part sixteen

Somehow everyone in the house ended up in the living room watching TV. Vivienne never woke up so Xander relieved himself of his post shortly after midnight.

Willow was curled up under a blanket in Giles' arms on the sofa, his body outlining hers from behind, their legs lazily entwined. Dawn was sitting sideways in a chair, while Wesley relaxed back against it where her legs would have been had she been sitting upright. Every once in a while she shifted and 'accidentally' brushed her thigh along his shoulder. He was speechless and there was no way in hell he was giving up his spot - not even for the annoying, aching burn in his bladder.

Cordelia was sprawled out on the floor, barefoot and wrapped up in a blanket. In fact, Xander seemed to be the only one actually enjoying watching the television. Thank God for Nick-at-Nite.

When the front door opened, everyone perked up but Cordelia. She lay sleeping like a baby in her spot on the floor.

"Hey," Buffy said to the group.

Willow sat up and Giles moved behind her, instantly straightening up himself and making sure his glasses were square on his face. His head was aching. He had had a bit too much to drink. Guess he'd be spending another night at Buffy's. "How did it go," he asked, hopefully.

Angel and Buffy tried not to look at each other, tried not to look like they were hiding something, but they did. Angel said, "It was a bust." He looked at Xander and shrugged, "Nothing big."

"That can't be possible," Willow said, "The spell was very specific, it was right there."

"I know, Will," Buffy said. "It's...we didn't actually go inside. There was someone at your old apartment, someone kinda..." Buffy tried to find a nonchalant word, but before she could finish...

"Shifty," Angel said.

"Shifty?" Dawn said, "Hmm...That's vague and rather non-demony."

"So, we're talking mortal?" Xander asked.

"We're not sure," Buffy said, still trying to keep the info to herself.

"Buffy, if you found something, please tell us. If we're going to fight, we need to know what we're up against." Giles knew they were hiding something and he wanted to know what it was. But once again, the assertive side of him refused to come through. It was still too soon.

"We'll go back in the morning, during daylight," Buffy said. She looked over her shoulder at Angel and inhaled deeply. She'd forgotten. "Sorry, Angel. I meant I'll go back."

"I'm going with you," Willow said.

"Will, no, it's too dangerous." Buffy tried to keep Willow out of it. The real reason was because of Jenny. How would it make Willow feel? How was she going to handle this with Giles? It might tear them apart.

"I think it's a good idea. Willow's magick is attuned to whatever is lurking there. She'll be able to sense the dangers just as easily as you, Buffy, with your Slayer sense." Giles rested a hand on Willow's knee, reassuring her that he supported her and believed in her. "I really don't see any more danger in her going as opposed to Angel's going."

Willow's insides leapt. "Wow, you're about to get sooooo lucky," she told Giles telepathically, consciously pressing her thigh against his as they sat side-by-side on the sofa. He almost purred at the thought.

He had made her feel so special. He loved, trusted her, and thought she was strong. No matter how many times he showed his love for her, no matter how many times he said it, she always felt good when she read between the lines and saw his feelings shining through on her own. She locked eyes with Giles and smiled and then she turned her head back to her friend, "Really, Buffy, it'll be ok."

Buffy and Angel just shrugged. Someone would have to break the news to Willow before morning, but they didn't want to let everyone in on it. Buffy would tell Willow when they had a moment alone together.

"Ok," Buffy said, "Well, I'm gonna get to bed. Dawn, you in charge of sleeping arrangements since I'm sure everyone is here for the night?" Buffy looked at Giles, knowing he'd had too much to drink. She smiled at him when he didn't argue with her. Buffy said, "Good," and locked eyes with Angel, a part of her wanting to follow her. "Goodnight." With that she left the room.

Angel watched her go and then quietly announced, "I'll stay down here with Cordy. I can take the couch." He looked at Xander and added, "No point in waking her."

"Right," Xander said, a little suspicious of Angel's intentions. He stood up and clicked the TV off. "Guess it's me and Mr. Gordo again." His eyes met Willow's and he feigned an onslaught of emotion when he said, "Man, I love that pig." She just smiled and watched as he left the room.

Giles had, during this entire exchange, slipped his hand into the back of Willow's shirt, just above her waist. His touch was like fire on her skin and she couldn't wait to get him alone. Willow stood and took his hand, "We're gonna head up, too. Long day tomorrow."

"Yes, long day," Giles chimed in like a parrot. He moved close behind her, his hand grazing her hips and thighs as she walked up the steps in front of him.

Angel just looked at Dawn and Wesley. After a minute of silence Wesley moved away from Dawn and stood up. "I'll just..."

"The basement," Dawn said, happily, "Why don't you take the sofa in the basement, Wes?" Her voice was forced, as if she were in an infomercial and selling something useless.

Wesley wasn't sure if she was trying to get him alone or trying to get rid of him. "Yes, the basement is fine. I've a few more theories I wanted to research."

"Research is good. You...probably need help, right?" Dawn said, bubbly and practically bouncing on the balls of her feet, now.

"Help, yes. I could use some help," Wesley said.

Angel just looked at him and shook his head, somewhat disapproving. Wesley just shrugged and headed for the basement.

"I'll be down in a few minutes," Dawn said.

"Yes," he said, for some reason sounding more British than ever, "Very well, then."

When he left the room Dawn looked over at Angel. She opened her mouth to speak, but Cordelia began to stir in her sleep. Dawn and Angel froze, hoping their silence would keep her from waking. It did. In an instant she was under again. Dawn nodded her head toward the kitchen, inviting Angel to join her.

"So, what's the story? I know you're hiding something. In fact, everyone knows." Dawn filled a kettle and set it down on a burner. "You're gonna have to tell us all sooner or later. Maybe I can help." She leaned against the countertop and crossed her arms.

"The truth is that we don't know what's over there," Angel said.

"Ok," Dawn said, giving him the benefit of the doubt. "But something happened, right? I mean something upset you both."

"Dawn, it's...complicated."

"Angel, I'm not a little girl anymore. You don't have to protect me," she said.

"It's not that," he said. He shook his head from side to side, knowing that he was going to tell her but that it was against his better judgment. "I'm not sure what we saw, exactly. But when we got to Giles' old apartment, there was a...spectre in the window. It looked like Jenny."

"Jenny," Dawn said, "Who's..." And then it hit her. "...Oh," she whispered.

"See?" Angel said. "It's complicated."

"Right," Dawn said. "Sorry."

"I'm not so sure we should let Willow see her," Angel said, "And I'm not so sure it's a good idea for Giles to know about this. At least not until we figure out what Jenny has to do with whatever's going on."

"Wow," Dawn said sadly, pouring a few cups of tea. "They're so happy. Something like this might screw things up for them."

"I know. Which is why we need to investigate a little more. It's just that tonight..." Angel wasn't sure what he wanted to say, "I guess we were caught off guard." He looked into her eyes. "Buffy will go back in the morning, maybe she'll be able to get inside and find something out. We don't want to just break in and let it know we're onto it."

"Oh," Dawn said, perking up, "I have an idea. Umm, Riley left a bunch of stuff here. I have some tactical gear, we can go back and set up surveillance. This way we'll know if the place is empty or not. If it's empty, then it'll be easier to snoop around."

"Show me," Angel said. "I'll go back tonight, myself, and set it up. You can do whatever you have to do to monitor the place from here."

"I'm on it," she said and walked toward the basement.

"Dawn!" Angel called after her.

"I know...just between us," she said, "You, me and the lamppost."

He smiled. She had grown up so much.


part seventeen

Willow's face was flush with sweat and her heart began beating wildly as she collapsed into Giles' arms. "Oh...ok." she said, draping her leg over his, "That was..."

"Amazing?" Giles added, still trying to catch his own breath.

"At least," Willow said.

"I think I actually need a cigarette," he joked, giving her arms a squeeze.

She just raised her head and gave him the 'one-eyebrow lift' that always put the kibosh on whatever it was he was thinking.

"Oh, come on, that was a joke." He conceded, knowing she wouldn't allow him to smoke. "Besides, I'm still a little tipsy. You shouldn't pay any attention to anything I say at a time like this." He looked into her eyes, "And, for the record, you know, you really should be ashamed of yourself, taking advantage of me in a state of inebriation."

"Taking advantage of you ," she said, "I believe I was sitting downstairs listening intently to Buffy and Angel's report when someone's hand found its way into the back of my shirt."

"Oh, yes, well, what can I say, I was drunk." Giles leaned in to her again, his lips swollen and moist, still tasting of wine as he closed in for a kiss.

After a few moments their bodies had calmed down, their skin even grew cold from the dried sweat that mixed with the night air. Giles sat up and retrieved the comforter that they had pulled back when they first fell into bed. He held Willow close to him and covered both their bodies.

"What do you think they saw?" She asked, her head resting on his shoulder.

"I've no idea," Giles said, "It could be anything."

"But it seems like something...familiar. You know what I mean?" She said.

"No, go on." He was intrigued now, she put a new perspective on this for him.

"Well, if it was just evil they would have told us, right? I mean we've pretty much seen it all before. So, I'm thinking maybe it's something that came back that they're trying to protect us from. The Master or Drusilla or something." She was tracing lazy circles around his broad chest with her dainty fingers, her body rising and falling with each breath Giles took.

"Anything's possible," he said. "I'm sure Buffy and Angel will know when to involve the rest of us. It's been a long time, and even though it seems like we're a family again, old wounds never truly heal. Our psyche's are damaged, love."

"But it wasn't real," she said softly.

"But it doesn't matter," he whispered and stroked her hair. "It will be fine. In the morning you'll go and have a look with Buffy."

Willow took a deep breath and raised herself up on one elbow so that she could look him in the eyes. "Rupert," she said softly.

"Yes?" His insides turned to mush whenever she used his given name.

"I love you." She flashed him a half-smile and then lowered her eyes. Willow rested her head on his shoulder drifted off to sleep in his arms.

"So, Angel's doing what, exactly?" Wesley asked as he watched Dawn working furiously at the computer.

"He's over at Giles' old place, setting up a camera so we can check out the area from a safe distance." She plugged something into the back of her computer and then flicked the monitor on. "Just have to set the Sonic Transducer to programme 8 and we'll be doing The Time Warp," she joked.

Wesley looked at her with his head cocked to the side like a dog.

"Never mind, Wes. Someday I'll explain it to you, but I must first warn you that it will involve fishnet stockings and an evil transvestite scientist." She shot him a quick glance.

"Alright," he said, clearly unaware of what he might be getting himself into. After Dawn mentioned fishnets his mind went sort of numb, anyway.

They could see the courtyard of the apartment complex on the computer screen in front of them. "Looks like we're almost set," she said. The picture was jumping around as Angel tried to secure it in place. Trees flew by the monitor, then the brick of the walkway came into view, obscuring the rest of the area from the camera. Dawn picked up the phone and called Angel to tell him which direction the camera needed to be moved.

"You know I'm really not used to working this way," Angel said, "Maybe this wasn't a good idea."

"Set up the camera now, Angel, talk later," she said.

He made another adjustment and Dawn gave him the final ok. "On my way back," he said and hung up his phone.

Dawn watched the screen for a while after she hung up with Angel. She wasn't sure what she was looking for, but it made her feel like she was in control of something. She also wasn't sure what she would actually do if they saw some activity. But again - helping is good.

Half an hour passed and Dawn was still watching for any comings and goings at the apartment.

Wesley had gone to make a fresh pot of tea and when he came back to the basement, he leaned over her shoulder and asked, "Still no activity?"

Dawn leaned back until her body met his and a sigh escaped her lips. It couldn't be helped. She turned her head slowly until their lips were dangerously close. His eyes met hers, his lips moist and warm from his drink. His breath was sweet with the scent of honey and, just as Wesley leaned forward to kiss her, the door to the basement opened up and Angel came trotting down the steps. The two of them backed away from the computer and stood up, as far apart from each other that they could.

Angel saw the monitor of the computer and sort of threw his hands in the air. "I thought it was between you and me," Angel said to Dawn, nodding toward Wesley.

"And the lamppost," she added with a grin and a shrug.

"I guess that makes me the lamppost," Wesley said, quite pleased with himself. He was glad she included him on this secret mission. It was high time he got back into the swing of things.

"Nobody hears about this, Wes," Angel said, "We don't want to upset Giles."

Dawn tried to stop Angel before he blurted out that part, but she was unsuccessful.

"Giles? Upset him how?" Wesley asked.

Angel wasn't sure what to say and Dawn know he wouldn't be tactful even if he had mustered up something.

"Angel, why don't you go and check on Cordy and catch some shut-eye." Dawn said, leading him to the steps, "I'll stay here and fill Wes in on the gaps in the story. I think this is better done one-on-one anyway." She followed close behind him, making sure he couldn't stop or back up until he was at the top of the steps.

When they were out of earshot of Wesley, Angel turned to Dawn and said, "Dawn, I know it's not my place, but...Wes is a little old for you."

"And once again we're back to this," she muttered. "Ok, number one - there's nothing going on between me and Wes."

"Yet," Angel added.

Dawn took a deep breath to quell her annoyance. "Fine, you win. Nothing YET." She stressed the last word and practically met him nose to nose as she spoke. "And second, though I can't even believe I have to bring this up, but, Wes and I make the most sense out of all the wacky relationships that have gone on in Sunnydale over the years - You and Buffy? Spike and Buffy? Giles and Willow? Anya and Xander?" She folded her arms over her chest and looked into his eyes. "And, quite technically, I'm older than all of you - don't forget that part. I'm the Key. I don't have a purpose anymore in that sense, but I've been around for ages. Literally... ages."

Angel knew she was right. And he wasn't in the position to comment on anything in her life since he'd been gone so long. But he cared for her. And he cared for Wes. He lowered his eyes to Dawn's and said softly, "He's a good guy." Angel left out the part about all those demons in Wesley's closet, but he knew in his heart that Wes was harmless.

"I know," Dawn said, smiling once again.

"And you know that I'll make his life miserable if I find out that he hurts you." Angel's mouth turned up at the corners, letting Dawn know that even though it was a ridiculous thing to say, he meant it.

"I know," she said, "Now scat !!!"

"Leaving, now," Angel said and left the room.

When he made it back to the living room, he found Cordelia had moved to a chair. The TV was on, but she had fallen asleep again. He took off his coat and sat down on the sofa. He took off his shoes and lay down and pulled the blanket over top of him.

"Hey," Cordy said, her head still a bit fuzzy from her nap. "Everything ok?"

"Cordy, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you." Angel sat up and leaned forward, his elbows resting on the tops of his knees as they spoke.

"It's ok, I wasn't really asleep. Had to answer the call of nature a few minutes ago." She straightened herself up in her chair and wrapped her blanket up over her body to her chin. "So, what's going on? Did you and Buffy find anything?"

"We didn't actually go into Rupert's old place, but we did see something outside." Angel said.

"Like what?"

"We're not going to tell Willow and Giles until we find out more, but..." Angel didn't really want to tell Cordelia, either. He wanted to protect as many people as possible and he knew that Jenny's death had hurt everyone. Not to mention every time he said her name the hair on the back of his neck stood up and his stomach churned until he felt acid burning in his throat. "There was someone there, a ghost, maybe, we're not sure. It seemed like a guardian." He looked deep into her eyes and finished, "It was Jenny Calendar."

"Wow," Cordy said, her voice full of sadness. "Willow will be crushed. This could really tear them apart."

"Which is why we're keeping this to ourselves. At least for the time being."

"Yeah, you bet." She had forgotten until this moment, but when she remembered, her eyes misted up and said, "Angel, I'm sorry. I...I forgot."

"I don't want to talk about it," he said.

"I..." she let the first word escape her lips, but couldn't continue. She changed the subject and tried to move on. "Angel, I know that we've been apart for a long time, but I just wanted to say..." Her eyes blanked out and she grabbed both sides of her head with her hands.

"Cordy!" Angel ran to her. "What is it?" He dropped to his knee and held onto her.

"I..." Her eyes had rolled up into her head, her body was emitting a warm glow, "I see...oh, no..."

"What is it? Tell me what you see." He was holding her hand, trying to keep her from falling over out of her chair.

"It's dark...and different...not supposed to be this way." She gasped, her breath caught in her throat as she tried to speak through this mind-cracking vision, "Giles is trying to fight, but he can't...she's too strong."

Cordelia was almost screaming at this point, but Angel was trying to get her to keep her voice down. He didn't want the others to wake. "Who's too strong, Cordy? Who is she?"

Cordelia's vision subsided and the muscles in her body relaxed instantly. She looked into Angel's eyes and told him, " ...Willow. "


part eighteen

Morning found everyone in the house a little on edge. It was Saturday and Giles and Willow had decided not to open the store. Willow actually wanted to put a 'gone fishing' sign on the door, but Giles wouldn't allow it. He settled for a 'closed due to family emergency' sign up and that was that. They were needed elsewhere.

Dawn and Wesley were taking shifts watching the computer, waiting for the opportune moment to let Buffy know it was ok to head over and check out the apartment. Wesley asked Dawn to take over when he headed upstairs to grab a shower. Dawn turned her head for a minute, one brief moment, to get a book from the shelf across the room and that's when she heard movement from the computer's speakers. By the time she got back to the monitor, all she could see was a pair of legs walking up the steps away from the apartment. She was pretty sure the noise she heard was the door closing. It seemed like it was safe to send Buffy and Willow over.

She went upstairs and found everyone in the dining room, except for Wesley. "Hey," she said to her sister.

"And where were you all night?" Buffy asked, raising an eyebrow to her sister.

"Wes and I were working in the basement."

"And by working you mean making out?" Buffy said.

Willow and Giles just looked at each other and smirked, their dirty little secret one that would remain, hopefully, a secret.

"Nooo. I mean working." Dawn said.

"It's ok, Buffy. After you went to bed Dawn and Wesley helped set up some surveillance over at the apartment." Angel added. Dawn had no plans of telling them what she meant when she said 'working' - there could have been a number of explanations. She was surprised to hear Angel explain what they had done.

"Ok, did I sleep through everything? " Cordelia said, but nobody was listening to her.

"Surveillance?" Xander said, "And you didn't wake me?" Nobody was listening to him, either.

"Why didn't anybody tell me about this?" Buffy was a little upset that something like this went on without her knowing.

"It's not a big deal, really," Dawn said, "And we didn't tell you because it was a last minute kind of decision - after you all went to bed." Dawn addressed the room as a whole at this point, letting everyone know what they had done, "Angel went alone and set up a camera and Wes and I have been taking shifts all night, waiting to see if whoever or whatever is living there has left."

"And?" Giles asked.

"I think the coast is clear." Dawn said. "You better move fast. I didn't actually see the person leaving because I turned around to pick up a book. But I thought I heard the sound of a door closing, and when I looked back at the monitor, someone was walking up the steps away from the courtyard."

"Buffy?" Willow said.

"Let's go." The Slayer agreed. She was no longer angry, not at Dawn or Angel. She really wanted to find this thing, this source of all the deceptions in her life. It needed to be dealt with. And dealing with it from the inside would be easier than fighting blind.

Willow walked toward the door but Giles grabbed her hand, "Willow," he said and stopped her. He pulled her close and whispered something in her ear. One of his hands encircled her wrist, his other hand was resting on her collar bone and the instant he pulled away from her ear, his fingers slid slowly up her neck until he reached the line of her jaw. He turned her face to his and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

"I will," she whispered.

When they reached the block of the complex, Buffy called home to Dawn who was watching the entrance to Giles' former apartment on her computer. "Anything?"

"No, haven't seen anyone go back in. We've all been watching since you guys left. Coast is still clear," Dawn said.

"Ok, stand by. We're going in. I'm gonna leave the phone on so you can hear us inside." Buffy said.

"Ok," Dawn said.

Wes, Angel, Giles and Willow were all in the basement. Xander and Cordelia had taken Vivienne out for the day so that the rest of the group could concentrate on fighting the latest big bad.

"They're on their way in," Dawn said and everyone joined her around the computer.

"There they are," Giles said and pointed to the monitor. It's not like the others couldn't see, but he felt the need to chime in.

"Let's hope they're able to get in without..." Wesley stopped when he saw that Willow had dropped to her knees in front of the door, "What is she doing?" He leaned closer, again over Dawn's shoulder.

"Looks like she's picking the lock," Dawn said.

"Where on earth did she learn how to do that?" Wesley said.

Nobody answered, but Angel and Dawn and Wesley all looked at Giles, assuming his checkered past had something to do with it.

"Well, we were locked out one night and she was trying not to use her magic and I wanted to support her decision, so I showed her how to pick the lock. Sue me," Giles said.

"And you know how to do that because..." Buffy asked as they walked into the apartment. She was questioning Willow's break-in ability.

"Tell ya later," Willow said with a smirk on her face. Giles had many, many layers. Her friends would never know all of them, and she liked the fact that so much of him was hers alone. The others would never know the intimate details, good and bad, about the man she loved.

They pushed through the door and closed it behind them. Buffy reached into her pocket and pulled out the phone and said, "Ok, we're in." She'd forgotten her ear piece, so it was awkward carrying the phone around, trying to keep hold of it. She put it in her pocket when she didn't have anything to say or when she needed both hands, but she didn't hang up. It would be good to have a standing connection to Dawn.

"Wow, it's the same." Willow said. "How come it still looks like this?" She asked.

"I don't know. I guess Giles left most of his furniture here when he left and went back home to England. Maybe the landlord rented it furnished," Buffy said.

The Slayer was looking around the room, keeping an eye out for the ghost they had seen the night before. She never mentioned it to Willow. Buffy didn't know how.

"Ok, let's have a look around. Desk first," Willow said and walked over to the desk. It was a new desk, but it was in the spot Giles used to keep it in. She didn't know what she was looking for, but it seemed like a good place to start.

"I'll go check upstairs," Buffy said. "Bad stuff's probably hidden."


Buffy walked up the stairs into the loft. She had only been up there once or twice before when Giles lived there. Once she had to use the bathroom and the downstairs bathroom was flooded after a rainstorm, and once she had spent the night just after they found out Dawn was the key. Buffy had too many things going on, she wasn't sleeping, she wasn't eating, her mother wasn't doing too well, her relationship with Riley had fallen apart. She came to Giles for help that night, and ended up falling asleep on his couch. When she woke up the next morning, she was in his bed and he was asleep in a chair in the living room.

She took a moment and looked around. It was different. It seemed smaller than before. It could have been the furniture and the way it was arranged, but something didn't seem right. Then she realized that the closet seemed larger than before. She walked over and slid one of the mirrored doors back. There was nothing unusual inside. But it was full of men's clothes. "At least it's a clue," Buffy said.

She slid the door back into place but as it passed over the sleeve of a shirt, the momentum ripped the garment from its hanger. Buffy bent down to pick it up and when she did, she noticed a tiny crease of light coming from deep in the closet, as if there was another room behind the one she was in.

She pulled everything out from the floor of the closet, looking for a door of some sort, or maybe a button to press or a lever to pull. But she didn't find anything. She slid all of the clothes to the left and felt around the back wall of the closet. There was a soft spot high in the corner, though it was hidden with wallpaper. She pressed on it and the wall at the back of the closet disappeared into the floor.

It revealed a large room. It must have been the apartment next to the one she was in. It was one giant open space full of books, candles and an altar. The place was a shrine. There were goblets on a table full of what looked to Buffy like blood. "Ok, ewww," she said to herself. On one side there was a large bed fit for a queen.

She had seen a lot of things in her lifetime, but this...this was different. Perhaps it was because it was set up in someone's home. All the other horrible things she had seen usually set up shop in some old abandoned warehouse or down in the sewers or out in the graveyard. Someone, or something, lived here.

Buffy looked around another minute or two. She wanted to bring Willow up, to see what the Witch could sense with her magic. But first she wanted to see what she could find on her own, particularly if it involved Jenny in any way.

Buffy opened every drawer of the altar, each one revealing something used in ritual sacrifice: herbs, crystals, entrails. Your basic nasty gooo.

When she opened the last drawer there was a small box inside. It was hand-carved wood, very ornate and beautiful, really. There was a tiny lock on it but her Slayer strength broke it open easily. "Oh my God," she said.

One of her old bracelets was inside the box. She thought she'd lost it years ago. In fact, she thought she had lent it to Willow. There was also a picture of Xander and Anya, one of Giles' hand-written receipts from the old Magic box, a page that looked like it had been torn out the diary Dawn used to keep when she was in high school, and a lock of red hair. It had to have been Willow's. There was also one of Angel's business cards and a few other things. She didn't know who they belonged to, but she guessed that Cordelia and Wesley and the rest of Angel's friends were missing these things.

Back at Buffy's house, in the basement, Wesley reached over and pointed to the monitor. The picture was getting fuzzier by the minute. "There must be some sort of disturbance. Perhaps a surge of energy from somewhere."

"There are a lot of power lines around that area," Dawn said. "Let me try something."

Dawn worked the keyboard for a minute, but the picture only grew worse until it blacked out completely. "Ok, so much for that."

"We have to tell Buffy," Angel said, "They need to get out of there."

"Buffy!!!" All four of them screamed into the microphone. Dawn had put the phone on speaker so they could all talk to Buffy. But she didn't answer. They knew the phone was in her pocket, that she didn't have it up to her ear the entire time, but they needed to let her know it wasn't safe anymore, that they couldn't watch the entrance anymore.

"I'm going over there," Angel said.

"I'm going with you," Giles said.

Buffy took the box and headed back toward the door she entered through. After she got back into the bedroom loft, she put everything back into the closet quickly, trying to get it all into place as if it hadn't been disturbed. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and said, "I found something. I need to get Willow and get out of here."

"Buffy what is it?" Giles asked. He hadn't even made it up the steps when he heard her voice. He ran back down, Angel close behind him as they flew down the steps.

"Not now, I'm bringing it with me. I have to get Willow and get out now." She said.

"Hurry, Buffy, we've lost the video feed." Wesley said.

"On my way right..." the phone died out before she could finish. Only she didn't know it. She said the word, ..."now" and hung up. The others, however, listening from Buffy's house, only heard the dead air.

Buffy stood at the top of the steps and looked out onto the living room below. "Will? We gotta get out of here." She stopped, the air around her suddenly stifling. Her heartbeat raced and she felt the blood pumping in her eardrums. The room below her was dark when they walked in, but now it was almost pitch black. She didn't understand how the place could be so dark this early in the morning, but it was. Willow wasn't there, but Buffy wasn't alone.

She tucked the box full of their belongings that she had found into a denim script bag that hung at her side and walked down the steps slowly. Buffy wasn't going to hide. She wasn't going to leave Willow in the house alone with this thing. The Slayer put all senses on high alert.

Buffy's eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness as she descended the stairs. Her breathing was ragged, now, and she could feel sweat rolling down from her temples. As her foot met the landing a tiny spot light appeared across the room.

Buffy pulled a stake out of her bag and turned to face the light head on. She couldn't see anyone. The light was literally a spotlight, it's width all of two feet around.

A voice from the shadow spoke, "Oh come, now, you think that's necessary? You've always used violence to settle things. Perhaps you should seek professional help. I know a wonderful therapist in Orange County. Of course, he requires a portion of your soul for payment with each visit, but that's the price you have to pay for peace of mind these days."

"Show yourself," Buffy said, ready to strike.

She knew the voice but refused to let herself believe it. Not again. This wasn't happening again. She had to see it to believe it.

"If you insist," he said with a sinister chuckle.

The figure stepped from the shadow into the spotlight, but his face was still hidden. He had his hand clamped over Willow's mouth as he held her from behind, and he held a shiny, ten-inch blade to her throat. Willow's eyes were wide, pleading with Buffy to help her.

"Willow's in trouble," Giles said.

"What?" Dawn asked. "How do you know that?"

"She talks to me, telepathically. But it doesn't work too well unless we're in the same place. She just said help me. " Giles took off. Wesley and Dawn followed. Angel did too, until they got to the front door.

Dawn turned to Angel and said, "There's a tunnel in the basement. Third book from the left on the bottom bookshelf is a trip for the door. Pull it and you'll see a way to get into the sewers. You won't be able to get into the apartment, but you'll get close. When we find Buffy and Willow, we'll take them underground. Meet us one block from the building where the sewer forks. The manhole cover is always loose, so stay away from the sunlight. We'll open it from up top."

"Ok," Angel said. He never felt like less of a man than he did right now. How could the Powers That Be continue to rely on him for help? He couldn't even go out in the sunlight. What good was he?

Willow flinched when the man spoke. She instinctively bit his finger and, when she did, his blade cut a shallow wound into her throat until she felt the blood trickling out of her flesh. A valuable lesson was learned - small wounds still hurt.

He whispered into Willow's ear, "Now that little nibble hardly seems worth it, does it, darling?"

He pulled his mouth away and said to Buffy, "Slayer, I've no use for you. At least not yet. You're free to go, but keep your meddling friends away. The witch here is my pawn for now, but in a few weeks..." He moved forward so that Buffy could see his face, " a few weeks she will be my queen."

"In a few weeks..." Buffy said, "'ll be dead, Ethan."


part nineteen

"Well, well," Ethan teased at Buffy's bravado. He lowered his lips to Willow's ear again, but spoke loud enough for the Slayer to hear. In some sick, twisted way, it was his idea of intimacy. "I just love a girl who's forceful, don't you pet? Oh, wait, that's right - you're with Ripper, now." He leaned even closer until his warm lips tickled the fuzziness of her ear, this time his voice so low that Buffy could not hear him, "I've got stories about my old mate that would curl your toes, little one."

"Let her go." Buffy was frozen to her spot, but determined to keep Willow safe. She just had to figure out how.

Ethan's eyes drifted up and to the left as if he were actually considering her request. "Hmmm...." he wondered out loud, "No."

"You know that knife is the only thing that's keeping you alive right now."

"I know," Ethan said, his voice soft and dreamy, "And isn't it pretty?" He adjusted the blade so that it caught the light from above and shot a blinding beam directly toward Buffy's eyes.

The Slayer jerked back, away from the light before it hit her face. She could see Willow starting to weaken. Ethan's hand was cutting off most of her air supply and Buffy was sure Willow was scared. Those two factors would surely lead to a fainting.

But Willow tried to fight the only way she knew how. With magic. She closed her eyes hard and concentrated. She even stopped breathing so that she could focus every single bit of her energy on her task. All she needed was a window, a fraction of a second and she knew that with her own magical ability and Buffy's Slayer strength, she would be able to break away. She tried to open the front door telekinetically as a distraction.

Ethan had a different plan.

"Cast away, little witch, your spells won't work within these walls." He pressed himself up against her from behind and pulled her tighter to him. "That's right, I have a new gift. I can read your mind." He looked over to Buffy, whose eyes had grown so wide he thought they might actually pop out of her head. "Don't worry, Buffy, I can't read your mind." He stressed the word 'your' as if it were a silly notion, "But, then, you're so damned predictable with those super-powers of yours that I don't need to." Ethan turned his attention back to his victim, "Just for the record, while we're on the subject of reading minds, that was quite a rendezvous last night. I'm surprised Ripper was able to keep up with you, a man of his advanced years and all that." He lowered his voice until it was downright lascivious and said to her, "One week from now and you'll be calling my name like that."

Buffy took a step forward, ready to pounce on him. "That's not gonna happen. Let her go."

It was annoying Ethan that Buffy kept interrupting his fun. "You know, as much as I'm enjoying the company, don't you have somewhere else to be?" He paused before he added the word, " Mummy? "

Buffy felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her lungs, her stomach churned and her knees almost buckled. "Ethan I swear to you that if anything happens to my daughter you will die a slow, painful death and no magic in the world will save you, you pathetic little prick."

"Such talk! Now, where on earth did you get an idea like that? Ethan Rayne? Hurt a child? I'm not a masochist, Buffy...It's a pity, though...forcing such a beautiful little creature to grow up on la Boca Del Inferno. She should be someplace...barren..." He looked directly into her eyes and said with a knowing smile, ", for instance, Iowa." He turned his attention back to his victim and slowly scanned her body with his eyes. From behind he had a perfect view down her shirt. Ethan was enjoying himself. "I think it's time for you to go, Slayer. Willow and I have a lot of catching up to do." He shrugged a bit dismissively and added, "You understand."

Giles had driven frantically to the scene, Dawn in the backseat and Wesley by his side. When they got to the building, Wesley jumped out before the car had even stopped moving. Dawn jumped out, too and Giles threw the car into park and ran out. He didn't bother to turn the engine off.

The three of them each carried a weapon of some sort. They hadn't prepared to fight this early in the morning, so Dawn just grabbed whatever she could on their way out the door. Their arsenal consisted of two bottles of holy water, three stakes, and a ray gun that used to belong to the initiative. Riley taught her how to use it to stun any attacker she might come across. This was the perfect opportunity, considering they had no idea what they were in for.

They flew down the steps as if they were one.

Buffy had been inching her way toward the window, unsure if Ethan even saw her. "I'm not leaving without her," Buffy said, preparing to rip the drapes off of the window or pull them open for a diversion. She hadn't really worked out the kinks, but it was the only plan she had at the moment. Never in her life had she felt so helpless. Demons she could fight, men without weapons she could fight. But this, this was a new danger. And she didn't like the uncertainty clouding her judgment.

"I was afraid that it would come to this," he said, regrettably. "Oh, well, if I must, I must." He whispered to Willow, "I'm sorry, love." He moved the knife away from Willow's throat and brought it down quick and plunged it deep into the fleshy part of her upper thigh. It poked out of the back of her leg before he pulled it from her body completely. She fell to the ground, blood already coloring the material of her clothes by the time she met the floor

Buffy ran toward him, but Ethan pointed the knife at her, chanted something in Latin and watched as a stream of lightening shot out of the blade and into Buffy's body. The front door flew open and Buffy was thrown out of the apartment by and invisible force, her feet never even touched the ground and she landed hard on top of Giles.

"Buffy!" All the wind was knocked out of him as he fell to the ground beneath the Slayer.

The door slammed shut and everyone outside heard the locks click into place. Buffy couldn't speak. She was stunned and all the wind had been knocked out of her. Giles had trouble standing, the force of Buffy's blow something that would take a moment to shake off. But they didn't have a moment.

Wesley ran for the door, but when his hand met the metal of the doorknob, he was shocked, literally. He fell to the ground, his hand sizzling and smoking as he held it with his other.

"Wes!" Dawn ran over to him and pulled him back toward the steps. "What's going on?" She asked Buffy.

"Willow. He's got Willow. He just stabbed her with a knife, in the leg." She shook her head like she couldn't believe what just happened, "I...I couldn't fight. He had that knife to her throat, if I moved an inch he was going to cut her...I...I didn't know what to do...I couldn't..."

"Buffy, who is it. Who has Willow?" Giles stood and took her by her shoulders so he could look directly at her. He was shouting in her face. "Tell me!"

Buffy took a deep breath, afraid to tell him. It was bad enough Willow was inside, but now Buffy had to tell him who she was with. Her eyes swelled, the tears hot and stinging her cheeks as they ran down her face. She took a deep breath and whispered, "Ethan."

Giles looked like he had seen a ghost.

Dawn pointed the gun at the door, but when she fired there must have been a barrier and the power from the gun backfired and threw her on her ass.

They were helpless. "We need to go, right now," Wesley said, picking up Dawn in his arms. She was awake, but just barely.

"I'm not leaving," Giles said. "Not without Willow."

"Do you want him to hurt you, too? He's not going to do anything to her, not yet, not right now. But if we try and get back in there, he might." Buffy said. "He'll keep her alive, that much I know."

"You're mad," Giles said, "If you think for one second that I'm leaving her in there. Do you have any idea what she means to me?" He was still shouting, but his voice cracked when he spoke the last part of his sentence.

"Giles, it's cloaked. We can't get in," Buffy said. "He's got some kind of barrier out here, can't you see that?"

"Then how did you two get in," Dawn said, still in Wesley's arms. Her legs were numb. The blast paralyzed her from the waist down.

Buffy turned back to the door, her eyes narrowed on the keyhole as if she could see through it to the inside of the place. "Ethan wanted us to."


part twenty

Ethan dropped the knife on the ground after Buffy's body flew out of the house and the doors locked. He picked Willow up in his arms and carried her over to the sofa. When he lowered her down he dropped to his knees beside her. He slid his fingers into the tear in her jeans and ripped them open from her thigh down to her ankle. He held his hands together, palms down, a quarter of an inch above Willow's leg. Half a second later his hands were glowing, his eyes were closed, and his voice was chanting something Willow, in her delirium, couldn't make out.

She felt the pain leaving her body, but there was too much going on for her to make sense of it. All she knew what that she was trapped, and Buffy was gone.

Ethan continued his chanting and, with every word he spoke, the wound in Willow's leg closed until it bled no more. When she looked into Ethan's eyes he was almost in a trance. Her eyes drifted down to her leg and she could see that even the blood stains were fading until her skin was clear and smooth as if it had never been cut. But it wasn't as simple as that. For each bit of flesh that Ethan healed on Willow's body, he took the wounds on himself. His forearms, muscled and magical as they were, now bled as his flesh was ripped and torn as if he'd gotten his arms caught in a fan blade. The one big gash that he healed on her turned into a multitude of tiny tears in his skin. "Give and take, love. There has to be a balance," he explained when she looked in his eyes.

When he finished healing her leg, Willow thought she would have the chance to run out of the place. Ethan was weak, now, and she was strong again. But he wasn't about to let that happen. It would only be about thirty seconds before he passed out from his own loss of blood, he knew it for a fact. He reached behind him, on the coffee table, and pulled a hypodermic needle out of, what looked like, a jewel case. He tore the cover off the syringe with his teeth and sunk the thing into the side of Willow's throat.

He pressed the injector down with his thumb until it was empty. She gasped as he pulled it out of her neck and dropped the glass vial on the floor. Willow rolled herself over off of the couch and fell onto the ground. Ethan had fallen backwards and was on the verge of unconsciousness. Willow felt every ounce of strength draining from her body as she crawled away from him. Her goal was the door, but she only made it halfway before she passed out.

Giles stood outside, frozen to the spot. Even though each of the others had been hurt, he had to try himself before he would believe that the place was impenetrable. He lifted his hand and grasped the doorknob but was shocked when his skin made contact with the metal. He faltered a little, but managed to maintain his stance. "Ethan!" He knew it was no use screaming the man's name, but he did it anyway.

"Giles," Buffy said softly. She stood behind him, his body square in front of the door. She couldn't see his face, but she saw the movement of his shoulders and knew he was crying. "There's nothing we can do right now. We should go home and regroup - we'll be more effective when we're all together." Her voice barely rose or fell. It was flat and emotionless as if she were forcing herself to say it. She was. After all, aside from worrying about Willow, Buffy needed to take care of her daughter.

Wesley and Dawn were watching, waiting by the steps. "Buffy," Dawn called softly.

Buffy just pointed a finger behind her as if to 'shush' her sister. "Giles?"

"Buffy if anything happens to her...." He shook his head, unable to finish the thought. His anger had turned to despair in a matter of seconds.

"Let's get out of here," she said and rested a hand on his arm.

He stepped back from the door and turned to Buffy. She offered him a smile, but she was full of guilt. If she had told them about Jenny this may not have happened. If she had been faster in the house, this may not have happened. Too many 'what ifs' were clouding her mind. The only thing she could think about right now was her family. "Wesley, please call Cordelia and tell her to bring my daughter home."

Giles' eyes grew wide when Buffy mentioned Vivienne. She didn't actually say that Ethan had threatened the girl, but the tone in Buffy's voice suggested that that was the case. He was sick at the thought of Ethan hurting Vivienne. Buffy didn't let the conversation take that turn, though. Too much talk would just waste more time. "Let's go."

Giles led the way up the steps and to the car. Dawn hung back a little and called Angel to tell him what happened. She wanted him to get back to the house and keep an eye on Ethan's place. Even though it was cloaked by a blanket of magic, if Ethan took Willow out of there, they might be able to rescue her.

Cordelia and Xander headed back to the house as soon as Cordy got the call. Nothing unusual happened at the park and Vivienne was actually having fun with them.

By the time they all met up at Buffy's it was almost noon. Giles stopped by his own place for some things he thought might be helpful in dealing with Ethan. When he walked into Buffy's everyone but Wesley was in the living room. Giles figured he must be on duty in the basement. Vivienne was taking her nap, but Buffy had a hard time leaving her little girl alone in her bedroom. As much as it killed her to leave her there, Buffy knew that other things needed to be taken care of. Vivienne was safe. Willow wasn't.

Giles dropped the large duffle bag he was carrying on the floor and sat down on the sofa. "Buffy, tell me again, everything that happened."

She and Angel just looked at each other. They knew they would have to start with what they saw the night before. "Last night, when Angel and I were over there we saw someone in the window."

"Ethan?" Giles asked, a little upset that they would keep something like that to themselves.

"No, not Ethan. We thought we saw a was Jenny." Buffy looked away from Giles. After keeping this to herself, she felt so guilty that she didn't think she would get through it. Willow was in trouble, and it was Buffy's fault.

"Jenny?" Giles leaned back against the sofa, all the blood rushing out of his face. "What on earth are you telling me?"

"We're not sure, which is why we didn't bring it up last night," Angel said. "It was brief, a fleeting moment and then she was gone. We didn't want to tell you because we weren't positive that that's what we saw."

Giles felt as if he'd been deceived by the pair. "So you're telling me that the spirit of my long deceased girlfriend that, just for the record, you killed, Angel, has teamed up with Ethan Rayne to harm Willow?" Giles knew it was absurd, but he just couldn't get a handle on all the facts. He also knew that Angelus killed Jenny, not Angel, but his ego let the words pass his lips.

"No, Giles. Jenny looked like she was keeping watch. I don't even think Ethan knows she's there." Buffy said. "I think she's there to protect something…or someone."

"She faded away when Ethan heard us outside." Angel said. Giles just shot him a look. After all, they just told him that they didn't know about Ethan the night before. Were they lying? Angel quickly added, "We didn't know it was Ethan last night, all we saw was a figure hidden by the shadows."

"What happened to Willow?" Giles asked.

Buffy leaned forward and pushed a box across the table to Giles. When he opened it and inspected the contents, Buffy told him what happened. "I found this upstairs. The closet in the bedroom opened up into the apartment next door and the whole place was like one big shrine. That box is full of our things. Ethan must have used our personal items to cast the spell that tore us all apart."

"Is that my earring? I've been looking for that since like...forever," Cordy said, snatching the item from Giles. She looked around the room and all eyes were on her. "Sorry, not really the point." She handed it back to Giles and went to sit down across the room.

"What does he want with Willow?" Xander asked.

Everyone's head turned toward him. They all knew the answer but he wasn't perceptive enough to figure it out on his own. Buffy realized he wouldn't understand unless she pointed it out to him, but she really didn't want to. If she said it out loud, then it would be real - and she didn't want to face it.

"He wants to hurt me," Giles said, almost numb.

Buffy's eyes wandered, her mind trying to decide whether to tell them or not. Finally, she did. "He said she would be his queen in a few weeks."

"Well that's good, right? I mean...a few weeks - we have time to put the kibosh on his little plan," Cordy said.

Until this point she had been silent, but now Dawn stood up slowly and methodically, her eyes blank and staring numbly into space, "It's already begun. If you don't save her, Rupert, by the new moon it will be too late. If you don't save her..." She didn't finish the sentence. Dawn fell to the floor, her eyes rolled back into her head and she began convulsing.

"Dawn!!!" Xander ran to her and fell to his knees. Buffy and Giles moved quickly to her side as well. "What's wrong, what happened to her?" Xander was asking Buffy.

"I don't know, she's never blacked out before," Buffy said, unbuttoning Dawn's blouse and unbuckling her belt to help her breathe. "Dawn!"

Giles quickly ran over and picked Dawn up and carried her to the sofa.

There was too much commotion going on. Angel knew something was wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He finally did. " Rupert, " he said quietly, really to himself.

"What?" Giles asked as he tended to Dawn, not even casting a glance in the vampire's direction.

"That's right," Xander said, "She called you Rupert."

"Nobody calls him Rupert," Cordy said. "Except..." She didn't finish because she knew it was ridiculous.

"Jenny," Giles whispered.

Dawn came around and took a deep breath. She knew what had happened to her, but it took a minute for her to grasp it.

"Jenny?" Giles asked, stroking Dawn's hair.

"No," Dawn whispered, "It's just me, Giles." She caught the disappointment in his eyes and added, "Sorry."

"Dawn, do you remember?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah," she said, sitting upright.

Giles was still on bended knee in front of her. "If I don't save Willow," he asked, "Then what?"

Dawn looked into his eyes, then looked into everyone else's eyes, one by one, until she returned her focus back to him. "If you don't save her..." she didn't want to finish the sentence, but it was a message from Jenny and it had to be delivered, "…you'll have to kill her."

The silence was deafening.



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