Buffy didn't sleep at all that night. When her alarm went off, she slammed it with her fist, shattering it into pieces.
"Great," she muttered.
Buffy dressed quickly, throwing on leggings and an oversized sweater with boots before going downstairs.
"Hey, Buff!" Xander was far too cheery for Buffy this morning. He cleared his throat. "I made waffles this morning."
"Thanks," Buffy said. She filled her plate, sat on a stool, and ate in silence.
The front door creaked open and Willow came into the kitchen.
"Willow! My friend!" Xander's discomfort pervaded the room. "Willow my friend who is also Buffy's friend that she didn't strangle recently."
Xander kissed Willow on the cheek then ran out of the room.
"What was that about?" Willow dropped her bag on the ground and grabbed a waffle, tearing a piece off with her hand and popping it in her mouth.
"Are you OK, Buffy?" Willow asked nervously.
"I just didn't sleep well last night." Buffy didn't tell them about Spike. She couldn't because she still wasn't entirely sure it was real. And partially because she didn't want it to be. Just as soon as she'd gotten settled here, just as soon as she'd moved on… Buffy felt a hand on her shoulder. She didn't need to look up to know who it was.
"Buffy, we need to talk."
"Another apocalypse, huh?" Buffy said, hopping up off her stool, trying to act like she wasn't in a terrible mood.
"Not exactly." Giles's face wrinkled into a frown. Buffy followed him and Willow into his study. Willow grabbed Xander on the way who locked the door behind them.
Giles grabbed a book from one of his many shelves while Willow opened another on the desk. Buffy turned to Xander who shook his head.
"Buffy, have you noticed anything strange lately?" Giles stammered through the words. "Do your powers feel any different?"
"No. Not really." Then Buffy remembered the handkerchief around her neck. "Well, last night."
Giles prompted her with a nod.
"I got bit." Buffy pulled the handkerchief off and showed them the bite.
"Buffy!" Willow breathed.
"It gets worse." Spike is back. "They were looking for me. Said, 'The Immortal sends his regards' or something like that."
"The Immortal?" Willow's eyes got big.
"Yeah, I think so," Buffy said. Willow and Giles looked at each other again.
"What, are you two the new Abbott and Costello?" Xander said. "Come on, already."
"Buffy, it appears you are in grave danger." Giles leaned over his desk and looked straight at her.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Buffy said, mostly under her breath.
"This time is different, Buffy." Willow's face was contorted.
"There was a rumor I heard about a long time ago, when I first became a Watcher, about a spell that would undo it. You. The Slayer."
Well that wasn't what Buffy expected to hear. Part of her felt relieved. A few years ago, she would have given anything to just be a normal girl, and not be the Chosen One. But now? She couldn't separate herself from the Slayer anymore. She em style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal"was /emthe Slayer. The thought of losing that part of herself was like losing a limb. She couldn't fathom it.
"But we all thought it was poppycock," Giles continued. "A spell of that magnitude? But when we came to Italy, and I inherited more of the old Council texts and started translating them-"
Willow cleared her throat.
"With Willow's help, of course, I found something remarkable. It was true. And it's happening. Now."
"Wait. What?" Xander threw his hands in the air.
"Yeah, they're clearly doing a bad job of it because I'm still here," Buffy said.
"Wait. What?" Xander said. "Back up."
"Someone wants to undo the original Slayer spell," Willow said. "Buffy and the rest of the Slayers would lose their powers and there would be no more Slayers after them."
"So, for once, someone's not trying to end the world. That's a good, right?" Xander shrugged.
"Well, we don't know what this means entirely." Giles sat tiredly at his desk. "No Slayers means no protection for all of humanity means evil reigns on earth."
"And it'll be really easy to kill Buffy," Willow added.
"Gee, thanks," Buffy sighed. "So what do we do? Find the bad guy in a sea of bad guys and get them to stop doing the spell? Will, can't you do a spell to find out who's doing the spell?"
"Hypothetically. But a spell of this magnitude should be easier to locate than it is. I didn't feel anything until Giles found it."
"We're going to have to be extremely careful." Giles cleaned his glasses. "You're weak, Buffy. And so are the rest of the Slayers. And the longer the spell goes on, the weaker you'll become."
"Lockdown." Xander's face was in an uncharacteristic frown.
"Yes, I believe so, Xander. No Slayers leave this house unless it's absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, Willow and I will work on undoing the undoing spell."
Buffy groaned. "So there's nothing I can do?"
"As of yet, no. Please, Buffy, stay close to home and be safe."
"Sure thing, Jeeves."
Willow and Giles exchanged another glance. Xander sauntered to the middle of the room and put his hand out.
"Hands in everybody! Not-an-apocalypse on three!" Everybody looked at each other. "Really, guys? Leavin' me hanging?"
Xander shrugged and went to the door. "Well, some of us have to work around here."
Giles walked out from behind his desk and hugged Buffy. "We-I-can't lose you again." He kissed her on the forehead and left the study.
Buffy turned, but Willow grabbed her shoulder. "Buffy, wait." She looked over Buffy's shoulder to make sure the men had left. "I need to show you something tonight."
"Why can't you show me now?" Buffy was starting to get annoyed with all the secrecy.
Willow just raised her eyebrows.
"Oh. Well, will Giles be OK with it?"
"Since when do you care if Giles is OK with anything? Besides, Buffy, you're still the Slayer. And I'm still me."
Buffy nodded. "OK, Will. But I hope that's the last of the big surprises for a while. This is starting to be too much, even for the Scoobies."
"Tell me about it," Willow muttered.
The rest of the day, Buffy worked on training the Slayers. She and Giles had agreed they didn't need to know about the spell, not until things were really serious. That many teenage girls in such a small space meant mass hysteria in a heartbeat.
Buffy drilled them harder than she ever had, despite the girls' moaning and groaning. She had them do every exercise three times as hard twice as many times. Not a bad way to pass the day, she thought to herself. When she let herself get caught up in it, she didn't mind being the number one Slayer at all.
Before she knew it, the sun was approaching the horizon. She showered and pondered her clothing options. That was the thing about surprises-how could she know what to wear?
Buffy opted for chic slaying gear: skinny jeans with a white tank top and a light leather jacket and boots. She brushed her hair into a ponytail and walked down the stairs just in time to see Willow walking through the front door, her face serious.
Xander walked up to the two of them. "Ready?"
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Look, Buffy, whatever this is," Willow eyed Xander, "he's the only one who can drive."
"Ironic, isn't it?" Xander lightly snapped the string of his eyepatch.
"Come on." Willow opened the front door. "We've gotta go."
The car ride was mostly quiet. Willow rode shotgun next to Xander who asked her about her classes. But Buffy didn't speak. Her stomach thrummed with anticipation, but she was also annoyed. She didn't like being out of the loop. And that seemed to be happening all too often these days. Maybe she should be spending more time at Slayer Central and less time with Sangue…
"Finally, they pulled into a parking garage in a fancy part of the city. Xander parked and Willow got out of the car. She strode confidently toward an elevator. It opened and the three of them got inside. Willow hit the button for the thirtieth floor, swiping a room key. Buffy raised her eyebrows. What the hell was this?
The elevator opened onto the nicest hallway Buffy had ever seen. The carpets were pristine white and sparkling chandeliers lit the path.
Willow suddenly stopped at Room 306 and knocked. Buffy wondered why she didn't just open the door if she had a room key.
"It's Willow," she said softly.
A moment later the door swung open and Buffy's breath left her body.
"Angel?" she whispered. He did always have a habit of showing up when she least expected-and when she needed him most.
He poked his head through the doorway then stepped back. Willow walked in, but Buffy was dumbstruck, paralyzed. Two old lovers in one day. It was more than any girl should have to handle.
"Were you followed?" Angel said.
"Not that I could tell." Xander gently nudged her elbow. "Come on, Buff."
She somehow entered the room and Angel closed the door locking it behind them.
"It's good to see you, Buffy."
Buffy's throat burned. She didn't know what to say.
"Xander," she heard Willow whisper. Buffy heard a door click and she idly noticed that they left the room. Then she took stock of where she was. This hotel room was huge, and beautifully decorated. It was basically a house within a hotel. Angel simultaneously belonged and didn't belong in a place like this. It jarred her.
"How'd you afford this?" she said.
"Wolfram Hart, remember?"
He grabbed her hand and led her to a plush leather chaise lounge. Buffy was relieved to sit. Her legs were weak and wobbly all of a sudden.
Her Angel-her beautiful Angel was here in front of her after all this time. His face was still the same as the first time she'd seen him: icy pale skin, dark brow, darker eyes, full lips. She wanted to kiss him. Then she remembered Sangue with a guilty pang.
Angel was still holding her hand. Maybe that wasn't so bad.
They stared at each other, relishing in the moment. They didn't move for what must have been minutes. A random person walking by might have thought they were a painting.
Finally, Buffy remembered herself. "It's good to see you, too, Angel."
Angel smiled then and pulled Buffy to his chest. He held her close for a second, running his hand across her face, before kissing her deeply. Buffy felt like she was 16 all over again, the way she always did around Angel. The kiss was pure, yet lustful, chaste, yet full of longing. She wanted more, but knew she couldn't have it, for many reasons.
She pulled back. "I-Sangue. I can't."
"I know." Angel stroked her hair. "Buffy, that's why I'm here."
Buffy straightened. "You know Sangue?"
Angel laughed a little to himself. "Boy, do I. Buffy, Sangue isn't who you think he is."
Angel told her everything then: about his and Spike's history with Sangue, or rather, the Immortal, how he was planning on destroying the Slayers, and why he would do it. Buffy felt a knot in her stomach that grew heavier with every word Angel spoke. She loved Sangue. Or she thought she did. She knew she hadn't loved him as much as Angel or Riley or-. But the time she'd spent with him had been wonderful, like an Italian romance novel. How could she have been so stupid? Again?
"OK, that's enough." She raised a hand. "I think I get the picture."
"Buffy, I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you. I just thought you should know."
"Buffy shook her head and looked at Angel, at the concern on his face. "No, I know."
"You're in real danger."
Buffy nodded. "Did you come all this way just to help me?"
Angel shrugged. "Yeah, and I love Italy in the springtime."
Buffy's eyes brimmed with tears. Her eyelids almost felt raw from all the crying she'd done in the past 24 hours. She put her arms around Angel and nestled her head in his chest. It felt like home. She could almost forget about everything-the fact that her entire being was at stake, as well as the girls she was responsible for.
Angel stroked her hair and she finally lost herself, at least for a little while.