A/N thanks again to TheSwannsSparrow for pointing my error. Fixed now. Oops.

eieio

A couple of days had passed since the bus had left for LA and things had actually settled down a lot. The remaining Potentials were all eerily quiet and surprisingly it was a little wearing on Buffy's nerves. After talking with Faith, it was decided that the older Slayer would go out on patrol, taking the Scythe with her. As Faith, Willow and Tara were at the mall, the remaining group would be safe enough.

The blonde pulled on her (current) favourite jacket - a lovely buttery soft leather jacket in a pleasing shade of tan, found in her favourite store. She hadn't had the money to pay for new clothes but all hers were either sent out of Sunnydale with the rest of her things or were lying at the bottom of the Initiative. Quentin being Quentin, had been unwilling to let anyone take clothes without paying for them so had insisted that a tally be kept of all the clothes taken by Buffy and the rest then a cheque was written for the merchandise and set into the till. If anyone came back to check, they would still get the money owed.

A couple of hours later saw the regular patrol carried out with only one staked vampire and a demon which had run off at the sight of her. She could have given chase but killing a scared, six inch high demon seemed a little overkill - pun intended. The thought of heading back to the mall was not really appealing however. With nothing better to do, she figured she's head to the woman who had told her about the Scythe... And this time, to avoid the woman's incredulity, she would tell her that her name was Elizabeth. She grinned and, with a destination in mind, turned and headed in the required direction.

eieio

The Slayer walked in, fully expecting to see the woman standing there once more, as if she had been waiting for her for millennia. Instead she was greeted by the sight of Caleb smirking as he stood over her bloodied corpse. "Damnit! What is wrong with you? What the hell did she ever do to you?"

Caleb blinked, taken aback by Buffy's angry questions but he rallied well. "She was more interesting, dying and screaming for mercy. You'll know how that feels shortly." Buffy's only reaction was to roll her eyes and move into a battle-ready position.

Twenty minutes into the fight, Caleb was reconsidering the notion of taking on the Slayer without being fully imbued with the First's power. Instead of listening to that voice of reason however, he listened to the voice that said that this stupid blonde whore was nothing but a girl...

Buffy easily dodged Caleb's attacks, grinned as she jumped out of the way of a low sweeping kick. "Aw, is poor Caleb all worn out? Perhaps you should take a nap." She used her own leg to knock the feet out from him. "So like a man - all talk but no stamina." She smirked. "I haven't even broken a sweat whereas you're ready to call a time-out?" She stomped on his stomach hard before dancing back out of the way of the hand that tried to catch her leg and knock her off-balance.

"Y'know, if this was a wrestling match, you could tag someone else in. Shame you don't have anyone else here to help you. Me though, I've got this." She held up the Scythe.

Before Caleb could move or utter a word, she brought the blade down on his neck, sighing with relief that the man was finally no more. Sensing a presence, Buffy turned and looked around but saw nothing. She snorted softly. "Aw, did I just kill your right arm? I can't lie to you, it felt damn good."

The First appeared before her then, in Kennedy's form and wearing such a look of pure evil loathing that Buffy almost took a step back. Almost.

The impersonator glared and took a step forward with arms stretched out and fingers clawed as if to strangle the blonde bitch in front of it. When it spoke, its voice was filled with barely concealed hatred. "You BITCH! When I rule this disgusting world, you will be the last to die - you will watch on as I kill all those you love, slowly and painfully. Only then will I deign to put you slowly out of your misery and-"

Buffy rolled her eyes and interrupted the pointless speech. "I'm sorry - were you not paying attention before? 'Cause Caleb said pretty much the same thing to me not that long ago and now he's lying dead on the floor in pieces."

Kennedy's eyes widened. "You. Will. DIE!" With that said - or rather, screamed - the First vanished. Before Buffy could react to that, she felt another presence enter the room.

Angel stepped out of the shadows. "See you're still making friends."

"Angel..." She felt a little aggravated by the breathy quality her voice had taken on at the sight and sound of him. That was eclipsed however, by the annoyance she felt at how she wanted to react - she wanted nothing more in that moment than to run over and kiss him senseless. She actually had to force herself to stand still. "You're looking well."

Angel looked baffled - this wasn't the reception he had expected. Why was his Slayer not falling into his arms? "I...what?" His nose wrinkled as he registered the fact that she stunk of Spike. And not in a fighting kind of way. "Are you sleeping with Spike?"

Buffy immediately felt defensive. "He has a soul now."

Angel growled. "It's all the rage now, isn't it? Getting a soul. I had one first you know!"

The Slayer sighed. "It's not a competition, Angel. How are Wesley and the rest doing?"

Angel waved a hand around vaguely, not really paying attention. "Do you love him?"

Buffy eyed him steadily. "I do... How's your son?" That at least stopped the questioning and Angel had the grace to look embarrassed. "Connor is...will be...fine."

Buffy sighed and finally moved toward closer and gave him a hug. "It's good to see you, Angel." It took all her willpower not to follow up with a kiss.

"Yeah, you too." He hugged her back, surprised to feel the same pull to her, despite everything - despite Cordelia.

With a heavy sigh, Angel pulled back from his ex-lover. They weren't the same people they once were. He didn't have the right to get angry with Buffy for sleeping with a souled Spike any more than she had the right to get angry about Connor or Cordelia - not that there was anything to get angry about Cordelia for... Not yet at least. Hopefully Wolfram and Harte could do something to change that. He grimaced at the idea (not for the first time) that he was now relying on his enemy to bring back the other woman he loved – it was going to take a lot of getting used to. Pushing the thought aside, he gestured to the door. "Can we get out of here?"

Buffy sighed. "I need to bury that bastard - the one in bits on the floor. Preferably separately to ensure it really is dead." She frowned. "When that's done though, I need to take the old lady to the mall for a proper burial," she paused as a new problem hit her, "except that Michael is away to L.A. with the others. Damn."

Angel looked understandably confused - this meeting wasn't going at all in the way he had expected, and now Buffy was talking in riddles. "I know I've been gone a while but since when did burials happen at the mall? Who's Michael...and what lady?"

Buffy grinned suddenly. "You've missed a lot. The place we were staying got blown up - there wasn't enough room at home for us all - so we're currently at the mall. Michael is a Watcher who was ordained some time ago so he's been burying the Fallen. Or rather, he's been presiding over their burials." She paused to remember his questions, turned and gestured. "The lady ther- oh. Huh. She was there a moment ago. Strange." She shrugged. "Guess she wasn't too fond of the idea of a burial." She gestured to the torso of Caleb. "Wanna bury that half for me?"

Angel nodded and lifted up the remains. "...human?"

Buffy grimaced. "Only in body. I'll explain as we go. Then you can tell me what brings you back to lovely Sunnydale... Oh, did I mention that we have an army now? Lots of Slayer Potentials. The First is trying to wipe them out so they've been coming here for protection - they're going to be coming to you from now on though. You're in a lull, right?" She smirked as she glanced over at him before grabbing Caleb's head, roughly by the hair, careful to keep any dripping blood away from her clothes and footwear.

Angel boggled at her retreating form as he followed her out. He didn't even know where to start with questions. He settled on "you ARE going to survive this, right?"

Buffy shrugged. "Hopefully."

eieio

After burying Caleb and bringing Angel up to speed, she flopped down on the grass and peered up at the stars for a while. That got boring real fast though, when she remembered that ANGEL was there. She sat up and looked at him. "Okay... so you brought me something right: a gift that will help?"

Angel blinked in surprise but realised it wouldn't have been that hard to guess at - it's not like he regularly popped down to Sunnydale for a visit, after all. He nodded and pulled the package out from the inside pocket of his duster. "Well... maybe. Don't actually know what it does unfortunately – it's a gift from people we don't really trust so actually, it could go either way." He held the gaudy pendant up for the Slayer to get a look.

Buffy stared at it quietly, taken back to the moment that she had seen its true power and had realised that she was about to lose Spike. She was so lost in the remembered pain that it took her a moment to register that the vampire was still talking. "Sorry... what?"

Angel frowned. "Buffy, are you okay?" At her nod, he sighed and got back to the point. "I said that it has to be worn by someone ensouled but more powerful than a human. Which means me... or I guess Spike now."

The vampire sighed and looked away, pondered over how to word his request. "I..." he sighed again and looked back at her. "I know that technically, Spike could do this as he has a soul now but he can't have had it as long as I have, Buffy. I want to be here with you, at your side when this goes down. Let me wear this – if nothing else, chances are high that it was meant for me, anyway. I don't think that Wolfram and Hart want me dead – there's no way they would have gone to so much trouble as they have in the past few days if that were the case."

Buffy did her best to not jump for joy at his request. It would save her having to try and work out a way to make it happen. Still, there was still one hurdle: "Are you sure that you can deal with the fact that I'm with Spike now? I don't want to cause you any pain, Angel. I don't want to rub it in your face either but we are together now..."

Angel sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "I'm not going to pretend to be thrilled about it but I'll survive. I'll be here to help if you want me to – we've just survived an Apocalypse in L.A. so we'll be having a quiet time. Still happens here in Sunnydale, right?"

The young woman smiled. "Yeah. Guess that answers a question I've always wondered about – if it's the same way everywhere. Okay... Look, if you're happy to help out despite me being with Spike, I'll happy for you to be here. I could do with all the help I can get." She chewed on her lip, considering. "Will someone be able to look after the Potentials we sent up there?"

Angel nodded. "Sure. Wesley will be more than happy to deal with them and help them settle in." He paused. "Did you say Watchers are with them..?"

Buffy grimaced. "Yeah, sorry. Had to get them out of the way. After the moron betrayed us and got a lot of people killed, I didn't want the rest of them there..." She hastened to add, "The rest seem trustworthy enough. I just didn't want them here, feeling obliged to help in the fight – you know how Watchers are."

Angel nodded. "They Watch." He looked away from her then. "Seems pretty dead here. How about we head back to the mall and you introduce me to everyone I don't know."

Buffy nodded and stood. "Sounds like a plan." She dusted off her clothes and headed back, Angel walking beside her.

eieio

As they entered the mall, they were too engrossed discussing everything to notice two presences standing nearby.

Spike and 'Kennedy' stood there, glaring at the Slayer and her ex-boyfriend. "That BITCH... she sent you off to L.A. then the moment your back is turned, she's cosying up to her ex-boyfriend. Nice, huh?"

Spike growled as the First smirked – the Slayer might have taken Caleb from him but it seemed like it was about to get Spike instead. It seemed like it might be a fair trade, all in all.