The cavernous room echoed with memories. Sonya lay on the reading table, surrounded by glowing candles. A large book and the photocopy of the spell sat on a podium near her head. Giles was running back and forth between his office and the table, setting things up.
This was the place where Sonya had done most of her Slayer training. This was the place where she had gotten to know Xander. This was the place where she had come into her own as a demon fighter, and now it was the place where she would give up that part of her life forever.
Her thoughts swirled around. She could hardly process them all there were so many. One thing that stuck out in her mind through it all was Buffy. How should Sonya react to all this? Buffy was getting everything Sonya had ever wanted, and all Sonya could do is sit back and watch it happen. Buffy got Xander, Buffy would get her powers, and eventually Buffy would even get Giles. But there were also the good things -- Buffy trying to be her friend that first night, bonding over similar injuries. And then more bonding over a makeover -- and Buffy hadn't had to do that. Sonya had been half expecting the girl to slam the door in her face. And, for good or bad, it had been Buffy that finally made Sonya face her true feelings for Xander.
*In a way* she thought *it's almost just that Buffy get these powers. I suppose she could be upset that I got them instead of her the first time. At least I was able to have them for this long. And I'd rather Buffy get them than a stranger, I guess...*
Just then, Giles came back in with a white linen towel and the hair from Buffy's brush. "Are you ready?" he asked.
Unable to trust her voice, Sonya nodded.
Giles placed the towel over Sonya's chest, and filled a small crystal bowl with holy water. He whispered a few Latin words -- looking at the photocopy to double check his memory -- and then he dropped the hair in the water. Then he picked up a large, purple leaf and touched Sonya with it. Then he touched it to the bowl, saying the next part of the spell in a louder, more confident voice. A magical wind picked up, ruffling Sonya's clothes and hair. Magic crackled in the air, and the lights flickered. Sonya's skin began to tingle...
Xander's first instinct was to run to Buffy's side and make sure that she was okay, but when Spike's minions rushed him and Angel, he realized that was easier said than done.
The first few vamps fell victim to the deadly aim of both Xander and Angel's crossbows, bringing the vamp count down to eight. Then the vamps were upon them and they had no more time for reloading. The two crossbows were quickly discarded in favor of better close-range weaponry.
Xander pulled out his water gun and began spraying all the vamps in their demonic faces, blinding them so that Angel could begin to pick them off one by one. Soon, only six vampires remained and Xander's gun was empty. He tossed it to the side and leapt into the fray. He and Angel fought back to back, moving a like a fluid pair. One vampire attacked Angel with a large dagger, slicing at the souled vampire's neck. Another vampire came at Xander with a barrage of dizzying kicks and punches, keeping just out of reach of Xander's stake.
"PREPARE TO MEET YOUR DOOM, HUMAN!" the ninja-vamp screamed, lunging at Xander.
The pseudo-Slayer just rolled his eyes and replied, "Nah, how about you meet my friend BOB instead, moron!" With that, Xander ducked under the vamp's swing and plunged his lucky stake into the demon's heart, turning it into a pile of dust. Another vamp soon took it's place in the fight.
"I swear, bad guys are just too melodramatic!" Xander called over his shoulder to Angel. "Drives me crazy."
Angel grinned but didn't reply. He had his hands full with the dagger wielding vampire. Xander was having troubles of his own with the new vamp he was fighting. The creature was huge, towering over Xander by at least a foot. Every blow it got in was staggering to the mere human. Angel saw that Xander wasn't faring all that well, and quickly came to a decision. "Switch!" he yelled, ducking down into a crouch.
Xander grinned and did a back flip over Angel's crouched form, landing right in front of the vamp with the dagger. "You read my mind, Dead Boy!" he replied, quickly gaining the upper hand against his new opponent. Angel stood and turned to face his own new adversary, launching a kick at its jaw that sent it reeling....
Buffy could hear the battle raging around her, but she couldn't see much of it. She tugged at the loose strap with a renewed ferocity. Without even Nathan's 'protection' she would be food for a hungry vamp if she didn't find some way of defending herself soon. The leather strap chafed her wrist. Buffy winced and felt a dribble of warm blood run down her arm. Then, suddenly, with one last mighty pull, the strap came free of the table. She was stunned for a second, but quickly recovered herself enough to unfasten the other three straps.
When she sat up, her head spun. Her skin tingled, and she felt dizzy. *What's wrong with me?* she wondered frantically. *Get it together,Buffy...*
A low laugh caught her attention, and Buffy looked up to see a vampire advancing toward her. She grimaced and tried to push the bad feelings aside. She could be sick later. Thoughts of her Tae Kwan Do class flashed through her mind. She hopped off the table and into fighting stance, and actually started to feel better. When the vamp was close enough, she aimed a kick that landed on his chest. The vampire staggered back, but recovered fairly easily. It came toward her again, and managed to grab her arm.
"I'm hungry," it whined.
"I'm not very tasty," Buffy replied. "I promise." With her free hand, she punched the vamp, snapping its head to the side. Then she jerked free, and suddenly Xander was there, plunging his stake into the vamp's chest. There wasn't even a chance for a hello, though, because another vamp took notice of Xander. Luckily, there were only a few left -- meaning no more for Buffy.
She looked around, wondering what had happened to Nathan. She finally spotted him in a corner, muttering the words to a spell. Then he pulled the crossbow bolt out of his shoulder, and his words caused the flesh to instantly knit back together.
He looked up, and right into Buffy's eyes. She started to advance on him, unclear of what she could accomplish, but she didn't want him to be free to cast spells unchecked.
"Sorry, m'dear," Nathan said, wagging a finger at her. "You're a bit too much for me right now. My flesh may have been healed, but the fighting here and at the Bronze has strained my powers. I need time to recoup." A cough punctuated his words. "But, mark my words, we will meet again. I crave your strength even more now."
Then he gestured to the ground in front of him and a large black vortex opened before her eyes. Buffy froze in place, not wanting to get sucked in. Nathan reached into the folds of his robes, pulled out the pouch of red powder and tossed it at Buffy. Then he jumped into the vortex which closed behind him.
Buffy caught the pouch reflexively, but a little of the powder spilled out anyway. It crackled and exploded around her, singing her skin and hair. She winced and threw the bag as far from the people in the room as possible. When it hit the floor, the whole pouch exploded, leaving a big hole in the wall.
Spike and two of his last remaining vampire lackeys stalked Willow, taking turns attacking her. The three of them proved too much for the petite vampire and she began to retreat, trying to find a way out of this fix.
"Spikey, let's talk about this. You know you can't just kill me in cold blood, don't you, lover?"
Spike sneered. "Actually, I was planning on doing just that, m'dear! It'll be a bloody good time -- pardon the pun." The vamps converged on Willow as Spike reached out and grabbed her by the neck, preparing for the killing blow.
Suddenly, a loud bang was heard. Spike whirled around, forgetting about Willow in his momentary surprise. Willow quickly scurried away, putting some distance between herself and the enraged British vampire. Then she saw what was responsible for the loud noise and a smile slowly crept onto her face. "At last, things are finally starting to look up..." she murmured.
Xander and Angel were both standing near Buffy protectively, having just finished off the last of the vamps. Only Spike, Willow and the two vamps assisting the blond were still standing.
Angel watched for a minute as Spike turned on Willow, but finally said, "I think we should get out of here before anything else happens."
Xander shook his head. "No, I'm going to put an end to this war tonight, with or without your help."
Angel sighed and nodded. "I thought you might say something like that." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his last stake. "Well, I can't leave you in here to fight them alone, now can I?"
Buffy looked at them both like they were crazy. "What are you saying?" she demanded, grabbing Xander's arm and forcing him to look at her. "We have a clear shot at an escape and you want to stay here? Spike's gonna kill her, you don't have to worry..."
Before Xander could reply, they heard a loud bang, like the slamming of doors. Buffy gazed with trepidation at the front entranceway, her face paling at the sight of twenty or thirty more vampires pouring into the room. A quick glance behind her affirmed that even more vamps were coming through the hole that Nathan's exploding, red powder had made in the wall.
"Uh guys..." she said, tugging anxiously on Xander's sleeve. "We've got company."
Suddenly, Willow's voice could be heard echoing throughout the building. "Kill them all!!!"
One of the vamps, the plaid-loving fellow named Seth, pointed at Spike and asked, "Even him?"
Willow looked over at Spike who was watching her with actual fear behind his eyes. She grinned, repeating almost to the letter what he'd said earlier. "Especially him."
Spike scanned the room quickly as the new horde of vamps came in. Willow grinned at him evilly, and he knew there was no going back down that road -- not that he had any desire to. What he really wanted was to tear her skin aside with his bare fangs, mush around in her insides until she writhed with agony and then stake her into eternal damnation where Dru could wreak her own special breed of after-life torture on the red headed traitor. Spike also wouldn't mind the taste of Nathan's blood on his lips, but the sorcerer had vanished somewhere when Spike wasn't looking.
However, the blond vampire's bloodthirsty thoughts were derailed by the extreme odds against him. Part of Willow's band of vamps circled around Spike and his two friends, while the rest moved toward the whitehats menacingly. As Spike watched, Angel and Xander pulled out their crossbows. Xander handed his crossbow to Buffy, quickly showing her how to use it.
Soon, the bolts were flying and vamps were exploding into dust left and right. But it didn't even seem to make a dent in their numbers. Then Spike heard a whooshing sound and something bright whizzed past him, nailing one of his two remaining minions. Spike's eyes grew wide as he saw the creature catch fire and explode into dust. Whirling, Spike saw that Xander had pulled out what appeared to be a flare gun and was helping Angel and Buffy pick off as many vamps as possible, using the flares to catch the vamps on fire.
Another flare whizzed by and Spike ducked, barely avoiding being hit. "I'll be dust if I stay here any longer!" he complained. Growling to himself, he grabbed the nearest vamp and used the weaker creature as a shield, roughly dragging him across the room towards the whitehats. The captive vamp screamed as crossbow bolts hit him in the arms and torso, but Spike paid the creature no heed. Finally, Xander saw what Spike was doing and shot a flare at the vamp, forcing Spike to drop him as he combusted. But by that time, Spike had managed to reach the whitehats and was standing beside the three of them.
"What the hell do you want, Spike?" Xander demanded, grabbing Spike by the collar and shaking him roughly.
Spike disengaged himself from Xander's grip fairly easily and replied, "I'm willing to make you wankers a deal. I'll show you a secret way out of this joint if you'll help watch my back."
"Why should we trust you?" Angel asked, looking up from where he was crouched with his crossbow.
"Because, mates, it's really quite simple," Spike said with a knowing grin. "What other choice 'ave ya got?"
Sonya lay prone on the table after Giles had completed the spell. She could move if she tried really hard, but somehow it didn't seem worth the effort. She felt drained and weak, and so, so tired.
A gentle hand touched her forehead, smoothing back her hair. "How do you feel?"
She opened her eyes and saw Giles leaning over her, a look of concern evident behind the frames of his glasses.
"I feel..." she started to say OK -- not quite the truth, but it would make him feel better. But instead, gasping sobs came out.
Giles gathered her up in his arms and rocked her back and forth the way one would a small child. "Don't worry, Sonya," he murmured. "It will be all right."
But deep down inside, they both knew nothing would ever be the same.
When Xander had first thrust the crossbow into her hands, Buffy hadn't known what to do with it.
"Bolt goes here, trigger there, now shoot," Xander said, putting more ammo in her pockets. Buffy stared at him as he delved into his pockets for his flare gun. Then she looked over at Angel firing his crossbow.
After watching for just a second, she got a better idea of what to do. She raised the crossbow and took aim at a particularly nasty looking vamp who was giving her the eye. She pulled the trigger, and watched the bolt fly as if it were in slow-motion. It impaled the vampire right in the center of his heart. For a second, Buffy was amazed at her perfect aim, then she snapped herself out of contemplation-mode, loaded another bolt into the crossbow and took out another vamp.
After Spike's daring run across the room, the vampires began moving closer to them. The projectile weapons were holding them off for now, but just barely.
"Is there another choice?" Buffy asked after hearing Spike's offer, giving the others a glance.
Xander and Angel both frowned. "There's got to be another way," Xander muttered.
Suddenly, Buffy saw a vampire with a sword running toward Xander. She tried to shout out a warning, but she wasn't quick enough. However, faster than her eye could follow, Spike yanked the flare gun out of Xander's hand and shot the charging demon in the chest. The vampire burst into flames and exploded, his sword clattering to the ground at Xander's feet.
Xander paled, obviously realizing how close to death he had just been. Looking up at Spike, he studied the vampire closely, his face inscrutable. Finally, he spoke. "You've got a deal, Spike." Xander extended a hand for the vampire to shake. "Consider this our temporary truce."
Spike shook the hand Xander had offered and then scooped up the sword lying on the ground. Extending it to Xander, handle first, he said, "How's your swordsmanship, Harris?"
Xander grinned and took the sword from Spike's outstretched hand, quickly decapitating a vampire that had been trying to sneak up on them. "Good enough. Now where's that secret exit you were talking about?"
Spike gestured for the others to follow his lead and made a break for it, shooting his last flare at a vamp that crossed their path. "I'm out!" he yelled over his shoulder.
"Catch!" Xander called back, tossing him the box of flares. Spike caught it deftly and reloaded the gun as he ran. As they reached the other side of the room he pointed at a hallway that was just a few steps away. "Over there!"
Xander nodded and sent Buffy and Angel on ahead, staying behind with Spike to cover their backs. "I hope this secret exit is as secret as you claim," he told Spike before ducking into the hallway.
"Me, too, mate," Spike muttered, shooting a flare and killing a vamp before he turned and ran after the others into the hallway. "Me, too."
Willow saw where her traitorous ex-lover was going with the whitehats and growled, grabbing Seth by his plaid shirt and ordering him to go after them. "They're trying to trick us," she scoffed, "But Spike underestimates me. I know exactly what he's up to. I'm not a moron like that crazy ditz Drusilla was." Giving Seth a sultry smile, she purred, "Now that poor Spike has fallen out of my good graces, I'm going to need another big strong man around the house." Willow ran her fingers lightly up and down Seth's strong, muscular arms. "If you play your cards right, baby, it could be you."
Seth grinned. He wasn't a fool. With Willow by his side, he could rule over the all the vampire factions in Sunnydale. And that was what he planned on doing. "Anything for you, my lady," he drawled, pulling Willow into his arms and giving her a passionate kiss. All the other vamps watched them with respect. They now knew that Seth was Willow's new favorite. And in the world of the undead, that meant something.
Willow allowed Seth to enjoy his moment of glory before she put on her resolve face. "Get them and kill them," she ordered, pointing to the hallway where Spike and the others had disappeared. "Half of you go that way with Seth and try to catch up to them. The other half follow me. We'll get them one way or another."
With that, she walked to the front door and slammed it open, leading a large group of vampires around to the side of the factory where they would lay in wait. "This is gonna be so much fun," she giggled, skipping along the path. "They'll never know what hit 'em!"
Oz was waiting in the van with the motor running, as per his instructions, when he saw Willow and a group of fifteen or so vampires leave the factory and duck around to the side of the building. Frowning, Oz watched for a minute, curious as to what they were up to.
Glancing down at his watch, his eyes narrowed. It had been over twenty minutes since Xander and Angel had gone inside. He would give them 5 more minutes to make it out okay and then he would have to do something drastic. Oz drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited. He hoped they were alright...
Xander could hear the vampires following them and cursed. "I thought you said this way was secret," he whispered at Spike accusingly. "Shouldn't they have given up and turned back by now or something?"
Spike rolled his eyes. "Don't worry. I've got it all under control."
Xander snorted. "Yeah, right. I feel SO much better now."
The four of them were crouched under an old, rotting stairwell. As they waited, trying not to make any noise, they saw a group of almost twenty vampires troop by, obviously looking for them. Once the coast was clear, Xander inched his way out from under the stairs and turned to help Buffy out. Angel and Spike followed shortly. Once everyone was more or less on their feet again, Xander turned to Spike and said, "Okay, now what? I figure we have maybe 5 or 10 minutes at most until they double back and find us."
Spike grinned. "Yeah, but once they figure out that they've missed us, we'll be long gone."
Angel frowned. "Long gone how? I wish you'd just tell us where this secret exit is."
Spike laughed softly. "That's the joke, mates. There IS no secret exit. While they're searching for us in this maze of halls and rooms, we'll be calmly walking out the front door like we bloody well own the place!"
Buffy couldn't help but laugh. The idea was so absurd that it actually made since to her. Gesturing with her crossbow, she said, "Well, what are we waiting for? We don't have time to dilly dally around here. Let's go!"
Spike turned and led them out of the hallways and into the main room, which was completely disserted. "See?" he said smugly, "It worked like a charm."
"Let's not celebrate just yet," Angel admonished him. "We're not completely out of danger."
Spike rolled his eyes. "You always were a downer, weren't you, Angelus? Must be that whole soul thing. What a drag."
Angel ignored him and headed for the door.
"Hey, now don't get your panties all in a wad, mate," Spike called after him. "I was just makin' an observation."
Xander made shushing noises at both of them. "Quiet!" he hissed. "You two are being loud enough to wake the dead!" At the dubious looks he received, he added, "Well... um... pun not intended, but seriously, we need to keep it down. We don't want Willow and her vampire goons to hear us."
"Oh, it's far too late for that, my dear."
Xander looked up and gasped. Willow and a large group of vamps were standing at the front door. They'd obviously been waiting outside until Xander and the others returned. Just then, Xander heard footsteps from behind him and whirled, coming face to face with Seth and his group of vamps. They were trapped... again. Xander sighed. "Suddenly I'm getting a sense of deja' vu and I'm really not liking it."
The vamps began to advance on the four of them.
Xander turned to Spike and snapped, "Thank you SO much for not helping matters with your stupid plan! Next time I'm surrounded by a group of undead fiends who want to kick my ass, remind me not to call on you for help, okay?"
Willow smirked. "I could have told you that a long time ago, Xand." She pouted prettily. "Too bad you didn't think to ask."
Buffy took a step closer to Xander and whispered, "Any ideas?"
Xander shrugged. "Running comes to mind."
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and the front doors went flying. From amid the wreckage, a large, zebra-striped van emerged driving over vamps left and right and screeching to a halt right in front of Buffy and Xander. The passenger side door opened and Oz leaned out. Grinning, he asked, "Anybody need a lift?"
Xander looked behind them and saw that Seth's vamps, who had escaped relatively unharmed from Oz's drive-by, were gathering their forces and preparing to attack. He heard Willow yell, "Get them! Don't let them escape, Seth!" She was slowly picking herself up from the ground, brushing bits of glass and wood off of her clothing.
"Everybody, into the car!" Xander ordered, shoving Buffy in first and motioning for Angel and Spike to follow.
"We're taking him with us?" Angel asked, pointing at the peroxide blond vampire with a scowl.
Xander shrugged. "Why the hell not? Stranger things have happened. Now move!"
Angel complied and Xander turned to Spike, who was rapidly loading a flare into his gun. "Well, are you coming or not?" he yelled, grabbing the vampire by the arm and pulling him in the direction of the van.
"Just a bloody second!" Spike replied, still fussing with the gun.
"Oh, have it your way," Xander cried, exasperated. "But we're not waiting around for you."
He jumped into the van and signaled for Oz to drive. As the musician gunned the motor and headed for the spot where the front doors used to be, Spike jumped up and grabbed the side of the van, planting his feet firmly inside as he leaned out the open door and aimed his gun at Willow. "Hey sweet cheeks!" he yelled, getting her attention. She looked up and paled noticeably at the sight of her ex-lover training a flare gun on her.
"Spikey, wait..." she started to say, raising her hands.
Spike smiled and pulled the trigger, the flare hitting her directly in the chest. She screamed as she was consumed by unnatural flames and disappeared into a pile of dust. "I'll see you in hell, baby," he told her ashes before climbing all the way into the van and pulling the sliding door closed behind him.
As Oz used the van to steamroll over any vamps who got in their path on the way to the doors, Spike sank down onto the floorboards and tossed the flare gun aside. He wouldn't be needing it anymore tonight. "Rest in peace, Dru, baby," he whispered as he watched the nighttime cityscape pass by in a blur through the van's windows.
When Sonya's tears were spent, Giles tenderly picked her up and set her back in her chair. She seemed so fragile in his arms, but at least she'd stopped crying.
"How do you feel?" he asked, and then realized how stupid that sounded. "I mean, besides the obvious. Are there any side effects we need to be aware of?" Giles retreated into a more official manor to cover a sadness and confusion that he didn't want to show Sonya. He was the adult -- he had to be the strong one for her.
"Nauseous," Sonya said softly. "And cold." She paused, and then looked up. "And weak."
"You may feel... 'weak' as you say... for awhile," Giles said, taking off his glasses and cleaning them with his handkerchief just for something to do with his hands. "It could be a natural side effect for the Slayer Essence leaving your body."
"Will it last?"
Giles put his glasses back on. "Your body is used to the extra strength of being a Slayer. I think your feeling of weakness will pass when your body gets used to being without it." He picked up the photocopy of the spell. "As far as I know, this spell has never been used -- at least not in recent history. The side effects aren't documented."
Sonya nodded, trying to put on a brave face.
The van rushed along the windy road at top speed. Oz was a good driver, and had shaken the last of the vamps -- two of which who had tried to jump aboard through the open sliding door. Those two were now sporting broken bones and severe tire damage, at least until their healing powers kicked in. Spike reclined on the floorboard, lost in thought. Angel sat in the front seat with his head turned to keep an eye on Spike. Buffy and Xander sat on opposite sides of the back seat.
Buffy didn't know what to think. Things had been happening so fast. It felt awkward to be around Xander right now. Her feelings were so conflicted: love, hurt at the way he'd left her in the Bronze, confusion after what Nathan had said -- that they'd all known of her so-called 'powers' -- and there was still some lingering pride from the way she'd handled herself in that fight. Buffy hadn't known she had an aptitude for that sort of thing. She felt strong and energized. If they'd been walking instead of riding in the van, she would have been running for the sheer joy of it.
Xander slid her a sidelong glance. "They didn't hurt you or anything, did they?"
"No," Buffy said, glancing at him from under her lashes.
"So... do I need to file official documentation? Should it be stamped, notorized or what?"
Buffy looked at him in surprise. His quirky, shy smile could still warm her heart. "What are you talking about?"
"To start the makeup proceedings... I've never had a girlfriend before. I don't know how to get the ball rolling here."
"I'm your girlfriend?" Buffy gasped, happiness flooding into her heart.
"Well, I'm not really in the market for a love slave right now, so I thought maybe girlfriend..." Xander looked at her hopefully. Then he pouted playfully, "Will you please be my cuddle-monkey?"
It was his puppydog eyes that won her over. Buffy laughed and launched herself across the seat and into his arms. Xander grunted when her force knocked his head into the back window.
Buffy looked at him in surprise. "I'm sorry. I guess I was more excited than I thought..."
"Or the fact that you're the Slayer now could have somethin' to do wi' it."
Everyone (except Oz who was driving) stared at Spike in shock.
"What?" Xander demanded.
Nathan's words came back to Buffy, and she frowned. "That sorcerer guy told me that you all *knew* I was supposed to be the Slayer before Sonya. I'm not really sure what all that means, but I can't believe you didn't tell me!"
Her gaze fell upon Xander especially.
Xander looked from Buffy to Spike and back again. "Hey," he said, holding out his hands, "I'm just as clueless here as you are."
Angel spoke next. "I knew, but no one else figured it out until after you were kidnapped." Then he glared at Spike. "But how do *you* know?"
Spike shrugged. "I've whacked a few Slayers in my day. It ain't hard to tell when you know what yer lookin' for."
After a moment, Angel explained about the spell, and that Giles had planned to attempt it while they were rescuing Buffy. "So, apparently, it worked."
Buffy's eyes grew wide. "That explains why I could shoot like that... Wow -- this is kind of cool. You mean I can fight with extra strength, have great aim, heal fast and all that?"
Angel and Xander exchanged a look. She didn't know what she was getting into.
Then a thought struck Xander. "But what about Sonya?" Even Buffy's smile fled at that thought.
"We won't know until we get there," Angel said, "but I guess she's just Sonya again."
Behind the wheel, Oz sighed, but his enigmatic expression never changed.
Once they got to the school, everyone piled out of the van and headed inside, not quite sure what to expect. Buffy was nervous. What would Sonya say to her when she found out that Buffy had recieved all of her Slayer powers? She wasn't really looking forward to the confrontation. As they were walking, Xander reached out and took Buffy's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. She looked up at him and smiled, grateful for his presence.
Once they reached the library's double doors, Angel pushed them open and everyone filed in, Angel coming in last. As they walked into the center of the room, Spike turned around and gave the place a once-over. He frowned. "You know, this place looks bigger from outside."
Giles walked out of his office and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Spike standing there with the others. Grabbing a cross, he held it out at arms length toward the blond vampire and said, "What is HE doing here?"
Xander shrugged. "He helped us out at the factory, so we gave him a lift. We have a temporary truce, so he shouldn't cause any trouble." Giving Spike a serious look, Xander added, "Not if he wants to make it out of here without a stake in the heart."
Spike plopped down in a nearby chair and propped his feet up on the reading table. "HE has a name, you know," he commented dryly.
Xander rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Spike."
After a moment of silence, Oz spoke up. "Where's Sonya?"
Giles glanced toward the library doors. "The ladies room. She needed a moment to herself, I suppose." Then he looked at Buffy with a keen eye. "And how is Miss Summers?"
Buffy felt odd under his scrutiny. Was he going to be her trainer now? She knew a lot of stuff about Xander, Giles and Sonya's world, but she didn't have all the details and terminology down yet. And as far as she knew, Giles didn't like her. She stared right back at him but didn't say anything.
It was Angel who answered the question. "The spell worked. We saw evidence of it during the battle. She adapted well."
"Good." Giles nodded. "That will be a positive asset. Er... Miss Summers..."
"Hold on," Buffy said, "let's just get one thing straight *Giles* -- no more of this 'Miss Summers' stuff. From what I understand, you're going to train me like you did Sonya, and that is much too much formality for me. Call me Buffy." She wondered what the librarian would say. It was the first time she'd ever called him Giles without the 'Mr.' part. Honestly, Buffy didn't know what to think of him. He seemed a decent sort -- always caring about Sonya and trying to save the world and all -- but the fact that he'd tried to keep her apart from Xander still rankled.
"Buffy," Giles repeated, trying it out on his tongue. "I think I can manage that." He smiled just a little at her.
Buffy smiled back, feeling a little more comfortable already.
"Now Miss... er... Buffy," Giles said briskly, "we need to talk. There are things for me to explain to you about your new destiny, and we have to set up a training schedule and..."
The library doors swung open, and Sonya rolled her chair inside. She looked paler than usual, but otherwise fine. Her eyes darted from one face to the other. Then Oz was by her side. He grabbed the handles of her chair and pushed her the rest of the way inside.
"I don't need any help!" she snapped.
"I know," Oz replied, but he kept pushing anyway, placing the chair in a prime spot where she could see everyone. Though Sonya was irked by the asperison cast on her ability to function, she was a little impressed at both his nerve and his caring. She gave him a glance of thanks, which he accepted with a tiny nod.
Then her eyes landed on the peroxide blond vampire resting his feet on the reading table. She glowered. "What is *he* doing here?"
Spike grinned at her. "I'm invited, baby. You can't do nothing about it."
The old Sonya wouldn't have let him get away with that, but this new girl -- a girl uncertain of herself in so many ways -- pressed her lips together tightly and averted her eyes. She could feel Xander's gaze on her -- she was always aware of him when he was in the room -- but she didn't return his look.
She waved her hand toward Giles, who was also looking at her with concern. There was so much concern and pity in the room it make her want to puke. "Go on with whatever you were saying to Buffy. Don't let me interrupt."
With one more look, Giles turned back to Buffy and started talking about destinies, the Chosen One, training schedules, unto one generation there is born only one girl..., the Slayer handbook... So many things were mentioned as he gave her a brief explaination of the rest of her life. The words echoed so clearly in Sonya's ears. He'd told her all that in the beginning, Giles, her Watcher... Then it hit home once again -- he wasn't *her* Watcher anymore, he was Buffy's!
"I'm going home to Kansas." Five pairs of eyes whipped around to look at Sonya with expressions of dismay, pain, guilt, pity and other things she couldn't identify -- Spike was examining his own fingernails in a bored fashion. Sonya continued, "My great-aunt lives there. I can stay with her."
"Why the bloody hell would you want to go to Kansas for?" Spike asked, looking up and straight into her eyes. "There ain't nothin' to do there except commune with the freakin' prairie dogs!"
"Are there prairie dogs in Kansas?" Xander muttered under his breath. "I thought they only lived in Texas."
Spike turned and glared at the boy. "They were metaphorical prairie dogs, ya stupid wanker!"
Xander glared right back at the vamp, but stifled whatever comment he'd been about to make when Sonya started talking again.
"Why do you think I'm leaving?" The words came out harsh, as she'd intended them to. "You've got Buffy now. You don't need me. And what good does it do me to stay on the Hellmouth when I'm crippled and weak and can't take care of myself!"
The venom behind the words made Buffy wince. She felt horribly guilty. As if she were stealing a life that didn't belong to her. And more than that -- somewhere along the line, Buffy had begun to actually like the other girl. Finally screwing up her courage enough to face Sonya's anger, Buffy blurted, "You can't go! If you leave, who's gonna show me the ropes?" She gestured toward Xander and Giles. "I mean, they're fine and dandy, but they don't know what it's like to be a girl and in this job. You're the only one who's been through it... who can advise me and let me in on the secrets... Like Xander or Giles would know how to fix one's hair for both attractiveness and fighting vampires!"
The bark of laugher that came out of her mouth surprised them all, but none more than Sonya. But though the laugh had a genuine core, there was still a rock-hard lump deep inside that wouldn't go away.
Then Xander walked over and crouched down until he was at eye level with Sonya. He reached out and touched her hand, a wealth of remorse in his eyes for the way he'd treated her earlier while on his Buffy-rampage. Though he didn't love her in the way she hadn't known for a long time that she wanted, Sonya knew that he did love her. They'd known each other for long enough, and the friendship had grown deep enough that Sonya could read his thoughts on his face. And he could read hers, too -- when she let him. This time she let him see in her eyes and on her face, what she couldn't say in words. That she loved him, and she was sorry she'd caused him pain by encouraging Giles to keep he and Buffy apart. Then Xander reached out and hugged her. She hugged him back. He pulled away and whispered, "Don't go, Wheels."
Oz walked up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up in surprise. He didn't say anything, but then, he seldom did.
Her gaze found Angel. The vampire stood back, aloof from the emotions around the table. He inclined his head briefly. They didn't talk -- they never had. But the gesture told Sonya that even he wanted her to stay.
Sonya was torn. She wanted to stay, but she wanted to go. She didn't know what to do. Then Giles knelt down in front of her.
"As long as you stay, Sonya, you are welcome in my house. I may not say it enough, but you have always been an asset to us. Your life is more than powers you do or don't have." His voice clogged. Perhaps it was the Englishman in him that didn't want to emote. "You've... been to me... well... like the daughter I never had. If you go, I'll support you in the decision, but I'll miss you."
That finally won her over. "OK," she said, laughing through her tears, "I'll stay. If you guys can't live with out me..."
Spike pushed his chair away from the table with a loud clatter and stood up. "Why the hell am I hangin' 'round this joint? This is bloody boring." Then he walked out of the library, letting the doors swing shut behind him. Everyone was stunned silent for a moment, and then they all burst out laughing. Angel and Oz even cracked smiles.
Then Giles reminded them of their purpose. "Now, tell us everything that happened in the fight..." All details were shared. Xander told about Willow's demise, and Buffy got to explain about the red headed vamp's part in Drusilla's death. Angel looked a bit surprised at that point, but he accepted it with calmness.
"What about Spike?" Xander asked after they'd relived all the details of the very long evening. "Should we follow him or something? Try and take him out while he's down?"
Buffy shook her head. "Nah. Just let him go this time. I'd be willing to bet he stays away from Sunnydale for awhile. You know, the memories..."
"You can never bet on anything when you live on the Hellmouth," Sonya cautioned her. "The only thing I count on is to always expect the unexpected."
"Well, the next time he shows up, we'll put him out of his misery," Angel said. "But we did have a truce, at least for tonight."
"The rules of a truce can't be broken without dishonor," Oz said. When everyone looked at him, he shrugged.
Just then a high-pitched beeping filled the room. Buffy looked down at her watch. The alarm had gone off. It was 1 a.m. "Oh no!" she moaned. "That was my curfew. I'm late! I've got to go home or my mother will ground me for life!"
Everyone stood up, and prepared to call it a night.
"I'll drive you home," Xander offered to Buffy. "My jeep's right where I parked it when we got back from the Bronze." Then something occured to him. "The Bronze. It's gone. We'll never dance there again."
"My band will have to find a new gig," Oz said.
Giles rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you can all find a better, more cultured place to frequent..." He turned toward his office. "Oz, would you mind taking Sonya home in your van? I've got to go and write up a report for the Watchers' Council. I have some explaining to do to them."
Oz, Sonya, Angel, Buffy and Xander walked out into the parking lot. Angel slapped Xander on the back in farewell, and with one last, long look at Buffy he walked away alone.
Xander helped Sonya into the passenger seat of Oz's van. "See you at training tomorrow morning, Parker?" he asked. Pain flashed across his face when he realized what he'd unwittingly said, but it vanished when she actually smiled, just a little.
"I'll be there, Harris, and just because I'm not the Slayer anymore, don't think that I'll never be able to whip you again."
"I'm shakin' in my boots," Xander answered in the words of a common joke between the two of them. "See you then." He closed the door, and waved as the van pulled out of the driveway. Then he turned to Buffy, who was already perched in the passenger seat of his second-hand jeep -- the vehical didn't, and never had had, a top. When it rained, Xander took the bus.
As they drove the short distance from the school to Buffy's house, Xander put his arm around Buffy's shoulders. She rested a hand on his knee. It was a casual gesture, but it sent thrills of excitement throughout his body. They pulled up at the curb, and he turned off the motor. The second the car stopped, the porchlight snapped on.
"Mom's waiting," Buffy said.
"I hope you're not in trouble." Xander looked toward the house where a curtain moved.
Buffy shook her head. "I think I can talk her out of it. But I guess I can't tell her any of what really happened, can I?"
"Nope," Xander answered. "Just one of the rules of the slaying game."
"This is going to take a lot of getting used to."
"On all counts," Xander agreed.
The porch light blinked."Well," Buffy sighed, "I'd better go in."
Xander leaned over close and gave her a quick kiss. The kiss became longer as they both surrendered to it. Finally, Buffy pulled back, regret written all over her face. She looked at the porch, and then leaned in for one more kiss.
"I wish I didn't have to go in."
"Me, too." Then Xander grinned. "But there's always tomorrow at school. You know, I never really cared about that before."
Buffy smiled at him tenderly. "Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Giles will expect you there at 7:30 a.m. sharp," Xander warned.
"I'll be there." Buffy gave him one last kiss, and then hopped out of the jeep. She walked up to the porch and the door swung open to reveal Joyce.
Xander waved to them both, and then drove away.
Joyce looked at Buffy in confusion. "Wasn't that Xander? I thought you weren't seeing him anymore..."
Buffy smiled softly. "We worked it out."
"Well, that's good," Joyce said, and then her voice took on a more motherly tone. "You know you missed curfew..."
"Yeah, I'm sorry."
Joyce smiled and gave Buffy a hug. "I forgive you, but don't do it again without calling, OK?"
"OK, Mom." Buffy turned and headed for the stairs. Then she looked back at her mom. "Hey, Mom, I love you."
Joyce looked surprised. "I love you, too, but what brought that on?"
Buffy shrugged. "Nothing really, it's just been a very full few days."
"Moving to a new place will do that," Joyce observed.
Buffy smiled. "I guess so. Good night!"
"Good night!" Joyce watched Buffy go upstairs with a maternal smile. Then she turned out the light and went to bed herself.