Anabel was tucked into bed by her mother.
“How are you feeling?” her soft voice asked.
“Good, now off to sleppyland. You need your rest.”
“Mami, will you tell me a story?”
She smiled as she looked at her daughter.
“You need to sleep, Anabel.”
“Please Mami, I’m already seven and tomorrow’s Saturday.”
She couldn’t resist her pleading face and sat down on the bed next to her.
“Okay, but the short version.”
“The very short version.”
She tucked one of Anabel’s brown locks behind her ear as her mind fled to the past, relieving each memory, each moment as if it had happened yesterday.
“It’s been six months. Do you still think she’s coming back?” Cordelia asked them from the gravestone she was sitting on.
“Actually, it’s more like seven,” Xander replied, as he looked around.
“She wouldn’t abandon us,” Willow defended.
“Will, she did,” Xander pointed out.
“I mean completely, you know --- she just needs time,” she tried to explain.
“But Sunnydale needs a Slayer,” Cordelia added, as she inspected the stake in her hand.
“Giles said the Council might send one to fill the post until they find out about Buffy,” Xander informed them as he fidgeted with his crossbow.
“No....no one can take Buffy’s place.”
“Face it Will, Buffy left Sunnydale alone. We can’t do it alone. We have school, research for Giles, finals, and that thing about not wanting to die. We need who ever they send.”
It was hard for Willow to accept what Xander was saying, but it was true. It was getting harder for them to do the job a slayer was meant to do. There were more prophecy’s that needed to be looked at, mid-finals at school to prepare for. Staying up patrolling wasn’t helping.
A movement by the tress caught their attention.
“Is Angel here?” Cordelia asked Willow as she gripped her stake tighter and got off the gravestone.
“Doesn’t it spook you out to be able to feel him or what ever, and know when he’s around?” she asked curious.
“I think it’s neat,” she replied with a smile, “Except when you guys stopped talking to me for about a week.”
“You did bring dead-boy back from Hell you know,” Xander told her in hisas-a-matter-of-fact voice.
“Yes, and *dead-boy* has saved your pathetic ass more times then I can remember,” Cordelia pointed out.
“I know you have trouble counting, Cordy.”
She threw the blunt side of the stake at him, making Willow laugh.
“Ouch, that hurt.”
“It was meant to, you moron.”
Willow laughed harder, sending and feeling the same sensation from the hidden vampire.
“Don’t you think it’s time he joined us?” Willow asked hopeful.
“I agree. The more there are, the safer we are.”
“Do we have to?” Xander complained.
“Yep, and your inviting him over,” Willow said with a smile.
“I don’t think so.”
“I think so, because if you don’t their won’t be anymore...” Cordelia told him.
“You know what, Mr. Harris.”
“Huh?....Cordelia, what are you....oh...OH!..”
“Exactly,” she replied with a smile.
“Fine...I’ll do it. Angel can you join us?” he asked as he rolled his eyes.
“Like you mean it,” Willow told him sternly.
“Okay....Angel can you please join us?”
After a moment of hesitation, Angel stepped away from the tress and stood in front of them. Willow greeted him with a smile, Cordelia just shrugged her shoulders and Xander rolled his eyes. He wasn’t sure what to say. He flashed them a quick smile and remained quite. Willow broke the silence joyfully.
“You can come and sit next to me.”
Angel smiled at her and walked over.
“So, have you heard anything about the new slayer?”, Willow asked him, trying to shake the awkwardness among them.
“Her name’s Faith. They killed her watcher in battle, that’s why the Council decided to let her come to Sunnydale.”
“As long as her luck doesn’t follow her here,” Cordelia commented.
“Real smooth,” Xander told her.
“Actually, her watcher saved her. What I hear, Faith was too rebellious. Her watcher couldn’t control her. Some lack of training and no focus were the problem.”
“And they think Giles can help her?” Xander asked.
“This wasn’t Giles first Slayer. He’s had three of the most strong-headed, stubborn slayers before Buffy.”
“Then I hope he can work a miracle with this one,” Cordelia said as she sat back down on the gravestone.
The group lapsed back into silence, not really sure what to say.
“Do you know when she’ll be here?” Willow asked.
“How is it you know more then Giles? Bite someone for the information?”
Willow and Cordelia glared at Xander. Angel’s eyes turned dark as he looked at him, straight in the eye.
“No, I had to kill him.”
Xander’s face turned pale as Willow began to laugh, recognizing his dark humor.
Angel smiled at Xander, making Cordelia join in the laughter.
"So, what are we doing tonight?” Xander asked Willow at her locker.
“Giles asked for us to meet him at the library. He found a prophecy.”
“Great, another fun filled night at the library. We have to find him a date.”
Willow agreed and closed the locker as they started walking towards the library.
“It shouldn’t be that long. Angel’s coming over to help.”
“Angel, Xander, his name is Angel. And yes, he’s going to help us.”
“I still can’t believe your friends with him. After everything that....”
Willow didn’t let him finish the sentence. “Xander, how many times are we going to have this discussion? I told you, the person who did those terrible things was Angelus, not Angel. He would never hurt us.”
“Angelus is gone forever. The spell I performed banished him forever. Angelus can never hurt us. You didn’t see him in Hell, Xander. It was horrible and he stayed there for 75 years. I’d never wish that fate on anyone. Don’t you think he’s suffered enough?”
There was a part of Xander, the reasonable side, that agreed with Willow, but there also was the hurt, envious side that told him to keep hating him. He simply nodded, his reasonable side winning the battle.
“We need each other, Xander. Buffy’s gone and all we have is each other. We need to work together for Sunnydale....for our futures.”
“You’ve accepted it, haven’t you?”
“She isn’t coming back is she?” Willow asked.
“I don’t think so, Will. Buffy left her duty, her responsibility, us. I don’t expect her back. I’m not sure how I’d act if she did. We’ve gone through a lot. Sometimes more then we should have. I’m not sure I want her back.”
Xander pulled her in for a hug.
“But like you said, we have each other.”
The two best friends walked to the library, all hopes about a certain slayer diminished.
“On time, that’s odd,” Giles commented as he saw the group seated at the table.
Angel remained by the stacks, the sunlight in the room restricting him.
“We’ve been getting better,” Willow said proudly.
“Well then, we should start.”
“What’s the prophecy ‘tweed man.”
Giles rolled his eyes and read from the open book in his hands.
“The four shall meet, creating to defeat. What they all hold and what they will be to mold. Becoming the Chosen and in time closing the dark forces.”
“That pretty much explains itself,” Xander commented sarcastically.
“What I can make out and actually hope, are that the ‘dark forces’ are the Hellmouths. If that’s so, then it’s vital we figure out this prophecy as soon as possible.”
“Okay, who are the chosen?” Cordelia asked.
“The four who will meet,” Willow reasoned.
“Okay, so these ‘chosen’ are supposed to close the Hellmouths - how?” Xander asked
“We need to find out who the Chosen are first,” Angel replied.
“Exactly, Giles agreed.
“There’s where we start researching,” Willow told him as she reached for a book.
After five hours of research the group decided to continue it tomorrow.
“Tomorrow, right after class,” Giles reminded them.
“Will do, Captain,” Xander replied.
“Aren’t you going to go on the lead you....,” Willow began to ask him.
“I canceled the trip. The Hellmouth needs my complete attention. I also need to make some new arrangements for Faith, the new slayer.”
The group nodded, realizing what that meant.
“See you tomorrow night,
The group left the library, finally saying good-bye to a part of their past.
Angel walked the group to their respective homes, Willow being the last of the gang to be dropped off.
“Did you want to come in?” Willow asked as they reached her door.
It was only recently
that Angel had begun to accept her invitation into her house. He
could only wonder how she could let a monster like him into her world.
But, that was Willow. The purest light and soul he had ever met.
They sat comfortably on the couch and talked. They spoke about the prophecy, what he had done to at his new place and about themselves. They talked the night away as they usually did. Her body had already established a new sleeping pattern where she could stay up longer, only needing to take a nap right after school.
He left before dawn, leaving her with the promise of seeing her tomorrow. He closed the door securely behind him and headed home, thanking the God he had stopped believing in, for her existence.
“Next week, what’s the plan?” Xander asked the women that walked with him to the library.
“Cordelia, we’ve been doing that for the past two weeks.”
Willow smiled, sensing an argument approaching.
“And the problem is?”
“You want to shop night and day for the next two weeks?” he asked in complete amazement.
“Wasn’t thinking about night too, but that sounds better.”
“Keep it up, Xander. Why not give her more ideas,” she said in a low voice.
“Heard that, Willow.”
Xander and Willow chuckled. It was still bizarre for them to be getting along so well, but being left to defend Sunnydale alone, near death experiences and near fatal encounters can make a difference.
“Where are your parents?” Xander asked Cordelia.
“They gave each other a Christmas gift of a cruise in the Caribbean, then a stop at New York. They’ll be gone most of the two weeks.”
“Conventions both weeks - one in Boston the other in North Carolina.”
“So that means we can all stay at Willow’s. My parents stay in town, but won’t care if I’m around the house.”
“Movies...” Willow began to say excited.
...make-overs,” Cordelia ended.
Willow wasn’t sure how to ask, but she needed to.
“What about dead-boy?”
“Christmas isn’t a time to be alone. What would we be doing if we were alone -depressed, lonely, sad. That isn’t the way to spend the holidays, so I was thinking...”
“She has a point,” Cordelia said.
“And Angel has saved all our lives, I even lost count how many times he saved you alone.”
“I think it’s been eleven times, not counting the one he fainted,” Cordelia happily added.
Willow looked at Cordelia and smiled. Her expression thanking her for her support.
“Fine,” Xander crumbled.
Willow cheered as Cordelia shrugged her shoulders.
They entered the library and were not surprised to see Giles already in deep research with a book. Willow smiled as she sensed him behind the stacks. Cordy and Xander took a seat as Willow went to sit with her friend.
“What you doing?”
Angel looked up and smiled.
“Find anything?” she asked as she sat next to him.
“Not much. The Chosen are a group that become one. No names, not how, nothing.”
“It’s... a... start,” she said between yawns.
“I kept you up too long last night didn’t I?”
“No...no just need a nap.”
She laid her head on his shoulder, her eyelids fighting for sleep.
“Take a nap. I’ll wake you if anything happens.”
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
“What?” he asked surprised.
“Is that a nothing?”
“Christmas? I usually...I don’t...”
“Good, then you can come over.”
“Come over where?”
“To my house silly. A small party of sorts.”
“Willow, I don’t know...”
“You come over next Thursday....”
“Willow, I really don’t think...”
“Actually, if you want, you can come over to my house starting Sunday night. My parents are gone and since Cordelia and Xander will be sleeping over for the next two weeks then you can stay over too.”
“I’m sure they wouldn’t want me....”
“We all talked about it....and want you to join us,” she said yawning.
“I’ll prepare the house. It’ll be fun. Food, movies, makeovers, games...what more can you ask for.”
Angel looked down and
saw her resolve face in place. He would be spending a night over at her
house, at least, he knew that for certain. He wanted to spend more time
with her. He remembered the wise words the adorable face he looked at,
told him. She had found him in the mansion, a whole month back, still brooding
around. She had simply stepped up to him and slapped him - ‘You’ve suffered enough, you deserve to
be happy. Let me help you’. And help she did. He nodded his consent at her invitation. She smiled and finally drifted to sleep.
Three hours later, Angel awoke her from her slumber. Giles had found some information on the prophecy. They walked down to join the others, Willow trying to focus her eyes.
“The Chosen will walk from the dark and finally form the undying light, forming the bonds of eternity as they awoken from the haze that blinds. The Protector shall guide them once the Guardian finds them.”
“Two more extras,” Xander commented.
“Which brings us to an unknown number of how many their are,” Giles told them.
“So, the Chosen don’t even know their the chosen,” Angel reasoned out loud.
“Not until the Guardian finds them,” Willow replied, seeing the logic in what Angel was saying.
“So we don’t who they are, because they don’t even know who they are. That’s really great,” Cordelia commented.
“Then all we can do is wait,” Giles said a bit defeated.
The gang agreed and placing the books awake. Duty called and left the library to slay.
“Did you ask him?” Cordelia asked her, then nodded her head to the side, indicating to Angel.
Willow looked at her a bit confused as Angel looked at both of them, knowing she had referred to him.
“Asked me what?”
“That would be a no?”
Then she remembered.
“Cordy, I’m sorry, I forgot then I went to sleep, then Giles told us about the prophecy, and now here patrolling, it slipped my mind and...”
“Willow, what did you have to ask me?” Angel asked as he smiled at her ramblings.
Willow turned slightly to look at the vampire seating next to her on the bench.
“Um...Remember you can say no...It’s Xander’s birthday on Monday and we were thinking, me and Cordy...if you can...that is if you even can...being the owner and all...that...” Willow fidgeted a bit.
“Willow, you can ask me anything, you know that. What did you need?”
“We wanted to know if you we could use the Bronze to hold a surprise party for Xander?” Cordelia blurted out.
“You can help us plan, we can all plan it, because we’re all friends,” Willow added excitedly.
“Sure, I can close it down. Or did you guys want to make into a night for him. I can open the club, invitation only.”
“Could you do that?” Cordelia asked excited.
“I’m sure I could work something out,” Angel said.
Cordelia jumped up
from the gravestone she had been sitting on and went to hug him. Angel
was shocked and could only return the embrace partly. She thanked him and
went to find Xander, who had gone over to check on some fresh graves. Angel
was caught off guard once more as Willow wrapped her small arms around
hugging him tight, thanking him as well. Angel didn’t hesitate, and returned her embrace fiercely. Their was something about the way she hugged him that he craved. Willow pulled away, and placed a kiss on his cheek.
“You know I’m lucky I got a second chance to know you,” she said with a smile.
“You? Me, you most
me. Come on, let’s go stake some badies,” he said with a smile as he took
her hand and pulled her off the bench with him and headed over to see what
Cordelia and Xander were doing.