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Summary: An idea as to what happened to Buffy and co. after Buffy leaves Sunnydale. Buffy encounters a new friend with a mysterious past who proves to be a powerful ally. Spike is getting sick of Dru and realizes he actually misses the slayer (lots of Spike to come, hopefully). Angel is still in Hell, whether he'll get out or not, I haven't decided yet... tell me what you think! Willow, Xander, and Giles are desperately trying to locate Buffy, with some, er, help from Cordelia. I'm no good at Joyce, so for now I'm leaving her out of this.
Spoilers: Becoming 2
Disclaimer: These characters, except for Kat and Jeff, are not mine. I am borrowing them from Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy and all those really cool people. I promise to return them only a little worse for the wear. Please don't sue--remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Author's Notes: Please do not redistribute this without getting my permission. I'll most likely say yes, but... well, it's the principle of the thing. I'd like to know where my story is going. Thanks!
Feedback: Please send lots of it! But no flames, I'm kinda sensitive. (Skysong99(at)aol.com)
Special Thanks Go To: Becca, for helping me to decide to write this story and her constructive criticism; my brother Jonathan for being my cohort in crime and my Buffy viewing partner, as well as giving me an honest opinion on what I write; Chana, for being the best and possibly most critical proofreader a girl could have; my cousin Tommy for his inspiring dreams and creative names... x-men wannabe's under the pier, right Tommy?; Joss Whedon for creating Buffy; the wonderful cast of the show for bringing it to life; and lastly Mariah Carey for her song "My All."
I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
Cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of your song
I'd give my all for your love tonight... (Mariah Carey, My All).
Buffy watched as the last swirls of the vortex to hell disappeared, taking her lover with them. She could still see the look on his face as she ran the sword through him, still see his hand reach out to her, his eyes pleading with her... she shook her head, trying to rid herself of the vision. She took in her surroundings... a dirty bus on its way to Los Angeles. She had left Sunnydale a few weeks ago, not knowing where she was going and really not caring, as long as it was far away from the hellmouth. She needed time to sort things out without the imminent threat of vamp activity. Now, she was headed towards L.A., where the vamp population was booming. It seems that all the fledgling vampires thought L.A. was the place to be, the center of all the action. Little did they know that the action was all in the little town of Sunnydale. A town whose existence Buffy was desperately trying to forget.
I'm thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If it's wrong to love you
Then my heart just won't let me be right
Cause I've drowned in you
And I won't pull through
Without you by my side...
Angel. God, how she loved him. She loved the strong curve of his jaw, and the way his hair flipped up in the front. She loved his large, strong hands when they softly caressed her face, and his dark brown eyes that held such love and trust in their depths. Even as he was pulled into hell, mixed in with the fear and shock in his eyes there was still that love and that trust. *God, how can I live with myself after doing that to him?* Buffy stared out the window into the dusky night, almost convinced that if she looked hard enough, she would see him and it would all be a dream... a nightmare, but artificial nonetheless. She stared and stared... and then she saw him. He stepped out from behind a gnarled oak tree, just as he always used to, with that same half-smile on his face. He shook his head, chuckling at her as she sat and cried for him, and opened his arms wide to embrace her. Buffy jumped out of her seat. "Angel?" She ran down the aisle of the bus, but by the time she got to the doors, the figure had disappeared. Looking around her, Buffy saw the concerned stares of the other passengers on the bus, some full of sympathy, others clearly expressing their doubtfulness of her sanity. "Um, sorry, I thought I saw... never mind, I... um... sorry." She made her way back to her seat, silently chastising herself for being so foolish as to believe that he would be alive, after what she had done to him. She rested her head against the back of the seat and desperately wished for sleep to come and graciously save her from her conscience.
Baby can you feel me
Imagining I'm looking in your eyes,
I can see you clearly
Vividly emblazoned in my mind,
And yet you're so far
Like a distant star
I'm wishing on tonight...
If consciousness was bad, then unconsciousness was even worse. It was then that his soul spoke to her, begged and pleaded. "Why? Why, Buffy? I don't understand..." And then she saw the look on his face as the realization dawned on him. His memory came flooding back, and he crumpled to the ground with grief and shock over all the things he had done to her and her friends while he was his former self, Angelus. That was even worse for Buffy. She knew how awful he must be feeling and had an instinct that reliving all his crimes against her and her friends would be his eternal punishment. In her mind's eye, he looked straight at her and mouthed the words "I'm sorry," then, "I love you."
"Angel!" Buffy cried out, reaching out for him. Her arm only made contact with the back of the seat in front of her.
"Oh, sorry!" Buffy said timidly as the figure in the seat turned around to face her. The girl facing her was a startling beauty with deep mahogany hair and a porcelain complexion. Her high cheekbones and large eyes gave her an elegant, sophisticated, if not exotic look. Her full lips curved into a smile.
"It's okay. It sounded as if you were having some dream there. Are you okay?" The girl's voice was soft and pleasing, soothing Buffy's frayed nerves.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just dreaming about... about someone very close to me who I really miss."
Buffy's face went ashen. "How did you know that? Her hands gripped the arms of her seat and she pushed herself up to her full height, her eyes cold and intimidating.
"Y-your dream. You c-cried out that name in your sleep." The girl looked genuinely afraid.
"I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm so jumpy. I guess it's because, well, the reason we're apart is kind of because of me. But that was the way things had to be... it was my duty, uh, I mean, I had no other choice. If I didn't do what I did, well... things would not have been good."
"You talk as if it would have been the end of the world!"
"You have no idea..." Buffy said, visibly stiffening.
"Oh, nothing." Buffy turned away, trying to hide the tears that were forming in her eyes.
"My name's Katrine Vanderbilt. Kat for short. I'm sorry, did you say what your's was?"
"No, no I didn't. It's Buffy... Buffy Summers."
"Now, I don't mean to pry, being nosy is my worst fault, I'm afraid, but this Angel character... ?" She left the question open ended, hanging in the air.
Buffy thought for a minute, trying to figure out the best way to explain the situation to this complete stranger.
"He's... uh, was, my boyfriend... my soulmate."
"Well, what happened to change things?" Kat's eyes were large and concerned.
"He changed. He became a completely different person than the man I fell in love with. Deep down inside he was still the same, but, uh, he had started hanging out with some new friends, Spike and Drusilla, and they, well they were a really bad influence on him."
"Spike? Drusilla? Just their names sound scary... I'd hate to meet them alone in a dark alley!"
"Believe me, you are so totally right. After Angel changed, well, he and Spike and Dru decided to make my life and my friends' lives miserable."
"Psycho much!... oh, sorry. You were saying?"
"Well, I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands. I was going to confront Angel and tell him to get out of our lives..."
"Well, it seems that Spike had the same idea. You see, Angel had decided that Dru was more his taste than I was, but Dru was Spike's psycho girlfriend. So Spike was pissed and he came to me hoping that we could temporarily work together to bring Angel back to his senses."
"Oh, wow, teaming up with the enemy... weren't you scared?"
"Nah, I've dealt with Spike before, I knew I could handle him. So the deal was that I got rid of Angel, er, convinced him to forget Dru, and Spike would take Dru and skip town."
"I take it that the plan didn't work."
"No... unfortunately, it worked too well. Spike and Dru left town, but Angel... well, Angel..."
Buffy broke down into tears. Her small, frail body racked with sobs. To Kat, she looked unconsolable. *God,* Kat thought, *what could have happened to her, to him, that she would be so shaken up? I hope he didn't... oh God!*
"He didn't... he didn't die, did he?"
"No... death would have been much easier than this... I-I can't talk about it right now."
"God, I'm sorry, I didn't mean..." Kat looked down at Buffy, but the petite blonde was lost to her tears. She looked so young, so vulnerable and afraid as she curled into a fetal position in the tiny bus seat. Kat said a silent prayer for the girl and went to sleep.
I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
Cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of your song
I'd give my all for your love tonight...
Meanwhile, at a warehouse in L.A...
"Spike! Ohhh, Spike, it hurts, it hurts!" Drusilla moaned and collapsed on the ground. In seconds, Spike was at her side.
"What, love, what hurts?"
"My head... the good intentions, they hurt my head. Someone new is coming, someone who wants to help the slayer. She doesn't like us... she wants to make us bleed."
"Who, pet? Who is this friend of the slayer?"
"The slayer..." Dru's head rolled on her shoulders and with glazed eyes she stared at the ceiling, no doubt seeing some premonition. It was actually starting to annoy Spike, her sudden spacing out. That, and the fact that when she wasn't spacing out, she was crying for Angel. Spike focused his attention back on his lover.
"The slayer? What do you mean, Dru?"
"The slayer is going to help the slayer... but the slayer doesn't know the slayer is the slayer... hmmm..." Dru laughed to herself at this fact, but Spike was still confused.
"You lost me, love. Why don't you just go play with your dolls, all right?"
"They're together and they don't even know it... how lovely!" Dru got to her feet and spun around. Spike watched her with a bemused expression on his face. Suddenly, Dru stopped spinning and turned to Spike.
"I want my Angel!" she said. Spike groaned in frustration as Dru left the room. He had brought her all the way to L.A. to get away from the slayer and to make her forget about her bloody Angel. Now it was looking like all his efforts were for nothing. If the slayer and company were coming to find him, and Dru was still pining away for Angel, then why had he even bothered in the first place? But what pissed him off more than anything, even more than Drusilla's incessant ranting and raving for Angel, was that he had begun to feel things again. Like, really *feel* things. Emotions. He had felt sorrow for the petite slayer when Angelus was about to kill her. Now he felt joy that she was alive. *Joy?* She was his mortal enemy, why should he be happy that she was alive? He tried to convince himself that it was because he enjoyed hunting her, stalking her, preparing for the kill, but he knew that it was really because he enjoyed talking to her. It had been so long since he had met someone to verbally spar with, someone with his affection for witty repartee. He looked forward to bantering with her again. And he hadn't even minded being on the same side as her. She was businesslike and efficient, but not immune to emotions, much like him. He knew that were he not a vampire and she not the slayer, they would have gotten along smashingly. And that was what scared him.
Sunnydale High School Library, about 8 p.m...
"So, book-man, what's tonight's itinerary?" Xander bounded into the library, flanked Oz pushing Willow in her wheelchair.
Giles looked up from the giant book in front of him. "W-well, I-I thought that, maybe, we would do a little, um, research, uh, try to figure out where Buffy could have possibly gone..."
"Did you notice that I said itinerary? That's a big word! And I even know what it means! Itinerary: a travel route; the plan of a journey..."
"I bought him a 'Word of the Day' calendar," Willow explained sheepishly.
"Y-yes, well, that was, um, thoughtful of you, I suppose." Giles replied.
"So," the hacker continued, "What can I do?" She entwined her fingers with Oz' and he kissed the top of her head.. Giles didn't miss the upset look on Xander's face. The boy had certainly been moody lately.
"W-well, you could maybe start by, um, looking into the, uh, systems of some local hotels and checking if Buffy has, er, stayed at any of them over the past few weeks."
"I'm on it." Willow grinned. She loved research work, particularly the computer kind. Plus, she wanted her friend back. Buffy was physically strong, but right now she had to be at her emotional weakest. If everything was all right, Buffy would have called; if the spell had worked before Angel opened the portal to hell, she would have let them know. But there was no word from the slayer, which was how Willow knew that something was wrong.
Willow checked every single hotel in a 300 mile radius. Nothing. No Buffy, no Angel, no permutation of either name. She was starting to get frustrated. Right on cue, Oz came over and started massaging her shoulders.
"It'll be okay," he whispered. "We'll find her."
"But what if we don't? What if she's out there all alone and sad and-and without Angel? God, what if Angel opened the portal and she had to kill him?"
"Nah, that couldn't have happened. I mean, the orb did that weird glowy thing, right? And you, Will, you went like, out there on us. The spell had to have worked."
"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Willow was on the verge of hyperventilating.
"What? What, baby?"
"What if the spell worked too late? What if... what if he opened the portal before he got his soul back, but then before Buffy could close it, his soul was restored?"
"I'm not following you here..."
"Buffy had to send Angel to hell when he had his soul... she had to send the man she loved to hell! After all that time apart... oh God, poor Buffy!"
"That... that's not good stuff. Willow, we should tell Giles."
Tears were streaming down Willow's face as Oz wheeled her over to the librarian. Xander came bounding over like a big puppy dog.
"Hiya, Will, find anything?"
"Xander." Giles' tone was one of caution.
"Giles," Willow started, "I have a theory as to why Buffy left." And she told her hypothesis.
L.A., about 8:30 p.m...
"Final stop, L.A.!" The bus driver's voice woke Buffy up from her fitful sleep. Well, that and Kat's insistent tugging on her shirt.
"Come on, Buffy, this is our stop!" Kat's face loomed inches above Buffy. *Not exactly the first person I wanted to see when I woke up, but... ah, it could be worse,* Buffy thought. *It could be Giles.*
"Buffy, come on, this it! This is our stop!"
"Well, seeing as this *is* the last stop and all, implying that we both have to either get off or be stuck with the bearded lady for another round, I though it was safe to say our."
"Oops, sorry. Obviously this just isn't my week."
"It's okay. Don't worry about it. It is officially of the past."
"Well, good." The girls exited the bus, snickering at the driver as they did so.
"You're right!" Buffy said. "That woman is definitely having a problem of the facial hair type. So, what are your plans? Where are you headed?"
"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't really... Aaugh!" Kat was knocked to the ground by someone she couldn't see. From her place on the ground, she saw Buffy tense up. Kat got to her feet, preparing to defend Buffy against their mystery attacker. A figure charged her, and as it got closer, she could see the guy was fully vamped out. A firm right hook to the jaw sent him staggering back, and a roundhouse kick knocked him to the ground. Pulling a stake from her jacket pocket, Kat quickly made dust of the vamp. She looked up and saw Buffy battling another vamp with skill equal to her own. *Shit!* she thought. *That girl is stronger than she looks!*
Buffy was shocked to see Kat take out the vamp with such ease, but had little time think about it. Her slayer senses picked up another vamp, a strong one. She whipped around to face on of Spike and Dru's henchmen.
"Slayer, I come with a message," the vamp began.
"Save it!" Buffy kicked the vamp in the face, sending him sprawling to the ground. He regained his balance and came at her with a fist. She blocked his attack and ducked under his arm, grabbing it and twisting it behind his back.
"So what is it you wanted to tell me?" She asked sweetly.
"Yes, my master, he wants to see you." Buffy twisted his arm even tighter.
"Oh he does, does he? About what?" Buffy's voice just dripped with sarcasm.
"I-I don't know! He said to have the slayer meet him outside the city hall tomorrow at midnight... ow!" The vampire snarled and squirmed in Buffy's grasp. Again, Buffy tightened her hold on his arm.
"Well, well, Spikey seems to have forgotten a little agreement we made a few weeks ago. You see, the deal was supposed to be that I helped him get Angel, and then he and his looney, bag of bones girlfriend would skip town and never bother me again."
"What... what should I tell him?" The vampire was visibly trembling as the slayer became more and more angry.
"You tell him that maybe I'll show and maybe I won't. He'll just have to wait and find out." Buffy started to release him, then stopped. The vampire looked at her in confusion.
"Sorry," she said. "Change in plans." The vamp's jaw dropped and he panicked.
"I'm a teenager," she explained. "We're impulsive like that." Buffy staked him through the heart and he turned to dust at her feet.
Buffy turned to face a shocked Kat.
"Listen, uh, I can explain, um..."
"You're the slayer? The one who sent Angelus to hell?"
"Correction. The one who sent Angel to hell."
"Angel? Oh my God, your boyfriend! Angel... Angelus... huh?" The look on Kat's face was of confusion. It looked as if she was on the verge of discovery, but couldn't quite make the jump.
"Come on," Buffy said. "I'll explain over a cup of steamy caffeine goodness."
Two hours later... roughly 10:30 p.m.
Kat peered at Buffy over a large mug of steamy cappuccino. "So wait, you were in love with a vampire?"
"A vampire with a soul, yes. I loved him so much... and he loved me, too. If you could have seen his eyes when he looked at me..."
"A vampire and a slayer in love. It's almost... poetic.:
"Ya know, Giles said something like that once. I bet you two would get along."
"Yeah, Rupert Giles, my stuffy, tweed-clad, tea drinking British watcher."
Kat had to laugh. Buffy's face was so comical as she dissed this man, but Kat could tell that Buffy was really very fond of him.
"Do you two get along well, you and your watcher?"
"Yeah, he's... he's like a dad to me in a lot of ways. Ya know, always looking out for me and stuff."
"You're very lucky. To have two fathers and all that."
"Well, I don't see my real dad much, since my parents divorced. Giles is really all I have in a lot of ways."
"You're still lucky." Kat's face clouded over and she seemed to be a world away.
"Hey, earth to Kat, are you okay?"
Kat blinked a few times. "Yeah, yeah I'm fine. Now back to your story... Angel had just told you that he loved you..."
Meanwhile, at the Sunnydale High School Library...
"So you believe that the ritual did work, th-that Angel regained his soul, but that it happened too late?" Giles glasses lay next to him on the table in the library and he rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, a nervous habit of his. And this was certainly something to be nervous about.
"Right." Willow sat across from him in he wheelchair, her hands folded in her lap and her face a mask of concern and worry. Oz gently massaged her shoulders. He too looked worried.
"Which would mean that, uh, that Buffy had to kill not the demon Angelus but rather the newly ensouled Angel, most likely without even getting to explain the situation to him. How dreadful. Poor Buffy, she must be heartbroken."
For once, Xander was silent. He could only think of how much pain Buffy would be in if Willow's theory was true. He thought of Cordelia, who was seated in his lap, and he wondered what he would do if he found out that he had to kill her in order to save the world. How would he survive afterwards? He shuddered at the thought and his arms instinctively tightened around Cordy's waist. As if thinking the same thing, she leaned back into him and buried her face against his shoulder.
"God, Giles, what should we do?" Willow's timid voice broke the long silence.
"I don't know, Willow, I don't know..."
"But-but you're the watcher, y-you're Giles... you're supposed to know these things! I'm supposed to ask you what to do and you're supposed to give me a clear-cut, logical explanation as to the appropriate course of action! You're not supposed to say 'I don't know.' When you say that, I get scared. See my scared face? I'm scared Giles. I'm scared that Buffy is out there all alone, starving and emotionally a wreck! I'm scared that maybe she isn't even out there at all! Maybe she's dead... maybe she couldn't handle life without Angel again... maybe... Oh God, I'm so scared!"
Oz lifted his girlfriend out of her wheelchair and gathered her in his harms. He held her tightly, kissing her head and stroking her hair, and he told her that everything was going to be all right.
"Buffy's gonna be okay Willow, I know it. I don't know how, but I just feel that she's out there somehow. She's got a lot of demons to fight, both in and outside herself. Maybe if we just give her some time she'll come home."
"I don't want to give her time!" Willow sobbed. "I want my Buffy back! I don't want to wait! I don't want to..." Willow broke off and buried her face even further into Oz' chest. Her tiny body shook with the force of her sobs, and the rest of the group felt their hearts wrench. Willow was taking this the hardest of everybody. At first she had tried to remain optimistic, but after two weeks she had begun to lose hope. Her eyes were dull and listless and her normally shiny red hair had not been washed in days. She wore no make-up at all and she looked absolutely exhausted. Every night, unbeknownst to the others, she had been staying up until four or five in the morning monitoring all the hotels within a 500 mile radius. She would sit in front of her computer with a cup of herbal tea and stare at the screen until she fell asleep, and every morning she woke up with a crick in her neck from sleeping in her wheelchair. She was also starving as all hell... she had been so preoccupied with worrying about Buffy and searching for her that she had simply forgotten to eat... and sleep... and shower. It wasn't healthy or right and she knew it, but somehow it made the pain inside lessen. It was odd, actually. When she was in pain, starving, lonely, desperate, it was then that she felt a connection to Buffy. Because she knew that's how Buffy had to be feeling. It was some odd comfort, knowing that although distance separated them, their mutual suffering brought them together.
"Will... baby, are you okay?" Oz' voice broke through Willow's reverie.
"Yeah... at least, I will be." She squeezed his hand and smiled. His concerned look melted into one of love.
Watching the two, Giles realized that maybe there was some hope of getting Buffy back. Here he had living proof that love conquered all... if they couldn't bring Buffy back by force or coercion, then maybe they could bring her back with love.
L.A., around 11:15...
"So you two made love and he lost his soul? How terrible... God, talk about bittersweet! I'm sorry... that was rather rude and insensitive, huh? I guess... I just haven't been around people in a while... people my own age, I mean. I guess I've kinda forgotten about that whole tact-manners thing. My people skills are a little rusty." Kat stared at her hands folded in her lap and did not look up. She hadn't meant to offend the poor girl. *God knows she's been through enough already without me opening up my big mouth and making things worse.*
"It's okay, really. I'm used to remarks like that. You know the annoying guy I told you about, Xander? You should hear some of the things he's said over the years. I assure you, on the Xander scale, that remark rated about a negative 2."
Kat laughed in spite of herself. How long had it been since she had laughed last? She couldn't really remember. She thought it was at the family picnic about two weeks ago. *Family picnic.* The thought was so painful; Kat desperately tried to rid her mind of the image of her little sister riding on her father's shoulders while her mother looked on in amusement. The images flooded her brain, so quickly, like a dam had burst and she couldn't control the water. Her mom and dad kissing; when her sister fell in the pool and Kat had jumped in to rescue her; her older brother showing up late, as usual, but with incredible news; beating her brother in tennis; when their dog chased their cat into the pool... God, she could still remember the way that cat looked as she hit the water... Kat would have laughed had she not been crying.
"Kat, you okay? You looked like... I don't know."
"Um, yeah, I'm fine. Uh, something in my eyes." She quickly wiped away her tears with her sleeve. "Now, Angel had just become Angelus, the judge was fully armed and operational, and Spike and his looney girlfriend were planning to destroy the world. What happened next?"
Buffy gave Kat a funny look, but continued her tale. "Well, I didn't know Angel was Angelus at first, but...
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