Chapter Five

Sunnydale, California
Five Years Before The Auction

Graduation crept closer everyday, and Buffy's mom had insisted that Buffy and the gang report to her residence to make arrangements. After Angel's graduation a year earlier Angel had been kicked out and cut off for refusing to break up with Buffy. He set up on his own and after selling half of his possessions had investing in a slightly run down apartment. It was intensely romantic, and extremely convenient to the point where Buffy's mom complained that she never saw her daughter, and that wasn't supposed to happen until she went to college next year.

Feeling sufficiently guilty Buffy'd left Angel at his apartment studying frantically for his own UC Sunnydale exams and brought all her friends home for a massive trying-on-graduation-outfits session. Willow and Xander were curled up on the sofa in front of the empty fireplace while Joyce waltzed in and out of the room trying on successions of dresses.

"I guess these seems silly," she confided in them, "me being so excited about seeing Buffy graduate, but I honestly never thought it would happen."

"She fought long and hard for that geometry class." Xander added with tongue-in-cheek sageness.

Buffy swept in carrying a bowl full of warm popcorn, "As long as this an insult to Snyder and not to my intelligence, I'm happy."

Willow smiled at her friend, "When have we ever passed up an opportunity to insult Snyder?"

"Hopefully never."

Joyce spun around in her latest flowery frock. "How goes the vote on this one? Xander?"

"Aye?" He hazarded. "I'm here for the popcorn, don't confuse me with clothes."

"I like it." Willow asserted, "It's elegant."

"Very dapper." Buffy confirmed, as her mom's gaze moved along the row of teenagers to seek Buffy's approval.

"Well, now I'm sorted, what are you three going to be wearing?"

"Jeans and a sweater." Xander asserted definitely, and the three females swung the gaze round to him in shock, "It's a combination that got me through every day of my academic career, it seems only right I finish it all off wearing them too."

Joyce gave him a slightly perturbed look that grimly, Buffy realised she pulled all the time. She was way too young to be turning into her mother.

Chimes rang through the house, and the four of them surreptitiously avoided looking at each other, none particularly willing to leave their comfy seats to open the door.

"Oh, hey," Willow finally burst out, "it might be Angel, he said he might come by when I saw him earlier."

"Hey!" Joyce yelled jokily to Buffy's instantly retreating back, "I booked you tonight, he's going to have to fight to take you away!"

Out of breath and giggling at the thought of her six-foot and somewhat towering boyfriend having his ass whooped by her tiny mother, Buffy pulled open the door all ready to tell Angel about her mom.

Instead she was rendered absolutely silent by the sight that befell her. A little taller and rougher around the edges than when she'd seen her last, decked out in a slutty top and skintight jeans was Faith.

Pushing past Faith into the cold outside, Buffy shut the door behind her. "Faith!" She breathed, "We're not supposed to be within twenty thousand feet of each other, what are you doing here?"

Faith shrugged. "Hey, I just wanted to see my twin sis, but if that's not cool, I'll just be going."

She spun on her feet, dark hair flying out around her shoulders as she hopped down the porch steps.

Buffy's heart constricted. She hadn't seen her sister since three years before when a judge had ruled that for the safety of those around them they must be separated. Nobody here even knew she had a twin; her room having been stripped of all but the tiniest tokens of Faith's presence, and every day Buffy had missed her.

"Wait!"

Faith took a couple more steps before she turned around, a little smile playing at the corner of her lips.

"Stay…"

Sunnydale, California
Two Days Before The Auction

Buffy'd rung the old house first and got a forwarding address from the parental unit. They hadn't recognised her voice, but then the Rosenberg's had almost always been highly and unusually relaxed in their parenting style. Quite frankly, Buffy had almost been surprised they remembered that they'd had a kid.

The apartment was in a swish block of flats out near the beach, not close enough to actually have a view of the sea, but close enough to pretend it did and it's cream hallways and strategically arranged potted plants told Buffy quite clearly that Willow must've had more up her sleeve than the computer studies teaching gig at the school. Willow had landed on her feet and Buffy was definitely incredibly happy about that, but her elation had been brief and quickly shoved down by the utter gut-wrenching fear of being rejected by the girl that had once been her best friend and sole confidante. It should have been easy after Angel's earlier unblinking reaction to her presence to be rejected again. But the truth was she hadn't given up on Angel yet, and if she was going to prove that she was different, well then, she had to start at the beginning.

It still took her another fifteen minutes to actually bite the bullet and ring the doorbell.

There were muffled sounds inside, thumps and voices, too low to hear but… Buffy suddenly doubted the whole bite the bullet theory. In fact, ignoring the bullet seemed like a much better plan. Or, you know sidestepping like Neo in the Matrix. Bullet dodging. New speciality for her. Except for some reason her feet weren't moving. They were stuck to the floor like fear itself had hand glued them down.

"Buffy."

Somehow the door had opened without Buffy noticing and Willow was standing there with one hand braced against the door frame and Buffy's name rolling off Willow's lips the way it had so many times before.

"Uh. Hi, Willow. I'm sorry, I know this is really inappropriate…" All her clothes felt really tight and uncomfortable and Buffy felt about as big as a cockroach. "But, uh, could I come in?"

Willow blinked once... before opening the door wider.

*

She hadn't expected to find him here of all places. Willy's was a dive, the clapped out end of everything in Sunnydale where criminals gathered and traded deals. It was definitely an odd place to find an ex-cop lawyer but contrary to all rhyme or reason there was one there anyway. Lindsey McDonald sat at the end of the bar, the other customers giving him a width berth as he downed endless pints of bitter under his Texan hat.

Putting an extra swing into her hips, Faith swaggered toward him, slid onto the stool beside him and gave him her sexiest smile.

There was no reaction at all from the shadow in the hat.

"Willy!" Faith called, and Willy was front and centre in half a moment, lust burning through his eyes. She flashed him a grateful smile when he didn't call her by name. "Bloody Mary."

"As you wish, sweetness."

Flicking through her purse for some money, Faith peeped over its leather case at the man next to her.

"Jeez, it's hot in here, you wanna turn the heat down, Willy?" A nod and, some joke-y conversation with her favourite unscrupulous barman.

Still no reaction from the cowboy.

She was getting pissed off now, she was sexy damn it and she couldn't believe this man was succeeding so heartily in paying her no attention whatsoever. She swapped change with Willy and the Bloody Mary was in her grasp, quietly she sipped at it, grateful for the thick taste of liquor while she thought through her next move. Although, she swiftly pointed out to her subconscious – just in case there were any doubters - it wasn't like she needed the Dutch courage to do what she did next. A vague attempt at getting up from her stool, a loose grip on her drink and swoosh - alcohol pouring all over her cowboy friend.

"Oh god! I'm so sorry!"

He was off his stool finally and trying to sweep away the red rivers that were seeping into his plaid shirt and jeans. They were strong hands, Faith couldn't help noticing, and she bet he knew how to use them too. Willy tossed her a cloth and she was running it along the lines of Lindsey's chest in a moment, whispering, "let me help you," as she did so.

Instead of letting her slide her palm down his, extremely toned - she noted, muscles she felt Lindsey's fist wrapping around her hand, stilling it's path as he breathed deeply into her hair. "It's okay. You don't have to do that."

Her hand was still pinned there. Sticky with alcohol and tomato juice and crushed between his hand and his chest, she could feel his pulse storming along on either side of her palm. "I'm sorry." Faith murmured again, feeling pathetic even as she did it. This wasn't her gig, not normally; Buffy did the helpless doe-faced victim thing. Faith invited guys for a fuck in a closet and gave them a headache for their troubles. So it wasn't, she considered later, her fault entirely that she hadn't realised that the whole racing heart thing wasn't entirely normal. Or that they were standing really close together. Much too close for anyone innocent, and if they had been innocent, the whole third hip thing would probably have confused them a lot.

There was probably something intelligent she was meant to be saying, offering to buy him a drink perhaps, they'd chat for a while and then swap numbers. But she was still, above all heart-racing nervousness, absolutely Faith. So instead of following the carefully thought out plan she had devised earlier Faith said: "Wanna go somewhere?"

"Hell yeah." He breathed in her ear.

*

The two roughed up businessmen finally made parole nearly five hours after Buffy Summers had walked free from the Sunnydale precinct. It was another hour before Spike deigned to speak to Angel.

"Got any fags?"

Angel rolled his eyes. "No and stop saying fags, you're not in England anymore."

Spike leaned back against the wall of the cell his fist bouncing up and down against one of his knees like he was shaking the ash off a cigarette. "So what, I like the word fags, it's got a nice sound to it."

Slumping forward Angel put his head in his hands. "I can't believe I'm in jail with you - yet again - and all you can talk about is sodding fags."

"Sodding." Spike echoed back. "Sounds like you've been spending some time in the mother-country and all mate."

Angel didn't answer, instead he tried to remember exactly how his life had got turned upside down – Buffy had been there, she always seemed to be when something either extremely wonderful or supremely shitty happened to him. Yet somehow, he got the feeling it hadn't had a whole lot to do with her. Buffy'd just been there, and then there'd been masses of cops and six stolen paintings he swore to God he'd never seen before. The police had been less than convinced, frankly if he'd been them he wouldn't believe them either, it just didn't make the prospect of going to prison – again – in any way less awful.

"Angie?"

Angel huffed under the hands that covered his face. "What?"

"You never asked about goldilocks."

Angel blinked, "Wha-" Oh, Buffy. Of course. "I don't really care."

Spike burst out laughing and Angel was on his feet, eyes flashing darkly at Spike in warning to shut the hell up. Of course, that might've been a less futile gesture if Spike had any concept whatsoever of backing down, and now he knew he had Angel riled… well. It was extremely unlikely he was ever going to stop.

"You." Spike spat out, hilarity dancing across his features. "Don't care – oh sweet Jesus that's brilliant – I should've thought of that one when you spent two years moping in a basement-"

"I wasn't moping. I was painting, and it was only eighteen months." Angel protested pointlessly, but it only seemed to redouble Spike's enjoyment. "Oh, for fuck's sake, fine, I care, tell me how you found her if that's what's got you so bloody excited."

Put out that Angel had given in so easily, Spike wandered up and down the cell a couple of times, if laughing at him wasn't going to annoy him, he'd just have to yank up the suspense. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Angel virtually biting his lip to resist having a go at him. Angel knew Spike could see his frustration, he just, as Spike had so gently pointed at, didn't care a whole lot about how he looked, not when Buffy was around.

Apparently having had enough of all his pacing, Spike took a seat on the bench opposite Angel, legs splayed wide and one hand playing with the plastic safety flame cigarette lighter the guard had given him. The alcohol inside slid from end to end shifting the centre of gravity as it did so, and providing Spike with the amusing (at least on the scale of having spent twelve hours in a cell amusing-ness) sensation of having the lighter twirl between his fingers.

At least, that's what Angel thought was going through Spike's mind. In reality, Angel considered, it was probably more the external signs of an internal struggle between the enjoyment Spike got from watching Angel fret while he waited for news about Buffy, and the potential for entertainment from Angel's reaction to whatever the news was.

"She broke in."

Angel hadn't expected Spike to speak so soon, or so simply, or frankly to be saying that of all things. Angel was not a fool, Buffy had not gotten kicked out of her old school for being too loving and attentive a student. She'd burnt the gymnasium down. And been arrested for theft. In fact, for a sixteen year old with every advantage in the world, she had an impressively long record. When she'd come to Sunnydale she hadn't stopped being who she was when she'd been ceremoniously kicked out of the charred remains of Hemery High. Buffy had not, if he was going to be blunt, stopped being a crook.

But much after she had arrived, after they had started their tempestuous affair and before she'd fled from Sunnydale: she had stopped robbing people. And unless her every action for two years had been a lie, one as brilliant and as devious as those she had fed the cops earlier, then Buffy could not possibly have broken into his gallery. It was inconceivable.

Spike did not, and never would, hold the exalted place in Angel's heart that Buffy did. Spike frequently and regularly did everything he could to hurt Angel, and it should've been easy to blame the report on Buffy's abnormality in behaviour on a fallacy from Spike. But more than anything else Angel knew Spike just didn't lie, not about things like this, because Spike knew the truth hurt more.

"Angelus and William Wilkins?"

Angel didn't look up, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of point.

"That's us."

"You made bail."

Chapter Six

Sunnydale, California
Five Years Before The Auction

Mayor Richard Wilkins III was not a calm man. His shrink told him it came of being the third with the same name, added to the fact that the two previous Richard Wilkins had also both been Mayor's, it was a lot to live up to. He should use the suggested relaxation techniques and remember that because he shared a name with his ancestors, it's didn't mean he was them.

Wilkins seriously considered the option, the stress-ball he was currently fiddling with an absolute sign on his commitment, and then fired the psychiatrist before implementing a brutal and public shredding of his reputation beyond repair. Wilkins problem was most definitely not his elder relatives, but his younger ones. From a marriage and an affair Wilkins had two sons of the same age. The previously carefully hidden illegitimate son, William, had bleached his hair blonde changed his name Spike and after coming to town for a brief visit two years before had refused to leave, apparently deciding instead that it would be much more fun to leech Wilkins' hard embezzled cash and ruin his reputation as a family man. His other son Angelus had run off with a rampant criminal from Los Angeles and Wilkins had been forced to cut him off before the press got news of his latest amore.

He'd hoped, at least, after several careful conversations with the girl's mother that he could convince Mrs Summers to send her daughter to the east coast for college. Logically their kids would break up after the inevitable strain of being apart and Angelus could be reunited with the family and packed off to Harvard where he was supposed to be. Instead the tiny blonde wretch Angelus had his heart set on so deeply had determined to stay in Sunnydale with Angelus and there was not a blessed chance in hell of convincing either of them otherwise.

There was a gentle knock on the door of his office.

Yes, those two were quite definitely the cause of all of Richard Wilkins III's lack of calm, without any trace of doubt.

"Come in." he sighed, tossing the stress-ball into the trash as his assistant Allan nervously crept into the room. "Don't be so shy, Allan, come closer."

"Yes." The boy gulped against his ill-fitting collar. "Thank you, sir."

Wilkins smiled reassuringly as he cradled his fingers together in front of him. "What can I do for you, Allan?"

Allan nodded anxiously, "well, uh, you asked me to keep a track of your sons and, uh, something has come up."

Wilkins sighed. "Which one?"

"Uh," Allan glanced at the file in front of him, "Angelus, sir."

He took the file from Allan, "What happened?"

"He was, um, he was seen buying an engagement ring two days ago, sir."

Silence yawned between the two of them as Wilkins carefully flicked through the sheaths of black and white photos. It was certainly Angelus in the jewellery store and later there were shots of him elsewhere with William and the girl too. He passed over a selection of the couple kissing. The thought of what was going on turned his stomach enough; he didn't want to see pictures.

"There's something else, sir."

Wilkins kept flipping through the photos.

With no interruption Allan ploughed onward, "Buffy Summers, Angelus's g-"

"I know who she is, keep going, Allan"

"She has a sister, one she's not legally allowed to be around."

"I know this." Wilkins huffed impatiently.

"She's in town, sir, the two of them have been seen together."

He'd reached those photos now; the sister was not much like her Buffy, dark against Buffy's lightness. Both, their records assured him, just as bad as each other. "Does Angelus know?"

"We don't think so."

The photos kept moving under Wilkins fingers, and oh so calmingly, tiny pieces of an idea began to fall into place.

"Do you have any children, Allan?"

Allan was startled by the question and he fumbled over his words as he tried to react. "Wha- um, No, Mayor Wilkins, sir, I don't have any children."

Wilkins tried to smile reassuringly as he flipped the folder shut and sat back in his chair. "When you do you'll understand, you just have to do what's best for them. Get me Principal Snyder on the phone."

Sunnydale, California
Day Of The Auction

Buffy tried not to tense up as Principal Snyder stalked toward her across the confettied up, sweat scented, gymnasium of Sunnydale High School.

"Rosenberg!" He snapped, "Where's the delivery guy? The paintings aren't here yet, and I warn you now, Rosenberg, if anything goes wrong tonight I'll hold you personally responsible."

Buffy marvelled at Willow's ability to stand tall in the face of Snyder's overwhelmingly disturbing anger. Age had done little for his looks, taking what was left of his hair and adding a few more wrinkles, but almost in defiance for every hair lost he appeared to have become substantially more aggressive and scary than Buffy remembered him being.

"He'll be here at any moment." Willow reassured him, patting him nervously on the shoulder.

"He'd better." And with that he stomped off to terrorise the huddle of poor students that had been roped into serving refreshments.

Sneaking over to Willow's side Buffy handed her a glass of punch. Taking a sip she winked at Willow over the rim. "I spiced it up a little bit for you."

Cautiously Willow tasted the punch, before smiling gratefully. "Thanks, Bu-Joan." She glanced around nervously. "Sorry."

Buffy nodded, "it's okay, Snyder's got everyone so stressed out I don't think anybody will notice." Feeling tense in the stiff clothing Willow had lent her for the occasion Buffy was more than a little nervous about what might happen tonight. "Are you okay?"

Willow nodded. "Absolutely… not." She shot Buffy another nervous glance. "I'll be okay, honestly."

"Joan Hospers, I believe?"

Frowning, Buffy turned to see who was addressing her and, completely unable to stop herself dropped her plastic cup into Willow's hands to give the aging man in front of her a hug.

"Giles!" She squealed, "I can't believe you made it."

Hugging her tightly in return Giles buried his hand in Buffy's hair. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world, Buffy."

Regretfully breaking their embrace, Buffy smiled up at her favourite mentor. "Thanks so much for being here."

He nodded, "you are absolutely welcome."

*

"Are you okay?" Lindsey rubbed his hands up and down her arms reassuringly. "You seem kind of stressed."

To say Faith was stressed was an understatement. In fact climbing up the walls terrified seemed far more appropriate. However, given that Lindsey had not a blessed clue of why she was so damned afraid to be in this school, Faith just shook her head and laughed. "I'm fine, honestly. It's just a little cold in here."

"Sure?"

She smiled, loving the concern, "absolutely."

A few steps more and they were inside the gymnasium, Faith spotted Buffy instantly talking to a red haired woman and a silver haired man, quick to respond she carefully steered Lindsey away from them and towards the refreshments table.

"So this is where you work."

Faith laughed, "Not quite, but yeah, flipping road kill for the bratlings lunch is my life."

"What a coincidence." Lindsey echoed, passing Faith a glass of punch, "Me too."

"Come on," she wheedled, "public defence law, it can't be so bad."

Lindsey shrugged. "I wasn't always a lawyer."

"Really?" tension coursed through Faith's belly, was this where he revealed he recognised her after all, and everything was a lie? Somehow she managed to let out a flirty, "were you a cowboy in another life?" at the same time as a portly couple shoved past her in search of drinks, Grabbing her arm to steady her, Lindsey pinned her with his gaze and his grip.

"Just this one." He murmured.

The couple passed, and just as abruptly as he'd grabbed her Lindsey let go of her arm letting it flop uselessly to her side. "Actually," he said carefully, "I used to be a cop for the LAPD."

Adrenalin wove its way back through Faith's veins screaming at her to run before he realised who she was, if he hadn't already. But she had to stay, he had to be here. "Why did you give that up then?"

He shrugged casually, "One day I decided that maybe the law wasn't flexible enough, and if I couldn't change that as a man of the law I might be able to do it as a lawyer."

Faith couldn't help the smile that played at the corner of her lips. "That's it?" She prodded, "you just decided one day?"

He smirked back at her, Cheshire cat in full appearance. "Well," he drawled, "just before I decided that an incredibly beautiful girl lifted my wallet. It didn't seem quite right that she should go to jail, I'm sure she had her reasons."

Faith couldn't help the lazy beam that spread across her face. He knew god damn it! He'd known this whole time that it was her, and sweet Jesus, her pulse sped uncontrollably, why hadn't he said, or marched her into a police station, or… "I'm sure she did." She choked out, and downed her punch in one go, wishing absolutely that it had alcohol in it, because frankly, she could really do with some.

*

Angel carefully rearranged his suit jacket; he'd carefully chosen one of his flashier numbers, not he assured himself, because he was anxious about how Buffy saw him, but merely because – he was struggling to think of any other reason.

"Is dad gunna be in the house tonight?" Spike grumped as he heaved huge canvases out of the back of the delivery truck.

Well, actually, annoying his pompous father with how well he'd done since they'd parted on less than amicable terms was a pretty good reason too.

"He's doing the speeches." Bending down to peer into the wing mirror of the truck, Angel checked out his reflection poking at his spiky hair nervously.

There was a thump and Angel closed his eyes and whispered a silent prayer that Spike hadn't just broken anything too expensive.

"No, fucking, way, peaches!" Spike was on full tilt glower mode, storming around from the back of the van, his trench coat twirling a round him over the suit Angel had forced him into. "I will wear this sodding suit, I will be nice to Buffy and I will do as you tell me for one bloody night only. But I will not listen to one of dad's truly god-damn awful twenty minute speeches about how fucking amazing he is."

Angel shrugged. "So go for a fag when he starts talking and don't came back for twenty minutes."

"I-" Spike paused. "Actually, that's a pretty good idea."

Angel nodded in thanks for the guarded compliment. "Are all the paintings out?"

"Yeah."

Angel took one last deep breath and stepped over the threshold of school property for the first time in five years. "Then let's get this show on the road."

Chapter Seven

The Desert, roughly an hour outside of Sunnydale, well, possibly; California
Five Years Before The Auction

It was not a good thing, Faith considered, to have been grabbed by two men in suits with those ear plug wire things disappearing down their overly muscular necks, shoved in a car and driven round in circles for nearly an hour.

In fact, as far as her great trashy movie knowledge had informed her, this sort of behaviour was normally what immediately preceded being found dead in a ditch with half your fingers missing and a big note saying 'I murdered myself and then threw my body out of a moving vehicle, honest chief-copper-boss-person' It wasn't really surprising then that she was already plotting her fifth escape attempt, the first four admittedly hadn't gone so well, hence the fact that as well being accompanied in the back of the car by two of the thugs with hand-guns pointed quite firmly at her head, she also had her handcuffed wrists tied to the seat in front of her. It wasn't the greatest starting position for escape, but anything was possible.

When the car ground to a halt a few minutes later, Faith finally started to panic. Car stoppage was bad, car stoppage meant you were about to meet the head mobster and have your head blown off with a sawn off shotgun, and here Faith was quite clear. She definitely did not want that to happen.

The driver stepped out of the car and a moment later she was being freed from her restraints (the ones that tied her to the car at least) and dragged outside. Someone whacked her in the back of the legs and she dropped to her knees in the sand, cursing movies for their accuracy. If she hadn't seen so many she might be under some delusion she could still escape, but she knew with aching finality that was already too damn late.

Glancing around at the last bit of this fine earth she was ever going to get to see – a couple of boulders and a lot of sand, really thrilling view there – and at the people that crowded around her, mostly men and all heavily armed. A few minutes later another car drew up, black and with no plates. The driver stepped out to open the backdoor, and Faith watched transfixed as a middle-aged man emerged from the confines of the car.

Disgustedly he turned his nose up at their rural location dusting lint or sand or something off the sleeves of his overcoat as he stepped toward Faith.

It took him a bone-crunchingly slow time to make the short walk to where Faith was huddled, and he crouched beside her, carefully balancing on the balls of his feet so that his neatly cut clothes didn't touch the dirt.

"Holy fuck!" Faith yelped, unable to contain herself, "Aren't you like the mayor or something?" Someone whacked her in the back of the head and she fell face first into the dirt. Struggling, spitting out sand and dirt, and possibly a fair bit of blood, Faith struggled back up to her knees.

The guy – the mayor – she corrected herself, she was sure of it, ignored her outburst. "Faith Summers?"

She thought about lying or coming up with some hackneyed bit of 'who wants to know'.

She felt the butt of a rifle pressing gently against the back of her neck and she nodded emphatically. "Yup. Me. Definitely me."

"Well, now," the mayor smiled disarmingly, "I just knew it was you." He nodded at something above her head and suddenly someone was pulling her up to her feet and dusting her off. Completely disorientated she watched as the mayor rose as well and some attendants ran up to pat his brow.

Films, she considered, did not normally go this way.

"I hope you don't mind about the boys," the mayor gestured at the wealth of heavily armed thugs surrounding them as a petite woman fussed over his hair, "I just wanted to make it clear that it is absolutely within my power to have you killed."

Right. Not such a great turn of events then. "Okay." She muttered, "Very clear. Really. Incredibly clear, in fact," she stepped nervously backwards, "I could do with a little less clarity, you know what I'm saying?"

The mayor smiled and there was a hand on her shoulder, not entirely gently holding her in place. "Currently, Faith, you are in violation of a court-order banning you from being within twenty-thousand feet of your sister."

Faith laughed nervously. "Yeah, you got me. Sorry, boss, I'll be on my way out of town now."

He shook his head, letting out his own short chortle. "You misunderstand, I don't want you to leave. In fact, if you do, breaking your court order will suddenly seem like a very small problem. Do you understand?"

Faith gulped visibly. "Yes, sir."

"Instead I'd like you to do a little something for me, help me solve a little problem of my own." The mayor smiled winningly. "Would you like to help me?"

Faith thought about how hard Buffy had been trying to live a normal life, and the recent decision of her own that she would try to make her own clean break. Maybe then, Buffy had argued, they could get the stupid court order lifted and actually be allowed to spend time together without them both getting arrested. Faith desperately and absolutely wanted to be able to say no to this son of a bitch politician that she just knew was going to ask her to do something to ruin all her plans… and she also knew that she had two sawn off shotguns pressed against her back.

Closing her eyes Faith drew in a ragged breath and made her choice.

What else could she do?

Sunnydale, California
Day Of The Auction

If absolute non-reaction hadn't been absolutely necessary Angel would have died laughing at the expression of his father's face as Spike and Angel burst through the main doors of the gymnasium in the middle of his speech, gallery caretakers trailing in their wake under the weight of six huge canvases.

"Ladies and gentleman," Spike cried, putting on his best stiff upper lip accent to wow the parent teacher audience gathered around the glammed up gymnasium in their winter finest. "You came here to support your school and put a bit of pride back into this community." The crowd gathered at the merest sound of his voice, enraptured in the way only Spike seemed to be able to pull off, even when he was still wearing his battered leather coat over an extremely expensive suit. Leaving Angel to direct the caretakers, Spike was on the stage in a matter or mere moments.

Clapping his father on the shoulder, Spike shot him a cheeky grin and in a stage whisper to the audience firmly prodded the wounded pride of the mayor. "Thought you were gunna have to sit through another one of his speeches didn't you? Well Mayor Wilkins III here, my dear old da, dontcha know," there was a ripple of whispered conversation through the audience, "he was hiding me up his sleeve for this very occasion."

"Everybody knows this town has had rough times," there were some scattered 'hell, yeah's' throughout the throng and Spike waved them off. "What Wilkins here wants to tell you all is that the time for speech making is well and truly over, instead now is the time for choices. And in respect of that, the mayor has very kindly put his money where his mouth is." There were a couple more cheers now, the band of people hanging on Spike's every word. "He has bought six fabulous one of a kind paintings and they will be joining the auction here tonight!" There was a ripple of applause, "Hey, Angel, let's show everyone the goods."

Angel nodded in acquiescence to Spike's request before turning to the motley crew or caretakers. "Right guys," Angel whispered as quietly as he could in a mock-up of Spike's rough accent, "let's give 'em a damn good show."

Grinning to themselves the assorted caretakers each took their place beside each canvas, counted to three and went to work. They pulled down the long strips of fabric covering each painting and as canvas after canvas was revealed the smattering of applause doubled, trebled, quadrupled, lifted the roof. "That's right, ladies and gentleman," Spike yelled into the mic, "what you are looking at are genuine paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, Mondrian, Friedrich, Constable and Hopper."

The crowd went wild again so that Spike had to shout into the microphone to finally regain control of the horde. "Now, I assure you, these paintings are not fakes – they are one of a kind originals, I've got all the paperwork here if you'd like to look at it before we begin the auction, it's all signed in the mayor's own hand, with the proper consent of all the relevant artist's foundations. You will never, I repeat never get a chance to buy from these kind of artists, at these kind of prices, ever again."

Angel, out of the public view off to the right of the paintings, tried to push past the insanely happy crowd and search out his father and Snyder with his eyes. Spotting them off in one corner, Angel was forced to bite his lip to stop himself from dancing with glee. It wasn't that he was a vengeful person, but seeing with his own first hand vision Mayor Richard Wilkins III, in a state of absolutely catatonic panic struck him as more than a little… justified.

"Enjoying yourself?"

Angel glanced over at his companion and shot him a rueful smile. "Maybe a little." He nodded over at the paintings, "spotted the difference yet?"

Giles smiled wryly. "Oh yes. I wasn't an Art History major for nothing you know." Turning to face Angel he casually ran one hand through his hair and checked their surroundings with a practiced eye. "Where did you get such beautiful forgeries, Angel?"

Angel tried to rearrange his face in something resembling a penitent expression. "I may have borrowed yours."

Angel didn't need to look at Giles to see the raised eyebrow. "You may have?" Giles echoed.

"I may have definitely done so. Yes."

Giles laughed and breaking their casual code he wrapped Angel in a hug, slapping his back in what he hoped was a vaguely manly manner. "This is a good thing you're doing, Angel, don't ever feel guilty."

"I'm always good, and I never feel guilty." Angel lied blithely, shrugging off Giles' words. "Besides, it was Buffy, I couldn't not. You should know that."

Giles nodded. "Oh, better than anyone I suspect. I remember when you first started taking art lessons; you wouldn't draw anything but her. Took me months to convince you to try something in a bowl of fruit, and even then you always somehow managed to sneak her in somehow."

Angel laughed, and for the first time in years it felt clean to do so, felt healthy and normal. "Enough about me, how was the flight?"

*

Squirreled away at the back of the crowd, Buffy peeped over her auction program to stare at Angel. "Giles is talking to him." She reported back to Willow, who was disinterestedly taking a look at the assorted outfits passing them by as the mix of staff, parents and teachers took their places in the rows of chairs that now lined the gymnasium. Dressed in their finest the woman fanned themselves with their biding panels while their partners flicked through the handbook wondering desperately how much money they would have at the end of the evening.

Angel looked so incredibly gorgeous, a fantastically cut suit melding to his every line like he'd been born wearing it. The two men were laughing, and she strained to try and hear, unable to stand it anymore she poked Willow, "What do you think he's saying?"

"Who?"

"Angel!" Buffy shot back impatiently.

Willow sat bolt upright in her seat, "that might be the least of your troubles – " Grabbing Buffy's arm she pulled her round to face the corner where Snyder and the mayor were engaged in a heated argument. "What if he withdraws the paintings?"

Buffy shrugged. "It'll never happen. The money's too good, and neither of them can stand to turn down that much cash."

"Are you sure?" Willow hesitated, "maybe I should talk to them. They don't know I'm involved."

"No!" Buffy caught Willow's sleeve before she could leave. "Don't, if you talk to them they'll smell a rat-"

"You'd think they'd been smelling that all the time anyway, what with there own ratty existence." Willow grumbled under her breath.

"Trust me," Buffy smiled winningly. "Everything is going to be fine."

"You totally just jinxed us."

Buffy shrugged. "I'm starting to think that maybe that's not a bad thing."

"What?"

Spike was back on stage rapping the auction hammer against the podium. "Take your seats please, Ladies and Gentleman, the auction is about to begin."

With a self-satisfied smirk Buffy led Willow to two seats at the back of the hall.

"Okay," Spike ventured as the last clatterings and scrapings of chairs died down. "We're going to start with Mrs Gilmore – previously of the PE department," Spike winked into the crowd, "I can see you've still been keeping fit there Mrs Gilmore," and there was a smatter of tittering laughter across the crowd in appreciation. "Mrs Gilmore's silver service! Beautiful piece I think you'll agree," The silver service, from what they could see of it at the back was battered, in many more pieces than it was supposed to be and definitely not silver in colour. "Who'll start me at fifty?"

Silence yawned back at him.

"Come on, warm up those paddles ladies, what about twenty-five? Nice low start."

Buffy pretended to be very interested in the auction as Willow lent over to whisper: "No, seriously, what did you mean?" at her.

Someone in the midst raised their paddle obediently. "Beautiful, love!" Spike cheered, his rough accent peeking through his carefully controlled sales banter in relief at the sight of a bid.

"Joan." Willow muttered loudly.

Half turning to Willow, Buffy fought back a smile. "Wils, unless you want to be in possession of Mrs Gilmore's-" She flicked through the program "'stunning tea-set, complete with dated hallmarks from 1870', I suggest you stop talking."

Put out, Willow flopped back in her seat with her arms across her chest.

The sale of the tea set shuffled on in tiny one-dollar increments. "Okay," Buffy finally ventured under her breath. "It's just that, jinx's got me here. And here I am, with you and Giles back in Sunnydale again-" Buffy broke off uncertainly, "and, I can't see anything bad about any of that. No matter how hard I try."

Buffy glanced over at her friend who was still staring stubbornly into the distance. "Did you hear any of that?"

She turned back to face Buffy "Huh, what?"

Unable to help herself, Buffy laughed. "You're a good friend, Willow."

Chapter Eight

Sunnydale, California
Five Years Before The Auction

Buffy knew something was horribly wrong as soon as she'd seen Faith at graduation. Their mom didn't know she was here and there were far too many members of staff that knew they weren't allowed near each other for either of their own good. So despite the better part of her judgement, Buffy had whispered a hurried excuse to Willow and slipped up the aisles and toward her sister.

Hurrying away from the courtyard where graduation was taking place Faith led Buffy at random through the twists and turns of the school corridors, running to catch her up, Buffy caught Faith's arm and twisted Faith round to face her. It wasn't exactly Faith that looked back at her. Or it was, but it was the Faith she'd seen just before the firework blew when they were in the gym at Hemery, it was Faith afraid.

"Faith, what's going on? Why are you here?"

Faith seemed to be having trouble breathing, and she was straining to stand as far away from Buffy as she could. "I'm really sorry, B."

"What?" Buffy glanced around the hallway instinctively, nothing, no one. Still, she grabbed Faith's hand and pulled her through the swing doors beside them and into the library. A cursory check told her it was empty. "Why are you so upset? What happened to you?"

Faith shoved her away, stalking towards the stalks angrily. "You never told me about Angel's dad."

Buffy frowned. "They don't really get on-"

"You know," Faith laughed, "I kind of had that figured when he had me at gun-point in the fucking desert!"

"Faith, what-"

"That's the thing though isn't it? It's not your precious Angel that the fucking mayor really doesn't get along with. It's you. You and me, everything we did… wouldn't sit too well in the mayor of Sunnydale's history books now would it?"

"Please," Buffy begged, "I don't understand, just-"

Faith stalked toward Buffy and grabbed her by the shoulders. "He's gong to get rid of you, Buffy, one way or another."

Tears coursed down Buffy's cheeks, but she paid them no heed scrambling instead to answer every seed of doubt Faith nudged inside of her. "It doesn't matter what he does, Angel won't leave me, he swore." Even as she said them Buffy doubted the words. She would do so much for her sister, had done so much, how far could Angel possibly go against his father's will?

"If we don't leave tonight, he'll have us both locked up for violating the court order." Faith pulled Buffy's wet face up to meet hers. "We're eighteen now, that means years in adult prison for arson. And I don't care if you'd rather it went down that way. I won't let you."

"I know." Buffy breathed, burying herself in her sister arm's she sobbed for everything she could have had. Every normal, crime and threat free day she had consumed air, kissed her lover and wished for more of the same. "Oh God," She wept, "I don't want to leave Angel."

Something made a sharp click sound, and even through her grief Buffy could feel something cool, hard and extremely dangerous being pressed into the back of her neck.

"That's a shame." A hideously cheerful voice commented. "Because you're just going to have to get used to it."

Fighting not to hyperventilate, Buffy shuffled away from Faith under the guidance of the man with the gun pointed at her. Mayor Richard Wilkins III stood in front of her, idly running his finger along the work surfaces as an unending number of butch men in dark suits filled past him carrying big wooden crates and dumping them in the middle of the room.

"Now Faith, you didn't exactly live up to your end of the bargain, did you?"

Faith glowered at him, "I would never."

Wilkins shrugged. "I rather thought as much, but still, it would have been fun." He tapped the lid of one of the crates. "These babies," he explained, "are full of explosives." He smiled expectantly at his captive audience as though expecting some kind of reward for his blatant insanity.

"One way or another, Miss Summers, I will get you out of my sons life."

"I won't go." Buffy insisted vehemently.

"Yes. How very original. The thing is, Buffy," he seemed to resent saying her name, like it's very syllables left a bad taste in his mouth. "I can make you leave. And I will."

One of the minions whacked an odd T-shaped stick against Buffy's ribs. Folding in pain Buffy was held upright by two other men while Wilkins marched toward her. "Hold the stick." He insisted.

Faith was shouting but Buffy couldn't hear her, just coughed and straightened up as best she could.

Buffy looked the mayor straight in the heartless eye. "No."

The gun pushed painfully tight against her skull.

Wilkins shrugged. "Fine." Walking away he nodded at two of the men in black who grabbed Buffy's hands and forced them to wrap around the stick. "That's the ignition stick for the explosives. When they investigate the remains of the school they'll find your fingerprints over the charge." Wilkins smiled sweetly, "guess whose going to jail."

"No!" Faith yelled, "You can't fucking do this, you psycho!"

"Really?" The mayor looked oddly put out. "Oh well. I suppose I'll know better next time then. Set the charge, it's time for my speech in a few minutes and I just love speeches."

Glancing back at the struggling pair once more before he left the room the mayor smiled maniacally. "Go to jail or run, but don't come back to this town again."

It seemed like it only took minutes for the explosives to be set, the weird T-Stick thing was used to set the timer on the fuse before being tossed out into the scrub in the window beyond the window. A thickset man opened the window at the back of the library and had the sisters dragged over to it. "You've got three minutes to run, little girls." He whispered to them, before shoving them over the ledge.

A minute after Buffy and Faith had been set free Faith had run back inside and set off the fire alarm.

A minute and half afterwards they retreated from the scrubland unable to find the T-Stick that would condemn them for the one thing they hadn't, for once in their short but interesting lives, actually done.

A minute and three quarters afterwards Spike and Angel ambled through the scrub the join the crowds of confused fire evacuees.

Two minutes afterwards Faith had to drag Buffy, screaming, away from the school and towards the bus station.

Two and a half minutes afterwards Spike picked up an odd looking stick and tossed it to his brother.

Three minutes afterwards the sky exploded orange.

Sunnydale, California
Day Of The Auction

Faith arched uncomfortably against the stiff back of the chair she was perched in. "Good god," she muttered at Lindsey, "If I knew auction's were so long and boring I'd never have bought you here."

"Really?" He raised an eyebrow at her, "and what would we have done instead?"

Faith smile wickedly, scooting closer to him she let the hand that had been resting on his knee slide up his leg. "I have a few suggestions." She whispered as she leaned over to press a hungry kiss against his lips, his hand was sliding up her ribs, resting just underneath her breast as he nipped at her lips.

"Ahem."

Faith crept a few inches away from Lindsey to turn and face the source of the disturbance only to be faced with a pinched-looking elderly grandmother from the row ahead of them, whose spectacles perched on her nose with an eerily school-ma'am like aura. "That is not," she told them firmly, "appropriate behaviour for inside a school gymnasium."

Hesitantly Faith drew further away from Lindsey, completely unable to think of anything to say.

"By any chance," Lindsey saved her, "would your name happen to Mrs Gilmore, Ma'am?"

The woman smiled. "That's me."

"The auctioneer was absolutely right then," Lindsey continued smoothly, "when he commented on your beauty. It is quite remarkable, ma'am."

Mrs Gilmore preened under Lindsey's spotlight, and Faith had to remind herself not to be jealous of the old hag. "Why thank you son, but don't think that means I'm not going to be keeping an eye on you two."

"Oh absolutely ma'am." Moving himself further apart from Faith, Lindsey took Faith's hand in a completely chaste gesture.

"Uh-uh!" Mrs Gilmore chastised, "I want to see five inches of clear air between you two at all times."

Pinned under the old woman's gaze, Faith felt herself shuffling away from her partner with increasing uncertainty about who was in charge of her actions, the five inch rule left her sitting half off the chair she was on and Lindsey uncomfortably close to a skinny man in a tuxedo who couldn't seem to stop fiddling with his shirt sleeves uncontrollably.

"Okay then, let the nice gentleman at the front finish the auction now." Mrs Gilmore swivelled back round in her chair to face the front again, "and don't scratch Fredrick." She chastised over her shoulder. The thin man sat straight up-right, desperately looking around him to try and see where the voice had come from.

Completely shell-shocked Faith glanced over at Lindsey only to see him with his fist shoved in his mouth to try and stop from laughing, face bright red and shaking.

Sneaking closer back to Lindsey, Faith smiled as she settled back into her chair. "Scrap that, I love auctions."

Apparently having managed to regain some semblance of control, Lindsey slipped back next to Faith, throwing his arm around her shoulders and pressing a silent kiss against her cheek before making a rude gesture at the back of Mrs Gilmore's head. Suppressing her own laugh, Faith picked the auction programme out of Lindsey's lap and started flicking through it.

"One hundred and twenty thousand dollars for the Friedrich!" in the background Spike was peddling the angst-ridden painting to the crowd, if they were on the Friedrich, Faith did some quick math, then there were only two more paintings to go.

Sighing she flipped to the back cover of the programme and started reading the shtick they'd written about the wealth distribution among the school. Frowning she re-read the piece three times before she poked Lindsey in the side.

"Hey, Lawyer dude," she whispered, "does this seem right to you? Only fifty percent of the profits are going to the school."

Lindsey frowned and plucking the paper from her grasp he skimmed the writing. "That… is really weird."

"If the school only gets fifty percent," Faith mused aloud, "then where's the rest of the money going?"

"Back to the sellers." Lindsey glanced up at the row of exquisite paintings on his left and the paddles flying in the air for the latest painting on offer for stupidly low prices. "This isn't right." Shoving the programme in his pocket, Lindsey nodded toward the exit. "I'll be back in a minute."

*

"Lindsey's going out." Angel muttered to Giles as the lawyer barged past them and toward the main doors.

Giles nodded tersely and made some minute signal to Spike on the stage.

"Now we haven't got much time left, Ladies and Gents, so let's not leave these paintings unsold. We have one last piece for your biding pleasure tonight, and that's the Hopper."

Giles made another slightly more violent gesture at Spike, "I know you all love it, so I'm going to skip the sales pitch, who's going to start at a hundred thousand."

No paddles.

"Now don't be coy, you know it'll go for more than that, get in on the act now."

Five paddles hit the sky, and Spike smiled lazily.

On the front row Snyder and the mayor were still in place, probably, Angel realised gleefully, ecstatic at how much money was rolling into their bank balances, completely free of charge.

"Two hundred and fifty thousand!" Spike was calling.

Just at the edge of Angel's hearing dozens of feet clipped there way down the school hallways, while the entire room waited with bated breath to see just how much the Hopper would go home for.

"Half a million dollars!"

The external doors were swinging open.

The entire room pulled in a single breath and a man near the front stood up with his paddle. "One million." He cried out.

The doors flew open, and the audience split in two, those two enraptured with the money to turn to see who had entered, and those who were just too damned curious for their own good. Those who turned were treated to the vision of a dozen men and women in blue pouring into the hall, racing through the aisles ahead of their commander in chief.

The million-dollar man dropped back into his seat and even Spike shut up to watch their progress through the room. The mayor and Snyder were both on their feet, Snyder clearly trying very hard to suppress his rage at the interruption and the mayor, Mayor Richard Wilkins III, my dad, Angel thought fondly, spread his arms questioningly at his friend the chief-of-police.

Finally stopping in front of the pair, the chief exchanged a few pleasantries with the mayor before nodding at a cop to put on the handcuffs. "Richard Wilkins III and Dominic Snyder you are both under arrest for fraud. Do you want me to read you your rights?"

"No!" Snyder was yelling, "no! You bastards it wasn't me, it was them!" But Wilkins let himself by lead peacefully through the room amongst the completely shocked faces of his citizens. "We'll sort this out," his smile seemed to be saying, "I'll be back in a few days."

Angel closed his eyes are drew in a welcome breath of oxygen. It was odd to see his old man walk away clapped in irons. But not a bad thing. He smiled. Not a bad thing at all.

Epilogue

Sunnydale, California
Three Days Before The Auction

Faith had been pacing the streets for an hour after Buffy had stormed out, she'd tried a couple of the dives they'd hung out in those few weeks they'd first spent in Sunnydale together. She wasn't to be found in any of them and it was then, Faith supposed as Willy's turned up nothing - that Faith started to consider the truth of the matter.

Buffy had gone to find her old life.

They'd had nothing but each other for so very long, five years of running and scheming and living on the edge, Faith had never really considered, even though she knew how much Buffy missed this run down bit of nowhere, that she would ever leave Faith to try and get it back.

But if that was what she wanted. What she really needed so desperately, how could Faith ever refuse to let her have it?

Sloping off towards a payphone, Faith grabbed the receiver fed the machine her quarter, and dialled. She would make things right, even if it meant asking for help.

Sunnydale, California
One Day After The Auction

In the confused crowd, buzzing with excitement about the arrests of two of the town's most prominent members it had been easy for Buffy to slip outside through the fire exit. Taking a deep breath of cool night air she leaned against the brick wall, hoping for some support against the jittery nerves running through her body. Five years, the words spun round her head. Five years she'd been running from Sunnydale, running from Mayor Richard Wilkins III and now, finally, so unexpectedly.

It was over.

She was free; she could do anything she wanted.

And she had no idea what to do next.

"Goldilocks?"

A little crowd had gathered around her, Giles, Angel, Faith, Willow and Spike were packed in the tiny alleyway. Each one offering her a hesitant smile and uncertain hope.

"You okay, love?" Spike continued, one hand lighting the cigarette that hung out the corner of his mouth as he spoke.

"Yeah." Buffy smiled, "I'm okay."

Propelling herself from the wall Buffy surged towards her friends and they crowded around wrapping her in a six person hug that giggled and danced with glee, finding her sister amongst the mass Buffy wrapped her in a bone-crunching hug.

"Thank you so much." She whispered, "I can't believe you managed to get them arrested!"

Faith smiled modestly, "couldn't see any other way of getting them out of the way. Besides," she added, "they did it to Angel, only we've got neatly forged documents to keep them there."

"Trust you to out crook the crooks."

"Only seemed fair."

Buffy hugged her sister again. "Will you stay in Sunnydale? That twenty thousand foot thing ran out when we turned twenty-one, you could stay," she smiled hesitantly, "I mean, if you wanted to."

Faith shrugged. "Maybe. I mean, I have a date, so I guess I'll hang around for that."

"A date?" Buffy giggled at the extreme improbability of what she was being told. "Who with?"

"Lindsey McDonald."

Buffy's jaw dropped.

"Now, now," Giles chided. "What have you learnt about telling people who they are allowed to go out with, Buffy?"

"It's very bad." Buffy grumbled, holding her hands up in the air. "Besides, I wasn't going to say she couldn't…"

"Good." Lindsey had snuck into the mob, and wrapping his arms around Faith's waist, pressed a kiss to her neck. "Because it's way too late."

Hush swelled over the crowd and Buffy pushed away at the deep sinking feeling filing her bones. This was it. Big karmic slap in the face. She was going to get her friends back, but only because they'd all be cracking rocks together.

Lindsey frowned. "Why is everything all quiet?"

After a while Spike nodded at the pair of them, "I could be wrong, mate, but it could be 'cos you're a copper giving a crook the once over."

"Oh." Lindsey relaxed. "I'm not a cop anymore. Besides, there aren't any warrants for your arrest. And if there were..." He shrugged, "well, that'll be easy enough to correct."

Buffy twitched, "so we're good?"

Lindsey nodded.

"Great." Angel gruffed, "now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to whisk Buffy away."

"Wha-"

Willow shoved Buffy closer to Angel, "go on, we'll all be here tomorrow."

*

Angel's whisking had involved, Buffy considered as she stretched languidly against Angel's sleeping form, a whole lot of making up for lost time. Smoothing one hand along the soft lines of Angel's chest she marvelled at his ability to sleep, too wrapped in the luxury of being allowed to be near him, with him. She pressed a kiss against his chest. To be allowed to taste him.

Soppy love songs and bad poetry flew through her mind as she rearranged the blanket around them. Above her stars bled into the lightening sky, the palest fingers of dawn poking up over the horizon. Feeling suddenly naughty, Buffy let her hands slide along the sleeping form of her loved, grinning wickedly she shifted her position so she could lean over him, seizing his slumbering lips in a full bodied kiss she let her hands slide down to less erogenous zones.

"Uhm Buffy," he whispered against her lips, eyes still closed she felt his hands slide up her body to cup her-

Cold water sloshed over every part of their form, seeping through the blanket and pouring past Buffy to splash all over Angel as well. Jumping up, Buffy pulled the sopping blanket closer around her and left Angel scrambling to wrap the ground blanket around him as he spun round in wild circles trying to find their attacker with sleep-struck eyes.

Angel was, Buffy considered, incredibly sexy when he was dripping wet. The water ran down his alabaster chest in deep rivulets that…

"Ahem."

Buffy tore her attention away and toward their intruder. Their pinched elderly old woman intruder, with a dripping bucket hanging from one wrinkled hand.

"Ahem." She repeated. "This is a respectable neighbourhood and that kind of behaviour," she pronounced every syllable of her words with painful accuracy, "is not acceptable."

Angel stared in absolute astonishment at the woman. "Yes, ma'am." He complied sheepishly.

Gathering up their clothes and hurriedly dressing in absolute silence, Angel grabbed Buffy's hand and led her away from the clearing and back to the car, opening the door for Buffy, she stepped into the car under the beady eyes of the old woman. Slipping inside himself, Angel clicked his seatbelt, revved the engine and tore away from the sidewalk, at least fifty miles an hour above the speed limit. Turning to Buffy he yelled over the roaring wind, "Where do you want to go?"

Buffy smiled and curled up against her driver. "Absolutely nowhere, ever again."

Angel smiled and slipped his arm round her shoulders. "Sounds good to me."

The End