Title: Sunnydale Beginnings

Disclaimer: I do not own BTVS, but I really wish I did. Angel leaving? Never would have happened.

Pairing: B/A (eventually), W/O, S/F

Summary: AU. The prequel to Werewolves of L.A. Buffy Summers is an ordinary girl, living a normal life, until her Mom gets a job as a museum curator in a little town called Sunnydale. She thinks her life has come to an end. In fact, it's only just beginning…


The teenager groaned and sat up in bed sleepily, stretching out her muscles and rubbing her eyes. "I'm up, Mom!"

"You don't wanna be late for your first day!"

"No...wouldn't want that," she muttered, dragging herself out of bed to begin the process of trying to pick an outfit to make a good impression with. She opened the wardrobe door and glared at the offending clothes inside. This was going to take a long time.

Mom was trying too hard this morning, thought Buffy grumpily as they pulled up outside the school gates. Joyce was way too cheery for a morning, probably because she didn't have to deal with worrying if she would fit in or whether she'd make any friends, or whether the fashions here were different than in L.A or if…


Yep, way too happy.

Joyce smiled at her, though to Buffy it looked like she was forcing herself to be happy for Buffy's sake. "Have a good time. I know you're gonna make friends right away, just think positive."

She gave her a thumbs up, and Buffy just sighed. Parents had no clue how totally inconsiderate they could be when they decided to get a job out of town. Trying to squash down the rapidly rising feeling of irritation at her Mom for forcing her to move to a new place in the middle of nowhere, which had about as much social life as roadkill, she gave her a tight nod and then got out of the car, before she could say anything rude.

She was about to close the car door and face her destiny when her Mom spoke up again. "And honey?"

She looked back and this time didn't even try to hide her resentment.

Joyce faltered slightly and swallowed whatever she was going to say. She could practically see the black cloud over her daughter's head. "Have a nice day."

She received a grunt in return and then the car door slammed, leaving Joyce with the nagging feeling that her daughter quite possibly hated her for making them move. She sighed and drove off, resolving to talk to her about it over dinner tonight. That is if Buffy decided to talk to her at all when she got back.

As Joyce drove off Buffy took a deep breath.

She was calm, she was collected, she was cool… she was none of those things but she hoped no-one found out.

She was so worried about not looking like a petrified bunny caught in the headlights, that she completely missed the gangly dark haired boy crash into the stair railing on his skateboard.

Xander let out a grunt of pain as he crashed into the metal stair railing and skidded off his skateboard. "I'm okay. I feel good."

Willow walked around him, avoiding his flailing legs. She looked down at him, smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "You know Xander, becoming a werewolf should have made you more graceful. Instead you uh, seem to have lost all sense of direction and balance."

"Love you too, Will," grimaced Xander, rubbing his aching back. "As long as nobody tells Angel 'bout this little accident I can keep my manly pride."

Willow laughed and they started to walk into the school building. "It's okay, Angel won't think any less of you."

Xander frowned, "How can he? I'm already at the bottom of the social scale anyway. The only way he could think less of me was if I was dead. No, wait, he'd probably like me better that way."

Just then Jesse came round the corner to stop Xander's grumbling about the alpha werewolf. "Hey, hey!"

"Hey, Jesse, what's what?"

"New girl!" he panted excitedly.

"That's right, I saw her. Pretty much a hottie!" Xander smiled at the memory. All that golden hair and she smelt so good. He wondered if he could accidentally bump into her sometime and get a better scent.

"I heard someone was transferring..." said Willow, dragging Xander back out of his daydream. Well if he couldn't fantasise about his new object of affection perhaps he could he get more info out of Jesse.

"So tell!"

"Tell what?"

"What's the sitch, what do ya know about her?"

"New girl!" he exclaimed and bounced a little.

Xander rolled his eyes at his friend. It was at times like this that Jesse reminded him of a dumb, if sweet, puppy dog. "Well, you're certainly a fountain of nothing."

Just then the bell rang and the group split up to go to classes. Xander rubbed the back of head with his hand and started to plan the excuses he could come up with to explain to his teacher why he hadn't done the essay. The dog ate it was the closest he could get to the truth, the truth being that in his transformed state he'd decided to taste what paper was like and had accidentally chewed it into a soggy mess.

He was gonna get detention, and what he needed now was a distraction, something so that he didn't have to go to class. That was when the new girl suddenly appeared in his vision out of the principal's office and promptly bumped into another girl, spilling all of her stuff onto the floor.

Xander looked upwards and grinned. "Nice work." He hurried over to help her and blurted out the first thing that came into his head. "Can I have you?"

"Sorry?" the girl shot him a quizzical look.

"Can I help you?"

"Thanks." She smiled gratefully.

"I don't know you, do I?"

"I'm Buffy. I'm new."

"Xander. Is, is me. Hi."

Buffy smiled uncertainly. "Um, thanks." She finished picking everything up whilst Xander tried to keep her with him for a few more seconds.

"Well, uh, maybe I'll see you around... maybe at school... since we... both... go there."

"Great!" said Buffy standing up and brushing herself off. "It was nice to meet you."

Xander watched her walk down the hall, wanting a huge hole to swallow him right there. "We both go to school. Very suave. Very not pathetic."

There was slow clapping from behind him and Xander grimaced as he noticed Angel leaning up against a wall, his arms folded across his chest, dark jeans and red shirt clinging attractively to his body, a smirk flashing across his features.

"Nice work Xand," he chuckled. "You really know how to turn a girl on. She was practically drooling at your feet."

Xander tried to ignore the jibe. He failed. "I see you've finally turned up to school. What, run out of college girls to sleep with?"

Angel shrugged the insult off. "I heard there was new blood around." He grinned and licked his lips. "Maybe I'll have to have a taste."

"Leave her out of this."

Angel raised an eyebrow. "Jealous?"

"No," said Xander. "I just don't want her getting hurt. We both know you're not the relationship type."

Angel frowned. "And what are you going to do, boy? Try and stop me?"

"If I need to, yes."

Angel growled. "Watch who you're talking to."

Xander was trembling but he stood his ground. "You're not pack leader yet, Angel. Giles is still in charge, you can't threaten me."

Angel smirked and his eyes flashed golden, his beast edging closer to the surface and forcing Xander's beast to become submissive. Xander panted with the effort not to tip his neck to the side and offer his throat in deference to Angel.

"Xander, I thought we'd already been through this. What I want, I get. I'm alpha, you're nothing, and whilst Giles is in charge now, we both know who would win if I challenged him for the leadership of the pack." His beast backed down and Xander was released from the power that had curled around him, causing him to stumble backwards slightly.

"See you around, Xander."

Angel pushed himself off the wall and stalked down the corridor like a predator, not even bothering to pretend to be human now that all of the students had gone to class.

Xander waited until Angel was out of sight and hearing distance before spitting out the blood from where he'd bitten his lip in an effort not to offer him his jugular vein.


"Uh, hi! Willow, right?" asked Buffy, unsurely.

Willow jumped nervously and looked ready to bolt. "Why? I-I mean, hi! Uh, did you want me to move?"

Buffy chuckled. "Why don't we start with 'Hi, I'm Buffy,' and, uh, then let's go directly into me asking you for a favour. It doesn't involve moving, but it does involve hanging out with me for a while."

"But aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?" queried Willow confused.

"I can't do both?"

"Not legally."

Buffy exhaled. It was like Hemery all over again. "Look, I really wanna get by here, new school, and...Cordelia's been really nice... to me... anyway, but, um, I kinda have this burning desire not to flunk all my classes, and I heard a rumour that you were the person to talk to if I wanted to get caught up."

Willow smiled excitedly. This was something she could handle. "Oh, I could totally help you out! Uh, if you have sixth period free we could meet in the library."

Buffy frowned. "Or not. We could meet someplace quieter. Louder. Uh, that place just kinda gives me the wiggins."

Yep, like how there seemed to be something off with how the librarian moved, or the fact that she swore his eyes flashed golden as she swung the doors open. Or that he kept scenting the air when he thought she wasn't looking.

Willow however seemed to find this natural. "Oh, it has that effect on most kids. I love it though, it's a great collection, and the librarian is really cool."


"Yeah, he knows everything, and he brought all these historical volumes and biographies, and am I the single dullest person alive?"

Buffy smiled and thought of Cordelia. "Not at all."

At that point Xander and Jesse joined the two girls, Xander's eyes locking onto Willow's for a few seconds before smiling widely at the rest of them. To Buffy, it looked as though they'd managed to have a whole conversation in those few moments.

"You guys busy? Are we interrupting? We're interrupting." The strangeness of his previous actions was forgotten as Xander's odd enthusiasm spread over the rest of the group.

"Buffy, this is Jesse and that's Xander," said Willow by way of introductions.

"Oh, me and Buffy go waaay back, old friends, very close. Then there's that period of estrangement where I think we were both growing as people, but now here we are, like old times, I'm quite moved."

"Is it me, or are you turning into a babbling idiot?" said Jesse, an amused smile crossing his features.

Xander tried to quell his embarrassment. "No, it's, uh, it's not just you."

"Well, it's nice to meet you guys… I think," said Buffy, not knowing whether to laugh, or to try and be sympathetic to a rosy cheeked Xander.

Xander cleared his throat and tried to turn the attention away from him. "So what do you do for fun? What do you like? What do you look for in a man? Let's hear it."

"Do you have any dark, painful secrets you'd like us to publish?" added Jesse.

"Gee," said Buffy, a little overwhelmed. "Everyone wants to know about me. How keen."

"Well, not much goes on in a one Starbucks town like Sunnydale. You're pretty big news." Xander ignored the little warning voice in the back of his mind that sounded very much like Angel warning him off her.

Cordelia chose then to appear, her voice effectively managing to stamp out Angel's growled threats."Are these guys bothering you?"

"Uh, no!" said Buffy surprised.

"She's not hanging out with us," said Willow trying to salvage her new friends credibility and soften Cordelia's bitchiness towards them.

Unfortunately Jesse decided to ruin Willow's good work by trying to come onto Cordelia. "Hey! Cordelia!"

It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion thought Buffy, as she watched Cordelia brush Jesse off, like she'd just trodden in something disgusting. "Oh, please!" she faced Buffy. "I don't mean to interrupt your downward mobility, but I just wanted to tell you that you won't be meeting Coach Foster, the woman with the chest hair, because gym was cancelled due to the extreme dead guy in the locker."

"What?" said Buffy, thinking she'd misheard. What kind of school was this?

"What are you talking about?" asked Willow.

"Some guy was stuffed in Aura's locker!" exclaimed Cordelia.


"Totally dead. Way dead."

"Not just a little dead, then?"

Willow and Xander exchanged looks. "Er, Buffy we've got somewhere to be now so, er…"

"Well, that's okay I can come with you if you…"

"No! No, that's all right, er, we gotta go, bye!" Without another word they were off leaving behind a very bewildered Buffy.

Cordelia just gave her a look. "And these are the people you wanna hang round with?" She shook her head and started to walk off. "I am surrounded by freaks."

"Giles! Merrick! Kendra! Yo, anyone?" called Xander coming through the library doors with Willow on his heels.

Giles popped his head from around the stacks of books. "Sorry?"

"You heard about the dead guy, right? The dead guy in the locker?"

Giles stepped into the light and made his way down the stairs. "Yes."


Giles sighed and took his glasses off to clean them. "Kendra is on the case and Merrick is helping as best he can."

"And? Does Angel know?"

"Yes." Two pairs of eyes looked at him expectantly. He put his glasses back on and assuaged their unvoiced fear that whatever had killed the boy was werewolf related. "But we think it was a vampire. That is more Kendra's area of expertise and nothing for the pack to worry about."

Later that night, Buffy had decided to go to the Bronze.

After all it was either that or listen to her mother prattle on about how good the move was for them both, when all Buffy really wanted to do was talk about how strange Sunnydale High was, and that she was pretty sure there was something up with the librarian, that there was a dead guy in someone's locker, that the school had it's own obituary column in the high school newsletter, and did nobody think that was a bit odd?

She'd had to escape before she started to scream. So she'd left the house and was now trying to find the Bronze, heading vaguely in the direction of the music she could faintly hear. The street was dark and pretty creepy actually, and you couldn't walk anywhere in Sunnydale without passing by at least one graveyard - the place seemed to be infested with them, as though dying was a really fashionable thing to do. She was crossing over the road when she got the first strange feeling that something was watching her. The feeling got stronger and stronger as she walked further on.

Whirling round she saw absolutely nothing. There was a young couple out walking on the other side of the pavement but they were completely engrossed in each other. A cat leaped out of an alleyway to her left, knocking over cans in its wake and she jumped.

"It's a damn cat, Buffy. Get a grip on yourself."

"You know talking to yourself is considered one of the first stages of madness."

Her head whipped round so fast she thought she was going to get whiplash. Her eyes landed on a young man leaning against an alley wall in the shadows. He stepped forward out into the moonlight and Buffy had to stifle a gasp at how good looking he was. Tall with dark hair and chiselled features, he was wearing very tight jeans and a dark shirt that moulded to his chest. He smirked when he noticed her gaze lingering on him and coughed slightly.

"Is there a problem, ma'am?"

Buffy hated being made a fool of and no matter how good looking her stalker was she was in mood to have people follow her in the middle of the night.

"Yeah, there's a problem. Why are you following me?"

He smirked. "Don't worry…I don't bite."

"What do you want?"

"The same thing you do."

Now it was Buffy's turn to smirk. She looked him up and down deliberately and then shook her head. "I really don't think we do." She began to walk away when the stranger called out to her.

"Buffy." She turned and caught the box he threw at her. "You've got to be ready."

"Ready for what?" she asked.

He didn't reply but she swore his eyes gleamed gold for a second. Startled, she put it down to the poor quality street lighting. He was just starting to fade back into the shadows again, but she couldn't let her mystery man go without finding out his name at least.

"Who are you?"

"Let's just say I'm a friend."

"Yeah, well…maybe I don't want a friend."

The man grinned wolfishly. "I didn't say I was yours."

She glanced down at the box in her hand again but by the time she looked up, the mystery man had gone and she was once again alone on the street. She opened the box gingerly, wondering what could be inside, only to discover a delicate silver cross and a chain. It was a lovely piece of jewellery and Buffy slipped it over her head, admiring the gleam in the moonlight.

It was only as she started to walk on again that she realised he'd called her name when she'd never told him it.

Buffy found Willow easily at the bar. She was a little surprised that shy, timid Willow was even in a place like this but she reasoned that the Bronze wasn't exactly like some of the clubs in L.A.

"Hey!" Willow looked up in surprise and then smiled when she saw it was Buffy.

"Oh, hi." Buffy took the stool next to her and asked if she was here with anyone. Willow shook her head and blushed.

"Nah, I thought Xander was gonna show up."

"Oh?" said Buffy "Are you guys going out?"

"No, we're just friends. We used to go out, but we broke up."

"How come?"

"He stole my Barbie…uh, we were five."


"I-I-I don't actually date a whole lot... lately," stammered Willow.

"Why not?"

"Well, when I'm with a boy I like, it's hard for me to say anything cool, or, or witty, or at all. I-I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away." Willow sighed enviously. "It's probably easy for you. I-I mean you don't seem too shy."

Buffy was about to reply when she glanced up casually and spotted the librarian on the upper level, staring out anxiously into the crowd below. "Um, Willow, don't take this the wrong way, but does the teaching staff like to come here as well?"

Willow frowned. "Sorry, what?"

Buffy pointed.

"Oh. Oh!" Her smile was strained when she looked at Buffy. "That's Giles… he just…likes to party with the students."

Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Isn't that kinda skanky?"

Willow laughed nervously. "Ha, ha yes er…I'll go and have a word with him." And with that she hurried off in the direction of the strange librarian before Buffy could warn her that this Mr Giles seemed a little bit weird.

Her view of both of them was obscured when a familiar face blocked her line of sight. "Xander!" She craned her neck round the boy to see if she could see them, but both Willow and the librarian were now gone.

"Buffy, hey…you're not going anywhere are you?"

She sighed and sank back into her chair. "Nope," she said, reaching up to toy with the cross round her neck.

"Who gave you that?" asked Xander curiously, desperately hoping that it was a relative or a female friend.

"This guy; dark, gorgeous, in an annoying kind of way."

Xander sighed. "He wasn't by any chance about six foot or so, with tight jeans and a smirk permanently on his features was he?"

"Why, do you know him?"

Xander looked pained. "Unfortunately, yes. That's Angel."

"Is he always so cryptic?"

Xander didn't reply but something flashed across his features that Buffy couldn't identify. "Just, be careful around him okay? Angel's different…dangerous."

"Does he go to school?"

"Did you just listen to anything I told you?"

Buffy shook her head. "Is that a yes?"


The two lapsed into silence when Xander suddenly realised he was missing someone. "Hey, where's Willow?"

"She left with the librarian."

"Oh." There was a significant pause before the words sunk into Xander's mind. "What?"

"Murder, death, disaster. What else?" wondered Willow as they walked down the corridor to class.

"Paranormal, unexplained, did you get natural disasters?" said Xander.

"Earthquake, flood," chipped in Faith.

"Rain of Toads?" offered Spike.

"Heya guys, watcha talking about?" chirped Buffy.

"Ah nothing," said Xander hurriedly, "We weren't talking about anything much just ya know, stuff."

"Right," said Buffy. "Come on, what is it, I can keep a secret?" She smiled at them eagerly.

"It's private ducks," said Spike, drawing an arm round Faith. "So piss off."

Hurt, Buffy recoiled and stopped walking with them. "Fine," she said, trying to mask the sting of rejection. "See you around." She started to walk off and Xander glared at Spike.

"Oh well done," he said and ran off after her. "He,y Buffy," he said as he caught up with her, having to jog to keep up with her quick pace.

"What?" she snapped, scrubbing at her eyes angrily.

Xander tugged on her arm gently and got her to stop walking for the moment. "Spike didn't mean what he said, he can just be a jerk sometimes, in fact, well, most of the time. He doesn't think before words come out of his mouth."

Buffy didn't look any happier but Xander carried on. "Er, right anyway, look we're your friends even if Spike is an idiot and so...look well, do ya wanna go to the Bronze tomorrow night?"

"With you?"

"Er...yeah...if you wanna…I mean we don't have to if you don't…"

"Xander." Buffy smiled at him. "Sure I'll go. I'll see you there at 9?"

Xander grinned goofily. "Cool, yeah okay."

She nodded and then motioned down the corridor. "Well, I better go. I've got class."

"Sure." He waved goodbye and then waltzed back to the waiting group.

"Well, did you sort everything out with Fluffy then?"

Xander grinned. "I've gotta date."

Spike almost choked on his cigarette. "What?"

"A. Date. With. Buffy."

Xander felt an arm on his shoulder. He closed his eyes in resignation. "Angel."

Angel glowered at him. "Xander."

The following evening the group wandered towards the library, opening the swing doors to find Merrick, Kendra and Giles all gathered around a thick text on the middle table, their faces drawn into dark frowns.

"I'm gonna go with bad news," ventured Xander, feeling Angel's eyes boring into the back of his head. He'd been glaring at him like that all day, and Xander hadn't managed to speak to Buffy alone at all, putting him in a bad mood.

"So, Merrick. Got anything that can make this day worse?"

"How about the end of the world?"

"Knew I could count on you."

The group sat down and Giles cleared his throat; then looked at Merrick. "Actually, perhaps it would be better if you spoke to them about this. After all you are the Watcher."

Merrick nodded and looked over the group seriously. "It is called the Harvest and it comes once in a century, on this night. The Master can draw power from one of his minions while it feeds. Enough power to break free and open the portal. The minion is called the Vessel, and he bears this symbol," explained Merrick to the assembled pack and his slayer, drawing a three-pointed star on a whiteboard.

"So, I kill anyone wearing dat symbol and dere will be no Harvest?" queried Kendra.

"Simply put, yes."

"Any idea where this little get-together is being held?" asked Spike, inhaling a deep drag on his cigarette.

"There are a number of possibilities…" began Giles.

"They're goin' to the Bronze," said Xander.

"Are you sure?"

"Come on. All those tasty young morsels all over the place? How can they resist?" There was no uncertainty in his voice.

"Then we should get there. The sun will be down before long," said Angel seriously and muttered low under his breath, "and I'm getting hungry."

Giles grabbed his coat and followed the others out of the room as they headed towards the Bronze, when something suddenly struck Xander.


The others stopped and looked at him.

"Xander?" asked Willow worriedly. "Are you all right?"

Xander's face had drained of all colour, visions of Buffy's bloodless body swarming in his vision. "Buffy. I asked her to meet me at the Bronze tonight. Oh God, I've just led her straight into their trap."

Angel growled and started to change into his werewolf form. "Then I suggest we get there quicker, before something happens to her."

Buffy tapped the side of her drink idly as she checked her watch again for the fifth time. Xander was now half an hour late, and Buffy was starting to think she was going to be stood up. Not that she saw Xander in any way other than a friend, but it still hurt that he couldn't be bothered to be on time for her. She sighed and decided that if Xander wasn't going to show then screw it she'd go and dance with someone else. She'd been asked a couple of times whilst she been waiting but she'd brushed them off in the interests of politeness. Now she was on the hunt for a good dance buddy.

She stood up and drained her drink, before heading over to the shadow of the stairs. Where had that guy gone who'd had the really pretty eyes- was he upstairs? She was just about to make her way up when the lights were cut off. There were moans of complaint from the people around her and not being able to see well enough Buffy gave up on trying to go onto the upper level. She found a space under the stairs and waited, bored, for the power to be switched back on again.

It never was. Suddenly a man appeared on the stage and spoke to the crowd.

"Ladies and Gentlemen! There is no cause for alarm. Actually, there is cause for alarm. It just won't do any good." He laughed evilly as the spotlight lit up his face which seemed to be contorted grossly or misshaped. His face had become ridged, his eyes glowing a sickly yellow colour and two fangs protruded from his mouth, where his lips were split into a leer.

"Vampire," whispered Buffy, before she'd even had time to process what she was actually thinking.

A vampire? No this was ridiculous, this was stupid, that man couldn't possibly be a vampire, he just had a really bad facial disfigurement and… was now drinking the blood of the doorman.

Okay, maybe now was the time to rethink about that denial. Buffy ignored the screaming people around her and tried to remember what she could from when her Mom and her had watched the old Dracula films they still sometimes played on late night T.V.

She wracked her brains…um, okay think Buffy think… oh oh! Stake through the heart that killed them right? She glanced around her for any wood and frowned when she saw everything was made of metal. Damn fire safety hazard checking…why did everything have to made out of steel these days? She spotted the back door and then noticed it was being guarded by two men who were vamped out, effectively trapping everyone inside the club. She felt herself beginning to panic as the vampire on the stage dropped his latest victim and laughed.

"Watch me, people. Fear is like an elixir. It's almost like blood." He licked a drop that was starting to trickle down his chin. "Next!"

The werewolves arrived outside the club and transformed from their wolf state back to human form again. Angel pushed against the entrance door, then slammed his fist against the solid iron, leaving a hand sized dent in it when he found it was locked.
Kendra pursed her lips scanning the building as Merrick jogged up behind them, panting.

"I really wish you wouldn't do that," he breathed, trying to regain oxygen. "I can't keep up with a pack of werewolves and a slayer's speed."

Kendra raised an eyebrow at her Watcher and then pointed at the door."Dey can't get in," she said and then motioned to a window a good twenty metres up from the ground. "I'll go in dat way, you and de pack will have to try round de back."

Giles nodded. "Right, come on." They raced round the back of the club and Willow tried this door, which was also unsurprisingly locked too.

"No joy!"

Xander paced. "We've gotta get in there before I end up having killed Buffy!"

Angel growled beside him. "You better hope that doesn't happen boy, otherwise…" He didn't get to finish his threat as all of the pack heard the sound of shattering glass as Kendra broke her way in.

Back inside the club the vampire on stage was still talking. "I feel him rising. Every soul brings him closer! I need another! Tonight is his ascension. Tonight will be history at its end! Yours is a glorious sacrifice! Degradation most holy."

There was a stunned silence as the crowd stared up at him, horror-struck. "What? No volunteers?"

A female vampire with a seriously bad outfit and hair brought a struggling Cordelia onto the stage with the male vampire. "Here's a pretty one, Luke."

Cordelia started to scream and Buffy looked around for something to stop the cheerleader having all of her blood sucked out of her. No matter how much she disliked her, nobody deserved to die like that. Finding nothing she could only watch as those sharp fangs grew closer and closer to Cordelia's exposed throat. Suddenly another vampire was thrown onto the stage and Luke stopped what he was doing to watch a petite woman drop onto the pool table in front of him, whom he clearly recognised.


Kendra nodded. "Me."

Releasing Cordelia, Luke now lunged for Kendra who appeared to be able to take care of herself as she launched a powerful roundhouse kick at his head. Buffy didn't stop to watch but started to usher people out of the back, where the back door was now not only unlocked but hanging off it's hinges. And were those claw marks? As the flood of people started to escape out into the night she bumped into something hard.

"Angel?" He looked down at her in surprise and then gave her a relieved smile…a normal, genuine smile without any of the self satisfied smirking that she'd seen earlier. He crushed her to him briefly and checked her over for injuries before letting her go. Wait, had he just smelt her hair?

There was the sound of something crashing onto the floor behind her and Angel moved her automatically behind him. "Get out of here," he growled and then taking one last look at her pushed her towards the exit, before being lost out of her sight as he headed back into the vampire infested club.

"Wait!" she called. "Won't you be hurt?"

But he'd already gone.

"I take it it's over," said Giles finally, sheathing his claws, as he glanced around the ransacked room of the Bronze. Tables were overturned, chairs thrown haphazardly around and ashes were floating around the room like confetti.

"Did we win?" asked Willow, her red-brown fur retracting into her skin.

"Well, we averted the apocalypse. I give us points for that," said Faith, brushing vampire dust off her self. She smoothed her hair back into its ponytail and took a cigarette from Spike.

Xander scanned the room again anxiously. "Did anyone see Buffy?"

Angel nodded as his eyes faded back from their brilliant gold colour to his human dark chocolate orbs. "Yes, we may have bumped into each other."

"So she's all right then?"

Angel grinned. "I'd say so."

Spike laughed. "Bet the poof here made sure she was more than all right, didn't you?"

Xander's eyes narrowed and he folded his arms. Angel just raised an eyebrow at him.

"Did you have something you wanted to say, pup?"

Xander growled but said nothing, his clenched fists turning white at the knuckles.

"One thing's for sure: nothing's ever gonna be the same," said Willow as they left the Bronze, trouping off into the night, an exuberant Merrick in deep discussion with his Slayer on how strong the Vessel had actually been, trailing behind them. Angel felt something watching him and paused for a moment to scan the Bronze. Finding nothing he loped off to join the others and put it down to the adrenaline still coursing through his body.

"Yes," muttered Buffy to herself, coming out from behind a pillar in the Bronze where she had been hiding. "You got that right." She ran her fingers down a set of claw marks that ran across the front of the bar and gouged down into the metal pole that ran along the front.

'Just, be careful around him okay? Angel's different…dangerous.'

Xander's words rang in her head and she shivered as she placed her fingers in the deep grooves. Hugging herself she hurried out of the empty club, eager to get away from the site of so much carnage. Still, as she walked home she found herself basking in the memory of a tight embrace and concerned eyes.

"Well, I heard it was rival gangs. You know, fighting for turf? But all I can tell you is they were an ugly way of looking. And there were these huge like, dogs! Which is just too weird. I mean, I don't even remember that much, but I'm telling you, it was a freak show!" exclaimed Cordelia.

"Oh, I wish I'd been there!" said her friend.

Cordelia nodded sympathetically. "You should have been there. It was so creepy…"

"What exactly were you expecting?" said Giles as the pack walked past the two chattering girls in the corridor.

"I don't know…something. I mean, the dead rose. We should at least have had an assembly," said Xander in disbelief.

"People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't," said Angel, pushing open the library door. He stopped dead in his tracks.

"What, what is it?" asked Xander, pushing past Angel until the entire group was inside.

Buffy, perched on the library table glared at them. "Care to explain what the hell happened at the Bronze last night?"

Angel sighed. "Then again, there are always exceptions."

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