Part 7


It was strange, Buffy thought, and in more way than one. Sleeping in the arms of her Angel
was not, of course. They had done that for a long time now. She doubted that she'd still be
able to sleep if he wasn't there, if she couldn't rest her head on his still chest and warm it with
her cheek. No, it was the surroundings that were strange.

Buffy remembered sleeping in a bed, a real bed, but only in the abstract sense. She had
forgotten how good it felt. The soft mattress beneath her, clean sheets surrounding them, this
had to be the closest thing to Heaven the Earth could offer.

Even more strange to sleep in Giles' apartment with Angel by her side. Oh, she had slept here
once before after a particularly nasty patrol, when she'd been too tired to go home. It was one
of the few really vivid memories she retained of her life here in Sunnydale. Giles had tucked
her into his spare bed, for the first time giving her the feeling that he was truly her father now.

Now she was sleeping with her lover but one room away from daddy. It brought a small smile
to her lips.

"You're thinking again." Angel admonished her softly, his hand stroking her hair where she
rested her head on his chest.

"So much has happened today." She murmured, snuggling closer to him. "I ... I guess I still
can't quite believe we're back, Angel. And that only three months have passed here."

"It's a lot to take in." Angel nodded, knowing that it was much worse for her than for him. He
had been a drifter for years; the only person he had allowed himself to become attached to in
any way was right here by his side. She, though, had had to face the fact that her friends and
family would be, at best, very much changed by the time they finally got back. Only now they
weren't. They were the same people they had left. And Buffy wasn't.

"I was expecting things to change." Buffy continued. "I expected that the wounds wouldn't be
that fresh anymore. But they are. For them."

"And for you?" He asked.

Buffy sighed deeply. "It's different. I am still angry with Xander for not telling me about the
curse. And my mother ... I don't know what to think there. But it's been so long, Angel. So
much time. I ... I'm still angry, but not in the 'stark raving mad' way. Does that make any
sense to you?"

"It does." He nodded. "You have a right to be angry, but time soothes the fury and
disappointment. Even if only a bit."

Buffy found her eyes falling shut as tiredness overcame her, but her thoughts were still
churning inside her without rest.

"Angel?" She murmured, half asleep.


"What am I to do about my mom?"

He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "We'll figure it out tomorrow, beloved. Sleep now!"

Resting in the arms of her Angel, Buffy fell asleep and dreamed of Hell.


Day 4:

Charon brought them to the other side of the river, which was as broad as any ocean on Earth.
Buffy had slept for most of the trip, hoping to distract herself from her growing hunger and
her worry about Angel that way. Angel had stayed awake to guard her sleep, not daring to lie
down himself with his demon as starved as it was.

The far side of the Acheron was not a gray desert. It looked like a garden, actually, though
Buffy was not inclined to compare it to the garden Eden. It was located in a large valley filled
with mist, the far end of it vanishing into gray. No sun could be seen in the heavens,all the
trees and plants seemed tired and old, their branches hanging down, their leaves dark and

The sky above them had turned a crimson red and the smell of blood and suffering that
suffused the air had grown much stronger.

It was driving Angel insane.

The ferryman never said another word to them, didn't answer any of their questions. He
simply saw them off once they reached the beach and disappeared back into the gray mists
that hung over the Acheron as well, no doubt going to collect more dead people from the
other side. The wraiths that had accompanied them on the ferry disappeared in all directions
without even once looking at them.

"Where are we now?" Buffy asked Angel.

"This should be the First Circle of Hell." He said, thankful for something to take his mind of
the bloodlust. "It's the place for those who led good lives, but lived before the Coming."

She looked down into the valley, seeing people, many of them, move through the misty
garden, sadness on their faces. Many of them were looking up, trying to look past the mist,
past the crimson skies, looking for a glimpse of ... something. Heaven? The sun? She didn't

"You mean all these people had against them was that they were born before Christ?"

"That's what Dante wrote. I have a hard time believing, though, that ..."

Something moved in the underbrush ahead of them, something small and fast. Angel's
predator senses immediately picked up the smell of living blood. Not human, but definitely
alive. Whatever it was, it was not like the insubstantial wraiths they had seen on the other side
of the Acheron.

This was real. Which meant it could be eaten.

Buffy and Angel moved almost as one, carefully circling around the place where they had
seen the movement. Considering the place they were in, it was a safe bet that they wouldn't
come upon any kind of harmless forest animal. Probably something that wanted to eat them
every bit as much as they wanted to eat it.

"Ready?" Buffy whispered to Angel as they had the bush surrounded.

"Go!" They both jumped into the bush, unleashing a tremendous roar from the thing inside.


Buffy studied the creature as it slowly roasted over the fire they had built. The smell of
cooking flesh was making her mouth water like crazy, but the sight of it...

"It looks like a dog." Buffy said, cocking her head to one side to look at it. "A dog with a
really big mouth and lots and lots of teeth."

"A dog that nearly bit your arm off." Angel remarked, looking anywhere but at her.

Buffy's sleeve was torn where the creature had attacked her. Its mouth was big enough to bite
off her arm and swallow it whole, only superhuman reflexes had saved her. As it was she had
a bloody scratch all the way down her forearm.

She knew what it was doing to Angel.

Unfortunately for them the creature, while made of flesh, had very little in the way of blood.
Angel had tasted just the tiniest bit before spitting it out again, his demon face warping with
revulsion. At least its flesh seemed to be digestible. Buffy had tasted just a tiny slice, almost
raw, and while it tasted rather bland, it did soothe her hunger a little.

As she waited for her meal to finish roasting she thought about Angel's meal. Or lack thereof.

"How long since you've had any blood?" She asked him, her face turning serious.

"A while." He said, trying to wave away her concern. "I'm all right."

"No, you're not. You had to heal a major wound and haul me down that tunnel, remember?
You haven't slept so far and this ... this stench in the air can't be doing you any good."

She moved closer to him, putting her hand on his forearm.

"How long, Angel?"

He didn't look at her, but gave a resigned sigh. "Too long, I'm afraid."

"What will happen if you don't get blood soon?"

"I ... a vampire that gets starved becomes ... the imperative to feed becomes overwhelming. I
... you might be in danger, Buffy."

She nodded, having expected something like that.

"Then what say we defuse the danger right now."

Angel looked confused until she offered him her wrist.

"No!" He yelled, jumping to his feet. "Under no circumstances..."

"Angel, you have to!" She interrupted him, rising as well. "Take it now! I'm rested; I'm about
to have a meal, gruesome as it might look. I can take it if you drink just a little. If we wait any
longer we both know you will not have a choice in the matter."

Angel looked to the ground, ashamed. "If I ... if I should get this way, you have to..."

"No, I can't." She told him. "Not again! Not ever again!"

He looked up to see tears rolling down her cheeks. God, why did she have to suffer this way?
Why had the world forced her to thrust a sword into his heart in order to save it? Why did she
have to offer him...

"Please, Angel!" She begged, still holding out her wrist. "I can't lose you again."

Angel closed his eyes, clenching his fists. This was his greatest nightmare. Taking blood from
Buffy, being forced to violate her for his demon's needs. He didn't doubt that her offering
was sincere, she loved him and wanted him to live. Why was such a wonderful girl cursed to
love something like him?

The real horror was, though, that she was right. If he didn't take her blood now, while he still
had some measure of control, he would soon try and take it by force. It would either lead to
her having to kill him or him killing her.

No choice at all.

Slowly, with tears on his face, Angel reached for the wrist of his beloved and, after pressing a
soft kiss on it, sank his fangs into her skin.


Half an hour later Buffy and Angel went to sleep in each other's arms, both their hungers
sated for now, the clean-picked bones of the dog-like demon creature neatly piled beneath the
cooling ashes of the fire.


Part 8


The sound was barely audible, coming from somewhere below, but it was more than enough
to wake Buffy from one second to the next. It had become habit a long time ago. Whatever
made a sound around her, odds were it was evil, dangerous, and looking to make a meal out of
Angel and her. She was on her feet in an instant, looking around for danger.

It took her nearly a minute to recognize her surroundings. A bedroom. What was she doing in
a bedroom? How come there was a bedroom here? The memory returned but slowly.

They were out. They were home.

In Giles' home, to be exact.

Looking back at the bed, she saw that Angel was still sleeping like the dead. Which he was,
technically. She smiled. No doubt he had stayed awake long after she had dozed off, guarding
her sleep as he always did. Even with all the changes she had gone through he still needed a
lot less sleep than she did and in Hell it hadn't been all that wise for both of them to sleep at
the same time.

That was over, though. They were out. Shaking her head, she still had some trouble believing
that this wasn't just a dream.

There was the sound again, downstairs, someone moving around in Giles' living room. It
wasn't Giles, she was sure of that. She could sense him in the neighboring bedroom, could
hear his even breathing. He was still asleep. Who could ...?

"Giles?" She heard a voice call out, one that was familiar to her. Where did she know that
voice from?

She peeked around the corner of the stairs, careful not to be seen herself. If it couldn't see
you, there was a good chance it couldn't eat you.

The living room was filled with sunlight. Sunlight? When was the last time she had stood in
the sunlight? God, that had to be ... she frowned, wondering if she would ever be able to do so
again. That part of her changes had never come up so far. There was no sun in Hell.

Two people were standing in the living room. A boy with blonde, spiky hair, and a redheaded
girl. The girl turned around, looking for someone or something, and Buffy saw her face.

"Willow?" She whispered. She remembered the name, knew that it belonged to her best
friend. She remembered that face, too, though time had dimmed that memory. Before learning
of the time difference she had expected to meet a grown woman, had spent days imagining
what Willow would look like by now. But here she was, still the same girl she remembered.

"Giles, you're not gonna believe this." Willow still looked around for the Watcher, not having
noticed Buffy upstairs. "We went to the mansion and there was, like, this huge scorch mark
on the floor. Like something, I don't know, appeared there and ..."

Buffy stepped out from around the corner and Willow's mouth fell shut.

"Willow?" Buffy asked, needing outside confirmation. All of this was so unreal. This world,
these people, she had buried them inside her mind a long time ago. But they were here, alive,

"Oh God, Buffy!" Willow yelled and bolted up the stairs, catching Buffy in a bone-crushing
hug. There was a tense moment, every instinct screaming at Buffy to free herself from this
attacker, to run back to Angel and hide from the monsters. Then she relaxed. This wasn't
Hell. Hell was behind them.

"Hi, Will!" She said, returning the hug. She was pretty certain that she had often called
Willow 'Will'. "Miss me?"

"Buffy, I was beginning to ... you're back! My God, you're back!"

Buffy was beginning to fear for her air supply when Willow finally let go, taking a step back.
Which inevitably led to her getting a good look at Buffy's eyes for the first time.

She gasped.

"My God!" Willow's eyes widened in horror and she took two steps back, shaking her head.
"Buffy, no! No, it ... it can't ..."

Buffy closed her eyes, the treacherous demon eyes, serving the added purpose of not having
to look at Willow's horrified face. Would it be this way with every single one of her family?

What would her mom say when she saw the new Buffy for the first time?

"What ... what happened?" She heard Willow asks. Opening her eyes once more she found
that her (former?) best friend hadn't yet gone running for the daylight outside. She stood half
the room away, clutching the hand of ... of ... Buffy couldn't remember the boy's name.

"I changed." Buffy simply said, not daring to move for fear of frightening Willow even more
than she already had.

"Willow! Oz!" Giles came out of the bedroom. "I see you ... ah, already saw that Buffy is

Oz! Right, that had been the name. She dimly remembered Willow starting to go out with him
just around the time that Angel had ... sometime around her seventeenth birthday.

"Is she?" Willow asked, still staring at her with wide eyes. "I mean, is she ... she?"

"I believe so, yes." Giles nodded. Buffy noticed that he was still wearing his pajamas, which
didn't fit at all with the image of him she had carried with her all these years. She never
thought of him in anything else but tweed. Odds were that Willow's yelling had woken him.

Speaking of waking ...

Angel was standing in the door of the guest bedroom, out of sight of the newcomers.

"I think I need to sit down." Willow sounded as if she would faint any second. "I really need
to sit down."

Oz guided her to the nearest chair. There was confusion clearly visible on his face; something
Buffy seemed to remember wasn't all that common. She exchanged a glance with Angel.
Would it be better to hit them with another surprise right now or wait until later?

Giles took the choice from her.

"Maybe now is a good time for the two of you," he looked over at Angel, "to tell us what
exactly happened to Buffy."

"The two of ...?" Willow began, then trailed off as Angel stepped out from the shadows.

"Wow!" Oz just said.

"A-Angel?" Willow stuttered, staring at him. "You ... you are Angel, right? I mean ..."

"Your spell worked, Willow." Angel assured her, managing half a smile. "Angelus is gone for

"Good! That's good, ... right?"

Buffy took advantage of Willow's short-lived distraction and knelt down in front of her,
effectively trapping her in the chair she sat in. Not leaving her time to be scared of her, she
grabbed her hand, pressing Willow's fingers over her wrist.

"It's good." Buffy told her. "Both Angel and me are the people we were. No matter the

There was no mistaking the pulse Willow could feel pounding under her fingers. Nor could
she ignore the warmth of Buffy's skin. Besides, she had never seen a Vampire before who
could change only his eyes, leaving the rest of the face human.

"Buffy?" Now she was the one who needed confirmation. "It's really you?"

"It's me, Will." Buffy nodded, smiling now. "I'm back."

Willow launched out of the chair and hugged Buffy again, longer this time. Buffy heard her
mumbling "You're back!" over and over again, causing tears of happiness to roll down her
cheeks. Just having her close brought back so many memories she had all but forgotten.
Willow had been her best friend, back in her old life, and she had a strong feeling she would
be again.

But first they would have to tell them exactly what had happened.


Day 63:

They crossed the First Circle of Hell in a time they estimated to be about two months. There
was no way to count the days, as there was no night here, just the eternal, misty twilight that
had greeted them the moment they first set foot on this side of the Acheron. Buffy had started
counting their sleep periods, hoping that their rather irregular stops for rest might just balance
out in average.

They did find out that Dante had erred in the purpose of the First Circle. The wraiths they had
seen on the ferry, at least those that had entered into the misty valley and not vanished to
elsewhere, had grown more substantial once they reached their destination, becoming almost
real again. Probably as real as dead men, truly dead men, could ever be.

None of them believed that they were dead, though. The First Circle housed those that refused
to accept that they were dead. It was the limbo of restless spirits. They erred through the
forest, looking for a place to get out, to get back to the lives they still thought they had. They
never ventured to the valley's edge, though, never even got near. Instead they walked in
circles, over and over again, searching for something they would never regain.

None of them could give Buffy and Angel any kind of advice or help as to their journey.

The food problem, while not exactly solved to anyone's satisfaction, became less of an issue.
While the valley itself was free of any kind of demons or monsters, enough of the smaller and
mostly harmless variant stalked around the edges of the forest. None of them tasted good, but
Buffy could sustain herself on them. Angel sustained on her blood. He didn't want to, but they
didn't find any alternatives.

Dead men didn't bleed.

The small demons weren't the only ones they saw, though. Through the mists they sometimes
spotted giant shapes moving around the valley, their steps causing the earth to shake. They
heard roars as if from terrible beasts, sounding in a distance impossible to gauge. They might
have been just around the corner or miles away. Buffy and Angel did their best to stay out of
their path.

The trip through the First Circle was mostly uneventful, their greatest obstacle being the sense
of gloom and despair that descended upon them while walking through the misty forest day
after endless day. Buffy couldn't imagine what it had to be like to spend eternity in this place.
Maybe dead men couldn't go insane. She wasn't so sure about herself.

They tried to circle around the valley once, hoping to save time by cutting across the
seemingly endless gray plains that spread all around it, but whatever direction they chose
always led them back to where they had started.

The only way past the First Circle seemed to be through the valley itself.

One other thing happened, though. Something that didn't become apparent until they were
nearing the end of the First Circle, the far side of the valley finally coming into sight. Buffy
had felt a bit off for several days before that, but had written it off to her rather monotone diet
and the gloomy surroundings.

The footstep of some distant beast caused the earth to shake and suddenly Buffy's stomach
turned, causing her to throw up on the valley floor. Angel was by her side in an instant, his
cold hand soothing on her back, the other holding back her hair as she heaved over and over

Blood. She was throwing up blood. And when Angel removed his hand from her hair several
strands came out along with it.

"My God!" He whispered, looking at the pale face in front of him.

"What is happening to me?"

Her knees were trembling and she felt sick, her skin was clammy and covered with cold

"It must be something in those creatures you've been eating." Angel said, helping her sit
down on a fallen tree trunk nearby. "Some kind of food poisoning."

She coughed, wiping the remains of puke from her face. "You think I should change my
diet?" She asked him, her attempt at humor failing miserably.

It wasn't just the food, though. Buffy stopped eating the little monsters, instead tried to
sustain herself on what little in the way of edible plants they found in the forest, yet it didn't
help. She threw up several times more, even when her stomach was completely empty,
spilling more and more of her blood.

Angel didn't dare drink from here anymore as she was growing weaker by the day. They
reached the end of the valley and Buffy was unable to climb up the steep edge that led up
whatever lay beyond the First Circle. Angel had to carry her, which wasn't the smartest idea,
given his demon's growing hunger.

By that time they had both come to realize what was happening to Buffy. It came down to
what Charon had told them. This was not a place for the living. Only the dead walked in Hell,
the dead and the monsters. The dead didn't need to breathe the foul air. The dead didn't need
to eat what little existed in the way of food.

Buffy had to, though. And Hell was slowly killing her.


Part 9


Day 75:

Buffy was steadily getting worse, not able to so much as stand on her own two feet any
longer. Angel had restored his own strength somewhat by drinking from the small demon
creatures, though they saw them more seldom now and each of them contained but the barest
amount of blood. It did almost nothing for his vitality, besides tasting so foul that he had to
fight himself with every sip, but it was just enough to keep him alive.


They had left the misty valley of the First Circle behind and wandered across a gray plain for
what Angel estimated to be several days. The only sense of direction they had was provided
by the increasing stench and the sound of screams. Angel had improvised a water bottle for
Buffy from several of the dead trees in the Valley and taken along some of the barely edible
plants for consumption, but she barely ate any of it and threw up everything that he forced her
to swallow.

She was dying and he could do nothing about it.

The Second Circle of Hell was surrounded by a giant, jagged rock wall. The only visible
entrance was a doorway directly ahead, where they could see a small crowd of wraiths
gathering, dead people about to enter into their part of damnation. As they got closer they
could see someone guarding the entrance.

The demon looked like a cross between a man and a snake, more like the latter actually. At
least ten feet tall as he stood on his coiled tail, there were arms growing from his sides, ending
in almost human hands, and his face had the barest hint of human features. Everything else
was serpent. A split tongue was visible with every word he spoke.

He didn't speak much, though. He mostly listened.

"That has to be Minos." Angel told Buffy, though she was barely able to stay awake now.
Talking to her distracted him from the despair and his own weakened state. "He guards the
Second Circle and everyone who comes here can not help but confess all their sins to him. He
will accept the Wanton into his Circle and send the others on their way."

Buffy blinked at him, her brow stained with cold sweat, but there was no awareness in her
eyes, no recognition. She was drifting in and out of consciousness constantly now. Angel was
sure that only her supernatural stamina had kept her alive so long.

It wouldn't much longer.

As they got closer to the entrance of the Second Circle they could hear the gathered wraiths as
they screamed at the snake demon, screaming of sins they had committed, of deeds they
needed to be punished for. Some of them were on their knees, begging to be hurt, others
simply glared at Minos, offended that he was taking so long with the others and didn't listen
to their own, much more important confessions.

Minos looked up when Angel approached him.

"The Living and the Undead." He hissed. "I have heard you would be coming. Charon can be
a chatty fellow if he so chooses." Something like a chuckle rose from Minos' throat.

Angel opened his mouth to ask the demon for assistance, though he was quite certain he
would not get it. Instead words came streaming out of his mouth, words he didn't intend to
say, but couldn't hold back, either.

He spoke of the people he had killed over the centuries, all the people who he saw every time
he closed his eyes. Spoke of his family, whom he had disappointed so deeply as a human and
then killed when he became a monster. He confessed in length the sin of loving the beautiful
creature he now held in his arms, nearly lifeless, of dragging her down into the hell of his own
existence, torturing her, taking her blood to lengthen his own miserable life.

He fell to his knees, crying, screaming that he couldn't help her. If only someone would help
her he would gladly accept an eternity of punishment in whatever Circle of Hell would take
him in.

Minos studied him as he screamed his sins, blinking now and then, his tongue shooting out as
if to taste the dead man's misery. Nothing could be read on his face, though he did give the
impression of polite interest through his stance.

When Angel's words finally became so many sobs, tears dropping down on Buffy's still face,
Minos finally spoke.

"Next!" He said.

"What?" Angel looked up.

"You bore me, dead man." Minos looked at him. "You speak of sins, yes, but you did not
commit them. Your demon did. Yes, you disappointed your family, wounded them deeply,
but you have paid for that a hundred times over. And the living girl chose to come here with
you of her own free will. There is nothing you have to pay for."

Angel was dumbfounded. Didn't the demon understand? Couldn't he see all that he had done?
Especially his greatest sin.

"I can't help her." Angel yelled at Minos. Buffy was still in his arms, her breath so shallow it
was barely there. "She came here because of me and now she is dying. Dying because I can't
help her."

"But you can." Minos said. "Too blinded by your own misery to see, though."

Angel stared at the snake-creature, but Minos did not say any more. He turned to the next
wraith, attentively listening to another rendition of sins committed. Angel was left on his
knees, cradling Buffy against him, not understanding what he had been told.

He could help her? How? The only way to save her was to get her out of Hell and the end of
their journey was nowhere in sight. They had barely reached the second of nine Circles, Buffy
would probably not survive to see even the end of even that one. How could he help her when
they were both imprisoned in a place where only the dead and the demons could ...

Angel froze. Only the dead and the demons could survive in Hell. Buffy was neither. Closing
his eyes he realized what Minos had meant.

Only the dead and the demons.

The only way to prevent Buffy from becoming the former was to make her the latter. And
damn her every bit as much as he himself was damned.


"You turned her into a vampire?" Willow asked, aghast at hearing the tale.

Buffy gave her a 'duh'-look. "Still having a pulse here, Willow, remember?" She held up her

Willow looked back and forth between Buffy and Angel. They sat together on the living room
couch, away from the sunlight, leaning into one another. Angel had told most of the tale, his
deep and melancholic voice drawing all three of his listeners deep into the story.

"What happened then? How did you save her?"

Giles had listened to the story attentively, the trained Watcher inside him recording every
detail, putting together the pieces until they made a picture.

"You fed her your blood, didn't you?" Giles asked Angel.

The vampire but nodded.

"But ... but wouldn't that make her a vampire?" Willow asked, more confused than ever. "I
mean, that's how you make a vampire, right? You feed them your blood and ..."

"In order to become a vampire," Giles interrupted her, easily falling into teaching mode, "you
have to die first. The vampire drains its victim to the point of death and then makes it drink its

"The soul leaves when the body dies," Angel continued, "leaving only the demon, who slips
in through the blood and uses the dead flesh as its own."

"Only I never died." Buffy concluded.

Willow nodded hesitantly, beginning to understand.

"So he ... he enabled you to survive by ... by making you a ... a little demony?"

Angel looked at the floor. It had been so long ago, yet it still shamed him. Oh, he fully
realized that Buffy would not be here if he had not done it. She would be dead, something he
had a hard time blaming himself for preventing. Still ...

"There are only very few recorded cases of a vampire feeding its blood to a living human."
Giles said, looking at his charge and her demon lover.

"It goes against the vampire's nature." Angel explained, not meeting his eyes. "Giving
without taking. A vampire's blood is very potent. It ... it enhances a human's strength and
stamina, it slows the aging process. Gives them a vampire's resilience against most illnesses
and poisons."

"Sounds like all-around great stuff." Oz remarked, having listened in silence so far.

"It's not." Angel said.

Willow looked at Buffy's changed appearance. The amber eyes with the slit pupils. Whenever
Buffy turned those on her it gave her the uncomfortable feeling of being looked at as a meal.
By now she had also seen that Buffy had fangs. Vampire fangs.

"His blood did this to you?" Willow asked, hoping she didn't sound too accusing. Angel had
saved Buffy's life, after all.

"Not immediately." Buffy said, squeezing Angel's hand in assurance. "It sort of developed
over the course of our journey. Slowly, but steadily. I ... I never really saw what I looked like
until I looked into a mirror last night. No mirrors in Hell."

The fact that she still had a reflection had been a tremendous relief to her, truth be told.

"I had only Angel to tell me what I look like and he tends to flatter." She smiled at him, which
managed to produce half a smile on his own face.

Willow shook her head, trying to wrap her mind around everything she had heard. "So he ...
he just gave you a sip of his blood and everything was peachy again?"

"It wasn't that easy, was it?" Giles asked, already knowing much of what Angel had yet to tell
about the effects of vampire blood on a living human.

"I recovered in the course of a few days." Buffy said. "It took more than one sip of Angel's
blood and ..."

Her voice trailed off, not really knowing how to broach the next subject. Giles saw her unease
and decided to spare her the telling.

"Once a human has tasted the blood of a vampire," he said, never taking his eyes off Buffy,
"she has to taste the blood over and over again. Otherwise its effects will fade. Only the blood
of that same vampire will do."

"Oh!" Willow said, looking at Buffy as well. "You mean you ... you mean he ... they ..."

"He means I'm addicted, Willow." Buffy told her calmly. She'd had a long time to come to
terms with it. "Without Angel's blood I will ... well, let's just say it wouldn't be very good for

She could almost feel the renewed shame and loathing Angel subjected himself to as she told
the ugly details. How long had it taken her to convince him that she didn't blame him for
anything, that he had saved her by doing this. Now all those old wounds were reopened, it

"Buffy, I ...," Giles began. Now it was his turn to be reluctant about broaching a subject. "The
... the changes you have undergone, they ... they took a long time, didn't they?"

She just nodded, knowing he had figured it out.

"Much longer than three months." Giles concluded.

"Yes." Angel confirmed. "Much longer."

"I don't understand." Willow looked at Giles. "What do you mean, longer? They were gone
only three months, how could ...?"

"Three months for you, Will." Buffy told her. "Not for us. Time seems to flow different here
than in Hell."

"How long?" Giles asked.

Buffy sighed, leaning back against Angel's chest, his arms automatically going around her.
"It's hard to tell. We counted the times we slept at first, but as I continued to change I needed
less and less sleep, so eventually we stopped counting."

She closed her eyes, remembering the day she had given up on that habit. It had gone a long
way toward resignation, actually. Resigning themselves to the fact that they would need a
very long time to get out of Hell, if they were to manage it at all.

"Our best estimate," Angel said, having spent some time last night trying to calculate the
numbers, "is that we were in Hell for about thirty years."

Even Oz looked dumbstruck.


Day 76:

Buffy, feeling stronger than she had in a long time, small drops of Angel's blood still on her
lips, took her weeping lover into her arms. He cried because of what he had done to her, what
circumstances had forced him to do. She knew how much he would torture himself over this,
how much he would blame himself.

He had saved her life and would hate himself for it.

The only thing she could do now was to show him that she didn't hate him. Could never hate
him. And if she had to prove it to him over and over again, day after day, as long as they both
lived, then that was what she would do.


Part 10


"Thirty years." Willow whispered.

"Give or take a few years." Buffy said, trying to sound nonchalant about it. "It was hard to
keep track of the time."

"You're well preserved." Oz added, slowly regaining his normal composure.

"Angel's blood slowed the aging process. We guess I'm aging about a year per decade.
Maybe less."

Giles took off his glasses to clean them. "This is ... well, extraordinary."

"Thirty years." Willow repeated. "You mean you ... wow, you're going on fifty now, right? I
mean ... wow."

Silence settled over the assembled friends as they all tried to wrap their minds around the
things they had just heard. Giles had his eyes closed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Willow
was clutching Oz' elbow, her expression somewhere between confusion, fainting, and deep
sadness. Oz had regained his expressionless face, but his eyes shimmered.

Buffy and Angel watched their friends and waited.

"So I guess you won't go back to school?" Willow asked after a while.

The completely unexpected way Willow's thoughts turned took Buffy by surprise. "I ... I
actually didn't even think about school for ... very long. I don't know."

"You'd need contact lenses." Willow jumped onto the thought. "Or ... or maybe shades. No, it
would look really weird if you always wore shades. And you'd need to watch your smiling.
No broad smiles or they'll see the teeth and..."

"Will, slow down!" Buffy said, amused by her friend's ramble, though Willow had just
broached just one more topic she had yet to figure out. "Let's take it one step at a time,

"Oh, sure! Sorry." She looked down, then another thought grabbed her. "Does everyone
know? I mean, I should call Xander. He..."

The words died in her throat as she saw Buffy's face darken upon hearing the name, demon
eyes narrowing down to blazing slits. Of course, she mentally slapped herself. After what
Xander had done...


"Do you know what he did to me?" Buffy asked, staring at her. Her eyes were cold as ice, the
amber blazing with deep resentment and long-held anger. "I bet he never told you, did he?
What he said to me just before I went in to battle Angelus."

Willow looked down. "He did tell us, Buffy." She said softly. "He told us everything."

"We know he didn't tell you that Willow would attempt the curse again." Giles added.

Buffy stared at her friends. It had been so long since that betrayal but being here, among
people for whom it happened just very recently, brought back all the anger she had almost

"And what?" She asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "He said sorry, dumb mistake, and
that's it?"

"It wasn't quite that easy." Giles said, sounding tired.

Willow shook her head. One half of her wanted to rise to Xander's defense, explain that he
had just made a dumb choice, thinking he was doing what was best for Buffy. The other half
reminded her of all the ugly words she herself had said to Xander after he had told them. How
she had accused him of once again acting out of jealousy, nothing else. He had always wanted
Angel gone and grasped the chance of seeing it done when it presented itself.

And had Xander even once tried to defend himself?

"After you were ... gone," Willow began, "Xander was never the same again. He blamed
himself for what happened."

"Gee, I wonder why." Buffy mumbled, clearly not impressed.

"He did something incredibly stupid, Buffy," Willow tried again, "but ..."

"No but, Will!" Buffy interrupted her, rising from the couch to pace the length of the living
room. "Xander kept this from me because of his petty jealousy and because of that ..."

She stopped to look at Angel, pain washing over her face. She had been forced to stab him, to
send him to Hell. All because of that stupid boy.

"I don't know if knowing about your restoring the curse would have changed anything."
Buffy said, forcing herself to calm down. "And I guess we'll never know, will we?"

Willow could think of nothing to say to that. Buffy dropped back down on the couch, leaning
into Angel, and closed her eyes.

"I don't want to think about Xander right now!" She declared. "I ... there are more important
things to do first. Like talking to my mom."

Willow traded a look with Giles, silently asking how much he had told her already. The
Watcher sighed.

"I haven't talked with your mother since the day I tried to explain everything to her." Giles
said. "Like I said last night, she didn't believe a word, I fear."

"Well," Buffy said with a shaky voice, "I guess seeing me might just be enough to convince

Angel look worried, hearing the pain in her voice.

"What do you think she will say?" Buffy looked up, a very fake smile on her face. "I mean,
she threw me out of the house, told me never to come back. What do you think she'll say
when I not only come back but also appear quite the monster?"

Tears began to run down her cheeks and her body started shaking. Sweat broke out on her

"She'll slam the door in my face and run away screaming, I bet!" Buffy laughed hysterically,
now shivering violently. "She'll be afraid her little girl wants to eat her."

Angel reacted quickly to her sudden outburst, drawing her tighter into his arms to hold her
still. "You should get out!" He told the others.

"Out?" Willow was on her feet, shocked by Buffy's breakdown. "But what is wrong? What

"It's been some time since she had my blood." Angel simply stated, holding the shaking girl
tight and looking at them over her head. "I have to..."

He didn't finish the sentence and he didn't have to. Giles simply nodded, not looking very
happy, but quickly shooed the others out of the living room, leaving Buffy and Angel some

Once they were out of sight Angel quickly took off the shirt Giles had loaned him and bared
his neck to Buffy, guiding her head closer to it.

"Drink, beloved!" He whispered to her, softly removing the strands of hair that were plastered
to her sweat-soaked brow. "Drink!"

Buffy's fingers dug hard into his shoulders as she rose up his chest to sink her fangs into his
throat. Angel barely felt the pain anymore, they had done this so very often now. Her warm
body pressed against his, her lips fastened on his flesh as she drank at his neck. There was a
low growling deep in her throat, those parts of the demon he had been forced to give her
responding to the rush of blood.

His own hunger rose, it had been some time for him as well. He hesitated, a strange
occurrence after all the many times he had drunk from her in turn. It was all different now,
though. They were no longer in Hell, no longer in their own, violent world where nothing
existed except the two of them and the constant dangers. Her friends were here, her family,
they were back in the real world.

Things would have to change, he realized in this most intimate of moments. They would have
to change. He doubted they would be able to change back to the people they had been, either
of them. They would have to find some new place here, some way to fit back into this world
that the two of them had all but forgotten.

During their long, long journey they had never lost sight of their ultimate goal. Return to
Earth. That overwhelming purpose had defined them, made them rise in the morning, made
them fight off the despair. He knew that, foolish as it might have been, they had both believed
that, once they were back, everything would be right again. Happily ever after.

Now, with his love drinking from his neck, his own face vamping out, his fangs sinking into
her neck to sate his own hunger, he knew that their journey wasn't over. Not by half.

Miles to go before I sleep, Angel though as he drank. Miles to go.


Part 11


The thought had come, as her thoughts tended to, at quite the odd moment. Angel's blood had
taken effect rather quickly, sating her body's desperate need for it, quieting the severe
withdrawal symptoms that had the bad habit of always appearing as sudden as they had done
just now. She and Angel both knew how often she needed his blood, but recent events had
messed up their sense of time in a major way.

Coming out of her mild shock, the first thought she had was this:

Oh God, I stink!

It hadn't really been much of a problem in Hell. While there were places in the Inferno where
water existed in abundance (so much of it, actually, that it became just another form of
torture) the idea of using it for any other purpose but survival had become rather foreign to
her. She hadn't given it much of a thought since returning here, either.

Now the idea of taking a shower suddenly jumped to the front of her brain, dug its heels in,
and wouldn't let go.

Angel just informed Giles and the others that they would take some time to recover from
everything that had happened. When he mentioned the shower Giles actually looked quite
relieved. Thinking of the mess they had probably made of his guest bed, just falling into it
with the dirt and sooth of the Ninth Circle still on them, she couldn't help but smile.

A few minutes later the two of them stood under a shower of hot water and Buffy was
convinced that this was Heaven.

Angel, true to form, didn't waste a thought on himself but immediately went to work on her.
Which she didn't mind at all. He quickly lathered his big hands with some shampoo she
probably wouldn't have come close to in her old life (if for no other reason than it being the
brand her stuffy, old Watcher used) and began kneading it into her hair.

It took some time to undo the braid she had woven her long hair into, but once the dark
blonde tresses were freed Angel immediately went to work on them. It would have been much
more practical for Buffy to cut off her hair now and then during their journey, but somehow
she had never been able to. It was the one vanity she had retained all the way through, taking
care of her hair as best she could. Angel had become a master at braiding it into intricate
forms and now he took equal pleasure in thoroughly cleaning it, though he used up most of
the shampoo to do it.

Once he was finished with her hair, having rinsed out half of Hell's supply of ashes and sooth
in the process, he lathered his hands once more and, starting at the neck and shoulders, began
moving them all over her body. He gently massaged her flesh until the assorted layers of
grime and dirt started peeling off. Working his way down, he gave special attention to all the
spots he knew she liked to be touched in. The little hollow at the base of her throat, the valley
between her breasts, the small of her back. Her legs nearly gave out when he moved between
them. It was one of the few spots she had taken care to keep more or less clean, but you
wouldn't have known it by the amount of time he dedicated to it.

She gave a disappointed sigh when he moved further down, his hands kneading into the flesh
of her thighs. He patted her calve to make her raise first one foot, then the other, thoroughly
massaging each until she thought she'd pass out from sheer relaxation.

When Angel was finished her skin was beginning to get rather wrinkly, but she wouldn't
allow either of them to get out until she had taken care of him in turn. Especially after the
things she had seen in his eyes the moment she had come out of her shock.

He blamed himself again. Back in Sunnydale for five minutes and he started blaming himself
again. She shook her head. Not only had he been forced to tell her friends all about what he
had 'done' to her (saving her life in the process, but he always seemed to forget that part), no,
her untimely breakdown had forced him to all but give them a life demonstration.

Buffy had never blamed him for any of it and if she had to prove it to him all over again, well,
that was what she would do. No matter the fact that she had hoped to have cured him of that
during their travels. Both him and herself, actually, as she'd had quite a few issues of her own,
being the one ultimately to blame for both of them being there.

Hell was behind them, this was a whole new ballgame. She just hoped they wouldn't have to
start from scratch again.

She cleaned him every bit as methodically and thoroughly as he had done with her, basking in
the purr that escaped him when she kneaded her fingers into his hair. By the time she was
done they had used up what had to be a month's supply of Giles' shower products, but neither
of them gave much thought to it. They were wrinkly but clean, really clean for the first time in
about thirty years.

Somehow that made Buffy feel really good and managed to banish any dark thoughts she had,
at least for the moment.


Giles didn't have a hairbrush, of course. The old Buffy would probably have made a quip of
that, feigning surprise that someone with Giles' amount of hair did not find a sensible use for
a hairbrush. As it was she was just thankful that Willow carried one with her.

Even more thankful, actually, that it had found its way into the hands of her Angel.

Wrapped in fluffy towels, curled into a soft chair in Giles' spare bedroom, Buffy leaned back
as Angel spread her hair out behind her and began to work the brush through it. There were
quite a few painful spots at first, making her wince now and then. She was just thankful that
Hell had been free of flees and other parasites that took a liking to hair. It was one of the few
plus points she could think of.

Before long Angel managed to work out all the knots and brushed her hair until it resembled
fine silk. Feeling his ministrations caused Buffy to purr deep in her throat. Oh yes, the pains
of keeping her hair all through their travels paid off in full now. For a moment she had been
worried that they might lose the intimacy and closeness they had developed during their years
of travel. Now she wasn't any longer.

As Angel worked on her hair she looked into the mirror in front of her. Besides the very
strange picture of a hairbrush seemingly moving through her hair all by itself, she saw the scar
on her neck.

At first Angel had taken his nourishment only from her wrist, the act of drinking at her throat
too intimate after all they had been through. It had taken time, many hours of talking things
out, until they both felt comfortable enough with each other to engage in that kind of
closeness. From that point forward they had only grown closer. In all ways.

The scar would never vanish, she knew that, and she didn't want it to. Same for the scar on
Angel's neck, where she had sunk her teeth in many times since that day she had first tasted
his blood. For Buffy it meant that they belonged to each other, something that tied them every
bit as close as the rings they still wore. With a smile she looked at her Claddagh, worn and
aged by years of hardship, but still there. She still wasn't sure why she had taken it with her
on the day she had gone out to kill Angelus. Nor could Angel tell exactly why the demon had
never taken his ring off, either. Maybe they had both known in some way.

"Angel?" Her earlier thoughts were returning.


"You won't start blaming yourself again, will you?"

He was quiet for a long minute, still moving the brush through her hair.

"Seeing you here," he finally said, "back among your friends ... I never really realized before
how very much I have changed you."

"We have both changed a lot." She told him. "We had to. It wasn't your fault and neither was
it mine." It had taken her a long time to believe that last statement. "We both made the best of
the hand we were dealt and now we're back home, we're together, the rest is just details."

She turned to look at the man the mirror would not show her.

"I will need you, Angel. I ... I still don't know what to say to my mom, how to handle what
happened with Xander, not to mention school and all the other things that will no doubt pile
up before long. I'll need your strength."

He sighed, brushing his cheek against her hair as they softly embraced.

"You are my strength, beloved." He whispered. "And all I have to give is always yours,
whenever you need it."

Buffy sighed in deep contentment. Whatever else happened, she would handle it. Somehow.
As long as her Angel was with her.


Day 112:

The Second Circle of Hell was where the Wanton were punished, those that had done terrible
things in the name of their own need and want. Conquerors that had begun terrible wars over
matters of petty jealousy. Men and women who had killed those that would not have them.
Dante had written that all those had allowed love to take them from their lives would end up
here. Buffy had to believe he was wrong about that. Otherwise she would have to consider her
place here as well, after all.

She wondered what she would have told Minos, what he would have said to her about her
sins, had she been conscious at that time.

The land before them was mostly rocks and cliffs, looking as if some giant had gone through
it with the intention of making it as messed up and jagged as possible. There was no way for
them to travel in anything resembling a straight line and Buffy was once again lamenting her
lack of shoes.

She and Angel didn't speak much the first few weeks after they entered the Circle. Not just
because of the howling wind that blew ceaselessly across the land. A never-ending gale force
that picked up the wraiths of the damned and threw them against the sharp-edged cliffs and
rocks, shattering their bodies over and over again. They fell to the ground where their wounds
knitted together just in time for them to be picked up by the wind once more. They screamed,
always screamed, but the wind swallowed most of that. For which Buffy was eternally

The constant howling made talking to each other almost impossible, but Angel didn't seem
inclined to speak even in the few more or less quiet spots they found to sleep in. He avoided
looking at her, even when the need for blood became so strong that he had to feed on her, or
when she had to feed on his blood in turn. The latter still freaked Buffy out a bit, especially
since she sometimes thought she could feel the strange blood working inside her, changing
her, but she was quickly getting used to it.

Angel wasn't, she knew. He blamed himself for doing this to her. Thanks to his blood she was
back to full health, maybe better than she had ever been before. She could now eat the few
small demons they could capture without fear of being poisoned, could breathe the foul air
without destroying her lungs in the process. His blood had saved her, had given her enough
strength to both continue the journey and sustain Angel with her blood in turn.

None of that eased his pain, though.

After ignoring all of her attempts to speak to him about it Buffy finally decided that enough
was enough. They were camping out for the night (so to speak, as it never really grew light in
the Second Circle) beneath a huge overhang that kept them safe from the winds and blocked
out most of the screams as well.

"Stop hating yourself!" Buffy shot at Angel without warning.

He looked up, but only met her eyes for a few seconds, then looked down without another
word. Buffy refused to be put off this time, though, and scooted closer to him until she had
him effectively trapped between her body and the rocks. Lifting up his chin, she forced him to
look into her eyes.

"I don't hate you!" She told him pointedly. "I could never hate you, Angel, even if you should
ever give me a reason to do it."

He closed his eyes. "Buffy, I ..."

"You saved my life, Angel. That's all there is to it. Sure, I was too out of it for you to ask me
if I wanted it this way, but the answer would have been yes, Angel. I would be dead now if
you hadn't given me your blood and I really don't like to think about what might have
happened to my soul then."

His eyes snapped open, surprised.

"What are you talking about? Buffy, how could you even consider ... if there is such a place
as Heaven then you, of all people, ..."

"Really?" She interrupted him, tears shining in her eyes. "Angel, I know that you see me as
some kind of idol of goodness, but let's face facts here, okay? I consciously sent the man I
love to Hell, literally."

"To save the world." He muttered. "From me."

"From your demon, Angel! Remember what Minos said? You have nothing to pay for.
Nothing! When will you get that through your thick skull?"

She put her hand against his cheek, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. "I love you so
much, Angel. I need you, not because of your blood, but because of you. I can't do this
without you. I can't stand that you're drawing away from me over this."

He looked down again, tears on his own face.

"You shouldn't have to go through this." He whispered, his voice shaking. "Not because of
me. You should be back home, with your friends and family, not ..."

"I chose to come here with you, you idiot!" She yelled at him. "My choice, not yours. God,
will you stop that 'I am not worthy' crap already? That's not your choice, either. It's mine and
I made it."

She collapsed against his broad chest, soaking the tattered remains of his silk shirt with her

"When will you get it that I need us to be together, Angel? I'd rather spent eternity here in
Hell with you than remain behind on Earth, knowing that I ... that I sent you ..."

Her voice broke, unable to continue. Why couldn't he understand? It wasn't his fault, none of
it. She had been the one to break his curse, to unleash Angelus upon her friends and family.
She had been the one unable to kill him, unable to keep him from killing Jenny and God knew
how many innocents because he still carried the face of the man she loved. She had been the
one to run him through with a sword and send him to Hell to save a world full of people that,
all of them together, didn't mean half as much to her as he did.

Slowly, hesitantly, Angel's arms went around her, holding her as they both cried.

"If you ... if you don't hate me for what I did," he began, his voice shaking, "then please
believe me, beloved, that I don't hate you, either. You were put into an impossible situation
and did what had to be done, no matter how much it hurt you. I was never more proud of

She gave a shaky laugh, blind from tears. "You are proud of me because I stabbed you?"

There was so much self-loathing and pain in those few words. Angel drew her closer, wanting
to protect her from everything that would harm her so much.

"I love you, Buffy. And ... and you're right. We'll see this through together. We will."

They kept talking for hours, pouring their hearts out to each other as the wind howled outside
and smashed the bodies of sinners against the jagged rocks. The cold stone below them was
drenched in their tears, but eventually those began to dry up.

Before they went to sleep that night Buffy moved close to him, craning her neck to the side
and offering him her throat. With his eyes finally free of tears Angel accepted her offer.


Part 12


Buffy woke, not really sure when exactly she had fallen asleep. There was no cause to worry,
though, that much she was sure of, as she felt the familiar presence of her Angel by her side.
His cool arms were around her, his habit of breathing making the chest she used as a pillow
rise and fall steadily.

She really didn't want to get up.

They had fallen asleep again after he finished brushing her hair, she remembered, the
seduction of a clean bed after finding themselves clean for the first time in so long more than
they could resist. Only now did she realize that they hadn't given much of a thought to Giles,
Willow, and Oz. Thinking of anyone except each other had become foreign to them.

Her eyes found the clock on the wall. She needed a moment to make sense of the hands (no
clocks in Hell, either), but soon found that she had slept only for a few hours. It was just past
noon now, still the first day since their return.

Had they really gotten back just last night? It already seemed longer to her.

Angel was still sound asleep beside her. She smiled, loving the picture he made. His face
clean of dirt, his long hair spreading out on the pillow like a halo around him, a content smile
on his face, he looked so very beautiful. She debated waking him, but seeing as noon was not
a good time for a vampire to be awake anyway, she decided to let him sleep. He had stayed
awake often enough to guard over her sleep.

Carefully slipping out of his arms, she discovered to her delight that someone had brought
some clean clothes for them. The skins and leathers they had worn in Hell, along with their
weapons, were piled in a dirty heap on the floor and the very thought of putting them on again
was making her queasy.

Blue jeans, a white shirt, and soft sandals suited her much better. Clean, all of them, smelling
as if they were fresh from the washer. Frowning, she tried to remember if these might be her
clothes, maybe some kind of stash she had left at Giles' place just in case a messy patrol
might leave her with the need for a new wardrobe. She wasn't sure. It felt like something the
old Buffy might have done, but she couldn't remember.

Shrugging, Buffy made her way downstairs.


Willow sat on the couch with her notebook computer in her lap, immersed in her work. Buffy
was back. Buffy and Angel were back. The thought kept going round and round in her head.
They were back, both of them, back from spending thirty years in Hell.

Part of Willow couldn't help but blame herself for that. If only she had gotten the curse right
the first time, before the vampires attacked them. Or maybe ... she cringed at the thought, but
if she hadn't tried the curse a second time, successfully, then it would have been Angelus, not
Angel, who got sent to Hell. Buffy certainly wouldn't have gone along with him, would she?

She shook her head. The past was the past. Buffy was here, she was back, and she would need
some help to fit back into this world, that much was certain.

Willow tried to approach it all from a rational standpoint. Okay, Buffy had been gone thirty
years, but it had been only three months here on Earth and as she didn't really look any older
that before that should not pose too much of a problem.

Next problem: The police were still looking for her. The murder charge had been put to rest,
but thanks to Mrs. Summers they now thought that Buffy might have been kidnapped by some
kind of biker gang or such. Hopefully that problem would be solved once Buffy spoke with
her mom.

Next problem: Buffy's looks. She'd need contact lenses to hide her eyes, specially made ones.
The fangs wouldn't be much of a problem as long as she remembered not to smile to broadly.
Willow didn't know if there were other, less easily visible changes in her friend, but they'd
have to cross that bridge when they came to it.

"What are you doing?"

Willow nearly fell from the couch as someone spoke beside her, the notebook tumbling from
her lap. Only a lightning-fast hand saved it from a hard impact with the floor and Willow
looked up to find Buffy smiling at her.

A little too broadly, Willow noted. The fangs showed.

"Sorry!" Buffy said sheepishly. "Didn't mean to startle you."

"No, it's okay!" Willow quickly assured her. She'd have to get used to her best friend's
changed looks sooner or later. "I was just ... I thought you and Angel would sleep the entire
day away, seeing as he ... and you ... are you? I mean, can you ...?"

She gestured toward the sunlight streaming in through Giles' window. Buffy gave it a look
that seemed equally composed of longing and fear, as if some part of her was shying away
from the light even as another wanted to step outside right now and take a sun bath.

"I don't actually know." Buffy confessed, wringing her hands. "There was no sun in Hell.
And ... Angel said we couldn't be sure of how far the changes would go. I mean, I still have a
reflection and all, but I can't seem to enter a house without invitation."

Willow nodded, Giles had told them about that.

"Want to give it a try?" The redhead asked her friend.


A minute later Willow held a large bucket of water at the ready, just in case, as Buffy was
moving toward the sunlight. Stopping just at the edge, she slowly moved her hand forward
until the sun touched her fingers.

It felt ... weird. She didn't burst into flames, which was a definite good thing, but neither did it
feel like she remembered it. She knew she was deathly pale. If not for the vampire blood in
her veins thirty years without sunlight alone might have been enough to do her in and she
would probably get a major sunburn the first time she went out. Still, it felt weird.

"I don't see any smoke. Or flames." Willow added, the bucket still in hand.

Buffy closed her eyes, concentrating on the feeling. It was like something directly below her
skin was screaming at her to get the Hell away from the sun, emphasizing its argument by
making it feel as if bugs were crawling all over her, but that was it. No flames, no smoke, no

She breathed a sigh of relief and, without a further thought, walked toward the door and out
into the open.

It was a mistake.

Her skin might not have been more sensitive to the sun, but her eyes certainly were. The light
assaulted them like a million small needles, all being driven in at once. She turned her eyes
away with a groan, pressing her hands to her face.

"Buffy, are you all right?" Willow yelled, coming after her.

"I'm okay, it's just ... God, it's so bright. Too bright."

Willow didn't think it a particularly bright day. There was some overcast, actually, but she
quickly guessed that Buffy's new eyes were much more suited for total darkness. Thinking
quickly, Willow took the sunglasses she had gotten for Buffy out of her pocket. She had
meant them to be a disguise, actually, something to hide her eyes with, but it looked like they
could serve more than one purpose.

Buffy put on the shades and the world around her came back into focus.

"Thanks, Will, you're a godsend!"

She looked out across Giles' courtyard, bathed in daylight. God, how long had it been? There
had been some areas in Hell which had been painfully bright, but it had always been wrong. A
glare, the light of giant flames, of burning cities and sizzling flesh.

This was beautiful. At least as long as she had the shades on.


The revelation that she could still walk in daylight quickly led to a decision. She would see
her mother. Now. Before she lost courage. A large part of her wanted to wait until nightfall,
then Angel could be with her. She quenched that impulse, though. She loved Angel, loved
him more than anything in the world, but this was her own personal demon, not his. Angel
certainly didn't need whatever hurtful comments her mother might come up with.

It irked her that she needed Willow's help to find her way from Giles' apartment back to her
house. She should have been able to remember the way. This was her home after all, wasn't
it? Or it had been until her mother had told her not to come back. Ever.

Was she really ready for this?

Walking in the sunlight did nothing to improve her mood, the irritated feeling spreading over
her entire body until she started moving in the shadows of the trees as much as possible. She
doubted she would be able to stand it long enough to spend a day at the beach or such. The
demon blood inside her did definitely not like the idea.

Her house she did remember. It was unchanged with the sunlight sparkling in the windows,
the green grass in front of it looking freshly mown. The curtains were open and her mother's
car stood in the driveway.

Her mother. She was home. One of the things that had changed were her senses. They were
sharper now, as was evident by her newfound sensitivity to daylight, and she could clearly
pick up the scent of someone in the house.

Two someones, actually. And while she was only marginally sure that one was her mother,
their last meeting having been before her change, she was quite certain of the other one.

What was Giles doing at her mom's house?

Buffy walked closer, something inside of her sighing in relief when she stepped out of the sun
again and into the shadow of the large tree she had always used to climb into her room. It felt
like a million years ago, not just thirty.

When she approached the living room window she could hear two voices. Loud voices.

"... not going to listen to your lies again!" Was that her mom? That voice so full of bitterness
and rage?

"Mrs. Summers, please." That was Giles.

"You tell me all these ridiculous horror stories about my little girl. I don't want to hear them!
I don't!"

"She is back, Joyce!" Giles interrupted her tirade with a surprisingly loud voice. "Buffy is

Silence fell over the living room. Buffy couldn't see her mother's face through the window,
she had turned her back to it, but she saw her shivering.

"Don't do this to me!" Joyce said, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I can't take any
more lies."

Buffy was torn. Her mother sounded so very hurt and bitter it tore her heart into pieces. No
matter the angry words that had fallen between them, Buffy loved her mother dearly. It had
been so long since she had seen her, but she still remembered her face, her smile.

Without allowing herself time to chicken out of this, Buffy walked toward the door and
knocked. The voices inside ceased and she heard footsteps coming toward the entrance. The
key turned in the lock.

Buffy almost gasped when she saw her mother for the first time in thirty years. Joyce
Summers looked like she had aged a decade in the mere three months it had been for her. Her
face was gaunt, her eyes had deep rings under them, her hair was a mess.

Joyce didn't suppress the gasp.

"Buffy?" She asked, staring at her with wide eyes.

"It's me, mom." She said, forcing a smile to her face. "Can I come in?"