his gaze on the broken spot where he's taped a piece of plastic wrap. "The general consensus, pending more tests, is that your slayer powers are gone."

I stare at his back. My mouth has gone completely dry and my brain is moving so fast I can't process what it's doing. My eyes fill with tears and I can't actually force words out for a few moments.

"W-why?" I finally manage.

Giles turns to look at me. "The Council has never attempted use of these drugs on anyone who has previously died."

"I was only dead a minute or so and look at me now, so not dead." My voice comes out a shriek.

"Yes, well apparently, at least according to theory, that was enough for you come back a bit different, enough that the drugs worked differently on you then they do on the average slayer," Giles says.

I shake my head. "So that's it? I'm supposed to go back to being a Cordelia clone? Will the council take away the juvenile delinquent brand I've got on my school records? Will they take away the three months I spent in a mental hospital because I went and ran my mouth to my mom about vampires and demons? Will they take away me killing Angel to save the world?" I'm yelling and I don't care who's still here to hear me. I whirl on my heel and take off at the fastest pace I can manage. It's not slayer fast, but apparently it never will be again.