Secrets and Lies
An uneasy quiet settled over the house as
the sun set. Anya, Willow and Wesley had spent most of the
afternoon closeted in Willow's room going over the ritual
and making preparations. The potentials, after a day's rest,
were being put through their paces...except for Amanda, who
was excused for an hour to study chemistry with Dawn in the
"Does Willow always shut herself up like
this before she does a spell?" Kennedy asked as the shadows
Buffy glanced toward the house as she herded
the girls inside. "For important ones. There's mental
preparation that needs to be done as well as physical."
Kennedy looked skeptical and Buffy had to
wonder how much belief the girl had in the mystic arts. She
would have dismissed it as silly hocus-pocus herself once
upon a time, before she'd learned just how powerful the rituals
could be. Kennedy would either accept...or there'd be rocky
times ahead in her pursuit of Willow.
The girls were milling about the kitchen,
scrounging for snacks and Buffy warned them, "Dinner's
going to be late, after Willow's done."
"And we have to wait in the basement
until then?" Vi asked. "No television?"
"No television. They need quiet. Just
think of it as another fun part of life as a slayer."
Buff turned to Amanda. "Your folks are
okay with you sleeping over? I'd just like to keep everyone
"They were absolutely thrilled at the
idea Dawn and I were studying," Amanda told her. "We've
still got some chemistry and then there's history. I brought
all my books with me."
"In fact, we were going to head upstairs
now," Dawn added. "I promise, we won't disturb them."
Getting Buffy's consent, Dawn and Amanda headed
out as the others started to filter downstairs. "It won't
take that long, will it?" Xander asked. "The ritual,
I mean. They're going to get real restless real fast."
Connor entered the kitchen as that moment.
He'd been hovering all day, watching as the girls worked.
"When do we head out?" he asked.
"Soon," Buffy told him. "Sun's
not down yet."
He shrugged. "I thought we could take
up position, be waiting for him."
She sighed. "Willow's not set up and
Spike can't go out yet."
Again, Connor shrugged as if those objections
were of no import to him. His silences were starting to seriously
annoy her. Funny, but she'd once thought Angel's silences
had signaled deep, serious thoughts. So not like father, like
son. "I'm going to see how Spike's getting on in the
living room" she announced.
Xander followed her. "I don't trust him"
he whispered as they reached the hall. "I know I have
Angel issues, but there's something about that kid that unsettles
me. It's like he knows some secret he's not sharing."
"They're both hiding something. Like,
why was it so important Angelus be brought back? What could
be that threatening that you'd even risk it?"
They stepped into the living room where Spike
had been re-arranging furniture to the specifications Willow
had given him. Coming to stand by his side, Buffy absently
ran a hand along his shoulder. He interrupted his survey of
his work to smile down at her. "Everything's ready for
She nodded, glad to be here next to him. She
was having strange flashes of memory from the first time he'd
been in this room when they'd made the deal to stop Angelus
and save Giles and the world. The night her mother had learned
she was the slayer.
There were footsteps on the stairs and Anya,
Willow, and Wesley entered the living room, each carrying
supplies. "Everyone clear out?" Willow asked.
"They're in the basement," Xander
said. "I'd better get down there, make certain they don't
use Andrew for target practice."
"We should be heading out as well,"
Spike suggested. "Get out of their way."
Buffy nodded, but asked Willow, "If he
does show up, how long do we need to hold him off?"
"Half an hour. That's what it took the
last time." Willow carefully set the supplies in her
arms on the coffee table that had been moved into position
to serve as a work surface. "We'll need about ten minutes
to set up.
Buffy glanced outside. The sun had just set,
the last bit of light still lingering in the sky. "I
think we can do that."
She and Spike headed for the kitchen where
Connor still waited. "The point isn't to kill him,"
she warned as they stepped out the back door. "We just
need to keep him at bay until the spell's done."
"And if it doesn't work?" Connor
"It will work," Buffy insisted.
"But if it doesn't..."
She swallowed. "We cross that bridge
when we come to it."
Fortunately, Connor chose to remain silent
after that and made no objection when Buffy suggested they
split up. Leaving him in the back yard, she and Spike headed
for the front. "It'll work," Spike assured her.
"Red knows what she's doing."
"It's more powerful than anything she's
done since she came back." Buffy sighed. "And it's
probably not the last time I'm going to have to ask her to
do something like this."
He slipped his arm around her shoulders. "Do
you trust her?"
"I want to, but there's the worry of
too far too fast. That, and other worries."
They were almost to the front and Spike stopped,
pulling her close. "So we deal with them one at a time."
She couldn't help smiling. "When did
you become wise?"
He smiled back. "I didn't. I just...what
The tingling was there at the base of her
skull, stronger than last night. "He's nearby. Wait here."
Spike frowned, but she pressed forward moving
toward the front of the house. At first glance there was nothing,
but the tingling grew. Then she saw him, standing at the edge
of the lawn. He looked normal enough and for a second she
wondered if Willow had already done the spell. "Angel?"
He stepped forward. "Hello, Buffy. You're
It was the smile that gave him away. Perhaps
it was because she was looking for a sign, but there was something
cruel about it, as if he held some secret pleasure or anticipation.
Playing it cool, hoping Spike would stay put for the moment,
she stood her ground. "I'm a bit surprised to see you
"What can I say? It was a nice night
and I decided to take a drive up the coast, see some old friends."
Angel drew closer, slowly but steadily. "I
mean, it's been over a year and, let's face it, you weren't
doing that great the last time we met. Is it surprising that
I'd want to check in, make sure you were doing okay?"
Her hands itched for the stake concealed in
her waistband, but Buffy resisted. "I'm doing fine...lots
better. Want to hear something funny? I've got a job at the
high school, counseling students. It's not full time, but
hey, I'm giving back to the community."
"Didn't we blow up the high school?"
"They rebuilt...same place, but they
A low chuckle. "Leave it to Sunnydale
to put all that lovely teenage angst on top of a Hellmouth.
Ever wonder what affect that might have on the demons?"
He was almost upon her now and the fight or
flight urge was going stronger. She did her best to breathe
regularly, knowing he could tell if her heart was pounding
faster. She wished Spike was with her, not standing in the
shadows, but that would give the game away. "If the demons
are sensible, they'll avoid the girls' locker room, especially
at certain times of the month. Lots of deadly force there."
God, that was a bad joke. It didn't help when
Angel's smile grew a little broader. "You really aren't
very good at this, are you? Bluffing, lying...it all shows
in your face. Your heart's beating faster and you really want
to go for that stake."
This time when he stepped forward, Buffy stepped
back, moving out of range. "Why did you come, Angelus?"
"Ooh. So formal. I thought we meant more
to each other; all the angst, the drama, the whole star-crossed
lovers routine...wait, maybe it's not so bad that part's over.
I found it really limited me on the dating scene and I've
been trying to move on. After all, you did."
They were circling one another, their steps
deliberate. Keep him at bay, that's all she had to do. As
long as he kept running his mouth...
"I could understand Riley," he continued,
looking far too casual. "I mean, big, beefy guy. Probably
made you feel all small and delicate. Whatever happened to
Finn? Did you wear him out? Or could he just not deal with
the slayer package? But, hey, it must have been a pretty nasty
breakup if you had to sink to Spi..."
A sudden blur went slamming into Angel, the
force knocking him to the ground. He was down for just a second,
then back on his feet in a fighting stance. "You don't
ever learn, do you?" Angel snarled, all trace of civility
"You're the one who wanted me to stake
you if Angelus got out of control." A stake was in Connor's
hand, ready to strike.
Buffy started to move, trying to stop him.
"Spike!" she yelled, but Spike was already there,
grabbing Angel's arms even as Buffy tackled Connor. After
that, it was a blur, just trying to hold on and hoping Willow
finished the spell before the two killed each other.
Everything was in readiness. The orb rested
on the coffee table and Anya was tracing patterns with the
smudge of burning herbs she held. Wesley stood to Willow's
left hand, printout in his hand. Once she'd cast the stones,
she nodded for him to begin. Quod perditum est, invenietur.
His voice was steadier than Oz's had been,
but Wesley actually understood the words he spoke. She took
up the answering chant. "Not dead, or not of the living..."
Willow tried to focus on what she was doing,
but there was a mousy little girl in the corner of her mind
chattering that this was wrong, that what they were doing
wasn't in the proper order. More worrisome was the woman who
laughed at the girl, eager and ready to embrace the power
she was invoking. "Gods, bind him. Cast his heart from
the demon realm. Return his soul to the vessel which housed
it. I call on you..."
She felt the power begin to crackle. This
time, she was prepared to accept it, letting it flow through
her and cast a web outward. No mere vessel herself, she let
it come. "I call on you Gods, do not ignore this supplication!
Let the orb be the vessel to carry his soul to him. It is
written, this power is my people's right to wield."
The energy was growing, circling, and filling
her being. The dark-eyed woman within her head laughed at
the glory of it. "Let it be so! Now!"
Willow was expecting the rush as the power
flowed out of her and into the orb, but this was different.
The power was there...and then it wasn't. She looked down
and found the orb sitting where she had placed it, inert.
"It didn't do anything," Anya said,
lowering her herbs. "You were chanting and going all
black-eyed and it just sat there. I take it that was not what
it was supposed to do."
"No." Willow racked her brain, trying
to figure out what had happened. It didn't help that Wesley
was watching her with a disappointed air. "Last time,
the orb went all glowy and disappeared."
"Could Spike touching it earlier today
have done something to upset the balance within the orb?"
"I doubt it. I mean, the one I got from
Giles, he'd used as a paperweight and it worked fine."
That was when they heard the crash outside.
Spike held on as long as he could, but he'd
never been a match for Angelus' strength. After a considerable
amount of struggling, the older vampire twisted free and threw
Spike toward the tree that graced the front yard. The impact
set newly healed ribs to complaining even as he staggered
to his feet and headed back into the fray.
"You don't ever learn, do you boy?"
Angelus had slid into game face. "I thought I'd beat
the lesson into you years ago."
"It's a new day," Spike told him,
looking for an opening.
"What's new? You're picking up my leavings
once again and..." There was a slow dawn of recognition.
"I don't believe it. Why the hell did they curse you
with a soul?"
Now it was Spike's turn to smile. "Not
a curse, mate. Welcomed and wanted."
Angelus' eyes slid toward Buffy and Spike
seized the opening, swinging hard. The punch landed, staggering
him backwards. There was little reprieve, though as Angelus
struck back almost immediately. Then it became fists and fangs,
lashing out at each other. Spike found it hard to resist the
urge to go for the kill and it hampered him. Angelus had no
such reluctance and the battle was fast becoming an exercise
in staying out of a killing grip.
He knew Buffy was still struggling with Connor,
but he didn't dare look, didn't dare take his attention away
from the matter at hand. Angelus might have been momentarily
thrown by the idea of Spike's soul but Spike couldn't count
on such an opening again.
"Did you get it for her?" Angelus
taunted. "Think that would make her love you?"
"You don't understand," Spike responded,
ducking a punch.
"I don't understand? I'm the
original Soul Boy, remember?" Another swing, another
dodge. "Was it really worth it, Spike? I mean, Buffy's
a tasty morsel, but is crawling between her legs really worth
the effort of a soul?"
Spike tried to land another punch, but Angel
caught his arm, spinning him around. Now one hand was against
Spike's throat while the other held Spike's arm tight behind
his back, pulling it against Angelus' chest. "I forgot.
You like to crawl. You'll crawl and beg for any scrap of pity
masquerading as affection."
Spike struggled against the hold, but it only
served to make Angelus' grip tighter. "Maybe I won't
kill you, William. I could make you scream again; the soul
might make it even sweeter. We can let Buffy watch; she's
into freak shows..."
Knowing no other way, Spike twisted, doing
his best to ignore the sensation of breaking bones. As he
moved, he kicked out as hard as he could and was rewarded
with a howl of pain to match his own as Angelus let go.
"Angelus is out there," Wesley observed
as the three peered out the window.
"And they think we're still doing the
spell." Willow turned and headed for the hall at a run.
Casting an annoyed glance at the retreating
Wicca's back, Anya headed for the weapon's chest. "Weapons
first, then help."
Flinging the chest open, Anya found it empty.
Of course; the weapons were probably in the basement with
the potentials. "Damn."
Running for the kitchen, she had some vague
intention of grabbing a wooden spoon to use as a stake, but
realized that probably wouldn't make Buffy happy. Then she
saw it, made a decision, grabbed and ran.
The front door was open and Anya scrambled
through it, down the porch steps. Wesley was outside, helping
Buffy subdue Connor. Spike was caught in Angelus' grip, only
to twist and break free, planning a kick solidly in Angel's
groin. Both men howled and staggered apart, Spike cradling
his left arm.
Anya saw Buffy loose her grip on Conner and
started for Spike even as Angelus tried to regain his breath
and made certain Spike hadn't kicked his, well, brain up beyond
retrieval. Without hesitating, Anya closed the distance between
herself and the vampire. "Angelus!"
His head turned and Anya swung the heavy skillet
with all her might, connecting directly with his nose. There
was a satisfying "crunch" and he staggered back
even further, but not quickly enough to evade another blow.
The pounding of feet announced the arrival
of Xander and the potentials. Without looking back, Anya yelled,
"Did anyone bring the chains? They would be really useful
Angelus was backing quickly away, a dark mottled
pattern already appearing across his nose and lumpies. "Guess
the spell didn't work," he managed, though the words
came out in gasps. "Hate to fight and run..."
With that, he took off, heading down the street
at a speed no human could match.
Buffy's first instinct was to check on Spike,
but then she Connor move, start to go after Angel. Fighting
a rising tide of anger, she tackled him. "What the hell
do you think you're doing?"
"You're letting Angelus get away,"
he complained, twisting against where she held him on the
She pushed down harder. "Because we're
not equipped to deal with him at the moment. We figure out
what went wrong and re-group."
"You didn't let me stake him; that's
what went wrong."
Did the kid want to be smacked around? Because
he sure was asking for it. "No, you went off half-cocked.
I'm going to let you up. If you do one more stupid thing,
I swear I'll hurt you."
Buffy released him slowly, watching for any
sign of trouble. Satisfied he was going to behave for the
moment, she turned away to deal with more pressing concerns.
Spike was on his feet, gingerly cradling his
arm as Dawn examined it. "What's the verdict?" Buffy
"I think it's broken," Dawn said.
"Maybe in more than one place."
"We just splint it up and it'll be better
tomorrow evening," Spike assured her. "Vampire healing
and all that." Despite the lightness of his voice, the
eyes he turned on Buffy were filled with pain. "Maybe
we'd better get everyone inside."
She nodded and slipped her arm around his
waist, giving what support she could as they headed into the
house. As the reached the porch, Xander was looking wonderingly
at Anya. "Remind me never to get you mad."
Anya fixed him with a steady glare. "Too
She stalked past him and Buffy sighed as Xander
looked helplessly after her. A quiet, angst-free evening at
home; gee, she'd heard they existed.
The house was in chaos for the next hour.
Buffy did her best to ignore it, focusing on seeing that Spike's
arm was bound up properly and he took the painkiller she delivered
with his warm mug of blood. "A fella could get used to
this," he told her as she fluffed a small accent pillow
and slipped it behind his head.
"I'd prefer I didn't get used to doing
this because you got injured," she told him. Buffy had
to admit he looked quite comfy in the armchair, his mug in
the hand that wasn't supported by the sling. It was amusing
to watch him slip so naturally into place in her home.
He smiled up at her. "Feel free to do
this then I'm not injured."
The idea of an evening spent snuggled in his
lap was tempting, but Buffy knew it wasn't going to happen
tonight as Wesley and Willow entered the room, followed by
Xander. "Everyone's eating," Xander told her. "Are
you going to have something?"
"Soon," she assured him, settling
herself on the arm of the chair. "So what happened, Willow?
"Why didn't the spell work?"
Willow shrugged. "I don't know. It felt
right; the power came at the right time, got all the right
reactions. Just...nothing happened. The power was there and
then it wasn't."
"This may indicate that Angel's soul
is still held within the confines of the Muo-ping," Wesley
said. "After the ritual does call for the return of the
soul from the ether...and if the soul is entrapped within
the Muo-ping, the Ritual of Restoration would not call it
"You couldn't have mentioned that before
you started?" Xander asked.
"The Muo-ping is missing," Wesley
replied, his voice slightly irritated, as if speaking to a
rather slow child. "We had no way of know for certain
whether or not it had been destroyed, thus releasing Angel's
soul. At least this gives us a reason to hope that it is intact."
"But you have no idea where it is."
Wesley didn't reply, merely looked pained.
Turning to Willow, Buffy asked, "Could you do a locator
on this mohawk thing?" watching Wesley wince out of the
corner of her eye.
"I don't think so...at least, not right
away. I'd have to do some research, figure it out."
"Do that. In the mean time, let's do
a locator spell on Angel, see if we can find out where he's
"Give me a few minutes to set it up.
Er, I'd better get something to protect the floor."
As she left to do her preparations, Buffy
focused her attention back on Wesley. "There's one thing
you haven't explained yet -- what the hell could be so important
you had to call forth Angelus?"
"It's a long story..."
Buffy kept her eyes fixed on him. "I've
"It's not simple, either. We've been
coming across a number of signs that a great evil is coming.
And, yes, I am talking apocalyptic evil, perhaps so old it
doesn't have a name."
His words sent a chill through her body. Beyond
him, she saw Xander sit up straight from where he'd flopped
on the couch. "Go on."
"We've been doing our best to uncover
the purpose behind the Beast, but we've had no luck. There
are signs and portents...the sky over Los Angeles has rained
fire and currently, we are experiencing eternal night as the
Beast performed a ritual which, essentially, swallowed the
"That means full-time playtime for vampires."
Xander did not look happy.
"As well as the fact that if this is
not remedied soon, plant life will begin to die...and the
darkness will spread."
"We haven't heard anything about this.
How can they keep this quiet?"
"I don't know what methods Mayor Hahn
is using, but he has managed to keep a news blackout on the
event. I would suggest Wolfram and Hart was assisting in order
to protect the investments of their clients, but the Beast...eliminated
them before he swallowed the sun."
"Angelus always did have a passion for
destruction," Spike said quietly.
"The problem is that while the Beast
approached Angelus at some point in the late eighteenth century,
Angelus was not particularly interested in such an alliance."
"But you didn't learn this until Angel
lost his soul." Buffy felt the impending-apocalypse-induced
headache she'd had last night returning.
"No. We did learn that something or someone
has been removing all references to the Beast, both in books
and within Angel's mind. At first we thought that it might
be done by some minions in the Beast's employ, but Angelus
informed us the Beast is himself a servant of a higher, more
"Was this before or after you discovered
you couldn't restore his soul?" Xander's tone was a bit
"After," Wesley admitted. He looked
around then stepped closer to Buffy, lowering his voice. "I'm
beginning to fear we might have someone within our midst who
is in league with the Beast, helping him with his plans. Such
a person would help arrange the removal of the Muo-ping and
other such activities."
"Do you have a suspect?"
"I would have preferred not to bring
Connor with me because of his ambivalent feelings for Angel;
Holtz completely poisoned his mind against Angel during his
upbringing and the boy hates his father."
"Can't say that I blame him." At
Buffy's look, Spike asked, "What? I put up with him for
twenty years. Angelus is a cruel, vicious bastard who delights
in inflicting pain on whoever gets in his way."
"Yes, but Angel is not Angelus,"
"You and I could have a serious debate
about that one, mate."
Before the argument could take off, Buffy
wrenched the discussion back on topic. "You think Connor
is your mole?"
"I think I have reason to suspect him.
For one thing, Angel spent his summer at the bottom of Santa
Monica Bay. Connor put him there."
This was getting worse by the minute. "So
you brought him up here to keep an eye on him. Did you ever
stop to think that I might not be particularly thrilled by
that idea? I've got a house full of potential slayers that
have their own Big Bad after them."
"I realize that now. I didn't then and
I didn't have much time to make the decision. Besides, there
were...other reasons to remove Connor from Los Angeles, at
least temporarily. His absence will make it easier for the
other to work."
"So what about when you go back? Doesn't
sound like Connor's going to be much help neutralizing Angelus
-- unless you substitute 'stake' for 'neutralize.'"
"I realize that...and I realize that
you have your own difficulties here in Sunnydale. However,
I need you to consider carefully what I'm about to ask you.
I want you to come back to Los Angeles with me."
Continued in Chapter Seven