Spoilers: IWRY, brief mention of events that have happened since then, more for Buffy Season Six and Angel Season three.
It felt almost like part of him had been torn away and then as quickly as the sensation came it vanished, as if it had never happened. And with a start Angel woke up, it was hours before sunset and he had been woken up by the same dream. He was becoming more and more convinced that it wasn't a dream, it was a memory. He just couldn't remember were it was from. He stood up and walked his suit case and picked up the thin piece of paper that held all his hopes and dreams. Soon, beloved, soon, he whispered.
That dream had the same kind of sense he had, had when he saw Buffy, that last time. They'd yelled and screamed at each other, and then he had gone to apologize. Something had been screaming at him the whole that, this wasn't Buffy. When Willow had come and told them that Buffy was dead he had known, once the shock had worn off. He would have sensed her death, even a dimension away, he would have sensed that she was in trouble, but he hadn't. So, somewhere between the day-that-wasn't, and their last meeting Buffy had been switched. He hadn't told his friends, of course, he had just started looking. It was into January, six months since he had disappeared. He thought sometimes that he should call, they would be frantic by now, but no they would only try to talk him out of it. It would be easier when he had her to prove that he had been right and they had been wrong, and that time would be soon very soon.
Buffy Summers paced inside her small cell, it was the middle of the day and all was quite. She usually used this time to rest. No telling what would happen once her captures woke-up. Most nights lately, they left her alone, it was either because their false Buffy was doing interesting things, or they just weren't interested in her anymore. She couldn't sleep tonight, though, he was close. Angel the tingly feeling that she hadn't felt in close to two years, he was somewhere close. So, she was restless, it either meant that he was coming to rescue her, or he too had been copied. `Maybe they have copied him, but it doesn't make sense that I wouldn't know if he was here in this building.' Buffy paced back and forth in her small cell working through the steps. `He would sense me, and there would no way that he wouldn't try to get out. These halls are long, but they echo real good, Buffy thought.
She remembered that from personal experience, it was how she had learned so much about her captures. They spoke a variety of languages, one of which was English, from it she had been able to get that they liked to implant themselves into hosts with something abnormal. They lay dormant for several months and then after they had learned all the quirks of the person they were in came out and copied them. The catch was that they were still just observers; they simply made a copy of the person that was slightly different than the original. That person was happier, sadder, in love with a different person, and then they watched as their copies interacted in the former host's life.
Buffy rubbed her neck spasmodically. She clearly remembered when her parasite had ripped itself from her body. It had been on the way back to Sunnyhell, from seeing Angel. She'd just gotten the message about Angel, about the gift and was turning around when she felt the pain. Life a part of her was being torn away, and then it had stopped and she was face to face with another Buffy. She didn't know what had happened after that, she had been knocked out and had ended up here. Her story couldn't be unique, but it also couldn't be the same as everyone else's because not every person who was copied ended up here
Angel crept slowly into the labyrinth of caves. The locals were convinced it was used for military use. But what Angel's senses told him was it was demon hide-out, a well disguised one. Add on to the fact that he felt Buffy was near, he had been feeling that since he entered this small town. The feeling had only intensified, he was either very lucky or was walking into a trap because the place was almost deserted. He followed his sensed then, the senses that allowed him to find Buffy wherever she was. How could he have been so fooled that last time he had seen her? Or the time before?
Because his brain had been in control, not his heart. He hadn't allowed his heart to tell him what to do back then for quite a while. They didn't steer him wrong, he turned a corner and there she was playing with the bars of her cage trying to get free. His Buffy, his sunshine. Buffy? he whispered.
She then looked up at him, her eyes full of unshed tears. Angel?
Yes, beloved, it's me, he said as he pried the lock of the door with sword. Lock removed the door swung open on its own. He simply held out his arms for her, she practically ran into them. It was holding her that did him in. It had all been so unreal until he felt her in his arms. The shaking started in his limbs and quickly ran up the rest of his body, she was alive and in his arms.
Angel?! Buffy asked and cried at the same moment. He was shaking badly, almost as something had just hit him.
You're alive, he whispered into her ear. I was right, the person who died she wasn't you, Angel said as he tried to get himself to stop shaking. He wanted to hold her, kiss her, and never let her go again. This wasn't the time to assure himself that this wasn't a dream that was going to disappear the minute the sunset though.
So, they told I'd died and you knew it wasn't me, Buffy said.
Yes, beloved, I just knew. Everything that had been nagging at the back of my mind come to the front, my senses told me she wasn't you. I just told myself that was because you had changed, you acted different. He pulled her to him and kissed her soundly. I'm sorry, I should have realized, he whispered into her hair.
She held him to her and smiled, he had known on some level even though his brain had rebelled against it. There is nothing to be sorry about, Angel. We lived in different cities, at least you suspected something. She then grabbed his hand; he was still a little shaky, but not too bad. Come on, my captures took the night off for some reason I see no reason to stay here. With that said she pulled him after her.
Neither of them saw the pair of demons watch them. Now it got interesting the Slayer and the Vampire With A Soul were back together and would return to America soon. Soon they would get to see their reaction to their replacements. They had been right the vampire had some connection to the girl which would insist that she was not who she appeared to be. They had made an excellent double though. No one suspected either of their brethren was there instead of the two warriors. Now they would see how their friends reacted to their return, what a wonderful simulation. It was fascination to see how gullible ordinary humans were, and how much the hung on to their beliefs.
Buffy found herself looking this way and that, at everything around them. She had no idea that she had been in another country. Angel, where are we?
Peru, he said.
Which is exactly where? She smiled at him. You know that I'm not that good in school.
South America, one of the costal countries.
They took me to another Continent; you went to an entirely different Continent?
I didn't know where to start to look for you. After I was sure you weren't in Sunnydale. He gently rubbed her hand as they walked back to his run down hotel room. I just started looking for seers North America, Europe, Asia, then I heard about one here.
He said that not only where you on this Continent, but in this country, Angel paused for a moment. He then said something that I don't quite understand, Angel stopped not wanting to get into this discussion on the streets.
Angel, what? You're scaring me!
Don't mean to, I just want to tell you what I have to tell you with a little privacy, is that okay?
She brought is head down to hers and kissed him soundly, somehow she knew she wasn't going to like what he had to say. Their lips met and time stopped, the worlds stopped and it was just them. Buffy reached into his hair to feel his scalp and that was when she felt the scar. She pulled away her eyes full of shock and surprise. Buffy, what is it?
You have the same scar, the same one that I do, she said. You've been copied, Angel, she said in a low voice.
But I'm me, Buffy, he said his voice full of surprise.
She gently played with his hair. I know, I after all have the same scar on my neck.
He pulled her to him so they were walking so close, their hips touching. If that's so, they may have let me rescue you.
That would be my guess, any idea why?
None, she felt Angel steer her toward a run down hotel. You're staying here?
Yes, he shrugged, I was in a hurry and didn't want to be noticed.
She nodded as they walked in.
Buffy, say something, Angel looked at the love of his life nervously. He'd just told her about Darla and she hadn't said one word. You're angry, he got up off the bed. I'll go for a walk give you time to think. He was heading toward the door when he felt her hand in his.
I died a couple of weeks later, right? she finally said.
I got back in my gang's good graces, Harmony came, and then we went to Pylia, he sat back down next to her. Yeah, it couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks why does that matter?
When whatever these demons are, get ready to copy you, they start to have the ability to influence some of your actions, Buffy said. For example, I didn't come to see you that day to tell you that I didn't want to see you anymore. She gently placed his hand on her cheek. I came to tell you that I was tired of pretending to forget you, when I couldn't.
So, because it was so short you didn't have a chance to fight back, Angel said. But Buffy I did some questionable things, they couldn't have all been caused by this thing. Angel smiled at her. I don't understand why I, or more appropriately my demon didn't sense it?
I don't know, but maybe it likes to copy demons as well, she put her hand on his leg. Only know what I figured out, it wanted me away from you. Want me in a normal relationship, I just don't know why.
I don't get why it would want me to sleep with Darla, considering what happened the last time I was in bed with someone, he saw Buffy frown at him. I'm assuming that these demons like Darla would make the mistake that sex equals perfect happiness.
You can have a moment of perfect happiness Angel, for the next five years. Angel just gaped at her. I found out, from the Oracles when I was half way to Sunnydale, she looked at him once more. He was blinking at her. They said that you dieing, Achetlat, your loop-hole, and the day that wasn't were all tests. They needed to make sure that if they did join our souls together we wouldn't fall apart if something happened to the other.
You remembered? It was only piece he was able to grasp onto.
Not completely, but enough, enough to know you scarified something you always wanted. For the world and for me.
You started to turn around and that was when you were exchanged, right?
Right, so, are you interested in being bound to me in every way possible?
Yes! But I don't understand how you could still want me, after what I did. Buffy, I betrayed you .
You slept with Darla and I'm not saying I like it, but I remember what it is like to have one of those things about to hatch in me, I turned into Buffybot. She noticed him laugh and then smile at her. What, that wasn't that funny! He clenched his teeth together to keep from laughing. Angel!
Sorry, complicated, he then brushed her arms. What I still don't get is what they hoped to accomplish?
Maybe that Law Firm coupled with Darla and Dru was too much, you went over the edge. Maybe they thought it would make you feel better, she said.
It didn't, it made me feel like an idiot, it did get me back on track though.
Good, but I don't think that was what it was supposed to do, she said. She pulled Angel closer to her, rubbed his back with her hand. I don't think they get humans, our souls very well. She pulled him even closer until they were body to body. It's in our blood, that's what they told me, we have to exchange, blood.
Buffy, I don't think that, we need to talk about this, he said.
Yes, we do, she held him to her. But I want to do this first; I want to be completely part of you. Then you can bring me up-to date. Angel stared at her for several moments trying to figure out a way to do things in the order he wanted. He jumped when he felt her mouth sucking his jugular. We have to exchange blood, I give you life and you give me death, we're going to be both. She pulled his head down so his mouth was touching his mark. When this happens will have that chance at forever, please?
He couldn't take anymore. She had obviously decided that this was what she wanted. She heard him roar above her and then bite down the minute he did she bit him hard. The world exploded around both of them and diminished until all that they were aware of was each other.
This was nice, he decided, just being able to lie here, with her at his side. Buffy was sound asleep at his side. His bite had diminished so only the scar remained. A scar that he had given her, he often wondered if she knew what it meant to vampires. Had Giles ever told her or had he preferred that his Slayer not know what that particular marking meant. That it meant that she was his mate, his eternal mate, that he had claimed her. The Powers had used that mating somehow to bind them together closer than he had ever thought they could be. They'd made love afterwards passionately, slowly, several times until they had fallen into this exhausted heap. The world was going to intrude, of course, it always did, but for now he was content to lie here and watch the love of his life sleep.
Angel turned and stared for a moment and then turned to Buffy who was tugging his sleeve. Angel?
Sorry, I blanked out there for a moment, he smiled at her. He tugged her hand gently assuring her that he was fine. Giving her a quick kiss on the lips to assure her that it had been is an open of inattention.
She smiled at him and followed, they did need to return no matter how much fun it would have been to spend a couple more days in his arms. She'd woken up with him lying next to her, just watching her sleep. He'd then gathered her into his arms and tumbled them back down onto the bed. They hadn't really come out of the hotel room for a day and a half, it was nice, but they needed to get home. So, Angel had booked them passage on freighter that took passengers. They still hadn't discussed what had happened in the time she had been missing, but she sensed that they were going to do that once they go on board. If they didn't she'd just have to sit him down and make him talk to her.
They were just walking on to the boat when she heard someone call her name. Buffy turned around in Angel's rather tense arms to look toward the dock. Buffy what are you doing here? the man asked.
It had been two years and she didn't recognize him, being locked-up in a cave hadn't given her the chance to really store memories that she didn't think were important. She knew that she was supposed to know him, but she couldn't place him. Angel, who?
Riley Finn, he whispered into her ear. He was your boyfriend.
Him?! You've got to be kidding me? She looked at the man, who looked completely boring, and completely not her type. Can you say rebound? Guess my copy really messed up my life, where'd I meet him?
School, Buffy, I didn't ask, he kissed her on the neck.
Oh, right, the guy I dumped the books on! He was a TA in my psych class, she looked up at Angel who was very tense. Angel, you do realize that I have no interest in him what so ever, right?
Right, he then leaned down so that his mouth was just above her ear. You caught him being sucked by vampires, by choice; he then gave you an ultimatum.
What was his ultimatum?
Either you gave him a reason to stay or he was leaving for South America, Angel said.
Then I don't want to talk to him, she said. Let's go to our cabin and you can catch me up on everything that has happened.
Angel took her hand and nodded. Riley watched as his ex-girlfriend took Angel's hand and guided him below deck. She hadn't even acknowledged that he'd spoken to her. He had some leave coming up and he was defiantly taking it in Sunnydale, he needed to know what was going on between Buffy and that thing. He watched as she threw herself into his arms as they went below deck. Both of them were smiling and laughing, she didn't seem to mind that he had seen them at all.
Once settled in the cabin Buffy turned to Angel who was sitting silently on the bed watching her. Okay, give.
You do know that I've not been that involved in your life, right?
Right, but you can fill in most of the big blanks.
Probably, he lay down on the bed and opened his arms. Come here. She did snuggling into his arms as he began to tell what he knew of her life. Well it turned out that Riley was part of a government organization that hunted demons .
It was hours later when Angel finally stopped, there was so much pain in what he had just told her. I don't think it's all quite sunk in yet, Angel, she said.
So, Faith, stole my body and my life, did she?
Yes and when I tried to save her, your copy got really angry at me he gently played with her hair. I didn't want to do, but I felt that my job was to save souls, I couldn't think of one that needed more saving than hers.
She grabbed him and kissed him as hard and as passionately as she could. Okay you should have handled the situation better, but I know you, she smiled fondly at him. As long as you believe that there is a chance that someone might be saved your going to take it.
Your right, but that doesn't mean that I should have behaved the way I did, he said.
True, but my copy shouldn't have either, she said as she grabbed him and held on tight. The important thing is that you where there when I needed you most, you where there when she died.
Angel heard her voice break then and had no doubt who `she' was. He had to tell her that her mother was dead, that the woman who had given her life was dead. She cried for hours, for the years that she had lost, for her mother, and for the sister that existed but she didn't remember.
Better? he asked.
No, but I think I've cried out, I miss her Angel. She smiled at him when he twisted her hair in his hand. I miss her a lot, she pulled him to her. Tell me about Dawn?
I can't tell you much, Buffy, the monks didn't give me the memories, he said.
So, what I remember, you remember, right?
Right, beloved, he said. Do you want to talk about it?
No, not yet. She stretched out against him simply enjoying being with him, forgetting for a moment all that she had been told. Now you've told me about my life, I want to hear about yours. She watched as he opened his mouth. Angel, I don't want to know about work, I wan to know about your life.
He nodded and started into a discussion of his friends, the loses, the joys, some of the interesting things along the way. Hours later they finally fell asleep in each other's arms, having cried and laughed their way into exhaustion.
Docks, one week later.
There hadn't been many passengers on the freighter so getting through customs wasn't that hard. Welcome home, anything unusual that I should know about?
No, just glad to be home, Angel said.
Customs agent nodded looked thoroughly through their luggage and then handed both of their passports back. Welcome home, he said as they passed through.
Buffy gently swung her arm around her mate as they walked. So, are you planning to go home tonight?
Angel smiled at her. She seemed so relaxed for someone who was going to have to deal with friends who didn't know she was missing. `And you should speak,' a voice said. `After all, it wasn't just her friends that haven't noticed.' You up to this, after all, Cordy's opinion of you isn't very high.
I want to say I don't give a crap about, Cordy, but she's going to be the hardest one to convince isn't she?
No, that's going to be Fred who didn't really get a chance to meet the real me, he said.
Okay, but how are we going to convince them that we are who we say we are? Buffy rubbed Angel's hand, she was nervous and could feel it. These things do really act like us, she stopped when she saw Angel get a far away look. You've thought of something, she said.
Yes, but you're not going to like it, he said.
It can't be that *bad, * Angel, she said.
It involved singing, he looked at her for a moment. It involves both of singing Karaoke in front of a demon.
This Lorne, you mentioned?
Right, but the only way he can read peoples souls is for them to sing, Angel smiled at her.
You won't laugh at me, Buffy said. No matter how bad I sound.
Angel burst out into laughter. He quickly got it under control when he saw that Buffy was scowling at him. Sorry, but your not the one who has to worry about someone laughing at them, Buffy, trust me.
And you do? Angel, you do everything perfectly, she said knowing that wasn't his opinion of himself.
He kissed her soundly; it was an extreme compliment, one he didn't think he deserved. Thank you, he whispered to her. Buffy, I don't sing I honk.
Honk, whenever I'm desperate enough to need an answer, Lorne, will be able to tell we are telling the truth, he said.
Okay, Buffy said. Let's go.
They arrived at Caritas, to find that it had been burned to the ground. Well, this certainly puts a damper on any attempt to prove we are who we say we are, Buffy said.
Yeah, and I have no idea where Lorne is, he said.
He's right behind you and still annoyed about having his horn cleaved off, Lorne said.
Angel turned to see the green demon that usually had two horns with only one. Lorne, I know you're not going to believe this, but I didn't have anything to do with you losing your horn. He saw that Lorne wasn't buying. Look from the little that we've been able to figure out I was copied sometime over the last six months, and Buffy has had a copy roaming around since well, two years ago.
Lorne looked at both of them for a moment. In the interest of not hearing you, Angel Cakes, can I see your neck?
Angel nodded and bent down. I take it that my other self hasn't done any singing recently?
No, but I'm inclined to believe for more than that reason, he said.
What other reason?
There was always a part of you that felt different, observing. I assumed that it was part of the demon, but if what you're telling me is true, he spread Angel's hair and saw the mark. Which it is, then you were copied by a creature that inspired the legends of fairies trading children.
And the cloning myths of our time, Buffy said.
Exactly, Lorne said as he lifted up her hair and saw the mark as well. No one knows what they are, but they apparently find human behavior fascinating. Lorne looked at both of them. Angel had known somehow that Buffy wasn't dead. So, I take it she is the soul so connected to yours?
Yes, I guess you sensed her did you?
Sure did, after all, I'm reading you, he said. Something that important wouldn't pass me by.
Can we discuss this somewhere else? Buffy asked.
Sure, it's not pretty, but we can discuss it inside, Lorne then led them in to the Caritas.
He wasn't kidding, when the walked in the whole place had been burned, the wall scorched. Lorne, what happened? Angel asked.
Resurrected vampire hunter by the name of Holtz bombed the place because he has a grudge against you, Angel Cakes. Lorne saw Angel cringe at this.
Angel blinked for several minutes his brain not quite catching up with the rest of him.
Angel? Buffy asked.
It's just hard to believe that Holtz would involve himself with black magic, he gently rubbed Buffy's hand. We gave him reasons to hate us, reasons to go to any measure; I just would never think he would something like this.
Sometimes people get so wrapped up in the hurt they don't see anything else. I ran a way when I killed you. And somehow I think what you and Darla did was similar to what Angelus tried to do to me, right? She looked up at Angel who was worriedly looking around the bar.
Yes, we killed his family. He was one of the best and we thought it was funny. Angel then turned to Lorne. Everyone get out okay?
Lorne nodded. Yeah, we were lucky and we hadn't reopened yet, at the look he received from both of them Lorne elaborated. Gunn's old gang decided the only good demon was a dead demon and went on a rampage. Your duplicate came in her dished my sanctorum spells and made a mess. I'd just gotten everything back together, put human and demon sanctorum spells on the place when Holtz throws a bomb in from the outside.
Which makes the sanctorum spells inactive, Angel said. My demon loved to find ways around spells like that.
The next question is why were the gang here in the first place? Buffy asked.
Looking for sanctuary, Lorne said. The last thing he wanted to do was tell this Angel about Connor until he had Wesley run down some stuff, considering what they now knew that baby really could bring the ruination of man kind. I'll tell you the rest later, after you see your friends.
Right, so what exactly did this to us? Angel asked. And why did they let me find Buffy?
There is no name for them, very little is known about them at all. But from what I've picked up from the few that come in here, they are interested how different being react to challenges. They replicate a person, and take over their life, and then sometime down the road they let that person go.
Or they come back from a trip? Angel asked.
Exactly, because they've been so successful in the copying process that person's friends, family, and associates usually haven't noticed anything was really wrong.
So, what, they like to ruin people's lives? Buffy asked.
From what I've sensed and the little that I've found through research, they don't see it that way. They see it as way to help the person grow, as a way to learn more about whatever they are studying.
They're so removed from the rest of the world that they don't understand what they are doing is wrong, right? Angel said.
Right, and because they lack that understanding they are unable to understand they are hurting people. They only see that they are having a wonderful time, that they are learning something new.
Great, Buffy said. I'm going to kick their butts anyway, but it would have been nice to know that they did it for some other purpose than a science project.
She heard Angel chuckle next to her. It's not funny, Angel, you're friends have been hanging out with a fake you, and mine where until I died.
It's not that, he said completely forgetting Lorne. It's just your ability to break things down into their simplest forms.
Oh, thanks, I think.
Angel then turned back to Lorne. What has been happening since we left?
Lorne chewed his lip for a moment and then launched into an edited but accurate account of what had happened. Any idea what might be different with my copy? Buffy asked when he was done.
None, but it is possible it lost a good portion of the illusion of humanity.
Right, so what did the other Angel tell you who did the spell?
Your friends, the leader was apparently, girl with the name of a tree, Angel Cakes?
Willow, both Buffy and Angel said at the same time.
Willow? Buffy asked then. I'm just trying to imagine her being able to do something like that.
She's apparently improved quite a lot since you last saw her, Angel said. Remember I mentioned her and Tara.
I think I was still stuck on the sex change thing when you told me that, Angel, Buffy said. That and the fact that I have 15 year old sister that I didn't have the last time I checked.
Right, Angel whispered and scooped her up into his lap. Buffy, no one, least of all me, expects you to remember everything.
Lorne watched as the Slayer got comfortable on Angel's lap, the sun would be up in two hours and somehow he thought that the beginning of the night not the end would be the best time to see Angel's gang. Why don't you two go find a hotel to sleep in tonight? I'll go back see if anyone has heard about these things and knows more than I do.
Angel nodded at Lorne when he felt his eyes start to close; he hadn't slept very well for the last six months. That sounds like a good idea; we'll meet you here as soon as they sunsets.
Lorne nodded and the two got up to leave. Angel, are you alright? Buffy asked.
Yes, just catching up on missed sleep for the last six months.
And the fact that we've been keeping each other up hasn't helped has it?
No, but I wouldn't trade it, he tugged her hand as they left. Come on; let's go find a place to turn in.
They found a place it was nice, but not too nice. By the time they arrived at the counter Buffy was beginning to feel some of the exhaustion that Angel had been talking about. You'd think two people with nothing to do for a week would not be tired, but they were. They'd stayed up all day simply luxuriating in each other, making love, talking. Then at night they'd go on deck and look at the stars or Angel would simply read to her. It had been a wonderfully simply but full week. Neither of them noticed for several minutes the man that had stepped back into the crowed. They probably wouldn't have either if Angel hadn't noticed the restaurant. You want to turn in or would like some food first? he asked Buffy.
She looked up smiled at him tiredly. Food sounds nice, I don't think eating in bed would be the best way to conduce us into going right to sleep.
Angel firmly put his arm around her waist and began heading toward the restaurant. Holtz had thought that standing next to a restaurant would be a good way not to be seen, but apparently Angelus was with a human female. He watched as they got closer and closer to him, this wasn't exactly how he had planned their next meeting to be. He was deciding what his next action should be when he saw both of them swing around at the same time.
Both Buffy and Angel turned when they felt the presence behind them, they turned to come face-to-face a rather confused looking Tara. B-buffy?
Tara, Buffy said not sure what else to say. How was she supposed to act around Willow's girlfriend?
What are you doing in LA? she asked and looked at Angel. She didn't care what Xander and Willow said about how perfect Riley was for Buffy. The perfect person appeared to be Angel.
It's a long story, she said not quite sure what to tell her.
Buffy was just about to eat, would you like to join us? Angel asked.
Sure, are you going to tell me what's going on?
Buffy looked at her very tired mate, he needed to be in bed not explaining their strange odyssey. `I just called him my mate!' she thought to herself. Not all but we'll tell you basics.
Then I'd love to have some food, she said. Walking next to them she watched as Buffy grabbed Angel's hand and they entered the restaurant. She smiled in melancholy. It reminded her of happier times with Willow. She turned around suddenly when she felt something behind her but saw nothing but other people. One man's eyes caught her attention they very intense, one could almost say deadly. With a shiver she ran to catch up with Buffy and Angel.
The young woman had appeared at the very last moment. If she hadn't Angelus would certainly have seen him. Tara appeared to know the young woman at Angelus' side much better than Angelus himself, but had known him. She had known him enough not to question his presence, just the events that were happening. He now was beginning to piece together a puzzle that Sarjan had not completed for him. And one of the more critical pieces was talking nervously to Tara nestled in Angelus' arms. He walked into the restaurant behind them. He couldn't quite believe his eyes when he had noticed the behavior during the interaction. Now he was positive, Buffy wasn't prey, not even someone to torture. Angelus appeared to have fallen quite in love with a human woman, a remarkable thing all together.
He watched from the table that he was assigned as they laughed and joked together. He was defiantly quite taken with her, and this gave him wonderful possibilities for revenge. He had thought the only one thing could hurt Angelus more than death was pain, but it appeared he now had something more precious to lose. He had the woman that he loved. This had possibilities indeed.
It never even occurred to Holtz as he planned that he was thinking along the same lines as Angelus had centuries before. He wasn't seeing Buffy as a person, but a tool to get to Angel.
Tara watched smiling as Buffy sat in Angel's lap while the food was being prepared. So, are you two, back together?
Yes, Buffy said and leaned into Angel.
It's a little bit more complicated than that, Tara, Angel said when Buffy didn't continue.
How so? she asked. Her mind going over all the mystical complications that she could think of, unfortunately there were quite a lot.
Angel looked at Buffy for several minutes and she nodded. When Willow came to tell me that Buffy was dead, I couldn't believe it. At first I thought it was just denial, but I became convinced that it wasn't, that the real Buffy hadn't died that day.
But y-you, called her.
After Willow resurrected Buffy, he saw Tara look at him with an `I knew it' face. We were told about the resurrection today, he told her. That wasn't me Tara, whatever replaced Buffy, replaced me as well.
Tara sat back and looked at them for several minutes she kept waiting for them to tell the punch line. How long have we been living with a fake Buffy? she finally asked.
Over two years now. I was traded when I went to see Angel during Thanksgiving, two years ago.
You don't know me at all, do you? Tara asked.
Not very well, I mean only as much as Willow told me at that point, Buffy grasped Angel's hand. And of course what Angel told me once he found me.
Tara nodded and watched in amusement as Buffy sat as close to Angel as she could when they were served. Tara had to laugh silently at the look the waiter gave both Buffy and Angel. Angel himself had ordered a rare stake, in an attempt to look normal. As soon as the waiter was out of sight she turned back to them. I would probably not believe you, if it wasn't for the strange behavior your double has been showing since she was resurrected.
What's going on, Tara? Angel asked. He turned again to look around the restaurant; you knew someone was watching them. More precisely they were watching him. He had his suspicion on who might be pointing lazars into his back.
Tara sighed and launched into a lengthy explanation of what she knew. It was two hours before they went to their respective rooms. Holtz watched as they did and planned. It was several hours later when they all finally headed toward their respective rooms, tired and worried.
The Following Night
Buffy woke to feeling of lips on hers, very familiar lips. She opened her eyes to find Angel grinning at her. Not a full lipped grin that she had received once or twice after her initial return, but his lopsided one. She pulled him back down to her just enjoying the feel of him, wanting to make him forget everything else for just a few more minutes. It was when her arms wound around his back as he fell into her. Into the kiss that she noticed he was dressed already. When he pulled away his arms braced on either side of her, looking very ready to pull her to him and forget whatever he was dressed for that she asked. Why are you already dressed? she was playing with his hair, massaging his scalp.
Because I thought it would be better if for the first confrontation you're not with me, he saw her about to protest and put his finger on her lips. I want you there, but nothing is going to happen if Cordy sees you with me.
What, because I'm with you she won't believe you? Buffy asked.
No, but she'll be very judgmental and I want Gunn to accept you, he smiled at her. Not going to happen with Cordy proclaiming that you are the root of all evil. And you helping convince him by responding to her remarks and aiming dagger eyes at her.
It won't be that bad Angel, Buffy said already smiling at her boyfriend.
Maybe, maybe not, but I'm going to have to convince them they haven't been dealing with me for the last 3 months.
And what do you want me to do while you're gone? she asked sitting up. He had some very good points, and that's why she was going along with it.
Relax with Tara, watch some TV, and plan what you are going to say to my Gang, but more importantly what you are going to do about the Scoobies. He sat on the bed his hand in hers and he gently kissed it. And if you want to come up with a way to deal with Holtz.
Okay, but I don't want you coming back all broody because something happened and you weren't there for them, she grabbed his face and turned him so he was looking right at her, clear?
I'll do the best I can, he said and got up he had to get going no matter how tempting simply staying with her was. He kissed her soundly one more time and then headed for the door. I shouldn't be more than three hours, he smiled at her skeptical face. Lorne promised to make sure it didn't go over three, he explained. Tara's outside so I'll see you, maybe with my friends in tow, he shrugged when he said that. He looked at her one more time and then walked out. He really would have preferred staying with her tonight.
Buffy watched him go and then got up to get dressed and talk with Tara. It would be good to have some female human company after such a long time.
Angel pulled up to Caritas and looked for his friends, who he didn't see at all. Lorne? he asked when he entered the club.
They wouldn't come, said they needed a break after the night before last, he said.
And? Angel asked his arms crossed over chest.
They wouldn't believe me, I expected Wesley to say something, but even he didn't. Lorne pulled a chair out for Angel to sit. He had thought that telling Angel's friends would be the best thing and he had been wrong. Their convinced that you're some kind of dream, or a demon, told me it was a way for one sect or another to get to Connor. Lorne cringed when he said that. He'd tried everything to convince them, but nothing had worked, to under the thrall by that point. He wondered now, of course, whether Connor was even real. Of course if he wasn't that meant Darla was still around. Darla gave birth to your son, he said finally.
Vampires can't have children, Lorne, you know that, Angel said. He really didn't want to think about what that child could mean . And the Slayer had not had a sister, but the Key had been given to her for safe keeping. Could Darla have been an illusion? he asked.
Possible, but it seemed like her, what are you thinking Angel Cakes?
Buffy, was given a sister, the fake one, he said for clarification. She actually was this energy being, called the Key; it's why she jumped to her death. What if something similar was sent to my double?
There's a prophecy about a vampire birth, he stopped suddenly. Which happened, but didn't at the same time, long story. He tapped his fingers for several minutes thinking. She appeared to have soul at the end, I don't know of anything human with that ability, but a being of energy would have that ability, wouldn't it?
Yes, what else did the prophecy say Lorne? Angel felt a sinking feeling in his gut. That there would be a confluence of events that would bring the ruination of mankind, something like that. He noticed that Angel was looking at him with a slightly annoyed look. I wasn't there during the events, but I do know something was protecting that baby up to the very end.
Angel put his hands over his face. He couldn't think about Connor as his not until they were sure. Did Wesley mention exactly what the prophecy said? he finally asked.
Didn't get all of it, but there was something about it arising or being born.
Holtz has arisen, maybe even been reborn, Angel said suddenly have a sinking feeling in his gut he needed get back to Buffy. He didn't even think he just turned and ran out of the bar, heading for Buffy. Lorne followed he didn't know if he could do anything, but he felt the need.
15 minutes earlier.
Tara had knocked on the door as soon as Angel had left and they had ended up staying in the hotel room. It wasn't bad; really, they talked about lot things until it eventually turned to Sunnydale. It was hard to hear how much her friend had changed from the woman that she knew. They aren't going to accept me easily, are they? Buffy asked.
No, they all expected you to be normal after being resurrected, she played with her shirt for a moment. I shouldn't have let Willow do that, I knew it was wrong, but they all wanted you back so much.
Buffy nodded taking in what she was saying. Riley really let vampires suck is blood, more than that he paid them? she asked.
From what I gather, yes. Your other self wasn't paying as much attention to him as he wanted. He apparently wanted to understand the attraction between you and Angel.
Not going to even think about why he might think that made any sense what so ever, she smiled at Tara. I certainly don't get it. She looked up when their was a knock on the door. Every sense that Buffy had screamed that whatever was knocking meant to harm her. She reached in a grabbed her stake and headed for the door.
It wasn't a vampire on the other side of the door. It was a man she had never seen before, a man with intense eyes. She heard Tara gasp and look at Holtz; she apparently had seen him before. Who are you and what do you want? Buffy asked.
My name is Holtz, and what I want is you, he said.