Aurelia and Xander were dancing together at the Bronze and exchanged a few words as they moved around. Behind them Cordelia and Willow were sitting at a table and chatting. Aurelia was enjoying herself. She felt the slightest bit guilty that she was having fun and Angelus was still loose on Sunnydale, but she had a peace of mind now that she could stop him. She could fight him back. He wouldn't hurt her ever again.
"You thirsty?" Xander asked.
"Parched!" Aurelia wound her arm through Xander's and they headed back to the table where their drinks were waiting.
"Having fun?" Willow asked.
"I'm having a wonderful time." Aurelia sat down next to Willow. "What about you?"
"Oh, me too!"
"You haven't had a lot of fun, have you?" Cordelia asked.
Aurelia sighed, but didn't lose her smile. "Not for a long time. Not as my true self anyway."
"How are you doing with your mom?" Willow asked.
"Oh, she's wonderful. We have so much fun together. It's hard lying to her, though."
"About being you?" Xander asked.
"And about being the Slayer. I'm always terrified that she'll find out and it'll break her heart."
"You're still her little girl."
"Yes, and speaking of…. She's expecting me to be home soon. School night and all." Aurelia and Willow stood up, linked their arms, and walked out of the Bronze with Cordelia and Xander behind them, their arms around each other.
Aurelia woke up the next morning and stretched. She opened her eyes to look over at her clock, but they fixed on an envelope left next to her on her pillow. A jolt of ice cold terror shot through her. She pushed her hair back and picked up the envelope as she sat up. Slowly, she opened the envelope, knowing who it was from. He'd played this game with her before. She took out the paper inside, unfolded it, and sure enough, there was a sketch of her sleeping.
Aurelia, instead of becoming scared, got angry. She got up, got dressed, and left the house. Her mother had already gone to work. Aurelia burst into the library and found Giles standing behind the counter checking in various books. "He was in my room." She announced.
"Who?" Giles asked.
"Angelus. He was in my room last night." Aurelia noticed that Xander and Cordelia were there also as Giles came around the counter.
"Are you sure?"
"He's played this game before. He leaves pictures of me on my pillow. His favorites are of me sleeping."
"A visit from the pointed-tooth fairy." Xander quipped.
"Wait, I thought vampires couldn't come in unless you invited them in." Cordelia said.
"Yes, but once you've invited them in they're always welcome." Aurelia said.
"Y'know, I think there may be a valuable lesson for you gals here about inviting strange men into your bedrooms." Xander said.
"Oh, God!" Cordelia cried. "I invited him in my car once. That means he can come into my car whenever he wants." Aurelia rolled her eyes at the girl.
"Yep, you're doomed to having to give him and his vamp pals a lift whenever they feel like it. And those guys never chip in for gas."
"Giles, there has to be some sort of spell to reverse the invitation! I've heard of it before, but I never could find one." Aurelia said.
"Yeah, that works for a car, too?" Cordelia added.
"Yes, well, I-I-I could check on my…." Giles was cut off by Xander hopped up from his chair and saying, "Hello!" They all looked behind them and saw Jonathon and a girl come into the library.
"Excuse me, but have you ever heard of knocking?" Xander asked.
"We're supposed to get some books. On Stalin." Jonathon said.
"Does this look like a Barnes & Noble?"
"This is a school library, Xander." Giles said.
"Uh, y-yes, yes, uh, third row. Historical biographies."
"Thanks." Jonathon and the girl walked past them, up the stairs, and into the stacks. The others watched them go until they disappeared. Xander pointed out of the library. He and Cordelia picked up their things and started out. Giles looked at Aurelia, confused, but followed.
"So Angel has decided to step up his harassment of you?" Giles asked once they were clear.
"By sneaking in her room and leaving stuff at night? Why doesn't he just slit her throat or strangle her while she's sleeping or cut her heart out?" Cordelia asked, getting looks from everyone. "What? I'm trying to help."
Aurelia sighed. "Because those are all things he's done before. It's always something new with him."
"Yes. Uh, uh, look, it's-it's classic battle strategy to throw one's opponent off his game. He-he-he's just trying to provoke you. Uh, to taunt you, to, to goad you into, uh, some mishap of some sort."
"The nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah approach to battle?" Xander asked.
"Yes, Xander, once more you've managed to boil a complex thought down to its simplest possible form."
"Giles," Aurelia closed her eyes and sighed. "The last time I had a family that I was close to…. the first thing he did was to kill my family. He drove my sister mad before he turned her and sent her after me. I'm gonna have to tell my mother something. The truth?"
"No. You-you-you-you can't do that."
"Yeah. The more people who know the secret, the more it cheapens it for the rest of us." Xander said.
"But I've got to tell her something. I've got to do something." Aurelia said. "Angelus can come into to my house whenever he pleases and I'm not always there when my mother is. I can't protect her."
"I told you I will find a spell."
"What about until you find a spell?"
"Until then, you and your mother are welcome to ride around with me in my car." Cordelia said.
"Aurelia, I-I understand your concern, but it's imperative that you keep a level head through all this."
"That's easy for you to say." Aurelia said. "You don't have Angelus lurking in your bedroom at night."
"I know how hard this is for you." Aurelia shot Giles a look. "All right, I don't. But as the Slayer, you don't have the luxury of being a slave to your, your passions. You mustn't let Angel get to you. No matter how provocative his behavior may become."
"So what you're basically saying is, 'just ignore him, and maybe he'll go away'?"
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "And here I thought you'd done your homework on him. He won't give up, Giles. Especially not this time."
"Why's it so different this time?" Cordelia asked.
"He's been forced to endure Cassius's guilt for the things the demon did to me for over a hundred years. He's had to feel Cassius's undying love for me for over a hundred years. Not to forget that my people at the time forced that on him for what he did to me. He absolutely hates me now, so the game has become much more sinister this time. The stakes are greater this time. No one close to me is safe anymore."
Aurelia was sitting at the dining room table at her house with her mother, but she wasn't enjoying it. She picked at her food as she thought about how to explain to her mother about Angelus. She was glad that she wasn't so disoriented about her old life and her new life now. She could actually think of legitimate excuses for Angelus' disturbing behavior.
Joyce put down her fork, folded her hands, and leaned forward on the table toward her daughter. "Ok. What's wrong?"
Aurelia looked up. "It's nothing."
"Come on. You can tell me anything. I've read all the parenting books. You cannot surprise me."
It took a lot of effort on Aurelia's part not to laugh. She put down her fork and looked over at her mother. "Do you remember Angel?"
"Angel, the, um…. the college boy who was tutoring you in history?"
"Right. Uh, he…. I…. We're sort of dating…. Were dating. We're going through an off-again phase right now."
"Don't tell me. He's changed. He's not the same guy you fell for?"
A tear came to Aurelia's eye, but she brushed it away. "Yes. Anyway, um…. since he changed, he's been sort of following me around. He's having trouble letting go."
"Buffy, has he done anything…."
"No, it's not like that. He's just been hanging around…. a lot. Just sending me notes, that kind of thing. I just don't want to see him right now. I mean, if he shows up, I'll talk to him. Just…. don't invite him in."
Joyce reached over and placed her hand on her daughter's cheek. "Ok, Buffy. I won't invite him in."
"Thank you." Aurelia looked at her plate. "Would you mind if I excused myself? I'm not hungry."
"Of course, sweetie. Go on."
Buffy got up and went up to her room. She sighed and moved over to the window, looking around the yard for any sign of him. The phone rang and her mother called up to her that it was Willow.
Aurelia picked up the phone in her room. "I've got it mom!" She called. "Hey Willow."
"Hey Aurelia. Are you ok?"
"Yes. I just told my mother about Angelus."
"Oh! What did you tell her?"
"That he was one of those boyfriends who turns into a stalker when it's over." Aurelia sighed. "This would be so much easier if I didn't have to worry about anyone else. You, Xander, Cordelia, Giles…. You know about everything. You can at least take care of yourselves to an extent. My mother…. She doesn't know."
"I agree with Giles. You need to just try and not let him get to you. I know it's hard with everything that's happened to you, but Angel's only doing this to try to get you to do something stupid. He knows that you've got the power to stop him now."
"I just hope Giles can find a keep-out spell soon. I know I'll sleep easier when I can…. sleep easier."
"I'm sure he will. He's like book-man. Until then, try and keep happy thoughts and…."
"And what? Willow? Willow? Is everything all right?"
"Can I come over?"
"I'll come get you." Aurelia hung up and raced downstairs.
"Where are you going?" Joyce asked from the living room.
"Oh…. Willow…. She's alone and…. Scared. Can she stay with us tonight?"
"Of course." Joyce stood up. "I'd really rather you didn't go out by yourself, though, Buffy. Especially with Angel acting like he is." She grabbed her purse and keys. "I'll drive you."
Aurelia and Willow sat on Aurelia's bed side by side. Behind them was a string of garlic cloves hanging on the wall. Willow had a stake in her hand that she was fidgeting with nervously while she looked around. "Thanks for having me over, Aurelia. Especially on a school night and all."
"It's really no problem. And I am sorry about your fish."
"Oh, it's ok. We hadn't really had time to bond yet. Although for the first time I'm glad my parents didn't let me have a puppy."
"It's so strange…. Even after all this time and everything that's happened…. When something bad happens, my first instinct is still to run to Cassius. When I was Elizabeth…. I waited for him to come back to me as a demon. I couldn't tell the difference."
"You can now."
Aurelia sighed. "Not always, Willow. And this time…. I had him back. I had my Cassius back…. I find it very had to believe it's the same person. He's completely different from the man that I knew."
"Well, sort of, except…."
"You're still the only thing he thinks about." Willow took Aurelia's hand. "You've always been the only thing he thinks about."
"Ok, no more badness. Tell me about your favorite lifetime."
Aurelia smiled slightly. "Oh, that's a tough one. I'll have to think about it."
"Well, tell me about anything that comes to your mind. I'll listen."
"Ok then, uh…."