Part 11

#

"Is it always like this?"

Buffy looked up, having been lost in her own thoughts for a moment. Faith, Angel, and her where finishing up patrol for the evening.

"What do you mean?" Buffy looked at the dark-haired Slayer.

"Up and down," Faith said. "I mean, yesterday all the demons and monsters came out to party and we were staking them left and right. Then we have tonight and things are deader than Angel over there." She gave the vampire a smile. "No offense, big guy."

"None taken," he smiled back. Much to Buffy's relief Faith seemed to get along pretty well with Angel after having gotten over the initial shock of him being a vampire. There was the occasional odd glance and Buffy had noticed that Faith never turned her back on him, not even for a second, but that was to be expected. It had only been a couple of weeks after all. She was sure that, sooner or later, the only looks Faith would give Angel would be the ones that contained little in the way of wariness and quite a lot in the way of drinking in his looks.

"This is nothing," Buffy just shrugged, seeing no point in getting jealous after everything she and Angel had gone through together. "Wait until the next apocalypse comes along."

"You have one scheduled?"

"No, but I'm sure someone else has. There's always someone."

Things certainly were dead tonight, for which Buffy was infinitely grateful. Not only because it meant she and Angel could go home early and maybe spend some time not thinking about things like school, Xander, Amy, and the latest demonic threat. Just the two of them, together with no distractions.

"B, I wanted to ask you something else," Faith said, walking closer to Buffy.

"Yeah?"

"I .. well, you know the G-man is trying to get the Council to pull some strings so he can be my legal guardian, right?"

"I know, yes."

"Well, while we talked to them on the phone the Council guys also said that they want some kind of report from me. You know, something like where I was during the weeks between ... between Joanna's death and coming here, what I think of the situation here, the likes."

Buffy nodded, seeing where Faith was going with this.

"Now, I realize we don't really know each other that well yet, B, but I got some vibes here and, well ...," Faith looked at Buffy. "They don't know you're back, right?"

"No, they don't," Buffy admitted, "and I would very much prefer for them to go on not knowing about it."

"That's what I figured, seeing G-man's reaction when they talked to him on the phone. But ... why? I mean, they're the good guys, right?"

Buffy sighed, looking for words to explain. "Faith, I ... the Council has always had a ... problem ... big problem with my being with Angel. They didn't do anything about it, except having Giles give me some stern words now and then, but I could tell they weren't very happy about it."

She looked at her lover, who was walking two steps behind them, sensing their need for some privacy.

"Things haven't exactly improved, at least not from their standpoint. Not only am I, the Slayer, sleeping with a vampire, I've also partly transformed into a vampire myself. I'm not really sure what they would do when they found out about that, but Giles and I both think that it is best for them not to know. As far as they are concerned I'm dead and gone. It's better that way."

Faith nodded, looking thoughtful. Buffy was just glad that Faith was not like Kendra, a Slayer raised by the Council from a very young age. Even though Kendra had come around to accept Angel, had even helped her save him, she was quite sure that the other Slayer would never even have considered lying to the Council.

"Okay, I'll keep my mouth shut," Faith shrugged, "but don't you think that they might get a clue eventually? The two of you haven't exactly been lying low since coming back."

"We'll deal with that if and when it happens," Buffy said, giving Faith a thankful smile. "I just don't want to think about it now, you know? There are quite enough things on our plate at the moment."

"I hear you. You figured out what to do about that little friend of yours? Xander?"

Buffy sighed. So much for not thinking about any of her problems tonight.

"Not really, no! Right now I think I'd rip his head off the moment I saw him, so I guess it's better to keep some distance between us. I'm still holding out some hope that Willow can screw his head on right."

Faith nodded again, still getting used to the character dynamics in this very odd circle of friends she seemed on her way towards becoming a part of. She did not know much about Xander, had never met the guy even. There was still a lot she did not know about the events surrounding Buffy's trip to Hell and Angel's preceding turn to badness. Despite her curiosity she realized that it would take some time until they all felt familiar enough around her to loosen up.

She hoped it would happen soon. No matter her tough exterior Faith desperately wanted to have some friends, people she could really trust and rely on. It was something she had never really had before, at least not since she had been very little and her family had still seemed solid and wonderful. She wanted it. God, how she wanted it.

She just prayed that she would not fuck it up again, like she had so many times before.

#

Xander slowly walked toward Amy's house, dragging his feet with every step. If someone had asked him to describe his feelings at the moment he would have mumbled something about feeling like a man about to jump out of a burning building. He knew he had to jump, there was no other way, yet jumping seemed every bit as bad or worse than dying in the flames.

No matter how he looked at things, it did not change one simply fact. He had fucked up. Big time. It was not Angel's fault, it was not Buffy's fault, it was not the latest demonic threat's fault. Just his. Xander Harris, number one idiot in the world, had fucked this up all by his lonesome.

He had gotten people killed. It was right there in the morning paper. There was some talk about a virus that made people go nuts or something in the water, the usual attempts at explaining things that no one really wanted to explain. There were hard facts as well, though. Cold, hard facts.

Seven people dead.

A terrible chill had spread through his body seeing that one headline, those few words printed black on white. Seven people dead. Not vampires that exploded into ash, not monsters that vanished in a puddle of black slime. People. Seven people whose lives had been snuffed because of his attempt to lay it on Angel.

He knew that, unless he did something, he would go mad. He had briefly considered going to the police in order to confess everything, but quickly banished the thought. What would he tell them? You see, officer, I convinced this teenage witch I know (no, her name is not Sabrina) to do a spell for me. I wanted to unveil that vampire who is dating a friend of mine. Only the spell went haywire and unveiled all the monsters in town, who got really pissed and started killing people. Yeah, he could just see them believing him.

"What did you achieve with all this, Xander? You lost all your friends, your girlfriend, and if you have even an ounce of self-respect left by now it's one heck of a miracle. Was it all worth it?"

Willow's words echoed in his head, repeating over and over again. What had he achieved? All his friends were gone, at the very best disgusted with him, if not filled with outright hatred. He gave a bitter laugh. Did he not deserve it? His lie had sent Buffy to Hell. His attempts to drive Angel away had only managed to drive a wedge between him and Buffy, bringing her even closer to the vampire. His attempts to make everyone see Angel for what he was had gotten seven people killed.

Self-respect? Right now Xander wished that some car would just run him over and be done with it. Or maybe a vampire should come out of the woodworks and kill him, would that not be a fitting end to it all?

Too easy, a voice inside him said.

As much as everything inside him was revolted with the thought, there was only one thing he could do. Try to make it right. Not with some spells, not with more self-delusion, but by doing what Willow had told him to do several weeks ago.

Apologize. Stand up to the fact that he had made horrible mistakes and apologize to the people who had been hurt because of it. First and foremost among them being Angel.

Try as he might, Xander could not work up the nerve to actually look up the vampire. The thought of apologizing to that monster ... he quenched that thought right at the start. Familiar thought patterns, Xander Harris. No use repeating them all over again. That was what got people killed.

Seven people were dead. Some part of his mind seemed to delight in repeating that statement several times a second.

He had to apologize, but he could not start with Angel. He knew that it would not work, he would not be able to get out the words. Even thinking of Angel's face sent fresh surges of anger through him. No, if this was supposed to work he had to start slow. Start at the bottom.

Because of him Amy had done that spell. He figured that the witch would be broken up now as well, blaming herself for listening to him, blaming herself for the deaths. It was not her fault. She never would have done it if not for him. He needed to tell her that, needed to tell her that she had done nothing wrong, her only mistake having been to listen to him.

She needed to know. He had to tell her. Maybe that would help him work up the resolve to do the other things he needed to do.

He reached Amy's house shortly after dark and there was no vampire in sight, no one to spare him this painful task. Another bitter laugh escaped his throat. This here would be easy. Amy had never willfully hurt anyone. She did not deserve to feel guilty about something like that. Apologizing to her should be easy.

Xander tried to remember a single instance when he had apologized to someone and meant it. Really meant it. For some reason he could not think of one right now.

About to knock on Amy's door he realized that the door was ajar. He frowned, instantly growing suspicious. People did not leave their door's open in Sunnydale, no matter the fact that the really dangerous predators of the night would not be hindered by a door, only by a lack of invitation. Still, it was strange.

Carefully pushing open the door Xander looked inside, not daring to call out for anyone. Amy had told him that her father was away on a trip, meaning she was the only one supposed to be in the house.

His heart skipped a beat when he saw a few drops of blood on the floor.

"Amy," he called out, carefulness forgotten. "Amy, where are you?"

He ran through the living room of the house, skidding to a stop in the kitchen. He froze, incapable of doing anything but stare at the body lying on the floor in front of him. A body pale from loss of blood, a small puddle of crimson staining the floor beneath a slashed neck.

Amy's eyes seemed to look directly at him, accusing him with their emptiness.

"Oh God," he whispered, his throat completely dry. "Dear God, no!"

There was a knife right next to her, lying on the floor with her blood staining the blade. Xander's eyes traveled to the knife, then back to her throat. His stomach heaved as looked at the ruined flesh, seeing a glistening piece of spine. Xander pressed his hands to his mouth, quickly running out to puke on the carpet of the living room.

Amy was dead. Someone had taken a knife and killed her. She was dead. Amy was dead.

As soon as his legs started working again Xander ran from the house, his thoughts tumbling all over each other and only one standing out clearly.

He needed help.

#

Part 12

#

The seizures that held her body in their grip slowly subsided as the sweet taste of Angel's blood filled Buffy's mouth, her elongated canines buried in his neck even as he was drinking from her. Uniting like this caused the world outside to cease, nothing existed but the two of them and the blood that was pumping through both their veins, driven by a human heart and vampire magic.

After both their hunger was sated they let go, each lapping at the other's wounds until the tiny marks closed once more. For a long moment they just rested in each other's arms, reluctant to move apart, but then Angel spoke. "Ready to go?"

"Huh?" Buffy's thoughts were fuzzy, the question not making sense.

"Giles?" Angel gave her a slightly teasing look. "We're meeting him and the others, remember?"

Buffy groaned, remembering. Giles wanted to meet to discuss the matter of a certain foolish boy whose name she refused to think at the moment. Willow had tried to talk to him today, but had little luck it appeared. Plus there were a lot of questions still surrounding last night, the identity of the spell-breaker just one of them. Then Willow wanted to somehow use the spell to help Oz control his wolfy side.

All of which meant that it would be yet another late night for all of them.

"Crap!" Buffy slipped out of Angel's lap with obvious reluctance, reaching for her discarded clothing. "Isn't it enough that we already went patrolling tonight?"

They hurriedly dressed and made the short walk to the school, slipping into the library. Most of the gang was already there, Faith sitting on the large table and swinging her legs. Willow and Oz were bent over a piece of paper and several musty books, while Giles was on the phone, talking to someone. Only Cordelia was missing and Buffy did not know whether she would show tonight.

"How goes, Will?" Buffy plopped down next to Willow. "Any luck with Amy's spell so far?"

The redhead sighed, leaning back. "I'll need Amy's help. I'm afraid my own talent's as a witch are nowhere near ready for something like this."

"You'll figure it out," Oz said, his voice filled with confidence in his girlfriend, which caused Willow to smile. Not for long, though, as another part of the spell drew her attention.

"I'm almost used to the fact that spells are in foreign languages," she complained, "but why several different ones in a single spell? Why couldn't they keep it simple? I don't even know what language that is."

Buffy looked over her shoulder. "That's Ventru, a demon language," she said. "It says ..."

"What?" Willow turned to look at her.

"I said it says ..."

"How do you know a demon language?"

"Angel taught me," Buffy said, which earned her nothing but a blank stare from her best friend. "What? Hell didn't offer much in the way of fun and games, Will. We couldn't spend all our resting time ... you know. So he taught me stuff."

"Languages?"

"A few."

"How many?" Giles was standing behind them, causing Willow to jump a little. The Watcher seemed quite fascinated. Buffy counted on her fingers.

"Gaelic, German, French, Latin, Japanese, a few demon languages ... what was the one with the grunts?" She looked at Angel.

"Glukaar," he told her. "Spoken by the Lomar and the Priomortu."

"Yeah, right. I probably suck at writing them. There wasn't much in the way of paper and pencils in Hell, but I got the speaking parts down pretty pat."

Willow was completely speechless and even Giles needed a moment to compose himself after that little revelation. It was another reminder of how deceptive Buffy's outward appearance had become. They all knew she had been gone for thirty years, but looking at her tended to make them forget. Then she pulled something like this.

"That's ... ah ... good," Giles finally said. Inside, though, he was wondering why a girl that spoke so many different languages still bastardized the English language the way all American teenagers did.

Buffy just gave him a smug smile, looking very much like a student who had managed to outclass the teacher. "Thanks!"

"Yes ... ah, there are other matters we need to deal with now. For the moment the potentially beneficial uses of Amy's spell are not our number one priority. No offense meant, Willow."

"None taken," the redhead closed the book. "Besides, the next full moon is still two weeks away."

Buffy tried to read anything on Oz' face, wanting to figure out how he might feel about the possibility of gaining control of his wolf. His face was as stoic as ever, though.

"I just talked with a colleague of mine who is an expert for counter-spells and the likes," Giles informed the others. "I gave him the outline of the spell and according to him breaking it would either require a very skilled mage or one with a lot of power at his disposal."

"It could not have been that hard, could it?" Willow looked at Giles. "Amy isn't that experienced a witch."

"She isn't, no," Giles agreed, "but unfortunately the casting of such a spell is much easier than breaking it. There is also the fact that I believe one of the reasons for Amy's spell misfiring the way it did to be the Hellmouth. It's presence enhances magical spells, makes them more powerful than they would normally be. Therefore a spell that can be cast by a relative beginner would need quite an expert to break."

"Oh," Willow said. "I guess I should be very careful then, right?" She gestured at Amy's spell lying before her.

"Very much so, yes. Anyway, we should start researching known mages with the necessary skills to do this. I'm afraid, though, that our records, both here and with the Council, are rather incomplete in this area. Most powerful mages like to remain in the shadows, not announcing their existence."

"So you're saying our chances of finding whoever did this in the dusty books are small?"

"Yes, Faith, I fear that is the case."

No one was particularly looking forward to doing a research session with the odds of finding anything worthwhile this low, but no one had a better idea. No one except Angel that was, who left to interrogate Willy and some other snitches he knew. It earned him a few glares from the others who could not think of any reason to skip out of reading boring books.

Faith, Oz, and Buffy had their noses buried in said books when Giles sat down next to Willow.

"You talked to Xander today?"

"I tried," Willow nodded wearily, "but I'm not sure it was any good."

"We have to do something about this." Giles took off his glasses, rubbing his tired eyes. "Xander has done quite enough damage. We can't afford to just let this go, hoping he will have learned his lesson."

"I know, but what can we do?"

Their conversation was cut short when the library doors flew open and the object of their discussion came barreling in, skidding to a halt in front of the table.

"Guys," Xander began, out of breath and covered in sweat.

Buffy rose from her chair, her body trembling with barely suppressed fury.

"What do you want here?" Her voice was little more than a growl. She had taken out her contact lenses earlier as they tended to start chaffing after a time and now glared at Xander with her amber eyes flashing.

Xander refused to meet her gaze, clearly scared and confused.

"Look," he panted, "I know I don't really have the right to ask you guys for anything after what I ..."

"Damn right you don't," Buffy interrupted him, stepping out from behind the table, closing in on Xander. "Maybe you should think real hard about getting out of here while you still can."

Giles was a bit taken aback by his Slayer's words, but nevertheless stepped between them. No matter how much he might deserve it, Buffy would hate herself afterwards should her demonic temper cause her to harm him in any way.

"What do you want, Xander?" He gave the boy a cold look.

"I ... I know I fucked up. Sorry doesn't really cover it, I know that, but ... something happened. I ... I went by Amy's house and ..."

"Why? So you could have her do some more magic for you?"

Giles gestured for Buffy to calm down, then looked back at Xander.

"What happened?"

"I wanted to apologize," he said, looking down. "Apologize for dragging her into this. None of this was her fault, I should never have ..."

He was interrupted again, but this time Buffy was not the cause. The library doors flew open once more and Principal Snyder entered, followed by two men in police uniform.

"There he is," Snyder said, pointing at Xander.

The two officers advanced on the boy, who seemed frozen to the spot.

"What is the meaning of this?" Giles looked at Snyder, who just grinned.

"Xander Harris," the first officer said, "you are under arrest for the murder of Amy Madison."

"What?" Willow jumped up from her seat. "Amy? Amy is ...?"

"You have the right to remain silent." Handcuffs snapped shut around Xander's wrist, freeing him from his shock.

"No," he stuttered. "I didn't ... this is ..."

"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

"What is going on here, Snyder?" Giles had walked up to the principal, who smiled up at him with a satisfied gleam in his beady eyes.

"Interesting, isn't it? Another of your little proteges seems to be a murderer. I begin to see a pattern here."

Buffy had retreated a bit, not wanting anyone to get too good a look at her eyes, but now she glared at Snyder with pure hostility.

"You little ...," she began, only to be cut off by Oz, who quickly moved in front of her and shook his head. Buffy fumed, but managed to reign in her temper. Technically she was trespassing on school grounds, seeing as she was no longer a student. She would bet that Snyder would take every excuse to have her arrested as well.

"I didn't kill Amy," Xander yelled, his hands now cuffed behind his back. "She was already dead when I found her, I didn't do it."

"That will be for the judge to decide." The officers grabbed him, hauling him out of the room. Willow, Oz, Faith, Buffy, and Giles looked after them, events having gone too fast for any of them to really react. Amy was dead? How could Amy be dead?

"I will advise the school board," Snyder told Giles as the cops left with Xander, "to launch an investigation into your activities here." He looked at the people present. "I smell more arrests coming on." With that he left, the library doors swinging shut behind him.

Willow fell into her chair, shaking her head.

"Amy is dead?"



THE END