Part 10: Are you my friend?

When they’d finished their sweep of upstairs they followed the others to the lower level.

Cordelia stumbled on the last step and Larry caught and steadied her. Oz stood with his nostrils flared, obviously using his wolfy supersenses.

“Anything?” Cordelia asked.

Oz gave her an odd look. He shook his head.

They continued the search for survivors. There still weren’t any. Just blood stains and human leftovers in various states of decay. The queasy feeling in her stomach wasn’t getting any better and a couple of times Cordelia had to stop and take a couple of deep breaths to steady herself. Being down here was much worse than upstairs. It was dark and dank, and she could feel the layers of concrete above her that separated her from the sky and safety.

“Hey Watcher! Got one for you!” Buffy’s voice echoed. The hurried toward it, glad to have something to do. As they turned the corner they saw Buffy about to plunge a stake into the bare chest of a man sagging against the bars of a cell.

“Hey! Stop! That’s Angel!” Without thinking she ran across the floor and grabbed hold of Buffy’s arm. The next thing she knew she was flying through the air to land ungracefully on her ass. She watched helplessly as the hope in Angel’s face faded into resignation as Buffy raised the stake again. Move you moron! Don’t just let her stake you! she thought.

Buffy pulled back the stake again and turned to look down at Cordelia. “You know this bloodsucker?”

“Duh. Yeah, of course I do.” She took Larry’s offered hand and got to her feet. “He’s a part of the team.”

“A vampire. Right.”

Fine, Cordelia thought. “Angel’s your boyfriend and he’s not evil – he has a soul. Well, most of the time.” Cordelia turned away from Buffy to give the stunned vampire a suspicious once over. “You do still have a soul, right? You haven’t gone all evil again?” Angel opened his mouth to say something but was cut off.

“My what?!!!” Buffy sounded as outraged and disgusted as the Pope being served with an order for child support. Larry’s expression was a close second. Oz settled on intrigued.

Cordelia snorted; trust Buffy to focus on that. “Boyfriend. True love. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Believe me, we’re all pretty sick of hearing about it.”

Buffy was hyperventilating. “That’s insane! I would never, ever! He’s a vampire! I’m the Slayer!” Cordelia raised her hands.

“Whoa, try decaf. We weren’t too thrilled about it, especially Giles, but would you listen?” Cordelia took a step back at Buffy’s growl.

“What’s going on here?” Giles had come up behind them with a pale and unhappy Nancy in tow. It didn't look like they'd found any survivors either.

Angel felt confused and disoriented, surrounded by so many humans all of them talking at the same time. Hunger boiled in him while he struggled with his instincts. The shackles bit into his wrists and he tried not to think about how close he’d been to freedom. Even the stake would be preferable to another day here. But she’d taken the wood away and now they were talking about things that his starved brain could make no sense of. He’d dated the Slayer? Lost his soul, gotten it back? Left her and moved to Los Angeles? Shouldn’t he remember at least some of this?

He’d recognized the Slayer despite the changes that three years had made in her, and he knew the Watcher who had also come here because of the Slayer. But the others, especially the loud brunette, were total strangers. He sensed something odd about the small redheaded boy, but he couldn’t focus enough to work out what it was. The burst of energy that had gotten him on his feet was waning leaving him just too damned tired to think. He grabbed hold of the bars because his knees seemed to have melted…

“Uh guys.” Giles and Buffy turned their heads to find that the subject of their dispute had slumped to the floor. Lying crumpled on the floor he looked battered, underfed, and surprisingly young.

Buffy sighed, knowing she’d lost the argument for now, and tucked away her stake. “We could just leave him here,” she suggested, knowing that they wouldn’t.


Half an hour after Spike disposed of the assassin, the real nurse came in to take her vitals and fiddle with the IV. Spike slid into the deep shadows of the room, Joyce knew she’d never have known he was there. When she left he reemerged with a smile and a rough order for Joyce to go to sleep.

She woke again and saw him standing in the doorway, razor cheekbones illuminated by the gray light leaking in from the false balcony. “See you later,” he whispered and melted away into the gray. She fell into a dreamless sleep.


Unhappy, but resigned, Buffy broke the vampire’s shackles and woke him up with a glass of water in the face. Angel seemed dazed, but managed to leave the club under his own power. He stood blinking up at the night sky, rubbing his wrists disbelievingly. He seemed a little unsteady on his feet.

“I think he needs food.” Cordelia said.

Luckily Oz knew of an all-night butcher that sold blood. Buffy, Giles, and Larry left, none of them wanting any more to do with it. Nancy sat nervously in the front seat while Oz sat in the back with a still dazed vampire. He went inside and came back out with two Styrofoam containers. Angel was out of the car as soon as he smelled what Oz was carrying. He snatched the container from the redhead, ripped off the lid and gulped it down.

“Ewwh,” Cordelia commented. Nancy shuddered. Oz handed Angel the second container. He was a little neater this time, and when he was done he looked steadier on his feet.

He licked his lips. “Thanks,” he said. He climbed back into the back seat and sat waiting patiently.

“I’ll drop you guys off, and then I guess me and the big guy are going to my place,” Cordelia sighed.

It was just her luck to get stuck with vamp-sitting duty. O.K., she had the biggest house and no parental supervision, but didn’t anyone remember that they’d been under siege just last night? Beside, what the hell did she know about care and feeding of the undead? Giles was the expert on that kind of thing, but while he agreed that Angel shouldn’t be staked he flatly refused to have him at his place. She should never have mentioned the whole ‘sometimes misplaces his soul’ thing.

There were lights on downstairs, which meant that Luz was still up. Darn. She kept one hand on Angel’s arm, steadying him, as she opened the door. Sheesh, he was a wreck. “Come on in Angel,” she said as they stepped across the threshold.

She guided him down the darkened hallway, headed for the stairs. The kitchen lights were on and Luz was standing at the counter. She looked at Cordelia. She looked at Angel. Cordelia felt the temperature drop.

“Hi Luz, um, this is my friend Angel. He’s going to be staying here for a few days okay? Don’t worry, my parents know his family.” The dark-skinned middle-aged woman stood trying to control her disapproval as the girl, Cordelia, smiled and did her best to smooth over the fact that she was bringing a male stranger into the house. Angel did his best to look harmless. It was easier to do if he concentrated on his aches and pains and shut out all thoughts of the clawing thirst.

“Buenas noches' Senora,” he said startling both of the women. “Yo’la prueba de ll para no causarlo ningún problema. Acabo de necesitar que un lugar para permanecer para un de pocos días.” Luz didn’t seem too impressed by his Spanish.

“Ve que usted se pone’T, senor. La dama es muy joven, entiende?” She said sharply.

“Sí, yo nada malo aprecia eso.”

”Es ‘Angel’ realmente su nombre?”

Angel nodded. “Sí. Mi hermana me dio el apodo."

“Eh. Acomoda.”

“Um, guys? Translation please?” Cordelia was feeling sidelined.

“You parents come home next week,” Luz said. Unsubtle, but she got the message.

Cordelia nodded. “Yup. I’m sure Angel will have his own place by then. I’ll set Angel up in the guest room. You don’t have to worry about feeding him, he’s on a special diet.”

Luz nodded, and padded away back to her quarters.

“I’m in so much trouble,” Cordelia mumbled under her breath. Angel assumed he wasn’t supposed to have heard that. “Come on, upstairs.”

She led him downstairs to a large room set up as a study. “The couch makes out into a bed, and there’s a bathroom through there. I figured the no windows thing would work out better for you.”

“Thanks.” He kept checking his wrists still disbelieving that he was free.

“You stink,” she told him.


“Take a bath. I’ll get some clothes for you – you’re a lot bigger than Daddy, but I’ll find something.”

“Thank you.” He still wasn’t real clear about who she was or how he’d ended up here with her. She obviously knew what he was, but, almost uniquely in his experience, didn’t seem to be either attracted by or frightened away by it.

“Sure. I’m just trying to get things back to as close to normal as I can. It just doesn’t feel right fighting evil without you trailing behind Buffy. Oh, and also kicking ass. It wasn’t all about your pretty face.”

He couldn’t remember anyone, even Darla, talking to him like this in his long life. Spike deliberately taunted him, but she didn’t seem to be trying to be offensive.

She rummaged in a closet and emerged with towels and a terry bathrobe which she thrust at him. “Go now and experience. the magic of hot water, soap, shampoo, and deodorant.” She gave him a slight shove.

Killing her would be easy and extremely satisfying. Damned soul. Gathering up the shreds of his dignity he turned his back on her and walked away.

“Don’t forget your hair,” she yelled after him.


Giles had offered Buffy the use of his spare room of course and she’d accepted. When they got back she declared herself hungry and raided his refrigerator. When he looked over what remained he realized that he was going to need to do some additional shopping; soon.

“What time are you planning to go over to the hospital?” He asked after she was done eating.

“Huh?” She looked confused. “Oh.” She frowned. “Listen, Mr. Giles, I don’t need a mommy. Even if that woman sitting in the hospital was my mom. She isn’t.”

“Yes, she is. She’s Joyce Marie Summers. The only difference is that she didn’t die two years ago.”

“Well, you can believe that if you want to. I’m going out to patrol.” She stood up, subject closed evidently, and went upstairs to collect her weapons. She left the apartment without another word.


The streets were deserted. They reeked of vamps. She didn’t have long to wait before a couple of suckers took the bait.

Two vamps, male, swaggering out of the alley, clearly they’d never heard that if it seemed too good to be true, it probably was…

“Hey cutie.”

Buffy sighed, if this was the level of quip she might as well give up.

“Hey ugly.”

They rushed her. They fought. Normally fighting did a great job of clearing the cobwebs out of her head. While the white-hot adrenaline rush burned through her brain everything was simple and clear and right. The world was a small and wonderfully easy place, free of ambiguity and fear and loss. No imposters dragging up old pain, no frustrated Watchers cluttering up her brain with doubts. No worrying about what Merrick would do when he caught up with her. Nothing but strike and block, attack and retreat, kill or be killed.

And then it was over. There were two piles of dust drifting on the breeze. Buffy slipped her stake back into place and walked on, looking for more.

Lots of vamps in this town. But out of the even dozen she dusted on that night’s patrol only one gave her any kind of a decent fight. She realized that the leeches had gotten sloppy having it all their own way for so long.

Well those days were over. There was a new sheriff in town.

Posted 24 August 2003

Part 10b


When Joyce woke up the day shift had arrived and last night’s shadows and near-death experience seemed absurd in the midst of all the activity and light. She ate her not-too-horrible breakfast and washed up a little. Around 10 Doctor Rains came by on rounds, with a gaggle of interns. He looked over her chart, checked the wound, and declared her good to go. “Go see your doctor, or come back here in two weeks to get the stitches out. Avoid physical exertion; I’ll give you a prescription for pain. And be careful out there.”

“Have you got anyone to come get you?” the nurse asked. After a painful pause, Joyce called Giles.

“Hello?” He sounded tired.

“Mr. Giles? It’s me, Joyce. They’re discharging me. Should I get a taxi?”

“No, of course not! Of course we’ll come for you.”

“Thanks. Could I speak to Buffy?” There was a suspiciously long pause before Giles answered.

“Ah, I’m afraid she’s still asleep. She did some patrolling after we left the hospital.”

“She’s alright isn’t she?”

“She’s fine. You have nothing to worry about. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

So she got dressed, and waited. She switched on the T.V. and watched a couple of soaps. The rattle of carts told her that it was getting near lunch time when the door finally opened.

“Hi,” Cordelia said. “Ready to blow this pop-stand?”

In the car Cordelia made no excuses for Buffy. She concentrated on making sure that Joyce was comfortable in her seat, carefully arranging the shoulder belt so it didn’t press on the bandage. “Sorry we missed our shopping trip, but I got you a few things to keep you going until we can do it right.”

“Thanks.” Joyce seemed fascinated by the Sunnydale scenery as they drove through downtown. Cordelia thought the place looked a lot worse by daylight. She’d grown up in this town and it hurt to see the movie theater closed and half the stores boarded up including what used to be their one-and-only Starbucks. Even the mall wasn’t what it used to be. Even Nordstrom’s looked worn around the edges, as did the sparse crow of shoppers. It was obvious that Sunnydale was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.

It was a relief to get back to her neighborhood. Even if it turned out that half the houses had been taken over by vamps at least they seemed to be taking care of their property. Surrounded by neat lawns and big houses she could pretend for a moment that everything was O.K.

Luz had Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday off, but she’d left sandwiches for their lunch, and a casserole big enough to feed all of the White Hats in the fridge for dinner.

They took their lunch out poolside. While they ate Cordelia explained about last night’s adventures, and Angel being a guest, temporarily. Joyce didn’t look too thrilled.

“Is he the same?” Cordelia remembered that she never had liked Angel, especially when he’d been dating her daughter.

“Pretty much. He’s in bad shape right now but far as I can tell he’s still all King of Pain.”

Joyce nodded. A faintly embarrassed expression crept onto her face. “Cordelia, there’s something I need to tell you… In my dimension, sometime this year your parents get in trouble for not paying their taxes. The IRS took everything. I think your father went to jail, and you moved to Los Angeles.”

“But I have a trust fund,” she protested. She shivered at the idea of being poor.

“You might want to check up on that, I mean, I could be wrong. Maybe they’re different here. Maybe they paid the taxes, or that particular IRS auditor got eaten…”

A chilly certainty sank into her. If it had been anyone else telling her this she could have blown it off as a bad joke or some kind of misunderstanding but Joyce Summers wouldn’t have said anything if she wasn’t sure. “I think I better make some calls Monday,” Cordelia said and took a big swallow of her diet Pepsi. Bright flashes of sunlight danced on the rippling water. The clear blue sky arched overhead, not even the hint of a blower or a lawn mower disturbing the weekend quiet.


Buffy paced back and forth in the library, stretched tight and strumming with the need for action. All this waiting around was driving her nuts. Where the hell were they? She couldn’t believe a Watcher was telling her to trust a vampire! Mr. Soulful probably ate both of them and was on his way to report to the Master.

No wonder this Giles character had gotten stuck with such a dead-end assignment. He was just not cut out to be a Watcher. He’d already wasted an hour of her life droning on about Jacob Nest, born a hella long time ago, big bad evil, order of Aurelius, blah-blah, came to the Hellmouth, got trapped, got loose, took over the town. He just didn’t get that she didn’t need to know any of that. All she needed to know was where the monster was and how she could kill him.

“Where the hell are they?” she said out loud. The wanna-be’s jumped. She made them nervous. Tough.

Giles took off his glasses and polished them. “I spoke to Cordelia less than an hour ago. She reported no problems. I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

Speak of the devil. “Hi guys,” the cheerleader beamed her brightest smile at everyone as she walked into the library. Behind her was – she refused to call her Mom. She couldn’t. She’d seen her mother die, had her blood very literally on her hands. All this talk about alternate universes where thing didn’t totally suck was just stupid. She wasn’t going to think about it, they couldn’t make her. Despite herself Buffy’s eyes focused on the corner of white bandage visible over the neckline of her top. She still didn’t know how she could have missed such an easy shot. Just a few inches to the left and down and this woman, who was human even if she wasn’t her Mom, would be dead. Their eyes met for an instant. Buffy jerked her eyes away.

“I’m sorry. About what happened. It was an accident.”

“I understand. It must have been a shock, seeing me.” Giles twitched.

“M-my fault entirely. I thought it would be better to wait until Buffy was here and tell her in person. I should have predicted that her reaction might be er, violent...” Cordelia snorted, but refrained from further comment after Buffy shot her a look.

General discomfort reigned as Joyce walked over to Buffy. “The doctor said I’ll be fine, I just need to take it easy for a few days.” Buffy refused to acknowledge that familiar nervous smile.

“Are you sure you should be here then? Shouldn’t you be resting?”

“I’ll be fine. I didn’t feel comfortable being alone in the house. It’s the housekeeper’s night off.”

“The housekeeper? Nice,” Buffy sneered. “Is there a maid too?” Cordelia raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow.

“Twice a week, thanks for asking,” she purred.

Buffy nodded. “So, where’s our undead pal?”

“He’s coming, but since sunlight’s not too good for his complexion he took the sewers.”

“Figures. So how long do we have to wait around waiting on him? I don’t get why we’re waiting anyway. How many factory buildings has a town this size got? I bet I could find his lair on my own.”

“Good plan, if you’re looking for a way to get yourself killed.” The drawl shocked everyone into silence as they turned to stare at the thin blond guy who had suddenly appeared in the entrance to the library. Nice coat, Buffy thought as he favored them with a smirk.

Buffy produced a staked and pointed it at him. “Who the hell are you?” His hands went up empty, appeasing, but she knew a predator when she saw one.

“A friend. One who knows where the Master is holed up.”

Her grip tightened. “Another vamp,” she said flatly. “How come all the vamps in this town want to be my friend. Let me guess, you’ve got a soul too.”

“Bite your tongue girlie! No, no soul. But we want the same thing to destroy the Master.”

“Spike!” A voice growled behind him.

Bugger, Spike thought, as his head whipped around, it’s Scylla and Charybdis all over again.

“Angelus,” he said jovially. “You’re here, thought at first my nose was playing tricks on me. How’d you get out?” He certainly looked in better shape than the last time he’d seen him. He was still thin and obviously not quite up to full strength, but still dangerous enough. Judging from his expression he definitely remembered the last time he’d seen Spike.

“You know this person?” The Watcher asked.

“Yeah.” Angelus wasn’t attacking but he blocked any hope of a hasty exit. “Meet Spike, aka William the Bloody.”

“W-w-William the Bloody…” Spike couldn’t help preening a little at the tremor in the Watcher’s voice. “Angelus’ former protégé.”

Oi! Spike gritted his teeth. “Yeah. Like I said: we both want the Master dust. I can’t manage it on my own, and from what I’ve seen your lot needs all the help you can get.”

“The enemy of my enemy,” the Watcher said dryly.

“Got it in one.”

“Because of course we can trust you,” the Slayer sniped. Bitch.

“Already helped you out. I’m the one kept the Bobbsey Twins from burning you out the other night.”


“That was you?”

“Yeah. Not to mention I saved Joyce here from one of old batface’s minions.” His eyes met hers for a moment. “Can’t believe you left her there alone, what the hell were you thinking of?”

All eyes were suddenly focused on Joyce. “Is this true?” The Watcher demanded. She nodded. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“He asked me not to, and I didn’t see the harm.”

Her daughter shook her head in scornful disbelief. “Right.” She turned back towards Spike. “Well, I guess I can’t stake you, and thanks for your help, but there’s no way we’re working together.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I don’t know, maybe because you’re a cold-blooded killer and taking creatures like you out is what I do.” The bint took another step towards him, eyes glittering, he held his ground uneasily aware of Angelus’ hulking presence somewhere behind him.

“What the hell do you think old Angelus there is? Paddington Bear?”

“I don’t feed off humans. Not since I got the soul.”

“Yeah?” He decided not to bring up Shanghai; best keep some ammunition in reserve. “Well, if that’s the deal-breaker, I’ll stick with the vegetarian option as long as we’re working together.”

“And we would believe you why?”

“I’d know,” Angelus spoke up, surprising everyone. The humans looked at him questioningly. “If he feeds on human blood, I’ll know.”

Spike struggled to control his temper. “See, so you’d have a second surety, in addition to my word.” Only someone who’d known him for years could have read the tiny quirk in Angelus’ lips as a smile.

“It’s still not safe!” The Slayer wasn’t giving up without a fight.

“Uh, guys?” Up spoke the juicy bit who’d nearly gotten herself eaten the other night. “Maybe you missed the fact that we live on the Hellmouth in a town overrun with vampires? I don’t think ‘safe’ really applies in Sunnyhell. But I do know that both Spike and Angel can kick demon ass. As long as Angel can kick his ass make sure he’s not snacking on people, then I think we ought to go for it.”

He thought maybe he could get to like that girl.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I think we should accept his offer.”


“I’m sorry Miss Summers, but we cannot afford to turn away allies. As powerful as you are, the Master has hundreds of minions. You can’t take them all on.”

“No way! It’s bad enough you wouldn’t let me stake tall dark and dead over there; this guy doesn’t even have the lame soul excuse going for him!”

“That’s as may be, but again, we are facing a formidable foe, and unless you have some sort of a plan for going up against him?” The Watcher waited for a polite interval, but all she gave him was an extremely blank look. “No? Well, fortunately, as it happens, I do. And Spike’s help would be invaluable.”
They were a tough crowd, but as Giles sketched his plan out their attitudes shifted from skeptical to impressed.

“Hey, that’s a good plan.” Buffy looked at him with the dawning of respect.

“Smoking,” Larry said.

“That’s – not bad by half,” Spike admitted.

“It could work,” Nancy said.

“Yeah,” her boyfriend agreed.

“We’d have a chance,” Angel said.

“I’m impressed,” Cordelia told him.

“Are you sure?” Joyce thought it sounded entirely too dangerous, though of course no-one was asking her opinion.

“Let’s do it,” Buffy said, deciding the matter.


While the young people and Mrs. Summers rushed off to help get ready for tonight, and the vampires went – back into the sewers he supposed; Giles returned to his apartment to collect a few essentials.

The answering machine’s little red light blinked malevolently in the dark room. How very telling it was that he knew there could be no good news waiting for him. Resignedly he pushed the button. “You have 1 message, received at 5:25 p.m. on Friday.” Click, whirr as it rewound the tape.

“Mr. Giles, this is Darius Merrick. You may inform Buffy that I am extremely disappointed in her. I have also informed the Council of your actions in this matter and you may expect to hear from them shortly. I will be arriving at Sunnydale Airport on flight 823 from Cleveland this evening at 6:23. I expect you and my Slayer will be there to meet me. Goodbye.” There was a click as Merrick disconnected. “No Messages Remaining” the infinitely more pleasant machine voice informed him.

“Lovely,” Giles said, and pushed the button.

“This message has been erased.”

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