Past the twenty-chapter mark! Again, this is the longest Buffy fanfic I've ever written. I'm planning on only adding one or two more chapters, but I will be writing a sequel to this story. If you want me to PM you when I started posting it, just say so when you leave a review.

Also, the sequence with Faith and Spike in Willy's Bar will lead into a short little novella I'm planning on writing, called "The Thrill Of The Hunt". So, keep your eyes peeled for it when I started posting it on here.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or any of the other characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The WB and UPN also have their own rights involving the airing of the show.


Chapter 21

The smell of blood in the air was the first thing that reached her senses, her stomach almost taking control of her body as the hunger she felt began to come back to the forefront of her feelings. Opening her eyes, Buffy found herself alone in the bed, the red sheets still maintaining a rough outline of Angel's form. Her mind racing, she remembered the sensations that she had felt in every inch of her skin the night before. The only question that broke through all of the memories and sensations was whether or not the 'brake' for the curse had been successful. If Angelus had returned…

Pushing herself off the bed, she simultaneously wrapped the red-sheets around her body, unsure of what she would encounter within the four walls that surrounded her. Images of what Angelus had done with her body while the Demon had still been in control of it came flooding back into her immediate thoughts, each memory more vivid than the one preceding it.

As a full, clear sight of the kitchen of the room came into view, she saw the back of her sire standing as he waited for the microwave to cease its circuit, the cup inside obviously filled with blood. He heard her coming, and as she stopped, she watched as his eyes trailed along her body before reaching her face.

"Angel?" She asked, saying the name with a slight hint of noticeable dread in her voice. Every single moment she waited for his answer seemed like an eternity.

"I'm still here." He said, offering her a hesitant smile in case she didn't properly understand him. As she heard his response, Buffy nearly ran headlong towards him in joy, the sheets around her body almost falling off entirely. Wrapping her arms around his chest, she smiled up at him.

"It worked."


As she stumbled into Willy's bar, Faith knew that every single set of eyes within the entire place were beginning to turn towards her. She didn't care in the slightest bit, and in a way, she enjoyed the attention. It reminded her that she held a certain amount of power over every single thing in here. Not-one of them would even so much as grin at the idea of attacking her. It was part of the way she carried herself. She had Power, and they didn't.

"Ah, you must be the new Slayer. Words gotten around about how you might be coming around." The bartender said, continuing to wipe a glass down with a rag that had no doubt seen better days. Reminder to self, ask for a clean glass.

"Who wants to know?" She answered, turning her attention towards the numerous assorted 'drinks' behind the man. Half of them seemed to be filled with liquids that even she would have to think twice about before taking a swig.

"Guess you haven't been in town long enough to get word of who I am." Setting the class down, the bartender reached across the bar and offered her his hand. "I'm Willy, owner of this fine establishment." Eying the man curiously, the Slayer nevertheless shook his hand, ignoring the slightly sticky feel the man's palm had.

"Something tells me that you don't really deal in human clientele. Must have to do with the entire Vamp hoard you got snugging around in the booth back there." Gesturing over her shoulder, Faith knew that the vampires behind her had heard what she had said, and were burning holes into her back with their yellow eyes.

"Not really. Best Demon bar this side of California."

"Tell me you've got something I can at least drink here." At the mere mention of conducting business, Willy's entire stance changed.

"Of course. I don't get many, but I have a few human clients. Seems those that are informed of this 'underworld' thing that Sunnydale has going on with the Hellmouth occasionally like to drink with the 'hoards of hell'." Reaching underneath the bar, Willy laid out a shot glass, which was quickly joined by a small bottle of whiskey. Eying the Slayer in front of him, he looked as if he were about to ask a question, but quickly swallowed it down without so much as beginning to voice it.

"Here ya go." As she gripped the class in both hands, Faith downed the entire content of the class in one gulp before she slammed the glass back down onto the bar-top. The sound of it echoed throughout the entire room, able to be heard over the sound of even the loudest demon within the walls.

"I also get the feeling there's something that you're not telling me."

"I don't know whatcha talking." Starting to turn away, Willy felt the girl's fist wrap around the sleeve of his shirt, pulling him back towards her.

"I think you do. See, in case you haven't heard, the big bad Angelus had his soul restored again. But he's not alone this time, cause you see, the whole reason I'm here is that he took B down with him. Seems the two of them are mated now. All the while, she gets forgiven for everything she's done, right down to stabbing me through my stomach."

"Sounds like the two of you aren't getting along."

"Willy, you have no idea." She said, releasing her grip on him in order to let him pour her another shot. "Takes a lot to thrust a knife through someone, ya know."

"Can't say that I do."

"Takes a hell of a lot more to suffer through the damn thing being lodged inside you." She said, pausing only to down the shot that lay in front of her. "Trust me, that was not one of the more fun trips I've taken, and there's been quite a few that have been almost as bad. But B…I don't get, she just gets a clean sweep because this Demon inside her just took control. Same for her sire, Angelus, Angel, all names for the same damn face."

"You realize all the things he's done over the centuries?" One of the Demons sitting only a few feet away said, his eyes never once leaving the bubbling green drink he held in his hand. "He's done things that others have only dreamed of."

"Nice to know that he's got a resident fan base that's not human." Faith mumbled, already downing the other shot Willy had placed in front of her. He had caught on quick, and he refilled the glass as quickly as she finished it. "Anyway, and I get the rough rap from Mr. Soul because I'm not in it to save his precious little Buffy. Where does he get off telling me what I should be feeling?"

"You realize he could snap your neck like the little twig that it truly is, and be done with you?" The Demon again spoke up, setting his glass down onto the bar, and actually turning to face her. "He has killed at least two Slayers through the ages, and he certainly will not mind adding another to his body count."

"Oh, but you didn't get the memo, he has a soul now. Can't go around killing people or else he starts feeling down and mopey about himself. And with the fact that he's carrying himself and little B now, I think he's got enough on his plate without having to worry about me. I mean, it's not like I'm gonna make a move on him, not like I want start being on the other team, but it gets to me, ya know?"

"I think we all understand what you're trying to get across, luv." The voice striking a chord inside her brain, Faith turned towards the new comer, her hand almost instantly flying to the stake inside her coat pocket as she saw Spike slowly walking towards her.

"You know, I don't think we've been properly introduced. Why don't you sit back down and I'll buy you a drink." He said, his hands still hidden inside the pockets of his duster. The stake still gripped in her hand, the Slayer nevertheless sat slowly back down into the stool, hearing the Demon behind her slowly backing away.

"Now, that's better. I think we can have a bit of civilized conversation before we make with the punches and blood spilling, don't you?"

"Trust me; I'm looking forward to finishing the job I started earlier." As he heard her response, Spike laughed, the sound of it nearly making Faith lose her posture.

"I could say the same. Only I've got something a bit more personal involved in this. You killed Dru, and as a result, I'm going to kill you."


"Anything else you need me to sign?" Buffy asked, avoiding looking Giles directly in the face. Just as it had with Willow, it hurt to look at her Watcher, the man still bearing the scars from the torture Angelus had inflicted on him. The torture that she had suggested.

"You loved talking about it, don't lie. It made you all happy to know that someone who couldn't stand you being with our mate was in pain."

"I wish I could gag you, you're starting to aggravate me."

"I'm always going to be here, deal with it."

"No, I think that about covers all of the necessary preparations." He answered, oblivious to the conflict going on inside his former Slayer. "The house is under my name, and I'm sure that Tara and the others will make sure that it stays in perfect condition."

"Good." Part of her would rather forget about the events that had happened only weeks ago on the porch. Before she could stop herself, images of her mother dying in her arms flashed before her eyes, and she heard the Demon inside her begin to laugh.

"Buffy, is there anything else any of us can possible do?" He questioned, taking his glasses off for a moment and wiping them clean even though they looked particularly spotless.

"No, I'm fine. I'd just like to see…Mom's grave before I leave."

"It was a remarkably peaceful service, Buffy, I'm…I'm sure Joyce would have liked it."

"It seems right. I killed her, so I wasn't there." Buffy answered, looking up at the older man in front of her. "Nobody likes a murderer showing up to a funeral."

"Buffy, you are in no way a murderer." The man said, pushing his glasses back onto his face. "The Demon inside you had full control, and no matter what you may think otherwise, you were in no position to stop what occurred. Grief and pain can be powerful things, but they can also end a person. I know from personal experience."

"Someone you knew back in your Rebel Without A Cause phase?" She asked, reaching for the cup of blood that sat on the table only a few feet away. The taste of it was beginning to grow on her, and the more she drank of it, the more 'used' to it she was becoming.

"No, I'm that person." That caused her to meet his eyes, something she had been avoiding ever since he had walked into the apartment. "When…when Angelus killed Jenny…you saw the result of my actions. I nearly got myself bloody well killed. And it was all because I was only thinking about what I was feeling. Pain, grief, shock, anger. They all drove me."

"I remember." She said, the images from that night cycling through her brain at a rapid pace. She could still hear the words on the phone as she and Willow heard about Ms. Calendar's fate. The wound had healed somewhat, but the scar still remained.

"I look back on it now, and realize why I did such a fool-hardy thing, and yet, I understand why I felt the need to do it. It was emotion, Buffy, I didn't want to think, and as a result, I fell back onto the most basic emotions to control me."

"Is there a lesson to be learned here, Giles?"

"Don't let your emotions control how you think."


As they laid on the bed in the dark, Buffy and Angel were almost entirely silent. Neither of them were sleeping, but believed that the other was. Apart from the occasional shift in the way they were laying, the two of them avoided contact with the other, if for nothing else other than to give the other some peace. They both shared enough conflicting thoughts to prevent the peace of sleep from reaching their minds.

As she studied the lines on the walls, Buffy could still hear the Demon inside of her taunting her, the insults never once ceasing in their intensity. Every single word made her doubt herself, even with Giles' advice trying to combat the insults. Everything that she could come up with that contradicted the Demon's words were instantly struck down by something new that the other part of herself had come up with seemingly out of nowhere.

"You're making this too easy. Show some backbone."

"I could always ask Willow to find a way to make you shut up."

"You really think that would stop me? That little Witch can't even turn a page with the scars we put on her." Images of the scars Willow had all over her body came flooding into her eyes as the Demon spoke, the memories of being so helpless to stop the Demon from hurting her friend even stronger than they had ever been before. "Oh, did we bring all that hurt back?"

"Stop."

"Not a chance in hell. You should ask Angel about that, he almost brought Hell to the world, but we stopped him, didn't we? We paid in our blood."

"It was stopped, that's all that matters."

"Is it? Because look at everything we did afterwards. We killed Oz, Mom, and we nearly made that Witch one of us. Was it worth it, to save the world from the Hell that Acathla could have brought? From here, it looks like we had the same effect."


As he watched her sleep, Angel couldn't help but feel the guilt sink back into his thoughts, every inch of the emotion swarming through his unbeating heart. She was truly dead now, suffering the same fate that he himself had struggled with for so long. Before, she had been so used to the fact that she would die before anyone else around her, but now the situation had been reversed. The only person that would remain after everyone had gone would be herself, and him.

"Hurts doesn't it? To know that we made her like this." From the deepest pits of his mind, he could hear Angelus' voice swarming up to him, the sound of it so clear and precise.

"You did this, not me. We're not the same thing."

"Oh, lying to yourself now. That doesn't seem like something a protector would do. What was that big speech you made when you brought her here, that you and me are the same thing?"

"She needed to be comforted."

"And so you did that by lying. You're such a liar. You can't even lie to yourself, because I'm here, making sure you can't ever convince yourself that you're something other than what you are."


"It won't stop." Turning his head, he could see that Buffy still wasn't facing him, her gaze still fixed on the wall across the room.

"What?" He asked, his mind already pushing Angelus back in order to properly hear what she was saying.

"It won't stop." She repeated, turning over in order to look him in the eyes. He could almost feel the emotions coming off of her, the childe not even bothering to try and hide them. "It won't stop talking to me."

"The Demon." He answered, his eyes locking onto hers as he spoke.

"It won't stop, it hurts." The tears she had been holding inside began to fall down her cheek, eventually making contact with the red sheets beneath them. "It keeps reminding me of everything it did, everyone it killed."

"Buffy, you can't let it do this to you. The more you let it affect you, the more it's going to keep gaining strength." Before he had even finished speaking, Angel felt Buffy begin to bury her head into his shoulder, the tears still running down her cheeks, but she managed to avoid sobbing.

"You know, he does have a point." Looking up from the childe he had pushed up against him, Angel could see a figure slowly walking through the door, the lock itself seemingly having had no effect on him. Raising her tear-stained eyes from Angel's shoulder, Buffy looked at the visitor, her mind almost instantly recognizing his voice.

"Whistler?"

"The one and only. You know, I kinda like the look you're going for here. It's like you're inside a crypt, but it's actually homey." The messenger said, looking around the room in an exaggerated manner. Pulling the red-sheets further up to cover her shoulders, Buffy looked at the man with questioning eyes.

"Ok, you mind explaining why you're here? I thought you skipped town, big apocalypse coming and all. You seemed pretty sure that you weren't going to stick around and watch the aftermath."

"You know sweetheart." Whistler started, noticing the slightly angry gaze Angel was giving him due to his choice of words. "I was going to, but then I heard something about a Slayer being turned by the Big Guy, and I was encouraged to stay."

"Something tells me it's because the Powers wanted you to tell me something." Angel interrupted, his gaze following the man as he crossed the room.

"Well, at least it looks like losing and regaining your soul didn't make you lose any of your brains." Taking a seat, the messenger crossed his leg over his knee. "And actually, it's a message for both of you."

"What?" Buffy said, pulling herself into a more comfortable sitting position.

"Seems that since you're the only other Souled Vampire in existence, the Powers decided to give you another job. Gotta say, they work faster than the unemployment agency."

"But why me? I mean, don't they already have Angel?"

"Did you not just hear the big explanation I did? They want you to help him. Could be something to do with the fact that the Big Guy sired a Slayer, something that's kinda rare when you look at the entire history of the world." Leaning back into a chair, Whistler waited for one of the two vampires to continue the conversation, having nothing else to say at the moment.

"And where exactly would this 'job' take us? We've agreed we're not staying in Sunnydale." Angel finally said, wrapping his arm around Buffy's shoulders as he pushed himself against the backboard of the bed.

"Seems like the Powers want you to go to Los Angeles. Something about a chance for redemption and all that. You've already heard the speech once before, as I seem to recall, you know, the whole 'champion' speech I gave you." Looking over at her sire, Buffy raised her eyebrow in a questioning manner.

"'Champion speech'? You're going to explain this to me later." She said before she locked her voice back inside her throat. Turning his attention fully back on the messenger sitting only a few feet away from him, Angel looked the man straight in the eyes, leaving no room for the man to somehow avoid answering the question he was about to ask.

"Why don't you elaborate on the whole 'redemption' matter?"

"Considering that you've killed a few people by now, and the cute young blonde thing here has as well, it seems that by saving those in need, you could begin to make amends for the things you both did when the Demons were running free. There's a lot of lost people out there, some of them begging to be found, and others simply giving up hope of ever being seen again. They need champions, and the Powers decided that you two were perfect for the job."

"And how are we supposed to find these people, considering that they're all lost-y." Buffy said, again raising her eyebrows.

"They'll be someone there, waiting for you. The Powers will act through him, give him visions on where to find these people. You really think they would just leave you to your own inventions once you got there?"

"And how would we find this person? Just put out a 'Vampires seeking messenger for the Powers That Be' ad in the paper?" Buffy again inquired, pushing a few strands of her hair out of her eyes in the process.

"You know, you kinda put the whole idea of dumb blondes to shame." As the words left his lips, Whistler almost instantly saw the slightly angry look come over the vampire's face. "Take it easy, it was a compliment."

"Thanks." She sarcastically answered, preventing her face from changing into its true form.

"Trust me, you start going out and slaying the creatures of the night, you'll get his attention. He's a pretty perceptive guy when he's not drinking himself into a stupor. He'll find you, not the other way around."

"Do you at least have his name?" Angel asked, having remained silent for the past few minutes.

"Doyle."