April 1999


No city ever truly slept; only the rhythms changed, and this was especially so of Sunnydale. All the same, tonight was quieter than most. Crises were for the moment in abeyance, and most activities and concerns were strictly personal.

At a new cyber café near the mall, Willow and Oz paused in their tasks as volunteer resource persons to new netizens, and shared secret smiles and longing glances. Oz would be leaving in an hour to join his band at the Shelter Club, and it was still undecided whether Willow would accompany him or stay for further missionary work.

In an upstairs bedroom of the home owned by a couple who still, from the residue of the original enchantment, believed themselves to be her parents, Anya threw her calculator against the wall and beat on the open Trig book with impotent fists.

In his own home, Xander dozed in front of a flickering television set. He was on a gleaming stretch of beach, and Cordelia walked toward him in a gauzy robe and a smile. She opened the robe … Xander stirred and mumbled, but was careful not to wake.

Giles put his elbows onto the library table and kneaded his temples with his knuckles, then returned to the ancient text in front of him. Bloody Sumerians … There had to be something here, the Day of Ascension ground inexorably closer and he still didn't have a clue.

Cordelia pulled into the driveway of her home and tried to decide what to do next. The Bronze had been dead (okay, not dead dead, but the dweeb index was way off the charts); should she change into a new outfit and try the mall, or stick her Tae-Bo tape in the VCR and work on firming up those glutes? God, nobody knew the pressures she faced from one day to the next …

At a small, pleasant house on Revello Drive, Buffy came out of the kitchen with a sandwich and a pensive frown. She had just received a call from her mother, who was holding a special exhibition at the gallery, and there was something … odd about it. Joyce hadn't been able to give a reason for calling, she just wanted to hear her daughter's voice. It was probably nothing, but when you lived on the Hellmouth … Buffy shook away the fleeting perplexity and sat at the dining room table. She had a killer Lit test tomorrow, and using her Slayer duties as an excuse to put off studying hadn't helped. She settled back with the sandwich in one hand and a book of poems by Coleridge in the other. Time to focus, she told herself, took a bite of the sandwich, and began to read.