Title: Never Fade

Author: filmFreak1

Disclaimer: No, I don't any of them, don't sue, they're the property of Joss Whedon, WB, UPN, CW, whatever, blah blah blah.

Rated: M (contains violence, some sexual content, and language)

Summary: Whistler surprises the gang in Rome when he pays a visit and informs them that they need to help Angel by eliminating the members of the Circle of the Black Thorn that reside in Rome.

Feedback: Please review! Pleasepleasepleaseplease!

Buffy was later than usual that night—it was approaching 2 a.m. She had stayed out dancing at the club a little longer than she had intended. If she had listened to the Immortal's protests, she would have been there still. However, as fun as the Immortal was, she was tired, and she had to get up fairly early tomorrow (or rather, today). After all, Willow and Kennedy were coming for a visit that day, and she had yet to get the apartment ready. Slipping her key into the lock, she unlocked the door and quietly stepped into the apartment.

Andrew was snoring on the couch, wrapped up in his Darth Vader blanket. Buffy shook her head in amusement. Andrew had matured significantly since Sunnydale, and had even become a little cool (emphasis on the word little). Buffy had been shocked when she had found out he was dating two women, and good-looking ones at that…she'd always thought that he was gay. Maybe he was simply bisexual. Still though, no matter how he had changed since Sunnydale, he still had plenty of the geek left in him, as evidenced by his choice of bed covers; some things never changed. She tiptoed by the couch and headed towards the kitchen.

A dim light illuminated the kitchen floor in one corner—the refrigerator door was open. She could hear someone rummaging around in the refrigerator. Buffy smiled. Dawn and her late-night snacks. She decided to play a trick. Buffy crept quietly toward the refrigerator door, which was hiding Dawn behind it.

Then everything went crazy.

It started when Buffy quickly rounded the door. It wasn't until she had grabbed the person and shouted "Boo!" that she realized that it wasn't Dawn.

The figure, obscured by the darkness of the apartment, let out a rather masculine scream. On impulse, it turned and let fly its fist directly into Buffy's nose, sending her flying across the kitchen.

Buffy quickly jumped up (she could feel the red warmth pouring out of her nose and down into her mouth), and grabbed the man (she guessed he was a vampire, or at least a demon, based on how strong he was). Her hands felt leather, probably a jacket he was wearing. She lifted him (it?) and sent him smashing into the kitchen cabinets.

"Buffy!" she heard Andrew's voice calling, laced with worry. The living room light came on, and Andrew came rushing into the kitchen, just as Buffy was taking out her stake and was about to end the fight right then and there.

"Buffy! It's alright, I let him in!"

Buffy stopped, her stake hand frozen in mid-air, and looked at whatever it was she was fighting.

It appeared to be a man. He was a little short (though still taller than she) and stocky, and he was indeed wearing a leather jacket. He was also rather frightened. On his head rested a small white Fedora, similar to the hats that boxers' managers were usually depicted wearing. For a minute, she remembered his face but couldn't place it. Then it dawned on her.

"Whistler!"