CHAPTER FOUR

"No need for violence," Willie said, backing away from the vampire.

Angel's hand shot out, catching Willie by the arm. Angel slammed him against the bar. "I beg to differ. Talk about town is that the Slayer is the target of a big spell and that you were the one who put things in motion." Angel wanted to tear Willie's head off. He had called Buffy's home phone and cellular with no answer. He didn't take the time to call Giles, not until he knew more. Buffy could handle herself. Just became she wasn't answering didn't mean she was in trouble. Still, he had a bad feeling about it. He didn't know what he'd do if the one thing he was living for was gone.

"I wouldn't say set in motion," Willie whined, trying to put up his arms protectively.

Angel slammed him into the bar once more. "Try again, Willie."

Willie rubbed his battered forehead. "Okay, okay, Look, all I did was tell Ms. ' I Need a Xanax' where to find some wizards who could help her and told her about a warehouse at the docks that suited her privacy concerns."

"Where, Willie?" Angel took a step back, but kept his grip on the bartender and Willie eagerly gave up the location. "Good boy. Now what's the woman's name?"

"Ruby, no last name. Saw her talking to that Rayne fellow." He shrugged his skinny shoulders. "Might be they hooked up."

Angel let Willie go and started for the underground.

"Next time, Angel, not so rough."

Angel's face morphed, his fangs showing. "You haven't seen rough, Willie, but if anything happens to the Slayer you will."

Willie managed to look even more weasely as he cowered against the bar at the idea.

Buffy watched as Ethan swirled his hands in the pink glow surrounding Gordo. Ruby placed her hands on Buffy's chest and head. All thoughts of just letting go, letting them make her normal fled. No one was going to violate her. She strained against the metal feeling it give but only a little. Her arms and legs bled where the metal chewed into her. She wasn't going to get free in time.

Ethan put his hands over Ruby's and the hot pink light smothered them all. Buffy's body bucked as fire flooded through her. She felt like she was being turned inside out, like her life was flowing out of her and into Ruby. She wondered if Ethan had lied and she was going to die after all. Then she felt something else, familiar, comforting. She knew the feeling and it made her fight against the magic that was trying to drain her.

"No, Angel!"

Buffy, Ethan and Ruby all looked to the sound of a man's voice. Buffy wasn't prepared to see Giles and her friends. She had felt Angel coming up from below, that comforting twinge she had experienced. She knew he was going to save her. Why had Giles given Ethan warning? She looked through the arms of her attackers and saw Angel in his game face, just fingers breaths away from making Ethan into a snack pack.

"If you break them apart, you could kill them all," Giles said. "Get Mr. Gordo out of there."

Ethan let fly with a string of curse words, several of which Buffy hadn't ever heard used in quite that way. Angel howled as he reached into the magical glow, his hair standing on end, more so than usual. Still, he managed to grab Mr. Gordo and yank the toy off the altar. Buffy's eyes rolled up in her head as the power snapped back into her. She thought she might have gotten sick on Ethan and Ruby as a feeling like she had been stuck on a tilt-a-whirl for about two hours washed over her.

She barely registered the pandemonium as her friends charged Ethan and Ruby. She heard Ethan chanting and saw one of the blue glittering things that had waylaid her and Willow. She tried to shout a warning. Giles was already ducking and covering. He must have recognized the spell. Cordy and Xander were taken out by the magic, however, and Ethan ran for the door.

Buffy never felt more helpless, chained down as she was, watching Giles go after him while Angel tried to fend off Ruby who had a stake in either hand. Angel batted her away. The ex-Potential slammed into a wall and slid down it, not moving. Giles had Ethan down. Buffy hadn't realized her Watcher had that much pent-up fury. In that moment he looked nearly as dangerous as Angel. Buffy thought Giles would beat Ethan to death. Angel was on his way to help Giles while Jenny and Willow were trying to figure out how to get her free.

"Lux!" Ethan bellowed and the warehouse filled with a blinding light. Both Giles and Angel grunted with pain, trying to shield their eyes. When the spots stopped dancing in everyone's eyes, Ethan was gone.

"Oh, sod all," Giles grumbled.

"Angel, I think we could use your help here," Jenny said, rattling one of Buffy's chains. "Willow and I can take care of Xander and Cordy."

Angel nodded and started twisting the chains until they broke. In the meantime, Giles took his belt and Xander's to truss up Ruby.

"This is so embarrassing. Everyone had to ride to my rescue," Buffy said.

"There's nothing to be embarrassed about, Buffy. You are no more immune to magic than any of us," Giles said.

"How did you all find me?" she asked, helping Angel break the chains now that her hands were free.

"Locator spell," Willow said.

"I beat it out of Willie," Angel said, breaking the last of the chains. He helped Buffy sit up. "Are you okay?"

She shook her head, leaning against him. "I feel terrible. She was trying to steal my Slayer power. She actually wanted to be a Slayer." Buffy pointed at Ruby. "Ethan said I'd be a normal girl once the transfer was complete."

"Did we screw up?" Willow asked. "I mean, if you could have been normal..."

"I am what I am, Willow. Being normal might have been nice but not at this cost," Buffy said, pressing into Angel's shoulder as he helped her to stand. "What happens to her now?"

"Someone will have to stay here and make sure she doesn't get away," Giles said. "I need to go call for a Special Ops extraction team. They'll take her to the nearest Council psych ward where she can get help."

"Which means she might get a chance to try this again," Willow said, her lips pulling into a grimace.

"Perhaps but we can't just kill her," Giles said, sounding unexpectedly sympathetic.

"I'll stay and watch her," Jenny said.

"I'll help," Angel added.

"You go with Giles and Buffy. Buffy needs you more," Willow said. "I'll stay with Jenny. If that percussion bomb Ethan used in here is anything like the one he hit me and Buffy with, Xander and Cordelia will be out for a while."

"You go with Buffy and take care of Ruby, Willow," Angel said, smoothing Buffy's hair. He gave her an apologetic look. "It's still daylight out. I can't go in the car with them. I'll stay with Jenny and make sure if this woman wakes up, she'll be no trouble."

"It's okay, Angel. It's better you stay here. Ruby is so not playing with a full deck," Buffy said.

Angel nodded then pulled Mr. Gordo out of his coat pocket and surrendered it to Buffy. She held it tight and let Willow steer her out of the warehouse on shaky legs. She looked back at Angel and saw his regret at not being able to go with her. She smiled at him to let him know it was okay. When she got into Xander's beat up car, she curled up and was asleep from the strain before Giles Jenny and Willow could even lug Cordy and Xander out to the vehicle.

Willow stayed with her at the house, even tried to make her chicken soup to help her feel better. Buffy was thankful to have such great friends. Willow stayed until sun down when Angel appeared like magic. He was more than content to just snuggle with her on the couch, no real making out, just the gentle touch of bodies to reassure her she was okay and that her magic-induced loss of control was forgiven. She wanted to put in a chick flick and eat ice cream out of the container just to feel better. They compromised. Angel held her as she ate the dulce con leche with a table spoon as they watched Star Wars, from Xander's collection that currently lived in Buffy's living room to spare if from his mom's house cleaning spree, which usually entailed tossing out Xander's prized possessions to make room for more of her knick knacks. Shielded by Angel's arms, Buffy felt all was right with her world.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Angel said, squeezing Buffy's hand.

"Just thinking about the pizza thing." Buffy shrugged, getting dragged out of her reverie. "I guess I kinda felt sorry for Ruby. I can't imagine living a life thinking you're useless because you didn't get picked for something."

"Some people's lives never get started, Buffy. Usually they're the ones throwing up the road blocks, even if they can't admit it. Ruby could have gone on to be a Watcher, fought demons that way," Angel replied.

"Well, at least she's getting help. I just wish I could have punched Ethan once or twice. That would have felt good." Buffy grinned.

"I think Giles would agree with you," Angel said, wryly.

Buffy laughed. "Yeah, that was pretty scary, actually. I didn't know Giles could fight like that."

"Giles cares about you, Buffy. He'd do anything to protect you."

"Yeah, but he still won't let me read his diary." She pouted.

"Do you really want to see what he had to say about you catching him in that pool?" Angel smirked.

Buffy wrinkled her nose. "No. Definitely don't want to know what he had to say about me and you. God, I'm still so embarrassed about that."

Angel took her in his arms. "You don't have to be."

"Willow said it was a good thing in it's own way. You could have taken advantage of me and you didn't. I always knew I could trust you and now they all know it." Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. The kiss lasted until her belly rumbled. Buffy broke the kiss, taking a step back, a flush on her cheeks. "Sorry. I haven't had dinner yet."

"My treat, anything you want to eat," he said, rest his cheek on the top of her head.

"Anything but pizza."