Author's Note:Here we go, the start of Season Four. Only some dialogue was taken from the original episode, because I changed the plot. With regards to what has been improved upon, very little has changed, as I only wanted the story longer. Enjoy.
Midnight. Boca del Inferno was resting beneath its crater, the remains of the large scholastic building complex blown up by a member of the teaching staff the day of the graduation of the class of nineteen-ninety-nine. It slept the sleep of an active volcano; seemingly dormant, until something or someone decided to revive it; whereupon it would lash out with a fiery fury akin to an unpredictable and dangerous sleeping dragon.
There were no immediate plans to rebuild the cloistered building complex which had once occupied the once existent ground above the crater. Sunnydale's City Council were too busy trying to recover from the shock discovery concerning the late Mayor to focus on raising the funds required for building a new High school. For now pupils would be shipped out to the next educational district, until they summoned the will to apply for the funds needed to be granted to rebuild and re-staff. Explosives however, counted as arson in an insurance policy, so it was likely to be a very long time before such was even attempted.
As for the staff, most of them had moved on to other High Schools in the district, anxious to get as far away from the school with the most unexplained fatality rates in the state. Three had made the jump to the next education complex in Sunnydale; the university. The lecturing staff of USC were glad to welcome them, as they had suffered recent unexplainable student absences and missing teachers, a task which one of the new lecturers was heard to quietly utter would soon be taken care of.
So the staff moved, the pupils were transferred and the graduating class of nineteen-ninety-nine spent their summer preparing for college. Most had wisely chosen safer institutions in distant states, but a few took the option to stay and attend USC, despite some prestigious offers elsewhere. These few however had another mission in life apart from their education, and that required them to stay. To regroup, after the conclusion of the Ascension. To prepare themselves for what big evil which might come to haunt the hellmouth next.
But first of all, there was the problem of the missing freshman, sophomore and other undergraduates, plus lecturers and tenured professors to take care of. Together they investigated the circumstances behind every disappearance, collated the remaining evidence, formed a conclusion as to the possible cause, laid a trap, and waited for those responsible to blindly walk into it.
"Who's bright idea was it to take on college kids?" One of those responsible parties asked now, in mid flee.
The vampire behind paused in his running for a moment, and looked at his ringleader in puzzlement. "It was yours, wasn't it?"
Sunday growled in annoyance, then found herself pushed to the ground. A blond in flared jeans, a long sleeved t-shirt and long leather black jacket, held her down with a boot pressed upon the undead chest, a stake in her hand.
It did not take Sunday's brain long to realise now who was chasing them. "Slayer!" She greeted, her arrogance in full force. "Wow, uhm, I heard you might be coming here. This is, I mean, what a challenge! The slayer!"
Buffy released her foot and let the vampire get up from the ground. It was only fair that the leader had a slightly fairer fight than the others. "And you are?"
"I'm Sunday," the vampire replied with a deadly smile, "And I'll be killing you here in a minute or so."
The slayer chuckled in mild amusement. "You know, that threat gets more frightening every time I hear it."
"Uhh... are we gonna fight?" Asked one of the vamps in bored stoned tone of voice. "Or is there just gonna be a monster sarcasm rally?"
"I'm in for a piece," another said.
"Everybody gets to play," Buffy assured them.
"Guys, this is totally mine," Sunday decided.
"Ok, but you gotta share the eating," the first vampire who had asked her said, turning his drugged fuelled stare on the slayer. "'Cause I'm thinking slayer's blood's gotta be -Whoa!- like Thai Stick."
Buffy shook her head in disgust at the level of undead intellect daring to challenge her this night. "I thought people were suppose to get smarter in college?"
"Yeah, I think you had a lot of misconceptions about college," Sunday commented mockingly. "Like that anyone would be caught dead wearing that."
Instead of glancing down in dismay at her outfit, Buffy just smiled. "You have a lot of misconceptions about me too. Like, do you really think I'm that stupid?" She punched her, and the fight began.
Sunday fell back, caught off guard by her misjudgment of her opponent. The slayer put a hand to her ear. "Guys, its me, I have them. Come on down."
The discreet headphones had been modified by Willow and Oz during the break, and with a bit of magic from the two practising wiccans, they served as walkie-talkies during the big group slays which required back up for their friend empowered with a chosen destiny.
Now as Buffy launched herself on the leader, the younger of the wiccans appeared out of thin air, followed by the rest of the Scooby gang, launching themselves into the fight.
When the vampires had learnt that their deadly play time about the campus which surrounded the university was over, the gang came together and rested on the gravestones around them.
"'few," Xander exhaled as got his breath back. "And here was me thinking that the summer we spent preparing for this would make us fitter."
"They did give us quite a run," Angel reminded him.
"Almost half of the campus, plus this cemetery," Oz added in agreement. "We never practised for the marathon."
"At least we're prepared for college though," Cordelia commented.
"And you've just jinxed it!" Xander accused her.
Outraged, the former cheerleader glared at him. "Did not!"
"Did too!" Xander countered.
"What are you now, pantomime cat calls?" Cordelia mocked.
Xander was insulted. "Why..."
"Gee, its like they never split up," Buffy remarked aside to Angel as the argument continued, the two combatants moving closer and closer together.
Xander caught the last part of the slayer's comments and changed tact, halting his movement. "Sorry, Cor."
"Or not," the slayer remarked, surprised.
"No, you were right," Cordelia allowed sadly, sinking down on to one of the marble monuments. "Now I feel a sense of impending doom. We're too prepared. I wonder what can be worse than the Mayor's Ascension?"
They were right to wonder, for all too soon they would find out that no matter how hard their preparation, none of them were in fact ready for what was to come.
And neither was the hellmouth.
Early the next day, a black 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible drove into the space reserved for the Professor of Art History, causing other lecturers to stare in appreciation at the sight of the vehicle and its superb condition. They had always admired the car, especially when the top was down. Now there was another cause to look. A passenger. In the form of a beautiful, blond, young woman. They had never seen her before, for although it was rumoured that Professor O'Connor had a girlfriend, someone who had visited him a few times at the end of class, no one had yet to set eyes on her properly until now.
Angel and his beloved paid them no mind as he opened the door for Buffy and led her to the registration office to pick up her campus identification cards.
"Isn't this cool?" Willow remarked when they joined her outside building in the bright Californian sunshine. "There's so much going on. In High School, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the collective intelligence, it's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up and letting this place thrust into and spurt knowledge into..." she broke off, suddenly embarrassed. "That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in."
"I'm with ya Will," Buffy offered her best friend consolingly. "Seen Giles? Or rather, Professor Giles?"
"He took one look at the Library and was in raptures," the red head informed them as they continued walking across the campus . "I hope he shows up for class, its our first. Jenny, or rather Professor Calendar-Giles, is in the Computer Lab, and Professor Doyle is showing Cordelia his lecture hall." She recalled the body language of the former cheerleader and half bracken, silently speculating. "They're pretty tight lately, aren't they?"
Buffy nodded in agreement. "Well, what with her and Xander amicably splitting over the summer, and Doyle's interest in her almost from the moment he arrived, it's almost expected."
They crossed the area for the resident halls and walked to the resources area, heading for the book shop.
"Can't wait till Mom gets the bill for these books," Buffy said as they dumped the present pile balanced in their arms into the baskets Angel and Oz were carrying. "I hope it's a funny aneurysm."
"I'll go and purchase this lot," Angel offered.
"Angel, she likes you," Buffy replied, "you don't need to curry favour anymore."
"She is coming over for dinner this evening," he reminded her. "Might be wise to soften the ground."
"Good point," Buffy agreed, and he smiled at her before walking to the checkout desks.
"Next, 'Introduction to Psychology,'" Willow recited from the memorised list, glancing at the shelves until she located the desired volumes. "Oh, up there."
"I'll get 'em," Buffy replied, offering to conquer the height. "You know, this store discriminates against short people."
"Oh, I think there's a protest next week," Willow remarked.
Buffy nodded as she stretched to get the books. The pile toppled over, hitting a student nearby. "Oh, ahh. Oh god, I'm so sorry."
"I'm okay," the student replied, rising from the floor. "Well, that was bracing," he joked. "Let me give you a hand," he offered, taking a large clutch of the volume they wanted and moving them to a more easily accessible shelf. "Let's put a few of these down here." He looked at them, his gaze turning into admiration as he took in the blond. "So, uh, are you girls taking Intro Psych, or do you just want me dead?"
"The first one," Willow answered.
"Well, you'll have a lot of fun," he replied. "Professor Walsh, she's quite a character."
Willow's gaze brightened with interest. "You've taken it?"
"I'm her TA," he replied, "I'll be helping the Professor out. I'm sorry, I've forgotten my manners in all the concussion." He held out his hand. "I'm Riley."
"Willow, and this is my friend Buffy," Willow introduced. "And Oz, my boyfriend."
"It's nice to meet you all," Riley remarked, looking carefully at Buffy.
The slayer looked back, but with nothing of the same interest. The boy before her was tall, well built and blond, but he held none of the draw she had felt compared to when she had met Angel for the first time. In a way it was like equating the night with day. This boy whom she had just met and the man she loved were polar opposites in every way.
Willow saw the hostility radiating from her friend and tried to prevent the student from detecting it. "Hey, do you know if we're going to be studying 'Operant Conditioning' in the first semester?" She asked. "'Cause I hear that's kinda Professor Walsh's speciality."
"Absolutely," Riley affirmed. "Do you know her treatise on Dietrich's work?"
Willow nodded slowly. "I know of it."
"It's not in the syllabus," Riley replied, "but it's a fascinating read, if you're in to that sort of thing. They have it here."
Willow turned eagerly to the shelf. "Oh, where?"
"I'll show you," Riley replied. "I don't meet that many freshmen that know that much about psychology."
"We're not your average freshman," Buffy remarked warningly.
Riley chose to take it another way, misunderstanding the danger in her deceptive tones. "So, I see," he said looking at her with a smile. His gaze ran over her attractive form once more. "So what else are you taking?"
"Mythology and Literature," Buffy replied.
"Mythology, that's one of the new courses isn't it?" he sought to confirm. "I thought that was not going to be open to freshman?"
"It wasn't, but Giles convinced the faculty to make it so," Buffy explained.
He frowned at her familiarity concerning the new lecturer's name. "You know the professor? I thought he was British."
"He is, he came over three years ago," Buffy replied. "He's a family friend."
"Oh. Ah, here's that treatise." He handed it to Willow who began to flick through. Riley turned to Buffy, eager to seize this moment of opportunity. "Listen, there's this coffee place..."
"Buffy, I've got to get going, I'm sorry," remarked a voice at that moment, calling the boy's attention to the tall dark and handsome man who appeared behind the beautiful blonde.
Riley's jaw dropped as he recognised him.
Buffy just smiled and turned to face her beloved. "Its fine, I knew you had an early class today. We're still meeting for lunch?"
"Of course. I wanna hear all about Giles' first lecture." Angel leaned down and the two exchanged a long kiss, attracting the attention of all the students within the shop, but most importantly the teaching assistant standing before them.
When the couple reluctantly broke apart, Willow and Oz turned to him and returned the wave of farewell he sent to all before walking out on to the campus.
Riley was still starstruck. "You know Professor O'Connor?" He asked, hoping that what he had just witnessed was a mere illusion of his own making.
"Yeah," Buffy confirmed, feeling a little sorry for the boy now whose hopes she had just disappointed. "Actually we've been together for over two years." Which was more or less true, providing one did not count the time she had to send him to hell.
"Together?" Riley echoed.
"As in the relationship sense," Buffy replied.
Riley was shocked by her confirmation. "I thought it was forbidden."
"Not unless you're taking Art History," Buffy explained. "Which I'm not."
A bell rang in the distance. Buffy checked her watch then gathered up her basket of books. "We have to get to class. Perhaps we'll see you some time?"
She walked out before he had a chance to reply. Willow and Oz quickly followed.
"What was that about?" Willow asked her.
Buffy looked around cautiously, then lowered her tone so no one else would hear what she said. "I'll tell you later, okay?" She sorted out her books into a more sturdy pile. "I have Introduction to Literature, I'll see you guys at lunch."
Lunch time found six members of the Scooby gang gathered around the trunk of a big tree which stood in one of the garden areas of the campus. The eldest of them sat with his back against the trunk, his soulmate in his arms, resting herself upon his lap as they shared the large lunch box which rested on hers. To the left of them were the other couple of the group, while to the right were once the third couple but now no more, having splitting up during the summer.
"There's a wiccan group established," Willow remarked after finishing the recap on her Chemistry class. "I'm gonna check it out later in the week."
"Searching for recruits?" Cordelia queried with a smile.
Willow nodded. "There's gotta be at least one true wiccan, this being Sunnydale and all."
"Anyone found anything else?" The slayer asked.
"No," Cordelia replied, while the others shook their heads.
"Its a pretty typical university," Angel added.
"That's what they said about Sunnydale High to my Mom," Buffy remarked. "And we all know how that worked out."
"Speaking of your Mom," Willow began, "how's she coping with you and Angel living together?"
"We're having dinner with her at the mansion tonight," Buffy replied. "But I think she's okay with it so far. She totally gave us her blessing before the Prom."
"The Bronze ready for opening tonight?" Oz asked Xander.
"All set," its new owner answered. "Dingoes ready?"
"We've passed the stage where we used to suck," Oz assured him.
"In that case I better go and check the sound system," Xander remarked abruptly, looking up. "Later guys."
"Later Xand," Buffy returned.
"Hi," said a voice a few seconds later.
All looked up at the shadow, but only Willow spoke in reply. "Hey Riley."
The teaching assistant stood nervously before them, his confidence suddenly gone from his mind. "I was wondering if you need someone to show you where Psych is gonna be?"
"Thanks, Riley," Buffy began, "but we took a tour of the campus during one of the open days. Plus Angel is going to show us."
Riley tried not to appear crestfallen. "Oh, well see you in class then."
The slayer watched him go, then turned back to the others. "So, final judgement on Giles' lesson. Remember he will giving a pop quiz on said opinion later on. And he's likely to judge any hesitation as lack of enjoyment."
"It was actually very interesting," Cordelia replied. "I didn't think I would enjoy having demon research as a class as well, but he's really cleaned up his teaching style."
Angel nodded. "I've talked to a few of my students who take the class and they all say that its very interesting. And it's been well received by the faculty."
"It's certainly helped with the slaying," Buffy agreed. "I feel like I have the knowledge to face any demon who crosses my path."
Little did she know how much one day those words would be tested.
And discounted in face of the horrifying truth.
Afternoon called everyone back to their classes. As promised Angel showed Buffy, Willow and Oz where room one hundred and five was, seeing them to the door with the gold painted three digit number on, before walking to his own room for his remaining lectures of the day.
The trio walked into the lecture hall, found some seats in the middle row and sat down. Buffy took out her notebook and placed it on the little wooden platform attached to one side of the chair, her eyes on the front of the room, fixing her gaze on where Riley was sorting out papers at the desk. Silently she watched him, but without any real interest as to what he was doing, or what he might be thinking concerning herself. Then a woman in a business suit came into the room, and she readied herself for the lecture.
Riley handed some papers to the woman, who came to stand in front of her desk. "Ok," she began, looking at them all. "This is Psych 105, 'Introduction to Psychology,' I'm Professor Walsh. Those of you who fall under my good graces will come to know me as Maggie. Those of you who don't will come to know me by the name my TA's use, and think I don't know about, 'The Evil Bitch Monster of Death.' Make no mistake, I run a hard class, I assign a lot of work, I talk fast and I expect you to keep up. If you're looking to coast I recommend 'Geology 101,' that's where the football players are. Any questions?" There was hardly any pause. "Good. Then we'll begin."
Buffy gripped her pen in her hand, placed it before the first line of her writing pad, and listened to the lecture, entering herself into college life. As the professor continued to teach, she found her interest in the course growing. Originally she had taken Psychology to fill the science requirement for her freshman year, and because Willow had persuaded her to keep her and Oz company, but she had never realised how much the subject would appeal to her until now. Determining the nature and method behind a person's thoughts, feelings and actions could prove essential to defeating some vampires, she realised, particularly the older ones like those of Angel's generation and beyond. If she decided to pursue the course for a degree, it could give a her a flexible working career too, it occurred to her.
She had no idea what else Professor Walsh held in store for her.
And at the moment, neither did Maggie.
As evening advanced into night, the lights of the Mansion at 1902 Crawford Street cast their rays out on to the almost deserted street which bordered the grounds on which the Frank Lloyd Wright style house was situated.
Inside the house itself, three people sat in the dinning room, one just rising from his chair to take away the empty plates of the desert course, leaving mother and daughter alone for the moment.
Joyce Summers watched Angel walk into the kitchen, then turned to her daughter with a searching gaze. "So," she began, "are you happy?"
Buffy smiled at her mother as she replied, "couldn't be happier. He's wonderful, Mom. It's wonderful. I'm so glad I said yes. How are you coping?"
"Its a little weird," Joyce admitted, "but I'm getting there. I'm glad we still get to see each other at least once a week. And your calls every night are very welcome."
"Good," Buffy smiled. "Now, if you ever feel the loneliness getting to you, I don't mind if you, you know, re-enter the dating scene."
Joyce chuckled. "You've gotten over Ted then?"
"Yes, providing me and Angel are allowed to vet them," Buffy remarked with a grin. "Seriously, if they make you happy, then we're fine. Its only fair that I should give you that just as you have given it to me. I'm very glad you like him."
"Me too," Joyce replied. "I didn't want to loose you when I had just come to know who you really are."
Buffy smiled, then Angel walked back in and conversation turned to other things until Joyce decided to leave.
The slayer saw her mother to her car, then watched as the vehicle drove up Crawford Street, then turned and faded into the night. Silently, she surveyed the night around her, slayer senses alive, as they detected something far away. Barely a second later she relaxed, as she recognised the deceptively mild vampire warning.
Since Angel had gained half of his redemption, Buffy had learned that his aura, the part of him that told a slayer he was a vampire, had changed. It had become lighter, more subtle, giving out a deceptive distance when often the reality was in fact much nearer.
Now Buffy leaned back against his chest as his arms came around her. With what had become a habit since the ascension, he bent his head and dealt a kiss to the little scar which covered her lightly tanned skin above her jugular.
"You still feel guilty, don't you?" She asked him when he had rested his head upon her hair.
"I can't help it," Angel confessed softly.
She turned round in his arms, her eyes gazing into his. "Well, we're even then. I still feel guilty about sending you to hell."
"You did what you had to do to save the world," Angel said. "You shouldn't feel guilty." His gaze fell from her in shame, and guilt. "What I did was different."
Buffy sighed, bringing one of her hands to his chin, the slight pressure of her touch calling his soulful eyes back to her own. "Angel, we're not having this debate again. You refused, remember? I had to punch you and bring out those pesky but vital survival instincts. So forget the guilt, okay?"
"Even though that scar now marks you to other vamps as mine?" He asked her.
"It does?" Her eyes widened in surprise, then she smiled. "Cool. Next time I meet one, it will be doubly afraid of me."
"You're really okay with this, aren't you?" He sought to confirm, just as surprised by her reaction to this new piece of information.
"Really," Buffy assured him. "Now stop brooding over it."
He smirked slightly at her orders. "Yes, ma'am."
Buffy smiled at his good humour thus restored. "Now, let's go inside, it's cold here."
"Yes, ma'am," he repeated, causing her to laugh. It was the kind of laughter which he had come to know since they first slept together, intimate and seductive, and the sound turned him on now just as much as it had the first time he heard it, in his apartment near the Bronze, almost two years ago. He looked into her eyes as he led her inside, and smiled back at her, a smile which promised how good the rest of the night was going to be.
As Angel took her hand and led her to their bedroom, Buffy knew that the next time he kissed the scar covering her jugular, it would not be because he felt guilty about drinking blood from her. It would be because the mark claimed her as his to the rest of the vampire underworld, and that knowledge made her wish that the scar would never fade away.
"The place looks great, Xander."
Xander smiled as he watched his friends grazed around the new interior decor of the nightclub. The dark theme had been changed for a more lighter look, with light camel covered furnishings and a mixture of tan shaded lights.
"Thanks," he replied in the wake of the compliments. "Cor helped."
"And he actually listened to my advice. Amazing," the fashion queen remarked, though inwardly touched as opposed to surprised.
"Dingoes are here," Oz called out as he and the rest of the members of Dingoes Ate My Baby arrived. "Where do we set up?"
"I'll show you," Xander replied, as the door opened to admit the first stream of consumers.
Angel and Buffy joined the rest of the Scooby gang, including the new professor of Irish Literature; Doyle, at their usual gathering place in the nightclub; a long corner sofa with a coffee table set against the wall.
Buffy snuggled into the arms of his warm embrace, then uttered a groan as out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Riley coming up.
"You wanna a dance?" She asked her soulmate.
"Sure." Angel rose, took her hand and led her out on to the dance floor.
Riley watched the couple for a while, a million and one thoughts passing through his head, all waiting for him to connect them together. Then the pager attached to the belt clips on his jeans beeped, meaning he had to go, for he had other, more important duties to attend to.
Outside in the dead of night, on the large campus of Sunnydale University, a vampire stalked the grounds, looking for a living and breathing, full-blooded human being of a target to drain the life out of.
Suddenly he felt an electric shock travel through his undead chest. He looked down and saw the source; a pair of wires were attached to his clothes. He was stunned, he had no idea that vampire could be controlled like this, or that the slayer who stalked his brethren upon this hellmouth possessed such a weapon. But that was all he had time to realise, before blacking out and falling upon the ground.
Then a group of people clothed in black camouflage gathered around him, and collected him up, taking him away.
To Be Continued In