A/N: So...health problems. Not going into details, but it started with major bowel surgery, at which point they discovered another problem that's related to a possible future kidney failure, and from there...oy with the vey and the tests and the flayvin. So, yeah, updates will be a lot rarer for all my fics for the foreseeable future. Sorry.

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Monday, October 27th, 1997.

"What about this?" Buffy grinned at him, holding up the costume.

"...I can't afford a Captain America costume." He frowned. "Wait, why are you picking my costume?"

"Because you have horrible taste." She hung the costume back up, eyeing a small green Speedo contemplatively, ziplocked in a baggy with a pair of small white wings and a pair of Spock-ears. "Hmmm..."

"I am not wearing a swimsuit in October." She glared at him, but then shrugged and moved on. "I was thinking of going as a soldier. I can use my uncle's old uniform, and just get a gun or something from here."

"Uh-huh. What about this?" She held up a familiar hard plastic 'S'-shield, only it was just the red bits with the yellow hollowed out. "Put it on a black t-shirt and-"

Xander gave her a suspicious look. "Buffy, how come you know so much about comic book characters anyway?"

She froze, blushed, then looked over at a suit of armor. "What about that one?"

"Once again, I have no money. My budget is somewhere between three and five bucks. Maybe six if I cut down on the weekly Twinkie ration."

Buffy waved a hand dismissively. "Blah blah blah, I'll cover the expense, just pay me back in increments."

"I knew it! Capitalist pig-dog!" He dodged her half-hearted swat. "But seriously, I'll pay for my own costume. Pick something really cool for yourself instead. I recommend the stripper outfit."

He chuckled as he dodged another swat. His face was slowly turning lobster red anyway, so he needed a break.

This was a very bizarre situation. Willow had told him – and Buffy had – and he – okay, he...

Damn it. Like, how the heck was he gonna handle this? Just the fact that an attractive girl was actually blatantly interested in him was strange enough, but the fact that it had taken him this far to actually get what everyone had been telling him for the past year was just baffling. And flirting made him blush, because he was actually flirting and, and...

...and Willow was so damn...darn annoying. With her knowing smirks and amused eyebrows and gah! And her boyfriend who, dammit, was kinda cool. Confident, secure in his geekiness, played in a rock band...

Ironic. He was everything Xander had ever wanted to be.

Oooh, a plastic M16. Neato. The uniform he had was the right period, too. Price? Two bucks. Awesome.

And unnoticed by him, Buffy and Willow cooed over an outfit in the back.

...wait, was Buffy a nerd as a kid?

.


.

When it was all over, there were a few confused moments as memories re-arranged themselves, personalities returned to normal, and even one where Willow blinked out of existence only to come running a few minutes later, face flushed, followed by her boyfriend.

There were also regrets. A lot of regrets.

She had been a Greek warrior named Berenike of a people called the Sauromatians. Which was more history than Buffy had ever wanted to endure in her life. Apparently, there never were such a people as the Amazons, but these guys had been close enough.

She didn't remember much that she could understand. The ancient world had very different morals and attitudes, and she was infinitely grateful that Willow had – with meandering incoherent ramblings that Berenike hadn't gotten a single word of and a lot of body language and gestures – convinced her not to kill any of the enspelled kids. Apparently, back in the day when the 'dead' spoke you listened.

Even if they Willow-babbled.

And yeah, she'd been a hair's breadth from trying to take on Angel. And yes, she'd been hitting heavily on Xander, sensing a fellow soldier in his soldier self, even if they didn't understand a word the other said.

She never would have imagined that a woman with no super strength would try to take on a vampire, though. Berenike had taken one look at Spike and just gone all out, to the point where the British vamp had been forced to run for his unlife. Missing a few vital parts of his anatomy that had both soldier-Xander and Angel wincing in horrified but maybe somewhat misguided empathy.

Spay and neuter your vampires, kids!

She chuckled a little, then glanced over at the gang. Willow in her trashy outfit, the sheet over one arm. Oz dressed up as a rockabilly greaser with ducktail hair and all. Except the hair was blue today. Xander in soldier outfit, Angel dressed as...Angel.

And then there was her.

It had been a spur of the moment decision, really. Either the Amazon outfit or her other option, but in the end she'd gone with the Greek warrior outfit that barely fit her because it was less revealing. As confident as she was in herself, she knew she wasn't the curviest girl out there, and the other outfit kind of required someone with Cordelia's physique, not hers. Even so, she'd had to pad the armor out in a few places, and her mom had helped her cinch it in tighter in the waist.

She looked down at the now ordinary pleather and plastic armor and plastic sword. "I should've gone with the Power Girl outfit instead..."

"Huh?" Xander looked up from where he was consoling a crying kid.

"Nothing! Nothing."

Angel approached them, his face the kind of blank only someone barely keeping down a grin could have. "Willow came through."

Xander nodded, looking over at where Oz and Willow were talking quietly, with Willow blushing and giggling and talking animatedly about, from the looks of it, animal crackers. "Yeah." Then he glanced at Buffy. "They...they make a cute couple, don't they?"

Her heart went out to him, but she felt so awkward, she couldn't say it. "Yeah."

He nodded, staring at the ground a little. "Well, at least she, she's happy, right?"

She would have gone over there and hugged him, but Angel draped an arm over his shoulder before she could get there and spoke to him in a quiet voice. While she could have eavesdropped, she didn't.

It hurt a little, that this Angel guy with his unclear and possibly gay motives had Xander's ear so easily.

Standing up, she cricked her back, popping vertebrae back into place, or at least feeling like she did. "Okay, let's get these kids back to their parents and then go talk to Giles."

The guys nodded at her and helped her round the bawling children up. And all the while her mind was a flurry of questions. Did he like her like that? Could he like her like that? What if he never stopped being hung up on Willow? Just what was Angel's deal?

...also, Spike had screamed like a falsetto singer when she stabbed him there. Useful information, even vamps cared about their, ah, groinal areas. As for the sword, maybe Giles could find her a makhaira to practice with? The weight and size of it had been kinda nice...

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.

The warehouse was quiet. Mostly. The henchmen had been dismissed for the next few days, and only Drusilla was there. The warehouse was quiet, but for the occasional wailing groan of pain.

Drusilla stroked her lover's hair as he cried out his anguish. "There, there. They'll grow back, love. Miss Edith tells me they only got you in trouble anyway..."

He spared her an angry glare, then winced and buried his face in her lap again. "Oh, bloody hells...I'm going to kill that Slayer if it's the last thing I ever do..."

She smiled sympathetically, stroked his hair, and inwardly sighed, because there would be no sex for at least a month after this. Not until his testes grew back. If they grew back. Oh well. He'd be a lot calmer for a while, at least. Righteous anger aside.

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Night of Monday, November 3rd, 1997.

"I can see the stars."

Buffy looks up, and sees Xander seated on a crypt. He's wearing a jester's cap and too-tight shirt and trousers. "What do they say?"

"They want to know if you're ready."

She frowns. They're in the library now, and Giles and Willow are cataloging antfarms. Behind them, Tony Harris is slowly dancing with someone she can't quite make out, but it's not Xander's mom.

"Ready for what?"

She turns back to Xander, now standing on the vinyl floor dressed in a black suit and tie. A darkhaired beauty smiles at her, holding his arm possessively. "Y'can't have him, dearie. Blood is thicker than water."

The woman's accent is kind of like Giles', only a bit more...common. She's oddly familiar-looking, too. The woman drags Xander away into a sudden crowd of people, and Buffy follows.

"Don't. You can't go there." Angel holds out a hand in her path, delaying her.

She glares at him. "You don't know me."

He shakes his head. "If you follow, he will stumble and you will fall."

It hurts, and she looks down. Her dress is stained with red. "He has my heart."

Angel smiles, gently. "The stars aren't singing yet."

The brunette woman appears again, her face that of a vampire, mouth dripping blood, Xander a ragdoll in her arms.

She grins cruelly. "I always wanted me a brother."

.

Buffy opened her eyes. Huh. Interesting. Last dream she had with Xander, he wore considerably less clothes.

Sighing, she flipped on the light, picked up her bedside notebook, wrote down as much as she remembered, then flipped the light back off and turned on her side, burrowing under the covers.

The next dream, he wasn't wearing much clothes again. And neither was she. But that one was an old favorite, and quite familiar.

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.

Willow stared at the lined graph paper and frowned. No, if you switched the current over to this side, you could get...and that would...yeah. Okay. Oz would maybe appreciate this. If she could crank his amp up another step...she almost giggled. This one would go to eleven.

She glanced over to the darkened corner of the library where Xander was talking quietly to Angel. She could almost make out what they were saying, but she couldn't look like she was eavesdropping...

"...sure?"

"Yeah. I should have staked her right there, but I didn't know if she had any minions with her, and there was a kid still in the area."

"Worth the risk, maybe. Still. Whaddya think they're up to?"

"No clue. But if they're both in the same town as her and they're not fighting, that suggests they're working together, and that's a lot worse. Spike and Dru alone are almost unstoppable, but they never have any funds to fuel their plans. Spike wastes it on useless crap and presents for Dru. Peggy's got a lot of money squirreled away, though..."

"You keep calling her that. I thought her name was Pijavica?"

Angel smirked. "She calls herself Pijavica. It's just an old word for a female vampire in the Prague area. Her real name is Margaret Bumstead. She's from the Isle of Man, originally. Nest turned her in the mid 16th century, and she's been riding local vampire myths wherever she's gone ever since."

Xander stared at him, then started giggling uncontrollably. "B-B-Bumstead!?"

Angel's smirk became a grin. "She hates her old name, did I mention that?"

Xander kept giggling like a loon and Angel kept grinning as the doors opened and Buffy entered.

"Hey, Buffster!" Xander waved, then whispered something to Angel that had the older man's shoulders shaking with barely held-back laughter.

She gave them an odd look, then shook her head. "So, what's the score? Any boogedy-men or monsters I don't know about?" She grimaced. "Except Chucklehead and Mr Giggles over there."

"Hey!"

Giles didn't look up. "Well, no, but we have gotten confirmation, of sorts, that Pijavica is indeed working with Spike and, and Drusilla."

She raised an eyebrow, then turned her attention back to Angel. "Really?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I came across Dru in the playground a couple blocks from..." The vampire glanced at Xander, but didn't elaborate. "Anyway, I stopped her from killing a kid but I didn't dare do more than that. Spike rarely lets her go out without backup. Anyway, she rambled about Mother Dearest, that's Peggy-"

"Peggy Bumstead!" Xander was giggling hysterically again, and Angel spared him a brief crooked grin.

"...Pijavica, and something about stone men and separating the mortal from the chaff."

"Oh. So, nothing solid?"

Giles looked up from the book of demonology he was holding. "Afraid not."

Xander was grinning. "Though we found out her real name. Peggy-"

"...Bumstead, I get it." Buffy rolled her eyes. "Hilarious. If that's all, maybe we should get to class?"

.

Class...was history. Listening to the teacher try to teach them about the French Revolution was kinda boring, but the mood was lightened a bit by Cordelia completely getting the whole thing wrong, empathizing with the people who, if you looked at it cynically, kinda deserved getting their heads chopped off.

Only Cordy would find more empathy with a shallow airhead than with starving masses.

More productively, Buffy exchanged notes with Willow throughout the whole thing. As usual, the conversation circled around her love life, or lack of one. Though it soon became clear that something else was up.

I think the vamps are way 2 into X.

-Really? Y do U think that?

Because Deadguy almost let slip he caught Dru near X house, and they've been all over him b4. I think DG knows something.

-U don't trust him?

No duh? Every Tom Dick and Harry Vampire we meet try 2 kidnap X. I think Hairgel Man knows why.

-Gonna confront him?

DG? Nah. Besides, X seems clueless.

-Don't he always?

She gave Willow a grin, then crumpled up the notebook page they'd been sharing scribbled sentences on.

But Willow had a point. Xander was way too shy and clueless, and Buffy, well, she never gave up once she set her mind on someone. A string of broken hearts back in Hemery could attest to that. Sometimes she wondered just why he was so shy, though. As Willow put it, he'd been on the dinner list for most of the girls at school for a few years now, and yet he kept acting like he was Mr Unpopular.

It was almost like...

Nah. She was just being paranoid. Had to be.

In any case, she wasn't gonna just sit back and wait for him to get it. She'd made herself clear, and now all she had to do was make sure he knew she wasn't giving up just because he had issues. Everyone had issues. Heck, she died. Talk about issues, huh? She was about to tell Willow so, when someone she wouldn't have even dreamed of seeing again showed up and made a crack about seeing her in braces.

Billy Fordham.

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It was funny about paranoia. The old saying went, it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you.

Willow did not trust Ford. Not even slightly. He seemed nice and all, but nothing added up. Like how he wasn't attending any classes, even if supposedly he had transferred. Even Xander went to classes every now and then. Or how Ford seemed totally dismissive of Xander at first, then the morning after he was all buddy-buddy and friendly.

So she told Angel, and Giles, and tried to tell Buffy. Not that it worked. Giles thought she was exaggerating, Buffy went on the defensive, and Angel...went way too suspicious when she mentioned how Ford was with Xander.

Still, at least he helped, even if he almost blew their cover at the goth club.

.

"You're idiots."

The girl named 'Chantrelle' – and wasn't that a mushroom? Willow wondered – paled even further and frowned. "You're not a believer."

Angel rolled his eyes. "You kids have no clue what a real vampire is. What, you read Anne Rice and thought they're all aristocrats in frilly shirts looking like Tom Cruise in a blonde wig? That they're somehow sexy and cool? Your worst serial killer has nothing on the average vampire. If you think that's hot, you have serious mental deficiencies. Might as well start drooling over pictures of Charles Manson."

It devolved from there, and she had to drag the reluctant vampire out of the club. At least they got what they came for.

Ford really wasn't what he was pretending to be. Trouble was breaking it to Buffy and Xander, especially since Buffy didn't trust Angel farther than Willow could throw him.

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Buffy stared at the notebook page and frowned.

Okay. Two options. One, tell Xander honestly that Billy was just an old friend she had crushed on years ago. Upsides were: honesty, and showing a bit of trust towards Xander. Downsides: Xander might get complacent.

Two, suggest to Xander that Billy was still an option. Upsides, Xander might get jealous and make a move. Downsides...it was kind of mean. Something she would have done back in Hemery.

...in fact, she had done that a few times, with different boys, and it never really ended well in the long run.

Damn it. Being a good person was more effort than it should be.

Buffy sighed. Time to talk to them. And let them know Billy already knew about her being the Slayer...

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"I don't get it." Spike leaned back in his chair, frowning. "The boy's an idiot, and we could pretty much grab Angel's little favorite lad any time, so why bother with the charade?"

Pijavica smiled. "That was always your problem, William. You never think things through. You ensnare people with well-chosen words, but you never plan. No patience. You never savor the hunt." She rose from her seat, and glided across the floor, pausing only to caress Drusilla's cheek in passing. When she reached the table by the wall, she picked up an old book from the pile there. "I hunted rabbits when I was but a girl. Did you know that? With bow and arrow, for firearms were still rare in those days. They are quick, but a man can run them down if they move straight. So they don't. They, ah, zig-zag."

Spike rolled his eyes. "Well, that's all very fascinating, but what's it got to do with us?"

Pijavica turned, still smiling. "The trick, I found, unless you manage to surprise them, is to tire them out. Not too much, the meat gets unpleasant then. But just enough to let you take them easily with a single arrow. I usually used a blunted one, the kind one uses for birds. Stuns them but doesn't harm the skins. Then you wring the neck, skin them and hang them to ripen." Her smile widened, and her face morphed into her true visage. "See, what you do is chase them, this way and that, then let them think they escaped. And the meat becomes oh so succulent..."

Drusilla was frowning. Spike glanced at her and wished, not for the first time, that Pijavica didn't have them by the proverbial balls. He looked at the book. Something on magic. "So, what, you're hounding the Slayer?"

Pijavica threw her head back and laughed. Bloody drama queen. "Oh, Spike, whatever would I do with a filthy little Slayer? I just want her out of the way. No, no, my prize is far more interesting. Tell him, Drusilla dear..."

Drusilla's frown deepened, but a smile played on her lips in spite of it. "Daddy told her no too many times, so she wants my sweet little brother. Daddy's little secret."

Spike blinked, then managed to decipher it. "Hang on. We got another member of the Aurelius get? Since when?"

Pijavica leaned towards him, showing off her cleavage. "The Aurelius line? Oh, there's one or two more about. Children of Angel? This particular one, since round about sixteen, seventeen years ago..."

He stared at her, then the old blurry polaroid picture taken of a boy strung up in ropes above a familiar-looking stage. He stared at it. Then at Pijavica. Then Drusilla, who simply nodded. Then back at the picture. Finally, back at Pijavica. Peggy. Her name was Peggy. Bloody hell, she was even making him think that stupid name now...

"...you putting me on?"

Pij...Peggy leaned back, giggling softly. "Oh no, Spike. I never joke about family..."

.


.

She tried to hate him. Even now, as he was smirking at her smugly and pretending he was the cleverest villain ever. But she couldn't. Not him. Not Ford. Not even after this.

"Look, I'm sorry for you. But I'm not going to let you get all these people killed, even if they're idiots."

Myconia – or whatever her name was – looked offended. "Hey!"

"I don't see how you'll stop me." Ford's smirk only faltered slightly.

"She's Buffy. Of course she'll stop you."

She threw a warm look at Xander. "Aww...uh, just keep back a little. Try to get the Morons In Black to gather behind you, 'kay?"

Ford glanced over there, then at his watch. "Whatever. They'll be here soon, and I'll be immortal."

"No you won't. It'll talk like you, walk like you, pretend it's you...but it won't be you." She sighed. "Do you really hate your family that much?"

He frowned. "What?"

Buffy shrugged. "I know a few things about vampires. I know that one of the first things most of them do is go hunt down every single person who ever loved and cared for them and kill them. Heck, I know one who personally murdered his entire family the very same night he came back from the dead. You must really despise your parents if you want that to happen to them."

Ford looked ill at ease for the first time. "It-it's worth it."

"Really? You look forward to when the demon wearing your body snaps your dad's neck? When it eats your mom and your big sister? Where is she now, by the by, college?"

"Shut up."

"Nice way to thank the people who raised you. Maybe it'll get creative, even. Maybe it'll turn your parents and your sister too. Then they'll turn around and kill a whole bunch of other people. One big happy family of soulless mass murderers."

She knew she was getting to him. All she could hope for was him getting the point in time.

"Shut up!" He was looking nauseous now. "You have no clue what it's like, knowing you're going to-"

Buffy laughed. "I have no idea what knowing I'm going to die is like? Really? I was sixteen when I was told I was gonna die and the world would end because of it. I would be, too, if not for good friends and allies. So I have no idea? You have no idea. Yeah, you dying from cancer is a shitty way to go, and I do feel sorry for you. I was drained by a vampire and then drowned. But that doesn't excuse killing innocent people for your own survival. Heck, it doesn't excuse letting innocent people die for your own survival."

The door opened, and the whole thing became moot.

.

Spike wasn't the first down the stairs, of course. He never took point unless he had to. Instead he sent two underlings ahead, and while Buffy dusted them both easily the brief fight was enough for the rest of the demons to enter.

"Grab the lad, kill the rest."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Seriously? What is it with you and vampires, Xander?"

He grinned. "Can I help it I'm so irresistible? I even tried not bathing, but nope."

She wrinkled her nose even as she staked another one, watching it turn to dust in front of her. "Okay, ew. And keep back."

"Well, I've bathed now..." Raising the collar of his shirt he sniffed it demonstratively.

"Not what I meant." She smiled, though. And then spotted her opening.

Using one vamp as a springboard she flipped up and over the vampires heading for the goth kids behind her, and landed...right behind the oddly familiar-looking brunette in the archaic dress. She grabbed the girl and found to her surprise that this vampire was oddly weak. Funny, she only went for her because Spike kept covering the girl's flank...

Right, time to see if Spike cared about anything other than his own neck "Back off, or Little Bo Peep here gets it."

"Stop!" Whoa. Spike was looking terrified, for once. "Everyone, back off, now!"

The vampires below, having barely even begun to bite, let go of the few they'd separated from the flock. Xander took the opportunity to kick one of the vamps in the shins, only to back away hastily as it snarled at him with vamp-face. He took the girl the vamp had been about to nosh on with him to relative safety, though. Buffy gave a mental nod at this. Good thinking. Distract it, make it shift targets.

So this was Drusilla, huh? Buffy held onto the whimpering vampire girl a little more firmly, holding her stake at the ready. "Let us all go, or your girlfriend here is gonna fit in an ashtray."

Without hesitating, Spike called out to his underlings. "Let them leave."

One of the vampires frowned. "But, Spike-"

Without looking, Spike retorted. A hand whipped out, knocking the vampire out. "Now."

There were no more protests. And in the end, Ford stayed behind.

His choice.

But as she and Xander left with the hapless wannabes, Spike smirked at her. "You know who your little boy there really is?"

The words kept bugging her all night and day after, even unto the point where she staked Ford's undead self crawling out of his grave. And she kept remembering Giles' sarcastic little joke about white and black hats long after she went home to cry that night, and kept wondering if it was an allusion to the creepy Angel and his penchant for black.

...or maybe about Xander.

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Monday, November 10th, 1997.

It was all a coincidence, really.

Buffy had set up an afternoon meet with Willow and Xander, making sure Willow knew to conveniently be 'busy' elsewhere. A dinner coupon for her mom's favorite restaurant and a suggestion to show Oz a good time helped.

She was all set, she'd picked out a casual yet stylish outfit, had her hair done nicely, and made sure she had a few ideas for the day. First, lunch. Then tire him out shopping. Then, when his resistance was worn down...well, she wasn't sure what then, but she had a few ideas for that too.

It would have worked, too, if it wasn't for that pesky demon.

.

Halfway through her calisthenics set, Xander and some old British guy slammed through the doors yelling for help.

Well, more accurately the British guy called out for Giles, Giles sputtered and stuttered, and Xander yelled "Demon! Zombie demon!"

Buffy put up with it for roughly five seconds before she put two fingers in her mouth and let out a whopper of a whistle. "Hey!"

Silence fell as they all turned to look at her, wide-eyed. After a few moments of confusion, Giles smiled innocently. "Er, yes?"

"What. Is. The drama?"

He looked sheepish. "I, uh, this is, this is Philip. He's an old friend of mine."

"And there was a zombie demon chasing him!" This came from Xander, who seemed a bit freaked out still.

"Zombie demon?" She looked at the man called Philip, who ignored her and instead looked at Giles.

"Eyghon has returned."

To her great shock, Giles almost staggered back, pale as snow. "I-I-I see. Th-that's...unfortunate."

Philip took a shuddering breath. "It, it took Deirdre. She...it was here, in the hallway. If not for this boy, I, I would have-"

Giles nodded, his mind obviously somewhere else. "Yes, that's, he's handy."

As she was about to ask who Egon was and how British guys could apparently stammer in stereo, the doors slammed open and a freaky creature from beyond the grave stood there. It was smirking.

"Rupert. How lovely. The old gang's all here."

...huh. Even vampires usually weren't this...erudite. "This the one, Xand?"

"Yeah!" She didn't spare him a glance, but she did spare him a smile.

"Buffy, don't!"

Ignoring Giles she vaulted over the table, grabbing a sword on the way. The demon turned its head towards her with an odd, bird-like movement, and smiled even as the sword started the arc towards its head.

A half-rotted hand whipped out and seized the sword in mid-air. "A Slayer. Such friends you've made since last we met, Rupert..."

"...uh..." Another half-gooey fist came out of nowhere, knocking her back, right towards-

She landed on top of Xander in an undignified heap, and she probably would have appreciated the situation more if Xander hadn't smacked his head on the nearby bookshelf and passed out. Pausing only briefly to check his pulse and breathing, she hopped back up, looking for another weapon.

The demon zombie thing was looking at the sword as if it was completely amazing and new, then shrugged and tossed it aside with enough force to embed it in a wall. Not too hard to do, the walls here were all plaster and drywall, but still. Looked neat.

Right. No underestimating the big bad demon.

Softening it up by throwing two heavy wooden chairs at it she crossed the room in a blink of an eye, grabbing the ax Giles had so many times refused to train her in, then dropped and slid along the floor the last few feet, ax swinging around and – chop.

The demon fell as the legs were severed at the knees, hitting the hardwood floor with the most disgusting splat Buffy had ever seen.

"Ew." She backed up a few steps as goo oozed out of the now lifeless demon, spreading across the floor. "Anyone got a mop and bucket?"

Without her noticing, the ooze slithered across the floor with an almost single-minded purpose, towards the sole unconscious person in the room.

Suddenly, Xander sat up. "What?"

Buffy turned, confused but relieved. "Xander! You okay?"

He frowned. "Huh? No – what? Hey! Get – get out of my – not again, not again, not again – get out! Get out!"

She watched to her horror as his face twisted, morphing into something like the demon she'd just made shorter. "Oh, this is...the sheer potential! I'm going to enjoy this-"

"No!" His face shifted back. "Oh, God, Buffy, there's something – get out of my head!"

Shifting again, the demon face leered. "No, I like it in here. Oh, boy, do you even understand? Do you even know what you are?"

It shifted again, and again, morphing and twisting sickeningly as Xander screamed in agony, until suddenly a cloud of dark dust poured out of his eyes and mouth and nose, then dissipating into nothing. Xander staggered, then fell to the floor, out cold again.

.


.

Rupert Giles sat in his chair in his kitchen and stared at the bottle. He hadn't opened it since he'd poured a glass for Philip earlier, who was now sleeping soundly in the guest room.

He wanted to, though. Wanted to open it again, and drink until he stopped thinking.

Eyghon. After all this time, Eyghon had returned, and killed several of Rupert's old friends on its path to the US and revenge. Was it bad of him that a part of him wished Ethan had been the first to go?

No, Ethan was an arse, but Eyghon was...it had been 'Ripper' who'd first suggested it, after all. His fault. Four people dead, including Simon that first time. Four people dead, because young Rupert Giles had been a self-centered little berk who didn't care what he summoned up for his next hit.

Old sins. Old sins, and old secrets, God, how he loathed the secrets.

Well, at least the demon was gone for good. Unable to exist without a host...

...and Xander had somehow evicted it from his body. That shouldn't have been possible. No normal human could simply evict a discorporate entity like Eyghon, not without an exorcism and immense training of the will.

The doorbell rang. He wanted to ignore it, but finally got up, shambled to the front hall and opened.

Angel stood outside.

"Hi. Can I come in?"

Giles almost said yes, but something gave him pause. "Er...no. Is it, is it important?"

The vampire looked to the side almost casually, then smiled softly. Then there was a flash of metal, and a cold blade pressed against Rupert's neck. "Just because I can't come in doesn't mean you're safe. And the next time one of your 'youthful indiscretions' comes back to haunt us and hurts Xander, I will kill you."

For a moment, Rupert just stood there, shocked. The vampire was still outside, and no part of his body was across the threshold...except the blade of the sword. He tried to swallow, but the tip of the blade was right at the Adam's apple, and so he only managed a little choked-up noise.

The sword hung there for a moment, then was lowered. Angel smiled, almost cheerfully. "Keep that in mind."

Then he was gone, melting into the darkness outside as if he was never there. Rupert rubbed the sore spot on his throat, wiping away a single drop of blood. "Yes. I, I'll do that."

Then he closed the door and went inside to call Buffy.

.


.

Do you even know what you are?

Xander stared at the ceiling. He couldn't sleep. He'd showered three times since he came home, and would have showered more if Tony hadn't yelled at him to quit using up the hot water.

He still felt dirty. Filthy. Like a thin, slimy veneer of grease and dust covered every cell of his body, pooling near the stomach.

It hadn't been like the hyena. The hyena had been all dark temptations, twisted animal greed and power battering at his thoughts like a giant outside the gates of an old crumbling castle.

Do you even know what you are?

No. No, he didn't. But he was starting to wonder. The hyena. Remembering every single thing of the soldier he never was without it showing even a hint of fading away. The fact that, as Buffy pointed out, vampires seemed to home in on him constantly.

You know who your little boy there really is?

No, he didn't know what he was. Or who he was.

And it was really starting to scare him.

.


.

A/N 2: Pteryges = lit. "feathers", it's the name for the feather-like design of the leather armor epaulettes used in ancient era warrior's skirts, shoulder guards and helmet side-guards by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. Instead of saying Wonder Woman should wear a "Hoplite skirt", it should probably rightly be a "pteryges skirt" (or "pteruges"). Amazons aren't Hoplites (more likely they were Sauromatians). *grin*

Makhaira = ancient Greek forward-curved single-edged sword, looks a little like a very large, slightly slimmer khukri-blade.

...and is it just me, or is Xander starting to influence Angel as well? (grin)