Mother's Curse - Adult Version
Julia L


Disclaimer: I in no way own or claim to own anything to do with the Highlander 
Universe, Panzer/Davis, Rysher Entertainment, and Gaumont Television seem to 
have that honor with the possible exception of Richie, who I hear now belongs to 
Clan Denial.

Disclaimer: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel, Spike, Drusilla, etc., not to 
mention the vampire slayer concept, don't belong to me either.  I'm pretty sure 
they're owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy *grrr arrrgh*, among others.

Warnings: It gets pretty bloody, and a couple of my favorite characters are 
killed off (I'm cruel, yes), and I've twisted the shows' timelines a bit to fit 
the story.  Everybody magically springs back to life (or unlife) when you stop 
reading, however.  This is my universe, and if I want to have fluffy pink moo 
cows holding the secret of eternal life, I can do that too, so don't flame me.  
Nobody's making you read this.

No copyright infringements are intended, and I'm making absolutely no money off 
of this story.  Please don't sue me--I have no money anyway.


***Comments, questions, praise, and constructive criticism always appreciated.  
Flames used to roast marshmallows.  If you'd like to archive this story 
elsewhere, please email me first.***


Characters:     Highlander--Duncan MacLeod, Tessa, Richie, Joe, Methos/Adam
                BtVS--Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel, Spike, Drusilla

Type: Crossover -- Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rating: Adult (Graphic Violence, language, m/f sex)

Symbols: Text in **'s are character thoughts and/or feelings.  Text in < < > >'s 
are overheard thoughts.  Text in *** ***'s are transmitted thoughts.

Denials: I'm not in denial about the whole Angel's gone good again and is 
stuck(for the moment) in Hell thing, but, well, I need Angelus bad and still in 
Sunnydale for the story.  I am, despite what some of my other stories might 
suggest, in complete denial about Richie's 'death'.  And now, for the story...


        ,.`^`.,.`^`.,.`^`.,._Mother's Curse_.,.`^`.,.`^`.,.`^`.,


"Isn't she just adorable?" The woman, thick sable brown hair coiled neatly 
into a knot at the base of her neck, tilted her head against her husband's 
unyielding shoulder.  Her accent was thick as her voice was gentle, and the 
combination well suited her.

"Yeah, a little bundle of screaming joy I'm certain.  Do all babies make 
that truly hideous shrieking noise?" He replied, a note of thinly veiled 
distaste in his words.  Dressed in a business suit, somber-colored tie, and 
white shirt of what was most undoubtedly of the highest quality, he looked out 
of place and uncomfortable in his present environment.

"Oh my love, a baby is only a baby for but a short while.  I can't bear 
the thought of her growing up in a foster home, or worse.  I knew she was ours 
the moment I laid eyes on her."

The man knotted his brows together, and pursed his lips, resenting for 
what must have been the millionth time since the tests had came back the fact 
that he would never have children.  It was not so much that he liked children--
or babies for that matter, in fact, he really did not like them at all.  He 
looked sideways at the woman leaning against him, the reason he was here today, 
and his heart melted a little.  He could never deny her anything, not live, 
knowing her to be unhappy.  As cold as he could be sometimes, he loved his wife 
with every fiber of his being.

"She's my little angel, love.."

As if in answer to the woman's words, the tiny baby girl, fists waving 
frantically, legs kicking in all directions, let out a small mew of protest.  
The nurse, carefully holding her pink-clad bundle, looked up at the nice couple 
on the other side of the glass.  They seemed to be discussing something with 
each other, but, with the soundproof glass blocking all noise except for that 
from within, she could not tell what it was.  The two moved apart for a moment, 
and the man, broad-shouldered, good-looking, the nurse decided, took a cellular 
phone from some inner coat pocket.  He frowned, mouthing a few words into the 
device, then kissed his wife on the forehead, scowled deeply, and strode quickly 
from the room.

The woman sighed, her eyes, warm chocolate brown irises drawn sadly into 
shadow, and stepped closer to the glass.  She put her fingertips up against the 
transparent barrier, and the nurse, sensing her cue, stepped forward and held 
the wee babe up for another inspection.  The two women smiled at each other for 
a moment, then both looked down at the little girl.  Teresa, as the baby had 
been dubbed moments after her being found abandoned in a dumpster by a homeless 
man intent on searching it for anything of value, calmed, her cries subsiding to 
mere whimpers.  Teresa she was, and would always be.

        Don't stand beside my grave and weep,
        For I'm not there, I do not sleep,
        I am a thousand winds that blow,
        I am the diamond's glint on snow,                                
        I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
        I am the gentle autumn's rain.

        When you awaken in morning's hush,
        I am the swift uplifting rush,
        of quiet birds in circle flight,
        I am soft stars that shine at night,
        Don't stand beside my grave and cry,
        I am not there. I did not die.

                                Author still unknown, I did not die

"How are you feeling love?"  The woman asked as she hurried about 
the house.  Her head was bent to one side as she inserted an earring 
into the correct hole--two others remained as stubborn reminders of 
more reckless teenage years.  Coming upon a mirror, she bent forward 
and adjusted the jewelry so that the small golden teardrop would hang 
correctly from beneath its smooth amber crescent.  She ran a quick hand 
over her hair--still perfectly parted down the middle, then over the 
front of her new burgundy velvet dress.  A smile formed, she would be 
ready whenever her husband was.

"Better than last night," he admitted with the small, silly grin 
saved only for her, and only in the privacy of their own home.  It 
always made him look like a college kid, she thought, smiling back at 
him, infected by his good mood--he was so rarely is such high spirits.  
"I should remember that ice hockey is only for the kid in me."

One side of his face, near the cheekbone, still sported a rather 
livid patch of blue and purple surrounded by angry red where it had 
made direct contact with an opponent's hockey stick.  He'd been 
escorted home by his friends, all more worried than knowing what to do, 
and a raging headache that promised to make the night a living hell.  
Aspirin had helped some, sleep had been slow in coming, and he now he 
did not want to take the effort to cover the bruise with anything more 
than his own wounded dignity.

She moved away from the mirror just as he moved in front of it, 
adjusting his tie much as she had done with her earrings, and on a 
sudden whim she threw her arms around his warm shoulders.  They so rarely
went out together since bringing Teresa home.

"Are you sure you're feeling alright?  We don't have to go if you 
still have a headache..."

"I'll be fine baby," he smiled, pulling her around and to his  chest, 
planting a lingering kiss on her smiling lips.  She smelled heavenly--of 
sandalwood and crushed violets.  "I'm only a little tired, and I know you've 
been looking forward to this for weeks."

"If you're sure."  She didn't sound convinced, but time was ticking away.  
From the family room, the enormous grandfather clock announced the hour as being 
half past seven o'clock.

"I am," he reassured.  "And though your parents would be glad to 
take Teresa at any time, but I don't like to think of her being so far 

"And less than a year ago you seemed to have the exact opposite 

"You know I love her now darling, as much as if she was my own."

They left the house peaceful, dark, and quiet.  Small lights along the 
walkway illuminated the rows of purple and tiny white flowers.  Just before 
reaching the car, the woman stopped, and turned her head, looking all around 
the yard--her expression was searching, almost confused, and sad.  A large maple 
tree, leaves swaying in the absent breeze, creaked gently and then was still.  A 
few white lawn chairs had been left out from the day before.  There were still a 
couple of bundles of newspapers near the garage door.

"Something wrong?"

"No, no, nothing.. Sorry," she answered, hurrying around to the 
other side of the car.  As she stepped in, she cast one long look back 
at the house.  Her husband closed the door, then went to his own side.  
"I just wanted to remember things this way," she whispered to herself.


"My but she's got a set of lungs to her, doesn't she?"

"Healthy as a horse," Teresa's grandfather snorted, and got back 
to reading his newspaper.

"But she wasn't half so fussy this morning.  I do hope she's not 
come down with a fever..."  Her grandmother came into the room, a look of 
concern on her face as she held the screaming and kicking infant.

"Give her a bottle and put her in her crib.  She'll calm down 
soon enough," the man suggested, scratching at his beard.

"She's probably just missing her mother," the woman mused, trying 
to comfort the little girl who's face had, by now, gone flushed and was 
streaked with tears.  As she entered the guest room where Teresa's crib 
had been set up for the night, the baby quieted, screams subsiding to 
huge gulping sobs.

"That's a good girl.  Your mother will be here in the morning, 
promise darling..."  Teresa's lower lip quivered, threatening more cries, 
but none came out.  Her grandmother smiled fondly, tiredly, and gently 
stroked the girl's shining black hair.  Old cinnamon brown eyes 
met eyes of deep midnight blue, and they comforted each other.


"You were right love, I'm glad we decided to come."

"We?  As I recall it you were the one who almost didn't want to come, not 

"Well, alright.  Dinner was lovely.  The restaurant was beautiful, the 
music superb, the..."

"Okay, okay..." He smiled, opening the car door for her.  He leaned over 
it for a moment.  "I think you just might have to show me how much you 
appreciate it when we get home."

Just before swinging into the driver's seat, the man pulled his coat more 
tightly about his solid frame.  Truth be told, he was exhausted--however, it 
would take a direct order from God for him to reveal that.  A chill breeze 
whipped around his face, waking him up enough to smile softly as he pulled out 
of the parking lot.

It was dark outside--too dark by half, and raindrops were beginning to dot 
the car's windshield.  Neither seemed inclined to say anything to the other at 
first.  The silence was soft, and warm, and it seemed a waste to spoil it with 
mindless chatter.  The woman settled herself against the soft leather of the 
seat, content to rest until the roads grew familiar and she caught sight of her 
home.. home.  She closed her eyes, meaning to rest them only for a moment.

He blinked his eyes a few times, wishing dearly for something to muffle 
the pounding drums inside his head.  The combination of the weather conditions, 
the silence, and the stress of keeping up appearances had brought back his 
headache with reinforcements.  Mile after deserted mile of highway stretched out 
before them.  As they neared the darkest section of a road surrounded by 
towering pines, his vision failed him completely.  One moment he could hear the 
blood pounding behind his eyes, the next, the road became nothing but a 
confusing blur.  His soft breath of fear brought his wife fully awake for one 
brief, terrifying moment.  Within a heartbeat, without time to react or change 
course, a tree came rushing up at full speed to meet the front end of the car.

A minute passed.  She was alone, she thought.  Her husband sat unconscious 
or dead behind the wheel and she could feel the life slowly ebbing out of her 
body.  Fear choked her breath before the fluid that filled her lungs--she never 
felt the bits of steel and plastic embedded in her skin.

Her last sight was clouded with tears, but dazzling.  The night sky, 
clouds gone--the bluish-silver moon was shining in all its radiant beauty, a 
thousand stars each twinkling with its own light.

"Essere sicuro dalla nerezza, mia figlia," she whispered into the silence, 
closed her eyes, and slipped away.

"Have the courage to live. Anyone can die." -- Robert Cody 

"Oh Timothy, it's been so long..." Tessa, voice catching, wiped a tear 
away before embracing her friend's husband.  "I am so sorry.  Rose was a.. 

Tessa felt Duncan's hand on her back, and she stepped away, another tear 
falling, unbidden, down her cheek.  She saw the two men look at each other, one 
tall and tanned, with the body of a fighter, the other tall as well, but looking 
more like a lawyer or businessman--though there were no tears, his eyes were 
rimmed with red.

"Timothy, this is Duncan MacLeod.  Duncan, Timothy Knight."

After a moment, Duncan put his hand out and it met Timothy's.  "It's a 
pleasure to meet you.  I only wish it could have been under better 
circumstances," he said.

Timothy opened his mouth, seemingly about to say something, to answer in 
kind, but other couples, wishing to give their condolences, pushed in front of 
him.  Duncan did not feel up to chasing after the man.  Tessa had cried the 
entire night after learning of Rose's death.  They had been good friends, she 
said, had met at college..  After the flight from Seacouver, he had still had to 
drive two hours in a rented car--this was the middle of nowhere, but he did have 
to admit it was a rather beautiful middle of nowhere.  The early spring air was 
scented with wildflowers and freshly mowed grass; the sky was perfectly pale 
blue--a few high, wispy clouds hung above.  Somehow, he couldn't decide whether 
the weather was inappropriate or absolutely perfect.

"It's alright Tessa," Duncan said as she sniffled, then put her head 
against his chest.  Despite the warmth, and his concealing long black coat, the 
fine hairs on the back of his neck went suddenly into full alert, standing 
straight up.  A faint, electrical sensation pricked at his senses, not quite a 
sound, not quite the spark of static, a pre-immortal was near.

Without moving his head, Duncan quickly scanned the area.  It seemed that 
most of the crowd he had already brushed up against without the same spark.  He 
saw an older couple--they had stayed yards away throughout the entire service--
coming closer.  Both seemed in their late fifties and were well dressed.  
Something told him, however, that it was neither of them.  His gaze drifted down 
to the baby carrier the woman held.  The little girl inside looked to be about a 
year old, maybe a few months more.  Before he got more than a glimpse all three 
had melted into the knot of bodies, but he had the feeling that he knew where he 
would find them later.  His attention was brought back to Tessa as she shivered 
against him.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm just tired Duncan, and cold.  Let's go back to the hotel."

Duncan managed to thread his way back to the car without looking as if he 
were searching for anyone, but he did want to get close enough to that baby to 
find out for certain if she were the pre-immortal--as well as find out who her 
parents were.  As his hand brushed lightly against the little girl's 
outstretched arm, the barely perceptible buzz increased just enough to know that 
it could be no other.

Once they were safely in the car and heading back to the hotel, Duncan 
thought about asking.  He turned slightly to look at Tessa, then decided that it 
might be better not to.  She looked withdrawn and small, crumpled into herself.  
She was taking this harder than she wanted to let on.  He turned his eyes back 
to the road.

        Reality is for people who lack imagination. -- Anonymous

"Look Teresa, I know you don't want to go, but you've already been kicked 
out of three schools.  This'll be a chance for a new life, a fresh start."  She 
still would not look at him.  "Whether you want to or not," Timothy Knight added 
on a darker note, then focused his attention on steering.

Teresa was curled up on the backseat of the car, her head pillowed by her 
hands, the sound of rain gently hitting the windows calming her thoughts.  It 
wasn't as if what I want has the slightest bearing on what happens to me anyway, 
she mused to herself, turning over so that she stared at the dark ceiling.  
Despite the comfortable warmth, she shivered to herself.  She looked through the 
nearest window, and was less than overjoyed at seeing one enormous 'Welcome to 
California!' sign.  Teresa sighed, and pulled a pillow up over her head.


The house appeared fairly normal, at least from the outside.  A fresh coat 
of light blue paint had been hastily applied over some older vinyl siding, which 
meant that it was already beginning to peel off.  Cheerful white wooden 
shudders, fixed permanently open, were mostly clean and neat.  On both sides of 
the door, large lights turned on at sensing the slightest movement.  This meant, 
of course, that even a cat scooting across the yard would be certain to flood 
the nearer rooms with brightness.  It had been a real deal--the previous owners 
had moved away four months after moving in--minus one son and several large 

Teresa scowled fiercely at the first stirrings of daylight on the horizon, 
and blinked her dry, scratchy eyes behind the dark sunglasses.  It was only five 
o' clock in the morning, and, despite having slept for a few hours in the car, 
she had had less than ten hours of sleep in the past three days.  She could 
never sleep well under stress.  Nightmares plagued her even in the best of 
times--few as those were--leaving her drenched in sweat and waking up to a world 
that usually did not seem all that much better than the terrors every one else 
claimed she created in her own imagination.  At their worst, she would stay 
awake for days at a time, until sheer physical exhaustion claimed her body and 
mind, and she slept without dreams.

"Are you sure you want to go to school tomorrow Teresa?  Are you certain 
you don't you want a few days to get settled in?"  Timothy, lugging a few large 
suitcases which had traveled in the car with them, entered the house as Teresa 
stood in front of the door, just looking.  She followed him in after a moment's 
hesitation.  Something about the house was missing, like a piece of it was gone, 
but not quite--gone.

"I don't want to spend any more time here than I absolutely have to," she 
answered quietly.  The interior of the house was no more or less elaborate or 
unassuming than the exterior, it was simply cooler and smelled oddly enough of 
burned plastic and sunscreen.  Most of the walls were a pale cream color with 
winter white stenciling, but when she turned a corner toward what she assumed 
was the living room, the furthest wall had been painted over with generic beige.  
Teresa felt a chill in the small of her back, turned, and headed upstairs.

There was a large open space as she climbed; only a heavy wooden railing 
would keep a person unsteady on his feet from falling into the entry room and 
crashing into the large bookcase which had been set up a few days before with 
the rest of the heavy furniture.  Teresa noted that it was still dark upstairs, 
but did not bother to turn on the lights.  She carried only one small suitcase 
and a ragged looking doll into her new bedroom.  They'd moved quite a few times 
before, and eventually she had whittled down exactly what she could not live 
without.  These things always came with her, never left her side.  Teresa 
quietly closed her bedroom door and sat down on the bed.  It didn't matter a 
great deal to her that there were neither blankets nor sheets on it yet, nor 
that it had not been pushed up against the wall as it should have been.

Gently, she unwrapped a small picture of her mother--adoptive mother--she 
knew that her true parents had never been found and were never likely to be, 
then wrapped it again and put it back in the suitcase.  That photograph never 
saw the light of day.  Next to come out were some brushes, and an antique hair 
ornament made of ivory and silver.  Teresa fingered her small box of metals; 
none of them were for sports, she'd never even tried out for a team, but there 
was a first place medallion for winning a state art contest, and a tiny metal 
cup--the gold paint chipping off in places.  She smiled, remembering how good it 
had felt to see the looks on everyone's faces as she'd won the math league 
competition--she'd been the first girl in eleven years.  There were a few disks, 
and a few CDs.. A dog-eared copy of 'Where the Red Fern Grows'.

Teresa pushed the suitcase and its contents away, and sat back against the 
high wooden headboard of her bed.  She barely noticed that she was still holding 
the doll.  She'd had it with her for more years that she could remember.  It was 
soft, and the face was basically dog-shaped, but most of the fur had long since 
worn away--unlike most toys that'd gone through children's growing years, this 
one had never received a name.  Something crackled with annoyance at the edge of 
her consciousness.  With a sigh, she left even that behind and headed downstairs 
to help her dad unpack.  After awhile in any one location, she usually could 
block out its impressions.


Angelus licked his full lips, swallowing the last few drops of warm, 
thick, sweet liquid.  Usually he preferred young girls as his victims, but the 
old man had been in the right place at the right time--for his appetite anyway.  
Sometimes neither age nor outside appearances could judge how the blood would 
taste, with beggars and royalty as both as likely to be sweet as not.  He 
smiled, dragging the body further into the alley and dumping it behind a bunch 
of trash cans.  After brushing off his coat and pants, he started deeper into 
the town.

This night was truly beautiful, or at least a great deal more enjoyable 
than the day, Teresa thought to herself, slipping easily away from the high-
fenced yard that enclosed her new home.  The crescent moon was a bare sliver in 
the sky, but the stars were disappointingly dim for someone who was used to 
seeing them in crisp country air.  She'd only spent the sum total of eighteen 
hours in Sunnydale, but what she'd seen had been enough to convince her to give 
it a rather reluctant try.  Out, alone, she'd find out if it was worth her 
while--she needed to get a feel for the place.

It wasn't overly warm, and a nice breeze swept away any of the funk that 
came with city life, even 'one-Starbucks towns'.  Teresa still pulled her long, 
black oilskin coat more tightly about her waist.  The hem went down to her 
ankles, just far enough that her equally black skirt and sandaled feet could be 
seen.  So far, so good, she allowed.  This could be home.  I could make this my 
home.  She began counting her footsteps, giving no indication that she knew she 
was alone no longer.

Angel kept himself to the partial shadows cast by a row of neatly trimmed 
bushes.  He was some fifty yards behind the slim, dark figure, but even with his 
augmented vampire sight, she was too far away to make out any details.  Every 
once in awhile she'd pass beneath a streetlight, but the image was still 
confusingly foggy, like a shadow.  He'd seen a lot in his nearly two and a half 
centuries, and now anything new and more unusual than, well, usual, was worth 
investigating.  Though he wasn't particularly hungry, he began to stalk her.

Teresa continued walking in a straight line, never looking back, hardly 
looking up.  She could feel that someone was behind her, but did not smile.  
There was something odd about the feeling--a small shiver ran from the base of 
her skull to the backs of her heels.  She took a deep breath, smelled nothing 
unusual, and slowed down.  Let whoever it was come to her.

"Damn," Angel muttered in annoyance.  He couldn't imagine how the girl had 
known he was following her--he had more than once gotten within a few feet of 
Buffy before she had even known he was there--but she had slowed so obviously.  
Something did not feel right about the situation, and he half-expected the 
Slayer to pop out of the bushes at any moment.  It wasn't like her to use bait, 
though, he thought to himself.

Wondering if her persistent follower was going to appear any time within 
the next few minutes, Teresa stopped walking all together.  Anything short of a 
machine gun or small nuclear device she could defend herself from, and had, on 
occasion.  With her back up against a sturdy wooden fence, she stuck her hands 
in her pockets and waited patiently.  Either he would show--she had decided that 
the presence was male--or wouldn't, and either way made no difference to her.

Angel shook off the faint feeling of disquiet as he snuck closer, or 
rather, he simply forgot about it.  The girl was just that, a girl--his next 
meal, he smiled warmly.  She wasn't going anywhere either, simply standing.  
Must be new around town, he thought.  No one who'd been in Sunnydale for more 
than a few days wandered the streets alone at night.  With that thought in mind, 
he stepped out of the shadows.

Teresa first thought to herself that he was closer than she had sensed, 
and was caught in a neutral expression between smiling at his ability and 
frowning at her own slip in observation.  They were not near a streetlight, but 
light from the nearby houses would be enough once he got closer.  She neither 
moved nor gave him a hint of recognition.

He stopped.  Angel had walked silently until he was directly in front of 
the girl, and then.. he stopped.  Something twisted within his gut.  She was 
watching him with an intensity that bordered on any vampire's gaze, but her eyes 
were far from those of a demon.  A black coat covered her from throat to ankles, 
but it was her face that drew his attention in any case.  The girl was easily as 
pale as he, with a small nose and lips that looked soft and sweet.  Ebony hair, 
so dark as to have blue highlights instead of red-brown, fell unbound around her 
shoulders and on down, he guessed, to below her slim waist.  Eyebrows arched 
over eyes set deep in her face--irises were the shade of midnight viewed on the 
rippling surface of a clear stream.  She turned her head, just slightly, to meet 
his eyes.  In spite of the incredible control she had shown before, she drew in 
a quick breath.  From the depths of his twisted self came a smile, a genuine 
smile, and the girl matched it in kind.

Teresa could barely credit her eyes, though she would have liked to have 
thought that she gave no indication of it.  The man in front of her was easily 
the most beautiful person she had ever seen.  His hair was thick, warm, dark 
brown, and carefully arranged to appear as if it hadn't been.  Eyes were dark 
and shadowed, and the sort of contained strength that she had sensed in only a 
few others hung like an aura about his person.  If only he were breathing, she 
might have thought him human.  When he smiled, she couldn't help but do the 

"This is a dangerous town," Angel said finally, stepping closer to the 
girl.  "Do you often wander around by yourself at this time of night?"

"All the time," she answered, and held up her hands just as he reached to 
take them.  The sensation of his skin against hers was tingling, electrical, she 
thought--he was cold as death.  The sensation of her skin against his was 
faintly warm, and soft, he thought--he could feel her heart beating through the 
thin skin.

"Most people call me Angel," he smiled, not letting go.  He had barely 
noticed at first, but something within him ached for her--needed her--some small 
part of him knew that he would not be able to leave her alone.  The screams of 
people long dead surfaced in the back of his mind.

"Well, Angel, I'm not most people," she did not resist when he gently 
guided her away from the fence.  "But I think that's a fine name."  Neither did 
she pull away when he pulled her closer.  "I am Teresa Knight."

"That," Angel smiled again.  "Is a beautiful name."  He started to lift 
one of her hands and lowered his head to meet it.  "But not nearly so beautiful 
as you."  He did not miss the slight increase in heartbeat as his lips touched 
her skin, nor the fact that her fingernails were cut down to mere nubs.  When he 
would have dragged her back into the shadows right then, his finger came upon 
something rough, unyielding in what should have been soft skin.  Teresa's eyes 
turned darker as he gently turned her arms so that her palms were face up, 
knowing what he would find.  He pushed up her sleeves.  Twin scars, one running 
vertically on each wrist, marred the ashen skin.  His eyes narrowed.

Teresa said nothing, expecting any number of different questions, even 
from him--she was doing her best not to Look..  She had been asked them all, she 
thought, but instead of speaking immediately, Angel merely took her hands in 

"Why do you like the night, Teresa?"

"It talks to me.  I can feel it without the burning.. I can't feel the 
day.  It screams and I go numb."  Teresa meant every word she said--countless 
hours in the psychiatrist's office had failed to get the woman to understand 
what she meant.  Angel smiled at her, and she saw that, somehow, he understood.

"What does it tell you?"

"I.."  Teresa paused for the first time that night.  "I can hear the 
people dreaming."

Angel sensed the moment's hesitation, and took it as his sign to disappear 
for the night.  What he needed to do was find Drusilla.  He had no doubts that 
Teresa was telling the truth, but though he wanted so badly to drain her, he 
knew that Dru's own gift, as unique as Teresa's, would tell him whether or not 
to bring the girl into eternity.  He kissed the back of her hand once more, then 
backed away.  "I'll be here tomorrow," he smiled, catching her eyes one last 
time before walking off into the darkness.

"As will I," Teresa whispered, not moving for a few breathless moments--
the shock lasted only that long.  She started back toward the house, her hands 
again in her pockets and a small smile now on her face--the smile of one who has 
stumbled onto a searched-for, priceless treasure when simply stopping to rest.  
"And I think you will, my vampire Angel."


"Where is she lovely?" Drusilla asked in a soft, melodic voice the moment 
Angel stepped into her view.  She curled her arms around his waist, and ran her 
head along his broad, powerful shoulders, stopping him momentarily.

"Where is who?" Angel asked lightly, feigning innocence.

"Your new friend, of course. I want to meet her," Drusilla pressed on, 
nearly purring when Angel ran his hand along her exposed upper arm with a light 

Angel smiled pleasantly to himself, and reached behind her to snag a bunch 
of pale, velvety blossoms from their vine.  "I'm saving her till later Dru," he 
said, tickling her face with the soft petals and sparing Spike a passing glance
--he was sitting, unmoving, in the room's darkest corner, watching them both.  
Drusilla moved away, to his surprise, and she smiled at him mischievously, 
backing up a few steps.

"Naughty, naughty," Drusilla grinned, lowering her head but keeping her 
gaze level.  She began to wag her finger in front of him in a gesture of mock 
discipline.   When Angel growled lightly and smiled, taking the finger in his 
mouth, running his tongue around it slowly, she only grinned more deeply.  "One 
shouldn't play with fire."

        "Knowledge is power." -- Francis Bacon

Teresa found herself regretting her decision to plunge headlong into a new 
school almost as soon as she woke up that morning.  The viciously annoying buzz 
of the alarm clock woke her at seven o' clock.  Her mouth tasted like someone 
had shaved the fuzz off of a rotting peach and applied it to her tongue--the 
texture was about the same as well.  She did not really want to open her eyes at 

"Somebody turn that damn sun //off//!" she hissed to nobody in particular, 
rolling out of bed at the same time.

One of the few good things about the house, Teresa realized, was that with 
only two people, each got a bathroom to him or herself.  The carpet in the 
bedroom felt oddly itchy against her bare feet, but once inside the bathroom, 
the linoleum was cool and smooth.  Her long nightgown fell unheeded, and she 
kicked it aside, stepping into the shower and starting the water.

"Mmmm," she purred to herself, doing her best to block out thoughts of 
anything except getting herself clean.  The warm water mingled with traces of 
tears on her face, and washed away the sweat from that night's awful dreams.  
No, don't think about that, Teresa silently commanded herself, knowing that it 
did no good to think about it and it did no good to try not thinking about it.

Teresa remembered everything that had happened last night so clearly.  She 
still felt the tingle of Angel's lips against her hand, the way he had moved, 
even the intensity of his eyes as they fastened on her own.  She had not read 
him wrong.  To her way of thinking, that he was a vampire should be plain to 
anyone with eyes--she thought then that it was generally only those who are 
really looking who see what is right in front of their faces.

Scrubbing at her skin until it smarted made her feel a little better, but 
Teresa turned the knob till the water gushed out icy cold and let that flow over 
her skin for awhile before stepping out of the shower.  After a few minutes at 
the sink, she felt almost alive once again.  Teresa, back in her bedroom, sighed 
softly.  All of her cloths were still packed--she'd have to hurry or risk, of 
all things, being late.  


Things were going from slightly bad to mostly worse.  Teresa wandered the 
empty hallways, uncertain of where she was supposed to be.  Though she'd 
received a class schedule weeks before arriving, it seemed that it would take a 
minor miracle for her to find the right room.  She looked at the crumpled paper 
again, then up at the numbers above the door she was currently moving past.  
None matched--she kept going.  The first bell had rung nearly five minutes ago.  
Out of near desperation, she considered feeling her way through the building by 
thought alone, but knew before she had taken another step that there would be no 
help from that quarter.

Teresa sighed deeply as she passed another classroom and peered at the 
numbers above the door.  She did not even know where the principal's office 
was--she'd prefer to act the fool for a few minutes and in front of only one 
rather than risk having every single person in the school think her an idiot.  
Not that it matters a great deal, she tried to assure herself, remembering even 
as she thought that how hard it was to block out thoughts meant especially for 
her.  Especially nasty, stomach-churning thoughts that had more than once 
brought her to tears for what looked like no reason at all.  That was before she 
had learned Control.  On the other side of the hallway, she spied the door to 
what could only be the library.  As Teresa changed her course to enter its 
quietude, she was forcibly reminded of what had happened to force the first move 
away from the home she had known for so long.


Teresa held the books possessively in the crook of her arm, all, that is, 
but one.  That book was balanced on her palms, it's musty, slightly yellowed 
pages spread open to the start of the second chapter.  She wrinkled her nose and 
smoothed out a small crease.  Completely oblivious to her own stiff neck and 
aching arms, Teresa had been in the same position for nearly the entire period.  
Honestly, she had only meant to gather the books, check out, and get back to 
class.  She had, in reality, gotten only to the small alcove just outside the 
library doors before the lure of new information had gotten the better of her.  
No one had bothered her studies in the small, rather dark corner.  She was one 
of the library's few frequent visitors in any case.

People began streaming out of the classrooms less than a second after the 
bell.  Some looked to actually have a purpose to their hurry, as they headed for 
the restrooms or the cafeteria.  Some exited later, in bunches and groups of 
threes and fours and more.  It was, more or less, the picture of an ordinary 
high school in its corner of the United States.  Teresa kept her thoughts 
centered tightly about the text she was attempting to decipher--stuff was harder 
than Shakespeare to read, so it did not require much effort to block the 
confusing jumble without.  Besides, she was in no rush.  This was her lunch hour 
and now she was truly free to enjoy herself.  Without thinking, she slumped into 
the corner away from the doors, never imagining that she'd be seen there.

Her reading came to an abrupt end as Teresa felt the book being knocked 
from her fingers.  She jumped to her feet in an instant.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Teresa shrieked over the sounds 
of raucous laughter from the six guys in front of her.  She recognized them all, 
but knew none of them.  All were dressed in some variation of jeans, t-shirt, 
and ratty overshirt.  It certainly was not necessary for her to open her mind to 
sense their intentions: this had taken a terribly wrong turn.

"Did you know that you are one seriously weird girl?"

Teresa reached out a tendril of thought, and physically recoiled at the 
contact.  His name was Franklin, she remembered that much, and he had once 
beaten a kid up simply for calling him that.  His shoes were mud-splashed, and 
his clothes smelled as if they hadn't been washed in at least a week, possibly 
more.  This alone was not enough to warrant her reaction--neither was his well-
built stature and sneering expression.  It was the impact of six minds thinking 
as one; all directed at her.  Most of the underlings wore masks of near 
indifference if not outright boredom, but she sensed that each wanted the same.  
Before she could clamp down, a wave of churning emotion: lascivious, crude, 
mocking, assaulted her senses.

"I'll be leaving.  Now."  Teresa fought the urge to gouge his eyes out 
with her fingers, but was finding it oh so tempting.  There was not a hint of 
fear in her voice nor her manner--it was a command, not a request in any sense 
of the word, though she hardly expected it to be obeyed.  She started to move 
toward her fallen books, but was pinned to the wall with one of Franklin's arms 
on either side of her head.  No matter.  She was neither frightened nor 
surprised by his actions.  In fact, she had been expecting it.

One of the other boys, Justin Hooker, moved to pick up the topmost book--
the one she had been reading, Teresa realized, with complete disrespect for its 
age or condition.  Despite herself, she grimaced.

"'Vampyres and Daemons Around Us'?  What kind of book is this?" *As if you 
care half a whit, she thought.* "The title's not even spelled right."  *So you 
can read more than the road construction signs.*  He started flipping carelessly 
through the pages, then burst out laughing.  "Hey guys, get a load of this!  
It's a bunch of naked chicks dancing around a fire!" *You /would/ find that 
first thing, wouldn't you?*  Teresa rolled her eyes expressively as most of the 
other guys turned to get a look.  As much as she knew they could do nothing to 
her here, the desire to inflict some sort of pain was growing.  She hadn't 
fought with complete abandon in a long time.  Simply for cornering her like 
this, she'd give any a black eye, but then, insulting and probably mangling her 
books.. A sweet smile appeared on her face, almost shocking Franklin into 
backing away.

"I think that you will let me go, now, give me back my books, now, or you 
will regret it, now," Teresa said with perfect calm.  Just as she had known he 
would, Franklin let out a short bark of laughter and leaned closer.

"And just what," he whispered.  "Are you going to do?"

"This," Teresa laughed outright, a decidedly delightful gleam in her eyes 
as she kneed him with full force in the groin.  He gave one startled groan of 
pain before collapsing on the floor at her feet.  She smiled evilly and kicked 
him hard in the back and then the shoulder.  All but one of the others were 
staring, goggle-eyed and slack-jawed, at her.  The book dropped from Justin's 
hands with a resounding *thud*.

"I thought I said to give me my books back," Teresa scowled impatiently.  
She crossed her arms over her chest, and tapped her heavily booted toe for 
emphasis with each word.  "Not throw them around.  You have no respect for age 
or wisdom."

"You bitch!"  Erik Faulk, whose height was inversely proportional to his 
intelligence, charged his much smaller intended victim.  Teresa would have 
giggled, had the situation been any different, at the boy's mind-voice.  
< < Gonna kill 'er, gonna kill 'er, gonna kill 'er.. > >  He sounded like a much 
stupider version of the little engine that could.

"What is going on here!?"  A single figure emerged from the library, his 
hair graying, his cable-knit sweater a creamy color, just in time to see 
something he would never have believed possible.  He didn't notice the four boys 
who had made a mad dash to the door the moment they had heard his voice. 

Teresa neatly sidestepped her would-be attacker, who had the misfortune to 
meet her fist on his way through.  The combined force resulted in a painfully 
cracked nose.  Not a moment later, Teresa was behind him; she let loose with a 
sweeping kick which caught the backs of his knees.  They buckled under, and Eric 
went down in a heap on top of Franklin.  Both boys were moaning with pain, but 
more of it was embarrassment, she almost laughed.  They had deserved it.

"You are going to the principal's office right this second young lady!" 
The librarian bellowed, shocked at the scene he had just witnessed.  When Teresa 
turned to face him, a small shiver when down his spine.  Her hair was a mess, 
and her light shirt was torn at the shoulder seam.. What were worse was the look 
of her eyes, and the /smile/ on her face.

"Yes sir," Teresa said, her voice eerily calm as she knelt down to pick up 
her books.  "Of course sir."  Books tucked safely beneath her arm once again, 
she started for the principal's office.  Indeed, she was one seriously weird 


It was cooler in the library than the hallway, Teresa sighed with 
immediate relief.  She was still not used to the intensity of the Californian 
sun, and was sure she'd regret not slathering herself down with sunscreen before 
leaving the house.  She drank in the familiar scent of books, some new, but most 
far older than herself.  An older man was shuffling through some papers near the  
back of the room.  No time like the present, she decided, heading for him.

"Hello?" she asked, leaning across a low bookshelf.

"Buffy?  Oh yes, hello there," the man said, turning to face her.  A look 
of concern was wiped from his face.  "What can I do for you?"

Teresa drew in a quick breath, backing away, blinking.  She'd been 
careless, letting her mind open up in the comfort of what felt like secure 
surroundings.  So many images, thoughts, worries, frustrations.. It had been an 
outpouring not intended for her, but for someone who would never be able to 
sense it.  Buffy's picture was now all but branded in her consciousness.  She 
opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.  Without looking back, Teresa 
headed for the door and went down the hallway in a rush.

"Strange girl," Giles frowned. "Very strange girl."  He shrugged, and went 
back to his work.

        "Ring around the rosey
                a pocket full of poseies        
                        Ashes, Ashes
                                We all fall down."

Children's song about the Black Plague during the Middle Ages

"So things have been rather quiet lately," Willow commented, working hard 
to keep up with Buffy and review her notes for the next class at the same time.  

"Yeah, too quiet," Buffy answered, looking a little agitated.  "I don't 
like it.  No new vamps in almost three days.  I think they're planning 

"You could be right, or, maybe they're just taking a little vacation," 
Willow observed, then immediately wished she hadn't.  Looking up, the sight of 
Giles was an unasked for godsend.

"Let me guess," Buffy asked as soon as she noticed where Willow was 
looking and Giles was within hearing range.  "There are no more vampires left, 
no more demons, and I can go out and lead a normal life?"

"What?" Giles asked with his typical grasp of sarcasm.  "Not exactly," he 
went on, frowning.  "Where's Xander?  I think you all need to hear this."

"He's probably in class already, why?  No, don't say it.. I'm feeling 
there's a prophecy involved here."  Buffy grimaced, then hit her forehead with 
her hand when she heard Giles's response.

"How did you know?"


"And you were saying.." Buffy waved her hand toward the rather spaced out 
looking Giles, wanting to see if that would speed his recovery toward reality.

"Oh yes.." Giles pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose.  
"The prophecy."  He pulled out a small, dusty volume, looking incredibly like 
the rest of the small, dusty volumes he owned, from underneath a pile of 
computer printouts.  He opened it, then flipped quickly through until he came to 
the right page.  He opened his mouth to speak, but Xander beat him to it.

"Prophecy, prophecy.. Why must there always be some sort of prophecy?  Did 
those ancient guys know everything that would happen in the future?  And if so, 
why couldn't they have warned the us about useful things, like.."  Xander, 
having finally noticed that everyone present was staring at him, decided to cut 
his speech short.  "Or, I should be grateful that they only saw all the demons 
and monsters and vampires.."  Everyone was still staring.  He stopped talking.

"Well, I for one think that prophecies are a good thing.  I mean, what 
would happen if we didn't know about these things before they happened at all?"  
Willow piped up softly, then focused her attention back on the computer screen 
in front of her.  Her fingers flew across the keyboard, making an odd clacking-
echoing sound in the mostly quiet library.

"Yes, quite," Giles said, holding the book open with one hand.  "Now back 
to the matter at hand?"

Buffy straightened, managing to look moderately attentive from her perch 
on the table.

"If my calculations are correct, the events written here should come to 
pass in just over a week.  I could, of course, be wrong," Giles began to muse to 
himself, picking the book up and walking around with it.  "This book is written 
in some sort of archaic German dialect.  It took me weeks to translate it.  And 
then there are all this small markings which I still haven't figured out.."

"Uh, Giles?"  Xander had apparently been paying more attention than Buffy, 
who tended not to listen until actual information came into the conversation.

Giles looked up at the sound of his name for a brief instant, then started 
to slowly circle around toward the table again.  "Yes?  Sorry.  Here we are.. 
The prophecy itself is written in verse form, though translated into English 
there's a lot of it that doesn't make sense."

"There's actually a lot that doesn't make sense in the English language," 
Willow volunteered, not looking up this time.

"Like, why is soccer called soccer here and football almost everywhere 
else," Buffy added helpfully, then shrugged as Giles gave her a decidedly 
confused look.  "Okay, so that's not the best example," she finished.

Satisfied finally that it was safe to read, Giles paced in front of the 
table.  He started out hesitantly at first..

"And one shall come from a peaceful land.  She shall be one alien to 
society, an outcast, and the taste of death has once filled her heart.  With 
mother's curse, the old soul shall be awakened within her breast."  He paused 
long enough that the silence was overwhelming.

"Go on.."  Buffy urged, by now as intensely interested as Willow and 

Giles blinked a few times, then did as instructed.  "To seek her, you will 
not find.  Better to wait upon her coming into the new land.  On both sides of 
the battle, she shall acquire friend and foe, but before the winner is declared, 
one from the side shall turn to the other."

Willow had ceased her project to listen intently.  She put her elbow on 
the mousepad, and rested her head on her open hand.  Nobody noticed that while 
she was listening, she was watching Xander a great deal more.

"Her blood is none, but her blood is sweet as nectar to the dark ones."

"Her blood is none?  What's that supposed to mean?  And I'm assuming these 
'dark ones' are vampires, right?" Buffy interrupted, brows drawn together 

"Well, I'm still working on some of this you remember," Giles said.  "I 
think the blood in that first sentence is not literal blood.  More like kinfolk, 

"That makes sense, a little," Xander said with more outright intelligence 
than he usually showed.  "'Her blood is none.'  She has no relatives.."

"That's impossible," Buffy shot back, smoothing out a wrinkle on her new 
blouse.  She hoped this one didn't become bloodstained and unwearable as quickly 
as her last couple had.  "She's got to have relatives.  Even if they're all 
dead.  I mean, she has to have parents unless I missed something in Biology 101.  
Besides, it already said something about the girl being cursed by her mother.  
Hence, she has at least one relative."

"We can come back to that part," Giles kept up his pacing, and turned a 
page in the book.  "And in answer to your first.. second question Buffy.  
There's still a great deal more written.  If you'd let me finish.."  Hearing no 
more arguments, he continued.

"And she must be taken by the vampires.  Afterwards, she will not be one 
of them, nor one of them, and never she was one of us, but like the power of one 
of them and one of them combined.  Two into the whole shall she be powerful."

"Yeah.  Am I the only one thinking that this whole 'powerful' thing is 
sounding bad?" Xander cut in and was basically ignored.

"Not be one of them nor one of them.. Well, that just clears things up," 
Buffy frowned deeply.  "So, according to the prophecy, she absolutely has to be 
turned into a vampire.. One of those 'thems' is probably vampire, right?  So 
she'll be a vampire, but not really a vampire?"

"Precisely," Giles nodded, overlooking the sarcasm.  "I've yet to figure 
out what the other 'them' is.  The next part is actually a little more 

"You mean there's more?" Willow was looking a little nervous.

"The Slayer's second shall know her by sight of raven and flickering 
candles, but the angel shall know her first by raven and scars.  Before the 
angel drinks, he shall make her drink of Hell."

"The angel," Buffy whispered, gone pale and quiet.  "Angel.  He's going 
to..."  Thoughts of what she had gone through after.. after.. she couldn't even 
think it to herself right now.  She wouldn't wish that sort of pain on her worst 
enemy, and she hadn't even met this girl.

Nobody said anything after that, so Giles went on.      

"Nine from the sides shall come searching for her, and the Watchers.  
Three to darkness, three to light, three to the shades grey.  With help from the 
three to the shades grey, she must choose between the darkness and the light.  
The will is hers, and hers alone.  To rule in the darkness or make beautiful the 
light.  Two the same and separate and together at once, contained in one, her 
choice will determine the fate of the future."

"I think we need to find this girl."  Xander was the first to find his 
voice, as usual, and he seemed to be on a course for setting the most amount of 
logic expressed in a single day.  "Are there any new girls coming here within 
the next week?" He turned and asked Willow.

Willow nearly banged her head against the side of the monitor as she 
hurried to find out.  Behind the screen, her face colored in a sudden blush--she 
wondered if Xander had seen her staring.  It took only a couple of clicks and a 
few typed commands and all the office records were on display.  She frowned at 
what she saw.

"There's two new guys coming, brothers.  One's a freshman and one a 
senior, but there's no new girls scheduled until next month."

"Strange," Giles responded.  "Try looking up any girls who have arrived in 
the past month."

There were a few more clacking sounds, and Willow double-clicked on 
something.  "Four girls," she announced.  "Two freshmen, one sophomore, and one 

"I've already met the senior," Buffy offered, grimacing.  "I really, 
really hope she's not the one whose shoulders the fate of the world rests on.  
'Hi,'" she began to imitate in a sickeningly perky voice, making Willow grin 
despite herself.  "'I'm Victoria Peters and I'm a Virgo and do you like my nail 
polish and can I be your friend and I'm a big ditz.'"

"Wow Buff," Xander said.  "Maybe you should try out for the school play."

"I resent that," Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and glared for a 
minute.  "Besides, Victoria came to school with her parents the first day."

"Alright, we can't rule her out, but assuming that this Victoria Peters 
isn't," Giles stopped pacing long enough to read the passages over a few times.  
"Isn't the one we're looking for, that still leaves three others.  Willow?"

"Elizabeth Andrews, Crystal Diffie, and Teresa Knight--freshman, freshman, 
and sophomore, respectively," Willow replied as if she had been waiting for a 
chance to speak.  She looked up.  "All of them but one, Teresa Knight, have two 
parents listed, and she's arriving.. today, actually."  She clicked the mouse 
button a couple of times.  "Victoria and Crystal both have grandparents and 
Crystal has an aunt listed as emergency contacts."

"That leaves Elizabeth and Teresa as our best bets," Giles remarked.  "But 
I'd still like to check on the other two."

"So I suppose we should, what, go talk to them?  Try to figure out which 
one is this week's prophecy girl?"  Buffy asked, hopping down off the table; she 
was frowning, remembering the last particularly nasty prophecy she had gotten 
tangled up in that had nearly killed her.  "'The Slayer's second shall know her 
by sight of raven and flickering candles, but the angel shall know her first by 
raven and scars.'  Slayer's second?"

"It is a little odd at best.  I think the best course of action at the 
present moment would be to observe them, only.  We don't want to risk one of 
them finding out more than she needs to know," Giles finished just as the bell 
rang.  Xander, Willow, and Buffy filed out quickly, Xander mumbling something 
about not being the one to 'observe' Victoria Peters.  On their way out, none 
noticed a dark-haired girl leaning against the wall nearby.  Buffy tensed 
briefly, blinking and scanning the halls, then shook her head and continued on.  
Teresa quietly walked away, heading toward her first class.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however
        improbable, must be the truth." -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"Are we there yet?" Methos whined with all the perfection of a six-year-
old who'd had five thousand years of practice.  He leaned back against the 
comfortable padding of the seat, grinning.  He was being an ass, and knew it, 
and was enjoying it simply because it annoyed the Highlander so much; that it 
annoyed Richie was only an added bonus.

"Would you -shut- -up-?"  Richie turned, and threw a candy-bar wrapper as 
hard as he could at the ancient immortal.  It fluttered and ended back in the 
front seat.

Methos feigned absolute horror, hunching his shoulders up and covering his 
head with his hands.  "There's no need to get violent now, is there Richie?"  He 
straightened.  "Besides, if you're going to throw things at me, it could at 
least be food."

He was rewarded with a granola bar to his chest.

"Now that's more like it," Methos grinned, picking up the snack and 
applying himself to it with enthusiasm.  He noted MacLeod's hands tightening 
about the steering wheel, and wondered if he should stop any time too soon.  
That was one of the good things about having friends with a strong ethical 
code--they generally would not kill you simply for annoying them.  He looked in 
the rear-view mirror and saw the large veins throbbing on Mac's forehead.  Time 
to stop.

Duncan MacLeod ground his teeth together, then forced himself to smile 
pleasantly.  He kept his eyes carefully to the road, not daring to look behind 
him.  What on Earth could he have been thinking?  He knew what he had been 
thinking.  A quiet trip to a small California town, just the three of them, a 
two week vacation.. Joe had assured him that there were no Immortals on record 
living in Sunnydale.  There was going to be a large art exhibit, open to the 
public, for most of the first week.  He had thought the culture would do Richie 
some good, and then hadn't the heart to leave Methos back in Seacouver.  But 
driving?  From Seacouver to Sunnydale?  With three immortals in one car?  
Silently, Duncan berated himself for not having taken Richie's suggestion that 
they travel via the airlines.  Really, he had had no idea that Methos could be 
so terribly irritating when there was nothing else to do.  And he was enjoying 

Richie sighed with relief as soon as he saw the small green sign.  
Sunnydale, population.. It zipped by too fast for him to read it accurately--
unimpressive, in any case.  "This hotel we're staying at.. It would by any 
chance be built on holy ground, would it Mac?" he asked hopefully.

"I have no idea Rich," MacLeod answered, probably thinking the exact same 
thing as his student.  "Could be," he added, seeing the expression creeping over 
the younger immortal's features.

The immortals settled into a more or less strained silence, watching the 
small town speed by.  They continued to pass street after street of small, 
unassuming businesses, some looking closed and deserted, no lights on even 
during what should be prime shopping time for the out of high school crowd.  The 
traffic was light, the pedestrians nearly non-existent.  To their left, a small 
diner that promised 24-hour service, to their right, a laundromat promising the 
same.  There were only a few cars in the parking lots of each.

"Is it just me, or is this town looking a little dead?" Richie asked as 
they passed through a small residential district.  Though there was nothing 
really odd-looking about it, it just felt.. different, quiet.  The others felt 
it too, apparently, to judge by their expressions, but said nothing.  He sighed, 
then groaned as they pulled into the parking lot of a medium-sized but 
respectful looking hotel.  Nearly every space was filled, and nearly half of 
those spaces with -mini-vans-.  *Great, just great.  I'm going to have to spend 
two weeks with a bunch of screaming brats.*  It was not that he particularly 
disliked kids, it was just not his idea of great fun.

"There was never a genius without a tincture of madness." -- Aristotle 

Buffy was bored out of her skull, as she usually was during history class, 
but she forced herself to keep her eyes open, and focus in some direction 
vaguely facing the chalkboard.  Every once in awhile, she'd glance toward the 
girl two rows in front of her, and three seats to the left.  Elizabeth Andrews 
had managed to get herself placed in this class by virtue of her old school 
having conflicting views on what was to be studied from one grade to another.  
She was rather tall, almost gangly, wore glasses, and her wavy cinnamon-brown 
hair had been braided softly.  Elizabeth was a nice enough girl, she thought to 
herself, had almost instantly found acceptance among the school's thriving 
'nerd' population and rejection from Cordelia's cronies.  Buffy sighed silently, 
scribbling something particularly crucial to today's lecture down in her 


Xander had yet to get anything more than a glance at his 'assignment', 
Crystal Diffie.  She was seated near the door of the classroom across the hall 
from his, which meant that he was forced to crane his neck around rather 
awkwardly to see her.

"Mister Harris?  If you could please pay attention.."

The teacher's irritatingly grating voice, when used to call his name or 
any version of it, always forced Xander to sit up straight in his seat and adopt 
a properly neutral expression, which usually served to draw attention elsewhere.  
Seeing her go back to writing out some enormous equation out on the board, he 
sneaked another look at Crystal.  Her head was bowed down over a large textbook, 
and she looked as if she was actually listening to whatever the teacher was 
saying there.  Certainly uncommon, but not strange enough to draw his attention 
for very long.  *Nah, can't be her.*


Teresa found herself in the back row of a small, sunny classroom.  A few 
CDs had been attached somehow to a display board to the left of the door, and 
there was a brief paragraph explaining the many uses of a CD-ROM next to each 
one.  On every desk there was a nearly new computer.  *Some newer than others.* 
Teresa noted, glancing at the more powerful model at the teacher's desk.  And 
teaching this particular class, one Willow Rosenberg.  In point of fact, the 
'teacher' was the last to arrive and looked more than a little flustered as she 
entered just before the bell.  Teresa caught quite a few snickers and rude 
comments, both spoken, and, when they managed to slip through, mental, about the 
probable cause for the delay.  *So that's the principal.*  The short, large-
eared man who had been discussing something with the smaller girl stalked away 
after leaving something in her hands.

Willow hurried to get things started without any more delay.  In her 
experience if anything greater than two minutes elapsed between the bell and the 
start of class it would be nearly impossible to teach anything afterwards.  She 
peered briefly at the clipboard Mr. Snyder had left her, and raised an eyebrow 
at the new addition to the roster.

"Teresa Knight?" she asked, peering between the rows of familiar students.  
In the back row, a hand was raised over the top of one of the computers.  *Maybe 
I'll ask her to stay after class.*

After that, the class was rather uneventful from Willow's point of view.  
The programming that she was attempting to explain seemed to go right over the 
heads of several of the students, as usual, though she found the exercises easy 
to the point of being painfully dull.  Since there was not a peep from near 
Teresa, it was not until the bell had rung, dismissing all for lunch, that she 
got around to heading for the back of the classroom.  The sound of someone 
tapping away at a keyboard ceased just before Willow received her first glimpse 
of her new student.

Teresa had chosen the seat furthest back and furthest in the corner away 
from the windows, casting her in as much shadow as the room allowed.  Willow 
blinked in surprise at the girl, who had seated herself legs stretched out and 
arms crossed over her chest.  The computer cast a slight, unsteady light across 
her pale features and tightly tied back black hair.  Willow peered at the 
monitor, and raised her eyebrows at the complex fractal program that was being 
run.  The results were beautiful, colorful, and had absolutely nothing to do 
with lesson she had just taught.  

Willow looked back at Teresa, and caught the other girl's dark, incredibly 
expressive blue eyes which were sparkling with amusement.  She hadn't moved an 
inch from the position she had taken up.

"Are you Teresa Knight?" Willow heard herself asking, more than a little 
drawn to this proud, silent girl.  She reminded her of Buffy, in an almost  
completely opposite sort of way.

"As far as I know," Teresa answered, laughing inwardly and allowing a 
small smile to grace her features.  She did not need to open her mind and be 
assaulted by the rush of emotions from those lingering in the halls less than 
five feet away to know that she was affecting her 'teacher'.  *Must be my 
magnetic personality,* she thought to herself with a silent snicker.  "Can I 
help you with something?" she suggested more than asked, and reached over to 
shut down the computer at the same time.

Willow caught herself staring, and politely averted her eyes as soon as 
she realized what she was doing.  A blush started to creep over her pale skin, 
but the shirt that Teresa was wearing deserved a second look in a town like 
Sunnydale.  It was basically a plain black t-shirt, but printed in simple white 
lettering on its front was the phrase 'bite me, please?'.  She wondered if 
Teresa had any idea how literally some of the town's residents would take that 
message.  *How could she?*

"Actually, I was wondering if maybe I could help you with anything... I 
mean, you being new here and all."  Willow decided that now would probably be a 
good time to be direct and straightforward.  "You probably don't have any of 
your textbooks, do you?  You have to get them at the library you know.  If you'd 
like I could show you the way there."

"I think I'd like that," Teresa smiled, standing.  She and Willow were 
actually not that different in height, Teresa having only an inch and maybe a 
half advantage over the other girl, but something suggested that Teresa had a 
much greater control over her body and movements, a sort of power all her own.  
Willow found herself suddenly and inexplicably nervous, listening to the girl's 
soft, deep voice.  She shrugged off the feeling, reassuring herself with the 
thought that there weren't many demons in human form who could walk around 
during the day.  "If you'd just lead the way..."


"Okay, she's in the library right now, and I don't think she knows 
anything," Willow explained excitedly as she lead Buffy and Xander toward the 
room in question.  "I wouldn't have brought her, but.."  She paused, then 
shrugged, hugging her books closer.  "I was just so sure that it was her.."

"Hey, no need to make excuses Will," Xander said, interrupting Willow's 
vocal train of thought.  "We all know what it's like to have a hunch and just 
have to -go- with it, right then, don't we Buffy?" he asked, turning to face his 
much more subdued companion.

Buffy didn't respond, instead, she grimaced, rubbing her hand along her 
forehead which wrinkled from the expression.  The sensation was disturbingly 
powerful, and not all that much different from that she got when confronting one 
of the fang gang.  She'd already felt it once before, and not too far away from 
where she was right now.  Buffy peered carefully right and left, but there was 
no shadowed corner or closet nearby for a vampire to hide in.  She shook her 
head, then blinked, realizing that Xander and Willow had both stopped in front 
of her.  "What?"

"Are you okay Buffy?  Because for a minute there we thought you'd been hit 
by a ton of bricks or something like that," Willow replied, echoed by Xander's 
vehement head-shaking.  "Something up we should know about?"

"No, no.. Just a little headache, nothing major," Buffy answered honestly 
enough as the feeling gradually lost its intensity.  With vampires, her 
Slayersense usually stayed on full alert until the bloodsucker in question was 
either dust or well out of range.  There had only been one vampire she'd been 
able to be with for very long... "Really," she insisted, hurrying past her 
friends when neither moved.

Buffy didn't look up as she pushed aside the library door and stepped into 
the relative quietude that marked the place, and she advanced a few steps more 
before she realized that the odd *buzz* was increasing.  A frown forming on her 
mobile features, she caught Teresa Knight's eyes for the first time.  

Something blistered between the two, twisting into a narrow-eyed glare 
from each.  Teresa imagined that, had she would have been more feline in nature, 
the hair would be raised along her back, and she would have hissed a warning to 
the Slayer that getting any closer would be detrimental to her health and well 
being.  The same feeling of something not quite right invading her space that 
had gotten to Buffy had passed to Teresa at the same instant.  She continued to 
stare back at the girl, seemingly not much older than herself, who had become 
her instant adversary.  Something close to hatred burned in Teresa's eyes, but 
she forced her body to maintain its relaxed position.  It obeyed with one 
failing--her fingers began tapping out a steady rhythm on the arm of the chair 
she was seated at.

"Well, I suppose that pretty much confirms your suspicion Willow," Giles 
whispered to the very confused looking two who had managed to push by Buffy when 
the Slayer had stopped in her tracks.  "I'd hazard a guess that this is not how 
she normally greets newcomers to the school."  He pressed his lips together 
thoughtfully, wondering if he should do something to break the obviously hostile 
stare-down going on between the girl he was sworn to guard and protect and the 
one who quite possibly would be the key to keeping the world from falling into a 
thousand years of darkness.  From his standpoint, things were looking pretty 
grim at the moment.

When it seemed like neither of the girls would back down, Willow finally 
started to get worried, looking between them.  She couldn't understand why Buffy 
would be so horribly awful to Teresa when they hadn't even been introduced.  
Xander and Giles were not doing much of anything, so she gathered up her courage 
and stepped right between the two of them, breaking the eye contact and 
resulting in both looking at her in the same instant.

"Buffy, this is Teresa Knight.  Teresa, this is Buffy Summers," Willow got 
the entire thing out in one breath.  She swallowed, feeling the fine hairs along 
the back of her neck standing upright.  *Major wigguns..*  They were both 
staring at her now.  Willow beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety behind 
Xander and Giles.

"So you're the Slayer," Teresa drawled lazily, letting the words drip from 
her lips as she steepled her fingers and lowered her head in a classic brooding 
pose.  A small, one-sided smile appeared, matched by a sudden dangerous gleam in 
her eyes as she looked up.

Buffy was across the room in a heartbeat, literally, and had pinned 
Teresa's forearms to the arms of the chair with unnerving strength, or what 
would have been unnerving to any more well-adjusted person.  "Give me one reason 
not to ram a stake through your heart right this second."  She demanded in a 
harsh whisper and was more than a little perturbed when Teresa merely peered 
curiously at the hands holding her down.

"Because you don't have one on you?" Teresa suggested flippantly enough to 
anger Buffy into stepping away.  "Or maybe that's not a good enough reason, is 
it?  How about because.."  She smiled once more, cupping her chin in one hand 
and putting a finger across her lips.  *This is rather fun.*  "I'm a human 
being?"  *This is going to be so much fun.  They do say to kill two birds with 
one stone...*

The three standing on the sidelines had yet to recover, and all were 
staring on in greater or lesser states of shock, depending on how much they had 
expected the little scene that had just unfolded.  

Giles closed his mouth with an audible snap as soon as he realized that it 
was open.  *What in God's name is going on here?  How could Teresa know that 
Buffy was the Slayer?*  He looked down at Xander and Willow, but from their 
expressions he could tell that neither knew anything more about this than he 
did.  *And what is going on with Buffy?*  Even if Teresa had somehow managed to 
find out about Buffy, that was not reason enough to threaten her life.  *Maybe 
Teresa knows she's part of the prophecy?*  That seemed like a likely enough 
interpretation, for half of the situation anyway.  "Buffy?" he asked, turning to 
glance at the Slayer, to demand an explanation, any explanation.

Buffy turned on her heels and stalked out of the library without a word, 
forcing Giles to follow behind with a glance back at Willow and Xander--they 
seemed to be getting over things well enough, considering.

The sudden rush of quiet that followed Buffy's abrupt exit allowed Willow 
to finally blink back to some semblance of reality.  She shook her head, 
glancing at Teresa and now beyond confusion.  Xander frowned, torn between 
following after Buffy, staying to protect Willow, and wanting to get a few words 
to the rather good looking, albeit incredibly unusual behaving, girl in front of 

Teresa raised an eyebrow at the sudden departure, but no more than that.  
Calmly, she picked up the paper and scissors she had been fiddling with before 
the others had arrived.  The ends of the rather wide band had been taped 
together, but twisted instead of continuous to form a sort of Mobius strip.  She 
started to hum to herself, quietly, mindful of the eyes that were constantly 
monitoring her movements.  *snip*  She made the first cut, precise, almost 
surgical.  *snip*  She severed the loop directly down the middle, producing a 
doubly twisted loop.  Teresa noticed Willow watching closer.. *She's seen this 
before.*  *snip*  Again, Teresa divided the loop into equal parts.  *snip*  It 
fell apart in her hands, one strip of paper becoming two joined links.  *I think 
I'll keep her.*  She smiled, and laid the scissors beside the roll of tape on 
the table beside her, then settled back to examine her simple creation.  


"Buffy, are you alright?" Giles asked, finally catching up with his young 
charge.  When she turned around to face him, he knew instantly how ridiculous a 
question he had asked.

"She gives me the creeps Giles.  I'm talking major bad vibes here," Buffy 
said, rubbing at the back of her neck in a futile effort in calming down.  "I've 
never felt anything like that before."

Giles frowned thoughtfully, then let out a small sigh and ran a hand 
through his ever thinning hair.  "That still doesn't explain why you would jump 
at her like that.  You completely lost control over yourself."

"I know, I know," Buffy let out on an exasperated breath.  "I guess I was 
surprised.  How on earth could she know I was the Slayer?  I mean, now that I 
think about it, somebody must have told her, right?"  When Giles didn't answer 
right away, she asked again in a slightly more choked town of voice.  "Right?"

"To be perfectly honest Buffy, there's a good possibility that she knows, 
because she knows she's part of the prophecy.  You are certain that she's the 

"Ooh, yeah," Buffy assured, leaning heavily against the wall behind her.  
"If she's not the one we're looking for, my name's not Buffy Summers.  There's 
another thing about this that doesn't feel right.  Doom and gloom aside, don't 
you think that that was a little too easy, finding her?"

"Well, the prophecy does state that you will not find her, so the logical 
opposite would be her finding you.  Still, I can see where you're coming from.  
If you are getting these ah.. 'bad vibes' from her, that's all the more reason 
why we have to keep a close eye over her," Giles insisted.

Buffy sighed, closing her eyes for a moment.  *Nothing's happened yet.  
Nothing is set in stone.  We just have to keep her from siding with Angel and 
his friends.*  Still, she couldn't help but thinking things had taken a serious 
turn, for the worst.

    "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." 
                --Walter Bagehot

Richie sighed, leaning against the cold brick wall that was the back of 
the art gallery.  He'd had about as much 'culture' as he could stand for the 
moment, or the next two or three years for that matter.  Duncan had seemed to 
have been enjoying himself immensely, and Methos, though not incredibly 
interested in the artwork, had managed to start up a conversation with one of 
the gallery's female patrons.  As for himself, Richie was seriously pondering 
heading back to Seacouver.

This was in the older section of Sunnydale, and some of the other 
buildings within Richie's field of view had obviously not had the same care as 
the gallery had received.  While they all looked more or less descent from the 
front, back here he could see where the brickwork was crumbling and an old metal 
fire escape was all but rusted away.  He doubted it would hold the weight of a 
small child, let alone somebody trying to escape from a fire.  A few piles of 
garbage, old newspapers and crates--cardboard and wood, made him remember not 
too fondly his days on the street.  It was nearly dark, the last few streaks of 
golden light fading on the horizon.

The lone vampire kept cautiously to the shadows, out of sight, unwilling 
to expose himself to even the slightest amount of sunlight.  He had maintained a 
close watch over the young, red-headed man that had stepped out of the gallery 
some ten minutes ago.  He hoped that he wouldn't go back in.. In just a few 
minutes he could venture out...  He was young, inexperienced, and the blood-lust 
was screaming for him to simply jump at his intended victim.  He licked his lips 
with anticipation, then growled softly, no longer able to keep quiet.  As soon 
as he realized what he had done, he knelt further down in the darkness.

Richie felt a shiver creep from the base of his spine to spread across the 
base of his scull.  He frowned, suddenly uneasy at the feeling of being watched 
and ready to all but swear that he had heard a growl from somewhere nearby.  He 
quickly scanned the narrow alleyway again, and again, found nothing.  There was 
no buzz, no warning of an approaching immortal, but still, he decided that 
making a quick exit would be the better part of discretion.

"Damn," the vampire hissed to himself, watching the man, his prey, vanish 
back into the gallery and finding himself still unable to go after him.  He 
glared at the dwindling sunlight, then turned his eyes away.


Angel leaned at a precarious angle against the wooden fence that was 
beginning to feel rather flimsy under his weight.  The sun had set only an hour 
or so ago, and the dark surface was still holding the day's heat.  Despite 
himself, he enjoyed it, and decided he would simply continue leaning until the 
thin planks either began to crack or Teresa showed up.  He thrust his hands deep 
into his pants pockets and crossed one leg over the other at the ankle--the very 
picture of nonchalance.

A group of four teenaged girls passed by on the opposite side of the 
street, all chattering noisily between themselves like some particularly 
annoying species of avian.  He gave them only a passing glance; one of them, 
sandy-haired, tanned, looked back at him, slowed, then hurried to catch up with 
the others at his disturbingly toothy grin.  He was not in a mood to be bothered 
by anyone.  

Just as Angel was beginning to wonder if Teresa would ever show up, and at 
the same time was pondering whom to slowly torture for the delay, he heard the 
slightest sound of footfalls from the alley some ten feet away.  With only that 
warning, the raven-headed form of his newest obsession stepped into the meager 
light.  *Better late than never,* he frowned darkly, daring her to come up with 
a good excuse.  Before Teresa had taken more than a few steps toward him, she 
stopped, turning her head cautiously right then left to take in the entire area, 
and let out a small sigh of what could only be exasperation.

*What the hell?* Angel scowled again, but rose, stepping away from the 
fence which rattled slightly with the movement.  He glanced around quickly, but 
sensed nothing moving under the bare sliver of a moon.  Teresa turned and bolted 
for the darkness she had just left.  Angel followed more slowly, a bemused 
expression appearing on his face.  *She obviously knows something I don't 

Teresa grabbed Angel by the sleeve the moment he rounded the corner and 
pulled him deeper into the alley, between the houses, and into the dark and 
narrow one way street that ran behind this section of the town.  When they were 
finally in a relatively quiet corner beneath a streetlight, Teresa at last 
slowed down, then stopped, looking at Angelus with a tinge of uncertainty 
showing in her face.

"You were late," Angel chuckled lowly to the girl in front of him.  He 
walked over to the post that held up the dimly flickering orange light, and 
leaned against it with a sideways glance.  Her manner was enough to tell him 
that Teresa was going nowhere.  "Why?"

"I'm being followed," Teresa offered matter-of-factly, as if it should be 
obvious.  At Angel's suddenly upturned brow, she brushed a lock of silken hair 
away from her face and sighed softly.  "Willow and Buffy, they're both following 
me.  If they catch you with me.. Well, I don't want to take that chance."  

She carefully opened her mind, exploring his in a way that was only 
possible without outside interference.  The anger, no, the -rage- that came to 
dominate Angel's thoughts with the mention of the Slayer was delicious, as was 
the unexpected protectiveness directed.. directed at her?  She smiled, enjoying 
the rare sensation, and took one of his hands in hers before the vampire could 
do anything except glance around, expecting his mortal enemy to appear any 
moment.  The touch brought his attention, which had started to wander, back to 

"Not tonight.  There is too much I must know, and too much you want to 
know about me."  Angel started to open his mouth.  She silenced him with a 
finger placed to her lips and a shaking of her head.  "Don't even bother denying 

Since Angelus saw no reason to argue with what could prove to be himself 
in the end, he shrugged and allowed himself to be led by this small mortal girl
--only once did he question his motives for not simply taking her right now, and 
that was promptly forgotten.  Her flesh was colder than Buffy's had ever been, 
but eventually he could not help but begin to compare Teresa to his former love.  
The most obvious difference was the hair--where Buffy's had always been a golden 
shade, shadowed with richness and warmth, hers flowed smoothly with every step 
and movement, a dark, ever-changing liquid, cold with reflected moonlight.  How 
much he would like to run his fingers through the soft strands, brush them away 
from her face, her neck.. Her neck.. Sweet, salty under his tongue...

"All in good time," Teresa laughed softly in spite of herself, and then 
looked back at the incredible force she was leading as obediently as any mother 
might guide a small child.  The expression of confusion, wonder, and urgency on 
his face was delightful, and they were not far at all from her house.  

"I suppose you'd like a little snack when we arrive, wouldn't you?"  She 
grinned, turning her eyes back to the twisting route she was attempting to 
follow.  "Of course you would."

Actually, he would.  *I wonder just how much she can see?* the thought 
came, mischievous.

"We're almost to my home.  I'll tell you when we get there.  Please, do 
have a -little- patience, Angelus."

*So she can read my every thought.  I never told her my full name.  I 
wonder...* Angel grinned, allowing himself to slip into his game face for a 
fraction of a second, yet kept the pressure steadily normal on the hand he 
clasped.  He leaned forward, not an easy feat while walking, fangs reaching for 
her neck...

"Don't you think that's tad premature?" Teresa said, amusement weaving 
throughout her voice and his fangs a bare inch or so from the pulsing veins and 
arteries that she knew to be easily accessible, lying just underneath the tender 
skin of her neck.  "I certainly do."

After that, he didn't bother to test her again during the entire eleven 
and a half minutes it took to get to her house.  Once, making a dash through an 
undeveloped, open lot, Teresa started at something lurking in the branches of a 
large tree, detouring around the spreading limbs.  Angel sensed another one of 
his kind only as they passed by, and raised the girl's senses another notch in 
his estimation.

"Is there any particular reason we're in such a hurry?" Angel inquired as 
they rounded a corner and Teresa stepped up the pace considerably.  The long 
folds of her coat whipped back around his legs with a sudden gust of warm air.  
She didn't answer, but instead stopped suddenly in front of a modestly sized 
house.  He remembered it--the boy had proved quite successful, surviving his 
first two encounters with the Slayer, and was still around somewhere.  *I'll 
have to remember to stop here more often.*  

"Come in, come in," Teresa invited him, stepping inside at the same time.  
"Curiosity killed the cat, and probably the occasional vampire, but if you don't 
get in -here- I'm not going to be responsible when all your precious plans 
crumble to dust."

Angelus snorted, and lowered his brows in a definite glare as he stepped 
past the invisible barrier that had been destroyed with her words.  *And which 
of my plans would those be?*

"Teresa?" A weak baritone voice called out from near the back of the 
house, and gained in volume with the sound of nearing footsteps.  "Is that you?  
Where have you been?  I've been looking all over for you!  Oh, hello there.  Can 
I help you?"

The man that stood before Angel now had the soft body of one who was 
unused to physical labor of any sort.  His sandy-colored hair was thinning on 
top, but had been carefully brushed to make the most of what he still had.  His 
clothing was obviously of the best sort, probably tailored to fit, Angel took in 
with a single calculated glance.  He smiled, and licked his upper lip slowly as 
he peered in Teresa's direction.  A small grin and nod of her head told him all 
that he needed to know.

"Why yes, I do believe you can," Angel answered, moving forward and 
putting an arm over the man's shoulders.  Timothy blinked, and flinched at the 
contact, but didn't move away.  He eyed his daughter questioningly, and found 
nothing reassuring in her overly sweet and dangerously innocent expression.  The 
last time she had looked like that, he'd had to pay the hospital bills of two 
rather beaten and bloody kids.  "You see, I'm rather hungry, and I think I'll be 
having you for dinner."

Timothy had time to utter one last low mutter of protest, still 
uncomprehending, before Angel sunk his fangs deeply into the man's exposed neck.  
Two sets of eyes, one clouded with panic, one gleaming with deadly mirth, turned 
to Teresa.  Both were met with the same small, nearly disturbing smile.  

"T-Ter.. Teresa.." His voice was gruff, breathy.  Timothy reached out for 
his daughter with one hand, still trying his best to fight off the monster that 
was quickly killing him with the other.  When she stepped away from his fingers, 
the last light of hope died in his eyes.  They dimmed, the lids drooped, then 
closed.  Angelus continued to suck deeply until the man's heart ceased and the 
body went completely limp in his arms.  He let it drop with a heavy, thudding 
sound as the skull hit the hard wooden floorboards.

"I trust he was up to standard?" Teresa queried, raising an eyebrow at the 
vampire in front of her who licking the last of her father's blood from around 
his mouth with a twisted smirk.

"Delicious.  My compliments actually," Angel laughed, baring his cleaned 
fangs at her.  Quicker than any human could react, even one with advance warning 
of his intentions, he crossed the slight gap between himself and Teresa, 
gripping her neck with one hand and raising her up so that her only her toes had 
contact with the floor.  "Now tell me why I shouldn't do the exact same thing to 

Calmly, she ran her fingers along the firm muscles in the arm that was 
holding her up.  Her midnight eyes sparkled with the smile that did not show on 
her perfectly composed face.  Cold amber met equally cold, dark sapphire for a 
moment before Angel felt a creeping, not entirely unpleasant sensation running 
along the length of his spine.  Something, some indescribable and minute 
shuffling of reality, and the thought was inserted among his own, soft, higher 
in vibration, not exactly words, not exactly impressions, alien yet 
identifiable.. ***Because I'm -far- too useful.***

"Holy.." Angel exclaimed, blinking and backing away, dropping Teresa in 
the process.  It was one thing to know that she could read his thoughts, 
entirely another to know that she could.. could.. He had no idea how to describe 

Teresa groaned slightly, rubbing at the back of her neck and her temples 
at the same time.  She cast one vicious glare at Angel and was rather glad when 
he took another step away from her.  

"God, that -always- gives me the worst headache.  I trust you won't be 
attacking me again?"  She didn't have to wait for him to respond.  "That's a 
relief.  Now, before any more damage is done, do you think you could deal with 
that?" she questioned, shaking her head a little to clear it and gesturing 
toward her adoptive father's dead body.

Angelus stared, open-mouthed, at the girl.  Some part of him still wanted 
to snap her neck like a brittle twig for the danger she presented, but that was 
buried deeply enough away to realize that the potential was far greater.  *What 
was that Drusilla had said? One shouldn't play with fire.*  "Of course."

When Angel came back a few minutes later minus one blood-drained body, 
Teresa was seated at a large couch, her feet propped up on an unpacked cardboard 
box.  Another was on the cushion next to her, opened.  He could see books of all 
types and descriptions within.

"Sit," Teresa commanded, pointing to the chair opposite her.  He did.

"Since this will make the whole exercise that much less painful for us 
both, I'll explain first," she began, waiting for Angel's nod before going on.  
"That little thought throwing trick of mine, is really only a new addition."

"For as long as I can remember, I've been able to read the thoughts of 
those around me--or maybe picked up on would be more accurate.  I can't just 
rummage around through a person's mind and discover their whole life history.  
There's a marked difference between thoughts and memories.  When I was small, 
maybe three or four years old, I realized that not everybody could do what I 
did."  Teresa sighed, rubbing at the side of her neck again.  Angel frowned a 
bit, noting that there was not a mark there.  Hadn't he even bruised the skin?  
"I heal fast," she noted absently, then brushed it off with a negligent wave of 
her hand.  

"At the time, I had no idea why I could do what I did, what exactly it was 
I -was- doing, and, for the most part, I couldn't control it.  Which meant that 
normal human interaction was nearly impossible."  She cast a level gaze at the 
demon Angelus.  "I would read anyone that came within my range."

*And just what is that range?* Angel pondered, glancing between the many 
boxes scattered around the room.  Some looked to have been partially unpacked, 
some were still bound with brownish packing tape.

"It started out as about fifty feet, maybe sixty or sixty-five with a 
clear field of vision, meaning no walls between whoever it was and myself."  
Teresa frowned as Angel's face flashed briefly with irritation.  "You'd like me 
to stop doing that, wouldn't you?"

"Yes," Angel delivered flatly.  She nodded, and ran her fingers over the 
books in the box next to her.

"Alright," Teresa said softly, then paused long enough to get Angel's 
attention directed completely on herself again.  "I won't Look, not right now 
anyway.  When I was seven, I finally learned how to block out thoughts, when I 
didn't want to hear them, with some success.  That year I spent what seemed like 
months in a psychiatrist's office, and I finally realized that I had to hide my 
ability, that I scared people."  She smiled at Angel's low chuckle.

"I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that as of right 
now, I could open myself up and read the thoughts of any person within about a 
three and a half mile radius of this spot."  She help up a hand when he started 
to speak, knowing what he was about to ask without having to resort to peering 
into his thoughts.  

"But it's not that easy.  Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a 
busy shopping mall.  Suddenly you can hear -everything- that those people are 
saying, at the same time.  It's nothing but babble for the first minute or so, 
and not that much fun--in fact it's almost painful.  Sometimes I can't break 
free afterwards, and then I'm likely to sit in a daze, unable to think, unable 
to do anything, until something or somebody wakes me up.  To find any particular 
person takes time and effort.  Some are louder than others, some have a 
differentt mind-voice, some seem to be harder to read while are all but 
screaming at you.  I see you understand and no, I'm not reading you."  Angel 
nodded, the practical difficulties of the situation becoming apparent.

"It's much easier when I'm focused on a particular person, or even a group 
of people.. or vampires for that matter," Teresa added as an afterthought.  "The 
further away I am, the harder it is, but if I've met someone before, face to 
face, I've gone as far as.. half-way across the continent."

"Yes, I imagined you might like that," Teresa laughed at Angelus's pleased 
growl of appreciation, then sat up straighter, looking away and turning her 
voice to a more serious tone.  "There's more.  I still find it difficult to 
block the general mental drivel that surrounds me during the day.  What I said, 
last night, about the burning... It does.  It's a constant barrage of images, 
sounds, impressions, sensations.  You could never hope to understand, and I 
don't think you'd want to."

"One thing I noticed not long after.. after my eighth birthday.. I could 
tell whenever someone was talking about me, no matter how far away, where I was, 
what I was doing... I knew instantly.  I've managed to avoid a lot of 
unpleasantness by making myself scarce when necessary."

"And that little mind trick you pulled on me?"

"Like I said before, a new addition.  I've managed to extend every one of 
my capabilities beyond anything I ever imagined I could.  In return, there's a 
lot of people who call me insane."  She met his eyes once again, locked them to 
hers, and this time the distortion was not even the slight ripple it had been 
before.  ***Who am I to argue with them?*** "In any case, I have no idea how far 
I can extend this.  I've never had anyone to try it on who realized what was 
happening, and I have to have direct eye-to-eye contact."  She blinked, 
chuckling deep in her chest and rubbing at the side of her head.  "Did I mention 
that it gives me a headache every time I try it?"

"Yeah, I think you did."  *Insane isn't quite right.  Different is more 
like it.*  "And that's all?"  *She's holding something back.*  Angel kept his 
eyes level on her face, noting the complete lack of reaction to his comment.  
She was a hard read, and he couldn't decide whether she really was, or had 
simply expected him to except her to.. *I never did like sci-fi movies.  Torture 
is so much easier.*

"No, it's not all.  But I'll tell you later.  Right now..." Teresa's voice 
picked up considerably, and she grabbed for the box next to her.  Without 
hesitation, she upended it onto the floor.  "You're going to separate the fact 
from the fiction."

Angelus raised an eyebrow, then both, as he spied the assortment of 
volumes that had tumbled toward him.  The very first thing he did was pick out 
the two Anne Rice novels and shove them roughly toward her with a dangerous 
snarl.  "Take my advice.  Burn these."

Teresa shrugged and took the books from Angel's hand, then tossed them 
behind the couch where they landed with a few clunks on the way down.  "Consider 
it done.  But since I'm guessing you don't generally discuss the alternatives 
with those you've already focused on, it'd help me a lot more if you could 
direct me to the reality."

*Perfectly logical, perfectly calm.  She just watched me drain her father, 
of all people, right in front of her, and she wants to discuss the realities of 
becoming like me?*  The demon within him was quickly growing weary of the 
pleasantries.  Kill her or turn her, the subtle urge crept constantly into his 
thoughts.  Angel suppressed it with the skill that had been lacking for the 
first half-century of his being.

He picked up some of the newer books, turning them over in his hands.  One 
he didn't recognize at all.. Forever Knight something or other.  He shook his 
head, and tossed it aside.  "Close, but no cigar."  Next where the Clanbooks for 
the Brujah and Toreador.  *Kids playing at being vampires.*  Angel chuckled, 
holding them up.  "Might be fun," he pondered aloud with a suggestive gleam in 
his eyes.

Teresa rolled her eyes, leaning back and looking away.  "Later."

After only a few minutes of noisily flinging books from pile to pile, 
Angel handed her several large, obviously old, leather-bound books.  Only one of 
them had a title, which was simply 'Vampyr'.  Teresa accepted them with a slight 

"Now," Angel drawled, his eyes taking on a more feral glow.  "What else is 
it you had to tell me?"

"Remember how I told you the Slayer was following me?"  He nodded, she 
continued.  "There's this prophecy..."

 "You've got such a pretty smile/It's a shame the things you hide behind it..." 
-- Jude, 'I Know'

"Mac, I don't care how 'enriching' or 'enlightening' this is supposed to 
be.  The next time you suggest anything like this, I'm running in the opposite 
direction, fast."

"Come on Richie, it's not -that- bad."

"Oh, yes it is."

Methos, strolling a good ten or so feet behind the other two Immortals, 
was doing his best simply to keep from laughing.  As it was, a silly smirk 
rested almost continuously on his features.  For one who was as easily amused as 
himself, the current situation was more than entertaining.  The relatively small 
museum that they were exploring at the moment was actually one of the highlights 
of the vacation so far.

"Look at this.  This is thousands of years old, made by a civilization 
that no longer exists..."

"Mac, it's a rock."

"No it's -not- a rock!"

"Well it sure looks like a rock to me."

And life was.. uneventful.


Angel paced restlessly back and forth, one side of the room to the other, 
and when that grew too tedious, he began to walk in slow, long circles around 
the entire perimeter of the building.  After nearly an hour or so of the same, 
he stopped briefly to sit down.  Five minutes later, Angel growled low in his 
throat, stood, picked up the chair, and smashed it against a wall before moving 
on.  *Prophecy or no, I can't believe I let her go again.  What if she's lying?  
What if she's in this with the Slayer?*  Every time he tried to turn his 
attention to something else, thoughts of Teresa cropped up again.

"Would you like some tea, love?" Drusilla asked as Angel passed by for the 
seventh time, her voice that of the perfectly innocent as she set a tiny teacup 
of fresh blood before each of her dolls.  


"Well then, this little one isn't going to drink her tea either," Dru 
said, standing and sending one of the dolls flying with a glancing blow to its 
painted porcelain face--it landed against the hard cement floor, shattering 
instantly.  She seated herself delicately, then held out an empty platter, 
presumably of some teatime delicacy, before the other dolls.  "She was a very 
bad doll.  She didn't want to drink her tea," Drusilla explained to them.

Spike watched protectively over Drusilla from his corner.  He didn't make 
a sound, merely studied the situation as best he could.  Angel's restlessness 
was beginning to be irritating, and the near-constant scowl was upsetting 
Drusilla.  Absently, he tested the muscles of his legs again, flexing them, 
knowing that he was completely healed.  All that he needed now was the right 
opportunity...  He had the feeling that there wasn't much time left.


Teresa slipped away from the shadow offered by one of the large trees just 
outside Sunnydale High.  She felt tired, her eyes scratchy from lack of restful 
slumber.  Some part of her, that which was still small and helpless, had started 
plaguing her at the first contact with cold skin and dark eyes.  Now it 
dominated her thoughts whenever she allowed it--a last minute attack of 
conscience, she told herself, not even worth taking seriously.  She had watched 
her father die, practically killed him herself, yet felt no grief for that, not 
even the slightest tinge of sadness.  Where inner voices battled against each 
other, it was her future they bargained for, and all that reached the surface 
was calm, collected, composed.

< < She's right over there... I've got to talk to her, make her see.  Will 
she listen to me?  What if she won't?  Should I kill her before she becomes a 
vampire, just to have that one less?  I mean, if they prophecy says she -will- 
become one, no matter what, then what's the difference?  What if I can't? > >

The girl Teresa focused on believed herself to be well out of sight, 
hidden from view.  She smiled softly, the edges of her mind burning with the 
effort of keeping an entire school full of buzzing minds from interfering.  A 
few steps, then a few more, directly toward the Slayer.

< < Oh God.  She's heading this way.  Did she notice me?  Maybe she's 
willing to talk after all? > >

*Not likely.*  Teresa increased her pace, keeping her eyes carefully 
averted from where Buffy was hiding.  It wouldn't do for her to guess too 
quickly that she knew more than she was letting on.  *I do so love games.*

Thinking that she could make it appear as if she had just come from class, 
and hadn't, in truth, been watching her most of the day, Buffy stepped away from 
her hiding place and forced a smile, seeing her.  

"Hello Teresa," she offered as perky a greeting as she could muster, given 
that as the girl approached, the same unsettling feeling, the distracting 
buzzing that she had sensed before, washed over her again.  It was only by sheer 
willpower that she didn't pull out the stake that she had concealed up her 
sleeve and do as she wished to.  A large piece of wood rammed through the heart 
would stop a human as surely as it would a vampire.

"Hello Buffy," Teresa smiled hollowly, finally allowing her expressionless 
eyes to meet those of the Slayer's.  Once again, she had managed to mask 
completely that she had felt the same thing that Buffy had.  This odd link they 
had with each other could prove to be a nuisance.. or possibly an asset.  A 
vampire with advance warning of the Slayer's arrival...



"How did you know I was the Slayer?"

*Should I tell her?  It might be interesting to find out if she can do 
anything about it.  No, better just to let her figure it out herself.*  Teresa 
absently fingered her deep purple velvet shirt.  It was long, and the sleeves 
hung over her knuckles.  "Guess," she smirked.

"You have -no- idea what you're getting yourself into," Buffy answered 
through her teeth.  She balled her hands into fists, trying to resist the urge 
to pound Teresa into a small bloody pulp.

"On the contrary, I do," Teresa smiled lightly, lacing every word with 
sweetness.  She sensed that all that was keeping Buffy from attacking her was 
the thinnest of threads, and enjoyed herself all the more for it.  "And I know 
exactly how much you'd give to keep me from doing it."  She took a few cautious 
steps around the Slayer, toward the inside of the school building, then turned 
her head and ran her tongue along her upper lip with a vicious smile.  "And by 
the way, your ex is quite the kisser."

Teresa found herself thrown roughly against the hard brick wall before she 
could do more than brace herself for the impact.  Buffy's hands were wrapped 
around the collar of her shirt, holding her a few inches above the ground.  She 
nearly laughed outright, but contented herself with enjoying the newfound hatred 
in the Slayer's mind.  Her own tone remained light, amused, as she stared deeply 
in the other girl's eyes.  "I seem to find myself in this position a lot 
lately."  ***Let me down.***

"Buffy! Buffy, what are you doing?" Willow raced toward the two just in 
time to see a look of utter shock and disbelief replace the boiling rage.  With 
only that warning, Buffy backed away from Teresa, letting her drop back to the 
ground.  Willow blinked a few times, pausing, then forced herself between the 
two for the second time.  Buffy cast her one startled look before running into 
the school building.

"Is she always like that, or only to new people?" Teresa asked, her eyes 
misting over with what would look to anyone else as genuine tears of distress.  
She sniffed once, and brushed the nonexistant dust from her clothing.  "It's not 
like it's -my- fault that I'm part of this prophecy thing.  I never asked for 
anything like this to happen."

"I'm sorry," Willow looked back at where Buffy had gone, but the Slayer 
was long out of sight.  "She's just a little out of it lately.  I think she was 
pretty shocked that you knew.. knew so much."

"Yeah, it's every little girl's dream to find out that she's destined to 
become a bloodsucking creature of the night," Teresa sniffed again, allowing 
Willow to hover over her like a nervous mother bird as she headed for the 
relative coolness inside the school building.  

"Well, it does say that you won't -exactly- be one of them.  It says that 
you have a choice after you've been.. You become.. One of them.  Hey, maybe 
there's even a chance that it won't happen.  I mean, prophecies can be wrong.  
And there's always a chance that we can stop it from coming true.  It's been 
done before..."  Willow hardly realized that she was rattling on.  Sure she had 
known that Buffy was the Slayer, and sure she knew that she was part of the 
prophecy, but like she said, that wasn't her fault.

"You really think so?" Teresa's voice held the smallest of margins of 
hope, and Willow latched onto that enthusiastically.

"Of course I think so.  The prophecy even has a certain time that all this 
is supposed to happen.. If we can just keep you away from vampires until 

Teresa turned her face away from Willow for a second, unable to conceal 
her smile.  *Hook, line, and sinker.*

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
          and things are not what they seem.
    Life is real! Life is earnest!
          And the grave is not its goal
    Dust thou art; to dust returnest,
          Was not spoken of the soul."
              -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There was a faint trace of moisture on the air, and a steady breeze was 
pushing the low, puffy clouds quickly across the nighttime sky.  Where there 
weren't clouds, however, brilliant stars twinkled like dewdrops spread across 
the heavens.  The moon hung high, a silvered crescent with darker gray craters 
marring its surface.  Angel noticed none of this as he walked through the open 
gate at the back of Teresa's yard which normally would have been locked and 
bolted.  It was not so much that leaping the fence would have been hard--or 
ripping the gate from its hinges for that matter.  The obsession was burning--a 
longing which he could no more ignore than he could stop his lust for blood.

The yard was only a small patch of dried grass and scraggly bushes, and 
small at that.  Angel laughed silently as he reached the back door.  It was 
closed and locked tight.  For a moment, he considered simply tossing it aside as 
another annoyance.  A gust of wind raked across his cheek and forehead, and he 
looked up, scowling, at the sky.  The clouds had gathered together, and in the 
process blotted out the thin moonlight.  He stepped back a few paces, and looked 
up to the dark window to Teresa's bedroom.  It was open wide, the flimsy 
curtains wafting lazily in the idle breeze.

Angel's altered vision took nearly no time to adjust to the suddenly 
lessened amount of light.  The room was small, and would have been eerily still 
to anyone else.  He took in the bulk of a large wardrobe, a bookcase--volumes 
piled haphazardly on its shelves, a desk with the computer already set up upon 
it, but with none of the rest of the clutter that usually marked a study space.

His eyes turned to the wide double bed, and the figure that occupied it.

Teresa slept restlessly, uneasily, even under his sight she fidgeted and 
twisted.  The remains of a worn blanket and sheets were knotted at the foot of 
the bed, and her long white nightgown was covering only the upper portion of her 
thighs.  Angel gazed up and down the lengths of her long legs appreciatively.  
His hands still curled around the wooden window ledge, he suddenly grew uneasy 
again with what he was about to do.  He frowned, shaking his head with wonder 
that this was any different than any other time, and then his nostrils flared 
wide.  Any lingering doubts were banished from his thoughts at that sensation--
the scent of fear filled his senses.

His first reaction was to search the room once again with his piercing 
gaze--attempt to find the danger that would prompt such a reaction, other than 
himself.  When finally he admitted that there was nothing, he looked back at the 
source of the scent.  Teresa's skin had taken on an unhealthy gray tinge, and 
her lips were parted slightly--a thin film of sweat covered her forehead and 
chest.  Angel stepped forward, looming just at the side of the bed.

*Must be one hell of a nightmare.  Something else she didn't mention?* 
Angel thought to himself, frowning, as the scent increased.  The girl was 
fighting back panic, her heart was racing, her breath coming in small gasps that 
ended in an odd rattling sound.  A small cry of terror was the last warning 
before Teresa sat bolt upright in her bed, choking and clawing at her eyes and 
throat in absolute hysteria.  *No wonder she keeps her nails chopped like that.*  
A gurgling sound echoed deep in her chest, and she looked right at him, standing 
beside her, but Angel knew that she was seeing nothing from the glazed over 
stare in her eyes.

"The gas.." she shrieked, thrashing her head from side to side and 
violently trying to rip her own throat out.  "I can't breath.. I can't breath!  
Help me!  My eyes.. it's eating my eyes!  I can't see.. burning.. Help, please 
help me.."  That last came as a child's whimper, and her arms went suddenly lax 
at her sides.  Teresa rocked back and forth now, breath coming in deep choking 
sobs.  "The guns.. are coming.. coming closer.. The ground.. it's red.  I didn't 
want to!  The ground is red with their blood.."

He was suddenly behind her, strongly supporting her, and he could feel 
through the light cloth that every muscle in her small body was taut and 

Teresa awakened as she always did after a nightmare, crying and drenched 
in sweat, but she was cold with fear at the same time.  She closed her eyes and 
shuddered, breathing in tiny, quick breaths until some sense of solidarity 
returned.  She was still alive, still in her own bedroom, she had seen the 
nearly familiar shapes clearly in the low light.  Her neck and shoulders, her 
back, felt tensed to snapping at the next movement.  The sensation of a hand, 
soft and chilled against the base of her neck, caused her eyes to fly wide open 
and she gasped in shock.  Instead of snapping her spine, Angel began to press 
his fingers firmly against the tightly drawn flesh, and slowly worked his way 
up, gently massaging along the hairline.

"Angel."  She let the name out on a gentle whisper, and resumed nearly 
regular breathing.  Teresa's mind would always slam tightly shut the moment 
consciousness returned, so now she relaxed into his vampire hands, completely 
without fear.  She allowed her thoughts to open entirely to the creature behind 
her.  Hunger, burning desire, and beneath the surface the demon's barely 
controlled rage.

"I shouldn't.." Teresa whispered, closing her eyes as Angel leaned forward 
and left a trail of light kisses along the back of her neck.  The token 
resistance was all that she offered; she was as hungry for this as was he.  
*Hurry.  Do it now before I start to fight it.*  His touch was feather soft, 
delicate, almost at complete odds with his mental voice.

"Tell me you don't want to," Angel half-growled, grinning evilly.  One 
hand snaked down, across her stomach, brushing her inner thigh, underneath her 
silk panties, and his fingers probed deeply between the moist folds of flesh.  
The gasp as he began to tease her clit brought a smile to his face.

Teresa's body jerked in response; Angel only held her tighter, keeping her 
full warm length completely against his body.  When she felt his chin graze 
lightly against her shoulder, and his tongue darted out to trace the edge of her 
earlobe, she moaned and opened her mind yet again, and let herself drink in 
Angel's passion, his craving--for her.  She let her body be taken over by the 
immediate animalistic reaction, overriding the growing screams of warning in the 
back of her mind.  *Now, it has to be -now-.*

Angel felt Teresa's hands battling ineffectively against the light gown 
she wore.  He ceased his ministrations long enough to strip it from her body, 
over her head, in one fluid motion.  He flung it aside to land in a heap in a 
dark corner of the room.  The sudden rush of air against her burning skin did 
little to cool it.  Angel ran his broad hands firmly along the front of her 
body, from the points of her shoulders, down her chest, briefly cupped her small 
breasts, fingers lingering on the hardened nipples before caressing her smooth 
stomach.  The chill of his cold flesh against hers made elicited a small moan of 
pleasure.  At last his fingers found soft cloth, and he ripped the underwear 
from her body.

Teresa suddenly twisted in Angel's grip to face him.  Her lips met his 
with a crushing intensity that neither questioned.  Her right hand gripped 
tightly the back of his neck while the left worked to undo the buttons of his 
shirt.  With one hand already twined in her long, silky hair, Angel unzipped the 
fly of his pants with the other.  They hardly paused at all, and the shirt 
landed directly on top of the white scrap of nightgown, the jeans fell short 
with a heavier sound.

Teresa's hands reached further downward, and she swallowed back 
apprehension as she began to strip off the thin cotton cloth that was the last 
barrier between them.  *Don't think, just do.*  She eased the elastic band down 
over the hard bulge slowly at first, then all at once as Angel's tightening grip 
on her scalp became painful.  Teresa stared at his large erection for a moment, 
then brought her mouth back up to Angel's.  She wrapped her hands along the back 
of his head, silently demanding more, demanding everything.  No longer gentle, 
he forced her down into the soft blankets and pillows.

Her face so immediately close to his, Teresa felt it the moment Angel's 
features began to twist out of proportion.  His body was so heavy on top of 
hers, so fitting, she could not bring herself to care about that.  Her thighs 
spread, allowing complete access.  Angel was not expecting the sort of 
resistance he met, and Teresa could not quite restrain the sound of pain she 
made as he forced himself deeply into her with one thrust.

The scent of blood, warm, rich, overtook Angel's mind.  She tore her mouth 
away from his, needing the oxygen for now as he did not, freeing his for other 
uses.  He did not bother to fight the urge at all, but immediately extended his 
fangs and bit into the warm skin before him.  The taste of her was exhilarating, 
delicious, uniquely powerful, almost electrical, and he barely tracked the 
seconds melting into minutes.  Teresa gasped something wordlessly under the 
multiple onslaughts her body was enduring.  Through her blood, he caught some of 
the unique gift that had made her such an attractive possibility--he saw her 
mind, open, and through that his own.  The sensation drove him nearly mad with 
its concentrated intensity, and he spilled into her with a moan muffled by a 
mouthful of blood and flesh.  When he felt Teresa's heart begin to slow, it was 
agony pulling away in more ways than one.

Angel rolled away from her unwillingly and heard nothing in response--he'd 
almost drained too much.  Teresa lacked the strength to do anything except 
breath and attempt to keep her eyelids from closing shut forever.  In her head, 
blood pounded against her temples, and left her dizzy and nauseated as her heart 
fought to circulate what little remained in her body.

"Drink," she heard a voice command, only vaguely aware that it was Angel's 
and he was speaking aloud.  She found her head lifted up, and her mouth pressed 
against his broad chest.  She tasted something sweet, salty, metallic, spreading 
across her tongue, and she parted her lips further to take in the life-robbing 
liquid.  For only a moment, she felt the breath heaving in her chest as she 
suckled fiercely, her fingers digging into the flesh of his back.  Then the 
demon began its work, killing her body, robbing her of all that she was--she 
struggled away from Angel, shaking, fighting the monster that she was becoming 
despite herself.  Teresa felt the air leaving her lungs, and her eyes darkening 
over--one last thought filled her mind before succumbing entirely.  *Thank you.*
With Teresa's mortal body dying beside him, Angel stretched luxuriously.  
There were hours left until sunrise, and he felt no hurry.  Her bed was 
wonderfully soft, he did have to admit that with a smile.  He turned his head 
toward the wardrobe.  Unpacked boxes, bits of crinkled tissue paper sticking 
out, littered the top and were scattered near its foot.  A stack of CDs caught 
his eye, and he stood curiously.  His fingertips grazed over the first in the 
pile.  The 'City of Angels' soundtrack, he noticed, and grinned.  

Angel turned back to look at Teresa with a smile still on his lips, then 
knelt down.  Lodged between a small nightstand and the bed was an oversized 
artist's sketch pad.  He pulled it carefully from its resting place, and gently 
peeled back the cover.  The first picture--a brilliant sunset, warm, glowing 
colors melting into and swirling around each other before disappearing into the 
dark line of the horizon--had been abandoned half-finished.  He couldn't care 
less for the sight.  The second was more simple, a wide field of waving golden 
wheat under a cloudless blue sky done in soft oil pastels.  Angel stopped at the 
third rendering, the shock would have forced the breath out of a living person.  
His fingers hovered centimeters over the paper's surface, not wanting to smudge 
the soft charcoal.  Illuminated only by moonlight, he recognized the clothing 
that he had worn the night before down to the last detail.  One hand held the 
pad securely while another reached up to feel his face in disbelief.  *So this 
is what I look like..*

He flipped to the next page, and found another.  This time it was rough 
ink pen, the image of himself walking away that first night that they had met.  
Angel frowned at the bleakness, the scratchy lines--with a low growl, he tore 
the sheet from the pad and crumpled it before throwing it to the floor.  Here 
were more, more pictures of him.  He flipped ruthlessly through the partially 
completely sketches and abandoned drawings before coming to the last completed 
piece.  He blinked in surprise, once.  Infinite care had been lavished upon 
every detail; every tenderly done shading made him half-expect that it was the 
picture that was reality, and not the real world.  His image, again, jumped 
forcefully into his sight, kneeling next to Teresa's.  Their knees were just 
beside a small pond, shimmering softly and reflecting the light of the moon and 
stars and trees above.  Teresa held a handful of water in her cupped palm, and 
was looking into it, her raven tresses blowing gently about her face in an 
imaginary breeze.  Neither he nor Teresa created a reflection on the water's 

"Do you see the future too?" Angel asked into the silence.

"I don't need to."  The answer was soft, deadly sweet, and Angel turned to 
meet Teresa's grinning vampire face with a smile.  She was sitting up in her 
bed, her weight balanced on one arm and her head tilted invitingly, her 
beautiful silky tresses were a tousled mess.  "I'm hungry."

He should not have been surprised that she would rise within less than an 
hour.  Angelus grinned right back at her.

        How embarrassing to be human. -- Kurt Vonnegut

"The Bronze?  Do you think there will be a lot of people there?" Teresa 
asked, leading the way despite her lack of previous experience in navigating the 
streets of Sunnydale.  She could smell a thousand new delicious odors on the 
night breeze that she had never imagined existed, could see into the shadows 
where previously there had only been inky blackness.  Her newfound strength 
coursed through veins and led to fingers itching to wrap around some smooth, 
soft throat...

Angel's lips curled up in a twisted smile at the girl's youthful 
exuberance.  She was a true beauty to behold, her hair whipped up and her 
clothing swirling with every graceful step.  A light shirt, only two buttons 
done, and a long, silky skirt of navy with large silver flowers were topped with 
her black coat which somehow concealed and encouraged the imagination at the 
same instant.  A silvery pennant with a black onyx disc on the lower end rested 
at her breast, suspended by a smooth leather cord wrapped three times around her 

"If you're all that eager, why should we even bother to go that far?" 
Angelus chuckled gruffly, turning his head to glance at down a long alley that 
lead to the street behind the Bronze.  The rear entrances to several small 
restaurants and stores, as well as Sunnydale's only popular teen hangout, opened 
onto that street, which meant that at any given time the chance of finding 
someone there was fairly good.

As if reading his mind, which, indeed, she was, Teresa changed course mid-
stride, and ducked between the buildings.  The air was somehow moister there, 
and she wrinkled her noise as the scent of rotting garbage.  She had to step 
carefully, or run the risk of appearing at her first kill less than perfectly 
dressed.  That simply would not do, even if she did feel as if she were starving 
to death.


"I don't see why you can't just part in front of the building like a 
normal person.  I mean, even if someone did manage to scratch your precious car, 
you've got enough insurance on it to buy two more," Richie tried to reason with 
the absolutely unreasonable MacLeod, who merely looked away and continued to the 
back of the restaurant.

"I really don't think he's listening to you," Methos commented softly, not 
looking toward Richie.  Really, he was starting to wonder if the boy would catch 
a cab to the nearest airport and head back to Seacouver.  The alternative, of 
course, was quickly becoming trial by combat--winner would get use of the car.

"Tell me about it," Richie grumbled underneath his breath, following 
MacLeod out the door and into the fairly well lit and quiet back-street.  When 
he tried to continue a fairly steady forward motion, he found himself very 
suddenly running up against MacLeod's immobile body.  "Hey, you think you could 
go a little bi.."

The buzz hit him and Methos at nearly the same instant, to judge from the 
simple fact that the oldest immortal didn't run into him.  Only Methos managed 
to keep from looking around in the stereotypical announcement of his 

"Boy I love unexpected company in dark, unfamiliar places," Richie sighed, 
reaching underneath his jacket for his sword.  MacLeod had already done the 
same, and was heading for the source of the sensation--most likely not all that 
far away.  Since it was plain that there was no way for the other Immortal to 
have missed their presence, MacLeod still had the car keys, and waiting by the 
rear entrance of an old restaurant wasn't exactly his idea of a good plan, 
Methos rolled his eyes, and, checking his sword, trailed a cautious distance 
behind the two much younger Immortals.

Richie had not imagined the scene they came across could ever be possible.  
He blinked his eyes a few times, wondering if it was some sort of hallucination.  
A chill crept over his skin when the figures remained solid.

Two.. two -creatures- were staring directly at him, their faces wrinkled 
and twisted, their eyes glaring, demonic.  The girl, female, whatever it was.. 
Hissed at him, a sound human vocal cords were incapable of producing.  Half of 
the shock was from realizing that she was the Immortal, the other was watching 
as a pale, lifeless body dropped from her arms.  

Though not usually one to take in all the details of a situation before 
barging in, Richie noticed that the corpse was that of a teenage boy, probably 
not all that much younger than himself.  A shock of slightly curly dark brown 
hair matched tanned skin and a fairly well developed physique.  Where the body 
was touching the ground, a tiny trickle of blood was running along the side of 
its neck.  He looked up, and swallowed at the girl's expression, her face now 
that of a particularly elegant girl that was staring, wide-eyed, at the sword in 
his hand.  *She doesn't know she's Immortal?*

When Richie would have stepped forward, the natural urge to do something, 
anything, rising in him, he felt a strong hand gripping at the back of his 
jacket, preventing any movement.  He looked back, surprised, and saw MacLeod 
with Methos not a step behind him.  It seemed at first that both of them where 
attempting to say something, when the buzz from yet another Immortal tickled at 
the edges of their senses.  *Great, just great.* Richie thought to himself.  
*Can trip -possibly- get any worse?*

Teresa's face froze for an instant in confusion as she tried to cope with 
the sensation emanating from the three Immortals in front of her, the newfound 
knowledge that not only were they something entirely different, but she was like 
them in a way, and the fact that Buffy had managed to get this close her and 
Angel without her realizing it.  *I guess I was hungry,* she thought, glancing 
down at the body without a hint of regret.

Buffy felt as if her head was going to split open at the next available 
moment, though she managed to hide it well enough as she dropped down between 
the two groups, stake in hand.  Every protective instinct in her told her, 
screamed warnings for her to turn away, but she knew that at least two of them 
were vampires, and if the others weren't.. well, then they would be in serious 

Teresa glanced between the Slayer and the Immortals, then over to Angel 
and saw the fighting fire building in his eyes.  To everyone else's surprise, 
she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him after her as she ran in the opposite 
direction.  "Not yet.  Not tonight Angel..," she whispered hoarsely, low enough 
so that only herself and he could hear more than a mumble.  Though he refused to 
move his legs, and his face was set in astonishment, she found the strength to 
overpower him, drag him against his will.  Before Buffy could react, the two 
were out of sight.

"What the hell was that all about?" Richie found his voice first, though 
the words that emerged were high-pitched and incredulous.  He looked back at 
MacLeod, still preventing him from moving forward, then at Methos, then at the 
girl in front of him, staring just as unknowingly at his sword as the.. the 
creature had.

Duncan stepped back from Richie, letting go of his jacket to look at 
Methos.  "I've only seen one or two real ones before, how about you?"

"Oh, I've met a few in my day.  Usually they don't turn and run though." 
The oldest Immortal stepped slowly forward a few paces, not intent on following 
the vampires, but to get a better look at the remaining girl.  He noted the 
stake in her hand, and the determined look in her eyes.  "Are you the Slayer?" 
he asked, and her widening eyes spoke for her.  *An Immortal Slayer.. When was 
the last time I met a Slayer?* he tried to remember, but it had been several 
centuries, at least.  *Elizabetha Muset,* the memory came at last.  *Troyes, 

"You know, it's getting harder and harder to keep a secret identity around 
here these days," Buffy let out, blinking.  *How on earth do they keep finding 
out?*  "Don't tell me, let me guess.  You're another order of assassins, come to 
kill me and leave my bones out for the birds to pick at, aren't you?" she stared 
plainly enough at their drawn swords.  

As one, the three returned their weapons to their coats, and Buffy lowered 
her stake in return.

"Richie, those creatures you saw were vampires.  The actual kind as 
opposed to the Hollywood kind," he explained quickly before facing the Slayer.  
"I think we have a lot to talk about," Duncan said levelly, nodding at Buffy.  
"You really have no idea why we were carrying around swords, do you?"

"You were planning to kill someone?" Buffy guessed, still uneasy with 
their presence and her hand tightening around the stake.  Angel was still out 
there, and, though she hadn't gotten a very good look at the other vampire, she 
knew somehow that it was Teresa.  *I saw her less than eight hours ago.  How 
could she have risen already?*

"My name is Duncan MacLeod, this is Richie Ryan, and this is Adam 
Pierson," MacLeod introduced them.  "And you are?"

"Buffy Summers," she answered warily, backing up a step for every one that 
they took toward her.  The unnerving buzz that she had first felt around Teresa 
was stronger with them, though she was gradually growing accustomed to it.

"Don't worry, we're not here to hurt you.  Buffy, you are Immortal."


After dragging Angel a few blocks away from the unconventional grouping of 
three Immortals and a Slayer, Teresa finally let go of his arm.  Immediately 
after they had gotten out of sight, he had stopped resisting her pull and simply 
ran with her, though he had no idea why he was doing so.  She stopped them 
behind some nondescript brick building, and the light was low enough so that 
only another vampire would be able to observe them.

"Angel, listen to me," Teresa said on an urgent tone.  With growing 
annoyance, he waited for her to say something more.  Nearly a minute passed, 
without a word.

"Well?" he growled, looming over her in a position that would have 
intimidated anyone else.  He's slipped into his game face again, and snarled as 
she reached for him.

"No! Listen!" she ordered in a low hiss, making a point of grabbing his 
hand.  Angel paused briefly as something pulsed against his skin.  His sensitive 
ears picked up the sounds of breathing, and a heartbeat--Teresa's heartbeat.  In 
shock, he dropped her hand and backed away.

"It's impossible!  I killed you!  I sired you!  How can you possibly still 
be breathing?  You're still alive!" The words were out less than a moment before 
he realized that her eyes had gone unfocused, turned inwards.  Angel's centuries 
old senses picked up what his mind nearly refused to register, as her body went 
cold, her heart ceased beating, her breath stopped, and then she looked up with 
the countenance of a full vampire.

"Not exactly alive," Teresa answered, her thoughts turning almost giddy 
with glee.  "Better than alive!  This makes so much more sense now," she 
blinked, looking up at her still disbelieving sire.  "I'll explain later.. Show 
me your place.  I want to meet your friends."  A small smile played across her 
features as they returned to human.  The sensation of power, of largeness, of 
being able to tackle any pitiful creature that would stand in her way filled her 
mind.  *I feel so much /more/!  Thoughts, memories..*  Her Angel turned, heading 
for the house that he shared with Dru and Spike.

***I want to play.***

Angel looked over his shoulder at the girl behind him at the thought.  She 
was so beautiful, so elegant, and somehow she had managed to retain the illusion 
of innocence about her features.  Only her eyes gave her away, and those only to 
someone actually looking.  They were cold, dark, lethal--more eerie than 
Drusilla, as it was not a simple shattering of reality that had formed them--a 
predator's power, as unconquerable as time, flowed through their vastness.  And 
she could read his every thought..  His, his fledgling, his child, his daughter.  
He smiled, offering his hand.  She accepted, gracefully, and they disappeared 
into the darkness.


When Angel appeared with his newest creation, it was to Spike's utter 
incredulity and Drusilla's absolute bewilderment that she came dressed in style 
and hand-in-hand with her sire--only a few hours after his leaving.  *Damn,* he 
cursed to himself.  *As if today wasn't going badly enough already.*  He'd had 
the car packed with supplies, several underlings posted as guards, and had 
simply been looking for the right moment to lure Drusilla with the promise of a 
ride.  *How the Hell?*

"Well let's not everybody talk all at once," Teresa quipped, seeing for 
the first time in the flesh those closest to her sire.  Her eyes first caught on 
Drusilla, the silky locks of soft hair, the flashing intelligence reflected in 
those eyes, but shattered somehow, beauty viewed through a prism, distorting the 
original view.  Her mind-voice was child-like and intense at the same time, 
refusing to be reigned or controlled.

Spike was another matter entirely, his body strong and lean despite the 
apparent disability.  A moment's searching and Teresa smiled to herself with 
narrowed eyes at the peroxide blonde vampire.  *So upset.  The best laid plans 
of mice and men... Or vampires, for that matter.*  A few seconds too long her 
gaze lingered, and Angel started to pull her forward.

"You'd swear they'd never seen a newly vampire before," Teresa said 
lightly, not liking the sudden change in the atmosphere.  It seemed to eat away 
at her thoughts, her power.  The urge to show up the others was replaced by a 
completely unexpected wave of nausea.  Brief confusion was followed by the 
knowledge that not only did Angel and Spike not particularly care for each 
other, they loathed each other.  Grimacing, she shut her mind to all but Angel, 
keeping his mind the constant companion that it had been since her awakening.  

"Can't say as it's a pleasure meeting you," Spike muttered under his 
figurative breath before pointing his wheelchair toward the back of the house.  
"You coming Dru?"

"You're going to be our friend, but somebody tells me you're going to not 
like us very much," Drusilla said on a sweet, singing note, but she still 
frowned with confusion.  She brought her hand up and traced along Teresa's 
cheekbone lightly--she didn't flinch or even blink.  "And you can't do anything 
about it..."  With that, Dru turned and followed Spike, glancing at Angel just 
before leaving his sight.

"That was.. weird," Teresa grimaced, pulling away from Angel.  "Any idea 
what she was talking about?"

"You're supposed to be the mind-reader here, why don't you tell me?"

"She's warped.. And I wasn't Looking."

"Maybe it has something to do with the prophecy?"


Teresa glanced around the large house, always with Angel a step or two 
behind her.  *Still protective.  He knows, but he doesn't believe.*  Eventually 
she rounded a corner, coming to the large, open sunroom, velvety flowers and 
slick vines wrapping around outcroppings in the walls.  She stopped, examining 
the flawless glass panes.

"Angel, come look.." she smiled.

Angel stepped closer to her, putting a hand on her shoulder as he looked 
not through, but at the windows, and the reflection cast there--Teresa's.  Where 
his hand overlapped her shoulder, there was not even a distortion to mark his 
presence.  Curious, she changed into her game face--the image remained clear, 

"I should get some sleep," Teresa said, reaching her hand up to gently 
overlap his.

"Why?  It's hours till dawn," Angel frowned, but didn't pull away from 
her.  The light pressure of her fingers was uncertain, hesitant.

"Because I have to go to school in the morning," Teresa grinned, turning 
around quickly so that she caught both of his hands in hers.  "I know it sounds 
like a tired cliché, but in a few days, Sunnydale will be ours.  After that, 
there'll be nothing to stop us."

Angel laughed, leading her toward one of the two guest rooms.  Usually the 
newly made slept wherever they could--the sewers, in abandoned buildings, in 
basements--but Teresa was going to have only the best.  She was, in her own way, 
as powerful as the Master had been.  *I wonder what she has in mind.*

"The less you know of it now the better," Teresa reminded as they came to 
a large room, windows painted black.  "You might want to take Spike's example, 
and get yourself something to eat," she whispered.  "You could have warned me 
about him."

"I didn't think about it.  You really think you can fool Buffy?" Angel 
asked, taking her advice and heading for the door.

"Not Buffy.  Have a little patience, you'll see tomorrow," Teresa 
answered, sitting on the edge of the mattress.  She waited for Angel to leave 
before kicking off her shoes and laying her coat across the end of the bed.  
Quietly, she ran her fingers through her hair, and closed her eyes, allowing her 
mind free reign to search the town.  She knew what she was looking for, and 
where to find it.  There were many to choose from, but Buffy, Methos, and Rupert 
Giles were the ones she selected eventually.

The heated discussion in the library was quite informative to listen to, 
Teresa realized.  It often amused her how people could be thinking the same 
thing at the same time, then say exactly the opposite and create utter 
confusion.  Buffy was accepting her immortality fairly well, but Giles was dead-
set against it, insisting that there was some sort of mistake.  Methos was the 
most interesting.  His mind was so rich and thick, with ages upon ages of 
memories to come to the surface given the slightest trigger.  When she sensed 
him grow quiet, she focused almost entirely upon his mind, carefully pushing, 
encouraging.  Teresa opened her eyes, blinking.  She'd seen enough, more than 
enough.  They were starting to talk about Buffy's role as the Slayer, and she 
already knew all about that.  With a small smile resting on her lips, Teresa 
laid down, curling her fingers around the blanket.  Again, she closed her eyes, 
and settled herself into the first restful sleep she'd had in all her remembered 

"Live as if your were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were 
        to live forever." -- Gandhi

Buffy yawned hugely, sniffed, and rubbed at her eyes.  *I can't believe I 
spent the entire night at school.  Oh well, I've done without sleep before, I 
can do it again.  I hope I don't have anything important to learn today.*  She'd 
used the school locker room and changed into a spare set of clothes she kept in 
case of any ghoulie getting in a few too many slashes.  Giles, however, was 
still wearing the same clothing he'd had on since four am the previous morning.  

"So how long until first period and how many classes can I get out of 
today?" Buffy asked perkily enough that Duncan, Richie, and Adam all gave her 
sidelong glances of annoyance.  

She'd managed, after about an hour and a half of practice, to best all 
three of them one on one.  Duncan and Richie coming after her together she could 
deal with, and Richie and Adam, but Duncan and Adam together were still a little 
bit beyond her.  Some time around four that morning, Duncan had taken upon 
himself to call Joe Dawson, and the Watcher had made arrangements to be on the 
next available flight--he'd be in Sunnydale by mid-afternoon.

"T-twelve minutes until school starts, Buffy, and if I have anything to 
say about it you'll be staying here all day.  You should have been able to d-
deal with them easily.  Besides, I still say that they are part of the 
prophecy," Giles said, coming out of his office and gesturing at Methos, Duncan, 
and Richie, a slightly steaming mug of tea in his hand.  He ran a hand over his 
face, then, realizing his glasses were missing, turned back into the office.  
"Three to the darkness, three to the light, and three to the shades grey--not to 
mention the Watcher.  It makes sense  But we've got to come up with some 
excuses.. your mother, your teachers, Principal Snyder.."

"My mother's out of town until next Monday; she thinks I'm staying with 
Willow.  Principal Snyder's at some big convention, thank God.  That guy gives 
me the creeps, among other things."  Buffy stood, and pushed in her chair.  "I 
don't know about the teachers.. Maybe a research project that you need me for?"

"No, we've done that already.  Filing?  No.."  Giles frowned, pushing the 
glasses into place and sipping at the tea.  He grimaced.  *Time to clean the pot 

"I've got an idea," Richie offered, sighing when everyone turned to look 
at him.  "We," he gestured back at Methos and MacLeod.  "Can be representatives 
from.. From some college a few thousand miles away, and we have today and only 
today to speak to Buffy."

"Hey, that's pretty good.  Thanks Richie," Buffy grinned, heading for the 
filing cabinet to get the passes.  "Now which one of you is going to sign?"  She 
held out the papers toward the other three Immortals.  "And what college am I 
going to?"

After a few minutes it was decided that Buffy was being visited by the 
University of Georgia, city unspecified, and Ryan Richardson was going to be 
busy interviewing her for the entire school day.  She hurried off to hand the 
passes to the any and all teacher she could find, and got back to the library 
before the first bell had rung.  *I wonder where Willow and Xander are.  They 
should hear this--they're part of the prophecy too.*


"I wonder where Buffy is.  She wasn't at the Bronze last night that I saw.  
Did you see her?" Willow asked, forehead creased with wrinkles of worry as she 
walked next to Xander.

"No, no Buffy.  She said she was going to patrol last night, nothing about 
coming to the Bronze.  I bet she's in first period already," Xander answered 
absently, leafing through the papers in the folder he was holding.  *I -know- I 
did the homework for this class last night.  What class is this?*

"Still, she usually meets us by now."  The bell for the beginning of class 
started to ring just as they stepped into the classroom together.  They both 
took their usual seats, quiet among their mostly rambunctious and disorderly 
classmates.  Five minutes after the second bell, with Buffy still a no-show, 
Willow leaned over to Xander.  "Library, fourth period?"

"Definitely," he nodded, just beginning to catch some of Willow's 

The teacher stepped up in front of the room, scrawling something on the 
blackboard with wide, sweeping script.  She turned to face the rest of the room, 
and glared until everyone quieted down.  "I hope everyone remembered the 
assigned reading for today..."


Teresa watched Xander and Willow, always from the shadows.  She had 
managed to secure herself a pair of dark sunglasses and was wrapped in her long, 
black oilskin coat despite the heat of the day--the sunlight wasn't lethal, but 
it was certainly uncomfortable.  That morning had certainly been amusing, to say 
the least.  Twice Angel and Drusilla had tried to pull her back before reaching 
the door.  Finally Spike had convinced them to let her go, *He was hoping I'd 
crumble into a pile of ashes, but still..* and she'd shaken the more protective 
two away.  After only a second's hesitation, she'd stuck her hand into the 
direct rays of the sunlight, and waited.. Two minutes later, and with Angel 
satisfied that she was committing suicide, she'd left for the school building.  
Now it was second period, and she'd managed to avoid tripping the senses of the 
other Immortals in the building.

"Four minutes," Teresa mumbled under her breath, stepping into the utility 
closet she'd spied across the hall from Willow's class and down three doors from 
Xander's.  She peeled the coat from her shoulders and left it in a ball on a 
shelf.  The sunglasses were set on top.  *This'll be a breeze.*

Teresa let her bookbag drop to the floor, and knelt down beside it.  From 
the bottom, hidden under a t-shirt and two empty folders, she took a bag of 
assorted candy and bubble gum.  A grin spread over her face as she popped a 
stick of gum into her mouth that she'd kept in her pants pocket -- every piece 
in the large bag had been injected with a drug that would have no lasting side 
effects and would slowly take effect a few minutes after ingestion.

Blinking and forcing a small, situation appropriate smile on to her face, 
Teresa stepped out of the closet just as the bell began to ring.  Kids streamed 
out of classrooms on both sides of the hallway, heading in all different 
directions at once with only a small amount of order to the madness.  Willow was 
the last to emerge from her class, and her eyes met Teresa's almost as soon as 
she was out the door.

"Hey Teresa!" Willow grinned, hugging her books closer to her chest.  *She 
looks.. different somehow, but a good kind of different.  I can't understand why 
Buffy doesn't like her.*  "I didn't see you in class this morning."

"I think the only class I'm in with you is the one you're teaching," 
Teresa laughed, stepping closer to Willow as people continued to move from 
around them.  The plastic and paper of the candy crinkled noisily.

"Willow!" Xander called over the heads of seven or eight people between 
himself and his best friend.  He waded through the stream, managing to keep 
sight of her red hair the entire time, right next to someone else.  "Teresa?"  
His eyebrows tried for his hairline as he saw the other girl.

"Have a piece?" Teresa smiled at him, holding out an open bag of candy.  
Willow was already working on a miniature candy bar, and nodded 
enthusiastically, swallowing.  "It's really good Xander."

"Well, I've never been one to refuse food," Xander grinned, reaching in 
and taking the largest piece his fingers touched upon.  "Any reason for the 
delicious consumables?"

"I just thought I'd be sociable, you know," Teresa hid her wicked smile 
behind a facial shrug.  "I'm not very good with most people, but you guys were 
so nice to me and all..."

"Well, that's what we're here for, isn't it Willow?" Xander chuckled, 
gnawing on the rather gummy candy.  He blinked open his eyes, feeling a little 
sleepy.  *School.  It's a school equals sleep thing.*

"What?  Yeah.  Nice very," Willow smiled, nodding toward Xander.  She put 
the last bite of the candy bar into her mouth, chewed a few times, then 
swallowed.  *I sure wish I would've gotten a little more sleep last night.*

"Hey, I've got an idea," Teresa smiled, looking between the two.  "You 
guys want to see my car?  It's brand new, black, convertible.. I promise it'll 
only take a minute.  You won't even miss class."

"You've got a car?" Xander drawled, feeling his eyelids grow heavier.  He 
smiled, enjoying the oddly detached sensation he was feeling.

"Let's go see," Willow smiled, following after Teresa and Xander as they 
started down the halls.  She couldn't think of any reason why not to go, so 
according to her fuzzy brain, trusting Teresa entirely was the next logical 

Teresa took her two new captives by the hands, gently leading them down 
through the hallways.  Only a few people gave them odd looks, but there were few 
enough that she wasn't concerned at all about word getting back to Buffy 
prematurely.  Getting to the doors, she grimaced as the bright sunlight hit her 
face.  Even with her heart beating, lungs drawing breath, and every trace of 
vampiric tendencies buried as deeply within herself as she could possibly 
manage, her exposed skin burned within minutes.

"Mmm, car nice there yup," Xander muttered as they approached what looked 
to be a fairly nice car.  Actually, he couldn't tell much about it, since it 
seemed to be in several different places at the same time.  He didn't notice as 
Willow slumped into Teresa's waiting arms, and the immortal girl half-dragged 
the unresisting hacker into the car.

"Let me help you inside," Teresa suggested helpfully, smiling down on the 
sluggish boy.  She held open the door, and helped him inside when he couldn't 
quite maneuver himself past that tricky last step.  Once inside, he collapsed 
against Willow's softly snoring form.  With a smile, Teresa withdrew two pairs 
of handcuffs from her back pocket and snapped them onto Willow's and Xander's 

"And another job well done," Teresa grinned to herself, buckling the belts 
over the two unconscious forms before settling herself into the driver's seat.  
It wouldn't do for either to die before she could use them.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: 
        "we're all mad here.  I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, 
        "or you wouldn't have come here." --Lewis Carroll

"Tell me where they are!" Buffy howled, her voice briefly rivaling 
Teresa's own nearly-ear shattering laughter.  Just as Methos was beginning to 
assume that his ears would start to bleed, the noise stopped.  "And tell me HOW 

"With all do respect Buffy, if you kill her now, Willow and Xander will be 
in even greater danger," Giles said, watching calmly as Buffy pounded an 
unresisting Teresa against the wall.  That she wouldn't fight back was beginning 
to be a serious concern for everyone but Buffy, who seemed to be taking out her 
considerable aggression.

Methos turned away from the sight before him.  He didn't care much for 
violence in any form when he could possibly avoid it, but even when it seemed 
for the best, he still didn't have to enjoy it.  For some reason, he couldn't 
force himself to look at Teresa with the same animosity that the others in the 
room seemed to be experiencing.  He'd used far more brutal tactics to force a 
fight before.

"Listen to your Watcher Buffy," Teresa sing-songed, and was rewarded with 
her ribs nearly being cracked against the hard metal cage bars behind her.  She 
smiled playfully, entirely content with the situation.  

After waiting a few hours, till school had gotten out, she'd entered the 
library and proceeded to tell them exactly the who, what, when, and where of 
things.  Buffy slapped her across the cheekbone.  Where the blow had fallen, the 
skin colored briefly, then paled again.  

"And I've told you before, it's very, very simple.  You four," she pointed 
at the other three immortals, then Buffy.  "Fight us, and win, you'll get them 
back.  If you don't fight us, we kill them.  If you fight us and lose, it won't 
really matter now will it?"  *And the plan works perfectly.*  She started 
grinning, remembering exactly how well things had gone...


 "How.. How?  And why the Hell would you bring them here if you don't 
intend to kill them?"

"Listen, Spike, I know what I'm doing and I don't need any lip from you if 
you don't plan to help," Teresa hissed at the older vampire as she dragged 
Xander into the room and propped him up against Willow.  "Oh, oops, nevermind.  
You have that pesky little spontaneous combustion problem."

"What is going on here?" Angel snarled, hair still messed up from sleep.  
"It's 11:45 in the morning!"  He blinked, making out the two human figures 
resting against the near wall.  "And we really don't need anybody for breakfast, 
we're quite capable of doing for ourselves."

"Not breakfast.  Bait," Teresa said nonchalantly, coming into the house 
again and this time closing the door behind her.  Held in each hand were two 
gleaming swords, their blades looking as if they'd never seen action.  "Take a 
closer look."

Angel stepped forward a few paces, so that he could see exactly who it was 
Teresa had brought home.  When he finally realized *Willow and Xander* he was 
almost startled by the sudden addition to his thoughts.  ***They won't wake for 
another four or five hours.***  With a smile, he turned to his daughter; and the 
smile vanished when she pressed one of the swords into his hand.

"We fight the Slayer tonight, and her friends," Teresa nodded, handing one 
of the swords to Spike and the other to the just arrived Drusilla.

"Now just one bloody minute here!" Spike burst out, not taking hold of the 
blade that lay across the arms of his wheelchair.  "How can you guarantee that 
the Slayer will fight, let alone her friends?  And how do you expect me to fight 
when I can't even walk?  And what about Drusilla?  You can't expect her to fight 
with a sword!  Where did you get them?  And why swor.."  He flinched back, 
feeling an uncomfortable, nearly painful invasion into his mind.  He fought 
against it, and the more he tried, the worse it felt.  ***Liar.  But don't you 
worry about that.***  Spike grimaced, looking up to see Teresa staring directly 
at him.

"I've already picked the fight.  They'll come."  She turned her head to 
glance at the unmoving figures to her side.  "Tonight, the cemetery--they have 
this thing against fighting on Holy ground, in fact it's in direct violation of 
their 'rules', so I thought that'd shake 'em up a little bit, give us an 
advantage.  I picked them up at the museum.  Don't worry, I asked the curator 
just before I killed him.  They'll hold their own against any other blade.  
Swords is because I say so, the only way to kill them, Buffy included, is 
decapitation, and it's the weapon of choice among their kind."

"And you expect me to fight like this?  You're out of your bleeding skull!  
Just what is -their kind-?" Spike growled, using every bit of his considerable 
willpower to keep from jumping out of the wheelchair and putting the weapon at 
his hand to good use.

"Spike.." Drusilla smiled, her lips curling up in a childish giggle as she 
wrapped her fingers around the sword's dark green velvet covered hilt.  She held 
the blade up carefully, running her fingertips along its length.  "The sword is 
whispering to me Spike.  It whispers.  It tells me that this is what we're 
supposed to do.  We get to be together after this."

Spike swallowed, stopped in his literal and mental tracks by Drusilla's 
premonition.  If that were true.. *Together, and no Angel..*  He looked toward 
Teresa, suddenly very willing to go along with whatever she had in mind.  "The 
problem still remains.. My legs.."  He narrowed his eyes, wondering how she 
intended to get around this.

"You remember how you thought my blood was oddly powerful, Angel?" Teresa 
glanced at him, pulling her hair back from her neck with a smile, and she didn't 
miss his longing gaze toward her pale skin, or the affirmative nod.  "That's 
because it was.  I would have been Immortal whether you sired me or not."  She 
laughed softly, pressing her fingers against her neck and feeling the warm pulse 
that beat there.  "You're all going to feed from me, then I'm going to make sure 
they all know where to be."


"Why?  Tell me why Willow and Xander?!  I would've fought you without 
dragging them into this mess!" Buffy nearly screamed, and was nearly glad when 
Teresa frowned instead of smirked, her eyes set with a serious light.  

"It wasn't you I was worried about," Teresa said, softly, no longer intent 
on annoying the already enraged Slayer.  She cast her eyes toward the other 
three Immortals--the only ones who would have any chance against the vampires 
once the Slayer was dead.  Sure, there were other Immortals in the world, but 
these were the immediate problem--and threat.  "It was them.  I had to know they 
would come.  You will come, won't you?" she smiled sweetly at them.

"Of course we'll fight!" Richie shouted, pacing across the floor behind 
Buffy.  He stopped only long enough to speak, then started again.  Half of him 
was ready to take the girl's head given half a chance, half wanted to drag her 
death out slowly.

"We'll be there, but not Holy Ground!  We can't fight on holy ground.. You 
have to pick somewhere else.  It's against the rules," Duncan said with only a 
little more restraint evident than his student.

"I'm not following anyone's rules but my own," Teresa smiled lightly, 
noting that Buffy was no longer attempting to crush the breath of out her lungs.  
Since she wasn't breathing at the time, the effort was wasted.  She looked over 
at Methos, the only one not speaking, and carefully scanned his thoughts.  
< < ...I don't fight, they'll spread across the globe.  It would be worse than.. 
than Kronos winning the Prize. > >  A wave of fear, and shock, mixed with 
surprise, colored his thoughts, followed by gruesomely realistic images of the 
possible future.  *My, my.  He's got it about right.*  "And those rules say you 
will be there, where I say, when I say.  You have my word that if you win, 
Xander and Willow will be unharmed -if- you find them."

Teresa was thrown roughly through the suddenly opened door to the metal 
cage behind her.  Since she'd been concentrating on Methos, the movement came 
nearly as a surprise.  Not a muscle twitched to show that she hadn't anticipated 
the move.  When Buffy thrust a cross into her face, she frowned, but didn't move 
back.  "You know, that's really pathetic, resorting to cheap symbolism."  In 
exasperation, Buffy threw the cross to nearest table.

Managing to startle everyone, Teresa included, the telephone started to 
ring in Giles's office.  *Afternoon already.  Who would have guessed?*

"H-Hello?" Giles mouthed into the receiver, blinking.  He'd been sitting 
on the periphery of the group, leafing through volume after volume, trying 
desperately to find any way to give the forces of good a much needed edge.  The 
only slim shred of hope he'd found yet he was loathe to even discuss.  *The 
prophecy says it's Teresa's choice.  We'll simply have to work around that.*  He 
glanced out at the rather mismatched group.  "It's Mr. Dawson; he says he's at 
the airport..."

"Tell him I'll be there in fifteen minutes," Duncan said, reaching for his 
coat and striding from the room before anyone had a chance to object.  With the 
doors swinging shut behind him, Richie and Methos glanced at each other, then 
toward Buffy, who was still staring steadily at the completely unconcerned 

"I think this is the point where the bad guy is supposed to do something 
utterly awful and unspeakable, that causes the good guy to do something 
pointless and stupid so that the who audience can yell 'no, don't do that'," the 
raven-haired girl smiled, straightening from her slouch against the far wall of 
the cage.  Buffy didn't move back as they came within a foot of each other.  
Cracking a decidedly stomach-churning smile, Teresa leaned her forehead against 
the cold bars.

"Neener, neener, neener!"

No sooner were the words out, then Teresa barely avoided Buffy's fist 
through her gut.  Only the same bars that kept her locked in *Wouldn't they like 
to think so?  I almost feel sorry for them..* prevented the Slayer from snapping 
limbs like dry branches.  With a cry of rage, disgust, and utter hostility, 
Buffy stepped back from the cage and ran out of the room.

*Childish, immature, and damned effective,* Methos sighed to himself, 
standing before Richie or Giles could get more than a few steps.  "I'll go after 
Buffy."  *She certainly does know how to push a person's buttons.*  "Try not to 
listen to anything she says."  He glanced at them before looking once more at 
Teresa.  Her midnight blue eyes were glittering with amusement.  *Amusement, not 
malice.*  Not waiting for them to say anything, he followed after the Slayer.

Richie shifted position awkwardly, still refusing to move any further away 
from Teresa.  He looked over at Giles, sitting so intently studying his books.  
"Tell me one thing.  If you win, what do you intend to do afterward?" he asked, 
stepping forward so that his harshly whispered words were audible only to 
himself and the -creature- in front of him.

Teresa smiled for a moment, coming forward again so that she and Richie 
were nearly touching.  "When I win, I'll be the one to drag this world into 
Hell.  Just remember this one thing for me."

"What's that?" Richie muttered, his eyes glassy as he stared into hers.

***You can join us.***  Without time to blink, or react to the thought 
inserted so clearly into his own, yet not his own, Richie felt at hand at the 
back of his neck.  Teresa had snapped the bars of the door like he would snap 
toothpicks, and just as easily.  Giles jumped up at the sound, in time to see 
Teresa completely vamped out and sinking her fangs into Richie's throat.  The 
Watcher stepped back, his hand searching for something, anything.. a stake, a 
pencil, a crossbow bolt...

Teresa let Richie's temporarily dead body drop to the floor, and licked 
her lips clear of the traces of blood that had managed to escape her questing 
fangs.  "Tell them to come!" she laughed at the stunned Watcher, and within a 
heartbeat, had disappeared through the stacks, away from the school.  *Tonight 
is a play, to a full audience.  It will be a show never to forget.*


"But you can't!"

"I didn't live with gypsies for years and not learn anything.." Duncan 
noted, glancing down at the book on the table in front of him.  Where even Giles 
had been unable to interpret the centuries old text, he had done so within 

"If this will give us anything, any tiny edge at all, we have to try it," 
Methos said, trying to get Buffy to see some reason.  There had been near chaos 
as people had struggled back into the library, and Richie had yet to revive from 
the attack.  *There'll probably be no time to tell him.*

"The ritual takes two people to do properly.. Ther--"

"Giles and I can do it," Joe interrupted Buffy, and was rewarded by an icy 
glare, which he ignored as best he could.  "As long as Duncan and Adam get the 
translations done, and we can prepare the room--"

"I still say--"

"Buffy, if we don't do this, they'll all be at full strength.  Do you 
really think we can beat all of them?" Methos sighed, doing his best not to 
think too much about why all this was necessary.  *I'm never again going 
anywhere with Duncan MacLeod by my own free will.*


"Even so Buffy," Giles said, the calmest of the bunch.  "I think this has 
to be done.  Like Teresa said, if you don't win, it won't really matter."

"Let there be light!" said God, and there was light.
           "Let there be blood!" said man, and there's a sea. 
                                     George Gordon, Lord Byron

The tension between the figures was a tangible thing.  The air hung heavy 
and thick above the graves.  Despite last night's brief rain, the grass crackled 
and snapped, dry.  The moon hung low on the horizon, it's silver-blueness 
overcast with a tinge of rusty red-orange--the color of dried blood.  A breeze 
whipped in from the west, setting leaves and hair flying.  Stars in their 
thousands decorated the heavens, unchanged.  There was not a cloud in the sky.  
In the nearby houses people slept soundly, blissfully unaware that this could be 
the last night before the Armageddon began.

Four figures on each side.  Power, rich and heady, rippled around them 
all.  Where one might be a step to close to another, a near visible barrier kept 
them apart.  Four wore the faces of demons, ridged and befanged, their eyes 
sparkled with intense black-blue light.  Four wore the faces of humans, but each 
could claim that he or she was not exactly of that sort--their eyes were set 
with a glowing intensity.  Each held still as death under the other's gaze.

Eight of the figures held swords in their hands, and the weapons glistened 
silver in the sickly moonlight.  Four held stakes in their hands, and the simple 
wooden instruments seemed absurdly useless against their victims.  There was no 
fear left for any of them.  The staring could go on into eternity, it seemed.  A 
light wind tickled along the back of Methos's neck.  He licked his dry lips.  
After five thousand years, he found that he still did not want to die--he was 
not ready to die.  He had spent the past two thousand years avoiding danger.  To 
be here was madness.  And yet, as his fingers tightened securely around the hilt 
of his sword, he knew that to abandon this fight would be madness.  To save all 
of humanity.. For that, he was willing to risk his life.  If there was no other 
choice, for that he would be willing to die.  His thoughts turned to Alexa.  She 
had been so strong, so brave, even in her last days.  *If we loose this fight, I 
will be with you soon my love.  If we win, the sun will rise again tomorrow and 
the world will never know.*

Buffy eyed the vampire in front of her without a trace of regret for what 
she was about to do.  He was not the one who had loved her, had held her close, 
had made her smile and laugh and cry.  This was not her Angel.  This was just a 
thing, another demon to be dusted.  She had done it often enough.  There was no 
hesitation in her manner now--no wishing for things to be different--she would 
kill him tonight.  I wish's and if only's were things of the past.

Duncan remembered once before, during the dark quickening, how he had 
enjoyed the feel of killing, had delighted in it.  The woman--vampire--before 
him was slight, willowy, dark.  Her eyes glittered with the same evil joy.  But 
there was no holy spring to help her, nothing could change her back into the 
person that she had once been so long ago.  Much as he knew what he had to do, 
he took no pleasure in the knowledge.  He shifted his weight securely against 
the ground.

Richie felt the comfortable pressure of the cross against his chest.  It 
was small and silver, hanging from a plain black cord.  As little good as it 
would do against the girl in front of him, he felt better simply by its 
presence.  *I'm going to help save the world,* he said silently to himself.  *If 
only the reality was more like the fairy tales--good would always win and the 
hero would get the girl.*  Teresa smiled at him, though her vampire features.  
*I remember what you did to that boy.  I remember what you did to me.* Richie 
thought at her, never caring that she heard it all.  *For that, you will die 

Breaking the dangerously strained silence, Teresa took a step forward.  
"You are the lucky ones, all of you," she said, slowly swinging her free hand, 
sculptured, refined, in a broad arc.  Another chilly blast of wind hit the 
eight.  Two shivered.  "As are all those who will die this night around the 
world.  Or," she paused, smiling lightly.  "Drop your swords, drop your stakes, 
and you can join us."  Her vampire features were not as pronounced as any of the 
other three, and her voice was a siren's--tempting, dangerous, sibilant with the  
fragile jewel she offered.  To give up the fight, to rule in Hell on Earth..

"Never," was whispered into the darkness.

"Then fight!" Teresa screamed, face slipping into its pure demonic aspect 
as she charged forward.  The shriek of metal against metal sounded four as one 
as the others did the same.  Where the blades met, fiery blue sparks flashed and 
sizzled.  She was strong, Richie realized almost too late.  His arm was jarred 
with the first stroke, and he almost lost hold of his sword.  With the second 
slice, his fingers, numbed, loosened their grip on the stake.

Teresa laughed, and bared her fangs in an evilly childish smile of glee.  
Less than a second it took as she danced out of the way, the sweet smell of 
blood slick on her sword.  Crimson poured from the long gash to Richie's left 
forearm.  She resisted easily the vampire's urge to leap and drink the life from 
his body.  The boy was a mouse to her feral cat, and she wanted to play with her 

"You know, it's a pity we're mortal enemies now--or should I say immortal 
enemies?  I think we could have been such good friends," Spike said, carefully 
circling his prey.  He saw very little in the way of an opening, even with his 
vampiric senses extended to their fullest.  When Methos suddenly pressed 
forward, slashing for his abdomen, Spike easily avoided the attack, stepping 
aside with preternatural speed.  Teresa had been more than right about the power 
in her blood.  For his effort the Immortal barely avoided the vampire's blade.  
His oversized sweater and coat were not so lucky.  Spike leered at his 
adversary.  *All this work certainly gives one an appetite,* he thought, 
hearing, almost feeling the man's quickening heartbeat.

Drusilla was utterly entranced with the man in front of her.  He was so 
beautiful, so strong.  Something small in her said to look at the stake he held, 
at the sword.  She'd hardly held a sword before in all her years, yet it 
mattered less than nothing as she brought her own weapon singing down on his and 
danced out of the way of the stake at the same time.  "Naughty, naughty," she 
purred to Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, who had the grace to look 
astonished that he had missed her.  "Let's all play nice now."  With that, she 
knocked the stake from his left hand with a negligent swat and pinned the katana 
between her blade and the dry ground.

"I've been waiting for this for way too long," Angel smirked, jumping away 
after the first contact of his sword with Buffy's.  She had barely blocked his 
strike, and narrowly avoided loosing her footing on a patch of loose earth 
directly next to a freshly dug grave.  "What did you think you were going to 
do?" he snarled, lunging forward, pressing the moment's advantage that Buffy's 
sudden lack of balance offered.  "Keep me as a pet?"

Buffy said nothing, but grunted as she blocked the savage blow that would 
have gone right through her heart.  He was stronger than she remembered him, 
much, much stronger.  Before he could move again, she snapped her wrist back, 
bringing the sword with it.  Angel hissed, stumbling backwards and griping his 
stomach tightly with his free hand.  "Well, well, well, first blood goes to the 
Slayer after all," he said as Buffy fought to regain her breath.

"You don't know the half of it," Buffy managed to get out before she 
charged forward.  Just before reaching Angelus's looming form, she slipped again 
in the grass, and gasped, the sword and stake falling away from her hands.  
Angel howled victoriously, bounding ahead without another thought.  She was 
completely helpless, she was his--or so he thought.  To late he realized the 
slip for the deception that it was, too late, he tried to stop himself.  But his 
momentum would not allow him that, and Buffy jumped to her feet just in time to 
knock him off of his with a vicious flying kick and a chop to the back of his 
neck.  The lip to the open grave was unsteady already, and under his weight, it 

Methos was sweating profusely, but had refused to shed his jacket for 
whatever slim protection it offered.  His sword connected once again with 
Spike's, edge on edge, and he felt his teeth grit together with the vibration 
that traveled from his hands to the base of his spine.  The damn vampire was not 
giving him a moment's leeway nor time to breath.  *And why should he?  Vampires 
don't have to breath.*  A breeze cooled the drops on his forehead, and ruffled 
his hair slightly.  *And to think, all's I wanted was a vacation.*  He leaned 
precariously against a solid granite slab behind him, then jumped backward, 
landing at the foot of an angel frozen in stone as Spike continued to press 
forward--when he jumped away, crimson from half a dozen unhealed cuts colored 
the grave marker.  *I'm going to die tonight,* Methos thought to himself with 
sudden clarity, barely finding the strength to defend himself as steel arced 
just inches from his neck.

Duncan knew that he was loosing.  He felt his quickening locked with the 
weak imitation that flowed within the veins of the creature before him.  She 
could be beautiful, he thought appreciatively, she probably had been at one 
time.  *You were somebody's child once.  You had a family, a home, people who 
loved you..*  "No," he whispered hoarsely, savagely, cutting that line of 
thought off.  He countered her next thrust with a fierceness that surprised even 
himself, and Drusilla was forced back a few precious steps.

Teresa was enjoying herself thoroughly, delighting in the amazing power 
that flowed unendingly into her step and her movements.  This fight was no more 
than a child's summer dance.  *I could reach up, pluck the very stars from the 
sky.  I will rule all that there is, at that there will be.*  She could see, 
could feel, could sense in many more ways than mere mortals would dream possible 
that Richie was tiring; his parries were weak, his attacks ill-chosen.  When 
another gust of wind, angry, threatening, interrupted her thoughts, Teresa 
looked at him with sudden annoyance.  With an idle sweep of her light sword, she 
knocked the similar weapon from Richie's hand.  Another, and fire sliced deep 
into his abdomen in a mortal wound.  His knees bucked under, and he fell with a 
small groan of fear and pain--his clothing was shredded to little more than 
ribbons in some places, and soaked with gore.

*So this is what it's like to die,* Richie thought to himself, quietly, 
closing his eyes against the pain to await the inevitable.  

The feeling of a soft hand against his cheek was an unexpected shock.  
Richie opened his eyes, and saw before him a face that could never be called 
demonic.  It was so human, so beautiful.  She tenderly stroked his jawline and 
neck.  He shivered, feeling the life leave him, gazing into eyes that could see 
through his soul as easily as through a pane of glass.

"Join me.  Join us.  You don't have to die tonight.. I never wanted to 
hurt you, you know.  Please, don't make me do this.."  Teresa's softly spoken 
words echoed inside Richie's mind.  He looked deeply into her eyes of midnight, 
and lost the will to fight.  *Forgive me, Mac, if you live through this.*

"No," he whispered, a tear rolling down his cheek.

Teresa stepped back, resigned.  She had known that he would never join 
them, but had needed to hear it from his own lips.  "There can be only one," she 
whispered, and drew her sword back for the fatal blow.

Her scream was primal, nerve-shriveling, the cry of a tortured prisoner  
who's found that merciful death is denied yet again as some new cruelty is 
introduced.  It froze the combatants in a deadly tableau for one horrific 

Methos broke free of the hold as only one with thousands of years of 
listening to the cries of the innocent being slaughtered could.  His aching 
muscles responded to impulses long buried, and his fight was over with nothing 
but a cloud of dust to mark the victory.

Drusilla's scream carried no less in volume, but the shriek was one of 
hopeless rage and loss, of an animal cornered and caged as she watched her lover 
disintegrate.  "SPIKE!  Spike, lovely come back to me!  Spiiiiiike!!"  Eyes 
flashing with the rubied hue of insanity, she leapt away from Duncan's blade.  
Between one heartbeat and the next, she had Methos pinned to the ground, sword 
and stake knocked away.  "YOU!!!"  Her sword was at his throat, drawing a thin 
line of blood.. Then clattered to the ground.  Drusilla uttered one last 
startled cry, then was dust.  Methos swallowed, closed his eyes, and willed his 
chest to stop heaving.  The stake that had been concealed within the folds of 
his coat throughout the entire fight was now clutched tightly in his left hand.

A golden light, a warm glow, flashed briefly in Angel's eyes.  The snarl 
died on his lips, unheard, barely started.  His hands lost their grip; the sword 
dropped to the soft ground, unnoticed.  A small moan came from deep in his 
throat, and he slumped against the wall of earth with his hands against his 
forehead.  Buffy felt the air leaving her lungs as she watched on in 
fascination.  She was paralyzed, unable to think as her eyes locked with his, no 
longer in control of herself.  *They did it.*

"Angel?" she whispered, the name barely forming on her lips.

Angel felt his throat closing up, choked with the burning of unspilled 
tears.  Twice he tried to speak, and could not.  "Bu--Buffy.." he barely got 
out, his lips dry, his voice cracked.  Moonlight sparkled against the metallic 
length of the sword held limp and still in her hand, and in a sudden rush the 
memories of the past months came back.  His head swam with horror as his eyes 
with tears.  *No, please.  No.  I..*  The cold damp behind him was a comfort as 
he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, unwilling to look at her.  *No.. Why?  What 
have I done?*


The word was so much a cry, so plaintive that it would have taken a heart 
of coal to refuse it.  Angel looked up, unable to do anything but.  Buffy was 
crying.. Crying?  He didn't deserve her tears--he deserved nothing--he deserved 
to be beaten, tortured, killed slowly for the monster that he was.  But she was 
crying.  She could never forgive him, he knew that, but maybe.. maybe he could 
do something?  He had to get to her, comfort her.  Hold her.

Angel felt keenly the abuse his body had suffered as he grabbed tufts of 
tough sod to pull himself from the empty grave.  Once he nearly slipped, loosing 
his footing against the earthen wall, but it delayed him for less than a moment.  
Then, he was standing next to her, their fingertips pressed together, twined 
together, then embracing.  

He held her to him, her head against his shoulder.  She was weeping, her 
body, so strong and so delicate at once, racked with sobs that threatened to 
tear her apart.  He stroked her hair, gently, almost afraid.  "Buffy.. Buffy, 
please, please don't cry.  I'm sorry.. I'm sorry.  Please.."  Her arms curled 
around him fiercely, never wanting to let go.

Duncan stood perfectly still, eyes closed, head bowed, katana loosely in 
hand, savoring each sweet breath.  The Healing was certainly taking it's own 
precious time, and blood still flowed from his wounds, stained his shredded 
clothing.  When at last small flickers of blue-white lightning began to dance 
over his flesh, he winced and gasped at the familiar feeling.  Every muscle, 
every strained sinew cried out.  *I feel like I've fought a war single-
handedly.*  He first looked over at where Methos was sprawled, clutching the 
simple weapon that had saved his life.  *Not single-handedly.*

"Feeling alright?" Methos heard the voice of his friend ask, and he moaned 
weakly in response.  "Never better.  Help me up."  

He did not even bother to muster the strength to open his eyes, simply 
held out his free hand.  MacLeod apparently had more energy than he, and Methos 
was in no position to question why or even care.  The Highlander gripped 
Methos's shoulders tightly and hauled him up against the granite gravestone 
behind him.  Standing, healing began more rapidly.  Within a minute, his wounds 
where closed and all that was left was a dull ache throughout his entire body.  
Methos gulped in air to his starved lungs, and finally opened his eyes.  There 
was something, or rather somebody, 
missing.  "Richie..?"

MacLeod's warm chocolate brown eyes were dull already, and darkened 
momentarily with apprehension.  "I didn't see a Quickening.."  By some mutual, 
unspoken command, they pushed away from their small safe haven, tripping in the 
darkness and shadows cast by tombstones and bushes.  The fight had separated the 
groups, taken them away from each other 'til the unfamiliar ground became a 
maze.  Methos stumbled over Richie, literally.  "Mac!"

"Richie?"  MacLeod picked his way carefully back to where Methos was 
kneeling next to the limp body.  The ancient one had already rolled him over, 
exposing the smooth slice through shirt and jacket--the damage was already 
healed on the outside.  Duncan swallowed his relief just in time to see Richie 
sit bolt upright, gasping in breath.  The three looked between themselves for a 
second, each too tired or too overwhelmed to speak.  Finally, Richie looked 
beyond them, and stood up swiftly, nearly tripping himself.  "Buffy?"  His voice 
raised to some impossible octave at the scene.  

Duncan and Methos turned, feeling the approach of another Immortal, and 
found themselves staring.  MacLeod, despite the pounding he had just received 
from Angel's comrades, found himself breaking into a small smile.  *It worked.  
Dear God, it worked.*  Methos grinned unabashedly, the expression lopsided.  *By 
the Gods..*  When Richie would have rushed forward, stake in hand, Methos held 
him back, looked at him.  'Don't,' he mouthed silently.

Buffy and Angel were walking side by side, arms entwined, faced streaked 
with dirt and tears.  Leaves and grass tangled through Buffy's hair, and blood 
colored their tatters of clothing.  Neither carried a weapon, both looked 
completely and utterly exhausted.  Twenty feet away, they stopped, Angel 
stepping slightly in front of Buffy, protectively.  Richie ceased struggling 
against Methos's iron-fisted grip, just looking at the pair.

"Mac?  Methos?  Explanations anyone?" Richie blurted out after a few 
minutes of silence that was uncomfortable only to him.  When he'd woken up, he 
had barely had the time to notice Joe's presence.  There hadn't been time to go 
over the entire plan again.

"I never thought it would work," MacLeod admitted, facing the creature 
that, only a few moments before, *I thought I didn't believe in magic, and fate.  
Was it only minutes?* had been his adversary.  He looked the vampire over, 
noting that the wounds were beginning to heal already.

"What?  What would work?  How long was I out?  I didn't think it was all 
that long.  Somebody?  Please?!"  When that last expression came out sounding 
more than a little aggravated, Methos looked at him slowly.

"We cursed him again," the oldest immortal said, as if it were something 
that he did every other day.  "Or rather Dawson and Giles did, I imagine."  
Richie continued to stare, uncomprehending.  "A vampire doesn't have a soul, 
Richie, it's only a demon in human form, we told you that already.  We gave it 
back to him."

The Look that passed between him and Angel as the much younger immortal 
turned away from Methos suggested that it would be a long while, if ever, before 
Richie accepted such a nebulous reason not to rip the vampire's head off with 
his own hands.

"But it's not the same curse, is it?" Angel asked softly, startling just 
about everyone.  "Is it?"  He glanced between the two older immortals before 
him, already knowing the answer.  Buffy tightened her grip about his arm, and he 
returned the comforting pressure gladly.

"No, it's not actually," MacLeod answered.  "The first time you were 
cursed, it was done in hatred.  It was weak, too easily breakable, dangerous.  
This time.."  He paused, fumbling over the words.  Sometimes there are things 
better left unsaid.  "We used a much stronger force than hate, you might say."

"You know, I hate to interrupt this wonderful little family gathering 
you've got going on here," Richie butted in, glaring at one and all equally.  
"But how many of us are here and how many of us are dead?"

Methos frowned deeply, muttering something beneath his breath about the 
impatience of youth.  "Spike and Drusilla are dust, I made sure of that."  The 
stake that had finished off the second of the pair was still clenched in his 
fist.  "They bloody nearly got me first, though."

"You mean they're actually dead?" The look of relief on Buffy's face was 
nearly comical, or it would have been under any other circumstances.  

"So where's Teresa?" Richie nearly growled.  "She was less than a second 
away from making me her first Quickening."

"Oh God, Teresa," Angel blurted out suddenly, shocked into using the 
Lord's name despite the pain it caused his kind.  If Teresa had run away from 
killing Richie..  He looked at Buffy, his eyes wide with fear, and the two took 
off at a fast trot without another word.  *The scream..*  Methos and Duncan did 
the same less than a moment later.  

"I can't wait to hear this entire story, in detail," Richie grumbled, 
running to catch up with the others and trying not to trip over anything in the 
dark at the same time.  

By the time that Richie had caught up with the others, they were already 
standing in a half-circle around a small, black headstone and whatever was next 
to it.  

Angel hung back, uncertainly hovering a foot or two away from the body.  
Teresa was curled up against herself in a fetal position, but with her hands 
protectively covering her head and her eyes wide open, staring into nothingness, 
vacant.  She didn't move at all when Buffy knelt with one hand on the gravestone 
behind her.  There was no breath, no heartbeat when Buffy placed her fingers 
against the side of the girl's throat, and her skin was cold as the dirt below 
it.  She looked back at Angel and Methos, frowned nervously, then sought out the 
comfort of Angel's arms.  "If I didn't know better, I'd swear she was dead," the 
Slayer commented softly, looking around for confirmation.  "I'm not getting 
anything from her, either vampire or immortal."  

"I'm not sure, but.." Methos shook his head, unable to get rid of the 
feeling that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the girl was still there.  
Cautiously, he crouched beside her, and pushed the raven black hair away from 
her face.  

Teresa's features were set in a look of absolute suffering, a rust colored 
smudge beneath the lip she had bitten.  He took her chin between his fingers and 
turned it slightly so that the teeth were no longer piercing the flesh.  Almost 
instantly, without a spark to be seen, the tiny marks healed themselves shut.  
"She's not dead," he said, running his hands underneath her body.  She was so 
stiff and curled so tightly that picking her up was awkward at best, but Methos 
barely felt her weight.  

"So what are we going to do with her, since you're so obviously not going 
to kill her like you should?" Richie muttered darkly.

Every last one of the group looked at the others before Angel finally 
spoke up.  "My apartment from.. from a few months ago.  She'll be safe there."

Buffy nearly spoke, looking up at her Angel, her love, as his words fell 
on overly sensitive ears.  *He's in love with her?*  She wanted to cry, to 
scream, but his arm tightening around her stopped her frenzied thoughts from 
spiraling out of control, and she looked at him.

"I love you Buffy, but I can't leave her now.  I hope you can understand..    
I don't love her, Buffy, I love you," he whispered as if reading her thoughts.  
She pulled him closer, squeezing until she could no longer feel the pain.  
"Buffy, I'm so sorry..."

        "Hope is the denial of reality." -- Anon

It was nearly four days later that Methos and Angel were more than a 
little startled at the small shuffling sound behind their backs.  After bringing 
Teresa to Angel's apartment--dusty, but not much the worse for months of 
desertion--they'd taken to watching her constantly, wondering when, if ever, 
she'd wake from the coma-like state she'd entered.

Willow and Xander had been much relieved, to say the least, when Buffy had 
kicked in the door to the residence that Angel had formerly shared with Drusilla 
and Spike.  Neither had remembered much of the ordeal except a great deal of 
jostling around and a general feeling of dread once they had woken up.  While 
Willow had cried at seeing Angel again, instead of Angelus, Xander seemed to 
share Richie's belief that allowing either Angel or Teresa to continue living 
was a dark smudge against the general peace that had been restored to Sunnydale.  
Every time that Buffy had caught even so much as a glimpse of Angel, one of them 
would be lurking not very far away.

"Water," Teresa requested hoarsely, through lips gone dry from lack of 
moisture and nourishment.  Without water and food, her heart had ceased to obey 
her commands to beat, and her lungs the will to breathe; she would have been 
declared dead by anyone but the unique group the town had to offer--the human 
part of her had been, at least temporarily.

Methos handed her a half-full glass of tepid tap water, and, grimacing, 
she accepted, drinking carefully, in small sips.  She had taken the time to get 
dressed, he noted, and neither of them had heard a whisper of sound until she'd 
wanted them to.

It had taken Buffy and Methos all their powers of persuasion and hours of 
simply sitting and taking between vampire and Slayer to convince Angel not to 
walk into the sun that first morning.

Shuddering, Teresa glanced between the two men who had looked after her.  
Whether they realized it or not, she'd heard every word they'd spoken, 
remembered their every thought.  *And the theatre burnt down during the last 
act, the star running off the stage.*  She glanced long enough at Angel that he 
realized what she was asking for.  Silently, he took one of the many bloodbags 
from the refrigerator, and handed it to her.  Almost crying, looking away, 
Teresa sunk her extended fangs through the thin plastic, sucking in the 
nourishment she had denied herself for far too long.

The second morning, without Buffy there to help him, Methos had barely 
stopped the vampire's attempt at suicide.  *A century and a half of killing 
every poor soul he came across, he had said.  And I told him everything.  Not 
even MacLeod knows the entire story, how it began, how, in the end, I ran from 
it..  There was no comparison between us.  Killing was all I knew, and there was 
no excuse for me.*  If it did nothing to ease Methos's own regrets, his guilt, 
it had shown Angel that the greater evil would be to leave Buffy.  That evening, 
just before sunset, Angel had told him about Teresa's singular talent, how she 
had known exactly how to defeat them, but he couldn't explain how Teresa hadn't 
sensed before they cursed him again.

Teresa turned back, forcing herself to Look, and to look.  She let the bag 
drop softly to the table, sucked dry, and paused, her fingertips brushing over 
the polished surface.  *Maybe, if they can hate me...*

< < Why? > >

It took only that single thought for Teresa find her excuse to launch 
herself with a snarl at the nearest sentient form.  Her body coursing with the 
same irrepressible power that had filled her days ago, she forced him against 
the wall.  The quiet that had filled the house for days was violently split, and 
the rawness drove her on.

"You know about the dreams.  The dreams that make you wake up in the 
middle of the night, drenched in sweat, shivering--the ones that make you so 
sure that there's no more Godly reason to go on with life.  You know what it's 
like to hear the screams and the cries, to feel blood on your hands.  You've 
seen the ground run red with the blood of the innocents you've slaughtered, and 
their souls cry out at you in your nightmares.  I know what it's like.  When you 
hear those screams, they're your own, your own," she hissed, pounding his head 
against the wall.  "Or those of your victims.  But I.. I was forced to suffer 
the agonies of every single tormented soul on this damned planet.  I never did 
anything to anyone, I never hurt anyone, until it started driving me insane."  
She started pounding his entire body against the wall in an echo of her words, 
and Methos grimaced as her hands began to slowly crush the bones in his arms.

Completely without warning, Teresa leapt away from the most ancient of 
Immortals, pinning Angel against the wall in the exact same manner as she had 
done with Methos.  "You think I didn't try?!" she shrieked, her face 
transforming into that of the demon contained within her.  Angel tried to squirm 
away from her, feeling the hate burning to close too the surface for comfort, 
but found himself outmatched; he opened his mouth, about to say something, and 
was cut off again.  "The first time I was eight.  Eight God damned years old!  I 
was a baby, just a baby..."  Teresa growled, her fangs inches away from Angel's 
exposed chest.  "That was with pills.  The next time it was the car in the 
closed garage.  Then I tried to drown myself in the neighbor's pool.  Then I 
threw myself off a couple of nice, high cliffs.. I broke my arm, once.  Again 
and again and again and again..."  She snarled, bashing Angel's back against the 

"You see these?"  Teresa questioned, jumping away from Angel with 
incredible speed and holding up her scarred wrists for him to examine.  He 
looked at them, feeling his heart sinking.  "Eighteen months ago I took a walk 
in the woods behind my house.  It was quiet, it was peaceful, it was beautiful.  
I never thought anyone would find me.  I remember thinking that this time it 
might actually work.  It was quick, it didn't hurt all that much either, I did 
it with a hunting knife.  Hikers."  She spat the word out, now pacing in front 
of the door like a caged animal--or was it simply to keep her listeners?  
"Hikers found me and took me to the hospital.  I lived.. Again, I lived."

Teresa licked her lips, and raised her hand to her forehead to gingerly 
trace the deep ridges with a smile.  "Six months ago.  The dreaming.. was awful.  
I woke up, but the nightmare wouldn't stop.  I had no control over it, I 
couldn't do anything to block it out.  Do you," she paused for a moment in her 
pacing to fix each with a stare that left a spot of cold in the room.  "Have any 
idea what it's like, to feel your flesh rotting from your bones?"  She giggled, 
high-pitched, unnatural.  "To feel yourself trapped in some decomposing body?  
You feel the worms, and the maggots, and all the tiny bugs feasting on you, and 
you look down at yourself.."  She held up her hands, and examined her palms 
slowly.  "And there's nothing there?  I wish it had all been real.  You can 
fight with reality, do something about it.. I know what it's like, to kill, to 
die, slowly, painfully, to torture, to be tortured, to burn to death, slowly, 
hearing yourself scream, to rape and be raped, to wake up, and have to go to 
elementary school the next day," she laughed once, roughly.  "I know," she 
turned her eyes away.  "I know, I've felt the pain you go through."  She looked 
at Angel, then at Methos.  "And you, for what you've done.  No one should have 
to go through any of it, much less all of it."  She raised her hand and tapped 
at her temple with one long finger.

"It's all up here.  None of it's real, but it is.  Six months ago--that 
nightmare.."  Teresa lowered her voice to barely more than a whisper, and 
vampire and immortal were more than happy for the unyielding strength of the 
structure they pressed up against.  "When it wouldn't stop, I ran from it, or I 
tried.  It wasn't even dawn yet.  The sky was so beautiful, smoky blues and 
greys, and tinged with pink on the horizon where the sun was just coming up.  I 
took the gun out of my father's dresser drawer, and walked miles in my nightgown 
to my mother's grave."  The vampire mask was fading, slightly, to be replaced by 
tears--tears of remembrance, rage, fear.. neither of them could tell.  "I laid 
down, and put the gun to in my mouth, and pulled the trigger."  She was silent 
for a few chilled seconds, looking down.  "And I'll bet you'll never guess what 
happened after that.."

"You woke up," Methos provided softly, swallowing and looking away.  He 
couldn't look at her, not knowing that she knew every detail of his life, 
everything that he had been.  He knew torture, too, that there are some kinds 
that leave scars well below the surface, and knew that a person could only take 
so much before breaking entirely.  He had broken, once, a long time ago.. *Never 
again.* He silently promised himself.

"Then you know."  Teresa's tone turned darker, foreboding, dangerous.  "I 
was to be given no peace.  For whatever sin I had committed against God, He 
would not even allow me the mercy of death.  I would have preferred eternal 
darkness to this living hell."  Her face changed again, and she took the 
entirety of her body with it--no heartbeat, no regular breath.  "When I came 
here, I found something I had been looking for since the first moment I set eyes 
upon their story.  If I could not stop the gift," and she twisted that word 
between her fangs.  "I would use it.  No conscience, no cares, no rules, no more 
fears."  Her gaze drifted towards Angel.

"Vampire," Angel whispered, battling against the thought.  His stomach 
twisted painfully with the realization.  *I should never have done it.  I made 
her.  If I hadn't..*

"I would have found someone else who would have," Teresa said matter-of-
factly.  "I heard your thoughts from the first night I met you, and I knew there 
were others then."  Her fists began to clench, tighter, drawing blood.  Calmly, 
she opened her hands up, and licked the fluid away.  "I knew that you were 
different from the others as I."  She stood perfectly still, eyes cold, 
emotionless.  "Only now.. It's worse, isn't it?  I'm the only one of my kind, 
alone.  I deserve no forgiveness, for I never asked it; all the knowledge of the 
ages, and I still cannot imagine why you don't loathe my very presence."

Yet another form, Teresa assumed, with human face but lacking in vitals.  
"I'm not going to Look into either of you now.  Your thoughts are your own.  
Since it's plain that there is only one method remaining of.. ending this, I 
think you know what must be done.  Perhaps what I'm asking is the most selfish 
thing that could ever be asked of another person, but I must.  The nightmares 
are back, will not stop until it is done, and I can no longer end it myself."  
Carefully, she crossed the few steps between the door and the bed--gently, she 
knelt and picked up the sword that had gotten shoved underneath.  When she 
straightened, there was a sort of peace about her features as she caressed the 
steel blade.  A small smile formed, and she turned the sword in her grip, 
holding it at arm's length, the handle halfway between the two men, both of whom 
had gone quiet in mind and body.  Teresa looked at both of them, fondly.

"Angel," she spoke first, and the vampire found it impossible to look away 
from her.  "When I drank of your blood, I accepted the demon into me.  It didn't 
take my soul, but perhaps that's the worst part of it.  What I did, I did 
knowing completely, and completely uncaring.  The last thing I thought before I 
died under your fangs was how glad I was that it was finally over.  Everything I 
know about you says you should simply hate my all the more for that."  She held 
the handle within his easy reach, but received no response.  She closed her eyes 
for a moment, then moved on.

"You were Death," Teresa turned to Methos, who gazed back into eyes sadly 
like his own, hardened.  "Killing me should be no problem, should it?  There can 
be only one, in the end, and you know it.  I'm faster than you, stronger than 
you, and, since I can read your every thought, smarter than you, should it come 
down to a fight between the two of us.  And now I'm offering you my head--no 
fight, no problems.  A free quickening."  She reactivated her heart, and warmth 
coursed through her veins once again, so that Methos could feel exactly what it 
was she offered.  "Please?"  She held the sword almost against his fingers, but 
he found his hands suddenly numb, and he couldn't.

Teresa nodded, slowly, backing away from them both.  She slipped the sword 
beneath her coat, concealing it from prying eyes.  There was nothing else to be 
done, as she started for the door, face resigned.  Or perhaps there was one more 
thing?  Just before she reached for the knob, Teresa stopped, and turned.  There 
was not much space at all between her and Angel, and the suddenness with which 
she closed that gap and reached up to kiss him with a fiery intensity left him 
blinking and speechless in its aftermath.  They peered into each other's eyes 
for a long moment afterwards.

"You know, there's something good about this whole mess too.  You didn't 
think I knew, when you were plotting to curse him again?"  She spared one glance 
at Methos before turning back to Angel.  "True love.. doesn't burn, isn't a 
flame that dies when the winds of trouble try to stamp it out.  It.. it glows.. 
It's the most amazing thing."  Teresa smiled a little, backing toward the door.  
"Show her how much you love her, and she'll show you the same.  This, this is 
not a curse that can be broken.  Show her."

The girl, silent, opened the door and left without interference.  Neither 
Methos nor Angel could find words fit to break the impact of Teresa's parting 
message.  They both felt rooted to the spot, unable, or unwilling, to do 
anything but stare at the spot she had left vacant.  Finally, they looked at 
each other, and the room grew dark and empty again, the magic fleeing in the 
face of rationality.

"I've.. Never, met.. Why couldn't we?" Angel's mind was a confused blur.  
Half of him knew that one of them should have, if only to end her suffering, or 
to protect those that she might destroy in the future.  Half was still warring 
with the knowledge that if one of them had, he would never have known.. Yes, he 
would have known, eventually, but the truth would have come much later, and much 
more painfully.  "All she asked for was mercy."

Methos squeezed his eyes shut, and drew in a long, sweet breath.  He knew 
that he should have felt like a fool, for not taking her offer.  He might never 
get the chance again, and if it meant his death...  He was not ready to die yet, 
not for that.  The immortal shook his head slowly, and opened his eyes.  
"Nothing like her is created without a purpose," Methos said quietly.  "And 
whatever, whatever that purpose is.. I don't think she's finished with it."



"Do you think she'll..."

"I don't know if she can anymore."

There was a hollow, where the words had dropped, and they both felt it, 
and they both stayed where they were for a long while, not saying anything.

There are many things I find sadly lacking in real life:                        
         magic, music, mystery--dramatic lighting--the feeling 
                   of a lover's gentle touch wiping away the tears... 

Teresa curled her fingers over the smooth wood railing and pressed her 
forehead up against it, looking out over the Bronze.  It was hot with the press 
of bodies below--youth all, or at least those with the look of youth--there were 
only a few who seemed more out of place.  She shifted, and her coat rustled 
slightly; one raven tress slipped over her shoulder.

Methos and Duncan sat together at a small table, their far away gaze 
marking them as being apart somehow.  Nonetheless, a group of teenage girls was 
already gathered around them, intent on getting them to dance.  Teresa couldn't 
help but smile somewhat sadly at the contrast--none of them knew, there was so 
much that most of the world could not see.

Her gaze drifted to a head of strawberry-blonde curls.  Richie was out on 
the floor, dancing with a girl who looked about seventeen years old--her hair 
was rich honey brown and hung in soft waves about her shoulders.  Over the 
crowd, Richie's laugher reached her ears, and the girl looked down, only to have 
her head tilted up by Richie's gentle hand.  She smiled.

Willow had finally coaxed Xander to dance with her, Teresa saw.  She 
wondered what it would take for that boy to finally see how much Willow loved 
him, if their both coming a fang's breadth from death wasn't enough.  They 
looked so happy together, and so joyously alive in their happiness.

Joe Dawson and Rupert Giles were together at a table in a far corner of 
the room.  Each had a glass of something in front of him, but neither looked as 
if it had been touched.  They seemed to be having some sort of lively 
discussion--she didn't even stop to think before touching their minds--the ages 
of immortals and vampires, which was likelier to live longer and why.  Nobody 
was bothering them at all; to most, they were simply two old guys probably 
debating what sort of denture paste to use.  Teresa sighed softly for them.. to 
grow old.. to know that someday, somehow, the inevitable would overtake them.  
For herself--she had cheated fate, but not in the way she had expected or really

The band paused, and Teresa felt the mixing emotions of those below as the 
started a soft, slow tune.  She didn't hear the words this time, only the 
feelings--warmth, comfort, life.  Angel and Buffy looked at each other for a 
long moment before rising as one from their table.  A spot on the floor opened 
as if by magic just for them.  The light was low, the beauty absolute, the music 
made her heart stick somewhere in her throat.  The pair began swaying, their 
movement supernaturally graceful, their bodies held apart only by Angel's velvet 
dress shirt and Buffy's light silk dress.  Teresa looked with her whole heart, 
and saw the love between them as something more solid than physical reality 
could ever tear apart again.  She saw their faces, their eyes, as the rest of 
the world dissolved around them.  She knew then that she could no more be a part 
of that world than any other.  Her vision grew misty.  "Love seeketh not Itself 
to please."  Teresa felt her heartbeat slow as she stood up and started for the 
back door.  "Nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives it ease."  She 
slipped out as unnoticed as she had entered.  "And builds a Heaven in Hell's 

"For love, then," she whispered.

Teresa drank in the beauty of the darkness, the stillness of complete and 
utter isolation.  A soft breeze, laden with moisture, caressed her skin as if in 
apology for having to make itself known.  She stuck her hands deep into her coat 
pockets and shivered.  The heavy weight of her sword was a comfort against her 
thigh.  Her footsteps were even, soft, but heading in only one direction--away, 
away from memories, away from the Hellmouth, away from anyone she knew would 
know her for what she truly was.  *For love, this.*  Two blood-tinged tears 
rolled down her marble cheeks as she faded into the night.


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