Forever, That's The Whole Point

Chapter 51

Chapter 51

Cassius walked into the library where Aurelia was sitting at the table staring blankly at a book. "Hey."

She looked up. "Hey."

"I thought you had school today."

She snorted. "So did I, but on my way here, everyone was hightailing it out of Sunnydale."

"I was wondering why it sounded so busy above me." He sat down next to her. "Are you ok?"

"No."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

"Ok."

"Is it my fault?"

"What?"

"That those girls are dead? That Xander was mutilated? That those other potentials are probably going to die?"

"How exactly would that be your fault?"

"Because I'm here! Because I'm Aurelia again! I've never been a Slayer in any of my other lives. I've never led an army before. I don't know what I'm doing!" She sighed. "And these girls are just being picked off one by one because I don't know what I'm doing."

"You're doing the best you can."

"That's not good enough! I feel like my life as Buffy hasn't merged with my memories as Aurelia. As Aurelia, I don't know how to be a Slayer."

"Your memories as Buffy and Aurelia are fine. They're together." He smiled at her. "You didn't know how to be a Slayer before you got your memories back. Just like now, you were making it up as you went. And so far, that's made you a great Slayer."

"I should've thought it through before I took those girls in there."

"You couldn't have known what he was."

"I still don't know what he is."

"We'll find out and you'll kill him and we'll deal with whatever comes next."

"I think this is it, Cassius. I think this guy…. This preacher guy Shannon called Caleb…. I think he's the beginning of the end."

"What about your vision?"

"I think he's the key. I think once we deal with him then that vision will come true."

Cassius nodded. "Then you know what to do."

"Yeah." Aurelia sighed and looked at her watch. "I'm going to go to the hospital and check on Xander."

"Ok." He stood up with her. "I'll be waiting for you at the mansion." She nodded sadly and walked out.

Aurelia, Oz, and Willow were talking to Xander in his hospital room. Xander's left eye was covered with a bandage. Willow was sitting on the edge of his bed, holding his hand as Aurelia stood by her side, talking to Xander. Oz stood behind Willow holding her shoulders and giving them gentle squeezes. "You should expect to see some bruising when you remove the bandages. Bruising around the…. area. The bone structure and musculature was hit pretty hard."

"Ok." Xander said.

"Also they said that the…. the medications may cause you some stomach discomfort, so we're going to have to be careful with your diet."

"I can't taste anything right now anyway. I keep waiting for my other senses to improve 50%. Yeah, they should kick in any day now."

"Well, we're looking at a possible release as early as tonight. We're just waiting for your lab results to get back and Dr. Kallet said that should only be a couple of hours."

"That's great."

"Ok. I think we're all caught up then." Aurelia held the files up that Willow and Giles had gotten that morning at the police station. "Thank you for this. This was really great work."

"Oh. I thought we were gonna….. " Willow looked at Xander, then back at Aurelia. "There were gonna be card games."

"Oh, no, I just…. I should really get back. I want to get everyone started on this. I think we're really close to something."

"It's ok. It's gotta be done." Xander said. "And I might see you tonight, without depth perception, of course, but…. still." Aurelia nodded and walked out into the hallway. She leaned against the wall next to the doorway and closed her eyes.

"So, I guess you're stuck with me then, huh?" Willow said to Xander, trying to sound chipper. "Let's order some cherry-flavored off-brand gelatin, and then I think we'll be up for a rousing game of…."

"I might need a parrot."

"Huh?"

"To go with the eye patch." Oz said.

"It really completes the look, I think."

"Don't underestimate the impact of a peg leg, either."

"Maybe the hospital can hook you up with a nice one." Willow said. "Maybe they have a 2-body-parts for the price of one kind of deal."

"Oh, you know what the best part is? No one will ever make me watch Jaws 3-D again."

"Lucky." Oz said.

"Yeah, and, you'll never have to…." Aurelia could hear the tears choking Willow's words off.

"Oh, Willow…. please don't."

Aurelia couldn't take it anymore, she walked quickly down the hallway and away from Xander's room.

Aurelia walked into her house carrying the file Willow and Giles had gotten from the police. Cordelia walked into the room looking a little panicked. "Hey, Buffy, how's Xander?" She asked. Faith, Kennedy, and Amanda walked into the dining room where Aurelia was standing with Cordelia.

"He's doing really well." Aurelia said. "He's ready to come home." Aurelia smiled slightly and put the file down on the table.

"Whatcha got?" Faith asked.

"Information that Giles and Willow were able to pull off the police database. We figured with Caleb's overt religiousness that if we want to learn more about him we need to find out where he's been."

"'Incidents of violence and vandalism connected to California religious institutions in the last 10 years.'" Faith read. "Looks like this gives us a place to start."

"Yes. I figured we start with California. If we don't find anything there, we'll expand the search. A guy like Caleb didn't just start out fresh like this. He's been at it for a while, and I want to know where. Whatever it takes." Aurelia looked at Cordelia. "Are you ok to help?"

"I was planning on lots and lots of homework, but darn the luck, they went and canceled school, so it looks like I've got the time." Cordelia said, taking the files from Aurelia.

"Good."

"Hey, Buffy…. How was Xander's mood, you know, exactly? And did you get a chance to talk to the doctor about the meds? Because it seemed like…."

"Hey princess? Why don't you go get some of the stuff you've already gotten from Giles?" Faith said, cutting Cordelia off.

"Right. Buffy doesn't want to talk about it because she's the one who put Xander in the hospital." Cordelia turned and walked off.

"Boy, she's not one for the tact."

Aurelia shook her head and looked back down at the file. "You all, please try to find anything that looks like Caleb, his church, his ring…."

"His ability to render a Slayer useless in just one punch." Kennedy said. "I didn't…. that was stupid. I don't know why I said that."

"It's all right. You know, I…. I have to go back to the school to pick up some of my things."

"I really didn't mean…."

"It's fine. Really, it's fine. Don't worry about it. I'll be back soon. Faith, please see that everyone else gets started on this."

"Yeah." Faith started reading through the files as Aurelia walked back out the door.

Aurelia walked through the empty halls past the cleaned-out lockers. With a sigh, she walked into the library and looked around. She walked over to Giles' office and sat down at his desk. She picked up a picture that was there of her, Willow, and Xander. They were all hugging and they looked so happy smiling in the sunshine. It had been taken after Aurelia had regained her memories. Aurelia touched Xander's face and sniffled.

"Oh, now, look…." Aurelia looked up to see Caleb standing there right in front of her. "Things don't go exactly your way, so here come the waterworks. Ain't that just like a woman?"

"Get out of here." Aurelia growled.

"Now, now, little girl. Manners. I do imagine that firebrand tongue of yours has inflamed many a man, weak as they are. This here's a, uh…. public school, ain't it? Kinda deserted. Only just, I suppose. Folks work so hard at keepin' the Lord out, and look what happens in return." Aurelia backed up to a filing cabinet where Giles kept the smaller weapons. "He abandons you. Not that He could do you much good now, anyway…." Caleb turned to see Aurelia trying to reach into the cabinet for something. "Ah, ah, ah. Wouldn't do that were I you, swee'pea. Fightin' back didn't do you much good last time, did it? And how is poor, sweet Xander? Let him know he's in my prayers, and any time he's willin', I'm ready to…. finish the job."

"Go near Xander again, and I will kill you."

"Mind your manners. I do believe I did warn you once. You're angry…. frustrated, scared. I like that in a girl. You really should relax a little. Look at where you are. History's gonna look back at you, at me, at this place, and they're gonna see the glory. Great things are happenin' now, right here. This school, the seal…. it's all gonna be a part of the great sweepin' tide of change, and you're gonna be a part of it. Now, why would you wanna miss that? More importantly, why would you want to get in its way?" Aurelia didn't answer him. Instead, she punched Caleb in the face. "Ha ha ha! Oh, I knew you'd be a wild one…." Aurelia kicked him, but he grabbed her leg and pushed her down. She kicked his shins, but he picked her up off the ground by her neck. "I'm gonna take such sweet pleasure in taming you." He turned and threw Aurelia through the window. She landed across the library by the book cage, unconscious. "I'll see you soon, little lady." Caleb walked away.

Cordelia and Giles were reviewing the police file in the kitchen. "Ok, well, here's the one that stood out." Cordelia said. "It's, um, a mission up north in Gilroy." She handed Giles some files.

"I don't see anything." Giles said.

"Exactly. No vandalism at all."

"Then why is it in the file?"

"The place was abandoned. The locals started noticing after a few days that no one was going in or out. 6 members of the order lived there, but when the cops showed up…. all gone. Unsolved."

"Oh."

"Oh? Oh, good?"

"Not sure. Here…." Giles and Cordelia walked into the living room. He walked to the desk and pulled a magnifying glass out of the drawer. A bunch of potentials were sitting on the couch and chairs in the living room as well, but they were quiet and solemn-looking. Giles held the magnifying glass over the photo. "Cordelia, what do you see?"

"What am I looking for?"

"On the back wall, a…. knothole." Through the magnifying glass Cordelia could see an imprint of what looked like Caleb's ring in the wood on a wall next to a statue of Mary.

"That's not a knothole."

"Amanda, would you go down to the basement and get Angel?" Giles asked.

"Maybe this will help…. if this does bring us closer to Caleb."

"Sounded like there was news." Faith said, walking in.

"Hey." Cassius said.

"Angel, I have a mission for you." Giles said. "Take a look at this." Giles handed Cassius the photo and the magnifying glass.

"Looks like our boy's been here. Am I checking it out?"

"I need someone who can take care of themselves in case Caleb has…. left some souvenirs."

"Right." Cassius nodded and walked out.

"So, see?" Giles said, smiling at the potentials. "We'll have some news soon."

"Sure. Maybe that'll get us somewhere." Amanda said.

"Maybe." Faith said. "In the meantime, the troops here gotta sit and stew, feeling crappier by the minute."

"We should keep them occupied." Giles said.

"Yeah. I know how to keep them occupied." Faith grinned brightly.

Aurelia walked into an empty house. "Hey. Guys, how's it…. going?"

"Aurelia." Giles called from the dining room. She limped in and he stood up, concerned. "Are you hurt?"

"Oh…. Caleb came back looking for seconds."

"My God, is h-he…."

"The short lack of consciousness was nice. I feel rested. So…. how did those police files work out? Were they helpful?"

"Uh…. uh…. yes. Very much so, I think. Um…. there's evidence that Caleb may have established a foothold up north."

"That's great. That's…."

"I, um…. I sent Angel to look into it."

"My Cassius? Is this a mission from which you intend him to return alive?"

"Yes."

"I wish you would've waited for me."

"You weren't here. Decisions have to be made in your absence."

"Those are the ones that have been scaring me."

"I did what I thought was right."

"You sent away the one person that's been watching my back."

"We're all watching your back."

"Funny…. that's not really what it feels like." Aurelia stood up to walk away. "Where did everybody go?"

"What?"

"Faith. The girls. Where are they?"

"Um…. Faith thought that the girls could do with some time off their studies. I…. I thought…. She took them to the Bronze."

"The Bronze?"

"Yes."

Aurelia sighed. "I don't think they should be out having fun. They need to train."

"I agree, but you know as well as I do that a Slayer needs a night off every now and then."

"I know that…. But with what's coming…. I just think they should be prepared. They shouldn't be out having a party."

"I think you should join them. Really, there's nothing for you to do here." Aurelia stared at him for a long moment. "You're only 18. You should be out there with them having fun."

She sighed. "I suppose you're right."

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