Everyone was gathered at Aurelia's house that night. The school had been closed down after the food in the cafeteria had been turned into snakes. The official story was a backup in the sewers. Aurelia sat on her bed, Xander was in her wicker chair, Cordelia was kneeling and leaning against the bed, and Willow was standing.
"Remember the plan to contact the spirit and talk to it?" Willow said. "Scrap that plan. Aurelia, you were right. The time for touchy-feely communication is passed. I've done some homework and found the only solution is the final solution."
"Nuke the school?" Xander offered. "I like that."
"Not quite. Exorcism."
"Are you crazy?" Cordelia cried. "I saw that movie! Even the priest died."
"Willow?" Aurelia said.
Willow laid down a map of the school building and they all leaned in to look. "Ok, see here, the balcony? That's where the original teacher died back in 1955 and that teacher last night. That's the hot spot where all the bad mojo is coming from. We need to create a Mangus-tripod."
"A what?" Cordelia asked.
"One person chants here on the hot spot. And the other three chant in other places around the school forming a triangle. It's supposed to bind the bad spirit and keep it from doing any more harm."
"I shall take the hot spot." Aurelia sighed. "If there is trouble, that's where it will be."
"This ghost, this James guy, is fixating on you, Aurelia." Xander said. "The dreams, the yearbook…. You sure you can handle it?"
"I'm hoping he'll show his face. I truly am."
Aurelia led the way into the school with Cordelia, Xander, and Willow right behind her. "We all have our places. We do the chant and light the candle at midnight exactly. Any questions?" She said.
"Yeah, what if this mangled triangle thingy doesn't work?" Cordelia asked.
"Oh! I almost forgot." Willow said. "I made us all scapulas." She started handing out little leather pouches on strings.
"Ok, so we can flip the ghost over when it turns a nice golden brown?" Xander asked.
"Scapula, not spatula. Um, you wear it around your neck for protection."
"You expect me to wear this?" Cordelia complained. "It smells like grandpa breath."
"Sorry, I didn't have a lot of time. I had to use sulfur. Stinky, but effective."
"Can we please get on with this?" Aurelia said, walking away from them. They followed.
"No problem." Cordelia said. "This will be a piece of cake. Right?"
They heard a creaking and then a crashing noise. All four of them jumped and looked in that direction and saw that the doors at the end of the hall had slammed shut on their own. One by one the other doors at the ends of the two intersecting halls slammed shut.
"Wonderful." Aurelia sighed and walked away from the others towards her position. She took her time, exploring all the hallways she passed. Eventually, one hallway was playing the song "I Only Have Eyes For You", by The Flamingos. She moved down the hall and saw shadows in a bright light dancing against a wall. Beyond a set of double was another set of doors to the music room. A Class of '55 Sadie Hawkins Dance flyer was taped to one of the door windows. Aurelia stepped over to the other door and looked in. There she saw James and Grace dancing slowly to the music. Aurelia felt a pang of heartbreak at the sight. She and Cassius had always danced that closely together and had also stared lovingly into each others' eyes as they did.
When Aurelia looked again, James turned into view revealed his rotted face. Aurelia blinked rapidly and James and Grace were suddenly gone. She sighed and rushed to get to the balcony hot spot. She put her scapula around her neck and pulled her hair out of the back. Suddenly she had a vision of Ms. Newman running out of the hall onto the balcony being chased by James with his gun.
James came up to Aurelia with a rotted face and grabbed her by the arms. "Get out!" He yelled at her. The vision of him faded quickly and she took a few steps back. Aurelia said a silent prayer that in her next life she wasn't a Slayer. After another minute, she struck a match and lit her candle.
"I shall confront and expel all evil." She intoned. "Out of marrow and bone…. Out of house and home…. never to come here again." Aurelia watched as a breeze blew out her candle. She looked in the direction of the gust, but there was nothing. Then there was a buzzing and Aurelia gasped. She ran back into the school to find the others. Cordelia came running out of a bathroom and grabbed Aurelia's hand, running with her.
Giles and Willow came running to meet them. "You all right?" Giles called. Xander came running out of the cafeteria and kept pace. They reached the far end of the hall where the doors were jammed shut.
"Get back!" Aurelia ordered. Giles backed off and she kicked the door open, shattering the glass. They all immediately ran out. The wasps were right behind them. When they reached the street Xander looked back and stopped.
"Check it." He said. They all stopped and turned to look as well. "I'd say school's out for good." They all stared in amazement. The wasps had arranged themselves in a wall around the school so that nothing could get in or out.
Aurelia leaned against the wall of her living room staring off into the distance. Giles and the others were seated around the coffee table. He poured some tea for himself. There was also a pot of coffee for the others. "The good news is none of you girls were shot." Giles said. "Well, we've established, based on all the parallels and-and-and Aurelia's visions, that it's James' spirit."
"So what do we do, Giles? About James." Willow asked.
"Well, he's obviously reliving the night of the Sadie Hawkins Dance when he killed Ms. Newman. It-it's-it's common enough for a spirit to do this, to…. recreate a, a tragedy."
"Hey. If Sunnydale High School shuts down forever, do we automatically graduate?" Cordelia asked.
"But why? What does he want?" Xander asked before really thinking about Cordelia's question. "Actually, that's an interesting point."
"He's, he's trying to…. resolve whatever issues are keeping him in limbo." Giles said. "W-w-what exactly those are, I'm not…."
"He wants forgiveness." Aurelia said.
"Yes. I imagine he does. But when James possesses people, they act out exactly what happened that night. So he's experiencing a form of purgatory instead. I mean, he's, he's doomed to, to kill his Ms. Newman over and over and over again, and…. forgiveness is impossible."
"He doesn't deserve it."
"To forgive is an act of compassion, Aurelia. It's, it's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it."
"No. James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that's not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he is going to have to live with."
"He can't live with it, Auri. He's dead." Xander said.
Aurelia just looked back at them all for a moment, then stalked off into the kitchen. She had her hands in her pockets and found a folded sheet of paper. She pulled it out and unfolded it. It was a Class of '55 Sadie Hawkins Dance flyer. She put down the flyer and heard a faint male voice right next to her ear.
I need you.
Aurelia went out the kitchen door. The swarm of wasps moved out of her way to let her enter the school. She walked idly through the halls, knowing she was possessed by James, but unable to do anything about it. She stopped by the trophy case and turned around.
"Fun fact about wasps." Angelus said behind Aurelia. "They have no taste for the undead. Not that a sting would do me any damage, it's just…. tonight's special. I wanted to look my best for you."
"You're the only one." Aurelia said. "The only person I can talk to."
"Gosh, Aurelia. That's really pathetic."
She turned to look at him. "You can't make me disappear just because you say it's over."
"Actually…. I can. I have." When he moved closer to her, Aurelia could see his face turn from it's hard, cold countenance to loving and warm. Grace had taken over Angelus. "In fact…. I just want you to be able to have some kind of normal life. We can never have that, don't you see?"
"I don't give a damn about a normal life! I'm going crazy not seeing you. I think about you every minute."
He raised his hand to her cheek. "I know. But it's over. It has to be!" Angelus turned around and started to leave.
Aurelia chased after him. "Come back here! We're not finished!" She grabbed him by the arm and turned him around to face her. "You don't care anymore, is that it?"
"It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter what I feel."
"Then tell me you don't love me! Say it!"
"Is that what you need to hear? Will that help? I don't. I don't. Now let me go."
"No. A person doesn't just wake up and stop loving somebody!" Aurelia raised her arm and wasn't shocked to find a gun in her hand. "Love is forever. I'm not afraid to use it, I swear! If I can't be with you…."
"Oh, my God!" Angelus turned around and started running out of the hall toward the balcony.
"Don't walk away from me, bitch!" She ran after him onto the balcony. "Stop it! Stop it! Don't make me!"
Angelus stopped next to the balcony railing. "All right. Just…. You know you don't want to do this. Let's both…. just calm down. Now give me the gun."
"Don't. Don't do that, damn it! Don't talk to me like I'm some stupid…." The gun went off.
Angelus flinched from the wound. His hand clutched his chest. When he pulled it away, he saw the blood staining his hand. He looked up at Aurelia as she stared back in open-mouthed shock at what she had just done. "James." Angelus said before falling backwards off the balcony.
Aurelia slowly made her way into the music room. She walked to the record player at the back of the room and turned it on. It was the same song as before. She looked over into a mirror and James looked back at her. Her eyes were full of tears as she looked at him. He looked down at the gun in his hand and Aurelia realized she was mirroring James's moves. She raised the gun slowly, but a hand took it and pushed it back down. She turned and found herself face to face with Angelus.
"Grace!" Aurelia cried.
"Don't do this." Angelus said.
"But-but I killed you."
"It was an accident. It wasn't your fault."
"Oh, it is my fault. How could I…."
"Shhh. I'm the one who should be sorry, James. You thought I stopped loving you. But I never did. I loved you with my last breath. Shhh…. No more tears." Angelus leaned forward and gently kissed her. They held each other tightly as they continued kissing for a long time. Aurelia felt James's spirit leave her and then it was just her and…. "Cassius…."
Angelus opened his eyes, growled, and pushed her away, running from the room and leaving Aurelia there in shock. She was angry with herself now. How could she have been so foolish as to believe she'd been kissing her Cassius again?
Giles was pacing behind the counter of the library when the door opened and Willow, Xander, and Cordelia came in. Aurelia was curled up in Giles' office silently chastising herself. "Everything seems normal." Willow said. "Not a snake, not a wasp."
"Yep. School can open again tomorrow." Cordelia said.
"Explain to me again how that's a good thing." Xander said.
"I'm drawing a blank."
Giles went back into his office. "Are you feeling any better?"
"James chose me." Aurelia said quietly. "I believe…. I think I was the one he could relate to. He was so sad."
"Well…. they can both rest now."
"I still…. A part of me just doesn't understand why she would forgive him."
"Does it matter?"
"No. I suppose not."
Giles took Aurelia's hand. "What happened to Liam was not your fault. And what happened to Angel was not your fault. Neither of you could've known what those two nights held in store for you both. You cannot blame yourself or Cassius for what happened."
"How do you understand so well?"
"Because, surprisingly, I know you. You're still Buffy in every way, you just speak with better grammar now and you know more about history than I do since you've lived it."
Aurelia let out a short laugh. "Yes, well…. The slang of today just sort of…. Baffles me. Previous memories of this lifetime or no, it's just so…. Strange."
"I've always said that." Giles gently touched her cheek and then walked back out into the library.