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Author's note: Some of the dialogue in this has been taken from the actual third season fourth episode of Angel; Carpe Noctum.

Paterfamilias.

From the Latin, 'Father of the Family.'

Buffy opened her eyes. Instantly she stilled, not wanting to believe what was above her. She felt the confines of the light soft padded lining all around her. Sadness emerged. A single thought came to her mind. They had brought her back. Anguish followed, as her hands formed fists. Slayer instincts were at the ready. She allowed them to take control, pushing herself behind them for protection. Her hands rose up, ready to punch her way out of the coffin and the earth above it.......

Only to hit nothing but air. She blinked, adjusting her vision. Instead of the lining of a coffin facing her, there was the pale skin of a male chest. Buffy relaxed, a smile coming immediately to her face. It had just been a dream. Or rather the memory of a past, but very real, event. She had woken up in that coffin a few weeks ago.

But after fighting her way out of the lining, wood and earth above her, it had been Angel, and not the faces of the people she had once called friends, who greeted her. Buffy sighed. She knew that she should not blame them for doing only what they felt was in her best interests, yet she could not quite forgive them either.

They had believed she was trapped in a hell dimension, when the reality was, she had gone to heaven. After sacrificing herself for a sister who never should have existed in the first place. Well, that was only partly true, she reminded herself. Death at the time had been as much a matter of relief as self-sacrifice.

Life had lost its fascination for her a long time ago. Even before Angel's departure from Sunnydale. But the last year had been the worst. Forced to be everyone's saviour, while she was falling apart inside. She had been ready to break down so many times. Something had always kept her back, however. The need to receive understanding, compassion, and relief. Three things she had known that she would never get.

Suddenly, as if he knew what thoughts were going through her mind, Angel's arms tightened around her, followed by a kiss to her hair. Buffy smiled, and pushed those dark thoughts away. All that was in the past.

She turned, pressing a kiss to the piece of skin that covered his newly beating heart. She had the future now, and it was bright. She moved upwards, seeking his lips. He obliged, as their bodies familiarised themselves with each other once more. No words pass between them, a method of communication they had long since grown out of, as he rolled her underneath him, so his lips could worship the rest of her.

The phone rang, halting any further activity. Angel groaned, tempted to ignore it, but knowing that he had left instructions for them not to be disturbed unless it was a case. He stretched an arm out and picked up the receiver. "Yes, what is it?"

"Do you have any idea how cool it is not to receive painful visions anymore?" Came back the voice of the firm's seer.

"I'm sure its wonderful," Buffy said, as she moved to rest against Angel once more, "but could you please get to the point of why?"

"Oh, not again! You've been together for practically a month, haven't you got sick of it by now?" Was the reply. "Just get down here, we have a case."

"Is she needing someone, or is it just me?" Buffy asked as she and Angel climbed out of bed to get changed.

"I think she's missing Groo," Angel replied. "Either that, or she's happy for us, but she's trying not to show it."

They finished dressing and made their way downstairs to find the rest of Angel Investigations already assembled around what was once the check-in desk when the Hyperion was a hotel.

Wesley looked up from the paper he was reading to greet them. "Evening, Buffy, Angel. Have you seen this?" He handed them the article.

"Police found the body of a twenty-six year old Woodrow Raglan in a two-bedroom suite at the Elondria Hotel," Angel read aloud. "Unnamed witness said it was as if his insides had just collapsed." He paused thinking. "Wasn't there something like this last week?"

Wesley held up a paper clipping. "Ten days ago. Another young male, found in a hotel in similar conditions."

"This was what my vision was about," Cordelia added.

"So, what do you think?" Buffy began. "Spell, curse, serial demon?"

"Could be all three," Gunn replied. "Let's open up a case file."

 


"Good morning, Lilah."

Lilah Morgan came to a halt at the door to her office, a groan automatically coming to her mind. Since her announcement to the heads of Wolfram and Hart concerning the blurred photograph which only she knew to be of Buffy Summers, business at the firm had surprisingly carried on as normal. She had expected chaos, the killing of a few department heads. The abandonment of a few ventures. Including those of her latest pest. "Good morning, Gavin. Well, here we are at my office. Bye."

Gavin Parks moved not a step. "You're a tough one. I know I'm gonna have to earn your respect. But give me a little time. You'll see I'm a creative guy."

"Oh, like your 'lets torment Angel with building code violations' idea?" Lilah scorned. It had been quite a good idea, and with a few more things thrown in, it might have worked, but she was not about to let him know that. "Uh, so Machiavellian!" She added sarcastically. "We'll just drown him in red tape!"

Gavin did not seem in the least perturbed by her attack. "There are other level's to this, Lilah. Avenues of interest I have... One of them being: does Angel even exist?"

"Are you getting metaphysical on me?"

"No. The guy has no social security number, no tax payer ID, no last name as far as I know. How can he go down to the building department, or anywhere else in officialdom for that matter? - He's the rat and we're the maze. Don't you wanna see what he'll do next?"

"He might just rip out your throat," Lilah replied. Something I wouldn't mind witnessing.

"Do you think he'd do something that cliched? Gosh. Maybe you don't know him as well as you think." And with that last parting words, Gavin ended the repartee, by walking down the corridor. After a minute of watching him, Lilah came to a decision and turned to her secretary.

"Get Carter Williams on the phone. The graphic artist? Look under 'F' for forger."

 


"There was a third victim five weeks ago," Wes said when they had come to the end of their researching. "They were all young, healthy males. They all died in expensive hotel suites."

"Can you imagine shelling out all that money for a snazzy suite and then kerplop, you're a big bag of mush bones?" Fred wondered aloud. "I guess it wouldn't be good wherever that happened." Wes looked at her with a silent message, instantly understandable. "Oh - please continue."

"I'm meeting a contact of mine from the coroner's office in thirty minutes," Wesley continued. "See what I can learn about these bodies. Gunn, I was thinking, could you interview the staff of these hotels where the guys died?"

Cordelia collected the print out of some information she had collating. "They were all members of the same health club. The bodies - when they weren't - you know - dead ones."

Angel grabbed his keys, chucking his girl her coat. "Buffy and I will go and check that out."

"Why don't you and Cordelia see what we have on demons and spells and curses," Wes directed Fred. "Everybody sorted? Good, let's go."

 


"Do you think Fred and Cordelia will be alright left alone?" Buffy asked as they entered the gym.

"I think we're better off not knowing," Angel replied, as he looked around for a club attendant. "Hi. My name is Angel. Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?"

"What about?"

"We're investigating the deaths of three members," Buffy remarked, carefully making her tone sound official. "Does this club condone steroid abuse?"

The attendant glanced around evasively, expecting people to come at him at any moment. "No. No, no, no a-a-absolutely not."

"Then we should probably keep this between ourselves, don't you think?" Angel said in a consoling tone. "We'll just take a look at their records and then get out of your hair."

"Er, right this way."

As they were glancing at the records, Buffy looked around the empty exercise room they were in. The reflection of the light off two circles from the window in the building across from them caught her eye immediately. "Angel," she gestured with her eyes to what she had spotted.

Angel wrapped up their inquiries and made his way over to her. "Let's go check it out."

They made their way out of the building and across the street. Monserrat retirement community, the sign said. They went upstairs to the room in which stood the person they had both spotted staring at the gym.

A weathered man with glass opened the door to them. "Mr Roscoe," Buffy began, having read the name off the door, "my name is Buffy and this is Angel." She handed him the firm's card. "Do you mind if we asked you a few questions?"

"Well, its ah pretty late," Marcus Roscoe began, uncertain.

"Shouldn't take too long," Angel assured him, stepping inside. He made his way over to the window. "Nice to have view. I bet you, ah, spend a lot of time enjoying it."

"Not that, uh, much..." Marcus dissembled.

Angel held up the pair of binoculars he had found on the window sill.

"Uh. - Well, I don't see any harm in looking. That's about all I can do anymore. Uh - what is it you want?"

"Your help." Angel put down the binoculars and pulled out the newspaper clippings they had collected. "I wonder if you've seen either of these men across the way in the gym."

Marcus looked over them. "No. I don't think so. I'm more of a girl watcher." He turned to stare at Buffy for a moment. "You know what I'm saying? - Jeez - they all died? How?"

"That's what we're trying to find out."

"You work with the police?"

"We're private investigators."

"Hmm, sounds nice. I was a salesman. Worked alone for fifty years."

Buffy, who had been looking around the room, while this conversation was going on, abruptly stopped as she recognised an object. "Nothian herb jar," She said out loud, turning to face Mr Roscoe. "That's a - pretty exotic item. Did you, ah, deal in the occult?"

"Occult shmuccult. I travelled a lot. Picked up some trinkets."

Angel joined in his girlfriend's curiosity, spotting some extreme sport magazines. "Do a lot of bungee jumping, Mr. Roscoe?"

"More than you might think, Mr. Angel."

"Just Angel."

"I'll remember that." Marcus took off his glasses and stepped forward. "Alli permutat...."

Two words was as far as he got. Buffy, realising just before he had begun that Mr Roscoe might be in to spells as well as the trinkets of occult, had grabbed one of the less harmful souvenirs and knocked him over the head. He dropped to the floor, passed out.

"Thanks," Angel replied, as he surveyed the unconscious attacker.

"What do you think he was trying?" Buffy asked as she began picking up the occult objects, so one else had a chance to try them out.

"Some sort of soul swapping I think," Angel replied, coming over to help her. "Judging by the first two words, anyway."

"So he was trying live young again," Buffy concluded. "Case solved."

 


They arrived back at the Hyperion to find the rest of the firm enjoying some burritos from a local take-out.

"Algurian body-switching spell," Wesley explained, as the couple handed him all the occult trinkets they had picked up from the retirement home.

"That was easy," the slayer commented, sitting on the check-in desk. "Almost too easy. Do you think it was meant to be?"

"They never usually are," Cordelia agreed. "All vision related ones are normally very messy."

"Could have been if you hadn't been here," Angel pointed out, coming stand beside her. "If you hadn't knocked that guy out he could have swapped souls with me."

Buffy shivered. "Scary thought. So glad that did not happen."

"So are cases gonna be this easy from now on?" Gunn queried. "As we have a slayer on our team?"

"Didn't make any difference in Sunnydale," Buffy mused. A moment silence arose as the gang realised it was the first time she had mentioned the place since her arrival. She looked up to find them staring at her. "Hey guys, relax. I'm fine."

"Well, Lilah Morgan came round while you were all out," Fred said. "She delivered the certification documents on all that safety stuff Gavin Parks said we were missing."

"Nice to know that Wolfram and Hart are keeping up their policy of one up man ship on each other," Wesley commented.

"So I guess we can all relax for a while," Angel remarked.

 


Two hours away, in one of the many graveyards that littered the small town, four people gathered around a seemingly normal looking grave. Nothing remained of the ritual they had tried to carry out. No sign of success or failure.

"I don't understand," Willow began, surveying the ground. "I followed the ritual precisely. Something should have happened."

"Well, we were interrupted," Xander pointed, taking the shovel that was in his hands and putting it into the ground. "Those demons on bikes have kept us occupied. Maybe we just missed something."

"Rise!" Willow commanded suddenly, her eyes turning red. Xander abruptly stopped his digging as the ground turned over by itself, raising the coffin. "That saved a messy job," he commented instead.

"I still don't think we should be doing this," Tara remarked as her girlfriend stepped to the coffin, examining the locks.

"That ritual should have worked," Willow explained. "I'm just trying to find out why."

"What the hell are you all doing!?!"

The four members of the Scooby gang jumped in surprise and turned round. Willow was the first to speak. "Giles! You're back."

"Yes, I arrived an hour ago. Spike told me where you were." Giles looked up from the ground to show them his grim face. "And I see now that his story was not as preposterous as I thought it was at the time."

"We were only," Tara began in an effort to placate. Giles was not in the mood.

"I thought that I had made it clear to you all not to try to bring her back!"

"Giles, she's in a hell dimension! We have to try!" Willow cried.

"Has it not occurred to you that if she were, the Powers That Be would have rescued her?" He asked them. "They did for Angel." He stepped forward. "She sacrificed herself in order to save Dawn. We still have her body. I think her soul went to heaven. You have to face up to the fact that's she's not coming back."

"But Giles.."

"No, Willow, you're not trying again. You're using far too much power as it is. Now go home, all of you. I'll clear this up."

They trudged their way out of the graveyard. Giles watched them go, then turned to look at the raised coffin.

And gasped, as he suddenly realised something.

 


This time no one interrupted them. Afterwards Angel held her close, still lying inside her, gazing into her eyes. "Are you sure?" He asked.

"I'm fine," Buffy assured him, smiling. "Stop worrying."

"I can't help it," he confessed. "I think of how much you suffered there, and my heart twists inside."

"I doubt your staying would have changed anything."

"I'm not so sure."

"Angel, things were hard, even when you were with me. I think it began after I came back, two years ago. I no longer trusted them, and they expected me to cope with everything that fell on us. When you left, I formed a wall between my true self and the slayer. It helped me survive, but it also hurt me. No one seemed to notice had badly I was suffering. Not even Giles, or Riley."

"Why did you never tell me this?"

"I was afraid. I worried that if I called you, I'd break down and make you feel guilty for leaving. I was also angry with myself for not being able to fulfil that wish of yours."

"At times I regretted making that wish," Angel kissed her.

"But we're together now," Buffy reminded him when they stopped. "And we don't need to worry about that pesky normal life you wanted me to have. I have it. With you."

They moved to kiss again, when the phone rang. Buffy groaned. "I knew that case was closed too quickly." Reluctantly, she twisted out of Angel's arms, and grabbed the phone. "We're up, what is it?"

"You better get down here," Wesley answered on the other side of the internal line. "There's someone who wants to see you."

Buffy put the phone down and glanced at Angel. "I think someone from Sunnydale has done a little grave digging."

"But I made sure that there was no way they could find out," Angel assured as he got dressed. "How on earth did they know to dig?"

"I don't know."

They made their way out of the suite to the landing that overlooked the lobby. Buffy peered over the railing, and identified their guest. She glanced at Angel and sighed, before walking to the stairs. "Hi Giles," she greeted when she had reached the bottom.

The ex-watcher looked at her with a gasp. "So its true then," He said. "The spell worked."

"Yes it did." Buffy looked at him coldly. "Did you have a hand in its application?"

"No," Giles replied. "I've been in England since the funeral." He stepped forward, halting when she shied away from him. "I had no idea they would try this."

"You weren't the only one," Buffy acknowledged.

"Why are you here?" Giles questioned, sensing from her tone that, despite his non-participation in the ritual that had brought her back, he still was not welcome in the Hotel.

"There's nothing for me in Sunnydale," Buffy stated. She turned and walked to the doors that led to the little inner courtyard. She wanted to conduct this particular argument on her own terms.

Giles found himself at a loss as he followed out into the sunshine. "What do you mean there's nothing for you in Sunnydale? There's your friends, your education, Dawn. Your duties as the slayer."

Buffy chuckled, cutting him off. It was a cold chuckle, like how most of the conversation had been. "You need to look up the definition of that term. As far as I'm concerned, I have no friends in Sunnydale."

"Buffy, that is unkind."

"Is it?" She shot back. "If they were friends, they would have noticed a long time ago that my death was inevitable." She paused to turn and face him. "As for my education, that has been interrupted by demons, Initiative, murdered teachers, Glory, and the death of my mother. I think that's a sign that I don't need it."

"What about Dawn then?" Giles asked, still shocked at how different she was.

"A sister I was never supposed to have. Thank god death restored my original memories."

"Buffy!?!" Giles uttered, appalled by her lack of emotion.

"What? Its all true. Dawn is a key, Giles. They can both open and lock things. Even different dimensions."

"If you believe that, why did you sacrifice yourself?"

"I didn't know that at the time. And it was more of a release than a sacrifice."

Giles shook his head in astonishment, but dare not query it. He realised that he did not want to learn the answer just yet. "What about Willow, Tara, Anya and Xander? Don't you think that they're missing you?"

"They're missing the slayer to come and take care of things, not Buffy. I left them a long time ago. They didn't even notice."

"Do you not think that you should at least let them know that you're alive?"

"No, I don't."

Giles advanced closer to her. "All right, what the hell is wrong with you? I know coming back from the dead is difficult......"

"You're right, Giles," Buffy interrupted. "It was difficult. Heart-wrenching, in fact. They all thought I was trapped in a hell dimension. They were too selfish to think that I might actually be someplace else. And that I might not want to come back."

"What do you mean?"

"She was in heaven, Giles." Said a new voice. Giles turned round and gasped as he watched Angel standing in the sunlight. Then he realised what he was saying, and turned back to the girl he had once thought of as a daughter. And still did, he realised. "God, Buffy, I'm sorry. I swear I didn't know."

"You warned Angel about them trying a spell," Buffy pointed out.

"I did, but they stopped when I warned Willow that she was playing with dark magic. Then I left for England. I didn't see the need in staying. If I had known...." he trailed off, as a thought occurred to him. "But, if you were in heaven, it wouldn't have worked."

"It did, because the Powers wanted it to," Buffy explained. "They brought me back, because I had a new destiny, and they had a few things to fix. We visited the Charmed Ones, who restored the balance in me, fixing the damage that the dark magic had done, and then gave Angel his humanity."

Giles smiled, turning to Angel. "Congratulations. To both of you," he added, turning back to Buffy. "Are you happy?"

She smiled, her first real smile to him in a long time, he realised. "Yes, very."

"Then I won't argue in favour of the hellmouth any more," he said, pulling her into a hug. "I've missed you, Buffy."

She smiled and buried herself into his comforting embrace. "I've missed you too."

 


"Do you think you will ever want them to know?"

Buffy leaned back in her chair and looked at her watcher. After their hug they had talked for a long while, as she told him the truth about everything since she had run away two years ago. How she had been just existing as the slayer. And not living as Buffy as well. And what had happened since she had come back to life. "I don't know," she answered him now at last. "I still haven't forgiven them yet. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to."

"And Dawn?"

"I don't remember her anymore. At least, not as she wants me to. As my sister." When she had died, all her original memories of her years without a sister had been returned to her. Along with the memory of the forgotten day. "Its easier for her not to know either."

"I understand," Giles replied. "And I'll try to keep them from doing anything else to bring you back."

"You don't have to," Buffy tried to assure him, "I know you miss England, and there's no reason why you can't go back."

"I want to," he assured her. "And I will need to, because any spells they try might affect you. Once they're set to cope without you, then I'll go." He glanced at his watch. "Speaking of which, I ought to get back, and make sure things are still alright."

Buffy stood up, and hugged him again. "Thank you, for understanding and supporting me," she said.

"I care about you, Buffy. I always have, despite times I may not have shown it. I intend to from now on."

"Well, goodbye for now," He remarked. "Be happy, and live. I'll let you know if anything occurs."

Giles got in his car, watching as Angel came and wrapped his arms around Buffy. He saw her smile, and smiled as well. Everything was fine in LA, he realised. He just had to make sure that Sunnydale did nothing to change that.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Special Effects.