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Author's Note: More time has passed since the previous episode, bringing us up to Graduation. I put the two parts together as one story, and made major changes to the evolution of several character's plots.

As a result a lot of lines have been swapped to new people, and scenes have been cut; like Angel suffering a poisoned arrow, for example. I did wonder about putting in a scene with Joyce, but after reading this for the third time, I decided that the story flowed without one anyway.

So for those who wonder where she is, imagine she is somewhere of your own divising, or silently involved in the battle. I always found that it is better if some things are left to the imagination. Thank you all for your responses on this and my other stories, and I hope you continue to enjoy reading, as well the rest of the site.

Struggle of the Soul.

Hope is the struggle of the soul,
breaking lose from what is perishable,
and attesting her eternity.

Herman Melville (1819–91),
Author of Moby Dick (1851).

"Here we are. Welcome to Sunnydale High. Centre of all evil, gateway to hell. Apocalyptic demons our speciality."

"Not exactly giving us hope here, boss."

Buffy grinned at her colleague's comment as she took her keys out of the ignition. "Don't worry, Charles. We've defeated them every time." She opened the driver's door. "So far, anyway," she added as she stepped outside.

"You see? 'So far.' That's what worries me," Gunn replied as he climbed out the other side of the car. The sound of his door closing was followed by those of the rear doors as the remaining passengers exited the vehicle.

"Where's all this pessimism coming from, Gunn?" Lindsey asked as they pushed open the double entrance doors of the High school. "The fact that Hope is shut down while we're here?"

"Its not helping," Gunn admitted. "What if someone needs help while we're away from the city?"

"Charles, if the Mayor succeeds in his plans, Hope and the rest of Los Angeles won't be in any condition to defend itself. Let alone the rest of the world," the slayer answered as they turned a corner, passing milling students, each clutching yearbooks and or maroon graduation gowns.

The day had finally arrived. After months spent in the city of angels, researching and helping the hopeless, the slayer and her group were now called back to the hellmouth to vanquish the big evil Whistler had spoken of. Never had all of them been back before. Gunn on the rare occasion, Lindsey more, although still sporadically, and Anne never. Only Buffy had returned to the hellmouth frequently, and that was either for weeks with her soulmate or when her friends needed her to help fight an imminent apocalypse. The foundation in Los Angeles kept them busy enough not to make the visits any more frequent, as the reputation of their investigative sanctuary grew with each successful case.

Now Buffy directed her gaze to the windows in the library doors, as she and her group turned the final corner before their destination. The sight which met her eyes caused her to hold out her arms and stop her friends and colleagues in their tracks. Silently with her fingers she directed them to reverse out of sight, back round the corner.

A moment later the doors of the Library opened, and from their position the four managed to hear the last words of their nemesis as he walked out of the room.

"I smell fear. That's smart. Some of your deaths will be quick, if that's worth anything. Well, see you all at graduation." There was a pause, followed by a swishing sound, the type associated with metal encountering air. "You don't want to miss my commencement address. It's going to be one heck of a speech."

Buffy pulled her team back as Richard Wilkins the third strode out of the corridor and around the corner, heading out of the high school.

Only when he had disappeared from their view did she allow them to advance and enter the unofficial headquarters of the Slayerettes.

"Well, he who smelt it, dealt it," she uttered as she walked into the room. "Cavalry's here, people."

"Buffy," Giles began, before closing the gap between them to draw her into a hug. "I thought you guys weren't due until later." He kissed her hair then drew back to shake the hands of those behind her.

"Case finished earlier than we expected," Buffy replied before advancing further into the room. Instantly she was swooped upon by her best friends. Willow, Cordelia, Oz and Xander caught the slayer in a eager group embrace. "Hey guys, not denying I'm glad to see you and all, but needing to breathe here."

"Sorry," Willow answered for all as they drew back. Buffy smiled at them before darting aside to greet the next in line. "Hey, Faith."

"Hey, B," Faith replied, before surprising all witnesses and hugging her sister in arms. During the months of her reign as guardian of the hellmouth, the two slayers had become close friends, as the brunette grew into her heritage, taking charge of patrols in the dale. Self-sufficient, and street smart, Faith had found herself softening under the blonde's and Giles careful tutelage, coming to depend on the circle of friends the former had left behind for the big city, until she counted them as friends for herself.

Now she withdrew from the hug to fetch the newspaper she had rapidly hidden upon the Mayor's entrance and handed it to her companion. "If you're not too tired, there's something here I think we need to take a closer look at."

"'Brutally stabbed,'" Buffy read aloud. "'Mr. Worth, visiting professor of Geology.' There's nothing in here that bellows motive."

"It's his," Faith assured her.

"You're certain?"

Faith nodded. "Definitely one of his pieces. I recognise the brush work." She handed the paper to Giles. "I think it's homework."

"The Mayor wanted the good professor out of the way," Giles remarked skimming the article before returning it to her.

"Which leads to the question, how come?" Buffy addressed the room. "I'm gonna destroy the entire city, but I take the time to kill harmless Lester first?"

"Tying up loose ends?" Lindsey suggested. "Lester had something or knew something?"

"Then I say we wanna know too," Buffy decided. "The Mayor's trying to hide. I say we go seek."

"Ah," the newcomer to the slayerettes commented. "By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it."

"What page are you on, Wes? 'Cause we already got there," Faith returned.

"Yes, well," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce paused, searching to establish what authority he could, in this room full of leaders. "You will go tonight. Both of you. Look over his apartment. Anything of note, report back here."

"I just love it when you take charge, you man, you," Buffy mocked, but gently, not wanting to inhibit the man whom someday, would join her in Los Angeles as her watcher. Possibly after graduation. Providing they survived, that is. Seeking to push that sudden pessimism from her mind, she turned back to the newspaper. "Now, this is interesting. They've already arrested someone for the murder."

"Who?" Giles asked her.

"A Mr Finch," Buffy read off the morning issue of the broadsheet.

"As in the Deputy Mayor?" Giles paused, thinking. "A bit stupid, wouldn't you say?"

"Very," Buffy agreed before turning to her group. "Lindsey, think you can go and talk to him? In your official capacity?"

"Sure," Lindsey replied, taking the proffered car keys. "I'd have to persuade him to want to talk to us though, otherwise I'd be breaking attorney client privilege."

"I think he will," Faith said. "From what I've seen of him, murdering someone in cold blood isn't in him. I think the Mayor fit him up for the crime in order to get him out of the way."

Lindsey nodded before turning round and heading out of the library. Buffy smiled at the gang. "I guess I'm walking then."

"See you at dusk," Faith remarked with a smile, which her sister in arms returned into a grin as she headed out.

She found the object of her next reunion quietly reposed in the living room of the Mansion at 1902 Crawford Street, intently studying the leather-bound volume clasped in his hands. Inwardly blushing at the memory of what those hands had done to her the last time they saw each other, she entered the house.

He looked up at her entrance and instantly the book was forgotten, in favour of leaping gracefully from his seat to embrace his soulmate.

"I wasn't expecting you until later," he murmured while his hands caressed her through her clothes, driving her wild.

"Case finished early," Buffy managed to replied before her lips were swept up by his into a blinding kiss.

Need for breath was the only urge for which they withdrew, and even then he persisted in holding her still, close enough for the air she breathed to blow upon their skin. A silent moment of gazing passed between them, as they drank the sight of each other in, scouting for any alteration since the last time they set eyes on each other.

"Okay, I'm basked," Buffy announced, then taking his hand, she led him back to the sofa, where they sat down. "Anything go down since our last conversation?"

"There was a kidnap situation," Angel informed her, causing her to gasp. "Don't worried, it's sorted now. We thought we could get ahead of the Mayor. There was a package coming in, a box he needed, along with the books of Ascension. We tried to get both, me and Faith bypassing the magical security system, but one of his minions kidnapped Willow, and we had to exchange the box to get her back."

"She didn't mention a word of this to me," Buffy mused. "I'll have to rail for a bit at her tomorrow. Are you sure she's okay?"

"Yeah, she managed to stake a vamp with a floating pencil, and grab what pages she could from the Ascension books."

"Anything else happen?"

"Nope," he assured her.

"No evil illusions of past demonic crimes?"

"Nothing," Angel confirmed, gazing at her, his dark eyes drinking in every part of her. Buffy felt the heat of the gaze, and realised all conversation would soon be over.

"So," she drawled, "any plans for the rest of the day?"

"Just one springs to mind," he returned, before drawing her into another embrace.



Buffy looked up from her explorations, and grinned at the new arrival. "Stealthy," she uttered in greeting.

"Not my best entrance," Faith agreed as she shut the door, barring any prying eyes from witnessing their unofficial examination of the crime scene at the campus. "I think they were mopping in the halls." She gestured at the paper her sister in arms was studying. "What's that?"

"A report. Excavation of some old lava bed. Guy was a volcano-ologist or something."

"Anything in there that connects him to the Mayor?"

"I looked through it, but the only thing I understood were the commas. Gonna bring it to Giles, see if he can do better." She tossed in the box and turned back to the filing cabinet.

Faith moved to another part of the room and started examining. "So, what did you get up to after seeing us?"

"I never kiss and tell," Buffy returned with a grin. "All I will say is that long absence followed by reunion definitely makes the heart pump faster."

"And hear was me thinking you were the quiet one," Faith returned. "Or have we swapped genes, 'cause I haven't had the pleasure since Boston."

"That would be weird," Buffy mused as she tossed another paper in the 'takeout' box. "Though can't say I'm surprised. Sunnyhell is lacking in the good guy department."

"I'd take any guy at the moment," Faith confessed. "What about Lindsey, is he single?"

"Far as I know," Buffy replied. "Gunn ain't bad to look at either."

"Yeah, but I think he has eyes for Anne," Faith informed her.

"You do?"

"Haven't you seen them together?" Faith looked at 'sister' in surprise. "He's crazy about her. A girl can tell."

"I'll take your word for it," Buffy replied as she moved on to another set of drawers. "How come Willow got kidnapped, by the way?"

"You heard about that?"

"Me and Angel did have a brief conversation," Buffy confirmed, blushing.

"Well, she volunteered to come with Angel and me and defuse any magical security the Mayor might have. Just as well she did, because there was one over the box. Anyway, she did that and got out of there, but I think one of the minions must have spotted her, because we assumed she returned to the Library. Until we got back and realised she hadn't." She paused to close a cabinet. "We had to fight our way out of there anyway. Forgot about 21st century technology; he had a real alarm installed as well."

"So what did these creatures look like that were in the box?"

"Cross between scarabs and spiders," Faith replied. "Vicious little buggers. One pronounced on the Mayor's face, ripped it apart. Only thanks to his invincibility did he survived unscathed."

"Pity. Does he still have that, by the way?"

"Yeah, unfortunately. Giles threw a sword in him just before you arrived. He dealt with that easily enough. Gave us a lecture on adult behaviour as well."

"Hypocrite," Buffy remarked with feeling. "Way to go Giles." she closed the drawer. "Okay, I think we're about done here."

"I agree." Faith replaced the covers on the bed and opened the door. "Coast's clear," she announced after a moment, then stood back to let Buffy pass her with the box of hopefully useful information in her arms. She followed her out into the car park.



Giles looked up from the pile of papers he was studying to glance at his fellow watcher. "What?" He asked him.

"It seems our Mr. Worth headed an expedition in Hawaii, digging in old lava beds near a dormant volcano."

"I'm not fascinated yet.," Buffy commented.

"He found something underneath," Wesley continued. "A carcass, buried by an eruption."

"A carcass?" Giles echoed.

"A very large one. Mr. Worth posits that it might be some heretofore undiscovered dinosaur."

"A demon?" Angel sought to confirm.

"Yes, that would be something that the Mayor would want to keep a secret," Giles agreed. "If it's the same kind of demon he's turning into and it's dead, it means that he's only impervious to harm until the Ascension. In his demon form, he can be killed."

"Great. So all we need is a million tons of burning lava," Cordelia commented sarcastically. "We're saved."

The door swept open, and the slayerettes glanced up to see their attorney enter the Library, taking care to shut the doors before advancing any further into the room.

"Anything from Finch?" Buffy asked.

"Nothing much," Lindsey replied as he sat down. "He swears that Trick killed Worth, and confirmed that the Mayor plans to change after his commencement address. But aside from being terrified, he wasn't very helpful. He did have proof, and planned to present it to us some months ago, but the Mayor discovered his plans, destroyed the evidence, and held him hostage until he could safely get rid."

"So you're saying, basically, that we're screwed?" Faith sought to confirm.

Lindsey shrugged in agreement. "Pretty much."

"Hang on guys," Buffy remarked suddenly. "I think I have an idea."


"So, am I crazy?" She asked when she had finished.

"Well, 'crazy' is such a strong word," Willow replied evasively.

"Let's not rule it out though," Giles commented.

"You don't think it can be done?" Buffy queried.

Her watcher instantly shook his head. "I didn't say that. I might, but not yet."

"I personally don't think it's impossible to come up with a crazier plan," Cordelia remarked frankly.

"We attack the Mayor with humus," Oz suggested.

"I stand corrected," Cordelia muttered.

The guitarist was nonplussed. "Just trying to keep things in perspective."

"Thank you," Cordelia acknowledged before continuing. "My point however is, crazy or not, it's pretty much the only plan. Besides, it's Buffy's, and she's slay gal, you know, Ms little Likes-to-fight. So....."

Her boyfriend interrupted her. "I think there was a 'yea' vote buried in there somewhere."

"Well, I'm going to need every single one of you on board. Especially you Xander. You're sort of the key figure here."

"Key? Me? Okay, pride, humility, and here is the mind numbing fear." He sighed dramatically. "What do I have to do?"

"Do you remember any of your military training from when you became soldier guy?" Xander thought for a moment. "Uh, rocket launcher?"

His best friend shook her head. "Rocket launcher not going to get it done. I mean, it took a volcano to kill one of these things last time."

Giles rose from his seat to pace. "Um, Buffy, all of this is rather dependant on your being able to control the Mayor."

"Why don't you play on his human weakness?" Faith suggested.

"His human weakness." Giles echoed. "Which is?"

"Well, he's not crazy about germs," Angel volunteered.

"Of course, that's it. We attack him with germs!" Cordelia cried sarcastically. "We'll corner him and then you can sneeze on him."

"I'm starting to lean towards the humus offensive," Xander murmured.

"He'll never see it coming," Oz assured them.

"I was thinking more on the need to survive, the desire for revenge, or endless power instincts," Faith informed them. "You know, the feelings which made him want to become a demon in the first place."

"Good," Buffy agreed. "Now that I can use."

"So there is something I can do besides scream like a woman?" Wesley asked.

"There is plenty. There is chores for everyone. Okay, this is how it's going to lay out. The transformation should begin after his speech. He's likely to have the exits covered, but I don't know how he's gonna manage that, what with vampires being out of the picture."

Wesley shook his head. "Won't be a problem," he informed them, holding up a open ancient leather-bound volume. "'Darkness will follow and day becomes night.'"

"An eclipse," Buffy murmured.

"Standard procedure for an ascension," Wesley added.

"That puts me back into the game," Angel said as he resumed his stance by Buffy around the main reading table over the hellmouth.

"I think he'll want the vamps to kill rather than feed," Faith decided as she looked at the plans spread out beneath them on the table. "We really need an army," she added thoughtfully. "Eleven is not going to cut it."

"I have an idea about that," Buffy replied. She turned to Cordelia. "I'm gonna need you to help with that."

"Me?" Cordelia queried. "Why me?"

"I need your connections here. And the rest of you, actually. If we do this right, visitors and students won't just be mayor fodder, but our surprise army. Now, any suggestions on volcano detail?"

"I think we can work it out," Oz replied.

"Fun with chemistry," his girlfriend agreed.

"I should be able to get the materials," Xander informed them.

"Who's going to stoke it up?" Gunn asked.

Buffy turned to Giles. "You feel up to it?"

"I suppose it should be I. It's strangely fitting in a grotesque fashion."

"Okay guys, start reaching out. Giles; weapons, weapons, weapons. Remember; fast and brutal. Whoever wins this battle, it's going to be a whole new world come nightfall, and I want us to be ready for it."


Several hours later, and everything was in hand. Assembled below the scholastic pulpit, the students, parents, and teaching staff watched Principal Snyder open proceedings on what he expected to be an ordinary graduation ceremony.

And it would be. Until the sun 'went down,' anyway.

"Congratulations to the class of 1999," Snyder started. "You all proved more or less adequate," he added grudgingly. "This is a time of celebration, so: sit still and be quiet."

His watchful eyes turned to a random student. "Spit out that gum. Please welcome our distinguished guest speaker: Richard Wilkins the 3rd."

He led everyone in applause, his eyes still on the unrepentant student. "I saw that gesture. You see me after graduation."

The Mayor shook Principal Snyder's hands, acknowledged the applause, then stepped to the podium. "Well. What a day this is! Special day. Today is our centennial; the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids: not a darn thing.

"Because today something much more important happens: today you all graduate from high school. Today all the pain, all the work, all the excitement, is finally over. And what's a hundred years of history compared to that? You know what kids?"

"Oh my God," Buffy murmured to Faith from their stance at the back, out of the way from prying Principal eyes. "He's going to do the entire speech."

"Man, just ascend already," Faith commanded softly.

"Evolve!" Buffy added in the same tone.

"For all of you, it may be that there is a place in Sunnydale's history, whether you like it or not. It's been a long road getting here. For you, for Sunnydale. There has been achievement, joy, good times, and there has been grief. There's been loss. Some people who should be here today aren't.

"But we are. Journey's end. And what is a journey? Is it just distance travelled? Time spent? No. It's what happens on the way, the things that happen to you. At the end of the journey you're not the same. Today is about change. Graduation doesn't just mean your circumstances change, it means you do.

"You ascend to a higher level. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing. And so as we look back on the events that brought us to this day......" he groaned as a wave of pain hit him.

"Come on," Buffy murmured.

Above her the moon began to conquer the sun.

"We must all.............." Wilkins trailed off in a sudden, agonising scream. "It has begun," he uttered when he had recovered. "My destiny. It's a little sooner than I expected. I had this whole section on civic pride.... But I guess we'll just skip to the big finish!"

He laid down his cue cards, stepped back and began to evolve into the demon he had planned and waited for one hundred years ago. Below him the slayerettes tossed aside their graduation caps, while the adults of the group stepped stealthily backwards towards the high school building.

Demonic Mayor noticed this 'fear' and roared with confidence of his future victory. He had completely forgotten that pride cometh before a fall.

Buffy advanced forward. "Now!" She cried. Around her the students en masse rose from their seats, and took off their maroon gowns, revealing combat gear and weaponry festooned beneath that cover of clothing.

"Flame units," Faith commanded, and a group armed with fire lit crossbows advanced forward into range.

Buffy nodded to Xander.

"First wave! Fire!" He ordered.

The Demonic form which was once the Mayor was unharmed by the first offensive. He roared, turning the flames back on those who had fired. The students backed away before they could inflict mortal damage.

Horrified by the scene he was witnessing, Snyder advanced forward from the place he had been standing when the Mayor evolved. "This is simply unacceptable!" he cried.

Those on the battlefield ignored him, continuing with their offensive.

"Arm bow men," Angel ordered as the vampires came into view. A row of students with ordinary longbows and crossbolts aimed in the required direction. "Fire!"

"Fall back!" Buffy commanded those students fresh out of flame crossbows.

"Fire!" Faith directed the new wave.

"This is not orderly. This is not discipline!" Snyder cried out, confidently addressing what was the Mayor. "You're on my campus buddy! And when I say I want quiet, I want...."

He was cut off as with one swoop the Mayor opened his mouth and swallowed the principal whole.

Buffy watched the death in horror. "Fall Back! Get back!" She turned to her best friend. "Go!"

"Good luck!" Willow offered before exiting.

"Xander take 'em down," Faith directed.

"Everyone: hand to hand!" Xander commanded as he retrieved a stake from his pocket. "Lets go! Move! Move!"

"Right flank close in," Angel ordered. "Close!"

Buffy advanced towards the Mayor. "Hey, you, dino guy. You think you've faced the only slayer all this time? Well, you were wrong. I'm the slayer; first. The one whose foiled a lot of your earlier campaign promises, I'd imagine. Care to prove me wrong, Dick?"

She waited for him to stretch his neck forward. "Come and get me!" she added, then turned round and ran. Behind her, Faith directed the battling students to move, clearing a path so the chase was not impeded.

Buffy led the demon through the school corridors, relying on all her strength as she led her prey to its final destination. Just before the doors she dodged aside, leaving him to burst through, only to be confronted with the largest collection of dynamite one could carry unobserved out of an army base in a morning.

"Well, gosh," he was heard to say before everything went to an explosive hell.


"Are you all right?"

It was a few hours later. The eclipse had faded away into an afternoon light of smoke from the still inferno remains of the high school. Paramedics, ambulances, fire fighters, and fire engines cluttered the car park and what had been the graduation area, tending to the injured or, tragically, fatalities at the scene. No one had made it through unscathed. Even the Scooby gang supported bruises and cuts.

Now the blond slayer turned to her watcher, shifting slightly in her soulmate's arms, which were clasped around her waist. "I'm tired," she replied.

Giles smiled as he finished cleaning his smoke stained glasses. "I should imagine so. It's been quite a couple of days."

"I haven't processed everything yet. My brain isn't really functioning on the higher levels. It's pretty much: fire bad; tree pretty."

"Understandable. Well, when it's working again congratulate it on a good campaign. You did very well."

"Thank you. I will."

"There is a certain dramatic irony that's attached to all this. A Synchronicity that borders on predestination, one might say."

"Fire bad; tree pretty," Buffy insisted.

"Yes, sorry. I'm going to see to Wesley, see if he's is still whimpering. After he's cleaned up, I think he might be ready for the big city."

The couple exchanged smiles as they watched their friend walk away in the direction of the paramedics. Buffy looked up at her soulmate. "How are you?" She asked him.

"Exhausted," Angel replied. "Relieved that it's all over. Hopeful."

"Hopeful?" Buffy echoed.

"Remember what Whistler said to me? After this big evil I would free to do whatever I please. I'm hoping that means I can come with you to L.A."

"Well, you don't need to ask, I'm all for it." Buffy smiled, and exchanged a small kiss as he bent his head so his lips could meet hers.

A moment later he regretfully broke away. "It's no good, I'm too tired even for that."

Buffy looked at him in mild surprise. "I thought vampires had an endless resource of demonic strength to draw on."

"So did I. But then I have been at this for over two hundred years. Could be getting old." He paused before adding, "it's weird though; during the battle, the strangest thing happened. I was fighting this vamp, when suddenly a bout of pain lanced itself right through me. Felt like I was having a heart attack. Then everything was fine again."

"You're lucky I'm exhausted, otherwise, I'd be really panicky right now," Buffy informed him as she digested this new information.

"Hey, I feel fine now. Just bone tired."

"Odd," Buffy murmured.

"Hey, you two," Faith called out. "You gonna get over here any time soon?"

"On our way," Angel replied and reluctantly they separated to walk hand in hand to where the slayerettes; Los Angeles and Sunnydale, had assembled to recover, around one of the few undamaged benches on the campus.

"Well, that's the most fun you can have without having any fun," Cordelia commented as the couple came to rest beside them, assuming their previous pose.

"How about the part where we kicked some demon ass," Willow pointed out. "I didn't hate that."

"Hear, hear!" Xander commented.

"You guys want to take off?" Faith suggested from her place by Lindsey to the two contrasting soulmates. "I think we've done pretty much all we can."

Cordelia nodded. "I'm for it, " she agreed. "Could sleep for a week."

Buffy yawned. "Me too," she uttered.

"Are you okay?" Willow asked her best friend.

"Yeah I'm okay." She yawned. "I could use a little sleep though."

"Yeah," the wiccan agreed.

Buffy rested her head against Angel's chest. "If someone could just wake me when it's time to go back to L.A, that'd be great."

"Guys, take a moment to deal with this: - we survived," Oz commented.

"It was a hell of a battle!" Angel agreed feelingly.

"Not the battle. High school." The guitarist paused before uttering his next words. "We're taking a moment."

The nine observed a moment of silence.

For a fraction of a second.

"And we're done," Oz murmured as they began rise and walk away.

Buffy remained behind with her soulmate, observing the quiet undisturbed scene before them, unblemished by smoke or fire, or paramedics or emergency vehicles.

"Buffy," Lindsey remarked as he and Faith lingered for a moment.

"Yeah?" she answered absently.

"Think we could delay our departure a few days? You know, to recuperate and all."

Buffy opened her sleepy eyes to observe the couple before her. "Sure, we could all use the break. You two go and recuperate." She grinned knowingly.

"Thanks B," Faith acknowledged, returning the motion. "See ya sometime."

"Mhmm," Buffy replied. Angel pressed a kiss to her hair as they were left to themselves. Silently they revelled in the little heaven of peace now around them. Compared to the rest of the campus, their surroundings were completely unharmed by the explosion, save for the smoking mist that served to hide what was left of the summer daylight hours.

Aside from a slight thumping noise, nothing disturbed them.

Buffy sighed, and her soulmate echoed the motion, thinking nothing of the echoing exhale but the fact that they had survived. Then suddenly he was deprived of his beloved as she rapidly withdrew from his arms to face him.

"Honey, what's wrong?" He asked her.

She said nothing, just shakily put a hand to his chest. It stayed there for a minute, then she put her ear to the spot for another three. Only then did she draw back to present a deliriously blissful face to him.

"Angel, I can hear your heartbeat," she uttered.

It was only six words, but to them, they had conveyed the most important news.

Stunned, her boyfriend could only stare at her. Smilingly, she took his hand and put it to her neck, making it touch the silver cross, the same one he had given her three years ago.

As his fingers caressed the now non-harming metal, his shock evolved into gratified acceptance, and then finally to joy, before sweeping his love in a wondrous kiss.

The End.