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Author's note: This is a rewrite of Amends, which I decided to do to lengthen this episode, and because I felt it needed to be done immediately after Angel's return, because that is when he is the most vulnerable. It also fits nicely into the dream sequence them with which I began this series. Additionally, I rewrote the ending so episodes five and six follow on better. Enjoy.


the power of souls.

Buffy woke from her disturbing dream to find herself not asleep in the chair as she assumed, but in the bed which said piece of furniture was placed beside. Evidently, during her surrender to exhaustion, her beloved had woken to discover her condition and in his usual fashion, lifted her from the chair and placed her where he had been sleeping, to prevent the possibility of stiffness caused by spending the nocturnal hours in an rigid upright position. It was also another sign that he was nearer to full recovery than she or the others realised.

Smiling to herself at the amount of symbolism she read into one gesture, she rose from the bed and walked out of the room to discover her beloved's whereabouts. She soon found him on the ground floor, within the large double-height living room. At first he was unaware of her arrival, absorbed within the methods of exercise, a form of Tai Chi. She had not realised that he was familiar with such ancient and exotic practises, yet there was so much she did not know about him. That would have to change, she mused to herself as she watched him, marvelling over the grace, fluidity and elegance of his movements.

His demon senses soon became aware of her, and he turned, bringing his hands to a position of prayer, essentially concluding the exercise. She stepped into the relative artificial light of the room, the natural having been barred from entering by the black blinds installed when the vampires moved in months ago, advancing hesitantly towards him. Uncertain how to begin the talk between them, yet knowing that it must be done, she softly uttered two starting words. "I'm sorry."

By the expression on his face, it seemed that he had not expected her to apologise. "It wasn't your fault," he replied. "It was mine. You did what you had to do. I'm proud of you. If anyone is to blame, it is me, for losing myself within you."

Buffy shook her head. "I can't accept that. You weren't to know your curse had a clause," she said, taking another step towards him. As she did so, she noticed another rival, someone entering the mansion through the front door, parting the black curtains which hung before it, protecting those occupants within from the deadly rays of the sunlight. Recognising him, she addressed her next words to this new arrival. "What happens now?"

To her surprise, Angel seemed almost horrified that someone else was with them, for he seemed to stare at her nervously, before turning round and noticing the visitor.

"I must be getting rusty in my old age," he remarked, adopting a position of casualness as he took in the new arrival. "I thought vampires were able to sense demons."

"Its nice to see you back among the land of the unliving," Whistler replied, walking further inside. "Especially since I had to pull a lot strings to put you so."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, placing her hands on her hips, the primitive rising within her, ready to fly at one who was threatening her mate.

Whistler chose not to answer immediately, casting an eye about the room. "Nice," he uttered admiringly. "Much better than anything I've seen both of you in recently, even if neither of you were aware of my presence. But to resume my reasons for visiting. The Powers That Be are not happy with either of you. You," he pointed a finger at Angel, "were meant to protect her. Not fall in love. And you," he pointed at Buffy, "were not meant to get side tracked from your destiny and guardianship of the hellmouth by tall, dark and mysterious souled vampires."

"Yeah, well why didn't you take that possibility into account?" Buffy retorted, annoyed by his lecturing tone.

"They counted on you two having a modicum of good sense." Whistler responded pointedly, as he sat down on one of the sofa. "Needless to say however, I managed to talk them out of their anger. But this is your one and only deal. No more chances. So listen well. Your curse no longer has any clause. Courtesy of one well-meaning, anxious to redeem herself, gypsy and an amateur witch. Your keeping it comes at a price. No more slip ups. You two are welcome to have a relationship, as long as it doesn't get in the way of his redemption and your slaying."

Whistler paused, waiting for Angel take his words in, then answering before his old friend had a chance to ask the question. "Yes, your redemption. The Powers were reluctant to give you a second chance, but I managed to remind them that you can't control your demon, and that the Romany never bothered to tell you about the clause. I also added that I thought it was rather stupid on their part to insert conditions into curses on a vampire, but that's beside the point. I then reminded them about the upcoming big bad that's due to make their move, as well as several other troubles which they have the ability to foresee. Otherwise you wouldn't have stood a chance. So survive that with your soul still in tact and they'll consider granting you your reward. In other words, start talking." He rose up and walked out, leaving two dumbfounded warriors behind him.

Buffy and Angel stared at the door for what seemed to both of them to be some time before turning to face each other. Quietly they moved from standing to sit upon the sofas, facing each other. Where should they begin, each one silently wondered within themselves. It was confusing. Both of them had imagined that their reunion would be so easy; falling into each other's arms, avowing their love by touch and words, and somehow everything which caused their relationship to flounder last year would whither and die. But the reality of course was much more difficult. Memories of what occurred last year still haunted them, causing both to retain the guilt and thought that they were responsible for what happened, despite Whistler's defence of them to the Powers That Be.

Which was why when they both spoke, it was to utter the same words. "I'm sorry," they said in unison. This momentary mutual confession caused them both to smile and chuckle slightly, before trying again.

"Buffy," Angel began hesitantly, "I want you to know that I never meant any of those words the demon said to you the morning after your birthday. That night was the most wonderful night of my life. And I know that may be hard to believe, but its true. Before I met you, before I became a vampire, I wasn't the man you see before you. I was a disgrace, both to my family and to myself. The rich playboy; the wayward prodigal son, too concerned with drink and lust to care about the future, about anything in fact."

He paused to glance at her, attempting to see how she was reacting to this before he continued. The quiet expression upon her face seem to convey to him acceptance and compassion, encouraging him to go on. "When I became a vampire, my desires altered little in their essentials. My demon was content to feed and lust wherever he could, though now he focused those desires on the demon who sired him. Together we toured the world, leaving massacres and destruction within our wake. Until we arrived in Romania."

He grimaced at the memory, even now that it was over a century old. "Darla presented me with a gift, though, if she could look back on that moment now, I'm sure she would think differently. A gypsy girl, the prize of her clan, captured by her for me to take. As usual, my demon had more grand ideas. He was not content with just feeding on one, he wanted the entire tribe. Darla was only too happy to encourage that desire. Neither of them realised that it was to be their undoing." He paused here again, checking her expression, for he knew the subject of Darla was a difficult one between them, despite the fact that he had slayed her almost two years ago.

Still his beloved's expression lay unchanged, however. "You know what happened then. We; Darla, myself, Spike and Dru, feasted on the Kalderash until there were only a few left. Until they discovered that the Elders of the clan had restored my soul to me. After that, things were never quite the same. I was barely aware of who I was. I felt lost and confused, and, above all, overwhelmed with guilt and horror at what my demon had done.

"Darla didn't want to lose the demon who she had spent over a century with, and was determined to make sure that my soul did not start to rule my demon. But the mere idea of draining the blood of a human being was revolting to me. I did all I could to avoid it, and to make sure she didn't find out that I wasn't the evil being she loved. However, discovery was inevitable. The four of us arrived in China, just in time for the riots caused by the Boxer rebellion. Spike and Dru were crowing over the two of us, for he had killed his first slayer. Darla meanwhile, had learned that I saved a missionary family from her. She banished me from her sight.

"For the next years, I lived like a tramp; feeding off rats and what other animals I could find on the streets. I lost all care for my existence; if I wasn't such a coward, I would have killed myself. But then Whistler found me. I don't know how he came to learn of my existence, or that I would be in that alley when I was. He found me, and basically told me to wake up and get a grip. That if I gave myself a chance, I could make a difference. I could evolve into someone who mattered. He took me to the steps of your school, and I watched as you were called, slayed your first vampire, then returned home.

"As you looked at yourself in the mirror, something came over me. I was filled with a desire to help you, to protect you from what horrors I could. In short, you were my queen, and I was ready to be your knight." He felt his skin attempt to blush at these words.

"Looking back on that moment, I was lucky that Whistler didn't toss me back out on to the streets. I think he knew immediately that I had fallen in love with you from the moment I saw you, but that didn't seem to stop him from rehabilitating me into someone who could help you. He helped me regain myself, until you moved here, whereupon he sent me to help you out. I didn't realise that I would have to face my own demons as well as yours. And I didn't think for one moment that you would ever love me back. That was why I always tried to protect you from knowing everything about me. I was afraid that once you knew the truth you would hate and despise me as much as Darla and my family had done. I didn't think such a decision would destroy us anyway."

He seemed to reach the end of his thoughts here, clasping his hands in anxious silence, waiting for her to say something. But she couldn't. Not immediately. She was still awed by the depth of his words, by the almost full confession she had just received. It was the most she had ever learned of his life from his lips. Often she had hoped he felt this way, but never truly believed it until now. He was the best man she had ever known.

What she had done to deserve Whistler's matchmaking of the two of them she didn't know, but she was determined not to let them destroy whatever future they might now have a second time. "I don't think that destroyed us," she uttered. "Although it was part of the difficulties between us. I'm not blaming you when I say this, I still blame myself if I'm honest, but we shouldn't have made love when we did. Neither of us were ready for it, even if your soul hadn't been in jeopardy. We rushed into our relationship because we were both worried that we would never have enough time to enjoy each moment as it came, and that rushing caused our entire world to come crashing down around us." She paused, before adding softly, "if we are to resume such a relationship, it should be started from scratch."

Angel wasn't sure if he was meant to hear those last words, but his hearing caught them all the same. Looking into her beautiful fine eyes, he picked up the thread of conversation. "Buffy, that night was not your fault. Neither of us were aware that such act would cause me to lose my soul. If we had been, I would have held back until we could find someone to change my curse, or failing that asking you to chain me to the bed before fetching a witch and an orb of Thesulah." She saw her smile at that, and he felt emboldened enough to return the gesture before continuing. "However, though I'm glad that I can never lose my soul again, I'm not sure if we should be together."

"Oh," Buffy uttered, disappointed. "Why not?"

"Because I don't want to see you hurt."

"And what do you think will hurt me?" Buffy countered. "You? Your past? Angel, you've just told me a short summary of it, and some, I think that part of the slayer which controls my dreams has let me learn a few details recently. And I'm not hurt by it. I know you had to have a past before me, I'd be pretty stupid if I thought a two hundred and forty-five year old vampire, twenty-six year old man, just came into being purely for me. I know there are some things in that past which you're ashamed of, but you have to learn to accept them, otherwise it will always come between us. There are things in my past which I'm ashamed of, and I worry about you or my friends knowing, but I don't ignore them. I haven't learnt to deal with all of them, but I don't think anybody can until they feel that they're ready to do so. And this is beside the point. Whistler has just told us that we've been given a second chance. I want it. Do you?"

Angel saw the stubborn determination in her eyes, and knew that he could not lie to her. "I want it too. But there are certain difficulties to our relationship that we can't ignore, aside from my soul."

"Your soul is permanent, Angel," Buffy reminded him. "What else is stopping us?"

"My immortality, the sunlight issue, children...." He felt he should list more, all the things he wanted her to have, but she put a finger to his lips, preventing him.

"Stop," she commanded. "Firstly, your immortality does have it limits and realistically, I'm not going to reach an age where that might become a problem anyway. Secondly, not seeing you in the sunlight is something I can and do cope without, because it makes the time that we can have together all the more enjoyable. And if it's possible to curse a vampire with a soul surely it's not impossible to give them an immunity to sunlight. And lastly, I don't want children."

He couldn't help smiling at her arguments. "Buffy, you say that now, but...." He stopped as he was cut off once again.

"No. I thought a lot about that after you told me that you can't and I realised that unless I can have them with you, I don't want them. Plus I'm the slayer, hardly a reliable mother for them, because I won't live long enough to see them grow up, even if I was lucky enough to survive the pregnancy with demons and vamps hunting me all the time. And I don't want to bring children into a world like this. Now," she began afresh, searching his face for any other objections, "anything else?"

Angel gazed at her in awe. "I don't deserve you." At this her face paled in frustration, until he uttered his next words. "But I will try to make you forget that often."

Buffy smiled and willingly met his lips for a kiss. They still had things to talk about, things about his time in hell, about the night of her seventeenth birthday, about how far their relationship was going to go from now on, and about his redemption. But for the moment, none of that mattered. The only important thing right now, was that they had a chance.

 



The rest of the Scooby gang rose more less at the same time an hour or so later. The sight that accosted them was nothing that they had expected to see, but then again, things in Sunnydale were unpredictable at the best of times, now was not any different. What they saw was the slayer and ensouled vampire seated as closely as possible without actually touching, quietly talking between themselves. Last night, none of them had been willing to bet that this would be the result after only one night of seemingly uninterrupted sleep undisturbed by intelligible mutterings, agonising groans, and frightened tears. But not one could deny that they were relieved by it.

Buffy and Angel turned away from each other as the slayerettes advanced into the artificial light surrounding the sofas, and ceased their conversation.

"Hey Angel," Willow uttered in hopeful greeting.

"Hello Willow." He replied to the delight of all.

"It's good to have you back in the land of the living," Xander remarked, much to the souled vampire's surprise.

"We're all glad to have you back," Giles declared as the six sat down around them. His slayer beamed happily in agreement.

Angel bowed his head in acknowledgement. "I don't deserve to be welcomed," he began quietly, "but thank you."

"Angel, for the nth time, it's not your fault," Buffy replied. "Even Whistler said that you can't control your demon."

"Whistler was here?" Giles queried.

"Buffy rapidly told the story of the visit. "He didn't mention exactly what this big bad was, but then neither of us had the sense to ask either."

"No, I imagine not." Giles paused as his mind began to wonder what the 'big bad' could possibly be. "However, we can assume that whatever this evil is, it's in the future, so I think you were right in choosing to focus on your relationship. I'm sure we'll be able to learn whatever it is before it strikes."

"Thank you," Buffy acknowledged gratefully. "Now, I was wondering, if you all wouldn't mind clearing out of here today, and leaving me and Angel alone. We still have things we need to talk about."

Giles glanced at the others, silently waiting for a nod of agreement from each, before he spoke for them all. "Of course, Buffy. You let us know when you two are ready for company again."

He rose from his seat and headed towards the door, followed by the others. Joyce seemed to hesitate before joining them, causing Buffy to rise also, following them to door. To her relief, her watcher noticed this hesitancy and hung back, just in case she needed his support.

"Mom, I know we need to sort things out, but if you'll forgive me, Angel's my priority right now. I don't want things to become messed up between us this time, neither does he. And in order for that to happen we need to talk."

Joyce seemed to glance at her for a long time, when in truth it cannot not have been more than a minute before she spoke. "I understand, Buffy, I do. I know you fear that I'm still harbouring some resentment over you not confiding in me about being the slayer. And I don't know what I can say to reassure you that I don't, not anymore. I still want what every mother wants for her children, but I also want you to be happy. And I've learned enough over the past few days to realise that being with Angel makes you happy. So you stay here and sort things out. I'll be at home when you're ready to return." She kissed her on the cheek then exited the mansion.

Buffy was touched by her mother's speech, so much so that it took some time before she noticed Giles paying her a silent nodding farewell, before leaving her and Angel to it. She turned back to find her beloved staring at her silently. "Penny for your thoughts," she remarked, joining him on the sofa.

"I was just marvelling at your mother. She's come a long way in accepting all of this."

She nodded in agreement. "I still can't believe it. But I have to try, to heal things between her and me, just as we have to try and move past last summer to continue our relationship." She took his hands in her own, and looked into his soulful brown eyes. "How do you suggest we go about that?"

"I think we begin by being honest with each other," Angel replied thoughtfully. "Telling each other about things which bother us, or worry us, we've kept secret from each other because we weren't sure how the other would react."

"I agree," Buffy concurred with a smile. "And I'll continue this day of confessional, by telling you about my summer after Acathla." And without further ado she told him everything that had happened to her during his absence, including, and in hindsight, perhaps most significantly, her strange dreams which she had been having.

"I dreamt that too," he uttered when she came to the end of her tale, finishing with an astonishingly detailed account of the dream she had experienced last night, in which his demon had called her Daniel and drained the life out of her. "And it wasn't a dream, Buffy. That was really a part of my past. Or I should say my demons' past. And then when you woke, and came down here to talk to me, when you asked Whistler what was going to happen, I thought you were asking Daniel."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, puzzled and concerned.

"I could see him, as clearly as I see you now."

"Then this can't be just dreams," Buffy realised, her concern rising. "There has to be something causing us to have them."

"What?" Angel asked. "I'm not even sure that's possible."

"I'll call Giles," Buffy decided, rising from the sofa to hunt out the phone one of the slayerettes had installed during Angel's 'convalescence.' "If something that has this ability to manipulate dreams does exist, then he's bound to know about it."

 


"Well, I agree that something could be causing you to experience the same dreams," Giles remarked after Buffy had finished telling him all she could. "And I'll get in researching this right away."

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy replied. "Anything we can do to help?"

"Well, ordinarily I wouldn't advise this, but I suggest that the both of you try and get some more sleep. Your next dream may reveal a clue as to the nature of whatever it is that is making you suffer like this. And we need as many as possible in order to learn who we're dealing with."

"Okay, I'll tell Angel," Buffy said, causing her beloved to look up at her from his place on the sofa. "And we'll call you if we learn anything more." She put the phone down and turned to her companion. "Giles says he'll look into it."

"And?" Angel prompted.

"And that we should get some sleep, try and learn more about it. He thinks if we experience more dreams, whatever it might reveal itself to us."

"Oh," Angel uttered, looking a little nervous. "Er, Buffy," he began after a pause. "I don't know how many of the bedrooms here have furniture and...." he trailed off, too embarrassed utter anything more.

She smiled at him. "It's alright. When you returned, everybody sorted out things like beds and the sofas you're siting on. They've all been really understanding and accepting. Even Xander. From I can gather Whistler visited them during our absence and whatever he said must have put the fear of the hellmouth into them, for they've not mentioned once any resentment that they might still harbour about us and what we did."

"I don't know what I can say about that," Angel remarked. "Except to say that I'm grateful for you."

"As am I, for you," Buffy returned. "Right, back to beds. Um, this is gonna sound odd, but could we share one? I know we discussed that neither of us are ready to sleep together as in the....." she searched for the word, blushing.

"Loving," Angel suggested, unable to help smiling at her.

"In the loving sense," Buffy continued. "but these dreams feel too disturbing to wake up afterwards alone. Would you mind?"

"Not at all," he assured her, rising from the sofa and walking over to take her hand. "I just hope I don't disturb you or anything."

"Well, I know you don't snore," she replied, reminding him of the first time they had shared a room, at her house.

"And I know that you look beautiful when you sleep," he uttered softly, letting one of his hands stroke her face.

Buffy smiled happily at the gesture and the compliment before boldly leading him upstairs to the master suite.


She was in her bedroom at the house she shared with her mother on Revello drive. She had been sleeping, only to awaken and discover that she was no longer alone.

He was there, siting before her on the bed. He held out his hand, and she moved one of her own to touch, palm to palm, as though they could kiss.

Fingers moulded themselves into a clasp as she sat up before him, and with infinite gentleness he drew her on to his lap and her lips into a kiss.

With her free hand she tugged at his shirt, and he parted from her briefly, helping her remove the item of clothing from his body.

A moment later he returned the favour, tenderly removing her pyjama top, revealing her bare skin.

They felt none of the nervousness each expected to feel, and nor were they confused or concerned as to a reason why. For thoughts of any kind were impossible to them at that moment in time. All they could do was live the moment, live the pleasurable sensations caused by their rising passion.

Lying in the bed, he rolled himself above her, continuing to caress and kiss, worship every part of her as she worshipped him. Their hands came together once more, and she opened her eyes, as if to reassure herself that this bliss would not end by such an action.

Suddenly, she saw they were not alone. Something was watching them. A sightless being, clothed in monastic attire, standing by the door.

Just as she finished taking in the knowledge of this intruder, her beloved grabbed her wrists hard, pining her down on the bed, while his mouth tore at the skin on her neck.

Savagely he drained the life out of her.

>>>>>>>>

Angel was the first to wake. He sat upright with a rush, shocked by what he had just dreamed of doing to his beloved. Gathering his knees to his chest, he glanced downwards, expecting to find her asleep beside him, unharmed.

Instead he found one of his demons' victims staring back at him.

"You want her?" She asked.

"No," Angel managed to say, though he was lying. Yes, he wanted her, but only when they were ready, not before.

"Take her," the victim said. "Take what you want. Pour all that frustration and all that guilt into her, and you'll be free."

Angel shook his head, not understanding what she was saying. "No."

"You can't live for eternity with all that pain. This is what you are. This is why we brought you back. Take her! And then you'll be ready to kill her."


Buffy woke just as she thought herself to be dying, a victim of Angelus' desires. She sat up in a rush, only to find Angel no longer beside her. Hastily she glanced round the room, and to her relief, found him crouched in a corner. However, her relief only lasted a moment as she realised he was shaking.

She rose from the bed and knelt before him. "Angel, I'm still alive," she began, reaching out to take one of his shaking hands in her own. "You still have your soul. You can't lose it, remember, Jenny made it so."

"Jenny," he murmured, suddenly seeming to fix his gaze on her, realising his current surroundings. "She was here."

"What?" Buffy queried, puzzled. "How can that be?"

"I don't know," he answered, a little more calmly. "It was her and yet not her. It looked like her, it had her voice, but the words it said, they weren't hers."

"What was it saying to you?" Buffy asked him.

"It told me to take you. To pour all my guilt and frustration into you and by doing so I would be free. It said that was why they brought me back. And it said that then I'll be ready to kill you."

"Angel, whatever this thing is, it did not bring you back," Buffy attempted to reassure him. "I know what brought you back, I placed it on the very spot you landed on," she added, causing him to look at her curiously, silently wondering. Oblivious, she continued. "And it's manipulating you into destroying me by destroying yourself. What it doesn't realise though is that you can't lose your soul in me. Which gives us the advantage."

He watched her as she stood up and walked over to the chair where her clothes were placed some hours before. Unconcerned about privacy, she let the silken bed sheet fall from around her chest, revealing the underwear she had slept in, and rapidly put her clothes back on. She tied her hair with a band, then turned back to him. "Get dressed. I'm gonna go and call Giles, tell him about the sightless priest I saw in my dream. I'm sure that's a clue as to who is behind all of this."

She walked over to him, dealt him a swift but tender kiss to his temple, before leaving the bedroom. He couldn't help but smile at her actions. In a short space of time her whirlwind approach had been enough to soothe some, if not all of his worries about the symbolism behind the dream, and to reawaken the confidence within him that the precious piece of platinum he still kept close to him was responsible in returning him to this world and to her. Rising from the floor, he let the sheet covering him drop to the floor before getting dressed as well.

 


"I've found some letters," Giles said to them when they entered the library a half hour or so later, night having fallen since their sleeping investigation. "They contain references to an ancient power known as The First."

"First what?" Buffy asked.

"Evil," Giles replied. "Absolute evil, older than man, than demons."

The slayer glanced at the letters scattered on the table before them, and picked up one which contained the sketch of a familiar, sightless form. "I saw them in my dream. Who are these guys?"

"They're known as the Bringers or Harbingers. They're high priests of The First. They, can conjure spirit manifestations and set them on people, influence them, haunt them."

"So these are what you've been seeing," Buffy realised, turning to Angel, who hesitantly nodded in agreement. "How do we fight the First?" She asked her watcher.

"You can't fight The First, Buffy. It's not a physical being."

"Well, we can fight these priest guys," Buffy decided. "And by we, I mean you as well," she added, glancing at Angel. "This is your battle, just as much as mind. If we want us to work, we have to do this together."

"I agree, my love," Angel uttered. "But how do we find these Bringers?"

"I did find one passage," Giles said, grabbing a book off the table. " 'For they are the Harbingers of death. Nothing shall grow above or below them. No seed shall flower, neither in man nor...' the author, Lucious Temple, was into posturing as you may have gathered. Anyway he finishes with, 'They're rebels and they'll never ever be any good.' Nothing specific about their haunts."

"'Nothing shall grow above or below...'" Buffy trailed off, lost in thought. Then she looked at her watcher. "Has there been any reports recently about crops or flowers or trees, or anything for that matter, dying mysteriously?"

Giles walked over to the computer where he hesitantly typed in some words to the search engine. Since the sudden death of the woman he loved, he had tried to learn what she could do with a computer, accepting the possibility that one day it might help him and the slayer he loved like a daughter.

In a few moments he found what they were looking for. "Ah. There's an article here about some Douglas fir trees dying in unexplained circumstances. They were part of a crop planted in preparation for Christmas."

"Perfect," Buffy uttered before grabbing some nearby weapons.


Half an hour later Angel's car pulled up at the lot where the trees were growing. Surprisingly his black, 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible had managed to survive the storage oblivion his demon had consigned it to, and was still safely hidden near his old apartment. After they left the library he had led his beloved to it's parking lot and now he parked the vehicle in front of the trees they were looking for.

Buffy kicked open the gate and marched towards the trees, casting about until her keen eyes spotted six dead specimens arranged in a circle. Gripping the axe she had brought with her, she swung it at the ground until the weapon broke the soil below them.

Descending into the cave below, they discovered large amounts of candles, their tallows dancing in the slight breeze caused by their entrance. Cautiously they advanced further into the cave, in the direction of a sound coming from ahead.

They had not travelled very far where they found a six sightless priests chanting around a table. Motioning to Angel silently, they formed attack stances, preparing to announce their presence.

"Alright, ten more minutes of chanting and then you guys have to go to bed," Buffy mocked, causing the priests to stand. She swung the handle of her axe into one's stomach, causing the priest collapse to the floor.

Beside her Angel swung his own weapon into another, who doubled over, and then struck his head, causing him to be down and out for the count too.

The slayer smashed the artefacts on the table, and then suddenly the remaining priests were gone, and in their place stood Jenny Calendar.

Or at least what looked like Jenny Calendar. Thanks to the senses of the primitive within her however, Buffy could tell that it must be the First.

"I'm impressed," it uttered. "And disappointed in you," it added, looking at Angel.

"You won't get him," Buffy remarked defiantly. "He's a good man, the best I have ever known. And his soul is permanent, thanks to the soul whose appearance you've assumed to try and torture us with."

The First did not seem in the least cowed by her words. "You think you can fight me? I'm not a demon, little girl. I am something that you can't even conceive. The First Evil. Beyond sin, beyond death. I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me, but I am everywhere. Every being, every thought, every drop of hate."

"Alright, I get it," Buffy interrupted. "You're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?"

"You have no idea what you're dealing with," It added.

"Let me guess," Buffy's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Is it... evil?" She smiled. "You can't win, First. Angel's soul is permanent. No one can take it away from him this time around. Not even you."

"Watch your tongue, little girl," It remarked. "You haven't seen the last of me."

Suddenly the First's illusion of itself shrunk, transforming itself into a huge horned and clawed beast, with roaring sounds coming from it's mouth, and eyes which glowed a deadly red. It faded as quickly as it had appeared, causing the warriors to glance at each other in shock at what they had just witnessed.


Buffy and Angel returned to the library of Sunnydale High in a reflective mood. After relating all they could concerning the slaying of three of the Bringers and their brief encounter with the First itself,- withholding whose form it had taken to spare the watcher pain, -they saw Giles off the premises, with the assurance that they would lock up, the just needed to put the weapons away first. Tired due to the hours of heavy research on the First, Giles left for his apartment without any questions.

So no one was able to notice or query when an expensive sports car and slightly cheaper classic all American van drove into the school's parking lot, their drivers storing them in the places reserved for pupils.

Inside the Library the slayer waited for her friends to enter the room and take their seats before she told them why she had called them here.

"There's someone missing from our group," Buffy began. "We need to find a way to bring her back."

The End.
Continued In...

In Her Name: A Need To Atone.