Wesley suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Connor, perhaps you should wait in the kitchen, or go downstairs and watch the girls train."
If she needed a confirmation there was something Wesley didn't want her to know, here it was. "Perhaps Connor could explain what he meant by Angel being his father."
Connor looked at her, his gaze weighing and judging. "He is. You're the girlfriend who sent him to hell, aren't you?"
"Connor, that's enough." Wesley's voice was sharp. "We're here to deal with Angelus, not scratch open old wounds."
"We're dealing with a rather powerful menace here," Buffy said. "I've got a pack of potential slayers living in my home with more on the way. I've got an ancient evil trying to kill me and my friends and frankly, it's been a battle recently just to stay alive. Now you want my help to put Angel's soul back -- which you helped remove for some insane reason -- and you don't want to tell me about this kid you've brought into my home who claims to be Angel's son?"
She stalked over to stand just in front of where he sat. "You want help, Wesley? I want answers. Who is he?"
She half-expected him to wiggle about it, give her all the reasons she didn't need to know and how she should trust and listen to him. Buffy found herself growing angry, remembering his interference and insufferableness while he'd been in Sunnydale. Then Wesley had been very much a believer in "the Slayer is a tool of the Council and subject to its whims"; had he changed at all.
When Wesley looked up at her, he suddenly appeared much older, experience weighing heavily on his face. "He is Angel's son. We still don't understand how or why, but there was a prophecy."
"There's always a prophecy," Anya said with a sigh.
"And before you ask, his mother was Darla."
"Okay, this is too weird. Darla's dead; I saw Angel dust her."
"She was brought back by a firm who had a vested interest in seeing Angel lose his soul. They hoped she could do it."
"These are the evil lawyers who wanted Angel to vamp her, but he wouldn't so they brought in Drusilla?" Spike asked.
Buffy looked toward Spike. "When did you hear this?"
He looked guilty...and just a bit sheepish. "Dru told me when she was in Sunnydale."
"And you didn't tell me?"
The guilty look dissipated rapidly. "We weren't exactly talking at the moment, luv."
Looking a bit annoyed, Wesley continued. "She managed to convince Angel to sleep with her. We don't know the details as Angel hid the encounter from us. In fact, we didn't learn of the liaison until she appeared in our offices, rather pregnant."
Somehow, Buffy felt the need to sit down. "And she was a vampire."
Wesley nodded. "She staked herself so Connor could be born."
"Didn't believe the she-bitch had it in her," Spike muttered.
"Darla did it for the love of her child. His soul affected her during the pregnancy. It was a tremendous act of self-sacrifice."
Buffy said nothing, staring at Wesley and stealing looks toward Connor. Angel's son. By Darla. Willow had taken her hand and she clutched it tightly, trying to make sense of this. He'd left her so she could have a normal life and now he had a son?
The couch cushions creaked as Spike sat down and slipped an arm around her waist. He was very tactile, she was coming to realize. It shouldn't surprise her; when Willow's spell made them believe they were madly in love with each other, he'd constantly touched her, even if it was only to hold her hand. Now that touch was a lifeline to cling to. "That explains how he was born," Spike said, asking the question she didn't feel capable of at this moment. "It doesn't explain why he's a teenager."
Another pause. Clearly there was something else Wesley didn't want to share. "There was a prophecy that I interpreted to mean Angel would kill his son," he said at last, his voice tight. "I tried to prevent that by taking the child away. Unfortunately, the woman whose help I counted on betrayed me and Connor was taken to Quor-toth where he was raised until his return here -- aged eighteen."
"Quor-toth's a rather nasty place." Anya looked at Connor speculatively. "I imagine, being the child of two vampires, you're probably blessed with their strength and healing. It's how you survived, isn't it?"
"What do you know of Quor-toth?" Connor asked.
Anya shrugged. "Ex-vengeance demon. Eleven-hundred years old. I've seen a lot."
"Weren't we talking about the Angel problem?" Willow put in. "Shouldn't we concentrate on that?"
They were discussing the Angel problem, Buffy thought sadly. They just weren't discussing the one Wesley had intended. "You said you have Angel's soul in this moped thing."
It felt good to see Wesley wince at her use of the language, something to break through the numbness that was seeping through her. She could feel Willow's hand in hers, feel Spike's arm around her waist as he sat close to her, but she wasn't feeling anything inside.
"A Muo-ping," he corrected. "The problem is that it's gone missing. Cordelia attempted a spell to bring Angel's soul back and it didn't work. Unfortunately, he escaped before we realized that."
"Wait a minute." Willow suddenly sat up straighter. "Cordelia -- Miss I-Don't-Know-How-To-Wave-Burning-Sage-Right -- tried to do a spell to restore Angel's soul...and you let her? Don't you know how dangerous that is? I've done the Ritual of Restoration and believe me, it's no picnic being possessed by some entity from beyond that suddenly had me speaking Latin like I was born to it. Hell, Cordelia knows how scary it was; she was there!"
"Cordelia had a vision that told her what to do, and we weren't using the Ritual of Restoration." Wesley's voice was a bit defensive.
"Okay, I understand about the visions and the headaches and all...she's told me about them in excruciating detail, but why would you think that someone who's never done magic before could suddenly do what had to be a difficult and dangerous spell."
"What spell did you use?" Anya drew closer, professional interest in her voice.
"The skull of a soul-eater. I chanted the words Cordelia transcribed from her vision and Angel was engulfed in light emanating from the skull. We thought the spell had been successful, but it was an act. While the rest of us had gone to hunt for the Beast, Angelus tricked Cordelia into releasing him. Only then was his true nature revealed."
Something in all of this didn't sound right, but Buffy couldn't quite put her finger on it. "What makes you certain he's on the way to Sunnydale?"
"The fact he killed the shaman who extracted his soul and the last time I saw him, he said he needed to pay some 'old friends' a visit." Wesley looked toward Willow. "Since you're the only living person who's actually done a restoration, I imagine he wants to make certain you can't do another one."
"Okay, so we do the spell tomorrow," Willow said. "I'd suggest we do it tonight, but I haven't read over it in several years and I don't have all the supplies. Anya knows where I can get an orb, though."
Her words brought a smile to Wesley's face. "Excellent. If you need any help with the preparations..."
The conversation wandered the into specifics of the spell and what would be needed. As they talked, Buffy leaned into Spike, letting her head rest on his shoulder. His arm tightened around her waist, drawing her closer. At this moment, all she wanted to do was curl into his arms and shut everything else out.
Angel was out there somewhere. Part of her wished Wesley didn't think he was coming here, hadn't felt the need to tell er. Then she wouldn't have known, wouldn't have had to worry about what they were going to do if the spell didn't work. Now that she knew, there was no turning back. She knew what Angelus was capable of and knew he couldn't be left to run free.
Spike kissed the top of her head and she closed her eyes. He knew what Angelus was like as well, even better than she did. Buffy didn't like to think about it, but she knew Spike could probably tell her tales of their days together that would make her blood curdle.
"I know it's an imposition, but I was hoping you would be able to put us up tonight. I realize your conditions are crowded, but it might be better than going out to seek accommodations."
Buffy sighed. Great. "Of course. We'll just have to find someplace to put you."
"There's room in the basement," Anya suggested. "Besides, now that Spike is moving into your room, we could move Andrew down there as well. That would help keep him out of everyone's way."
Joint looks of disapproval from Wesley and Conner, but more worrisome was the sudden tension she felt in Spike. That, however, could not be dealt with here. "Something wrong, Wesley?"
To his credit, Wesley shook his head. "Nothing. The basement would be fine."
Good boy. "Let's get you settled, then." She rose from the couch and headed for the back of the house, not even acknowledging the look on Connor's face. The sooner the spell was done, the sooner he'd be out of her house.
The potentials weren't actually doing a work out, but listening to stories from Xander of the Scoobies' glory days in high school. Most looked sleepy and didn't seem that distressed when the session broke up. The news that Andrew was moving to the basement, on the other hand, was greeted with great enthusiasm.
It took only a few minutes to get the other cots set up and the men situated. Buffy noticed Spike grab a change of clothes for the morning, but leave everything else. Before he could move too far, she called out, "Let me help you."
Not waiting for him to speak, she grabbed the pile of books he'd accumulated from around the house. Settling them in her arms, she lifted her eyebrows as if to ask, "well?" He took the hint and gathered up the rest of his small collection of clothes and personal items, a bit of a smirk on his face as he followed her to the stairs.
"We'll talk in the morning?" Wesley asked as she ascended.
"We get moving pretty early," she warned. "You can catch me then."
The house settled much quicker this time, almost no notice paid to Buffy and Spike's journey upstairs. "I'll have to clear out a drawer," she told him, depositing the books on one of the bedside tables. "You can just put those on the chair for now."
Once he'd done as she'd asked, he was at her side again, his eyes searching her face. "Are you alright, Buffy?" he asked, one hand reaching out to stroke her hair.
"I'm fine, she assured him. "I mean, it's just another day at the office, isn't it? Angel loses his soul and Wesley comes to ask for help..."
She broke off, realizing he wasn't buying any of it. "It hurts," she admitted.
He slid his arms around her and drew her head down to his chest. "I'm here, pet," he whispered.
And he was. That was the great irony. The one person who knew how much this could hurt and she'd only just opened her heart to him, believing she'd moved on from her old love and was ready to accept a new one.
There was a knock at the door, interrupting anything else Spike might have to say. "Who is it?" Buffy called.
"Anya. Are you two decent?"
With a sigh, Buffy stepped away from Spike and told Anya to come in. "I'll make this quick," Anya said, "but there's something wrong with what Wesley said downstairs."
"What particular problem did you have in mind?" Spike asked, settling on the mattress.
"Well, yes, the numerous difficulties with the story he told and the fact that its clear to even a casual observer that he wasn't telling us everything, thought whether that's because he actually wanted to conceal something or it was a misguided effort to protect Buffy from something terrible Angel's done..."
Buffy's head hurt. Wearily, she sat down next to Spike. "What was it you wanted to tell us, Anya?"
"Oh. Well, it has to do with the spell Cordelia got a vision about. It couldn't have worked. You can use the bones of a soul eater to do two things: either steal a soul or restore a soul that particular soul eater stole."
"Maybe Cordelia didn't know that," Buffy offered.
"Maybe, but Wesley said she had a vision which included the incantation Wesley was supposed to use. I spoke with Willow since she's the only one who communicates with Cordelia and Willow said the visions are supposedly from the Powers That Be, which are a force for good. Those visions are sent to help Angel in this mission thingy he has."
"Okay." Maybe it was the pounding in her head, but Buffy couldn't see why this was important.
"If Cordelia's visions are supposed to help Angel, why did she get one for a spell that wouldn't do any good? In fact, it did harm because it helped Angelus escape."
The headache was suddenly forgotten. "Are you suggesting she didn't get the vision from the Powers?"
"Either that or she lied for some unknown reason. Whichever it is, it wouldn't hurt to find out."
"No, it wouldn't. Let's deal with it in the morning. Right now, get some sleep."
Anya nodded and headed for the door. As she opened it, Buffy said, "Good catch. Thanks."
"I have such a headache," Buffy told Spike once Anya had departed and slid off the bed to head for the bathroom and the aspirin. When she returned, Spike had turned off all the lights save the lamp on his side of the bed and was already under the covers. Wearily, she sat on the edge of the mattress, wondering if she'd have enough energy to even pull her clothes off.
Spike's hands reached out and began to knead her shoulders with deep, strong strokes. Buffy didn't protest, relaxing beneath his hands. "If you take your clothes off," he whispered in her ear, "I can make you feel much better."
That was enough to get her undressed and under the covers. It was luxurious to lie there and let his hands work their magic. "Mmmm. I should let you do this more often."
Spike slid his hands along her spine, easing tired muscles. "Just want to take care of my girl."
She liked being taken care of. A girl could definitely get used to this. Dim lights, the moon outside shining through the branches of the trees at the back of the house. She could just close her eyes and let her mind...
Buffy's eyes popped open and she struggled to sit up. "He's out there," she said. "I can feel him."
Something flickered across Spike's face, but she wasn't certain if it was a shadow or something else. "You're certain?"
She slid off the bed and grabbed her robe. "It's this...I feel a certain 'something' when he's around. I was relaxing, let my mind go...and there he was."
Robe wrapped around her, she headed for the window. Shadows shifted and moved, but she wasn't certain if any of them might actually be a human form. Maybe it was just her imagination.
"Was it Angel or Angelus?" Spike joined her at the window. "Could you tell if he was souled or unsouled?"
"No." He was doing his best to hide it, but Buffy could see a touch of jealousy flickering in Spike's eyes. "I can't tell the difference. All I can tell is that it's him. It's an unique signature."
She laid a hand on his chest. "You have one, too. It's similar to what I feel when a random vamp is nearby, but there's something different that tells me it's you. I've been able to pick you out of a crowd for years."
He smiled a little at that. "You're not thinking of going down and facing him, are you?"
Buffy had been thinking exactly that and she knew he knew it. "It'd be just what he'd want, wouldn't it? Go down there with no thought or preparation, a target for whatever he's got up his sleeve."
She stepped closer. "We'll deal with him tomorrow. Try the spell and take it from there. For now...
It was so easy to kiss him, to let the fears and worries wash away, even easier to let him coax her back to the bed. No sooner was she there, though, than she scrambled out again, back to the window. Didn't want to waken to a dusty lover, so the drapes had to be firmly closed.
As she pulled the drapes shut, Buffy happened to glance down into the backyard once more. There was someone out there, watching. Then, with a flash of moonlight on skin and a shifting of shadows, he was gone.
She hurried back to the bed and the safety of Spike's arms.
Continued in Chapter Five