The bell rang and Aurelia walked around a corner in the halls. She stopped when she saw Willow at her locker. Taking a breath to calm herself, she headed over to her friend. "Hey."
"Hey!" Willow said.
"So on a scale of one to a million, how much do you hate me right now?"
"Zero. You were scared, you kept a secret, you know? That's-it-it's ok. I mean, secrets aren't bad. You know, they're normal. They're better than normal. They're good. Secrets are good. Must be a reason why we keep them, right?"
"Yes, I suppose."
"So, are you going to the Bronze tonight, or, uh, are you gonna sneak away for a not-so-secret rendezvous with Angel?"
"Sadly, none of the above. I'm going try and kill this Lagos."
"Well, Angel has the glove now, right?"
"Yes. But Lagos doesn't know that. I figure sooner or later he's bound to show up at that crypt looking for it."
"Ah, but instead he finds an Aurelia in a not-so-good mood."
"That's my brilliant plan."
"So, uh…. Why doesn't Angel help you?"
"He's not at full strength yet. A hundred years in hell sort of takes its toll."
"Oh! Yeah. Of course! Well, I gotta…." Willow waved and headed for her next class.
Willow paced and Aurelia sat on a stone bench while they waited for Lagos to show up at the Restfield Cemetery in front of the Von Hauptman family crypt. "Um, not to downplay my own slaying abilities, which in some circles are considered formidable, but shouldn't Faith be here?"
"I tried calling, but no one was home." Aurelia said. "If you're feeling uncomfortable, please, leaving is an option."
"Now that my secret…. Cassius, it's all out in the open…. I feel better."
"Well, sure you do. This big burden's been lifted. I mean, keeping secrets is a lot of work. One could hypothetically imagine."
"You have no idea."
"None whatsoever. But…. Can I ask you a question?" Aurelia nodded. "When you were with Angel and nobody knew about it, did that make it feel, you know, sexier somehow?"
"But you have to remember that Cassius and I are used to meeting in secret." Aurelia smiled slightly. "What makes you think all this secret stuff is sexy, anyway?"
"Nothing. I'm just wondering. Gotta keep asking the big old questions when you're blessed with this girl's thirst for knowledge and…. Ok. There's something I have to tell you."
"Ok. This will make me feel better, right? You know, I always consider myself a good person. Floss, do my homework, never cheat. But lately, and please don't judge me on this, but I want you to be the first to know that, that…. there's a demon behind you."
Aurelia looked behind her and kicked her legs up to spin herself around on the bench. She used the momentum of the spin to start a running attack. She jumped into a twin pike kick to Lago's stomach. It had no real effect on Lagos. He took a step backward as she fell flat to the ground. Willow looked on, worried and unable to help. Lagos reached down for Aurelia and grabbed her by the neck. He pulled her up only to flip her back down to the ground in a sloppy front tuck.
She landed hard on her back, but got to her feet and came at Lagos with a combination of a punch to the gut and the face, a half spin, a backhand to the face, another half spin, and another backhand. She tried for an elbow jab, but he blocked it, grabbed her arm, and reached for her leg, lifting her up above his head.
Willow waved her hands wildly in protest. "Don't…."
Lagos suddenly dropped Aurelia and she landed hard on her back. Willow cringed at the sight. Aurelia quickly got to her feet and stepped to her right as Lagos swung a fist at her head. He missed her and smashed his fist into a stone cross. Taking advantage of the opening, Aurelia stepped in and kicked him in the gut, following up with a roundhouse kick to his face, a full spin, and another roundhouse kick to his crotch. Lagos doubled over in pain.
Aurelia saw the battle-ax on his back. "Now we're talking." She grabbed the ax, pulled it from its sheath, and swung it around as Lagos straightened back up. In one stroke Lagos was suddenly headless. His head rolled along the ground a ways before coming to a rest a ways away.
Willow pumped her fists into the air in front of her. "Yes!" She quickly played down her gesture into crossed arms.
Aurelia walked back to her. "Sorry about that. So, what were you saying?"
"Oh, I…. I opened my SAT test booklet five minutes early. Just doesn't seem important now, does it?"
Aurelia smiled, knowing that wasn't Willow's secret. She didn't want to push it, though. "Your secret's safe with me. Come on. Let's go bring Giles some happiness." She shouldered the battle-ax and the two girls headed for the library. They trotted through the doors with Aurelia saying, "Giles is going to be so excited that we showed up stuffy old Mrs. Post." They saw the paramedics with Giles on a gurney. Aurelia tossed the battle-ax over the counter and rushed to Giles' side. "Oh, my God. What happened? Giles…." She heard one of the paramedics say something about blunt object head trauma. "What happened?"
"No time for this." The paramedic started to wheel him out.
"Wait…." Giles said, causing the paramedics to stop. "Aurelia, you must…. must destroy the glove."
"You want him to live? Get out of the way." The paramedic and her partner quickly rolled Giles from the library.
"Use…. Living…. Flame…."
"Move!" They slammed the library doors open with the gurney and turned down the hall.
Willow looked at Xander, worried and wanting to know what went down. Aurelia watched until the gurney had disappeared, then also turned to Xander for an explanation. He just gave her a blank stare. "What happened?" Aurelia demanded.
"Your boyfriend's not as cured as you thought." Xander said.
"What makes you think that Cassius had anything to do with this?"
"We saw what you saw."
"So you just assume?"
"I didn't. Faith did."
"What did you tell her?"
"Only what everyone knows. She's a big girl. Came to her own conclusions."
"How much of a head start does she have?"
Aurelia turned to Willow. "Go through Giles' research. Figure out how to destroy the glove." She glared at Xander for a second, not believing that he could actually do such a thing, and then ran from the library to save Cassius. Her heart was in her throat by the time she reached the mansion at a dead run. She had just enough time to assess the situation before she had to act. Cassius was laying dazed on the floor and Faith was standing over him with her stake raised. Aurelia threw herself forward and caught the downward swing that was aimed at his chest.
Faith looked to her side and saw that it was Aurelia. "What?"
Aurelia grabbed Faith by the waist and threw her away from Cassius. "I can't let you do it, Faith."
Faith got to her feet and the two Slayers squared off, Aurelia standing over Cassius to defend him. "You're confused, Twinkie." Faith said. "Let me clear you up. Vampire. Slayer. Dead vampire."
"There's a lot that you don't understand."
"Faith…." The two Slayers looked over at a downed Gwendolyn Post. "She doesn't know. She's blinded by love."
"Faith, no." Aurelia warned.
"Trust me." Faith looked back and forth between her Watcher and Aurelia.
Aurelia dropped her guard. "Faith, we can figure this out…."
Faith did a full spinning kick to Aurelia's face. She took the hit hard, falling to her knees next to Cassius. Faith delivered two roundhouse kicks to Aurelia's gut while she was still on the floor. Aurelia stood up and uppercut Faith's right arm, knocking the stake from her hand. She backhanded Faith in the face and punched her in the chest. She shoved Faith backward and Faith took a few stumbling steps, trying to steady herself.
Aurelia didn't give her a chance. She did a jumping double roundhouse kick, alternating her legs, both of which were blocked by Faith. She tried a backhand, but Faith blocked it. Aurelia growled and whirled around, punching Faith in the face with her other hand, catching Faith off guard. Faith leaned in again and tried to punch Aurelia, but she blocked it and punched Faith in the gut and again in the face.
Faith dropped to the floor, but tried to sweep kick Aurelia's legs out from under her. Aurelia jumped to avoid it and Faith scrambled back up and the two girls faced off again. Aurelia blocked two roundhouse kicks from Faith. She tried a high out-to-in crescent kick, which Faith easily ducked. Faith rose back up and did a spinning back kick that hit Aurelia squarely in the back, sending her to her knees. Faith rushed up behind her and grabbed her in a choke hold around her neck. Aurelia grabbed Faith's arm and twisted her body around, trying to throw Faith off, but to no avail. She grabbed Faith's fingers and pulled them backward, cracking her knuckles.
Aurelia was able to throw Faith off with a twist of her body and both girls ended up on the floor. Faith rolled into a wall, hitting her back against a corner. Aurelia scrambled to her feet and ran at Faith, but she snapped out her leg and tripped Aurelia, making her fall again. Aurelia rolled over her back and to her knees. While she was still crouched, Faith came in for an axe kick, trying to hit her on the way down. Aurelia blocked her leg, grabbed her ankle, and raised her arms, throwing Faith off balance and to the floor. Faith quickly got to her feet and the two Slayers faced off once again.
Aurelia rushed Faith and grabbed her by the waist. The two of them went crashing through the French doors out into the atrium. When the glass had fallen, they both rolled away from each other and to their feet, facing off a fourth time. Faith gave Aurelia an angry look, spun all the way around, and backhanded Aurelia in the face. Faith tried another backhand, which Aurelia blocked. Faith punched her in the gut and did another backhand to her face, this time connecting and forcing Aurelia to her hands and knees. Faith advanced on her, but Aurelia did a crouching back kick to her stomach, making her stagger backward into a metal garden chair. She quickly got up, grabbed the chair, and threw it at Aurelia, who sidestepped it and it clanged to the stone walk.
Faith did a half-spinning crescent kick, which Aurelia ducked, but got hit instead with Faith's next roundhouse kick. Faith swung a punch at her, but she ducked it and blocked a backhand from Faith as well. Aurelia faked a punch and instead elbowed Faith in the gut. Faith ducked the next punch and Aurelia pushed Faith backwards and did a half spinning hook kick to her face, almost making her lose her balance. Faith did a jumping roundhouse kick, which Aurelia ducked.
Xander came rushing out through the broken doors. "What are you…." He got between them. "Stop! Guys, listen!"
Faith grabbed him by the shirt and threw him into a lamppost. He bounced off of it and hit the stone walkway hard. Aurelia did a diving punch, knocking Faith in the head and making her cry out in pain. Faith got back up threw a punch, but Aurelia blocked it. Aurelia tried to punch her, but was also blocked. Faith tried again and was blocked again. Aurelia grabbed onto Faith's throat and Faith reached up to try to pry Aurelia's hand off of her.
Inside, Gwendolyn held the glove in her left hand and looked down at it. Slowly she slid her right arm into the glove. Once it was inside, she made a fist with the clawed fingers. Suddenly the metal claws surrounding the glove's opening began closing, puncturing her arm one at a time until all ten had become permanently embedded in her forearm's flesh. She held up her gloved arm and smiled maniacally at the sight, seemingly oblivious to the pain. She extended her arm above her, up toward the huge skylight and recited the Gaelic spell that would invoke the power of the glove.
Up in the sky, lightning struck and thunder boomed. Outside Aurelia and Faith stopped their fighting to see what was going on. Inside Gwendolyn breathed excitedly as she waited for the power to become hers. Lightning struck again above the skylight. Aurelia and Faith stared at Gwendolyn, still holding onto each other, not yet willing to take the chance on releasing their grip. Gwendolyn stared intently up at the sky, awaiting her reward for being the new wearer of the Glove of Myhnegon. The two Slayers realized their fight was no longer with each other and let go.
"What's going on?" Faith said.
Gwendolyn allowed herself to be distracted, lowered her gloved arm, and looked over at Faith. "Faith! A word of advice: you're an idiot." Gwendolyn once again raised her arm to the sky and uttered the words that would call forth the power of the glove.
On the floor, Willow woke up and turned around just in time to see a blindlingly bright bolt of lightning smash through the skylight and strike the glove. Shards of shattered glass fell everywhere, but Gwendolyn ignored them and rejoiced in her new-found power. She turned to face the Slayers and extended the glove toward them. A bolt of energy leapt from the glove at the two girls. They scrambled out of the way and the bolt hit a tree in the atrium, instantly setting it ablaze.
Aurelia and Faith looked at it in amazement, then turned their attention to what they could do about Gwendolyn. Cassius also came to and quickly took in the situation. Willow got to her feet and began backing away, stiff with fear, staring at Gwendolyn in shocked horror. The would-be Watcher spun around and aimed the glove at her. Thinking fast, Cassius jumped to his feet and rushed toward Willow. A lightning bolt shot through the skylight, hit the glove, and was redirected at Willow. Cassius reached her just in time and roughly tackled her to the floor out of harm's way. The bolt hit the fireplace instead and left a deep scorch mark in the marble.
"Can you draw her fire?" Aurelia said to Faith.
"You bet I can." Faith said.
"Go do it."
Faith got to her feet and ran into the mansion. Gwendolyn saw her coming and Faith ducked into a hallway and kept running. Gwendolyn surmised that Faith would appear at the other hallway leading from the opposite end of the room and extended her arm in that direction. Another lightning bolt struck the glove and was sent in the direction of the hallway just as Faith came running out of it. She dove behind the couch, avoiding the blast from the glove.
Thrilled with the power that was now hers, Gwendolyn held the glove up before her, staring at it with lustful desire in her eyes. "There's nothing you can do to me now. I have the glove. With the glove comes the power."
Outside Aurelia sifted through the broken glass, found a larger shard, and ran into the mansion. "I'm getting that."
Gwendolyn looked over at Aurelia in surprise. Aurelia threw the shard of glass end over end. It flew like a spinning blade at Gwendolyn and sliced cleanly through her upper arm, severing it and the glove from her body. With nothing to control it now, the power of the glove became erratic and small bolts and sparks leapt from it in random directions. Another bolt of lightning struck through the skylight and not having a target this time, hit Gwendolyn in the chest, with a few small tendrils going in through her eyes. She screamed at the top of her lungs as her body began to writhe in pain.
Everyone watched helplessly as she kept screaming and the lightning bolts kept coming. Aurelia shut her eyes to the sight. A moment later, with one final bright lightning strike, what was left of a one-armed Gwendolyn vanished in a bright flash of light and energy. A few small arcs of electricity were all that remained as the last of the energy dissipated and the mansion was again in relative darkness.
Aurelia opened her eyes and saw Willow and Cassius get to their feet. Outside, Xander got up also and headed inside. Faith stood up from behind the couch. All that was left in the center of the room were bits of glass and framework from the skylight, a cloud of smoke slowly rising upward, and the Glove of Myhnegon with Gwendolyn's severed arm still firmly in its grip. One by one the ten claws opened up, releasing it.
Aurelia walked up the stairs to meet her friends sitting in the student lounge. "What are you guys talking about?"
"Oddly enough, your boyfriend. Again." Oz said.
Aurelia nodded and looked at Xander and Cordelia. "Are we ok?"
"Yeah!" Xander said. "Just seeing the two of you kissing after everything that happened, I leaned toward the postal. But I trust you."
"I don't. Just for the record." Cordelia said.
Aurelia raised her eyebrows, not all that surprised. Behind her Giles cleared his throat and she turned to face him. He was leaning against the railing with a large bandage on his left temple. "Let me guess: Gwendolyn Post is not a Watcher." Aurelia said.
"Yes, she was." Giles said. "She was, uh, kicked out by the Council a couple of years ago for misuses of dark power. They swear there was a memo."
"Well, I better go. I have a little bit more damage control to attend to." Aurelia gave a little wave and walked away from her friends. She headed for Faith's motel room, hoping the other Slayer was there. She knocked lightly on the door.
"Come in." Faith called from inside.
Aurelia opened the door, peeked in, and then came into the room. "Hey. The place looks nice."
"Yeah, it's real Spartan."
"How are you?"
"I'll interpret that as good." Faith didn't respond, but just continued paging through her magazine. "Gwendolyn Post, or whoever she may be, had us all fooled. Even Giles."
"Yeah, well, you can't trust people. I should've learned that by now."
"I realize this is going to sound funny coming from someone that just spent a lot of time kicking your face…. but you can trust me."
"Is that right?"
"I know I kept secrets, but I didn't have a choice. I'm on your side."
"I'm on my side and that's enough."
"Is that it?"
"Alright. Well, then, I'll see you." Faith averted her eyes and stared at the TV. Aurelia took the hint and turned to go. "Uh, Buffy?"
Aurelia faced her expectantly. "Yes?"
Faith reconsidered again for a long moment and changed her mind again. "Nothing."
Aurelia lowered her eyes, disappointed. Slowly she turned back to the door, opened it, and left. She went over to the stairs and paused for a moment, staring sadly into space, and then started down the steps. She thought that it might be better that the gap between her and everyone she loved might be better if it kept widening. Maybe it wouldn't hurt them so much when the End of Days did come.