The Bargain

Author’s Notes: This is pretty much AU. Or maybe it’s AR. It’s vampires and Slayers, and based on canon but totally different. What’s the genre for that?

For Pamela, whose thoughtful words are an encouragement to write and because she has a incredible sense of humor and tons of patience…

This is season 4ish, although I borrowed Jenoff from a later season ep of Angel.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox,

Pairing: B/A; some references to B/R.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Sep 10, 2002

Chapter 1, Recollections

It all started innocently enough. Buffy and Riley were in the Sunnydale coffee shop, Buffy reading her psychology text and Riley a novel for English Lit. They had only been seeing each other for a few weeks, most of which consisted of hanging out together studying. Buffy did find out about the Initiative about a week ago, the same time that Riley found out she was the slayer. They were dealing with the awkwardness of that disclosure, but were still trying to make a go of their relationship.

When the woman wandered in from the street, Buffy was so involved in her reading that she hardly noticed her. It wasn’t until she heard Riley ask “Is there a problem, ma’am?” that she looked up. Those few words triggered a memory long buried in Buffy’s mind. With a sudden flash she was back in that dark alley near the Bronze…

Truth is, I thought you’d be taller, or bigger muscles and all that. You’re pretty spry, though.

What do you want?

The same thing you do.

Okay. What do I want?

To kill them. To kill them all.

Sorry, that’s incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch
and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax.
What I want is to be left alone!

Do you really think that’s an option anymore?
You’re standing at the Mouth of Hell. And it’s about to open.

Don’t turn your back on this. You’ve got to be ready.

Just as suddenly Buffy was back in the coffee shop, Riley waving a hand in front of her face. “Buffy. Buffy? You okay?”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Fine.” Buffy shook her head, trying to shake off the memory. Where did that come from? So clear, so sudden?

“Uh, what was that about? That lady?”

“She had a flat tire. I helped her change it. Are you sure you’re okay?” Riley was genuinely concerned, Buffy seemed so disoriented.

“I’m fine. I should go. I’ll see you later, okay?” Buffy gathered her things and left the coffee shop, absently kissing Riley goodbye.

The memory flashback of the first time she had met him had been so real that Buffy thought she could still smell the clean scent that had been Angel. She sighed heavily, missing him. Sure, she had seen him less than a week ago after Thanksgiving. But that had been only for a few minutes and it had been awkward and painful. It was only natural she tried to tell herself, that from time to time there would be certain things that would remind her of him, of their time together. And she’d just need to deal. Still, something about this felt prophetic. Was some new evil coming?

Over the next week Buffy had several more of the strange flashbacks. They came suddenly and without warning, and were so real that Buffy felt as if she was reliving each moment that she had spent with Angel.

The dreams at night were worse in a way. They were filled with images of things she would never know again, would never have. Last night’s dream had been a reminder of her first time, when they had made love in his apartment. Each kiss, each touch, each soft sigh was reenacted with vivid clarity in her dream.

Tonight Buffy was dreaming about passionate embraces on the beach in the sunlight followed by uncontrollable urges as they made love on a kitchen table, in a strange room that Buffy did not remember having ever been in. Moaning and thrashing in her sleep, the dream continued. They made love on the table until the table broke, then they made love on the floor. Angel carried her to the bedroom and they made love there again and again, sharing food and kisses. Angel’s heart beat as Buffy lapped ice cream off his chest. The next part of the dream was Angel telling her it was all over…

Buffy came awake with a start, tears streaming down her face and the words “It’s not enough time” screaming over and over in her head.

Willow switched on the light and looked at the clock. It was just after 4:00 am. “Another dream?”

Buffy blinked and looked around the room, feeling once again as if she had just returned from another time. All the other visions had been recollections of real things that had happened, real memories, except for this last one. This last one was odd. She knew that she and Angel had never made love with such abandon. That was something that they had never been allowed to do…

Rubbing her eyes as if the clear away the remnants of the dream, Buffy looked at Willow. “Something is happening, Will, something with Angel. I don’t know what’s going on, but I think something is wrong. I keep having these visions or dreams about him, how we met, things we did. They’re so clear, so real.”

“You have to tell Giles.” Willow was genuinely concerned. Buffy appeared so distraught.

Neither girl slept much the rest of that night. Buffy rose early to shower and dress. She agreed with Willow that she needed to tell Giles about the visions and dreams. With her mind made up now she wanted to get there as quickly as possible and figure out just what was going on.

Two days later…

“All right, what have we got?” Riley came down the stairs into the Initiative’s holding area, approaching Forrest and Graham who stood facing one of the cells. “And it better be good. I had to break a date for this.”

“Sorry man, I know you had a date with Buffy, but I thought you should hear this.” Forrest gestured to the demon in the cell in front of them. “This demon dude here says that he and his *master* are in town in search of a ‘vampire with a soul’. Ever hear that one?”

“Since when do demons have souls?” Graham was skeptical, his years of experience with the Initiative leading him to believe otherwise. “Besides, why even bother with him?”

Riley took the file and other paper work from Forrest and examined the notes along with the test results so far on the demon. “Looks like he volunteered that piece of news even before testing. What does he want?”

“Don’t know. He didn’t say. He did say that he wanted to talk to someone in charge.” Forrest signaled to the armed guards behind them to step forward. “So I’m thinking, why don’t you ask him?”

Riley looked from Forrest to Graham, then shrugged. “Ok. I will.” Using his card key he opened the door to the demon’s cell and stepped in side, carefully drawing his weapon just in case.

The demon watched Riley carefully, before nodding his head as if in greeting. “Are you the leader?”

“Maybe.” Riley was cautious.

The demon studied him for a few minutes before shrugging in resignation. He then seemed to search his pockets. “Do you have a cigarette?”

“No.” Riley scoffed. “Now why don’t you tell me what you told the others? And what exactly it is that you want for that bit of information.”

“I’m prepared to offer you a trade. Let me go and I will give you the vampire with a soul.” The demon known among the others as the “Repo-man” was used to tough negotiations and tight spots. He’d use whatever method at his disposal to save his own hide.

“Why would I want that?”

“Because you study demons. You study vampires. And there is only one vampire with a soul. And if that weren’t enough, he has a mortal lover. That should be worth something I should think. Invaluable to your studies.” The demon studied his fingernails casually, almost assured of his success. He could smell their interest, their greed.

Riley’s curiosity was definitely peaked. Professor Walsh would need to make the final call, but this was certainly interesting. “Let me think about it.” Riley gestured to Forrest who opened the cell door.

Buffy never meant to make the deserted mansion a regular stop. In fact, for the first few weeks after Angel had left she purposely avoided it finding the memories too raw and painful. Slowly though, she found her way back. At first it was just walks down Crawford street with furtive glances in that direction. Then the day finally came when she actually ventured inside, and finding, much to her surprise, a strange sense of belonging and comfort. There was something reassuring about being among the few things that Angel had left behind that soothed her when she felt anxious or worried. Like now.

She’d been having the disturbing visions and dreams for almost a month now, and still had no idea why. Giles dismissed it as not a portent of new evil, but rather something a little more personal. He suggested politely as only he could, that perhaps Buffy was missing Angel and having conflicting feelings about her involvement with Riley. Buffy thought it was possible, but didn’t admit to anything. Now she was sitting quietly on Angel’s old bed, mulling over Giles’s words.

The beams from several flashlights alerted her that she was not alone. Moving quietly through the darkened house, Buffy made her way to the living room.

“Riley?!” Surprise evident in her voice, Buffy glanced around to see Riley and a few of his commando buddies in full gear. She hadn’t seen him since he’d broken their date last week, both of them busy with other things.

“Buffy? What are you doing here?” Riley was not as surprised to see Buffy, knowing that she was the Slayer she tended to show up in locations where there might be vampires or demons in Sunnydale.

“Uh. Patrol. Thought I heard something so I came in to check it out.” Buffy didn’t want to admit that what she really had been doing was sitting in Angel’s old bedroom imagining that he’d walk through the door any minute, that’d he’d tell her he was wrong about leaving her…

Pulling her quickly to the side, Riley whispered. “You didn’t stake a vampire here did you?”

“No. Not yet anyway. Why?” Buffy noticed that two of the men with Riley’s troops weren’t men at all, but demons. “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

“That’s Jenoff and one of his boys. They’re helping us track a vampire. One with a soul.” Buffy’s attention was now riveted on Riley. “Have you seen anything?”

“No.” Buffy’s eyes were wide with alarm. Was Angel here? What did the Initiative know about him? What did the two demons know about him?

“Good.” Riley signaled his men to look around. “Rumor has it that there’s only one of these so we want him alive.”

“Oh.” Buffy swallowed hard, trying to control her increasing panic. “So, uh, what else do you know about this-,er, vampire? A name. What he looks like. Anything?”

“Not much. His name’s Angelus. He’s supposed to be here in Sunnydale because his mortal lover lives here. That’s about it. ” Riley listened for a few minutes on his radio as Forrest and Graham reported back that the place appeared to be deserted. “Jenoff and his man have supposedly been using some kind of mystical crystals to ID his location. They thought he’d be here tonight. But I should have known it was a bluff.”

“Ok. Well, haven’t seen him. Or anything. I mean any vampires. Good luck with that then. Gotta run.” Buffy practically ran out of the mansion, stopping only briefly to attempt to see if she could sense Angel nearby. Failing to pick up the slightest sign, she sprinted to Giles house. Riley frowned at Buffy’s peculiar behavior, but shook his head and returned to the job at hand.

Buffy failed to notice the attention that the two demons paid to her. Little did the Initiative know, the crystals that they were using were intended to draw out the woman, to help them find her, not the vampire. Jenoff needed the woman as bait. What else would he use to get the vampire to barter his soul?

“Giles, you have to call him and tell him. Make sure that he doesn’t come to Sunnydale.” Buffy had been pacing back and forth in the living room ever since she had arrived half an hour earlier. “Whatever they’re doing with those crystal things to try to find him must be causing my visions, my dreams. They HAVE to be connected somehow.”

“Buffy.” Giles was only half-awake, have been dragged out of bed by a nearly frantic Buffy beating on his door. “Why don’t you just call him?” Giles filled the teakettle an put it on the stove. He knew there was something more to this than Buffy was telling him.

“Because- because I’m sure that he doesn’t want to hear from me. It’d just be weird. Your ex can’t just call you in the middle of the night and warn you about her possible boyfriend and psych TA, his commando buddies and their demon friends wanting to hunt you down as a research project.” Buffy stopped her pacing for a minute to look at Giles.

“Oh, right. I see. Yes, that kind of news *is* best delivered by a relative stranger.”

“Giles.” Buffy admonished while shooting him a withering look. “And you’re not a stranger. Oh. The demons. That’s how the Initiative found out about Angel. Jerkoff.” Buffy frowned, that didn’t sound right. “Jedikoff. Something like that.”

“Jenoff, perhaps?” Giles was familiar with the infamous soul-sucker.

“Yes! That’s it! Come one, Gi-llleess.” Buffy pleaded, using her best wide eyed pleading look. “Pleeeaase. Just call him.”

“Buffy, why don’t you tell me the real reason that you want me to call Angel instead of you. I would have thought you would have been glad of the excuse to talk to him.” Giles poured the hot water into the teapot.

“Be-because he has someone else now. He’s seeing some woman. Kate or something.” Buffy finally stopped pacing and flopped down on the couch. At his inquiring look, Buffy continued. “Cordelia told Harmony, Harmony told Anya, Anya told Willow… You get the idea.”

Giles’s expression betrayed none of his surprise. Of all the reasons that Buffy might have come up with he would not have expected that one. He knew that Buffy had been hurt deeply when Angel left, but he thought he had understood the reasons why. Which also led him to believe that it would be a long while before Angel got involved with anyone else. Giles debated briefly before he picked up the phone and dialed.

Buffy listened attentively as Giles relayed the news, careful to not make the slightest sound as if Angel might be able to tell that she was nearby. When Giles glanced at her saying “Buffy? Well, she’s-” Buffy stepped outside in the courtyard, not wanting to hear anything that Giles might tell Angel about her. She hated it when Angel was patronizing, pretending that he cared. And she didn’t need to hear the platitudes that Giles would use in response to the questions.

Riley met with Professor Walsh when they returned to the Initiative headquarters after their failed mission.

“Nothing. We didn’t find the vampire or the woman. I’m thinking that we should haul in Jenoff and his man, enough of this bullshit.” Riley sat down, frustrated and skeptical.

“Of the other 7 vampires that we have in custody, 6 of them admitted under questioning of hearing about or knowing of an Angelus. Nothing much is known of the woman, or they won’t talk. But, I’m not ready to give up just yet. Think of the importance this could be to our research.” Walsh studied Riley calmly before returning her attention to the papers in front of her.

“Yes, ma’am.” Riley knew it would be a significant discovery, but given the lack of anything concrete so far he still doubted that the demons were telling the truth.

“And, Agent Finn, assign a team for some additional surveillance on our demons. They must not be allowed to escape, regardless of the agreement they may think that we have made with them.”

Riley nodded, knowing full well that they intended to double-cross Jenoff and his men. Forrest and Graham, along with a few of the other men, joined them just in time to hear that last of Professor Walsh’s statement.

“I don’t need to tell you that we also need to capture the woman. We need to understand what sort of person would consort so intimately with a vampire. Or why the vampire wouldn’t kill her either during or after coitus.” Professor Walsh glanced up at the men, her expression stern.

“We’ll hit the streets again. Continue to see if we can find any more information.” Riley stood.

“So, is a vampire with a soul different than a vampire without one?” Forrest finally asked the question that had been running through several of their minds.

“Well gentlemen, we’ll have to catch this one and find out, won’t we?” Professor Walsh turned back to her charts. “Now get going.”

“Slayer.” The demon stepped out of the shadows as Buffy neared the abandoned warehouse. It had been two days since Buffy had encountered Riley and the Initiative at the mansion. Two days since Giles had called Angel and told him not to come to Sunnydale.

“Demon.” Drawing her weapon, Buffy prepared to fight. Then she recognized the demon from the other night at the mansion. He had been with Riley’s troops. “What do you want?”

“I have news that may interest you.” The demon casually lit a cigarette as he waited for Buffy to approach.

“You smoke?” Buffy gave the beast an impatient look.

“Bad habit. I’ve tried to quit a dozen times… Even tried the patch. Doesn’t work.”

“No. I would guess not through, uh, scales. So, are we just making chit-chat or do you have a point?” Buffy edged closer but kept her weapon handy.

“Angelus. We have him locked up.” Blowing out a puff of smoke, the demon watched her closely.

“You’re lying.” Buffy’s mind raced. Would Angel have come to Sunnydale after all? Were they able to lure him here somehow? Did those crystals or whatever they were using really work? Giles assured her that Angel told him he would not come to Sunnydale.

“He’s injured. He probably won’t last more than a few days.”

“Why would you tell me this? What do you want?” Despite her emotions screaming for her to run to Angel as fast as she could, Buffy cautioned herself.

“You’re his lover. He asked for you. And I owe him a favor.” Lighting another cigarette, merely shrugging his shoulders at Buffy’s look of disgust, “Besides I don’t want to turn him over to the commandos. The things they do to demons, it’s – inhumane.”

“Where is he?” She’d always put Angel first, risking her life for his many times. This was no different. If he were in danger, she would help.

“Locked up in an old army bunker outside of town. I can take you there.” The demon crushed out his cigarette, making a note of the fact that she didn’t deny that she was his lover. Jenoff’s magic had been accurate in finding her.

Buffy aimed her cross bow at the demon and gestured for him to move. “Lead the way.”

It was silent when they reached the old army bunker, a dim light inside one building the only sign of life. As they reached the door, the demon paused. “He’s hurt pretty bad. It’s not a pleasant sight. Maybe you don’t want to go in.”

“Just move out of the way if you’re squeamish.” Buffy’s internal alarms were going off at full alert. If Angel was here, he wasn’t un-dead. She couldn’t sense him. But she had to know…

The demon pulled open the door and stepped back, waving his hand toward the opening.

With an irritated look, Buffy pushed past him and headed down the stairs. As the door slammed shut behind her, Buffy knew that she should have turned the Angel alarm off long enough to hear the other one. The one screaming that she had just walked into a trap.

After trying futilely to open the heavy steel door, Buffy examined the room she was trapped in. Obviously there was no Angel or even any sign that he had been there. Clearly she was expected to stay awhile. There was a small fridge stocked with food, a water cooler, a cot and several books. Off to one side of the room there was a small room with a toilet and sink. A shower had been installed rather haphazardly on the outer wall, with only an opaque shower curtain offering minimum privacy. Well, at least there was a shower, Buffy thought rather ironically. There rest of the room was relatively clean, but sparse. There were no windows or any other doors. Sighing heavily, Buffy slid her weapons under the small cot then sat down to wait.

Willow found the first videotape in an envelope taped to their dorm door later that afternoon. Having spent the night with Oz, she didn’t realize that Buffy hadn’t been back to their dorm yet. She looked at the envelope curiously. There was no writing of any kind. Years of living on the hellmouth had made Willow cautious however, so instead of opening the envelope she dropped it into her bag and headed to Giles’s.

The images on the tape were grainy, but there was no doubt that it was Buffy. She was sitting on a small cot in a spare room.

“There was no note? No writing at all?” Giles turned over the envelope, looking for any clue as to who might have trapped Buffy. Clearly they wanted something or they would not have sent the tape.

“Nothing. And I didn’t open it until I got here, so there’s no chance that it fell out. Who would do this Giles? And why wouldn’t they leave a note or something to tell us what they want?” Willow was trying to stay calm but her voice was high-pitched, betraying her upset.

“I don’t know. But I’m sure we’ll find out.” Giles too was alarmed. Rewinding the tape, he watched it carefully looking for any clues as to the building’s identity.

Xander was at Giles’s when Willow arrived the next day with Oz and the next tape. The Scooby gang had combed the area yesterday and last night, but so far had turned up nothing useful to identify Buffy’s whereabouts.

This time when Willow opened the envelope, there was a post note stuck on the tape. The post note had a single word written on it. That word was “Angelus.”

“Is Dead-Boy evil again and playing some kind of game?” Xander was on edge, upset that they had not been able to find Buffy.

“No.” Giles turned on the tape player. Another tape of Buffy, edited with various shots of her obviously bored in the small room. Reading, sleeping, jogging in place – anything to keep from going stir crazy. There was no sign of anyone else in the videos that might give away her captors.

A few minutes into the video and there was a knock on the door. Riley stood there, clearly worried. “Have you seen Buffy? I’ve been calling her for two days and she hasn’t returned my calls-”

Giles exchanged glances with the others then invited Riley in. They all wanted Buffy back safely – maybe Riley and the Initiative could help since they had yet to find anything useful.

Giles told Riley that Buffy had been missing since the day before and that someone had sent them these tapes. Giles rewound the tape and turned it on for Riley to see.

When Xander attempted to mention Angelus again, Giles quickly pulled him into the kitchen ostensibly for help with refreshments for the group. Until they knew what or who they were dealing with, Giles would honor Buffy’s wishes and not tell Riley and the Initiative about Angel.

Using the sophisticated equipment available from the Initiative, Riley managed to tap into the signal of the video camera trained on Buffy within a few hours. He set up a laptop in Giles’s living room with the live feed, so they could keep an eye on her 24 x 7. Surely the fiend keeping her imprisoned would show himself.

In the meantime, Riley and team would track the signal to find the coordinates. He was confident that they would be able to find her within a matter of hours.

Later that night, Riley called with good news. They had found the location where Buffy was being held and were on the way there now.

Using high-powered night vision binoculars, Riley studied the outside of the building where Buffy was being kept. They’d seen several demons wandering around the premises, two clearly guarding the door. Another building nearby appeared to be a bunkhouse of sorts for the demons, several of them coming and going from there. They demons were all of the same type and appeared to be very tall and muscular. It was difficult to tell in the dark, but they appeared to have a thick pinkish skin and large, claw like hands.

To Riley’s surprise, Jenoff exited the nearby building followed closely by two of the demons. He was filled with fury that Jenoff was clearly involved, especially given the deal that they had made with him. Without another thought, Riley signaled his men to move in.

At the first sign of the Initiative troops, several of the demons blocked the door to the building where Buffy was, while the others displayed their weapons, obviously prepared to fight. Jenoff casually strolled to the front of the small group and waited. Riley hesitated only a moment, then approached him.

“Where’s Buffy?” Riley’s anger was evident in his tone.

“She’s safe. For now.” Jenoff casually adjusted his sleeves. “But my Akadian friends here have orders to kill her first, should you choose to try to kill me or take her. If they fail, the bomb that I planted in the building will have to serve as a backup plan. You might want to consider that, Agent Finn.”

Riley surveyed the large and rather forbidding looking demons behind Jenoff and surrounding the front door. If Jenoff was telling the truth, they didn’t stand a chance of reaching Buffy before the demons did.

“And if I kill you first?” Riley demanded, all the while still surveying the demons, and the surrounding area, attempting to gather any information that would help them.

“Then she still dies.” Jenoff glanced over his shoulder to the building where Buffy was being kept.

“What do you want then?”

“What I came here for. Then I’ll release the woman.” Jenoff turned and strode off, two of his men following. The rest of the Akadians blocked Riley’s path.

The cryptic answer didn’t make sense to Riley, he didn’t know what Buffy had to do with Jenoff’s plan but he knew he didn’t like it. One way or another, he’d find a way to get her out of there unharmed. And he’d make sure that Jenoff paid. Riley signaled his men to withdraw.

Giles, Willow, Xander and Oz sat anxiously around the computer monitor, watching and waiting for Riley and his men to open the door and release Buffy. They had been there since Riley’s call that he had located her.

They were taken by surprise when a strange looking demon, followed by four even larger and more menacing demons entered the room rather than Riley and his troops. Without hesitation, the smaller demon shot Buffy with a stun gun knocking her to the floor, the cross bow she was holding discharged but the arrow missed any possible target and bounced off the wall. All four observers in Giles’s living room gasped in stunned surprise.

While she was dazed, one of the demons swept Buffy’s weapons out from under the small cot and took them away, while two of the other demons hefted Buffy up by the arms. They could not hear the words that were exchanged, but they could tell that Buffy was clearly still disorientated from the shock, her struggles ineffective against the large demons.

Buffy had come to her feet grabbing her crossbow immediately when the door had opened. This was the first time anyone had come into the room since she had been locked in. Without warning, the smaller demon hit her with a stun gun, knocking the air out of her as she collapsed on the ground. Breathing heavily, she struggled to stand just as two of the large demons kicked away the weapon, then grasped her by the arms and hauled her to her feet.

“I’m growing impatient. Where is Angelus?” Jenoff approached, asking the question to Buffy.

“Who?” Buffy feigned ignorance. “What do you want with me?”

“I think I need to give him additional incentive to come. And, I want to show your heroic initiative boys that they cannot fuck with me.” Jenoff gestured to the demons holding Buffy as he removed the small leather whip from his belt. The demon that had left the room with her weapons now returned with a video camera. He stepped in close, zooming in on Buffy’s face clearly hoping to capture the extent of her fear, her pain.

Buffy’s eyes widened and her struggles increased as the two demons turned her around. All her efforts were in vain however, as she could not free herself from them or the harsh crack of the whip as it struck her back. Jenoff hit her until the lash broke through her clothing and the first sign of blood appeared. He then walked slowly out of the room as the two demons holding Buffy’s arms dropped her face down on the small cot. The demon with the video camera made sure to capture a shot of her tear-streaked face before he shut it off and followed the others out.

When Jenoff began to beat Buffy, Willow fled the room in tears and Xander looked away, unable to watch. Oz stared off in stunned disbelief, while Giles simply gaped at the screen, angrier than he had been in years.

When Riley arrived at Giles’s house a few hours later, he was met with four somber faces. He was upset himself at their inability to retrieve her, but had no idea what had happened to her after they had left. He was upset and furious when he found out, vowing to exact an even harsher revenge on Jenoff before this was over.

Several of his men were still on watch – but were hidden so as not to alert or anger Jenoff. Perhaps they would see or hear something that would be of help.

Until they had a better plan, all they could do now was wait.

Willow swallowed nervously and glanced at Oz before pulling the taped enveloped off their dorm door. She had stayed with him last night, uncomfortable with the idea of staying alone in the room where the demons had been leaving the tapes. Granted, they never came inside or even made a sound, but the vicious behavior they demonstrated yesterday was frightening.

When they arrived at Giles’s, Willow dropped the tape distastefully on the table with the others. They all knew what was on it and no one wanted to see it again.

Riley had been beside himself last night after Xander had told him what had happened. He was furious that he had ever trusted Jenoff and his men, yet felt impotent to do anything else to help. Professor Walsh expressed forbid any further attempts to free Buffy. She was angry that Riley had taken the men without her permission in the first place. He now sat with the others at Giles’s, trying to figure out what to do next.

Turning, Riley watched Buffy on the screen. She was sleeping quietly on her stomach having moved very little since last night.

“If we only knew what they wanted, then we could give it to them and they could let her go.” Anya, ever the plain speaker, munched on grapes and glanced at the computer screen.

Giles, having finally put it together, looked at Riley, “They want Angelus, do they not? And the Initiative was hoping to help them track him.”

“Yes. But what does that have to do with Buffy?” Riley glanced around the room, noting that now attentive stares of everyone in the room.

“I’m the last person that I would have ever thought I would say this, but I’m thinking that we should call Dead Boy.” Xander looked at Giles, then at Riley and Willow. “If they want him, they can have him – as long as we can get Buffy out of there.”

Riley glanced at Xander in confusion. “Dead Boy? Who is that and how can that help?”

Giles sighed, knowing that Buffy had not wanted to reveal the complexities of her past to Riley – at least not yet when they hadn’t known each other that long. Before Giles could find a tactful way to explain, Anya blurted. “Buffy’s ex.”

“Huh?” Riley still had not put all the pieces together.

“Angelus is Buffy’s ex. Well, technically Angel. He only goes by Angelus when he’s evil, I think. Anyway, he dumped her and moved to LA. That is, after he fed off her.” Anya finished her grapes and stood, “Any one want more?”

“Buffy dated a vampire? And he fed off her?” Riley was thrown, the news almost beyond comprehension.

“Yes. But he’s a good vampire. He had a soul.” Willow defended Buffy, knowing too well that Buffy would not have wanted Riley to hear the news this way. “And it was only to save his life…” Buffy had never elaborated on what happened that day, so they all believed that Angel had forced himself on her to save his own life.

“So, now that that’s clear, who’s calling Dead Boy?” Xander clapped his hands, feeling that they now had a plan.

“Xander. It’s not that simple. Buffy didn’t want Angel to come here. I, in fact, called him just the other night at her request.” Giles was still sorting through the options as Riley looked up in surprise. Apparently Buffy tried to warn her ex when she found out they were searching for him.

From his research on Jenoff in the last few days, Giles knew that the demon could not just take a soul – it had to be sold or bartered. Now that Giles knew that these were the same demons that were after Angel, he knew why they wanted Buffy. The only thing wrong with their plan was that they apparently did not know that Angel had left Buffy and moved on to LA.

“Yeah? Well, I’m sure that she didn’t want to be beaten either. If you don’t call him, then I will.”

“Well, there’s no guarantee that he’ll come. I understand he’s involved with someone else now.” Giles gave voice to the disturbing thought that had been running through his mind. Even though Angel had asked about Buffy in their conversation the other night, his tone had been sufficiently moderated as to give no indication of his feelings. Not to mention the possible consequences if he did come to Sunnydale – if Angel were to lose his soul the results could be catastrophic.

Willow’s voice broke the silence. She would wait no longer while the others debated. “Angel? It’s Willow.” She glanced at Giles, half expecting him to ask why she knew the phone number of Angel Investigations. “I’m good. Listen-” Willow looked at the others. “Buffy’s in trouble and we need your help. I know Giles asked you not to come the other day but…” “You can? Well, Buffy-” “Oh. Um, yeah, she’s been kidnapped by some demons.” “Uh-huh. Ok then, see you tonight.”

When she hung up the phone, Willow smiled. It was a tentative smile, but it was the first real smile she had shown since Buffy had disappeared. “He’s coming.”

Spike had just stepped out of Willies when the black car pulled up and parked across the street. His grandsire, the great poof, was driving a convertible. How bloody stupid could a vampire be? Out of curiosity, Spike ducked in the shadows and watched. He recognized Angel and Cordelia, but the blond sliding across the front seat to sit next to Angel was new. As was the dark haired man – ah yes – demon, now going into the fast-food restaurant with Cordy.

“Well, well. What do we have here…” Spike muttered to himself, noting once again the proximity of the blond pressed to Angel’s side. Clearly he’d found himself a new fancy piece in LA – although Spike himself thought the blond slayer was a much better choice. As he watched, Angel looked down attentively, listening until the blond drew his head down to hers for a kiss.

Spike grinned evilly. He’d bet that the little slayer didn’t know about Angel’s new girl. But, he’d bet anything that she’d care. That it’d make her eyes water and her heart ache. All the more reason to make sure and spread the word…

Cordy and Doyle coming out of the restaurant drew his attention, so he didn’t see Angel push the blond away. Whistling a little tune as he headed back inside, Spike grinned. With such good gossip to spread, he was suddenly in a very good mood. If only he could be there to see it when the news got back to Buffy…

The word spread fast to Jenoff. Gossip about Angelus and his slayer always made for good fodder – and certainly the news that the slayer had been replaced was destined to spread like wildfire. Demons that had formerly been afraid to face the slayer for any added fear of Angelus’s wrath, were now reconsidering.

Furious, Jenoff made his way to the building where Buffy was being held.

Buffy came to her feet gingerly, her back healing but still tender from the beating she had received yesterday. She backed toward the wall as Jenoff approached.

“So. You are not Angelus’s lover.” Jenoff studied her.

“I never said I was. Your man assumed. And you know what you get when you assume? You make an ass-” The Akadian demon on Jenoff’s right slapped her hard, cutting off her words.

Buffy licked at her bloody lip, but stared back at the two of them defiantly.

“Don’t push me, girl. Why did you come here when you thought Angelus had been injured?” Jenoff studied her curiously.

“Maybe I misunderstood.” Moving quickly, Buffy delivered a quick punch to Jenoff before being slammed hard against the wall by the Akadian. She managed to land a few good kicks, but the demon was strong. When Jenoff drew his stun gun, Buffy backed off, unwilling to receive another shock.

“Would you sell me your soul to save his life?” Jenoff began to assess his options. He could kill the girl of course, but her soul was pure, rich and beautiful. He could almost feel it. And he was greedy – he wanted it.

“You don’t have him and you won’t get him.”

Stroking his cheek thoughtfully, Jenoff stared. Well, she didn’t say no. He needed some time to figure out his next step. Without another word, he left the room, the Akadian following close behind him.

Angel was down to his last nerve when they finally arrived at Giles’s. Kate had arrived just as they were preparing to leave LA, then insisting on coming with them. Cordelia had bitched the entire drive to Sunnydale about all things Sunnydale related, then insisted they stop for food before she could possibly go any farther. During the brief stop, Kate had the nerve to come on to him, completely oblivious to the fact that he was tense and worried, anxious to find out about Buffy. Only Doyle seemed to understand Angel’s apprehension.

It took an enormous amount of effort for Angel to be civil to the boy that he suspected was or wanted to be Buffy’s boyfriend, the one that had been eyeing him suspiciously since they entered. After all the introductions were made, Angel could still sense the resentment, the tension. And he found himself responding in kind. Buffy was his. He met Riley’s gaze challengingly.

Kate, uncaring about anything except Angel and the possibilities of a weekend spent here with him, attempted to sit close to Angel on the couch only to have him move, standing and leaning on the counter near the kitchen.

Giles briefed them on everything that they knew so far, Riley added the little bit of information that they Initiative had been able to find. Angel then asked to see the tapes. He watched the first two tapes, carefully studying them for any clues that the others may have missed. When he popped the third tape in, everyone except for the AI team scattered – all wanting to be anywhere else rather than see that tape.

Angel looked around curiously. Even Riley had left the room to sit in the cool courtyard outside. Angel pressed the play button on the VCR.

“Gee, I’ve never seen a room clear so fast.” Cordy glanced around, noting that Giles was standing in the kitchen his back to them.

Kate filed her nails, glancing at the screen occasionally, Cordy hid her face in Doyle’s shoulder, and Angel moved closer to the screen, unwilling to believe that what he was seeing was real. Doyle, who was closest to him, became aware of the low growl that was gradually increasing to a rumble. Suddenly Angel stopped the tape, shaking. He was enraged, his demon face apparent. He bolted for the door, feeling confined in the small room. Just outside he stopped and howled, a loud ugly cry of pain and rage. The sound carried for miles, those who heard it shuddered at the sound.

When Angel calmed, he became aware of Riley watching him. The younger man was nervously fiddling with the taser that he held in his hands.

“I don’t have any argument with you. I just want Buffy out of there.” Riley stood, his concern for Buffy superseding any of his duties at the Initiative – something that he would have never thought possible just a few short weeks ago.

Angel stared back, his tongue running across his fangs adding to the feral look. Finally he nodded, the rage abating somewhat. Without a word, the two men went inside.

Kate was looking at Angel with alarm, having never seen him lose control before. It disturbed her to see his demon face – such a contrast to the strikingly handsome man that she knew and wanted. She realized that Angel got very involved in his cases – sometimes too personally involved. She didn’t recognize the young girl on the tape and had no idea what she might mean to Angel, other than yet another case. Clearly Giles was an old friend, or else why would Angel have come all this way. Maybe the girl was his daughter…

Finally Riley spoke. “We don’t stand much of a chance against the Akadians and their order to kill her. It’s impossible to get close to her before they do. There are at best count, 12 of them – but they come and go so we haven’t been able to pin down the exact number that’s there at any one time.”

“I think it’s safe to say that Jenoff knows about your involvement with Buffy-”

“And that I’ll trade my soul for her.” Angel interrupted Giles, his voice without doubt, without hesitation. “I’m sure that’s what he wants.”

Giles looked at Angel, now sure that the vampire’s feelings for the slayer had not changed. Kate stared at Angel in startled surprise, her curiosity about the girl increasing exponentially. She leaned forward to get a better look at the computer monitor that had been connected to the video feed of the camera trained on the girl. She couldn’t make much out – but from the earlier tapes, she knew the girl was young – 19 or 20 maybe.

“If you do that, then we can curse you again…” Willow picked up the Orb of Thessulah that sat on Giles’s desk as a paperweight.

“It isn’t that simple. If Jenoff takes Angel’s soul, then it can’t be recovered. It cannot be recalled from the ether.” Giles flipped to the information in the book he picked up from the stack of them piled on the coffee table then handed the book to Willow.

“I’ve been studying up on the Akadians. They are warrior demons. They respect strength and leadership. They are also possessive demons, particularly regarding their mates. They would understand your desire to reclaim Buffy. If you did not have the thing that Jenoff wants, then they clearly expect you to negotiate an alternative ransom. Failing that, they would, of course, expect a challenge.”

“So, what are we waiting for then? Let’s get over there and challenge him.” Xander bolted to his feet, wondering why they had waited if the answer was there all along. He would have challenged Jenoff himself if that was all they needed to do.

Giles ignored Xander’s outburst and continued. “If you were to challenge Jenoff for Buffy and he were to refuse to fight – which, everything I’ve read about him leads me to believe he will – then he will be diminished in their eyes. Not only will they refuse to follow him, but they will also not feel compelled to honor any agreement they have with him.” Giles continued, pacing the room slowly as he spoke. Angel had moved next to the computer monitor and was watching Buffy as she slept. Kate and Doyle were both watching Angel closely. He had returned to his human face, but the earlier rage was simmering below the surface. He traced a finger across her small figure, visible on the screen.

“Ok, but I still don’t see what we’re waiting for.” Xander stood, exasperated. Riley watched attentively, knowing somehow that there were still complications.

“It’s not that easy Xander.” Giles glanced at Angel, then Xander. “Protocol demands that the challenge come from Angel, whom they perceive to be Buffy’s mate, and that the challenge be issued first to Jenoff. When Jenoff declines, as I suspect he will, then the Akadians will have their strongest warrior accept the challenge. If the challenger wins, the Akadians will turn her over to him. If the Akadian warrior wins, well then, he’ll likely feel that he can keep Buffy as his prize. They are a shrewd, vicious and ferocious group – you can be assured that their strongest warrior will not be easily defeated.”

“Then we’ll have to find another plan. We don’t stand a chance.” Riley sighed with disgust, disappointed that their only apparent option wasn’t really a viable option.

Giles cast a glance at Angel before he picked up another book from his desk. “Just over 200 years ago it was recorded that Angelus challenged and defeated an Akadian demon. I believe, it was over-” Giles scanned the text looking for the passage that he had read.

“An insult muttered in a poker game.” Angel looked sheepish, his memory of the event dimmed over the years but still there for recall. It had been a minor insult, but Angelus needed very little in those days to anger him. He had been shrewd and vicious himself in those days, yet it had been a difficult fight. Darla had been there to cheer him on, and not to mention, tend his wounds after. Angel shook away the disturbing memory.

“Back the truck up just one second here. You said ‘if you did not have the thing Jenoff wants’. For this whole plan to work, it means that Dead Boy here would need to go soul-less, right? And wouldn’t that be, like, making the situation way worse?” Xander had just caught on to Giles’s earlier words.

“Yes, he would.” Giles didn’t hesitate, knowing what was at stake. Once more he looked at Angel.

“Vampires, demons, well, they are notoriously unreliable. Untrustworthy.” Angel looked away, answering Giles’s unasked question. “I can-can’t.”

“Besides, wouldn’t Angelus kill Buffy rather than rescue her?” Willow, who had been quiet during the earlier exchange, now joined the conversation. She still held the Orb of Thessulah in her hand, the object taking on additional significance given their conversation.

“Besides, how would you lose it? You know, the whole perfect happiness thing?” Xander’s eyes widened as he looked at Kate, “Oh, unless…”

“No.” Angel shifted his stance, no hesitation in his voice as he answered Xander. “I-I, it wouldn’t work.”

“Angelus wouldn’t kill her. Hurt her perhaps, use her, highly likely, but not kill her. Especially now that she’s marked.” Giles stood in front of Angel, pointedly looking him in the eye, almost daring him to argue.

Angel understood then that Giles knew that Angelus and Buffy had been sexually involved. Briefly Angel wondered how much Giles knew about their brief liaisons those few short years ago…

“Marked? What does that mean?” Kate fairly shrieked, looking between Giles and Angel and interrupting Angel’s thoughts.

“Use her? What does that mean?” Xander spoke at almost the same time as Kate, their words echoing through the room in similarity.

Riley was aware the meaning of those words, but that didn’t mean he liked it. He was uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken but he wanted Buffy safe. His only consolation was in the fact that Angel had Kate and would return to LA once this was over.

“Angel bit her, she had a scar – marked.” Cordelia bluntly stated the answer to Kate’s question, her annoyance with the blond woman obvious. Cordelia didn’t like Kate, didn’t like Kate’s clinginess to Angel and didn’t like that she had invited herself along. “And Xander, well duh – sex, you dummy.”

Xander angrily looked away, uncertain whether Cordelia’s condescending explanation infuriated him more than the thought of Angelus using Buffy for sex. Even though he had Anya, his feelings for Buffy still ran deep. And he still disliked Angel. Intensely.

“What was your relationship with this girl, Angel?” Kate rose and strode over to stand directly in front of Angel. “Who. Is. She.”

“We’ll, uh, give you a moment.” Giles gestured to Xander and Willow to follow him, then glanced at Riley before they left the room. If Angel were involved with Kate, then the events of the last hour would have been difficult for her so he wanted to give them some privacy.

Riley, for his own reasons, also wanted to see Kate and Angel reconciled so he too left the room. Only Cordelia and Doyle remained, having no illusions about a relationship between their boss and the LA police detective.

“Buffy is- Well, she was-” Angel sighed, unsure how to explain his relationship with Buffy under any circumstances, and most particularly now. When he irrationally wanted nothing more than to claim her again.

“Buffy was his girlfriend. They had sex on her seventeenth birthday, but he went bad because there’s this whole perfect happiness clause thing. He tried to suck the world into hell, but Buffy stopped him and sent him there instead, but not before Willow re-cursed him. Let’s see, oh yeah, then Angel came back from hell. He and Buffy got back together – but they could never, you know, get pelvic again. Finally they broke up, but then he fed off her to save his life. Then Angel moved to LA. I think that about covers it. Satisfied?” Her patience at an end, Cordelia once again took matters in her own hands and filled in the details. She might not like Buffy, but she knew that they needed to get moving on the case. Besides, Cordelia hated Sunnydale and wanted nothing more than to return to LA, quickly.

“You had sex with her when she was seventeen, Angel? *Seventeen* for god sakes. She was just a child. Even hear of statutory rape?” Kate was unable to comprehend all of what Cordelia had said, choosing instead to focus on a rather insignificant detail.

“You wouldn’t understand.” Angel fairly growled, not wanting to explain himself or his relationship with Buffy to Kate.

“I’m not so sure about that. Young, beautiful girls have a way of getting what they want, and she wanted you. That’s not so hard to understand. I know how she must have felt. I would, however, have expected you to know better.” Kate turned away, believing that her words would make an impact. She was wrong.

As soon as Kate turned away, Angel’s thoughts were back on Buffy. Could he get Buffy out of there without losing his soul? Dim memories of the fight with the Akadian demon years ago surfaced in his subconscious… It had been a brutal fight.

“And what does he mean that Angelus would ‘use her’ but not kill her? Are you planning on having sex with this girl again? Haven’t you done enough to her already?” Kate stomped over to Angel, staring up into his face furiously.

Angel looked at her briefly before he glanced at the computer monitor again. Buffy was stirring. Slowly she sat up and stretched, flinching slightly at her still healing back. In the next moment he wondered if he’d survive the loss of his soul again.

“Kate, you don’t understand, but it doesn’t matter.” Angel’s next words were a shout. “Giles! Get the others.”

When Giles and the rest of the Scooby gang returned to the living room, Angel finally stopped his pacing. “Here’s how it’s going to go down…” Angel glanced at the screen once again before he turned back to the others. A plan was crystallizing in his mind…