Giles woke with a stunning headache and a rather clear memory of the night's folly. How had he been so careless as to kiss this woman on the first day he knew her? This was uncharacteristically bold of him and he silently damned the scotch, squinting against the bright streaming sunlight pouring into his bedroom through the open window. He groaned, head pounding its complaint. It was a mercy he'd awakened this early. At least his alarm clock hadn't…



He rolled out of bed, cotton mouthed and bone weary. Of all the nights to drink so much! He hadn't the time to lose getting to the high school. It was Graduation Day and that meant taking on the Mayor. He should have been focusing on his task as he showered away the night's grime. Instead, he was reliving his time with Destiny's Watcher, wincing every time she pulled away from his lips. She admitted she wanted to take advantage. That meant she was interested, didn't it? Or was she simply being polite with his feelings?

He really didn't know. She didn't seem the type to counterfeit emotion but how well could he say he knew her? He admired her, certainly. Her mind was a thing of beauty and he'd admired her work long before he ever saw her face. However, he found her face equally as beautiful as her mind. He wasn't much of an artist but he could have drawn it in his sleep, like a master painter rendering the perfect model immortal on canvas. He saw her small body, slim and supple even in middle age. Her long black hair reaching down to her waist and those brilliant jade eyes, like his own, and those lips, full and red. She was an enchantress, he was certain, and his theory was all but proven in his own mind because he couldn't stop thinking about her. He hadn't expected to be so attracted to someone he barely knew.

"Bugger me." He cursed again, turning off the hot water and stepping out of the shower in a swirling torrent of steam. He was a gentleman still, wasn't he?

The shower had served to eliminate the stiff muscles of his body but did little against the nausea of his stomach or the riveting pain of his head. Aspirin and toast. Or another shot of scotch. That idea made his stomach gurgle audibly. No, best to be as level headed as possible for the morning ahead. One second's bad timing could prove their undoing. This was a risky plan, at best. If they failed…he tried not to think about that. Best to press on old man, press on.

Angelina woke in her hotel room in only slightly better shape than her male counterpart. Both Watchers seemed to be experiencing the effects of their inebriation and this thoroughly vexing feeling inside of her only reaffirmed her commitment to keeping her body toxin free. She really didn't know how she'd gotten back safely but by some miracle she did. It might have had something to do with the Ascension. Everyone was reserving their strength for the upcoming fight. She remembered Rupert, however, and the heated feeling of his lips pressed over hers. If she'd tried, she thought, she might have been able to breathe through him. She sighed heavily. Such thoughts were the subject of schoolgirl fancy and not suited to her advanced age or state of mind.

Still…what if?

She decided to leave it alone, managing to keep down a cup of tea before she dressed. She didn't know what part she'd play in this dangerous dance but she'd be damned if she wasn't there to participate. Also, she wanted to see how her Slayer's night had gone. She walked into the blazing sunshine, slipping a pair of sunglasses over her tired, red rimmed eyes. The last thing she needed to do was let her impressionable Slayer see her hung over and in this much pain. Every step felt jarring and surreal at once but that didn't stop her head from wailing in protest. She groaned and placed a slim hand on her forehead. This was going to be a long walk.

Destiny woke up on the floor rolled in an old white comforter like a caterpillar in a cocoon. Buffy was already awake and she wasn't sure the elder Slayer had ever gone to sleep. She stretched, raising her arms over her head. The sun was shining outside and birds were chirping. How could the day of an Apocalypse seem so...pleasant? Shouldn't there be dark skies to act as a portent to the danger ahead. Shouldn't there be a plague of locusts or something? But no, nothing outside was even remotely creepy.

"Morning." She mumbled the greeting and slid the comforter down and off her body. June in southern California – she wouldn't need it.

"Hey. How'd you sleep?"

"Decently. But I kinda get the feeling you didn't."

"A lot on my mind."

"Want to talk about it?"

"No. It won't change anything." And the blond still wanted to keep some things guarded from her counterpart. Finding common ground and trying to be friends was not the same as friends she'd had a long time that she knew she could confide in. These thoughts were better saved for Willow. She just didn't trust this new Slayer yet. Destiny tried not to show her disappointment. She wanted to be trusted, to fit in here. She wanted to be accepted by the veteran hero.

"Ok." The brunette got up. "Can I shower?"

"Yeah, that's fine. I'll use mom's down the hall."

A short time later they were heading to the meeting point at the school. It was early still but their preparations had to be secret so that suited their purposes. Angelina spotted Giles standing alone, presumably the first to arrive. It wasn't surprising when she thought about British sensibilities. He immediately felt awkward and colored a little around the tips of his ears.

"Miss Barragan."

"Angelina, please."

"Miss Barragan."

The woman laughed a little. "Is that how it is going to be?"

"I'm trying to give you the respect you deserve."

"Are respect and interest mutually exclusive, Rupert?"

He was about to answer when Oz's van pulled up in front of the school. When he saw Willow and Oz climb out he merely gave Angelina a look. "Let's try to survive the day first, shall we?"

Before long the gang had gathered, everyone on time for once. This was too important to be late. Each knew what they had to do and confirmed the plan before they broke apart. The crew would be coming soon to start setting up the graduation stage and chairs so they needed to get in, do what was necessary, and get out. Buffy lingered behind once the others broke apart. Destiny stayed with her.

"What's your part of the plan?"

"Gotta get through to a monster."

"What can I do?"

"Hold the line with Angel. These students won't have a clue what to do. Protect them. The vampires won't be able to be topside very long but I want to limit the casualties. No turnings...if that's even what they're going for."

"I promise." Destiny shifted a little, feeling awkward and useless at the moment. "What happened, with Angel I mean?"

The hurt look in Buffy's eyes was quickly masked. She shook her head. "Nothing. He's right, it wouldn't have worked."

"But you love him."

"That doesn't matter. I'm a Slayer. He'd outlive me no matter if I die today or ten years from now. We hunt vampires. We can't love them."

Her tone was full of anguish and the brunette wondered if the speech was meant to convince her or a ploy on the blond's part to try and convince herself. She'd never been in love for herself but she couldn't imagine losing it this way.

"So there's really not much point in dating when we are what we are, is there?"

Buffy looked to her right, torn between a cynical answer and one that might be truer.

"That's really up to you. I've tried to have a normal life for so long and I'll always try to have a normal life because I need to feel like this calling isn't all I am, that this isn't all I'll have."

Clearly the younger was new to the calling. "Isn't it?"

"No." She was firm about that. "It can't be. I have friends and a future, possibilities."

"Oh." She fell into thoughtful silence. "Are we bad, Buffy?"

"Why would you say that?"

"Because we're different! We save the world and we kill things! I enjoy killing things. That makes me bad, right?"

"Well, you are killing demons."

"Does that make a difference?"

"It should."

"I don't know."

"Look. I feel the same way sometimes. I wonder where this power came from and why it chose me. I feel strong, powerful, and I enjoy the fight but I wonder if I'll take it too far. There's temptation but you have to keep it under control. That's what makes us good. We could be different and above everyone else but we can choose not to be."

The brunette nodded and felt a little better. Asking Angelina was one thing but she couldn't understand it fully.

"It's nice to have someone to talk to. You know, someone that understands."

"Yeah." Buffy nodded, thinking that might be true.

The people came to start setting up and Buffy hoped everyone would hurry. She ran through the plan in her head one more time, silently repeating it to herself. When the others started to appear, one at a time, she breathed a sigh of relief. Giles was the last to come out, having double checked everything thoroughly.

"Are we ready?"

"As we'll ever be. I pray it's enough."