Disclaimer: Buffy and company: Joss Whedon's, Mutant Enemy's, WB's, 20th Century Fox's.
"Welcome to Introduction to Trigonometry. I hope that you will find this class as interesting as I do. For the next nine weeks you will be subjected to an intense scrutiny of some deep mathematical learning; I can only hope that some of you will actually absorb it."
Mr. Whelan's smirk was greeted with laughter from some of his students, groans and rolled eyes from others. For his part, Xander Harris managed a weak smile as he fought to keep his eyes from closing. He knew he shouldn't have stayed up so late watching that Xena: Warrior Princess marathon last night, but the prospect of the first day of school was one that could only be met by hours of mindless television. Now, however, he was beginning to regret it.
He managed to stay awake during the shuffle while everyone got their textbooks, but even as he returned to his seat, adding the thick trig text to the pile of books he'd already accumulated during the day, he found himself yawning again. The sum total of their height added up perfectly to make a place on which to fold his arms, and it was so easy to rest his chin on his hands...
Xander rubbed his eyes hard, making them sting. Gotta stay awake, he told himself. One more period and I'll see everyone. He really was looking forward to the gang being back together again, even if they were short one member... and meetings in the library just wouldn't be the same without the person who gave them purpose... the person he kept missing, despite his every attempt to deal with said feelings.
Buffy... are you coming back?
For the thousandth - no, maybe hundred thousandth - time since mid-May, he wondered where she was, what she was doing. He'd gotten over his hopeless crush on her last year, but there was still a part of him that would always care deeply for her, both as a friend and in futile hope.
His eyelids drifted closed yet again. The drone of the teacher's voice buzzed in his head, lulling him into a doze, and despite his best intentions, he let himself drift away into the sleep his body craved...
The sound of female voices drifted across the green valley. Rich in field and flower, the lands had been seen by few humans, but enough had passed through the land to create a faint track, and it was this trodden-down path of dirt that the travelers used to find their way.
One rode on horseback. She was dressed in a brief leather outfit, decorated with metal that scalloped and danced over the dark brown leather, accentuating every curve. The skirt of the one-piece outfit was composed of studded fringe, resembling the armor of a Roman centurion, while the bodice terminated just above her breasts. On her back was strapped a sword, while a round metal chakram rested on her hip. Her golden hair danced lightly in the faint breeze, and a smile crossed her face, reaching her green eyes, as she looked down at her companion.
The young woman walking by her side could best be described in one word: petite. A wealth of rich auburn hair flowed down her back, partially secured by two braids that pulled the top part of her hair back into an intricate knot at the nape of her neck. She wore a demure outfit consisting of a two-piece dress, in a deep dusty rose that somehow suited her pale coloring, and a blue-and-beige woolen jacket. Her cheeks were rosier than usual at the moment, as she blushed at some jibe of her companion's.
"Admit it, Willow," said the rider. "You liked him."
"So?" Willow demanded, giggling. "It's not my fault he was so good looking, and sweet, and smart, and I guess I did like him, was I that obvious?"
"Don't be embarrassed. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Well, isn't that romantic."
The drawling voice brought the travelers up short in their tracks. A sneer crossed the rider's face, and she reached for the hilt of her sword.
"Oh, come on, is that any way to greet the man you used to love?" The man folded his arms, smirking slightly. The studded metal on his black leather clothing glinted in the sun, reflecting the glittering darkness in his eyes. She knew that face all too well, remembered how well she had once served him as her master.
"Never again," snarled Buffy, the Warrior Princess.
The God of War's only response to the show of anger was a slight smile. His dark eyes danced.
"Oh, I think you will listen," he said, decidedly cheerful now. "Unless you want a certain someone to become -- oh, what's a good word -- charcoal?"
"Threatening innocents just to get me to talk to you? My, you've sunk to an all-time low, Angelus." Buffy's grip tightened on the hilt of the sword slung on her back.
"Not just any innocents," Angelus replied coolly, taking a step or two forward. "Try my do-gooder half-brother and that short sidekick of his."
Beside Buffy, Willow gave a shocked gasp. "Buffy! Does he really have Xander and Oz prisoner?"
"That's for me to know, isn't it?" Angelus turned his cold gaze on Willow, who shrank back in instinctive fear. "Do you really want to try me and see? I could show you... one piece at a time, maybe..."
A long, tense moment passed in silence, broken only by the soft susurrance of the wind coming down from the hills. Then Buffy spoke again. Her voice was as controlled as the tight expression on her face. "What do you want?"
"Isn't it obvious?" He spread his arms, a grin on his face. "I want you back."
"You know that's not going to happen," the Warrior Princess replied. "We've been through this already."
Angelus shrugged, rippling the leather of his vest. "Ah, well, have it your way," he replied, and began to turn away. "I wonder how long it'll take me to kill them..."
No one was more startled by the sudden shout than Willow herself. She looked, wide-eyed, at Buffy and Angelus even as they both raised eyebrows at her. The expression on the Warrior Princess' face was one of surprise and confusion; on the God of War's, amusement had won out.
"I - I mean," the redhead went on in a smaller voice, "that is, why don't you give her some time to think about it? You can't just make a demand like that and expect her to - to just go along with it without a word!"
"Actually," Angelus commented, stepping toward the shaking Willow, "I can. But - you're right. It is - unpardonably rude of me." He reached out to cup Willow's chin gently between his forefinger and thumb. For a moment, he drank in the sight of her innocence, her trembling fear - then he stepped back, looking up at Buffy, who appeared to be restraining herself from attacking him through dint of sheer will. Making a formal bow to her, he smiled charmingly.
"I'll be generous, Buffy," he stated. "You have three days to make up your mind. When you've chosen - and for your friends' sake, I think you know what your choice had better be - just say my name, and I'll be there."
Buffy's face had tightened into an unreadable mask. Beneath it, her thoughts sped, lingering too long on just what might be happening to Xander and Oz. Her imagination was all too quick to supply her with possible images of torture and dismemberment; and though she knew that Xander, with the blood of Zeus in his veins, could withstand a lot, Oz was all mortal and therefore much more fragile. And if Angelus could keep Xander captive, did that mean he could also kill him...? Angrily, she buried the ruminations, returning her attention to Angelus. The War God continued to regard her with a dark and sparkling gaze, as if somehow divining her thoughts.
"Three days, Buffy," he said shortly. With a final bow, he vanished. Where he had been, a little puff of flame flickered and then was gone.
Willow looked up at Buffy, somewhat fearfully, worried that she had spoken out of turn. But the warrior only sighed quietly. Her gaze was focused off in the distance as she quietly repeated, "Three days..."
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this page last updated on 18 january 2003