Forever, That's The Whole Point

Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Aurelia woke up on the floor of the mansion. Her muscles and joints were stiff, but she'd faced worse. She stood up and stretched before turning to look at Cassius. He was curled in on himself snarling at her. Aurelia couldn't take it and walked outside. The sun was just coming up. She slapped her forehead, remembering she had to be at school and in the psychologist's office first thing. She couldn't miss it or she would be kicked out again.

Sighing, she made her way home, promising herself that she would return at lunchtime to watch over Cassius. He was well manacled and he was still weak, so he wouldn't be going anywhere. She showered and changed and made it to school just in time for her appointment. Mr. Platt was sitting in his chair facing away, looking out the window while his ever-present cigarette smoldered in his fingers.

"Eight o'clock. Miss Summers." He made no move to turn around to face her.

"Look…. I know that I have to do this, and I'll cooperate, and I'll look at your ink blots and everything, but…. I don't want to talk about my life or my childhood or…. anything, for that matter, actually. And I don't want to be friends."

Mr. Platt turned around. "We're not gonna be friends. You have friends already, I hope. Friends are a good thing. They like you, agree with you, tell you what you wanna hear. That's not what you need right now. What you need is a trained, not too crazy professional who will always give you his honest opinion. Which I offer." He looked back at her for a moment before gesturing to a chair. "Have a seat."

"Not too crazy? Those are your credentials?"

"Look, Buffy, any person…. grownup, shrink, pope…. any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright. I mean, everyone has problems. Everybody has demons, right?"

"I'm with you on that."

"Excellent. So, the hope I bring you is: demons can be fought. People can change. You can change. Now. Your turn. Let's start with why you ran away."

"That's a long story."

"Bore me."

"I'm over it. I'm moving on. I feel good."

"All good things. But still, you're bringing me in at the end of the movie."

Aurelia had to think about what to say. "I was dating someone. It-it ended badly. My mom and I were fighting, and I…. got scared."

"Well, tell me more about this guy. The Bad Ending Guy."

"He was my first and only…. I loved him, and then he…."

"Changed."

"Yes."

"He got mean."

Aurelia snorted. "Yes."

"And you didn't stop loving him." Aurelia couldn't say anything to that. "Look, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's, it's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is: you can't stay lost. Sooner or later, you…. you have to get back to yourself."

"And if you can't?"

"If you can't…. Well, love becomes your master, and you're just its dog."

"Well, I'm certainly no one's dog…. But what I feel for…. Him…. Hasn't changed. I still love him. I always will."

"Even though he was mean to you?"

"That wasn't his fault."

"Did he hurt you?"

"That's a loaded question."

"Yes, it is."

Luckily for Aurelia, the bell rang. She jumped up. "Time for class." Without another word or glance, she walked out.

When school was over, she went straight to the library. Cassius had been in the same state she'd left him in that morning when she'd checked on him at lunchtime. When she reached the library, she found that everyone was there at the table or sitting on the steps and Giles was pacing. Everyone looked very gloomy. She set her bag on the table. "I'm afraid to ask."

"Oz ate someone last night." Cordelia said.

"He did not!" Willow cried.

"Oz does not eat people." Xander said. "It's more werewolf play. You know, I bat you around a little bit, like a cat toy. I have harmless, wolf fun. Is it Oz's fault that, you know, side effect, people get cut to ribbons, and maybe then he'll take a little nibble and…." Willow gave him a hurt look. "I'm not helping, am I?"

"No." Giles said. "Oz may have got out of his cage last night."

"Or maybe there's a, another werewolf roaming the woods." Oz said.

"Perhaps. Perhaps it's something else entirely."

"It's ok." Aurelia said. "We'll work together, and we'll figure this out."

"Yes. Um…. Aurelia. Uh, you, uh, you patrol the woods. Uh, the others, um, check out the morgue."

"Right! We can see if it's a werewolf kill or not." Willow said brightly. "But what about Oz?"

"Um…. Well, I have some research materials at home I need to look up. Uh…. W-w-we could ask Faith to watch over him."

"What, you're having a Slayer watch me?" Oz asked. "Oh, good, we're not overreacting." He got up to leave, not willing to listen to any more. Willow gave Aurelia a concerned look and got up to go after him. She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. "Ok. Uh, you know that thing where you bail in the middle of an upsetting conversation? I have to do that. It's kinda dramatic, I know, but…. sometimes, it's a necessary guy thing."

"And I want you to…. do the guy thing, but…." Willow glanced at the clock on the wall and sighed. Oz looked over at it, too. 5:34pm. Almost sunset. He looked back at her and the others, realizing it wasn't the time to do the guy thing. He looked over at the cage and reluctantly went to lock himself up. Willow followed him. "Oz?"

"Get away from the cage."

"What?"

"It's gonna happen soon." Willow still wouldn't go. "Get away from me." He turned his back to her.

Aurelia walked over and took Willow's hand, pulling her away. Willow didn't want comfort, though. She walked out of the library. Xander and Cordelia, having nothing else to do but to go to class, walked out. When Aurelia was alone with Giles, she turned to look at him.

"Are you all right?" Giles asked. "Willow said you skipped lunch."

"Did you do any spells or practice any to bring Cassius back?" Aurelia asked.

"No. Of course not. Why?" Aurelia gave him a long, hard look. "Oh dear lord." Giles pulled his glasses off and began to clean them. "When did this happen?"

"Last night. I went to the mansion and just as I was leaving…. A portal opened and he fell out of it."

"Is he all right?"

"No."

Giles nodded. "I would suppose not. A hundred years in hell…. It would take someone of extraordinary will and character to survive that and, uh, retain any semblance of self. He must be a…." He stopped. "Aurelia, you can't be near him."

Aurelia shot Giles an annoyed look. "I'm a Slayer, Giles. I think I can handle him."

Giles sighed and then another thought occurred to him. "Where is he now!"

"He's chained up at the mansion."

"Did he escape?"

"No. He didn't hurt anyone. I chained him up as soon as he fell through the portal."

Giles nodded. "Aurelia…. He may not recover from this."

"I can't think like that."

"You may have to."

"He'll come back to me. I know it." Aurelia sighed. "I have to get back to him. I'll do a quick sweep of that park for you so Faith doesn't have to."

"Thank you. If you need me…."

"I'll call you. And if you need me…."

"I'll send someone after you."

Aurelia nodded. "I wouldn't want to go back there either if I were you. It's ok." She gave him a tight smile and walked out.

The next morning, Aurelia arrived early at school and found Faith lounging on the library table. She was oblivious as she wriggled around to the sounds coming loudly from her portable CD player. Aurelia came up beside her and tapped her on the shoulder. Instinctively Faith threw her fist up landed a backhand to Aurelia's face.

Faith shot up. "Oh! Uh, Buffy! Are you ok? What are you doing here?"

"Bleeding internally, but I'll live." Aurelia said.

"God, I'm sorry. I guess I didn't hear you."

"I figured as much." Aurelia rubbed her cheek. "And it's morning…." She glanced at Oz still in werewolf form. "Well, almost. I figured you would like a reprieve from werewolf babysitting."

"That's cool. Think I can get in a few stakings before sunrise?"

"Possibly. It's still dark out. Knock yourself out. Not literally, though."

"Yeah. Later." Faith dashed out the back door.

Aurelia watched Oz pace for a few minutes and then headed into Giles's office to wait for him. It was only ten minutes after sunrise when he showed up. "Aurelia." He gasped.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you." Aurelia said.

"It's all right. How is Cassius?"

Aurelia looked down. "The same."

"Did you get any sleep?"

"No." She followed him out into the main area. "He slept fitfully most of the night, though. Is that a bad sign?"

"Um…. I'm not sure."

"Right. You're in the same boat I am."

Willow walked through the door, bringing a box of donuts with her. "I thought Faith was on duty."

"Oh, I relieved her an hour before dawn. What have you got?"

"Glazed or cake?" Willow held the box up. "It's fun to watch them make them. They use this spritzy thing, and they drop the batter into this…."

"You couldn't sleep either?"

"I've been at Mister Donut since the TV did that snowy thing." Behind Willow Oz, had dressed and come out of the cage. "How come you're the Wakey Girl? I mean, this time, it's not your boyfriend who's the cold-blooded…." Willow noticed Aurelia look behind her with wide eyes. "Jelly doughnut?"

Oz ignored the offered donuts. "Everything all right?"

"Yes." Aurelia said. "What happened with the inspection of the body?"

"Anyone? They're yummy delicious!" Willow said.

"Willow, was it a werewolf?" Willow set the box down on the table. Her expression showed that she wasn't overly anxious to say. "Was it a vampire?"

"I-it wasn't conclusive."

"Not conclusive? How is that possible? What did it look like?"

"Let her finish, Aurelia."

"I'm sorry." Aurelia said. "Please, go on."

Aurelia walked into the mansion through the heavy drapes hanging across the side entrance. Cassius was crouched against the wall, whimpering. Aurelia's heart broke all over again to see him that way and she stopped at the wall opposite him. Slowly she moved toward him. Cassius just remained hunched over in his crouch, not looking up or giving any indication that he knew she was there.

"Cassius?" He didn't seem to hear her. "Do you understand me, love?" Still there was nothing from him. She moved even closer and saw the familiar tattoo on his back, beckoning to her. It had been the one he'd gotten as Liam. The A held by the Griffon stood for Aurelia. Slowly she reached out and touched him lightly on the shoulder. He suddenly and very violently lashed out at her and roared.

Aurelia instantly took several steps backward away from him. He went back to his whimpering as Aurelia looked at him and rushed from the mansion. She made it to the steps and began sobbing. She sat down and pulled her knees to her chest tightly. The feeling that Cassius would never come back to her was starting to become overwhelming.

Aurelia made it back to school in time for her appointment with Mr. Platt. She walked into the office and closed the door behind her. He was turned away again, looking out of the window, his signature cigarette smoldering between his fingers. "Two o'clock. Buffy Summers, right?" She waited, but he didn't say anything. "Ok, I supposed you're just listening today and I'll be doing all the talking." Again he didn't say anything. She finally notices his cigarette. It was burned completely down to the filter, not once having had the ashes tapped off. Something was very wrong. She moved cautiously around the desk and found Mr. Platt sitting dead in his chair, his face and chest had been severely mauled.

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