Aurelia sighed. "Thanks again for the ride. I didn't want to be late meeting Faith."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you came to tell me how it went with your mother and Cassius."
"I figured you'd like to know."
"She's really into our stories and the way we tell them."
"I'm sure it's a sight. When are you going to tell your friends?"
Aurelia looked down. "Soon. He's getting better and I just have to figure out the right way to tell them. Without them grabbing the stakes and torches."
"If you need any help…."
"Thank you." They arrived at the Bronze and Giles put the car in park. "I'll see you later."
"I'll be back at the library if you need me."
Aurelia waved and got out of the car. Her friends were crowded at a table near the dance floor with a good view of the stage. Oz and his band had been playing, but now music filtered through the speakers from a CD and Oz was sitting with Willow. She spotted Faith near the bar dancing with some guy. Faith spotted her and nodded.
"But we're the best of Buffy's bestest buds. She'd tell us." Xander was saying.
"Tell you what?" Aurelia asked.
"About your new boyfriend, who we made up." Willow said. "Unless we didn't?"
"This was a topic of discussion?"
"Well, raised, but never discussed." Oz said.
"So, are you dating somebody or not?" Cordelia asked.
Aurelia angled her eyes up and swayed around a bit, considering what she should say. "I wouldn't use the word 'dating', but I am going out with somebody. Tonight, as a matter of fact."
Faith put her hand on Xander's shoulder and pulled him aside a little so she could squeeze in. "Yo, what's up?" She nudged Aurelia's shoulder. "Hey, time to motorvate."
Aurelia put her arm around Faith. "Really, we're just good friends." The two Slayers headed out of the club laughing.
The next morning, Giles was leaning against the stair railing in the library cleaning his glasses. Aurelia was sitting near the middle of the large central table where several books were lying open. Faith was standing by a corner of the table, addressing Mrs. Gwendolyn Post, who was looking through some of Giles' collection. She'd shown up at the cemetery the night before with Giles and had introduced herself as Faith's new Watcher.
Faith, however, wasn't having it. "I'm telling you, I don't need a new Watcher. No offense, lady. I just have this problem with authority figures. They end up kind of dead."
"Duly noted, and fortunately, it's not up to you." Mrs. Post said. Aurelia and Faith exchanged a look as Gwendolyn walked around the table below the railing of the upper level, looking around at the few stacks there were in the study area of the library, apparently unaware that the main stacks were up the stairs and through a set of French doors, well out of view. "Mr. Giles, where do you keep the rest of your books?"
"I-I'm sorry. The rest?" Giles asked.
"Yes, the actual library." Giles gave her a confused look. "Oh. I see."
"I can assure you, Mrs. Post, this is the finest occult reference collection…."
"This side of the Atlantic, I'm sure. Do you have Hume's Paranormal Encyclopedia?" Giles looked away, knowing that while his collection was superior, it was still not complete. "The Labyrinth Maps of Malta?"
"It's on order."
"Well, I suppose that you have Sir Robert Kane's Twilight Compendium?"
"Oh! Uh…. Yes, I…. Yes!" Giles pulled it out of a shelf. "Yes, I do."
"Of course you do. I have been sent by the Council for a very important reason. Faith needs a Watcher. I am to act in that capacity and report back."
"Excuse me, Mary Poppins, you don't seem to be listening." Faith said.
"Faith, if the Council feels that you need closer observation, then…. we will all, of course, cooperate." Giles interrupted.
"The Council wished me to report on the entire situation here, including you." Gwendolyn added to Giles. "The fact is, there is talk in the Council that you have become a bit too…. American."
"Me?" Giles asked.
"Him?" Aurelia echoed his surprise.
"A demon named Lagos is coming here to the Hellmouth." Gwendolyn said. "Mr. Giles, an illustration of Lagos, if you please."
"Oh, uh…." Giles looked at the books on the table. "Yes. Uh…." He sat at the table and began to look through one of the books.
"Perhaps later. Lagos seeks the Glove of Myhnegon. No record of this glove's full power exists, but we do know it is highly dangerous and must not fall into the hands of a demon. Lagos must be stopped."
Giles folded his hands over his books and looked up at her. "What do you propose?"
"Well, if it's not too radical a suggestion, I thought we might kill him. I suggest two Slayers at full strength for a coordinated hunt. We believe the glove to be buried in a tomb somewhere, so Lagos will be headed for the cemetery."
"There is more than one in Sunnydale."
"I see. How many?"
"Uh, twelve, within the city limits."
"Well, we'll just have to take them one at a time. Anything in your books that might pinpoint the exact location of the tomb would be useful, but then, we cannot ask for miracles. We will begin tomorrow at sunset. Faith…. With me, please." She gave Faith a thin smile and walked from the library. Faith gave Aurelia a glance, then followed Gwendolyn Post out.
Giles visibly relaxed when they'd gone. "That was bracing." He slapped his glasses onto the table and leaned his lips into his fist.
"Interesting lady. Can we kill her?" Aurelia asked.
"I think the Council might frown upon that." His expression indicated he was considering it anyway, but soon discarded the notion. "Well…. How do you feel about a spot of training?"
Aurelia smiled. "Sorry. Cassius is making me a nighttime picnic tonight." She stood up. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."
Aurelia and Cassius were practicing Tai Chi in front of the great fireplace at the mansion. Cassius concentrated on the exercises, but Aurelia watched his moves and did her best to mirror them. They each began with their arms stretched high above and ahead of them, hands together. They lowered their arms to waist level with a graceful bend at the elbows. Aurelia glanced over at Cassius, watching his elegant movements and thinking about how beautiful he was. She turned her attention back to the exercise and crossed her right wrist over her left. They both swept their crossed arms in a wide arc from left to right and then drew their hands in to their waists and made a quarter turn to their left, so that Aurelia had her back to Angel.
They both extended their arms and slowly raised them, never stopping their fluid movements, until their hands were again held high. Cassius took the two steps over to Aurelia and put his hands over hers. Aurelia looked up at his hands on hers as he pulled her arms down and around her. She slowly turned to face him and angled her face up toward him. Their lips almost met, but Aurelia suddenly pulled away and walked over to one of the two couches.
"I've got to go."
Cassius turned away, a confused expression on his face. He finally turned back as she grabbed her bag. "Aurelia…."
She looked down. "I want you."
"I've always wanted you."
"But we can't." She looked back up at him. "The curse…. You're not allowed to have happiness with me."
"We're also not supposed to exist together…. But we're here…. Together."
"I don't want to test it." The look in her eyes told him everything. She was terrified of Angelus coming back out.
He cupped her face in his hands. "Then we won't." Reaching down gently, Cassius kissed Aurelia tenderly. "We won't put you through that ever again, love."
She pulled away. "I'm sorry. It's just…. old habit." She touched his bare chest. "A habit to be broken."
"It's not hard. I've heard that cold turkey is the key to quitting."
"Aurelia, really. There's no need for this. When the End of Days finally comes…. It'll be all over and we can start again."
She nodded and sighed. "Well, I do need to go. I'm going to try to vent a little hormonal angst by going out there and killing a Lagos, whatever that is."
"Some demon looking for some all-powerful thing and I've got to stop him before he unleashes unholy havoc.""What if…."
"It's not. Giles would be more worried. But there's something else coming. Something big. He's working every angle on it. I'll come back tomorrow."
Aurelia reached out and gently touched his cheek, rubbing her thumb against his smooth skin. After a long moment, she turned and headed out of the mansion. Cassius watched her back as she went and when she was gone, he got up to start some work of his own.
Faith and Aurelia walked along as people and cars went by. "Ronnie, deadbeat." Faith was saying, going over her multiple boyfriends. "Steve, klepto. Kenny…. drummer. Eventually, I just had to face up to my destiny as a loser magnet. Now it's strictly get some, get gone. You can't trust guys."
"You can trust some guys." Aurelia said.
"Yeah. So, what about you?"
"You mean me and guys?"
"There's not much to tell. There's only been one I truly love."
"Yeah, but you gotta have stories. I mean, I've had my share of losers, but you…. you boinked the undead. What was that like?"
"Faith, really…. You wouldn't understand."
"Well, try me! Explain to me how you can only love one dude for five thousand years. Cause I really don't get it."
"It hasn't been five thousand years. More like almost three. But…. Look, Faith, all the Cassius issues are still kind of with me, so if you don't mind, I'd rather not."
"Yeah. Yeah, whatever. You know what? We're oh for six tonight. Why don't we just blow this off?"
"Yes. I am kind of tired. But Shady Hill's pretty close."
"I'll swing through it. It's on my way anyway."
"Alone? I…. I don't know if I'd…."
"I got Miss Priss on my back now. I don't need another baby-sitter. I'll holler if I'm having any fun."
"Thanks." Aurelia watched Faith go for a moment before turning and heading back to Cassius's.
He was reading by the fireplace when she walked in through the atrium. He turned to look and smiled. "Hi. I thought you and Faith were…."
"We were. It was slow, so we both headed out."
"My mom's fine. She's probably asleep by now." Aurelia sat down next to him and scooted closer. His arm wrapped around her waist and she leaned into him.
"Are you ok?"
She sighed. "I suppose."
"I miss us." She laughed. "You'd think 200 odd years would be enough time to get used to there not being an us, but…."
Cassius sighed and brought her lips to his. She wanted to resist, but she couldn't. He had to prove that they could still be together without sex. That he still loved her. Deep down, that's exactly what she was scared of. That being Angelus for all that time had dampened his love for her. But it wasn't true.
He pulled her forward as he laid back in front of the fireplace. She followed, keeping her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. Eventually, she had to breathe, though, and pulled back. "Cassius…."
"Shh…. It's ok. Nothing's going to happen." He held her to him for a long moment, scared she would pull away. When she didn't, he smiled. "Hey, I think I have what you're looking for." In one smooth motion, he stood up, placing her on her feet. He led her by the hand over to a pedestal where something was wrapped up in rags.
"Great…. Just, wherever this was gift-wrapped, remind me not to shop there." Aurelia laughed.
Cassius smiled and unwrapped the rags to reveal their contents. It was an ancient-looking glove made of leather, chain mail, and plate mail. There were small spikes along the plates that covered the back of the hand and the forearm. Ringed around the opening were ten hinged claws that looked something like crab legs, but made of steel and very sharp. "The Glove of Myhnegon." Aurelia reached out to touch it, but Cassius quickly stayed her hand with his. "No, don't. Once you put it on, the glove can never be removed."
"So…. no touching." She watched as he wrapped the glove back up in the rags. "Will you hold on to it. I'll tell Giles in the morning. At least he'll be happy that his Slayer got the Glove before Gwendolyn Post's."
"Who is Gwendolyn Post?"
"Faith's new Watcher. I don't like her and neither does Giles. She's very snooty."
"She'll take some getting used like Giles did. You and Faith will probably break her, though. No one can stay that snooty around you."
Aurelia sighed. "I'd better go. I do have school in the morning and it is late."
She leaned into him and kissed him gently. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Parting is such sweet sorrow." Cassius said holding her hand until she was too far out of reach.
Giles and Aurelia walked into the library. "At least Lagos is out of luck." They stopped and saw Xander, Cordelia, Oz, and Willow were all sitting at the center table looking glum. "What's going on? You all look so…. Tragic."
"Better take a seat, Buffy." Xander said, getting up out of his chair and nudging it over a bit so it was at the head of the table. He stepped away to stand next to Cordelia.
Aurelia slowly stepped over to the chair and sat down. "What's going on?"
"We know Angel is alive. I saw you with him. You've been hiding him and you lied to us."
"Nobody's here to blame you, Aurelia. But this is serious. You need help." Willow said.
"Oh, for god's sake!"
"You're harboring a vicious killer." Xander said.
"This isn't about attacking Aurelia. Remember, 'I' statements only. 'I feel angry.' 'I feel worried.'" Willow said.
"Fine." Cordelia said. "Here's one: I feel worried…. about me! Last time around, Angel barely laid a hand on Buffy. He was way more interested in killing her friends."
"He's not Angelus now. He's Cassius again."
"But for how long, Aurelia?" Xander snapped. "I mean, did you even think about that?"
"What is this? I don't need an intervention." She looked at Giles and he sighed.
Before Giles could speak on Aurelia's behalf, Xander attacked again. "Don't you? You must've known it was wrong seeing Angel or you wouldn't have hidden it from all of us."
"She was going to tell you." Giles said.
"Yes, I knew. She told me first. I admit that I had my qualms about him, but she assures me that everything is fine."
"Oh, right. Cause you're going to take her word on it."
"I didn't know why he came back and I just wanted to wait to tell you all…." Aurelia started.
"For what? For Angel to go psycho again the next time you give him a happy?"
"I'm not going to…."
"But you were kissing him." Oz said.
Aurelia's head snapped over to look at Xander. "You were spying on me? What gives you the right?"
"What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover again?" Cordelia asked.
"It's none of your business."
"I think it is."
"I would never put you in any danger. If I thought for a second that Cassius was going to hurt anyone…."
"You would stop him." Xander said. "Like you did last time with Ms. Calendar."
Willow stood up. "Aurelia, I feel that when it comes to Cassius, you can't see straight. And that's why we're, we're all gonna help you face this."
"He's better now. He's the one that found the Glove of Myhnegon. He's keeping it safe for us in the mansion." Aurelia said proudly.
"Right! Great plan." Xander snapped. "Leave tons of firepower with the Scary Guy, and leave us to clean up the mess." He made tracks to leave the library, intent on doing something about this.
Aurelia took him by the arm and spun him around to face her. "You would just love an excuse to hurt him, wouldn't you?"
"I don't need an excuse. I think lots of dead people actually constitutes a reason."
"Oh, yes. This is all nobility. This has nothing to do with jealousy."
"Hello? Miss Not-Over-Yourself-Yet?" Cordelia said.
"Don't you start with me."
"No one's doing the 'I' statements!" Willow cried.
"That's enough!" Giles ordered. "Everybody. Now, Aurelia knows your concerns and her actions can be understood. Our priority right now is to retrieve the Glove of Myhnegon and try to destroy it. Now, all of you, back to classes."