SO… HOW MANY WAYS CAN YOU USE A PENCIL?
Sam looked up at the woman - the creature - coming after him. He gasped and backed up, automatically lifting his hand. A cross?
He shook his head. The creature was looking at him with bemusement. "Hey, where did you come...?" She winced and disappeared in a cloud of dust. A young blond girl appeared behind the dust, holding a stake.
"Anyway, Willow, as I was saying..." The girl looked up and looked up at him. "Willow, are you all right? Did that nasty vampire get you?"
"Huh?" Sam looked at the dust on the ground, rapidly blowing away. "Um... no?"
"Buffy?" A young man came along beside her. "Is Willow all right?"
Somehow he associated a Buffy with a California Valley girl, vapid and obsessed with the mall, not a teenage blonde bombshell holding a stake and killing vampires.
Ok, he was officially freaked out.
"Xander, I think you had better take her home."
"I'm all right," Sam said. "I think." After all, wasn't he here to save somebody? "Are you sure you don't need help?"
"I'm here." An adult man with a British accent hurried up. "I'm sorry, the staff meeting..." He looked at Xander, who was moving over to Sam and looking worriedly in his face. "Did something happen?"
"I think Willow must've gotten hit or something," Buffy said. "Xander was going to take her home."
Her. Well, with a name like Willow, he should've expected that. Rather an eclectic clothing choice, though, more t-shirts and overalls. Well, he could live with that. "Yeah. I think you had better take me home."
They started walking. "Are they going to be all right?" Sam asked.
Xander smiled. "Funny, I was going to ask the same of you. Exam tomorrow getting to you..." Sam looked at him. "What was I thinking? No exams get to you." He sighed. "Me, however..." He glanced sidelong at Sam.
"Do you need a study partner?" Could his assignment be that simple? No. With something that looked like that... monster around?
"Could you? Please, pretty please." The young man's desperation was almost physical.
"You know. Math. Exam on Friday."
"Oh. I think I can handle that."
After a short walk, they turned up a short sidewalk. Sam searched in his pockets for a key, and was rewarded with a key ring. He fumbled at it.
Xander took the key ring from her hand, saving Sam from testing each key. "You just go to bed, Willow Rosenberg." He plucked the cross from Sam's other hand. "And we don't want to get you in trouble with your parents, do we?"
"No,..." He realized that with a name like Rosenberg, Willow must be Jewish.
"I'll be by tomorrow and take you to school."
"And I know since you didn't object to that, that I'll definitely be by." He gave her a goofy grin, looking younger than Sam had originally thought. "See you tomorrow."
"See ya," Sam entered the house and looked around. "Anybody home?"
"Willow," came a female voice from another room. "Have fun with your friends?"
"Yes... I'm going to bed."
He headed upstairs, hoping he was heading the right way. Glancing in the open bedroom doors, it was fairly easy to find the teenager's room.
He flopped on the bed, looking at the Wiccan posters on the wall. He raised his eyebrows. Ok, a Jewish Wiccan. Was there such a thing? No weirder than anything else that had happened. He closed his eyes...
...The telephone rang and he jumped. Shaking, he answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Wil. It's Buffy. How're you doing now?"
"All right, I guess. I think I was sleeping."
"Yeah, vampire hunting will do that to you."
Sam closed his eyes and shook his head. Actually, he was hoping the vampire *was* part of his sleep and that he was dreaming. He pinched himself. "Ouch."
"You are hurt!"
"No, I just pinched myself."
A small silence. "O... kay. Wil, I'm still worried about you."
"I'll be okay."
Silence for a second. "Well, get some rest and I'll see you at school tomorrow."
"bye." He hung up the phone. How was he going to pose as a teenage girl? He wasn't a terribly good success as a teenage boy, in any of the times he tried, including his own childhood.
Where was Al?
Willow woke up in a white room, sitting up with alarm. "The vampire killed me?" She gasped.
A tall lady walked in, her dark brown skin offset by her cream, science-fictioney looking suit. "Are you the Angel of Death?"
The lady chuckled warmly. "I'm afraid not. My name is Dr. Verbena Beeks. You're in a hospital."
"Not dead" she said, her voice quavering.
The lady's eyebrows wrinkled. "You said something about a vampire?"
"I was out helping Buffy..." Willow shut her mouth. If she were in a hospital, babbling about vampires was one sure way to get into the mental ward. "Sorry." She averted her eyes. "I must have been dreaming."
"I've heard odder stories." Dr. Beeks looked down at an electronic pad. "I'm afraid you've come in without identification. Can you tell me your name and address?"
Willow thought that was odd... she always kept a piece of paper in her pocket. She looked down and gasped. She was wearing some sort of white unitard. She gasped again. "I'm a man! I'm a... man?"
Dr. Beeks raised her eyebrows. "Interesting. And... not exactly. You're just the same as you were."
"But... I'm a girl?"
"I believe you. Now. What's your name?"
"I'm Willow Rosenberg. I'm from Sunnydale, California."
"And the date?"
"That's great, Willow. Your age?"
"15." Willow saw a reflective surface and raised up, then gasped. "Dr. Samuel Beckett!"
Dr. Beeks looked taken aback. A man walked in. "Admiral Albert Calavicci! This is *so* cool!"
"How do you know Dr. Beckett?" Dr. Beeks said.
"I read his thesis on parallel computers and the string theory. And then there was that TIME cover... And Admiral Callavicci's an astronaut! Cool!"
"Al," Verbena said. "Meet Willow Rosenberg. She's a 15 year old from Sunnydale, California."
The older man turned to Willow. "And you read Dr. Beckett's thesis? How? That was supposed to be encrypted!"
"Um. I'm interested in computers. I found it on the internet." Willow blushed.
"I told Sam, but no, he said it would be fine..." He muttered. "What did you understand from it?"
Willow blushed even further. "Time travel..." She sat back. "Oh."
"I have to swear you to secrecy."
"You can't enforce it."
"No, but when time catches up..."
Willow shrugged. "I wouldn't have said anything, anyway, Admiral."
Al rubbed his forehead and looked at Dr. Beeks. She nodded. "I'm going to be straight with you. The fact that you're here means that you or someone you know are probably in danger. We're going to need to tell us everything."
"Why would Dr. Beckett care about us? Why did he come..." She came to a sudden realization. "The string theory didn't work quite right?"
"No. Caca's a good word."
"Ok." She chewed her top lip. "You probably won't believe me."
Dr. Beeks cut in. "She said she was helping Buffy with vampires?"
Willow lifted her chin. "My friend, Buffy Summers, is the vampire slayer. Rupert Giles is her watcher. My best friend, Xander Harris, helps them like I do."
Al turned pale. "Oh, boy."
"That's what *I* said when I found out," Willow said. Suddenly, she turned her head to one side. What was that? "Did you hear something?"
"No..." Al said.
"Something's not right here." She looked at Al. "Can't you feel it?"
"Right," Al said, looking at Dr. Beeks. "I think I had better get to Sam."
"Dr. Beckett," Willow said, smiling again. "That's so cool!" She looked at Dr. Beeks. "Can I read some more of his stuff?"
Where was Al? Sam looked at the posters on the wall. He didn't know much about the Wiccans... didn't they have something to do with witchcraft? Well, if there were vampires, there may be witches...
Sam jumped again and turned around. "Al. Am I glad to see you!"
Al looked at him. "Well, Sam, I'm glad to see you, too. You seem a little... tense."
"You won't believe the evening I've had so far."
Al was beginning to look alarmed. "You don't mean that..."
"I Leapt in and was facing a vampire."
Al turned an green shade of pale. "I was hoping she was on drugs or something. There's no such thing as..." He couldn't get the word out. "Which means that the other things she said..."
Sam sat down on the bed. "I think you had better give it to me."
Al looked as if he needed to sit down. "Gooshie... throw a chair in here, huh?" He grabbed out for something and came back with a folding chair. "Ok. Ziggy's not much help with this one, She kinda shut down when the kid said something about a 'hell mouth'." The hand link beeped. "Now you're coming up with some information." He bopped it on the side.
"She's saying that all though all records of something called 'sub-terrestrials' have been purged in our time, she is picking up some data from this time from some secret project called 'The Initiative.'" He bopped it on the side again. "Although it seems to be mostly clinical data and experimental stuff." He looked up. "It's giving Ziggy the shudders."
Sam wondered how a computer could get the shudders, then tabled the idea. "And you're not far behind."
"No." He dragged his hand over his forehead. "I'm in a cold sweat."
Sam looked around the room. "What did you get from Willow?"
"Oh. Cute kid, especially now that I know she's not drugged up. And bright. Would you believe that she read your thesis and understood it? Identified you right away."
"Isn't that a bit unusual?"
"Only one other saw *you* in the mirror. And she's not Swiss cheesed at all. Can't understand it." He shook his head. "Anyway, you're in Sunnydale, California. She goes to Sunnydale High, where she's getting straight A's and her IQ is off the chart. She said her closest friends were Xander Harris, Buffy Summers, and Rupert Giles. She said that Buffy was a vampire slayer and this Rupert was her watcher." He looked up. "Sounds sort of kinky to me."
Sam looked up at him.
He turned his attention back to the hand-link. "According to obituary records, Buffy dies day after tomorrow."
Sam thought of the small blonde. What little he had seen, he didn't think she would die easily. "How?"
"The circumstances are a bit mysterious." He rolled his eyes and hit the hand link. "No kidding, Ziggy! Give me a break." He looked up. "Willow says that she fights demons, too." He paled again. "But she qualified that with a 'kinda'." He looked up. "She seems rather timid."
Sam sighed. "Well, is anything going to happen tonight?"
"Ziggy says no."
"Then I suggest we both go to bed."
"And dream of vampires? Brr."
"Go to bed." Sam scrounged around for a pair of pajamas and finally found a pair with kittens. "I am."
"Go to bed."
When Sam turned around, Al had disappeared. Sam smiled.
Al emerged from the Imaging chamber looking at the hand link. He felt a touch on his shoulder and swung with his right, pulling it only when he saw Gushie. "Sheesh, don't ever do that to a veteran!"
Gushie winced and dropped back even further. "How's Dr. Beckett?"
"As is Miss Rosenberg." Dr. Beeks said, entering the control room. "I authorized a sleeping pill. I was afraid she wouldn't sleep, otherwise. Even so, she was fighting. I think she kept hearing things."
"How could she hear things? That's a sound-proof room!"
Dr. Beeks sighed. "Normally, I would say that she was imagining her fears. However, I understand that Sam said that he was facing a vampire?"
"Then she may be sensitive to things that we don't know about."
Al gave her a look of disbelief. "She's got you going, too!"
Dr. Beeks smiled. "Admiral, I've discovered that the more I learn and the older I get, the less I know. Haven't you discovered the same thing?"
"Not about things that fang you in the night!"
Dr. Beek's smile faded. "Should I prescribe a sleeping pill for you, too, Admiral?"
Al smiled quickly. "I'll just sleep lightly." He looked around. "Very lightly. You know, what better place for a vampire than a cave?"
Gushie paled. "Or a secret project?"
"There you go."
Dr. Beeks rolled her eyes.
Sam looked in his notebook. Computer science. Calculus. Comparative Mythology? Hmmm.
Xander looked over her shoulder from his position beside her on the bench.. "Don't you have that memorized by now?"
"I'm just... checking it for accuracy." He looked up. "Have you seen Buffy this morning?"
"You know the Buffster doesn't get here until the last minute. Late nights, you know."
"Right." Sam looked around the high school. Seemed a fairly average place, for a Southern California school. "Have you seen anything sinister around Buffy?"
Xander smiled. "You're kidding, right? Vampires, demons, a high school over the hell mouth, and her boyfriend?"
"Angel? Angelus? Guy that lives in a sunless room? Willow, are you sure you're all right?"
Sam looked at Xander's concerned face. He was Buffy's friend, and he didn't seem adverse to weird ideas. "Xander, I'm..."
"I'm afraid something is going to happen to Buffy. I have this feeling..." Sam glared at Al.
Xander started to look troubled. "Is this sort of a Wicca thing?"
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Yeah, I guess."
"If you're going to see Angel, I'm going with you."
"Okay." Sam wondered about this Angel. Was there something creepy about him?
"No record of an Angel around here, Sam, although a last name would be nice." The hand link squawked. "However, there is a record of an Angelus about a 100 years ago or so. Not a nice guy, in the bloody sense." He looked up. "Cute blonde at 9:00."
"Hi, Buffy," Sam said, before turning around.
Xander's mouth opened. "Precognition."
"Four syllable word. Impressive." Buffy said, sitting on the bench beside them. "Learn that one today?"
Xander smiled. "No, just popped in my mind when I saw Willow identify you without looking up." He looked at the students streaming into the school.
Buffy smiled. "Wicca studies rule!"
Sam smiled uncertainly back. "Yeah." Al was pointing at Buffy. "So... everything all right with you?"
Buffy shrugged. "Dusted a couple more after you left, went home, called you... Everything all right with you?"
"Fine," Sam shrugged. "I guess... we had better get to class."
Buffy grimaced. "Yeah. Biology exam time. And Giles wants to see us at lunch."
Sam glanced at Al. "Told you about him. Rupert Giles. Watcher. Works as a librarian here."
"New demon in town?" Xander said.
"Dunno. Wish me luck in biology?"
"Hope you flunk?"
"Hey, you didn't said you wanted good luck," he said.
"Xander, sometimes you're kinda weird," she smiled.
"Says the girl with the stakes in her backpack," Xander said under his breath, as he followed.
Sam stared after both of them.
Willow woke up with a start and looked around. "Oh, cool! I'm still here!"
Al walked into the room. "You know, that's not usually the comment this room hears."
Willow smiled. "Most people haven't read Dr. Beckett's work."
"Most people can't understand Sam's work. You're sure you're a teenager?"
"Yeah, that's a teenager."
"What can you tell me about this Angel?"
Willow grimaced. "He's Buffy's boyfriend. He's a good guy, mostly."
"Hey, we fight vampires, we don't date them. But he does have a soul, and he has saved Buffy a number of times." She frowned. "And he's so good looking. But I'm still not sure I trust him. I mean, what if he reverts?"
"Something pulls out his soul?"
Al shivered. "I'll make that my nightmare for tonight, thank you." He looked at Willow. "Do you need anything?"
"Can you get me a computer?"
Al smiled. "Sorry, nothing more complicated than an Atari."
Willow sighed. "That'll work. It's awfully boring in here." She looked around. "Did you hear that?"
"I wonder if I'm synergizing with my current me?"
"I don't think you can do that…"
Ziggy interrupted. "Don't be so certain, Admiral."
"I'm the base computer."
Al's mouth dropped open. "Ziggy! What…"
"There's no danger here. Besides, I want to talk with Willow."
Willow smiled. "Cool! You're a Star Trek computer."
Al sighed. "With a lot more personality. Ziggy, are you certain?"
"I want to talk to somebody as smart as Dr. Beckett. Nothing personal, Admiral."
Al rolled his eyes. "Ziggy, you're spoiled."
"Computer circuits can't spoil, Admiral."
Al left the room, muttering.
"My sources say that there's a new demon in town."
"Told you," Xander said, pointing at Buffy.
"You have sources?" Buffy said.
Giles glared at her. "Very funny." He picked up a book. "I can't find anything about this particular demon, but he says that he's going after the Slayer."
Al popped in behind Giles. "That would be Buffy," he said. He wandered around Giles, peering him in the face. "For a Vampire Slayer Watcher, jeez, he seems rather stiff."
"Well, I expected Arnold Schwarzenegger, not Monty Python." He stood back.
"Any more details than that?"
"I understand he's big and white and can pass for a normal human."
"Mr. Clean is after Buffy," Xander said.
"Apart from the curly horns," Giles said.
"Is he going to hand me a mop?" Buffy said. "'Cause I don't do floors unless I'm cleaning it up with a Demon."
Giles was obviously making a big effort to ignore the comments. "I can't find it in my books..."
"Hey," Xander said. "Do you have Tobin's Spirit Guide in there?"
Giles looked at Xander. "Tobin's."
"Ignore him," Sam said. "Ghostbusters reference."
Giles grimaced. "To further continue my comments, we have to assume he's intelligent and very cunning."
"Not just the brute strength I usually see," Buffy said. "Got it." She looked at Giles. "So where does Mr. Clean usually hang out?"
"I'd rather you avoid him, if you can."
Buffy smiled. "Usually not an option. Is that it?"
Giles looked at Buffy. "I'd like to see you for more training after school."
Al looked up. "It still sounds kinky."
"'k. See you later." Buffy went toward the exit.
"Willow, could you stay a minute?"
Xander stopped and looked at the pair. "Everything ok?"
"I just need to ask Willow a question."
"See you after school," Sam said. Xander looked at him, smiled, then left.
"You seem rather quiet today, Willow," Giles said. "I'm very concerned."
"Just a little spooked about last night." Sam shrugged. "I'm not used to that."
"Damn straight you aren't," Al sputtered.
Giles squinted. "I'm just getting a... strange vibe from you. As if you're not quite... you today."
Al looked up sharply. "Sam?"
Giles looked around. "Did you hear something?"
Sam looked at him deadpan. "Nothing unusual." Which was the truth. Sam suspected that Giles would somehow know if he lied.
Giles looked at Sam searchingly, then shook his head. "I'm probably imagining things. I'm sorry to keep you."
"Ok. See you later."
As soon as they left the library, Al shivered. "Sam, I think he can almost see me."
"We better be cautious around him," Sam muttered.
"Yeah. We don't need anybody here knowing who you are."
"Who the hell are you?" the young looking brown-haired man said.
Xander back up. "Uh... I'm Xander."
"Not you. Him."
Xander looked around. "Um... him, who? This is Willow, remember, Angel?"
Angel looked at Sam up and down. "I'll admit that he's wearing Willow's clothes, but this is not Willow."
"I see Willow," Xander said.
Angel looked at Xander. "And I don't. Interesting. So I repeat. Who are you?"
Sam looked absently at Xander, who raised his hands and backed up a step. "What? I didn't do it, I wasn't there, and you can't blame me!"
Angel raised his eyebrows.
Sam sighed. "I'm here to protect Buffy."
Angel smiled slightly. "Buffy can generally protect herself. Who are you?"
"You do have Buffy's best interests at heart, don't you?"
"Of course." He looked at Xander, who was glaring at him. "I love her."
"Sam?" Al popped in. Angel jumped back.
"Who is he?" Angel looked him up and down. "He almost glows in the dark."
"Excuse me?" Al said.
"I think he's talking about your outfit, Al," Sam said.
"Who the hell is Al, and why are you both talking to the air?"
Sam rolled his eyes. He had temporarily forgotten about Xander. "Look, can we come in? I'll explain almost everything to you both. Ok?"
Angel stepped back and motioned to his room. For a basement room, it was rather... elegant.
"Xander, I am not Willow. I am from... the future due to a government program neither one of you needs to know about. I'm here to prevent Buffy's death."
"Ok. Normally here I would say that I'm a little green man from Altair, but fang-boy here seems to see you as something different. And while I don't trust him, I haven't seen him lie yet." He sat down on the couch.
"Fang-boy," Al said.
Angel looked at Al. "I'm a vampire. About a hundred years ago, I was... 'cursed', so to speak, with a soul."
"And now he says he's one of the good guys," Xander said.
"I'm trying to atone for my past sins."
"You're Angelus?" Al said. "I knew about the vampire thing, but Willow didn't tell me that."
"Yeah, I'm Angelus."
"Is there an invisible man here?" Xander said, looking towards Al.
Angel smiled slightly. "You can't see him?"
"You're enjoying this way too much."
Angel smiled. "Yes." He turned to Sam. "You said you were here to prevent Buffy's death? Much as I appreciate your warning, but why should someone from the future care about one girl?"
Sam sensed there was something deeper. Angel may be a couple hundreds of years old, but he loved this girl. He deserved an honest answer. He looked at Al. "I didn't know Buffy before I... Leapt in last night. While I was fairly certain that vampires existed - I Leapt into one once, although Al doesn't believe me - I certainly wasn't aware of Vampire Slayers or Watchers and definitely not you." He sighed. "The fact is, my Project doesn't work as it was intended, and I've found myself blown from one life to another, and the commonality is that I need to put right what once went wrong." He looked at Angel. "Do you believe in God?"
Angel laughed bitterly and looked away. "Crosses hurt me. Holy water burns me. The light will kill me. I have seen evil, face to face. He may turn His face away from me for my sins, but how can I help but believe in God?"
"I believe that God is directing my Leaps to where I will do most good, even though I can't see the end of His grand design."
Xander looked back and forth from the two. "Now I know you're not Willow."
"Sam, Ziggy's having a fit. She says it's because of Xander." He pounded the hand link. "Hypocrite," he muttered under his breath.
"Ok, Al." He turned to Xander. "Xander, you can't tell a soul about what I said. I can't force you, but I can tell you that things may unravel if..."
"Can you tell me who wins the Superbowl next year?"
"Ok. Unraveling future. Got it." He sat back on the couch. "Do you suppose this white demon of Giles has anything to do with this?" He looked away. "That would make a good rock group name. 'The White Demons of Giles.'"
"Shut up, Xander," Angel said, not unkindly.
"Mr. Giles didn't have a whole lot about it. Except I take it that "white" doesn't mean 'Caucasian.'"
"No." Angel paced the room and looked at Xander. "And it's not something from a video game."
"Hey, I'm still shutting up over here. Although I bet somebody will use it some day. But not me."
"How was... Buffy found?"
Al banged his hand-link, and it squawked back at him. "Not good."
"She was found mutilated. Her neck was broken, and she was cold, in a puddle of blood. In the middle of the night. Her sister... no, her mother found her, no, sister." He banged the hand-link. "Make up your mind, Ziggy!"
"Buffy doesn't have a sister," Angel said absently. "So, a White demon." His hand turned into a fist. "I used to know a white demon. So how can we protect her?"
Sam started to speak, but Xander interrupted. "We'll stick to her like glue."
"Absolutely." Sam said.
"So where is she now?," Angel said.
Sam and Xander looked at each other.
"With Giles?" Xander ventured.
"On it." Al disappeared, then reappeared thirty second later, leaving Xander and Angel and Sam looking at each other uneasily. "Sorry," Al said. "She's with Giles. I was watching her technique." He smiled at Angel uneasily. "She's one kick-ass babe."
"What?" Xander said.
"She's with Giles," Angel said.
"Al was admiring her form - her fighting skills." Xander raised his eyebrows.
"Hey, I'm Italian." Al said.
"So?" Angel shrugged. "I'm Irish."
"And I'm…a mutt." Xander spread his hands. "So?"
They went silent.
"So," Xander finally said. "What're we going to do, hide in her bushes?"
"Dr. Beeks?" Willow said, looking up from her supper tray. "I'm getting that feeling again."
"What feeling?" said Dr. Beeks, spearing a carrot.
"Like something's not quite right. Could you look outside this room?"
Dr. Beeks shrugged. She opened the door. The security guard outside looked at her curiously. "Have you seen anything?"
The guard shrugged. "Just Gushie Nothing unusual. He was headed toward the control room."
"Are you sure?" Willow called out.
He looked at Dr. Beeks, who nodded. Looking inside the room, he said "Yes." He looked back at Dr. Beeks. "Is everything all right in there?"
Dr Beek's eyebrows drew together. "Fine." She looked into the room at Willow, who smiled at her. "The feeling's passed," Willow said.
"But now I have an odd feeling," Beeks muttered.
Xander peered through the bush. "This idea sucks," he said picking up a branch.
Sam looked up at Buffy's window. "We're supposed to be studying at Willow's house. Buffy knows that. She'd be suspicious that something was up if we knocked at her front door and asked whether we could hang out in her kitchen."
"Not necessarily," Xander said. "And something is up. And we're hiding in her bushes and not studying."
Sam shrugged. "Did you bring your books?"
"Actually, yeah. That math test…"
"What's the test about?"
Simple, Sam though… for him. He took the book and saw the well-studied chapter. "Ok… are you interested in building things?"
"Then think of it this way…"
They bent towards the book. Finally, Xander looked up at him with a hopeful look on his face. "I think I have it."
"Cool!" said another voice. "What do you have? And are you hungry? Mom made us all some sandwiches."
"How long have you known we were out here?" Xander eyed the sandwiches hopefully.
"Oh," Buffy shrugged. "About two seconds after you set up."
"Note to self," Xander said. "Don't take up detective work." He looked at Sam. "Contracting is looking better and better."
"Contracting," Buffy said.
Xander shrugged. "I'll try for college, but, if not..."
Buffy shivered, then started handing out the sandwiches. "I always wanted a sundown picnic."
"No sign of the nasty." Sam said, then started. Strange comment from him.
"So how long were you planning to be here?" She looked up. "Sundown's coming soon."
Xander looked at Sam. Sam nodded. "At least until Angel showed up."
"Angel? How did he get into this?"
"We told him."
Buffy looked annoyed. "Much as I like Angel, he really doesn't need to be fighting my battles."
"That's what he said," Sam mused.
"Then how did you convince him?"
"We... had some contact with another demon," Xander said. Sam almost choked to hear Al described that way.
"A friendly demon."
"Hey, they can't all be bad, can they?"
"Yes, they can," Buffy sat down with a thump.
Sam shrugged. "Not the one I saw." Al popped in suddenly, and he shied back.
"Um... a spider."
"You're not afraid of spiders," Buffy said.
"But I still don't like them running across my leg."
"So now I'm a spider," Al muttered. He looked up. "I thought you were staking out Buffy's house. Hard to do a stake-out when you're having a picnic with the subject."
Angel appeared beside Al. "Would you care to rephrase the word 'stake-out?" he muttered.
Al grinned sunnily. "You can't touch me."
Angel smiled. "But I can live a long time."
Al looked uneasy.
Buffy looked up, concern on her face. "Angel, who are you talking to."
Angel smiled. "Oh, didn't I ever introduce you to my invisible demon friend?"
"Your invisible demon friend." She looked up. "Angel, I would take your temperature, but I know what I'd feel."
"Al, Buffy. Buffy, Al. He's not exactly corporeal in this dimension. You can't see him, but he can see you, and he'll warn us of danger."
"Oh, please." She looked up at Angel's face. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Angel sighed. "I am, actually." He looked around the neighborhood. "Why don't we move this meeting inside."
"How're we going to explain this to your Mom?"
Buffy shrugged. "She knows that you're weird. And I told her that somebody from school was following me around and you wanted to catch him. And she thinks that Angel's another classmate."
By this, Sam realized that Buffy's mom wasn't in the know.
"Sam," Al said, who was jogging his hand link. "Now Xander and Willow get found with Buffy." Sam opened his eyes wide and looked around. "Right. I'll look around the neighborhood." He disappeared, then popped in almost immediately. "It's Mr. Clean! He's almost at the front door."
Angel started immediately, followed by Sam, then Buffy and Xander. "Where're we... oh."
A big white demon, with curly horns on his head, stood up from sitting on the porch, and glared at them. Angel and Buffy went immediately for the attack.
All three of the combatants stared at him.
"He's armed with a note book!"
Buffy recoiled. Angel looked at Sam, then at Al, and started grinning.
Buffy looked him up and down. "You're going to defeat me by writing my life story?"
The demon sank back to the porch. "I just wanted your autograph. I have autographs from the last 100 slayers."
They all looked at him.
"You're not trying to kill me."
"No." He smiled, which Sam found personally horrifying. "I'm not terribly fond of violence. I prefer keeping the records of the other demon's accomplishments."
Giles drove up, screeching his tires. "Get out..." He did a double take.
"Librarian, meet the librarian," Xander said. "Giles, I still think you need Tobin's."
"How odd. My sources have never been this wrong "
"There's a reason for that." The demon looked sly. "I have a talent for implanting memories for those who don't want to cooperate with me. The others I swear to secrecy."
"Good public relations?" Al said.
"You got it, glow guy."
"I wish they'd stop calling me that," Al muttered.
Buffy looked at Mr. Clean, then at Angel. "You definately weren't kidding."
Al bopped the hand link. "Sam, the odds still haven't gone down. In fact, they're going up, rapidly!"
"Something's coming," Angel said. He looked around. "There."
A black... something... was flying up the street. "What is that?"
They flew through Al, who was thrown backward. "They're... cold!"
Angel pulled out a stake and slashed towards one. It ducked, then pulled back. Buffy circled around in back of Angel, stake already pulled. She hit it in the chest, and it disintegrated with a breathy scream. "Whatever they are, they dust like vampires!"
Giles dove into his car and pulled out a number of stakes, tossing a couple to Xander and Sam. Sam looked at it curiously for a moment, then pushed it experimentally at the demon who was diving at him. Naturally, he missed. He whirled, karate-kicked at the demon, pushing him back ten feet, then drove the stake into where he supposed the heart was. It disappeared, and he was coated in a fine dust. "Cool!"
"I'm glad you think so!" Al yelled. Sam whirled. Two of them were diving at Buffy, who was fighting a third. Xander, Giles, and Angel, were fighting two or three demons of their own. Sam dove for one, hitting it in its back, the white demon reached the other. Both disappeared. "Thanks!"
"I haven't gotten her autograph yet!" the white demon wailed.
"Sam," Al said. "Behind you!" The demon slashed at Al, touching his forearm. "Missed..." Al stared down at his arm as a slash appeared. "Um..."
Sam kicked the demon back, then with a swift move, stabbed it in the heart. "Al, behind..." The demon disappeared. There was no-one behind it.
Willow woke up with a start. "I can't be here." The door opened, and Dr Beeks walked in. "Do you ever sleep?"
Dr. Beeks smiled. "Not usually in a Leap."
The anxious feeling came back. "We have to get... we have to go to..."
Dr. Beeks sat in a chair. "Relax, Willow. Sam is taking care of..."
"No! We have to go to... the Imaging Room!"
Dr. Beeks sat up. "How did you... synergizing."
"Huh? No." She turned her head to one side. "Something's drawing me..."
"Everything's fine." Beeks turned on her communicator. "Gushie. How's the status at the Imaging room?"
They both heard yelling. "Admiral. Get out of there!"
Willow and Beeks looked at each other. "We have to go!"
"But... we can't let you out of here!"
"Who's keeping me!"
"Dr. Beeks," another voice said. "Willow is needed."
"Now, Dr. Beeks."
The guard appeared at the door. Willow hit at him, then kicked him at his midsection. He moved forward, and the foot met with the man's crotch. He dropped. Willow stopped, stared, and blushed. Dr. Beeks looked at her.
"Oh... come then!" Dr Beeks ran down one corridor, then another. They emerged at a door to find Admiral Calavicci pointing. They saw his sleeve slashed, then a couple of demons appeared in the imaging room chamber. One was behind Al. Willow looked around wildly, then grabbed a couple of pencils, running behind the demon, and stabbed it in the back. It disappeared in a cloud of dust. The second dove for Willow, and she fell back, dropping her pencils. The demon approached her, and she kicked at it, pushing it away. Al grabbed it, punching it soundly in the face as Willow grabbed up the pencils and struck it in the heart.
Al grabbed her arm, and Buffy's home neighborhood appeared around her. Angel was dispatching one last demon, and her friends were regrouping. Al looped his arm around hers, then punched the hand link. "Sam, you did it. Buffy doesn't die tonight!"
"Cool," Willow said, then looked puzzled. "Did I just do what I thought I did?"
"Willow!" Buffy came up to Sam. "you were awesome."
Angel stared at Willow, hanging on to the Admiral's arm. "Yes, she was!" He smiled at Willow.
Al looked at Angel, then at Willow. "She probably won't remember this when she gets back."
Angel raised an eyebrow as he looked at Willow, then turned to Sam. Glancing back at Willow, he said, "We'll just make sure you remember this the next time you think you can't do something."
Xander came up to the trio. "Huh?" he said.
Buffy's Mom appeared at the front door. "I thought I heard... Mr. Giles! why don't you come in? Are you helping them study?" She looked doubtfully at the white demon. "Who's your friend in that costume?"
"Just a classmate, Mom. We'll be in in a second." He turned to Mr. Clean. "Thank you."
Mr. Clean pushed out his notebook. "Thank me with your autograph."
Buffy blinked. "Ok."
Mr Clean turned his head to one side. "And if I hear that this has gotten back to the Watcher's council... I have some powerful friends."
Giles looked at him and narrowed his eyes. He looked at if he were considering it.
"Giles," Buffy said.
"You have my word," Giles said, reluctantly.
The demon disappeared, and Xander started laughing. After a second, the rest of the group started.
"Wait a minute," Buffy said. "Why did those demons dust like vampires? Usually, when I kill a demon, it's generally gross and gooey."
Angel winced. "It's a long story..."
Al let Willow's arm go, and the scene disappeared. He pointed the way to the door, and Willow obediently left the room. "Admiral," Ziggy said, as they walked through the door. "There are two personnel that have disappeared from the base."
The Admiral stopped short. "Are you telling me, Ziggy, that two of our personnel turned into those things?"
"I think they were those things," Gushie muttered. He walked into the imaging room and picked up two badges from the floor, one male, one female.
"Admiral, I refuse to speculate," Ziggy said.
Al looked at the badges. "But I hired those two," he yelped. "Ziggie, how come you couldn't tell they weren't human?"
Ziggy remained silent. "Aha."
"Admiral," Dr. Beeks said. "I think we should get Miss Rosenberg back to the waiting room, don't you?"
Al looked at his arm. "I won't turn into a demon, will I?"
Willow smiled. "I haven't heard of it working that way, Admiral."
Al seemed to visibly relax. "Then I will be honored to walk you back to the Waiting Room."
They walked in silence. "Thank you for helping me," Al said.
Willow looked at him. "They seemed to be in both places," she said, talking to herself. "Do you have a link between yourself and... you must have a link. They must have been able to follow the link."
"God, this has been a strange Leap."
"Thank you for letting me be here," she hesitated. "But I won't remember it?"
"Probably not. If you do remember anything... national security, right?"
"I can keep my mouth shut if I want to."
"Admiral," Beeks said from behind them. "She is still a teenager."
Al wiped his face. "Right. I know you will."
They reached the waiting room and back to the narrow bed. She laid back, with a satisfied sigh. "So when do I Leap?" she said, lifting her head up after a few seconds.
Sam, in Willow's room, looked morosely at a pencil. He heard the imaging chamber door open behind him. "So, Al, when do I Leap?"
"You know I don't know that."
"So what happens to Willow?"
"For some reason, Ziggy is giving me sketchy details again... I still think this whole demon thing is freaking me out." He looked up. "A couple of our guys were demons, too."
"At the project? You have got to be... Anybody I know?"
Al checked. "No. After your time." He punched the hand link. "All it says is that Willow survives and goes to college for a couple of years. Buffy goes to college for a year, then drops out to take care of..." He punched the hand link. "Ziggy is shifting her answers around again. "Anyway, Buffy's alive. Xander goes into contracting. Giles starts a magic shop and eventually goes back to England." He punched the hand link again. "Ziggy, what do you mean? How could Sunnydale just disappear from the map?"
"So when do I Leap?"
"Ziggy says, when you pick up a pencil with your mind."
Sam's mouth dropped open. "I can't... Ziggy's finally burned a circuit."
Al's face went blank. "Sam, just humor me. Try it."
Sam sighed. "Ok. For you." He stared at the pencil and tried to imagine it in mid air. It stayed resolutely on the table. "Al, see..." Leisurely, it floated up towards the ceiling. "Uh, Al..."
"I see it." Strangely, Al was smiling. "See you next Leap."
Sam was still staring at the pencil, astonished, as he Leapt out.