The Battle: Before, During, After

Author: Nitrowugs

Rating: PG (maybe)

Pairings: None early; B/Aus later, B/G (renewed friendship)

Feedback: Please. Constructive criticism is always welcomed and appreciated.

Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with BtVS or AtS. (Characters, plots, and dialogue from the shows are borrowed with no infringement intent whatsoever.)

Distribution: Please ask and let me know where it's going.

Written: 07/01/2011

Summary: Story touches briefly on activities leading up to the final fight with the First in Sunnydale (but does not chronicle details), a brief look into each person's thoughts during the fight and finally post war activities.

Assumptions: I have made some broad assumptions in this story because I did not want to retell the BtVS and AtS stories as they happened on the shows. BtVS happened up through 'Dirty Girls' in season seven except that Tara is alive; AtS happened up through 'Inside Out' in season 4 except that Kate and Cordelia are alive and Cordelia and Groo are still a couple; Angel's soul was never returned after 'Soulless' in AtS season 4 but the AI team doesn't know it. This story goes AU from here.

A/N1: I apologize if my assumptions are too broad. This was intended to be a brief look at the impact of war on certain people and life after the war, but it just kind of got out of hand.

A/N2: Thoughts are in single quotes ('').

Before the Battle

Part 1

This wouldn't be like any other battle they had fought before. This time they would be fighting the First's army of ancient vampires, the Turok-Han, the most vicious demons they had ever faced. Buffy had dusted one of them, but it had taken nearly everything she had to defeat it. This time the Scoobies alone would not be enough and the potentials would be little help.

The slayer had to gather whatever fighters she could get to help and she pulled out all the stops. She tapped every resource that she could think of and they had all gathered at her house for instructions before the final battle.

If anyone had told her three months ago that there would be Sunnydale policemen among their ranks today, she would have told them that they were crazy. She recalled when she first met Officers Davidson and Wilson.

Begin Flashback

After dusting two of the vampires that attacked her, Buffy was fighting the last two in Pleasant Arms Cemetery, the last stop on her patrol route tonight before she could head for home. 'These guys fight really well together. They must have been friends before they were turned.'

Just as she dusted the last vamp she looked up and saw two uniformed policemen approaching her. She knew that they were not vampires. 'Ugh crap, what are they doing out here at night and how much did they see?' She tried to quickly hide her stake in the back waistband of her jeans before they reached her, but in the rush to hide it she fumbled and dropped the stake on the ground. Buffy didn't know what to say when the policemen reached her; she considered running away, but thought better of the idea, after all they had guns.

They must have seen the scared look on her face because one of them said, "It's okay, miss; let's go someplace and talk."

Buffy thought they meant the police station. "I didn't do anything wrong."

"We know you didn't; we know that they attacked you. How about we go to the corner all-nighter and get a cup of hot chocolate? My treat."

Buffy relaxed a little as she and the policemen walked to the nearby café.

After they got their hot chocolate and were seated, the police officers introduced themselves. "I'm Officer Richard Davidson and this is my partner and friend Officer Paul Wilson and you are?"

"Buffy Summers."

"Well, Miss Summers, why don't you tell us what you were doing in the cemetery by yourself at 3 o'clock in the morning?"

'I might as well tell them the truth seeing as how they already know.' "I was doing what you saw me doing."

"Killing vampires?"

"Yes."

"How old are you Miss Summers?"

"I'm twenty–two years old."

"And how long have you been killing vampires?"

"Since I was fifteen."

"WHAT?" The surprised officers spoke in unison.

Buffy gave a kind of nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. "Yeah. How did you find out about vampires? Most people in Sunnydale conveniently forget once they've seen what goes bump in the night."

"Tell her," Officer Wilson told his friend.

Officer Davidson hesitated at first, but then began a story that led to the current supportive relationship between Buffy and the Sunnydale Police Department.

"A month ago Paul and I were part of a group of six guys who had been friends since high school and who joined the police force together; we lost four members of our group before we knew what was happening. We were then forced to acknowledge the existence of vampires.

"Two of those that you were just fighting tonight used to be friends of ours. Jack, the taller one, and Bill disappeared a month ago. About a week later on Friday night Paul, Jim and I were at Ed's house when they showed up; they were dirty and unkempt, their uniforms were torn with blood stains on them and they demanded to be let in.

"We usually have our poker night on Fridays; that's what we were doing at Ed's house that night. When Ed asked them to tell us where they had been the last seven days, Jack got angry and told us to meet them in the cemetery on Saturday night at nine o'clock and they would show us what they had been up to.

"Of the four of us Paul and I were the only ones on duty Saturday night and we had an emergency call that we had to take that made us a few minutes late getting to the cemetery. When we got there Jack, Bill and two other guys were feeding from what appeared to be dead bodies, bodies that looked like Ed and Jim.

"We yelled at them and when they turned we saw their faces; they were bloody and monstrous looking.

"One of them yelled, "Get them." We pulled our weapons and unloaded them into the two that were coming toward us. When I saw that bullets only slowed them up, I told Paul to run and we ran; we ran back to our patrol car and took off.

"Two nights later another officer reported seeing Jack and Ed over on Park Street near the officers' gym wearing dirty and torn uniforms. I rode with that officer for the next three nights and we finally saw Jack and Ed head into the cemetery; that's how we knew where to find them. That's how we happened to see you fighting them and the others. We didn't know what to do; we were afraid that if we fired our weapons, we might hit you."

Officer Wilson, who still looked shaken by the events described by his friend, spoke up and asked, "How do you know how to fight these things and can you teach us?"

"I can show you the basics, but I need to know that I can trust you before I tell you everything."

"Fair enough. When can we get started?"

"First I would need to speak with a friend of mine. Then, if he agrees, we will meet you here tomorrow night at 10 pm. If he does not agree, then I cannot tell you any more details about myself, but I will teach you how to fight the vampires. Agreed?"

"Yes, agreed, absolutely," Officer Wilson replied enthusiastically. "Here are our numbers for home and cell phones; call either of us and let us know what the decision is and what we should do next." He handed Buffy a card that contained the names and phone numbers for the two officers.

After Buffy brought him up to date on what had happened the previous night, Giles reluctantly agreed to meet with the police officers. He did not like the idea of the police knowing about the slayer, but he knew that they would need every resource they could get in the upcoming battle.

After meeting with the officers Giles decided it was a good idea. They let the other Scoobies know of their intentions and Buffy began including the two officers in the training sessions with the more advanced potentials with the understanding that they would not pass information about her and her friends on to the rest of the police department or to anyone else.

Once she was sure that she could trust her new friends she allowed them to bring in other officers totaling twelve in all. These were well trained, dedicated and trustworthy men that Richard Davidson trusted with his life, with all their lives. He and Paul Wilson taught the rest of the police department how to handle the undead at night and how to keep their homes safe, but they did not tell them about the upcoming battle. They did not want to risk any more officers.

End Flashback

Part 2

Buffy was ready as she addressed the group that crowded into the living room-dining room of her house on Revello Drive. With the scythe in one hand and the other balled into a fist of determined will, she spoke:

"For more than six months the First Evil has been playing with us, taunting us, assaulting us, killing us. No more. Today we take charge of this fight and we take the fight to it; we engage the enemy in an all out battle for life on this planet.

"Each of you in some way has dedicated at least a portion of your life to defending humanity, or defending this country, or keeping neighborhoods safe. (She looked at the various groups as she spoke.) All of the evils that you have fought stem from one source – The First Evil. It is behind every evil deed, every bad thought that has occurred since man first walked this earth.

"As long as it has existed there has also been its enemy, The Powers That Be, who have fought to keep it in check and to maintain a balance between good and evil to prevent the destruction of humankind. At this point The First Evil has somehow gotten the upper hand and, if it wins this war, it becomes corporeal and will be unstoppable.

"We are the only thing that stands between it and human life on this planet. We are warriors, all, each one of us, warriors for The Powers That Be, and we will not fail. Arm yourselves, the battle awaits us and victory must be ours. Failure is not an option. If each of us leaves this house today determined to give our very best, our all, to defeat this evil, then WE WILL WIN."

She gestured upward raising her fist and her scythe over her head. An unexpected roar went up from the assembled crowd; a hint of a smile of approval pulled at one corner of her mouth and she nodded at them briefly before quickly returning her face to its familiar façade, the face with which everyone in the room was familiar, the face whose owner bore the burden of humanity's survival on her shoulders.

Just before they left the house Willow spoke up. "Wait!" She and Tara moved to the doorway between the living room and dining room and facing each other holding hands they raised their clasped hands in the air and spun around once. A small ball of light appeared between their hands; it increased in size until it touched everyone in the house, then disappeared.

"A little gift," Tara said with a shy smile.

The warriors were silent as they left the Summers house and piled into their various vehicles that were parked nearby on either side of the street, each lost in his/her own thoughts.

During the Battle

Giles fought like a man half his age. He tapped into the darkest magic within himself that he had not used in many years; he was a warrior for The Powers and he determined that today he would fight like one. With a sword in one hand and a blessed ancient dagger in the other he mowed down every evil thing that crossed his path. He would not let his slayer down, not ever again.

Xander fought back to back with Dawn. He could feel the magic that Willow had zapped him with before he left the house. 'This is what the slayer must feel like all of the time.' Today he was also a warrior and he determined that nothing would harm Dawn this day, not as long as he could lift a sword.

Dawn could see the determination on Xander's face and it gave her courage; suddenly she could feel the power and green energy of the key as it surged within her. "Don't worry about me, Xander," she said confidently, "nothing will touch us. Buffy said that I am a warrior; today I am going to prove her right."

Anya and Andrew were partnered together; she could tell that he was scared and she vowed to herself that she would protect him as much as she could. Unknown to anyone else she had petitioned D'Hoffryn to return to her the powers of the vengeance demon and when this war was over she would return to him and willingly accept whatever punishment he wanted to give her. The only condition she made was that her human friends could never know of her return. He agreed. She remembered shuddering at the look in his eyes when he agreed to her request, knowing full well that the punishment would be severe.

Anya knew that she was not only fighting for herself and Andrew, but Xander as well. When she could feel the battle nearing its end, as she fought to defend Andrew she was stabbed from behind and fell forward at his feet, her blood splattered on his face. This was not a fatal wound for her but she allowed Andrew to think so.

When Andrew saw Anya fall defending him, courage that he had never felt before rose within him and he fought as he always hoped that he could. He would not let Anya's death be in vain; he was a warrior and he would go down fighting like one.

Principal Wood was fighting for his mother; he may not be allowed to kill Spike, the demon that actually killed his mother, but he would kill as many of the demons as possible that he faced today. He still had not forgiven the slayer for siding with the demon that killed his mother and he had gotten back at her by proposing Faith as the leader. Buffy had told him that she didn't have time for vendettas, the mission was what mattered; well he would take his vengeance out on the current enemy, he would have to be satisfied with that.

Kennedy and Rona were positioned outside the room where Willow and Tara worked their magic in order to protect everyone. Kennedy knew that she would readily give her life to protect Willow and if it meant protecting Tara at the same time, so be it. She did not need Buffy to tell her that she was a warrior, she already knew that and if Buffy and Faith fell in battle she knew that she would be the next slayer.

'One can only hope,' she thought with a wicked grin. Then it hit her, did such a thought put her on the First's side in this battle? She hoped not, she wasn't evil; she just felt that it was her turn to be the slayer. If Buffy and Faith had to die for that to happen, so what; she didn't make the rules, she was just happy to benefit from them.

All of the bluster had gone out of Rona as she stood back to back with Kennedy outside magic central to protect the witches. 'I can't let Kennedy know how scared I am. I know that Buffy said we are all warriors, but I don't feel much like a warrior right now. I have been really down on her since I got here, but she is right; we are all warriors for The Powers, or we will be one day. I'll do my best, Buffy, I promise you; I'll do my best'.

Willow and Tara had worked long into the night on a spell that they hoped would save the lives of as many of their group as possible. They had worked until they were beyond exhausted and they were now glad that Buffy had insisted that they get some rest.

"We are going to need you two at full strength tomorrow," Buffy had said. "If you are exhausted when you try these spells, you know that this kind of magic will kill you. Get some rest. Now."

Buffy had been right. 'She had also said that we are all warriors for The Powers That Be. I am happy to be included in that group and with Tara by my side I know that we will be successful.'

Tara squeezed her hand, letting Willow know that she agreed with her thoughts.

When Faith saw Buffy fall, a rage came over her that she had never felt before and she cut a path of death and destruction before her as she strove to get to Buffy. When Faith reached her, Buffy raised the scythe to her and told her to "Hold the line".

Faith refused to take the weapon. "Unh unh, B, you're not leaving this on me; get your ass up, quit lying down on the job, get your ass up and fight."

She heard someone yell, "Touch her." She did and both their wounds started to heal instantly.

"What the hell kind of mojo are the witches doing?"

"I don't know," Buffy said jumping to her feet, "but let's not waste it."

They would learn later that this was the turning point in the battle.

Richard Davidson, Paul Wilson and the rest of the Sunnydale policemen that had trained with Buffy fought to avenge the deaths of their fellow officers who had been turned, but in addition to that they fought to make Sunnydale and the world safer from the evil that they had only recently learned about. They were policemen already committed to protecting the city, but today and for the rest of their lives they were also warriors for the Powers That Be.

Kate was not used to this kind of hand to hand combat, but she was deadly with a handgun. When she was cleaning out her father's apartment after his death, she found a box that contained handguns that were loaded with wooden bullets; she also found a supply of ammunition for the guns. 'So daddy did know about vampires after all; this is just what I need.'

She brought to Sunnydale four of the guns and as much ammunition as she could carry. Angel stationed her as lookout near the top of the stairs that led to the battle site; her job was to stop anything that came up the stairs. This was the first time in her life that anyone had trusted her with this kind of responsibility; she was a warrior, she would not fail. She hoped that maybe her father would finally be proud of her.

Fred was stationed with Kate to make sure that her guns stayed loaded and to help out if it looked like Kate needed it. When Fred asked for one of the guns, Kate hesitated then asked her if she had ever fired a gun before. Fred's reply was, "Are you kidding? I'm from Texas." Nothing got past Kate and Fred.

Lorne turned out to be very good with a sword and a dagger. According to him he decided to become proficient with certain weapons in order to protect himself on LA streets at night when he first arrived here from Pylea. He had never been called a warrior before; he liked it and he would prove himself worthy of the title.

Connor had been told once before that he was a warrior, (by Holtz when he was in Quor-Toth). Now was different. He wasn't just fighting for himself; he was fighting for humanity. He was a warrior for The Powers That Be. Buffy had said so and he would not let her down. He would not let his father (Angel) down either.

Wesley was not afraid. He would show no fear. He was not the 'screams like a girl' guy any more. He was a warrior for The Powers That Be. If he died today, he would die knowing in his heart that he was a warrior and not even his father could take that away from him.

Gunn was fighting for his sister, Alonna, as he always did. Every time he looked at a vampire he saw the one that killed his sister and that was all the impetus he needed to fight like a warrior. It wouldn't bring her back, but he hoped she could see him and that she was proud of him for still fighting the good fight.

Cordelia was partnered with Groo, she felt safe with him and she would give her all to see to it that they survived. She was proud to be a warrior for The Powers That Be on her team in LA and she was proud to be a warrior in Sunnydale fighting for the survival of humanity.

Groo fought back to back with Cordelia; no battle he had ever fought was as important as this one and he would be happy to give his life for his princess.

Riley hadn't known what to expect when he got the call for help from Buffy, but he knew that he had to go. He determined two things: He would protect his wife, Sam, with his life and he would not let Buffy down.

Graham was not fond of Buffy. She had not made a good impression when she was invited to join the Initiative; but seeing her standing before them, addressing her troops, inciting them to victory, he had to admit she was a warrior and a leader that he would willingly follow. She could count on him to give his all in this fight.

Sam was scared. In her mind she was not a warrior; she was a warrior's wife. However, today as she stood back to back with her warrior husband, she felt that just maybe as Buffy had said, she was a warrior too and she would fight to the death to defend her husband.

Spike had been called many things, but he was sure that no one had ever called him a warrior before. Him? A demon, a warrior for The Powers That Be? If anyone else had said it, he would have told them that they were crazy, but Buffy had said so. He may not have shown it much over the time that he had known her, but he admired and respected the slayer and more than anything else, he trusted her. He was a warrior; grrr he would fight that evil.

Angel had been a warrior for The Powers That Be ever since Whistler had shown him a cute little blond girl with a red lollipop in her mouth. Angelus would not let his girl or anyone else know of his plans. He knew that Angel would never be human again, he had seen to that; Angel's soul would never be returned, he had seen to that too; today he was a warrior, one of the best in this fight. He may be fighting on The Powers' side, but he was fighting for his girl.

After the Battle

Part 1

The battle with the First was over. Sunnydale and most of its inhabitants survived, however there had been losses, ties had been severed and friendships had been stretched past the breaking point.

As life in the quiet little town struggled to return to normal, as if there could ever be a chance of that happening, some of its residents were making plans for a future outside Sunnydale or at least a future that was very different from the past. Less than two days after the battle, the spell that miraculously made slayers of the potentials in Buffy's house quickly fizzled out and all of the girls returned to normal again.

It was now two months later and the last of the surviving potential slayers had been placed around the world with watchers that had been away from London when the Watchers' Council headquarters building was destroyed. Giles had not taken responsibility for a potential slayer because in his mind, no matter how strained their relationship had become, Buffy was still his slayer.

Willow had reapplied and again been accepted at Harvard with a full scholarship. She decided to leave right away so that she could take a couple of summer courses in order to get a jump on the upcoming fall semester. Since Tara had already returned to UCLA, she left for Boston a week after Kennedy was placed with a watcher.

Dawn decided to join her father in Spain for the summer. Buffy was sad to see her go, but she knew that this was a wonderful opportunity for her sister. Since one of the potential slayers had been assigned to a watcher in Spain she and Dawn took the same flight out of LAX; the two of them wanted to stay in touch during the summer.

Xander returned to his construction job, but he was still really raw after losing Anya. He had not realized how deep his feelings for her really went; he had not told her before the battle and now it was too late. After losing her he did not want to lose Willow for four or more years, but he did not voice his hurt when she announced that she was leaving; then a week later Dawn left and it was almost more than he could bear.

Buffy could see the hurt that he was feeling and she understood after losing loved ones herself. When he approached her to make sure that she would be staying in Sunnydale, he was assured that he would not be losing his second best friend when Buffy asked him to move into her house using the excuse that she did not want to be in the house alone and she did not know how long Giles would be staying.

After Willow went away to college Buffy moved into her mother's bedroom so that Xander could have her room. This left the guest bedroom for Giles. Spike was happy to move out of Buffy's basement and into Faith's apartment with her and the two of them took over patrolling. With the Hellmouth closed there wasn't much bad left in Sunnydale and patrolling turned out to be more perfunctory than anything else.

Now with everyone happy in their new quarters, Buffy decided to take a trip to LA under the pretense that she wanted to personally thank the AI team for their support in the battle. Actually she was anxious to see a certain vampire, and it wasn't Angel.

Part 2

He knew that she was near; he always knew. He could feel her in his bones, tickling his spine, warning him, teasing him, making him aware that she was approaching. He tried to play the feeling off as if it didn't matter to him in the least, to prepare himself to be aloof, nonchalant when she appeared. Who was he kidding? He couldn't think of anything else; he looked toward the front door of the hotel with great anticipation, waiting until her face appeared, until he was once again graced with her presence.

The vanilla scent that was uniquely hers preceded her; then all of a sudden there she was, standing in front of him and for brief moments he found himself unable to speak. It was as if she had sucked all of the air out of the room and even though he didn't need it to breathe, he needed it because she was in it. He regained control of his emotions and, to the best of his ability, spoke in a tone that showed that he was annoyed by her presence. 'That should throw her off; I can't let her know of my plans quite yet.'

"What're you doing here? What do you want now?"

She wasn't at all fooled by his attitude. 'Does he really think that he can fool me? Well, two can play that game.' "That's the way you speak to me? It really is over between us isn't it?"

"I thought I made that pretty clear years ago before I left Sunnydale."

Buffy wanted to laugh out loud. 'Let's see how far he'll go with this.' "So the day that we spent together that you had the Oracles turn back, what was that, just you wanting to get laid?"

'She's not supposed to remember. How does she know about that?' "Pretty much; the sisters were in another dimension and you were … available … and more than willing." He gave a little smirk as he leered at her.

"You bastard. And that little show that you put on when Willow told you that I had died, that was what, give the viewers what they expect?"

"I always knew you were a smart girl; your friends and your watcher don't give you enough credit, but I'll never underestimate you again."

"What about your little sabbatical; what was that for?"

Heh heh heh. "I spent most of that time in another dimension banging the hell out of the sisters; they're the ones who sent me by the monastery to get rid of the demons there."

"Why did you even show up in Sunnydale to help with the battle in the first place?"

"Like you said, Buff, give the people what they expect."

'Oops. Damn. I wonder if she noticed that little slip-up.'

"And your friends here still don't know who you really are? They cannot be that blind."

'Oh well, guess the cat's out of the bag; might as well come clean with her.' "Oh but they can; even our resident ex-watcher has no clue who I am." His eyes gleamed gold briefly before returning to their beautiful brown. "How did you know, Buff?"

"I know you, Angelus."

"Yes, I guess you do. How?"

"Do you think you can kiss me the way you did when you walked into my house without my knowing who you are? I could feel what you felt kissing me. Besides the kiss itself, I could hear your thoughts through the link. You marked me, remember. If I wanted to I could sense you as far away as LA, probably farther than that. Angel keeps the link closed so that I can't feel him as well, but not you; the only thing I can't feel from you are your innermost thoughts, but your emotions I can read loud and clear, as if they were my own."

"As my mate you should be able to feel me," he said inching closer to her. "If we were together the link would be stronger than that. I knew as soon as they brought you back. I tried to tell the soul, but he wouldn't listen to me. He didn't believe it until he got the call from Willow."

"How long have you been out?"

"Off and on since the soul left Sunnydale; his grief allowed me to escape for brief periods of time, a few minutes here and there; unfortunately the powers had someone here to make sure that he stayed on track. It worked for a while, but you see grief is as powerful an emotion as love is.

"He didn't have your perfect day turned back because he was afraid you would die, he was afraid that somehow I would return and he would not be able to regain control. He couldn't believe that after more than two-hundred years I could be banished into nothingness; so he gave up his humanity, and you, and had me brought back. I never told him how much I appreciated that. His grief was stronger after that than it had been before; my real opportunity came when Doyle died. I took it and I'm not giving it back."

"You've been free for over two years?"

"Not entirely all of that time, but since he willingly allowed them to remove his soul, I saw to it that he will never get it back."

"And how did you do that?"

"I made a deal with the beast master and later removed that information from her memory. I didn't want to take any chances on her going back on our little deal. When your little witch friend showed up to restore the soul, I put on one of my best performances. Only the beast master and I knew that the soul hadn't been restored. That was great fun. You would've been proud of me,"

"I bet," Buffy says sarcastically.

"Come on, Buff, I know why you're mad. You're wondering why I didn't come for you as soon as I was free."

"Don't flatter yourself."

"Okay. I'll give it to you straight. In the beginning I was only free a few minutes at a time. I had to play it carefully; I couldn't afford to let the soul know what was going on. If he became aware of it, I would lose my chance at freedom all together. Besides that, I had to find a place for you, for us, and get it ready before I came for you. I had to know that everything was ready and to your liking before I presented it to you."

"You still could have let me know something even if it was through our link; I have been dying without you," Buffy said, trying hard to fight back the tears that threatened to fall.

Angelus took her in his arms kissing her softly and gently massaging her neck and upper back in an effort to console her as he said, "I know, baby; once I started getting tuned in to your thoughts and emotions I could feel your sadness, but I couldn't take the chance. Whenever I got a few minutes free from him I tried to let you know how much I loved you. I just couldn't reveal my plans until it was too late for him to do anything to stop me."

"What are you talking about? What plans?"

"When was the last time you were at the Crawford Street mansion?"

"Not since before you left town. Why?"

"Nothing has been done to the outside, but the inside is almost complete. Only the top two floors need to be furnished. I thought you might like to do that yourself, since it is your house."

"My house?"

"And mine, of course. If you check your county records to see who owns the mansion, you will see that the owners are Mr. Liam Angelus O'Hare and Miss Elizabeth Ann Summers. Records will also show that the taxes, internal structure and all utilities are current and have been kept up to code for the last 175 years since my family purchased the property, that is, since I purchased the property.

"One of my minions is a very clever fellow when it comes to things you can do with a computer; I dare say he outshines Willow in that department and he isn't a witch.

"Wait here for a minute." He walked, or rather swaggered, into Angel's/his office and returned with a package of legal looking documents from the law offices of Wolfram and Hart of California, USA. "This is for you. It contains all of the ownerships papers, keys, codes, etc. that you will need whenever you want to take a look at your new home."

Without taking the package Buffy said, "Angelus, I am not moving in with you."

Angelus put down the offered package and took Buffy into his arms and kissed her, putting into the kiss all of the emotions that he felt for her. When he ended the kiss Buffy was breathless, he gently brought his forehead down to hers, kissed her briefly on the tip of her nose and with his little half smiled asked, "You were saying?"

Without answering him Buffy put her arms around his neck, greedily seeking his mouth with her own. When she ended the kiss she asked "Were we talking?" Angelus gave a loud whoop of joy as he tightened his hold on her and spun around with her in his arms.

"You already knew didn't you?"

"I told you, the only things I can't feel from you are your innermost thoughts, but your general conversations and strong emotions I get loud and clear, plus I can tell when it's you and not Angel."

"So you knew I wasn't Angel when you walked in here."

"Yes," she said proudly; "I learned a lot while I was gone. That's why I came here. I also knew that you loved me and that you would've never left Sunnydale and I knew about all of the times that you tried to get him to go back, about Connor, his feelings for Cordelia, even after he found out she was the beast master he still wanted her. I had to make sure that you loved me and only me and that I never had to worry about him coming back."

"Never, baby. From now on it is just you and me; you never have to worry about him coming back ever again. Once we killed the beast, Cordelia was herself again; she didn't remember being possessed by the beast master. You saw her in Sunnydale; she seemed back to normal. I don't know how Groo got word of the upcoming battle, but he showed up just in time to join us as we were getting ready to leave. After we got back to LA, Cordelia announced her plans to return to Pylea with him."

"Wow, she really loves him, huh?"

"I guess so," he shrugged, "she must considering she was willing to return to Pylea." He kissed her again. "Can you spend the night? When do you have to be back in Sunnydale?"

"No. I can't spend the night; I promised Faith I would be back in time to patrol for her tonight."

"All right then, I'll drive you back to Sunnydale and patrol with you tonight. I'll have one of my minions drive your car back and park it near the exit of your patrol route. I want to show you your new home first, then we'll patrol, that should give me enough time to get back here before sunrise."

"You don't have to do that."

"I know; I want to. I've already lost too much time without you; from now on I want to spend as much time with you as possible. Besides I don't know how much longer I can go without taking you to my bed, and trust me when I say 'When I do, we will be there for days.'"

Buffy laughed. "Not even breaks to shower or to eat?"

"Well, if you insist."

Buffy smiled up at him and her arms went around his waist as he pulled her closer to him. With her in his arms he was completely content. "I never understood how the soul could willingly stay away from you."

"I guess it depends upon what is more important to you."

"With me there is no question; nothing will ever be as important to me as you are."

Part 3

A few days after she returned from LA Buffy approached Giles with, "Giles, we need to talk when you have a couple of hours free."

"I'm free now, Buffy; what did you want to talk about?"

"Not here; let's go out; I'll drive."

Giles followed Buffy out to her car and she headed for the Crawford Street mansion. He did not voice his thoughts as he watched Buffy confidently maneuver the car through heavy traffic, 'Have I missed something? When did she learn to drive?'

When they arrived instead of parking on the street or in the driveway Buffy pulled a remote control from someplace that Giles did not see and pressed one of the buttons. A heretofore unnoticed double garage door opened and Buffy pulled the car in. There were two vacant parking spaces and Buffy pulled her car into the spot labeled 'Reserved', cut the engine and got out of the car. Giles opened the passenger door and got out as well. It was then that he noticed the size of the garage. To his right were two motorcycles and four automobiles, including a stretch limousine. He wanted to ask about the cars but he had to hurry to catch Buffy as she moved toward the entrance to the mansion from the garage.

She entered a code on the keypad next to the door as she turned a key and the door opened to reveal a lighted track ten to twelve feet wide that appeared as far as Giles could tell to form a complete circle around the inner portion of the dwelling. Buffy pressed a spot on the wall of the track that turned on lighting that revealed a beautiful foyer that reminded Giles of the entrances to homes of a few of his father's wealthier friends that he had visited in England.

Past the foyer and off to the left Buffy proceeded to a beautifully furnished sitting room that for some reason reminded him of Angel. Plush upholstered furniture contrasted nicely with the rich dark woods and the ceiling to floor draperies of raw silk that barely touched the luxurious carpeting on the floor. An oversized love seat faced a fireplace that was already stocked with a plentiful supply of logs. Tasteful but exquisite paintings and pieces of sculpture were placed around the room, but most startling in the entire room was the life size portrait of Buffy that hung over the fireplace.

Giles was in awe of what he saw.

"This place is magnificent. I had no idea that the mansion was being restored. Is the internal restoration complete?"

"Everything except the two top floors; they still need to be furnished. Now that things have quieted down so much, maybe I'll have time to select furnishing for that portion of the house."

"Do you mean the owners are allowing you to select the furniture?"

"I am the owner, one of them anyway."

"I suppose Angel is the other owner?"

"That's right."

"Buffy are you sure about this?"

"Don't worry, Giles; his soul isn't an issue any more." 'And will never be an issue again.'

"Very well, as long as you're sure."

"I'm positive."

"Buffy, this is beautiful art work."

"Yeah, it is. It's Angel's."

"Where did he get it? These paintings are priceless. I recognize the artist; he disappeared more than two centuries ago and no one knows what happen to him."

Buffy looked at him as if he should have understood what she said.

"Dear lord," Giles said as he became aware of the meaning behind Buffy's words. "Are you suggesting that Angel is that painter?"

"That's what I said," Buffy said, annoyed. "Giles no one knows this. I want your word that you will not reveal this information to anyone."

Giles didn't answer.

"Giles? Do I have your word?"

"Yes, yes, of course; no one would believe me anyway."

"Thank you. Now do you want something to drink before we get started?"

"I'll have whatever you're having."

Buffy left the room and returned carrying two bottles of cold water.

"All right, Buffy, what did you want to talk about?"

"First of all, what are your plans for returning to England? How long before you leave?"

"I have no plans for returning to England, Buffy. I've decided to make my permanent residence in Sunnydale. Why do you ask?"

"I lost the three most important people in my life. Angel left me so that I could have a normal life, my mother died and you left so that I could become more independent. My mother didn't have a choice, but you other two did and neither of you asked me how I felt about anything. I was already fragile after the death of my mother, then to see you walk away literally crushed me. I know that you told me that I no longer need a watcher, but I feel that I do.

"I spoke to Wesley and he told me that a watcher swears a lifetime oath, for the slayer's lifetime, when he is assigned to a slayer. I know that you probably didn't expect me to live this long and I need to know if you intend to continue as my watcher. The trust level between us is completely eroded and I don't know if we can ever get back to where we were before. If we cannot, then I intend to ask Wesley if he would be my watcher."

"I certainly hope that we can get back to the level of trust that we had before, Buffy. You are more than my slayer to me; you are the daughter that I thought I would never have and to me you will always be my slayer. When I left here I honestly thought I was doing what was best for you by allowing you space to become more independent. I am willing to do whatever it takes to start rebuilding the trust that we've lost."

"So am I, but you have to acknowledge that I am an adult now; I'm not that sixteen year old girl that walked into your Sunnydale High School library six years ago. I have a mind of my own and I intend to use it, to make adult decisions that concern my life. This doesn't negate the fact that I feel that I still need a watcher. I just want to make sure that we understand each other before we make any commitments."

Buffy took a long sip of water and paused before continuing. This gave Giles the opportunity to really look at his slayer. She was right; she wasn't a teenager anymore, she was a mature young woman and obviously capable of making adult decisions.

'How did I miss this before? On the night that we kicked her out of her own house when I looked at her, why did I still see the immature teenager that I always took her for, instead of the strong, level-headed adult that she has become? Well, I certainly won't make that mistake again,' Giles thought ruefully, 'and I'm equally certain that she will not let me make that mistake again.'

Buffy's voice interrupted Giles' thoughts when she said, "Next question: Should a slayer start seeing changes in her abilities as she ages?"

"Why do you ask? Are you seeing changes in your abilities, Buffy?"

"You have an annoying habit of not answering when I ask you a question."

Giles still did not answer.

Buffy took another sip of water and waited a few moments until she got tired of waiting.

"Giles, what are we, 12? You have the information, either you're going to answer my questions or you're not. If you're not, then this meeting is a waste of time. If it's the Watchers' Council that you're concerned about, remember they don't exist anymore."

"You're right; it's just that we are in virgin territory here. We've never before had a slayer to slay for seven years, so there is no set precedence to follow. I can tell you what I know but it might not apply to you and I don't want to give you information that will have you looking forward to things that might not happen."

"Is this information in the Watchers' Manual? If so, why don't you just let me read it?"

"Buffy, you're not a watcher."

Buffy gave him one of her 'You've got to be kidding me' looks and finally he relented.

"Why don't we agree on this: You tell me the changes that you are seeing and we'll discuss them one at a time. I'll tell you what I know about what you should expect and how soon."

Buffy wasn't happy with his proposal, but she agreed.

"Fine." She breathed out a long drawn out sigh before speaking again.

"I can almost determine a foe's next move before he makes it; I cannot read his mind, but I can almost hear thoughts and anticipate his next move with a high degree of accuracy. Giles, I realize that in my training with you I have been taught to anticipate an opponent's next move, but this is way beyond what I was taught. I realized this during that last battle. These new skills helped a lot."

"It's true you should be better able to predict an opponent's next move, but what you're describing goes beyond anything I've read about."

"There's more."

By now Giles was on the edge of his seat and extremely excited about being Buffy's watcher again, however, her next words were not what he expected to hear.

"I think there are things that they don't teach you in watcher training and is not found in the watchers' handbook, either that or you have failed to tell me about them."

Giles took offense to that and let her know it by his tone of voice when he said, "For instance?"

Buffy continued, ignoring Giles' obvious reaction to her words. "For instance, I can sense fear and when I want to, I can tell when a being, including a human, is lying. This hasn't always been the case, but I find that since I have been on my own and have had to rely more on my own instincts instead of relying on you for directions, I have become more aware of this and other abilities that I didn't know that I had. That's how I knew you were stalling me when you and Wood were trying to kill Spike."

Giles blanched and looked down briefly but did not speak.

"That's also how I knew that Caleb was lying when he was trying to keep me from knowing about the power of the scythe, that it was the only thing that would kill him."

"Gods, Buffy, this is remarkable. Does anyone else know about this?"

"No. I didn't want them to start acting weird around me, concerned that I was reading their minds or something. 'Course I wouldn't do that, but they would think I might. Also in that last fight I realized that I am stronger and faster than before; without that added power there would have been no way for me to outrun the Sunnydale cave-in as fast as it was moving and to leap over those roof tops the way I did."

"I meant to speak to you about that. I thought for sure we had lost you when you didn't come out of the school with Faith. Then we saw you on the roof; we all marveled at the way you were moving over those buildings."

"I touched Spike's hand after the amulet started working, could it have affected me somehow?"

"I doubt it; the amulet, after all, was from W&H, not from the Powers That Be and I strongly doubt that they would have provided a means of making a slayer more effective."

"You're right; it was just a thought."

"Now, regarding the increased strength and speed, those improved skills were expected as a slayer aged, but not while she was still in her twenties and the ability to tell if one's enemy is lying and anticipating an opponent's next move, those abilities were expected to come also, but not until a slayer had been active for ten or fifteen years. They were meant to help compensate for the possible decline in her abilities due to advancing age."

Giles could see the fear in Buffy's eyes and hear it in her voice when she next spoke.

"Giles, what does this mean? Am I aging faster than I should? Is that what is happening to me?"

"No. Buffy, no. This is one reason I did not want to tell you anything about changes a slayer could expect. I didn't want you to start worrying. The expected changes that I am aware of are all positive ones, not anything to cause you concern."

"What are you not telling me Giles?"

He hesitated again; he wasn't sure whether or not he should tell Buffy what he was thinking. Then he made a decision. 'We've come this far, I might as well tell her everything.'

"As you approached five years of service as a slayer, there were the beginnings of rumblings at the Council that suggested that you might possibly be the supreme slayer that the Council has long anticipated, the slayer that is to usher in a new era for slayers including how they are called, how long they remain a slayer, the extent of their actual commitment, etc.

"I believe that is the real reason that Quentin Travers and his cronies came here prior to your fifth anniversary, he wanted to make sure that he was in good standing with you and you with the rest of the Council in case it turned out that you are the long anticipated slayer."

"If that's the case then he was going about it all wrong."

Giles chuckled. "Indeed."

"So what happens if it turns out that I am this slayer that everybody has been waiting for? What then?"

"I think we should wait and see."

Giles knew that would not be sufficient enough answer for her so he added, "However, judging by your recent performance and what you have just told me about the changes in your abilities, I am led to believe that you may very well be that slayer, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's just wait and see what the future brings, shall we?

"In the meantime I'll start researching. What do you think of the idea of my having a discussion with Wesley and getting his feel for joining me as your watcher? That way, in case something happens to me, he will already be on board."

Buffy looked up at him surprised and a little frightened. "Giles, don't even think about anything happening to you. I told you I need you; I couldn't stand to lose another watcher."

Giles looked at her; he heard the quiver in her voice and saw the tears threatening. For the first time in a long time he got a glimpse of the Buffy that he was used to, the one that used to be his slayer, the one that he knew loved him like a father. It touched his heart.

"Don't worry dear;" he reached out and patted the back of her hand. "I plan to be here for as long as you want me."

She smiled at him and wiped away the tears.

"I think it's a good idea. When I was in LA, I got the distinct impression that all was not well among the AI family members. Nothing specific was said, but I could feel the tension in the air. I think Angel will be staying only long enough to cleanup whatever problems they are having and then he will be coming back to Sunnydale. When he does, I am moving into the mansion with him. Until then, I will stay where I am."

They continued their talk, getting to know each other again. Buffy detailed other changes she saw in herself, her improved self-confidence and self-awareness, the fact that she still wanted her friends but that she no longer felt the need for their approval, she no longer felt the need to get her watcher's approval for everything that she did, she needed a stronger person for training because with her increased strength and speed she was afraid that she would hurt Giles, she would however still like for him to direct her training.

Giles told her about how inadequate he felt near the end before the actual fight with the First, that it seemed that between herself, Willow, and Tara, he wasn't needed anymore.

Buffy assured him that that was in no way the case, that she and the others would always need him, that he had been more of a father to each one of them than their own fathers had ever been.

Giles was almost moved to tears by her words; he swallowed hard as he stuttered a thank you for words that he never expected to hear from her.

On the meeting went, until they felt they had gone far beyond its initial intent and had strayed into issues that they were not aware needed to be discussed and resolved. Each came away from the meeting feeling enlightened and refreshed and looking forward to renewed collaborations.

Giles was not particularly happy that she intended to move into the mansion with Angel, but he had agreed that she was old enough and mature enough to make her own decisions regarding her personal life and when he actually thought about it, he had to admit that this might be exactly what she needed.

After all it had been a long time since she had had any real happiness in her life, he suspected not since Angel left after they defeated the mayor. Buffy had not told him that it was actually Angelus that would be returning to Sunnydale. Once she moved into the mansion that would leave the house on Revello Drive for Giles and Xander, also for Dawn and Willow if they decided to return to Sunnydale.

Giles did not want to allow his excitement to show, but based on everything they had discussed today and their renewed commitment to each other, this could be the beginning of a very long and exciting time in their lives.

The end