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Author's Note: Dialogue taken from the original episode 'Goodbye Iowa', but with various changes, including an additional plot, as my reworking cut a lot of the original storyline. Enjoy.


SERPENT TO STING YOU.

You seek for knowledge and wisdom as I once did;
and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes
may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.

Frankenstein  (1818) Letter 4
Mary Shelley (née Godwin) 1797–1851
English novelist; daughter of
William Godwin & Mary Wollstonecraft,
wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley

"How come Walsh isn't here?" Buffy whispered to Willow as they sat in the lecture hall for Psychology, the hour for the start of the lesson five minutes gone. "She's normally as punctual as..... well, Giles."

"Where's Riley?" Oz queried the other side his girlfriend.

"I don't know," Willow replied. "But the other Initiative guys seem to be missing too," she added.

The door opened, making the general chatter in the room come to a sudden stop, and everyone looked up as a talk, dark and inordinately handsome man entered. He wore dark, tailored fitting clothes which clung to every inch of his slender yet toned body. His blue eyes seemed to take everyone in with welcoming, almost seductive warmth, which contrasted with his reddish fair hair, that was trimmed in long locks to the roof of his neck.

He walked to the desk, set down the brief case and scrolled paper he was carrying, before addressing the class. "Good morning. I'm afraid Professor Walsh is indisposed and I will taking the remainder of her lectures." His accent was cultured, rich, and difficult to place, lending another facet of mysteriousness to his character. "My name is Serperé Cerastes."

"Is it hot in here?" Buffy murmured to Willow, who fanned herself with her notepad. Around them other students seemed to almost swoon before the professor who appeared to hold their attention in the palm of his hand.

"Today, we are studying curiosity," Cerastes continued. "The human desire for knowledge is one of the unique aspects of the universe. All our lives, we strive to learn, to recover undiscovered truths concerning the origin of our planet, species. Our curiosity is as insatiable as our need to procreate. Anyone who has knowledge, or the key to a new understanding, appears to us as seductive, desirable. From the earliest days upon this earth, we have been taught that knowledge is the key to our existence. But we have also been told that too much knowledge, or the wrong knowledge, is dangerous. The word comes from old English cnãwan or the earlier gecnãwan. It is also of Germanic origin; from an Indo- European root shared by the Latin (g)noscere, Greek; gignoskein. For generations the Greek were revered as the most learned civilisation. Now twenty-first knowledge far out strips them, yet still they and other races hold the key to some mysteries which we do not. Knowledge does not come with a moral compass, how we acquire it or use it, depends on our character, ironically also developed from knowledge. The biblical tale of Eve and the serpent is a cautionary one, telling us that if knowledge is placed in the wrong hands, it could lead to our destruction."


A boy stands alone in the road, looking straight ahead of him, calculating the distance he had travelled from home, and how best he might get back; the easiest route verses the fastest. Previously he had been looking at his bike, surveying it for any possible damage the ride on the rough surface of the road might have caused it, before examining his remaining travel options, but now his attention was arrested by something coming towards him.
It was not a person, he had seen enough horror movies to know that. And yet it had parts of a person, which was strange, for the real world at least. Other parts of things were mixed into the body too, like a patch work of different animals of nature.

Only nothing of nature that he had ever seen before.

To the boy it looked like something straight out of Frankenstein. He had never heard nor read Mary Shelley, but he knew the tale, knew of the monster. It sang through the ages, cautioning us to fear the grotesque, that which led the way to darkness, to ignorance.

"What am I?" The monster asked when it had arrived in front of him.

"You're a monster." The boy answered.

"I thought so," the beast said resignedly. "What are you?" He asked, curious.

"Me? I'm a boy."

"A boy," the monster mused. "How do you work?"

"I don't know. I just do." The boy pointed to a skewer which was in place of the monster's hand. "What's that for?"

The monster, whose name was Adam, looked at the skewer attached to his wrist, the last gift his mother gave him, then at the boy.

He smiled, as he realised that she had given him another gift with which to obtain knowledge.

 


Meanwhile, back at the Initiative headquarters, Dr Angleman was entering the restricted access rooms, having arrived for his usual morning hours of work at the experiments, before conducting the morning briefing for the army personnel.

After trying all the switches, he made the discovery that none of the lights in the lab area were working. Idly he wondered if something had tripped the circuit breaker again, which despite the wealth of government resources for this operation, was not as uncommon as one might think it could be.

"Dr Walsh?" He called out warily, remembering her often penchant to work late into the night, even the early hours of the morning.

He glanced at the examination table, noticing the absent outline of their most valuable and therefore most secret pet project. He glanced at the wall on which hung the alarm system that was supposed to let them know if such an event as his escape occurred. The lid of the box had been ripped off, and the cables torn apart, their inner optical wiring destroyed.

"Adam?" He tried even more cautiously.

Suddenly he felt himself slip on the unusually dirty floor tiled floor. Normally, no matter who was working, it was swept clean, sterilised constantly to prevent contamination. As he recovered, slowly rising to a seated position, he noticed by the light of white walls and the metallic floor that the stain which had made him fall was red.

Blood red.

Slowly he raised his eyes to see Professor Walsh lying dead before him, a bone saw protruding at an ugly angle through her stomach. Her eyes stared frozenly at him, appearing to call from the grave for justice, for help.

And Dr Angleman knew, by staring around the empty lab, exactly who was responsible for this heinous crime.

And the knowledge scared the living daylights out of him.


"Sunnydale is still reeling from news of the crime. A source in the coroner's office tells us that the boy was stabbed with what looks like some kind of large skewer and his body was then mutilated. Police have not named a suspect and the killer is still at large."

The scooby gang were watching this piece of midday news with grim concern as they waited for Xander to return from the university campus, after news that he called Giles during Psychology class. During his telephone call he had not explained exactly why they were in very serious trouble, so all their imaginations were running wild as to what could have possibly been behind Room 314. It had worried them enough to make them switch the location of their headquarters and next meeting to the Mansion on Crawford Street which provided better protection than Giles and Jenny's apartment. As in large, thick walls and heavy, locked doors, and large windows of one way paned glass through which they could see out but no one could see in while protecting the vampires whom they trusted from the deadly rays of sunlight during the day.

The news anchorman had switched to other items of interest concerning world events when the door to the Mansion opened and a shaken Xander finally entered.

"What's up?" Buffy immediately asked.

"We have a very serious problem," Xander replied.

"You said that in your telephone call," Anya pointed out, slightly irritated. "How serious can it be?"

"Extremely. Professor Walsh was making some kind of android, Frankenstein-like demon." Xander paused as he sank down into a spare chair. "It had the arm of that Polgara thing, along with various other demon parts." He paused again, to look at them all. "And it used a bone saw to kill Professor Walsh."

There was collective gasp as everyone digested this piece of news. Buffy then leaned forward and added, "It's also, by the looks of it, just killed a young boy."

"Oh god." Xander glanced at the television screen just as the news returned to the main headlines. "This is all my fault. I should have locked the door before getting the hell out of there and warning you."

"Based on what you've just described, I doubt that would have stopped it," Wesley added grimly.

Buffy rose from her chair. "I'm going to the crime scene to see what I can find out. Xander, work with Angel, to get a sketch of this demon. I want to know what parts of demons it has and what they can make him do when all put together. And I want to know where it is. When I find it I'm going to make him pay for taking that kid's life. I'll make him die in ways he can't even imagine."


The crime scene had all its usual appearance and paraphernalia; the yellow, plastic tape around a squared area, crime scene investigation officers dressed in white suits examining every inch of the ground for evidence. An inquisitive press a metre from the ribbon, flashing cameras and trying to push past uniformed police officers.

Buffy watched the scene from a distance, her mind and her expression grim as she tried not to imagine how the poor boy, whose body was still lying on the ground, a white sheet covering him, had met his death at the hands of this new demonic threat.

"Buffy. Hey." A voice said behind her.

She turned to see the missing TA. "Riley. Hey. Listen...." she began in a serious voice.

"Maggie's dead," he preempted her. "Happy now?"

Then he pounced on her.

Buffy had not been prepared, but it was without difficulty that she managed to dodge his first punch and then return one of her own on target.

Glancing at the crime scene, she calculated the distance, and used the temporary stunned effect her punch had on her opponent to run a bit further into the surrounding forest, out of the way of the prying eyes of the press and authorities.

Riley followed her, running to come closer, then struck again. She blocked his punching arm and returned with another strike.

"What's wrong with you?" She asked him.

"You killed her!" Was the response.

"She tried to kill me!" Buffy answered as she blocked another punch. "Not that it means I killed her. You saw the tape."

"I don't care. She's dead!" Riley punched again.

Buffy blocked it once more. She saw suddenly that her opponent was shaking. She stopped and looked collectively at him. He was sweating, and his eyes looked bloodshot, two symptoms, which when added to his intense display of anger, did not bowed well for his immediate health and wellbeing.

"Riley, something's wrong with you," she stated solemnly.

"You're telling me," he agreed, before passing out on the ground.


"So you brought him here?" Giles asked his slayer incredulously after he had witnessed her return to the Mansion with Riley and place him in one of the spare bedrooms.

I could hardly leave him out on the street," Buffy pointed out.

Giles frowned. "Why didn't you take him to the Initiative?"

"Because he's probably suffering from withdrawal of those drugs they take, and what with Walsh's death I didn't think they'd be in a fit state to deal with him," Buffy added.

"And the threat he poses here?" Her watcher reminded her.

"I think that's minimal now, don't you?" his slayer countered. "With Walsh's death and their secret pet project on the loose, the Initiative is basically shut down. Besides, all of you are here. I don't think he can get pass any of you in that state."

"Very well," Giles relented, "we'll look after him here. Where are you going?"

"To the Initiative, to see what the situation there is." Buffy walked into the main room, where the rest of the scooby gang was hard at work researching the possible demon parts of the monster who had escaped from Room 314. "I'll take Xander, for backup, just in case Walsh deleted my retinal scan."

"Be careful," Giles advised her as they exited. He turned to the rest of the occupants of the large living room. "Willow, Tara. Go to Jenny." He handed them an ancient, leather bound book. "And take this. There's a spell in here I want you to try."


At Giles and Jenny's apartment three witches sat around a square of twine created upon the floor, made to resemble a map of Sunnydale. Around it, sat Willow, Tara and Jenny, the three wiccans of the slayerettes. In their hands they each held a green coloured sand or powder over a thick circular candle, which burned gently in its holder.

"Thespia," Willow began, holding a handful of green sand, "we walk in shadow, walk in blindness. You are the protector of the night."

"Thespia," Jenny continued, "goddess, ruler of all darkness, we implore you, open a window to the world of the underbeing."

The trio closed their eyes. Tara took the opportunity to hide her powder, while the other two blew theirs over the map.

"With your knowledge," Tara uttered, "may we go in safety. With your grace may we speak of your benevolence."

They opened their eyes.

The map remained a blank bit of carpet and twine, with green powder scattered areas, as opposed to a glowing outline of evil hot spots, focusing on the most important threats to the hellmouth at this time.

"Or not," Willow remarked.


"If it's any consolation," Giles said after he had heard the news of Willow and Tara concerning the failure of the spell after they returned to the Mansion, "we haven't fared much better here."

"Is Riley ok?" Tara asked.

"Well he's asleep," Giles replied, glancing at the bed which contained what he hoped a temporary guest, "finally. But he doesn't look good. He's suffering all the classic symptoms of withdrawal, high fever, temperature. If the rest of the Initiative are like this, they're in real trouble. I'm glad we made sure Xander didn't take them."

"Where's Buffy?" A voice asked.

Willow and Giles turned to see Riley up and about.

"She went out," Willow replied nervously. "Can-can I get you something?"

Riley shook his head. "Just tell me where she is."

"You're not well, Riley," Giles remarked. "You need to rest."

Riley punched Willow, flooring her. Tara knelt beside her, checking to see if she was okay. "I'm fine. And I'm going."

Giles stepped up to stop him.

And that's when everything went to hell.


In the bowels of the Initiative labs, Buffy and Xander eavesdropped on a conversation between Dr Angleman and a technician as they stood outside the restricted access area.

Getting into the lab had been a breeze. Professor Walsh had failed to remove the slayer's retinal scan from the database, enabling them to enter through the mirror in the room of the deserted frat house, empty because all of the members of the fraternity were currently in the medical bay below, being treated for withdrawal from the enhancing drugs all had been unknowingly consuming, and down the lift to the main hanger.

"How many of the men are still out?" Dr Angleman asked worriedly. "The longer they go without their meds....."

"Everyone's off their schedules because of the professor's death." The technician pointed out, unreassuringly.

"It's dangerous," Dr Angleman continued. "I don't want to think about the damage the guys could do under the stress of withdrawal, especially since they won't understand what's happening to them. These guys don't know they've been getting meds in their food, so we better get them in here stat."

"We've located all but a few," the technician said. "The last ones were in pretty bad shape, but we managed to stabilise them."

"But Finn wasn't one of them," Dr Angleman guessed.

"Right," the tech confirmed.

"Find him," Angleman ordered. "He's the one I care about. He's too important to our work to lose now."

The tech nodded. "Indeed."

"Keep me posted," his boss added, "I'll be in records."

Dr Angleman walked out of the room in to the corridors of the underground complex, only to be grabbed and lifted up by his shirt.

"Now I don't generally like to kill humans," the slayer informed him as she held him above the ground. "But I've learned that it pays to be flexible in life."

"I was wondering when you'd turn up," Dr Angleman remarked. He turned his head to see Xander standing beside her. "Harris, you need to report the medical bay. Stat."

"Sorry, Dr Angleman, but I didn't take any of those drugs you and Walsh proscribed us," Xander informed him. "Thankfully."

"Oh darn!" The Slayer added, still holding the doctor up, "so this isn't a surprise. Now you can tell me what drugs you have been giving your army guys and after that, well, we can take a tour of room 314."

"Somebody's coming, you know." Dr Angleman informed them. "I'm sure they've already seen you on the security monitors."

"Monitors are non-functional at this time, sir," Riley announced as he came upon them. Went down about ten minutes ago."

"Finn take this girl to the stockade immediately," Dr Angleman commanded.

"I'm more interested in conversation, sir," Riley remarked.

"Maggie wanted me dead, didn't she?" Buffy asked.

"She did," Angleman confirmed. "But understand the Initiative has no interest in eliminating the slayer. It was her own vendetta."

Buffy frowned. "Why?"

"I don't know," Angleman replied.

"That's enough," Riley admonished. "You're making her sound like some psychopath. She wasn't like that. She was a brilliant woman."

"She was," Angleman agreed. "It's not....."

Riley cut him off. "All she was trying to do was help people - and this is how you want

them to remember her?"

"Riley, focus here," Buffy ordered. "What do you think, Xand? Vampire forms of torture? Or the demon kind?" She turned back to the doctor. "Honestly, the amount I've learnt from them in such a short time..."

"It was the project," Angleman confessed. "314. It escaped."

"We gathered as much by the evisceration of a young boy on the news this morning," Buffy remarked.

Riley was not listening. Instead he was looking at Xander. "You. How come you're here with her?"

"There's a lot of things you don't know, Riley," Xander replied. "Even more that you might find out about tonight. And what state did you leave those in the Mansion in?"

Riley ignored his question. "So I see," he said, before turning round and walking away, down to the deserted emergency exits.

Xander turned and took out his mobile. He dialled a number then put it to his ear. After five minutes of silence, he ended the call. "There's no reply."

"Go," Buffy told him. "Let me know if they're okay."

"On it," Xander replied as he ran out in the same direction as Riley.

"Finn!" Dr Angleman called out. "Finn!" He turned to Buffy with an urgent plea in his eyes. "He needs to come back. To be treated."

"That's not a priority right now, I think," Buffy said, as she let him stand once more.

Dr Angleman shook his head. "You don't understand. It wasn't just Adam Dr Walsh experimented with."

"Adam?" Buffy queried.

"The name for Project 314." Dr Angleman paused and then spoke in an awed tone. "He was meant to be a superhuman army machine. Capable of defeating any opponent. Walsh and I worked on him for months. He was supposed to be....."


"A biomechanical demonoid designed by Maggie Walsh," the demon in question continued, telling Dr Angleman's story. Not to the slayer, but to another, to whom the information mattered just as deeply. "In addition to organic material I'm equipped with GP-2, D-11 Infrared Detectors, A Harmonic Decelerator, plus D.C. Servo."

He paused and added in a somewhat wistful tone, "I've been thinking about the world. I wanted to see it, learn it. I saw the inside of that boy......" he trailed off as he mused on that memory, "and it was beautiful. But it didn't tell me about the world. It just made me feel. So now I want to learn about me. Why do I feel? What I am?"

Adam paused again, then continued telling the man standing before him in the caves of his current hideout, his story. "She pieced me together from parts of other demons. And man. And machine. Which tells me what I am, but not who I am. Mother wrote things down. Hard data, but also her feelings. That's how I learned that I have a job to do upon this earth. And that she loved me."

Adam stepped forward, closer to the man he was talking to. "She also made you. You had a birth mother, who raised you until you joined the Initiative, but she was the one who shaped your basic operating system. She taught you how to think, how to feel. She fed you chemicals to make you stronger, both your mind and your body. She said that you and I were her favourite children. Her art. That makes us brothers. Family." He examined the expression on the young's man's face. "That's pain, isn't it? Why? Because your feeding schedule, the chemicals, have been interrupted? Or do you miss her? Tell me."

"I'll kill you," Riley tried to vow.

"You won't," Adam assured him. "You haven't been programmed to."

Riley gasped. "I can not be programmed. I'm a man."

Adam shook his head, touching the man's shoulder with one hand, and held up a disk with the other. "The plan she had for us. What happens. How it ends. It's all in here. Do you want to hear?"

"Yes." Riley replied.


"Well that was informative," Buffy remarked as she entered the Mansion on Crawford Street, to find various members of the slayerettes scattered about the sofas and other plush furnishing, recovering from the Finn visitation. "How is everyone here?"

"Bruised, mostly," Giles replied. "Did you see Riley at the Initiative HQ?"

"Yes, but he took off before I finished interrogating Angleman," Buffy answered. "And what he told me isn't good. Adam is a killing machine. He was designed to be the perfect soldier, for demonic and human prey. The answer to draft shortages. Only now he's gone and done a Frankenstein on his creator before heading for the hills."

"Did he give any key to disabling him?" Angel asked.

"No," Buffy replied. "Apart from implying that it could be impossible." She sought the comfort of the nearest empty chair. "Well, at least we have a new psych teacher."

Giles frowned. "That was quick, the news didn't reach the faculty till this afternoon."

"Well, he taught us this morning," Willow added. "Very.... informative."

Buffy nodded, a dreamy expression forming on her face. "He had a certain...... engaging style."

"Is that the tall, dark reddish blond guy?" Anya sought to ascertain. "I saw him on my way to class. Very sexy."

"Oh, yeah," Cordelia added. "I saw him too. What's his name?"

"Serperé Cerastes," Buffy replied, her voice acquiring the same quality as her face.

The boyfriends frowned at the reaction of their girlfriends, while Giles and Wesley glanced at each other in thought.

"Cerastes," the latter echoed. "Isn't that an old word for Serpent?"

"As is Serpere," Giles agreed. "Buffy, I think this guy could be a demon in disguise."

"One hell of a sexy disguise," his slayer murmured.

Giles directed a silent glance at Spike, who frowned, before understanding the message and abruptly delivering a slap to the slayer's face which had the both of them clutching their heads in varying degrees of agony.

"Oww!" Buffy held a tentative hand to her cheek. "What was that for?"

"You need to focus, Buffy," Giles replied. "Cerastes is a demon. I'll have to check my books to be sure, but I believe he's a snake designed to spread evil."

Wesley nodded. "He's existed since the dawn of time. Eve and serpent is not just a biblical tale, its also a cautionary one about Cerastes."

"Great," Buffy said. "Not only do we have a Initiative created demon on theloose, but we also have a handsome serpent to take care of. Sorry honey," she added as she caught Angel's injured frown direct at her. "How do I kill it?"

"Fortunately, all you need is a poisoned apple," Wesley replied.

"A poisoned apple?" Buffy queried. "But why does Cerastes give Eve an apple?"

"Symbolism and misplaced translations," Giles replied. "If anyone had bothered to properly translate rather than from the Polyglot, they would have seen that Eve tries to use the apple to kill the creature, but his seductive talents force her to use it on herself."

"We'll have to check the books to see which chemical combination to use," Wesley added as they slowly got up and headed for the door.

"Perhaps I better take care of this one," Angel proposed.

"No, I can overcome my attraction," Buffy objected.

"Still, it would be wise to have a backup," Giles agreed. "Come on you two, you can go to the campus from my apartment after we mix the potion and inject the apple."


"Be very very quiet. We are hunting Cerastes," Buffy mocked as Angel parked the car in his designated space at the campus an hour later.

Giles and Wesley consulted the book at the former's apartment, then mixed the potion before injecting it into the apple which Angel now held. Due to research, they had customised the poison to become fatal only for the serpent, whom she and Angel were now searching for.

They quitted the vehicle and made their way through the traffic of students to the faculty building, where Cerastes was likely to be as classes had ended half an hour ago. As they neared the location, the flow of students decreased, and the quantity of lecturers and professors increased. Those who knew Angel and Buffy dealt them slight nods of greeting as they walked pass them or came from behind on to ahead of them. Slayer and half souled vampire returned the greetings in the same vein, anxious that nothing delayed them in finding the demon. Cerastes was below Adam in the list of priorities, and had to be taken care of quickly if they wanted to concentrate fully on the latter.

Entering the faculty building, Buffy slowed her pace to level with her soulmate, who possessed a better familiarity with the complex than she, having over year now as Professor of Art History. Buffy allowed herself a brief smile as she recalled the time last year when he went for the job, from his first interview until the night they celebrated his new position in the normal working world. Although they had never discussed it, she could see how much of a positive effect acquiring such a job had on him.

His confidence in dealing with the world was better founded, along with a more secure inner confidence and trust that he could belong to her world as easily as she slipped into his. Since his return from hell they had gradually evolved in a duo of warriors working for the Powers That Be, as well as a normal relationship of a couple who worked and lived together. The professorship produced a respect not just from the slayerettes, adults and teenagers alike, but from the outside world, who had no knowledge of Angel's talents. And in gratitude for this respect her angel became not just a great warrior, but a great human as well.

They reached the room were Cerastes was relaxing, catching sight of him seated on a sofa as they gazed through the small square window in the top half of the door. Buffy glanced around the room, seeing the other teaching staff, and frowned.

"It would be so much easier if this poison was in a dart we could blow," she murmured to Angel as they stood outside the door.

"We should have anticipated that he wouldn't be alone," Angel agreed.

Buffy glanced around, and suddenly she found a solution. "There, that bowl of fruit. You put the apple in it and take in. No one will question your entrance."

"Good idea," Angel agreed before fetching the bowl. "But how will we make him eat the right fruit?"

"I'm hoping he'll want to grab the apple first before anyone else tries," Buffy replied. "At this moment, we don't have other options."

"Okay," Angel replied. He placed the fruit in the bowl, then Buffy stepped back to allow him to open the door and enter the room. She watched him walk in, nodding in silent greeting to some professors that he knew, then lay the bowl down on the table nearby Cerastes. She was surprised when he held out his hand to him. Quickly she slipped inside the room, hiding behind armchair to over hear the conversation.

"Hello, you must be Professor Cerastes."

"I am," the man replied. "And you are?"

"Angel O'Connor, Art History," Angel replied, shaking the man's hand. "My girlfriend was talking about you all through lunch. You've made quite a hit with the female student population. Looks like I'm in for some competition."

"Really?" Cerastes echoed. "I had no idea. Who is your girlfriend?"

"You mean you haven't heard the scandal?" Angel queried. "Gossip standards must be slipping. Buffy Summers. You teach her Psych classes, now that Professor Walsh has passed." He picked up a piece of fruit from the bowl, taking a bite and chewing slowly. He was glad his beloved had taken the time to convince him to acquire eating habits once more. Thanks to his half Shanshu, he was also learning the taste of things too.

Cerastes eyed the fruit bowl, the dark red apple holding his interest immediately. He noticed O'Connor take a piece of fruit, and suddenly he realised how hungry he was, and not just for young, curious minds. He reached out and took the piece of fruit.

Angel made sure he neither slowed his chewing or changed his facial expression as he watched and waited for Cerastes to take a bite of the poisonous apple. He had to stay with the professor long enough to make sure the chemical took full effect. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed his beloved hiding nearby. Careful not to draw attention from his companion, he traced the sign of a cross upon his face, trying not to flinch as he remembered Angelus craving such marks in the same spot upon his first victims in Ireland, so long ago. He took a look at Buffy, repeating the sign to make sure she understood. When he saw her retreating, he knew that she had. He turned to Cerastes in time to see him take the first bite of the apple.

It took some time before the serpent realised that the piece of fruit was drugged. When he, Cerastes gagged and choked, grateful that he wasn't alone, hoping that someone in the room would call for the nurse. He was quite surprised at how quickly one came. He closed his eyes as he felt someone lift him into their arms and carry him out of the room. Unconsciousness reached him just as they emerged into the corridor. Death soon followed, returning him to his natural serpent like form.

Buffy turned to Angel, who calmly put the demon in the bag she had handed him, tying the opening with a piece of string. "What do we do now?"

"Take it to Giles and Wesley," Angel replied.

They took the creature back to his car, then returned to Oakpark street, where Giles suggested a ritual burning of the demon, similar to the one they had used to destroy the Glove of Myhnegon over a year ago. When this was done, the angel and his beloved headed home.


Buffy willed her breathing to slow down and return to something approaching her normal resting rate. Pressing the damp towel to her mouth, she gazed into the mirror and silently calculated how many times she found herself in this position during the past two weeks. The answer terrified her, which was rare, for few things in this world had the ability to do that to her now. She still hadn't told Angel, though really the time for telling him had long since passed.

Hell, Giles had a right to know now too. But she wasn't ready to tell anyone. She couldn't justify the symptom, or identify a cause. Her visit to her family doctor, the first for many years, revealed nothing out of the ordinary, aside from mild stress levels and fatigue, not uncommon in teenagers, he told her. Yet this was uncommon, especially for her, and those who were called before her.

And still she hesitated to confess. Despite the countless opportunities, the moments just between her and Giles or her and Angel, or even the both of them, left her reluctant to the point of concealment. She ignored her conscience, the better voices in her head telling her to come clean, her woman's, even her slayer's intuition. When the moments passed, she told herself that it was better to keep silent, that they had enough problems to deal with, especially now they had the Initiative's pet project on the loose through the hellmouth.

Closing her eyes, she sought for clarity, resolution and peace of mind, a harder goal to reach as every morning brought more incidents. She pressed the damp towel to her forehead, then returned it to the heated rail before exiting the bathroom. As usual her gaze settled on her sleeping soulmate, still oblivious to these morning toilet breaks. Why did she shrink from telling him? Buffy wasn't sure anymore.

Yet, even as she imagined waking him up and coming clean, she felt herself fearful of the reaction, even though she could predict what it might turn out to be. Angel loved her, she was more certain of that than she had even been, and he would be upset that she feared confiding in him, that she wanted to protect him from this truth. Yet, though each morning's passing made the task even more difficult, Buffy kept her silence, and her counsel, softly praying that it would pass.

Because it had to.

The End.
To Be Continued In....

Faith's Transcendent Dower