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Author's Note: With this episode I wanted to keep the original story in its essentials, but change the perspective somewhat. I decided to write the scene where they came up with the bluff concerning Angel's soul, and take it from there. Naturally, because of what has gone before, certain things- like the state of Buffy and Angel's relationship -differs entirely from the original. Some of the dialogue was taken from the actual episode seventeen of season three; Enemies.

If You Can't Be Good....

If you can't be good, be careful.

Early 20th Proverb, from the Latin;
Si non caste tamen caute.

Soft light. Wine. Music, turned down low. A white table cloth. Folded napkins. China plates. Silver cutlery. A long stemmed red rose. Encased in vase and water. The perfect three course meal. A delicate starter. A exotic sounding, yet simple main dish. A light, sweet desert. Cultured, meaningful conversation. No shop talk.

Giles mulled over these items in his head, while he rested gingerly on the sofa. Reviewing them, making sure each one met his requirement for how the evening was meant to be tonight. The mood he was hoping for could be summed up in one word. Romance. Everything needed to be just so, in order for him to feel able to proceed with what he wanted to do tonight.

Opposite him, resting more comfortably on the sofa, sat his dinner partner. Jenny. Giles smiled as he reflected over their relationship. Since her, 'resurrection,' they had been virtually inseparable. Spending every night together in his apartment. Admittedly that was because she had no place to live at first, but even when she had got her old job back and started earning enough for some place of her own, she had not chosen to leave. Their relationship was far better now than when they had been together before her death. They knew everything about each other. No more skeletons in either of their closets. Secrets had driven them apart before, they were determined that they would never do so again.

Jenny finished her wine, looking up at him as she set her glass down. A voice in the back of Giles mind murmured to the rest of his conscious that it was time. He put down his own glass. His hand felt in his pocket for the small object he had been carrying the entire day, and started to take it out.

"Jenny," he began, his voice suddenly very English, despite living in the country for almost three years. "There's something I wanted to talk to you about."

"I know," Jenny remarked, much to his surprise. An expression of panic rose on Giles face. Had he been too obvious? "You know?" He queried.

"Well, I gathered there was something on your mind," she elaborated. "What is it?"

Good. She hadn't guessed. Giles took the object out of his pocket and clasped it between his hands. "Actually, it was something I wanted to ask you," he continued. "I know we have been together for a while now, and I was wondering if," he got down on one knee. Slowly his hands opened to reveal the small velvet box they were concealing.

The doorbell rang. A short pause followed, before the uninvited guest decided to add a knock upon the wooden barrier to the apartment as well. Giles inwardly groaned, and slipped the box back into his pocket. He got up from the floor and made his way to the door. Jenny briefly brushed his hand, making him turn back to look down at her. They exchanged a mutual feeling of frustration at the interruption, then Giles went to get the door.

He was more than surprised at the identity of the visitor. Stepping back instantly, he inclined his head in acknowledgement. "This is an honour. I had no idea you were back in the country."

The visitor stepped inside, allowing Jenny to get a good look at him. He was tall, covered in a cloak and cowl. He had an aura around him, which seemed to command respect and authority. He surveyed the room, the cowl moving only slightly, refusing to reveal his features, noticing her. He bowed. "Forgive me, Rupert Giles. I had no idea you had a guest."

"Its quite all right," Giles replied, leading him into the living area. "Would you care for anything?"

"No, thank you. My reasons for coming here are urgent. In view of my debt to you, I felt I could not act otherwise."

"Of course." Giles sat down next to Jenny. "What has happened?"

"I was summoned a day ago, by a powerful force for evil in this town. He was in the company of a slayer. He asked me if I was able to take away souls."

Giles paled. "Oh god." He looked at the visitor. "Can you stay for a while?"

"I am at your disposal for as long as is required."

"Thank you." Giles rose up from his seat and grabbed the phone which was lying on his desk. Silently he pressed a number on speed dial, then held the receiver to his ear. "Its me. I need both of you at my place, right away."

 


Fifteen minutes later, Giles opened the door again, this time to admit Buffy and Angel. The couple took one look at his grim expression, and instantly their faces changed to match. Quietly they entered the apartment and took up the remaining space in the living room.

"So, what's the situation?" Buffy asked when Giles had joined them.

Giles indicated the cowled figure with them. "A friend of mine called this evening. He told me something which you two need to hear."

They turned to the Mage, who began his story. "I am, what you would say, an expert in my vocation. People call for me when they require a difficult spell to be cast, or a powerful ritual to be performed. A day ago, an evil force and another slayer called for me, and asked me to take away a soul."

The couple paled. "But you can't, can you?" Angel asked him, his voice desperately trying to contain the fear which had rose up within him.

The Mage turned to face him. "You are the vampire in question."

It was more of a statement than a question but Angel answered anyway. "Yes," he replied, his fear still refusing to disappear. "And I was reliably informed that my soul was permanent."

"As was I," the Mage remarked, "which is why I came to Rupert Giles before I decided whether or not to accept."

"And we are grateful that you did," Giles assured him. "Buffy, Angel, this can only mean that the mayor has stepped up his campaign for his Ascension."

After Buffy and Angel had told him about the note that the deputy Mayor had given her as he died, Giles had researched the Mayor and what he found horrified him. It appeared that the Mayor had lived for a hundred years, the length of time usually required for someone who wished to evolve into a demon. And not just any demon, but a pure demonic form, more powerful than anything they had ever faced before. They had no idea what type he could ascend into, how they were going to defeat it, or when this ascension would take place. The deputy Mayor's note also revealed that Faith had defected to the Mayor's office since the Kakistos incident, further adding to their troubles.

"We are lucky that I have a connection with who he called to try and take Angel from us. I think this a perfect opportunity."

"A perfect opportunity for what?" Buffy asked worriedly.

"To find out as much as we can about the Mayor's plan. Such as when its all going to happen."

There was silence for a moment as the slayer ingested that information. Then she raised her eyes in pure panic to her watcher. "Giles, you can't be serious!" She gripped Angel's hand tightly, for fear that he would suddenly be ripped out of his seat and his soul wrenched from him before her. Images of the last time she had encountered Angelus began to flash through her mind. "You're suggesting we go along with this?"

"Buffy, this could be the opportunity to find out everything the mayor knows."

"And lose Angel's soul in the process? No thank you!"

"He won't lose his soul." Giles leaned forward in his seat to explain his plan. "I'm talking about a bluff. We play along and see where it takes us."

"No way," Buffy reaffirmed. "Its too dangerous."

"Buffy." Angel turned to face her, taking the hand that tightly gripped his between that and his other, and gently rubbing the skin in an attempt to comfort her. "I think Giles is right. This is too good a chance to ignore."

"Angel," Buffy began, horrified that he was agreeing to this. "You can't be serious!"

"I don't like some parts of it either," he admitted, "but I think this could work. There's too much at stake for us not to try."

Buffy stared at him, her hazel eyes digesting his own dark brown ones, judging his expression. Everything within her was still screaming at the very notion of the idea, but her rational mind was managing to push the panic behind it at the moment, in an effort to put its point across. "You're right," she accepted, her voice oddly calm. Taking a deep breath, she turned to her watcher. "What's the plan?"

 


It was close on midnight by the time they had returned to Mansion on Crawford Street. Buffy had been silent the entire drive home, but now as she followed her soulmate inside his home, she let her thoughts speak. "I don't like this, Angel."

He turned to her, his gaze equally thoughtful and grim. "I know," he said. "I don't like it either."

"Then why did you agree?" She asked him incredulously.

"Because I also see Giles' point. This is the chance we have been waiting for. If we do this, we could find out all the Mayor's plans. It could give us the knowledge to defeat him."

"Could! Only could!" She protested. "None of this is certain." She sank into the sofas by the slowly dying fire which had been lit when they had first returned to his home. "Angel, when you lost your soul, I lost all sense of this world. I had to watch him rampage Sunnydale in your body, knowing that I couldn't stake him because that would mean there would be no way to bring you back. And Faith is involved in this. We tried to get through to her, both me and you, and it didn't work. I dread to think what she might do. The idea of her touching you, of you having to respond, scares the hell out of me. I'm worried she'll see through it all and kill you."

"She won't," Angel assured her. "I can play him well enough to convince them both."

"That's neither helpful nor reassuring!"

"Buffy," Angel joined her on the sofa and took her hands, stilling them from their nervous motions. "I feel nothing for Faith. I've never felt anything for her." He gently took hold of her left hand, and rubbed his finger on her claddagh. "I still mean what I said when I gave you this." He turned his own hand over, showing his, placed in the same position as hers, with the heart pointing towards him. Solemnly, he outlined the meanings of each symbol. "Friendship, loyalty and love. I mean them in every single sense. From the first moment I set eyes on you, I was lost. When you told me that you loved me, I realised that I belonged here for the first time in over two hundred years. I've never even felt tempted to be unfaithful to you." He dropped to one knee before her. "I swear to you that I will always to be true to you alone, for the rest of my existence." He kissed her ring. "One day, I want to place two more rings next to this one. One of them blessed by a priest."

She only had time to gasp at his words and their implications, before he stood up and pulled her into his arms. "But if you don't want to do this, then we won't. I won't agree without your consent."

Tears clouded her eyes. Not because of her fears, but because of what he had said to her. She softly touched his face. "Angel...." she trailed off, too touched for words. "All, right. I'll tell Giles tomorrow that we'll do it."

"I love you," Angel uttered softly, before kissing her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back, determined to lose herself within the motion. He obliged her, sweeping her up into his arms. Resting her head against his shoulders, their lips still touching, Angel led her to his bedroom.

He hesitated when they reached his bed, suddenly uncertain as to whether this was the right thing to do at this moment, in light of what was to come. But she was certain. She pulled him down to the bed, her hands slipping underneath the jumper he had put on before they left for Giles' apartment. Her fingers crept up his bare chest, and Angel forgot his hesitation. Gently he ran his hands through her hair, then felt underneath for the zip to her dress. Slowly he slid it down.

When they broke apart in the need for one of them to breathe, their actions became less frantic. There was no longer a need for urgency. One kiss was all it took for them to realise that this bluff would not set them apart. Not if they had anything to do with it. So their second kiss was more gentle than the first. Buffy sat up and helped Angel take off her dress, parting from his lips when the garment reached her head. He threw it aside, his eyes never leaving her form for a moment. Buffy slipped off his shirt. Angel rose on to his knees, then helped her take off his trousers.

For a moment they stilled, their bodies level with each other, kneeling upon the satin sheets of his bed, disrobed of the attire they had flung on when Giles had called hours ago. Their evening had begun with something ordinary, a contrast to what took place afterwards. He had taken her to the cinema, thinking how nice it would be to do something normal. But the film had turned out to be rated, and they had ended up returning to mansion rather rapidly, to satisfy the desires watching it had created. So they had indulged, until the phone call disturbed them from the afterglow. Now they were here again, but with different reasons. Angel raked his eyes over her body, remembering how lucky he was to have her love, after all that he had done. And now he was asking her to keep faith in the love he had declared to her, while they played a dangerous game.

"I don't deserve you," he uttered.

"Yes you do," Buffy assured him. She let herself fall back against the pillows, slipping her legs out from under her, placing her feet on the mattress sheet. Her eyes gazed deeply into his, wanting. Angel obeyed their siren's call, moving up between her legs to put his face level with hers. He cupped her cheeks with his hands, and kissed her again. Their bodies came together. Skin touching skin. His erection pressed against her stomach. Her hands slipped between them and stroked the tip. A purr escaped from him in reply. She smiled under his lips, then moved her hands to his back, her fingers seeking out his tattoo, tracing its lines. He moved his mouth downwards, pressing sweet, small kisses to her neck, then her chest. She arched her back when he reached her hard nipples and closed his mouth over one of them.

Guilt washed over her as she watched him suckle. He felt her still, and looked up. "I sorry," she whispered. "I never should have doubted you."

"You were frightened of losing me," he divined, knowing her fears even better than her, as well as his own. "You couldn't be rational when feeling that. There's no need to apologise. I felt the same way."

He turned back to her breasts. His mouth closed over the untouched one, teasing her by dragging his tongue and teeth over the nipple until she lost herself to the passion again. When he had worshipped the both of them he continued his downward pilgrimage, dipping his tongue into her belly button, stroking her between her legs with his hands. Feeling her ready for him, he moved back up and caught her lips again as he slid inside her. She arched her back, and uttered a purr of her own. Gently he withdrew his mouth from hers, and fixed his eyes upon her hazel ones. This last motion was a tradition, for they loved to watch each other's reaction as they reached their ultimate pleasure. Silence encased them as he shifted in and out of her, his gaze never leaving hers as they began the journey towards ecstasy.

 


Buffy entered the library the next morning feeling a little better. She still was unhappy with the plan, but that could not be helped. Giles was right. There was too much at stake for them not to try. She just had to get through it. Then she would have time to deal. She sat down at the table, greeting Jenny, Doyle, Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Xander with a small smile. "Where's Giles?"

"A demon came in this morning, and asked to see him," Willow replied. "They've been closeted in his office ever since."

Before Buffy had a chance to ask what the demon looked like, the office door opened, and the demon walked out. Giles followed, watching his exit in silence.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce came in just after the demon exited. "What did that want?" He asked them.

"Plane delayed, Wesley?" Buffy queried dangerously, still not happy with his efforts to 'help' Faith. Even if it had not changed anything after all.

"Er, yes," he replied before turning back to Giles.

"Don't worry Buffy, he's actually useful. In his own way." Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning the lenses. "That demon claimed to have the Books of Ascension."

"Books of the Ascension?" Wesley repeated. "I didn't even know there was a book, let alone books. What was he asking?"

"Five thousand dollars."

"Cash? That's very unusual," Wesley commented, while the rest of the Scooby gang gasped in shock at the amount.

"Demons after money," Giles mused, shaking his head. "Whatever happened to the still beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore."

"Can't the Watchers Council pay for them?" Oz asked.

"The Council doesn't like to lower itself to the demands of the demons who operate barter and trade alliances," Giles replied. "Buffy, meet with him tonight. Maybe you can persuade him to give us them free of charge."

"But what about...." Buffy trailed off, looking at Wesley. "Does everyone know, yet?" She asked instead.

"I was saving it till lunch," Giles replied, while the ignorant exchanged looks of confusion. "And with regards to that, these books could prove useful anyway. And we don't know what the Mayor will do with this information. And until the Mage contacts me, we don't know when its going to take place."

"Okay. Should I take Faith along?"

"No, she has yet to return from last night's patrol."

"Er, Giles?" Xander broke in at this moment. "Needing some background information here."

"Right," Giles sat down and began to explain.

 


"And what exactly did this demon look like?" The Mayor asked.

"Demonic," Faith replied. She had come into the library that morning, but chose to hide under the long desk and had listened against the window of the office while the 'negotiations' for the books on the Ascension had been going on. As soon as she had realised what the meeting was about, she had hightailed it out of there and to City Hall.

"Ah. And you say he has the Books of Ascension, or will soon, and he was, what, willing to sell them?"

"That's what I said."

"Hmm. You know what I wish? I wish you'd pull your hair back. I know, I know, fashion's not exactly my thing, but, gosh darn it, you know, you've got such a nice face. I can't understand why you hide it."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever," Faith hurriedly said, wanting to get back to the subject at hand. "It's just a matter of time before this demon guy is gonna spill. Then Buffy and the superfriends are gonna..."

"You know, you worry too much for a girl for your age. That's unnecessary stress. Luckily, I've got just the thing." The Mayor poured Faith a glass of milk. "There you go. Now, first you load up on calcium. Then find this demon, kill the heck out of him, and bring the books to me."

Faith looked at the milk then set the glass down, untouched. "And if Buffy gets to him first?" She asked.

"Oh, well. Frankly I don't like to think about that. I like good, positive, thoughts. If you fail me in that way...." he tailed off, then chuckled dangerously. "Oh, come on, don't worry. Drink up. There's nothing uncool about healthy teeth and bones."

Faith surrendered, drinking the milk. Mayor Wilkins leaned back in his chair. "And then when you have the books, you might as well arrange that other assignment. My contact will meet you there."

 


Angel heard the door and instantly stood up. He slipped his hand into his pocket and pressed the send button on Buffy's pager. She had leant it to him during the lunch hour, after the Scooby gang had been informed and the timing for their bluff had been arranged. The message had been pre-set as a code to let her and the rest know when the first act was about to begin. "Faith," he greeted, when the intruder came into view.

"Hey. Sorry to bust in uninvited."

"What do you want?"

"Oh nothing much. I'm five by five. Him however," she gestured behind him, "he's more expensive." She stepped forward and splashed a vial of blood on his chest. As planned the Mage stepped out from behind the shadows and began to chant.

Angel stepped into his role. "Faith!"

"I wanted to do this the old-fashioned way, but hey, your loss. Lucky I've got some tricks Buffy don't know yet."

"You don't have to do this."

"I know, but it's fun. Now relax, it'll be over soon."

The Mage continued to chant. Lights emanated from his hand and congealed around Angel's body. Angel waited for a moment, then stopped resisting. This was all part of the magic tricks prearranged from the night before. The lights faded away and the Mage disappeared into the shadows. Angel allowed himself to fall to the floor. When he rose up, his demonic visage was in place. He pulled Faith to him and kissed her.

It did not last long. "Thanks, so much," were his first words as Angelus before slapping Faith away. "It's good to have the taste of a Slayer back in my mouth. It's like cigarettes, you know, just when I thought I'd quit." He kicked her in the side. At least a part of him was enjoying this bit of the bluff. "No, don't get up. It's good to be back in Sunnydale. Nice climate, plenty to eat, no tortured humanity to hold me down. But you know what bothers me?" Angel grabbed her by the neck. "You don't seem to be getting the big picture here, Faith. Now I don't know why you turned me, but I'm just glad you did."

Faith struggled, and he allowed her to break free and kick him away. She pulled out a stake. "I've got my reasons."

"Let me guess. You summoned back the true Angelus because you need a new boy toy. Doesn't work that way." He punched her. Hard. Then grabbed hold of the arm holding the stake.

Faith was unperturbed. "You wanna be smart? You listen to me."

"Funny thing about vampires, Faith. We don't establish meaningful dialogue with Slayers."

"Not how Buffy tells it." Faith kicked him in the knee. Angel allowed the strike to impact, falling to the ground, whereupon she jumped astride him, threatening him with the stake. "I should have known you'd like it on top," he lewdly joked. He had no personal desire to make anything happen between them, but he had to keep up the role. And hope she was not in the mood.

"You want to listen or you want to die?"

"As long as you're there, I mostly want you to wriggle. But I'm listening."

"Last time you got like this, Buffy kicked your ass all the way back to hell. You want to do better this time?"

Angel inwardly smiled, ingesting that information. Only a few knew that it was actually him and not Angelus that went to hell. Another thing they could use to their advantage. His face went human. "Still listening."

"Good boy. Now all you got to do is play nice and call truce and I'll hook you up with the real power in this town. Interested?"

"Very."

"Then get ready to meet the new boss." Faith bent and kissed his lips. Angel laid back and bore it.

 


"So, can I keep him?" Faith asked.

They were in the Mayor's office at City Hall. Angel had changed into Angelus' usual wardrobe of choice; black and blood red, emphasis on the leather. Thankfully, he had manage to persuade Faith to hold off on having sex, citing that he preferred slayers turned before savouring their delights. She had brought it, and walked outside while he changed. He also took the opportunity to replace the bag which carried the books with a fake one they had prepared. Then they had left for Crawford Street for City Hall.

"Let's just take things step by step for the moment," said the Mayor. "Now then, Angelus, may I call you Angel?"

"Well, actually, I'm thinking more along the lines of you calling me Master," Angel replied, letting the cocky side of his alter demon show, testing the Mayor's limits of temper.

Richard Wilkins the third was unfazed. "Ah. You know, Angelus, attitude may get you attention, but courtesy wins respect. I am the one responsible for your new attitude."

Angel glanced at the desk between them, looking for a weapon. Finding a letter knife he picked it up and dragged it across the surface of the desk. Then he started prowling around the office. "That's why I'm here."

"No problems with the transition? No side effects?"

"Had a soul, now I'm free."

"That's terrific! Poetic too. Not that I read much poetry except for those little ones in the Reader's Digest. You know, some of those are quite catchy." He chuckled.

Angel added some impatience. "Hey, I don't mean to rush things here but are you trying to get to some kind of point?"

"Kids today. Rush rush rush. Well the point, Angel, is you're a very powerful young man, good for Faith, and there just may be future for you in Sunnydale." the Mayor paused and changed tack. "I see you're admiring my letter opener."

"Well, actually, I was thinking of stabbing you through the heart with it," Angel said aloud, truthfully, just to see how they would react. Provided they had all brought his show, there should be nothing to worry about.

To his surprise, the Mayor turned his chair to face him, spreading his hands wide. "Please do."

Angel threw the knife in a direct route to the heart. Mayor Wilkins brought his right hand in front of the target and the blade embedded itself though his palm. "Nice shot," he commented, before pulling the blade out. The wound healed itself in seconds. "You see, I'm what you might call impervious. Can't be killed, or harmed in any way. And that's just a cornerstone in my plans for this great town of ours."

That was a new piece of information. Angel stored it away, keeping his outward appearance unfazed by the potentially hazardous implications. "Can't be killed, but you don't like germs?"

"Uck, eew, awful things, unsanitary. But my question is, now that Faith has brought you back, what are your intentions?"

To go back to the gang and find away of killing you. Slowly. Angel ignored the voice inside his head and continued the bluff. "Well, gee, sir, I thought I'd find that Slayer that's given you so much trouble and torture, maim, and kill her."

"Fine! You know it's nice to see you're not one of those slacker types running around town today. Torture Buffy. Killing her's fine, just make it a slow one."

Angel copied his alter demon evil smile. "My favourite kind."

"Wonderful, wonderful. We don't want a replacement Slayer anytime soon. They can't all turn out like my girl Faith. Have fun."

"Let's do it." Faith agreed, leading the way. Angel allowed himself to follow, glad it was all going to plan. Now for the third act.

 


It was almost too easy capturing Buffy. In Faith's opinion. Later she would come to realise why. For the moment however she put it down to the girl's love for the once souled vampire and stood watching events play themselves out.

Angel put the chains around her, one corner of an eye keeping watch on Faith. Discreetly, he smiled reassuringly at Buffy, then went back into his role, letting his vampire visage show. "I haven't felt this good in a long time."

Buffy played along, hands holding the chains behind her back. She pasted a look of confusion on her face. "Angel?"

"You know, I never properly thanked you for sending me to hell."

That was not right, but Buffy knew why. She let comprehension dawn. "No."

"Yeah, and I'm just wondering where do I start? Card? Fruit basket? Evisceration?"

Time to let a little horror into her voice. "No," she repeated.

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Maybe there's still some good deep down inside of me that remembers and loves you. If only you could reach me. Then again, we have reality." He titled his head and leaned forward to kiss her. Normally Buffy would have gladly responded. But they had to play their parts. She spat at him. "I will kill you before I let you touch me." She turned to Faith, and added the next part of her role. "Faith, we need to get out of here, now."

"Speak for yourself, B. Me, I like it here."

Angel growled and Buffy turned to him. "You know what I just can't believe? All of our time together and we never tried chains. Well, can't dwell on the past, especially with the future we have ahead."

"Bondage looks good on you, B. The outfit's all wrong, but, hey!"

Buffy turned her attention to Faith. "You don't know what you're doing." "Really? Weird, because something about all this just feels so right. Maybe it's one of those unhappy childhood things. See, when I was a kid I used to beg my mom for a dog. Didn't matter what kind. I just wanted, you know, something to love." She came up close to Angel and kissed him. Angel let her, while Buffy turned away, waiting. "A dog's all I wanted. Well, that and toys." Faith stepped back and lifted up a blanket which was covering something nearby, revealing torture instruments. "But mom was so busy, you know, enjoying the drinking and passing out parts of life, that I never really got what I wanted, until now."

"Faith, listen to me very closely. Angelus is a killer. When he's done with me, he'll turn on you."

"She's right. I probably will," Angel agreed.

"Yeah? Hunh. Guess we'll just have to keep you around for a while then. Before we get started, I just want you to know, if you're a screamer, feel free."

"Why, Faith? What's in it for you?"

"What isn't? You know, I come to Sunnydale. I'm the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who does everybody thank? Buffy. Everybody always asks, why can't you be more like Buffy? But did anyone ever ask if you could be more like me?"

"I know I didn't," Angel answered, a small smile directed at Buffy. Discreetly she passed him one back.

"You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat. This is supposed to be my town!"

Buffy heard the frustration and turned up the game. "Faith, listen to me!"

"Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you're better than me? Do you? Say it, you think you're better than me?"

Now for the arrogance. "I am. Always have been."

"Um, maybe you didn't notice. Angel's with me."

"And how did you get him, Faith? Magic? Cast some sort of spell? Cause in the real world, Angel would never touch you and we both know it." Faith came up to her and slapped her. Buffy turned her head with the blow, then turned back. "You had to tie me up to beat me. There's a word for people like you, Faith. Loser."

"Uh huh. You're just trying to make me mad so I'll kill you. I'm too smart for that. Stick around."

"For what? Your boss's lame Ascension? Like I couldn't stop it."

"You can't."

"I will."

"Keep dreaming. No one can stop the Ascension. Mayor's got it wired, B. He built this town for demons to feed on and come graduation day, he's getting paid. And I'll be sitting at his right hand. Assuming he has hands after the transformation. I'm not too clear on that part. And all your little lame ass friends are going to be kibbles 'n' bits. Think about that when your boyfriend's cutting into you."

"I never knew you had so much rage in you."

"What can I say? I'm the world's best actor."

There it was. They had the books and now they had the date. It was time to stop this charade. Time to reveal all. Buffy turned to Angel, who obliged. "Third best."

Faith turned to Angel in surprise.

"Graduation day. You think we missed anything?" Buffy wondered aloud.

"I think we know everything she knows," Angel decided.

"May I say something?" Buffy let go of the chains, and Angel stepped back, ready to fight should the need arise. "Psyched!"

"You played me," Faith slowly realised. "You played me!"

Just then, as planned, the Scooby gang burst in. Buffy moved on Faith, taking out the knife she had secreted in the back of her jeans. They ended up in a stand-off, each holding a knife to the other's throat.

"What are you gonna do, B, kill me? You'd become me. You're not ready for that, yet." She grabbed Buffy's neck and kissed her on the forehead, before running away. The Scooby gang let her go. They had more important things to deal with first.

"Are you two okay?" Willow asked.

Buffy looked at Angel, who smiled back at her, letting his love for her show. "We're fine, just fine."

 


"The task is finished."

They were back in the Library. The books on the Ascension were safely stored away, and Angel had changed out of his alter demon clothes. Now Giles was thanking his friend who had begun the whole thing. "Yes. Thank you for coming to me and for that rather effective light show you put on."

"This restores the balance between us, Rupert Giles. My debt to you is now repaid in full. Do not call upon me."

"I shan't. Peace with you."

"And with you."

The Mage walked a pace backwards, the faded into thin air. Giles walked back to the main table, where he sat down next to Jenny.

"His debt to you is repaid?" Willow queried. "What did you do?"

"I introduced him to his wife."

"Well, I for one, protest," said Wesley. "You pitted Slayer against Slayer in a dangerous charade that could've gotten them both killed! I'm telling the Council!"

"I think you should," Giles remarked, much to Wesley's surprise. "We have a rogue Slayer on our hands. I can't think of anything more dangerous."

"But there are some silver linings," Buffy reminded him.

"Yes," Giles agreed, smiling at Jenny. "We know a little bit more about the Ascension."

"Graduation day. There's a big scary un-fun," Xander commented.

"Well, if we get through that, there's a wedding for you all to attend," Giles remarked, taking Jenny into his arms.

The Scooby gang turned to face him, and Buffy spotted the ring resting on the ex-gypsy's third finger, left hand. During the bluff, Giles had managed to find a private moment for them both and finished his proposal.

The slayer grinned happily at the couple. "Congratulations."

The rest of the Scooby gang caught on, and cheers broke out. They swamped the couple with hugs.

Buffy and Angel hung back alittle, the souled vampire moving closer to her. "How are you doing?" He asked her.

She sighed. "So, so. I'll be better when this day's over."

He looked at her nervously. "You still my girl?"

Buffy smiled. She leaned forward and took his left hand in hers. She raised it to her lips and kissed the claddagh, which had remained in the same position all the while, still proving who he really belonged to, no matter what game they played. "Always."

Angel smiled. He rose up and pulled her into his arms. His lips found hers. Silently they reaffirmed their relationship, in the best way they knew.

The End.
To Be Continued In...

Earshot.