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Author's note: Some of the dialogue was taken from the actual episode in Season Three. Very little of the original plot has changed, minus a few details due to the relationship of Buffy and Angel being a lot more secure. Enjoy.

Earshot.

She was running. Something was chasing her. Something bad. She could not get away. Rushing into the deserted children's playground, she turned behind her to check how far away the monster was. But she misplaced her footing, and fell to the floor.

The demon took the bait. He rushed forward.

Buffy turned over with a smile. She leapt up from the ground and kicked out, striking the demon on the upper thigh. As she made her ready stance, a part of her wondered why the demon did not talk. "You demons can't resist a run and stumble, can you?" She taunted. She took out her knife and threw it at the demon.

The demon caught it. Another one grabbed her from behind. The first demon threw the knife. Buffy caught it and kicked out. She pushed it towards the swing set. Another punch and she was in control. She picked it up and threw it over her back on to one of the picnic tables. Leaping up on the wooden table, Buffy pounced on the demon and pushed the knife through his heart.

With one demon dead, Buffy turned round to look for the other one. "One down, one... gone. "
She turned back to the demon, and wiped the blood off her hand. Her skin itched a little, but she thought it was nothing.

 


"So scabby demon got away?" Willow asked her friend the next morning.

"Scabby demon number two got away. Scabby demon number one, big check in the slay column."

"I don't like this whole no mouth thing. Its disquieting."

"Well, no mouth means no teeth. Unless they have them somewhere else. Hey Giles. How are things going?"

"Good morning," her watcher said, as the girls took their places around the large table in the Library. "Well, we've been researching the mayor's forthcoming ascension."

"It's pretty riveting stuff," Oz added.

"So, what do we know?" Buffy asked.

"What don't we know," Xander replied. "Tell her Giles."

"Based upon the supposed date, graduation day, and the mayor being impervious to harm, I've cross referenced..."

"He's a cross-referencing fool," Xander cut in.

"And I've eliminated several possibilities. It's not the ritual flaying of the demon Azarath nor the, uh ..." He trailed off in surrender. "I don't know what's going to happen."

"That was kind of an anticlimax," Oz remarked.

"We don't know anything?" Buffy cried incredulously. "The whole fake Angel thing was for nothing?"

"No, no, no. If nothing else Angel's charade has brought Faith's treachery into the open and this information on the ascension will prove useful eventually, I just need to put it together."

At this moment, the other Watcher entered the library, looking rather pleased with himself. "Terribly sorry, I was detained. Official council business. Mr. Giles, you were speaking?"

"I was just filling Buffy in on my progress regarding the research on the ascension."

"Oh, and what took up the rest of the minute?"

"Touche. Of course, my work has so far, not benefited from the Council's assistance. I'm sure, however, with the resources of the council at your disposal, you will have something to add."

"Well, I am pleased to state, with certainty, that the demon Azarath will not in any way be involved...."

Buffy glanced at her friends. After all exchanging mutual looks, they got up and walked out of the Library to the lockers.

"I'm sure we'll find out more soon," Wesley ended.

"Demon Azarath?" Giles queried mockingly, before disappearing into his office. Wesley followed him. "Look, I could not get anything out of them. They are just as angry with me as they are with you."

"And why would you suppose that to be?" Giles queried.

Wesley sighed and sat down. "All right, I'll admit that I handled Faith wrongly. But I'm a little out of my depth here. Its all very well for you, you've been the guardian of a slayer for nearly three years now..."

"Guide, not guardian," Giles corrected. "At the end of the day, Buffy is just a young woman, much like any other young woman. She has to be able to fight her own way, else she will never be half the slayer she is to become. You have to respect their instincts and their independence. Its what keeps them alive."

"I'll try," Wesley complied. "Anything else?"

"The Council is not made up of visionary geniuses. They can get things wrong."

"I'll remember that."

 


"So," Willow began, while she opened her locker, "how are things with Angel?"

"We're fine," Buffy replied, with a smile. "I can't believe how fine we are." She leaned against the adjoining locker. "Oh, Will, its.... He's just amazing. He understands me so well, and he doesn't get angry about any of my fears. He just wipes them away."

"So he doesn't feel anything for Faith?"

"He never has. And I know he's not just saying that. I can't explain how. I just know. Its like I can read his mind, and he can read mine."

"Wow."

"Hogan!" a voice called nearby. The slayer and her best friend turned round, noticing that the newest god in the eyes of Sunnydale High's populous was walking down the corridor. "Great game, man."

"Hogan Martin thinks he's sooooo hot," Xander mocked as he joined them. "Like we should all be awed by him cuz he can put a ball in the net."

"Hey Xander," Hogan said as he passed them.

Xander turned back to the girls in joy. "He said my name! He knows my name!"

"Hey Will," one of the other guys said.

"Hi, Percy," Willow greeted him. She had been tutoring the guy so he could make the grade and keep in the team.

"Um, look, I can't make the study session after school. Ummmm, can we do it 5th period?" Percy asked.

"Ok. Did you finish the reading?"

"Most of it."

"Percy."

"I'll finish it at lunch."

"That's my little trooper."

"I don't know what you're doing to him," Hogan joked. "I actually heard him complete a sentence. It had a clause and everything."

"You're watching the game, right?" Percy asked her.

"Wouldn't miss it!" Willow assured.

"See ya Hogan," Xander added as the guys left. He smiled at his best friends, then also made his way to class.

"You're going to the game? I didn't know you liked basketball." Buffy remarked to Willow as they made their way to class.

"I didn't either. But I really started getting into it. Especially now that we're in the championship. It's so exciting. Too bad you're patrolling, we're all going. Oz, Xander, Cordy, Ms Calendar. Even Giles and Wesley."

"I wonder if Giles would mind me blowing it off," Buffy mused.

"You could bring Angel," Willow added. "Its been a long time since we all did something normal as a group."

"I'll ask him after school," Buffy promised, scratching her hand. "I'm gonna go see Giles, and get this thing checked out. Its really starting to itch."

 


"You touched one of the demons?" Giles asked her, concerned.

Buffy peered at under a magnifying glass worriedly. "A good touch, not a bad touch. Anyway, it's been itching like crazy."

"Was this the demon in question?" Giles asked, showing her a picture from the ancient volume he had been holding.

"In the disgusting flesh."

"Hmm."

"What?"

"It says they can infect the host."

"Infect? Infect?" She grabbed Giles' shoulders. "Giles! Infect?!"

"Oh um, infect the host with an aspect of the demon. That's all it says."

"An aspect of the demon? You mean like a part of it?"

"There could be any number of explanations for your hand. A new fabric softener can cause irritation. In any case, I would advise not to attempt to track the one that got away. Let's minimise your exposure."

"Part of the demon? I hope it's not the outside part."

"Well, we'll know soon enough. For now, I know its hard, but just try to ignore it."

"I'll try."

 


"H. O. G. A. N. It's Hogan. Goooo, Hogan."

"Is it me or is this really lame?" Buffy asked, pointing at the cheer leading prep rally for the basket ball team.

"I don't know," Oz said. "I usually enjoy lameness, and this is leaving me kinda cold."

"Well, according to Freddy's latest editorial," Willow remarked as she read the Sunnydale High Sentinel, "'the pep rally is a place for psuedo-prostitutes to provoke men into a sexual frenzy which, when thwarted, results in pointless athletic competition.'"

"And the downside being?" Xander asked.

"The school paper is edging on depressing lately," Willow added, folding the thing away. "You guys notice that?"

"I always go straight to the obits," her boyfriend replied.

Willow turned to her best friend. "What are you doing, Buffy?"

"Nothing..." Buffy trailed off, looking innocent. Seeing her friend's look however, she continued. "Checking for horns."

"Ah, you know, Buffy, I don't even think Giles is right about you becoming like a demon. I mean he's totally burnt. You know, dealing with Faith and this ascension thing. Between you and me, he's not doing his best work."

"But what if he is right? I'm suddenly going to grow this demon part and we don't even know what it is. It could be claws or scales..." she trailed off as her friend adopted a worried expression. "What?"

"Was it a boy demon?"

The Cheerleaders spelt out another player. "T. O. M. Its Tom. Goooo Tom."

"They really are very good!" Xander commented.

"Their spelling's improved," was all Oz could say in support.

"Its just I'm scared Will," Buffy continued. "There's this thing in me and I can't find it. I can't stop it. What if it changes me? Not just the way I look. All of a sudden I could be something that's not me anymore."

"7. 8. P. E. R. C. Y. Its Percy. Gooo Percy."

Willow added her hands to the applause and then turned back to Buffy. "I would be frightened too, but I'm sure you're gonna be okay."

 


When Angel dismissed his last class for the day at the university, he saw Buffy waiting form him at the doors of his lecture room. "Hey," he greeted her when he neared her, pulling her into his arms. "You okay?" He asked, noting her concerned expression.

"Not really. Last night's patrol. I killed this demon, and some of its blood got on to my hand. And apparently, its infected me."

"An aspect of the demon," he commented.

"You know the drill," Buffy stated, even more concerned.

"By rumour. That doesn't mean anything. I mean, sometimes demons, they just exaggerate their power," Angel tried to reassure her, putting his arm around her as they walked down the corridors to his car.

"Demon hype," Buffy mused, gripping his waist with her arm. "Or maybe not. "I'm scared Angel."

"Hey," he began comfortingly, pulling her closer against him. "I won't let anything happen to you if I can help it. No matter what, I'll always be with you. I'll love you even if you're covered with slime."

She looked up at him with a smile. "Thanks, I needed that."

"So, patrolling tonight?"

"No, Giles warned me not to go after the second one, just in case of overexposure. There's this basket ball game on at school. The whole gang's going. Wanna come?"

"Sure," Angel smiled at her, and kissed her hair. Buffy smiled back, suddenly feeling a little better.

 


"Could you believe it? Right at the buzzer. Three points for the win," Willow commented the next morning as the entire group, minus those who were teachers, congregated in the student lounge.

"It was intense," Oz agreed.

"Yeah, for a minute there I thought you were gonna make an expression," Xander joked.

"Well, I felt one coming on. I won't lie," Oz said.

"Man, I've never seen anyone jump like Hogan Martin," Willow continued. "They should call him the jumper."

"Or a name that isn't an article of women's clothing."

"What did you and Angel think, Buffy?" Willow asked.

"It was surprisingly captivating," Buffy replied. "I think I even saw Angel cheer once, though he'll deny it if asked."

"That was an incredible game!" Cordelia commented. "I've never cheered so hard in my life. I still have knee marks on my back." They all looked at her. "From the pyramid."

"So, any aspect of the demon yet?" Willow asked her friend.

The slayer shook her head. "Not yet, but I'll keep you posted." She leaned back and let the rest of the them talk, thinking. Suddenly, she heard a voice.

"Students. If we could just get rid of all the students."

Startled, she looked to the gang, but they were still talking, as if nothing had happened. Then she heard another one.

"When I'm a sophomore jillionaire and you're all flipping burgers. Who's the loser then..."

"Maybe I'll take French, I said. How hard can it be, French babies learn it. Idiot," another said.

Suddenly she could hear even more. But no one was speaking to her. Silently, she put down her bag and turned to her friends. "I've gotta ask Giles something. I'll be back in a minute."

 


"Is this the thing? The aspect thing?"

"Buffy, slow down. I'm not even convinced that this is genuine mind reading. You're most likely projecting your...."

"When I walked in a few minutes ago, you thought 'look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she'd wear cats strapped to her feet.'"

"I...um.." Giles began to speak, while his thoughts replied, "Of course, the demons are telepathic. I should have known. That's why they didn't need mouths.." "The demons are telepathic."

"I know, you just told me. That's why they don't need mouths. And you should have known."

"This is astounding," Giles remarked, amazed.

"It was happening out in the hallway. Principal Snyder has 'Walk Like an Egyptian' stuck in his head. And the boys at this school are seriously disturbed. Its weird, but Giles, think about it. Think about what I could do."

"It could be very useful. You could anticipate your opponent's every move. Turn his plans against him."

"Oh, way better than that." Buffy smiled.

 


"Jealousy!" Buffy called out, reading someone's answer and speaking it before they could. Already she liked this gift.

"Buffy. Right. Very good," the teacher said.

"I knew that." One student nearby thought.

"Jealousy clearly is the tool that Iago uses to undo Othello. But what's his motivation? What reason does Iago give for destroying his superior officer?"

"Cassio has my place. Twix my sheets, he's done my office."

"Well, he was passed over for promotion," Buffy began, "Cassio was picked instead and people were saying that Othello slept with his wife."

"I was gonna say Cassio. Uh, I hate her."

"Any other reason?" The teacher asked.

"Race!" the student whom Buffy had been reading the most got out in a rush.

"Uh... good Nancy. Can't overlook that," the teacher replied.

"Look at them, scrambling for the teacher's praise like pigeons for thrown bread crust," another person thought. Buffy turned to locate him. "Will, who's that guy?"

"That's Freddy Iverson. He writes those editorials for the school paper."

"Bread crusts. That's deep. I should write that down."

"There's something else at work here," the teacher continued.

"Well, he, um," Buffy began, trying to read her as she went, "he sort of admits himself that his motive are... spurious! He, um, he does things because he, he enjoys them. It's like he's not, he's not really a person. He's, the dark half of Othello himself."

The class gasped, while the teacher looked impressed. "Buffy. Really. Very astute. I said something quite like that in my dissertation. Yes, and doesn't that also explain Othello's readiness to believe Iago? Within seconds he turns on Desdomona. He believes that she's been unfaithful. And we're all like that. We all have our little internal Iagos, that tell us our husbands or our girlfriends or whatever, don't really love us. But you never really see what's in someone's heart."

Buffy was silent as the teacher continued. For once she ignored the voices of the other students' thoughts and turned to her own, as they suddenly proved to be illuminating.

 


Angel looked up to the doors at the end of his class, and confirmed what his senses had been suspecting, much to his surprise. He walked to the entrance. "Buffy, what's wrong?"

"I wanted to apologise," Buffy began, walking into the lecture room and sitting on his desk. "English class got me thinking, and I realised I was wrong."

"What about?" Angel asked, mystified. He came to stand in front of her.

"Thinking that if Faith offered herself to you, you would jump at it."

"Buffy," Angel joined her on the desk. "You were worried about losing me. You didn't want to lose me. I understood. Its fine. I'm not angry at you."

"I shouldn't have been worried though," Buffy continued. "I should trust you."

"You were worried about losing someone you love," Angel replied. "Trust is sort of ignored when it comes to that."

Buffy turned to him, shaking her head. "How did you get so wise?"

"Years of practice," he smiled at her. "What got you thinking about this?"

"We're reading Othello."

"Ahh," Angel mused in understanding.

"And I got my aspect of the demon."

"What is it?"

"I could show you, but I can't hear yours," Buffy replied cryptically, looking at him in puzzlement.

"Telepathy," Angel guessed. She nodded. "Its like the mirror. My thoughts are there, but they can't create a reflection in you." He paused, looking at her. "Do you mind?"

"No, its fun. Its nice though, not to read yours. Its peaceful."

"Be careful with this gift. A lot of things that seem strong and good and powerful, they can be painful."

"Like say, immortality?"

"Exactly, I'm dying to get rid of that."

"Funny."

"I'm a funny guy." Angel took her hand in his. "Seriously, take care. It could get dangerous pretty quickly."

 


"She can read our minds? Our every impulse and fantasy?" Xander queried.

"Every one," Buffy replied.

"Oh god."

"Well, I think its great," Willow remarked. "Right? I mean, you enjoy your other slayer powers."

"Yeah, and it'll be fun. Did you see Nancy Coyle's face in English Class today?"

"Yeah, she's super competitive, and you really showed her." "She's hardly even human anymore. How can I be her friend now? She doesn't need me."

"No! I do need you," Buffy assured her. "I was talking to Angel, and he warned me that this could get out of control. So I need you guys to find out if this has happened before."

"Of course," Giles replied. "How far has it extended?"

"Not far. I can't hear through walls. Yet."

"What's it like?" Willow asked.

"It's a little weird. But... Look, please, don't for a second think that I don't need you, because I do. I want to share this with you. It's like all these doors are opening to all these little worlds, and I can just walk right inside." She paused. "I am concerned though. Angel pointed out something I hadn't thought of. But until we find out what has happened to others with this, I'm just gonna try and enjoy it."

 


"Here. It's happened before. A man in Ecuador. Quite recently," Giles continued to read the information before him.

"Can we contact him?" Wesley asked.

"I'd say not," Giles replied, his eyes scanning the words on the open pages, suddenly very concerned. "He can't communicate with anyone."

"Dead?" Wesley asked.

"No, he's in complete isolation. The power, he can't shut it off." He started speed reading the page. "We have to find an antidote."

 


Buffy was standing in the cafeteria, trying to carry on as normal. The voices inside her mind however, were getting worse.

"It's gotta get better. Please tell me it gets better. I hate school."

"Am I normal? Look at everybody, none of this matters."

"Come on! Come on! She's a loser. She has the sweetest face I've ever seen. Oh my god, quiet down."

Suddenly the voices rapidly increased until they were all rendered utterly unrecognisable in the din they had created. Buffy came to a stop and tried to turn them off. Suddenly, one came forward to stand out from the rest.

"This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all!"

 


"I think she's waking up now."

"She's ok."

"Oh thank god!"

"Her eyes are opening."

"I'm cold."

"You alright?" Giles asked her as she opened her eyes.

"I'm ok. Listen, there's a killer in the cafeteria."

"See, I've been saying for years that the lunch lady's gonna do us all in with that Mulligan Stew."

"Xander," his girlfriend hit his arm.

"I mean, what the hell's a Mulligan?"

"Someone was thinking about it. They thought 'This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all.' I have to find them."

"Well, did you, uh, recognise the voice?" Giles asked.

"No. I don't know. I mean, it was hardly human. It was full of so much anger and pain. I have to find them."

"But do you really think they meant it?" Xander asked. "I mean, who hasn't just idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semiautomatic?" They all looked at him. "I said idly."

"I know the difference. He... she... whoever, they meant it. They're gonna do it."

"She looks so tired."

"How horrible."

"I'm not getting any warmer."

"I bet it was Hogan."

"Who could it be?"

"Shut up!" Buffy cried, holding her hands to her head. "I'm sorry. Its just, can you guys not think so loud? Or, so much?"

"Buffy, you should go home," Giles said, holding her. "I'll take you home."

His slayer looked at him for a moment, thinking of resisting, but then conceded that she needed to rest. "All right. I need you guys to go back to the cafeteria. Make a list of everyone who's there. We have to find the killer before lunch tomorrow."

"We'll do it Buffy," Willow assured her. "A list of all the students."

"And, uh, oh teachers too. Mr. Beech, he thought something about getting rid of all the students."

"Come on." Giles guided her to car.

"I can't shut it out, Giles. Its like this invasion of my head. Its like there's these strangers are walking around in there."

"Wesley and I are looking for a way to help."

"I'll be okay right? I mean, even if you can't get rid of it?"

"You'll be fine. I promise." "If it doesn't go away she'll go insane."

 


"I think we have everyone that was in the cafeteria. I'll do some computer work. Match it against the FBI mass-murderer profiles. See if maybe we can rule some people out," Willow said.

"I'm still having trouble with the fact that one of us is just gonna gun everybody down for no reason," Xander remarked.

"Yeah, because that never happens in American High Schools," Cordelia remarked.

"It's bordering on trendy at this point." Oz added

"Besides which, Sunnydale High, centre of evil and all that. Let's get to work. We have till lunch time tomorrow. We hope." Willow looked up to see Giles returning, followed by Wesley. "How's Buffy?"

"Resting at home with Joyce. Are you guys set?"

"Yeah, we just have to get a battle plan. What are you doing?"

"Trying to find the antidote."

"What about Angel? Does he know?"

"Yes, I called him. He's finding the other demon, we need its heart for the antidote."

 


"He's the only one we couldn't find?"

It was hours later The scooby gang had all questioned every student that had been in the cafeteria, while Doyle and Jenny had questioned the teachers. So far, there had only been one person that they were unable to find.

"Yeah. Freddy Iverson," Oz replied.

"The newspaper guy? But we can't figure out if it's him without the worksheet, right?" Cordelia queried.

"We do have this people," Xander pointed out, holding the high school newspaper. "Today's editorial titled 'Big Game Draws Mindless Brain Dead Mob.'"

"Let's get him," Willow announced.

 


Some time later, back at Revello Drive, Giles and Joyce were monitoring Buffy's increasingly serious condition, as they stood in the door way of her room, watching her toss and turn in her sleep.

"I can't stand this," Joyce said in a worried whisper. "I keep wondering if I'm hurting her with my thoughts."

"You're not," Giles said sadly, taking off his glasses and resting his hand against his head as he closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Not anymore. She can't pick one thought out of the din."

Just before Joyce could ask her worst fear; of how long her daughter had left, a pounding on the front door suddenly began.

The two ran downstairs. Wesley beat them to the door, opening it. Angel entered, holding a glass vial of blue liquid. "I got it."

Giles and Joyce stood aside, allowing Angel to rush up the stairs. He walked into Buffy's room and sat on the bed, settling down the vial on the table beside it. Gently he gathered his soulmate up into his arms, and then reached for the antidote. Slowly, he tipped the contents into her mouth. Setting the vial back down on the table, Angel laid her head back down on the pillows. Tenderly he kissed her forehead as he watched for her reaction to the antidote.
Suddenly, she began to thrash in the bed, delirious as the potion did its work. Angel restrained her for as long as his vampire strength could hold out against slayer. Then he called down for assistance.

"Giles!"

 


Some time later, and the fit had ended. Angel sat down in a chair beside the bed, his hands clasping one of her own. Tenderly he pressed a kiss to it.

Like sleeping beauty, the slayer felt her true love's touch and awoke. "Angel."

He smiled at her in relief, while her mother and the watchers came closer.

"Thank god!" Joyce uttered. "Are you all right? Do you hear thoughts?"

"No. Did you find the killer?"

 


Miles away, the editor of Sunnydale High Sentinel was sitting at his desk in the newspaper office. Suddenly, the Scooby gang burst through the doors.

"Ok Oz, you got me. What are your friends gonna do? Hold me down?"

"You better believe it buster!" Willow replied. "You can't threaten a big murder without getting us pretty darn ticked!"

"Murder? What murder? You're not here about the review?"

"The review?" Oz queried.

"Yeah. Last Thursday." Freddy handed the article in question to Oz.

"Dingoes Ate My Baby play their instruments as if they have plump polish sausages taped to their fingers," the band member read.

"Sorry man."

Oz shrugged as he put the paper down. "No, it's fair."

"I just get a lot of hate mail and I thought you were gonna come and deliver some personally."

"We have nothing," Cordelia said despaired. "The killer could be anyone. We lose."

"We still have a few minutes," a new voice uttered.

"Buffy!" Willow cried in relief.

"You're okay. Can you hear thoughts?" Xander asked. She shook her head, making him sigh. "Just when I wasn't thinking about sex."

"Okay, here's the new plan," the slayer began. "We're going to get Snyder to evacuate the school. I just hope the killer's not waiting outside."

"By this time tomorrow, you'll all know what I've done," Cordelia read from a paper on the desk. "I'm sure you understand that I had to do it, and that although death is never easy, it's the only way. Jonathan!"

"Split up. Find him," Buffy commanded.

 


While the others checked the school rooms, Buffy walked outside into the quadrangle, scanning the crowd of students for Jonathon. She looked up and suddenly spotted someone in the clock tower holding a rifle. She ran forward, running up the wall stair rail. She leapt up toward the roof, grabbing onto the edge. Swinging herself forward in a ball, she performed a back flip forward to land on her feet on the roof tiles.

Inside, Jonathon prepared the rifle.

Buffy ran across the roof. Smashing through a boarded window, she landed behind him.

"Get away from me!" Jonathon cried, aiming the gun at her.

"Ok Jonathan, you wanna point that somewhere else?"

"Don't you try and stop me!"

"No stopping. Just here for view. Hey, look, City Hall."

"Go away!"

Buffy dropped her normal voice for seriousness. "Never gonna happen."

"You think I won't use this?"

"I don't know, Jonathan. I just...."

"Stop doing that!"

"Doing what?"

"Stop saying my name like we're friends! We're not friends! You all think I'm an idiot! A short idiot!"

"I don't. I don't think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you, doesn't it? You have all this pain, and all these feelings, and nobody's really paying attention."

"You think I just want attention?"

"No. I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain."

"Oh right. Cuz the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler."

"You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own."

Jonathan lowered the rifle. Buffy stepped toward the window. She looked down at the Quad below.
"The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. Its not. Its deafening." She turned to face him. "You know, I could've taken that by now."

"I know," Jonathon uttered sadly.

"I'd rather do it this way," she said, holding out her hands. Jonathon hesitated for a moment, then handed her the rifle. Calmly, she disarmed it.

"I just wanted it to stop."

"Yeah, well, mass-murder, not really what the doctor recommends for that type of pain. Besides, prison, you know, its a lot like high school, only instead of noogies...."

Jonathon looked at her in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"Actions having consequences. You know, stuff like that."

"I, I, I wouldn't ever hurt anybody. I came up here to kill myself."

"Then who?" Buffy trailed off, thinking. Suddenly her pager beeped. She picked it up from her belt and looked at the message. "Oh, god. I gotta get to Xander."

She turned and ran towards the clock tower exit, Jonathon following her. They dashed into the cafeteria, just in time to witness the dinner lady descend on Xander with a meat chopper.

Buffy grabbed her arm, restraining the weapon. "Okay, let's calm down."

"Vermin! You're all vermin. You come in here and you eat, and you eat. Filth!"

"Okay, I don't see this being settled with logic." Buffy opted for punching the dinner lady unconscious instead.

 


"How are you?" Giles asked his slayer the next morning as they walked into the school building.

"Loving the quiet. Nobody in here but me."

"Jonathon? How's he?"

"Pretty crappy. His parents are freaking. He got suspended. And toting a piece to school, not exactly winning him a place with the in-crowd. But, I think he's dealing."

"Well, its good of you to check on him."

"Well, its nice to be able to help someone in a non-slaying capacity. Except, he's starting to get that look, you know, like he's gonna ask me to Prom."

"Well, it would probably be good for his self-esteem, if you..."

"Oh come on! What am I, Saint Buffy? Angel's taking me."

"I'm glad to see you've recovered from your psychic encounter more or less intact. Feel up to some training?"

"Sure," Buffy agreed, glad that life was getting back to normal.

The End.
To Be Continued In...

Through A Glass, Darkly.