Part 5

Many Discussions

The fresh evening breeze fluttered ever so lightly against the ice-cold pallor of his skin, but Angelus was scarcely cognizant of it. His complete concentration was focused upon the meeting at this time being held in Giles' run of the mill apartment house. Not that anything of any immense magnitude was being discussed, it was simply the weekly get-together of the white hats complaining about his activities. And from the infinite tedious speeches that he had heard so far, he now knew that they had no new information on his so-called *wife*. Angelus was most undeniably flabbergasted, he had essentially estimated Spike would rat him out to the good guys once his position within the family was once again safe and sound.

As he positioned himself in a more comfortable location in which he could scrutinize the proceedings, he without a sound began to give consideration to what his high-priced and yet highly effective demon detective had found out about his little slayer for him. There was as you would expect the customary things, his averse spouse had few friends and on no account dated - the respite he felt over this was only due to the fact he did not have the time to go and hunt down any hormonally driven teenagers to rip their spines out, or at least that it what he convinced himself was the veracity. The preeminent news - at least as far as he was concerned - pertained to Buffy's aunt. It seemed that a sadistic serial killer known as 'Jack of All Trades' had a deadly fascination with her. It was at long last something that he could use to his own advantage, after all the main problem his misplaced spouse had was her duty to others and if she thought that her dearly loved aunt was in danger because of this then - well, she would do anything to save her, including giving herself voluntarily over to a demon.

Inattentively listening to the Scooby Gang's ineffectual dialogue, he momentarily considered informing them of Buffy's whereabouts, if only for the entertainment value it would provide him as he watched them scuttle around trying to save the slayer from the inexorable. All of a sudden his particularly finely tuned hearing detected a shift in the ambiance of the discussion from within the miniature apartment. Being the obviously inquiring bloodsucking creature that he was, he turned his full awareness to them and was disenchanted to find out they were discussing Spike's abrupt departure. Sighing an superfluous sigh, Angelus walked away intent on grabbing a cursory *bite* to eat before heading back to the mansion to check on Draco's advancement on the research he had assigned him.

When Buffy ultimately arrived at the gateway leading into Wilkins High School that subsequent morning, she saw Frannie standing there evidently waiting for her to show up. Still feeling indignant from her so-called best friend's reaction to the knowledge that humans were not the only sentient species on the planet, that the boogie man was real and that Bram Stroker was not some eccentric, alcoholic Irishman with an overactive imagination.

Part of Buffy did not and could not hold accountable Frannie for the pessimistic feedback, after all her own preliminary rejoinder to what Merrick had shown her that temperate California night had not been much better. Also how could she have estimated Frannie would straightforwardly understand an suggestion so outlandish to her just because Willow and Xander had. They had an advantage over her new friend, they had grown up on top of the Hellmouth and had dealt with all the bizarre and off the wall stuff all of their lives; the worst that Frannie had, had to deal with was human brutality.

Walking past Frannie devoid of even giving her so much as a glimpse of acknowledgement, she headed off towards the central school building and her home room class. Buffy had scarcely taken a few steps when she heard her name being called and a hand clamped securely around her arm, whirling her around to face her aggressor.

"Buffy?" Frannie said as she let go of her friend's arm. "Aren't you even going to give me the opportunity to give reasons for my reaction? I let you give an explanation."

Before she could act in response to Francis' inquiry a male classmate made an abhorrent statement. "Hey Malone, Summers - what's the matter? Having a lover's tiff?"

"Blow it out of your ass, Robertson," Frannie countered to the bratty teenager. She turned her consideration back to Buffy, "Please give me a chance?"

Buffy nodded, "Okay."

"Let's go."

The two girls left the campus grounds - Buffy dragging her vast book-bag with her - and headed off to the nearby Starbucks. After grabbing a couple of coffees they went to the local teenaged retreat for the ditchers and after settling themselves down in a comfortable posture, Buffy wordlessly anticipated her friend's elucidation.

When not an iota was in the offing, Buffy spoke, "Well?"

"I'm sorry," Frannie began unhurriedly, evidently taking her time and thinking out each thing that she wished to articulate. "It's simply that I always thought that I could come to grips with everything that came my way and in less than twenty-four fleeting hours you blew it all away. On no account, even in my wildest fantasies - and believe me some of them were pretty wild - would I have guessed that vampires and other creepies were real."

"It's okay, Frannie."

Francis downed her now warm drink, semi-scalding her throat. "No, it's not. I forced you to give an explanation about it all to me and then I took off as an alternative to trying to comprehend what you had told me. I know that I can't take it all back, but I wanna help you - in whatever way I can."

"Just be my friend, Fran," Buffy told her sincerely. "That's all I really need right now."

Nodding she replied, "I can do that."

The walls were decorated dark grey in color, making the room seem smaller and darker than it was, regardless of the substantial two-way mirror that lined one of the walls. It was freezing cold in there and Buffy's delicate cotton covering didn't help to keep out the cold, it was worn for fashion purposes and not for body warmth. She was however confident that she had not been enclosed within the repugnant room for more than an hour - after a indiscriminate police raid busted the hangout and took into incarceration as many teenagers as they could - but time was seemingly dragging.

When the door at long last opened it was not some unknown police sergeant, but her aunt that walked in with a disillusioned look engraved across her attractive features, making Buffy wish that she had gone to class instead with Francis. They did not speak even one word to each other on the way back to the fire house apartment, but it was not an awkward stillness, it was merely one where neither party knows quite what to ay to the other.

The silence was broken the instant that the apartment door was closed behind them. "I am assuming that this skipping school thing is a new development?"

"Aunt Sam, I think you know that I don't skip classes and I think that my grades attest to that. It's just that Frannie -"

Sam interrupted her niece, "I should have guessed. The only times that you have caused or been in trouble are due to her. I don't care if Bailey is her father -"

"Aunt Sam -"

"Just go to your room, Buffy," Sam said rubbing her overtired eyes. "I need to get some perspective before I deal with this."

Buffy sighed and did as her aunt had asked of her. Once she was sequestered within the confines of her undersized bedroom, she sat down her bed and stared out of the window into the fading light. For a split second she could have sworn that veiled in the shadows across the street was a demon, but after a few minutes of searching and waiting she gave up, chalking it up to the stress of the days situation. Turning away from her window, she lay down and let the tears that she had been withholding for so long fall.

Once darkness had fallen the demon came out of his hiding place among the shadows, relieved that he had been wrong about the slayer spotting him. The mess that a situation like that would have caused would have surely meant a painful death at the hands of Angelus. Pulling his cloak tightly around him - to hide his pale yellow scales and green spikes from the unsuspecting humans nearby - he headed back towards his beat up old Ford. Climbing inside he grabbed his cell phone and dialed his employer's private line with his daily report. If it had not been a part of his job description, he would have avoided this particular call at all costs; Angelus was not going to be pleased with today's occurrence.

"What?" came the agitated voice of his employer.

"Master Angelus, I have today's report ready for you."

Angelus' voice did not even soften at the voice of his obsession. "Tell me now."

"As usual her aunt took her to school and brought her home. She has once again not left the apartment since her return there."

"So nothing unusual has occurred then?" Angelus asked confidently.

"Well -"

"Well, what?" Angelus' voice hardened like ice.

The demon swallowed nervously, suddenly glad for the miles between Georgia and California. "Your slayer skipped her classes and was taken in by the police during a raid on the hangout."

"What in the hell was she doing in some hangout?"