------- Part 1 -------

I walked through the streets of Sunnydale, somehow knowing that I was being chased by vampires. I was probably the quickest kill they'd ever have, being on crutches and all. Using crutches had become second nature to me after maneuvering around with them all of my life, but at this moment, I wished I could ditch them and run like hell. Figuring that screaming or trying to increase my pace wouldn't do me much good, I just waited for the inevitable to happen.

A purely morbid part of me wondered what it would feel like; having my blood slowly drained from my body. Death was the ultimate mystery. Would I get a free pass to my personal heaven because of the way my life was taken from me? Well, I was about to find out. I ended up standing outside the under construction multiplex, knowing the vampires weren't afraid of killing me out in the open.

I found myself looking around for any spectators. Some would run, I knew, but there were those other sickos who would watch with fascination, then high tail it just before the feeding ended. But the street was deserted. Apparently the residents were a little smarter than I'd given them credit for. Surprising the vampires who thought they were sneaking up on me, I turned around to face them.

They growled with hunger. Seeing their fangs, their feral eyes, their twisted smiles, I finally felt the fear most victims must have felt before me. But I stood defiantly.

"Look at the brave four-legger, boys." The one I guessed was the leader, said.

As they came closer to me, the intense desire not to die kicked in. I had subdued it before, thinking death would be an adventure, a welcome release. But then I remembered how much I liked breathing. With this new attitude, I did something less than intelligent.

"You like my crutches? Want a closer look?" I asked them with a smug smile.

Boy, was I an idiot.

I saw that my left crutch was placed just in line with the leader's groin area, and without thinking, I aimed for his undead genitals and scored a direct hit. He grabbed his hurt package, and his two buddies proceeded to get revenge. They ripped my crutches off my arms, and threw them across the street.

I had experience with falling to the ground, and I landed on my hands and knees with minimal pain. Minimal, but it was still concrete. The leader recovered, and picked me up by the back of my shirt. I felt weightless. I flailed helplessly, and then he threw me so I could join my crutches. If you're ever prey for vampires, take this advice.

Don't piss them off. You're just making things worse for yourself.

I knew it was close to over now. They were still hungry, and anger only increases a vampire's appetite. My vision was blurry, and they were standing over me. I didn't even see them move across the street. Then they were on me. The lackeys sank their teeth into both my wrists, and I felt the leader turn my head. But the feeling of fangs puncturing the flesh of my neck never came.

My blood was no longer being drained from my body. There were only growls and sounds of bones breaking. I felt dust shower down on me, choking me, as it entered my mouth. One of them had died. Only one person could have killed it, and I knew the other two were going to join it soon. I also knew I was going to live.

I was very grateful to her for that. I didn't think she was going to show, but I should have expected it. I was weak from the bloodloss I had sustained, and movement was an issue. I felt her crouch over me. The danger was gone. She was checking my injuries, and she felt for my pulse. I was alive.

But when I found my voice, I didn't thank her. I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"What kept you?"

She smirked at me, even though I could tell she was worried about the snacking wounds the vampires left on my wrists. I had never seen her this close before. Stunning was the only word I could think of. I had so much respect for her. She had survived everything placed in her way, and still kept going forward. She was an amazing girl. No, she was a woman now. She deserved happiness. She deserved bliss. But the problem was, no one was worthy of her, least of all me. And I had no delusions of even attempting to try.

Her voice brought me back. "You're welcome. Now what're we gonna do? Hospital sounds good to me."

I shook my head. "Don't like hospitals."

"You and me both. But see, I can get away with cuts like yours. I heal fast. Plus, you lost some blood. Definitely worse than a paper-cut."

"How do my crutches look?"

I watched her turn her head. When she looked back at me, it wasn't with a pleasant expression.

"Pretty bent." She paused. "No, destroyed is probably a better word." She was quiet. I guess she was thinking about what to do. "It's the year of the double zeroes. You'd think I'd invest in a cell phone."

She sighed, and lifted my right arm up. I knew the time for moving had come, and I wasn't looking forward to it. "Be gentle?" I asked.

"Like a feather. Promise. A friend of mine lives a few blocks from here. He's got tons of First Aid kits -- I think he stole 'em off some of the school buses." She grinned at me. "But then you're going to the hospital." I groaned. "Can you walk if I --?"

I nodded, and she put her one arm around my shoulders, her other one around my waist. It took me a minute to get my legs cooperating, and then we were off. Slowly, but we were off.


We reached her friend's house. He was a man I knew well. He had survived many tragedies as well, most in a past I had only an inkling of. He had endured both physical and emotional pain, and he didn't even have supernatural abilities. I had as much respect for him as I had for her. No more, no less. He had had to make tough choices, and was a man with compassion, knowledge, and character.

When he saw me, he instinctively knew to help her bring me in. They set me down on the couch, and he went into his kitchen -- I assumed to get whatever bandage and disinfectant supplies necessary to temporarily relieve my pain until the hospital. She followed him and they talked quietly, once in a while looking at me, and then going back to speaking with each other.

They stopped, and he knelt down by me, so I held out my wrists. First came the cold, disinfectant cream, and I hissed at the feeling of clashing temperatures hitting the wound. He cleaned away the blood, and then I felt the pain, which up until now, the shock had held in check. I was surprised that two small holes, and I do mean small, could hurt that much. He started the bandaging.

"You're a very lucky young man." He told me.

"You think I don't know that?" I asked.

"I suppose you do." He regarded me with curiosity. "May I ask what your name is?"

"Pat." I said. "What's yours?" Even though I already knew it.

She interjected. "He's just Giles. And I'm Buffy. I'm kinda...well...I slay vampires."

"Really?" I asked with mock surprise.

She grinned widely. "So, Pat, I don't remember seeing you before."

How was I supposed to do this? "That's cause I'm not usually out at night."

"Any particular reason you chose to be out tonight?" Giles asked.

As he switched to my other wrist, he brushed up against my knee, and I hissed. He looked at me, silently asking what had caused the pain.

"They're just scraped." I assured him, and then got back to his question. "I don't know. Boredom? I guess I always wanted to see if vampires could be hurt in their lower regions."

Buffy gaped. "You didn't." When I didn't say anything, I got to see angry Buffy up close and personal. "What were you --?"

Giles cleared his throat, and I was incredibly thankful, for he had just stopped her impending tirade. "You can reprimand him later, Buffy, but what he needs now is professional medical care. Do you have family we could call for you?"

"Yeah, but they're nowhere near here." I answered.

They both stared at me for a minute, as if waiting for an explanation.

Seeing that I wasn't going to give them one, Buffy finally said something. "Well, I don't wanna leave you there by yourself, but there's no way I'm staying overnight. I'll call my friend, Willow. She won't mind."

"I don't wanna put anybody out." I said, not really putting up much of an argument.

"You're not."

She picked up the phone, and then Giles was lifting me off of the couch. We were headed out to the car. I had many objections to my current position, the biggest one being that I didn't enjoy being this dependent on others, but I kept quiet.


I laid in the hospital bed, looking around the room. Every hospital room, in every hospital, no matter what state, is always identical. A bed, a non- working twenty-year-old TV, and it always feels the same. Cold and impersonal. It was nothing new to me. I had had IV's in my arm before, nurses coming in and never giving me a moment's peace, never letting me move...the only difference was that this time I wasn't wearing casts, and it was only a one night stay.

But a hospital bed was better than riding in Giles' Citrogen. It felt like a billion mini-earthquakes. I was happy to have survived the horror. And in case you're wondering, I'm not exaggerating.

I had insisted on the short stay, and the doctors didn't argue. They needed all the space for patients they could get. Around about the third time I counted the one hundred and twenty-three ceiling tiles on my side of the room, it was really late, so I wasn't expecting any visitors. But then, Willow poked her head into the room, being quiet just in case I was asleep. I smiled at her, and she came in, gently closing the door behind her. She was carrying a balloon and a small teddy bear.

Only Willow.

The redhead had changed a lot, but had also remained very much the same. Seeing her in person now, it was hard not to smile when she was in the room. It was like her presence had forced everything in the hospital room to seem more cheerful, including me. She certainly was one of a kind, and I hoped she never lost her uniqueness. I couldn't even grasp it now. I was a fool to even assume I could guess what made her tick.

She made the controversial changing of sexual orientations seem so effortless, and not even that big of a deal. You couldn't define this girl. There weren't enough words in the dictionary. She was simply Willow, and you were drawn to her. I know I was. She was welcoming to almost every person that crossed her path, not judging them by appearances, and more often than not, they tried to be as good as she hoped they were. The ones that weren't, she still tried to help. How extraordinary is that?

And the people she felt affection for on a deeper level, well, I was extremely envious of them. Could they even appreciate how lucky they were? I knew I was lucky just being in the same room with her. That made me feel special, and also undeserving. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to enjoy every moment of the time she chose to spend with me. Because I was. When would I ever get this chance again?

"Hi there." She said to me with a wave. "Sorry I took forever. I was down at the gift shop, and they told me they were closed, and then I had to fight with them, and then some nurse told me visiting hours were over, and then --"

I had to chuckle. "You didn't have to do that."

"Sure I did. I'm a firm believer in gifts. They must be given. Especially with you being attacked and all. Shudder." She said, and then she actually did shudder. "I know what a big, un-fun that is."

"Well, I appreciate the bear." It was oddly comforting. "Yeah, Buffy was there just in time."

She smiled. "She always is. I never doubt it."

There was a silence then. It was strange, being here like this. I knew nearly everything about her, every single detail, but she knew nothing about me. For instance, I knew she couldn't stand long silences, and that she would break it soon.

As soon as I thought that, she began to speak. "Your name's Pat?" I nodded. "Oh, I'm Willow. But you probably already knew that cause Buffy probably told you I was coming, but I should've said...sorry." She smiled again and blushed. It was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. "I babble. It's a habit."

"I like it." I told her honestly.

"So where are you from?" She wondered.

Uh oh. Lie, I said to myself. But I couldn't lie to Willow. "Pennsylvania."

"Really?" She asked, surprised. "Isn't that far away?"

"About three-thousand miles." Why couldn't I shut up?

"Is your family back there?"

"Yeah." My mouth still moved.

Her eyebrows scrunched up. "How'd you end up in Sunnydale?"

"I've been...living with an uncle...but one night he didn't come home." I had no choice but to lie now, Willow or not. What was I going to say?

Then came the frown and sympathetic expression. "Vampires?"

"I guess. I'm not sure." I felt like the lowest scum on the face of the Earth.

"No wonder you were out by yourself." Did she think I was trying to go vigilante on the vampires? "I get it..." She was grabbing my hand now. Oh God. I really got myself into a hole. "But you could've gotten seriously hurt. Or worse. Promise you'll be super careful from now on?"

I looked into her eyes. "I promise."

Her lips curved upwards. "Good." She switched to worry almost immediately. "You haven't been living by yourself, have you?"

"Yeah, but not long." That much was true.

"Well, we can call your parents in Pennsylvania, and --" She started.

"No." I told her, shaking my head quickly. "I moved out here...uh...to try and make it on my own. I was staying with my uncle till I could get a job. I don't want my parents to know I bombed."

"Then we'll figure something else out." She left it at that.

I knew she would. Parents weren't a pleasant subject for any of the gang. It was soon after that, when I remembered how tired I was, and I drifted off to sleep, comforted. I knew that she wasn't going to move from her chair until I left the next day, still feeling less than deserving of her attention.


In the morning, when I woke up, Willow was standing over me. She had a wheelchair sitting by my bed, and I guessed I was supposed to get in. After some fiddling with the bed controls and a little assistance, I was situated. She informed me that the Physical Therapy room had a whole stock of crutches, so I could get replacements. Once I did, and she helped me weasel out of paying for them (I didn't have medical insurance. Not *here*, anyway), I went back to my room to change out of the stupid gown. Then we were out of there.

As we walked out, I began to dwell on the fact that I was in Sunnydale. I had no idea how I came to be there, I just remembered walking down the street with vampires following me last night, and not giving a second thought to where I was. You didn't think I knew that Sunnydale was a fictional town? Not to mention everybody in it? Of course I did. But I just knew the place, and a few of the people so well, that they seemed real enough to me. They couldn't have been products produced solely from a writer's brain.

Therein lied my dilemma. I didn't belong here. And I couldn't tell anyone who I really was, or what they were. Except, I wasn't in a rush to leave. I was living every fan's dream, and entering into Buffy's world, for me, had been second nature. I guess that's what happens when you watch something for four years. I got to know it better than my own town. Anyway, it must have been summer, because they didn't seem to be scrambling to figure out how to beat a big, bad evil. If I guessed right, it was a little after "Restless."

That meant it would be more or less normal, which was fine with me. I was used to a normal, non-apocalyptic, lifestyle. Plus, I had already been in mortal danger, and the thrill of getting attacked by real vampires ended as soon as I saw them. I welcomed the boredom of the off-season I never got to see before. That meant the only character...no, the only *person* I wouldn't get to see was Riley, because he had returned home for the summer. That was a shame too, because I really wanted to shake his hand. He had survived some pretty gruesome stuff himself.

I decided that I had to take a step back, and realize what I'd been through.

I had been down Main Street, attacked by vampires, injured, saved by Buffy, inside Giles' house, bandaged by him, in Sunnydale General Hospital, in a conversation with Willow, given a bear...it took every ounce of my self- control to not laugh giddily. When we reached the hospital's entrance/exit, I caught sight of Giles standing by his car. I grimaced, knowing all too well the ride I was in for.

Willow must have sensed my apprehension, because she leaned in close and whispered to me. "It's got good seatbelts. That's a plus, right?"

It certainly was.


Xander and Anya had apparently decided to come along for the ride. Was I being punished? She was the last person I wanted to see. Xander was cool, however lacking in direction, but I could have done without Anya. None of us knew what to say. Willow did quick introductions, but she obviously wasn't very fond of Anya either. I sat in the passenger seat up front, and spent most of the trip back to Giles' talking with Willow.

"So you're a hacker?" I asked in my best 'I had no clue' voice.

"Yep. And a wicca too." She wasn't sure I knew what that was, so she explained further. "Wiccas are witches. But good ones."

"So you're not evil?" I teased.

"Nope. No evil here." She swore. "Just your ordinary good guy."

"You don't seem ordinary to me."

It was then that I realized a couple things. One was that I had just flirted with Willow, a dumb move on so many levels. I hope I don't have to explain why. The other thing I happened to realize, was that Anya had been staring at me almost the entire way, through the rearview mirror.

"Yes?" I asked, addressing her.

"Are you hiding something?" She asked, flat out.

Now I was in trouble. Anya did always seem to have a keen perception of things.

Willow quickly reversed the topic of conversation. "So what do you like to do?"

I don't know why she did it, but I wasn't going to pass up my 'Get Out of This Conversation Free' card. "Uh...I write."

"Really? What about?" She inquired.

I had to play this right, or it could blow up in my face.

"A lot about vampires, actually. I think they're interesting." It was a version of the truth, anyway.

And like Obi-Wan said, truth depends on your point of view. I almost made myself feel better.

Xander decided to chip in. "Interesting isn't how I'd label 'em. Now, horrifying..."

"I found that out." I said, quietly.

Willow slapped him. "Xander!"

"What?" He asked.

"Hey! I'm the only one who gets to slap him!" Anya yelled.

Giles had to intervene. "Children! We're almost there. Could you please be civilized?"

"Sorry, Giles." Willow apologized.

"Yeah, sorry." Xander said.

Anya didn't say a word.


It was decided that I'd stay at Giles' until they could think of a more permanent solution. I was supposed to start college soon, and wouldn't it be funny if I ended up going to UC Sunnydale and living there? It was all too bizarre. But that was later. Now, I was simply enjoying my time here, because I knew it wasn't going to last forever.

Later that night I was taken to the Bronze after going to the mini-golf course, for a nine-hole round. Yes, there is a course in town. The writers flubbed. Buffy had spent the morning with her mom, and then met us there. She made it a point to tell me not to use my new crutches as weapons to foolishly attack vampires, but then she let it drop. And I officially thanked her for saving my life.

Okay, back to mini-golf.

Let's just say I wasn't very good at it at first. Swinging a club while balancing on one crutch was a talent I had not yet mastered. But then, Xander came up with a rather ingenious idea -- I was surprised. He removed the rubber tip from the crutch my right hand was gripping, and replaced it with a club head. I had better control and balance that way.

But I still wasn't that good of a golfer.

"Swing through it. Bring your arm back. This is the windmill so your timing has to be perfect." He was offering me tips.

I had to refer to the scorecard. "This from a guy who's at plus five."

Anya glared at me, but Buffy and Willow made long, drawn out 'ooh' sounds.

"He zinged you, Xand." Buffy said, smirking.

"Thanks, Buff. I know. I was there." Then he smiled. "But I've still got a lower score."

I let him win that. Even though I saw him cheat.

Like I said, after mini-golf, the sun was just about down and we went to the Bronze. Willow started telling me all about it. I think she liked playing tour guide.

"There was a weird lightning storm last night." She said. "It only lasted like a couple of minutes, but it knocked the power out. They weren't sure if they were gonna open."

They clearly had though, because people were entering the club in droves. It was extremely loud inside. Extremely. There was no band, so they had some techno stuff blaring throughout the club. Xander was drink guy, and went over to the bar. We got a table, and sat down. I looked around, remembering all the stuff that had happened here. I could see it so easily, that it made me shiver.

The Harvest, Darla with two nine millimeters, Oz's werewolf rampage, Vampire Willow's take over...

It didn't seem to bother them, though, and I found myself wondering why. I mean, I had just been watching it happen, but they had lived it. Yet they still came here. I concluded that unless I had lived through it, I would never truly understand their mindsets. After a few minutes, another blonde shyly came up to the table. I knew who it was.

"Tara!" Willow said, immediately. You could hear the happiness in her voice.

"Hey." Tara said with a smile, but so softly that I could barely hear her.

She looked at everyone, and when her gaze passed to me, she looked a little longer. I knew part of it was probably because she hadn't seen me before, but there was something else in her eyes.

Willow saw her looking at me, and chastised herself. "I'm such an idiot! Tara, this is Pat. He's...a friend."

"Hi." I said.

Tara gave me a small smile.

Willow rose from her seat and went over to her. "Wanna, um...dance?"

The blonde nodded. I could tell they didn't want to give away much about their involvement around me. I didn't blame them. I watched them head into the dancing crush, and a few seconds later, Xander and Anya announced they were going to follow suit. It was just Buffy and I at the table, then.


I knew the distracted expression on Buffy's face, and I could read her like a book. She was depressed. It might have been because Riley wasn't there and she didn't have a dancing partner, but I had a feeling it was something else. She had been through a strange trip through dreamland recently, which unnerved her, maybe that was it. And no, I don't dance. I would've ended up crushing her toes, and the last thing Sunnydale needed was an out of commission slayer.

"What's up?" I couldn't stand to see her sad. She didn't smile enough.

"My love life's not that interesting." She said to me.

I could tell she didn't mean to say that. It just slipped out.

"Somehow I doubt that." I responded.

She disagreed. "It's pretty much a downer."

"But you still have one." I pointed out.

I didn't, but I was working on it. Or I planned to before I ended up here.

"It's not all it's cracked up to be." She sighed. "Always ends up that badness beats out anything good."

"Every relationship is rocky at times." I sounded wiser than I was.

"I don't just get a few rocks. I get avalanches." She quipped.

"I know." I said with a sympathetic tone.

She looked confused. "How could you?"

I knew I was going to slip up. "I just meant, given your line of work, you must have a lot more baggage than other people who aren't...vampire slayers."

"Oh." She looked like she bought it. "You could say that."

"What's wrong with the relationship you're in now?" I asked. "You are in -- "

I was interrupted by a cocky British voice that I knew could only belong to one person. Well, he wasn't a person at all, really. "Well, well. Look at Blondie doing charity work. Who's the cripple?"

"Shove it, Spike." She hissed at him, and looked at me. "He's just being an asshole cause he can't bite anymore."

I pretended to be shocked. "He's a vampire?"

"That's right." Spike declared. I finally saw the bottle of alcohol he was carrying. "I'm the baddest vampire there ever was. So be scared."

"Little drunk?" I tried not to snicker.

"What's it to you, Stick Boy?" He snapped at me. "Sod off."

I saw Buffy looking at my crutches lying underneath the table. I knew what she wanted to do, and I nodded, giving her the okay. She grabbed one, and with lightning fast speed, gave him a good shot to his undead manhood. He dropped his bottle, which shattered on the floor, as he dropped to the ground.

"I thought crutch-to-vampire groin shots were a no-no." I reminded her.

She smiled. "He's the exception to the rule. He looks hurt -- think we should help him? Maybe get him a wheelchair?"

"No!" He screamed, suddenly. "I can walk out of here on my bloody own, thank you very much!" He was probably thinking about his previous wheelchair confinement, which Buffy had caused.

True to his word, he stumbled out, and Buffy finally laughed. "I feel better."

That pleased me to no end. "Glad to hear it."

The smile slowly dwindled, though, and she sighed. "Okay, you know how when certain distractions aren't around, you start thinking about things you know you're better off just ignoring?"

It took me a minute to follow her question. "Yeah...um, what kind of distractions are we talking about?"

"One distraction, actually. Riley. He's my boyfriend. I just called him a..." She frowned. "That sounded really bad, didn't it?"

"I know what you meant." I told her. "So what don't you wanna be thinking about?"

"God, I can't believe I'm telling you this...I don't know if I...love him. As much as I should." She was struggling to put it into words. "Something happened a few weeks ago. It sorta made me wonder if I do or not. I love when we do relationship-type stuff and all..." I think we blushed in unison. "But he's not here to...distract me with those things, which leads to thinking, and me doubting everything 'Us'-related. He tries to talk to me sometimes, and I can't be the 'share-all' girlfriend he wants me to be. I've tried, but it doesn't work, ya know? And that's not a good sign."

Her dream, I knew it. She didn't follow Riley, and he left her alone. "Uh, no...guess it isn't." I offered, lamely. I had no right to influence her.

She shut her eyes, and when she opened them again she looked a little less strained. "I dunno. There was major drifting this year," She looked out onto the dance floor at her friends, "and Riley was a big part of the reason for it. I'm not saying it's his fault, but...maybe I should reprioritize, or..."

The sentence was never finished. We stared at the two couples together in silence. She was worried, though. Scared.

"You don't wanna be alone." I said, gently.

Now she faced me. "It's that obvious, huh?"

"Hey, I don't like being alone either." I was honest. "But if he's not the right guy..."

"What if I can't have the right guy? What if I missed him?" She asked, and I didn't know what to say. "See my problem?"

I did, but did I really want to get involved here? "Yeah. I think the same thing."

She was referring indirectly to Angel, and I could identify, because there was a person I still thought about -- except she was a living girl and not a centuries old vampire.

We shared sympathetic smiles. "Just gotta deal, I guess." She said after a little bit. "Thanks for listening. And not freaking on me."

"No problem." I wished I could help.

Dilemmas, dilemmas...

------- Part 2 --------

The next day, I woke to Giles offering me scones, which I tried as politely as possible to decline. I had to crash on the couch, and as I stretched, it was then that I realized I was starting to develop an odor. I needed a shower, but I had no change of clothes. Once that became an issue, they would suggest that we go to my "uncle's" house to get clothes. That would be bad. So I immediately told Giles that when I found my "uncle" dead, the place had been ransacked and robbed.

That led to an idea from Giles. One I had not anticipated. Spare clothes from Xander. It would be no problem, Giles said, and he went to call him. I had a couple problems with this. First was size. Xander was taller than I was. I was as tall as Buffy, and she just barely reached his shoulders. Second, was Xander's wardrobe. I dreaded seeing it. I remembered what Riley had to wear, and I feared I was in for the same fashion nightmare.

Ignoring the headache I had just developed, Willow and Buffy then entered the house. No Tara, though. Poor girl; she was so shy. I wouldn't have minded talking to her, because there were things I wanted to ask. They sat on either side of me, Willow her usual cheery self, and Buffy once again seeming worried about something. Why couldn't she be happy for more than two minutes? It was then I saw that Willow had carried in a box of doughnuts with her. Yes, it was official. I loved this hacker.

She must have seen the euphoric expression on my face at the sight of the food, because she figured it all out. "The scones?"

I nodded. Not another word was said on the subject.

We dug into the bakery marvels, and Buffy downed all the jellies in less than five minutes. She hadn't said a word to either of us since she had arrived. I had to ask Willow what was up. Giles finally got off the phone, and Buffy moved to intercept him.

"We've gotta talk." She said to him, and they had another 'private' meeting in the kitchen.

I looked at them -- they were engrossed. Willow looked around conspiratorially, and leaned in close to me.

She sniffed me first, scrunching her nose. "Soap is a great thing. Don't you remember the 'Rubber Ducky' song?" As quickly as she said that, she was back on topic, not even giving me a chance to respond. "She got a call from Angel."

Uh oh. That could mean so many different things. "And that is?" I hated having to play dumb.

"Really bad breakup. He...he's a vampire. With a soul." She explained, worried about giving away more.

"I think I'm better off not knowing details." I gave her an out.

She sighed in relief. "He called her, but it doesn't have anything to do with them. Well, not in a direct kinda way. Faith's trial starts today."

Whoa boy. Angst city there. I guess I must have looked confused, because Willow began to apologize. "Duh! You don't even know who she is! Sorry." Buffy was coming back over. "She's a sensitive topic around here. Angel thinks Buffy should be at the trial, though."

She forced her mouth shut, and pretended as if we hadn't spoken.

"I'm going." Buffy announced, and then glared at Giles.

"I think she would appreciate you being there, Buffy." Giles said. "Faith has been unpredictable, but I have no reason to doubt what Angel says. And you yourself said that you witnessed her turning herself in."

"What is it with you and logic?" Buffy asked him.

"We'll go with you." Willow said, referring to the two of us. "Backup support's always good, right?"

A little over twenty-four hours in this "reality" and I was already doing a crossover?

"I don't know if I should." I spoke up. "I mean, you barely know me."

Was I trying to say I didn't want to go? Because that certainly wasn't what I was thinking.

"No, it's okay. Might help. You've never met Faith, so you lack bias, hatred, and blinding rage." Buffy was sarcastic. "Meaning, you could keep me from doing something incredibly stupid." She admitted.

Was I unbiased? I didn't know about that. But I did know Faith's side of things and could understand where she was coming from. Enough to be fair at least. And like I could stop Buffy from doing anything.

"I'm in." I said, simply.

"But first, he needs --" Willow started.

"A shower." Buffy finished.

And as if on cue, Xander arrived with clothes.


I came downstairs twenty minutes later, showered and dressed. I was wearing a "Sunnydale High" T-shirt that was about two sizes too big, and baggy, leopard-spotted pants. I almost tripped twice on the way down. Damn Xander. I had a scary thought that the pants were from his male stripper days, which came as a result of his failed road trip. I felt like an idiot, and of course, Buffy and Willow did nothing to make me feel any better.

They were holding back laughter...no, trying to. They weren't doing a very good job of it.

"Well...you never know," Buffy said in an attempt to be consoling, "you could start a trend."

"That's right. You're a pioneer." Willow contributed.

"And I'll have you know, those pants got me the most...uh...tips." Xander added in his own defense.

He got a glare from me.

I'd been right then, about where the pants had come from. I tried to shake away the bad mental images. That pushed the girls over the edge. They laughed until they were red in the face. Thankfully, Giles spared me any comments, but that didn't change the fact that I knew what he was thinking. Eventually, Buffy calmed down and wiped the tears from her eyes.

My embarrassment amused her. Wonderful.

"We'll hit the mall after we get back. I swear." The slayer grinned. "Courtesy of mom's credit card."

Willow saw how uncomfortable I was, and I think Xander was enjoying this. To get back at me for mini-golf the other day.

"We ready?" I asked, already out the door.


I had always wondered how one got from Sunnydale to LA, and it was traveling by way of the less than spectacular public transportation system. The bus was cramped and smelled like urine, but for something that cost less than a dollar to ride, I guess I shouldn't have expected much. Still, hadn't anybody ever heard of the word "sanitary?"

What I was really expecting, though, was that once we had crossed the town's border, to be in LA in less than a second. I mean, since it was a TV show, I had never seen outside of the "one Starbucks" town. ANGEL, after all, was a completely different show. It had a darker tone, a larger, more shadowy city...you know what I mean. But they were connected.

It was a two-hour ride to Angel's city, and the three of us had seen enough "human" weirdoes to last us a lifetime.

Thinking back, it occurred to me that before my arrival, I wasn't even watching the show at the time I left the familiar surroundings of my room. I was now convinced that I wasn't trapped within the confines of the two- hour long, "WB New Tuesday" programming lineup. This was a world, and even though it wasn't mine, it was very real. It existed somewhere.

It was exciting, but scary. Vampires were real, a danger, and I didn't even know if I could get home.

Buffy, wanting to get her mind off of what she was going to have to deal with in a few minutes, noticed that I was preoccupied with these deep thoughts. We were walking to ANGEL INVESTIGATIONS now, and she decided to ask me what exactly I was thinking about. That was a mistake.

"Alternate dimensions." I said calmly, not really thinking about what I was saying.

"I know I'll probably regret this, but...why?" She asked.

Oh, this was fun.

"Uh...it's a hobby?" Great answer.

"Collecting stamps is a hobby. It's boring, but it's a hobby." She retorted.

"So you're saying you don't buy the 'dimensions' thing." I wanted to be clear.

"Not for a second. But if it helps, they exist."

Right. I remembered her trip to that Hell dimension in "Anne." I needed to not talk about this anymore though, and the quicker I changed the subject, the better. Even though it was going to get me into trouble.

"You know, if you just stay calm and talk to Faith, I bet --"

She didn't waste any time. She placed her hand over my mouth, which was her telling me to shut up. I wasn't expecting it, however, and it compromised my balance for a second. She looked apologetic. "Sorry. I just...can't have this discussion right now."

"Okay." I conceded; I wouldn't mention it again.

We noticed that we had lost Willow, then, so we looked around, somewhat frantically. Our companion was a few feet behind us, talking to a woman who was selling flowers on the sidewalk. We ceased our walking, and stood there, waiting for her to complete her transaction.

Buffy turned to me, and spoke in a hushed voice. "The whole Faith issue is complicated, that's all. I didn't mean to..."

"Hey, I understand, really. And I'm not saying you have to take my advice, but I think that if people just listened to each other more, the world would have a lot less problems. I hate problems -- they cause stress." She stared at me blankly, and I smirked. I get going at the weirdest times. "Bad time to talk about my plans for world peace?"

"You really think it's that easy?" She asked, curiously.

I shrugged. "Don't know, but it sounded good, didn't it?"

She shook her head at me, but she had a half-smile on her face.

"Hey, guys." We both jumped. Well, actually, we just flinched in sync. "Whatcha talking about?" Willow said to us.

"World peace." Buffy answered her. "Pat's trying out for the Miss America Pageant."

Argh. When Willow's eyes bulged, I wanted to smack Buffy, but then I'd have bruises for the next month, which I didn't want. So I went with it instead.

"Yeah, most of those contestants just say they want it cause it scores them points, but I'm so for world peace it's not even funny." I said, straight- faced. Buffy snickered, but Willow didn't get that I was joking. "But I don't know if I'll enter or not. It's all rigged, anyway. Plus, the one time I tried to get a bikini wax...ow."

I usually reserved my more outrageous humor for Internet chats, but I chose to be brave and go for it, even though in real life my delivery often falls flat. I get nervous, though I felt strangely at ease here. Much to my relief, Buffy gave me some genuine laughter, while Willow still wasn't sure what to make of it.

"He's kidding, Will." Buffy told her friend.

"Oh..." The redhead nodded slowly. "Oh! Humor. Right." She was embarrassed.

"What are they for?" I asked her, quickly, trying to get her mind off of it.

Willow smiled. "Buffy said that Angel's office is a little gloomy, so I'm gonna brighten it up a little for him."

She then started walking ahead of us, and for a minute we just stood watching her in amazement. Willow was just...well, Tara was a lucky girl. Eventually, we got ourselves in gear, and began to follow after her.

"You were kidding, right?" Buffy questioned me, making sure.



When we got to the address the office *had* been at, Wesley was there to drive us to Cordelia's apartment, their temporary base of operations. On the phone, Angel had apparently forgotten to mention to Buffy one, small detail -- the office blew up. His mistake didn't have a positive effect on her mood, that's for sure. I knew I should've remembered that, but I didn't until Wesley mentioned it. Strange. How do you block something like that out?

Anyway, at Cordelia's, my eyes darted everywhere, searching for her "roommate," Dennis. Of course, he was an invisible ghost, so it was a pointless endeavor. I'd never been around an actual ghost before; I was rather on edge. But he was nice enough to slide a chair over to me, allowing me to sit, which settled my nerves. He was really pretty decent for an incorporeal being.

The three of us were presently in the midst of an uncomfortable silence, looking at one another. From Cordelia to Wesley to Angel -- back and forth. Tension was everywhere. The brunette was never very fond of Buffy, and having grown so much, I don't think she liked being reminded of the past she left behind. Wesley also left Sunnydale on less than pleasant terms, losing his Watcher title as a result of meeting the slayer. Plus, I don't think my presence, a stranger, helped much.

The tension was highest between the two ex-lovers, however. The main reason for the silence was that they couldn't tear their eyes away from one another. They were at odds, but they also knew what they'd once had. Can you say, "complicated?" It was like they were the only two people in the room.

Willow decided she couldn't stand it anymore. "So...Faith...trial..."

"Yes, who would have thought --" Wesley began.

"They better give her a long sentence." Buffy said in a tone that implied she wouldn't tolerate argument.

"She's got my guilty vote." Cordelia agreed. Then she spoke to me. It was the only thing she said to me the entire time. "Xander dressed you, huh?"

I nodded with a grimace. Damn Xander.

There was a stillness then, because we all knew if there was a disagreement, a yelling explosion would follow. And Wesley looked like he wanted to offer a counterpoint. I prayed he wouldn't, and I wasn't even religious. Angel was going to offer that counterpoint for him, we all knew he was preparing to, but then he finally saw me. It was impossible to escape his radar for long, yet I tried. Believe me, I tried.

He automatically knew I didn't belong. That meant I was under suspicion, and not even Buffy would be able to protect me. The brooding vampire and I got into a staring match, until once again, Willow stepped in. I was muttering "thank yous" under my breath. Angel's eyes scrutinizing me...talk about intimidating. Yeow.

"Hi, Angel. I brought flowers." Willow said to him. "I thought you could put them in your office, but," She frowned, "I guess you sorta can't, now."

He looked away from me, and smiled at her. "Thanks, Willow. They look, uh, nice." The only flowers he probably saw on a regular basis were on top of graves. "When we find a new place --"

"With your real-estate skills, they'll be dead before that ever happens." Cordelia went to take them, interrupting him. "I'll go put them in water...or something. While you think of somewhere else to go. Fast." She hurried off. "Oh, and yeah, that *is* a hint!"

I didn't blame her one bit.

"We going?" Buffy asked, then. She wanted to be out of there, and frankly, so did I.

"In a minute." Angel answered her.

His eyes shifted to me again, and then he walked into Cordelia's bedroom. I knew I was supposed to follow, even though I really didn't want to.


Once I was inside, he gestured to the bed. I sat, placed my crutches on the floor, and wondered if Cordelia minded us being in here. I guessed she did. I wasn't going to mention it, though. He watched me, and then closed the door. He remained standing, getting as close to me as possible, to be as intimidating as possible, without being completely in my face. I didn't like where this was leading. After a few moments, he looked at my bandaged wrists.

"Sunnydale's Vampire Welcome Wagon." I answered his unvoiced question.

"Where are you from?" He asked, speaking to me for the first time.

No introductions or pleasantries. He got right to it. I usually liked that about him, but not right now, obviously.

I knew he could see there was something I was hiding, so I figured it was better if I was straight with him. "Pennsylvania."

"Where are you from?"

He wanted the truth; he was going to get it. I'd give him an out, first, though.

"It's complicated." I began. "I am from there, but not...look it's just complicated."

"Try me; I'm a complicated guy." He said with his usual calm and cool exterior in place.

I took a deep breath before going further. "I know." He was silent, knowing I had more to say. "You're a two-hundred and forty-seven year old, souled vampire. You fed off a gypsy in Romania in 1898, while your sire, Darla, watched. In revenge her clan cursed you, and some hundred years later, you were in New York, starving. Four years ago, a guide from the Powers That Be came to you. His name was Whistler." I stopped, looking for a reaction from him.

He seemed to study me. "You're not a demon."

I shook my head. "Nope. Just a kid who watches a lot of TV. I don't know why I'm here, but I am."

If he was surprised that I knew such intimate details about his life, or unlife rather, he didn't show it. "Different dimension?"

I shrugged. Probably, but I wasn't sure.

"You didn't tell them." He realized.

I frowned. He made it seem like a bad thing. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

His face remained stoic. "After." He turned away.

Tell them after the trial? I gulped, and reached for my crutches. Arguing would have done me no good. At least this meant I wasn't considered a threat. He probably had things he wanted to ask me, but there were other things on his mind at the moment. Telling them would change everything, but I don't think he was giving me a choice.

"After." I echoed, giving in.

He opened the door, and went out ahead of me. "Nice clothes, by the way."

I was right behind him, so I could hear the amusement in his voice. Damn Xander.

"Oh, my name's Pat. It's cool to finally meet you -- Liam."

He did a sharp one-eighty, and looked at me in disbelief because I knew his real name. Finally, I got a reaction. Shook him up some. Needless to say, I was very pleased with myself.


Los Angeles had a different air to it, and I'm not just referring to the pollution. I couldn't put my finger on it exactly. It was creepy, oppressive. Sunnydale seemed more up front about its evilness somehow, while the evil in the "Big City," hid in the shadows waiting to trick you. Its players were devious and underhanded -- yes, I did have Wolfram and Hart in mind, and I had no desire to set foot near that building. I didn't get the feeling that the majority of the evil vibes were coming from the demonic element, let's put it that way. But as long as I stuck close to my companions, I wasn't going to let it overwhelm me.

So...the trial. Right.

Wesley came along with us to the courthouse. Buffy stuck close to Willow because she didn't want to be in a position where she'd have to talk to Angel. The hurt ran deeper than I'd thought. She had been damaged by love; no wonder she welcomed and got wrapped up in Riley's devotion to her. It was comfortable, and she set the rules. I could see why she wouldn't want to give it up, even if her feelings weren't as strong. Anyhow, Angel, Wesley and I reached the door to the courtroom first, and watched Kate Lockley and two other officers lead Faith in. She was handcuffed.

Wolfram and Hart was a defense firm, so I knew they wouldn't be involved. Not in any open, legal way. I looked over at Buffy, and she was looking at Faith with so much hatred, I felt a chill. The two slayers locked eyes, and Faith got the brunt of that chill before disappearing into the room. I hated someone too, but it wasn't the Bostonian. It was Kate.

I know she lost her father, and I felt bad for her and understood her attitude towards Angel for a while, but then she took it too far. I hope that she retracts her claws soon, because she and Angel could be allies, perhaps more. They're alike in a lot of ways.

Where was I? Oh, then we all filed in and took a seat in the back. I found myself sitting next to a handless Lindsey MacDonald. I almost screamed. He hadn't acknowledged my presence, but I knew he was there, and I really wanted to move. Willow was sitting on my other side, Angel next to her, then Wesley, and Buffy on the end. Willow looked at me, confused at my sudden discomfort, and I shook my head. I'd just have to put up with the seating arrangement.

Or I thought I would. He pulled out his cell-phone, said something quietly to the person on the other end, and got up, brushing past us all. He didn't look very happy, and seeing Angel didn't help his mood. But he left without a word. Willow had been watching too, and she turned to me after he was out of view.

"Did you just get the feeling that he isn't a very nice guy?" She asked me.

I nodded in agreement. "And the way he and Angel looked at each other..."

"What happened to his hand?"

I knew, but before I had an answer, the judge came in, and we were rising. When she told us to sit again and the case was announced, the DA asked permission to approach the bench. After hearing what he had to say, the judge called up Faith's lawyer, as well. We were wondering what was going on. I couldn't see Faith's face, but I knew she was probably nervous as hell.

"This is weird." Willow said to me.

We were whispering.

"Yeah." I agreed. I don't know what made me go where I went next, but I did. "Your friend Tara seems nice. Did I make her nervous? She didn't talk much the other night."

"Oh no. She's just shy." She was hesitant to continue. "And we're not friends. Well, not *just* friends."

I pretended to let it dawn on me. "You're involved?" She nodded cautiously. "That's great."

She smiled. "Yeah...it is. But I think Buffy and everyone's still having a hard time...accepting. It's different for me, too."

"But you're happy." She nodded again, readily. "Then that's all --"

The judge was addressing the room, meaning we couldn't continue. "Would the defendant please rise?"

Faith did, and we all waited.

"I've been informed...that due to a lack of evidence and potential witnesses unwilling to step forward and testify, that the District Attorney doesn't feel confident enough to pursue a case against you. I get the feeling that there is more affecting this matter than I'm aware of, but nevertheless, I have no choice but to declare a mistrial. You're free to go, Miss Wilkins." The judge spoke, and we gaped.

She had more to say, though.

"I have heard your confession, however. I have no idea what possessed you to admit to committing those crimes, but if there's any truth to your statement, I feel as if I haven't done my job. That said, the law has its rules, and it has decided to give you a second chance. I suggest you make the most of it, and I think it's important that you understand how very few people get this break.

"I also hope that you learned something from your few months of incarceration, and have no desire to return there, because I guarantee you, if I ever see you in my courtroom again, you'll be removed from society for a very long time. Am I making myself clear?"

"Yes, your honor." Faith answered, her voice small.

"Good." She banged her gavel, and everyone started to clear out.

On the way out, I heard Buffy talking to Angel. "Did you have anything to do with this?"

"No." He said simply, and walked ahead.

I caught up with her, and she saw me.

"I hope she realizes how lucky she is." She was obviously angry, and it was justified.

Faith should have been punished, but on the other hand, I think that working with Angel could be more beneficial to her than life in prison.

"I'm sure she does." I told Buffy.


We all waited in the Los Angeles Police Department's parking garage, for Angel and Faith. He went inside with her to get her possessions. I didn't think she had that many, yet they were taking awhile. The tapping of Buffy's foot against the asphalt by Angel's convertible was driving us crazy. I knew she had a lot of feelings towards Faith, the main one at the moment probably being jealousy (she was getting Angel's undivided attention), but she'd have to accept the fact that things were happening she would have no say in.

Finally, we saw the two of them, and Angel was carrying a duffel bag. Faith stared at the ground as she walked to the car, not looking at any of us. He tossed the bag on the floor by the passenger seat, and she hopped into the back. She slowly lifted her head, and looked at Buffy. Seeing less than welcoming eyes looking back at her, she quickly looked away.

Something popped into my head as I looked at Faith. It didn't really have anything to do with her per se; the thought had come more as a result of another uncomfortable silence. They seemed common here. And during these moments of quiet, I had taken to ponder the existence of this place, which was what I was doing now. If this was a "real" world, separate from the one I had viewed on my 13-inch box, what the hell was going on?

Anyway, there wasn't enough room in the car for the entire group. One more could go in the back with Faith, and Wesley was going to ride in the passenger seat. From the looks on both Buffy and Willow's faces, it didn't appear like they were going to fight over the spot.

"We'll walk and meet you there." Buffy announced.

The two friends looked at me.

"I think I'll ride." I told them. "I'd be exhausted by the time we got there."

Sweating and everything. Wouldn't have been a pretty sight.

Wesley was gracious enough to help me in, and Faith and I exchanged awkward "hellos." I assured Buffy that I'd be okay, and then grabbing Willow's hand, they started to walk. A minute or so later, Angel started the car and we were off, easily passing the two girls.


Faith must have gotten the impression that I wasn't going to judge her or wish her ill will, because she started talking to me.

"Got Irish in ya?" She asked.

I was surprised. "How'd you know?"

"Could tell. Got the look." Her eyebrow arched. "Your name can't be Pat, though."

"Uh...yeah, it is." I confirmed. She was good.

"No way." She seemed happy with the accuracy of her guess. "Bet you can hold your liquor, too."

She was electric.

"Never tried." I confessed.

She wasn't the same Faith though. The playfulness was still in her eyes, but I knew she wasn't going to drag me to a bar and get me hammered, act on her words, as she might have done a year ago.

"Just kiddin' ya." The smile disappeared. "How much she tell you about me?"

"You're apparently a sore spot." I said.

She chuckled. "She gave you the clean version."

"Actually, Willow did."

"Right. Red." Her eyes looked haunted, but then lit up quickly. "They get their act together?"

What was she talking about? "Her and Tara?"

"Yeah, I called that." She grinned. "So did they?"

I nodded. "Uh huh."

"Cool. It's good to have somebody watchin' your back." She grew quiet. "If I hadn't screwed things with B..." She shook her head. "Might not've gone the extra mile, but we were friends, ya know? She probably woulda pulled me back in time."

How come I sensed a change coming in the conversation? "Faith?"

"You were in that courtroom. I know I should feel pretty damn lucky, but I should still be in a cell. I don't deserve this." She said, sincerely.

"Why not?" I honestly wondered.

"You don't know what I did." She was closing off. Bad.

"Don't have to. You deserve it." I told her.

"Oh yeah?" That got her attention. "Why?"

"Cause you're sorry for whatever you did." I believed that. "You wanna do the right thing."

"But I didn't say I was." She was confused.

"You don't have to say the words to be sorry. The fact that you don't think you deserve to be out of jail, means you care about what you did. That means you're sorry for ever doing it, and that's why you deserve a second chance." I explained.

She was blown away. "Who are you?"

"Just an eighteen-year-old kid with an Irish name." I smiled, enigmatically.

I couldn't see Angel in the rearview mirror, but I knew he was smiling at me. I was pretty sure, because Wesley was. We were coming up on our destination.


Faith and I were sitting on the couch in Cordelia's home, both watching Buffy pace back and forth in front of us, her eyes fixed on the dark-haired slayer. Willow stood by my side of the couch, and Angel stood behind it. The primary resident of the apartment had made it a point to be elsewhere when we got back, so Dennis opened the door, and Wesley had ducked out as soon as we were safe inside, following the brunette's example. He didn't want to have to sit through the storm.

Buffy was pacing because she was waiting for Faith's answer about what she wanted to do. But how could Faith make a decision under Buffy's despising glare?

"Look at her." Angel said to his ex.

Both slayers looked at him.

"What?" Buffy asked.

"Look at her. Really look." He instructed.

"What do you think I've been doing?" She questioned, annoyed.

"Come on, Buffy." I was supporting Angel for my own sake as well as Faith's.

Her eyes were focused on me, then, when the vampire said, "We'll leave you two alone."

Willow, Angel and I walked into Cordelia's bedroom and he closed the door. Had he never heard of personal space? Willow sat on the bed and sighed. There had been about a good forty-five minutes of silence in the room, as we listened to the muffled goings on in the main area, before Angel decided to break it.

"Do you think she's changed?" He asked Willow.

"Seems like it, but with Faith..." Willow shrugged.

How could she think any different? She didn't see Faith weep in the alleyway, begging Angel to kill her. But Willow didn't have the hatred Buffy had for the other slayer. Not anymore, so she must seen some flicker of change in her. Angel had seen that change even prior to the alleyway, which was amazing to me, because I hadn't. Though that was why he was the vampire detective, and I wasn't.

"Maybe you should tell her." He said next, speaking to me.

"Huh?" She asked him.

I cringed, sat down next to Willow, and took a deep breath. "There's something I gotta tell you. Well, everyone." She looked worried. "It's nothing bad..."

"You can come in now, guys." Buffy called.

I was relieved. Wouldn't you be?

"When we get back." I said to Willow after we heard the blonde's voice.

She nodded and walked out, while I turned to Angel. "I will."


We saw two slayers with tear-stained faces. When I saw the small, exhausted smiles, I wanted to cry. The tension between them was gone, you could feel it. They looked wiped out. There hadn't been any screaming, which was a surprise. We would have heard them if there had been. It had been a heated discussion, though, and apparently, a lot of emotions had gone into it. Had Buffy taken my advice? I was glad.

Willow looked at Buffy, and then at Faith. She walked up to the brunette, looking at her for a few seconds. We were getting antsy, and then Willow gave her a hug. When it was over, Faith stood there, absorbing everything. She saw me, and smiled, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Told you." I said.

"What do you wanna do?" Angel asked Faith.

"Uh...you hiring?" She asked. "Sunnydale's got a slayer. A wicked good one." She didn't look at Buffy as she said that. "And I owe you."

"You don't owe me anything." He responded.

"Whatever." She shrugged. "But I wanna do right this time, and I'm gonna stick with it, I swear."

"I can't promise it'll be easy, Faith." He wanted her to know the road she was in for.

"You know what? I don't want it to be. I'm ready." She was confident, but nervous at the same time. "And I...I think this is a good place to start. Just tell me where to sign. I mean, you've got a cheerleader and a...well, you want another employee or not?" She looked unsure.

"We can use all the help we can get." Angel smiled. "Thanks."

Faith was surprised that she was being thanked. I thought to myself that she was probably going to be hearing that a lot in the future.

Buffy spoke next. "You know that if you ever want to...it won't be the simplest thing in the world, but..." She trailed off.

There still remained issues and pain to work through, but she was making an effort to close the gap between them. It was nice to see.

Faith grinned. "Don't worry, B. I'll drop by. Who knows when I'll need to save your ass?" She looked at Willow. "Willow, I'm."

Willow smiled. "I know."

The Bostonian cleared her throat. "B, Red, I'll catch ya later. Gonna take a walk, see if I can figure out how to start makin' things five by five with some other people." She began heading for the door, and then turned around. "And Pat...thanks." Then she made a face. "But who dressed you? A circus monkey?"

I grimaced. "He might be. I'm not sure yet."

Damn Xander.

She went out as I glared at Buffy and Willow, cutting off any laughter from them. A few minutes later, Angel opened the door for us, and we were leaving. I told the two of them to wait for me on the corner, and then we'd walk to the bus station, because I had something to say to Angel first.

"You helped her a lot." He said to me, referring to Faith. "But if you don't tell them, I will."

I nodded. "I do wanna go home eventually, you know."

"Hope you get there." He said, his mask disappearing.

"Probably won't see you again, so I just thought I'd let you know, Darla's in the box. Good luck with that. Got a feeling you're gonna need it."

And then I walked after the girls, not looking back.

------- Part 3 -------

We got off of the bus into pouring rain. It had started when we were halfway to Sunnydale, and seemed to increase in intensity the closer we got to town. It didn't rain much in California, but when it did, Mother Nature apparently liked to pull out all the stops. We ran, or walked quickly rather, to the cover of the terminal. There was no way we were going to walk any further in this.

The last time I remembered it raining on the Hellmouth was a few hours before Angel became evil. I hoped this wasn't another form of eerie foreshadowing.

"At least there's no lightning." I yelled over the downpour.

Crackle. The sky lit up. The boom of thunder. I realized just exactly how stupid I was when I saw their shaking heads. I promptly looked away. Willow spotted a payphone, and had the brilliant idea of calling Giles and having him pick us up. As we were waiting for her, it suddenly occurred to me that it was dark. I know what you're thinking. I'm a moron. Don't I know that the sun gets blocked out during a thunderstorm?

Yes I do. But here was my concern. It was only five past five in the afternoon, with no sun, and the three of us could barely see. This was Sunnyhell. Vampires would thrive now, the bad weather having little to no affect on their vision. They had us at a disadvantage. Let me put it this way. I kept replaying this image of myself standing with a "Come and Bite Me" sign in the middle of ten hungry vampires, in my head.

Buffy was an excellent slayer, I had no doubt of that, but she was also human. Rain was blinding, especially the torrential kind that we were in. Add to that having Willow and I as baggage to protect, and them probably outnumbering us, there was going to be badness no matter how I tried to paint it. But I was probably internally panicking for nothing. Giles would be here in a few minutes to get us, and we'd be safe in his "invitation- only" abode.

"There's no answer." Willow said, coming back to us.

The bomb dropped...and dropped...and dropped...and BLAMO! Guess I was going to be another course on the vampires' buffet.

Was I being pessimistic, or what? These people, this town, didn't survive on sheer luck for four years. They survived because they had a very resourceful, skillful, talented, super-strong slayer. She knew how to handle almost any type of situation. I should have had more confidence in her and her abilities. This was Buffy Summers. The best slayer the world had ever had.

"Who wants to make a break for it?" Buffy asked us. She turned to me. "Please tell me you're not that heavy."

And the second bomb dropped...maybe it did pay to be pessimistic after all. But the fact that Buffy was offering to carry me was a little bit of an upside. That passed though, and she figured caution was better. Before we could move, a car screeched to a halt on the street next to us. It was Giles and Xander, and they were flinging open the doors. We piled in.

When we started driving, Xander updated us. "Power's out everywhere. And so are the vamps." Buffy remained silent. "There were ten at the Bronze...but they're scattered all over town."

"Weapons?" Buffy asked.

"The trunk." Giles said.

"Phone?" Came her next query. Giles handed her his cell phone. "Best purchase I ever forced you to make."

We all waited as she dialed.

"This isn't gonna be fun." Willow said to me.

"I'm getting that." I said in response.

"Angel, tell Faith she's gonna get a chance to save my ass sooner than she thought." Buffy said into the phone. "I need you two here. Quickly."

"Faith?" Xander asked.

She ignored his question as she hung up. "Okay, we need to --"

Buffy cut herself off, screaming, "Stop" before any of us knew why. Then we saw. A vampire was standing on the road in front of us, and Giles reacted as anyone would if they were going to hit something. He attempted to slam on his breaks, and stop the car from colliding. There was a lot of spinning, but eventually, his vehicle no longer moved.

That's when things got worse.


Worse how, you ask? The vampire we had almost hit, was joined by several of his pals (from what I could see through the rain-soaked windows), and began swarming the car. While my fellow occupants were panicking because they were inside the shaking car, and because supernatural fists were smashing through the windows and both windshields, I was once again overcome with the same feelings I had when I arrived in town.

Death looked to be imminent, and what a great discovery it would be. I always had a habit of thinking that in dangerous situations. I wouldn't be afraid of dying, it happens to everybody, so why worry about it? The people you leave behind, your possessions, the things you never got to do...I always rationalized that, once you're dead, you'll cease to care about anything. It won't eat away at you. You'll be in a blissful oblivion in "Heaven," or condemned to "Hell," where the pain is stronger than any other possible memory. If you do remember your previous life, that is.

Plus, I didn't want to give these vampires the satisfaction of seeing my fear. Of course, that's all bull, a tough shell that was easily cracked once I saw the demons' faces. My thoughts changed completely, then.

I wasn't, and still aren't, tied to any religion. There's something out there, I'm sure, but I'm not going to put a label on it. I use "Heaven" and "Hell" to describe good and bad only because they're familiar terms. If I ever thought of more fitting words, I'd use them. I say "Oh my God" simply as an expression. I don't pray, I only have the vaguest notions of what the Bible says, and I've only been in church for weddings and funerals.

But with that in mind, I had no idea where I'd end up if my blood were drained from my body. Limbo? Wandering the earth as some sort of spirit? Were "sins" real? Did you pay for the bad things you did in life? How big did they have to be to get sent to "Hell?" Everyone "sins" at some point, right? Maybe the real "Hell" was gaining the knowledge that living, *life* was pointless, and you simply vanish. What if there's a lesson you have to learn and you're reincarnated into another, newly born body until you get it? What if I had wasted my life? Eighteen years. What if I threw them away? Or, what if I was wrong, and God did exist?

This was what was running through my head, and just like before, the intense desire not to die. I also had an intense feeling of being pulled out the broken window by cold hands, and hearing people call my name. I had been holding onto the crutches, and they came with me. I felt asphalt underneath me, felt rain stinging me relentlessly, and over the booming of thunder, I heard Willow scream. My vision wasn't that clear, but I could make out two vampires standing over me.

It was all happening so fast, and I apologize for not being more descriptive. Like I said, I heard Willow scream, and from the sound of things, she was across the street. Then I was being kicked on the ground -- just being toyed with. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted, and I was crying, yelling for home. My crutches fell out of my hand. Death was a mystery I didn't want to unravel yet. Scared, terrified, those words don't seem good enough to describe what I was feeling.

I did turn my head, though, and I saw Buffy, Giles, and Xander scrambling to battle the few vampires still by the car, and get out to me and Willow. As much as I cared for those people, I wasn't really thinking much about them at the time. I turned my head back around, and realized that the vampire holding me had been looking at my neck rather hungrily. I kicked my legs, twisted my body, doing anything to get free. Of course, it didn't work. It was then that Willow did enter my mind, and I hoped she was faring better than I was.

I make it seem like I was in this predicament for hours, but in reality, it was mere seconds. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the pain. And then, I was falling, hitting the road. I grimaced, and I may have cried out because my arm hit the street the wrong way. My crutches were on the ground, too, which my lower back hit with pretty good force. To boil it down, I was really hurting. But a hand pulled me up.

"Hurry up, mate!" It was Spike's voice. "Take your sticks and get the hell out of here."

"Willow...the others..." I said softly, pain evident in my voice, as I took the crutches from him.

I looked over, and the trunk was open. Buffy, Giles and Xander were armed with weapons, destroying the rest of the vampires who had attacked us. They appeared to be in control, but there were still more around, and I had no idea where they were. And then it hit me. Willow. I didn't see Willow.

Spike looked pissed with me because I wasn't moving. "You need a doc, don't ya? The one time I get to have any bloody fun...aw, come on!"

He was dragging me away, and the last thing I saw were the three members of the gang, having dusted the vampires, crouching down over something. But what I didn't know at the time was, that it wasn't something. It was someone.


Getting to the hospital, getting in the hospital, was...a chore. I'm doing a serious injustice to the events of that night. It was worse than any episode, any drama on the show I had ever seen. I probably think that way because I was in the middle of all the insanity. Never before had I witnessed so many vampires out in the town. They were everywhere, feeding on anyone who had the misfortune of still being on the street. It was horrible.

And when there weren't any people to kill, they destroyed property. Of course, our journey went slower than it should have been, because Spike had to stop and fight every couple minutes. He was just drawing attention to us. I didn't even know why he was helping me. I had always wondered that since he had that chip in his head, could it have possibly triggered some goodness buried deep within him? Which he disguised as loving to pummel other demons?

Sure, it doesn't seem possible, but he was saving my ass, and I wasn't going to look a gift vampire in the fangs.

As I mentioned, it was hard making our way to the hospital, and even harder getting inside. Someone in the building was intelligent, because the automatic doors that were the only entrance we could see, were shut off, and barricaded.

"The gits pick now to grow a few cells?" Spike asked, making it sound like a curse.

Quickly, I thought of the Emergency Room. They had to let people in there. As he went to that side, I saw Giles' very wrecked car, still running, parked out in front of the ER entrance. 'Uh oh,' I thought to myself. They must have passed us and I didn't see them.

Now I had an even more urgent need to get in there. There was another set of automatic doors, but this time a security guard was standing there. He looked at us through the glass, and then around. Assuming it was safe I guess, he got his key and activated the doors. We got inside, and were trying to will the doors to shut again, but as I should have known, a vampire had been waiting, and rushed in with us.

The security guard panicked, firing his gun wildly. He nearly hit both of us, which wasn't pleasant. And then when he ran out of bullets, he ran into the ER through the second set of doors, leaving us there. Spike shifted to his more ridged-looking, vampire face, and let go of me. I backed up into a corner, and sat on the floor, watching him fight with the other vampire.

He definitely had the upper hand, but I noticed a slight problem. Spike wasn't strong enough to rip his head off, so he would need a stake. But he didn't have one. I really don't think he cared, though. He was enjoying pulverizing the demon. I looked in the other direction and saw Giles, Xander, and Buffy amongst several doctors. They didn't look happy. I knew who was on that bed.

The security guard was frantic, and everyone was so engrossed that they didn't appear to hear him. He finally got Buffy's attention though, and as she looked in my direction, she finally snapped out of her brooding, and started hurrying over. But before she could make it, I heard another voice. I turned my head, and saw Spike holding the vampire against the wall. I also saw Faith, Angel...and Tara.

"Need help?" She asked Spike, holding out a stake to him.

"Thanks, luv." Spike said, taking it from her and driving it home.

Sire and childe then stood staring at one another. You know that saying, "If looks could kill?" Well...

I didn't even notice that Faith and Tara had made their way over to me.

"You don't look so hot." Faith observed.

"Thanks for pointing that out." I said with sarcasm, hoping she was referring to my current state and not my overall attractiveness. Male ego and all that.

She helped me up, grabbed my waist, and we started going to where everyone else was. I looked at Tara, and finally saw how drenched she was. Faith noticed that I was looking at the blonde with some confusion. Which I was. What had she been doing?

"We picked her up. She was walking the streets." The slayer informed me.

"Willow's h-hurt, isn't she?" Tara asked me.

As we got closer and looked at the gang's faces, she got her answer.


"It's too crowded in here. This woman needs blood, and she needs it fast." The doctor who I assumed was in charge, said. "Take these people out."

The cowardly security guard was asking us as forcefully and as politely as possible to leave the ER. Angel approached the guard and doctor, with that intimidating walk he was so good at. It was fun to watch when you weren't on the receiving end. Once he had their attention, he looked in Spike's direction. The bleached vampire was still standing by the doors.

"Unless you want more of them in here," He gave the guard a look, referring to the vampires causing a stink outside, "it's probably a good idea to let him keep watch."

"Fine." The doctor said, blocking out the bizarreness of the situation. "But he better not get in my way."

As she said that, I looked around at all the other victims in the room. Doctors, nurses...they were all rushing around with blood packets to administer to people. It appeared that Willow wasn't the only one nearly drained. I hoped they had enough to go around. We started to follow instructions and go, but Buffy wasn't moving. She wasn't doing anything. Just standing there.

She and Tara looked at each other -- in that moment, I could tell that Willow's best friend finally knew how much Willow's girlfriend cared for her. They had found some common ground. Willow was the only thing that mattered to any of us; the witch went over to Buffy, gripped her shoulders, and guided her to us. She and I both knew the slayer felt guilty, and we wished there was something we could do, but we had to step aside. The blondes could be strong for Willow together.

We went to a room with couches and chairs, and there were children's drawings on the walls. There was a TV and magazines, too. They tried to make it feel homey, but it was still cold, unfeeling. All we could think of was the redhead a few halls away, and none of this was helping. Buffy seemed to realize we were there with her, and that Angel and Faith had arrived. I could see the slayer coming out of her, remembering the danger still in town.

The lights flickered as a result of the storm. We prayed that the power didn't go out.

Faith spoke. "Vamps are trashing the place, huh?"

The history with her was forgotten, at least for now.

"Yeah." Buffy said in confirmation.

"Not to mention Giles' car." Xander added. "And I'm still trying to figure out how that's a bad thing."

We had a chuckle at that. Even Giles. It broke through the heavy atmosphere some.

"What do you need us to do?" Angel asked.

"Go kill 'em." Buffy said, hating vampires with a passion she never had before. "And I'll join you."

"No. Stay. We'll handle it." He promised.

"She n-needs you here." Tara said. "She needs all the support she c-can get."

"I'm not going to let them --" Buffy began objecting.

I could see anger in Buffy's eyes. The need for revenge, the bloodlust. Wanting to kill. I saw Faith in those eyes. The brunette must have seen herself reflected in them too, because she flinched a little, and interrupted Buffy.

"It's not your fault, B. They're right. Willow needs you to stay. We'll get 'em -- count on it." Faith waited for Buffy to challenge her, but her fellow slayer simply sighed, and sank into a chair. "Where do you think most of them are holed up?"

"The Bronze." Xander supplied.

"Let's go." Angel said, wasting no time.

The two of them left in silence. I was envious; they had something to do to keep their minds off of Willow. And that's when I remembered all the pain I was in. But there was no way I was going to go lay in a room. It was a little bruising, maybe a cut or two...I tried to stand on my own. "Ouch" doesn't cover it. I had adrenaline before, the kind that blocks out all discomfort while you're trying to escape mortal danger, and it was wearing off.

Something had been bothering me during this whole thing. "Where the heck is Anya?"

"I told her to stay in my house before me and Giles left. She's safe." Xander said.

"Lucky her." I shifted in the seat, and winced some.

Giles noticed my pain, but then a nurse came rushing in, getting everyone's attention.

"What's wrong?" Tara asked before anyone else could.

"Are you all friends of Miss Rosenberg?" The nurse asked.

"Yes," Giles spoke for the group, "we are."

"Her blood type is B-positive, and," She was worn out, "we've run out. Do any of you match?"

"I-I'm O-negative." Tara said, raising her hand.

"Great, a universal donor. Come on."

Buffy gave Tara's hand a squeeze, and smiled at her. We all did. The reserved witch ducked her head, avoiding the attention. She was going to save her girlfriend's life, and probably lots of others. Thank God. Knowing that, we breathed easier.

"This young man is injured." Giles said quickly, referring to me.

"Go." The nurse said to Tara. "ER. Tell Dr. Emerson --"

Tara nodded and ran.

The young nurse looked me over, asked me where the pain was, all of that. "These don't appear to be fatal, you aren't losing blood..."

"So you're saying I'll live." I said to her.

She gave me a weary smile. "I'll send another nurse here, and she'll fix you up. We're saving the rooms for the most seriously injured and recovering patients. And there've been a lot tonight. I'm sorry, but we're short-staffed, and...just don't move too much, okay? I have to get back."

"Help her." I told the frazzled woman.

"She'll be fine." I was promised, and I intended to hold the nurse to that. "I'll try and get them to find you some new clothes, too."

Damn Xander.


A few hours later, I was wheeling myself through the hallways of the hospital. I had bandages in places I hadn't even realized were injured. I don't like wheelchairs, especially the large hospital ones, because I like being as independent as possible. With my crutches I'm able to get in places so much easier; they don't take up much room, whereas chairs are large and make me feel lazy. Because I had gotten rid of my personal chair years ago, I wanted to use my crutches, but the doctors wouldn't let me.

So, I followed their orders, on my way to the room they said Willow was in. She got all the blood she needed, and was apparently resting now. The storm was dying down, and the night was almost over. I had been there, what? A couple days? It felt like forever. Would I really be there forever? Could I get home? I didn't know, but Angel and Faith were back home by now. From what I understood, the vampire that started the uprising was at the Bronze.

Once they got rid of him, the rest backed off. All I have to say is that I was glad I wasn't there. And now I was also glad that I was wearing normal shorts and a normal T-shirt. I thought of Xander and Giles. They were getting coffee in the cafeteria, giving the girls time to sit with Willow alone.

I reached the redhead's room, and when I saw what I saw, I stayed quiet, stopping just inside the doorway. She was sleeping, and Buffy was sitting at the side of the bed, keeping a watchful eye on her. I didn't see Tara anywhere. The room was bare for the most part, but I knew when the two men came back, it would be filled with balloons and flowers. It was so quiet, but...how do I describe this? It was peaceful. The warrior had survived another battle, and her friends were going to be all right.

But I don't think I could ever hope to describe how innocent, how beautiful, Willow looked in sleep. I know Buffy blamed herself for what happened to her friend, to me, but it was insanity out there. I didn't blame her for anything, and I knew Willow didn't either. People may say that Willow was lucky. She wasn't. I was lucky. She's surrounded by too much love to get by on luck. Whatever's out there would never let her die that way. She was too special. Correction, she *is* too special.

They didn't have to worry about losing her. Not unnaturally anyway. The wicca/hacker had a long life to live. I was sure of it. And if she and Tara were in love, which they certainly seemed to be, I wished them all the happiness in the world.

After a few minutes, Buffy happened to look up and see me. I blushed and pretended I had been looking at my hands.

"You can come in." She said to me, softly.

I accepted her invitation and came in, trying to make as little noise as possible. I pulled up beside her chair. "What a night, huh?" I asked with a smile.

She returned it. "Yeah, it sure was. I'm just glad you're both okay."

"Me too." I agreed.

Her eyes drifted to her lap. "I'm sorry, I should've --"

I knew this was coming. "Forget it. Willow's fine, I'm fine. Let it go." She thanked me by squeezing my hand. "So the vampires just stopped?"

"Yeah. Faith said he was just a newbie. Guess he heard that I was out of town, and then got his buddies riled up." She told me. "As soon as he realized Faith was a slayer, he crumbled."

"Where's Tara?" I asked.

"Bathroom break. I practically had to pry her from the chair." Buffy turned to Willow again, smiling. "You know, when I saw the way Tara looked at her..." Her voice tapered off. "Must be nice to feel that way about somebody."

"It'll happen for you again, Buffy. When it's supposed to, it will." I spoke, trying to be positive.

"I hope so." She said, looking gratefully at me.

"So do I. Or we're both doomed." I grinned, and she matched my expression. Sighing, I remembered that I still hadn't told her yet. I had to. "Um...I think there's something you oughta know..."

"You're not from this dimension?" Her grin got bigger.

I did a double take. "Uh...how did...?"

"Remember Willow said that that night we met you, there was a weird lightning storm?" I nodded. "What she didn't tell you, was that she and Tara caused it. They were messing with some sort of 'dimensional hole' spell or something, and they weren't supposed to be. I promised not to spill to Giles."

Ooo-kay. "And you knew where I was?"

"They said the spell showed them a vision of someone appearing on Main. I went there, found you..." She moved her hands in a motion I interpreted as meaning, 'yadda yadda.'

I was suspicious. "Why didn't you tell me you knew?"

"I liked you. Wanted to get to know you first, see what a person from another dimension was like. But you were pretty normal. I was a little disappointed." She answered, simply.

"Hey!" And then I clamped my hand over my mouth. I didn't want to wake Willow up.

"Just kidding." She winked. "Besides, I didn't wanna make a big deal out of it. Quick thinking with that uncle story."

"In my world, I really do live in Pennsylvania." I said, so that she'd know I wasn't a complete liar. Not that big of a deal? "Huh. Angel seemed to think it was important that I tell you."

"Angel should just mind his own business." Buffy said with an edge to her voice. I shook my head. "Yeah, yeah. He did me a huge favor, I know."

My next question was pretty obvious. "Since you know it was a spell and all, how do I get home?"

"When the sun comes up." Tara said quietly, entering the room.

As soon as I saw the witch, I knew it was time to go. No one enters a room and says something as ominous as "when the sun comes up," without intending to drastically change things. It was time to say good-bye.

"I'll take you to...wh-where you need to be." Tara stuttered a little.

Buffy shook her head. "Nah. I know the drill. Sit with her."

"Are you s-sure?" Tara asked.

"Positive. If she wakes up, I gotta warn you, she'll probably babble incoherently. It's pretty bizarre, but I'm sure you'll be able to relax her." The slayer smiled, and Tara blushed. "Let's get outta here, Pat."

Tara leaned down to give me a hug, and I whispered. "Bye, Tara. Give Willow a kiss for me, and take care of her."

She grinned like an idiot, and turned even redder. "I will."

"Good luck, you two." I said as we left, and then Buffy was sneaking me out of the hospital.


We went to Main Street in silence. There were no cars on the road, and the sun was getting ready to show. We stopped when I got tired of being in the chair, and I grabbed my crutches off the back, shakily forcing myself to stand. Buffy was prepared if I started to fall. It was then that I realized we were at the same spot at which I had arrived.

"Uh...Willow and Tara said that another hole would open up two moons after the night they cast the spell." Buffy explained, sounding half sure. "I think."

"Two moons? So that's what, two days?" I figured.

She thought about it. "Makes sense to me."

"What if I didn't make it?" I wondered.

"You'd be pretty much stranded here." Buffy said to me. "Well, they said they could do the spell again, but it might not be --"

"My world." Great, I'd go from BUFFY to doing a bad version of a SLIDERS episode, trying to find my way home. I was no Jerry O'Connell.

So I guess I just had to wait.

"Gonna miss us?" She asked me, jokingly.

'More than you know,' I thought.

But what I said was, "Gee, lemme think..." She hugged me, then, and it hit me that I was leaving. I was starting to become friends with her, with everyone. They may or may be not be fictional, but so the hell what? "Are you gonna be okay?"

She nodded with a brave smile. "Gonna try to be. I'll see what happens with Riley, and then..." She chuckled for some reason. "I don't really know what's next. Wish I did."

"Just be careful." I advised.

In a couple months she'd know, and by then, I'd be reading spoilers. Odd, huh?

"You too. And thanks...I mean it." She said, breaking our contact much to my disappointment. "Here's hoping we both catch a break." Before I could say anything, the hole was opening in front of us. It was a bright blue light, and it didn't look very stable. "See ya."

I looked at her, hesitant to move further toward the light. "Later." I didn't want it to sound like I wasn't going to be back.

My only regret of the whole trip was that it hadn't been longer. But I went into the brightness, and found myself swirling around what I can only describe as Limbo. I glanced at my surroundings. There was nothing that spectacular. It was nothingness, really. Though, I could've sworn I saw someone passing by me, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Joss Whedon.

Before I could check, I was moving at what seemed like lightspeed, and then I was here, in front of my computer, just like I had left it two days before. No time had passed? I checked my computer's date, and learned that here, it hadn't. Smiling, I started to write the words you're reading now. And that is the end, of my time in Sunnydale.